Recently I've been reading about the subject, and I have trouble finding a definite difference between the two. What is the difference between behaviorism and cognitivism?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to cogsci.SE! More information would make this question much easier to answer. Where have you been reading about these two? With respect to what area of psychology or cognitive science? How do these approaches seem similar? $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Oct 21, 2014 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ The field of cognitive neuroscience! I understand that it is a blackbox(input then see the result) vs. whitebox(see how the underlaying structure is) approach. However I am having trouble finding examples! $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2014 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ "The field of cognitive neuroscience" doesn't actually give any more information. Where, specifically--what articles or books? I see you've accepted an answer below, but more information might get further answers or examples; generally, around here, the more work you put in the question, the more work people are willing to put into answering it. $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Oct 22, 2014 at 12:38
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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, I found OP's question to be pretty clear and I think you guys are being harsh with the downvotes. =/ $\endgroup$ Oct 23, 2014 at 9:50

2 Answers 2


Short answer: Behaviorism treats the human brain/mind like a black box whose internal processes cannot be known. As such, behaviorists claim that it only makes sense to study the association between a given stimulus and the behavioral output it produces.

Cognitivists, on the other hand, examine internal mental processes (attention, executive control, predictive coding, etc) and are just as interested in what behavior a stimulus elicits as how it elicits it.

  • $\begingroup$ Perfect answer! Thank you, you set my mind in the right perspective now. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2014 at 7:27

Comparison between Behaviorist Theory and Cognitivist Theory

What is the Behaviourist Theory? Behaviorist theory says that learning is nothing more than the acquisition of new behaviour based on environmental conditions – linking a new behaviour to a stimulus by providing reinforcement after the correct behaviour is produced. The Theorists : Pavlov (1849 – 1936) Skinner (1904 – 1990) Watson (1878 – 1958)

The Behaviorist approach to language learning grew out of the belief that students could learn a second language by being taught to produce the correct “response” to the appropriate stimulus. The students would then receive either instant positive or instant negative “reinforcement” in the shape of either correction or praise from the teacher.

What is the Cognitivist Theory? A cognitive theory of learning sees second language acquisition as a conscious and reasoned thinking process, involving the deliberate use of learning strategies. Learning strategies are special ways of processing information that enhance comprehension, learning or retention of information. This explanation of language learning contrasts strongly with the behaviourist account of language learning, which sees language learning as an unconscious, automatic process.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to CogSci and thanks for the answer. Could you please add sources to your answer to allow other users to background read on your material? Further, the numbering of the paragraphs does not seem to make much sense. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    May 13, 2017 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ Tried to tidy up the response a bit. Please feel free to roll back changes if this doesn't reflect the info you were trying to give (I didn't change any content). $\endgroup$
    – mflo-ByeSE
    May 13, 2017 at 17:02

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