Cognitive Psychology

Sadaf Naz

Cognitive psychology emerged during the period of 1950s and 1970s. It resulted from the efforts of psychologists who worked on such topics as, attention, memory, performance, artificial intelligence, linguistics and computer sciences, during the World Wars (Cognitive processes classes, 1997).

The prominent contributors in the development of cognitive psychology include the work of J.S.Mill and Fechner who considered cognitive psychology as experimental science of mind (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014).

Chomsky 1928, rejected the theory of B. F. Skinner, as it does not explain language learning process. He argued that language is complex and cannot be explained by simple behavioral explanations, instead, he argued that language involves expression of ideas and therefore, is a cognitive process (Cognitive processes classes,1997).

Hebb, 1949, idea that neurons are associated and are simultaneously and successively active in the brain gave rise to another important feature of cognitive psychology, connectionism, which emphasized that like the brain, neural networks are capable of learning (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014). Later, David Rumelhart and James McClelland introduced Parallel Distributed Processing (PDP), they argued that information processing happens simultaneously not serially. Their idea of information processing through interconnected neurons (based on the work Hebb), established their theory of Connectionism (Cognitive processes classes,1997).

George Miller in 1950s, called his theory Magic Number, studied short term memory and recall. Miller worked on information processing enhanced the popularity of cognitive psychology. Allen Newell related the principles of cognitive psychology to computer models. He worked on artificial intelligence and concluded that cognitive activities are problem solving activities (McLeod, 2007).

Information processing cognitive psychology was developed from computer models, to determine the human mechanisms of information processing. This approach argues that humans receive input and process it with memory, schemata, plans and produce output, which is similar to computers (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014). The popularity of cognitive psychology recalled the historical works of faculty psychology and the historical debate of mind-body relationship.

The term Cognitive psychology came in to use in 1967, when Ulric Neisser published his book on cognitive psychology to discuss primary principles of information processing. He wrote on perception, attention, memory, language and thoughts (McLeod, 2007).

In summary, today's cognitive science is the result of joint efforts of human experimental psychologists, cognitive neuroscientists, and artificial intelligence. Human experimental psychologists studied memory, language, attention, and problem solving. Cognitive neuroscientists studied influence of brain damage on human cognition. Finally, the computer analogy and information processing approach studied, artificial intelligence and computer stimulation (McLeod, 2007).


Cognitive processes classes. (1997). History of cognitive psychology. Retrieved from

Hergenhahn, B. R., & Henley, T. B. (2014). An introduction to the history of psychology (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth-Cengage

McLeod, S. (2007). Cognitive psychology. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from