Examples of Cognitive Psychology and How It’s Used

, Staff Writer
Updated May 21, 2021
cognitive psychology example with people's brain activity
    Cognitive psychology example with people's brain activity
    Chris Madden / Moment / Getty Images
    Used under Getty Images license

Cognitive psychology studies and analyzes the mental processes of the human mind. This includes how people think, remember, learn, and perceive. Review these cognitive psychology examples to develop a deeper understanding of this area of psychology.

Everyday Examples of Cognitive Psychology

Because cognitive psychology focuses on how people think and process information, you shouldn't be surprised to learn that there are many cognitive psychology examples in everyday life.

  • attention - Sometimes a person's cognitive processing systems get overloaded. When that happens, it becomes necessary to focus one's attention on certain things, selecting information to process further. This deals with how and why performance improves with attention.
  • formation of concepts - This aspect of cognitive psychology focuses on the human ability to organize experiences into categories. How a person responds to stimuli can result from the information being sorted into a category. Response to stimulus is determined by the relevant category and the person's knowledge associated with that particular category.
  • judgment and decisions - This is the study of decision making. Any behavior, implicit or explicit, requires judgment and then a decision or choice.
  • language processing - This is the study of how language is acquired, comprehended and produced. It also focuses on the psychology of reading. This includes processing words, sentences, concepts, inferences, and semantic assumptions.
  • learning - This is the study of new cognitive or conceptual information that is taken in and how that process occurs. It includes implicit learning that takes into account previous experience on performance.
  • memory - Studying human memory is a large part of cognitive psychology. Learning the types of memory covers the process of acquiring, storing and retrieving memory, including facts, skills, and capacity.
  • perception - This includes the senses and how people process what they sense. This also includes what we sense and how it interacts with what we already know.
  • problem-solving - Solving problems is a way that humans achieve goals. This aspect of cognitive psychology focuses on how people approach determining how to solve problems.
  • achieving goals - Moving toward accomplishing a goal can include different kinds of reasoning, as well as perception, memory, attention, and other brain functions.
  • reasoning - This is the process of formulating logical arguments. It involves making deductions and inferences and why some people value certain deductions over others. Reasoning can be affected by educated intuitive guesses, logical fallacies or stereotypes.

Areas of Application in Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology can be applied in many ways. It serves many purposes within the field of psychology, all of which can be beneficial to mental health professionals who use cognitive psychology in their practices and the people they strive to help.

  • moral development - This includes how moral dilemmas change a person's moral reasoning based on where the individual is in the stages of moral development. Cognitive psychologists often incorporate Kohlberg's stages of moral development into their work with patients.
  • eyewitness testimony - Cognitive psychology can explain how a witness's testimony is affected by stress or leading questions, as well as how focusing on a weapon or receiving incomplete information can alter a person's perception of what they witnessed.
  • forgetting - This area covers long and short-term memory, as well as how forgetting occurs. Cognitive psychologists consider how learning new information can potentially lead to forgetting old information, as well as other factors that can lead to the loss of previously known information.
  • selective attention - Humans have a limited capacity for paying attention. This aspect of cognitive psychology considers how humans select the stimuli to which they will pay attention. Psychologists can use this to help people learn how to focus on key aspects of scenarios to focus on while tuning out irrelevant information.
  • child development - This deals with the process of cognitive processes as children pass through various stages of development. For example, a psychologist may consider where a young patient is in terms of Piaget's stages of cognitive development when working with a child.
  • cognitive behavioral therapy - This approach to therapy combines cognitive theory with behavioral methods. It uses the fact that thought patterns can affect behavior and tries to help people overcome mental health concerns by combining cognitive and behavioral approaches.
  • learning styles - This investigates the different ways in which people learn. Teachers use information about learning styles to develop lessons and teach in a way that incorporates strategies that will be effective across the different types of learning styles.
  • education - Learning styles are not the only way cognitive psychology can help lead to more effective learning. Teachers apply principles of how people perceive, pay attention to, organize, understand, learn, and remember information in everything that they do.
  • information processing - This approach to cognitive psychology suggests that people process information they receive, rather than just responding to stimuli. In a way, it compares humans to computers in the way we process information.
  • cognitive interview - Those who interview witnesses use cognitive interviewing techniques designed to maximize what they remember. Interviewers will ask witnesses to picture themselves at the crime scene to reinstate memory, then report everything. Then, they'll ask more questions to get witnesses to describe what they saw from different perspectives and in a different order.
  • face recognition - Being able to recognize another person's face requires cognitive processing. Cognitive psychology can help explain how it's possible to still recognize someone's face even if certain aspects have changed, such as the person growing older, wearing or not wearing makeup, adding or removing glasses, or being framed by a different hairstyle.

Expand Your Knowledge of Psychology

These different examples of cognitive psychology are a great way to better understand this field, including how it can impact daily life and beyond. Now that you know what is cognitive psychology thanks to these cognitive psychology examples, take the time to further explore the field. Start with some basic psychology terms used in the study of the mind. From there, get familiar with behavioral psychology by reviewing some examples of classical conditioning in everyday life. Next, move on to exploring some operant conditioning examples. You'll be on your way to developing a solid foundation of psychology knowledge.