Understanding Cognition

Quite simply, cognition refers to thinking. There are the obvious applications of conscious reasoning—doing taxes, playing chess, deconstructing Macbeth—but thought takes many subtler forms, such as interpreting sensory input, guiding physical actions, and empathizing with others. The old metaphor for human cognition was the computer—a logical information-processing machine. (You can’t spell cognition without “cog.”) But while some of our thoughts may be binary, there's a lot more to our 'wetware' than 0's and 1's.

Recent Posts on Cognition

Want to Improve Your Cognitive Abilities? Go Climb a Tree!

A new study has discovered that physical activities, such as climbing a tree or balancing on a beam, can dramatically improve cognitive abilities. Why would climbing a tree improve cognitive function and working memory?

Sherlock Holmes: The Case of Memory and Aging

Sherlock Holmes is the quintessential detective, but what happens to his memory and his mind in old age? The new movie Mr. Holmes, as well as current research on cognitive aging, allow for an important case study on memory and aging.

Fear and Anxiety Affect the Health and Life Span of Dogs

Research shows that increased levels of certain types of fearfulness in dogs may be associated higher susceptibility to skin diseases and to reduced life span.

The ADHD Advantage

By The Book Brigade on July 29, 2015 in The Author Speaks
Medicine should be the last resort, not the first, when a child is diagnosed with ADHD. There are many other ways to help a child function better—even in the classroom. ADHD

Can Artificial Intelligence Make Us Stupid?

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on July 29, 2015 in The Human Beast
Changing technology stimulates the brain and increases intelligence. But that may only be true if the technology challenges us. In a world run by intelligent machines, our lives could get a lot simpler. Would that make us less intelligent?

Over Ego

To say that one is better than average is a famous bias from the social psychology textbook. In this better-than-average post, I show that it is not irrational to do so.

Steps to Take Today for Better Brain Health Tomorrow

You may be taking proactive steps to support your body’s health, but are you taking similar steps to sustain your brain? When it comes to supporting brain health, the old adage is true: it’s better than never. There’s no time like the present to start supporting your brain.

When Music Becomes Language

By Eliezer J. Sternberg M.D. on July 28, 2015 in NeuroLogic
When jazz musicians achieve the highest levels of mastery, their brain processing undergoes a fundamental change, and they begin to perceive music in a way no one else can.

Attractiveness Changes Our Perception At an Early Age

Not only does attractiveness influence children's trustworthiness of a person, it even changes how the brain's neural system responds.

Memory, Body Language and Personality in Soccer

By Ben Lyttleton on July 27, 2015 in Twelve Yards
USA lost its Gold Cup soccer play-off to Panama on penalties - but could the team have avoided defeat?

No Regrets

By Ira Hyman Ph.D. on July 24, 2015 in Mental Mishaps
What regrets do you have? Although I’ve heard that we should live with “No Regrets,” I suspect we all have a list of regrets. Regrets invade our thoughts, occupy our minds, and keep us thinking about the things we wish we had done differently. But there may be ways to barricade your mind and stop ruminating about your regrets.

Are You Tone Deaf?

By David Ludden Ph.D. on July 24, 2015 in Talking Apes
The musically gifted often foist the “tone deaf” label on those whose music production abilities aren’t up to their expectations, but most have music perception skills in the normal range.

Behavior Differences Between Smaller and Larger Dogs

Research shows that there are significant differences between the behaviors of smaller and larger dogs. Some of these differences have to do with the behaviors of their owners.

Social Anxiety Diminished by Brain Signals and Re-Thinking

Social anxiety and its treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy can be studied with advanced brain imaging. Both the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala are involved.

Re-thinking Gender, Part 1

By Anthony Synnott Ph.D. on July 22, 2015 in Rethinking Men
The Ups, Downs, and Sideways of Gender Politics

Who Makes a Qualified Children’s Media Researcher?

By Jamie Krenn Ph.D. on July 21, 2015 in Screen Time
Thoughts related to research training within the field of children's media.

Childhood Poverty Has Detrimental Impacts on Brain Structure

Evidence continues to mount that there is a link between growing up in a low-income household, brain development, and lower academic achievement. The majority of children attending public schools in the United States come from low-income households. We have a crisis on our hands. In this blog post, I summarize the findings of a wide range of recent studies on this topic.

How Loneliness Tricks People Into Staying Lonely

By Guy Winch Ph.D. on July 21, 2015 in The Squeaky Wheel
A new study illuminates one of the main reasons it is so hard for lonely people to break the cycle of disconnection that traps them in their misery. Read on to learn more.

Confirmation Bias and Stigma

Confirmation bias confirms not only expectations about the percept, but also those relating to the kind of world we live in and our role in it.

Beyond Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on July 21, 2015 in How To Do Life
CBT needs to move from THE Therapy to being just one tool in the tool box.

Joining the Dodo

By Vyv Evans Ph.D. on July 20, 2015 in Language in the Mind
Universal Grammar has had its day in the sun; like that paradigmatic examle of the extinct, the dodo, Universal Grammar has lived beyond its sell by date. The science is in: and the future is not Universal Grammar.

Stereotyping Stereotypes

By Jesse Marczyk on July 20, 2015 in Pop Psych
Have psychologists been stereotyping stereotypes as inaccurate, despite their predictive value?

Can You Read a Language You Can’t Hear?

By David Ludden Ph.D. on July 20, 2015 in Talking Apes
Deaf learners face considerable obstacles to reading, but they also bring a unique skill set to the task.

Learning From the Inside Out

Learning from the inside out centers around the role of emotion in shaping our lives. Disney’s new film, Inside Out, presents current thinking in neuroscience in a format that allows animated characters to teach us how to live life.

How Does Physical Fitness Improve Your Brain Function?

New research has identified specific benefits of physical fitness on brain structure and function.

Imaging: Sparks of Genius Challenge #3

“Close your eyes,” Dennis the Menace once said to a friend. “If you see anything, you’re thinking.” What's more, if you “hear,” “smell,” “taste,” or “feel” anything in the absence of direct sensory stimulation, that's thinking, too. Alongside words, we cogitate by means of a primary “language” of sensory impressions experienced within the mind. In short, we image.

Help Arrives for Mirror-Touch Synesthetes

By Maureen Seaberg on July 17, 2015 in Sensorium
Help has arrived for highly empathic mirror-touch synesthetes.

Can Using Xanax When Flying Cause PTSD?

“We barely made it. After we landed, they closed the airport. Thank God I had my Xanax to get me through it.” Though life-threatening events happen rarely in aviation, they happen routinely in the Xanax-fueled mind of an anxious flier. Threats to one's life, whether real or imagination-based, can lead to PTSD.

Men Systemize. Women Empathize.

An important variable that we can use to differentiate between users is gender. Research has provided evidence that there are inherited differences between the cognitive style of men and women—in other words, the way men and women think, perceive, and remember information.

Language Precision Helps Us to Educate and Learn

Imprecise use of language often reflects cloudy thinking, causes further clouding, and can cause serious harm.