Psychology - PY1 Cognitive Approach

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Jade Elton
Cognitive approach
1a) Outline two assumptions of the Cognitive approach (4 marks)
The first assumption of the Cognitive approach is that the mind works in a similar way to a computer (computer
analogy). Mental processes are investigated using models such as the multi-store model of memory. For
example, the taking in of information is the input, the changing of information (thinking and making decisions)
is the process and the action we take (behaviour) is the output.
The second assumption is that thinking influences normal and abnormal behaviour. How we see ourselves,
the world and the future influences how we feel and behave. This approach assumes that abnormal
behaviour, therefore, is caused by faulty thinking. For example, people with anorexia nervosa think they are
hugely overweight.
1b) Describe the attribution therapy (8 marks)
One of the features of human beings is they have a strong need to understand and explain what is going on in
the world. Cognitive psychologists observe that our explanations of other's behaviour are almost automatic: the
behaviour is automatically attributed to their personality.
Heider and Simmel (44) conducted research that demonstrated that participants tend to make either
internal (dispositional ­ something originating from ourselves) or external (situational ­ something beyond our
control) attributions. For instance, if you received good marks in an English exam, you explain it in terms of
natural ability (internal attribution) or having a good teacher (external attribution).
The correspondence inference theory is based on how we make attributions about people we do not know,
based on a single incident of behaviour. We are making an inference that the person's behaviour
corresponds to their character.
Jones and Davis (1965) suggested that in order to make an internal attribution based on a single incident of
behaviour, three criteria must be met: the behaviour must be deliberate, it must have distinctive effects and
it should be low in social desirability. If any of the criteria are not met then an external attribution must be
Heider noted that people tend to make more dispositional attributions than situational ones. He called this
the fundamental attribution error. For instance, if a librarian is short-tempered, we are more likely to explain
this as resulting from their nature (a rude personality ­ internal attribution). We are making an error as the
rudeness could equally be caused by the situation (external factors). The fundamental attribution error may
be affected by cultural differences: individualistic cultures (e.g. Europe) tend to make dispositional FAE's,
whereas collectivistic cultures (e.g. India) tend to make situational ones.
2) Describe how the Cognitive approach has been applied in Cognitive Behavioural therapy (12 marks)
One assumption of the cognitive approach is that thinking influences normal and abnormal behaviour, and
mental illnesses are a result of faulty thinking which has affected behaviour.
The aim of CBT is to identify and challenge negative and faulty thoughts, and replace them with positive
thinking that will eventually lead to healthy behaviour. For instance, if a patient has a faulty belief that
everyone hates him/her, the belief can be changed by challenging it, making the person feel better and
leading to healthy behaviour.
CBT tries to change how you think (cognitive) and what you do (behaviour), by encouraging patients to monitor,
challenge and re-think their negative thoughts to a more rational way of thinking. Their behaviour then
changes in response to this.

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Jade Elton
Once this has been achieved, CBT teaches the client coping skill and new ways of reacting to situations, by
talking to the person about their goals for the future. They then try to help achieve these goals by making
clear the behaviour that is required to reach them.
Once the patient has learnt to modify their thinking patterns, they can put them into action in their own life by
applying taught self-counselling skills and taking responsibility for their own life and future.…read more

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Jade Elton
A strength of using a case study is that they produce rich qualitative data, which provides an in-depth
understanding of the patient or situation. The case study of Clive Wearing has provided an insight into how
the memory works, which would not have been possible in a lab due to ethical reasons.
A second strength is that the researcher gains a true insight into the person they are studying: they spend
months/years with the person.…read more


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