As you begin reading this book, you probably have some ideas about how the mind works from things you have read, from other media, and from your own experiences. In this book, you will learn what we actually do and do not know about the mind, as determined from the results of controlled scientific research. Thus, if you thought that there is a system called “short-term memory” that can hold information for short periods of time, then you are right, and when you read the chapters on memory you will learn more about this system and how it interacts with other parts of your memory system.
If you thought that some people can accurately remember things that happened to them as very young infants, you will see that there is a good chance that these reports are inaccurate. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that even more recent memories that seem extremely clear and vivid may not be entirely accurate due to basic characteristics of the way the memory system works.
But what you will learn from this book goes much deeper than simply adding more accurate information to what you already know about the mind. You will learn that there is much more going on in your mind than you are conscious of. You are aware of experiences such as seeing something, remembering a past event, or thinking about how to solve a problem—but behind each of these experiences are a myriad of complex and largely invisible processes. Reading this book will help you appreciate some of the “behind the scenes” activity in your mind that is responsible for everyday experiences such as perceiving, remembering, and thinking.
Another thing you will become aware of as you read this book is that there are many practical connections between the results of cognitive psychology research and everyday life. You will see examples of these connections throughout the book. But for now I want to focus on one especially important connection—what research in cognitive psychology can contribute to improving your studying.
This discussion appears on pages 221-224 of Chapter 6, so you might want to look at this material now, rather than waiting until later in the course. But I invite you to also consider the following two principles, which are designed to help you get more out of this book.
Chapter 1 Introduction to Cognitive Psychology
Chapter 2 Cognition and the Brain: Basic Principles
Chapter 3 Perception
Chapter 4 Attention
Chapter 5 Short-Term and Working Memory
Chapter 6 Long-Term Memory: Basic Principles
Chapter 7 Everyday Memory and Memory Errors
Chapter 8 Knowledge
Chapter 9 Visual Imagery
Chapter 10 Language
Chapter 11 Problem Solving
Chapter 12 Reasoning and Decision Making