Special Issue "What is Cognition?"

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A special issue of Behavioral Sciences (ISSN 2076-328X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2012)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Charles I. Abramson (Website)

Department of Psychology, Oklahoma State University, 116 N. Murray Stillwater,OK 74078, USA
Interests: behavioral neuroscience; learning; comparative psychology; agrochemicals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The goal of this special issue is to discuss the history and controversies associated with the term “Cognition.” We believe that a critical look at this term is both important to practicing researchers and to students entering the field of behavioral analysis. The term “cognition” is widely used but seldom defined. When it is defined, definitions vary widely. A brief survey of psychology textbooks, for example, identified 15 different definitions. Some of these definitions focused only on human behavior and others include both human and animal behavior. The term cognition is also making its way into the study of invertebrate behavior. We now read that snails, for example, possess “mini-cognitions” and honey bees and fruit flies can serve as a cognitive model for the study of human behavior.

The history of the term cognition is also unclear and in need of analysis. In an APA interview conducted with Ulric Neisser in 1983 it was suggested that he coined the term “Cognitive Psychology.” This is not true. In 1939, Thomas Moore, a Benedictine Monk and Professor of Psychology at Catholic University published a textbook titled Cognitive Psychology which predates Neisser’s 1967 text by 28 years. Moreover, the “cognitive behaviorism” of neo-behaviorists are seldom discussed in contemporary histories of cognitive psychology as are the contributions of Greek philosophy with the possible exception of the “big three” of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

In addition to an analysis of definitional issues and historical issues, this special issue will tackle a wide range of theoretical problems associated with the term including the lack of a coherent theory (i.e., “cognition is anything I want it to be”), lack of motivational constructs, and no discussion of the work of neo-behaviorists such as Hull, Spence, Tolman, Amsel, and Logan.

Prof. Dr. Charles I. Abramson
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • cognitive psychology
  • history
  • behavior

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Everyday Problem Solving and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living: Support for Domain Specificity
Behav. Sci. 2013, 3(1), 170-191; doi:10.3390/bs3010170
Received: 3 December 2012 / Revised: 21 February 2013 / Accepted: 26 February 2013 / Published: 7 March 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (152 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Research suggests that performance on cognitive tasks resembling daily challenges (i.e., everyday problem-solving tasks) may be a better indicator of functional ability in old age compared to traditional measures of cognitive ability. Findings demonstrating this link, however, have yielded mixed [...] Read more.
Research suggests that performance on cognitive tasks resembling daily challenges (i.e., everyday problem-solving tasks) may be a better indicator of functional ability in old age compared to traditional measures of cognitive ability. Findings demonstrating this link, however, have yielded mixed results. The current study examined performance on the Everyday Problems Test (EPT) and self-reported ability to perform Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) in a sample of adults over age 50. The EPT measures cognitive performance on tasks with domains consistent with IADLs (telephone use, shopping, meal preparation, housekeeping, transportation, health and finances). Although overall EPT scores and self-reported IADLs were significantly related (rs = 0.20; p < 0.05), additional analyses revealed that domain-specific EPT performance related to IADL reports within the same domain for shopping, meal preparation, housekeeping, and financial management after accounting for other variables such as age, sex, and measures of cognitive ability including total EPT score. These findings suggest that domain-specific performance on cognitive everyday problem-solving tasks may add to the predictability of specific IADLs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Cognition?)
Open AccessArticle What do We Know about Neonatal Cognition?
Behav. Sci. 2013, 3(1), 154-169; doi:10.3390/bs3010154
Received: 12 December 2012 / Revised: 15 February 2013 / Accepted: 16 February 2013 / Published: 27 February 2013
Cited by 7 | PDF Full-text (229 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Research on neonatal cognition has developed very recently in comparison with the long history of research on child behavior. The last sixty years of research have provided a great amount of evidence for infants’ numerous cognitive abilities. However, only little of this [...] Read more.
Research on neonatal cognition has developed very recently in comparison with the long history of research on child behavior. The last sixty years of research have provided a great amount of evidence for infants’ numerous cognitive abilities. However, only little of this research concerns newborn infants. What do we know about neonatal cognition? Using a variety of paradigms, researchers became able to probe for what newborns know. Amongst these results, we can distinguish several levels of cognitive abilities. First, at the perceptual or sensory level, newborns are able to process information coming from the social world and the physical objects through all their senses. They are able to discriminate between object shapes and between faces; that is, they are able to detect invariants, remember and recognize them. Second, newborns are able to abstract information, to compare different inputs and to match them across different sensory modalities. We will argue that these two levels can be considered high-level cognitive abilities: they constitute the foundations of human cognition. Furthermore, while some perceptual competencies can stem from the fetal period, many of these perceptual and cognitive abilities cannot be a consequence of the environment surrounding the newborn before birth. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Cognition?)
Open AccessArticle The Search for Cognitive Terminology: An Analysis of Comparative Psychology Journal Titles
Behav. Sci. 2013, 3(1), 133-142; doi:10.3390/bs3010133
Received: 13 November 2012 / Revised: 30 January 2013 / Accepted: 31 January 2013 / Published: 7 February 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (268 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This research examines the employment of cognitive or mentalist words in the titles of articles from three comparative psychology journals (Journal of Comparative Psychology, International Journal of Comparative Psychology, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes; 8,572 titles, >100,000 words). [...] Read more.
This research examines the employment of cognitive or mentalist words in the titles of articles from three comparative psychology journals (Journal of Comparative Psychology, International Journal of Comparative Psychology, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes; 8,572 titles, >100,000 words). The Dictionary of Affect in Language, coupled with a word search of titles, was employed to demonstrate cognitive creep. The use of cognitive terminology increased over time (1940–2010) and the increase was especially notable in comparison to the use of behavioral words, highlighting a progressively cognitivist approach to comparative research. Problems associated with the use of cognitive terminology in this domain include a lack of operationalization and a lack of portability. There were stylistic differences among journals including an increased use of words rated as pleasant and concrete across years for Journal of Comparative Psychology, and a greater use of emotionally unpleasant and concrete words in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Cognition?)
Open AccessArticle An Overview of the First Use of the Terms Cognition and Behavior
Behav. Sci. 2013, 3(1), 143-153; doi:10.3390/bs3010143
Received: 12 November 2012 / Revised: 31 January 2013 / Accepted: 4 February 2013 / Published: 7 February 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (156 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Use of the terms cognition and behavior and their variants can be traced back to the middle-ages. What is not widely known is how the terms were first used in the literature. This article identifies variations of terms for cognition and behavior [...] Read more.
Use of the terms cognition and behavior and their variants can be traced back to the middle-ages. What is not widely known is how the terms were first used in the literature. This article identifies variations of terms for cognition and behavior and traces the first use of the terms using the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). A systematic search of the OED was conducted, identifying terms in the cognition and behavior families. Terms are defined and the year the term first appeared in the literature is identified. Terms are sorted and grouped chronologically by first appearance to determine their first use in the literature as noted in the OED. Results indicated more words are related to cognition than behavior. The first term related to cognition to appear was cogitation in circa 1225; while the first term related to behavior was port, which appeared circa 1330. Each family of terms experienced tremendous growth during the first appearance of terms. The cognition family saw 60% of its terms appear in the 17th and 19th centuries. The behavior family saw nearly 75% of its terms make their first appearance during the 15th through the 17th centuries. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Cognition?)
Open AccessArticle Problems of Teaching the Behaviorist Perspective in the Cognitive Revolution
Behav. Sci. 2013, 3(1), 55-71; doi:10.3390/bs3010055
Received: 13 November 2012 / Revised: 25 December 2012 / Accepted: 28 December 2012 / Published: 8 January 2013
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (78 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article offers some personal reflections on the difficulty of teaching the behaviorist perspective in the psychology classroom. The problems focus on the inadequacy of introductory textbooks—which mischaracterize behaviorism, only present the most extreme behaviorist positions, make no mention of the neobehaviorist [...] Read more.
This article offers some personal reflections on the difficulty of teaching the behaviorist perspective in the psychology classroom. The problems focus on the inadequacy of introductory textbooks—which mischaracterize behaviorism, only present the most extreme behaviorist positions, make no mention of the neobehaviorist perspective, fail to discuss that there is no accepted criteria for determining what type of behavior is cognitive, and provide a definition of cognition that is, not only inconsistent across texts, but so broad as to overshadow the behaviorist contributions. Suggestions are provided for instructors on how to present to their students an accurate portrayal of behaviorism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Cognition?)
Open AccessCommunication Cognition is … Fundamentally Cultural
Behav. Sci. 2013, 3(1), 42-54; doi:10.3390/bs3010042
Received: 3 December 2012 / Revised: 11 December 2012 / Accepted: 17 December 2012 / Published: 4 January 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (67 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
A prevailing concept of cognition in psychology is inspired by the computer metaphor. Its focus on mental states that are generated and altered by information input, processing, storage and transmission invites a disregard for the cultural dimension of cognition, based on three [...] Read more.
A prevailing concept of cognition in psychology is inspired by the computer metaphor. Its focus on mental states that are generated and altered by information input, processing, storage and transmission invites a disregard for the cultural dimension of cognition, based on three (implicit) assumptions: cognition is internal, processing can be distinguished from content, and processing is independent of cultural background. Arguing against each of these assumptions, we point out how culture may affect cognitive processes in various ways, drawing on instances from numerical cognition, ethnobiological reasoning, and theory of mind. Given the pervasive cultural modulation of cognition—on all of Marr’s levels of description—we conclude that cognition is indeed fundamentally cultural, and that consideration of its cultural dimension is essential for a comprehensive understanding. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Cognition?)

Review

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Open AccessReview St. Augustine’s Reflections on Memory and Time and the Current Concept of Subjective Time in Mental Time Travel
Behav. Sci. 2013, 3(2), 232-243; doi:10.3390/bs3020232
Received: 26 February 2013 / Revised: 16 April 2013 / Accepted: 17 April 2013 / Published: 25 April 2013
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Abstract
Reconstructing the past and anticipating the future, i.e., the ability of travelling in mental time, is thought to be at the heart of consciousness and, by the same token, at the center of human cognition. This extraordinary mental activity is possible [...] Read more.
Reconstructing the past and anticipating the future, i.e., the ability of travelling in mental time, is thought to be at the heart of consciousness and, by the same token, at the center of human cognition. This extraordinary mental activity is possible thanks to the ability of being aware of ‘subjective time’. In the present study, we attempt to trace back the first recorded reflections on the relations between time and memory, to the end of the fourth century’s work, the Confessions, by the theologian and philosopher, St. Augustine. We concentrate on Book 11, where he extensively developed a series of articulated and detailed observations on memory and time. On the bases of selected paragraphs, we endeavor to highlight some concepts that may be considered as the product of the first or, at least, very early reflections related to our current notions of subjective time in mental time travel. We also draw a fundamental difference inherent to the frameworks within which the questions were raised. The contribution of St. Augustine on time and memory remains significant, notwithstanding the 16 centuries elapsed since it was made, likely because of the universality of its contents. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Cognition?)
Open AccessReview Mill and Mental Phenomena: Critical Contributions to a Science of Cognition
Behav. Sci. 2013, 3(2), 217-231; doi:10.3390/bs3020217
Received: 5 February 2013 / Revised: 16 April 2013 / Accepted: 18 April 2013 / Published: 22 April 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (81 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Attempts to define cognition preceded John Stuart Mill’s life and continue to this day. John Stuart Mill envisioned a science of mental phenomena informed by associationism, empirical introspection, and neurophysiology, and he advanced specific ideas that still influence modern conceptions of cognition. [...] Read more.
Attempts to define cognition preceded John Stuart Mill’s life and continue to this day. John Stuart Mill envisioned a science of mental phenomena informed by associationism, empirical introspection, and neurophysiology, and he advanced specific ideas that still influence modern conceptions of cognition. The present article briefly reviews Mill’s personal history and the times in which he lived, and it traces the evolution of ideas that have run through him to contemporary cognitive concepts. The article also highlights contemporary problems in defining cognition and supports specific criteria regarding what constitutes cognition. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Cognition?)
Open AccessReview From Augustine of Hippo’s Memory Systems to Our Modern Taxonomy in Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience of Memory: A 16-Century Nap of Intuition before Light of Evidence
Behav. Sci. 2013, 3(1), 21-41; doi:10.3390/bs3010021
Received: 9 October 2012 / Revised: 12 December 2012 / Accepted: 18 December 2012 / Published: 27 December 2012
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (196 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Over the last half century, neuropsychologists, cognitive psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists interested in human memory have accumulated evidence showing that there is not one general memory function but a variety of memory systems deserving distinct (but for an organism, complementary) functional entities. [...] Read more.
Over the last half century, neuropsychologists, cognitive psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists interested in human memory have accumulated evidence showing that there is not one general memory function but a variety of memory systems deserving distinct (but for an organism, complementary) functional entities. The first attempts to organize memory systems within a taxonomic construct are often traced back to the French philosopher Maine de Biran (1766–1824), who, in his book first published in 1803, distinguished mechanical memory, sensitive memory and representative memory, without, however, providing any experimental evidence in support of his view. It turns out, however, that what might be regarded as the first elaborated taxonomic proposal is 14 centuries older and is due to Augustine of Hippo (354–430), also named St Augustine, who, in Book 10 of his Confessions, by means of an introspective process that did not aim at organizing memory systems, nevertheless distinguished and commented on sensible memory, intellectual memory, memory of memories, memory of feelings and passion, and memory of forgetting. These memories were envisaged as different and complementary instances. In the current study, after a short biographical synopsis of St Augustine, we provide an outline of the philosopher’s contribution, both in terms of questions and answers, and focus on how this contribution almost perfectly fits with several viewpoints of modern psychology and neuroscience of memory about human memory functions, including the notion that episodic autobiographical memory stores events of our personal history in their what, where and when dimensions, and from there enables our mental time travel. It is not at all meant that St Augustine’s elaboration was the basis for the modern taxonomy, but just that the similarity is striking, and that the architecture of our current viewpoints about memory systems might have preexisted as an outstanding intuition in the philosopher’s mind. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Cognition?)

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