Human psychology has always been rather sophisticated and many-sided subject for research. Cognition, as one of the vitally important psychological phenomena, is thoroughly studied nowadays. In this paper we are going to study briefly the notion of cognition, the cognitive psychology branch, its history and researches, along with relation to behaviorism.
Cognition is generally agreed to include all the processes, “by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used. It is concerned with these processes even when they operate in the absence of relevant stimulation, as in images and hallucinations” (Anderson, 1996). Judging from this definition quite a lot of processes might be included into this term, this means, that almost any psychological phenomenon might be considered cognitive. The term “cognition” comes from Greek language, where “cognoscere” means “to know”. This term is directly related to the main subject studied by cognitive psychology – namely the process of getting and applying of the new information and knowledge. No wonder, that this branch of psychology is really important for children psychology researches, for philosophy, linguistics and so on. However, the conclusion, that cognitive psychology would study all human activities is certainly ungrounded. It studies these activities only from certain point of view. In order to be clear, we are to mention the two major differences of cognitive psychology from other branches of it. First of all cognitive psychology is said to apply only scientific method, instead of introspection, in contrast to Freud’s approach for example. The second difference is actual for behaviorist approach – because cognitive psychology acknowledges existence of internal mental states (including desire, belief, motivation and so on) (Barsalou, 2003). Some critics state, that one of the main conflicts of cognitive psychology lies exactly in its combining of empiricism and acceptance of internal mental states, as mentioned above. Thus, cognitive psychology investigates the internal mental processes and visual processing, including, memory, thinking, feeling, language acquisition and so on.
Some researchers state, that the roots of cognitive psychology go till the works of Aristotle, namely his “De Memoria”. The end of the 1800s is marked with development of cognitive approaches to solving of psychological problems. The main subject of investigation for cognitive psychology is the mental processing of the accepted information. The works of Wilhelm Wundt, Gestalt psychology of Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler, and Kurt Koffka are said to be the foundations of cognitive psychology approach (Schunk, 2004). Jean Piaget developed the theory of cognitive development of children, which was widely used for general children psychology.
When behaviorism started to actively develop at the beginning of the twentieth century, the decline of cognitive psychology was noted. Briefly, Behaviorism is defined as “the study of laws relating observable behavior to objective, observable stimulus conditions without any recourse to internal mental processes” (Anderson, 1996). Observation of behavior was vitally important for cognitive psychology, because it contributed to making conclusions about human reactions to various stimuli, to different stimulated or experimental situations. These reactions were to serve the building of the connection between the reaction of people and their internal brain processes, for example learners of language are set into concrete language environment and the way they react to this environment and concrete learning situation, the way, they behave in this situation and the final results of this learning method are studied.
However, behaviorism was not able to completely force out the cognitive psychology, as it lacked connection between internal mental processes and performance and so on. Behaviorism lost the position of the leading branch of the psychology and around the year 1950 “Cognitive Revolution” started. In the next decade cognitive psychology continued to hold the positions. Finally, starting from the 1970s, more than sixty universities all over the world established the programs of cognitive psychology (Schunk, 2004).
The approaches to investigation, used by cognitive psychologists, are mainly experimental and psychophysical in order to make conclusions about mental process and response of people to various stimuli. Cognitive psychologists suggested, that the process of problems solving represents an algorithm, according to which rules are worked out, either those, which guarantee solutions to the problems, but are not understood, or vice verse – understood, but never guarantee the solution.
“Cognitive psychology is based on two assumptions: (1) Human cognition can at least in principle be fully revealed by the scientific method, that is, individual components of mental processes can be identified and understood, and (2) Internal mental processes can be described in terms of rules or algorithms in information processing models. There has been much recent debate on these assumptions” (Anderson, 1996).
The major methods of investigation, applied by the cognitive psychology specialist, are experimentation and simulation. Very often certain predictions are made before the experiment, and then the situation is simulated, the results of the experiment are afterwards compared to the predictions. Lately computers were involved into the process of investigation, thus cognitive psychology became rather important for neuroscience.
Overall, in this paper we have studied the notion of cognitive psychology, its definition, its historical development, methods of investigation and relation to behaviorism.