The Cognitive Approach in psychology is a
relatively modern approach to human behaviour that focuses on how we think,
with the belief that such thought processes affect the way in which we behave
(other approaches take other factors into account, such as the biological approach,
which acknowledges the influences of genetics and chemical imbalances on our
What it is and where the cognitive approach came from
Stimulus External factor
Response Human behaviour
There is some dispute 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. The approach came about in part due to the
dissatisfaction with the behavioural
approach, which focused on our visible behaviour without understanding the
internal processes that create it. The approach is based on the principle that
our behaviour is generated by a series of stimuli and responses to these by
Comparison to other approaches
Cognitive (meaning "knowing") psychologists attempt
to create rules and explanations of human behavior and eventually generalise
them to everyone's behaviour. The Humanist approach opposes this, taking into
account individual differences that make us each behave differently. 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 ideosynchracies 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.
Human behaviour can be explained as a set of scientific processes.
Our behaviour can be explained as a series of responses to external stimuli.
Behaviour is controlled by our own thought processes, as opposed to genetic
Evaluation of the Cognitive Approach
A viable approach which has been used to create the
multi-store model of memory processes,
supported by many other experiments.
Takes into account the internal, invisible
thought processes that affect our behaviour, unlike the behavioural
Depends largely on controlled experiments to observe
human behaviour, which may lack ecological validity (being compared to
Does not take into account genetic factors; for
example hereditary correlations of mental disorders.
Reductionistto 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.
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