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Cognitive Approach

The Main Assumptions

The main assumption of the cognitive approach in psychology is that all behaviour is driven by thought processes which is also known as cognitive primacy. This means that all behaviours and emotions have their roots in the thought processes. The main focus in cognitive psychology is based on how the mind deals with information and the abilities to use that information. The two following analogies are used in order to understand the cognitive approach.

Assumption 1: The Information Processing Approach

The cognitive approach believes that we process information in a linear systematic way, i.e. the information flows through our brain in a way that is seemed to be logical. So essentially, the cognitive process works in a way that includes having an input of information, which is then processed and finally the output.

Assumption 2: The Computer Analogy

This is one specific example of information processing. It sees our minds as a computer with the hardware being the brain in the skull and the software being the cognitive processes in the brain. Essentially, the hardware in your brain is the same as any other persons, but the software in your brain can be different. For example, you might find that your visual learning is the most effective, while others do not.


Contributions to Society

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

CBT is a contribution to society as it is a psychological therapy which is used to treat a variety of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and phobias which.

It is formed from the explanation of irrational thinking, proposed by Ellis 1957 and Beck 1967, and explains how behaviours such as phobias come from an irrational belief that cause the individual to have a distorting response to an activating event and result in self-defeating consequences in terms of the behaviour shown.

The main aim of CBT is to identify and challenge faulty thinking patterns that are the underlying cause of the anxiety or phobia.

  • The first step is for the client to talk about any specific difficulties they are experiencing and identify any negative automatic thoughts the client might have in relation to their difficulties

  • The therapist is to then challenge those negative thoughts and present rational alternatives. For example, someone with a fear of flying because the plane might crash  would be presented with the statistics of how likely it is that a plane will actually crash (1 in 3.4 million).

  • The therapist can then set the client a reality testing task where they will physically confront their feared stimulus in a controlled environment to test their negative beliefs of what might happen.


Evaluation +/-

Supporting Evidence

A meta-analysis was carried out by Butler et al, involving 24 studies with a total of 1079 participants found that CBT was the most effective treatment for social anxiety disorders and was the most cost effective compared to drug treatments.

No follow up

Holmes (2002) pointed out that there are few long term studies and few that follow


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