Welcome to the Cognitive level of analysis: Cognitive processes.

The Learning outcomes for this unit are:

  • •Outline principles that define the cognitive level of analysis

  • •Explain how principles that define the cognitive level of analysis may be demonstrated in research

  • •Discuss how and why particular research methods are used by cognitive researchers

  • •Discuss ethical considerations related to research studies at the cognitive level of analysis

  • •Evaluate schema theory with reference to research studies

  • •Evaluate two models or theories of one cognitive process with reference to research studies

  • •Explain how biological factors may affect one cognitive process

  • •Discuss how social or cultural factors affect one cognitive process

  • •Evaluate the extent to which a cognitive process is reliable

  • •Explain the use of technology in investigating the cognitive process.

For each of unit we have designed a study guide to help you focus on the learning outcomes. This will prove to be a valuable resource when it comes to revising for tests and final examinations. You must complete the sections for each of the learning outcomes. Please pay particular attention to the command terms. The marking for the completion of your review is set out on the front page.

If you loose your study guide you can access by clicking below.

The Cognitive LoA workbook.

The following information is drawn from:

Law, Halkkiopoulos & Bryan-Zaykov (2010) Psychology for the IB Diploma. Pearson baccalaureate.

Christian Bryan Alan Law(2013) Psychology Essentials. Pearson

Crane (2010)IB Psychology Course Companion IBO Oxford

Hannibal (2012) IB psychology Study Guide. Oxford

Solomon (2012) IB Psychology Revision Guide. OSC.


IB In-thinking psychology web-site John Crane and Jett Hannibal

I would like to acknowledge the excellent resources they have provided in delivering the IB psychology course.

Please keep your workbook up to date as we progress through the learning outcomes.

[Week beginning ]

The principles that define the cognitive level of analysis.

Cognitive psychology concerns itself with the structure and functions of the mind. Cognitive psychologists are involved in finding out how human minds come to know things about the world and how it uses this knowledge.

The mind can be conceptualized as a set of mental processes that are carried out by the brain.  These processes include:


Cognition is based on mental representations of the world, such as, images, words and concepts.

Remember people have different experiences so people’s  mental representations are not universal.

One of the most fundamental principles of cognitive psychology is that human beings are information processors and that mental processes guide behaviour Psychologists see the mind as a complex machine – rather like an intelligent, information processing machine using hardware (the brain).

The second principle of cognitive psychology is that the mind can be studied scientifically by developing theories and using a number of scientific research methods.

The third principle that defines the cognitive level of analysis is that cognitive processes are influenced by social and cultural factors.  One of the first to state this was British psychologist Fredrick Bartlett, who coined the term schema, which is defined as a mental representation of knowledge.

Please click below to access

Principles of Cog LoA

[Week beginning]

Cognitive processes.

[ 2.1] Evaluate schema theory with reference to research studies.

We hold pre-stored mental representations called cognitive schemas, mental representations’.

A theory of cognitive process: schema theory.

Cognitive theorists would call “how to store knowledge” a schema, and schema theory is a cognitive theory about information processing.  A cognitive schema can be defined as networks of knowledge, beliefs and expectations about particular aspects of the world.

Schema theory suggests that what we already know will influence the outcome of information processing.  The idea is based on the assumption that humans are active processors of information. People do not passively respond to information.  They interpret and integrate it to make sense of their experiences, but they are not always aware of it.  If the information is missing, the brain fills in the blanks based on existing schemas, or simply invents something that seems to fit in.  These mistakes in our interpretations are called distortions.

Schema theory and memory processes

Schema theory has been used to explain memory processes.  Cognitive psychologists divide memory processes into three main stages.

  • Encoding: transforming sensory information into meaningful memory.
  • Storage: creating a biological trace of the encoded information in memory, which is either consolidated or lost.
  • Retrieval: using the stored information.Please click below to access the key power-point. (Ref:


Please click below to access the power-point on schema theory.

Schema theory ppt

Assessment.  Please write up an essay 750-1000 words for this learning outcome.

Key theorists for this learning outcome are as follows:

Fredrick Bartlett (1932) The War of the Ghosts

Anderson & Pichert  (1978) Schema processing and encoding.

Brewer and Trefens (1981) Office schema.

Darley and Gross (1983) Schema processing in the social world.

[Week beginning ]

[2.2] Evaluate two models or theories of one cognitive process with reference to research studies.

This learning outcome asks to evaluate two models of memory.  From the three models that we will investigate, please keep in mind the question only asks for two.  First of all we shall look at Atkinson and Shiffrin  (1968) ‘The multi store model, which by today’s research methods seem simplistic, but it offered  a model on how information is processed. Following, Baddeley and Hitch (1974) suggested the ‘Working memory model’, based on the multi-store model.  However, they challenged the view that the STM is a single store.

Please access the link to the power-point that evaluates these models of memory.  (ref: IBO The Cognitive Level of Analysis)

Powerpoint CLOA

Working memory model- Ref Psych-exchange

Key studies for this learning outcome are as follows:

Atkinson and Shifrin (1968) The multi-store model of memory.  This need to be supported and evidenced by either. Glanzer and Cunitz (1966) The serial position effect. Or case studies of amnesia HM and Clive Wearing .

Baddeley and Hitch (1974) The working memory model. This needs supported and evidenced by Baddely and Hitch (1974) Dual task experiment into multi-tasking or again you can use case studies of amnesia HM and Clive Wearing. Only use these to support one model.

 [ 2.3] Explain how biological factors may affect one cognitive process

Memory and the brain.

For this outcome we will focus on memory as cognitive process.  The key aspects to focus on are biological and memory processes. The key biological factors include the hippo-campus and amygdala which are central to memory processes.  The role of levels of cortisol have also been researched.  The key case studies that we shall investigate are  Clive wearing; we will also revisit HM. We will also be investigating the degenerative disease known as alzheimer’s and how it affects memory.  You need to complete the section in your workbooks and evaluate all of the above.

key studies for this learning outcome are s follows:

Scoville and Milner (1957) What can be learned about the relationship between the brain and memory from the case study of HM. This should be supported and evidenced by Corkin (1997) and the case study of Clive Wearing

Mosconi (2005) Investigation into early detection of Alzheimer’s.

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[Week beginning]

[2.4] Discuss how social or cultural factors affect one cognitive process.

Socio-culture. Cole and Scribner

Cross-cultural research – the role of schooling on remembering.

Cognitive psychologists have traditionally conducted research in western countries.  If one assumes that cognitive processes follow universal laws, then all humans all over the world, regardless of culture, would perform the same cognitive tasks with the same results. Following this logic, the same memory test could be applied globally. However, this is not the case. When researchers from the west performed tests with participants in non-western countries, they found that they did poorly on many tests.  This was not always interpreted correctly – that is, there was a western bias in the test and it is therefore not valid when applied to another culture.

This is related to the third principle that state socio-cultural guide behaviour and the early studies by Bartlett and “The War of the Ghosts” supports this. The key theorists and studies that we will be examining is Cole and Scribner (1974)  who wanted to investigate memory strategies in different cultures.

Key studies for this outcome are as follows:

Cole and Scribner (1974) schooling and memory storage

Bartlett (1932) The war of the ghosts

[2.5] Evaluate the extent to which a cognitive process (memory) is reliable.

The cognitive process again focuses on memory.  The key concept is to refer back to Bartlett’s theory of schemas (representations of knowledge)  We discussed how reliable or unreliable memories can be. We know they can easily distorted.  One area where the reliability of memory is crucial, but often flawed is eye-witness testimony.  The legal system uses eye-witness testimony, which relies on the the accuracy of memory to decide whether a person is guilty of a crime or not. Normally, juries in a court of law take eye witness testimony very serious  but, recently, the use of DNA technology has demonstrated what some psychologists have claimed for years: eye-witnesses can be wrong.  Researchers such as; Elizabeth Loftus have demonstrated that memory may not be as reliable as we think.  Memories may be influenced by other factors than what was recorded in the first place, due to the reconstructive nature of memory.

The key information is on the power point CLOA Slides.  There are two You-tube clips you can access below.  We will also be watching a video Understanding Psychology; Eyewitness testimony. Online classroom limited.

Assessment.  As a group project you will design and film an incident. (a crime/event) assign roles.  Think about the format and the way you can use language and questions to mislead eye-witnesses.

Write an essay 750 words “Evaluate the extent to which cognitive processes are reliable. 

Complete sections in the workbook.

Click to access powerpoint.

Yuillie and Cutshall: Suzanne Pake psych-exchange

Key studies for this outcome are as follows:

Loftus and Palmer (1974) reconstruction of automobile experiment

Yullie and Cutshall (    ) weapons focus

Parker and Carranza (2005) The effect of age related schemas on eye-witness testimony.

Riniola et al (2003) on accuracy of eye-witness in a real life situation – the plunge of the titanic.

[LO 2.6] Explain the use of technology in investigating the cognitive process.

Use of modern technology to investigate the relationship between cognitive factors and behaviour.

Neuro-imaging techniques allow researchers to obtain images of brain functioning and structures.  The knowledge gathered is used to understand the relationship between cognitive processes and behaviour. There are a number of techniques , and these are continually being developed to perform even more advanced research.

Although we have previously investigated brain imaging techniques you need to be aware that the research is specific to cognitive behaviours.  In groups investigate and present imaging techniques and the key studies that support. There is supporting information in your workbooks.  Each group must present a power point to the rest of the class.

The key studies are as follows:

PET scans

Mosconi (2005) To investigate the early detection of Alzheimers.

Maguire et al (1997) To investigate if the hippocampus is involved in spacial memory

MRI Scans

The case study of HM  Corkin et al (1997)

3.2 Cognition and Emotion

  • Evaluate the extent to which cognitive and biological factors interact in emotion.

  • Evaluate one theory of how emotions may affect one cognitive process.

    According to brain researchers, emotions serve as a guide to evaluate how important situations are, and it is not necessarily a conscious process.  Cognitive psychologists like Lazarus and Folkman have suggested that it is not the emotion as such that is important, but rather how people appraise the situation and cope with it. Cognitive appraisal is simply an interpretation. A perceived dangerous event or stimulus will result in a psychological response known as fight or flight, which prepares the individual for direct action to confront the danger or avoid it, and a cognitive appraisal of the arousal – that is, a decision about what to do, based on previous experience.
    Click below to access the power point.


Review and unit tests.

Final essay due date: .  Please upload to your google account.

Title reminder. 

•Evaluate the extent to which one cognitive process is reliable. 

750-1000 words. 


Unit test.



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