Comparing Behavioral and Cognitive Theories

ComparingBehavioral and Cognitive Theories&nbsp


ComparingBehavioral and Cognitive Theories

Behavioraltheorists explained that behavior is learned from experience. Theybelieved that environmental influences control people thus, thebasis for learning is by observing others. The behavioral theory isbased on the idea of training an individual to teach the appropriatebehavior through classical and operant training (Engler, 2013). Onthe other hand, the cognitive theory deals with the mental process ofperception, recollection, and reasoning. The concept determinespeople’s emotional reactions towards their environment. The modelconsiders the early childhood experiences and holds the belief thatactions continue to be reinforced throughout an individual’slifespan (Engler, 2013). Consequently, the cognitive theory issimilar to behavioral model because they suggest that experience andfeedback are crucial to the learning process, but they differ instrategies used to teach behavior.

Thetwo concepts suggest that experience is the most important factorthat facilitates learning because an individual can study and adaptthe appropriate actions. Moreover, the concepts emphasize thatfeedback is essential to ensure that a person knows if he or she ismaking any positive progress (Engler, 2013). Both theories usereinforcement and punishment to encourage good behavior and eliminateunwanted actions. However, these two theories have defining featuresthat distinctively differentiate them. The behavioral theoristsdescribe learning is a transformation that is observable in behavior.Therefore, it is possible to determine if an individual has learnedsomething if his or her actions changes (Engler, 2013). On thecontrary, the cognitive approach describes learning as an internalprocess that can cause immediate alterations in conduct. Besides, thecognitive theory explains that reinforcers and punishers inform anindividual of the expected behaviors to promote positive changes. Thebehavioral concept explains that environment causes certain actionswhile the cognitive model suggests that environment, personalfactors, and behaviors are interrelated thus, they impact thelearning process (Engler, 2013).

Lastly,therapists may differ when applying the cognitive and behavioralapproaches. When using the behavioral theory, the psychoanalystevaluates how the environment directly correlates to client’sbehavior thus, determine the best way to make the desired changes(Engler, 2013). However, a therapist applying the cognitive approachwill have to assess the impact of the environment and personalfactors on the client’s actions to establish the best way toachieve the set goals (Engler, 2013). Therefore, although the twotheories share some similarities, their application in counselingrequires a different tactic.


Engler,2013). PersonalityTheories(9th ed.). Belmont CA: Cengage Learning.