General Psychology Chapter 8: Thinking and Intelligence

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  • 1. PSY 2012 General Psychology Chapter 8: Thinking and Intelligence Mostafa Ewees, Ph.D. Psychology Department Stanford University
  • 2. Review from “Memory”
    • Working Memory  functions to process information for encoding into Long Term Memory
      • Processes of rehearsal relate to how well information can be retrieved from memory
      • Organization of information relates to how well information can be retrieved and to what we can do with that information
  • 3. Thinking: How is it different from remembering?
    • Thinking involves not only retrieving information but also doing something with it
      • Deciding something
      • Solving a problem
      • Judging something
      • Creating something
      • Finding something
      • Etc.,
  • 4. Thinking: What’s involved?
    • Concepts—mental representations
    • Contents of Concepts:
      • Classes or categories (dogs, books, etc.,)
      • Attributes or characteristics (red, tall, painful)
      • Abstractions or non-tangible ideas (love, hate)
      • Procedures or processes (how to do ____)
      • Goals or intentions (future plans)
  • 5. Thinking: What’s in our thoughts?
    • Types of Concepts
      • Natural :
        • Based on everyday experiences
        • Usually unanalyzed until we are asked to define the natural concepts
      • Artificial :
        • Usually based on formal set of experiences
        • Based on rules for inclusion/exclusion
        • Usually formed by intentional efforts to learn
  • 6. Thinking: What’s in our thoughts?
    • Concepts typically based on prototypes:
      • General representations (linguistic or visual) that represent the object or class but may not represent an individual member
      • The idea of “bird” may not be an individual but some combination of attributes that allows us to identify what is “bird” and “not bird.”
  • 7. Organization of our thoughts:
    • Hierarchical:
      • From most inclusive and general to less inclusive and more specific
      • Mammal  Quadraped  Dog  Beagle
  • 8. Organization of our thoughts: Culture and Individual Differences
    • Individuals’ own experience with levels of a hierarchy will determine the unique organization of the hierarchy.
    • Collective (cultural) experiences can lead to broader agreement on definitions of concepts.
    • Different definitions of concepts can lead to very different outcomes in problem solving, decision making, etc.
  • 9. Thinking, Expectations, and Predictions
    • Organization of information in schemas leads us to create expectations and predictions with little information
    • The constructive nature of memory is based on our making inferences based on incomplete knowledge
    • Given competing interpretations, we tend to adopt those that are in agreement with our schema
  • 10. Thinking, Expectations, and Predictions
    • Scripts
      • Schema for process or sequence of events;
      • Scripts are useful in routine sequences of events (e.g. fast food restaurant; listening to a lecture)
      • Scripts allow us to operate on “automatic” as long as things are predictable.
  • 11. Scripts, Schemas, and Conflict
    • Scripts or schemas based on narrow sets of experiences can lead the individual to judge others’ behavior from a biased perspective
    • Individuals and cultures with conflicting scripts or schemas frequently experience challenges in communication
  • 12. Thinking: Considered Reason or Unconscious Process
    • Automatic:
      • Thinking that occurs as a matter of habit;
      • Thinking that typically requires little effort;
      • Thinking that is impacted by existing biases;
      • Frequently leads to less than optimal outcomes
    • Controlled:
      • Thinking that is goal directed
      • Thinking that requires intentional effort
      • Thinking based on analysis of existing biases
      • Frequently leads to more optimal outcomes (better choices and decisions)
  • 13. Functions of Thinking: Problem-Solving
    • Problem-Solving (Sternberg, 1985; 2004)
      • Recognizing there is a problem
        • Monitoring the situation to recognize some goal is not being met
      • Consider multiple problem definitions by analyzing context and identifying a goal
      • Representing or categorizing information about the problem
  • 14. Functions of Thinking: Problem-Solving (Sternberg, 1985, 2004)
    • Constructing or identifying a strategy for solving the problem (consider multiple strategies)
    • Identify and allocate resources needed to carry out the solution strategy
    • Monitor progress of the solution strategy
    • Evaluate the solution strategy by obtaining feedback
  • 15. Thinking as Problem Solving
      • Selecting or developing a strategy
        • Algorithm:
          • Predefined set of procedures;
          • Given the procedures are carried out the outcome is predictable
          • Works best for routine problems (figuring out how much mileage your car gets per gallon)
        • Heuristic:
          • General rule that may work most of the time
          • Rules that typically apply to most problems
          • Working Backward—from the desired state to the problem
          • Analogies—finding a similar situation
          • Problem decomposition—creating a set of smaller more manageable problems
  • 16. Thinking as Problem Solving
    • Problems with Problem Solving
      • Mental Set
        • Perceptual Set—perceiving the problem from only one perspective (radiation treatment problem—in class discussion)
        • Response Set—accessing only one solution response (“it’s the way we’ve always done it”)
  • 17. Thinking as Problem Solving
    • Problems with Problem Solving
      • Functional fixedness :
        • Focusing on one aspect of a potential solution when another aspect might be more successful
      • Self-imposed limitations OR Self-Handicapping :
        • Creating limits to protect one’s status or prevent one from failing
        • May be “unconscious” to the individual (may be based on perceived social status—sex, race)
  • 18. Thinking as Decision-Making
    • Decision-making implies selecting one course of action over one or more others;
    • Decision-making frequently encountered as deductive reasoning —constructing logical conclusions based on information;
    • Decision-making ranges from low stakes decisions (e.g. what shoes to wear; what to watch on t.v.) to high stakes decisions (e.g. what career to follow; whether to use illegal drugs or not)
  • 19. Thinking as Decision-Making: Biases and Bad Decisions
    • Confirmation Bias —we tend to search for information that is in agreement with our biases rather than seeking to disconfirm or disprove our biases
    • Hindsight Bias —we tend to overestimate our ability to have predicted events based on knowledge we had beforehand; limits our ability to learn from our errors because we convince ourselves that we “knew it all the time”
    • Anchoring Bias —we tend to base estimates on an initial experience; we anchor our judgments on an initial piece of information rather than consider all information
  • 20. Thinking as Decision-Making: Biases and Bad Decisions
    • Representativeness Bias —we tend to judge individual instances based on the degree to which we view them as belonging to or to which they represent a larger group.
    • Availability Bias —we tend to estimate the likelihood or probability of something based on whether relevant examples can be retrieved from memory (e.g. pictures of the same street crime seen repeatedly can lead to a conclusion that crimes occur frequently)
  • 21. Problem-Solving and Decision-Making as Critical Thinking
    • Those who make good decisions and solve problems with higher levels of success share characteristics of critical thinking
      • Thinking is goal directed
      • Thinking is based on logic and reliable information
      • One’s own assumptions and biases are questioned first
      • Other’s assumptions and assertions are questioned
  • 22. Problem-Solving and Decision-Making as Critical Thinking
    • Critical thinking (cont’d)
      • Assertions are supported with valid and reliable supporting data
      • Alternative and oppositional views are considered fairly
      • Contradictory data or evidence are considered and refuted fairly
    • Based on Halpern (1998, 2001)
  • 23. Problem-Solving and Decision-Making as Critical Thinking
    • Individuals who possess a disposition for critical thinking
      • have the attributes of critical thinking as their normal approach to solving problems and making decisions;
      • typically make more adaptable decisions and solve problems more successfully;
      • Modify their standpoints based on logic, data, and reason rather than authority, belief, or bias (e.g. availability, representativeness, etc.)
  • 24. Thinking Creatively
    • Divergent rather than convergent thinking (seeking multiple possibilities)
    • High levels of knowledge and interest in the relevant domain
    • Sees problems as potentially complex
    • Typically restructures problems
    • Simultaneously seeks interactions with other creative individuals and reflects independent thinking
    • Intelligence and creativity relationship complex and not direct