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By Associate Professor Richard B. Gunderman MD, PhD, MPH (auth.)

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Likewise, it is helpful if the learner’s physical environment and state of mind are similar in both encoding and retrieval. If information needs to be retrieved when the learner is standing, it may make sense to learn that information in a standing position. This is part of the reason the military tends to teach combat principles in high-stress situations, because that is the context in which recruits will need to employ them. Why do we lose or forget information? The model of cognitive information processing offers a systematic approach to this problem.

The assessment becomes a kind of learning experience in itself. Cognitive psychology is similar to gestalt psychology in that both stress the development of meaning from experience. In cognitive psychology, however, greater stress is placed on the idea of information processing. Particularly as computer science has developed, cognitive psychologists have tended to employ models drawn from computers for understanding what goes on in the minds of learners. Cognitive psychologists developed one of the most widely accepted models of how the memory functions.

Watson argued that the same conditioning that Pavlov had achieved with his dogs could be equally well applied to human beings. In the human case, additional stimuli and responses might be involved. For example, the stimulus might be praise, and the response might be correctly answering questions on a multiple-choice exam. Fundamentally, however, the stimulus–response model was the same. It did not matter what was going on inside the subject, in the case of learning theory, the mind of the student.

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