Does Cognitive Psychology Study the Brain?


Martha Robinson

Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology that deals with the study of mental processes such as perception, attention, memory, language, problem-solving, reasoning, and decision making. It aims to understand how people think, learn, and process information.

But does cognitive psychology study the brain? Let’s find out.

What is Cognitive Psychology?

Cognitive psychology is concerned with how people acquire, process, and use information. It focuses on the internal mental processes that occur when we think or engage in problem-solving activities.

Cognitive psychologists use experimental methods to study these mental processes. They design experiments that manipulate variables to observe their effects on behavior and mental processes.

The Relationship between Cognitive Psychology and the Brain

Cognitive psychology is closely related to neuroscience—the scientific study of the nervous system. Although cognitive psychologists do not directly study the brain’s physical structure or neural activity patterns like neuroscientists do, they recognize that mental processes arise from neural activity in the brain.

Therefore, cognitive psychologists often use brain imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and positron emission tomography (PET) to track neural activity patterns associated with specific cognitive tasks.

The Role of Brain Structures in Cognitive Processes

The brain comprises several structures responsible for different functions such as memory formation and retrieval, attentional control, language processing, decision making, and problem-solving. Cognitive psychologists are interested in understanding how these structures interact to produce complex behaviors.

For example, research has shown that damage to the hippocampus—the area of the brain responsible for forming new memories—can result in severe memory deficits. Similarly, studies have linked prefrontal cortex damage with poor decision-making abilities.


In conclusion, cognitive psychology does not focus explicitly on studying the brain’s physical structure or neural activity patterns. Still, it recognizes the critical role that the brain plays in mental processes. By using brain imaging techniques and studying the effects of brain damage, cognitive psychologists can gain insights into how the brain supports complex cognitive behaviors.