Cognitive Processes Associated With Critical Thinking

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Theories in Behaviorism were popular up through the 1920’s when Jean Piaget began studying thoughts, language, and intelligence as well as how these change through course of human development and aging.

While WWII was taking the lives of millions of humans across the globe, psychology searched for new and innovative ways of studying human performance in order to address questions such as how to best train soldiers to use new technology, and how attention can me affected by stress.

Shortly after Broca’s publication documenting language deficits related to damage to the lateral frontal cortex, the German physician, psychiatrist and anatomist Carl Wernicke noticed that not all language deficits were related to damage to Broca’s area.

Wernicke found that damage to the left posterior and superior temporal gyrus resulted in deficits in language comprehension as opposed to language production.

This area of the brain is what we now refer to as Wernicke’s area and these two findings together provided important evidence for theories related to functional localization within the brain, a theory separate from previous ideas related to the study of phrenology.

Around the turn of the 20th century, experimental research stemming out of the first experimental labs of Wilhelm Wundt and Ernst Weber in German, and Charles Bell in Britain lead to the experimental study of behavior beginning with Edward Thorndike’s Law of Effect (1898) which describes how behavior can be shaped by conditions and patterns of reinforcement.This research eventually lead to Claude Shannon’s developments in information theory in 1948 which describes the quantification, storage, and communication of information.Developments in computer science soon led to parallels being described between human thought processes and computer information processing leading to Newell and Simon’s development of artificial intelligence (AI) describing both advanced capabilities in computing and descriptive models of cognitive processes.For example, many decisions we make about choosing to do something or retaining from doing something involve cognitive processes related to weighing options and making comparisons to other events in memory.However, cognition has been argued to not be involved in all the actions we make such as reflexes that recoil your hand after touching an extremely hot surface which operates on automatic feedback loops between the effector and spinal cord.Paul Broca, a French physician, anatomist and anthropologist treated a patient now known as “Tan” who with the exception of some curse words could only create the utterance “tan” when he tried to speak. Broca was inspecting the patients brain, discovered a specific area of the lateral frontal cortex now known as Broca’s area was damaged.He concluded that Broca’s areas was an important processing center for language production.It is concerned with these processes even when they operate in the absence of relevant stimulation, as in images and hallucinations. Given such a sweeping definition, it is apparent that cognition is involved in everything a human being might possibly do; that every psychological phenomenon is a cognitive phenomenon.But although cognitive psychology is concerned with all human activity rather than some fraction of it, the concern is from a particular point of view.The infinite amount of sub routines we organize every day to make up larger behaviors such as driving, operating machinery, participating in sports or even holding conversations (all relatively new behaviors in terms of evolution of a species) go unnoticed but together allow us to navigate our environment safely and efficiently.There are facets to the multitude of complex processes involved in human cognition and what we understand about animal thought processes.


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