Difference Between Behaviorism and Cognitive Psychology

Main Difference – Behaviorism vs Cognitive Psychology

Behaviorism and Cognitive psychology are two movements in psychology which are used to explain human behavior. However, they are often confused by many people due to the very thin borderline which differentiates one from the other. The main difference between behaviorism and cognitive psychology is that behaviorism is based on the fact that human behavior is decided by the experiences one has had as consequences to various similar actions whereas cognitive psychology is based on the fact that humans have the capability to process and analyze various information in their mind.Difference Between Behaviorism and Cognitive Psychology - infographic

What is Behaviorism

Behaviorism is the study of behavior for the sole purpose of identifying its determinants. This is a general term, used to define the scientific approach which limits the theories in psychology, to observable, recordable, and measurable behaviors. This also involves the aspects in which observable human behavioral patterns are recorded and analyzed according to their responses to external or environmental stimuli.

The fundamental assumption behind behaviorism is that people learn things by co-relating circumstances with their experienced outcomes and adopt the individual behavioral patterns according to the most desirable consequence. Behaviorism also confirms that when certain events take place together, they either become associated or give out the same result. More importantly, behaviorism does not address any difference between human and animal behaviors.

There are two types of Behaviorism described in general psychology, namely, Classical behaviorism and Operant conditioning. Classical behaviorism is mainly based on a theory where a neutral signal is placed before a reflex, creating the desired outcome. This generally explains involuntary or automatic responses of an individual. Operant conditioning, which mainly targets describing the strength or weakness of voluntary behaviors, also explains how behavior changes following reinforcement or punishment.Difference Between Behaviorism and Cognitive Psychology

What is Cognitive Psychology

This is a subcategory of psychology which explains how internal mental processes define an individual’s personality, memory, the ability of thinking logically, problem-solving and speech. Cognitive psychology has the basic assumption that humans have the capability to process and analyze various information in their mind. It does not rely on visible behavior but focuses more on the process of thoughts behind it. Additionally, cognitive behavior is known to be a reaction to behaviorism according to some psychologists.Main Difference - Behaviorism vs Cognitive Psychology

Difference Between Behaviorism and Cognitive Psychology


Behaviorism: Studies on behaviorism, which have mostly been done on animals, reveal that every behavior is an unchangeable outcome of external stimuli.

Cognitive Psychology: Studies on cognition, mostly done on human beings, explain how the behavioral patterns are decided by the internal processes of mind which target acquiring, processing and storing information.


Behaviorism: The basis of Behaviorism lies on the fact that human behavior is decided by the experiences one has had as consequences to various similar actions.

Cognitive Psychology: Cognitive psychology mainly targets on the human mind and its capacity for analyzing and organizing information which decides an individual’s behavior.


Behaviorism: Behavioral psychology significantly refuses the involvement of self-analysis (introspection) as a reliable modality of investigations.

Cognitive Psychology: Cognitive Psychology uses introspection as a tool.

Image Courtesy:

“Cognitive Psychology” By Jtneill – Own work (Public Domain) via  

“Psychological behaviorism” By Tekks – English Wikipedia via

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music

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