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New Research on Cognition from Psychological Science

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Read about new research on cognitive processes – including processes involved in learning, theory of mind, and cognitive control – published in Psychological Science, Current Directions in Psychological Science, and Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Cognitive Load Disrupts Implicit Theory-of-Mind Processing

Dana Schneider, Rebecca Lam, Andrew P. Bayliss, and Paul E. Dux

A recently proposed framework explaining Theory of Mind (ToM) suggests there is one system that develops early and operates implicitly and another system that develops later and depends on domain-general cognitive functions. Although there is some support for this model, no one has tested whether these two systems are actually independent of each other. In this study, participants watched a video version of the Sally-Ann task while simultaneously performing a no-load, low-load, or high-load cognitive task. Researchers found that increased cognitive load reduced implicit belief processing during the task. This suggests that while there may be a ToM system that operates implicitly, it may not be independent of executive function.

Published online July 3, 2012 in Psychological Science

Learning From Others: The Consequences of Psychological Reasoning for Human Learning

Patrick Shafto, Noah D. Goodman, and Michael C. Frank

How do people learn to reason about the world rapidly and effectively? Shafto, Goodman, and Frank answer this question by presenting a computational theory of learning. They present their theory, review research supporting their framework, and provide examples of how learning might occur within this framework. They conclude by discussing implications of their theory for researchers’ understanding of learning, cognitive development, and the relationship between social and cognitive psychology.

Published in the July issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science

Mechanisms of Cognitive Control: The Functional Role of Task Rules

Gesine Dreisbach

Cognitive control can help us switch between tasks or help us stay on track. Dreisbach examines the functional role of task rules in the task-switching paradigm popularly applied to cognitive control processes, asking why people use task rules instead of learning individual stimulus-response rules. She finds that task rules — unlike stimulus-response rules — shield us from irrelevant task information and help guide our attention to task-relevant stimulus features.

Published in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science

Bridging Levels of Analysis for Probabilistic Models of Cognition

Thomas L. Griffiths, Edward Vul, and Adam N. Sanborn

Probabilistic models of cognition characterize the abstract computational problems that underpin inductive inferences and help identify their solutions. According to Griffiths, Vul, and Sanborn, the best way to evaluate these models is by understanding the relationships among computational, algorithmic, and implementation levels of analysis. The authors discuss the use of rational process models and Monte Carlo methods to try to bridge the gaps between and better understand the relationships among these levels of analysis.

Published in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science