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Cognitive Psychology

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The field of cognitive psychology is concerned with the study of the way the mind thinks, remembers, processes sensory input, and comes to rational conclusions. To this end, psychologists engage in studies of both long and short term memory, direct perception of sensory input and mental patterns of recollection, as well as how the mind processes symbols, signs, and complex relationships in cognitive psychology, generally. The founding of the cognitive psychology movement is attributed to Ulrich Neisser, the Harvard Psychologist in America. His development of the theory of “Cognitive Psychology” is set forth in a pioneering work published in 1967, which all subsequent researchers reference and cite in their work (psychweb, 2007 [online]). Neisser was said to be dissatisfied with the Behavioralist strain of academic psychology that was prevalent in the American University establishments in the mid to late 1960’s, as well as the Psychoanalytic method posited by Freud. His cognitive psychology methodology is a balance between introverted and subjective means at pursuing understanding, and a middle way between the experimental validity of the scientific method, and the direct experience of mind by the individual in reflection or experience. Cognitive Psychology can also be seen as introducing new aspects in the study of Awareness and Attention in the West, and one of the first examples of their scientific evaluation in the field of academic psychology. There is also a course of development in cognitive psychology that has led to the mapping of the regions of the mind through their chemical structures and psychophysics that has emerged from Cognitive Psychology theory and research in the field (Cognitive Science Week, 2007 [online]).


How American Psychology came to be so dominated by Behavioralism in the 1960’s is a large topic unto itself, but is related to the genesis of Cognitive Psychology. Numerous smaller groups of psychology parallel to Cognitive Psychology had continued the lineages of Freud, Jung, and William James in the academic environment as specialised teachings. Cognitive Psychology was different from the industrial and commercial philosophy of Behavioralism, which made it the latter a popular and orthodox American science. Few rivals adhered to the Cognitive Psychology perspective in the academic system at the University tenure level. Small sub-sects of psychology such as the Gestalt Psychology Movement, Cognitive Psychology, and the Transpersonal Psychology Movement began to develop alternative courses, based in the initial influence of the meditative and introspective techniques of Eastern religions in the 1960’s (Questia, 2007 [online]). Neisser was undoubtedly influenced by these as well, and that influence led directly to the authorship of “Cognitive Psychology” in 1967, albeit along different lines.


Characteristic of the cognitive psychology posited by Neisser, is recognition of the transcendence of Reason in the Mind, or mental dimensions and keys to understanding beyond that of science, but not an abandonment of the tools and language of scientific methodology. While this may have been accurate and necessary for Cognitive Psychology to truly express the nature of mind and mental processes, it was a theory going against the established strain of Behavioralist inquiry. As such, Cognitive Psychology is a deepening and widening of the split in American psychology between what can be broadly labeled the Transcendentalists and the Materialists. This split has not been entirely bridged to this day, and even more sub-sects of Cognitive Psychology have developed from the influence of Neisser and other practitioners of Cognitive Psychology working in different directions. Those working in the Cognitive Psychology field often base their work in semantic studies, memory experiments, and anecdotal case studies.



1. URL psycweb/history/cognitiv.htm.

 Last accessed 10 November 2007.


2. URL cogscienceweek1.htm. Last accessed 10 November 2007.


3. Capturing the Fervor of Cognitive Psychology's Emergence.

 URL . Last accessed 10 November 2007.

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