Cognitive Skills: Critical for Learning and Memory

By M. Chris Wolf, PH.D.

What are Cognitive Skills? Many think people of education as learning to read, write, do mathematics, and then applying this knowledge in science, history, and social studies. However, in order to succeed in learning academic knowledge, one must first have the thinking skills, such as attention, memory, processing speed, logic and reasoning skills. These skills provide the foundation of how people learn and remember both academic information and the skills and information to function successfully in daily life. While the baseline for cognitive skills is innate, these skills need to be cultivated in childhood and adolescence and maintained throughout adulthood.

Categories of Thinking Skills

Attention is defined as the ability to focus on a thought (concentration) or something in the environment (stimuli), while screening out distractions. The ability to attend to information is essential to avoid becoming overwhelmed with information, which leads to frustration and anxiety. Different types of attentionare

  • Visual Attention, which is the ability to discriminate among stimuli one sees. Visual attention is critical to both reading and writing.
  • Auditory Attention, which is the ability to discriminate among stimuli one hears. Auditory Attention is essential for understanding information in classroom as well as in social settings.

Memory is the ability to recall information that which the individual was previously exposed. The information might be visual, auditory, sensory (as in smells and tastes), tactile (touch), kinesthetic (movement), or emotional memories. Different types of memory are

  • Short-Term Memory is information an individual remembers for a brief period. This information may or may not be then coded into long-term memory.
  • Working Memory is information recalled for the purposes ofproblem-solving, decision-making, reasoning and logic.
  • Long-Term Memory is information an individual remembers for a long period, up to their lifetime. These types of memories are important in daily functioning and in using reasoning and logic.

Processing speed is the rate at which a person is able to recognize, remember, and use information to solve problems. The different types of processing are

Visual processing speed is the rate at which an individual is able to use information, which he or she can see. These skills are important in reading and writing.

Auditory processing speed is the rate at which an individual is able to use information, which the person hears.

Motor processing speed is the rate at which an individual is able to make goal directed and purposeful movements.

Software to Develop Cognitive Skills

Although the baseline for many thinking skills is innate, manysoftware programs are available for both adults and children to use to enhance cognitive skills, including Brain Train, Brain Fitand Luminosity.

Visit Brain Fitness Program

Also see Brain Enahancement

Brain Game

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