SL Psychology/Cognitive functions

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Types of Cognitive Functions[edit | edit source]

Latent Learning[edit | edit source]

Edward Tolman published two studies in 1948 that drastically contradicted the overarching behavioralist views of the time. Tolman studied cognitive maps and used rats to do so. His first experiment studied latent learning; learning that is not readily apparent to the researcher, which heavily contradicts the move to make psychology a hard science by only studying the observable. Tolman used three groups of rats and placed the rats in a maze. The first group received no reward for finishing. The second group always received a reward for finishing the maze. The final group received no reward for the first 10 days of the study, but did receive one for the final eight. Tolman observed that the first group made a consistently high number of errors in running the maze, and showed little improvement over the eighteen-day study. The second group, which always received a reward, showed constant improvement in the number of errors made. The final group showed little to no improvement for the first ten days, then dramatic improvement once a food reward was presented. The final group’s improvement was more pronounced than the constant reward group. (Tolman, 1948)

  • Tolman theorized that the rats in the final group had been learning the maze over the first ten days of the study but had no incentive to run the maze without any errors.
  • Once there was a reward the learning that had remained latent in the rats mind was useful and the rats ran the maze more efficiently.
  • Tolman broke the constraints of behaviorism by studying a process that was not readily apparent to the researcher and not the direct consequence of stimulus response.
  • Tolman’s work was very influential in the new cognitive approach that developed during the 1960s.

Tolman’s second study dealt with spatial orientation. For this study, the rats ran a simple maze that started off on a round table. The rats ran north into the maze, turned left and ran west, turned right and ran north, and finally turned right and ran east. The maze ended with a food reward. Further, there were never any dead ends or forks in the maze; it was very simple, and the maze ended with the rats at a position about 3 o’clock from the start of the maze, or about 45 degrees to the northeast. After the rats had learned the simple maze, Tolman added twelve new lanes for the rats to enter from the starting table. Tolman placed three on the left of the original lane, which had been blocked so the rats would enter and immediately exit once they realized it was not a dead end, and the other nine lanes to the right of the original lane. The route most often taken was the lane that led most directly to where the original food reward was; in this case it was lane 6. (Tolman, 1948)

Tolman showed that the rats did need to follow a strip map as Tolman called it that led from A to B to C to D. The rats had developed a lay of the land map that could give them the shortest distance from A to D. Tolman states “The rats, it would seem, acquired not merely a strip-map to the effect that the original specifically trained-on path led to the food, but rather a wider, comprehensive map to the effect that food was located in such and such a direction in the room.” Tolman had again shunned behaviorism, showing that there are cognitive functions that occur that can be studied, even if they cannot directly be observed.

Insight Learning[edit | edit source]

Wolfgang Kohler developed yet another theory of learning that differed from the trial and error ideas that were proposed before him. Kohler called his discovery insight learning. Kohler’s most famous study of insight learning was the study with Sultan the gorilla.

  • Sultan was in a cage and was presented with a stick
  • He could use the stick to pull a piece of fruit close enough to the cage so that he could pick it up.
  • After Sultan had learned to use the stick to reach the fruit, Kohler moved the fruit farther away from Sultan and out of the range of the short stick.
  • Kohler then placed a longer stick within the reach of the short stick Sultan already had.
  • Initially, Sultan tried to reach the fruit with the short stick and failed.
  • After Sultan had looked around, he picked up the short stick again, used it to reach the long stick, and used the long stick to reach the fruit. (Kohler, 1925)

Kohler called this type of learning insight learning. Sultan was never conditioned to use one stick to reach another; it would seem as if Sultan had an epiphany. Kohler explained it simply as there are cognitive processes in learning and learning is not merely conditioning. Kohler showed that there was no gradual shaping or trial and error, thus there must be internal organizational processes, which caused the new behavior.