What Is Cognition?

All You Need To Know About Cognition

“Psychology is the science of mental life, both of its phenomena and their conditions. The phenomena are such things as we call feelings, desires, cognitions, reasonings, decisions, and the like.”

William James, Philosopher 

Article’s purpose: To teach you about the 6 different types of cognitive processes and the purpose of cognition, with a few scientific quotes and easy to watch videos thrown in along the way. 

Simply put:

Cognition = Our Thoughts 

Scientifically put:

“Cognition refers to the mental process by which external or internal input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered and used. As such, it involves a variety of functions such as perception, attention, memory coding, retention, and recall, decision- making, reasoning, problem-solving, imaging, planning and executing actions.” 

Ulric Neisser, Psychologist 

There are 6 main types of cognitive processes: 

1. Language

Learn about the 6 different types of cognitive processes and the purpose of cognition, with scientific quotes and cognition videos thrown in along the way.

Language is a form of communication we use each day. What do we mean by language? Language includes reading, speaking, listening and writing. Via these formats we can communicate and comprehend a variety of situations. Although it’s worth remembering that the use of language and cognition differs in different cultures and scenarios, for example spiritual silences where other cognitive benefits are gained. 

2. Attention 

Learn about the 6 different types of cognitive processes and the purpose of cognition, with scientific quotes and cognition videos thrown in along the way.

Being able to concentrate on one thing/item/task at a time. It could be a thought, no thought (i.e. meditation) or a physical object. 

A top tip to boost your attention comes from the Dana Foundation’s study, How Arts Training Improves Attention and Cognition. They found that “the practice of various art forms involves different sensory and motor areas in the brain” and “practicing a skill, either in the arts or in other areas, builds a rich repertoire of information related to the skill.” They highlight how scientists conducting neuroimaging studies of human tasks have “identified networks of widely scattered neural structures that act together to perform a given skill… With the arts being no exception… As we practice a task, its underlying network becomes more efficient and connections among brain areas that perform different aspects of the (attention) task become more tightly integrated.” So  why not do something artsy today like create a sculpture in the style of Grayson Perry and boost your attention ability? 

3. Memory 

Learn about the 6 different types of cognitive processes and the purpose of cognition, with scientific quotes and cognition videos thrown in along the way.

The memory is a hub of stored knowledge. Our brains are able to pick and choose which bits of knowledge to store in our memory. In a similar way to perception, memory allows us to recall and recognise objects, which in turn offers up the best way to respond and react to different situations. 

Not all information is stored, because there’s just way too much, so the memory chooses what to store and what not to store with its own unique criteria and filtering system. It’s important to note the connection between memory and attention: 

Marvin M Chun’s scientific report, Interactions between attention and memory highlights how attention and memory cannot operate without each other, “Memory has a limited capacity and thus attention determines what will be encoded.” If the attention is divided during this encoding, the formation of conscious memories is prevented/restricted. 

Chun discusses how the “brain areas that are important for memory, such as the hippocampus and medial temporal lobe structures, are recruited (used) in attention tasks and memory directly affects frontal-parietal networks involved in spatial orienting.” Proving that memory and attention are acutely interlinked. So it’s worth training both at the same time! 

4. Perception

Learn about the 6 different types of cognitive processes and the purpose of cognition, with scientific quotes and cognition videos thrown in along the way.

Perception taps into old stored information and new information to enable the brain to process, make sense of, respond to and perceive different situations. Perception involves touch, smell, sight and hearing to optimally function. All of this information is then transformed into outputs such as conversation, flavour detection and new ideas.

5. Learning

Learn about the 6 different types of cognitive processes and the purpose of cognition, with scientific quotes and cognition videos thrown in along the way.

When we learn we process new information and gain new knowledge. When stored information from the past meets new information, our brain’s ability to store knowledge is boosted.

Our top tip to boost learning is to make learning interactive. This can be extremely beneficial when it comes to storing the knowledge long-term. 

6. Higher Reasoning

Your cognition goes into full-steam-ahead action when it comes to this cognition process. Higher reasoning involves day to day and bigger decision making, planning your schedule or plotting your lifeplan, solving big and small problems and as the name suggests; reasoning. 

Whether the higher reasoning is done internally or out loud with a friend, the processes are pretty similar. The more the topic in question is studied, take for example someone reading extensively about insomnia, the more chance there is that that person will be able to engage in a higher level of reasoning when it comes to sleep. 

Still baffled by cognition? Check out the videos below and write some notes for a more interactive learning experience: 

Useful Cognition Videos 

For a high-paced, informative video with an energetic (you’ve been warned) scientist, watch this video: 

Cognition – How your mind can amaze and betray you: crash course psychology:

For a very matter of fact set of slides to help explain cognition and its processes, watch this video: 

Cognition and cognitive processes by Debra Davis: 

For a cool video on cognition watch this one: 

Cognitive Science Rescues the Deconstructed Mind by John Vervaeke

Discover our latest articles on brain health, cognitive development and wellbeing:

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Sources Cited:

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michael_Posner/publication/255655328_How_Arts_Training_Improves_Attention_and_Cognition/links/53d6430f0cf2a7fbb2ea97be/How-Arts-Training-Improves-Attention-and-Cognition.pdf

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959438807000360

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/cognition

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th edition, published in 2000)

All information featured in Peak – Brain Training articles are provided for informational purposes only and are not substitutes for medical or physician advice.

Maisie Bygraves

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