A long-standing goal of human enquiry is to understand ourselves. How can we characterize the human species? Here are some of the better-known proposals:
Man is by nature a political animalAristotle
Man is a noble animalSir Thomas Browne
Man is a tool-using animalThomas Carlyle
Man is a reasoning animalSeneca
Man is a social animalBenedict Spinoza
Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called
upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reasonOscar Wilde
I would propose that all of these proposals are, in a sense, correct, but they are all rooted in another characteristic. We are able to act politically, to use tools effectively, to understand nobility, etc., because of our ability to think. The heart of the matter is that we are thinking animals, and it is thinking that affords these other abilities or, at least, affords our having these abilities in the manner that we do. The book you are reading is a study of cognitionof how humans think.
This book is intended for students taking their first course in cognitive psychology. No background. knowledge in psychology or statistics is presupposed. As is typical of other books designed for such a course, the book is organized around the major subject areas of cognitive psychology, and most of the book can be covered over the course of a semester. Again, as is typical of cognitive psychology textbooks, the coverage begins at what may be loosely thought of as lower-level processes, and proceeds toward higher-level processes.
There are three things I would like you to know about this book: what I have done regarding it's readability, what I have done regarding pedagogy, and how I have handled the inclusion of material from cognitive neuroscience. READABILITY
I have friends throughout the country who teach introductory cognitive psychology at their college or university. None of them ever says something like, "My students are crowding office hours, calling me at home, and filling my email in-box demanding to know more, more, more cognitive psychology! They love it like a mouse loves cheese!" The comments of my friends usually run more along the lines of, "They hate the subject matter, hate the course, hate the book, hate me."
Why? I don't know, but it has been the guiding force in my writing this book. My goal is to have a class full of students who have done the assigned reading, and who are excited by cognitive psychology. The way to do that, I think, is to communicate what makes cognitive psychology interesting. To be honest, I've never cared much for the way that other textbooks have sought to keep students interested. The usual strategy is to include lots of "real world" examples and lots of demonstrations, usually found in little boxes that appear every few pages. This strategy seems to confirm the reader's growing suspicion that they are bored by sending the implicit message, "Yes, yes, I know this stuff is boring, but hang in there, and every few pages I'll toss in one of those boxes with a demonstration or real-world application to keep you going."
I've done three things in this book to try to arouse the reader's interest in the material:
I have tried to be careful about making the questions that motivate cognitive psychologists explicit. I think the questions we ask are of interest to a lot of people, but we don't always do the best job of explaining the questions in any detail. We plunge right into the answers, and the answers seem arcane and removed from anything anyone would care about. Each chapter in this book is organized around two or three straightforward questions that are easy to appreciate, and the importance of which are explained in detail. To the extent possible, I have used a narrative structure. By that I mean that there are causal links within and across chapter sections, so that it makes it more clear why you are reading something. Nothing is more boring than a list of unconnected facts. I have tried to write in a non-stilted, not-especially-academic style.
Despite the light tone, this book is not light in content. As you can see by flipping through any given chapter, I cover the major topics in each sub-area of the field. (An easy way to check the coverage is by examining the "key terms" section at the end of each chapter.) Included in the coverage of almost all of these topics are significant details from landmark experiments, including the methodology, graphs of results, and so on. Again, a lighter tone should not be interpreted as indicating lighter coverage. PEDAGOGY
Readability is fine, but the goal of a textbook is, after all, that students learn the material. Different students like and use different pedagogical features, so I've included a few different ones to help them learn.
Brief previews of each section pose the broad questions and provide the broad answers contained in the section. Key terms are identified by bold-face type, and are defined immediately thereafter. They are also collected in a glossary. Each section closes with a series of questions. The Stand-on-one-foot summary questions simply ask the student to summarize what they have learned in the section they have just read. I call them stand-on-one-foot-summaries after the talmudic story of the heretic who went to great sages, asking each to summarize all of the Torah in the time that he could stand on one-foot. (He finally found a willing sage in Hillel who quoted from Leviticus, "What is hateful to you, do not to others.") Thus, the idea is simply to get the reader to pause for a moment and make sure they understood the major points by summarizing what they have just read. The end of each section also includes questions that require considerably more thought; the student will need to apply what he or she has just learned to new situations, or to go beyond the material in some way. I call these Questions that require two feet. Answers to all questions are provided at the close of each chapter. There is a companion web site prenhall/willingham to accompany the text, authored by Robert Bramucci of the California State University, Fullerton. The web site includes an online study guide for students (lots of self-test questions in different formats), a recap and summary of each chapter, links to relevant sites on the internet, and more.
Another feature of this book that I think students and professors will find useful is the Appendix. This book assumes r1o background knowledge on the part of the student, but an appreciation of the work in cognitive psychology often requires knowledge of statistical or methodological concepts. The Appendix contains background information and explanations of several concepts (e.g., statistical significance) that may be familiar to a student who has taken other psychology courses, but that a beginning student may not know. In order to maintain the flow of the book, these explanations are collected in the Appendix.
There is no doubt that the influence of neuroscience on cognitive psychology is substantial, and it is increasing. This trend poses a problem for the writers of textbooks, and the teachers of cognitive psychology courses. Cognitive neuroscience can easily fill a semester-long course, and indeed, there are stand-alone texts on the subject. Further, discussion of this work presupposes some background in neuroscience. How, then, to fairly represent the impact of cognitive neuroscience on cognitive psychology without making the course twice as long, and without setting another prerequisite for the students?
I have tried to represent the state of the field, including key findings from cognitive neuroscience, and at the same time to give the instructor some flexibility. The chapters of this book make reference to key neuroscientific studies where appropriate; there are certain findings that have had such an impact on cognitive psychology that they simply must be part of any course. I have tried to describe these findings in a way that assumes no background on the part of the student.
For the instructor who prefers a greater emphasis on cognitive neuroscience, I have included additional materials. The "Brain Interlude" that follows Chapter 1 introduces the student to the rationale behind cognitive neuroscientific studies, the methods they use, and a brief introduction to brain anatomy. Throughout the rest of the book, key studies from cognitive neuroscience are discussed in boxes set off from the main text. These experiments were selected with an eye towards exposing students to a variety of methods and some of the key issues in cognitive neuroscience. Those instructors who place less emphasis on cognitive neuroscientific approaches can, of course, instruct students to simply skip over this material.
I hope that I have written a textbook that will make students enthusiastic about this field, and will make them want to know more than they can find in this book. Hillel's answer to the impatient heretic is not always quoted in full; after providing the summa
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.