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Unit 5: Cognitive Psychology
AP Exam Weighting: 13-17%
In this unit, knowledge surrounding sensation, perception, and learning provides the foundation for an understanding of cognition. Cognitive psychologists focus their research on the complex nature of the brain, particularly the areas of memory processes and intelligence and the influence of mental processes on behavior. Understanding how this information is gathered and processed gives insight into how we make sense of and perceive the world. Some cognitive psychologists attempt to answer how and why cognitive processes fail despite (or because of) the complexity of our biological structures. Teachers can offer students opportunities to provide their own explanations for these phenomena. Other psychologists study intelligence and the reasons for individual differences. This cognitive perspective offers one way to understand how our thinking impacts our behavior, which can in turn provide insight into psychological disorders and their treatment.
Cognition, which covers both memory processes and individual differences in intelligence, plays a major role in the field of psychology today. Building on the anatomical structures and biological processes learned in Units 2 and 3, this unit emphasizes the memory processes of encoding, storing, and retrieving information from the brain. Students are moving beyond definitional understanding of psychological concepts and perspectives and are now reasoning systematically. Students should be able to connect the in-depth presentation of the cognitive perspective to other psychological perspectives introduced in Units 1 and 2. They will also continue their analysis and interpretation of quantitative data in relation to cognitive research, building understanding of why particular research methods are used for specific types of data collection.
Preparing for the AP Exam:
Students tend to have difficulty articulating ideas about thinking and problem solving. They will often state an accurate idea about cognition but fail to expand on the idea enough to earn full credit for the answer. Students should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the similarities and differences in short-term and procedural memory and the factors that affect each to achieve success on the AP Exam. Students should also be able to explain how the elements of memory contribute to a person’s behavior. The ability to demonstrate an understanding of how information is encoded, stored, and retrieved in memory is also crucial. Students should be able to describe the acquisition of language, the factors that facilitate it, and its use in communicating ideas. Additionally, they may have to answer questions about normal curves as well as about positive and negative correlation.