The 8 basic psychological processes and their characteristics

Do you want to know more about your emotions? We present the 8 basic psychological processes and their main characteristics.

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Elena Sanz on 06 October, 2021.

Last update: 06 October, 2021

A psychological process is a pattern or mechanism that develops on a regular basis and that generates changes in the way you behave, think or express your emotions. Many experts believe that emotions arise from some elemental patterns, which are expressed in 8 basic psychological processes. Today we explain what they are and their characteristics.

Of course, there is no single model of these patterns. Its interpretation or significance is not the same in each of them.

However, what the researchers do agree on is that they are an elemental piece in the way you interpret and relate to reality. Let’s see what the basic psychological processes are and why you should know them.

8 basic psychological processes that you should know

Basic psychological processes are something that has caught the attention of researchers for decades. Their value is still debated today, as well as the way in which they determine people’s behaviors. Although many more can be established, those that are considered elemental are as follows.



1. Perception

Perception is the gateway to the things around you. It is the way your brain interprets the sensations you collect through your senses. It is, therefore, a sensory process that allows you to make a model, a pattern, an idea or an image of what you have in front of you.

Of course, perception is determined by many internal processes. Selecting, organizing and interpreting the objective information that reaches your brain is part of it. When there is some imbalance in these processes, it is said that the person suffers from a perception disorder.

Also known as perception disturbances, are classified according to the primary meaning they affect. For example, agnosia, hallucinations, synesthesia, anesthesia, prosopagnosia, and Gerstmann syndrome.

Hallucinations are perceptual alterations that are part of psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia.

2. Learning

Learning is one of the best known basic psychological processes. is defined as the way you acquire knowledge, skills or behaviors; Or, the way you modify existing ones. Dozens of psychologists, pedagogues and thinkers have created their own model to explain this process.

Skinner, Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner are just some of the names that stand out from the top. In any case, it is a capital process that allows you to add information and experience to use in the future.

Today it is not possible to speak only of one type of learning, but of dozens. For example, meaningful, creative, metacognitive, empirical, and dialogical learning, just to name a few.

As in the previous case, we find several disorders in which this process is affected. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are among them.

3. Language

Language is the ability you have to communicate with those around you. In short, the human being has managed to consolidate itself as a social being thanks to him. Through language you can communicate your thoughts, feelings and ideas.

It is natural, therefore, that it is part of the basic psychological processes. With its help you can establish and maintain social relationships, to the point that it is a pillar that has contributed to the creation of organized civilizations.

As with other processes that we have explained, it does not escape the disorders that modify the way it develops. The best examples are dyslexia, dysphemia, aphasia, or dysarthria. The causes can be cognitive, emotional or physical.

4. Thought

Although it is a concept that everyone uses, in reality, thought is one of the greatest mysteries due to its complexity. In very simple terms describes the process by which you create ideas and associations that allow you to reach a conclusion.

There are dozens of theories that try to explain its processes; each one from different disciplines. For example, we find linguistic theories (such as Chomsky’s), neuronal (Feldman and Lakoff) and even from mathematics (Caianiello).

Errors in the thought process are known by the general label of thought disorders. They are not a unique condition, since they group dozens and dozens of symptoms or complex diseases. For example, a thought disorder can be a mental vacuum, going through delirium to bradypsychia.



5. Attention

Attention is one of the basic psychological processes that we all take for granted. It consists, in very simple terms, of the ability to have a selective concentration toward something at the time when other surrounding ideas or actions are ignored.

It is a key process in information management, since we are continually exposed to data, sounds and images. To the extent that we can discern which of all these elements we can focus on, we will spend time assimilating and processing the information.

Disadvantages in this process lead to attention disorders. These are divided, at least generally, into distractibility, hypoprosexia, aprosexia, hyperprosexia, and perseveration. They can affect both children and adults and they are treated from different fields.

6. Memory

Memory is a psychological process that allows you much more than just storing information. Actually, also includes the ability to encode, manage and retrieve it. Storing is just one of its functions; one that is diminished in the absence of the exposed skills.

The process that governs memory is not yet fully known. The most accepted theory dictates that it revolves around repetitive connections of neurons. The process results in what is known as neural networks, which are an essential part of memories and their recovery.

Functional memory errors translate into disorders. Some of the best known are agnosia, amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. The memorizing process naturally deteriorates over time.

Memory disorders make up specific and complex diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

7. Motivation

Perhaps it is one of the most undervalued psychological processes. Motivation is described as the willingness to do things. Said in this way it seems very simple, although in reality the concept of states of motivation. The reason for this is that it is such a complex process that it cannot be perceived alone as be motivated or unmotivated.

Motivation relates to the desire, the will, the willingness, and the strength to do something. Also with the reward or context.

Apathy and apathy are among the most common motivational disorders. It also encompasses other types of disorders, although these are more related to the emotional process than to the motivational one.

8. Emotion

Finally, we have reached the eighth of the basic psychological processes: emotion. Like the previous ones, it is not easy to describe all the peculiarities that characterize it. In short, emotions are the reactions that allow you to adapt to the situations, events, experiences, memories, or people you are dealing with.

Emotions have two basic components: a psychological and a physiological one. In effect, when you experience your emotions, a series of psychological reactions are triggered that modify behavior, but also physiological reactions are produced. Your voice and your facial features, for example, vary according to the emotions you develop.

Anxiety disorders, depression, bipolarity, phobias, and obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) are considered alterations in the way you express or control your emotions.

Basic psychological processes are connected

The basic psychological processes group a series of very complex functionalities. Although we have divided them into individual elements, actually they all operate together. In short, it is not possible to talk about emotional processes without including memory, language or perception. There is an inescapable interconnection.

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