History of Cognitive Psychology



Learn about the history of cognitive psychology, when and who started using cognitive behavioural techniques, and useful links to cognitive based therapy pages.



Behavioural and cognitive therapies are based on the straightforward idea that undesirable patterns of behaviour - for example, shyness, anxiety, phobias - are the cause of personality problems and not caused by them.

The philosophy is cure the undesirable behaviour and the whole personality can be restored to good health.

About Behavioural Therapy

The history of cognitive psychology grew out of behavioural therapy during the 1950's and 1960's, mainly in the USA. It was developed by clinical psychologists rather than psychotherapists.

The ideas are based on the work which originally came from Ivan Pavlov. During his work with dogs, Pavlov found that he could induce dogs to salivate by constantly ringing a bell whenever he fed them. Eventually, the sound of the bell was enough to cause salivation, even without food. Pavlov called this action, "conditioned reflex" - the dogs had been conditioned. by learning and experience.

Later on in the history of cognitive psychology, researchers (mainly Watson and Skinner) applied these findings to human behaviour. They could see no reason why what applied to animals should not apply to humans. They argued that if our behaviour is the product of learning and the environment, then we should be able to change our behaviour, and the way things make us feel, by behaviour modification.

Interestingly, the popularity of behaviourism coincided with the growth of the advertising industry, which sought to control and manipulate consumers needs and desires. Watson eventually left his medical research and became an advertising executive.

About Cognitive Therapy Techniques

The main element of cognitive behavioural techniques is known as "cognitive restructuring," which requires you to question and remodel your basic outlook on life...

Self-defeating and self-denigrating thoughts are replaced by positive ones, and specific problems are looked in the context of the bigger picture.

The patients involvement is vital. If you visit a cognitive-behavioural therapist, or use cognitive behavioural therapy techniques on your own, you will be required to do exercises and 'homework' in order to relieve your fears, anxiety or stress symptoms.

More About The History of Cognitive Psychology

The earliest form of Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT) was developed by an American Psychologist, Albert Ellis (1913-2007) in 1955, naming his approach Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT).

History of Cognitive Psychology

In the 1960s an American Psychiatrist, Aaron T Beck, developed another CBT approach called cognitive therapy which was originally developed for treating depression. CBT therapists believe that clinical depression is typically associated with negatively biased thinking and irrational thoughts. CBT however, rapidly became a favourite model to study because of the positive results it achieved.

CBT is now used to provide treatment in all kinds of psychiatric disorders and generally provides a better outcome in managing mental illness.

Once again, cognitive behavioural techniques and cognitive behavioural therapy aims to remove symptoms (such as anxiety) by dealing with those symptoms themselves, rather than their root causes. Therapists see no reason to delve into the past to find out why a particular behaviour has formed. The aim of the therapy is to simply correct the undesirable behaviour patterns and perceptions, and then to encourage the formation of well-adapted and positive ways of acting.




Cognitive refers to thought processes. Cognitive therapy is a deceptively simple, powerful self-help technique for dealing with emotional negativity by consciously changing the way you think.



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