Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive Psychology
            Cognitive psychology is made up of various branches.  They consist of ideas and theories that aid in the understanding of psychology.  Cognitive psychology is where the focus is on how one’s own cognition affects the human behavior.  Its focus is to have an understanding of mental processes that lead to specific behaviors.  Cognitive psychology was developed to offset behavioral psychology.  All the functions that humans do can be introduced in cognitive psychology.  For example, one’s memory, their language, problem solving skills, perceptions of themselves or others have all paved the way for psychologists in the emphasis in cognition.  With these roads being paved, one has the opportunity to learn various theories and various methods being discovered every day.
Cognition and Philosophy
            During ancient times, one can see a correlation between psychology and philosophy.  Looking back in history is the only place one will seek the answers to the beginnings of studies exploring the human mind.  Philosophers from the Renaissance as well as Greek philosophers felt compelled to begin the study of the brain.  Aristotle and Descartes are two well known for their works about human existence.  Because these two philosophers had little hardcore evidence with regard to what powered behavior, however, the questions they asked began to shape the psychology field.  It is noted thought, that most of their theories were based on their own hunches and assumptions.  Most of the knowledge gained was stemmed from early philosophers.  Both Descartes as well as Aristotle wanted to know how humans learned and how they stored things that were learned.   Thus began the great debate of if knowledge was innate or did learning come from life experiences.  We can discuss their validity for hour’s days or even weeks, but honestly, they did forge a path and laid the first cornerstones with regard to cognitive psychology (Willingham, 2007).
Behaviorism over Cognitive Psychology
            Behavioral psychology is based on observed behaviors that individuals express over those focusing on inner thoughts and consciousness.  Behavioral psychology was the leading branch of psychology until cognitive psychology came on board.  This is a very true and accurate statement when reading the book Cognition and the thinking animal.  Willingham (2007, pp18) states “psychologists could feel they were being scientific when they emphasized behavior because it is observable.”  The accumulation of research rather than observed behavior is how one can define cognitive psychology.  Because of speculation and criticism, cognitive psychology had to prove its validity before it became a formidable and respected science. 
            Over time, behavioral psychologists felt that people were conditioned to act certain ways based on one’s surroundings.  Psychologists were able to substantiate their claim to some degree, but there were behaviors that were unable to be substantiated based on the behavioral approach.  During the 1950’s cognitive theorist challenged behavioral psychologists.  This great debate was centered on the language developed based on the results of experiments done out of stimulus conditioning and control.  Language needed to be more complex and not based on one’s response knowing there was a reward most cognitive psychologists felt.  Noam Chomsky created a theory that behavior is biologically modified over time versus being exclusively learned.  A theory states that learning occurs intrinsically instead of being fueled by any type of reinforcement (Martinez 2010). 
The Beginning of Cognitive Psychology
            Imagine the days when the only discussed avenue of psychology was based on one’s behavior.  Well, this is how it was for a long time prior to the existence of cognitive psychology.  All experiments were based on how one’s behavior was in any given situation.  Cognitive psychology began out of questions raised about the behavioral approach to psychology.  A few psychologists felt that when one discussed or experimented on the behavior it left room for doubt and left room for deliberation.  In an attempt to fill in these gaps, psychologists began comparing the mind to a computer (Willingham, 2007).  Scientists alongside psychologist believe that the mind represented a computer processor.  Processing information storing that information and that resulted in a humans thoughts and behaviors.  Scientists as well as psychologists noted that there is link to different modules.  These modules are specific to certain areas in the brain that deal with information processing (Willingham, 2007).  There are various lobes of the brain and each of those has responsibilities.  It is with in those lobes that the information is processed and stored.  Relating the brain to, as the super computer is not far off when connected to cognitive psychology. 
Technological Influences centered around Cognitive Psychology
            Cognitive psychology as advanced due to the overwhelming advances in technology.   It was difficult to prove certain theories due to the lack of technology.  Once the development of the Computer Tomography (or CT scan) occurred, critical strides were taken to understand how the human mind worked.  CT’s were used to explore brain damage, as well as tumors without subjecting the patient to unnecessary surgeries.  A CT scan examines the density based on x-ray values (Willingham, 2007). 
             A second machine designed to aid in the development of the brain was the magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI.  This machine gave clearer images of the density of the brain.  MRI’s are safer, because it does not use the x-ray as the CT does, but rather it draws its images from the magnetic properties of the hydrogen atoms.  Both the magnetic resonance imaging ad computed tomography aid in understanding what parts of the brain are accountable for behaviors and behavior related functions (Willingham, 2007).  These advances were advantageous because it allowed the study of the brain in a unique a non-evasive way.  
            Knowing that cognitive psychology was not the truck of the tree in psychology, it certainly has forged its way as one of the biggest branches of the tree.  It left a long lasting impression in the field of psychology.  It seemed as if as soon as the disentanglement of behavioral psychology began cognitive psychology jumped in and rose to the top in popularity.  This only occurred because there were answers available that one could not derive from behavioral psychology.  Many studies have been done on learning, motor skills, problem solving, memory and perception that have been used in the cognitive approach to psychology. 


Martinez, M. E. (2010). Learning and cognition: The design of the mind. . Upper Saddle
             River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Weiner, I. B., Millon, T., & Lerner, M. L. (2003). Handbook of psychology: Personality
            and social psychology (Vol. 5). Honoken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Willingham, D. T. (2007). Cognition The Thinking Animal (Vol. 3rd). Upper Saddle
            River, New Jersey, USA: Pearson Education, Inc.

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