chapter  4
38 Pages

Thought: Memory, Reasoning, and Knowledge

So much of what we do depends upon the harmonious interaction of diverse cognitive processes. Consider, for instance, what kind of cognitive activities might figure in the construction of a piece of furniture. The kind of furniture that you build will probably be determined by your needs. Thus, before you can settle on a design, you will have to access your knowledge of what kinds of things (e.g., chairs) fulfill particular needs (e.g., sitting down to dinner). After settling on a design, you will have to generate a plan – that is, an envisioned sequence of activities that will lead to the fulfillment of your goal. This plan, in turn, will be made up of various subgoals and thoughts about how to fulfill them. Having plotted out a course of action, you must then implement it. To do so, you might draw upon what you know about how to locate materials suppliers, your memory of the tricks your father used when doing carpentry, some basic skills at arithmetic and geometric reasoning, motor skills, and your ability to deal with such unforeseen contingencies as bent nails and fractured boards. Intuitively, at least, these seem to be cognitive processes that enable you to build your chair. Many of the same processes (perhaps a subset of the ones just described) may come into play when you think about such things as the possibility of life on other planets or the nature of electricity.