Cognitive Psychology Definition Essay

The definition of cognitive psychology is the study of mental processes such as perception, attention, memory, language, thinking, and problem-solving (Ruisel, 2010). Cognitive psychology is currently one of the most important schools of psychology. Cognitive psychology is interested in how humans receive information, process information, and use information. Milestones Numerous milestones exist in cognitive psychology. One important milestone is the development of cognitive psychology in the 1950s.

Before the birth of cognitive psychology, behaviorism existed as the main school of thought in psychology. When behaviorism started to fall apart cognitive psychology was born. Behaviorism fell apart because it focused on how the environment was important to explaining behavior. Cognitive psychology placed importance on how genetics also affects behavior. Behaviorists such as B. F Skinner attempted to explain how humans attain language, but failed. Cognitive psychology became popular when linguist, Noam Chomsky explained how humans attain language.

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Noam Chomsky was important to psychology because he disagreed with B. F Skinner’s explanations and believed behaviorist cannot explain how language is attained. Chomsky became popular when he proved that a connection existed between language and math precision. Chomsky later argued that language can be explained by central processes not peripheral processes as Skinner explained. The work of Chomsky and his dispute of Skinner’s work was an important milestone in cognitive psychology. Another important milestone in cognitive psychology was in 1956.

Allen Newell and Herbert Simon were the first to construct a computer simulated human thought. Computers as well as humans receive information, use various ways of processing information, and produce outputs (Rusiel, 2010). Because the computer works like humans it makes sense to use computers for simulating human cognition. Allen Newell later taught artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is important to advance the research of cognition on computers. The use of artificial intelligence provides scientist with a better understanding of the chemicals in the brain and how it is connected to thought.

The development of the computer simulated thought and artificial intelligence was important to the advancement of computer science in cognitive psychology. Cognitive behavior therapy is another important milestone in cognitive psychology. Aaron Beck is a psychologist who developed cognitive therapy. Beck developed cognitive behavior therapy because he believed that dysfunctional thinking is the cause of dysfunctional behavior. He also believed that individual beliefs shape thinking, thus deciding the course of actions.

Beck believed that if an individual could be persuaded to stop negative thinking and think more constructively that the results would be positive. Beck focused on treatments for illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Beck’s purpose for developing cognitive behavior therapy was to assist patients with recognizing their internal dialogue and changing their thinking patterns to be more positive. The development of cognitive behavior therapy was an important milestone in psychology because it proved to be effective when combined with medications.

Medication and cognitive behavior therapy is presently used today. Perhaps one of the biggest milestones in cognitive psychology is the development of cognitive neuroscience. Cognitive neuroscience started to emerge in the 1990s. Cognitive neuroscience is based on the idea that cognitive states consist of patterns of activity over numerous neurons and brain regions. Scientist study the structures, functions, and neuron activity in the brain to find the relation to cognition and behavior.

Brain imaging tools used to analyze human cognition are Positron emission tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The use of these tools are becoming widespread. The use of both Positron emission tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging are used to explore similarities and differences in brain organization. These tools are expected to improve in the future allowing more understanding of cognition and behavior by imaging of brain structures. Cognitive neuroscience has already made its mark in cognitive psychology.

Cognitive neuroscience will increasingly grow and promises to provide future breakthroughs and further development. The development of cognitive neuroscience is important to cognitive psychology because it helps to develop treatments for the brain and the nervous system. Behavioral Observation The importance of behavioral observation is explaining behavior through observation. Cognitive psychologist use behavioral observation to measure an individuals response to stimuli. When the response is measured, it can be possible to understand how the stimuli are processed.

Psychophysical responses, eye movement, reaction time, verbal responses, and nonverbal responses are used to measure response. Behavioral observation is important to understand unacceptable behaviors. The unacceptable behaviors require observation to identify the cause of these behaviors and what causes them to escalate. Once the unacceptable behaviors are identified, psychologist can concentrate on modifying these behaviors. The accuracy of observation can play a role in changing and modifying behaviors (Alvero, Austin, & Sasson, 2007). Conclusion

Cognitive psychology is the study of mental processes. Cognitive psychologist study how humans receive, process, and use information. During the course of cognitive psychology numerous milestones were important to the field. The development of cognitive psychology after the fall of behaviorism was the beginning of important milestones. Noam Chomsky was an important figure that challenged the beliefs of behaviorism. The construction of the first simulated thought and use of artificial intelligence was a huge milestone that contributed to the use of computer science in cognitive psychology.

Aaron Beck was another important figure responsible for cognitive behavior therapy. This milestone was important to cognitive psychology because it led the way for behavior modification. Neuroscience can be argued to be one of the most important milestones. Neuroscience contributed to cognitive psychology by not only studying cognition and behavior but also the function s and structures that contribute. Although many important milestones contribute to cognitive psychology, the use of particular methods are also important.

Behavioral observation is an important method to cognitive psychology because it observes behavior in an attempt to obtain the root of unacceptable behaviors and find ways to alter it. Every milestone and method is important to where cognitive psychology is presently and what can be in the future.


Alvero, A. M. , Austin, J. , & Sasson, J. R. (2007). Behavioral observation. Professional Safety, 52(4), 26-32. Ruisel, I. (2010). Human knowledge in the context of cognitive psychology. Studia Psychology, 52(4), 267-284.


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