Students who are just starting to study psychology often imagine that cognitive psychology will be all about higher mental activities such as reasoning, problem solving and thinking. They are disappointed when they discover that much of cognitive psychology is concerned with measuring speed of performance on very simple tasks to the nearest millisecond.
Bob Sternberg and Talia Ben-Zeev have performed the useful function of devoting an entire book to higher mental activities. Coverage is broader than in most competitor textbooks and includes topics such as language, intelligence, concept acquisition and creativity.
This book will mainly be read by second and third-year undergraduate students of psychology and should be of use in connection with courses on cognitive psychology. As such, I think it should be of use. Sternberg is one of the leading cognitive psychologists in the world, and the book is written in an accessible and knowledgeable way.
In addition, the coverage of most topics is reasonably up-to-date and well informed. I would guess that some students might find the material somewhat complicated, but they should discover that the effort they put in is rewarded.
In sum, the authors have produced a book that seems to fulfil the objectives they set themselves. However, as is typically true of American textbooks, little space is devoted to outstanding research produced by non-Americans. Science should transcend national boundaries, but in psychology this is sadly not often the case.
Michael W. Eysenck is head of psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London.
Complex Cognition: The Psychology of Human Thought
Author - Robert J. Sternberg and Talia Ben-Zeev
Editor - Oxford University Press
ISBN - 0 19 510771 3
Publisher - None
Price - £25.99
Pages - 450