Cognitive Sign Principle


COGNITIVE STRUCTURE ACTIVATION, LAW OF. This cognitive and social psychological law is an empirical generalization that specifies the conditions under which an activated structure will be used to process new stimulus input. The law may be stated, formally, as: when a stimulus is ambiguous enough to be encodable as an instance of multiple cognitive structures, the stimulus most likely will be encoded as an instance of that cognitive structure that is the most activated in memory and is the most semantically similar to the stimulus. This encoding will, in turn, affect structure-

relevant judgmental and behavioral processes. The law of cognitive structure activation suggests that the influence of activated cognitive structures extends into every stage of information-processing, including attention, stimulus encoding, organization and storage of stimuli in memory, retrieval and reconstruction of stimuli, and judgments made after information retrieval. See also FORGETTING/MEMORY, THEORIES OF; INFORMATION AND INFORMATION-PROCESSING THEORY. REFERENCES

Solso, R. L. (1974). Theories in cognitive psychology. Potomac, MD: Erlbaum.

Pratto, F. (1991). Control, emotions, and laws of human behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 2, 202-204. Sedikides, C., & Skowronski, J. J. (1991).

The law of cognitive structure activation. Psychological Inquiry, 2, 169-184, 211-219.

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