An Introduction to Cognitive Psychology. Proccesses and Disorders

When I started incorporating cognitive paradigms into my research, I was looking for a book that would allow me to quickly navigate through cognitive theories and refresh my knowledge acquired in undergraduate cognitive psychology course. I was glad to find ”An Introduction to Cognitive Psychology” edited by David Groome and colleagues.

David Groome is a retired psychology professor from the University of Westminster. The author informs us that he sees himself more as a guitarist who does psychology in his spare time. However, the textbook is a proof that even in his spare time, he is doing a great job in teaching psychology. Other authors are also recognized readers and lecturers, so it is clear that publisher’s intention was a textbook for undergraduate students. The textbook is indeed very well written and interesting and the clear structure makes it comprehensible for psychology students and for people completely new to the field alike. The fact that it is already the third edition (the first was published in 1999) accounts for its popularity and it is constantly being updated to include the latest research.

A highly praised feature of the “Introduction to Cognitive Psychology” is that it offers a joint perspective of cognitive and clinical psychology on cognitive processes. Each part of the book concentrates on a particular cognitive process and its associate disorders. As the author states in the Preface “an understanding of the disorders of cognition is an essential requirement for understanding the processes of normal cognition, and in fact the two approaches are so obviously complimentary that we are quite surprised that nobody had put them together in one book before”. Generally, I am a big fan of books that link disciplines and I admire authors who go beyond the academic classifications of fields, so I was really looking forward to reading this book.

My first impression was that the textbook is clearly targeted at undergraduate students and gives a good overview about the discipline. The language is easy to follow and jargon-free. The theories are presented in a logical way and often accompanied by easy-to-remember examples from literature, philosophy and everyday life. The layout of the book is also meant to facilitate learning - there are lots of colorful and sometimes cute illustrations, the key terms are highlighted and explained on the margins and there is a short summary at the end of each chapter. The information at the cover also promises lecturer resources on a company website.

The main topics targeted in the textbook are: attention and perception, memory, thinking, language and the dependencies between mood and cognition. The scientific paradigms are mainly organized around real-life problems. For example, in the chapter about visual perception, the authors (G. Edgar, H. Edgar and G. Pike) explain visual functions using as an example a phenomenon called “looked but failed to see (LBFS)”. LBFS happens when people do not really see an object even if they directly look at it, as it is sometimes the case with car accidents in which drivers crash into highly visible objects. The authors not only describe and explain LBFS, but also use it to explain the difference between sensation and perception, sensory and attention conspicuity and the process of visual search. They further use this example in their narrative about different approaches to perception (e.g. constructivist approach, Gibsonian approach) and the neuropsychological findings about dorsal and ventral streams and their role in the visual processing.

The subsequent chapter about disorders of perception and attention (by T. Manly and H. Ness) covers synaesthesia, blindsight, unilateral spatial neglect and different types of agnosia. The disorders are explained from different perspectives, often including latest neurocognitive findings. The disorders are accompanied by patients’ stories, so that it is easier to imagine how life with a certain disorder looks like. Again, I found those chapters well-written, with a compelling narrative that can be compared to the popular books by Oliver Sacks (e.g. “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”). However, after the promises made in the Preface, I expected more on the clinical side. To concentrate only on the rare, but specifically cognitive disorders, is not an uncommon practice in other cognitive psychology textbooks. However, I wish that there were more examples showing how cognitive functioning is affected in more common psychological disorders, such as depression or phobias.

I was also a bit disappointed by the chapter about cognition and emotion written by Michael Eysenck. First of all, because by devoting only one chapter to this topic, the editors decided to keep the convention of separating cognition from emotions, even though there is growing evidence that cognitive processes should not be analyzed separately from motivational and emotional processes (e.g. Forgas, 2008; Cunnigham et al., 2007). Secondly, because the authors omitted valuable information, such as the effects of moods on the mode of cognitive processing vs. its content and other common ways of inducing mood states: standardized sets of pictures (IAPS) and sounds (IADS). And thirdly, because of its main focus on negative moods, whereas research in recent years has significantly increased our understanding of the role of positive moods in attention and executive functions.

I would recommend this book for undergraduate students of psychology, especially if they struggle with other dry, academic textbooks. It might be especially interesting for students who chose psychology with a clinical focus and consider cognitive psychology to be an obligatory, but boring course that they need to go through. ”An Introduction to Cognitive Psychology” shows that our understanding of clinical disorders can be enhanced by good understanding of underlying cognitive processes and that cognitive processes can be much better understood in the light of cognitive disorders. The book might further be interesting for psychologists from other fields who need a quick and up-to-date overview of the field of cognitive psychology or a quick reference about a specific cognitive function.


Cunningham, W. A., Zelazo, D. P., Packer, D. J. Van Bavel, J. (2007). The Iterative Reprocessing Model: A Multilevel Framework For Attitudes and Evaluation. Social Cognition, 25(5), 736 – 760

Forgas, J. P. (2008). Affect and Cognition. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(2), 94–101. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6916.2008.00067.

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