Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsCognitive psychology covers all aspects of the mind and so the range of things that cognitive psychologists study is immense. This week we concentrate on thinking and reasoning. We will examine some of the profound insights that have been gained about human reasoning from adopting the methods of cognitive psychology. A general question we will address is just how good are we in reasoning about the world. In what follows however we are not at all concerned with how clever any particular person is. In the same way some people are better at playing sport than others, some people are smarter than others. We are not at all concerned in drawing such comparisons. Here we simply focus on how good human reasoning is in general.

Welcome to Week 2: An introduction to thinking and reasoning

Welcome back to Week 2 of the course.

In Week 1 we set the foundations for what is to follow. We passed on some basic thoughts about how we may generate experimental tests of our ideas concerning how the mind works.

In moving forwards, this week, we concentrate on the experimental tests of ideas of how human reasoning works. Some have discussed this issue in terms of setting out what the Gold Standard in reasoning is. The example we take is of logical reasoning. Having defined such a Gold Standard, we can then consider the degree to which human reasoning conforms to this.

Without giving too much away, it turns out that human reasoning only partially fits with this Gold Standard. Although this may seem to reflect badly, the failures to conform to the Gold Standard have been immensely helpful in increasing understanding of human reasoning.

‘Health’ warning

The ensuing material includes lots of examples of reasoning puzzles that have been used to illuminate just what goes on when we reason. Cognitive psychologists have been particularly adept at uncovering puzzles that we find particularly difficult to deal with: We cover a few of these here. The empirical evidence shows that, with such cases, most people fail to solve the puzzles successfully.

Take some comfort in knowing that to err is to be human! And, moreover, errors in reasoning have proved to be highly illuminating!

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This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to Cognitive Psychology: An Experimental Science

University of York

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