There are several psychological approaches that attempt to define human behavior, and one of these is the cognitive approach. As is suggested by its name, this approach focuses solely on the internal and invisible processes that allow people to react to external stimuli. Specifically, it looks at how people process information that they get from their senses and how they respond to these information. Compared to the other kinds of approaches, the cognitive approach is often termed “reductionist”, which means that it attributes complex human behavior to simple cognitive processes.
Cognitive Approach Strengths
The cognitive approach comes with a lot of strengths, which is why it has gained a lot of followers over the years and has become the preferred method of treatment by many psychologists. Some of its strengths include the following:
1. It highlights people’s thought processes.
Unlike the behavioral approach (which focuses only on outward actions), the cognitive approach tries to look inward and find out how the brain interprets stimuli. It highlights how cognition greatly affects behavior and why it’s important for people to understand how their brain works. This is greatly helpful for those who want to “cheat” their brain and change their behavior for the better.
2. It can be combined with other approaches.
The cognitive approach isn’t just useful for learning more about the thought process; it’s also greatly useful in helping people improve their behavior. The best thing about it is that it can easily work together with other approaches to create a therapy that will bring about positive results. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, for example, is a combination of the cognitive approach and the behavioral approach and strives to correct wrong cognitive processes to produce more favorable actions. It’s been proven to be helpful to those have phobias, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Cognitive Approach Weaknesses
The cognitive approach may be a favorite among psychologists, but this doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. It also has its own weakness, such as:
1. It dismisses important factors in human behavior.
Those who believe in the cognitive approach think that everything boils down to one thing: cognitive processes. It doesn’t take into account other factors that may affect behavior, such as genes, individual experiences, biological structures, and even chemical imbalances. This can lead to the generalization of human behavior, which doesn’t sit well with many people who think that each individual is different. It can also be defeating for people who have different thought processes and behaviors than normal because of one or more of the factors listed above.
2. It’s based on controlled experiments.
One of the reasons why psychologists prefer the cognitive approach is that it’s founded on experiments that are regarded to be scientifically sound because it uses the scientific method. However, many people point out that these experiments may not be as valid as they look. By observing people in a controlled environment, psychologists only get responses that are closely tied to the stimuli that their subjects are exposed to. They don’t get to observe how their subjects act in the real world, where they’re exposed to several stimuli at once and have to react based on this mixture of information.
Just like anything else, the cognitive approach has its own strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to psychologists and ordinary people to decide if this approach is the right choice for them and to find a balance between its benefits and drawbacks.