Cognitive approach

The cognitive approach is one of the units in the core. The unit focuses on two different cognitive processes - memory and decision making.

There are clear links between the memory aspect of the unit and Theory of Knowledge.

This unit provides a lot of good research that can be replicated in order to meet the requirements for the internal assessment.

This section contains activities and curriculum tips, teaching ideas, revision strategies, key studies, a question bank and writing samples for different SAQs and ERQs.

Learning objectives

The curriculum does not have clearly defined learning objectives, but the questions are set by using the first two columns of the grid in the curriculum guide.  Below you will find the key areas of understanding that students must address for the unit.


  • Ethical considerations related to research studies in the cognitive approach to studying behaviour.
  • How and why particular research methods are used in the cognitive approach.
  • Evaluation of research methods used to study cognitive processes.

Cognitive processing

  • Schema theory
  • Multi-store model of memory
  • Thinking and decision making (The concepts of thinking and decision making will be interchangeable.)
  • Working memory model

Reliability of cognitive processes

  • Reconstructive memory
  • Cognitive biases (Candidates should be able to discuss two biases).

Emotion and cognition

  • One theory of how emotion affects a cognitive process - e.g. flashbulb memory theory

HL extension: Cognitive processing in a digital world

  • The influence of digital technology on cognitive processes and human interaction.
  • Positive and negative effects of modern technology on cognitive processes.
  • Research methods used to study the interaction between digital technology and cognitive processes.
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