Cognitive psychology is a school of psychology that focuses on areas of human perception, thought, and memory. The definition of the word cognition is the mental processes involved in obtaining and understanding information that lies behind behavior. Therefore, cognitive psychologists are primarily focused on how a person understands and solves problems.
Cognitive psychology is one of the newer schools of though in psychology. It has been developing since the late 1950’s and the early 1960’s. It became the dominant perspective in psychology in the 1970’s. The official beginnings of the cognitive approach date back to 1967 with Ulric Neisser’s book “Cognitive Psychology”. The study of Piaget’s and Tolman’s contributions to psychology increased interest in the approach. The acceptance of cognitive psychology was spurred by dissatisfaction with the behavioral approach, the development of better experimental methods, and the development of the computer.
Cognitive psychology differs from other schools of thought in two major ways. For one, cognitive psychologists accept the scientific method and reject Freudian ways of investigating a person’s problems. Cognitive psychologists would agree with very little of what Freud had to say. The other way cognitive psychology differs is the belief of internal mental states such as desires and beliefs.
Cognitive therapists want to alter a person’s faulty thinking. Here’s a good example. A client tells his therapist that he is having trouble asking woman out on dates. He says the reason he can’t ask them out is because of his fear of rejection. A cognitive therapist will point out that the client is thinking irrationally. The client is thinking ” If I ask a girl out on a date and she says no then that means there is something wrong with me.” The therapist will help remold the clients thinking and stop this over-generalization. The client will begin to realize that being rejected does not mean he is worthless.
There are a few basic assumptions that come with cognitive psychology. First off, it is a pure science based on mostly laboratory experiments. This is a form of deductive reasoning. Another basic assumptions is that behavior can be explained for the most part by how the mind operates and processes information. The brain is also similar to a computer in its functions. The brain inputs, stores, and retrieves data much the same way a computer does. The other basic assumption is that mediational processes occur between the stimulus and the response to the stimulus.
One of the reasons the cognitive perspective has become so popular is because it can be applied to so many fields in psychology. This includes gender role development, eyewitness testimony, memory, attention, perception, child development, therapy, problem solving, and moral development.
A few of the most prominent cognitive psychologists include Jean Piaget, Edward Tolman, Wilhelm Wundt, Aaron Beck, and Albert Ellis.