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@Clues 2024

The Cognitive Model of the Mind

"Cognitive psychology tells us that the unobservable processes in the mind are as real as anything we can see or touch." - Daniel Kahneman

The cognitive model of psychology is all about how our brain takes in information and makes sense of it. It's like a map that shows how our brain processes what we see and hear. For instance, when we look at something, our brain uses past experiences and knowledge to figure out what it is. What this implies is that prior experiences influence how we perceive information or situations in the present moment.

The main parts of the cognitive model include:

  1. Perception - this is how we understand the sensory information around us. Our brain uses different cognitive processes like attention, pattern recognition, and memory to make a mental picture of the world.
  2. Attention - this is the ability to focus on some things while ignoring others. It's like using our mental resources to concentrate on what we're doing.
  3. Memory - this is how we store and remember information. Our brain uses different cognitive processes like encoding, consolidation, and retrieval to create lasting memories of our experiences.
  4. Decision-making - this is how we choose between different options. It uses different cognitive processes like problem-solving and information processing to help us decide and compare options.


The cognitive model emphasizes our interpretation of information based on prior experiences. This can lead to misinterpretations due to their strong influence. These misinterpretations of reality are commonly referred to as cognitive distortions. Here's a common set of cognitive distortions:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: Only seeing things as really good or really bad. There are no shades of grey.
  2. Overgeneralization: Taking one bad experience and thinking it always happens.
  3. Mental filter: Only focusing on the bad things and ignoring the good.
  4. Disqualifying the positive: Ignoring good experiences or achievements as not important or just luck.
  5. Jumping to conclusions: Thinking someone meant something without enough evidence.
  6. Magnification or minimization: Blowing up mistakes or minimizing successes.
  7. Emotional reasoning: Believing something is true just because you feel it, especially while ignoring the facts.
  8. Should statements: Thinking you should always do something, especially based on other's expectations.
  9. Labeling and Mislabeling: Using negative, general words to describe yourself or others.
  10. Personalization: Blaming yourself for things that are not your fault or taking too much responsibility for others' feelings and actions.

Important People in the Cognitive Model

Here are a few of the big names if you want to explore this model more deeply.

  • Jean Piaget, who developed the cognitive development theory, which proposes that the human mind goes through a series of stages as a person grows and matures.
  • Ulric Neisser, who is considered the founder of cognitive psychology, and who wrote the influential book "Cognitive Psychology."
  • Daniel Kahneman, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on behavioral economics, which applies cognitive psychology to understand decision-making.
  • George Miller, who is known for his work on the psychological limits of human information processing, and who co-authored the influential paper "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two."

Questions for Self-Inquiry

  1. What are some of my automatic thoughts, and how do they contribute to the psychological troubles I'm having?
  2. What are some cognitive distortions that I may be engaging in, and how can I challenge and modify them?
  3. How can I develop more adaptive and realistic thought patterns to improve my mental health?
  4. How can I become more aware of my thinking patterns and learn to differentiate between helpful and unhelpful thoughts?
  5. Am I thinking in black-and-white terms or am I considering only the extreme ends of a spectrum?
  6. Am I applying a single negative event to a wider and broader set of situations?
  7. Am I selectively filtering out positive experiences and focusing only on the negative?
  8. Am I discounting positive experiences and accomplishments because they don't fit into my negative self-image?
  9. Am I exaggerating the importance of my problems or minimizing the importance of my strengths and positive experiences?
  10. Am I basing my thoughts and beliefs entirely on my feelings and emotions, rather than including some evidence and logic?
  11. Am I using "should", "must", "ought to", and "have to" statements to beat myself up or put pressure on myself?
  12. Am I blaming myself for things outside of my control or taking too much responsibility for things that are not my fault?