Chapter 8 Thinking, Intelligence, and Language

  • Cognitive psychology is the study of mental processes which is involved with thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and decision making. This chapter discusses the cognitive revolution and superior problem solving, intelligence, and the contribution of language.
1. The Cognitive Revolution in Psychology
Cognitive psychology is a relatively young field, simply because behaviorists such as B.F. Skinner believed that only observable behavior was to be the main focus and that mental processes are best left to philosophers. However the invention of computers lead to a change in that view because they worked as simplified analogy to the human mind, according to Herbert Simon. Although where the computer lacks, the human brain has the ability to learn new rules, relationships, concepts, and patterns that it can generalize to novel situations.

  • Cognition is defined as the way in which information is processed and manipulated in remembering, thinking, and knowing.mammalian-brain-computer-inside.jpg
Artificial intelligence
  • (AI) is the scientific field that focuses on creating machines capable of performing tasks requiring intelligence when performed by people.
These contribute to diagnosing medical conditions, examining equipment failures, and advising students about which courses to take.

2. Thinking
  • Thinking involves manipulating information mentally by forming concepts, solving problems, making decisions, and reflecting in a critical or creative manner.
Humans categorize information to make sense of it, this allows us to generalize our world and associate experiences and objects in it. This also helps to aid memory retrieval and how to react to a particular object or experience as well.
  • Prototype model is a model explaining when people evaluate an item with a concept, they compare it with other items in that concept to look for a “family resemblance” with the items properties. For example, we can use the clownfish as a prototype model of “fish” rather than the fish on the right.

    Problem Solving
The four steps in problem solving:
  1. Find and frame problem- recognizing creatively be “seeing” what others don’t
  2. Develop problem solving strategies- work backward from solution by using subgoals, which are intermediate goals to reach a final goal. Algorithms are helpful to use because they test all possible solutions guaranteeing an answer, like formulas or instructions. However Heuristics provide shortcuts suggesting a solution without guaranteeing an answer and are most likely used in life.
  3. Evaluate solutions- decide how effective solution is.
  4. Rethink and Redifine problems and solutions over time- build on improving past performance.
Thinking outside the box
  • Fixation is using a previous approach to solving a problem rather than having a fresh new perspective.
  • Functional Fixation happens when a person fails to solve a problem because they are fixated on a things usual function.
Avoiding these obstacles is most effective when solving problems but it means admitting your past strategies were not ideal.

Reasoning and decision making

  • Reasoning is the mental activity of transforming information to reach conclusions. It can be either inductive or deductive.
  • Inductive reasoning involves reasoning from the specific to make generalizations.
  • Deductive reasoning is when a generalized case is said to be true to a specific instance. For example, when scientists develop a hypothesis from a theory.
  • Decision making is evaluating alternatives and making a choice.
There are two levels of reasoning and decision making, automatic (system 1) and controlled (system 2). The automatic involves processing that’s rapid, heuristic, and intuitive, like gut feelings. The controlled system is slower, effortful, and analytical for solving something like a math problem.

Biases and Heuristics

These can affect the quality of decisions and create mistakes.


Thinking Critically and Creatively
Critical thinking means thinking reflectively and productively and evaluating the evidence. Even though this is important to problem solving, it is rarely taught in schools because teachers primarily focus on high test scores so they just teach generalization.
Mindfulness is feeling alert and meantally present for one's everyday activities and vital to critical thinking because many people exhibit a lot of "mindless" behaviors.
Open-mindedness means being receptive to other ways of looking at things, without jumping to conclusions.
Thinking creatively refers to the ability to think about something in novel and unusual ways to devise unconventional solutions to problems, such as using a shoe as a hammer.
Divergent thinking is thinking that produces many solutions to the same problem, while Convergent thinking produces the single best solution. Creative thinks do both types of thinking, commonly known as brainstorming and narrowing it down to one answer. People that think creatively are associated with characteristics like Flexibility and Playful thinking, Inner motivation, Willingness to face risks, and Objective evaluation of work.

3. Intelegence

Like creative, the word intelligent can apply to a behavior or a person. as an all-purpose ability to do well on cognitive tasks, to solve problems, and to learn from experience.
Human intelligence, mental quality that consists of the abilities to learn from experience, adapt to new situations, understand and handle abstract concepts, and use knowledge to manipulate one's environment.

Measuring Intelligence

Psychologists measure intelligence using tests that produce a score known as the person's intelligence quotient (IQ).
· Validity refers to the extent to which a test measures what it is intended to measure.
· Reliability is the extent to which a test yields a consistent, reproducible measure of performance.
· Standardization involves developing uniform procedures for administering and scoring a test, as well as creating norms, or performance standards, for the test.

Mental age (MA): which is an individual's level of mental development relative to that of others.
The German psychologist William Stern devised the term intelligence quotient (IQ) in 1912. IQ consists of an individual's mental age divided by chronological age multiplied by 100.


Sternberg's theoryTriarchic theory of intelligence Sternberg's theory that intelligence comes in three forms: analytical, creative, and practical. Robert J. Sternberg (1986, 2004, 2008, 2009a, 2009b, 2009c, 2009d) developed the triarchic theory of intelligence, which says that intelligence comes in multiple (specifically, three) forms. These forms are
  • Analytical intelligence: The ability to analyze, judge, evaluate, compare, and contrast.
  • Creative intelligence: The ability to create, design, invent, originate, and imagine.
  • Practical intelligence: The ability to use, apply, implement, and put ideas into practice.

Cultural Bias in Testing
Many early intelligence tests were culturally biased, favoring people who were from urban rather than rural environments, of middle rather than low socioeconomic status, and White rather than African American (Provenzo, 2002).

The Normal Curve

This figure shows the normal curve and Stanford-Binet IQ scores. The distribution of IQ scores approximates a normal curve. Answer the following questions, keeping in mind that the area under the curve represents the number of people who obtain a given score on the test.

Do most of the population fall in the low, medium, or high range? How do you know?
If someone scored a 132 on the test, how many people scored below that person's score?
What is the mean or average on the IQ test? Where does the mean fall on the bell-shaped curve?
Notice that in a normal distribution, extremely high and extremely low scores are rare. What other human characteristics might follow this pattern?

"Mainstream Science on Intelligence" (1994), an editorial statement by fifty-two researchers:
A very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings—"catching on," "making sense" of things, or "figuring out" what to do.

4. Language

Language is a form of communication – whether spoken, written, or signed – that is based on a system of symbols.

The Basic Properties of Language

All human languages have infinite generativity, the ability to produce an endless number of meaningful sentences, which comes from five basic rule systems:
Phonology: a language’s sound system.
Morphology: a language’s rules for word formation.
Syntax: a language’s rules for combining words to form acceptable phrases and sentences.
Semantics: the meaning of words and sentences in a particular languagPragmatics: the useful character of language and the ability of language to communicate even more meaning than is said.

Language and Condition

The connection between language and though has been of considerable interest to psychologists: is thought dependent on language, or is language dependent on thought?

The Role of Language in Cognition

Linguist Benjamin Whorf (1956) introduced the idea that language determines perception and the way we think, a view that has been called the linguistic relativity hypothesis. He argued that there is the possibility that people might perceive the world differently as the result of the different languages they speak. His example was that the Inuit people in Alaska have a dozen words to describe snow, while English has few, which means that English speakers cannot see different kinds of snow because they have no words for them.
Critics of Whorf’s ideas say that words merely reflect, rather than cause, the way we think. For example snowboarders also know numerous words for snow. However, many scholars agree with Whorf. Some tried to apply Whorf’s view to gender differences in color perception or to demonstrate the influence of language on our own personalities.

The Role of Cognition in Language

Researches also study the possibility that cognition is an important foundation for language. If so, then there should be a link between language ability and general intellectual ability. However, Williams syndrome, for example, demonstrates that intellectual disability is not always accompanied by poor language skills. There is increasing evidence that language and though are not part of a single system. Instead, they seem to have evolved as separate but related components of the mind.

Biological and Environmental Influences on Language

Biological Influences

American linguist Noam Chomsky (1975) has argued that humans are biologically prewired to learn language at a certain time and in a certain way. He supports his view by the fact that children all over the world reach language milestones at about the same time and in about the same order, despite vast variations in the language input they receive from their environment. Biological foundation of language is also supported by neuroscience research, which shows that the brain contains particular regions that are predisposed to language use.

Environmental Influences

Many language experts argue that a child’s experiences, the particular language to be learned, and the context in which learning takes place can strongly influence language acquisition. Cases of children who have been abused and lacked exposure to language provide evidence for the important role of the environment in language development.

Some language experts argue that these cases support the idea that there is a “critical period” for language development, a special time in a child’s life (usually the preschool years) during which language must develop or it never will.
The support and involvement of caregivers and teachers greatly facilitate a child’s language learning. Research indicates that children develop earlier and better language when raised by responsive adults. Below are some good strategies for parents in talking to their babies:
· Be an active conversational partner.
· Talk as if the infant will understand what you are saying.
· Use a language style with which you feel comfortable.
Conclusion: Children are biologically prepared to learn language but benefit enormously from being immersed in a competent language environment from and early age.

Language Development over the Life Span

Milestones of Language Development
0 - 6 Months
cooing; discrimination of vowels; babbling present by 6 months
Babbling is determined by biological readiness, not by the amount of reinforcement or the ability to hear. Even deaf babies babble for a time.
Based on the results of her research, Patricia Kuhl argues that from birth to about 6 months of age, children are “universal linguist” who are capable of distinguishing each of the sounds that make up the various different human languages. By about 6 months of age, they have started to specialize in the speech sounds (or phonology) of their native language.
6 - 12 Months
babbling expands to include sounds of spoken language; gestures used to communicate about objects; first words spoken 10-13 months
12 - 18 Months
understands 50+ words on average
18 - 24 Months
vocabulary increases to an average of 200 words; two-word combinations
2 Years
vocabulary rapidly increases; correct use of plurals; use of past tense; use of some prepositions
3 - 4 Years
mean length of utterances increases to 3-4 morphemes in a sentence; use of “yes” and “no” questions, wh- questions; use of negatives and imperatives; increased awareness of pragmatics
5 - 6 Years
vocabulary reaches an average of about 10,000 words; coordination of simple sentences
6 - 8 Years
vocabulary continues to increase rapidly; more skilled use of syntactical rules, conversational skills improve
9 - 11 Years
word definitions include synonyms; conversational strategies continue to improve
11 - 14 Years
vocabulary increases with addition of more abstract words; understanding of complex grammar forms; increased understanding of function a word plays in a sentence; understands metaphor and satire
15 - 20 Years
understands adult literary works

Recent research indicates that it is better to start learning second-languages before 10 to 12 years old because children’s ability to pronounce words with a native-like accent in a second language typically decreases with age. Learning a new language in adulthood involves cognitively stretching ourselves away from assumptions.

5. Thinking, Problem Solving, and Health and Wellness

The way we think about life events can have a profound impact on our experience of stress. What is stressful depends on how we think about events –what psychologists call cognitive appraisal.

Cognitive Appraisal and Stress

Cognitive appraisal refers to a person’s interpretation of situation: whether the event or situation is viewed as harmful and threatening, or challenging, and the person’s determination to cope effectively with the events. Coping is essentially a kind of problem solving. Richard Lazarus suggests that people appraise events in two steps: primary appraisal and secondary appraisal. In primary appraisal, individuals interpret whether an event involves harm or loss that has already occurred a threat of some future danger, or a challenge to be overcome. In secondary appraisal, individuals evaluate their resources and determine how effectively they can be used to cope with the event.

Cognitive Reappraisal

Cognitive reappraisal involves regulating our feelings about an experience by reinterpreting it or thinking about it in a different way from a different angle. Reappraising negative life events can involve a process called benefit finding, which means looking at a stressful life event in a particular way, focusing on the good that has arisen in one’s life as a result.Problem solving finding the appropriate way to achieve a goal when it is not readily available.
Concepts are mental categories that are used to group objects, events, and characteristics.

Questions for Review
  1. Q: What invention changed the view on cognitive psycology?
    A: The invention of the computer.
  2. Q: What is the third step in problem solving?
    A: Evaluate the solution(s)
  3. Q: What is an example of overcoming fixation?
    A: Using a shirt as a bandage for a large wound
  4. Q: What is the difference between divergent and convergent thinking?
    A: Divergent thinking produces many solutions while convergent produces the single best solution.
  5. Q: What bias is being examplified when one tends to report falsely, after the fact, that one accurately predicted an outcome?
    A: Hindsight bias
  6. Q: What are the three steps to Measuring Intelligence?
    A: Validity, Reliability, Standardization
  7. Q: Who devised the term Intelligence Quotient (IQ)?
    A: William Stern
  8. Q: Who developed the Triarchic Theory of intelligence?
    A: Robert J. Stemburg
  9. Q: What is the definition of Human Intelligence?
    A: Mental equality that consists of the abilities to learn from experience, adaptive to new situations, understands and handles abstract concepts and use knowledge to manipulate one’s environment.
  10. Q: What is Cultural Bias?
    A: Favoring people who were from Urban rather than rural environments.
  11. Q: Is thought dependent on language, or is language dependent on thought?
    A: Although thought influences language and language influences thought, there is increasing evidence that language and thoughy are not part of a single system. Instead, they seem to have evolved as separate but related components of the mind.
  12. Q: What does a "critical period" for language development mean? A: A "critical period" for language development is a special time in a child's life during which language must develop or it never will.
  13. Q: When does a "critical period" for language development occur?
    A: Usually during the preschool years.
  14. Q: Why does Patricia Kuhl call children of 0-6 months age "universal linguists?"
    A: Children are "universal linguists" because during a certain period they are capable of distinguishing each of the sounds that make up the various different human languages.
  15. Q: When does, according to Patricia Kuhl, language specialization occur?
    A: By about 6 months of age, children have started to specialize in the speech sounds (or phonology) of their native language.