Cognitive skills: what they are and 12 examples

In this article we are going to introduce you to 12 cognitive skills. For some experts, these differentiate us from the rest of the living beings.

Last update: January 10, 2022

Plan how to study to be able to get to an exam in time, think of solutions to solve a work problem, remember a password that you have not used for a long time. What do these situations have in common? That we are putting different cognitive abilities to use.

Planning, evaluation and memory are just a few. Let’s know a little more about them.

What are cognitive skills?

Cognitive skills are those that have to do with the processing, interpretation and retrieval of information. Through actions, such as selecting, analyzing and collecting, they allow the production of knowledge.

Some classifications distinguish basic and superior cognitive skills. The basic ones are focus or attention, memory, obtaining and retrieving information, organizational skills and analysis, as well as the transformation of said information and perception.

Those that are superior are problem solving, decision making, critical and creative thinking, as well as metacognition. The superiors are understood as a combination of the basic.

For many currents of thought, cognitive abilities are those that differentiate us from the rest of living beings. They are also known as knowledge managers.

In short, according to Herrera Clavero, this type of skills require the ability to represent (through drawing, reading, etc), of selection (focusing through attention) and self-direction (self-control).

Various abilities are combined in cognitive abilities. There are basic and superior.


Examples of cognitive skills

Some of the cognitive skills are as follows:

  1. Memory: allows us to store the information and access it in a later retrieval. There are different types of memory. For example, short and long term, semantic, episodic, procedural, among others.
  2. Attention: allows you to focus on certain aspects of a situation. With this we make later use, since it would be difficult to concentrate, attending to multiple stimuli simultaneously.
  3. Planning: anticipates the future, designing strategies.
  4. Reasoning: It allows us to analyze a situation and draw conclusions, either through the inductive (patterns are identified to establish something general) or the deductive (starting from the general to see how it behaves at the individual level).
  5. Evaluation: It is a capacity that allows to analyze a situation, considering different aspects. It also includes reorganization from a reading of the situation.
  6. Understanding: It is the ability to understand information and put it in relation to other data. In this way, we make use of it for decision making.
  7. Cognitive flexibility: It allows us to rehearse thoughts different from the usual ones, to understand the perspective of others. Likewise, we learn from experiences and incorporate this new knowledge into our background.
  8. Problem resolution: It is a cognitive ability closely linked to the previous point, since from being flexible with our way of thinking, we are also capable of looking for new ways out.
  9. Metacognition: it is a higher level of cognition, which allows us to think about our thoughts. It is the knowledge of our knowledge.
  10. Perception: It is another cognitive ability of great importance, since it allows us to capture some signals from the environment and convert them into useful information.
  11. Language: It is considered a cognitive ability, although there are some theories that classify it as a consequence of putting these skills into play.
  12. Visuospatial skills: They are those that allow manipulating objects through mental images, both in two and three dimensions. For example, calculate or estimate what position something will be in if you rotate it.
Some cognitive abilities deteriorate with aging. This is the case of memory, for example.


Much more than just repeating

Today, we know that the development and promotion of cognitive skills it is not achieved just by repeating an idea over and over again. Today models are applied that allow experimentation and creation with information, betting on playful strategies.

The fact of memorizing does not guarantee the consolidation of knowledge, much less its correct use. In addition to having the relevant skills, you need to know when and how to use them.

At school, the development of cognitive skills was mainly focused on long texts, memorization activities, on the teacher’s word with little exchange from the student body. Today’s world challenges us to rethink the ways in which people read, organize, study and learn.

In this way, it is possible to enhance the development of cognitive skills, as well as to relate them to other types of skills; for example, those related to emotional intelligence.

This is why it is important to think about practices and other types of learning, which allow to relate what is learned so that it is not a hermetic, compact and isolated knowledge of the context.

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