The Behaviourist and Cognitive Approaches to Psychology

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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 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 behaviourist approach as it neglects complex human activities such as planning and communication.

Behaviourists emphasise the relationship between the environment surrounding a person and how it affects a person’s behaviour. This approach has a tendency to ignore mental processes. Behaviourists believe that studying the brain is not ultimately the best or most effective way to understand behaviour. A person might act oddly in one particular environment, but normal in others. Whilst cognitive psychologists agree with the behaviourist theory that the environment surrounding a person does have some influence on their behaviour, 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 behaviour in terms of the mental processes that cause it....
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