Chapter Summary

• Experimental cognitive psychology. The experimental cognitive approach has had a major impact on cognitive neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience, as well as on other areas within psychology

(e.g., social psychology; abnormal psychology). Experimental cognitive psychology has made significant contributions across the whole range of human cognition. Its limitations include a lack of ecological validity, the implacable experimenter, the decoupling problem, the relative neglect of emotional factors, the de-emphasis of individual differences, and the construction of fairly specific theories.

• Cognitive neuropsychology. The cognitive neuropsychological approach provides a good test-bed for evaluating theories of normal cognition. It has also produced findings that have been used to generate new theories. The approach has proved successful in understanding language, which seems to be organised in a modular way. The limitations of cognitive neuropsychology include the following: patients vary in the extent of brain damage, their symptoms, and their personal characteristics and experiences; lesions are often too large in extent to permit clear inferences about cognitive functions; the modular approach works less well with higher-level processes; and the areas of brain involved in performing a given cognitive function can be overestimated or underestimated.

• Cognitive science. The cognitive science approach has the advantage of encouraging explictness that can rule out computationally infeasible theories, facilitate the comparison of theories, and support the making of predictions when theories become complex. It also offers a possible solution to the fragmentary nature of theories in cognitive psychology in its proposal of cognitive architectures to accommodate diverse cognitive phenomena. However, cognitive science lacks a sufficient inter-disciplinary mix and may just be "fancy" cognitive psychology. It has been argued that computational models are used more to decorate theories than as strongly predictive models. Computational models tend to be limited in scope, ignoring the wider context of cognition (e.g., emotional, social, and biological contexts), and focusing on single tasks. Finally, the promise that cognitive architectures will deliver unified theories may not be delivered.

• Cognitive neuroscience. Cognitive neuroscience provides detailed information about the brain areas that are damaged in the patients studied by cognitive neuropsychologists. In combination, neuroimaging techniques allow us to achieve good temporal and spatial resolution of cognitive processes. The cognitive neuroscience approach can help to show the reality of theoretical distinctions. Neuroimaging data are typically averaged across individuals, which may obscure important individual differences. It can be hard with brain scanning to distinguish between those active brain areas that are more and less crucial for successful task performance.

• Present and future directions. There is increased use of the method of converging operations, which involves addressing any given issue with various approaches. When the findings from different approaches are comparable, this increases our confidence in the validity of the findings. The cognitive neuropsychological and cognitive neuroscience approaches sometimes produce different findings bacause the brain areas essential for task performance tend to be underestimated in the former approach and overestimated in the latter approach. The key assumption for present and future research is that there are important links between brain activity and cognitive functions. Complete psychological accounts of cognitive functioning require consideration of the computational, algorithmic, and hardware or brain levels.

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