Outline and evaluate the assumptions of the cognitive approach (16 marks)


Describe (6 marks)

The cognitive approach is a more scientific way of studying the internal mental processes, which are indirectly studied through making inferences about one's behaviour. Cognitivists use the theoretical model to study the mind: the input from the environment is passed into the mediational processes (as outlined by social learning theory) which then results in a behaviour. Furthermore, the cognitive approach highlights the importance of schema - individual mental frameworks which have been developed through experience. Schema may distort processing and lead to stereotypes being formed. The cognitive approach also has practical applications, as it has led to the development of cognitive neuroscience, a way of objectively and scientifically studying the brain and its structures to observe mental processes. 

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Evaluate (1)

A strength of the cognitive approach is that it has real world applications. The cognitive approach has been able to improve eyewitness testimony through the development of the cognitive interview, which is used to gather evidence. The cognitive interview encourages witnesses to remember details of the crime through different memory strategies, such as recalling the events of the crime in a different order, or from another perspective. As the cognitive approach assumes we are impacted by schema, recalling the information in a different way (such as in the cognitive interview), the effects of schema are reduced. This is important as the cognitive approach has allowed the validity of evidence to increase, which then has positive effects on the criminal justice system - both due to evidence allowing criminals to be punished effectively, and also through disproving the involvement of innocent individuals and freeing them from possibly unfair punishment. 

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Evaluate (2)

A strength of the cognitive approach is that it is scientific in its method. It uses laboratory studies in controlled environments to conduct their inference experiments, ensuring that data is reliable and can be replicated. Furthermore, cognitive neuroscience which is an outcome of the basic cognitive approach is scientific and objective. It uses technology such as fMRI scanners which allow psychologists to clearly see the interactions between processing and brain areas. This is important as it gives scientific credibility to the theory. 

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Evaluate (3)

A weakness of the cognitive approach is that it is reductionist. The theoretical and computational models are not effective in explaining human behaviour, as it ignores the role of emotion and motivation and their impact on processing. Machine reductionism also has an impact on the practical applications of the cognitive approach, such as through ignoring the impact of anxiety on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. This is important because it reduces the validity of the cognitive approach and distances it from real human behaviour. 

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Evaluate (4)

A weakness of the cognitive approach is that it is based on artificial situations and inferences. Experiments studying mental processes through cognitive approach use artificial stimuli which do not relate to everyday life, meaning evidence cannot be generalised. Furthermore, due to the meanings of mental processes only being inferred by psychologists, and not proven scientifically, evidence is lacking in validity and does not allow for the approach to be credible. This is important as it reduces the credibility of the cognitive approach. 

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