Cognitive apporach


Cognitive assumptions

Mental processes:

  • Memroy, perception, language, attention and schemas
  • Work together to allow us to respond to the environment quickly. Known as information processing

Human mind can be compared to a computer:

  • Input - through the senses
  • Throughput - a mental process
  • Output - repsonse
  • Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968): put forward the multi store model which said that information enters the brain through the senses and moves to the STM and then to the LTM store. An output is produced when it is needed
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Attribution theory

  • Origins with Heider (1958). He said that people have a strong tendancy to attribute behaviour. People try to undertsand peoples behaviour by peicing together diffeerent information until they arrive at a reasonable explanation.
  • Internal attributions: about the person
  • External atributions: about the situations
  • E.g peoples loud behaviour may be because of their extrovert personality or the noisy room
  • Actor/observer bias: explain out own behaviour in terms of the situation but others in terms of their personality.
  • Self-serving bias: tasking cridict for successes but dissociate from failures.
  • Kelley (1967): Covariation model
  • Consistancy: behaving the same way all of the time
  • Distinctivness: the extent to which the behaviour is unique
  • Consensus: the extend to which there is an agreement between other people
  • Internal attibutions occur with HLL
  • External attributions occur with LHL or HHH
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  • Aims to change maladaptive thoughts into more rational ones. Assumption of the cognitive apporach is that behaviour can be explained in terms of mental processes meaning the way we think can alter our behaviour.
  • Identifying and challeneging thoughts and replacing them with positive ones will lead to healthy behaviour.
  • Combines behaviourist adn cognitive approach. Deals with symptom substitution (behaviourists dont consider causes so behaviour may return when therapy has stopped). Cognitive deals with causes.
  • Beck (1967): depressed individuals feel the way they do because their thinking is biased towards negative interpretations of the world. He used CBT to bring these thought into more positive ones.
  • Thought diary: clients asked to keep record of the events leading up to any unpleasent emotions experienced. Asked to write down the automatic negative thought and had to rate how much they beleived it. Then write down a rational response to automatic thoughts and asked to rate how much they believed that.
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Strengths and weaknesses

Important contributions:

  • CBT to treat disorders.
  • Developmental psychology. Piaget (1970): children learn differently to adults as they need a visual representation of what people ask them to do. Changed the way children are taught 


  • Attributiuon theory produces clear predictions that can be tested so theories can be proved. 
  • Controls variables to show casual relationships.

Nature and Nurture:

  • Fails to see important elements f both even though it considers internal adn external factors on behaviour. E.g. role of genes is ignored in human cognition but taken note of in intelligence. ignores social and cultural factors.


  • Input, throughput and output. Aquire schemas through social interaction.
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Cognitive methodology

Lab experiments:

  • Main methord of research as believe psychology is a pure science.
  • Has good control as it controls all of the variable so casual relationships can eaily be seen. experimenter follows stict instructions so can be replicated to show validity.
  • Have low ecological validity as conditions as so controlled it doesnt represent a real world situation.  At risk of demand characteristics (behave unnaturally on purpose). Alter findings

Case studies:

  • In depth research of a particular person or group.
  • True insight of behaviour rather than just a 'snapshot'. Qualititive data is produced to gain undertsanding of reason behind behaviour.
  • Generalisability. Findings cannot be applied ot anyone else because it can only relate to one person or group. No quantitative data produced so difficult to analyse and compare results.
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The cognitive approach in research is rather important from the psychological point of view I know that for sure. Moreover, I use it at my current job position as a resume writer at affordable resume service where I help students who look for work in the job market.

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