Here is the answer to the third question. On the surface this seems like a simple question which should have a simple answer, but cognitive discussion involve language.
so I provided a history to explain the definition of cognition relative to the modern fields of cognitive psychology and cognitive science. Carefully read the last two paragraphs so that you understand simple, complex, and natural (innate) concepts that the mind/brain utilizes. Review the references - especially Goldstein - his summary of the history of the cognitive psychology field is excellent and his recognition of "mental representations" and he is easy to read. But the article by Nat is the most relevant - cutting edge. I explained what he means by "natural concepts" and offered some discussion of the "triunal brain" with the popular term reptilian brain. Once you follow the thread of the answer and have reviewed the references then you can shorten the answer to make it more concise. The most important idea is how simple concepts and complex concepts are not distinct - complex concepts make use of multiple simple concepts to result in new simple concepts. And I explained how the mind can overcome the magic number dilemma which should impede comprehension except that our brain organizes like an index card box! Good luck condensing my answer. Please leave positive feedback and any bonus is appreciated when you accept the answer. Tim.
The American Heritage Dictionary (2010) defines cognition as the mental process of knowing including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning and judgment. The study of cognition as a discipline emerged from the Science of Psychology- "studying the mind".(Goldstein 2011) Goldstein traced the historical roots which led to the field of Cognitive Psychology. Beginning with "structuralism", which is identified with experiments conducted by Franciscus Donder in 1868 to measure reaction time (Goldstein 2011, p 6), Goldstein pointed out that Donder's experiment was important because it provided the principle that "mental processes cannot be measured directly, but must be inferred from behavior". Structuralism received its formal name from the work of Wilhelm Wundt who founded the first laboratory of psychological science in 1879. Structuralism an individual's experience is made up of basic elements of experience. The basic elements are called "sensations".(Goldstein 2011, p 8) Structuralist relied on the process of "analytic introspection" to identify these elements. One of Wundt's goals, which he did not accomplish, was to create a table of elements that make up the mind in much the same way a table of elements provides the building blocks of the physical world. (Goldstein 2011, p 9) The next step leading to Cognitive Psychology was actually a shift away from study of the mind and mental processes because the process of analytic introspection was not respected as a proper scientific method by researchers in the first half of the 20th century. (Goldstein 2011, p 9)
In 1913, a Graduate student at the University of Chicago published his new approach to studying Psychology. XXXXX XXXXX referred to this new approach as "Behaviorism" (Goldstein 2011, p 10) Two important researchers in the Behaviorism field of Psychology prepared the way to return to modern Cognitive Psychology. In 1938 XXXXX XXXXXce Tolman was conducting experiments with rats regarding behavior when he described the "cognitive map". (Tolman 1948) Goldstein pointed out that a cognitive map is a "conception" of the environment the rat operates in.(Goldstein 2011, p 11) B.F. Skinner who is well known for the concept of "operant conditioning" to explain behavior and his 1974 book, "About Behaviorism" contributed to restoring interest in Cognitive Psychology , according to Goldstein, because of his earlier publication in 1957, "Verbal Behavior". Skinner in his earlier book had theorized that operant conditioning explains how children learn language. A linguist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Noam Chomsky, two years later in 1959 questioned Skinner's hypothesis. Chomsky pointed out that operant conditioning failed to explain speech which is negatively rewarded and that children also use incorrect grammar which is never rewarded with a reinforcer.(Goldstein 2011, p 11) Goldstein wrote;
"Instead, they (Psychologists) began to realize that to understand complex cognitive behaviors, it is necessary not only to measure observable behavior, but also to consider what this behavior tells us about how the mind works."(Goldstein 2011, p 12)
Besides Chomsky's criticism other events took place to lead to a resurgence in the field. The advent of the digital computer (1954 IBM) and how information is broken down into stages, also set the stage for the use of flow diagrams to map the mind as well as computers. The "information-processing" approach opened up a variety of new ways to conduct research and understand the mind.(Goldstein 2011, p 13) Several conferences held in 1956 to discuss these new technologies and how they can be modeled after the mind are considered to be the re-birth of Cognitive Psychology. One paper in particular, presented by XXXXX XXXXX from Harvard at one of the conferences, "The Magical Number 7 Plus or Minus 2" (1956), emphasized the importance in understanding how information is processed. [it is the basis for our 7 digit telephone numbers] Goldstein points out that these historical conferences held at Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were not formally recognized as the modern advent of cognitive psychology, however, until 1967 when Ulrich Neisser published his textbook titled "Cognitive Psychology" Neisser's text book was the first text to utilize the term "Cognitive Psychology" in conjunction with the information processing approach to the reestablished discipline. Goldstein pointed out that in a sense it is the grandfather of his text, "Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience".(Goldstein 2011, p 14)
According to Goldstein the field of Cognitive Psychology utilizes two definitions of cognition. One definition allows the field to identify different types of cognition (related to Wundt's elements of experience) and the second definition indicates how the mind operates (which shares elements of Skinner's operant conditioning) with these different types of cognition.(Goldstein 2011, p 5)
Definition 1) the mind creates and controls mental functions such as perception, attention, memory, emotions, language, deciding, thinking, and reasoning.
Definition 2) the mind is a system that creates representations of the world so that we can act within it to achieve our goals. (very similar to Tolman's "cognitive map" representing a basic "conception")
The idea of the "mind creating representations" is important throughout Goldstein's text.
David Myers in his text book, "Psychology" described cognition in the plural;
"...our cognitions - our perceptions, memories and interpretations linked to emotions."(Myer 2003, p 501)
Representations and interpretations are synonymous, but are at the core of modern of Modern Psychology. Researchers attempt to study and present theories and hypothesis to test to explain how the mind creates representations and interpretations of its environment.
Arnold vander Nat has pointed out that the connected field of Cognitive Science has identified how and where the brain interacts to create the mind - "conceptual representations". (Nat 2009) A simple concept or representation according to Nat are brought about by the "activation of a single conceptual node", whereas more complex concepts involve a sequence of "extem-poraneously linked conceptual nodes". (Nat 2009, Par. 1) Nate described the brains conceptual nodes as relay-points in a network that is interconnected and organizes information. One can image an index box with recipes and cooking pointers kept on cards. We may arrange a filing system, but our most frequently used recipes and cooking tips will be kept at the front, the less frequently used information is organized in a system for future retrieval. The card represents a simple concept - a word or image. Chocolate chip cookies are stored as a simple concept as a single card or a single node. On the card may be the details that combine a few or many other simple concepts. Combining a variety of words or images can be sued to understand the simple concept (make it more complex) or to create another simple concept (make it less complex) The interplay of nodes helps us understand complex concepts can establish new simple concepts. Imagine Pythagorean's theorem or the quadratic equation once it is learned. A node can stores each as a simple concept. But to apply it to the environment or to solve a problem with it the mind makes connections with the variety of simple concepts associated with the selected concept. For example - variable is stored as a simple concept, a, b, and c are stored as simple concepts, etc. By combining a variety of linked simple concepts complex concepts can be understood resulting in a new simple concept - another index card with its variety of affiliations to other nodes. Here XXXXX XXXXX's "magic number" is important. Each index card may have a maximum number of associations - between 7 to 9. In order to overcome this limiting principle our brain and our mind can combine multiple cards which will have different and maybe some shared associations.
The concept of a natural concept proposes the question as to whether or not there are natural or inherited concepts the mind forms automatically without acting or operating within the environment. Introspective study, according to Nat, have not identified or revealed any natural concepts within the mind or nodes of the brain.(Nat 2009 par ) "Natural" implies that a concept has not been acquired from stimuli or from our experiences acquired within our environment, instead it occurs innately or due to our genetics. The theory that we have a "Triune brain" proposed by Dr. Paul McClean in 1967 suggested that there is a natural component to the mind. The R-complex nicknamed the "Reptilian Brain" proposed by Dr. McClean is blamed for influencing a child's early responses to stimuli, but how the mind or brain is pre-loaded at birth (naturally) to produce such primitive behavior seems distinct from the formation of concepts. (Healy 1987, p 11) The maturation theories have proposed that as our consciousness (when we have formed enough active nodes and simple concepts) that the higher brain remains in control and the Reptilian brain becomes less active as it is in an infant until the infant is secure and feels safe in its environment. This suggest that organisms that are always engaged in survival activities have limited capacity to develop higher order minds and thinking. The strength and the ability of the brain and mind to process stimuli, identify simple concepts, and to have multiple interaction between nodes may be similar to how brain cells function in two key ways; 1) use it or lose it and 2) use it to keep it strong.
American Heritage Dictionary, 2010, Houghton Mifflin, Downloaded from the Internet January, 2011.
Goldstein, E. Bruce, "Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience with Coglab Manual [Hardcover], 2011, 1st Edition 2008, Wadsworth, ISBN 13: 978-0-8400-3355-0, 10: 0-8400-3355-9.
Healy, Jane, "Your Child's Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning From Birth to Adolescence" [Paperback] 1987, Broadway Books, ISBN: 0-7679-1615-8.
Myers, David G., "Psychology", (Hardcover) 2003, 1st Edition 1986, page 501,Worth Publishers, ISBN: 0-7167-5251-4.
Nat, Arnold Vander (Associate Professor of Philosoph , Loyola University of Chicago), "NEURONS, CONCEPTS, AND CONNECTIONS IN THINKING: Neo-TraditionalView of Concepts and Meaning", (Article 2000), revised 2009. Downloaded from the Internet: January 2011
Skinner, B.F., "About Behaviorism", (Mass Market Paperback - 1976) Vintage Books, (1st Edition 1974), Alfred A Knopf Inc., ISBN: 0-394-71618-3
Edited by Timothy the Teacher on 1/26/2011 at 4:49 AM EST