Cognitive processes

Cognitive processes, or cognition, are processes that involve knowledge and how people use their knowledge. They include matters such as attention, memory, producing and understanding language, solving problems and making decisions. All these are very important for human behaviour.

Psychologists refer to all cognitive and mental activities as information processing. This involves three steps: input, central processing, and output. Input is the information people receive from their senses. Central processing is the storing (in memory) and sorting (by thought) of this information in the brain. Output refers to the ideas and actions that result from processing.

The ability to choose among the various available inputs is called selective attention. It is only the first step of cognition. The second step is to decide which aspects of the selected information you will focus on. This process is called feature extraction.

In order to be used, the inputs that reach the brain must be registered, perhaps “filed” for future reference. We call the storage of inputs memory.

Memory is the way in which we record the past, the act of remembering. Psychologists distinguish three kinds of memory: sensory storage holds information for only an instant; short-term memory keeps it in mind for about twenty seconds; long-term memory stores it indefinitely.

The things you have in your conscious mind at any moment are being held in short-term memory. If the information is worth holding into, it must be transferred to long-term memory.

The stored information is useless unless it can be retrieved from memory. We can only create new information with thinking. By thinking, humans are able to put together any combination of previous experience from memory and create something new.

People think in two distinct ways. The first, called directed thinking, is a systematic and logical attempt to reach a specific goal, such as the solution of a problem. The other type called non-directed thinking, consists of a free flow of thoughts through the mind, with no particular goal or plan. Non-directed thinking is usually rich in imagery and feelings.

MEMORY

In psychology, memory is the process in which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved. Encoding allows information that is from the outside world to reach our senses in the forms of chemical and physical stimuli. It is the first stage. Storage is the second memory stage or process. This entails that we maintain information over periods of time. Finally, the third process is the retrieval of information that we have stored. We must locate it and return it to our consciousness.

So, there are three main stages in the formation and retrieval of memory:

· Encoding or registration: receiving, processing and combining of received information

· Storage: creation of a permanent record of the encoded information

· Retrieval, recall or recollection: calling back the stored information for use in a process or activity

The loss of memory is described as forgetfulness, as a medical disorder, amnesia.

Sensory memory holds sensory information for a few seconds or less. It is out of cognitive control and is an automatic response.

There are three types of sensory memories. Iconic memory is a fast decaying store of visual information, a type of sensory memory that briefly stores an image. Echoic memory is a fast decaying store of auditory information, another type of sensory memory that briefly stores sounds. Haptic memory is a type of sensory memory that represents a database for touch stimuli.

Short-term memory allows recall for a period of several seconds to a minute. Its capacity is also very limited. Short-term memory relies mostly on an acoustic code for storing information, and to a lesser extent a visual code.

The storage in sensory memory and short-term memory generally has a strictly limited capacity and duration. By contrast, long-term memory can store much larger quantities of information for the potentially unlimited duration (sometimes a whole life span). Its capacity is extremely large. While short-term memory encodes information acoustically, long-term memory encodes it semantically.

The hypothalamus is essential (for learning new information) to the consolidation of information from short-term to long-term memory. Without the hippocampus, new memories are unable to be stored into long-term memory.

Physical exercise, particularly continuous aerobic exercises such as running, cycling and swimming, has many cognitive benefits and effects on the brain.

 

PERSONALITY

Personality is that pattern of characteristic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that distinguishes one person from another and that persists over time and situations.

The Latin term “persona” means “actor’s face mask”. In a sense, one’s personality is the “mask” worn as a person moves from situation to situation during a lifetime.

Personality also predicts human reactions to other people, problems, and stress. There is still no universal consensus on the definition of "personality" in psychology.

At a general level, the concept of personality has a number of characteristics relatively stable across time.

The first characteristic of personality implies that a person’s behavior should show some degree of consistency that distinguishes them from person’s responses to different stimuli. Though people change from day to day, from year to year – with age and experience, they remain more or less what they are.

The second characteristic of personality is that the behaviours should distinguish the person from others. People differ in their predominant desires, in their characteristic feelings, and in their typical modes of expressing needs and feelings. In the 5th century B.C. Hippocrates gave the description of four temperaments: sanguine (cheerful and active), melancholic (gloomy), choleric (angry and violent), and phlegmatic (calm and passive).

The specific attributes of a person are called personality traits. A trait is any characteristic in which one person differs from another. Every trait can be used to classify people. A person’s personality may be described in terms of a particular combination of traits.

The third characteristic of personality is that person’s behavioral consistency may be obscured by demands of the situations. Two different situations may produce radically different effect in person. Both individual differences and situations affect behavior to some extent.

A response of a person to a situation is an emotion. An emotion is not an independent element which comes and goes at will. It is initiated by certain perception and stimulated by the situation.

The fourth characteristic of personality lies in impossibility to accurately predict an individual’s behavior on the specific occasion from a single measure of personality.

The biological basis of personality is the theory that anatomical structures located in the brain contribute to personality traits. For instance, in human beings, frontal lobes are responsible for foresight and anticipation, and the occipital lobes are responsible for processing visual information. In addition, certain physiological functions such as hormone secretion also affect personality. For example, the hormone testosterone is important for sociability, affectivity, aggressiveness, and sexuality. Additionally, studies show that the expression of a personality trait depends on the volume of the brain cortex.

 






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