Modern cognitive psychology is a relatively new field, which emphasizes the study of mental processes such as attention, perception, memory, and problem-solving. It is a fascinating area of study that has contributed significantly to our understanding of how the human mind works. In this article, we will explore the origins and development of modern cognitive psychology.
Early Roots of Cognitive Psychology
The roots of cognitive psychology can be traced back to the late 1800s and early 1900s when psychologists began to reject the prevailing behaviorist theories that dominated the field at that time. Behaviorism emphasized observable behavior as the only valid subject matter for psychological research and ignored mental processes altogether.
Psychologists such as Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky began to argue for a more holistic approach to psychology that took into account mental processes such as perception, attention, and memory. However, it was not until the emergence of information-processing theory in the 1950s and 1960s that modern cognitive psychology truly began to take shape.
The Emergence of Information-Processing Theory
Information-processing theory views the mind as a computer-like system that processes information through various stages of input, storage, manipulation, and output. This approach was heavily influenced by advances in computer technology at that time.
One influential figure in this development was George Miller who proposed in his famous paper “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two” (1956) that humans have limited capacity for processing information. This concept led to further research on memory capacity and storage.
In addition to Miller’s work on memory capacity, other researchers such as Ulric Neisser focused on perception and attention. Neisser’s book “Cognitive Psychology” (1967) helped establish cognitive psychology as a legitimate field with its own unique perspective on mental processes.
The Cognitive Revolution
The period from roughly 1950 to 1970 is often referred to as the “cognitive revolution” due to the significant advancements made in the study of mental processes during this time. Cognitive psychology became a dominant force within psychology, and it had a profound impact on other fields such as linguistics, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence.
One of the most important contributions of cognitive psychology was its emphasis on experimental methods and empirical evidence. Researchers began to use rigorous scientific methods to test their theories, which helped establish cognitive psychology as a legitimate scientific field.
In conclusion, modern cognitive psychology emerged from a rejection of behaviorism and a renewed focus on mental processes. The development of information-processing theory in the 1950s and 1960s helped establish cognitive psychology as a unique field with its own perspective on mental processes. The cognitive revolution from roughly 1950 to 1970 marked a turning point in the study of mental processes and established cognitive psychology as one of the most influential fields within psychology.