Cognitive Processes – Psychology Essay


The word cognition has become common in psychology and in its broadest usage; cognition has been used to refer to the thoughts and meanings produced by the cognitive system together with the mental processes. Some of the identified mental processes include; understanding, evaluation, planning, decision and thinking (Groome and Dewart, 1999). As a result, cognitive psychology as it is commonly known, constitute the process of understanding and knowing.

Brains have been associated with cognition whereby various brains participate in processing information among organisms. It is within this ream of understanding that this study aims at investigating the three types of cognitive processes and the extent research work has explored the three processes.

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Cognition processes

In most cases cognition processing are of three kinds: perception, learning, and memory storage, and thinking (Groome and Dewart, 1999). The first type is the perception whereby information is taken by the sense organs through perception and later results into analysis of the information (Groome and Dewart, 1999). At this early stage, the brain starts to extract meaning from the input information and this is largely to make sense of the information.

After perception of information has taken place, there is emergence of another process that usually involve making some kind of record of the information received and this is what is known as the learning and memory storage (Groome and Dewart, 1999). Memory in this case act as a storage ‘bank’ in which information is stored for later use and in providing the necessary help to the individual in another setting.

In order for the stored information to be used later, there is always need for retrieval, this will generally involve retrieving, and having access to information stored sometime back (Groome and Dewart, 1999). As a result, retrieval has been regarded to be part of thought process as it assists individuals in dealing with new situations or problems that may arise. Thus in this case thought process became an aspect of thinking that emanate from retrieval process.


Perception emanates from seeing or watching what is happening around or in the wider environment. As a result, there is creation of cognitive process of perception and individuals engage in internalizing all aspects that happen around them. As a result of perception, individuals largely identify shapes and forms as being human beings and features of the environment and subsequently match up what is observed to what an individual would expect to see or observe (Hagtvedt, Hagtvedt and Patrick, 2008).

Many traditional cognitive theories have postulated, “meaning of a concept consists of the links between the abstract symbol for that concept and the abstract symbols for other concepts or for semantic features” (Pecher and Zwaan, n.d). Nevertheless, this understanding has been found to exhibit problems as identified by numerous research work by Barsalou (1999), Glenberg (1997) and Pulvermuller in 1999 (cited in Pecher and Zwaan, n.d).

For instance, Barsalou identified the problem of transduction while Harnad (1990) identified the grounding problem (Pecher and Zwaan, n.d). Transduction problem has to do with how perceptual experiences are “translated into the arbitrary symbols and subsequently used to represent concepts” (Pecher and Zwaan, n.d). On the other hand, “grounding problem has to do with how the symbols are mapped back onto the real world” (Pecher and Zwaan, n.d).

Learning and memory storage

Giambattista Basile (1575-1632) observed that memory is “the cabinet of the imagination, the treasure of reason, the registry of conscience, and the council chamber of thought” (Gormley and Lieberman, 2004, p.3). As a result, memory is seen to be the storage of, and process of recalling what individuals have learned or experienced in the environment (Gormley and Lieberman, 2004).

Memory as a process begins to function when a child is in womb and it is from this aspect that learning is regarded to be functional before birth. Experimental studies have shown that infants tend to store memories while still in womb and this has been reinforced through experimental studies by DeCasper and Fifer (1980) who tested babies memories about 12 hours after they were born (Goswami, 1998).

Learning and memory within the body of psychology has been explained through two approaches. In the first case, learning and memory has been explained to constitute aspects of habituation, conditioning, and discrimination learning (Berkson, 1993). In this case, factors that influence learning are associated to particular stimuli that have particular responses and subsequently generalizing the impact of the stimuli to other similar stimuli and situations. The second approach of learning has to do with processing of information (Berkson, 1993).

Known as the information processing approach, learning is generally viewed as an aspect of coding, storing, and retrieving information (Berkson, 1993). At the same time, coding, storing and retrieving may constitute sub-processes that may also have feedback loops between them. It should be remembered further that the nature of information processed may be important and the depth of processing at each stage may influence the possibility that any experience will actually end up being remembered.


Cognitive process of thinking involves largely working out what has just happened in the environment, bringing into play the previous knowledge and general understanding of the situation. On overall, the events that have happened are treated as social problems that require solution through decision-making process.

In its widest application, thinking is seen to be involved in decision-making and reasoning and as such, it performs functions of problem solving by reflecting on ideas, generating new ideas, theorizing, arguing, making decisions, and largely working out problems (Underwood and Rosen, 2011). One way cognitive process of thinking has been captured in Piaget’s development theory. Generally, Piaget’s theory is concerned with the mental structures of thinking, as well as the manner in which they change with development.

According to Piaget, children have manifested ability to assimilate new events and experience to the pre-existing structures of reasoning and subsequently tailor-make their interpretation of those experiences to conform to the prior knowledge and expectations (Underwood and Rosen, 2011). In order for assimilation of events and experiences to function, Piaget also identified the importance of accommodation for a child to make sense of what is happening in the environment.

As a result, the child goes through the process of assimilation and accommodation subsequently proceeding through the four stages outlined by Piaget (Underwood and Rosen, 2011). In the first stage (sensorimotor) stage the child, thinking is based on “sensory perception and motor activities” (Underwood and Rosen, 2011). The child then moves to the second stage (preoperational) which normally last between 2 to 6 years and here, the child uses mental symbols in thinking and reasoning.

Progressing to the third stage (concrete operation) between the ages 6 to 11 years, the child logical reasoning structures start to develop and manifest in solving encountered problems (Underwood and Rosen, 2011). The last stage is the formal operations, which supersede the logical reasoning and here the child, become more concrete in thinking and making decision-manifesting abilities of adults (Underwood and Rosen, 2011).

Evaluation of research methodology

The three cognitive processes discussed above can be captured very well in the development of children. Immediately children are born, the processes of perception, learning and thinking start to develop which subsequently continues until the child matures. Therefore Piaget’s development theory captures these three processes as it outlines and explains the development process among infants.

Strength of research methodology used by Piaget can be said to be manifested in the way the theory of development comprehensively explains the development in infants. Here, Piaget together with his colleagues used simple yet ingenious investigations of very complex topic.

As a result, application of the theory findings has been wide and in all situations of the theory application, a relatively accurate position has been derived in understanding the world around children and organization and function of their brains systematically and progressively (Louw, 1998). On the other hand, Piaget’s research methodologies have been criticized based on numerous aspects. First, the generalizability of the theory has been criticized given the subjects used were largely from European nations.

By using only subjects from European context, Piaget limited the theory, a fact that inadequately captures aspects of other cultures (Louw, 1998). Another weakness of the research methodology can be captured in Piaget’s ability to underestimate children’s abilities.

In affirming this, Wilson and Shapiro (1971) distributed four cards to each participant in the research that had symbols-R, G, 2 and 7. In testing the logical thought of students using this cards, it was found out that only 10% got it right in this way (non-concrete version) while 62% got it right when the question was more concrete (Louw, 1998).


Humans in particular are known to retrieve information from the outside world, make sense of that information before making use of it (Groome and Dewart, 1999). In all these activities cognition processes become evident in individuals making decisions. Thus, cognition processes as part of cognitive psychology can be regarded to be an important area of investigation that a lot of research work continue to concentrate on.


Berkson, G. (1993). Children with handicaps: a review of behavioral research. NY: Routledge. Web.

Gormley, J. J. and Lieberman, S. (2004). . NJ: Basic Health Publications, Inc. Web.

Goswami, U. (1998). . NY: Psychology Press. Web.

Groome, D. and Dewart, H. (1999). . NY: Routledge. Web.

Hagtvedt, H., Hagtvedt, R. and Patrick, V. M. (2008). “The perception and evaluation of visual art”. Journal of Empirical Studies of the Arts, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 197-218. Web.

Louw, D. A. (1998). . Web.

Pecher, D. and Zwaan, A. . London: Cambridge University Press. Web.

Underwood, M. K. and Rosen, L. H. (2011). : Relationships in Infancy, Childhood, and Adolescence. NY: Guilford Press. Web.

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