Cognitive psychology refers to the study of mind and related mental processes including memory, learning, thought, and perception. It is based on the idea that brain can be considered as the complex computing system. Cognitive psychology is not only based on working of the mind but also on the constitution of the mind that results in the formation of cognitive theory and related hypotheses. In this study, psychologists try to find the processing of mind in producing a behavior. This field of psychology is comparatively new as compared to other branches of psychology. However, its foundations can be extended back to the work of Descartes, who illustrated the work of the mind in an analogy of a “hydraulic system of nerve function” (Willingham, 2007, p. 26) after the observation of animated statues in Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
Four key milestones in the development of cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology has passed through many developments, but four important milestones, which have contributed in the development of better model as well as improvement of cognitive approach through improvement of theories and ideas in cognitive psychology, are:
Inadequacies or criticism of behaviorism,
Information processing model and the analogy of computer processing,
Cognitive psychology has improved the understanding that behaviorism has many deficiencies and one of them is the entire exclusion of genetics. It helps in understanding only the reward and punishment. Moreover, behaviorism is unable to give answer about the acquisition of language as children can behave differently than their adults in the acquisition of language. These things are better explained by theories using cognitive perspective as, for example, innate language centers. The information processing model is the second important milestone in the development of cognitive psychology as it has used the computer metaphor to explain the cognitive approach. In this computer analogy, brain is considered as the hardware of a computer and different processes related to the brain such as thinking processes are considered as the software. In this model, input is received from the environment leading to the output of behavior. This model helped psychologists in using scientific methods to check the processing of mind. Artificial intelligence can be considered as the third main milestone in the development of cognitive psychology. It can be defined as “the ability of a computer or other machine to perform those activities that are normally thought to require intelligence” (Artificial intelligence, n.d.). The Artificial Intelligence programs represented sophisticated behavior by showing human-like behaviors. This helped in giving deeper insight about the processing of mind. The forth main milestone is the “Neuroscience” that is the scientific study of the nervous system. It helped in clearing the association between behavior and particular structures of the brain.
Importance of behavioral observation in cognitive psychology
Behavioral observation is important as it is indicator of mental processes. It can help cognitive psychologists in assessing and evaluating theories about behaviors and related hypotheses developed from them. Self-reporting can be erroneous but behavioral observation through empirical means can help in confirming or rejecting those reports. Moreover, cognitive psychologists can reach at logical conclusions about the existence of behavior through the observation of behavior. As a conclusion, it can be said that behavioral observation is helpful in developing the framework for testing theories and further explaining the behavior of a person.
Artificial intelligence. (n.d.). Neuroscience of Intelligence. Macalester.edu. Retrieved on April 20, 2015 from http://www.macalester.edu/psychology/whathap/UBNRP/intelligence05/Mai.html
Willingham, D. T. (2007). Cognition: The thinking animal (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.