This week we will focus on cognitive psychological principles and theories. Our study of learning is particularly applicable to each of you as you are working towards your degree and life-long learning in your classes. We will also look at the process of how we think and process information, as well as the sometimes controversial topic of intelligence and how we measure intelligence.
As you progress through your lesson this week, take full advantage of all of the features of this adapted learning lesson – complete the exercises, honestly assess your understanding of the material using the slider bars at the bottom of each screen, and review the support material suggested based on your progress. Be sure to ask your instructor if you have any questions over any of the concepts introduced this week.
The summer sun shines brightly on a deserted stretch of beach. Suddenly, a tiny grey head emerges from the sand, then another and another. Soon the beach is teeming with loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings. Although only minutes old, the hatchlings know exactly what to do. Their flippers are not very efficient for moving across the hot sand, yet they continue onward, instinctively. Some are quickly snapped up by gulls circling overhead and others become lunch for hungry ghost crabs that dart out of their holes. Despite these dangers, the hatchlings are driven to leave the safety of their nest and find the ocean.
Not far down this same beach, Ben and his son, Julian, paddle out into the ocean on surfboards. A wave approaches. Julian crouches on his board, then jumps up and rides the wave for a few seconds before losing his balance. He emerges from the water in time to watch his father ride the face of the wave.
Unlike baby sea turtles, who know how to find the ocean and swim with no help from their parents, we are not born knowing how to swim (or surf). Yet we humans pride ourselves on our ability to learn. In fact, over thousands of years and across cultures, we have created institutions devoted entirely to learning. But have you ever asked yourself how exactly it is that we learn? What processes are at work as we come to know what we know?
Thinking and Intelligence
Why is it so difficult to break habits—like reaching for your ringing phone even when you shouldn’t, such as when you’re driving? How does a person who has never seen or touched snow in real life develop an understanding of the concept of snow? How do young children acquire the ability to learn language with no formal instruction? Psychologists who study thinking explore questions like these.
Cognitive psychologists also study intelligence. What is intelligence, and how does it vary from person to person? Are “street smarts” a kind of intelligence, and if so, how do they relate to other types of intelligence? What does an IQ test really measure? These questions and more will be explored in this chapter as you study thinking and intelligence.
In this module, we will focus on high-level cognitive processes. As a part of this discussion, we will consider thinking and briefly explore the development and use of language. We will also discuss problem solving and creativity before ending with a discussion of how intelligence is measured and how our biology and environments interact to affect intelligence. After finishing this module, you will have a greater appreciation of the higher-level cognitive processes that contribute to our distinctiveness as a species.