Cognitive psychology as a science began in 1879, with the establishment of the first psychology laboratory by Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig, Germany. The method of inquiry was mainly by introspection. But, the introspection approach ran into trouble in Europe, for different laboratories were reporting different types of introspection, giving rise to contradictions. The irrelevance of the introspection method and its apparent contradiction set the ground for the great behaviorist revolution in American psychology.
According to this, psychology was entirely concerned with external behaviors, not the analysis of the mind underlying the behavior. Thus, it all but eliminated cognitive psychology for 40 years. Introspection is the process of “looking inward” and examining one’s self and one’s own actions in order to gain insight. This was a central component to the early days of psychology during the Structuralist period. Wundt and other psychologists had people introspect and then report on their feelings and thoughts.
Even though dependent on a conscious experience, introspection can provide us with valuable insights into studied phenomena. Many researches argue that individual introspections about what is determining his or her behavior are often inaccurate. They may be limited in scope, due to lack of conscious awareness of many cognitive processes or their products. But even though sometimes despised as subjective and unscientific, introspection has again found its validity and place in psychology, especially when properly used and interpreted.
Rather than told to interpret their experience participants are nowadays asked to describe the contents of focal attention. Their reports are not used as a direct description of cognitive processes, but rather treated as any other behavioral data. In a set of recent experiments motivated partly by these considerations, Daniel Hart and colleagues found that although children tended to appeal to their physical features in standard free-recall tasks about the self, the same children regard their psychological characteristics as most important to their self.
Hart and colleagues used philosophically-inspired thought experiments on personal identity to explore this. In one condition, the child is shown a model of a person machine and is told the following: This is a person machine. What the machine does is make persons. The person behind this door gets an exact copy of your body and looks exactly like you. But this person does not have your thoughts and feelings. The person behind this door has an exact copy of your thoughts and feelings, but this person does not have your body or look like you.
The subject was then asked which of these two persons is closest to being you. Is it the one with your body and appearance, or the one with your thoughts and feelings? The researchers compared children’s responses to the person machine task with their responses to standard free-recall tasks, and found that in the free recall tasks, the children mentioned physical characteristics most often, but in the person machine task, they regarded their psychological qualities as most important for the self. Hart and colleagues describe the results as follows:
When asked to judge which set of characteristics was most important for establishing similarity between the self and a hypothetical person, the 7-year-olds in this study most frequently claimed that it is their psychological features; indeed, over half of the children claimed that the psychological characteristics are superior for preserving personal identity for all the hypothetical transformations posed in this study. Philosophers will no doubt notice that this isn’t really a question about personal identity, since it is explicitly about similarity between simultaneously existing persons.
However, many children would be upset by imagining that they are dismantled shortly after stepping into the person machine, and ethics review boards would be unlikely to approve such a study should a sadistic experimenter propose it. At any rate, as Hart and colleagues intimate, the person machine task is likely more revealing than free-recall tasks for uncovering the child’s theory of the core features of the self. Hart and colleagues developed their task explicitly in the context of Theory of Mind research.
The Theory of Mind is plausibly implicated in the person machine task, since the task requires the subject to judge the importance of psychological properties for similarity across various individuals. The findings on the person machine task begin to tell us a bit about the Theory of Minds. They suggest that on the concept of self delivered by the Theory of Mind, the most important features of the self are ones psychological properties. Presumably, children don’t have this understanding of self until they have a Theory of Mind.
Hence, at least for this concept of self, Wellman is right. Everyday, theory of mind provides the infrastructure for self-conception. The strength of method for Introspection is that it helps psychologists propose theories about what is happening inside a subject’s head on the basis of the subject’s external behavior. Clearly, there is no way to know for certain what is actually going on inside. What is important is that the theory be accurate in predicting a subject’s action under a certain condition.
For instance, where two study techniques are being compared, a good theory would predict which technique will result in a subject’s learning more items. The theories to be presented here are the best available understanding human cognitive functioning, and we desire to make use of this body of knowledge for practical applications. Specifically, we desire to investigate the fundamental question of “how to look. ” What is the role of the eye in “actively looking” at a character? Eye movements are intimately related to perception, visual memory, and pattern recognition.
Eye movements play an essential role in vision. In particular, eye movements are controlled by cognitive models already present in the brain. The weakness of this method is that we are still somewhat left with the following questions in reference to introspection. How is information recognized? How are perceptual patterns perceived? The cognitive process in the human being may be regarded as an information-processing process which may be analyzed into a sequence of ordered steps.
Fundamental topics of importance are: (a) How is information perceived? (b) How are concepts formed? , and (c) How does human memory work? Specifically, we want to know, “How can we make the information contained in a Chinese character easy to use? ” By that we mean easy to understand as well as easy to remember. The human mind processes information in a sequence of steps, namely: the external stimuli flow into the very short-term memory (VSTM), through the short-term memory (STM), and long-term memory (LTM), and back out again.
In terms of information processing, understanding means processing by the STM. This makes information easy to understand by means of enabling the STM to create large chunks of information quickly and accurately. Remembering means retrieving information from the LTM, in which is stored the abstracted and condensed form of what was received by the STM. During recall, the mind re-generates words and images from the condensed data stored. Thus, understanding is primarily determined by the organization of knowledge, while remembering primarily by the contents.