Explanations of dysfunctional behaviour: Cognitive

  • Created on: 31-05-16 17:31

Explanations of dysfunctional behaviour: Cognitive


  • Focuses on the individuals thoughts - BECK aimed to understand how depressed people think. From this he could compare cognitive treatments (BECK AND ELLIS - CBT) with biological
  • BECK used real depressed patients - increases EV. Therefore it is useful in explaining depression
  • Hopeful as it gives people the power to change - CBT can teach people to cope. For example, schizophrenics can be taught how to deal with their hallucinations independently. Gives them a 'normal' life which they didn't have before
  • Increasing evidence showing that irrational thoughts are involved with schizophrenia and depression, which is originally a cognitive idea
  • Focuses on present not the past


  • BECK's study used self reported, quantitative data. This leads to problems with interpretation (people may lie to make their depression seem more or less severe) and comparison
  • In a way blames people for their illogical thoughts - blame the patients' inaccuracies and the self-fulfilling prophecy formed from this for DB - they choose to act in a certain way because of their beliefs
  • Reductionist - ignores roles of biology and behaviourism
  • Doesn't look for causes, just treatments
  • Depression may not be due to 'irrational thinking' but instead a logical response to the world and negative events
  • Irrational beliefs may be an effect rather than a cause


Like the behaviourist approach, the cognitive explanation of DB is hopeful as well as focusing on the present and not the past, which is again similar to the behaviourist explanation. Also like the biological and behaviourist approaches, the cognitive explanation is reductionist, except this time it ignores biological and behavioural factors. Unlike the biological approach, however, cognitive psychologists blame the individual for their illogical thoughts, while the biological approach does not.


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