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What does a Cognitive Psychologist do?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A cognitive psychologist is concerned with the study and understanding of how memory, perception, and thought work in the brain. Born out of disagreements with the behaviorist school of thought in the mid-20th century, cognitivism seeks to benefit humans by better understanding how the brain processes information. Cognitive psychologists use traditional scientific methods to study the mind, rather than focusing on observable behaviors or psychoanalysis.

Perception is a major area of cognitive psychology. Understanding how human beings see the world, and which factors influence personal perception, can be greatly important to predicting future behavior. In this area, a cognitive psychologist must be able to merge several disciplines of psychology while using a scientific method of study. Cognitivism, as defined by Ulric Neisser in 1967, suggests that the mind follows perceptive processes much like a computer processes information, but differs in that humans do so through a specific point of view. Studying perception allows the psychologist to research the questions at the heart of psychology: how does the human mind act, and what causes it to do so?

There are a variety of areas a cognitive psychologist can devote his or her time to studying. Understanding memory is a key area of the discipline, leading to research in how memory is stored or lost, and subsequently how memory processes can be improved. A psychologist interested in memory might work on improving or curing conditions like Alzheimer's, research better ways to help people come to terms with memories blocked by trauma, or even develop better memorization techniques for early education.

Improving education can be an important focus for a cognitive psychologist. By studying how people learn new information, cognitivism can help to create educational methods that emphasize improved learning techniques. By creating and developing new methods to make teaching more effective, a person in this field could help contribute to raising the overall education level of the population.

Some work in cognitive psychology focuses on the brain's relationship to language and linguistics. Cognitive psychologists may do research on speech problems and develop techniques to improve work in speech therapy. Studying how humans learn language can also tie in to education, as new methods of learning additional languages may help students become fluent faster.

Working as a cognitive psychologist can do much to improve human understanding of how learning and understanding works in the brain. Whether by focusing on memory, decision-making, or linguistics, a cognitive psychologist has an opportunity to contribute the the knowledge of the entire species. Although cognitivism is far from the only important psychological discipline, proponents believe it has the potential to bring great advances and benefits to the human race.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for Practical Adult Insights. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By GreenWeaver — On Sep 22, 2010

Comfyshoes-What do cognitive psychologist study involves memory and perception.

The perception is how the patient sees themselves. This is really important because all too often there are self- fulfilling prophecies.

People with negative perception and behavior will continue down the same path unless they alter their way of thinking and substitute healthy behaviors in place of negative behaviors.

Cognitive psychologist as a result is in very much demand because many people are in need of this type of therapy. A cognitive psychologist salary ranges from $63,000 to $85,000 a year.

By comfyshoes — On Sep 22, 2010

Sunshine31- That is so true. I know those cognitive therapists are often used to help those that are overweight understand their addiction and overcome their weight problems.

Often the cycle of addition can be broken with the use of cognitive behavioral psychologist therapeutic sessions.

Understanding what void a person has in their life helps them to understand why the addiction occurred in the first place.

A Cognitive therapist tries to change the patient’s outlook as well as behavior by offering alternatives to the addictive lifestyle.

For example, a person that has a food addiction might isolate why they overeat and what are the trigger foods and try to substitute a different behavior and also eat or substitute healthier foods.

By sunshine31 — On Sep 22, 2010

Klo- I think you are right. I wanted to say that cognitive behavioral psychologists work with their patients by trying to help them understand that their thoughts have more bearing on the life than any other person or circumstances.

A behavioral psychologist always tries to get the patient to record their inner dialogue when certain things occur.

Often indentifying the trigger and our reaction to the trigger will make us successful or not.

Repetitive feelings of failure and negative self-talk defeat any positive steps that the patient has taken.

This self talk is so powerful that a cognitive therapist spends considerable amount of time focusing on changing this inner voice to a more loving and positive voice.

By klo — On Sep 19, 2010

Cognitive therapy is steadily becoming a more credible way of treating mental illness as well. For instance, many in the field think cognitive therapy has much more potential benefit for people that suffer from depression than traditional methods of therapy. Influencing the thought processes of people with these disorders can help people regulate themselves, and hopefully prevent themselves from falling into cycles of self-hating thought and depression. I think this type of therapy will someday replace traditional psychoanalysis entirely.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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