This is how we filter our deepest thoughts

Cognitive Psychology. Authors Philip Quinlan and Ben Dyson. Edition First. Publisher Pearson Education. Pages 680. Price £31.99. ISBN 9780131298101.

May 22, 2008

If Freud and Watson are to be considered the founding fathers of psychology, then cognition is that ill-mannered young buck that said: "Cheers for that, pops, now aren't there some ducks that need feeding?" Just to place this book in context, cognitive psychology has emerged as the dominant field in how we understand the human mind.

Therefore, anyone brave enough to write a general text on this topic had better do a damn good job. The diverse nature of cognition has typically resulted in the production of many specialist texts covering memory, attention, problem-solving and so on. For a university student, these texts have become the first port of call. The general textbook has become seldom useful, lacking in specificity and therefore the capability to adequately inform.

However, this, along with Eysenck and Keane's Cognitive Psychology, is a rare exception to this rule. Detailed commentaries on nearly every aspect of cognition are provided, each equipped with the ability to transfer both fundamental and advanced information to its reader. Learning aids are present throughout, which in addition to the various "research pinpoints" make this text particularly useful for generating a balanced account of both theory and evidential support.

Personally, I found the account of memory the strongest feature. There is a thorough and up-to-date discussion of the mechanisms underlying memory, and the depiction of false memory and, more importantly, its implications is particularly impressive.

Yet despite its clarity and impressive content, numerous teething problems mean this text borders on the irritating. One cannot help but feel that the reader is being treated like a young child learning to ride a bike. Such is the faith these authors place in the country's education system that they deem it necessary to provide a "guided tour" of how to use their text. Just to check, are there any degree students out there unsure of why pictures are inserted into textbooks? I thought not.

Additionally, to compensate for omitting an index, there is the longest and most detailed contents page ever; some 20 pages of navigation are required before a useful word is even read!

I hope that future editions of this text will focus more on the relevant material and save a few trees by dispensing with the unnecessary idiot-proofing present in the beginning of what I believe will be a series of successful cognitive textbooks.

Who is it for? Psychology students.

Presentation - Clearly divided and colour-coded, allowing the exercises and other central issues to be easily identified.

Would you recommend it? Yes. Although not perfect, this book is probably the best general text on cognition to date.

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