Cognition is a term referring to the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension. These processes include thinking, knowing, remembering, judging and problem-solving. These are higher-level functions of the brain and encompass language, imagination, perception, and planning.
One of the earliest definitions of cognition was presented by Neisser. According to him, cognition is
“those processes by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used.”
What is the cognitive process then? I am explaining it here with examples.
The first step in the cognitive learning process is attention. For instance, in order to begin learning, a student must be paying attention to what they are experiencing. We know that the average person can only attend to one complex task at a time. That’s why we are told to not talk on the phone while driving.
Next, the information that the student is paying attention to has to be put into memory in a process called storage. There are three levels of memory through which information must travel to be truly learned. First is sensory register, which holds everything we are exposed to for just a second or two. Second is short-term memory. The information moves from the sensory register into short-term memory. This area of memory will hold information anywhere from 20 seconds up to a minute. Third is the long-term memory. This area will hold information indefinitely and has an unlimited capacity.
After attention and moving the information into memory, the brain organises the information so that it can be retrieved later. This is best done by assigning a specific meaning to something one has learned.
Role of sensation, perception and conception in cognitive development
Sensation is the process by which our senses gather information and send it to the brain.
Perception refers to interpretation of what we take in through our senses. The way we perceive our environment is what makes us different from other animals and different from each other.
Concepts are mental categories used to group objects, events, information, etc. In short, a concept is a generalisation that helps to organise information into categories.
Sensation, perception and conception play an important role in cognitive development.
Sensation allows a child to gather information that he sees, hears, tastes and smells. These senses must first be transformed into signals that the brain can understand. The perceptual process allows the child to take in sensory information and convert it into a signal that the brain can understand and act upon.
The world is full of an endless amount of sensory experiences. Conception involves to make meaning out of all this incoming information by reducing our experience of the world down to the fundamentals.
In other words, sensation involves the process of sensing our environment through touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. This information is sent to our brains in raw form where perception comes into play. Perception is the way we interpret these sensations and therefore make sense of everything around us. Conception organises this information into categories for better understanding and comprehension.
That’s why we say that cognition involves transforming sensory input, reducing sensory input, elaborating information, storing and recovering information, and using information.