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Cognition is the scientific term for "the process of thought". Usage of the term varies in different disciplines; for example in psychology and cognitive science, it usually refers to an information processing view of an individual's psychological functions. Other interpretations of the meaning of cognition link it to the development of concepts; individual minds, groups, and organizations.
The term cognition (Latin: cognoscere, "to know", "to conceptualize" or "to recognize") refers to a faculty for the processing of information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences. Cognition, or cognitive processes, can be natural or artificial, conscious or unconscious. These processes are analyzed from different perspectives within different contexts, notably in the fields of linguistics, anesthesia, neurology, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, systemics and computer science. Within psychology or philosophy, the concept of cognition is closely related to abstract concepts such as mind, intelligence, cognition is used to refer to the mental functions, mental processes (thoughts) and states of intelligent entities (humans, human organizations, highly autonomous machines).
The sort of mental processes described as cognitive are largely influenced by research which has successfully used this paradigm in the past, likely starting with Thomas Aquinas, who divided the study of behavior into two broad categories: cognitive (how we know the world), and affect (feelings and emotions). Consequently, this description tends to apply to processes such as memory, association, concept formation, language, attention, perception, action, problem solving and mental imagery. Traditionally, emotion was not thought of as a cognitive process. This division is now regarded as largely artificial, and much research is currently being undertaken to examine the cognitive psychology of emotion; research also includes one's awareness of strategies and methods of cognition, known as metacognition.
Empirical research into cognition is usually scientific and quantitative, or involves creating models to describe or explain certain behaviors.
While few people would deny that cognitive processes are a function of the brain, a cognitive theory will not necessarily make reference to the brain or other biological process (compare neurocognitive). It may purely describe behavior in terms of information flow or function. Relatively recent fields of study such as cognitive science and neuropsychology aim to bridge this gap, using cognitive paradigms to understand how the brain implements these information-processing functions (see also cognitive neuroscience), or how pure information-processing systems (e.g., computers) can simulate cognition (see also artificial intelligence). The branch of psychology that studies brain injury to infer normal cognitive function is called cognitive neuropsychology. The links of cognition to evolutionary demands are studied through the investigation of animal cognition. And conversely, evolutionary-based perspectives can inform hypotheses about cognitive functional systems evolutionary psychology.
The theoretical school of thought derived from the cognitive approach is often called cognitivism.
The phenomenal success of the cognitive approach can be seen by its current dominance as the core model in contemporary psychology (usurping behaviorism in the late 1950s). Cognition is severely damaged in dementia.
It has been observed since antiquity that language acquisition in human children fails to emerge unless the children are exposed to language. Thus, language acquisition is an example of an emergent behavior. In this case, the individual is made up of a set of mechanisms "expecting" such input from the social world.
In education, for instance, which has the explicit task in society of developing child cognition, choices are made regarding the environment and permitted action that lead to a formed experience. In social cognition, face perception in human babies emerges by the age of two months. This is in turn affected by the risk or cost of providing these, for instance, those associated with a playground or swimming pool or field trip. On the other hand, the macro-choices made by the teachers are extremely influential on the micro-choices made by children.
In a large systemic perspective, cognition is considered closely related to the social and human organization functioning and constrains. Managerial decision making processes can be erroneous in politics, economy and industry for the reason of different reciprocally dependent socio-cognitive factors. This domain became the field of interest of emergent socio-cognitive engineering.
- In addition to the topics below, see the List of thinking-related topics
- Sensation & Perception, 5th ed. 1999, Coren, Ward & Enns, p. 9
- Coren, Stanley; Lawrence M. Ward, James T. Enns (1999). Sensation and Perception. Harcourt Brace. p. 9. ISBN 0-470-00226-3.
- Lycan, W.G., (ed.). (1999). Mind and Cognition: An Anthology, 2nd Edition. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers, Inc.
- Stanovich, Keith (2009). What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought. New Haven (CT): Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12385-2. Lay summary (21 November 2010).
- Cognition An international journal publishing theoretical and experimental papers on the study of the mind.
- Information on music cognition, University of Amsterdam
- Cognitie.NL Information on cognition research, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and University of Amsterdam (UvA)
- Emotional and Decision Making Lab, Carnegie Mellon, EDM Lab
- cognition in the CALT encyclopedia
- The Limits of Human Cognition - an article describing the evolution of mammals' cognitive abilities
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