Cognitive psychology

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The cognitive psychology , and cognitive psychology called (from the Latin. Cognoscere = know know know), is a branch of psychology and focuses on the epistemological basis of Cognitivism with information processing ( cognition ), especially with all those mental processes that with Perception , knowledge and knowledge have to do with. It is also to be classified in cognitive science . The subject of cognitive psychology is the complexly organized psychological mechanisms of human thought.

Subject matter and classification of the subject

Cognitive psychology examines human cognitions. The research is primarily concerned with the states and processes that lie between the reception of stimuli and the subsequent experience and behavior. These include B. the functioning of neural representation or the assumed principle of an interdependence between intuition and reflection .

The term cognition, which has traditionally been mistakenly viewed as the opposite of emotion , includes:

Cognitive sciences are generally mostly interdisciplinary . Cognitive psychology deals with the analysis of human information processing (cognition). Basic knowledge in the field of neurobiology , i.e. the biological communication principles of the central nervous system (CNS), is of great importance for explaining cognitive psychological relationships . The cognitive neuroscience has significantly contributed to an expansion of methods and theories in cognitive psychology. Experimental cognitive psychological research is also fruitfully possible without explicit recourse to brain mechanisms.

At the end of the 1950s, cognitive psychology developed as a sub-discipline of general psychology . It was significantly influenced by information theory. Often, cognitive psychology and cognitive science are confused: the former is one of the disciplines involved in cognitive science, but is now also a completely separate field of research in psychology.

In social psychology , perceptions, opinions, judgments, knowledge, beliefs, arguments and other intellectual capacities associated with a social setting are referred to as cognitive components of the attitudes concerned.


After Frans Cornelis Donders helped lay the foundations for mental chronometry in 1868 and around the end of the 19th century the view that human thinking could be the subject of scientific investigation and not just philosophical consideration, the approaches of psychology as a science emerged. Wilhelm M. Wundt and Hermann Ebbinghaus were pioneers .

After the long phase of dominance of behaviorism in North America in the middle of the 20th century, the so-called cognitive turn finally began . This was stimulated by social conditions and the desire for a scientific theoretical approach to “thinking” that takes into account the biological conditions that have now been better researched, but also based on the idea of ​​humans as an information-processing organism. Modern cognitive psychology thus took shape.

With the development of the information processing approach between 1950 and 1960, several important advances in computer science were closely connected, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence . A corresponding social interest arose quickly in this new scientific perspective on the human mind, in an epistemological science of experience and behavior that worked using computer metaphors. The establishment of this new image of man characterizes the cognitive turn in particular, as from now on one could also look into the "black box" and integrate it into the behaviorist theory. At that time, the methodology of the cognitive psychologists was largely based on experiments in the laboratory.

Since the 1970s, however, cognitive psychology has also shown greater interest in cognitions in real situations, in overarching theories, and in the brain mechanisms on which cognition is based. It has meanwhile become a compulsory subject for psychology students and, together with cognitive science, is a recognized field of research with a very high potential for future scientific knowledge. Nowadays, special imaging techniques can help to better understand the underlying complex brain functions.

Cognitive psychology is still at the beginning of a complicated research. Thanks to its interdisciplinary tendencies, it is highly capable of contributing to many other fields of research.

Secondary disciplines:

Neural representation

Neural systems show a complex path dependency : their behavior over time is not only dependent on the current state, but also on the previous history of the system. The ontogeny of mind includes through experience -made experience , neuronal represented by knowledge in memory ( psychogenesis ). The internal workings of the mind are far more complex than the most modern systems of computer technology. Therefore, the long simplistic image of the body hardware and the mind as software is now obsolete.

Nowadays there is more and more talk of an organized chaos in the brain. The enormous parallelism of the neural stimulus transmissions represents a major challenge for possible explanations for the functioning of human thought and action . Localization in simply dimensioned parameters is not possible; instead, one speaks of open systems , self-organization and regulation, path dependency and non-linearity .

The neural representation of declarative or procedural knowledge is probably a matter of coordination and the like. a. of action potentials of the neurons in certain spatially and temporally defined patterns. The biochemistry in the CNS also plays an important role , because neurotransmitters and hormones also influence the interaction of several nerve cells. The alpha waves are believed to play an important role in controlling attention ; there are numerous different research approaches in the field of neurology and brain research .

Functional anatomy of the nervous system

The structure of the brain is one of the basic knowledge - which can still be viewed as incomplete. John R. Anderson sees the brain divided into a number of distinct areas that serve different functions. Different special areas of the brain support different cognitive functions. In fact, positron emission tomography , as well as electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography (or also: in the so-called scanner ) can be used to localize generally determinable functional areas on the cerebral cortex. B. represent clear tasks of the "mind" or areas in the peripheral nervous system. The various known brain areas could also be identified relatively precisely using differential images.


In cognitive psychology there are the models of so-called connectionism. These explain the functioning of information processing through the accumulation of neural stimuli in the brain into activation patterns. Activation patterns can represent knowledge and create innumerable connections to other patterns. A brain neuron can have up to 10,000 connections to other brain neurons; in total there are about 10-14 connections in the brain . In contrast, only about 2.5 million nerve fibers go into the brain and only about 1.5 million out. Our brain is mainly busy communicating with itself, so to speak. Context-dependent categories arise, through whose "connection" the knowledge comes about. JR Anderson writes of the "nerve cell-like elements [...] that accumulate activation and exert exciting and inhibitory influences on other units." In the brain, unlike computers, thousands of neurons work simultaneously on every "calculation step". A dense network of connections enables the coordination of their activity and enables human knowledge.

In the neurosciences and brain research , new findings are constantly emerging that affect this area. For example, one speaks of intercultural differences even with basic cognitive perception processes: "For a long time, psychologists assumed that the basic thought and perception processes were the same for all people, but our cultural background determines not only what we think about, but also how." Kühnen 2004)

See also

Portal: Mind and Brain  - Overview of Wikipedia content on Mind and Brain


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