CogniFit's Science blog: What Is Cognition?

What Is Cognition?

Cognition is a term which generally refers to a variety of mental processes. Let’s discuss this in further detail. Cognition encompasses a number of mental processes. They are higher order functions in the brain as opposed to automatic functions such as the regulation of heartbeat, breathing, etc.

Some of the processes which encompass cognition include things like attention, memory (short and long term), the ability to speak and understand language, problem solving abilities, and the ability to discriminate and make decisions based on external stimuli and input.

Cognition occurs when the brain takes in information from a variety of sources. This can be stimuli which are visual based or sound based. It can also come from touch or taste. The brain then processes this information and responds in a manner which fits the particular situation.

For example a person can view a symbol and through a variety of mental processes, recognize that this symbol represents the letter A. If this person is able to view and process a number of symbols, he/she may then be able to tie that pattern into a word.

Further cognitive functions are used to take that word and derive meaning from it. Or a person may receive auditory stimuli and be able to interpret it as a random sound or word depending on a number of factors.

Even something as simple as receiving an unpleasant touch stimuli and knowing to avoid it is a cognitive function. Cognition is directly involved in learning. And memory and memory training is a very important aspect of learning.

Without the ability to receive input, organize it, store it and then later retrieve it, learning is virtually impossible. We learn as a result of our experiences so it’s vitally important to be able to retrieve data from this grouping of experiences and apply it in such a way that it allows us to create new information or respond to different stimuli appropriately.

There are a number of scientific disciplines which are involved in the study of cognition. Some of them assist people in functioning at a higher level and others help us to better understand why we sometimes do the things we do.

In any case cognition is one of the key aspects of our mental functions which separates us from virtually all other living creatures. It is what helps to shape who we are and how we respond to the world around us. Better understanding of these cognitive functions helps us to function better as individuals.