Wholes and their parts in cognitive psychology: Systems, subsystems and persons

Decompositional analysis is the process of constructing explanations of the characteristics of whole systems in terms of characteristics of parts of those whole systems. Cognitive psychology is an endeavour that develops explanations of the capacities of the human organism in terms of descriptions of the brain's functionally defined information-processing components. This paper details the nature of this explanatory strategy, known as functional analysis. Functional analysis is contrasted with two other varieties of decompositional analysis, namely, structural analysis and capacity analysis. After an examination of these three varieties of analysis, there follows a consideration of a mistake to avoid when conducting decompositional analyses in psychology, and a possible limitation on their explanatory scope.
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