Outline Of This Book

One problem with writing a textbook of cognitive psychology is that virtually all the processes and structures of the cognitive system are interdependent. Consider, for example, the case of a student reading a book to prepare for an examination. The student is learning, but there are several other processes going on as well. Visual perception is involved in the intake of information from the printed page, and there is attention to the content of the book (although attention may be captured by irrelevant stimuli). In order for the student to profit from the book, he or she must possess considerable language skills, and must also have rich knowledge representations that are relevant to the material in the book. There may be an element of problem solving in the student's attempts to relate what is in the book to the possibly conflicting information he or she has learned elsewhere. Furthermore, what the student learns will depend on his or her emotional state. Finally, the acid test of whether the learning has been effective and has produced long-term memory comes during the examination itself, when the material contained in the book must be retrieved.

The words italicised in the previous paragraph indicate some of the main ingredients of human cognition, and form the basis of our coverage of cognitive psychology. In view of the interdependent functioning of all aspects of the cognitive system, there is an emphasis in this book on the ways in which each process (e.g., perception) depends on other processes and structures (e.g., attention; long-term memory; stored representations). This should aid the task of making sense of the complexities of the human cognitive system.

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