What Is Cognitive Psychology?

Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the study of the internal mental processes of humans to better understand how they think, feel and behave. Those that practice cognitive psychology study human internal processes including perception, attention, memory, thinking and language.

In the 1950s, cognitive psychology began to take form as psychologists turned towards trying to better understand memory, attention and problem-solving rather than believing that all behaviors could be determined and changed through conditioning. With the shift away from behaviorism, cognitive psychologists began to focus on the internal states and processes of humans rather than their exterior behaviors.

Cognitive psychology has a reductionist approach. Cognitive psychologists believe that even the most complex behaviors can be reduced to simple, cognitive processes in the human mind. When studying cognitive behavior, psychologists use scientific research methods to get their results, unlike psychoanalysis. The laboratory experiment process used requires those that participate in these tests do so under very strictly controlled conditions. Psychologists can then look at how the information that was given to the participant was treated and how the participant responds to the information in a controlled situation. This method of research has led to criticism regarding cognitive psychology.