Posted: December 12th, 2021
To consider what my personal definition of cognitive psychology is I first reflected on what the words meant separately. Though cognition means so much more than just ‘thinking’ it is always the first word that comes to mind when I am asked to define or explain. And when I consider the word psychology, it brings about the concept of studying the humanness of the human brain. Less focused on the physical aspects of it and more focus on the understanding of the mind. So, to define cognitive psychology, I believe we are looking at studying or understanding the humanness of how we think.
One important development in the field of cognitive psychology is the consensus that people analyze social situations and respond based out interpretation of the environment, rather than the actual environment as it is (Schwarz, 1998). This was developed from the creation of cognitive psychological information processing models created in the 1960s, which looked at how humans encoded, stored and retrieved information (Schwarz, 1998). This development contributed to the field of psychology because it helped cultivate an understanding of how our cognitive practices effect social situations and further lent itself to elevating what was considered suitable evidence (Schwarz, 1998). However, the comparison of the human mind to a computer processing system has been shown to have its limitations.
Upon further examination, I found what may be the first and arguably the most important development in the field of cognitive psychology – the development of the ‘personal equation’, which historically led to the development of the field of cognitive psychology (Landrum, 2019). The story begins in 1794 with an astronomer, Nevil Maskelyne, and his assistant, David Kinnebrook, who were measuring stellar transits and though they worked together using the same techniques, this did not result in exactly the same timing (Landrum, 2019). Maskelyne fired Kinnebrook for this mismatch of information, however upon further reflection by another astronomer roughly 20 years later, this discrepancy was a common occurrence (Landrum, 2019). This resulted in the understanding that even the highly scientific and specific measurements that were being taken were affected by the individual taking those measurements – the development of the ‘personal equation’ (Landrum, 2019). If it was to be understood that astronomers thought processes could differ while they were taking measurements of stellar transits, than this difference in thought was likely to occur with other people, in other situations (Landrum, 2019). Thus, the idea that thought could be measured and the process and results of this measurement could prove to be useful was borne; the study of how we think (Landrum, 2019).
Landrum, R. E. (2019). Study and measurement of thought. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health.
Schwarz, N. (1998). WARMER AND MORE SOCIAL: Recent Developments in Cognitive Social Psychology. Annual Review of Sociology, 24(1), 239. https://doi-org.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.24.1.239
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