The Cognitive Approach
Assumptions of The Cognitive Approach
Behaviour Can be Explained by Mental Processes
This approach sees human beings basically as information processors. We take in information from the world around us and process it in order to make sense of and respond to the world around us. Some of the well studies cognitive processes include perception, attention, memory and language. These work together to help an individual understand their environment.
The concept of a schema illustrates how these processes work together. For example, the concept “dog” is a schema, which may include a tail and four legs as characteristics. To recognise it, we must pay attention to it, perceive its features and search through our memory store to see if we recognise it. In order to be able to name it, we must use our knowledge of language. These processes are involved in a process called information processing.
The Human Mind is Like a Computer
The Cognitive Approach assumes that the human mind functions in a similar manner to a computer. The mind takes in information, changes it, stores it and then recalls it when necessary. During the processing stage, we actively use the cognitive processes of perception, attention, memory etc. Therefore, the mind is compared to the hard drive of a computer, and the cognitive processes to a computer’s software.
An example of this is the Multi-Store Memory Model, which proposes that information enters the brain through the senses and then moves to the Short Term Memory store. From here, it moves into the Long Term Memory store. Whenever information is retrieved, it becomes output, in a similar way to the way a computer works.
Theory : Attribution Theory
Attribution is the process of explaining the behaviour of other people. When we observe other people’s behaviour, we unconsciously try to find explanations for it. We broadly split the motivations for people’s behaviour into two categories ; explanations which are to do with personality and explanations that are to do with situation.
The origins of Attribution Theory lie with a classic study conducted by Heider and Simmel. They showed a group of more than 100 women a film of shapes and asked one group to write a description of what had happened and the second group to interpret the movements of the figures as if they were people. Those who were asked to interpret the movements described the big triangle as aggressive and stupid. These findings show that we are predisposed to attribute personality traits, even to inanimate objects.
Internal and External Attributions
Heider proposed that, when observing someone else’s behaviour, we tend to develop an explanation for the cause of their behaviour. These explanations are based on dispositional and situational attribution. Dispositional attribution is when internal or dispositional factors are used, such as personality traits. Situational attribution when external or situational factors are used, such as social norms.
Fundamental Attribution Error
Heider suggested that people…