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Cognition: Theory, Overview

Instructor: Diane Davis
Studying the mental processes known as cognition can make it easier to understand human knowledge and behavior. Explore cognition theory in this lesson and then test your understanding with a quiz.

Definition

Cognition is our thinking process. It describes the very act of acquiring knowledge through perception, thinking, imagination, remembering, judging, problem-solving, and selective attention. Cognition is one of the higher functions that our brain performs. In recent years, the study of cognition has become a sub-discipline of psychology known as cognitive psychology.

Cognitive psychology uses scientific methods to study mental processes. It also acknowledges the idea that thoughts, feelings, and beliefs can sometimes determine emotion and behavior. To change the way people behave, thoughts, beliefs, and 'knowing' may need to be changed.

Cognitive Theory

The study of cognitive theory is the study of the information processing of the mind. All processes of thought fall within the realm of cognition. These processes operate by manipulating information that comes into the mind. When the mind receives new information, it does two things: codes it as 'new' information or retrieves it from memory as 'not new' information. For this reason, cognition also means knowing. There are three basic steps to the cognition or thinking process: perception, selective attention, and memory.

Three Aspects of Cognition

Perception: Perception is the process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting stimuli. Stimuli is a thing or event that evokes a response. Think of perception as the way you view things or how we interpret what we see. For an example, suppose there is an eight ounce glass filled with four ounces of water. One person will perceive a glass half full and another will perceive a glass half empty.

Attention: Attention refers to how we actively process specific information present in our environment. Think of attention as a highlighter. As you read through a section of text in a book, the highlighted section stands out, causing you to focus your interest on that area. Attention allows you to 'tune out' information, sensations, and perceptions that are not relevant at the moment and instead focus your energy on the information that is important.

Memory: Memory involves the process of acquiring, storing, and recalling information. It plays a vital part of our life. Think of memory as like a giant filing cabinet with slots and folders. Each folder is labeled and stored until needed.

Cognition Examples

Has any of these scenarios ever happened to you or someone you know?

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