Cognitive Level of Analysis Objectives and Responses

  • Outline principles that define the cognitive level of analysis
The cognitive level of analysis has 3 fundamental principles. The first of these is: Humans are information processors and mental processes guide behavior. These mental, or cognitive, processes include things such as: memory, perception, language, attention, learning, ect... The second principle of the cognitive level of analysis is that the mind can be studied scientifically. This means that one can use things such as fMRI and other brain scans to study the mind. The third, and final, cognitive principle is that cognition is influenced by social/cultural and biological factors. This means that one's thoughts are influenced by where he is from, who his parents are, whatever disorders he may have, ect... Those are the 3 fundamental principles of the cognitive level of analysis.
From Cognitive quiz 1

  • Explain how principles that define the cognitive level of analysis may be demonstrated in research.

  • Discuss how and why particular research methods are used at the cognitive level of analysis.

  • Discuss ethical considerations related to research studies at the cognitive level of analysis.

  • Evaluate Schema theory with reference to research studies.

  • Evaluate two models or theories of one cognitive process.

  • Explain how biological factors may affect one cognitive process.

  • Discuss how social or cultural factors affect one cognitive process.

  • With reference to relevant research studies, to what extent is cognitive process reliable?

  • Discuss the use of technology in investigating cognitive process.
Caitlyn and Tommy
In the study of Cognition technology plays an important role. There are three main technologies used to study cognition in the brain: functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Electroencephalogram (EEG), and Positron Emission Topography (PET). All three of these technologies are brain scans but they show us different things. fMRI gives us a 3D, high resolution image of the brain that shows specific areas of activity in the brain when they are being used. fMRI is a large machine that looks kind of like a bed with a big ring that you stick your head in. EEG gives us a read out of brain waves in the brain. EEG uses many sensors built into a cap that you put onto your head and it measures the electricity that travels through your brain because of the neurons firing. A PET scan measures glucose in the brain. In order to do this, patients are injected with some radioactive glucose. This allows PET to produce colored images of brain activity. All three of these technologies are used in the study of cognition in the brain.

MRI and fMRI are the most commonly used brain scan of the three options. Both versions of the MRI scans can be used to study cognitive processes. For example, MRI was used in 2003 for market research by Clinton Kilts. Kilts wanted to find out what parts of the brain are involved in product preferences, and thus the cognitive process of decision making. Participants were asked to rate a number of consumers goods in terms of preference. The participants assigned points to products based on their attractiveness. After rating the objects, participants were put into a MRI machine. Pictures of the objects were then shown the the participants and they were asked to rate them again. Kilts noticed that anytime a participant labeled an item as particularly attractive, it lit up an area in the medial prefrontal cortex. This area is associated with our sense of self and our personality, meaning that when a participant preferred something it was because they related to it; they identified with the product. (Crane and Hannibal, 2009) fMRI's are commonly used for research as they allow researchers to view brain activity in more detail as it tracks the consumption of oxygen within the areas of the brain. In this way cognitive research is often conducted with the use of an fMRI when patient reaction is needed as data. For instance, in a 2005 study conducted by Springer, McIntosh, Winocur, and Grady where the brain's involvement in the memory process between older and younger adults, fMRI was used in the mapping and data collection from the brain and participants. The participants were asked to view images and then were to use their episodic, experiential, memory to recall what images they'd seen and which images weren't shown them from a series of 50 pictures containing pictures the participants had seen and pictures they had not seen. The findings pointed to the older participants having a lower rate of correct identifications of the pictures they'd seen and that they used slightly different areas of their brains in encoding the information to memory. The use of the fMRI was essential to this study as it was able to produce images of the areas of the brain used in the memory process. The fMRI also allowed for a non-invasive approach to the research and helped in the understanding of the cognition of the brain between older and younger people.

EEG is another commonly used technology in studying the brain. With EEG we get patterns that show us brain waves (showing activity in the brain). One drawback to the EEG is that to get very precise measurements, the electrodes most be placed directly on the brain. This limits the number of people available for testing because not everyone is willing to let you put electrodes right on their brain. It can be used to study cognitive processes where brain activity is important. For example, EEG was used to study learning and memory in a study by an American research team. Their aim was to find out whether or not relaxation had an effect on learning and memory. Using an EEG, they had eight volunteers look at one hundred pictures or a wide range of objects. They had each picture shown for one second. After fifteen to thirty minutes the volunteers were shown another hundred pictures. This time fifty of them were ones that were shown before and fifty were new. The participants were then asked what pictures they saw before and how confident they were that they saw them. While using the EEG, the researchers recorded the activity of the neurons and the "background activity" in the area of the brain where memories are formed. They found out that the recognition of pictures was greater when the neurons were firing in sync with a type of brain wave called theta waves. Theta waves are associated with relaxation, daydreaming, and drowsiness. With this information in hand, the researchers were able to conclude that being relaxed while learning something will help you with recalling the memory later on. (Kelland, 2010)

PET is the last main technology used to study cognition. PET is commonly used to detect brain tumors, but it can also be used to study memory. PET is used to detect memory altering disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease. Researchers from the New York University School of Medicine even developed a brain-scan-based computer program that measures metabolic activity in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is an area in the brain that is involved in memory processing. Using PET and their computer program the researchers showed that there is a reduction of metabolism in the hippocampus in the early stages of Alzheimer's. They then did a longitudinal study to test these results. In this study, they followed a sample of fifty three normal, and healthy, participants, from nine to twenty four years. Using their PET and computer method they found out that people who showed the early signs of reduced metabolism in the hippocampus were later associated with developing Alzheimer's. (Crane and Hannibal, 2009) With a PET scan being able to detect Alzheimer's in advanced, as well as many other memory altering disorders, people are able to act before things go to far and damage the memory. This includes the detection of brain tumors, which not only effect memory, but can ruin many other of the cognitve processes depending on where the tumors occur. Thus, PET is a cognition saver, kind of like a virus scan for a computer, that lets us find problems and take action against them before it is too late.

In conclusion, all three of these technologies can be used to study cognition. But one of these technologies is slightly more useful than the others. This technology is fMRI (and MRI). fMRI can show us things that other technologies can, but with less effort. For example, in order to used PET you must use a bit of radioactive material. With fMRI you just hop into the machine. fMRI is also more commonly used because it is easier to interpret. fMRI gives very detailed readings, while others (such as EEG) require a lot more work in interpretation and danger, in that the procedure calls for the electrodes to be placed directly on the brain, to get accuracy akin to the fMRI's. Further more with fMRI you can study a wider range of cognitive processes because it shows activity in the different areas of the brain. Also, you can have someone do almost anything while in an fMRI scan, allowing you to test the multitudes of cognitive processes. In the study of memory, decision making and learning the use of such technologies as fMRI, PET and EEG are essential to knowing the brain's role in the cognitive processes.

  • To what extent do cognitive and biological factors interact in emotion?

  • Evaluate on theory of how emotion may affect one cognitive process.