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on March 18, 2007
Eighteen leading scientists, led by Smith and Kosslyn, have reconstructed the foundations of cognitive psychology in an innovative, current, readable, important, factually accurate textbook. First and foremost, they weave recent neuroscientific discoveries into the discussion, without abandoning a primary focus on cognitive psychology. Their sophisticated framework integrates mental and neural levels of analysis, without confusing mind and brain, or structure and function.

Until now, most cognitive psychology texts have tended to follow the organizational format of Broadbent's (1958) classic, Perception and Communication. Broadbent (1984) wrote, "Since those innocent days, the world has become more complex, so that it is difficult to point to a single summary of the same entire area... One widespread view, which I support, is that the framework of the 1958 book now requires shifting to a different kind of simplistic conceptual framework."

In the current text, the authors' framework for discussing memory is unorthodox. They include two chapters on long-term memory followed (not preceded!) by a chapter on working memory. Several unusual chapters include Executive Processes (Chapter 7), Emotions and Cognition (Chapter 8), and Motor Cognition and Mental Simulation (Chapter 11).

One great strength of this text is that it is well written. Kosslyn and others have a tendency to be very interesting in their other publications, so this may not be surprising. Moreover, this book seems to have benefited from aggressive editing for style and clarity. I'm betting that motivated undergraduate students will enjoy this book.

Another great strength of this text is in the selection of the authors who wrote it. They are experts in their respective fields, able to present the material simply and clearly without the loss of accuracy that can attend scientific writing for a general audience. Many of these authors are what you might call Rennaissance scholars, with a wide range of professional interests.

Here are the chapter contents, along with primary authors: (1) How the Brain Gives Rise to the Mind (Kosslyn), (2) Perception (Seiffert, Wolfe & Tong), (3) Attention (Behrmann & Geng), (4) Representation and Knowledge in Long-Term Memory (Barsalou), (5) Encoding and Retrieval from Long-Term Memory (Wagner), (6) Working Memory (Braver), (7) Executive Processes (Smith), (8) Emotion and Cognition (Phelps), (9) Decision Making (Hastie & Sanfey), (10) Problem Solving and Reasoning (Dunbar & Fugelsang), (11) Motor Cognition and Mental Simulation (Decety & Sommerville), and (12) Language (MacDonald).

The first chapter (Kosslyn) provides a little history (remarkably little), and then sets the tone for the rest of the book with sections on "Understanding the Mind: The Form Theories of Cognition", "The Cognitive Brain", and "Studying Cognition." Moreover, it presents a classic debate on (surprise, surprise) the nature of mental imagery. I suppose that it is not too surprising that the book begins by covering these sorts of topics. Even so, I think that this chapter, by THIS author, is very important. Kosslyn has, over the years, been exceptionally careful about how he makes inferences about the brain and mind (e.g., "carving a system at its joints"). Others at the cutting edge have not been so careful or insightful. The combination of meticulous thinking and cutting-edge enthusiasm make for some good stuff. I think the first chapter is a big plus. {Video resources featuring Kosslyn/mental imagery include the Discovering Psychology DVD and a free online Quicktime video from the Edge - Third Culture website. "What Shape are a German Shepherd's Ears?")

The second chapter (Seiffert, Wolfe & Tong) is a fine introduction to basic issues in perception. My sense is that the authors strove to be concise and clear, rather than to break new ground in the presentation of topics. The chapter provides a good survey of perception, which is not always the case with cognitive psychology textbooks. Wolfe just wrote/edited a remarkably good textbook on Sensation and Perception (Sinauer). I recommend that you take a look at the text and the textbook's (free, excellent) website.

My reaction to the third chapter on attention (Behrmann & Geng) was similar to my reaction to the second. Again, I recommend taking a look at Wolfe's Sensation and Perception textbook, as its chapter on visual attention covers many of the same topics and includes beautiful illustrations.

The eighth chapter (Phelps) was remarkable for its concise treatment of basic issues, as well as its up-to-date treatment of the cognitive neuroscience of emotions. (See Phelps on the Discovering Psychology DVD, by the way). I teach a graduate course on the Cognitive and Affective bases of Behavior at AIU, and I've been looking for something like this chapter. I suppose there may be other chapters in other books that accomplish similar things, but I haven't found them. I was surprised by some omissions, e.g., I looked for references to Izard (e.g., challenges to Ekman), Plutchik (circumplex model), and Damasio (emotions, brain, consciousness). But the chapter provides the intro to emotions and cognition that many cognitive psychologists need.

The ninth chapter (Hastie & Sanfey) provides an intro to basic JDM issues, including a comprehensible intro to prospect theory. (A good video - see Kahneman's Nobel Prize lecture, available online at the Nobel Prize website). The chapter seems to break new ground (for a cog psy text) when it focuses on the neural bases of judgement and decision making. (Hastie has done some remarkable work with juries, legal issues, and medical decision making; a little of this has found its way into the chapter). Compared to other chapters on the same topic, this one seems to de-emphasize the work of Tversky and Kahneman somewhat, in favor of contributions by other authors.

(I hope to write reviews of other chapters as time permits.)

The book seems to target upper division students and graduate students. It is too advanced for a lower division class. A good, basic text for lower division students is Reed's Cognitive Psyhology. I would describe Reed's text as a purist's introduction. It doesn't deviate from the classic study of cognition per se, so you won't find much cognitive neuroscience embedded in chapters. Rather, it tends to emphasize the applications of cognitive psychology.

I believe the Smith/Kosslyn book could be improved in a number of ways. First, there does not seem to be a student and instructor website for this text. These sorts of sites can be extremely helpful because they provide additional visual material, Powerpoint presentations, sample questions, and more. An unorthodox book like this one needs a website with supporting materials. Instructors will appreciate anything that makes transition to the new text easier. (If you are an instructor and would like to pool resources, please contact me. I might recommend purchasing Zimbardo's Discovering Psychology DVDs, as they feature some authors and topics that are covered in this book).

The book itself has some excellent illustrations. Even so, I tend to prefer books that have even more illustrations. A recent textbook on another topic by Wolfe et al. (Sensation and Perception, Sinauer) is my current gold standard, in part because there are excellent, colorful illustrations on nearly every page. In my own teaching, I find that texts that provide a constant stream of powerful images are the most popular with students. Could additional images be included at a course website, and then added to the text later, when new editions are released? Kosslyn, with all his knowledge of imagery and graph-making, could turbo-charge this text with artwork if so inclined.

There are some topics that were neglected in this book. One big area includes learning. As it stands, a few cognitive textbooks (e.g., Medin et al.) address learning. Others seem satisfied to relegate learning to the behaviorists, and their tired and true approaches ("tired" not "tried"). I think a chapter on learning, from a cognitivist's perspective, would be an excellent addition to this book. There is some discussion of classical, operant, and vicarious learning in the chapter on emotion, but nothing about learning per se. Additionally, there are only a few sentences on sensory memory. Sperling's classic study is mentioned in passing, but this and other important experiments were not described). I suppose that it is impossible to do everything.

The authors and publisher make a strong claim: "This book is the first to incorporate neuroscience seamlessly into the study of cognitive psychology." Perhaps. I would say that this book is "seamless" to the extent that it includes information about the brain in each chapter. There are other excellent Cognitive Psychology textbooks, and most of these include reasonable information about cognitive neuroscience. See, e.g., the texts of Sternberg, Reisberg, Anderson, Medin et al., or Goldstein. The selling point of the current text, IMHO, is that the current crop of authors are first-rate contributors to our understanding of cognition and the brain. And these authors have chosen to report sexy, new findings that are at the forefront of our field.

In summary, I am enthusiastic about using this book in my future Cognitive Psychology classes. This is the modern cognitive psychology textbook that needed to be written. The authors have focused on what they thought was most important for students rather than on what most other textbooks have done. They present fresh material in a new way without abandoning many essential, classic topics.
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on April 1, 2017
Some of the information is kind of dated, but the fundamentals are presented well
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on March 2, 2015
Icing it in trusting subject and scientific explanation for ordinary people with college back ground .
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on November 11, 2016
This was a good read for me. It was simple to understand.
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on August 18, 2015
Excellent highlights in it.
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on December 8, 2015
Good and very interesting topic
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on March 31, 2014
I have been using this textbook in my graduate-level Cognition course, and it is a great companion piece to the subject. The reading can get a bit dense, but that's Cognitive Psychology in a nutshell. It does a great job of breaking down many of the current perspectives and theories regarding cognitive psychology, and has a well-rounded set of source material.
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on July 26, 2010
I had to buy this book for a summer course on cognitive psychology and actually found it to be quite interesting. It uses great examples and is even written using a very "understandable" vocabulary. Overall I'd say it's a good read for a class, but it's definitely not something I'd recommend for a pleasure read.

Respectfully submitted,
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on June 18, 2014
this book is filled with all sorts of information that is vital to understanding the how and why of perception...illusion...memory, and so much more.
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on September 25, 2013
Excellent. I bought this book at the school book store for $144.00. I saved almost $90.00 by purchasing from Amazon. In the future, I will be going in this direction. ALso, the condition of the book was great.
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