How cognitive psychology helps us better understand ourselves

How cognitive psychology helps us better understand ourselves

Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology that studies perception, imagination, thinking, speech, memory and other cognitive processes. Much attention is paid to the hidden mechanisms of the brain, which affect the person, although he himself is not aware of it. Cognitive psychologists are also interested in complex behavior. For example, love, friendship or altruism.

This trend emerged in the mid-1950s in the United States. It did not happen by chance. The interest in cognitive processes was largely caused by the appearance of computers, as well as the first experiments in AI modeling and algorithmic processing.

Therefore, most cognitivists compare the human brain to a computer. They view mental processes in terms of working with information:

  • input signal – information from the environment;
  • its analysis and recording;
  • output signal – reaction.

Why cognitive psychology can be trusted?

Cognitive psychologists always try to confirm their hypotheses experimentally. Psychologists of this direction work together with specialists in artificial intelligence and neurobiologists, which increases the quality of research and scientific conclusions.

Also cognitivists managed to create one of the most clear and complete models of the brain. By analogy with the structure of calculating machines, they proposed to divide short-term and long-term memory, and to consider attention as a peculiar filter of information.

Although this model has been criticized by some specialists, it is still useful, since it leaves no room for mysterious and unexplainable “white spots” of the mind. It is no coincidence that this approach helps us better understand what the various areas of the brain are responsible for.

How is cognitive psychology useful?

Cognitive psychology has not only contributed greatly to the understanding of the human mind, but has also discovered ways to influence it in a beneficial way.

1. Helps combat cognitive distortions

We know from cognitive science experiments that our consciousness is biased because it is influenced by cognitive distortions.

One of the most famous of these is confirmation error. This is when we favor information that is consistent with our opinion and ignore the opposite. To combat cognitive distortions, we must first find them and then match our biases with reality. That’s what cognitive psychology helps with.

Cognitivists have also shown that human ability to remember information is limited. We cannot learn more than nine letters, numbers or short words at a time. This rule of short-term memory is known as “seven plus or minus two”.

That is why, for example, we don’t absorb ads or websites overloaded with information very well. But it makes it easier for us to remember telephone numbers that are broken down into combinations of digits. For example, in the format X-XXX-XXX-XX-XX.

2. Promotes critical thinking

It is argued that we are less likely to fall into error if we change our way of thinking. To do so, it is enough to stop accepting internal feelings, which the mind has not had time to question, as reality. That is, don’t take emotional reactions as the basis for conclusions.

For example, after one fall from a bicycle on a wet road, a person may consider this form of transport very dangerous and be afraid to get back on the saddle. However, if you think about it logically, you can see that a ride in dry weather and with safety precautions will bring only pleasure.

3. Underlies an effective form of psychotherapy

Two kinds of therapy have been developed on the basis of the cognitive approach: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and rational-emotional therapy. The differences between them are minimal. Their essence is that the therapist or the individual searches for irrational beliefs (cognitive distortions) and provides rational arguments against them.

This is one of the most effective types of psychological therapy. The cognitive approach works great when dealing with real problems. CPT is known to be good for coping with depression, stress, complexes, anxiety and other mental problems.


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