Psychology is a fascinating career path that promises a rewarding journey of continuous learning and serving humanity. More amazingly, a career in psychology also promises financial stability, a stable income, and lucrative opportunities for professional growth. Most professionals pursue doctoral degrees, such as a Ph.D., to establish themselves in their fields.
Naturally, this requires a student of psychology to choose his/her specialization and paradigm preferences earlier in the academic journey. Most aspiring psychologists find themselves caught between cognitive and behavioral psychology. These two subfields are some of the most popular and widely practiced branches of modern psychology.
Both offer an array of exciting opportunities to help individuals combating mental distress and illnesses and enjoy career advancement. Keep reading to find out which paradigm is your true calling!
COGNITIVE VS. BEHAVIORAL PSYCHOLOGY
Is it time to select your branch and proceed towards specialization? Selecting a paradigm depends entirely on one’s own beliefs and psychological inclinations. While Sigmund Freud’s work inspires some, others find more excellent reliability in cognitive and behavioral approaches.
Most psychiatrists reject clinging to the biological paradigm, seeking medical and biological explanations for all mental illnesses. Cognitive and behavioral psychology offer fascinating approaches to the human mind. It focuses on human cognition, while the behavioral system is a study of human behaviors. Students typically study all comprehensive strategies during their Bachelor’s in Psychology program. However, higher education pursuits require selecting a specialization and adopting an approach to build a successful career.
Let’s take a closer look at both so you can examine their themes and approaches.
More popularly known as behaviorism, this branch of psychology dictates that all human behaviors get adopted through conditioning. Conditioning refers to our interactions with our environment. Early behaviorists claimed that genetics has no basis in psychology, and emotions and cognition are overly subjective and unreliable indicators.
Therefore, they argued that observing human behavior is the only factor worth considering to examine patients psychologically. Conditioning is a broader theme in behavioral psychology, and it revolves around sub-types: classical and operant.
The concept of classical conditioning was coined by Ivan Pavlov while experimenting with dogs. He created a study apparatus where he would ring a bell every time he fed the dog. Then, Pavlov tested the theory by ringing the bell without giving the dog any food. Every time the bell would ring, the dog would start salivating.
Pavlov deduced that this exercise had conditioned the dog to start salivating in response to the bell. This experiment is one of the founding principles of the school of behaviorism. Pavlov further deduced that the salivation was an unconditional response. He presented the reason that a bell’s sound doesn’t make a dog salivate. So, the bell served as the conditioned stimulus, and salivation known as the conditioned response.
Behaviorism is based on the principle of conditioning people to retrain their minds and treat psychological disorders. Behaviorists treat mental illnesses by reprogramming the patient’s conditioned response towards the conditioned stimuli.
Also known as instrumental conditioning, this concept refers to training by rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior.
- THERAPEUTIC TECHNIQUES
Behavioral psychology has proven highly successful in treating patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) and phobias. Behaviorism is also deeply incorporated in organizational psychology strategies to retrain employees and boost productivity.
Interestingly, it is most successful and effective in correcting behavioral challenges in children and adolescents.
Here are some standard techniques used by behaviorists:
- Breaking down tasks into simple components and making patients master each piece to overcome obsessions/phobias step-by-step gradually.
- Using verbal and visual prompts to inspire desired responses
- Altering delinquent or destructive behavior by rewarding improvements and encouraging a shift towards positive action.
- Modeling strategies to inspire positive and healthy behaviors in children
- Using Systematic Desensitization to treat phobia patients by gradually exposing them to their phobias
Cognitive psychology focuses on mental capabilities, such as memory, learning, reasoning, linguistic skills, attention, decision-making, developing concepts, and perception. It is essentially the study of the brain’s capabilities to acquire, process, and store information.
It comes as no surprise that this psychology branch mostly focuses on scientific research and controlled laboratory experiments. Cognitive research has led to some incredibly ground-breaking psychological discoveries and applications. Innovations have made psychotherapy a more balanced approach with both therapies.
TECHNIQUES & APPLICATIONS
Cognitive research also influenced and shaped forensic psychology and its role in courtrooms and legislation. Cognitive psychologists pushed aggressively to present forensic findings and cognitive research in courtrooms and policymaking initiatives.
Over the years, cognitive psychology emerged as an effective practice in hiring and evaluating personnel’s performance. It gets adopted by organizations from all industries and even the military.
Cognitive psychology has also formed the modern curriculum, classrooms, and testing protocols. Metacognition, the concept behind modern education systems, was coined by cognitive psychologists to evaluate students and expand their knowledge.
The hierarchy of organizing educational information in classrooms is another concept coined by cognitive psychologists. These approaches help students work and improve in weaker subjects and continue polishing their strengths.
Each paradigm has its unique approaches and contributions to enrich the field of psychology. Which one appeals to you, behaviorism or cognitive psychology? It is wise to research both directions and study them extensively to find your calling.