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Difference between Cognitive Science and Psychology

Cognitive science and Psychology both deal with the study of human mind and behaviour.  Cognitive science is a sub specialty of psychology. Let us understand the subtle points that differentiate the two terms.

What is Cognitive Science?

Cognitive science is the scientific study of the human mind. The field has an interdisciplinary approach and uses ideas and methodologies from other related fields such as psychology, linguistics, computer science, philosophy and neuroscience. The field of cognitive science includes studies on human and artificial intelligence as well as human behaviour. Cognitive science aims at studying about how any information is represented, assimilated, processed and transformed into other information or action. It tries to understand the various activities occurring in the nervous system and computer when they try to process the incoming information for future use.

Let us understand this from a simple example. Suppose a person is given an address and phone number to memorise and recall at a later date. When the person first sees the data, there is some neuronal activity along with behavioural changes. To understand the process of memorising the phone number and address you need to study the change occurring in the human behaviour and the ongoing neuronal activity at the same time. These two cannot be studied separately. Cognitive science helps us to establish a relationship between the neuronal activity and the resultant behavioural change. It analyses basic low level learning to complex decision mechanisms, thinking and logical planning. The field tries to understand the neuronal circuitry and the related brain organization which is linked to memory and decision making.

It is a real science as it is objective and not dependent on the bias of the observer. Though cognitive science is a large field and it covers many topics, certain topics like social and cultural issues, emotions, consciousness etc. are given lesser importance. Cognitive science covers mainly artificial intelligence, knowledge and processing of language, learning and development, attention, memory, perception and action.

What is Psychology?

Psychology on the other hand is an academic and applied subject that involves the scientific study of mental functions and human behaviour. It tries to analyse how a person thinks and behaves as an individual and in society at the same time taking into account physiological and biological aspects of behaviour. People who practice psychology are called as psychologists. They try to establish a link between thinking and behaviour. The field studies about why two individuals behave in two different ways in the same given situation. The field of clinical psychology also helps to resolve certain behavioural issues that affect interpersonal relationships as in father-son, husband – wife, siblings etc.

Psychology also studies cognition, attention, memory apart from emotion, personality, intelligence, brain functioning and interpersonal relationships. The field of psychology is also vast and diverse and includes subfields like clinical psychology, criminal psychology, behavioural psychology, cognitive psychology, educational psychology, developmental psychology, personality psychology etc.

Psychologists also help to assess mental health problems and provide possible treatment plans to overcome those problems. They deal with all kinds of human problems and emotional issues like low self-esteem, attention deficit, learning problems in schools and colleges, marital problems, recovering after a prolonged illness, recovering after a big family loss, relationship breaks ups, anger issues etc.

Cognitive science and psychology are fields that work to understand the human mind better. Cognitive science is concerned with the changes occurring in the nervous system when an individual performs some high level cognitive function. It aims at studying how different parts of the brain work in tandem to produce a particular reaction to a given stimulus. The field is more research based. Psychology on the other hand deals with people with feelings and does not look at them as research objects only. It is more interventional in nature. It helps people to work on their thinking to improve their behaviour in society.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much. It’ll help me a lot

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