Behaviourism vs Cognitive Psychology: Difference and Comparison

Every individual behaves differently because everyone is different in their way. A person’s behaviour plays a significant role because behaviour can change with changes in various factors.

Study of behaviourism is a branch of psychology, and the study deals with studying a person’s thoughts and behaviour.

Cognitive psychology, on the other hand, deals with the study of psychology, another branch of the psychology department.

Key Takeaways

  1. Behaviourism focuses on observable behaviour and external factors such as reinforcement, while cognitive psychology emphasizes internal mental processes such as thinking and memory.
  2. Behaviourism uses classical and operant conditioning as its primary theories, while cognitive psychology uses information processing theory, cognitive developmental theory, and artificial intelligence.
  3. Behaviourism aims to change behaviour through conditioning, while cognitive psychology aims to understand and improve mental processes such as perception, attention, memory, and problem-solving.

Behaviourism vs Cognitive Psychology

Behaviourism is a psychological perspective that emphasizes the role of the environment in shaping behaviour. Cognitive psychology emphasizes mental processes’ role in shaping behaviour. Cognitive psychologists study how people process information and how these mental processes influence behaviour.

Behaviourism vs Cognitive Psychology

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Understanding the difference between these two terms is quite simple because the name itself suggests everything about it.

Behaviourism deals with how a person behaves in a different situation, whereas cognitive psychology only means understanding the concept of a person’s memory.

You must note that these two terms are only observed only in the case of human beings, as animals’ psychology is not explained under this behaviour.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonBehaviourismCognitive Psychology
DefinitionBehaviourism means studying human behaviour, or human behaviour is based on behaviourism.The capability of human minds to process various kinds of information is called cognitive psychology.
Self-analysisBehaviourism refuses the involvement of self-analysis.Cognitive psychology, on the other hand, accepts the involvement of self-analysis.
Aims atBehaviourism aims to determine which cues elicit an individual’s responses.Cognitive psychology, on the other hand, aims at mental activities.
FeedbackFeedback is required as it will modify behaviour in the desired direction.Feedback is supported to guide accurate mental connections.
ContributorsJ.B. Watson and B. F. SkinnerJean Paget
Focus onObservable behaviourMental thoughts and activities, and processes.
Based onIt is based on stimulus and response.Based on mental processing.

What is Behaviourism?

Behaviourism means studying the behaviour of human beings. It is to be remembered that animals are not considered under this theory.

Behaviourism is a systematic approach to understanding human behaviour, assuming that behaviour is a reflex.

A behaviour will occur when there is an interaction with the environment. Due to this, many behaviourists believe that an individual’s responses to environmental stimuli will also shape their actions.

Behaviourism is a branch of psychology.

A well-known behaviourist or psychologist, Ivan Parlov, developed two methods of behaviour conditions: classical and operant conditioning.

In classical conditioning, an individual is conditioned to act in a certain manner by repetitive practice.

Operant conditioning, on the other hand, is some part based on rewarding desirable behaviour and some on punishment for the behaviour that needs to be curbed.

Let’s take an example here and say that a student going to school only learns because he will get rewards if he learns properly, and if he does not, he will get punished.

Now, you might be wondering why the study of behaviourism is important.

Well, it is because behaviourism theory has contributed a lot to applied psychology. Thus this theory is very useful in detoxification and rehab centres for people addicted to drugs and alcoholic stuff.

Behaviourism solely rests that the external environment can change a person’s behaviour. The example taken above is the perfect example to understand the behaviourism theory.

The main goal of this theory is to predict and control behaviour.


What is Cognitive Psychology?

On the other hand, cognitive psychology is a psychology field of study where the study of mental processes is done.

Cognitive Psychology is a part of the psychology field and is just another branch of the field.

Cognitive psychology does not study an individual’s behaviour because an individual’s mental process, memory, logical thinking, and negative thoughts are based here.

Simply put, everything that goes inside your brain falls under this study category. Let’s take the same example as above to understand cognitive psychology.

In the behaviourism theory, we took an example where the student’s behaviour changes if he does not learn just because of the fear that his teacher might punish him.

In the case of cognitive psychology, a student will study and learn only because he/she has motivational thoughts and inner thought processes that help them gain more knowledge and do better.

Cognitive Psychology has contributed to the field of psychology as this study helps to treat depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety disorders, and other psychiatric problems.

Well, a cognitive psychologist will help a depressed person to make him understand what his problems are and will help the depressed person to improve their thinking.

cognitive psychology

Main Differences Between Behaviourism and Cognitive Psychology

  1. Behaviourism studies human behaviour that changes with the external environment, whereas cognitive psychology deals with mental processes.
  2. Self-analysis is accepted in the case of cognitive psychology, whereas behaviourism theory does not accept self-analysis.
  3. The contributors to behaviourism theory are J.B. Watson and B.F Skinner, whereas Jean Paget contributed cognitive psychology.
  4. Behaviourism theory is based on stimulus and response, whereas cognitive psychology is based on mental processing.
  5. Both these theories are very helpful because they are necessary for helping human beings.
Difference Between Behaviourism and Cognitive Psychology

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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