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Discuss the cognitive perspective in psychology

The cognitive perspective in psychology is often used to explain behaviour. Discuss the cognitive perspective in psychology. In your answer, refer to at least two topics that you have studied in psychology

The cognitive approach focuses on the cognitive processes between the stimulus and response. It sees humans as information processors, much like computers, as information is received, processed and then used to guide behaviour.

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In 1973, Mischel distinguished five variables that influence the response to a stimulus. These variables are competencies, encodings, expectancies, values and plans. Together, they influence the attribution process and so affect behaviour.

Unlike behaviourists, cognitive psychologists include the internal cognitive processes between stimulus and response and so when compared to the behaviourist approach, cognitive psychologists argue that humans make sense of the stimulus before responding, rather than simply responding in an unthinking way to a stimulus.

However, the cognitive approach is often criticised for being too mechanistic and reductionist. This is because it reduces complex human processes and behaviour to those of a computer and ignores the fact that humans are biological organisms and are not machines.

One topic that the cognitive approach applies to is anxiety disorders, and more specifically, phobias. Cognitive psychologists believe that fearful emotional responses in the form of phobias are the result of maladaptive thought processes and that individuals have distorted interpretations of events such as automatic negative thoughts and over-generalisation.

Cognitive therapy is based upon the cognitive explanation of phobias and has proved to be highly effective in the treatment of phobias as shown by Grazio and Nooney. This shows that faulty internal cognitions in individuals must play a role in causing and maintaining phobias because the treatment developed from the ideas of the cognitive approach has been shown to be very effective.

However, a problem with this approach is that faulty internal cognitions are said to be the cause of phobias but this cannot be proved because internal cognitions can’t be measured like biological explanations or experimented upon like behavioural explanations. Therefore, there is no evidence that internal cognitions play a role in causing phobias and this makes it difficult to explain behaviour.

Another topic that the cognitive approach applies to is gender development. Cognitive psychologists such as Kohlberg believe that a child’s gender development is due to its cognitive development throughout childhood and that at different stages in childhood, children process information about gender differences, which explains their behaviour at these stages.

The cognitive approach to gender development is often criticised by the psychodynamic approach for putting too much emphasis on conscious thought and ignoring unconscious processes. However, all types of thoughts, especially unconscious thoughts, cannot be tested or measured to see if they cause certain behaviours in gender development and this is a weakness when compared to other approaches such as social learning theory and the biological approach which provide strong evidence for their theories.

Another criticism of the cognitive approach to gender development is that it only describes the process of gender development but doesn’t explain it and so doesn’t explain certain behaviours such as when a person adopts a gender identity but displays gender inappropriate behaviour.

The cognitive theory of gender development has allowed us to recognize the active role that children take in their own development and this is an advantage when compared to social learning theory which sees children as passive recipients of influences from their environment. However, this ignores the role of external influences on a child’s development and so doesn’t explain the nurture side of behaviour very well.

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Discuss the cognitive perspective in psychology. (2021, Apr 19). Retrieved May 5, 2021, from