Memory, Thinking and Language: Topics in cognitive psychology by Judith Greene pdf
What is thinking?
It may seem obvious to the layman that thinking, knowledge and intelligence are interconnected. Indeed, they are often defined in terms of each other, intelligence being defined as knowing how to think constructively. Yet, almost from the first emergence of psychology as a subject for study, there has been a division between psychometricians, whose aim is to devise tests of intelligent thinking, and experimental psychologists who study the general characteristics of human thinking and knowledge. I shall be referring to both these traditions and their implications for theories designed to explain intelligent behaviour.
If asked to define thinking, most people would probably agree on a list of mental activities, including some of the following: daydreams, wishes, having ideas, philosophical theorizing, making decisions, planning a holiday, working out a problem. How do we arrive at such a list? Essentially by scanning the thoughts which pass through our conscious minds. Clearly there is some quality which enables us to distinguish between the mental activity we call thinking and other more physically overt kinds of behaviour.
For one thing, thinking seems to be private and internal to ourselves, in the sense that we are free to conjure up the world— and try out various courses of action in our minds without necessarily telling other people what we are thinking or committing ourselves to action. It has been argued that it is this property of being able to run through actions symbolically rather than in actuality that constitutes human thinking, in the same way that a bridge-builder will create models to try out stresses and strains without going to the expense of building a full-scale bridge.
Vet, if we are totally honest, perhaps the most conspicuous quality of moment-to-moment thinking is its fragmentary nature, attention flitting around from topic to topic. It sometimes seems as if our minds are a stage and that we have no control over the entries and exits of random thoughts, images and conjectures.
Despite this everyday experience, most definitions of intelligence stress sheer “brain power”, meaning the ability to think things through in a logical way and to adapt thinking to the problem in hand. Within the psychometric tradition of intelligence testing, the aim has been to measure ‘pure’ intelligence, as demonstrated by the ability to reason and to follow a consistent train of logical deductions. In conventional IQ tests, tasks are selected which (a) have one right answer and (b) produce large differences in scores to discriminate between individuals with supposedly different levels of intelligence. A full account of the development of IQ tests is given in another book in this series (Shackleton and Fletcher, 1984).
2 Thinking and knowledge
3 The structure of knowledge
4 Active memory
5 Language and knowledge
6 Language and communication
7 Knowledge, speech and action: the halfway mark
9 Learning, acting and speaking
10 Implications for teaching
11 Knowing and doing: what’s it all about?
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