The Behaviourist and Cognitive Approaches to Psychology

1180 words 5 pages
In this essay I am going to explore two of the major approaches to
Psychology, Cognitive theories and Behaviourist 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 Behaviourism, 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
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While the first Behaviourists saw learning as a case of trial and error, Cognitive Psychologist argue that we tend to organise our experience in certain ways, this is shown as Insight, which means a rapid change in the way someone organises a problem, typically this is characterised by a change in behaviour from random responses to rule based responses. So Cognitive Psychologists believe that mediating processes operate in an organised way not by trial and error as the
Behaviourists believed.

Both Behaviourist and Cognitive Psychologists have carried out a lot of research using animals. For the Cognitive approach, studies have portrayed a comparative and ecological perspective on intelligence and issues of the mind. Studies have also illustrated that the sensory functions and levels of Cognition can depend greatly on early experience. Animal research has shown Cognitive Psychologists about modes of adapting to change, such as evolution and intellectual development. This research has shown important connections between stress and disease and has suggested some Psychological interventions for coping with stress more effectively. For the Behaviourists, research has given a good understanding of drug abuse and physical dependence. Behaviourists have carried out research on Rats and Mice and this has contributed importantly to understanding the nature and extent of genetic vulnerability to drug


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