Cognitive psychology concerns itself with thinking, memory, and internal thought processes. If you see any of those words, the answer is “cognitive”. The information-processing metaphor for cognition studies how the brain encodes, stores, and retrieves information. Basically, the outside stimulus goes into an extremely short- term (second or two, photographic) sensory memory that is either iconic (visual) or acoustic (sound). If important enough it goes to short term memory, which holds 7 items (plus or minus 2). The short-term memory is stored in the hippocampus in the limbic system. If thought important enough, it is transferred to long-term memory, which is not localized but is dispersed throughout the brain, and different bits are brought together in associative areas of the frontal lobe for use. If you bring something forward from memory, it goes into the working memory, where it is retrieved. Memory loss can be info. never encoded, lost from short tem memory, encoded improperly, or retrieved incorrectly, as with misinformation effect.
Cognitively, the brain is organized in schemas, or interconnected webs, sets, frameworks, or hierarchies we use to organize information, which may include sounds, sights, thoughts, smells, or memories. When we retrieve information, we activate various schemas. We often make rule of thumb decisions called heuristics, either the most vivid example, (as in available heuristics), or use of a prototype which sits as a superordinate at the top of a category hierarchy. This is like an image of a football player being a big, dumb jock, while most don’t fit that category. That’s what we look for in representative heuristics. We activate various schemas with retrieval cues (events or examples that trigger memory) sometimes giving us déjà vu, or even remembering false memories. It is easier to remember things where you learned it (state-dependent) or in the mood you were in (mood-congruent).
We sometimes forget things we knew because of new things we learn, (retroactive interference). Sometimes things we already knew like driving a clutch car, hurt learning new things, like driving an automatic car. This is called proactive interference. Memories and schemas as built into neural networks that interconnect. The more often that the network fires, the easier it is to fire the next time. This is why rehearsal and relearning help you remember, so things learned over time also reinforce those neural pathways allowing you to remember information for longer. Like the Ebbinghaus curve, the first time around you have a precipitous fall and then after relearning, the fall is less.
The goal of cognitive therapies are to get you to change negative internal sentences. Depressed people’s internal thoughts turn on them and everything is framed in a way that seems negative. Even cynicism and sarcasm can become an internal sentence habit. The most famous of these therapies is Albert Ellis’s Rational- Emotional therapy, in which the therapist aggressively challenges irrational thought processes and works with patients to change the habit of negative internal sentences. This therapy has the best success in the long-term for depression for the non-drug therapies. People who frame their sentences to be optimistic report higher levels of happiness. Mood can be dictated by what you think and you can make changes in the way you think through practice. Role-playing becomes reality.