• Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development
  • Piaget argued children weren’t miniature adults. Believed they actively construct their understanding of world as they grow.
    • Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years) – smell, hearing, touch etc. + active
      • Also develop object permanence – don’t realize objects still exist if they can’t see them. Can also use accommodation to acquire knowledge about novel experiences.
    • Preoperational stage. (2-7 years)– When children are going to develop/engage in pretend play.
      • Very egocentric – no empathy.
    • Concrete operational stage. (7-11 years ) –Learn idea of conservation.
      • Can do test to find out if they’re in this stage – take 2 glasses with same amount of water, pour one into short fat glass and other into tall skinny glass, and ask child which one has more. Before this stage will say tall glass, but once they reach concrete operational stage, have same amount of water.
      • Also begin to learn empathy.
    • Formal operational stage (12+) – reason abstract consequences, and reason consequences. Where sophisticated moral reasoning begins to take place.


  • Problem Solving
  • We are excellent problem solvers. Well-defined (clear) and ill-defined (more ambiguous starting/ending point) problems. There are some methods we can imply in problem solving:
  1. Trial + error not the most efficient.
  2. Algorithm – logical procedure of trying solutions till you hit the right one.
  3. Heuristics – mental shortcut to find solution quicker than other 2, ex. Focusing on one category of solutions.
    • Means-end analysis – we analyze main problem and break it down into smaller problems, and reduce differences between problem and goal.
    • Working backwards – start with goal and use it to suggest connections back to current. Used in mathematical proofs.
  1. Intuition – relying on instinct. High chance of error.
  • Fixation – getting stuck on a wrong approach. What happens might be insight – that aha moment. Or can let problem incubate – insight comes after some time.
  • Type I error = false positive
  • Type II error = false negative


  • Decision Making
  • You use heuristic shortcuts to make a decision – it’s a quick decision rule/rule of thumb, ex. putting hand on shoulder when someone is sad.
    • Availability method – using examples that come to mi
      • Helpful, but our memories don’t match real state of the world.
    • Representativeness – a heuristic where people look for the most representative answer, such as if person matches a prototype.
      • But can lead to a conjunction fallacy, which means co-occurrence of two instances is more likely than a single one (ex. Feminist bank teller vs. bank teller – actually more likely she’s just a bank teller, but people tend to think the probability of 2 events occurring together is higher than the probability of one alone).
    • Availability vs. representativeness
      • Availability = actual memories in mind
      • Representativeness = not thinking of exact memories, thinking of a prototype of idea.
  • Biases that prevent us from making correct decision
  1. Overconfidence – ex. Going into test without knowing a lot of info.
    • Could be due to fluency during studying.
  2. Belief perseverance – ignore/rationalize disconfirming facts
    • During elections ignore facts about someone you like.
  3. Confirmation bias – seek out only confirming facts.
    • Only read stories about how wonderful candidate was.
  • Framing effects – how you present the decision. Ex. Disease that will kill 600 people, option A is 100% chance exactly 200 people saved, option B 30% chance all 600 saved. Which do you pick? OR A. 100% chance 400 die B. 1/3 chance no one dies and 2/3 chance 600 die.
    • In first, you’d pick A. In second, you’d pick B.
  • Semantic Networks and Spreading Activation
  • To solve problems, you have to access info already in your brain.
    • Semantic Networks – concepts are organized in mind in terms of connected ideas. Parallel to how info might be stored in a computer. Links can be shorter for closely related ideas, or longer for less related ideas.
      • First semantic network model was hierarchical – higher order to lower order categories.
        • Animal -> bird -> ostrich.
        • More specific characteristics like sings, long legs, stored at lower nodes. Can breathe at higher nodes.
      • Longer it takes us to verify connection between nodes longer it takes for us to make that link.
    • Not true for all animals/categories, ex. People verify pig is animal takes longer than pig is mammal. Therefore proposed modified semantic network.
      • Rather than hierarchical, says every individual semantic network develops based on experience and knowledge.
      • Means all ideas in head are connected together. When you active one concept, pulling related concepts with it. Called spreading activation. (Can explain false memories, or remembering wrong but related info).
  • Intelligence (IQ is Intelligence Quotient)
  • What is intelligence?
    • A mental quality that allows you to learn from experience, solve problems, and use your knowledge to adapt to new situations. Use numerical scores to measure aptitude for those tasks and compare them to how well others do.
    • One theory is there’s 1 general intelligence.
      • Evidence comes from fact people who score well on one test also tend to score well on other types of test, ex. Verbal and math.
      • Factor underlying these consistent abilities is called g factor (g = general intelligence)
    • Also support for theories of 3 intelligences – analytical (Academic), creative (generate novel ideas and adapt), practical (solve ill-defined problems).
      • IQ score measures only analytical intelligence.
    • Another psychologist proposed emotional intelligence –perceive, understand, and manage emotions in interactions with others.
    • Another way is 2 major categories – fluid and crystallized intelligence.
      • Fluid is ability to reason quickly and abstractly.
        • Tends to decrease as we move into older adulthood
      • Crystallized refers to accumulated knowledge and verbal skills.
        • Usually increases or stays same into adulthood
  • Question of nature vs. nurture: How much is due to genes and how much due to environment/experiences?
    • Study heritability by looking at correlation scores of twins who grew up in different homes, identical twins raised together, and fraternal twins raised together.
      • Strongest correlation between identical twins (monozygotic) raised together.
      • Twins raised apart not as high, suggesting environment component.
      • Fraternal twins (dizygotic) even lower, suggesting also a genetic component.
    • No recipe for structuring environment to make a genius, even though we know environments that would impair intelligence.
    • Some people have a
      • Fixed mindset – intelligence is biologically set and unchanging
      • Or a Growth mindset – intelligence is changeable if you learn more. Those with growth mindset accomplish more.
    • Total theories:
      • Spearman’s idea of general intelligence – single g factor responsible for intelligence that underlies performance on all cognitive tasks
      • Gardner’s idea of 8 intelligences – differentiates intelligence into different modalities
      • Galton’s idea of hereditary genius – human ability is hereditary
      • Binet’s idea of mental age – how a child at a specific age performs intellectually compared to average intellectual performance for that physical age in years.
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