How People Think

Mental categories, called concepts, are the building blocks of thinking; concepts enable us to organize knowledge in systematic ways. They can also be mental representations for classes of objects, activities, or living organisms. Because concepts are mental structures, researchers cannot observe them directly; rather, they have to guess how much of an influence the concepts have on people's thinking indirectly by studying observable effects on behavior or brain activity. Natural concepts are mental classifications that develop out of our everyday experiences in the world. You may possess a natural concept of a "bird" based on your experiences with birds. While these may involve words, they also involve visual images, emotions, and nonverbal memories. Natural concepts invoke a mental prototype which is an example of a conceptual category, or a generic image that represents the object from experience. Not all concepts are natural; however, some are drawn from our experiences. These concepts are referred to as artificial concepts. This means that concepts are defined by rules, such as word definitions and mathematical formulas.These concepts vary in generality, thus creating concept hierarchies, which organize concepts from the most general to the most specific. The ability to assimilate experiences into familiar mental categories and take the same action toward them or give them the same label is regarded as one of the most basic attributes of thinking organisms. Event-related potentials are the brain waves that show on the EEG which can be measured and are caused by stimulus. Everyone conceptualizes the world in a unique way, so our concepts define who we are.Visual thinking also adds complexity and richness to our thinking, as do sound, taste, smell, and touch to improve our concepts. Concepts, scripts, and even cognitive maps all vary from culture to culture, just like schemes which are clusters of related concepts that provide a general conceptual framework for thinking about a topic, an event, an object, people, or a situation in ones life.

Problem-solving and Decision-making Strategies

The psychology of thinking teaches us that we should not expect people to behave in a strictly logical manner or that good judgment will be based on reason alone. In thinking this way, we are able to enhance our ability to solve problems and make effective decisions. Good thinkers combine common impediments and effective strategies in order to make effective decisions. To be a good problem solver, one must be able to identify the problem thoroughly before jumping to conclusions. After considering all of the possibilities, a strategy for attacking the problem is chosen.

If your toolbox is full of variables that need to be computed, an algorithm is a never fail strategy when applied correctly. For example math formulas/procedures are algorithms. Algorithms cannot solve problems that are subjective nor those with too many unknowns.

When a problem is more personal, a more intuitive and flexible strategy is applied. Heuristics are "rules of thumb" that help us to cut through the confusion of everyday situations but may not always give us a correct solution to our problems.There are three essential heuristics that every problem solver should know and use. These include: working backwards, searching for analogies, and breaking down larger problems into smaller problems. Believe it or not, there are problems with problem solving. When referencing an old technique that may have worked on a similar problem, one may not realize that it's not applicable. A mental set is created in which a tendency to respond to a new problem is similar to the approach to a previous problem. That's why its important to keep an open-mind when problem solving. The inability to perceive a new use for an object associated with a different purpose is referred to as functional fixedness. For ex. one does not simply think to use there key to open a bottle because they have no bottle opener( functional fixedness). Other obstacles to problem solving may be lack of specific knowledge, lack of interest, low self-esteem, fatigue, and/or drugs. Contributing factors such as hindsight bias, anchoring bias, representative bias, (also known as stereotyping) and availability bias can affect judgments of various situations. Creativity is the key to problem solving; therefore, many good problem solvers are said to have an aptitude for creativity.Aptitude is similar to a talent, like someone who can play guitar very well. Creative people also mostly possess certain clusters of personality traits such as independence, intense interest in a problem, willingness to restructure the problem, preference for complexity, and a need for stimulating interaction.

There are two main views among psychologists on intelligence; that intelligence is one factor by itself and that intelligence is a combination of abilities. The theory of intelligence being a single factor can be demonstrated in that, a person who scores highly on a math test will also score highly on reading or writing. This, however, is not the case for people who have savant syndrome, for example determining the day of the week for any given date. Psychologists in the psychometric tradition work to develop tests (the SAT, personality tests, and IQ tests) to measure intelligence. By the 1920s, Charles Spearman found that scores on different tests, involving problems of many kinds, are often highly correlated. He found the common factor of general intelligence, wrapping up the basics from all intellectual domains.
Spearman called this general intellectual ability the g factor (general factor is innate). He went on to explain that the g factor is the said "common factor" for general intelligence. In 1963, Raymond Cattell determined that general intelligence has two different "independent components": fluid Intelligence and crystallized Intelligence- reflects the persons ability to store and retrieve information from semantic memory. In the cognitive realm of intelligence, some people say that people who are smart in school, or "book smart", do not have common sense, or "street smarts". This is known as practical intelligence. In contrast to practical intelligence, there are analytical intelligence and creative intelligence. These three intelligences make up Sternberg's triarchic theory. Although combined into one term, each intelligence is independent of one another. This means that an individuals ability in one of the three doesn't dictate their intelligence or ability in the other two. Howard Gardner, however, believes there are seven different types of intelligences, but only two are covered in IQ tests. This theory is called Multiple Intelligences. The intelligences include: linguistics , logical-mathematical , spatial , musical , bodily-kinesthetic , interpersonal , intrapersonal and three other intelligences known as: naturalistic intelligence, spiritual intelligence,and existential intelligence. Cross-cultural psychologists, however, have found that "intelligence" can have different meanings in different cultures. In the U.S. for example, much emphasis is placed on mental tests. This puts tests scores at a high risk of becoming mere labels that influence peoples behavior through the self-fulfilling prophecy, This is commonly seen in students and their academics.

How Do We Measure Individual Differences?

When testing individual differences, psychologists follow strict guidelines and ethical standards to assess both the validity and reliability of a test in order to determine whether its results are accurate. There are a number of ways to test validity: face validity, content validity, using item analysis, and criterion validity. Similar to validity, there are also multiple ways to assess reliability of a test. These include test-retest reliability and split-half reliability. After validity and reliability have been established, it still remains to be seen as to how a test will be used to compare individuals, so psychologists look at standardization and norms. To do this a standardized test is used which enforces that the administration and scoring guidelines are the same for each student. Results can be used to draw conclusions about test takers to the objectives of the test. When observing norms, the results of the test are used to draw conclusions about the test takers in regard to the exam they have taken. Statistics are then found to establish a normal, or bell curve. Scores falling near the middle of the normal distribution are within what is called a normal range. Objective tests are generally multiple choice or selected response which can be graded by machine, making the scores easy to interpret and quick to obtain Examples are the MMPI and MBTI.. A subjective test is an exam where individuals are given an ambiguous figure on an open-ended situation and asked to describe what they see or finish a story. Such tests include the Rorschach tests and the TAT. An issue that has come from subjective tests is inter-rater reliability. Inter-rater reliability is the measure of how similarly two different test scorers would score or evaluate a test.

How is Intelligence Measured?
Intelligence is measured through ability tests and determined by an intelligence scale. Two terms are used to compare and determine the intelligence of individuals: mental age (MA), which is the average age at which individuals achieve a particular score. For example, when a child's score was the same as the average score for a group of 5-year-olds, the child was said to have a mental age of 5, regardless of his or her actual chronological age (CA) , which is an individuals age since birth. Americans used these ideas and created IQ tests. Treman introduced the intelligence quotient(IQ) which was the ratio of mental age(MA) over chronological age (CA) multiplied by 100 (to eliminate decimals). When it comes to IQ tests, the two extremes are mental retardation (when IQ is below 70) and giftedness (when there is an IQ score of 130). The definition of intelligence alone is highly debatable. Some say that intelligence is measured by a person's academic performance, however, others argue that true intelligence involves much more than knowledge of facts. Certainly, a person’s ability to think analytically and use their knowledge and experience is often more important than their ability to command a large number of facts. The word intelligence comes from the Latin verb "intellegere" which means "to understand", so to measure intelligence, is to measure our understanding of the world around us.

How Do Psychologists Explain IQ Differences Among Groups?

While psychologists agree that both heredity and environment affect intelligence, they disagree on the reasons for IQ differences between different racial and social groups. Intelligence may have its own meaning in each different culture. In the United States, intelligence is measured by how well an individual scores on a test. However, in a Pacific island culture, a person is more likely considered intelligent if they are able to survive and navigate on the open seas. Within politics, Henry Goddard believed in the hereditary trait and convinced Congress to pass a law that immigrants must take a test to prove if they were superior or inferior. Other studies with twins have shown genetic influences on a variety of attributes such as heart functioning, personality traits, and hypnotizability, proving that intelligence is partially influenced by genetics. Arthur Jensen was a Harvard psychologist who believed that racial differences in IQ have a genetic basis. He claimed that government programs created to help poor black children had shown some positive effects but failed to change the racial differences in performance.
The differences within social groups are attributed to heritability. Our heritability helps to explain the differences in our traits.
It can be traced back to our genetic make-up which helps us to understand our behaviors. Certain innate behaviors are a part of everyone, however, environmental situations may cause different reactions among individuals. For example, it has been found that by enriching a child's environment, such as letting them attend school earlier, the child has greater potential to boost their IQ scores in the future. In contrast to the Jensen Controversy, the Scarr and Weinberg adoption study, observed differences in IQ between black and white children who were adopted by white families. While their biological parents score a low IQ, one may think that their children would score a low IQ as well; however, due to the environment the children have lived in, both the black and white orphaned children scored higher than their biological parents. This shows environment has a great effect on intelligence and that Jensen's claim contradicted its results that group differences are genetic. Looking at social classes and IQ it can be seen that groups with the lowest IQ scores come from an environment of poverty, while high IQ scores come from an environment that incorporates good schools and intervention programs.
Social class also affects IQ in the way that they show similar environment effects. Poverty creates circumstances limiting individual potential in many ways like nutrition, health care, and education. Poor nutrition, lack of access to books and computers, and job schedules that leave parents no time to stimulate a child's intellects relates with poverty and can determine performance on tasks such as IQ tests. It has also been shown that a significant amount of children with low IQ's have been adversely affected by "environmental insults". The Bell Curve also has an effect on IQ score from different cultures. In life, even though the above has proved that race does not effect one's IQ, people still discriminate. An extreme racist would support eugenics, encouraging superior people to "interbreed" with other superior people, rather than intertwine with people from an "inferior" race. But the science just doesn't support such actions or the beliefs behind them.

Quizlet for Chapter 11