Behaviorism vs. Cognitive Psychology

Psychology is an extremely vast topic and is broken down into many different perspectives. Two views of psychology that share similar ideas are Behaviorism and Cognitive Psychology. Behaviorism is based mostly on the idea of tabula rasa or “blank slate.” The theory behind Behaviorism is that everyone is shaped by their environment mentally to the greatest extent. Also that experiences mostly affect personality rather than genes. Cognitive psychology is perception of mental process in the broadest sense such as thinking, feeling, learning, remembering, making decisions and judgments.

Behaviorism and Cognitive psychology are both similar in the sense of theories being made based on observation rather than interpretation. A Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov conducted an experiment with a dog where he concluded that all behavior is learned in reaction to something in the environment. Cognitive experiments can include a number of things such as memory tests or even quick decision making. Cognitive and Behaviorism both focus on the surface of psychology rather than digging any deeper for more meaning to than what is seen. The fact that their theories are both very experimental supports this. Behaviorism and Cognitive psychology both generally reject the idea of the unconscious mind and believe that whatever shows up in data is the personality in its prime. Since they both focus on broad senses and theorize off of that, naturally anything below the surface doesn’t apply to them.

Though Behaviorism and Cognitive are associated with each other and compare in many ways, they also contrast as well. Behaviorism is based on specific actions while Cognitive psychology is based on mental representations. A behaviorist might view a test subject as learning what to do. A Cognitivist might view the same test subject as learning what happens when something is done. Behaviorism focuses more on what is seen by the test subject rather than what the test subject is thinking like in Cognitive psychology. Behaviorists may use words such as “habit” or “tends to” and avoid making references to mental process like a Cognitivist would. Cognitivists believe that learning takes place in the mind, not in behavior. A cognitivist would see a mouse learning its way around a maze after experience as a map represented mentally in the mouse’s mind. A behaviorist would see the mouse learning to make associations with actions to get around the maze.

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