How Did Cognitive Psychology Develop?


Diego Sanchez

Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the study of mental processes such as perception, attention, memory, and problem-solving. It seeks to understand how people think, remember, and process information.

The development of cognitive psychology can be traced back to the early years of the 20th century with the work of several influential psychologists. Let’s take a closer look at how cognitive psychology developed over time.

Early Influences

The roots of cognitive psychology can be traced back to the work of Wilhelm Wundt and his student Edward Titchener who pioneered the study of conscious experience in the late 1800s. However, it was not until the mid-20th century that cognitive psychology emerged as a distinct field.

The Cognitive Revolution

The “cognitive revolution” in psychology occurred in the 1950s and 1960s when researchers began to shift away from behaviorism and focus on mental processes. One key figure in this movement was George Miller who wrote an influential paper titled “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two” which argued that human memory has limited capacity.

Miller’s work paved the way for other researchers such as Ulric Neisser who published “Cognitive Psychology” in 1967 which is considered as one of the first textbooks on cognitive psychology.

Information Processing Model

Another important development in cognitive psychology was the information processing model which posits that human cognition functions like a computer. This model suggests that information enters our sensory memory before moving to short-term memory where it is processed before being stored in long-term memory.

Researchers such as Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin developed this model further by proposing a three-stage model consisting of sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory.

Cognitive Neuroscience

In recent years, cognitive psychology has also been influenced by advances in neuroscience. The development of brain imaging technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has allowed researchers to study the neural basis of cognitive processes.


In conclusion, cognitive psychology has developed significantly over the last century. Early influences from pioneers such as Wundt and Titchener led to the “cognitive revolution” in the mid-20th century which saw a shift towards studying mental processes. The information processing model furthered our understanding of how cognition functions while recent advances in neuroscience have expanded our knowledge of the neural basis of cognition.