Cognitive Psychology



Cognitivepsychology refers to a branch of psychology that focuses on the studyof mental processes, such as learning, thinking, remembering, andperceiving. The primary focus of this field of psychology is howdifferent people acquire, process or analyze, and then storeinformation (McLeod, 2007). Cognitive psychology has severalpractical applications, such as improved accuracy in decision making,enhanced memory, and improved learning. Behavioral theories dominatedthe field of psychology until 1950s, when psychologists startedfocusing more on memory, attention, and problem solving, all of whichare components of cognitive psychology (Cherry, 2014). Cognitivepsychology differs from other types of theories in two ways. First,cognitive psychology focuses on mental or internal state, unlikebehaviorism that focuses on behaviors that can be observed (Cherry,2014). Secondly, cognitive psychology relies on scientific methods ofresearch, unlike psychoanalysis, which is based on perceptions thatare subjective.

JeanPiaget is of the psychologists who made significant contributions tothe field of cognitive psychology. Piaget developed the firstmethodical study of cognitive growth and development (McLeod, 2009).Through this study, Piaget managed to make several contributions,including the detailed cognitive observational studies in children, atheory of cognitive development in children, and development ofingenious, but simple tests of cognitive abilities. Prior to Piaget’scontributions, it was generally perceived that children were lesscompetent in thinking compared to adults (McLeod, 2009). Piagetchanged this perception by showing that children think in markedlydifferent ways from the way adults think.

Thecognitive theory developed by Piaget has three basic components.First, Piaget developed a schema, which refers to a sequence ofactions that can be repeated, are interconnected, and governed bysome central meaning (McLeod, 2009). Schema helps children acquiresome mental representations of their surroundings, which determinesthe way they respond to different situations. Secondly, Piagetidentified that there exist some adaptation mechanisms that helpchildren development from their present developmental stage to thenext stage. The mechanism occurs through accommodation, assimilation,and equilibrium (McLeod, 2009). Third, Piaget developed four stagesof development, which include sensorimotor, preoperational, concreteoperational, and formal operational.

Piagettheory has four major implications in the field of education. First,Piaget’s theory is greatly influential in teaching and theformulation of educational policy. For example, educational reformsdon in the United Kingdom in 1966 were based on Piaget’s theory(McLeod, 2009). Secondly, Piaget’s theory has increased thesignificance of the use of discovery learning, because it holds thatchildren learn better through actively exploring and doing. This isone of ensuring that children acquire practical skills. Third, thebasic concepts developed by Piaget indicate the importance of learnercentered learning, which is mainly accomplished through activediscovery. This is one way of ensuring that the teaching processaddresses the specific needs of each student, thus enhancing theeffectiveness of the teaching process.

Inconclusion, cognitive psychology is a relatively new field that hasmade significant changes in the field of psychology. The basicconcepts of cognitive psychology make it different from behaviorismand psychoanalysis. Cognitive psychology relies on scientific methodsof research to study how people receive, analyze, and storeinformation. Piaget is one of the psychologists who made substantialcontributions to the field of cognitive psychology. Piaget refutedthe common belief that children are less competent in thinking andidentified that they thing, but in different ways from adults. Naddition, Piaget established four stages of development that areuseful to-date.


Cherry,K. (2014). What is cognitive psychology? About Education. RetrievedSeptember 16, 2014, from

McLeod,S. (2007). Cognitive psychology. Simply Psychology. RetrievedSeptember 16, 2014 from

McLeod,S. (2009). Jean Piaget. Simply Psychology. Retrieved September 16,2014, from