Difference Between Behaviourism and Cognitive Psychology (With Table)

Every individual in the world behaves differently because everyone is different in their own way. Behaviour of a person plays a significant role because behaviour can change with change in various factors.

The study of behaviourism is a branch of psychology and the study deals with studying a person’s mental thoughts and behaviour. Cognitive psychology, on the other hand, deals with the study of psychology and this is also another branch of the psychology department.

Behaviourism vs Cognitive Psychology

The main difference between behaviourism and cognitive psychology as behaviourism is concerned with the study of the behaviour of an individual whereas cognitive psychology understands the concept of decision making of a person.

It is quite simple to understand the difference between these two terms because the name itself suggests everything about it. Behaviourism will deal with how a person behaves in a different situation whereas cognitive psychology only means understanding the concept of the memory of a person. You must note that these two terms are only observed only in the case of human beings only as animals’ psychology is not explained under this behaviour.

Comparison Table Between Behaviourism and Cognitive Psychology

Parameters of Comparison


Cognitive Psychology


Behaviourism means studying human behaviour or human behaviour is based on behaviourism.

The capability of human minds to process various kinds of information is called cognitive psychology.


Behaviourism refuses the involvement of self-analysis.

Cognitive psychology, on the other hand, accepts the involvement of self-analysis.

Aims at

Behaviourism aims to determine as to which cues elicit the responses in an individual.

Cognitive psychology, on the other hand, aims on mental activities.


Feedbacks are required as it will modify behaviour for the desired direction

Feedback is supported to guide accurate mental connections.


J.B. Watson and B. F. Skinner

Jean Paget

Focus on

Observable behaviour

Mental thoughts and activites, and processes.

Based on

It is based on stimulus and response.

Based on mental processing.

What is Behaviourism?

Behaviourism means studying the behaviour of human beings. It is to be kept in mind that under this theory animals are not considered. Behaviourism is a systematic approach to understand human behaviour assuming that behaviour is a reflex.

A behaviour will occur when there is an interaction with the environment and due to this many behaviourists believe that an individual’s responses to the environmental stimuli will shape our actions also. Behaviourism is a branch of psychology.

A well-known behaviourist or psychologist Ivan Parlov came out with two methods of behaviour condition: classical and operant conditioning. Well, in classical conditioning an individual is conditioned to act in a certain manner by repetitive practice.

Operant conditioning, on the other hand, is some part based on rewarding desirable behaviour and some on punishment for the behaviour that needs to be curbed. Let’s take an example here and say that a student going to the school only learns because he will get rewards if he learns properly and if he does not learn properly then he will get punishment.

Now, you might be wondering why the study of behaviourism is important. Well, it is because behaviourism theory has contributed a lot in the field of applied psychology and thus this theory is very useful in detoxification and rehab centers for people who are addicted to drugs and alcoholic stuff.

Behaviourism solely rests that the external environment can change a person’s behaviour. An example taken above is the perfect example to understand the behaviourism theory. The main goal of this theory is to predict and control behaviour.

What is Cognitive Psychology?

Cognitive Psychology, on the other hand, is a psychology field of study where the study of the mental processes is done. Cognitive Psychology is a part of the psychology field and it is just another branch of the field. Cognitive psychology does not study the behaviour of an individual because here an individual’s mental process, memory, logical thinking positive and negative thoughts are based.

In simple words, everything that goes inside your brain falls under this category of study. Let’s take the same example as above to understand cognitive psychology. In the behaviourism theory, we took an example where the student’s behaviour changes if he does not learn just because of the fear that he might be punished by his teacher.

In the case of cognitive psychology, a student will study and learn only because he/she has motivational thoughts and inner thought process that help them gain more knowledge and do better.

Cognitive Psychology too has contributed to the field of psychology as this study helps to treat depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety disorders, and other psychiatric problems. Well, a cognitive psychologist will help a depressed person to make him understand what his problems are and will help the depressed person to improve their thinking.

Main Differences Between Behaviourism and Cognitive Psychology

  1. Behaviourism deals with the study of human behaviour that changes with the external environment whereas cognitive psychology deals with mental processes.
  2. Self-analysis is accepted in the case of cognitive psychology whereas behaviourism theory does not accept the self-analysis.
  3. The contributors of behaviourism theory are J.B. Watson and B.F Skinner whereas cognitive psychology was contributed by Jean Paget.
  4. The behaviourism theory is based on stimulus and response whereas cognitive psychology is based on mental processing.
  5. Both these theories are very helpful in their way because both are necessary for helping human beings.


Both these two theories are very important and both these theories have a significant contributions to the psychology department. Therapists need to study both of them so that they can help people put who are having mental stress or suffering from depression.


  1. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/BF00052382.pdf
  2. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1993-99016-000
  3. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=lang_en&id=5Hv8AgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=behaviourism+and+cognitive+psychology&ots=b6iMzRqMdQ&sig=qBF9-9GILs3YhaVDqwO-f6zCSuQ