LIMITS OF COGNITION
Limits of Human Perception and Cognition
PHI 208 Ethics and Moral Reasoning
July 21, 2013
LIMITS OF COGNITION
What is human cognitive psychology? It is usually defined as inquiry into how people acquire and use knowledge. The study of human cognition concerns itself with the questions such as: What explains consciousness? How do we perceive the outside world? How do we remember our past? How do we learn and use concepts? How and how well do we reason and solve problems? What accounts for individual differences in intelligence? How do we acquire and use language? What enables children to become mentally competent adults? Let’s find out if we can answer some of these questions shall we?
In the modern world, the study of human cognition is a science. The essential assumption made by cognitive scientists is the cognitive phenomena, such as reasoning and remembering, are caused by orderly and self-regulating physical processes intrinsic to the arrangement of matter and energy in the brain. These are the same sorts of physical processes that underlie biology or physics. Adopting a scientific approach to human cognition means that they methods of science, such as hypothesis testing and controlled observation, may be usefully applied to the study of human mental life. The idea that mental processes reflect physical processes has only recently become widely accepted in our culture. A few centuries ago, Western culture took a radically different perspective on human cognition. To illustrate, consider how we understand dreams. Current theories explain dreaming as the result of activation of the cortex by the brain stem. If we go back a few centuries to Europe, however, we find that people thought that dreams had nothing to do with brain processes. Instead, even well-educated people had a supernatural explanation for dreams; they believed that dreams were prophetic warnings or messages from the...