People have attempted to uncover the causes of disordered behaviour since ancient times. Many interpretations have developed over the centuries to explain abnormal behaviour, from theories of supernatural occupation to naturally occurring biological causes (Carson, Butcher and Mineka, 2000). Since the beginning of the twentieth century, several important perspectives have developed sophisticated models such as biomedical, psychodynamic, humanistic, behavioural and cognitive model. Kendall and Hammen (1995) state a model is a general guide for the field of abnormal psychology.
It enables students and professionals of abnormal psychology to understand three aspects of mental disorders; the symptoms of the disorders, the causal factors and their treatment (Carson, Butcher and Mineka, 2000). Carson, Butcher and Mineka (2000) stressed that there is no perfect model, whereas each different view point focuses on important facets of behaviour. Besides, validity is not equal. Therefore it is important to determine the appropriate viewpoint by the extent to which it helps an observer understand a given phenomenon (Carson, Butcher and Mineka, 2000).
Current psychology is much related to human cognition. The study of basic information-processing mechanisms, such as attention and memory, as well as higher mental processes such as thinking, planning, and decision making are included in cognitive psychology (Carson, Butcher and Mineka, 2000). One of the major perspectives, focusing on cognitive functions which influence emotions and behaviours, is called the cognitive model. This essay will discuss the cognitive model. First, it will explore the assumptions of the cognitive model, and examine the features of the cognitive model compared with other perspectives.
Second, it will analyse the major systems within the cognitive model of abnormality and treatments of the cognitive model. Finally, it will evaluate the pros and cons of the cognitive model. The basic premise behind the cognitive model is the idea that thoughts and information processing determine human emotions and behaviours (Heffner, 2002, chap. 11). According to Cardwell, Clark and Meldrum (1996), the cognitive theorists believe that emotional problems can be attributed to distortions in human cognitions or thinking processes.
Cognitive distortions refer to ‘thought processes those are dysfunctional’ (Kendal and Hammen, 1995, p. 56). They lead to negative thoughts, irrational beliefs and illogical errors. It is maintained that these maladaptive thoughts usually arise automatically and without full awareness (Cardwell, Clark and Meldrum, 1996). It is considered that psychological problems occur when people are occupied by faulty thinking to the extent that it has become maladaptive for themselves and others around them.
In fact, studying the patterns of distorted information processing which are exhibited by people with various forms of psychopathology help professionals to clear up the mechanisms that may be involved in the maintenance of certain disorders (Carson, Butcher and Mineka, 2000). Originally, the cognitive model was a reaction against the traditional, behavioural viewpoint that did not take mental structures into account (Carson et al. 2000; Cardwell et al. 1996). Carson, Butcher and Mineka (2000) pointed out that the behavioural model emphasises observational behaviour.
By contrast, thoughts, in the cognitive view, are treated as behaviours that can be studied empirically and that can become the centre of attention in therapy. In cognitive therapy, the issue is regarded as being one of altering maladaptive cognition. Therefore clinicians are concerned with their clients’ self-statements. As a result, cognitive clinicians have to use a variety of techniques designed to alter whatever negative cognitive thinking that people hold in their minds (Beck, Hollon et al. , 1985; Hollon and Beck, 1994).
Carson, Butcher and Mineka (2000) declared that this is quite the opposite of the way of psychodynamistic’s treatment, because it presumes that psychological disorders are due to a limited arrangement of intrapsychic conflicts and are likely not to focus treatment techniques directly on a person’s particular problems or complaints. Thus, it can be said that focusing on human thoughts is a characteristic point of the cognitive model, and this point of view leads to treatments for each of particular persons.
Next, this essay will focus on the major systems of the cognitive model in abnormality. The first system is Aaron T. Beck’s cognitive theory which is one of the most famous theories of depression. In his theory (Beck, 1967, 1983; Sacco and Beck, 1995), first of all, there are the underlying depressogenic schemas or dysfunctional beliefs. A schema refers to an organized representation of the prior knowledge that guides the current processing of information (Alloy and Tabachnik, 1984; Fiske and Taylor, 1991).
According to Beck (1967, 1976; Beck and freeman, 1990), different maladaptive schemas describe different forms of psychopathology. Depressogenic schemas or dysfunctional beliefs have developed by early learning experience with one’s surroundings, and may sleep in one’s mind until response to current stressors. When dysfunctional beliefs are activated, they tend to fuel the thinking pattern, creating a pattern of negative automatic thoughts which often occur without thinking and involve pessimistic predictions that centre on self, world, and future.
These pessimistic predictions are called the negative cognitive triad. Negative cognitive triad tends to produce a variety of cognitive biases or distortions, such as overgeneralization, which further reinforce the underlying beliefs and schemas. Thus, each of these components of Beck’s theory serves to reinforce the others (Carson, Butcher and Mineka, 2000). Albert Ellis’s (1962) rational-emotive view is also one of the major systems of the cognitive model. Ellis believes that irrational beliefs which people deal with cause maladaptive behaviours (Kendall and Hammen, 1995).
Irrational beliefs refer to an individual’s belief system and self-evaluation, especially with respect to the irrational “shoulds”, “oughts”, and “musts” that are preventing positive sense of self-worth and a satisfying life (Carson, Butcher and Mineka, 2000). Ellis’s fundamental postulate of theory is expressed in the A-B-C model. According to Ellis, people specific Beliefs (B) about particular Activating Events (A) determine Emotional Consequences (C) (Kendall and Hammen, 1995). When these assumptions are inaccurate, psychological maladjustment tend to result.
The cognitive model which is represented by above two systems has developed a various treatments as cognitive and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) (terms for the most part used interchangeably). The aim of CBT is modifying the client’s perceptions, evaluations, and processing of events, while employing behavioural performance-based procedures, modeling, and rewards (Kendall and Hammen, 1995). According to Kendall and Hollon (1979), the cognitive-behaviourism is the effect of movement from two perspectives.
Behavioural theorists have had increased interest in the cognitive views of psychopathology, and psychodynamic and cognitive theorists have shown greater interest in the performance-based learning views of psychological disorders. Carson, Butcher and Mineka (2000) pointed out that there is no single set of technique, rather various methods are being developed. However, all methods seem to be characterized by two main themes. One is the conviction that cognitive processes have an influence on emotion, motivation, and behaviour.
The other is the use of cognitive and behaviour-change techniques in a pragmatic (hypothesis-testing) manner. Although there remains disagreement about the effects of CBT (Hollon and Beck, 1994; Hollon DeRubeis and Evans, 1987), in the current psychological fields, CBT is quite popular and is used for a variety of clinical disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorder and personality disorders. Thus, there are theories which are accepted widely in the cognitive model and the development of the cognitive model may be remarkable.
Although the cognitive-behavioural model has have impact on contemporary psychology, it is not perfect model. A lot of pros and cons of this model are reported until the present time. First of all, it can be said that strength point of the cognitive-behavioural model is co-operative theory which integrates the seemingly conflicting theories (Smith, 1980). Therefore this model can fill gaps that cannot be covered by one psychological perspective. Second, according to Tamar (2003), the cognitive model has received some empirical support, such as stroop test and autobiographical memory.
Third, it can be said that the cognitive model has become the dominant paradigms among most research-oriented clinical psychologists. For example, Gustafson (1992) showed that maladaptive thinking processes were displayed in many people who suffer psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety and sexual disorders. In addition, the cognitive model suggests a model for living which promotes psychological well-being and avoids the stigma of mental illness (Cardwell, Clark and Meldrum, 1996).
On the other hand, like all theories, the cognitive model is not free from criticism. First, the cognitive model is argued that overemphasized the factors that fail to pay attention caused of maladaptive thinking in individuals. It tends to draw away attention to the need to improve social conditions which have an effect on quality life (Cardwell, Clark and Meldrum, 1996). Second, critics have suggested that the cognitive dysfunctions may be consequences rather than causes (Kendall and Hammen, 1995).
Beck (1991) himself pointed out that possibility. Third, the difficulty of verification has been found by especially behaviourists. Reporting one’s beliefs cannot be relied as solid empirical data (Carson, Butcher and Mineka, 2000). Fourth, this model is considered as weak due to the abstract nature of thought and difficulty in defining them (Heffner, 2002). Besides, Tamar (2003) pointed out the possibility that the cognitive model may contradict moral or religious precept.
Thus, although the cognitive model is very popular in current psychological field, it is necessary to carry out further research. In conclusion, this essay has evaluated the cognitive model which is regarded as one of the major perspectives in clinical psychology. First, it has explained that the basic premise behind cognitive model is the idea that thoughts and information processing determine human emotions and behaviours, and there are characteristic points in focusing on a process unique to human beings and the process of human thought.
Second, it has cleared that the cognitive model represented by Beck’s and Ellis’s theory which the causes of mental disorders are dysfunctional beliefs or irrational beliefs has contributed to understanding mental disorder and finding the way of treatments. Furthermore, CBT may be expected as one of new aspects in the clinical psychology. Third, it has indicated the cognitive model to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the cognitive model.
According to this essay, it might be said the cognitive model enables psychologists to notice that the human mind has been the source of numerous endeavors as well as the cause of many psychological problems. It has also promoted the development of cognitive therapies which have shown impressive result. Nevertheless, the model is not perfect and human beings are much more complicated than the sum of the cognitions, emotions, and behaviour. Therefore it is necessary that people who treat the model understand its functions and limitations, and the research into the cognitive model carries out hereafter.