The Cognitive Approach: Model Essays

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1. (a) Outline two assumptions of the cognitive approach (4):

The way that we think can influence our behaviour and our emotions and our physical response to a situation. Therefore, cognitive psychologists study the internal mental processing involved in perception (a process by which we take in and make sense of information from our environment), memory (a process by which we retain and recall information 7+/-2), language (the use of mental symbols to represent information in the mind and help communicate between two people) and thought (process by which we manipulate information in the mind in order to make decisions, solve problems and make judgements) because they believe that these are important in understanding human behaviour.

Like a computer, the mind is an information processor which has an 'input' from the senses, 'throughput' in the form of perception, memory and thinking and 'output' in the form of decision making, speech and action. We can think of the brain as hardware and our learned responses as software. Cognitive processes can be modelled by computers - computers which can learn, problem-solve, understand speech etc. (OPTIONAL- For example, look at the multi-store model (Atkinson and Shiffrin, 1968). In this theory, it was proposed that information enters the brain through the sense (eyes, ears etc) and moves to the short-term memory store and then to the long-term memory store, is it output when the information is required.)

1. (b) Describe Attribution Theory (8):

The aim of the theory is to explain how we deal with information about people's behaviour to form impressions about the cause of behaviour. 

Heider and Simmel carried out a study showing a short film of shapes (two triangles and a circle) moving in and out of a box to over 100 women. The findings showed that they described the triangle as aggressive and bully-like because the clip showed it following the smaller objects. This study showed that people are able to attribute personality traits even to objects.

Heider proposed that we may attribute a person's actions to their character - an interal attribution e.g. he's grumpy, he's stupid. Alternatively we may attribute a person's actions to their situation - an external attribution e.g. he's tired or he's ill.

However, the attributions we make are not necessarily correct. Often we attribute an internal (dispositional) causality to explain the behaviour of other people. This is known as a Fundamental Attribution Error. Another attribution error, known as self-serving bias, is when we blame external forces for our failures, while attributing our success as internal characteristics. For example: 'I failed the test because the teacher was bad' (external forces) but 'I passed because i am clever' (internal characteristics). For example Jones et al arranged for participants to teach two students and the 'teachers' attributed failure to the pupil but success to themselves.

Kelley's Co-Variation Model suggests that when making an attribution, we ask ourselves one of three questions:

1. Would others behave in a similar way in this situation? (Concensus)



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