What is the cognitive approach?
Cognitive psychology studies our mental processes or cognitions. These mental processes that cognitive psychologists focus on include memory, perception, thinking and language.
The main assumption of the cognitive approach is that information received from our senses is processed by the brain and that this processing directs how we behave or at least justifies how we behave the way that we do.
Cognitive processes are examples of hypothetical constructs, we cannot directly see processes such as thinking but we can infer what a person is thinking bases on how they act.
Cogntive psychology has been influenced by developments in computer science and analogies are often made bwteen how a computer works and how we process information. Based on this computer analogy congitive psychology is interested in how the brain inputs, stores and outputs information.
Cognitive Approach Strengths
A main strengh of cognitive psychology is that this approach has tended to use a scientfic approach throug the use of laboratory experiments. A strength of using laboratory experiements is that they are high in control and therefore researchers are able to establish cause and effect.
e.g Loftus and Palmer were able to control the age of the participants, the use of video and the location of the experiment, all participants were asked the same questions (apart from changes in the critical words). Easy to test for reliability.
A further strength of the congitive approach is the useful contributions that have arisen from this approach. For example, many morder types of therapy are based on the cognitive approach. Understanding cognitive processes allows us to help people to improve their cognitive processes such as memory and language.
Cognitive Approach Weaknesses
A weakness of the congitive approach is that it can be seen as reductionist. It has been argued that a weakness of the congitive approaches reliance on the computer analogy leads to a reductionist and mechanistic description of experiences and behaviours. Reductionism is the idea that complex phenomena can be explained by simpler things. The congitive approach often takes this narrow focus and ignores social and emotional factors which may impact on cognition.
e.g Baron Cohen only investigated one central congitive deficit as an explanatin for autism.
Cognitive Approach Studies
Yochelson and Samenow - Criminal Thinking Patterns
Baron Cohen - Autism