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Cognitive Skills

Cognitive skills are those skills that involve the human brain, such as reading, thinking, remembering, learning, reasoning or paying attention.

Cognitive skills are those skills that involve the human brain, such as reading, thinking, remembering, learning, reasoning or paying attention.

Different parts of the brain work together to take in information and transfer it to memory, as described in the memory model.


Cognition has everything to do with how a person sees the world and acts in it. An example. When a person receives a phone call, it involves hearing the phone (perception), making decisions such as whether to answer it or not, answering the phone (motor skills), language skills (having a conversation) and social skills.

Difference between non-cognitive skills and cognitive skills

Cognitive skills include the conscious intellectual efforts described above, such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering.
Other examples of cognitive include:

  • Selective attention
  • Sustained attention
  • Processing speed of information
  • Recognition of patterns
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Visual processing
  • Auditory processing

Non-cognitive skills include elements like integrity, motivation, or interpersonal interaction. They are further related to people’s personalities, temperaments, and attitudes. Non-cognitive skills are also described as soft-skills.

The difference between cognitive and non-cognitive skills is often not easily distinguished, because ultimately, human cognition is involved in everything.

What are soft-skills?

Soft-skills are skills that relate to how someone works, for example, how someone interacts with colleagues and how problems are solved. They include interpersonal skills, communication skills, time management skills, empathy and listening skills.

Soft-skills are very important for a high-functioning employee because they can make someone successful in the workplace and within a team. Someone can be good at technical skills, but if these people cannot control themselves or deal with others, they cannot be successful within a company.

Examples of soft-skills include:

Developing cognitive skills

Cognitive development is a topic that receives a lot of attention in neuroscience and psychology. In particular, it focuses on a child’s development in the areas of perceptual skills, language learning, information processing, and other aspects of cognitive psychology.

Jean Piaget developed a theory in which he suggests that children go through four different stages in their mental development. The theory focuses on how children acquire knowledge and the nature of intelligence.

The four stages are:

  1. Sensory-motor stage (birth to 2 years old)
  2. Pre-operational stage (2 years old to 7 years old)
  3. Concrete operational stage (7 years old to 11 years old)
  4. Formally operational stage (12 years and older)

Piaget believed that children play an active role in their own learning and saw them as little scientists conducting experiments and making observations as they learn about the world.

Improving Cognitive Skills

To promote children’s cognitive development, having quality interactions with the child is very important. Examples of ways to improve children’s cognitive skills are:

  • Talking to your baby and naming commonly used objects
  • Letting them play with toys and get lots of exercise
  • Introducing children to letters, puzzles and eventually booklets
  • Expanding and stimulating a child’s natural interests
  • Patiently and fully answering all of a child’s why questions

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Cognitive Flexibility

The ability to adapt behavior and thinking to the environment is called cognitive flexibility. It is considered a core component of executive functioning. It takes place in two ways:

  1. The ability to think about multiple things at once
  2. The ability to adapt thinking based on change

An example. Suppose a teacher asks a student if a class can be divided into several groups.

One student says: everyone in the class belongs together. Another student says: the group can be divided based on gender, color, height, hair color, favorite animals, etc. This is an example of cognitive flexibility.

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