The theory was defined in 1967 by Harold Kelley as he attempted to explain the cognitive processes that generate a certain behavior. Kelley stated that humans have an inclination to define and make sense of the world around them, and when a person commits an act that questions their behavior, we try to find reasons to explain the triggering causes. In doing this, we are trying to feel in control of the situation, with the assumption that we can predict what is about to come next (Gilhooly, Lyddy & Pollick, 2014).
Kelley provided an assessment model that examines the internal and external factors in judging ones behavior. The internal factors are likely to be: personality, mood, attitudes, effort, outlooks and ability; while the external factors could be the task or issue under discussion, other people/environment or luck. The attribution theory contributed to the cognitive behavioral approach that seeks to explain environment, cause and responsibility, where the causative of the current problem is attributed to the environment, your lack of responsibility, or the issue falling beyond your control (Neenan & Dryden, 2014).
Consider the impact of this approach on patients.
In the creation of the Cognitive Approach Model, Ulric Neisser made two major assumptions in addressing psychological disorders. Firstly, the model assumes that our thoughts will impact our emotions and outward behavior. For instance, if one wakes up late and misses the bus or train to his/her workstation, depending on how the individual interprets the situation, this will have an effect on his/mood and reaction. The person may decide to sulk or cheerfully dismiss the outcome and decide to walk the distance. In the first case, the mood turns dark and the mind sinks low. Where the person sustains the depressed mood and sad feelings over a long duration due to difficult circumstances, the individual may become prone to depression and other mental disorders. While the individual decides to take walk without cheerfully, the individual remains in a positive mood. Therefore, the way we process information significantly affects our attitude and behavior (Miller, 2014).
Secondly, the Cognitive Model assumes that because the distorted thinking has been learned and subconsciously adopted, the thinking can be unlearned. This unlearning can occur through monitoring, evaluating, and altering our thoughts. The individual/patient must train the mind to challenge and dismiss irrational and self-defeating thoughts. Therefore, the model affirms that cognitive change will result to behavior change and recovery from mental disorders, such as panic and anxiety attacks.
A core strength of the Cognitive Model is that it emphasizes on current though processes rather than on ones past life and experiences. This is advantageous because the past details of ones life are often irrelevant, unclear, misleading and inconsistent. Therefore, if one goes for a cognitive therapy, the therapist would concentrate and explore your current views of the world, and how you perceive your future. Through the cognitive approach, psychologists have defined the mental processes of learning, memory, perception, and thought, and further used this information in addressing mental distortions and disorders such as depression.
Miller argues that Cognitive Approach in psychology is a relatively modern approach that defines human behavior in terms of thinking. Cognitive psychologists espouse that the behavior is the outcome of information processing, and it affects how individuals feel and behave (Miller, 2014). To provide a deeper understanding of the Cognitive Approach and its significance in psychology, the author will focus on two main Cognitive Approach theories namely: Cognitive theory of depression and attribution theory.
Consider the body of evidence to support this approach:
Cognitive Theory of Depression:
A study by Abela and DAlessandros (2002) on college students represents a valid representation of the Cognitive Theory of Depression. The study engaged participants in a survey design, where questionnaires were used as the main research tool. Information relating their satisfaction with their present college; how they felt about the college, and the relevance of the college in aiding them achieve their career goals was obtained through the questionnaires. The study settled on a stratified sampling criteria, where questionnaires were administered to college students who considered their present college as the best academic center for them and to those who felt that the college did not meet their academic expectations (Miller, 2014).
These researchers found out that the students negative views concerning their future intensely impacted and controlled the interaction between dysfunctional attitudes, academic performance and increase in depressed moods. The study clearly supported Becks claims that the students who were likely to suffer from depression due to dysfunctional attitudes, thinking they did not get a college of their choice considered themselves inferior in the light of other optimistic students; they doubted their future, and these symptoms escalated to depression. The students self-perceptions turned negative after failing to secure a superior college than their present on, and many showed many signs of depression due to this mindset. These students were characterized with emotional surges, such as anger, bad moods, overwhelming sense of sadness and despair.
The kind of behavior depicted by the students who showed depressed moods due to landing in an inferior college is consistent with Becks three dysfunctional belief themes (schemas): I am defective or inadequate, all of my experiences turn to defeat or failures, and the future is hopeless. From the questionnaires, these students reported that their academic performance was declining, and the best course of action was withdrawing from their immediate courses or applying for deferrals.
While other students regarded the college with esteem, as a regional center of excellence, the former were too ignorant to perceive this fact. This element hints that these students paid selective attention to their environment or even to the relevance of their courses to meeting career objectives. This failure to accord full attention to details is known as faulty information processing, which permits depressed people to magnify the aspects that induce negative events. All these events occur unconsciously, and they function to sustain a depressed persons negative beliefs (Miller, 2014).
To treat this form of depression, a therapist would provide mental exercises that focus on the positive outcomes of taking a course in this college. For instance, presenting facts and information on prominent people who took similar courses in the same center and achieved their career goals would be essential. Helping the students ride over the extreme thoughts of failure would allow them release their irrational thoughts that project insecurities. Behavioral therapy techniques would then help the students challenge their patterns of beliefs (overthinking, diminishing positives, catastrophizing and overgeneralization) and replace them with more realistic and effective thoughts. This treatment would help the students reduce emotional distress and self-defeating behavior (Serbic, 2015).
Patients suffering from depression have helped in building the attribution theory during their therapy sessions. In an experimental study involving depression-suffering patients, the therapists encouraged the patients to write down the probable causes that had contributed to their mental disorder. Most of the patients ascribed living in environments where people excessively valued money created stressful conditions, especially when their financial positions were low.
These people perpetually picture a bleak future, and their social status and significance in those environmental conditions was inadequate. From their childhood, they were made to believe in riches as the main thing in life that would shield them from difficult situations. Due to their inability to get the right amount of money, this generated anxiety and stress, which gave way to depression.
A study was conducted on patients who showed depression signs and anxiety disorders due to low financial situations. Participants were put on a controlled experimental design for two weeks, where the patients were put on a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The psychological treatment was developed and manualized through weekly face-to-face conversations with the principal therapists. The treatment model entailed problem-seeking strategies to the cause of their financial worries, and how the individuals were trying to address their anxiety, stress, anger and other emotional outbursts over the low financial situations.
Among the patients who termed low financial position as the causative factor to their depression, most of them showed anxiety abstract future problems, which were most unlikely to occur. This undue anxiety was caused by an ingrained perception that money was the prime thing in life, and without it survival would not be possible. Most of them revealed that they had grown with such assumptions from childhood, which had been acquired from their parents, relatives and friends.
Throughout the therapeutic sessions, the patients were made to stay off money for the two training weeks, however, their needs were catered for. Food and other life essentials were provided in controlled proportions, and sometimes withdrawn. The implication was to prove to the patients that life situations would not turn out adverse as it was perceived in their minds, and it was still possible to remain optimistic that things would still change with time. Training the patients on resilience and endurance (surviving with little funds without fear of the unknown) was paramount to their recovery.
By the end of the first week, some patients confessed that amplifying the negative aspects about lack of funds was driving their anxiety levels. The patients realized that most of thei...
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