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

Can Dogs Teach Other Dogs to Speak?

By Stanley Coren Ph.D., F.R.S.C. on September 28, 2016 in Canine Corner
A dog can learn how to make and use specific sounds for communication simply by observing other dogs

Body Language Says it All: Hillary Hides, Donald Emotes

By Richard E. Cytowic M.D. on September 28, 2016 in The Fallible Mind
Watch what the debaters do rather than listening to what they say. The best way to judge people trying to persuade you is with the volume turned off.

Why Aren't You Speaking The Right Language? Part 2

By Francois Grosjean Ph.D. on September 28, 2016 in Life as a Bilingual
Bilinguals often associate a particular language to a specific speaker. How do they react when they are confronted with a language they do not expect?

President Trump?

By Ira Hyman Ph.D. on September 27, 2016 in Mental Mishaps
Donald Trump is easily the most unusual and risky presidential candidate I’ve seen in my life. And that may be a winning strategy in this year’s election.

The Power of Positively Priming the Therapist

By Goal Auzeen Saedi Ph.D. on September 27, 2016 in Millennial Media
We've all heard the adage that we are what we think. Turns out what your therapist thinks can go a long ways in your therapy treatment.

Can Sophistication in Writing Be Measured?

What those puzzling scores at the bottom of articles really mean.

The Mindspan Diet

By The Book Brigade on September 27, 2016 in The Author Speaks
America’s dietary recommendations may not be in the best interests of cognitive longevity.

Super Senses

By Maureen Seaberg on September 27, 2016 in Sensorium
The senses exist on a continuum with a wide range of perception across humanity.

To Empathize, Don't Trust Your Gut

By Temma Ehrenfeld on September 26, 2016 in Open Gently
Thinking—rather than guessing—is a better path to accurate empathy.

White Sensitivity Is Like Black Sensitivity

By Michael Karson Ph.D., J.D. on September 26, 2016 in Feeling Our Way
Being put in your body unexpectedly is status-lowering, whatever color your skin is.

10 Things to Know About Déjà Vu

Acceptance of déjà vu has widened in recent decades. Research psychologists are just beginning to understand this phenomenon.

If You Want to Become More Mindful, Check Your Watch

By Karl Albrecht Ph.D. on September 24, 2016 in BrainSnacks
if the “monkey mind,” as the Eastern practitioners call it, has a mind of its own, how does one become more “mindful?” How can your mind stay focused, when it loves to wander?

Debate Scorecard for the Presidency: Trust

The selection of our next president is fast approaching. What is the criteria you will use to make that selection? Here's a scorecard to help you really think, consider and decide.

Trust Your Gut—There's Nothing Woo-Woo About the Vagus Nerve

By Christopher Bergland on September 23, 2016 in The Athlete's Way
A new study found that financial traders who trust their gut feelings and have grace under pressure are more successful. What is the physiological explanation for this phenomenon?

Can a Harvard Degree Actually Reduce Patient Trust?

I have made a conscious decision to forgo hanging my diplomas. Here’s why.

Get the Red Out

Redness of the skin concerns people, but may lead patients to find causes that weren't involved or stop treaments that were actually working.

Does It Take Faith to Be an Atheist?

By Phil Zuckerman Ph.D. on September 22, 2016 in The Secular Life
People often claim that it takes more faith to be an atheist than a believer. This is incorrect.

Changing Someone's Mind

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on September 22, 2016 in How To Do Life
Tips I'm only moderately confident in...but they're the best I can come up with.

Bridging Difference: Beyond Us vs. Them

By Amy Banks on September 21, 2016 in Wired For Love
The human community is at a seminal crossroads. Are we going to use our brains to build edifices that cement the association between difference and danger?

Do We Control Our Own Purchasing Habits?

By Liraz Margalit Ph.D. on September 20, 2016 in Behind Online Behavior
Flaws in our decision-making ability are fuel for the market. In certain situations we are especially susceptible to external influences.

Taste Freeze

By William Poundstone on September 20, 2016 in Head in the Cloud
Mom jeans, dad bod, and taste freeze? Data show that we stop listening to new pop music after the age of 33.

What Eye Contact Can Do to You

Eye contact has the power to alter our behavior, attention, memory, and appraisal of who's looking at us. Is that always a good thing?

Is It Too Late to Say Balti?

By Vyv Evans Ph.D. on September 20, 2016 in Language in the Mind
What is the nature of punning? Musical puns in TV adverts provide an unexpected venue to explore the linguistics of humor.

A Weird Trick To Free Yourself From Your Identity

By Gleb Tsipursky Ph.D. on September 19, 2016 in Intentional Insights
Are you worried about your identity labels limiting your freedom? This simple reframing trick could be all you need!

$50m Judgment Says Brain Training a Sham

By Richard E. Cytowic M.D. on September 19, 2016 in The Fallible Mind
Letting someone else sharpen your brain sounds great. Except it doesn't work, and you have to do the work yourself. The good news is that it isn't so hard.

The Power of Contamination and Taint in Language

By Laura Niemi, Ph.D. on September 18, 2016 in Morality in Language
Do we need to distinguish between harm and purity to understand moral psychology? Contamination concepts in political rhetoric and coping suggest that we do.

The Truth About the Law of Attraction

By Neil Farber M.D, Ph.D. on September 18, 2016 in The Blame Game
Millions of people are unsuccessful at achieving goals using the Law of Attraction (LOA). The reason? The LOA does not exist! Hear why from a certified LOA expert.

What Teachers Need to Know About Their Students' Brains

By Eric Haseltine Ph.D. on September 17, 2016 in Long Fuse, Big Bang
Hot-off-the-press research suggests a radically new way to teach

Your Left Cerebellar Hemisphere May Play a Role in Cognition

By Christopher Bergland on September 17, 2016 in The Athlete's Way
Traditionally, the cerebellum has been considered a "non-thinking" part of our brain. However, a new study reports that specific cerebellar brain regions are involved in cognition.

Remembering 9/11, Who Are We, and Who Do We Want to Be?

By Ryan P. Brown Ph.D. on September 16, 2016 in Honor Bound
As Americans reflect on the meaning of 9/11, our response reveals our cultural values and beliefs.