Compare and contrast the Behaviourist and Cognitive Approaches

This is a model answer for the question "Compare and contrast the Cognitive and Behaviourist Approaches" for WJEC PY1.

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Compare and contrast- Behaviourist and Cognitive Approaches
The Cognitive and Behaviourist Approaches hold similarities in terms of the nature vs nurture debate.
To elaborate, both hold the view that nurture can play a role in understanding behaviour. For
example, the behaviourist approach believes that behaviour can be caused in terms of observational
learning and operant conditioning (reinforcement and punishments) whilst the cognitive approach
believes we form schemas which are mental structures representing aspects of the world from
experience in order to help us make sense of the world. On the other hand, the behaviourist
approach looks into far more depth into the nurture whereas the cognitive approach ignores many
important aspects of nurture, for example, Piaget's theory of children's learning development
ignores these social/cultural factors effecting behaviour. The Cognitive Approach also considers
nature in terms of our innate cognitive processes such as attention and perception whereas the
Behaviourist Approach ignores any aspects of nature.
In terms of the determinism vs free will psychological debate, both approaches believe that our
behaviour is pre-determined and ignore any influence of free will, however, they believe it is
determined for us by different factors. The Behaviourist Approach assumes that behaviour is decided
for us rather than our free will in terms of the social learning theory, operant conditioning and
classical conditioning whereas the cognitive approach assumes that behaviour is determined for us
by cognitive/mental processes of which we can not control including memory.
In terms of the reductionism vs holism debate, both approaches side with reductionism believing that
complex behaviours can be broken down into simple components in order to understand them. For
example, the cognitive approach believes that the processes of attributing internal or situational
causes for behaviour can be broken down into three covarying factors as described by Kelley's
covariation model- consistency, distinctiveness and consensus. On the other hand, the Behaviourist
Approach believes that behaviour can be broken down into understanding conditions such as phobias
as a result of association (classical conditioning). Both approaches ignore the holist approach but in
different ways.
Both the Cognitive and Behaviourist Approaches can be considered scientific in that they both use lab
experiments as a methodology in order to explain behaviour and believe in the collection of
objective data in order to find causal relationships. For example, Bandura's Bobo Doll experiment for
the Behaviourist Approach and Loftus and Palmer looking in the weapon effect for the cognitive
approach both use the manipulation of variables in order to provide scientific data.
The cognitive and behaviourist approaches can be considered different in ways in terms of therapies.
For example, the cognitive approach suggests that irrational behaviour can be treated in terms of
rational emotive therapy involving changing irrational thoughts to rational thoughts which has a 90%
success rate according to Ellis. On the other hand, the Behaviourist Approach uses therapies including
systematic desensitisation involving counter-conditioning which is believed to have a 75% success
rate from research findings. It could therefore be argued that the Cognitive Approach is more useful
in terms of applications and increasing quality of life.
Furthermore, the Cognitive Approach aims to look into meditational processes which occur between
stimulus and response whereas the Behaviourist approach just looks at stimulus and response in
order to explain behaviour.



A very useful essay which covers both the Behaviourist and Cognitive approaches.

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