Aug 252011


Cognition: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cognition is the scientific term for mental processes. These processes include attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science. Usage of the term varies in different disciplines; for example in psychology and cognitive science, it usually refers to an information processing view of an individual’s psychological functions. It is also used in a branch of social psychology called social cognition to explain attitudes, attribution and groups dynamics.

The term cognition (Latin: cognoscere, “to know”, “to conceptualize” or “to recognize”) refers to a faculty for the processing of information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences. Cognition, or cognitive processes, can be natural or artificial, conscious or unconscious. These processes are analyzed from different perspectives within different contexts, notably in the fields of linguistics, anesthesia, neurology and psychiatry, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, systemics, computer science and creed. Within psychology or philosophy, the concept of cognition is closely related to abstract concepts such as mind, intelligence, cognition is used to refer to the mental functions, mental processes (thoughts) and states of intelligent entities (humans, human organizations, highly autonomous machines and artificial intelligences).


  • 1 Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
  • 2 Psychology
  • 3 Cognition as social process
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 Further reading
  • 7 External links

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

For years, sociologists and psychologists have conducted studies on Cognitive Development or the construction of human thought or mental processes.

Jean Piaget was one of the more important and influential people in the field of Developmental Psychology. He believed that humans are unique in comparison to animals because we have the ability to do “abstract symbolic reasoning.” His work can be compared to Lev Vygotsky, Sigmund Freud, and Erik Erikson who were also great contributors in the field of Developmental Psychology.

Piaget’s theory of Developmental Psychology tackled cognitive development from infancy to adulthood.

Stage Age or Period Description
Sensorimotor stage Infancy Intelligence is present; motor activity but no symbols; knowledge is developing yet limited; knowledge is based on experiences/ interactions; mobility allows child to learn new things; some language skills are developed at the end of this stage
Pre-operational stage Toddler and Early Childhood Symbols or language skills are present; memory and imagination are developed; nonreversible and nonlogical thinking; egocentric thinking predominates
Concrete operational stage Elementary and Early Adolescence Logical and systematic form of intelligence; manipulation of symbols related to concrete objects; operational thinking predominates nonreversible and egocentric thinking
Formal operational stage Adolescence and Adulthood Logical use of symbols related to abstract concepts; egocentric thinking comes back early in this stage; formal thinking is uncommon



When the mind makes a generalization such as the concept of tree, it extracts similarities from numerous examples; the simplification enables higher-level thinking.

The sort of mental processes described as cognitive are largely influenced by research which has successfully used this paradigm in the past, likely starting with Thomas Aquinas, who divided the study of behavior into two broad categories: cognitive (how we know the world), and affective (feelings and emotions). Consequently, this description tends to apply to processes such as memory, association, concept formation, pattern recognition, language, attention, perception, action, problem solving and mental imagery.[1][2] Traditionally, emotion was not thought of as a cognitive process. This division is now regarded as largely artificial, and much research is currently being undertaken to examine the cognitive psychology of emotion; research also includes one’s awareness of their own strategies and methods of cognition called metacognition and includes metamemory.

Empirical research into cognition is usually scientific and quantitative, or involves creating models to describe or explain certain behaviors.

While few people would deny that cognitive processes are a function of the brain, a cognitive theory will not necessarily make reference to the brain or other biological process (compare neurocognitive). It may purely describe behavior in terms of information flow or function. Relatively recent fields of study such as cognitive science and neuropsychology aim to bridge this gap, using cognitive paradigms to understand how the brain implements these information-processing functions (see also cognitive neuroscience), or how pure information-processing systems (e.g., computers) can simulate cognition (see also artificial intelligence). The branch of psychology that studies brain injury to infer normal cognitive function is called cognitive neuropsychology. The links of cognition to evolutionary demands are studied through the investigation of animal cognition. And conversely, evolutionary-based perspectives can inform hypotheses about cognitive functional systems evolutionary psychology.

The theoretical school of thought derived from the cognitive approach is often called cognitivism.

The phenomenal success of the cognitive approach can be seen by its current dominance as the core model in contemporary psychology (usurping behaviorism in the late 1950s). Cognition is severely damaged in dementia.

Cognition as social process

It has been observed since antiquity that language acquisition in human children fails to emerge unless the children are exposed to language. Thus, language acquisition is an example of an emergent behavior. In this case, the individual is made up of a set of mechanisms “expecting” such input from the social world.

Education has the explicit task in society of developing student cognition. Choices are made regarding the environment and permitted action that lead to a formed experience. The macro-choices made by the teachers are extremely influential on the micro-choices made by students. For example, face perception in human babies emerges by the age of two months and so young children at a playground or swimming pool begin their social cognition by being exposed to multiple faces and associating the experiences to those faces.

From a large systemic perspective, cognition is considered closely related to the social and human organization functioning and constrains. Managerial decision making processes can be erroneous in politics, economy and industry for the reason of different reciprocally dependent socio-cognitive factors. This domain became the field of interest of emergent socio-cognitive engineering.

See also

In addition to the topics below, see the List of thinking-related topics
  • Cognitive bias
  • Cognitive linguistics
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Cognitive module
  • Jean Piaget
  • Cognitive space
  • Cognitive style
  • Comparative Cognition
  • Situated cognition
  • Embodied cognition
  • Educational psychology
  • Functional neuroimaging
  • Gestalt psychology
  • Holonomic brain theory
  • Intentionality
  • List of cognitive scientists
  • Philosophy of mind
  • Molecular Cellular Cognition
  • Numerical cognition
  • Personal knowledge management
  • Santiago theory of cognition
  • Theory of cognitive development
  • Theory of mind
  • Decade of the Mind
cognition Wikibooks has a book on the topic of

Cognitive psychology
cognition Wikiversity has learning materials about Cognition

Wikipedia portals

  • Portal:thinking
  • Portal:philosophy


  1. ^ Sensation & Perception, 5th ed. 1999, Coren, Ward & Enns, p. 9
  2. ^ Cognitive Psychology, 5th ed. 1999, Best, John B., p. 15-17

Further reading

  • Coren, Stanley; Lawrence M. Ward, James T. Enns (1999). Sensation and Perception. Harcourt Brace. p. 9. ISBN 0-470-00226-3.
  • Lycan, W.G., (ed.). (1999). Mind and Cognition: An Anthology, 2nd Edition. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers, Inc.
  • Stanovich, Keith (2009). What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought. New Haven (CT): Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12385-2. Lay summary (21 November 2010).

External links

  • Cognition An international journal publishing theoretical and experimental papers on the study of the mind.
  • Information on music cognition, University of Amsterdam
  • Cognitie.NL Information on cognition research, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and University of Amsterdam (UvA)
  • Emotional and Decision Making Lab, Carnegie Mellon, EDM Lab
  • cognition in the CALT encyclopedia
  • The Limits of Human Cognition – an article describing the evolution of mammals’ cognitive abilities


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