If you’re asking yourself the question of “what is cognitive psychology”, then you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the historical beginnings of cognitive psychology, as well as many of the key techniques and fundamental building blocks that support this approach to the study of the mind. So with this as our focus, let’s begin.

First of all, it’s worth defining what cognitive psychology truly is and what sets it apart from other psychological practices. In general, cognitive psychology can be thought of as a broad study of mental practices, and this can involve everything from problem-solving, perception, creativity, and memory. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that it is a very broad discipline indeed, and it has practical applications within a variety of different psychological sectors such as social psychology, education, developmental psychology, personality psychology, and even economics, too.

When it comes to the history of cognitive psychology, it has its initial roots way back in the 1600s when Descartes first postulated his theories on mind-body dualism. However, the philosophical debate soon grew throughout the mid-20th century, until behaviourism began to have a significant impact on the study of psychology.

These days, cognitive psychology has seen many applications in the modern world, such as the popular CBT form of treatment that is commonly used for depression, anxiety, and a range of other mental issues.

Of course, the broader domain of cognitive psychology covers a variety of mental processes, each of which is very interesting to study in their own right. For example, attention is a key aspect of cognitive psychology, and learning how we process sense data and manipulate this information within our brains is a key aspect of cognitive psychology study. This has led to some interesting advancements in how we process the world with selective attention, how we orientate ourselves in the world by the orientating reflex, and how alertness, divided attention, and global attention work together to process the world around us.

Another key aspect of cognitive psychology is understanding how memory works. In broad terms, a cognitive psychologist focuses on understanding how working memory is formed, and there are a range of famous experiments which expand on this phenomenon of how we can process data quickly and simultaneously by using both working memory and long-term memory together.

Long-term memory is also another key aspect of cognitive psychology, which involves understanding how procedural memory, semantic memory, and episodic memory function.

Perhaps one of the most unique and difficult to understand aspects of cognitive psychology is something known as metacognition. As the name suggests, this primarily refers to how a person thinks about their own thinking, but it also includes a number of interesting phenomena such as the experience of déjà vu, the validity effect (which states that repeated exposure to an idea makes it seem truer) and the curious phenomenon of imagination inflation, which refers to the imagination making a fictional scenario seem more real.

Of course, while the study of cognitive psychology is very interesting in its own right, there’s no denying the wide range of practical uses it has given to the world, particularly when it comes to psychological therapy. Perhaps one of the most famous forefathers of cognitive psychology is Aaron T Beck, who is widely regarded as one of the creators of the cognitive therapy movement which has since become one of the most popular psychological interventions around the globe.

In fact, the work initially created in the 60s and 70s has managed to stand the test of time by a very large degree, and it is still a key aspect of most modern cognitive therapy interventions. But a modern twist to this information is how it has impacted social psychology on a larger scale, as well as developmental psychology, where the key components of cognition can be observed in children as young as four.

Like any field within the realm of psychology, cognitive psychology has still received its fair share of criticism over the years, primarily from behaviourists who traditionally value external empirical data rather than the subjective internal mental states that cognitive psychology tends to focus on.

Fortunately, there has been some compromise in the middle, particularly as the advancements of cognitive neuroscience have made it possible to observe many of the claims made by behaviours and cognitive psychologists and to find crossover in many of the techniques.

Ultimately, this is why treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy have become the bedrock of modern psychological practice, as it manages to encapsulate both the cognitive and behavioural aspects of psychology. Nowadays, there is a growing area of research within the cognitive psychology field that covers many fascinating topics, such as the ability to process language, how we represent knowledge in our minds, and how we perceive the external world around us. Ultimately, this means that the answer to the question of “what is cognitive psychology” is sure to change as time goes by.

At the end of the day, it’s clear to see that cognitive psychology has an impressive standing within the broader psychology field, and it has birthed many crucial techniques that have improved the lives of many people, regardless of whether they are dealing with mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety or looking to enhance their performance in the workplace through the use of positive psychology techniques.

Now that you have read this guide, you should have a better answer to the question of “what is cognitive psychology”, along with some of its unique history and its practical application in the modern world.