The cognitive model is based on the idea that faulty thinking causes faulty behaviour and that negative thoughts lead to irrational beliefs and illogical errors. There are three main areas of the model which are: Beck’s Cognitive Triad, Seligman’s Theory of Attribution and The Three Biases.

Beck’s Cognitive Triad

According to Beck, this is cycle which is thought to lead to depression. The components of the triad are: negative views about the world, negative views about oneself and negative views about the future. These is turn lead to each other.


Seligman’s Theory of Attribution

This is the theory that how a person perceives an event will affect their behaviour. An event can be: internal, external, stable, unstable, global and specific.

  • Example- failing a driving test.
  • Internal- “I need more lessons”  External- “The examiner didn’t like me”
  • Stable- “No matter what I do, I will always fail”  Unstable- “I’ll work hard and pass next time”
  • Global- “I will fail at life”  Specific- “I may fail my driving test, but I will pass other things”

The Three Biases

These are said to add to negative thoughts and irrational beliefs.

  • Attention- people with anxiety disorders automatically give attention to information they are anxious about; triggering maladaptive thoughts. (Maladaptive is another word for negative.)
  • Reasoning- people suffering from psychological disorders show biases in their reasoning.
  • Memory- people suffering from depression are more likely to recall negative information adding to irrational beliefs.

Overall Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strength- From people who suffer from abnormalities there is evidence of maladaptive thinking eg- anorexia nervosa.
  • Strength- The client takes part in the therapy and makes their own decisions, empowering them.
  • Weakness- You cannot demonstrate a cause and effect as you do not know whether the irrational thinking caused the abnormality or whether the abnormality caused the irrational thinking.
  • Weakness- The theory maintains that the individual is responsible for the abnormality so offers little sympathy.
  • Weakness- Negative thinking may be rational.
  • Weakness- It is not scientific as you cannot observe or test thoughts.