Cognitive Approach in Psychology

This week I am going to discuss the cognitive approach within psychology. I am also going to compare the cognitive approach to other approaches in psychology. Cognitive means knowing.

Cognitive approach is a modern approach to human behaviour which focuses on how we think, with the belief that such thought processes affect the way in which we behave. There is some debate as to who created the cognitive approach, but some sources attribute the term to the 1950s and 1960s, with Ulric Neisser’s book  Cognitive Psychology, which made allusions of the human mind working in a similar fashion to computers. Due to the dissatisfaction with the behavioural approach, which focused on behaviours that were invisible without having any understanding the internal processes that create it, this is how the cognitive approach came about. It is based on the fact that our behaviour is generated by a series of stimuli and responses to these by thought processes.

Here are some comparisons between the cognitive approach and other approaches in psychology. Cognitive psychologists attempt to create rules and explanations of human behaviour and eventually generalise them to everyone’s behaviour. The Humanist approach opposes this, taking into account individual differences that make us each behave differently. I think that the Humanist approach is good because they do believe that we are individuals and that we are not all the same. As the cognitive approach have made a generalisation of how we behave it is good that there are some other psychologists out there that have worked it out that everyone is not the same and that we do behave differently to other people. The cognitive approach attempts to apply a scientific approach to human behaviour, which is reductionist in that it doesn’t necessarily take into account such differences. However, popular case studies of individual behaviour such as HM have lead cognitive psychology to take into account idiosyncrasies of our behaviour. On the other hand, cognitive psychology acknowledges the thought process that goes into our behaviour and the different moods that we experience that can impact on the way we respond to circumstances.

Cognitive is easily combined with other approaches. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a popular and successful form of treatment for issues such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It also depends largely on controlled experiments to observe human behaviour, which may lack ecological validity (being compared to real-life behaviour). The cognitive approach does not take into account genetic factors, for example hereditary correlations of mental disorders. Reductionist to an extent, although case studies are taken into account, the behavioural approach attempts to apply the scientific view to human behaviour, which may be argued to be unique to each individual.

I believe that psychologists should look at the way people behave as an individual instead of as a group and instead of generalising us because someone could have the same condition as someone else but they may take it different and they may be act differently with it and have different symptoms. People are unique and they do deal with things different than other people do.


6 Responses to “Cognitive Approach in Psychology”

  1. I wasn’t really sure as to what your argument was in this blog, but a good understanding of the cognitive approach. I recommend that you look into things like Ellis’ (1955) rational emotive behaviour therapy.

    Supports the scientific side of the argument “Is psychology a science?” using experimental methods of research. It rejects introspection, unlike other perspectives like the humanistic and psychodynamic.

    Another aspect of the cognitive approach is the analogy the computer as a human mind, comparing the functions of a computer to a human mind.

    One thing you should also look at when making a point about the cognitive approach is memory, and the working memory model (Baddeley and Hitch 1974) and the memory model (Atkinson and Shiffrin 1968) where senses are taken into account and the levels of memory.

  2. I think that the cognitive approach is one of the better approaches as it is quite scientific, which can be seen as it uses laboratory experiments which means that cause and effect can be established and it is easy to test standardised experiments for reliability. This can be seen in Loftus and Palmer’s study of eyewitness testimony as they had a lot of control over their experiment, such as the participants used, the video and the location of the experiment.

  3. I personally believe that the cognitive is one of the better approaches, as it more scientific than others. It supports the ‘psychology is a science’ argument.
    The cognitive approach uses laboratory experiments, which in turn means that cause and effect can be established, and it is also easy to test for reliability.
    As mentioned above, Loftus and Palmer’s study of eyewitness testimonies is a good example of this. They had a lot of control, and so could easily test for reliability in their results.

  4. I think that the growing support for the cognitive approach was influenced by the growth of technology at the time to a more public domain. The cognitive analogy of the brain being like a computer would have been understood more clearly, because people would have been more likely to have experience with computers. This could’ve influenced the work of Cognitive Psychologist’s such as Craik and Lockhart (1972). Their research into memory looked at the brain as a computer, suggesting terms such as input and encoding. These are terms which are used in computing, so the influence is apparent.

    I agree that it is easy to combine another approach with the cognitive, such as the physiological approach. It could be suggested that the thought processes in the brain are caused by or can cause the release of different chemicals in the brain.

    I would argue that you have to have both research into group which can be generalised and individuals which cannot. The reason for this is that generalisations made can still be useful for understanding individuals even when individuals are all different. The reason for this is that a generalisation can be a good basis on which to start. For example, If a treatment works on most people, it can used on an individual to save a lot of time, effort and money being spent researching that individual to try and find a solution that works for them.

  5. Cognitive Psychology became popular due to advancements in technology such as computers. From this, the Cognitive approach crreated an explanation for human behaviour saying that our brain functions similarly to computers. Cognitive Psychology also focuses on memory and recoding which has encouraged a significant amount of research such as looking at alzheimer’s disease. As you mentioned, Cognitive Psychology has been applied to Society such as providing treatments.

  6. Can you tell us more about this? I’d love to find out some additional information.

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