30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011
The cognitive revolution
Old School, New School
Cognitivism is the attempt to understand the mind in terms of the information it processes and the forms in which it stores this information. Cognitivism is a rejection of psychoanalytic approaches, which try to understand the mind in terms of myth, and of behaviourist approaches, which try to understand the mind in terms of behaviour only. The start of the cognitive revolution is often dated to the appearance of an incendiary book review by linguist Noam Chomsky. Chomsky’s review criticized the behaviourist psychologist B.F. Skinner’s book Verbal Behaviour, in which he attempted to explain language learning using behaviourist principles. Cognitivism marked an evolution of behaviourism and is inspired by a computer metaphor of the mind. Computers have hardware and run software, which controls the flow of information between inputs and outputs and the reading and writing of information to the computer’s memory. Cognitivists aim to investigate psychological ’software’ — the mind — independently of the ’hardware’ — the brain. Like the behaviourists, cognitivists are committed to the experimental method, but believe that they can prove something about what happens in between stimulus and response.
Your mind is a machine for storing and processing information.
Cognitivism remains at the heart of modern psychology. Although many psychologists still think of the mind in terms of information processing, advances in neuroscience have resulted in the investigation of the mind (the ’software’) being combined with the investigation of the brain (the ’hardware’) — a branch of psychology known as cognitive neuroscience. Moreover, evidence of neuroplasticity (how the brain alters over time) suggests that the computer metaphor has its limits. If the brain is a machine, it is a machine that changes itself.
The metaphor of the brain as a computer for processing and storing information has proved popular. However, it’s best not to try to repair it with a wrench.