Introduction to Cognition

Discipline: Psychology
Instructor: Mueller
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 09:25
End: 10:40
Field Work: Day 1 - St. Petersburg - Thursday, 29 August | Russia
Prerequisites: Introductory Psychology (or permission) Download Syllabus

This course provides a general introduction to cognitive psychology as the study of human
learning, memory, and thinking, in particular the mental representations and processes involved
in the acquisition, storage, retrieval, and use of knowledge. The course will begin with an
overview of how these issues were addressed in the past, in terms of instincts and reflexes, then
basic behavioristic learning principles such as reinforcement. With this foundation the course
will explore how developments in a variety of fields (e.g., linguistics, philosophy of mind,
computer science, biology, medical technology, and psychology) have produced a “cognitive
revolution.” To a limited extent, we examine how the study of failures in cognition for special
populations (e.g., individuals with amnesia or dementia, normal elderly individuals) can enhance
our understanding of normal cognitive functioning. There will be some opportunity to discuss
how research and theory in cognitive psychology can be applied to real-world problems (e.g.,
study skills, ergonomics, teaching). As per the Migrations theme, there will be a consideration
of how modern man functions in a complex world with a cognitive architecture developed by evolutionary pressures in simpler ancient settings.

Field Work

Country: Russia
Day: 1 - St. Petersburg - Thursday, 29 August

This field activity will involve a bus trip from the ship to the campus of St. Petersburg State University (SPSU), for a tour of campus facilities, including lunch at some point, and then the bus back to the ship for an on-ship debriefing.  It is anticipated that we will be able to visit with students and staff in the Psychology department, formally or informally.  Cognitive processing takes place an on underlying foundation of simple learning processes that early Russian psychologists explored, in particular Pavlov and Bekhterev, who had connections with this university (SPSU).  In modern terms, learning and cognition research has been heavily dominated by American scholars, so in visiting SPSU we will be acknowledging the historic roots of much of early learning research, enriching our understanding of higher mental processes. The visit also allows us to sample the atmosphere of a different type of university, a somewhat different approach to higher education.  St. Petersburg State University is highly regarded, typically second only to Moscow State University, arguably Russia’s oldest, and its Law School has produced many members of Russia’s contemporary political elite (e.g., Putin and Medvedev).   St. Petersburg also has connections with many great Russian writers and musicians.