Psychology - Cognitive approach - Summary

  • Created by: jkav
  • Created on: 30-01-15 19:10

Assumptions of the cognitive approach

Mental processes - Cognitive (mental) processes include perception, attention, memory and language, which help to create and use schemas.

Computer analogy - The human mind is like a computer. Thinking involves input, process and output.

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Attribution theory

Internal and external attributions - Heider(1958) identified two sources, and suggested a tendancy to make internal/dispositional attributuions.

Covariation model - Kelley (1976) proposed that high consistency, low distinctiveness and low consensus (HLL) lead to dispositional attributions.

Errors and biases - Such as the fundamental attribution error (FAE), actor/observer bias and self - serving bias.

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Mustabatory thinking - People hold beliefs about what must be true if they are to be happy; such assumptions are irrational.

The ABCDE model - Activating event a belief a consequence a disputed a effect. Disputing may be logical, empirical or pragmatic.

Unconditional positive regards - Therapist gives client a sense of value and respect that will assist in changing beliefs and behaviour.

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Strengths and weaknesses of the cognitive approach


  • Mediational processes: explains what goes on in the 'black box'.
  • Important contributions: to therapy, education and understanding social processes.
  • Scientific approach: theories produce clear predictions that can be tested so theory can be 'proven'.


  • Nature and nurture: some aspects not acknowledged, e.g genetics and social/cultural influences.
  • Determinist approach: schemas are partly learned through social stereotypes and these determine our beliefs.
  • Mechanisitic approach: the approach is based on computers; leads to machine - like explanations lacking emotions.
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Methodology of the cognitive approach

Lab experiements

Manipulating the environment in highly controlled conditions can demonstrate causal relationships.


Objective, controlled means of studying human behaviour, data can be quantified and easily analysed.


May lack ecological validity because artifical; may have demand characterists; could also have experimenter bias.

Case studies of brain - damaged individuals

An idiographic approach observing one case in detail.


True insight because greater time spent with particpant; rich qualitative data.


Lacks generalisability, unrepresntative sample, subjective inpretations.

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