Cognitive Revolution 2

Here is the expansion of the previous notes on the cognitive revolution.

Last year,  in a semi-popular online publication of writing by serious scholars, I found the following.

This is 2017!  As a historian, ask yourself what Watson would say about this and what it shows that is powerful in our history.  Also note the department of the author.

Second — in the spirit of “always learning,” be sure that you know the actual website of this syllabus.  Keep that for yourself. Write it down or put it somewhere that you save links. Even after you have no Moodle connection, this website will be present for you, with all the links (as long as they last).

The earlier material on the Cognitive Revolution is below this newer material.  The last time, we noted the importance of [1] Chomsky as one important influence on how psychologists thought.  Then [2] was the importance of the rapidly growing knowledge about what computers could do.  This was thought to support the idea that psychological theorizing could be both rigorous and about “internal” organization.  Behaviorism had emphasized “observable behavior” and limited associational principles of learning.

Now I want to add [3] the influence of Piaget, another person who came from “outside” of psychology.   Piaget showed that children’s thinking developed in regular ways, through stages, and that these stages were fairly impervious to any kind of “teaching.”  The psychologists who were the most thoroughly developmental came from, of all places again, Clark University. The influence there came from Heinz Werner, who actually had a link to Wundt.  Werner stressed the subject matter of development as something pervasive that should influence an overall approach to psychology.  That is, ALL topics should be looked at developmentally.  The Clark developmental tradition, especially strong in the 1960’s and 1970’s, came from Heinz Werner and Bernard Kaplan, building on German traditions from Kant.   The most famous book pulling together all of Piaget’s work was written by John Flavell (1963), a product of Clark at this time.  The Clark developmental tradition, notice, follows naturally from G. Stanley Hall.  One of Hall’s students, Arnold Gesell of Yale, was one of the most public authorities on child rearing in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  So we have, from Clark University — Hall — Gesell — Werner & Kaplan — Flavell.

Parenthetically, John Flavell later started the research efforts on “meta-memory,”  which turned into “theory of mind,” a currently interesting topic.

Within developmental psychology, techniques were developed to probe what babies “know.”  Patterns of looking, as well as heart rate variation, were measures of “attention.”  Wherever infants could be shown to exhibit systematic preferences for what to pay attention to, supported the conclusion that the infants could tell the difference between or among possible objects of attention.   Such overt “behavior” was used to infer infant “knowledge” and “ability.”  For example, if an infant looked longer at a picture of its mother than various comparisons, it could be concluded that the infant could recognize its mother — at some level.   The ironic result of the history of using more and more sophisticated techniques was to attribute more and more “knowledge” to younger and younger children and to take attention away from development (because “it” was already there).  Thus, on one hand, it was exciting to discover the degree to which babies are not “blank slates,” but disheartening for true developmentalists to have scholarly attention drawn away from trying to understand development.   An example of a person who emphasizes how much capacity babies have is Liz Spelke at Harvard.  An example of someone collecting genuinely developmental information is Karen Adolph at NYU.  Google Spelke and Adolph (separately).  They both were students of Eleanor J. Gibson, but Spelke was greatly influenced by Chomsky.

It is worth asking, historically, why developmental psychology and social psychology are not given more prominence.  The historical answer is, most simply, Titchener.  He organized the Society of Experimental Psychologists to bring together for discussion the people he regarded as prominent.  The word EXPERIMENTAL was an important word for him.  Remember that what he refined from Wundt was a focus on the elements of consciousness and the methods of introspection were crucial.  Who could introspect?  Not babies and young children, and not animals.   For the most part then, his organization did not include developmental psychologists, social psychologists or women.  The areas represented by the people he invited were collectively called “Experimental Psychology.”   That phrase, therefore, did not point to any and all of the psychologists who might do experimental work.  Rather, it just pointed to “Titchener’s people.”   The legacy of that can be seen in this very recent article where Figure 1 shows a photo of the SEP from 1964.  Eleanor Gibson, a woman and a developmentalist, is in the picture.   A few years later, she was appointed to the same Chair at Cornell that Titchener had occupied.  Today, upon seeing that photo, Karen Adolph said that Gibson used to tell her students that her main role in SEP was “to clean up the mess after the men-folk had finished drinking and trashing the joint.”

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Role of Ulric Neisser in founding Cognitive Psychology.  First the book.  He gave the field its name and a set of topics, from attention to pattern recognition.

Read Neisser interview in Baars folder on Moodle; then the second Neisser interview from Ecological Psychology.

Photos      Neisser     Jenkins

Alvin Liberman and speech perception.  Related to point made by Neisser — exciting to feel like you are making discoveries about the world as opposed to just adding data to the literature.  Liberman — What is it in sound that supports intelligible speech?   Haskins Laboratories in New Haven.

When Jenkins learned about the work at Haskins Laboratories, he set up mutual visits and sent students there to study and begin similar work at Minnesota.

Dec. 7, 2017

Big events for Psychology —

         World War I  — massive expansion of testing.  Development of the Otis, a group test.  Stanford-Binet only individually administered.  Very inefficient.  Psychologists worked mainly in personnel selection for this war.

       World War II  — more massive expansion.  Clinical psychologists widely acceptable as therapists because not enough psychiatrists.    Large increases in MONEY from government for science.   Psychology is always trying to be part of that.

         1980s and 1990s — Cognitive psychology became dominant.  Witness amalgams like cognitive therapy, cognitive social psychology.

          Current —  Neuroscience.  Witness neuro social psychology.  Today, I ran across this.    

Today — money and agencies for dispensing money in science

For this last class, we will summarize and try to get to the present day through the lens of the activities of my friend, Phil Rubin, who lectured at Trinity last year on his government activities.  Phil’s scientific training and career was at the University of Connecticut and Haskins Laboratories, so using him for a focus picks up on the mention of Haskins above.