General Overview of Theories in Cognitive Psychology

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Cognitive Psychology focuses on the study of human cognition, as well as how the brain stores and processes information (Tiitinen, 2001), however, during the 1930’s the field of psychology mainly focused on sensation and behaviourism (Gardner, 2017). Jerome Seymour Bruner was a cognitive psychologist during this time that did work in both sensation and behaviourism, but initiated the focus on perception (Greenfield, 2016). Bruner was a psychologist whose theories and research was important aspects of the cognitive psychology revolution regarding new information on how the brain works regarding perception.

John Broadus Watson was the founder of behaviourism, which was the study of behaviour without the focus of mental state affecting it (Chapman & Routledge, 2009). It focuses on the idea that behaviour is not something that comes from an internal mental state (Stout, 2006). In contradiction to behaviourism Bruner’s work and deductions were influenced heavily on anthropology, the ideas that anthropology imposed inspired him to delve into the work that he did (Lutkehaus, 2008). Bruner initiated the focus of the different workings of the mind, how an individual’s perception is a bottom-up process as well as a top-down process (Greenfield, 2016). Perception therefore involves mental processing and is not only a stimulus-dependant response (Greenfield, 2016). This was the work that pioneered Burner into the psychology field, however he delved into many other aspects of cognitive psychology which earned him the Balzan Prize in 1987 “for lifelong contribution to human psychology” (Meyer, 2018). Bruner along with his colleague George A. Miller founded the Centre of Cognitive Studies at Harvard (Meyer, 2018). This facility focused on studies that showed how individual’s brains worked, subjects such as; philosophy, anthropology, linguistics and computer science was given at the centre (Gardner, 2017) Bruner’s work started out focusing on perception and cognition and later started focusing on narrative thinking and how it created norms in human culture and norms (Tomasello 2016). Bruner conducted many experiments and research, mostly at Harvard, in order to have come to the conclusion that was reached about certain mental factors influencing visual perception (Greenfield, 2016). Along with conducting experiments and research Bruner also wrote books about his findings.

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Alongside Jacqueline Goodnow and George Austin, Bruner published a book called A Study of Thinking in 1956 that was a crucial aspect to the cognitive revolution (Greenfield, 2016). The book details how experiments were conducted in order to establish; how individuals solve problems, showing how individuals hypothesise and consider solutions to problems (Gardner, 2017). It investigates how humans achieve, retain and process information using stimulus-response learning (Bruner, 2017). Bruner then started focusing on education and wrote two books, The Process of Education and Toward a Theory of Instruction, that became famous references when studying childhood education (Tomasello 2016). Toward a Theory of Instruction focused on how the hypothesis of there being consequences to actions came from previous ideas, helping teachers understand where children’s deductions came from (Walker, 2014). The Process of Education in 1960 that was yet another crucial aspect to the cognitive revolution (Greenfield, 2016). The book was published when Bruner delved into the education of young individuals (Gardner, 2017). The book states that according to a child’s age; certain ideas and concepts should be presented through use of action, icons as well as symbols (Greenfield, 2016). Bruner stated that children can be taught anything at any stage of development if it is taught properly and in an intellectual manner (Gardner, 2017). Bruner’s work on education was an important aspect of the cognitive psychology revolution as the books delved into work that teachers needed to know in order to help a child learn, it taught teachers to intervene with a child’s learning capacity (Walker, 2014). Along with focusing on how children learn, Bruner also focused on other aspects of child development. Along with Michael Scaife, Bruner observed and named the occurrence known as joint visual attention (Greenfield, 2016). This concept was established when Scaife and Bruner observed infants and how the infant will follow the adult’s gaze when the adult looked at something (Greenfield, 2016). Joint visual attention is now known as an essential concept to help infants in language acquisition when the infants have to link words to objects (Greenfield, 2016) and is an ability that the infant should have due to joint visual attention being a basic process that occurs (Scaife & Bruner, 1975). Bruner wrote three other books called; Actual Minds, Possible Worlds as well as Acts of Meaning all detailing how individuals are capable of communication, both verbally and writing it down (Gardner, 2017). Bruner believed that the key to understanding the human mind was to understand the surrounding environment that the individual is placed in, the culture and history changed the way that individuals spoke to each other (Gardner, 2017). Bruner, alongside with Anthony Amsterdam, published the book Minding the Law that spoke about how the processes of cognition, linguistics and culture affected the making of laws and legal procedures (Gardner, 2017). The book is a collection of theories and logical opinions on how certain laws should be implemented to work effectively (Bodie, 2002). All of these books had an influence on the cognitive psychology revolution as it changed the ideas that were already present at the time and helped other individuals understand the concepts of cognitive psychology better.

In conclusion, Jerome Seymour Bruner was a cognitive psychologist that focused on; perception, cognition and how narrative thinking influenced. Bruner was important in the cognitive psychology revolution due to the experiment, research and books that proved the concepts Bruner believed in. Bruner won the Balzan prize for his contribution to the study of psychology for his efforts in the field. Bruner wrote the books; A Study of Thinking, The Process of Education, Toward a Theory of Instruction, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, Acts of Meaning and Minding the Law as well as delved into the workings of Joint Visual Attention.

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