Cognition The Thinking Animal

Cognition The Thinking Animal
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  • ISBN-13: 9780131824478
  • ISBN: 0131824473
  • Edition: 2
  • Publication Date: 0006
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall


Willingham, Daniel B.

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A long-standing goal of human enquiry is to understand ourselves. How can we characterize the human species? Here are some well-known definitions of "man." Man is by nature a political animal.--Aristotle Man is a noble animal.--Sir Thomas Browne Man is a tool-using animal.--Thomas Carlyle Man is a reasoning animal.--Seneca Man is a social animal.--Benedict Spinoza Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.--Oscar Wilde All these proposals are, in a sense, correct, but are all rooted in another characteristic. We are able to act politically, use tools effectively, understand nobility, and so on because of our ability to think. The book you are reading is a study of cognition--of how humans think. READABILITY Cognitive psychology does not seem to have the intrinsic interest of some other areas of the field. Textbook authors are aware of this problem, but to be honest, I've never cared much for their remedies. The usual strategy is to include "real world" examples and demonstrations, usually found in little boxes that appear every few pages. This strategy seems to confirm. the reader's growing suspicion that they are bored by sending the implicit message. "Yes, yes, I know this stuff is boring, but hang in there, and every few pages I'll toss in one of those boxes with a demonstration or real-world application to keep you going." I've done three things in this book to try to arouse readers' interest in the material. I have explicitly stated the questions that motivate cognitive psychologists. These questions we ask are of general interest, but psychologists don't always do the best job of explaining the questions in any detail. We plunge right into the answers, which seem arcane. Each chapter in this book is organized around two or three straightforward questions that are easy to appreciate and explained in detail. To the extent possible, I have used a narrative structure. By that I mean that there are causal links within and across chapter sections, so that it is clear why you are reading something. Nothing is more boring than a list of unconnected facts. I have tried to write in a non-stilted, not-especially-academic style. Despite the light tone, this book is not light in content. An easy way to check the coverage is by examining the key terms section at the end of each chapter. PEDAGOGY Readability is fine, but the goal of a textbook is, after all, that students learn the material. Different students like and use different pedagogical features, so I've included a few different ones to help them learn. A brief preview poses the broad questions and provides the broad answers covered in each section. Key terms are identified by boldface type and are defined immediately thereafter. They are also collected in a glossary. Each section closes with a series of questions. The "stand-on-one-foot" summary questions ask students to summarize what they learned in the section they just read. The name comes from the Talmudic story of the heretic who went to great sages, asking each to summarize all of the Torah during the time he could stand on one foot. (He finally found a willing sage in Hillel, who quoted from Leviticus: "What is hateful to you, do not to others.") The idea is simply to get readers to pause for a moment and make sure they understood the major points. The end of each section also includes questions that require considerably more thought; the student will need to apply what he or she has just learned to new situations, or go beyond the material in some way. I call these "questions that require two feet." Answers to all questions are provided at the back of the book. I've also included an appendix containing background information and explaWillingham, Daniel B. is the author of 'Cognition The Thinking Animal', published 0006 under ISBN 9780131824478 and ISBN 0131824473.

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