Difference Between Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology

Key Difference – Cognitive vs Behavioral Psychology
 

Cognitive Psychology and Behavioral psychology are two sub fields of psychology between which a key difference can be identified regarding the focus of each field. Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology where the focus is on the human cognition. On the other hand, Behavioral psychology is a branch of psychology in which the focus is mainly on human behavior. It is based on these focal areas that the themes and content of each field differ from one another. This is the main difference between cognitive and behavioral psychology. This article attempts to present a clearer understanding of the two fields. Let us begin with cognitive psychology.

What is Cognitive Psychology?

When you hear cognitive psychology, it gives an idea that it must be related to human cognition. This understanding is accurate. However to be more elaborative one can interpret that the subject of cognitive psychology captures specific areas such as memory, perception, attention, learning, decision making, language acquisition, problem-solving and forgetting.  According to psychologists although cognitive psychology is a comparatively new subfield of psychology, it has gained remarkable recognition as well as improvement in the past years.

As cognitive psychologists attempt to comprehend how people learn new things, remember information, think and arrive at decisions they also conduct various research in order to improve the mental processes such as memory, decision-making, and learning.

The growth of cognitive psychology begins after the 1960s. Before this, the dominant approach to psychology was Behaviorism. However, after the introduction of cognitive psychology, it became a popular field. It is recorded that the term cognitive psychology was first used by an American psychologist named Ulric Neisser. When speaking of cognitive psychology, some of the key psychologists are Edward B, Titchener, Wolfgang Kohler, Wilhelm Wundt, Jean Piaget, and Noam Chomsky.

Difference Between Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology

What is Behavioral Psychology?

Behavioral psychology is another subfield of psychology that emerged in the 1950s. This subfield gave prominence to human behavior over any other component. According to behaviorists, prominence should be given to the observable factors over the unobservable processes such as human cognition. It was John B. Watson who promoted this line of thought claiming that human behavior can be observed, trained and also altered. Other than Watson, some of the key figures in Behavioral psychology are Ivan Pavlov, B. F. Skinner, Clark Hull and Edward Thorndike.

Behaviorists believed that conditioning played a key role in the acquisition of behavior. They identified mainly two types of conditioning. They are,

Classical conditioning – A technique that results in conditioned stimuli and response.

Operant conditioning – A technique in which reinforcement and punishment are used for learning.

According to behaviorists, as people interact with their surrounding environment, conditioning takes place. Although behavioral psychology was very popular in the 1950s, later on it was criticized for its narrow approach to psychology as behaviorists completely ignored the mental processes.

Key Difference - Cognitive vs Behavioral Psychology

Classical Conditioning experiment of Pavlov

What is the difference between Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology?

Definitions of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology:

Cognitive Psychology: Cognitive Psychology is a branch of psychology where the focus is on the human cognition.

Behavioral Psychology: Behavioral psychology is a branch of psychology in which the focus is mainly on human behavior.

Characteristics of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology:

Focus:

Cognitive Psychology: The focus is on human cognitive processes

Behavioral Psychology: The focus is on behavior.

Emergence:

Cognitive Psychology: This emerged in the 1960s.

Behavioral Psychology: This emerged in the 1950s.

Key figures:

Cognitive Psychology: Some of the key figures are Edward B, Titchener, Wolfgang Kohler, Wilhelm Wundt, Jean Piaget and Noam Chomsky.

Behavioral Psychology: Some of the key figures are John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov, B. F. Skinner, Clark Hull and Edward Thorndike.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. Cognitive Psychology By Jtneill (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Ivan Pavlov06 By Karl Bulla [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons