Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cognitive psychology

Noam Chomsky helped to ignite a "cognitive revolution" in psychology when he criticized the behaviorists' notions of "stimulus", "response", and "reinforcement", arguing that such ideas—which Skinner had borrowed from animal experiments in the laboratory—could be applied to complex human behavior, most notably language acquisition, in only a vague and superficial manner. Chomsky emphasized that research and analysis must not ignore the innate contribution of the child to such behavior,  while social learning theorists such as Albert Bandura argued that the child's environment could make contributions of its own to the behaviors of an observant subject. The notion that behavior could be precipitated only by the functioning of an internal device or by the perception of external surroundings posed a challenge to the behaviorist position that behavior is contingent upon the prior associations that individuals have made between behavioral responses and pleasurable or painful stimuli.
Noam Chomsky

Meanwhile, accumulating technology helped to renew interest and belief in the mental states and representations—i.e., the cognition—that had fallen out of favor with behaviorists. English neuroscientist Charles Sherrington and Canadian psychologist Donald O. Hebb used experimental methods to link psychological phenomena with the structure and function of the brain. With the rise of computer science and artificial intelligence, analogies were drawn between the processing of information by humans and information processing by machines. Research in cognition had proven practical since World War II, when it aided in the understanding of weapons operation.  By the late 20th century, though, cognitivism had become the dominant paradigm of mainstream psychology, and cognitive psychology emerged as a popular branch.

Assuming both that the covert mind should be studied and that the scientific method should be used to study it, cognitive psychologists set such concepts as "subliminal processing" and "implicit memory" in place of the psychoanalytic "unconscious mind" or the behavioristic "contingency-shaped behaviors". Elements of behaviorism and cognitive psychology were synthesized to form the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy modified from techniques developed by American psychologist Albert Ellis and American psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck. Cognitive psychology was subsumed along with other disciplines, such as philosophy of mind, computer science, and neuroscience, under the umbrella discipline of cognitive science.