This is the eighth edition of my textbook—a new edition has appeared every 5 years. The first edition was written more than half of my life ago. In writing this preface thought I would take the opportunity to reflect on where the field has been, where it is, where it is going, and how this is reflected in the book. One piece of evidence to inform this reflection is the chart showing number of citations to publication in each of the last 100 years. I have not felt the need to throw out references to classic studies that still serve their purpose, and so this provides one measure of how research over the years serves to shape my conception of the field—a conception that I think is shared by many researchers. There are a couple of fairly transparent historical discontinuities in that graph and a couple of not so apparent changes:
● There are very few citations to papers before the end of World War II, and then there is a rapid rise in citations. Essentially, the Greatest Generation came back from the war, broke the behaviorist grip on psychology, and started the cognitive revolution. The growing number of citations reflects the rise of a new way of studying and understanding the human mind.
● The number of citations basically asymptotes about the time of the publication of the first edition of this textbook in 1980. Being a baby boomer, when I came into the field, I was able to start with the framework that the pioneers had established and organize it into a coherent structure that appeared in the first edition.
● The relatively stable level of citations since 1980 hides a major development in the field that began to really establish itself in the 1990s. Early research had focused on behavioral measures because it seemed impossible to ethically study what was in the human brain. However, new techniques in neural imaging arose that allowed us to complement that research with neural measures. This is complemented by research on animals, particularly primates.
● There is a dip over the last 5 years. This reflects the need to properly digest the significance of the most current research. I could be wrong, but I think we are on the verge of significant change brought about by our ability to mine large data sets. We are now able to detect significant patterns in the huge amounts of data we can collect about people, both in terms of the activity of their brains and their activities in the world.
Some of this comes out in the textbook’s discussion of the most recent research. Each instructor will use a textbook in his or her own way, but when I teach from this book, I impose the following structure on it:
● The introductory chapter provides a preparation for understanding what is in the subsequent chapters, and the last chapter provides a reflection on how all the pieces fit together in human cognition and intelligence.
● The meat of the textbook is the middle 12 chapters, and they naturally organize themselves into 6 thematic pairs on perception and attention, knowledge representation, memory, problem solving, reasoning and decision making, and language.
● There is a major break between the first three pairs and the last three pairs. As I tell my class at that point: “Most of what we have discussed up to this point is true of all primates. Most of what we are going to talk about is only true of humans.”