Role of Cognition in Behavior Therapy

Perhaps because of a desire to discard anything that smacked of mentalism or inner processes, early behavior therapists resolutely rejected all forms of cognitive influence. Within two decades this situation changed drastically so that behavior therapy in the 1980s was in the throes of what was termed the "cognitive revolution." The emphasis on the role of cognition aroused considerable dispute and dialogue within the ranks of behavior therapy. For some behavior therapists, cognitions are not behaviors, but are hypothetical constructs used to account for relationships between the environment and behavior. For others, cognition is an integral part of behavior therapy, to be accounted for either in terms of some form of conditioning or by the introduction of an as yet undetermined additional explanatory concept.

The precise relationship between cognition and behavior remains equivocal. All therapies are probably simultaneously cognitive and behavioral to a greater or lesser extent. Further clarification must await the development of an appropriate technology of brain-behavior-cognitive function.

Virtually all current procedures in behavior therapy involve some cognitive influence. Most behavior therapists reject the radical or metaphysical approach in favor of some form of methodological behaviorism. It is more appropriate to regard contemporary behavior therapists as behavioral rather than behavioristic. Nevertheless, the debate about the behaviorism in behavior therapy is far from resolved, and the issue of what is and what is not philosophically legitimate remains a matter of lively controversy.

Certain individuals recognize the impossibility of philosophical or conceptual integration between psychoanalysis and behavior therapy but insist that some form of interaction is both feasible and desirable at the level of practice.

Cyril M. Franks Rutgers University

See also: Behaviorism; Cognitive Therapies; Operant Conditioning

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