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Psychology today is or strives to be a synthesis of the two approaches

without theories, hypotheses, and ideas – what do we do with our empirical observations (data)?

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conversely, we can’t just rely on inference, conjecture, or what we think about the way things are – we need empirical observations (data)!

The First Cognitive Psychologists

  • Donders (1868)
  • How long does it take for a person to make a decision?
  • Reaction-time (RT) experiment
  • Measures interval between stimulus presentation and person’s response to stimulus

The First Cognitive Psychologists

  • Donders (1868)
  • Simple RT task:
  • When you see a light appear, press the button.
  • Choice RT task:
  • When you see a light on the left side appear, push the left button.
  • When you see a light on the right side appear, push the right button.
  • Reaction time is how fast the participant pressed the button after the light came on.

The First Cognitive Psychologists

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● FIGURE 1.2 A modern version of Donders’ (1868) reaction time experiment: (a) the

simple reaction time task; and (b) the choice reaction time task. In the simple reaction time

task, the participant pushes the J key when the light goes on. In the choice reaction time

task, the participant pushes the J key if the left light goes on and the K key if the right light

goes on. The purpose of Donders’ experiment was to determine

The First Cognitive Psychologists

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The First Cognitive Psychologists

  • Donders (1868)
  • How long does it take to make a decision?
  • Choice RT – Simple RT = Time to make a decision
  • Choice RT = 1/10th sec longer than Simple RT
  • 1/10th sec to make decision
  • Mental responses cannot be measured directly but can be inferred from the participant’s behavior

The First Cognitive Psychologists

The First Cognitive Psychologists

  • Wundt (1897)
  • Approach
    Structuralism: experience is determined by combining elements of experience called sensations
  • Our experience of things includes it’s color, taste, structure, smell, sound, etc.
  • Sensations combine to tell us what the experience or object is.
  • Method
    Analytic introspection: participants trained to describe experiences and thought processes in response to stimuli

The First Cognitive Psychologists

  • Ebbinghaus (1885/1913)

How long does it take us to forget something we learn?

  • Read list of nonsense syllables aloud many times to determine number of repetitions necessary to repeat list without errors

NAD, TOC, RET, CAK, ZIF, etc.

One list may have 20 of these. One list may have 50 of these.

Sometimes he recalled them immediately; sometimes after a 1 hour delay. After a delay there always some forgetting.

  • After some time, he tried to relearn the list and found that:
  • Short intervals = fewer repetitions to relearn
  • Learned many different lists at many different retention intervals

The First Cognitive Psychologists

  • Ebbinghaus (1885/1913)
  • Savings = (Original time to learn the list) – (Time to relearn the list after a delay)
  • Savings curve shows savings as a function of retention interval

The First Cognitive Psychologists

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FIGURE 1.5 Ebbinghaus’s savings (or

forgetting) curve. Taking the percent savings as a

measure of the amount remembered, Ebbinghaus

plotted this against the time interval between

initial learning and testing.

(Source: Based on data from Ebbinghaus, 1885/1913.)

William James’s Principles of Psychology

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