What Are the Basics of Cognitive Psychology?


Martha Robinson

Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on how people process information and how they perceive, learn, remember and think about the world around them. This field explores the internal mental processes that occur in our minds as we interact with our environment. In this article, we’ll dive into the basics of cognitive psychology.

What is Cognitive Psychology?

Cognitive psychology is a scientific study that investigates the mental processes related to perception, attention, language, memory, problem-solving, and decision-making. It aims to understand how people think and how those thought processes affect their behavior.

The History of Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology emerged in the 1950s as a response to behaviorism, which focused solely on observable behaviors and responses to stimuli. It was led by psychologists such as George Miller, Ulric Neisser, and Jerome Bruner who believed that studying mental processes was crucial to understanding human behavior.

The Cognitive Revolution

The 1960s saw a shift towards cognitive psychology with what became known as the ‘cognitive revolution’. This movement emphasized the importance of understanding mental processes such as attention, perception, memory, and language in explaining human behavior.

Cognitive Processes


Perception refers to how we interpret sensations from our environment. Our brain uses different cues such as color, depth, texture to create our perception of reality.


Attention allows us to focus on specific stimuli while filtering out distractions. It can be divided into two types: selective attention (focusing on one stimulus while ignoring others) and divided attention (focusing on multiple stimuli simultaneously).


Memory refers to our ability to encode information from our environment and retrieve it later when needed. Memory can be divided into three types: sensory memory (briefly storing sensory information), short-term memory (holding information for a brief period), and long-term memory (storing information for a longer period).


Language is a cognitive process that allows us to communicate with others. It involves understanding, producing, and manipulating words and sentences.

Cognitive Psychology Theories

Information Processing Theory

This theory states that our brain processes information in stages, similar to how a computer processes data. Information is first encoded into our sensory memory, then transferred to short-term memory, and finally consolidated into long-term memory.

Social Cognitive Theory

Social cognitive theory emphasizes the importance of learning through observation and interaction with our environment. It suggests that we learn by observing others’ behaviors and the consequences of those behaviors.

The Importance of Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology has contributed significantly to our understanding of human behavior. Its findings have been applied in various fields such as education, marketing, and healthcare. By understanding how people think, we can design better educational programs, create effective advertising campaigns, and develop treatments for psychological disorders such as depression or anxiety.


Cognitive psychology is an essential field of study that explores how we process information from the world around us. By understanding the basic cognitive processes such as perception, attention, memory, and language, we can gain insights into human behavior and improve our lives in many ways.