Cognitivism (psychology)

For other uses, see Cognitivism (disambiguation).

In psychology, cognitivism is a theoretical framework for understanding the mind that gained credence in the 1950s. The movement was a response to behaviorism, which cognitivists said neglected to explain cognition. Cognitive psychology derived its name from the Latin cognoscere, referring to knowing and information, thus cognitive psychology is an information-processing psychology derived in part from earlier traditions of the investigation of thought and problem solving.[1][2]

Behaviorists acknowledged the existence of thinking, but identified it as a behavior. Cognitivists argued that the way people think impacts their behavior and therefore cannot be a behavior in and of itself. Cognitivists later argued that thinking is so essential to psychology that the study of thinking should become its own field.[2] However, cognitivists typically presuppose a specific form of mental activity, of the kind advanced by computationalism.

Definition of cognitivism

Cognitivism is the study in psychology which focuses on mental processes, which involves how people perceive, think, remember, learn, solve problems, direct their attention to one stimulus rather than another. Cognitivism gained importance in psychology in the 1960s. It compares and contrasts with behaviourism which mainly focuses on observable behavior. Cognitivism relates artificial intelligence, according to contemporary research works often links Cognitivism to the view that people process information as computers do. Cognitivism influenced the education system at its most effective.[3]

Cognitive development

The process of assimilating and expanding our intellectual horizon is termed as cognitive development. We have a complex physiological structure that absorbs a variety of stimuli from the environment, stimuli being the interactions which are able to produce knowledge and skills. Parents process knowledge informally in the home while teachers process knowledge formally in school. Knowledge should be pursued with zest and zeal; if not learning becomes a burden.[4]


Attention is the first part of cognitive development. Learning takes place when the student gives attention towards the teacher. Interest and effort closely relate to attention. Attention is an active process which involves numerous outside stimuli. The attention of an organism at any point in time involves three concentric circles; beyond awareness, margin, and focus.[5]

How does learning occur?

Cognitive theory mainly stresses the acquisition of knowledge and growth of the mental structure. Cognitive theory tends to focus on conceptualizing the student's learning process: how information is received; how information is processed and organized into existing schema; how information is retrieved upon recall. In other words, cognitive theory seeks to explain the process of knowledge acquisition and the subsequent effects on the mental structures within the mind. Learning is not about the mechanics of what a learner does, but rather a process depending on what the learner already knows (existing information) and their method of acquiring new knowledge (how they integrate new information into their existing schemas). Knowledge acquisition is an activity consisting of internal codification of mental structures within the student's mind. Inherent to the theory, the student must be an active participant in their own learning process. Cognitive approaches mainly focus on the mental activities of the learner like mental planning, goal setting, and organizational strategies (shell, 1980). In cognitive theories not only the environmental factors and instructional components play an important role in learning. There are additional key elements like learning to code, transform, rehearse, and store and retrieve the information. Learning process includes learner’s thoughts, beliefs, and attitude values(Winna, 1988).[6]

What is the role of memory?

Memory plays a vital role in the learning process. The information stored in a memory in an organised, meaningful manner. Here teachers and designers plays different roles in learning process. Teachers are facilitators for assisting learning in organization and organizing information in an optimal way. Whereas designers uses advanced techniques like analogies, hierarchical relationship and help learners to acquire new information to the prior knowledge. Forgetting was mentioned as an inability to retrieve information from memory, it may be memory loss to assess information.[7]

How does transfer occur?

According to cognitive theory if a learner knows how to implement the knowledge in different context and conditions then we can say transfer has occurred. (Schunk, 1991) Understanding is composed of knowledge in the form of rules, concepts and discrimination (Duffy and Jonassen, 1991). Knowledge stored in memory is as much of importance but the use of the knowledge is also important. Prior knowledge will be used for identifying the similarities and differences of the novel information.[8]

What types of learning are explained in detail by this position?

For (Reasoning, problem solving, information processing) Cognitive theory is mostly explained for complex forms of learning (Schunk, 1991). Actually it is important to that the goal of instructions for both viewpoints is considered same. The transfer of knowledge to the student in the most efficient, effective manner (Bednar et al. , 1991). Simplification and standardization are the two techniques used for the effectiveness and efficiency of the knowledge transfer. Knowledge can be analysed decomposed and simplified into basic building blocks. There was correlation between behaviorist would design of the environment for the transfer. While cognitive stress efficient processing strategies.[9]

What are the basic assumptions/ principles of the cognitive theory or relevant to instructional design?

A behaviorist uses feedback (reinforcement) to change the behavior in the desired direction, while the cognitivist uses the feedback for guiding and supporting the accurate mental connections (Thomson, Simon son. & Hargrave, 1992). For different reasons learners task analyzers are critical to both cognitivists and behaviorists. Cognitivists looks at the learners predisposition to learning (How does the learner actives, maintains and directs his/her learning ?) ( Thompson et . al.,1992) Additionally, cognitivists examines the learners how to design instruction that it can be assimilated . (i. e ., what about the learners existing mental structures?) In contrast, the behaviorists looks at learners how to determine where the lesson should begin ( i. e., At what level the learners are performing successfully?) and what are the most effective reinforces ( i.e., What are the consequences that are mostly desired by the learner ?). There are some specific assumptions or principles that directs the instructional design includes the following. Active involvement of the learner in the learning process Learner control, meta cognitive training ( e.g., self-planning, monitoring and revising techniques).Use of hierarchical analyses to identify illustrate prerequisite relationships (cognitive task analysis procedure). For facilitating optimal processing on structuring, organizing and sequencing information (use of cognitive strategies such as outlining, summaries, synthesizers, advance organizers etc.).Encourage the students to make connect with previously learned material and creating learning environments.(recall of prerequisite skills; use of relevant examples, analogies).

How should instruction be structured?

Cognitive theories emphasize mainly on making knowledge meaningful and helping learners to organizing relate new information to existing knowledge in memory . Instruction should be based on students existing schema or mental structures, to be effective. The organisation of information is connected in such a manner that it should relate to the existing knowledge in some meaningful way. The examples of cognitive strategy are Analogies metaphors. The other cognitive strategies includes the use of framing, outlining the mnemonics, concept mapping, advance organizers and so forth ( West, Farmer, and wolff,1991). The cognitive theory mainly emphasizes the major tasks of the teacher / designer and includes analyzing that various learning experiences to the learning situation which can impact learning outcomes of different individuals. Organizing and structuring the new information to connect the learners previously acquired knowledge abilities and experiences. The new information is effectively and efficiently assimilated/ accommodated with in the learners cognitive structure ( stepich and Newby, 1988 ).

Theoretical approach

Cognitivism has two major components, one methodological, the other theoretical. Methodologically, cognitivism adopts a positivist approach and the belief that psychology can be (in principle) fully explained by the use of experiment, measurement and the scientific method. This is also largely a reductionist goal, with the belief that individual components of mental function (the 'cognitive architecture') can be identified and meaningfully understood. The second is the belief that cognition consists of discrete, internal mental states (representations or symbols) whose manipulation can be described in terms of rules or algorithms..

Cognitivism became the dominant force in psychology in the late-20th century, replacing behaviorism as the most popular paradigm for understanding mental function. Cognitive psychology is not a wholesale refutation of behaviorism, but rather an expansion that accepts that mental states exist. This was due to the increasing criticism towards the end of the 1950s of simplistic learning models. One of the most notable criticisms was Chomsky's argument that language could not be acquired purely through conditioning, and must be at least partly explained by the existence of internal mental states.

The main issues that interest cognitive psychologists are the inner mechanisms of human thought and the processes of knowing. Cognitive psychologists have attempted to shed some light on the alleged mental structures that stand in a causal relationship to our physical actions.

Criticisms of psychological cognitivism

In the 1990s, various new theories emerged and challenged cognitivism and the idea that thought was best described as computation. Some of these new approaches, often influenced by phenomenological and postmodern philosophy, include situated cognition, distributed cognition, dynamicism, embodied cognition. Some thinkers working in the field of artificial life (for example Rodney Brooks) have also produced non-cognitivist models of cognition. On the other hand, much of early cognitive psychology, and the work of many currently active cognitive psychologists does not treat cognitive processes as computational. The idea that mental functions can be described as information processing models has been criticised by philosopher John Searle and mathematician Roger Penrose who both argue that computation has some inherent shortcomings which cannot capture the fundamentals of mental processes.

Another argument against cognitivism is the problems of Ryle's Regress or the homunculus fallacy. Cognitivists have offered a number of arguments attempting to refute these attacks.

See also


  1. Mandler, G. (2002). Origins of the cognitive (r)evolution. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 38, 339-353
  2. 1 2 Lilienfeld, S.; Lynn, S. J.; Namy, L.; Woolf, N. (2010), Psychology: A Framework for Everyday Thinking, Pearson, pp. 24–28, ISBN 978-0-205-65048-4
  3. "Cognitivism Definition".
  4. General Psychology (First edition, 2004 ed.). Neelkamal. p. 60.
  5. General Psychology (First edition, 2004 ed.). Neelkamal. p. 59.
  6. "Psychology" (PDF).
  7. "Teaching Cognitivism".
  8. "Learning Theories".
  9. "Teaching and Learning Cognitivism".

Further reading

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/8/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.