In this era of information abundance, scientists have discovered a relatively new form of science of the mind known as cognitive psychology, which has revolutionized the realms of psychology. Cognitive psychology is essentially the study of mental processes such as attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving, creativity, and thinking. (‘Cognitive psychology’, 2018) Needless to say, our sole existence as a human being is significantly dependent on the functions of our brain and that is of course the locale of our mental processes that encompasses our cognition. It was during the 1950s, when the cognitive revolution began.
Prior to that, the study of the mind was characterized by behaviorism, a theory that was conceptualized with the notion that behaviors and personalities were shaped by the way humans respond directly to their environmental stimulus and by way of conditioning. (McLeod, 2015) This cognitive revolution was thus a paradigm shift from behaviorism as it was the first time a scientific approach was used to study human cognition and extensive theoretical laboratory experiments were carried out in the pursuit of understanding the complexity of the human brain.
These shift positively resulted in psychologists conjuring up valid and reliable experiments to prove that our preferences, prejudices, fears and intuition were the works of our mental processes, even though they were not “observable” by the human eye. (Cherry, 2018) This revolution has been relevant to us in a myriad of ways. It has helped us to better understand ourselves and everyone around us, allowing us to act with greater intellect and awareness in all our decision making which is vital to our survival and quality of life. The mere fact that we now have a rational and progressively in-depth understanding of our intricate mental processes that dictates our cognition and behavior, has significantly transformed the world we live in.
After all, the ideas conjured and researched during the revolution were invaluable contributions to the study of cognitive psychology. For instance, in 1966, Glanzer and Cunitz, conducted a test on the memory of people and discovered that the primacy and recency effect remained present when the delay time was brief, but that the recency effect was lost after the first thirty seconds. (Cunitz, 1966) As our memory dictates our existence, this was an important step forward for psychology as we began to understand the concept of information storage behind our short-term memory and its correlation with our long-term memory.
Then, during the 1970s, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman made even more compelling discoveries, such as the concept of availability heuristic, that denotes what we remember from the past, influences our reasoning and decision making. (Tversky & Kahneman, 1973) Concepts such as “Confirmation Bias”, whereby we tend to favor perspective that sort of validate our idea, and “Framing” where we react differently to different wordings, were also studied and conceptualized during this revolution. (Heshmat, 2015)
These discoveries have a direct impact on our everyday lives because so much of how we function, or dysfunction is attributed to our internal mental processes. The revolution and the continual development of cognitive psychology has substantially contributed to enhancing the quality of human life. From helping people cope with memory disorders, helping in the recovery of brain injury, treating learning disabilities, increasing the accuracy of decision making, helping boost employees morale and being able to understand consumer minds, to conceptualizing educational curricula for enhanced learning or even just being mindful of our thought processes so as to conduct ourselves more positively, are all aspects of everyday life that has been greatly impacted by the rise of cognitive psychology. (Cherry, 2018).
The medical field for one has benefitted a great deal which has enabled them to provide better healthcare to patients. For instance, patients who suffer from Alzheimer, gradually suffer from loss of cognitive functioning. A profound understanding of how memory works, like the one developed by Cunitz, as we mentioned earlier, has enabled the development of strategies and therapies to help keep patients mind sharper in the face of the debilitating effects of having to deal with loss of cognitive functions. (Harrison, 2014)
With regards to education, cognitive psychologists play a central role in helping students learn the most effective methods of studying. Memory research has allowed these psychologists to provide studying tips, that can be easily sourced and disseminated on media platforms to the masses, and is beneficial for every student, especially those with difficulties learning. (Dunlosky, 2013) Cognitive psychology also paved the way for the extensive development of computer science as our mental processes and artificial intelligence are correlated.
In light of the above, it is clear to see that cognitive psychology affects a plethora of aspects in our lives. Also, it is evident that theories put forth by psychologists from the cognitive revolution has directly impacted the way we view the world around us.
What is ‘language’? Why is there a universal need to communicate with language? Psycholinguistics or the psychology of language begin to flourish during the cognitive revolution. It is no wonder, because mastering a language is closely correlated to cognitive psychology as it involves our combined mental processes for our speech to be executed. There are many prerequisites and technicalities of acquiring a language as it involves complex processes like perceiving, understanding, predicting, inferencing and imitating for example. In linguistics, syntax is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of sentences in a given language, usually including word order. (‘Syntax’, 2018) Basically, language can be defined as a system of conventional spoken, manual, or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture, express themselves.
The functions of language include communication, the expression of identity, play, imaginative expression, and emotional release. (Robins & Crystal, 2018) Language is a phenomenal invention that is vital for human survival as it significantly affects our quality of life. To survive without language would be akin to doing away with the unique ability of human interaction which helps us forge a common identity. Sharing a common language enables us to form cohesive bonds with those of the same linguistic background. Linguistic identity also symbolizes unity and collective cultural communities. (Hassen, 2016) Without this medium of communication, our society may not be as advanced, effective, productive and that could lead to some form of dysfunction. Language has defined our cultural identity and built the world as we know it today.
Although our differences may be palpable; we may be characterized by different skins, hair color and passions, but yet, we are all intrinsically similar through language. On a societal level, language helps to spread information in an organized manner. Societies use their own language to organize their people and spread information via the mass media. The ability to connect to everyone in society through a common medium is unique to our means of communication. The common identity also connects people living far apart and has benefitted from the written element of language to stay in touch and to understand one another on a more personal level. Communication with language also empowers people. It encourages people to fight for their rights in society. A prominent example would be Malala Yousafzai. Having been discriminated against her access to education due to her gender, the ability to speak up has earned herself and countless other women around the world better access to education. It is that voice that unites people for a common cause that has led to greater equality in the world. The ability of language to rally people is unsurpassed.
Non-verbal language such as sign language for the hearing impaired also empowers people facing such a disability to have a more independent life. Sign language is a great tool of empowerment as it weans the deaf from their heavy reliance on their caregivers This is a language completely separate and distinct from English. It contains all the fundamental features of language as it has its own rules for pronunciation, word order, and complex grammar. (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), n.d.). Hence, language is a critical and empowering tool for the disabled to convey their thoughts on an independent basis, bridging the gap between the disabled and societies.
To conclude, I personally feel that language is an integral part of our existence and the lack of it would impede on our progress as a human race. Thus, although there are means to aid vulnerable groups of society, there needs to be language as a necessary communicative tool to ensure that the majority of the masses are connected and thriving.