Cognitive approach Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 3 April 2016

Cognitive approach

The cognitive approach focuses on the way information is processed by humans. It looks at how we as individuals treat information and how it leads to responses. Cognitive psychologists study internal processes such as attention, language, memory, thinking and perception. The main assumption of this approach is that in when information is received it is then processed by the brain and this processing directs how we as individuals behave or justify why we behave the way we do. With the cognitive approach it is hard to view its constructions, though, some say that it is an example of theoretical constructs. This means that we cannot directly see processes such as thinking but we can infer what a person is thinking based on simply the way they act. Cognitive psychologists mainly focus on internal mental processes such as memory. Attention is put on how individuals learn to solve problem and the mental processes that are present between stimulus and response.

This approach has been influenced by developments in computer science, such that the ideas are very similar. It gets its idea from how a computer works and how we process information. Based on the computer analogy, cognitive psychology is interested in how the brain inputs, stores and outputs information. Loftus and Palmers (1974) study of an eyewitness testimony demonstrates how the cognitive process of a person’s memory can be misled by other information provided after an event. This highlights that memory is a dynamic process which can be influenced by many events such as leading questions. The study also shows that memory is a dynamic process and changes to make sense of certain experiences. When individuals behave in a certain way towards another individual, it is likely that we challenge to understand how the other is thinking and feeling. Baron-Cohen’s (1997) study of behaviour and how it can be influenced by a cognitive process identifies a ‘theory of mind’. This theory enables an individual to acknowledge grow understanding and respect for the fact that people have thoughts and beliefs that are different from their own. His study challenges to demonstrate that the main inefficiency of autism is a failure to completely develop the cognitive process of a ‘theory of mind’.

This approach is different from other approaches in different ways. One way is that it adopts the use of scientific and experimental methods to measure mental processes. Another difference is that the approach is the supporter of importance of mental processes such as beliefs and desires in determining behaviour unlike the behaviourist approach. One strength of the cognitive approach is that it uses a scientific approach through the use of laboratory experiments. These experiments are beneficial as they are extremely high in control, thus enabling researchers to recognise the cause and effect. In terms of being able to control, when Loftus and Palmers conducted their study they were able to control the ages of the participants and the location of the experiment. Every participant was asked the same questions. Furthermore, experiments such as the one discussed is easy to test for reliability. However, many cognitive studies that are carried out in laboratory settings/environment can lack environmental validity.

It may be difficult to generalise the results/findings to everyday life if the cognitive process such as memory and theory of mind are studied in artificial situations. A further asset of this approach is the useful contributions that have risen from this approach. Understanding cognitive process allows us to help improve the way in which people execute their cognitive process such as memory or language. The Baron-Choen’s study on behaviour and how it is influential enables us to understand the behaviour of people with mental conditions. Similarly, Loftus and Palmer’s study highlights the limitations of an eyewitness testimony. Though the approach has many strengths, it also has some weakness’, one being that the cognitive approach relates to the validity of measuring cognitive processes. The approach relies heavily on a self-report and observation, meaning, we can only gather/interpret what someone is thinking.


Humanistic psychology is a perspective that highlights the study of a person as a whole, this is referred to as ‘holism’. Humanistic psychologists look at human behaviour not only through the eye of the observer but through the eyes of the person doing the behave. Humanistic psychologists believes that an individual’s behaviour is linked to their inner feelings and self-image. The approach centres on the view that each person is different and unique, and each individual has free will to change at any time in their lives. The perspective suggest that we as indivduals are responsible for our own happiness and well-being. As humans with have an inborn capaticy for self –actualization which is our desire to achieve our highest potential as people. The humanists regarded scientific methods as inappropriate for studying behaviour beacause of the focus on the person and their personal experiences and perception of the world. There are two very influential theorists in humanistic psychology. These are Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

Psychodynamic perspective

Who hasn’t heard of Sigmund Freud? So many expressions from our daily life come from Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis – subconscious, denial, repression and anal personality to name only a few. Freud believes that events in our childhood can have a significant impact on our behavior as adults. He also believed that people have little free will to make choices in life. Instead our behavior is determined by the unconscious mind and childhood experiences. Freud’s psychoanalysis is both a theory and a therapy. It is the original psychodynamic theory and inspired psychologists such as Jung and Erikson to develop their own psychodynamic theories. Freud’s work is vast and he has contributed greatly to psychology as a discipline. Freud, the founder of Psychoanalysis, explained the human mind as like an iceberg, with only a small amount of it being visible, that is our observable behavior, but it is the unconscious, submerged mind that has the most, underlying influence on our behavior.

Freud used three main methods of accessing the unconscious mind: free association, dream analysis and slips of the tongue. He believed that the unconscious mind consisted of three components: the ‘id’ the ‘ego’ and the ‘superego’. The ‘id’ contains two main instincts: ‘Eros’, which is the life instinct, which involves self-preservation and sex which is fuelled by the ‘libido’ energy force. ‘Thanatos’ is the death instinct, whose energies, because they are less powerful than those of ‘Eros’ are channeled away from ourselves and into aggression towards others. The ‘id’ and the ‘superego’ are constantly in conflict with each other, and the ‘ego’ tries to resolve the discord. If this conflict is not resolved, we tend to use defense mechanisms to reduce our anxieties. Psychoanalysis attempts to help patients resolve their inner conflicts. An aspect of psychoanalysis is Freud’s theory of psychosexual development. It shows how early experiences affect adult personality. Stimulation of different areas of the body is important as the child progresses through the important developmental stages.

Too much or too little can have bad consequences later. The most important stage is the phallic stage where the focus of the libido is on the genitals. During this stage little boys experience the ‘Oedipus complex’, and little girls experience the ‘Electra complex’. These complexes result in children identifying with their same-sex parent, which enables them to learn sex-appropriate behavior and a morale code of conduct. However it has been criticized in the way that it over emphasizes of importance of sexuality and under emphasizes of role of social relationships. The theory is not scientific, and can’t be proved as it is circular. The sample was biased, consisting of middle-class, middle-aged neurotic women. Never the less psychoanalysis has been greatly contributory to psychology in that it has encouraged many modern theorists to modify it for the better, using its basic principles, but eliminating its major flaws.

Perspectives Conclusion

To conclude, there are many different perspectives to psychology in explaining different types of behaviour and give different judgments. The fact that there are many perspectives shows that human behave is in fact a very complex thing to analyse. A scientific approach, such as cognitive psychology or behaviourism, often tends to ignore the personal experiences that people have. Though, the humanistic perspective does in fact recognise human experience. The psychodynamic perspective concentrates largely on the unconscious mind and childhood. The biological perspective reduces humans to a group of mechanisms and physical structures that are essential and very important, such as genes. However, the biological perspective fails to account for consciousness and influences of the environment and behaviour.

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