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

How Dreams Help Us Transcend Time and Place

Can we benefit from thinking about our dreams? Will attending to our dreams waste our time or, even worse, mislead us into inferences of false meaning?

Imagining an Authentic Life

Stop trying to be true to yourself, because there's no self to be true to. You are a character in a fiction of your own making, constantly revising your narrative to adapt to your circumstances. If you don't like your life, change your story.

Make Skepticism, Not Gullibility, Your Habit

Everyone knows someone who believes in some form of unscientific science. After all, if such-and-such helped so-and-so, it should help you, right? Not so fast.

Your Dog and You: A New Book About Forming Close Friendships

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on May 05, 2015 in Animal Emotions
A new book by Gill Garratt, a psychologist and specialist in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) called "Your dog and you...: Understanding the canine psyche," is a very useful guide for forming close relationships between dogs and humans. The combination of scientific data, numerous case studies, and exceptional photographs make this book a most valuable read.

Neuroscientists Confirm That Strangers Can Become Ourselves

Your brain has the ability to transfer your sense of self into the physical body of a stranger.

Knowledge and Blame

By Art Markman Ph.D. on May 01, 2015 in Ulterior Motives
Human beings love to give explanations for things. If you have ever spent any time with a 5-year-old, you know that a child that age just loves to ask, “Why?” This desire to understand why things happen continues throughout our lives. Understanding why things happen affects many aspects of our lives, including our ability to assign blame for an action.

Video vs Text: The Brain Perspective

They say video killed the radio star. The question is: Did it also kill the print star? And what does the answer mean for online content marketing?

Is the Home Advantage Overrated in Sports?

Sports fans always hear about the importance of home advantage for the championship playoff series. Is it really worth it?

Music's Effects on Cognitive Function of the Elderly

By William R. Klemm Ph.D. on April 30, 2015 in Memory Medic
Music can be therapy for old age.

Your Brain Never Stops Playing the Confidence Game

By David DiSalvo on April 29, 2015 in Neuronarrative
We seem to be equipped with a way to detect the level of confidence embedded in others’ voices, and even a loud tone—if lacking the confidence intangible—isn’t likely to cause much more than irritation.

You Are What You Speak

By David Ludden Ph.D. on April 29, 2015 in Talking Apes
When bilinguals switch from one language to another, they shift their personalities as well.

Does Training Make Your Dog Smarter?

Dogs that have been trained to high levels of performance in any of a number of skills (e.g., agility, schutzhund, search and rescue, retrieving, musical freestyle, etc.) become better problem solvers on totally unrelated tasks.

4 Reasons Why You Can’t Read Your Partner’s Nonverbal Cues

You would think that with familiarity, our ability to accurately read someone’s body language would improve, but it often doesn’t. Here are some reasons why you might not be able to read a loved one’s nonverbal cues.

Why Are Cannabis Users Susceptible to Memory Distortion?

A new study reports that chronic cannabis use can make imaginary memories seem like reality.

Why Loneliness Hurts So Much

Just we feel hunger when we haven't enough food, we feel affection hunger when our needs for connection go unmet. Close relationships aren’t a luxury, but a necessity. The need for social connection is innate, just like the need for food, sleep, and air.

Memory Thieves

By Ira Hyman Ph.D. on April 28, 2015 in Mental Mishaps
Have you, or anyone you know, ever been the victim of memory theft? Has someone ever stolen one of your memories and told the story as his or her own? You might be surprised by how frequently this crime happens—you aren’t alone if your memories have been stolen.

When Is a Belief in Talents Helpful?

By Art Markman Ph.D. on April 28, 2015 in Ulterior Motives
I have written often in this blog about the how people’s belief in talents and skills affects their behavior. Talents are abilities that you are born with, while skills are abilities that can be acquired with significant hard work.

The Contradictions of Cliches

By Steven Mintz Ph.D. on April 28, 2015 in The Prime of Life
What common clichés reveal about the popular psychology of our time.

Mindfulness Versus Antidepressants: Which Works Best?

Antidepressants don’t suit everyone, and side effects are common. Could mindfulness-based cognitive therapy be a viable alternative?

How to Win at Rock-Paper-Scissors

Don't be the one who has to wash the dishes, do push-ups, or pay for lunch. Winning at Rock - Paper - Scissors is about psychology, not chance.

Sitting Can Drain Brain Power and Stifle Creativity

Sitting has become an epidemic. Not only does sitting increase health risks and obesity—sitting can also stifle creative thinking and disrupt cognitive engagement.

Why Is Air Pollution So Bad for Your Brain?

Air pollution has long been associated with health risks including asthma and an increased risk of stroke. New findings show that air pollution also damages the human brain.

6 Magic Questions to Unlock the Meaning of Your Dreams

Drop the dream dictionary and look within to understand the messages being shared by your dreams.

What Is Confirmation Bias?

People are prone to believe what they want to believe.

Returning to an Unchanged Place Reveals How You Have Changed

Returning to a place from your past that remains unchanged can reveal how you've evolved and give you clues as to where you should go with your life from here.

Is Your Cell Phone Conscious? On Information Integration

By Paul Thagard Ph.D. on April 23, 2015 in Hot Thought
The theory that consciousness is just information integration suffers from vagueness, mathematical problems, naïve claims about self-evidence, and misattribution of consciousness to entities such as smartphones.So it is less plausible than alternate theories that explain consciousness as the result of brain mechanisms.

Writing by Hand Makes It Easier to Think

By Temma Ehrenfeld on April 23, 2015 in Open Gently
Remember pens and paper? They help us think.

Prime Your Child’s Reading & Math Development with Patterns

Patterning refers to the meaningful process of organizing, coding, and categorizing information in the brain. It is through the patterns constructed and stored in neural networks that our brains recognize and find relevance in the millions of bits of sensory input received every second. Your child’s early experiences sorting, categorizing and patterning are key.

Wishful Thinking

By Eyal Winter on April 22, 2015 in Feeling Smart
How we can ignore facts we don't like.

Making Our Mark

By Michele Wick Ph.D. on April 22, 2015 in Anthropocene Mind
Imagine if change were as simple as having people contemplate the mark they want to leave on the world.