Psychology Study Material: Main Emphasis and Areas of Special Interest

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Main Emphasis

  • For a proper understanding of behaviour, the cognitive approach emphasizes the role of mediating processes in human behaviour i.e.. , the processes that lie between the Environmental stimuli and the behavioural response
  • Focused on how we ‘remember’ , how information processing takes place, how decision-making appraisals are done
  • Unlike the behaviourist approach, this theory gives same importance to both the internal state of the person as well as the environmental events
  • Internal events are referred as “Mediators” or “Meditation Processes”

Areas of Special Interest

Cognitive approach mainly focuses on:

  • Emotions
  • Social behaviour
  • Behaviour modification

Cognitive approach includes the elements of psychology, linguistics, computer science and physiology-- thus called a ‘hybrid science’ .

  • Experiments on apes by German scientist Wolfgang Kohler, discovered the use of insight by them in problem situations.
  • Tolman talked about the ‘cognitive maps’ (relationship between stimulus)
  • it is not necessary to have an association between stimulus and response; a person can learn without showing any apparent response
  • Both Kohler and Tolman played a vital role in laying the foundation of cognitive approach
  • Emotions and Cognitive Approach

Stanley Schacter (1971)

  • According to him, emotions result from the physiological arousal as well as the cognitive appraisal (evaluation) of the situation
  • Arousal comes first and is general in nature
  • In order to understand what one is feeling i.e.. , the title/label of the emotion, and the meaning of one՚s reaction in a particular setting the arousal is appraised cognitively Richard Lazarus (1984) maintains that emotional experience cannot be understood unless we understand how what goes on in the environment is be evaluated. Emotion leads to cognition and cognition in turn leads to emotional experience.

Cognitive Approach to Social Behaviour

John Dollard and Neal Miller (1950) first ever emphasized the importance of cognitive processes in determining behaviour.

Kelly՚s Personal Construct Theory

  • Developed by George Kelly (1955.)
  • Emphasis on how a person cognitively constructs his world
  • Persons develop their behaviour cognitively towards their world and develop attitudes and opinions accordingly known as ‘personal constructs’ .
  • The constructs then develop into a ‘belief system’ of a person.
  • Michel՚s Cognitive Social personality Theory
  • Walter Michel was a student of George Kelly.
  • According to him, how a person responds to the environmental stimulus depends on the following variables:
Kelly՚s Personal Construct Theory


  • What the person knows
  • What the person can do
  • How well the person generates the cognitive/behavioural outcome

Encoding Strategies

Ways of processing information


Anticipating the likely outcome (mainly positive)

Personal Values

Importance of one՚s belief, also stimulus, people, events etc

Self-Regulatory System

maintaining rules for better performance

  • Setting goals
  • Evaluating performances

Bandura՚s Cognitive-Social Learning Theory

  • Given by Albert Bandura (1986) .
  • By combining the rules of learning, it emphasizes the complex human interactions in social settings.
  • Observational Learning
  • Main component of social-learning theory in which the person makes changes in his own behaviour by watching/or imitating others i.e.. , a model/a super star/favourite personality or cartoon character.
  • Effective in acquiring skills, attitudes, beliefs simply by watching others.