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31 Examples of Cognition

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Cognition is the process of thinking. This is a primary function of the human brain alongside basic biological functions such as motor control, sensory processing and regulation. The following are illustrative examples of cognition.

Perception

Perception is cognition related to sensory processing including the interpretation of the senses. This includes the basic senses of vision, sound, touch, taste and smell. Humans can also perceive other things such as a sense of self, time and sensations.

Recognition

The process of matching things to memory. This can include recognition of entities in sensory information and recognition of concepts, patterns and other intangible things.

Conceptualization

The formation of ideas and concepts.

Reason

The ability to use the tools of rational thought such as inference.

Judgement

A type of reasoning that involves evaluating if ideas are true, false or some grey area in-between.

Planning

A type of reasoning that involves setting out a series of actions that may bring forth a desired outcome. Strategy, problem solving and decision making are types of planning.

Learning & Development

The ability to learn information, acquire language, develop abilities and improve.

Language

The ability to understand, compose and communicate complex thoughts using the elements of language such as words, syntax and grammar.

Verbal Cognition

Thinking using language. This involves an internal monologue that is a primary type of conscious thought for many people.

Introspection

Self-awareness and self-reflection whereby an individual can examine their own thoughts, emotions, memories and personality. For example, a person who can identify their own failures of rational thought such as biases or motivated reasoning.

Social Cognition

The brain appears to be adapted to social processes such as recognizing emotion in faces, voices and body language.

Abstract Thought

Abstract thought is the ability to think in high level concepts that don't directly correspond to physical reality. For example, the ability to understand and use a concept such as "freedom."

Cognitive Flexibility

The capacity to think about multiple things at the same time and switch between tasks without losing track of context. For example, a pilot who is able to land an aircraft while communicating to a copilot and thinking about their weekend.

Visual Thought

The ability to understand visual information including visual abstractions such as symbols and diagrams. This can include the ability to think and solve problems with pictures.

Mind's Eye

The process of seeing visual images with the mind including approximations from memory and imaginary scenes.

Intentionality

A sense of purpose and motivation that drives people towards behavior and goals.

Emotion

States of mind that color all cognition for a period of time. For example, fear that causes a high state of alertness.

Imagination

Imagination is the ability to think about things that differ from reality.

Memory

The ability to remember and recall certain information over the long term.

Working Memory

Short term memory that is used for current thinking processes. For example, remembering the context and content of an article as you read through it.

Instinct

An instinct is a complex behavior that is innate such that it is a shared cognitive tendency of humans. For example, the theory that humans have a herd instinct that is the foundation for a wide range of complex behaviors such as fear of missing out.

Executive Functions

Executive function is a term for thought processes that control behavior. This includes high level functions such as reasoning and inhibitory control. It also includes low level functions that can be controlled by an individual such as working memory. For example, using working memory to plan a path to get to a destination on a bicycle.

Attentional Control

The ability to concentrate on something. For example, following a single line of reasoning for an extended period of time to solve a problem.

Inhibitory Control

Inhibitory control is the ability to suppress instinctual, habitual, emotional or motivated reactions. This can be done to select a reasoned response over an impulsive response to a situation. For example, the ability to resist doing something socially unacceptable due to surging emotions such as anger.

Cognitive Inhibition

Strategically ignoring information. This can include the ability to suppress perceptions, thoughts and memories that aren't useful to a task. For example, temporarily discarding your own opinions to consider the perspective of another person.

Memory Inhibition

The capacity to suppress and forget unproductive memory. For example, it is useful to remember where you parked your bicycle but not to remember every location you have ever parked a bicycle in your life.

Unconscious Thought

The brain performs a large number of functions autonomously without the direction of conscious thought. For example, if you think about a problem consciously and then go on to something else, unconscious thought processes appear to be able to continue working on the problem. This theory is used to explain why a solution to a problem suddenly comes after taking a break.

Intuition

Intuition is the ability to perceive knowledge that doesn't originate with the conscious mind. This may be a process of unconscious thought. However, as with most theories of cognition, intuition isn't well understood.

Salience

Salience is an unconscious thought process that causes you to notice things that might be important in a fast moving stream of sensory information. For example, noticing a bug that is running across your floor due to its movement.

Embodied Cognition

The theory that the body plays a significant role in cognition such that thinking isn't confined to the brain. For example, the gastrointestinal tract, or gut, has around 100 million nerve cells known as the enteric nervous system that appears to function as a "second brain." This is very small compared to the eighty six billion neurons of the brain. There are a large number of interactions between the stomach and brain known as brain-gut connection. People can consciously feel the role that the stomach plays in cognition as indicated by expressions such as "gut feeling."

Lateralization

The brain is divided into two hemispheres – left and right that appear to have specialized functions. This is far more complex and flexible than is presented by pseudo-science such as popular psychology. For example, language processing appears to be handled by the left side in most people but is handled by the right or both sides in some people.

Notes

Cognition is not well understood. Complicating matters it is studied from many different points of view. Theories of cognition originate from fields such as medicine, biology, neuroscience, logic, philosophy, linguistics, social science, psychiatry, psychology, education, anthropology and computer science.
Overview: Cognition
Type
Definition
The process of thinking.
Related Concepts

Thinking

This is the complete list of articles we have written about thinking.
Abductive Reasoning
Abstract Thinking
Abstraction
Aesthetics
Analogy
Analysis Paralysis
Analytical Thinking
Anomie
Argument
Argument From Silence
Arrow Of Time
Assertions
Automaticity
Backward Induction
Base Rate Fallacy
Benefit Of Doubt
Big Picture
Brainstorming
Call To Action
Catch 22
Causality
Choice Architecture
Circular Reasoning
Cognition
Cognitive Abilities
Cognitive Biases
Cold Logic
Collective Intelligence
Complexity Bias
Concept
Consciousness
Constructive Criticism
Convergent Thinking
Counterfactual Thinking
Creative Tension
Creeping Normality
Critical Thinking
Culture
Curse Of Knowledge
Decision Fatigue
Decision Framing
Decision Making
Defensive Pessimism
Design Thinking
Divergent Thinking
Educated Guess
Emotional Intelligence
Epic Meaning
Essential Complexity
Excluded Middle
Failure Of Imagination
Fallacies
Fallacy Fallacy
False Analogy
False Balance
False Dichotomy
False Equivalence
First Principles
Formal Logic
Four Causes
Fuzzy Logic
Gambler's Fallacy
Generalization
Golden Hammer
Good Judgement
Grey Area
Groupthink
Heuristics
Hindsight Bias
Hope
Idealism
Ideas
If-By-Whiskey
Illogical Success
Imagination
Independent Thinking
Inductive Reasoning
Inference
Influencing
Informal Logic
Information
Information Cascade
Introspection
Intuition
Inventive Step
Learning
Lifestyle
Logic
Logical Argument
Logical Thinking
Ludic Fallacy
Magical Thinking
Meaning
Mental Experiences
Mental State
Mindset
Misuse of Statistics
Motivated Reasoning
Natural Language
Nirvana Fallacy
Norms
Not Even Wrong
Objective Reason
Objectivity
Opinion
Overthinking
Perception
Personal Values
Perspective
Positive Thinking
Practical Thinking
Pragmatism
Premise
Problem Solving
Proof By Example
Propositional Logic
Prosecutor's Fallacy
Radical Chic
Rational Thought
Realism
Reality
Reason
Reasoning
Red Herring
Reflective Thinking
Reification
Relativism
Salience
Scarcity Mindset
Scientism
Selective Attention
Serendipity
Situational Awareness
Sour Grapes
State Of Mind
Storytelling
Subjectivity
Systems Thinking
Thinking
Thought Experiment
Unknown Unknowns
Visual Thinking
Want To Believe
Whataboutism
Win-Win Thinking
Wishful Thinking
Worldview
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Thinking

An overview of thinking with examples.

Opinion

The definition of opinion with examples.

Mindset

A list of common types of mindset.

Ways Of Thinking

A list of thinking approaches and mindsets.

Analytical Thinking

The definition of analytical thinking with examples.

Good Judgement

Complete examples of different types of good judgement.

Rational Thought

The difference between rational thought and logic.

Reason

The definition of reason with examples.

Educated Guess

The definition of educated guess with examples.

Critical Thinking Skills

A list of common critical thinking skills.

Practical Thinking

The definition of practical thinking with examples.

Independent Thinking

The definition of independent thinking with examples.
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