The Cognitive Approach

  • Created by: ernily
  • Created on: 04-05-15 14:18


  • Behaviour Can Be Explained By Mental Processes.
    • Humans are viewed as information processors.
    • Processes such as perception, attention, memory and language all relate to each other and work together.
    • Schema: A mental structure that represents an aspect of the world.
    • We use schema in order to associate objects with words.
  • Behaviour Can Be Explained By The Computer Analogy.
    • Also known as the multistore memory model.
    • Input: Taking in information.
    • Process: Changing/storing the information.
    • Output: Recalling the information.
    • We use perception, attention, memory, and language in the 'process' stage.
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Attribution Theory

  • Attribution is the process of explaining causes of behaviour.
  • We split the motivation for people's behaviour into 2 categories; personality and situation.
  • Heider (1958) suggested that humans are always trying to explain people's behaviour; we are predisposed to making dispositional (internal) attributions. 
    • This is known as the Fundamental Attribution Error.
  • Actor/Observor Bias: Our behaviour is situational, others is dispositional.
  • Self-Serving Bias: We take credit for our own success and disassociate from our failures.
  • Musher-Eizenmann et al (2004) found that young children gave dispositional reasons for obesity, such as greed, which supports attribution theory.
  • Kelly (1967) suggested that attributions can be explained in terms of covariation (things that happen at the same time).
  • They proposed that attributions are determined by the covariance of 3 factors:
    • Consistency                              H                 L  H
    • Distinctiveness                          L   D            H  H  S
    • Consensus                                L                 L  H
  • Dispositional attributions occur when HLL.
  • Situational attributions occur when LHL or HHH.
  • McArthur (1972) used 12 participants in his study. All of them attributed external or internal causes as the model predicted - supports Kelly.
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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

  • The cognitive approach believes that behaviour is influenced by how an individual thinks about a situation.
  • So CBT aims to change unwanted thoughts, and to reverse the learning process and produce a new set of more desirable behaviours.
  • The behaviourist approach believes that undesirable behaviours have been learned.
  • So CBT aims to identify and challenge the negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts.
  • David & Avellino (2003) reported that CBT has the highest overall success rate of all therapies.
  • Kuyken & Tsivrikos (2009) concluded that as much as 15% of the variance in the outcome may be attributable to therapist competance.
  • Beck (1967) suggested that depressed people have acquired a negative schema through their interactions with others.
  • Negative Triad: Pessimistic view of the self, the world & the future.
  • Dysfunctional Though Diary: Clients are asked to keep a record of events leading up to any unpleasant emotions experienced. They should record and rate the automatic negative thoughts, then write a rational response to the thoughts and rate their beliefs in their response. They then re-rate their beliefs in the automatic thoughts.
  • The therapist will try to make the maladaptive thoughts conscious.
  • The client will challenge their thoughts and see if there is a basis for them.
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Evaluating The Cognitive Approach


  • Useful:
    • The cognitive approach has influenced many areas of psychology.
    • Pure cognitive psychology has been useful in generating theories and research, helping us gain a greater insight into how the mind works.
    • Applied cognitive psychology applies cognitive theories to a real world situation.
  • Scientific:
    • The assumption that psychology is a science and should be studied as one.
    • Theories are based on evidence, as they are carried out in laboratory conditions.
    • Conclusions are objective, so there is less researcher bias.
    • Research can be replicated due to standardised procedures.
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Evaluating The Cognitive Approach


  • Nature and Nurture:
    • The cognitive approach ignores both, even though internal and external factors are considered.
    • For example, the role of genes in human cognition is ignored, yet research into human intelligence consistently looks at the influence of genes.
    • Social and cultural factors (nurture) are also ignored.
  • Mechanistic Reductionism:
    • The assumption of the multistore memory model, which compares the human mind to a computer.
    • It views mental processes in terms of information processes based on computer models, and ignores the complexity of human behaviour.
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  • The belief that psychology is a science, and so should be studied objectively and scientifically.
  • Psychologists believe they can make inferences about a person's processes based on their behaviour.
    • Cause & effect relationships can be established because extraneous variables are controlled.
    • It is reliable because of standardised procedures, so can be replicated to test validity.
    • Data can be quanitified, so it is easy to analyse.
    • Lab experiments lack ecological validity due to the artificial environment.
    • Participants may act unnaturally and try to guess the aim of the study, which may lead to demand characteristics.
    • The experimenter could, unknowingly, influence the participants - experimenter bias.
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  • In depth investigations of an individual. For example, HM, who was unable to make new memories following brain surgery, is used to support the multistore memory model.
    • True insight into behaviour can be obtained because case studies involve spending time with the person.
    • Qualitative data is obtained so that we can draw valid conclusions about behaviour.
    • Case studies are specific to an individual, so we can't generalise to others. This also lowers validity.
    • The results are qualitative, so separate researchers could interpret them differently, making case studies subjective. The researchers could just select information which supports their theories.
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