‘What are cognitive skills?’ – this question often strikes the minds of people trying to understand the developmental stages of life. There are many models for understanding the importance of cognitive skills and answering this crucial question.
‘What are cognitive skills?’ – are they the ones that govern the processing speed of individuals? Are they the ones that determine an individual’s power of critical thinking? Do cognitive skills play a role in problem-solving? An endless array of questions follows the main question of cognitive skills.
There are many perspectives to take while discussing this aspect, and this article tries to cover most of them.
1) 4 Learning Types
To answer ‘what are cognitive skills?’, you need to understand ‘how’ people learn and what kind of learning struggles they may encounter if forced to learn differently. The traditional model of education that we rely on doesn’t suit everyone. Factually speaking, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is harmful to our education system and its pupils. We all possess different cognitive skills and deal differently with different stimuli. Unfortunately, our education system doesn’t acknowledge this.
While research suggests that giving information based on learning styles doesn’t influence learning capability, it sure helps stay focused and grasp more by paying attention.
Here are the four types of learning skills:
1.1) Visual Learners
Visual learners work best with visual stimuli. They often have ‘photographic memories’ and can recall information stored when visual cues are brought in front of them. They are great at noticing slight similarities and differences between different stimuli.
1.2) Auditory Learners
Auditory learners learn when they can listen to what they are storing. Podcasts and audiobooks are great sources of information for them. They can remember spoken information well and are mostly great at public speaking.
1.3) Kinesthetic Learners
Kinesthetic learners learn by doing. Textbooks and lectures don’t stimulate them enough to learn. They need to be engaged in what they are doing to grasp something from it. Science labs and art rooms are where kinesthetic learners tend to flourish.
1.4) Reading and Writing Learners
Sometimes considered a subtype of visual learners, reading and writing learners learn by writing, reading, and taking notes. They find it easy to understand and retain information if they’ve written it down and read it aloud. Writing concepts, reading out material loudly, and reading comprehension is where reading and writing learners tend to shine.
‘What are cognitive skills?’ – how is this question related to the learning types? While it may seem odd to connect learning to cognition, it is one of the best ways to ensure students’ proper participation in classes. When teachers and parents learn and understand the learning type of children, they can work on cognitive skills that will help them combat learning struggles.
2) What are Cognitive Skills – 5 Main Categories
The best way to answer this question is to understand the categories of cognitive skills.
There are five core skills, each of which is required to work through cognitive functions and make the best of our mental abilities.
2.1) Logical Thinking as a Cognitive Skill
Logical thinking is the process wherein we observe and analyze certain information and then draw conclusions based on the analysis. It involves arriving at a conclusion with the help of a rational and systematic series based on evidence given to us. There are two main categories of logical thinking:
2.1.1) Deductive Reasoning
Deductive reasoning begins with a wide truth called the ‘major premise.’ This major premise is followed by a specific statement called the ‘minor premise.’ Following these two premises, a conclusion is made.
Major proposition: All men are mortal.
Minor Proposition: Socrates is a man.
Therefore, the conclusion: Socrates is a man; hence he is mortal.
If both propositions are true, the result will always be true.
2.1.2) Inductive Reasoning
Inductive reasoning takes a reverse turn from deductive reasoning. Specific observations are used to come to broad conclusions. So, tangible data is used to make and support a hypothesis. We can use the tangible data to conclude if the hypothesis is true or false.
For example, if you see five white swans (specific, tangible data), you can conclude that all swans are white. The premise is true only if you have existing evidence and can’t find disproving evidence.
2.2) Memory as a Cognitive Skill
‘What are cognitive skills?’ – you can’t answer this question without discussing the broad domain of memory. Memory is a very important cognitive skill that requires strengthening since it helps recall information stored in your brain and shows your brain’s ability to store and remember important information.
While discussing memory, there are four main terms to know about.
2.2.1) Working Memory
Working memory is the brief information you can hold in your mind and use for executing cognitive tasks. Working memory is a very commonly used term in psychology and has been connected to information processing speed, intelligence, comprehension, learning, executive functioning, and problem-solving.
2.2.2) Sensory Memory
Sensory memory is stored for only a few seconds and enters our brain through the five senses of touch, smell, vision, hearing, and taste. They are stored for as long as the sense is stimulated and then processed into your short-term memory.
2.2.3) Short-Term Memory
Short-term memory is the ability to store a small amount of information for a short period. It is also termed active memory or primary memory. It is important for daily functioning. It is brief and can last very short if not rehearsed. It’s also very limited and can store no more than 5 to 9 items simultaneously.
2.2.4) Long-Term Memory
Long-term memory is the transfer of material from short-term storage. It is unlimited in capacity and can last a lifetime. The process of converting short-term memories into long-term ones is called consolidation. Long-term memory has two types: explicit conscious memory that you can remember and implicit, unconscious memory that you can’t remember.
2.3) Attention as a Cognitive Skill
After memory, attention is the most important prong in answering what cognitive skills are. Attention ability refers to the ability to actively process information and make sure you pay attention to specific stimuli and ignore the others.
There are four core skills when it comes to attention:
2.3.1) Selective Attention
Selective attention involves focusing attention on certain stimuli and ignoring others. For example, if you are preparing for an exam, you will focus on the book you’re reading and tune out the music your younger sibling is playing in the other room.
2.3.2) Focused Attention
Focused attention allows you to be suddenly drawn to loud stimuli. It is also a mechanism that helps you be alert and respond to your stimuli quickly.
2.3.3) Divided Attention
Divided attention involves the act of focusing on multiple tasks. Instead of shifting focus from one task to another, you pay attention to multiple stimuli and respond to them.
2.3.4) Sustained Attention
Sustained attention is also known as concentration and involves paying attention to one thing for long periods.
If you want to find games to encourage young people to concentrate and pay attention, check out this article: Focus Games for Kids 7 Brain Games to Improve Your Kid’s Concentration.
2.4) Problem Solving as a Cognitive Skill
Cognitive psychology describes ‘problem-solving’ as the mental processing skills that allow people to discover, analyze and solve problems.
Problem-solving requires you to discover the problem, decide to tackle it, understand the problem, and use the available options to reach your goals.
To solve problems, you need to recognize them perceptually, represent them in memory, consider the information that applies to the problem, identify different aspects of the problem, and label the problem to describe it efficiently.
2.5) Processing Skills as a Cognitive Skill
Processing information requires processing skills; therefore, an important aspect of answering what cognitive skills are is to understand what processing skills are. Processing skills are mental skills that allow us to organize and plan. They make learning and using learned mechanisms easy to use daily.
There are two main types of processing skills, and they all work together. So they are important to answer the question of ‘what are cognitive skills?’.
2.5.1) Auditory Processing
Auditory processing is the ability of the brain to recognize sounds without any issues with hearing.
2.5.2) Visual Processing
Visual processing is the ability of the brain to compose what was seen and thought into mental images. These mental images are then analyzed to understand the context.
3) What are Cognitive Skills – How to Improve Your Cognitive Skills
Understanding ‘what are cognitive skills?’ helps us realize the importance of growth. It helps us acknowledge that cognitive abilities need to be constantly strengthened. Here are some ways to strengthen and improve your cognitive skills:
- Play memory card games
- Solve crossword puzzles
- Play sudoku
- Socialize with people
- Learn new skills
- Exercise regularly
- Sleep well
- Engage in new things
Having the information to answer the important question of ‘what are cognitive skills’ pushes us to the next level to improve them. So, now that you know exactly what cognitive skills are, start following the above activities to encourage your brain to learn more!