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The Behaviourist and Cognitive Approaches to Psychology Essay

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In this essay I am going to explore two of the major approaches to Psychology, Cognitive theories and Behaviourist theories. I will discuss in some detail the two approaches, state how they compare and illustrate the similarities and the differences between them. John Watson, one of the founders of Behaviourism, based his theories on the principles of learning outlined by Pavlov who suggested the theory known as Classical Conditioning; he trained dogs to salivate whenever he rang a bell. Dogs have a natural reflex response to salivate when they see food, Pavlov rang a bell when the dogs were given food and after several repetitions of this action, the dogs began to salivate whenever they heard the bell, even when there was not…show more content…
Behaviourists make the assumption that nearly all behaviours are caused by learned relationships between a Stimulus that excites the senses and a Response, which is the reaction to the Stimulus, for example a child might see a Spider (Stimulus) and be frightened (Response to seeing the Stimulus). In contrast Cognitive Psychologists have criticised the Stimulus, Response theory for not considering the mental processes that occur between the Stimulus and Response, for example going back to the situation of a child seeing a Spider and being frightened, the Cognitive approach would say that to understand why the person who saw the Spider reacted in a frightened manner, we need to understand what the mediating Cognition was, it could be that the child has some memories on a parent or other person seeing a spider and behaving in a frightened way. Behaviourists believe that since very little behaviour in human beings is inherited, the focus is on the role of experience, which is expressed through learning. It is easy to say that our past experiences determine how we behave, but how do we learn? Behaviourists believe that we learn through association, in other words we form connections between events and ideas. In contrast to the behaviourists views on learning, Cognitive Psychologists believe that the human brain is genetically able to process and organise information in certain ways, for example; language is developed in most human
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