Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Cognitive Psychology

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now

Want to get better grades?

Nope, I’m not ready yet

Get free, full access to:

  • Flashcards
  • Notes
  • Explanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Cognitive Psychology

Have you ever thought about everything that happens in your mind in a single day? You learn new information or continue processing old information; you access old memories and create new ones; you use intelligence to make decisions and figure out problems, and you use written or spoken language to communicate with others. Wow! Your mind is incredibly busy, and everything it does falls under the field of cognitive psychology.

  • What is cognitive psychology?
  • What do cognitive psychologists study?
  • Who are some important people in cognitive psychology?
  • Why is cognitive psychology important?

Definition of Cognitive Psychology

How do your thoughts work? There are so many functions in our minds, and most of these happen without any effort or awareness. Our attention to objects and details, the things that we remember, the languages we speak, and the decisions we make all fall under the category of cognitive psychology.

First, what is cognition as a biological function? Cognition is all the mental or brain activities involved in thinking, remembering, and knowing things. Since these processes happen inside the brain, they are internal and mostly unobservable. They are subjective experiences that inform our behavior, such as sensations, perceptions, dreams, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings.

Cognitive psychology is the study of all mental processes and their connection to the brain and behavior.

Technological advancements in recent history have allowed psychologists to discover and develop new theories about cognitions such as thinking and memory. Cognitive psychologists seek to understand better the important processes of receiving, storing, and processing information, reasoning and thinking, and the human ability to understand and use language.

Brief History of Cognitive Psychology

Believe it or not, psychology did not always include a focus on studying mental processes. Before the cognitive revolution in the 1960s, psychologists focused mostly on studying observable behaviors (behaviorism) and treating mental disorders (psychoanalytic and psychodynamic). Many psychologists recognized that a big piece of the puzzle was missing by leaving out mental processes.

Psychologists have always been interested in the mind, but they had different approaches to understanding and studying it. The structuralists, led by William Wundt (1879), studied the structure of the mind and consciousness. They recognized that the only way to study subjective experiences of the mind was to use introspection or self-reflection.

Today, cognitive neuroscientists can map mental functions within the brain through advanced scientific imaging devices! Machines like fMRIs, CAT scans, and PET scans give us an inside look at our normally unobservable mental processes. They show us which areas of the brain are activated during certain activities. What does our brain do while we sleep? What about when we are dreaming? What kind of brain processes are involved in speaking, writing, or painting? Cognitive psychologists study all of these topics and more!

Examples of Topics in Cognitive Psychology

There are nine big topics that cognitive psychology covers: memory, learning, intelligence, language, thinking, problem-solving, reasoning, biases, and creativity.

Cognitive Psychology a graph of the main topic areas in cognitive psychology StudySmarterCognitive topics, Wikimedia Commons

Cognitive psychologists try to discover how and why cognitive processes happen, change, develop, and fail. Some cognitive psychologists focus mainly on intelligence and the individual differences that make us unique. These ideas and theories help us understand how our thinking can impact our behavior. They also help us better understand mental disorders and how to treat them.

Attention and Memory

With all the information that bombards us every day, how do we take in all of it? Attention in cognitive psychology is the ability to concentrate on processing information. Cognitive psychologists study the four types of attention and how they work. They try to understand things like multitasking, difficulties in attention, and factors that influence attention. Attention is linked to states of consciousness, meaning how alert we are to ourselves and our environment.

Cognitive psychologists also study how we take in, store, and access information in our memory. Our ability to remember information allows us to learn, reason, and problem-solve. You will probably notice throughout this section that all of the areas of cognitive psychology are connected to each other! Each one plays a role in the others somehow (like the role of attention in memory).

Parallel processing is the two-way highway of information in cognitive psychology. Consciously and unconsciously, we process a huge amount of information at any given moment. Imagine you walk into a crowded area. If you are awake and alert, your brain immediately begins parallel processing noises of conversations, the movement of chairs, people's facial expressions, and the shape and size of the room. Maybe this crowded area is the cafeteria at your school. Can you smell the food and feel the heat coming off the serving line? Yes! Parallel processing allows your brain to process all of this at once.

Thinking and Problem-Solving

Thoughts seem pretty self-explanatory, right? It is actually more complicated than you might think. It mostly happens automatically, so it requires intentional effort (or attention!) to understand our thinking processes. It might help you to think of your mind like a super-advanced computer. It is incredibly organized, down to the smallest details. Your brain automatically sorts the information you learn into concepts, prototypes, and schemas to inform your daily decisions and activities.

The organization of your brain allows you to sort through and select information from storage as needed quickly. Imagine opening the file folders on your laptop to search for a particular document with a specific piece of information on it. This is a lot like how your brain works! In fact, artificial intelligence is an entire field of study focused on imitating human reasoning, learning, and language ability through the use of computers and technology.

Cognitive psychology a virtual projection of a tablet touchscreen with multiple data charts and graphs on it StudySmarterAI, pixabay.com

All of this information sorting helps us solve problems and make decisions. Our species would have quickly become extinct if we were not able to figure out the solutions to so many different problems in life. We use these abilities every single day! Cognitive psychologists study the different strategies we use to solve problems and make decisions. Of course, our thinking abilities are connected to our intelligence: the ability to apply knowledge in everyday life.

Did you know that there is a word for thinking about thinking? It's called metacognition. When we think about our current understanding of a topic to improve or alter it, we are engaging in metacognition.

Intelligence and Creativity

Thought processes and intelligence are also connected to creativity. Ultimately a special type of problem-solving, human creativity is the ability to generate innovative, unconventional, or useful ideas to solve problems. There is no commonly accepted understanding of intelligence; like creativity, it is about practically applying solutions to problems. Someone can be creative but relatively unintelligent, or intelligent but relatively uncreative. The best combination is a high degree of both!

Language and Learning

Another huge area of study in cognitive psychology is how we learn and use language. Learning really connects all of the areas of cognitive psychology together. We need all kinds of mental processes to learn new information. Learning a language, however, requires some special learning abilities. Humans possess the awesome natural ability to understand grammatical structures at very early ages and begin using language.

Why are humans uniquely suited to learn and use language? How does the learning process work? What role do mental processes play in behavioral learning theories? The way learning is described in behavioral theory leaves out the role of our thoughts, but our mental processes are part of what makes behaviors possible! Cognitive psychologists draw attention (pun intended) back to this part of learning and help us understand it better.

Founder and Theorists of Cognitive Psychology

Considered the father of cognitive psychology, Ulric Neisser published his book Cognitive Psychology in 1967 and officially started the field of cognitive psychology. Neisser understood that the way our minds process information is extremely important. He was not a huge fan of behaviorism, and he felt that most behavioral theories were incorrect or limited in scope. He wanted psychologists to recognize the importance of our thoughts in our learning and behaviors, and his work led the way for the cognitive revolution.

Other Theorists Within Cognitive Psychology

While the cognitive psychology boom began with Ulric Neisser, it did not stop there. Many theorists used Neisser's work as a foundation for their own theories. So who are these other theorists? Here's a list!

  • Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1936) developed stages of cognitive development that begin in the earliest years of life.

  • Aaron Beck (1967) developed an approach to therapy based on cognitive psychology called cognitive therapy. Later it was combined with behavioral approaches to form cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Beck took the ideas and findings of cognitive psychology and used them to help treat mental disorders.

  • Noam Chomsky studied how we acquire or learn a language, and he argued that the human ability to learn a language is innate. Children are preprogrammed with a special ability to learn a language early in life. He called this intrinsic cognitive ability the learning acquisition device (LAD).

  • In 1885, Herman Ebbinghaus created a revolutionary theory in cognitive psychology. He studied memory and developed the idea of the forgetting curve. We tend to forget things after a certain amount of time has passed unless we review the information multiple times and it is meaningful to us.

  • In the 1920s, Wolfgang Köhler studied apes in hopes of better understanding aspects of learning. Through his research, Köhler developed the theory of insight learning. Sometimes we suddenly arrive at the solution to a problem seemingly without effort!

  • Elizabeth Loftus (1974) wanted to better understand memory functions from a more modern perspective. Her research demonstrated that what we think are memories can actually be full of falsehoods as our minds fill in gaps of missing information. Most of her research was based on eyewitness statements and testimonies of events, and she demonstrated that eyewitness testimonies are often faulty or unreliable.

  • In the 1950s, George A. Miller developed the information processing model of memory that we use today. He was the first to compare human memory functions to the way a computer processes information. His model is extremely important in our understanding of memory, and it also contributes to the field of artificial intelligence.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cognitive Psychology

Obviously, cognitive psychology has given us some really important, interesting findings. What about the possible disadvantages of cognitive psychology? What areas in cognitive psychology are limited or could be improved?

Strengths of the Cognitive Approach in Psychology

Thanks to cognitive psychology, we have learned so much about many processes within our minds. Much of the cognitive psychology research is done through computer-based models of thought processes and seeks to identify the biological functions of cognition.

The cognitive revolution and cognitive psychology filled in some of the gaps in the behavioral approach or behaviorism. Behaviors are important, but there are many things that influence behavior that are unobservable. Cognitions, feelings, memories, instincts, intelligence, decision-making, and problem-solving are unobservable mental processes, but we need to understand them better in order to truly understand behavior. Since the cognitive revolution, many other theorists have filled in the gaps in cognitive psychology by focusing on emotions and cultural influences!

Cognitive psychologists make use of both introspection and biological technology to do research. Behaviorists typically leave out introspection or self-reflection, since our inner experiences are unobservable. The cognitive revolution helped the field of psychology as a whole accept other approaches to research and understanding human behavior other than the behavioral approach.

One of the biggest strengths of cognitive psychology is how it can be used to help individuals suffering from mental disorders. Cognitive therapy and other therapy approaches that include a cognitive element were revolutionary in treating disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety. Many modern approaches to therapy are based at least partially on cognitive psychology.

Weaknesses of the Cognitive Approach in Psychology

One reason why behaviorism worked well is that it fits well with the scientific method. We can observe, track, and record behaviors. Thoughts, on the other hand, are way harder to understand or verify. As a reaction to behaviorism, cognitive psychologists focused so much on thoughts or cognitions that they left out other important things, like emotions and culture. Just like the behavioral approach has its limitations, so does cognitive psychology.

When Jean Piaget developed his stages of cognitive development, he focused so heavily on thoughts that he left out societal and cultural influences. Do his stages of development take place in all cultures and environments in the same way? Many other cognitive theories have this same problem. Fortunately, many theories developed after the cognitive revolution recognized these gaps and began filling them in. They recognized that even though our cognitions are extremely important, they are only one piece of the puzzle in understanding human behavior and mental processes.

Cognitive Psychology - Key takeaways

  • Cognition is all the mental or brain activities involved in thinking, remembering, and knowing things, and these processes are internal and mostly unobservable subjective experiences.
  • Before the cognitive revolution in the 1960s, psychologists focused mostly on studying observable behaviors (behaviorism) and treating mental disorders (psychoanalytic and psychodynamic).
  • There are nine big topics that cognitive psychology covers: Memory, Learning, Intelligence, Language, Thinking, Problem-Solving, Reasoning, Biases, and Creativity.
  • Considered the father of cognitive psychology, Ulric Neisser published his book Cognitive Psychology in 1967 and officially started the field of cognitive psychology.
  • Cognitive psychologists make use of both introspection and biological technology to do research.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is the study of mental processes and how we process information.

An example of cognitive psychology is studying how the encoding, storage, and retrieval of information in memory works. 

The main idea of cognitive psychology is that our mental processes inform the rest of life.

The 6 areas of cognitive psychology are memory, learning, intelligence, language, thinking, and problem-solving. 

Ulric Neisser founded the field of cognitive psychology in the 1960s. 

Final Cognitive Psychology Quiz

Question

What are the three main components of the Multi-store model of memory?

Show answer

Answer

Sensory Memory, Short-term Memory, and Long-term Memory

Show question

Question

What lobe are sensory memories activated in?

Show answer

Answer

Temporal lobe

Show question

Question

Where are temporal lobes located?


Show answer

Answer

Behind the ears

Show question

Question

What does Miller's Law explain?

Show answer

Answer

That short-term memory can hold up to 7 "items" of information, plus or minus two.

Show question

Question

What is encoding?

Show answer

Answer

It is the first step of how our memory retains information and stores it in the brain

Show question

Question

Central Executive, Phonological Loop, Visuospatial Sketchpad, and the Episodic Buffer are part of what memory model?

Show answer

Answer

The Working Memory model

Show question

Question

​Working memory is also known as ______ ______ ______.


Show answer

Answer

Short-term memory

Show question

Question

Semantic memory is 

Show answer

Answer

knowledge that we have previously obtained, such as fun facts or language related definitions.

Show question

Question

_____ _____ is responsible for storing information about past events.

Show answer

Answer

Episodic memory

Show question

Question

The episodic buffer is used for

Show answer

Answer

allowing our phonological loop and visuospatial sketchpad to work together without interference from one another

Show question

Question

What process is used when we use repetition to remember recently learned information?

Show answer

Answer

Articulatory Control Process

Show question

Question

What part of memory has unlimited capacity and storage? 

Show answer

Answer

Long-term memory

Show question

Question

Sensory memory is something that occurs related to our

Show answer

Answer

five senses

Show question

Question

The most commonly used memory model is

Show answer

Answer

the Atkinson and Shiffrin Model

Show question

Question

What can encode information without any help or repitition?

Show answer

Answer

Long-term memory

Show question

Question

Intelligence in psychology is defined as _________. 

Show answer

Answer

the capacity to think rationally, understand the world, and adapt and learn from experience.

Show question

Question

Generalized intelligence factor that can be measured through standardized tests is called _______?

Show answer

Answer

The g-factor

Show question

Question

True or False: G-factor can be observed in other areas of the human experience in addition to intelligence.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What are the four abilities that influence emotional intelligence? 

Show answer

Answer

Perceiving, understanding, managing, and using emotion.

Show question

Question

Which is not one of Sternberg's three types of intelligence?

Show answer

Answer

Spatial

Show question

Question

Which is not one of Gardner's eight types of intelligence?

Show answer

Answer

Emotional intelligence

Show question

Question

Name the eight types of intelligence in Gardner's multiple intelligences theory.

Show answer

Answer

Linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, and naturalist intelligence.

Show question

Question

Which intelligence theory lends support to conditions like savant syndrome? 

Show answer

Answer

Gardner's multiple intelligences theory

Show question

Question

True or False: According to Gardner, different types of intelligence are ruled by different parts of the brain. 

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Knowledge about daily life is an example of which of Stenberg's three types of intelligence?

Show answer

Answer

Practical intelligence

Show question

Question

The ability to use basic knowledge to achieve different and better results is an example of which of Stenberg's three types of intelligence?

Show answer

Answer

Creative intelligence

Show question

Question

Academic intelligence is an example of which of Sternberg's three types of intelligence? 

Show answer

Answer

Analytical intelligence 

Show question

Question

This type of intelligence measures strength in our ability to relate to others. 

Show answer

Answer

Emotional intelligence

Show question

Question

In emotional intelligence, the ability to accurately recognize emotions in ourselves and others and works of art is an example of which emotional ability?

Show answer

Answer

Perceiving 

Show question

Question

In emotional intelligence, predicting emotions based on the knowledge of a situation or relationship dynamic is an example of which emotional ability?

Show answer

Answer

Understanding

Show question

Question

What is the meaning of language and what is the definition in

psychology?

Show answer

Answer

Language is our spoken and written language and the ways that we combine them to communicate with one another.

Show question

Question

There are three key structures to language learning. What are they?

Show answer

Answer

phonemes, morphemes, grammar

Show question

Question

_____ are the smallest units of a word that carries meaning with them.


Show answer

Answer

Morphemes

Show question

Question

Each language has its own set of rules or guides so that our words have a specific order is known as ____.

Show answer

Answer

 grammar.

Show question

Question

The ____ stage begins as early as 4 months old and is a baby's way of making sound variations to mimic and (hopefully) produce their sounds.

Show answer

Answer

babbling

Show question

Question

____ stage - The child has understood that sounds carry importance and now they are adding their singular words understandings to the mix.

Show answer

Answer

One-word

Show question

Question

Once the one-word stage is familiar and becomes easier, (around the age of 2 years) there is the beginning of the ____ stage.

Show answer

Answer

 two-word

Show question

Question

______ aspects of language - At earlier ages, we can know and understand when there are word breaks as well as understand syllables.

Show answer

Answer

Statistical

Show question

Question

There are ___ periods in our early childhood years that allow for our language acquisition to happen as smoothly as it does.

Show answer

Answer

 critical

Show question

Question

_____ language -As early as four months old we begin learning and understanding speech sounds.

Show answer

Answer

Receptive

Show question

Question

What are three language acquisition theories?


Show answer

Answer

Innateness, cognitive theory, and language acquisition support system (LASS). 

Show question

Question

____ effect: Where misleading information is placed into our memories.

Show answer

Answer

Misinformation

Show question

Question

_____ is that sense that you have experienced, seen, or heard something before.

Show answer

Answer

Deja vu

Show question

Question

We DO NOT change our memories each time they are recalled. True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. Each recall changes the memory slightly.

Show question

Question

Children's memories are easily changed and moulded. True or false?


Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Being told about an event and considering it a memory of our own is called _____.


A. Deja Vu

B. Source Amnesia

C. Repressed memories 

Show answer

Answer

Source amnesia

Show question

Question

We are able to discern between false memories and true memories easily. True or false?


Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

What part of our brain deals with familiarity?

Show answer

Answer

Our temporal lobe

Show question

Question

Eyewitness accounts of crimes are always correct because we are able to easily retain details of each situation. True or false?


Show answer

Answer

False. Eyewitness accounts are notoriously incorrect. 

Show question

Question

We all have repressed memories that can be remembered through therapy. True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Cognitive Psychology quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.