Cognition: Processes, Characteristics and Structure

The cognition Is the ability of living beings to process information from perception, knowledge and subjective characteristics.

Cognition encompasses processes such as learning, reasoning, attention to memory, problem solving, decision-making, or the elaboration of feelings.

Cognition: Processes, Characteristics and Structure

The study of cognition has been made from different perspectives such as neurology, psychology, psychoanalysis, sociology or philosophy. In this sense, cognition is interpreted as a global mental process that allows the processing of information that accesses the minds of human beings.

Cognition is characterized as a process closely related to other abstract concepts such as mind, perception, reasoning, intelligence or learning.

In this article we explain the characteristics of cognition, we review the main cognitive processes Of human beings, cognitive structure and cognitive activity.

Characteristics of cognition

Cognition: Processes, Characteristics and Structure 1

The word cognition comes from the Latin, where"cognoscere"means to know. Thus, in its broadest and most etymological sense, cognition refers to everything that pertains or is related to knowledge.

Cognition is therefore the accumulation of all the information that people acquire throughout their lives through learning and experiences.

More concretely, the most accepted definition of cognition today is the ability of living beings to process information from perception.

That is, through the uptake of stimuli from the outside world through the senses, the person initiates a series of procedures that allow the acquisition of information and is defined as cognition.

Cognition is therefore a process that is carried out by the Brain structures Of the people and that implies the accomplishment of more of an activity that allows to develop the learning.

The main cognitive processes that encompass cognition are learning, attention, memory , Language, reasoning and decision making. The execution of these activities together gives rise to the cognitive process and the transformation of the sensory stimuli into knowledge.

Cognitive activity

Cognitive neuroscience

Cognitive activity presents a series of characteristics that define its functioning. In general terms, the properties of cognitive activity define much of cognition as a mental process.

Cognitive activity is characterized by:

1- Sensory process

Cognitive activity is a mental process through which the person is able to grasp and perceive aspects of reality. This activity is performed through the sensory organs and has the main purpose of understanding reality.

2- Integration process

Cognitive activity involves processes of reception, integration, relationship and modification of the surrounding information.

In this sense, the information is not perceived passively but actively. The person modifies and adapts the stimuli captured to generate knowledge through cognition.

3- Creating ideas

Cognition is the method by which the person is able to assimilate ideas, form images and generate the construction of knowledge.

Without cognitive activity, people would be unable to generate their own and elaborate knowledge, and they would perceive the world in a passive way.

4- Structuring process

Finally, cognitive activity is characterized by being a process that allows to bring structure and organization to knowledge.

The information elaborated through cognition is integrated in a global way and generates hierarchical classifications that give rise to the cognitive structure of the person.

Cognitive Structure

Cognition: Processes, Characteristics and Structure

Multiple investigations have focused on studying the elements that make up the structure of cognition. That is, to determine which aspects are involved in cognitive processes.

In this sense, it is maintained that cognition is an activity that involves the realization of multiple processes. Cognition is therefore a generalized mental procedure encompassing different tasks.

At present there is some controversy when defining the cognitive structure. Cognition is a broad and abstract mental process that often plans divergences in the establishment of its functioning.

However, there is some consensus today that the main aspects of cognitive structure are as follows.

1- Observation

The first activity performed in cognition is observation, that is, the detection and assimilation of one or several visual elements.

The observation is carried out through the sense of sight and allows the capture of the stimulus and the reception of the relevant information.

2- Identification of variables

Research on cognition suggests that the second activity of cognitive structure is to identify variables.

This means that once the stimulus is captured and perceived, the cognitive processes are responsible for locating the elements or the parts involved in the study phenomenon in a precise and specific way.

This activity allows the identification and delimitation of the different characteristics of the elements perceived and give rise to a first phase of cognitive organization.

3- Comparison

Parallel to the identification of the stimulus variables, the comparison appears. This process, as the name implies, tries to compare the perceived elements with the rest of the information that is possessed at the cerebral level.

The comparison allows identifying the similar and distinct aspects of each of the elements perceived.

4- Relationship

Once the stimuli are identified and compared, the cognitive process focuses on relating the perceived elements.

This action consists in establishing connections between two or more things in order to integrate the acquired information and generate a global knowledge.

5- Ordering

Apart from relating, it is postulated that cognitive activity also involves ordering processes.

Through this activity the elements are arranged and distributed through ordered structures. The ordering usually takes place from the characteristics or the qualities of the elements and allows to organize the knowledge.

6- Hierarchical classification

Finally, the last aspect of cognitive structure is to classify knowledge in a hierarchical way.

This last activity consists of articulating or relating the various phenomena in terms of their importance. In general, they can be presented from the general to the particular (when using a deductive cognitive method) or from the particular to the general (when using an inductive cognitive method).

Cognitive processes

Cognition: Processes, Characteristics and Structure 2

Cognitive processes are the procedures that are carried out to incorporate new knowledge and make decisions about it.

Cognitive processes are characterized by the participation of several cognitive functions such as perception, attention, memory or reasoning. These cognitive functions work together with the goal of integrating knowledge.

1- Perception

Perception is the cognitive process that allows understanding the environment through the interpretation, selection and organization of different types of information.

Perception involves stimulations of the central nervous system that are produced through the stimulation of the sense organs.

The ear, the sight, the touch, the smell and the taste are perceptive processes that are basic for the cognition. Without their participation, it would be impossible to capture the stimuli, so the information would not access the brain and the brain could not start the rest of the cognitive processes.

Perception is characterized by an unconscious process. However, this does not mean that it is a passive activity. Perception is often shaped by prior learning, experiences, education, and items stored in memory.

2- The attention

Cognition: Processes, Characteristics and Structure 3

Attention is a cognitive process that allows to concentrate the cognitive capacities in a stimulus or a concrete activity.

Thus, in a way, attention is that activity that modulates the functioning of perceptual processes. The attention allows to focus and concentrate the senses in a selective way in one aspect of the environment without taking into account of the others.

The ability to concentrate and pay attention is an essential skill for the cognitive functioning of people. If attention is not adequately focused, the uptake of information tends to be weak and it is complex that it is stored in the brain structures.

In this way the attention is a cognitive process that allows the obtaining of the information, the learning and the complex reasoning.

3- Memory

Cognition: Processes, Characteristics and Structure 4

Memory is a complex cognitive function. This allows to encode, store retrieve information from the past. In this way, it is interpreted more as a series of cognitive functions rather than as a single activity.

First, working memory is a cognitive activity closely linked to attention. This allows to retain the information perceived and attended for a limited period of time (few seconds) and is basic to not forget the stimuli captured.

Subsequently, the short-term memory allows to continue with the retention of the information during a somewhat higher period of time, in order to begin to memorize the new learning.

Finally, the appearance of long-term memory is that cognitive function that gives rise to the formation of solid memories and resistant to the passage of time. It constitutes the knowledge content of the people and allows the retrieval of information stored in the brain structures.

4- Thought

Cognition: Processes, Characteristics and Structure 5

He thought Is an abstract function and difficult to delimit. In general, it is defined as the activity that allows to integrate all the information acquired and stored in the brain structures.

However, thought not only operates with previously acquired knowledge, but can be integrated with the rest of cognitive functions (perception, attention and memory) to function in parallel with the acquisition of new information.

In this sense, thought is considered an indispensable function for the execution of any cognitive process.

Likewise, thought is an important activity that modulates the activity of perception, attention and memory, so it is fed in a bidirectional way with the rest of Cognitive functions .

Some of the specific activities that can be carried out through thought are reasoning, synthesis or regulation of problems. In its most general sense, thought is that activity that gives rise to executive functions.

5- Language

The determination of language as a cognitive function is somewhat more controversial. In order to realize this relationship between cognition and language it is important to take into account that language does not only imply the act of speech.

By language is interpreted every activity that aims to give meaning and expression (both internal and external) to the perceived stimuli.

In other words, language allows naming the abstract elements that are perceived and is a fundamental function to organize and structure all the knowledge that a person has.

Likewise, language plays a fundamental role in the expression and transmission of knowledge, ideas and feelings of individuals. Through this activity, people are able to communicate with one another, organize the world and transmit information through different channels.

6- Learning

Visual learning is supported by graphs such as those used by the teacher

Finally, learning is that cognitive process through which people are able to incorporate new information into the previously stored and organized elements in their mind.

Learning is responsible for including all kinds of elements in the knowledge of people. These can be of any nature and include both the learning of simple behaviors or habits as the acquisition of complex skills or elaborate contents.

The role of learning on cognition is highly important, since it modulates the cognitive process in an integral way.

As postulated by the famous Swiss psychologist Jean William Fritz Piaget, learning results in that cognitive process in which information enters the cognitive system and modifies it.

This results in interpreting learning as a dynamic cognitive function. Learning is integrating, over time, diverse information, a fact that modifies the individual's knowledge and cognitive functioning.


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