Cognitive Psychology Definition, Theories and Examples
Cognitive psychology is the scientific investigation of human mental abilities which includes perception, learning, thinking, understanding and remembering. Basically, cognitive psychology assesses how people get and make use of knowledge or information. It is influenced by artificial intelligence, philosophy, computer science and neuroscience. Just like physics, experiments are the main research tools in cognitive psychology ( Douglas, Scott, 2015). Mostly, the prediction of the models is compared directly to human behavior. On the other hand, individual differences explain the reality of traits that differentiate people, hence every person’s individuality can be defined. Intelligence, values and personality traits are among the most important kinds of individual differences. Individual differences contribute to the shaping of behavior and to every individual’s sense of self. This paper seeks to use psychological research to critically evaluate the importance of cognitive psychology and the psychology of individual differences for understanding employee behavior.
In a work environment, individuals exhibit differences such as unique values, emotions, personalities and mood. When new workers join an organization, their stable characteristics affect how they act and perform. Furthermore, firms employ people with the expectation that those people have various skills, abilities, values and personalities. Hence, it is crucial to understand personal characteristics that matter for employee behavior at work places. Cognitive psychology can have many effects to both personal and workplace issues. One, since the field of cognitive psychology studies the mental process, how they function, what parts of the brain may be engaged in each one, how they are different and how they may be similar among individuals and the effect of nature and nurture of every process(Cucina, 2018). Together with other disciplines such as neuroscience, cognitive psychology can be used in terms of understanding development and function, improving learning, methods and motivation, and assisting employees understand better and control their emotions and behavior appropriately.
Although people bring their traits to their places of work, each organization is different, and each job within the firm is also different. According to (Bleidorn, 2019)) behavior is a function of the person and the situation interacting with each other. For instance, a shy person would not speak up in class, but even though the person may not feel like talking, he or she is very much interested in the subject, knows the answers to the questions asked and is comfortable in the class environment, and if the tutor encourages participation and participation contributes to the course grade, despite the level of shyness, the person may feel obligated to participate. Likewise, the expected behavior from a proactive and creative person, who is also willing to take risks, depends on the situation. During recruitment of new employees, organizations considers two types of fit. The organizational fit, which means to the level at which the morals, goals, individual and other characteristics of a person are the same to those of an organization. Person-job fit, is the extent to which an applicant’s skills, abilities and other traits match job demands. Therefore, a creative and pro-active person can be a good fit to those organizations which uses high level of technology hence benefiting from persons willing to take risks, but can be a bad fit for an organization that recognize predictable and routine behavior like teachers. Likewise, an individual can be a good fit to a scientist job but a poor fit for a routine office job
The first thing many employers look at is the person-job fit. This is common since a person’s job fit is associated to various positive work attitudes like work satisfaction, identification with the organization, work environment fulfillment and job behavior such as teamworking. Organizations are also interested in employing people who will fit into the culture of the company such as those with high person-organization fit. When people fit into the organization, they are likely to be more satisfied with their jobs, more committed, and as a result more influential in their company not forgetting that they actually remain longer in the company. However, controversy comes in on whether such people perform better. According to recent studies, a best relationship between job performance and person-organization fit was found, but the evidence was not available in all research, so that it appears that focusing on an organization culture will only at times determines job performance (Douglas, et. al, 2015). It also appears that fitting in with the culture of the organization is more crucial to some individuals than others. For instance, people who have worked in various organizations seem to recognize the effect of a organization’s culture easily and hence are very attentive to whether they will march in with the firm when making decisions.
Values are the degree of importance that people place on their life goals to achieve. They are developed throughout the life of an individual being the result of person’s experience in life and seem to be stabilized relatively. Those values that are important to people affects their decisions in life, their actual behavior and how they see the environment. Furthermore, people tend to focus on those jobs that that places importance on their values. As such, value achievement is among the reasons why an individual maintains their jobs in an organization and they can leave their jobs when the organization is unable to help them meet their values since they are unsatisfied with their jobs. Terminal values are those end states people wish to achieve in life, like living a successful life as well as peaceful environment. On the other hand, instrumental values deal with perceptions on good modes of conducts like honesty, ambitions or being ethical. An accurate method of assessing a person’s value is to request them to list thirty-six values sequentially according to their preference. Through comparison of these values, people can develop a sense of which value can be sacrificed in order to achieve the other as the individual priority of every value emerges.
Values are determined by early life and get stable during the course of time. Those people who grew up in a low economic status family and those whose parents were strict to them are seen to have good values during adulthood, while those raised by parents who are tough towards them are likely to desire and value security. It is important to note that the values held by a person affect their employment. For instance, an individual who has passion towards strong stimulation, they go for those employment which involves fast actions and high risks such as police officer and firefighting. Someone who has a drive for accomplishment may readily act as an entrepreneur. Besides, if individuals will be satisfied at a given job could depend on whether the job offers a way to satisfy their key values. Hence, understanding employees at work, needs considering their value orientation.
Traits comprises the reasonably continuous attitude, patterns of behavior and the thoughts that an individual have. Personalities differentiate people while getting to know someone’s trait provides hint on how that individual is going to perform and feel in various conditions. To manage the behavior in an organization effectively as well as getting knowledge about the personalities of various employees is critical in an organization. This understanding also helps in giving people jobs and organizations. Whether employee behavior is dependent on their personality can be explained in various ways. For instance, having an outgoing and sociable trait may inspire employees to pursue friendship and opt for social conditions. However, this does not mean that their trait will affect their job behavior. During work, there are roles to perform and a job to do. Hence, people’s expectations may affect strongly their behavior, as compared to how they desire to behave. The trait of an individual has influences on their behavior if they have freedom at workplace (Covina & Bile, 2018). Also, moods determines the behavior of people. People with good moods tend to be more active, act friendly and happy face. People in a bad mood are pickier and less tolerant to different opinions. Nonetheless, some people tend to be in a good mood most of the time while others seem to be in a bad mood most of the time irrespective of the current occurrence in their lives.
As a result, personality is potentially a predictor of employee behavior at work. Giving people the right jobs matters, since if people do not march with their jobs or the organization, they are likely to quit their jobs, organizations will incur costs of replacing such a person. During interviews, organizations try to investigate a candidate’s traits and the probability for the best fit but interviews can only be good depending on the people conducting them. Referring to (Kim, et.al 2017), The effectiveness of selection of personality is improved by its tests as well as reducing revenue. Employers however need to understand that employee personality is not only determined by their behavior, preferences and values but also of the situation. Employees understanding of their environment, come up with responses and act as expected. Perception is the process by which people detect and interpret the environmental stimuli. The fact that people do not solely respond to stimuli in our environment, makes human perception interesting. People go beyond information present in their environment, pay attention to some aspects and ignore other elements which may be immediately apparent to other people. How people perceive the environment is not entirely rational. For example, while glancing at a newspaper, or a news website, interesting or important information catches the eye inevitably. Similarly, our emotions, fears, needs and what we value are determined by what we view in the environment.
Personality traits are grouped into five categories. Accommodating attitude is the extent to which an individual is inquisitive, accepting new ideas and imaginative. Those individuals who are very open; appear to flourish in conditions which need high flexibility and fast learning of new skills. Such people are very motivated and they perform well in a training setting. They are also at an advantage when joining a new organization. Their open-minded state directs them to pursue a lot of information and feedback on how they are doing as well as building a relationship which ultimately results to faster adjustments to the new work. When they are given support, they become more creative. Such employees are easy to adapt to changes, and group which pass through unforeseen changes in their work perform well if they are inhabited by open-minded people. In comparison with people of low openness, they are likely to use their new ideas to come up with new businesses.
Other trait is conscientiousness. The trait means the extent to which a person is goal oriented, time conscious and systematic. This is a trait of person which enables one to predict equally the highest performance level of a person, across various jobs and occupations. This trait of Conscientiousness is mostly preferred by the interviewers since it leads to successful interviews. It is not surprising, together with their high performance, such individuals have a high incentive to perform, exercising safety performance at work with low revenue levels and less absenteeism. An employee’s conscientiousness is associated to success of their career and satisfaction derived from it. Finally, people of high conscientiousness have more potential to begin and run their own business with high rate of survival.
Extraversion is also another personality trait which gives the degree to which an employee is outgoing, sociable, talkative and likes being in social places. Findings have concluded that such people appear to be effective in work involving sales and marketing. Furthermore, they seem to be effective managers and they exhibit inspirational leadership behavior. Extraverts perform well in social situations and as such, are more efficient during interviews of various jobs. Some of their achievement is determined by how prepared they are for their interviews and the utilization of social media to network. Such employees easily adapt to a new job unlike introverts. They actively look for information and feedback to generate reliable relationships which assists when adjusting to a new job. It is interesting that extraverts are happier at work which may result from the relationships that they build with the people around them (Dåderman, 2019). Nonetheless, they do not perform well in all jobs, and jobs depriving them social interactions are a poor fit. Additionally, they are not model employees such that they seem to have higher levels of absenteeism at work, probably since they may miss work to go out or attend to their friends.
Some employees are also tolerant, trusting, nice and warm so that they are high in agreeableness and are likely to get along with others. Such employees help others with work consistently and this helping behavior is not dependent of being in good mood. They are also not likely to retaliate when treated unfairly by other people. This demonstrates their ability to express empathy and give people the benefit of doubt. Such employees may be a valuable addition to their teams as well as effective leaders since they offer a fair environment when in leadership positions (Douglas & Scott, 2015). On another end, people lows in agreeableness are not likely to exhibit such positive behavior. Additionally, employees who are not agreeable are likely to quit their jobs without notice perhaps responding to conflict with a boss or colleagues. The fact that agreeable people are nice begs the question whether only agreeable people should be hired. Some jobs are actually better fit for someone with a low level of agreeableness. When hiring a lawyer for example, are the kind gentle persons preferred cover the pit-bull personalities. Also, a high agreeableness has its fair share of shortcomings particularly since agreeable people are not likely to take part in constructive and revolutionary communication. Disagreeing with the state of affairs may create chaos and agreeable people are likely to avoid creating such conflict, missing a platform for constructive change.
The fifth trait is neuroticism. This is extent to which an employee is irritable, unpredictable and moody. Such employees have an affinity to have emotional change issue and experiences stress and depression habitually. According to (Arshad & Ismail, 2018), people high in neuroticism are less likely to make friends or give advice where necessary. This also means that they may experience relationship problems. They are constantly not satisfied in their work and show less interest and wishing to leave without actions of getting out of the place. To be high in neuroticism is harmful to a person’s career since they minimize their levels of career success. When such employees achieve managerial or leadership tasks, they create an unfair environment at the place of work.
On top of the major five personality traits, the most renowned method of personality evaluation is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Compared to the five major traits, which does not classify people as neurotic or extravert, this method assesses and classifies people into one of sixteen types. This test however is specifically designed for learning as opposed to employee selection purposes. It provides a mutual appreciation within the team and acquires a better understanding of the working styles of team members (Furnham, 2020). Positive-effective people, for instance, experience positive moods more often while the negative effective people experience negative moods at a higher frequency. They are more pessimistic and undergo through fear and anxiousness. People who are positive-minded are motivated at the work place, and their enthusiasm are appealing to other employees in the organization. In most cases, such a personality trait become a benchmarking point in an organization. A group which has people of negative effects, in most cases leads to less cooperation and offering support (Joo, 2019). On the other hand, groups with positive effective employees have lower cases of non-attendance in work place. Also, if people in leadership are of high positive affectivity, the working environment is affected in a positive way and can result to greater levels of cooperation and finding equally agreeable solutions to issues.
The self-monitoring employees are those able to monitor their actions and appearances in social circumstances. This also means that social monitors people are also social camouflages people who mostly understand what the situation requires and perform as expected. On the other hand, social monitors are likely to perform according to their feelings. People of high social monitors are keen to the various kinds of behaviors according to what the situation demands and to manage their impressions efficiently is beneficial to them. Basically, they are more successful in their careers and are most likely to get cross- company promotions, and are more likely to advance in an organization when they stay (Kudret, et. al, 2019). Individuals of social monitors are also interactive persons in their organizations and they like leadership in their general relationships. They are considered to be best performing individuals as well as leaders. Though they are not well in manipulating and directing other employees, they get work performed through their impression management, this character is not without shortcomings. For instance, when evaluating the performance of the employees, they may intentionally avoid giving the correct information to their juniors to keep off confrontations.
A proactive personality defines an employee’s determination to correct what is seen to be wrong, modify the state of affairs and utilize available initiatives to find solutions to the problems. Such people initiate meaningful modifications by taking actions without waiting instructions to be given and get rid of the barriers they encounter. Basically, having a proactive personality has various advantages such that they are seen to be more successful when searching jobs. Also, (Jiang, 2017) asserts that they have higher chances of being successful during their employment period since they make use of creativity and get more knowledge of governance within their organizations. They are valuable to the organization due to their high levels of performance.
That said cognitive psychology and the psychology of individual differences are crucial when understanding employee behavior. As earlier discussed, different employees exhibit different values, personality traits, patterns of behavior as well as how they think and remember. As such, for managers, interviewers and employers, making use of such knowledge helps match the employees with the right jobs while for employees, they can suit best in organizations that uphold their values. In a nutshell, understanding employee behavior is a key determinant in the success of a company and the success of the employee. It also crucial when choosing team leaders and top leaders since various personalities match such responsibilities and affect effectiveness during work periods.