Cognitive psychology has been influenced by developments in computer science and analogies are often made between how a computer works and how we process information. Based on this computer analogy cognitive psychology is interested in how the brain inputs, stores and outputs information.
Strengths of this approach:
A main strength of cognitive psychology is that this approach has tended to use a scientific approach through the use of laboratory experiments. A strength of using laboratory experiments is that they are high in control therefore researchers are able to establish cause and effect. For example Loftus and Palmer were able to control the age of the participants, the use of video and the location of the experiment. Furthermore, such standardised experiments are easy to test for reliability.
A further strength of the cognitive approach is the useful contributions that have arisen from this approach. Understanding cognitive processes allows us to help people to improve their cognitive processes such as memory and language. The Baron-Cohen et al. study enables us to better understand the behaviour of people with autism
Weaknesses of this approach:
However, as many cognitive studies are carried out in laboratory settings they can lack ecological validity. When cognitive processes such as memory and theory of mind are studied in artificial situations it may be difficult to generalise the findings to everyday life.
A weakness of the cognitive approach relates to the validity of measuring cognitive processes. We can only infer what a person is thinking and therefore the cognitive approach relies heavily on self report measures and observation. There are a number of reasons why we have to question the validity of self report measures and observation. For example we can only infer that pygmy chimps are really using language when they communicate through a Lexigram.
It has been argued that a weakness of the cognitive approaches reliance on the computer analogy leads to a reductionist and mechanistic description of experiences and behaviour.For example, the autism study investigated just one central cognitive deficit as an explanation for autism