Behaviourism focuses on the role of external factors in shaping behaviour, while cognitive psychology emphasizes the importance of internal mental processes. Simply put, cognitive psychology is interested in mental processes, while behaviourism is interested in observable behaviour.

What is behavioral psychology?

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Behavioral psychology, also known as behaviorism, is a branch of psychology that focuses on the study of observable and measurable behaviors, rather than internal mental states or consciousness. It emphasizes the role of environmental factors and conditioning in shaping behavior, and often uses techniques such as operant conditioning and behavior modification to change behavior. Behavioral psychology is used in a wide range of settings, from education and therapy to marketing and animal training.

What is cognitive psychology

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Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the study of mental processes such as thinking, perception, attention, memory, language, and problem-solving. It is concerned with how people acquire, process, and use information, and how they learn and make decisions. Cognitive psychologists often use experimental methods to investigate mental processes, and they draw on theories and models from fields such as neuroscience, linguistics, and computer science. Cognitive psychology has applications in many areas, including education, therapy, human-computer interaction, and artificial intelligence.

Behavioral psychology Vs. Cognitive psychology – Key differences

Behavioral psychology and cognitive psychology are two different branches of psychology that have different perspectives on human behavior and mental processes. Here are some key differences between the two:

Focus: Behavioral psychology focuses on observable behavior and how it is shaped by the environment, while cognitive psychology focuses on mental processes such as perception, attention, memory, and thought.

Methods: Behavioral psychologists often use experimental methods, such as conditioning and reinforcement, to modify behavior, while cognitive psychologists use techniques such as cognitive tests, brain imaging, and computer modeling to study mental processes.

Emphasis: Behavioral psychology emphasizes the role of the environment in shaping behavior, while cognitive psychology emphasizes the role of internal mental processes.

Assumptions: Behavioral psychology assumes that behavior is learned through the environment, while cognitive psychology assumes that behavior is influenced by internal mental processes such as perception, memory, and thought.

Applications: Behavioral psychology has applications in fields such as education, therapy, and animal training, while cognitive psychology has applications in fields such as human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, and cognitive therapy.

While both branches of psychology are concerned with human behavior and mental processes, they differ in their focus, methods, assumptions, and applications.


Behaviorism and cognitive psychology are two of the most influential branches of psychology, with each approach having its own unique perspective on behaviour.  Behaviourism emerged as the dominant school of thought in psychology in the early 20th century, while cognitive psychology began to gain traction in the 1950s.

While there are some similarities between these two approaches, they also differ in several key ways. Most notably, behaviourism focuses on observable behaviour while cognitive psychology emphasizes mental processes such as thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

The roots of behaviourism can be traced back to early philosophers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who believed that all human behaviour is learned through experience. This approach was further developed by psychologists such as Edward Thorndike and B. F. Skinner, who conducted groundbreaking research on operant conditioning.

Operant conditioning is a type of learning in which an animal or person learns to associate a particular behavior with a particular consequence. For example, if a rat presses a lever and receives a food pellet, it is likely to repeat this behavior. On the other hand, if the rat gets a shock instead of a food pellet, it is less likely to repeat the lever

Contrasting traits in Behaviorism, and Cognitive Psychology

Behaviorism is a deterministic approach that believes that all behavior is determined by environmental stimuli. Behavior can be shaped and controlled through conditioning, and there is no room for free will or inner thoughts or emotions. This approach has been very influential in areas such as education and animal training. Conditioning occurs when an individual is exposed to a stimulus and responds in a certain way. Over time, the individual learns to associate the stimulus with the response and eventually performs the response automatically.

Cognitive psychology, on the other hand, takes a more flexible view. It acknowledges the role of internal mental processes in determining behavior. This includes things like attention, memory, perception, decision-making, and language. Cognition is not just a reaction to the environment, but an active process that interacts with the environment. This perspective suggests that people are active processors of information who constantly make decisions based on their internal thoughts and beliefs.

Both cognitive psychology and behaviorism have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, cognitive psychology may be better at explaining complex behaviors that involve internal mental processes, while behaviorism may be better at explaining simple behaviors that are based on environmental cues or reinforcement.

What are the similarities between cognitive and behavioral therapy?

Cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy share several similarities, including:

Goal-oriented: Both types of therapy are focused on achieving specific goals and helping individuals to develop practical skills and strategies to cope with their problems.

Evidence-based: Both therapies are based on scientific research and are supported by empirical evidence for their effectiveness.

Active participation: Both types of therapy require active participation from the individual in the therapy process.

Time-limited: Both therapies are typically short-term and time-limited, with a focus on achieving specific goals in a set amount of time.

Collaboration: In both therapies, the therapist and individual work collaboratively to identify problems, set goals, and develop strategies to overcome them.

Emphasis on changing thoughts and behaviors: While cognitive therapy focuses on changing negative thought patterns, behavioral therapy emphasizes changing problematic behaviors.

Focus on the present: Both therapies are focused on addressing current problems and issues, rather than delving into past experiences.


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