A cognitive psychologist is concerned with the study and understanding of how memory, perception, and thought work in the brain. Born out of disagreements with the behaviorist school of thought in the mid-20th century, cognitivism seeks to benefit humans by better understanding how the brain processes information. Cognitive psychologists use traditional scientific methods to study the mind, rather than focusing on observable behaviors or psychoanalysis.
Perception is a major area of cognitive psychology. Understanding how human beings see the world, and which factors influence personal perception, can be greatly important to predicting future behavior. In this area, a cognitive psychologist must be able to merge several disciplines of psychology while using a scientific method of study. Cognitivism, as defined by Ulric Neisser in 1967, suggests that the mind follows perceptive processes much like a computer processes information, but differs in that humans do so through a specific point of view. Studying perception allows the psychologist to research the questions at the heart of psychology: how does the human mind act, and what causes it to do so?
There are a variety of areas a cognitive psychologist can devote his or her time to studying. Understanding memory is a key area of the discipline, leading to research in how memory is stored or lost, and subsequently how memory processes can be improved. A psychologist interested in memory might work on improving or curing conditions like Alzheimer's, research better ways to help people come to terms with memories blocked by trauma, or even develop better memorization techniques for early education.
Improving education can be an important focus for a cognitive psychologist. By studying how people learn new information, cognitivism can help to create educational methods that emphasize improved learning techniques. By creating and developing new methods to make teaching more effective, a person in this field could help contribute to raising the overall education level of the population.
Some work in cognitive psychology focuses on the brain's relationship to language and linguistics. Cognitive psychologists may do research on speech problems and develop techniques to improve work in speech therapy. Studying how humans learn language can also tie in to education, as new methods of learning additional languages may help students become fluent faster.
Working as a cognitive psychologist can do much to improve human understanding of how learning and understanding works in the brain. Whether by focusing on memory, decision-making, or linguistics, a cognitive psychologist has an opportunity to contribute the the knowledge of the entire species. Although cognitivism is far from the only important psychological discipline, proponents believe it has the potential to bring great advances and benefits to the human race.