Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Cognitive Revolution

An important thinking shift on Psychology science happened during the 60`of XXth Century.  Many researchers became interested on what goes on in the mind; this was a change after Behaviorism emphasis on direct observation of behavior.  This new scope of mind thought that complex cognitive processes such as language and thinking could not receive satisfactory explanations in terms of the stimulus-response relations of the Behaviorism model, which led to the field known as Cognitive Psychology.

Cognitive researchers began with the study of learning and soon became established as the study of information processing associated with mental activities, such as attention, perception, memory, problem solving.  They did not return to the introspective methods used by Wundt on XIX Century, but designed another methods for testing their ideas about mental processes.  Experimental methods were adapted to study  internal processes, not directly observed.

Cognitive Psychology can be considered as part of the cognition sciences that include, too, linguistics and AI (Artificial Intelligence).  The brain receives information from the senses ( sight, hearing, etc.), and then this information is processed, similar to a computer.  It is studied the function of the mind (what it does) and the process (how it does it).

Eventually, in order to be able to help people in everyday life, the Cognitive approach started investigating on social cognition:  how those cognitive processes were used by the human beings to understand social situations.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Outstanding Scientific Women in last 100 years (3)

Barbara McClintock, American scientist (1902-1992), was born in Hartford, Connecticut; she was the youngest of three daughters in a middle-class family.  She enrolled at the School of Agriculture in Cornell University, where the tuition was free, graduated in 1923, and in 1927 received her PhD.

For the time being it was very difficult for women to get permanent work in universities and she survived on several short-term research fellowships at various universities.  In 1931, she was the first woman postdoctoral fellow to work at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech); it was necessary that the Board of Trustees
granted her special permission, even she was paying her own salary from her fellowship.

After several uninteresting positions, she resigned the last one in 1941; then she heard about a research institute at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, where as much as 60 geneticists were working.  After some years her position there was made permanent and was given the freedom to follow her own lines of research.

In 1945 she was the first woman to be elected president of the Genetics Society of America; in 1983, at 81 years old, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work on cytogenetics of maize:    seventh woman to receive it in science.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Outstanding Scientific Women in last 100 years (2)

Rosalind Franklin, British Biophysicist (1920-1958), was trained as a physical chemist and microbiologist and made an important contribution to science: using X-ray crystallography, her work led to the discovery of the structure of DNA, that is, that this molecule consists of an intertwined double helix of atoms.  Her "Photo 51" gave colleagues Watson and Crick the needed evidence to confirm the double helix structure of atoms, which they published in Nature on April 1953, with little acknowledgement to Rosalind`s contribution, gaining a Nobel prize in Medicine in 1962.  This exclusion is considered an example of sexism in the scientific research world.

She was born in London in 1920, studied natural science at Newnham College, Cambridge, and died at 38 years old of ovarian cancer, probably due to high exposure to X-rays in her laboratory work.


 Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, British Chemist (1910-1994), studied chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford, where she obtained a first class degree in 1932, then did PhD at Cambridge.  Some years later she returned to Oxford, continued her work on the structure of insulin and published her findings in Nature in 1935.  She worked on the structure of penicilline and vitamine B12 and in 1964 was awarded the Nobel prize in Chemistry "for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances"

First woman to be awarded the Royal Society`s Order of Merit, highest honour; first woman to be appointed (1970) as Chancellor of the University of Bristol.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Outstanding Scientific Women in last 100 years (1)

Francoise Barrè-Sinoussi, French, Virologist (1947-) 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine, jointly with Luc Montagnier, for their discovery of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); worked on characterising and isolating HIV; collaborated with molecular biologists on identifying the genome sequence of the virus; from this work was established the link between HIV and AIDS.


Marie Curie, Polish-born French, Physicist and Chemist (1867-1934)  Marie Sklodowska is the only person to be awarded a Nobel prize in two different sciences:  in 1903 in Physics, jointly with her husband Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel for their work on radioactivity; and in1911 in chemistry for isolating radium in the state of the pure salt, and characterizing it as a new element.

She discovered that thorium is radioactive and then demonstrated the existence of two new radioactive elements:  radium and polonium.