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?
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.
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.