Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Free Will versus the Programmed Brain

Scientific American: Free Will versus the Programmed Brain

"On the other hand, the results fit with what some philosophers had predicted. The Western conception idea of free will seems bound up with our sense of moral responsibility, guilt for misdeeds and pride in accomplishment. We hold ourselves responsible precisely when we think that our actions come from free will. In this light, it’s not surprising that people behave less morally as they become skeptical of free will. Further, the Vohs and Schooler result fits with the idea that people will behave less responsibly if they regard their actions as beyond their control. If I think that there’s no point in trying to be good, then I’m less likely to try."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Stossel: Left's War on Science

Clearly there are those on both the right and the left who have ideological beliefs which can be anti-science, but as this video points out, the general narrative is that the left is pro-science.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Jerry Seinfeld - Awards are Stupid

Cognitive Psychology: Introduction

Cognitive psychology is the study of mental processes such as "attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving, creativity, and thinking".(1) Fundamentally, cognitive psychology studies how people acquire and apply knowledge or information. It is closely related to the highly interdisciplinary cognitive science and influenced by artificial intelligence, computer science, philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, biology, physics, and neuroscience.(2)

Cognitive psychology is based on two assumptions: 1) Human cognition can at least in principle be fully revealed by the scientific method, that is, individual components of mental processes can be identified and understood, and 2) Internal mental processes can be described in terms of rules or algorithms in information processing models. There has been much recent debate on these assumptions.(2)

Information Processing Approach
The information processing approach, unlike the stimulus-response model of behaviorism, looks at how input is transformed into output. In other words, what happens between sensation and behavior is a more important question for cognitive psychologists than just which sensation produced which behavior. Cognitive Psychology treats the sensation as bits of information which are subjected to various processes in the mind and ultimately behavior may or may not result from this.(3)

Though the cognitive approach began in the late 1950's it was the arrival of the computer that gave cognitive psychology the terminology and metaphor it needed to investigate the human mind. The start of the use of computers allowed psychologists to try to understand the complexities of human cognition by comparing it with something simpler and better understood, i.e., an artificial system such as a computer. The use of the computer as a tool for thinking how the human mind handles information is known as the computer analogy. Essentially, a computer codes (i.e., changes) information, stores information, uses information, and produces an output (retrieves info). The idea of information processing was adopted by cognitive psychologists as a model of how human thought works.(4)

The information processing approach is based on a number of assumptions, including:
  1. Information made available from the environment is processed by a series of processing systems (e.g., attention, perception, short-term memory);
  2. These processing systems transform, or alter the information in systematic ways;
  3. The aim of research is to specify the processes and structures that underlie cognitive performance;
  4. Information processing in humans resembles that in computers.(4)

Mediational Processes
The behaviorists approach only studies external observable (stimulus and response) behavior which can be objectively measured. They believe that internal behavior cannot be studied because we cannot see what happens in a person’s mind (and therefore cannot objectively measure it).

In comparison, the cognitive approach believes that internal mental behavior can be scientifically studied using experiments. Cognitive psychology assumes that a mediational process occurs between stimulus/input and response/output.(4)

The mediational (i.e., mental) event could be memory, perception, attention or problem solving, etc. These are known as mediational processes because they mediate (i.e., go-between) between the stimulus and the response. They come after the stimulus and before the response.
History of Cognitive Psychology
  • Norbert Wiener (1948) published Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, introducing terms such as input and output.
  • Tolman (1948) work on cognitive maps – training rats in mazes, showed that animals had an internal representation of behavior.
  • Birth of Cognitive Psychology often dated back to George Miller’s (1956) “The Magical Number 7 Plus or Minus 2.”
  • Newell and Simon’s (1972) development of the General Problem Solver.
  • In 1960, Miller founded the Center for Cognitive Studies at Harvard with famous cognitivist developmentalist, Jerome Bruner.
  • Ulric Neisser (1967) publishes "Cognitive Psychology", which marks the official beginning of the cognitive approach.
  • Process models of memory Atkinson & Shiffrin’s (1968) Multi Store Model.

(1) American Psychological Association: Glossary of Psychological Terms
(2) Scholarpedia: Cognitive psychology
(3) Zeepedia: Cognitive Psychology (2nd Link)
(4) Simplepsychology: Cognitive Psychology
(5) Wikibooks: Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience

Monday, April 2, 2018

Derren Brown & Michael Shermer

@27:38 Brown summarizes a major aspect of stoicism stating
"one of the big the big building blocks of stoicism is this familiar idea now of you know, it's not things in the world that cause our problems but it's those stories we tell ourselves about those things"

@38:41 When talking about happiness vs pleasure Brown says
"because that's the difference isn't it between a pleasurable thing in the moment you know if you have the choice between going on a roller coaster, I think Daniel Kahneman used this example, going on a roller coaster with your friends versus looking after a sick relative, you probably have more pleasure on a roller coaster but afterwards when you think about what you've done with your day you might be happy with the fact that you chose to look after the sick relative because the story that you're telling yourself about who you are and the choice that you made are more conducive to happiness"