What is Cognitive Psychology


How does the brain work? Cognitive psychology is devoted to the study of mental processes. The field merges philosophy and physiology. The approach tends to be naturalistic in that mental processes are assumed to be the product of biochemical and evolutionary influences. 

The range of subjects under the category of cognitive psychology includes:

Perception Attention Learning Memory Conceptualization Reasoning Judgment Decision-making Problem-solving


One of the brain’s primary functions is to enable organisms to adapt to their environments. Part of this adaptation is the ability to interpret and understand environmental information. Perception studies include explorations of sensory and mental processing of information. For example, how does the brain assign meaning to environmental information based on situational cues?


The study of attention involves how the brain processes and sorts information according to importance. Theories related to attention have sought to explain why certain pieces of information seem to garner attention while other information may be ignored. For example, research has considered the relationship that exists between attention and performance. 


Learning in cognitive psychology is an adaptive response of an organism to its environment. The study of learning includes how new information is acquired and processed by the brain. For example, how do organisms learn through conditioning or trial and error?


The study of memory explores how memories form and how they are retrieved. Studies of short- and long-term memory investigate why the brain distinguishes between the two. The influence of brain injuries on memories is another area of research. 


Conceptualization involves how the brain categorizes information. The assumption is that environmental information is interpreted based on established categories of information. Unfamiliar information or vague informational categories require the person to seek clarity by making tentative associations with similar information in other categories or by trial and error creation of a new informational category.


Studies of reason involve the mental mechanisms used to construct or evaluate logical arguments. For instance, which regions of the brain and other cognitive processes are involved in reaching logical conclusions such as memory?


Judgment and decision-making processes involve cognitive processes of making choices with desirable outcomes rather than choices leading to costly outcomes. The study of judgment and decision-making examines the cognitive processes involved in assessing the possibilities of risks and rewards. 


The study of problem-solving processes explores the cognitive processes involved in resolving ambiguity or achieving goals. For example, which parts of the brain are accessed during problem-solving processing?