Discuss the Cognitive perspective

essay on the cognitive approach in PSYB4

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Discuss the Cognitive approach to Psychology. In your answer refer to at least one topic/other
approach you have studied. (12 Marks)
The main assumption of the Cognitive approach is that internal mental processes are the
fundamental qualities and abilities of human behaviour and must be investigated if we are to
understand human behaviour. Mental processes can and should be investigated scientifically. This
means models of psychological functions can be proposed and research on the models can be carried
out to confirm, refute or modify the hypotheses by testing observable behaviour and conscious
reports. The mental processes performed by humans can be regarded as information processing and
therefore the mind operates as a computer. This means that computer models of thinking can be
proposed and then tested to see if the theory/model does hold true. Abstract mental processes can
be presented as flow models such as models of memory.
Cognitive neuropsychologists can provide insight into normal functioning by studying people
with damage to parts of the brain. Ellis showed that patients with damage to different areas in the
brain can either (i) only read aloud the whole word by sounding out the letters separately or (ii) can
only read out the whole word but cannot produce the separate letter sounds. This would seem that
these 2 abilities, which most people possess, are held separately in the brain and that patients such
as those above have damage to one area but not the other. This evidence supports the hypothesis
that there are different pathways in the brain which are used to translate the written word into
The wealth of experimental evidence strongly supports the cognitive approach. For
example, in memory there have been numerous investigations in which they tried to identify the
function and structure of memory. Research into the multi store model identified rehearsal as the
method of transfer from STM to LTM. This allowed other researchers such as Craik and Lockhart to
investigate transfer which led to the Levels of Processing model, which said there was not just one
way to process information. This led to Baddely and Hitch to investigate STM closer.
Another area where cognitive psychology has made huge contributions has been in devising
therapies for the treatment of disorders like anxiety and stress. Cognitive psychologists presume
that irrational/illogical thoughts cause disordered behaviour. Their treatment strategies involve
getting a client to recognise their faulty thinking by challenging the ideas the client holds ­ for
example, `germs are everywhere and are going to kill me'. One way of challenging this could be to
show that touching a dirty surface and then touching the lips doesn't cause death.
However, the cognitive approach concentrates on intellectual development and rules, for
example on how memory works and therefore ignores the element of emotion. For this reason,
some people call the Cognitive approach cold and mechanistic, as it uses the idea of humans being
like computers. This analogy doesn't account for many behaviours in people we see. Humanists like
Rogers have focused on the development of self-worth, with parents that treat you with conditional
positive regard or conditions of worth which may lead to low self-esteem which leads to the failure
of the child to self-actualise. Rogers developed client centred therapy to help people deal with the
need to self-actualise. Sexton and Whiston reviewed lots of research to see whether or not client
centred therapy was effective and in general many of the clients said they valued this approach.
This approach is very successful in describing processes like memory and development of
gender identity with lots of scientific evidence to confirm the order in which things may happen, for

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Gender Identity then Gender Stability and then Gender Constancy. However, there's much
less in terms of explaining why the changes take place. In social cognition, we know the fundamental
attribution error does occur, but cognitive psychology doesn't explain why the bias happens.
Overall, the cognitive perspective has been extremely influential in putting psychology on a
scientific footing generating lots of research, but it is incomplete because it doesn't always pay
enough attention to explaining individual behaviours and subjective experience.…read more


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