Download paper

History of Cognitive Psychology

According to G. Miller of Princeton University, cognitive psychology is an approach to psychology that emphasizes internal mental processes. So, “since the beginning of experimental psychology in the nineteenth century, there had been interest in the study of higher mental processes. But something discontinuous happened in the late 1950s, something so dramatic that it is now referred to as the ‘cognitive revolution,’ and the view of mental processes that it spawned is called ‘cognitive psychology. ’ What happened was that American psychologists rejected behaviorism and adopted a model of mind based on the computer” (McClelland, 2001).

Cognitive Psychology has at least three di?erent meanings.

First, the term refers to ‘a simple collection of topic areas,’ that is, of behaviorally observable or theoretically proposed phenomena that are studied within the boundaries of the ?eld of Cognitive Psychology. Second, the term alludes to the fact that cognitive psychologists attempt to explain intelligent human behavior by reference to a cognitive system that intervenes between environmental input and behavior.

The second meaning of Cognitive Psychology thus refers to a set of assumptions governing the operations of the proposed cognitive system.

Read Informative Speech About China

Third, Cognitive Psychology means a particular methodological approach to studying, that is, to empirically addressing potential explanations of human behavior” (McClelland, 2001). Basic history of cognitive psychology has been found by an unknown author while searching the term ‘contribution cognitive psychology’: Cognitive psychology dates back to the Greek Philosopher time in the 4th and 5th Century BC. Two in particular were Plato & Aristotle.

Top Experts
Writer Lyla
Verified expert
5 (876)
Marrie pro writer
Verified expert
5 (204)
Tutor Janice
Verified expert
4.9 (549)
hire verified expert

These philosophers began to consider questions about perception, memory, and even thought process.

Plato was the rationalist who emphasized logical analysis while Aristotle was the empiricist who emphasized observations of the external world. Later on in the 1600’s until the 1800’s, more cognitive psychology was brought to light such as the concepts of Nativism and Empiricism. Nativism, since Plato, is knowledge that is innate and it is heredity and by nature. Empiricism was discovered by Hobbes & Locke. They sought that the knowledge is gained through experience and it through learning and further nurture. Another concept was Compromise Positions.

Compromise Positions was discovered by Descartes & Kant where they emphasized that both Nurture and Nature are important to cognitive psychology. Also in the 1800’s was the German Physicists who discovered further information to the cognitive psychology world. Some of their main influential figures were Helmholtz who discovered color vision and Fechner who had discovered Psychophysics. There is a relationship between physical changes in stimuli, sensory experience and applied scientific methods. Further contribution to cognitive psychology was the use of scientific/experimental methods.

There was only one limitation; Limits to the study of simple sensory processes. Early Scientific Psychology includes Structuralism, Functionalism and Behaviorism. Structuralism was discovered and influenced by Wilhelm Wundt and his had a focus on identifying the basic building blocks of conscious experience. His main method to structuralism was “Introspection” under controlled conditions. His contribution to cognitive psychology emphasized systematic, controlled observation and the importance of the understanding the structure of the mind, and higher cognitive processes.

The only limitation that was found in this was the reliance on introspection. Functionalism was influenced by William James who proved that mental processes must be adaptive, so what are they good for? They are good for practical uses and functions in which inspired by evolutionary theory. The main methods are introspection, questionnaires, mental tests and animal experiments. The thought contributed to cognitive psychology through the emphasis on the functions and applications. The known limitations is that the methods not very rigorous. Behaviorism was influenced and discovered by John B. Watson and B.

F. Skinner. They had their own principles of being to only focus on that which is observable and explain behavior; not thought or consciousness. They claimed that theories should be simple and should assist to break down behavior into irreducible constructs. Their main method was through rigorous experimentation which contributed to cognitive psychology with the emphasis on rigorous experimentation and powerful theories of learning. Such learning includes classical conditioning which involves learning relationships among stimuli whereas operant conditioning involves learning responses that are ewarded. Limitations of behaviorism include failures to account for aspects of human behavior such as over-emphasis on animal experimentation and language. Skinner suggested language was learned through basic principles of operant conditioning. Also, there is failure to account for generativity of language; the creation of novel utterances that have never been rewarded in the past. Throughout the timeline of cognitive psychology, there have been outside influences during the mid 1990’s. For instance, there was an interest in optimizing human performance during World War II.

Another outside influence was the evolution of computer science which started the thought of artificial intelligence and the computer metaphors ‘Information processing, memory buffers, etc’. This is what we know of now about cognitive psychology. Through the years of psychology, there have been many scientists and psychologists who have taken it upon themselves to study cognitive psychology. Such studies have made major contributions to the world of cognitive psychology. One contributor towards cognitive psychology was George Armitage Miller. Miller is an excellent subject to study, for he literally embodies much of the history of cognitive psychology and cognitive science. His career spans the cognitive revolution. He began as a good behaviorist but later came to reject behaviorism, becoming, in one historian’s words, ‘the single most effective leader of the cognitive psychology. ’ In addition to being an innovative thinker in his own right, he also played the vital role of translator, introducing ideas from other disciplines into psychology. Also, as cofounder of the Harvard Center for Cognitive Studies, he helped to institutionalize the cognitivist approach to psychology.

In short, he did much to give modern psychology its present shape” “During the 1970’s, Miller became one of the leading advocates for the field of cognitive science. His book, Language and Perception (1976) with Philip Johnson- Laird, helped to set the agenda for the field” (“Gold Medal Awards”, 1991). Another contributor to the cognitive psychology world would be Albert Bandura. “Bandura’s initial program of research at Stanford focused on the centrality of social modeling in human self-development and change.

He found the behavioristic focus on learning through response effects at odds with the social reality that much of what we learn is through the power of social modeling. His program of research not only furthered our understanding of the determinants and mechanisms governing modeling but rescued this pervasive mode of learning from misconceptions of it as mere response mimicry. This work provided the theoretical foundation for macro social applications designed to ameliorate some of the urgent global problems” (“…Science of Psychology”, 2006).

Other contributors include “Allen Newell, University Professor of computer sciences and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University and a leader in the ‘cognitive revolution’ in psychology” (Simon, 1993). Also, “Edward Chace Tolman gained more popular fame from his resistance to McCarthyism than from his substantial contribution to psychological theory. But his stand on loyalty pledges was no mere aberration in a man who seemed always to bring a combination of clear reason and humanity to any contentious problem” (Wendt, 1960). There are key ideas about cognitive psychology.

For instance, “data can only be fully explained with theories, and theories are insufficient without data, thus creating the cycle of science. Cognition is typically adaptive, but errors made can be informative. Errors can be used to infer how speech production occurs. Cognitive processes interact with each other and with non-cognitive processes such as emotions may affect decisions, working memory capacity contributes to reading speed and perception contributes to memory decisions. Many different methods are used to study cognition including experiments, individual differences, case studies and clinical studies.

Basic research often leads to important applications and applied research often contributes to a more basic understanding of cognition” (“Chapter 1”, n. d. ). “Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary investigation of mind and intelligence, embracing psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, and computational intelligence” (Thagard, 2011). Four very recent trends have come from this. “The first trend is that cognitive neuroscience is becoming more and more central to all branches of psychology.

A second important trend in cognitive science in the last decade has been the increasing prominence of statistical models based on Bayesian probability theory. The third important trend that deserves more attention is increasing emphasis on embodiment. Finally, the fourth important trend in cognitive science today is greater appreciation of the social dimensions of cognition, which may seem go in the opposite direction from the biological trend of cognitive neuroscience but is actually compatible with it” (Thagard, 2011).

“Chapter1 Introduction To Cognitive Psychology.” Upload & Share PowerPoint presentations and documents. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 July 2013. Retrieved from Wendt, R. A. (1960). Edward Chace Tolman: 1886-1959. The Canadian Psychologist, 1A(1), doi:10.1037/h0083317

Cite this page

History of Cognitive Psychology. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Are You on a Short Deadline? Let a Professional Expert Help You
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7