Psychological Series #25: Cognitive Psychology]


  The term cognition mans thinking. Human beings are thinking animals.  We are always thinking. In fact, there is no time that we are not thinking. We even think in our sleep. Dreaming is our thinking transformed into images, pictures.

  Cognition and mentation mean the same thing. Mentation is thinking (hence mental disorders are thinking disorders and mental illness is cognitive and behavioral disorders).

  Cognitive psychology studies how people think.  Human beings have patterns to their thinking and we can understand those patterns and enhance them, where they are useful and extinguish them, where they are unproductive.


   Human beings have nervous systems, particularly the central nervous systems (brain, spine).  Much of their thinking takes place in their nervous system. Therefore, the science of the brain, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology are related.

To really understand human thinking we must understand the human brain at the physiological level; we must understand brain physics, chemistry and biology if we are to understand how human beings think and behave. The study of Psychology is increasingly becoming the study of the human brain, neuroscience.

Cognitive psychology studies brain science, neuroscience and human thinking processes.


  For our present purposes, what I want to observe is that people do have thinking disorders.  That is to say that they think in such a manner that the result is bad behaviors. Hence we study cognitions and behaviors conjointly. At the intervention level, we attempt cognitive behavior therapy. This means that psychotherapists attempt to simultaneously change the individual's thinking and behavior patterns.

  Epictetus, a Roman stoic philosopher, said that it is not only what happens in the environment that makes people fearful, anxious, sad, happy, paranoid etc but how they think about it.  That is, the individual's thinking, his interpretation of the stimulus emanating from his environment plays a role in his mental equilibrium.  One can think differently about the same event.

Consider.  A person calls one a put down name.  This may depress one and make one feel lowered self esteem. If a white person called a black person a nigger, the black person could feel sad about himself.  On the other hand, the black person may choose to say that other people's opinion of him is not his opinion of himself, that other people do not have all the facts about which he is, and that therefore what they say does not describe him well.  A black person may even choose to pity a white person who puts him down by telling himself that one must feel inferior and inadequate to feel that he would be important only when he puts other people down. One can feel good about ones self by not putting other people down and by working for our common good.

   An event that can be interpreted as threatening ones life hence generating fear and anxiety in one can differently be seen as an opportunity to overcome the obstacle.  Let us say that a white racist threatens a black person's life, that could make him fell anxious, but he can choose to fight back, physically and or legally, and in doing so develop courage and self respect.

  An event that could make one suspicious, fearful and paranoid could also dispose one to choose to investigate it, as objectively as is possible. Thus, paranoia is choice for one can choose not to be suspicious, guarded, scanning of ones world; one can choose to understand why one and people are prone to fear and overcome it.   

  Cognitive behavior psychology studies how people think and where thinking patterns seem to generate inappropriate behaviors teach alternative thinking and behavior patterns.  It attempts to restructure and reoriented people's thinking patterns.

A self defeating thinking pattern could be corrected and made self serving thinking pattern. A thinking pattern that produced anxiety, depression and or paranoia could be changed to produce more positive affects for the individual.

  In a different paper, I pointed out that most of what is called mental disorders is really thinking disorders. The mentally disordered person thinks in a disordered manner. Consider the schizophrenic and the manic.  In these mental disorders individuals thinking are disordered. We can teach them to think in a different manner. When the individual thinks that other people are out to get him, he can be taught that no one is ought to get him; when he thinks that he is very important, is a god in his powerfulness, he can be taught that in reality all human beings are the same and coequal.

   Mental health is exactly that, thinking health, thinking orderly, thinking appropriately.  Through instruction in correct thinking, the individual's mental disorder can be healed.


   I am interested in Igbo group paranoia. As I have pointed out elsewhere, many Igbos tend to be paranoid in their thinking and behaving, and like most paranoids, of course, deny that they have mental health issues (they attack me for pointing out their paranoia, instead of being grateful to me for pointing out their obvious issues). 

  My goal is to teach these people to think in a logical and mentally healthy manner.  No body is out to get you/them; no body is demeaning you/them; relax and trust every person in your world. Give up your grandiose desire to be superior to other people. See yourself as the same and coequal with all people. See all people as friends, and work for our common social interest and you heal your thinking disorder called paranoia. 

   Paranoia is thinking, that is, a mentational, cognitive and behavioral disorder; it can be understood and healed through changed thinking and behaving patterns.

   Cognitive psychology and cognitive behavior therapy aims at understanding how people think and behave and where their thinking and behaving are problematic change them, so as to produce healthier patterns of thinking and behaving. If the individual is, for example, prone to anger, he can be taught how he thinks and behaves when he is angry. Subsequently he can be taught how to think and behave differently, so as not to be angry. 

  It is not the environmental stimulus, the person who attacked one, alone, that made one angry, it is how one interpreted his attack.  One can interpret the same stimulus, attack, different and behave differently.  One can think and behave differently. Human beings have choices as to how to think and behave; they are not programmed to think and behave only in one set pattern.   March 9, 2006  
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