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Cognitive revolution

Cognitive revolution

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The cognitive revolution is the name for an intellectual movement in the 1950s that began what are known collectively as the cognitive science
Cognitive science
Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works. It includes research on how information is processed , represented, and transformed in behaviour, nervous system or machine...

s. It began in the modern context of greater interdisciplinary communication and research. The relevant areas of interchange were the combination of psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

, anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

, and linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

 with approaches developed within the then-nascent fields of artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI textbooks define the field as "the study and design of intelligent agents" where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its...

, computer science
Computer science
Computer science or computing science is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems...

, and neuroscience
Neuroscience
Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. Traditionally, neuroscience has been seen as a branch of biology. However, it is currently an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics,...

.

A key idea in cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology is a subdiscipline of psychology exploring internal mental processes.It is the study of how people perceive, remember, think, speak, and solve problems.Cognitive psychology differs from previous psychological approaches in two key ways....

 was that by studying and developing successful functions in artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI textbooks define the field as "the study and design of intelligent agents" where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its...

 and computer science
Computer science
Computer science or computing science is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems...

, it becomes possible to make testable inferences about human mental processes. This has been called the reverse-engineering approach.

Important publications in setting off the cognitive revolution include George A. Miller's 1956 Psychological Review
Psychological Review
Psychological Review is a scientific journal that publishes articles on psychological theory. It was founded by Princeton psychologist James Mark Baldwin and Columbia psychologist James McKeen Cattell in 1894 as a publication vehicle for psychologists not connected with the Clark laboratory of G....

article "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two
The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two
"The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information" is one of the most highly cited papers in psychology. It was published in 1956 by the cognitive psychologist George A. Miller of Princeton University's Department of Psychology in Psychological...

" (one of the most highly cited papers in psychology),
Donald Broadbent
Donald Broadbent
Donald Eric Broadbent FRS was an influential English experimental psychologist. His career and his research work bridged the gap between the pre-Second World War approach of Sir Frederic Bartlett and its wartime development into applied psychology, and what from the late 1960s became known as...

's 1958 book Perception and Communication, Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

's 1959 "Review of Verbal Behavior, by B.F. Skinner", and "Elements of a Theory of Human Problem Solving" by Newell
Allen Newell
Allen Newell was a researcher in computer science and cognitive psychology at the RAND corporation and at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, Tepper School of Business, and Department of Psychology...

, Shaw, and Simon
Herbert Simon
Herbert Alexander Simon was an American political scientist, economist, sociologist, and psychologist, and professor—most notably at Carnegie Mellon University—whose research ranged across the fields of cognitive psychology, cognitive science, computer science, public administration, economics,...

. Ulric Neisser
Ulric Neisser
Ulric Neisser is an American psychologist and member of the National Academy of Sciences. He is a faculty member at Cornell University. In 1995, he headed an American Psychological Association task force that reviewed The Bell Curve and related controversies in the study of intelligence. The task...

's 1967 book Cognitive Psychology was a landmark contribution. Starting in the 1960s the Harvard Center for Cognitive Studies and the Center for Human Information Processing at UCSD became influential in the development of cognitive studies.

By the early 1970s according to some accounts, the cognitive movement had all but "routed" behaviorism
Behaviorism
Behaviorism , also called the learning perspective , is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things that organisms do—including acting, thinking, and feeling—can and should be regarded as behaviors, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior...

 as a psychological paradigm, and by the early 1980s the cognitive approach had become the dominant research line of inquiry in most psychology research fields.

Five major ideas from the cognitive revolution


In his book The Blank Slate
The Blank Slate
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature is a best-selling 2002 book by Steven Pinker arguing against tabula rasa models of the social sciences. Pinker argues that human behavior is substantially shaped by evolutionary psychological adaptations...

(2002), psychologist Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker
Steven Arthur Pinker is a Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist and popular science author...

 identified five key ideas that made up the cognitive revolution:
  1. "The mental world can be grounded in the physical world by the concepts of information, computation, and feedback."
  2. "The mind cannot be a blank slate
    Blank Slate
    Blank Slate is an initiative run by UK film production company B3 Media that seeks to develop and nurture film making talent from a minority background...

     because blank slates don't do anything."
  3. "An infinite range of behavior can be generated by finite combinatorial programs in the mind."
  4. "Universal mental mechanisms can underlie superficial variation across cultures."
  5. "The mind is a complex system composed of many interacting parts."

Response to behaviorism


The cognitive revolution in psychology took form as cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology is a subdiscipline of psychology exploring internal mental processes.It is the study of how people perceive, remember, think, speak, and solve problems.Cognitive psychology differs from previous psychological approaches in two key ways....

, an approach in large part a response to behaviorism
Behaviorism
Behaviorism , also called the learning perspective , is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things that organisms do—including acting, thinking, and feeling—can and should be regarded as behaviors, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior...

, the predominant school in scientific psychology at the time. Behaviorism was heavily influenced by Ivan Pavlov
Ivan Pavlov
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a famous Russian physiologist. Although he made significant contributions to psychology, he was not in fact a psychologist himself but was a mathematician and actually had strong distaste for the field....

 and E. L. Thorndike, and its most notable early practitioner was John B. Watson
John B. Watson
John Broadus Watson was an American psychologist who established the psychological school of behaviorism. Watson promoted a change in psychology through his address Psychology as the Behaviorist Views it which was given at Columbia University in 1913...

, who proposed that psychology could only become an objective science were it based on observable behavior in test subjects. Methodological behaviorists argued that because mental events are not publicly observable, psychologists should avoid description of mental processes or the mind
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

 in their theories. However, B. F. Skinner
B. F. Skinner
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was an American behaviorist, author, inventor, baseball enthusiast, social philosopher and poet...

 and other radical behaviorists objected to this approach, arguing that a science of psychology must include the study of internal events . As such, behaviorists at this time did not reject cognition (private behaviors), but simply argued against the concept of the mind being used as an explanatory fiction (rather than rejecting the concept of mind itself) . Cognitive psychologists extended on this philosophy through the experimental investigation of mental states that allow scientists to produce theories that more reliably predict outcomes.

The traditional account of the "cognitive revolution", which posits a conflict between behaviorism and the study of mental events, was challenged by Jerome Bruner
Jerome Bruner
Jerome Seymour Bruner is an American psychologist who has contributed to cognitive psychology and cognitive learning theory in educational psychology, as well as to history and to the general philosophy of education. Bruner is currently a senior research fellow at the New York University School...

 who characterized it as:

...an all-out effort to establish meaning as the central concept of psychology […]. It was not a revolution against behaviorism with the aim of transforming behaviorism into a better way of pursuing psychology by adding a little mentalism to it. […] Its aim was to discover and to describe formally the meanings that human beings created out of their encounters with the world, and then to propose hypotheses about what meaning-making processes were implicated. (Bruner, 1990, Acts of Meaning, p. 2)


It should be noted however that behaviorism was to a large extent restricted to North America and the cognitive reactions were in large part a reimportation of European psychologies. George Mandler
George Mandler
George Mandler is Distinguished Professor of Psychology Emeritus at the University of California, San Diego.Mandler was born in Vienna on 11 June 1924. He received his B.S. from New York University and his Ph. D. degree from Yale University in 1953. He served in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence...

 has described that evolutionary history.

Criticism


Lachman, Lachman and Butterfield (1979) were one of the first to imply that cognitive psychology has a revolutionary origin. After this, proponents of information processing theory and later cognitivist believed that the rise of cognitivism constitutes a paradigm shift
Paradigm shift
A Paradigm shift is, according to Thomas Kuhn in his influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions , a change in the basic assumptions, or paradigms, within the ruling theory of science...

. Despite the belief many have stated both unwittingly and wittingly that cognitive psychology links to behaviorism.

Leahey (1992) said that cognitive scientists believe in a revolution because it provides them with an origin myth which constitutes a beginning that will help in legitimizing their science. Others have said that cognitivism is behaviorism with a new language, slightly bent model and new concerns which aim at description, prediction and control of behavior. It's obvious that the change from behaviorism to cognitivism was not a few days war which ended with the victorious cognitivist. Rather a slowly evolving science which took the origins of behaviorism and built on it .

Books

  • Baars, Bernard J. (1986) The cognitive revolution in psychology Guilford Press, New York, ISBN 0-89862-656-0
  • Gardner, Howard (1986) The mind's new science : a history of the cognitive revolution Basic Books, New York, ISBN 0-465-04634-7; reissued in 1998 with an epilogue by the author: "Cognitive science after 1984" ISBN 0-465-04635-5
  • Johnson, David Martel and Emeling, Christina E. (1997) The future of the cognitive revolution Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 0-19-510334-3
  • LePan, Don (1989) The cognitive revolution in Western culture Macmillan, Basingstoke, England, ISBN 0-333-45796-X
  • Murray, David J. (1995) Gestalt psychology and the cognitive revolution Harvester Wheatsheaf, New York, ISBN 0-7450-1186-1
  • Olson, David R. (2007) Jerome Bruner: the cognitive revolution in educational theory Continuum, London, ISBN 978-0-8264-8402-4
  • Richardson, Alan and Steen, Francis F. (editors) (2002) Literature and the cognitive revolution Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina, being Poetics today 23(1), OCLC 51526573
  • Royer, James M. (2005) The cognitive revolution in educational psychology Information Age Publishing, Greenwich, Connecticut, ISBN 0-8264-8402-6
  • Simon, Herbert A. et al. (1992) Economics, bounded rationality and the cognitive revolution E. Elgar, Aldershot, England, ISBN 1-85278-425-3
  • Todd, James T. and Morris, Edward K. (editors) (1995) Modern perspectives on B. F. Skinner and contemporary behaviorism (Series: Contributions in psychology, no. 28) Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, ISBN 0-313-29601-4

Articles

  • Cohen-Cole, Jamie (2005) "The reflexivity of cognitive science: the scientist as model of human nature" History of the Human Sciences 18(4): pp. 107–139
  • Greenwood, John D. (1999) "Understanding the "cognitive revolution" in psychology" Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 35(1): pp. 1–22
  • Pinker, Steven (2011) "The Cognitive Revolution" Harvard Gazette