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Cognitive Psychology


Cognitive psychologists focus on our mental processes or cognitions. These mental processes that cognitive psychologists focus on include memory, perception, thinking and language.

The main concern of cognitive psychology is how information received from our senses is processed by the brain and how this processing directs how we behave.

Cognitive processes are examples of hypothetical constructs. That is, we cannot directly see processes such as thinking but we can infer what a person is thinking based on how they act.

Cognitive psychology has been influenced by developments in computer science and analogies are often made between how a computer works and how we process information.

However we are much more sophisticated than computer systems and an important criticism directed at the cognitive approach is that it often ignores the way in which other factors, such as past experiences and culture influence how we process information.

Memory is



Human Memory


Short-term memory and long term memory.


Research into the nature of short-term memory (STM) and long-term
memory (LTM) (e.g. encoding, capacity and duration).

The multi-store model of memory (Atkinson & Shiffrin) and at least one alternative to this (e.g. working memory: Baddeley & Hitch; levels of processing: Craik & Lockhart).


Remembering and forgetting.

Explanations of forgetting in short-term memory (e.g. decay and

Explanations of forgetting in long-term memory (e.g. retrieval failure and interference). The role of emotional factors in memory, including flashbulb memories and repression (e.g. Freud).


Critical Issue: Eyewitness testimony.

Research into reconstructive memory (e.g. Bartlett).

Memory research into eyewitness testimony (e.g. Loftus), including the role of leading questions.






Using this Website

As well as being able to have a general awareness of research findings in the areas covered by the specification, you will also be expected to know specific details of some studies in this area.  


For cognitive psychology you need to know:

A study into the nature of STM (e.g. Peterson & Peterson, 1959)

A study into the nature of LTM (e.g. Bahrick et al, 1975)

A study of reconstructive memory (e.g. Bartlett, 1932)

A study into the role of leading questions in EWT (e.g. Loftus & Palmer, 1974)


If the study is a piece of research you need to know the basic aims, procedures, findings, conclusions and at least one point of evaluation





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