Cognitive Approach

Cognitive aproach to psychology with strengths and weaknesses

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Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology studies mental processes such as memory, perception, language, and problem-solving.

We cannot see these processes take place; we can only see the end results in the way people behave.

It is a mechanistic approach:

  • People are like machines
  • Human cognitive processes are like a computer - the brain has inputs, processes, storage (short term and long term memory) and outputs (including behaviour)


  • Behaviour is explained in terms of how the mind works.
  • The mind works like a computer, we input, store, process, retrieve and output data.
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1. There is a high level of control in lab conditions (shown in Loftus and Palmers' study). This control can show cause and effect (e.g. the effect of leading questions)

2. This approach helps contribute to our understanding of the nature-nurture debate

3. Can help to understand those with cognitive problems (including those with Autism within the Baron-Cohen study)

4. Increases our understanding of the cognitive abilities of other species (including chimpanzees and primates like Kanzi and Mulika in the study by Savage-Rumbaugh)

5. This approach has helped us learn more about how the brain processes information - including limitiation of the processing (e.g. influences from schemas shown in the study by Loftus and Palmer)

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1. Some research and studies have low ecological validity - e.g. Loftus and Palmer due to the film clips not being real accidents.

2. Tends to use quantitative data rather than qualitative e.g. Baron-Cohen used an eyes task to show if those with Autism and AS could recoginize the correct emotion shown in a photograph of the eye region.

3. It cannot be directly shown what people are thinking - it is mainly guessed by the way they behave, this lowers the reliability of the results of the studies and the cognitive approach.

4.It can be reductionist (reducing complex ideas to simpler things). This includes the study by Loftus and Palmer - the increase in speed estimates could have been due to other factors and not just a leading question.

5. The cognitive approach is about how we think and not how we feel - it doesn't take into account emotional factors than can influence our behaviour.

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anna spokes


this is great! thanks :)

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