cognitive psychology

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cognitive psychology,

school of psychology that examines internal mental processes such as problem solving, memory, and language. It had its foundations in the GestaltGestalt
[Ger.,=form], school of psychology that interprets phenomena as organized wholes rather than as aggregates of distinct parts, maintaining that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
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 psychology of Max WertheimerWertheimer, Max
, 1880–1943, German psychologist, b. Prague. He studied at the universities of Prague, Berlin, and Würzburg (Ph.D., 1904). His original researches, while he was a professor at Frankfurt and Berlin, placed him in the forefront of contemporary psychology.
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, Wolfgang KöhlerKöhler, Wolfgang
, 1887–1967, American psychologist, b. Estonia, Ph.D. Univ. of Berlin, 1909. From 1913 to 1920 he was director of a research station on Tenerife, Canary Islands.
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, and Kurt KoffkaKoffka, Kurt
, 1886–1941, American psychologist, b. Germany, Ph.D. Univ. of Berlin, 1908. Before settling permanently in the United States in 1928 as a professor at Smith, he taught at Cornell and at the Univ. of Wisconsin.
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, and in the work of Jean PiagetPiaget, Jean
, 1896–1980, Swiss psychologist, known for his research in developmental psychology. After receiving a degree in zoology from the Univ. of Neuchâtel (1918), Piaget's interests shifted to psychology. He studied under C. G.
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, who studied intellectual development in children. Cognitive psychologists are interested in how people understand, diagnose, and solve problems, concerning themselves with the mental processes which mediate between stimulus and response. Cognitive theory contends that solutions to problems take the form of algorithms—rules that are not necessarily understood but promise a solution, or heuristics—rules that are understood but that do not always guarantee solutions. In other instances, solutions may be found through insight, a sudden awareness of relationships. Cognitive psychologists have tried to reach a greater understanding of human memory (see memorymemory,
in psychology, the storing of learned information, and the ability to recall that which has been stored. It has been hypothesized that three processes occur in remembering: perception and registering of a stimulus; temporary maintenance of the perception, or short-term
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) and language. In recent years, cognitive psychology has become associated with information processing, which examines artificial intelligence in computers to find out whether they are capable of problem solving in ways similar to humans. Information processing theory studies the parallels between the human brain and the computer, in the ways that both can receive, process, store, and retrieve information.


See A. J. Sanford, Cognition and Cognitive Psychology (1986); H. L. Pick, P. Van den Broek, and D. C. Knill, ed., Cognition: Conceptual and Methodological Issues (1992).

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