What Is Cognitive Psychology?

Cognitive psychology examines the 'higher-order' brain functions like problem-solving, language use and abstract thought. Read on to learn more about what this field entails and which career options it offers. Schools offering Clinical Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Overview of Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is the study of the complex mental processes involved in human learning, communication and memory, reports the American Psychological Association. Cognitive psychologists study the wide range of mental tools that humans use to perceive, understand and act upon their surroundings, including language, reasoning and decision making.

Cognitive psychologists also study the way in which emotions, like desire and fear, influence our cognitive processes, and they sometimes work with neuroscientists to explore the physical manifestations of emotion and their effects on cognition. Cognitive psychology has applications in fields like child development, geriatrics, education, industrial organization and management.

Important Facts About This Career

Median Salary (2014) $70,700 (for all psychologists)
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 19% (for all psychologists)
Licensure All states require practicing psychologists to be licensed
Key Skills Analytical skills; trustworthiness; observational skills; people skills; communication skills

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cognitive Psychological Research

Unlike older psychological models like behaviorism, which only analyzed people's actions and ignored abstract mental states like motivation and desire, cognitive psychology examines both concrete actions and abstract feelings. Cognitive psychologists use the scientific method to develop and test hypotheses, and they commonly use experiments, surveys, observations and interviews to collect data and evaluate their theories. Some specific areas of study within the field of cognitive psychology include the following:

  • Knowledge representation
  • Language acquisition
  • Emotion and memory
  • Perception
  • Information categorization

Cognitive Psychology Careers

The vast majority of cognitive psychology jobs require a graduate degree, usually a Psy.D. or a Ph.D. in Psychology. Many cognitive psychologists work for research universities or institutions, or in private practice. The American Board of Professional Psychology offers optional certification for experienced cognitive and behavioral psychologists who hold a doctoral degree and satisfactorily demonstrate their competence through a work portfolio.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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