Cognitive Psychology Essay

  • Last Edited: December 19, 2018
cognitive psychology essay

This essay discusses cognitive psychology and a specific scenario within that scientific term.  It starts out with an introduction or definition of cognitive psychology, then discusses a specific scenario, and perspectives of the scenario.  The body of this essay covers treatments, therapies, and interventions for the scenario, as well as effectiveness of therapies, before summing up the paper with a conclusion.


Cognitive Psychology:  Modern Approach to Human Behavior

Cognitive Psychology Advancements


Introduction to Applied Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive Psychology of Planning


I.  Introduction

II.  Body

A.  Scenario

B.  Psychological Perspectives

C.  Treatment, Therapies, Interventions

D.  Effectiveness of Therapies

III.  Conclusion

Title:  Cognitive Psychology Scenario Essay


Cognitive psychology is a relatively new or modern approach to human behavior whose main focus is how people think.  This approach in psychology focuses on how people think because of the belief that thought processes affect people’s behaviors.  In essence, an individual’s behavior is largely influenced by how he/she processes information.  Unlike other approaches in psychology, cognitive psychology is largely interested on what happens within people’s minds that acts as a link between input (stimulus) and output (response).  Some of the internal processes studied by cognitive psychologists include language, perception, memory, attention, and thinking (Kellogg, 2011).  The other approach in the field of psychology is psychodynamic approach that was developed by Sigmund Freud based on the impact of his early childhood experiences on his behaviors.  This approach examines the impact of unconscious drives and experiences during early childhood on an individual’s emotions and behaviors on the premise that the unconscious is a reservoir of memory.


The manager of a Building Society, Andrew is a single 40 year-old man who is considered shy by his largely female staff.  The staff has hatched several plots including dates to try making him open up as they speculate about his personal life.  However, these attempts have been unsuccessful because Andrew declines to attend Christmas parties while he eats his lunchtime meals alone in his office.  Andrew has insisted on eating along since he was 15 years when he started eating alone in his room.  When in the company of others, he finds it impossible to swallow his food and even starts to feel faint.  Despite these tendencies, Andrew does not believe he has a problem and wishes to be left alone, but sometimes feels lonely and wonders if he could receive help from anyone.

Amy, a cleaner at Building Society who works from 6- 8pm every weekday, started experiencing a rapid heartbeat, a dry mouth, and difficulties in breathing about one month ago.  She develops feelings of terror when alone and fears coming to work because she is usually alone after 6:30pm.  In light of previous similar episodes, Amy’s mother blames herself for Amy’s panic attacks because she was once very late picking her from school until after dark though Amy does not recall this.  Andrew, on the other hand, is sympathetic towards Amy to an extent that he stays at work late so that Amy would feel more secure.  Amy’s short-tempered husband, Geoff, has become jealous of Andrew’s actions and threatens to confront him.  Geoff has experienced few road rage episodes in his efforts to get the company notice Andrew’s time of leaving the office.  During this process, Geoff met Rebecca, on overweight 26-year old staff who suffers from depression, lack of confidence, and fears that her colleagues laugh at her behind her back.  Rebecca finds it difficult to leave work before counter-checking all the figures she inputs during the day and believes that her depression is genetic.

Psychological Perspectives for the Scenario

The above scenario is an example of the various kinds of issues that can be addressed by psychologists using the appropriate approaches.  The issues in this scenario can be addressed through the use of different perspectives in psychology.  Generally, there are different perspectives in the field of psychology that are utilized to address different issues when dealing with clients.  The two perspectives in psychology that can be utilized to address some of the issues in this scenario include cognitive approach and psychodynamic approach.  Cognitive approach is based on the belief that an individual’s behavior is influenced by his/her emotions and expectations.  On the other hand, the psychodynamic approach, which was promoted by Sigmund Freud, is based on the belief that people’s behaviors are influenced by unconscious drives and experiences from early childhood (McNabb, n.d.).  The psychodynamic approach is also based the belief that behavior is influenced by conflicts that arise when the society places restrictions on the unconscious drives and experiences from an individual’s childhood.

Key Characteristics of these Perspectives

Cognitive and psychodynamic perspectives have different characteristics that influence their use by psychologists or counselors when addressing certain issues facing their clients.  The key characteristics of cognitive perspective include cognition, emotion, and behavior.  Cognitive psychology approach is based on the belief that people change following interactions between their cognition, emotion, and behavior.  The change process takes place following learning new ways of thinking that in turn triggers different emotional responses and behaviors.  The change can also come from modification of thinking patterns, emotional responses, and behavior as well as acquiring skills and knowledge relating to the issue or area requiring change (Linnell, 2010).  Therefore, the cognitive perspective includes both cognitive and behavioral theories because of the link between cognition, emotion, and behavior.

On the other hands, the key characteristics of psychodynamic approach include unconscious drives and experiences and societal influences. An individual’s unconscious factors have considerable impacts on his/her behavior through shaping his beliefs, values, and biases.  Unconscious psychological processes (including drives and experiences during childhood) are crucial because they dominate activities of the brain.  These processes in turn generate biological and neurological drives that influence an individual’s perceptions and meanings.  Therefore, when an individual is experiencing psychological problems, it’s important to examine the unconscious because of the biological and neurological drives it generates.  While this approach also examines cognition or psychological processes, the main emphasis is on unconscious processes in the brain and their link to behavior.

Treatments/Therapies/Interventions for the Scenario

Cognitive Perspective and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive perspective in psychology is applicable to Amy’s situation in her work at Building Society.  The cognitive perspective postulates that an individual’s actions or behaviors are influenced by internal processes (i.e. cognition), which also impacts emotions.  In Amy’s situation, her feelings of terror when alone influence her behaviors when alone and in the dark.  These feelings are internal processes that contribute to fear and a sense of insecurity whenever she is alone and in the dark.  Since she cannot recall the incident in her early childhood that could have contributed to her panic attacks, the situation is largely fueled by her internal processes.  From a cognitive perspective, Amy experiences panic attacks because of the terror she associates with being along and in the dark.

The most suitable cognitive approach to use in addressing Amy’s situation is cognitive behavioral therapy.  This therapy is based on cognitive theory and behavioral theory because the cognitive perspective in psychology suggests a strong link between cognition, emotion, and behavior.  This therapy basically refers to a set of psychological treatments that are based on scientific evidence and utilized to treat different psychological disorders or mental health problems (Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, 2003).  When using this approach, the therapist seeks to understand a client’s problems from a cognitive or behavioral perspective or through a combination of these two frameworks.

In Amy’s case, the use of cognitive behavioral therapy will entail addressing her psychological disorder and eliminating negative behaviors that contribute to the sense of insecurity and fear when alone and in the dark.  Amy is suffering from a panic disorder, which is characterized by feelings of terror/panic, shortness of breath/difficulty in breathing, and rapid heartbeat.  Amy’s condition is a fight-flight response in which her body’s normal alarm system tends to go off at the wrong time as long as she is alone and in the dark.  The role of the therapist in cognitive behavioral therapy is to help clients identify ways of thinking, feelings, and behaviors that sustain problems.  The identification of these factors is followed by assessment and conceptualization of new ways of thinking, emotional responses, and behaviors.  The therapist then acts as a change agent by assisting the client to implement these thought patterns, feelings, and behaviors in order to avoid sustaining the problems and dealing with them.

When using cognitive behavioral therapy in addressing Amy’s situation, three strategies will be utilized including cognitive restructuring, mindfulness, and exposure.  With regards to cognitive restructuring, Amy’s situation is triggered by the belief or cognition that being alone and in the dark is dangerous, which results in greater fear and dysfunctional status.  Therefore, the cognitive restructuring process will focus on replacing these catastrophic beliefs (cognitions) with adaptive, reasonable beliefs (Hubbard, 2016).  Through coaching, Amy will be helped to learn how to stay grounded when sensing a panic attack through constantly reminding herself that it’s a false alarm and there is no danger.

In relation to mindfulness, Amy will be guided on how to accept fight-flight sensations whenever they occur and without judgment.  This essentially means that Amy will learn to accept these sensations without rushing to conclude that there is danger.  In this case, she will no longer be driven by panicky feelings but learn to develop more effective responses to these sensations rather than avoidance and escape.

The final strategy in cognitive behavioral therapy is exposure since the natural reaction to a panic attack is avoidance and escape, which block the ability of the brain to learn that panic sensations are not necessarily dangerous.  In this case, Amy will be helped to learn how to accept that the sensations and feelings are not necessarily dangerous in order for her brain to eventually stop triggering panic.  The process will involve exposing Amy to low then moderately stressful situations and developing emotional strength through every step.  She will be exposed to such situations until she is capable of handling tougher ones and eventually overcome panic attacks.

Psychodynamic Perspective and Psychodynamic Therapy

The psychodynamic perspective in psychology is applicable to Andrew’s situation in this scenario.  As previously mentioned, this perspective postulates that an individual’s unconscious psychological processes like fear shape his/her personality and behaviors.  Sigmund Freud, based on his childhood experiences, contends that unconscious psychological processes are strongly linked to human development and psychological problems (Ivey, D’Andrea & Ivey, 2012).  Unconscious psychological processes during childhood have significant impacts on an individual’s present actions and behaviors.  Therefore, when using this approach with a client, it’s important to examine his/her unconscious psychological processes and experiences during early childhood.  These processes and experiences are evaluated based on their link to the individual’s current behaviors and actions.

Psychodynamic therapy is suitable in Andrew’s situation because his isolation and relative withdrawal from social events is influenced by unconscious psychological processes and experiences during his childhood.  Andrew started eating alone in his room when he was 15 years, which is a habit that was seemingly influenced by his experiences or unconscious cognitive processes during early childhood.  The use of this therapy is suitable in Andrew’s case because it will help in identifying how his past has contributed to his current psychological problems.  Moreover, the therapy will help Andrew explore or examine his unconscious thoughts and early childhood experiences and how they contribute to his fear of eating while in public and withdrawal from social situations/events.

When using this therapy, the process will focus on exploring Andrew’s unconscious thoughts and emotions in order for him/her to better understand him/herself.  His developmental history, especially experiences that made him insist on eating alone since 15 years will be taken into account.  Events and experiences in the family setting or neighborhood that influenced this decision and social withdrawal tendencies will be examined to understand Andrew’s psychological problems.  The therapist will help Andrew examine his unconscious thoughts and experiences since the unconscious is a reservoir of memories as well as neurological and biological forces.  During this process, Andrew will be encouraged to be spontaneous by saying things that come to his mind in order to determine his actual thoughts and feelings without concerns of how they sound.  He will then be encouraged to reinterpret his life experiences and worldview based on insights from the counseling session.  This psychodynamic therapy process will also entail helping Andrew learn new ways of thinking to enhance his personal development and growth as well as how to deal with and overcome limitations brought by the unconscious.

Effectiveness of the Therapies

Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy has been selected for the different situations in the scenario because of their suitability in addressing the psychological problems or disorders affecting the individuals in the specific situations.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in Amy’s situation because it will result in enhanced cognition and behaviors that deal with panic attacks.  The therapy will help enhance Amy’s cognitions, emotional state, and state of consciousness through cognitive restructuring.  This effectiveness emerges from its ability to deal with strong influences that affect emotions and generate a panic attack and replace them with adaptable and more reasonable beliefs and cognitions.  During this process, Amy will learn how to stop panicking through developing suitable cognitive skills and mindfulness during exposure.  The improved cognition and capabilities to deal with panic triggers will in turn contribute to better behaviors.  In this case, Amy will no longer feel insecure or have discomfort when alone or in the dark because of sensations of fight-flight response that are associated with panic attacks or disorder.

Psychodynamic therapy will be effective in addressing Andrew’s social withdrawal and fear of eating in the public through dealing with the root causes of his psychological problems i.e. unconscious psychological processes and experiences during childhood.  Andrew will get the chance to not only identify but also deal with events and factors that have affected his psychological well being since his teenage years.  The effectiveness of this therapy in dealing with Andrew’s problems is also attributable to the fact that it gives him an opportunity to learn new ways of thinking and behavior.  As he learns new ways of thinking and behavior, Andrew will experience growth and development, which will in turn contribute to enhanced cognitions, behaviors, state of consciousness, and emotional state.


In conclusion, the field of psychology is characterized by different perspectives including cognitive and psychodynamic approaches.  These approaches differ based on their characteristics and are suitable for different scenarios or situations.  Cognitive perspective is based on the belief that people’s behaviors are influenced by their thoughts and feelings.  On the contrary, psychodynamic perspective is based on the belief that behavior is a by-product of unconscious psychological processes (cognitions) and experiences, especially during early childhood.  The two therapies or treatment approaches from these perspectives that can be utilized in dealing with different situations in the scenario are cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy.

We hope this example Cognitive Psychology essay will provide you with a template or guideline in helping you write your own paper on this topic.  You are free to use any information, sources, or topics, titles, or ideas provided in this essay as long as you properly cite the information in your paper and on your reference page.

Works Cited  / References


  1. Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies 2003, What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy? Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, viewed 4 February 2017, <>
  2. Hubbard, B. 2016, CBT for Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, viewed 11 February 2017,  <>
  3. Ivey, A. E., D’Andrea, M. J., & Ivey, M. B. 2012, Theories of counseling and psychotherapy. A multicultural perspective. Sage Publications Inc., Thousand Oaks, California.
  4. Kellogg, R.T 2011, Fundamentals of cognitive psychology, 2nd ed., SAGE, Thousand Oaks, California.
  5. Linnell, S 2010, Art psychotherapy and narrative therapy: an account of practitioner research. Bentham Science Publishers, Beijing.
  6. McNabb n.d., 5 Major Perspectives in Psychology, Weebly, 11 February 2017, <>

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