Cognitive Approach

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  • Created by: Sam
  • Created on: 16-04-14 19:11

Cognitive Approach- Assumptions


The human mind can be compared to a computer: 

  • Works in similar manner, similar functions. 
  • Mind takes in info (input), sotres/changes it (process), and recalls when necessary (output). 
  • E.g memories. 


Beheaviour can be explained by mental processes:

  • Assumes that humans are 'information processors'. 
  • Take in info, process it, and respond in a way which is suitable to the situation. 
  • E.g perception and attention, work together ti understand environment.
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Cognitive Approach - Attribution Theory

  • Internal + External Attributions:         
    • Heider- when observing person's behaviour - make judgements on why they have done that behaviour. Judged on: 
      • The person- internal - based on traits of person,e.g loud behaviour=extravert personality. 
      • The situation - external- factors from environment- e.g loud behaviour = noisy place. 
  • Fundamental Attribution Error: 
    • Heider- people prefer to make internal attributions, about person's personality rather then external, the situation the person is in. 
  • Other Biases: 
    • Actor/ observer bias: explain own behaviour- externally, other people's as internally. 
    • Self serving bias:credit ourselves on success (judging internally), distance ourselves from failures (judging externally), protects self esteem. 
  • Covariation Model: 
    • Kelley - attributions are determind by the covariance of 3 factors:
      • Consistency: behaving same way all the time. 
      • Distinctiveness: considerintg how unique a behaviour is + how they act in other situatuations. Do they act the same? 
      • Consensus: extent to agreement with other people. 
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Cognitive Approach- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

Links to Assumptions: Approach believes mental disorders are caused by maladaptive thinking. CBT aims to identify+ challenge maladaptive behaviour+ replace with positive thinking, leads to healthy behaviour. 

BASICS: Can be used to treat many mental disorders+ general problems. 

COGNITIVE + BEHAVIOURIST APPROACH: Cognitive part concernes with maladaptive thoughts+ how they can be challenged/changed. 

  • Examples: Patient believes everyone hates him, by challenging this (where's your evidence?) the problem may disappear. (COGNITIVE) Then more desirable behaviours are aquired by patient. (By modelling, rewarding good behaviour) (BEHAVIOURIST)
  • When behaviourist + cognitive therapies are combined- effective method- deals with symptom subsitution (new behaviour learnt, but cause of maladaptive behaviour stays, so symtoms reappear), becuase cognitive deals with the cause. 

Beck's Cognitive Therapy: depression is caused by negative interpretation of the world. Disfunctional thought diary to deal, recorded negative thoughts, then were told to write a rational response to the thought. 

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Cognitive Approach- Strengths+ Weaknesses


- Sucessful application- can be used to treat psychological disorders e.g CBT can treat depression. Psychologists main aim is to improve the world we live in. 

- Scientific approach, control over extraneous variables, can see cause and effect. 


- Nature+nurture: ignores key influences on behaviour. e.g. role of genetics is ignored (nature), and researc suggests genetics has a large impact on behaviour. 

- Mechanistic+ determinist: suggests humans work like a machine. E.g. Kelly's covariation model. Ignores social factors and over simplifies behaviour. 

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Cognitive Approach- Methodology

1. Lab experiments- 

Link to Assumption: assumes psychology is a pure science, therefore behaviour should be measured objectively. E.G Loftus+ Palmer's experiment. 


  • control, little extraneous variables. 
  • replication 
  • quantitive data.


  • ecological validity, artificial situation.
  • demand characteristics. 
  • experimenter bias.


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Cognitive Approach- Methodology

2. Case Studies of Individuals with brain damage:

Links to Assumptions: That behaviour is caused by processes of the mind. E.g.  HM who suffered fro permanant memory loss as a result of brain surgery. 


  • Rare behaviour can be observed . 
  • Qualiatative data can be gained, draws valid conclusions. 


  • Cannot make generalisations. 
  • Subjectivity, research could be interpreted just the way that the researcher wants. 
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