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[ Last updated 3 Dec 2003]

Why Cognitive Psychology is so lousy?

The rest of the texts in this site show that Cognitive Psycholofy is pretty lousy, full of logical errors, myths, overinterpretations and demagoguery. Why? Part of the answer is that every science field has these problems, but Cognitive Psychology is definitely worse than other fields. Why?

Cognitive psychology is worse because of three main reasons:

  1. In cognitive psychology, there is no successful framework of research. Other fields have such frameworks, and research within these frameworks generate useful results. These results define a standard of achievement, and research within these areas that doesn't reach these standards is rejected. In cognitive psychology, the lack of successful frameoworks leads to lack of good standards. The result is that research does not have to show real achievement to be acceptable. For example, computational models are regarded as successful if they are used to model some phenomena, which is clearly not an achievement as far as understanding the brain is concerned (it is just shows that the model is flexible enough to fit the data). A more serious criterion is that the model generates new insights which are confirmed independently, and current computatioinal models fail to do that, but since no other model succeeded to do this until now, researchers in the field ignore this criterion. Similarly, PET and fMRI fail to come up with any useful results, but since no other method did until now, they are still regarded as acceptable.

  2. Many people (probably most of them, if not all) have strong illusions about how much they understand their thinking processes and other people's thinking processes. These people, from inside cognitive psychology and outside, put pressure on cognitive psychology to confirm their prejudices rather than generate real understanding. Most important is the pressure from philosophers with their ideas about intentionality, computer scientists with their computational models, and sociobiologists with genetic determinism.

  3. Cognitive psychology is a "problematic" research field, by which I mean a field in which the conclusions affect directly the way we see ourselves. This mean that the conclusions evoke strong emotional responses in most of people, which strongly bias their judgement. Most of people seem so bias that they fail to identify this bias.

  4. Central concepts in the field, for example 'mind', are mixtures of real observations and fictitious ideas. Thus when somebody tries to 'explain the relation between mind and brain', for example, they normally mean explaining how the brain relates to some phenomena that are real, and to some phenomena that are fictitious. This neccesarily causes confusion. As large part of the field is about these kind of explanations, the field gets very confused.
Yehouda Harpaz