Cognitive approach, attribution theory and CBT WJEC PSY1

I teach A level psychology and these are notes made for my students. They cover everything need to know in detail including strengths, weaknesses, methology and theory. Also has some practice questions. Hope it helps!

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  • Created on: 20-12-12 15:11
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Cognitive approach
The term cognitive psychology came into use with the publication of the book Cognitive Psychology
by Ulric Neisser in 1967.
Cognitive Psychology revolves around the notion that if we want to know what makes people tick
then we need to understand the internal processes of their mind.
Cognition literally means "knowing". In other words, psychologists from this approach study
cognition which is `the mental act or process by which knowledge is acquired.'
Cognitive psychology focuses on the way humans process information, looking at how we treat
information that comes in to the person (what behaviourists would call stimuli), and how this
treatment leads to responses. In other words, they are interested in the variables that mediate
between stimulus/input and response/output. Cognitive psychologists study internal processes
including perception, attention, language, memory and thinking.
Social Learning Theory
Cognitive Approach

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The cognitive perspective applies a nomothetic approach to discover human cognitive processes,
but have also adopted idiographic techniques through using case studies (e.g. KF, HM).
Typically cognitive psychologists use the laboratory experiment to study behaviour. This is because
the cognitive approach is a scientific one. For example, participants will take part in memory tests in
strictly controlled conditions. However, the widely used lab experiment can be criticized for lacking
ecological validity (a major criticism of cognitive psychology).…read more

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Behaviour can be explained by mental processes
This sees humans as basically information processors. All cognitive processes work together to make
sense of the world. These processes include
a. Perception
b. Attention
c. Memory
d. Language
What do you see in this picture?
Central to the cognitive view of people is the idea that they actively try to make sense of their
environment by imposing order and meaning on the things they encounter.…read more

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Simplify: People made the story simpler, usually by forgetting details and descriptions. They
particularly tended to forget details that "made no sense" in their culture - though they were
very important details for the Native Americans who created the story
Elaborate: People would add new details to the story.…read more

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Humans mind is compared to a computer
In basic terms cognitive psychologist compare how we take in information (input), change it/store it
(process) and then recall it when necessary (output). The brain has a limited capacity for how much
information they can process at any one time.…read more

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Henry Gustav Molaison (February 26, 1926 ­ December 2, 2008), better
known as HM was a memory-impaired patient who was widely studied
from the late 1950s until his death. His case played a very important role in
the development of theories that explain the link between brain function
and memory.…read more

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We can gain a unique insight into particular behaviour or phenomena. Case studies often
involve spending a lot of time with the person, rather than gaining a "snapshot" of his or her
behaviour, which is what would be produced by a lab experiment. This idiographic approach
could be seen as an advantage over the nomothetic approach of lab studies.
Case studies can often be the only way to study a particular phenomenon.…read more

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Strengths and weaknesses of the approach
Scientific approach
Useful contributions
Considers the what goes on inside the mind to be important
It is not reductionist when compared to other approaches
Neutral in the nature-nurture debate ­ interactionist.
Comparing to computer can be successful.
A main strength of cognitive psychology is that this approach has tended to use a scientific
approach through the use of laboratory experiments.…read more

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There are a number of reasons why we have to question the
validity of self report measures and observation. However, because of the developments of brain
scanning techniques we are able to record the active parts of the brain more accurately nowadays
and cognitive science is providing a more and more detailed description of how cognitive processes
work. For example, brain scanning techniques are giving great insights about how memory works.…read more

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Attribution theory
Attribution theory examines the explanations at which we arrive when we observe someone else's
behaviour and relates these explanations to observable characteristics of the persons involved.
Attributions once made may serve to alter future behaviour. Understanding the motive behind
people's actions gives us cues how to respond to them e.g. a compliment from a friend would be
interpreted has having a different motive than a compliment from a salesman.…read more


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