Tech and CLOA

The following sample response is for the question: Explain the use of technology in investigating one cognitive process.

What is the question asking?

* A cognitive process – that is, memory, decision making, thinking, attention or perception – should be clearly identified.

* One use of technology should be identified and explained. This may include EEG, CAT, PET, MRI, TCI or fMRI.

* One study that uses one of the technologies above should be described, making clear reference to how the technology is used.

Potential studies to answer this question include Fiske’s MRI study of the role of the amygdala and frontal lobe in prejudice, MacGuire’s study of the hippocampus in taxi drivers, studies of Alzheimer’s disease and Corkin’s MRI study of the patient, HM.

Please note, the response to this question is not significantly different from the question asked at the Biological Level of Analysis. A study used to answer this question may be used to answer the BLOA version of this learning objective. It is important to note, however, that studies of human behaviour that are not cognitive processes (e.g. aggression, sexuality, stress) that make use of brain scanning would only be appropriate for the BLOA. The cognitive process needs to be clearly identified in the response to this question.

Sample response

B F Skinner argued that it was impossible to study cognitive processes. He claimed that the mind was a “black box.” Cognitive psychologists challenged this idea. As brain scanning technology has improved, cognitive psychologists have been able to better understand cognitive processes.

One example of how technology has been used to study cognitive processes is the study by Susan Fiske of prejudice. The cognitive process that she was looking at was how the brain interprets stimuli – in this case, either an object or a person. She examined the brain activity of 10 participants viewing photographs of social groups and 12 participants viewing objects. She found that the prefrontal cortex was activated when viewing people, but not viewing objects. The perception of the stimulus as a human being activated the prefrontal cortex. However, she also found that for extreme out-groups – eg. homeless people – the prefrontal cortex was not activated. Instead, the insula and amygdala, were activated. The amygdala is for aggression and the insula for disgust. That shows that how we perceive people – and sometimes dehumanize them may have biological roots.

What are the common problems for this question?

  • No cognitive process is clearly identified.
  • The brain scanning technology is not described and is not central to the response.
  • The response evaluates the technology, but does not describe it.
  • The response evaluates the study, but does not describe the technology.

Annotated copy

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