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The Behaviorist And Cognitive Approaches To Psychology

1422 words - 6 pages

The Behaviorist and Cognitive Approaches to Psychology

In this essay I am going to explore two of the major approaches to
Psychology, Cognitive theories and Behaviorist theories. I will
discuss in some detail the two approaches, state how they compare and
illustrate the similarities and the differences between them.

John Watson, one of the founders of Behaviorism, based his theories
on the principles of learning outlined by Pavlov who suggested the
theory known as Classical Conditioning; he trained dogs to salivate
whenever he rang a bell. Dogs have a natural reflex response to
salivate when they see food, Pavlov rang a bell when the dogs were
given food and after several repetitions of this action, the dogs
began to salivate whenever they heard the bell, even when there was
not any food there. This approach rejected the idea of the conscious
mind. Albert Ellis & Aaron T Beck developed the present form of the
Cognitive approach to psychology in the 1950’s. This development
emerged from a growing dissatisfaction with the narrowness of the
behaviorist approach as it neglects complex human activities such as
planning and communication.

Behaviorists emphasize the relationship between the environment
surrounding a person and how it affects a person’s behavior. This
approach has a tendency to ignore mental processes. Behaviorists
believe that studying the brain is not ultimately the best or most
effective way to understand behavior. A person might act oddly in one
particular environment, but normal in others. Whilst cognitive
psychologists agree with the behaviorist theory that the environment
surrounding a person does have some influence on their behavior, they
are more interested in the interaction between the environment and the
memory, and how it prompts mental processes such as thought,
perception and attention The Cognitive Psychologists primary interest
is in the brain and an individuals mental capabilities, they choose to
try and explain behavior in terms of the mental processes that cause

The Behaviorist approach limits the content of Psychological study to
be only observable behavior. Behaviorists make the assumption that
nearly all behaviors are caused by learned relationships between a
Stimulus that excites the senses and a Response, which is the reaction
to the Stimulus, for example a child might see a Spider (Stimulus) and
be frightened (Response to seeing the Stimulus). In contrast Cognitive
Psychologists have criticized the Stimulus, Response theory for not
considering the mental processes that occur between the Stimulus and
Response, for example going back to the situation of a child seeing a
Spider and being frightened, the Cognitive approach would say that to
understand why the person who saw the Spider reacted in a frightened
manner, we need to...

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