What is the evolutionary perspective on cognition and how does it shape our understanding of cognitive processes?

The field of cognitive psychology seeks to understand how our minds process information and make decisions. One perspective that has greatly influenced our understanding of cognitive processes is the evolutionary perspective. This perspective looks at how our cognitive abilities have evolved over time and how they have helped us adapt to our environment. By examining the evolutionary roots of our cognitive processes, we can gain insight into why we think and behave the way we do. In this essay, we will explore the evolutionary perspective on cognition and how it shapes our understanding of cognitive processes.

Cognition refers to internal representations of the world and internal information processing. From an EP perspective, cognition is not “general purpose,” but uses heuristics, or strategies, that generally increase the likelihood of solving problems our ancestors routinely faced. For example, humans are far more likely to solve logic problems that involve detecting cheating (a common problem given our social nature) than the same logic problem put in purely abstract terms. Since our ancestors did not encounter truly random events, we may be cognitively predisposed to incorrectly identify patterns in random sequences. “Gamblers’ Fallacy” is one example of this. Gamblers may falsely believe that they have hit a “lucky streak” even when each outcome is actually random and independent of previous trials. Most people believe that if a fair coin has been flipped 9 times and Heads appears each time, that on the tenth flip, there is a greater than 50% chance of getting Tails. Humans find it far easier to make diagnoses or predictions using frequency data than when the same information is presented as probabilities or percentages, presumably because our ancestors lived in relatively small tribes (unusually with less that 150 people) where frequency information was more readily available.

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