Many of the mental constructs that are at the core of cognitive psychology (e.g., nodes and associations in semantic networks, schemata, activation and inhibition of representations,
attentional filters, storage and retrieval of memory exemplars,short- and long-term memory, working memory, mental models,implicit cognition, unconscious inferences and appraisals, goal activation, motives, attitudes) cannot currently be observed directly because they are assumed to be unconscious and thus unavailable to direct observation by the individual or because it is difficult to determine whether or how they relate to directly observable neural states. When studying these unobservable
mental constructs, one should be aware of the risks of using behavioral effects as proxies.
The earliest form of Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT) was developed by an American Psychologist, Albert Ellis (1913-2007) in 1955, naming his approach Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT). In the 1960s an American Psychiatrist, Aaron T Beck, developed another CBT approach called cognitive therapy which was originally developed for treating depression. CBT therapists believe that clinical depression is typically associated with negatively biased thinking and irrational thoughts. CBT however, rapidly became a favourite model to study because of the positive results it achieved. CBT is now used to provide treatment in all kinds of psychiatric disorders and generally provides a better outcome in managing mental illness.
The main assumption of the cognitive approach is that information received from our senses is processed by the brain and that this processing directs how we behave or at least justifies how we behave the way that we do.
Cognitive psychologists replace the stimulus-response model (S–R) of behaviourism, with a stimulus–organism–response model (S–O–R). Cognitive psychology attempts to analyse the structure and function of ‘O’.
Using an experimental laboratory-based research method, as has been the tradition in Cognitive Psychology, rigorous control for confounding variables is put in place and the ideal is that the researcher can study the only the phenomenon of interest. By rigorously controlling for confounding variables and confining the experiment to the laboratory, the results can very well lack applicability and generalisability with regards to the richness of everyday life. Ecological validity referes to an acknowledgment of the fact that human action is situated and highly contigent on contextual factors/variables. To obtain 'valid' results, humans should be studied in the richness of their natural environment.
Unlike earlier behaviorist theories, information-processing theories do not posit a simple one-to-one mapping between individual rules or knowledge components and individual bits of behavior. They deny this precisely because continual interaction can be observed among components of knowledge and behavior. Information-processing psychology has advanced rapidly by developing methods both for identifying the components and for studying them in their interactions with their entire contexts. This is the meaning of the "unified theories of cognition" (e.g., Newell, 1991) which has guided so much of the recent research and theory-building. Thus, componential analysis is very much alive and well in modern cognitive psychology. The information-processing approach tries both to deepen our understanding of the components and to understand the relations among them and with their environments.
Cognitive psychology has influenced learning theory and research
in several significant ways, including (a) the view of learning as an active, construc
tive process; (b) the presence of higher-level processes in learning; (c) the cumulative
nature of learning and the corresponding role played by prior knowledge; (d)
concern for the way knowledge is represented and organized in memory; and (e)
concern for analyzing learning tasks and performance in terms of the cognitive
processes that are involved.
Cognitive psychology used to consist almost exclusively of laboratory studies on normal individuals . Nowadays, however, many cognitive psychologists study brain-damaged individuals, others construct elaborate computer-based models of human cognition, and still others make use of numerous brain-scanning techniques. More specifically, four major approaches to human cognition have been developed, and it is generally accepted that combining information from all four approaches will eventually allow us to attain a full understanding of human cognition. The four approaches are [ experimental cognitive psychology, cognitive neuropsychology, computational cognitive science, and cognitive neuroscience].
At the turn of the 20th century, German psychologists tried to use introspection to study the workings of the mind. Behaviorism, which dominated American psychology in the first half of the 20th century, rejected the use of mental constructs to explain behavior. Cognitive psychology broke away from behaviorism in response to development in information theory, AI, and linguistics.