Cognitive Neuroscience

Some cognitive psychologists argue that we can understand cognition by relying on observations of people's performance on cognitive tasks and ignoring the neurophysiological processes occurring within the brain. For example, Baddeley (1997, p. 7) expressed some scepticism about the relevance of neurophysiological processes to the development of psychological theories:

A theory giving a successful account of the neurochemical basis of long-term memory ...would be unlikely to offer an equally elegant and economical account of the psychological characteristics of memory. While it may in principle one day be possible to map one theory onto the other, it will still be useful to have both a psychological and a physiological theory .Neurophysiology and neurochemistry are interesting and important areas, but at present they place relatively few constraints on psychological theories and models of human memory.

Why was Baddeley doubtful that neurophysiological evidence could contribute much to psychological understanding? The main reason was that psychologists and neurophysiologists tend to focus on different levels of analysis. In the same way that a carpenter does not need to know that wood consists mainly of

The spatial and temporal ranges of some techniques used to study brain functioning. Adapted from Churchland and Sejnowski (1991).

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