Cognitive Approach

  • Created by: lyds28
  • Created on: 07-03-19 10:36


  • The mind actively processes info from our senses (touch, taste etc).
  • Between stimulus and response are complex mental processes which can be studied scientifically.
  • Humans can be seen as data processing systems.
  • The workings of a computer + the human mind are alike - they encode and store info and they have outputs.
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Key Terms

  • Cognitive ApproachAn approach focused on how our mental processes affect behaviour.
  • Internal Mental ProcessesPrivate operations of the mind such as perception and attention that mediate between stimulus and response.
  • Schema - A mental framework of beliefs and expectations that influence cognitive processing. They are developed from past experience.
  • Inference - The process whereby cognitive psychologists draw conclusions about the way mental processes operate on the basis of observed behaviour.
  • Cognitive Neuroscience - The scientific study of biological structures that underpin cognitive processes
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Theoretical Models

  • Models are often used by cognitive to explain unobservable processes in a concrete, testable way. 
  • Often represented as a diagram that includes boxes and arrows that shows the stages of a particular mental process.
  • They investigate thinking by manipulating what people take into their minds (info) and observing what comes out (behaviour).
  • We can develop theories about how people's minds work by comparing input + output. Good theories will allow us to predict the output from the input. 
  • Key point:
    • Humans are often influenced by emotional and motivational factors -computers aren't. 
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Evaluation of the Cognitive Approach


  • Considers mind
  • Studies mind in scientific way - e.g. brain scans (FMRI).
  • Practical applications have developed from approach e.g. CBT.
  • Less deterministic than other approaches - acknowledges we are "free to think" before responding to a stimulus. 


  • Doesnt take into account individual differences.
  • A lot of the studies use artificial stimulus e.g. Peterson + Peterson - not realistic.
  • Suffers from MACHINE REDUCTIONISM - views brain as a machine but doesnt take into account emotions e.g. memory/anxiety.
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