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By Bermudez J.L.

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Extra resources for Cognitive Science: An Introduction to the Science of the Mind

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In neither of these cases is what happens at a particular moment solely determined by what has just happened – or prompted by what is going on in the environment and influencing the organism. What happens at any given point in the sequence is often a function of what will happen later in the sequence, as well as of the overall goal of the behavior. According to Lashley, we should think about many of these complex behaviors as products of prior planning and organization. The behaviors are organized hierarchically (rather than linearly).

Learning without reinforcement: Tolman and Honzik, “‘Insight’ in rats” (1930) Edward Tolman (1886–1959) was a behaviorist psychologist studying problem-solving and learning in rats (among other things). As with most psychologists of the time, he started off with two standard behaviorist assumptions about learning. The first assumption is that all learning is the result of conditioning. The second assumption is that conditioning depends upon processes of association and reinforcement. We can understand these two assumptions by thinking about a rat in what is known as a Skinner box, after the celebrated behaviorist B.

We can appreciate some of the ideas that proved important for the later development of cognitive science by looking at three landmark papers. Each was an important statement of the idea that various types of behavior could not be explained in terms of stimulus–response mechanisms. Instead, psychologists need to think about organisms as storing and processing information about their environment, rather than as responding mechanically to reinforcers and stimuli. This idea of organisms as information processors is the single most fundamental idea of cognitive science.

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