Cognitive Processes Cognitive processes affect everyday life, often occurring within fractions of a second. Three of these cognitive processes are language, attention, and problem solving. Language is used to effectively communicate. For bilingual children developing cognitive language abilities, understanding how to appropriately use two different languages to accommodate the need of other speakers is very similar to how monolingual children communicate. Attention refers to monitoring and processing information. This paper reviews a study conducted by Huang on spatial attention.
Problem solving occurs in many aspects of life, some are routine whereas others are more complex. A study involving the cognitive abilities to solve problems in younger and older adults is also reviewed Cognitive processes are unobservable, often occurring unconsciously, and are altered by previous experience. Language, attention, and problem solving are three cognitive processes that affect the daily life of all humans. Many basic cognitive processes occur within a second or less. The use of language begins very young, some would argue before birth.
As bilingual children are developing their cognitive language abilities, the ability to appropriately use two different languages to accommodate the needs of other speakers also develops. The cognitive ability to solve problems that are routine or more complex is encountered on a daily basis, but age does have an effect on this cognitive ability. Attention or the ability to monitor or process information is another cognitive ability used daily. Each of the cognitive abilities can be altered by variables including age, mental health, and physical health as well as other variables.
Language According to Robinson-Riegler and Robinson-Riegler, language is a hierarchically structured “set of symbols and principles for the combination of those symbols that allows for communication and comprehension” (2008, p. 383). The words of language comprise of mental lexicon, while rules are implicit in the grammar of language. Design features shared by a variety of languages include arbitrariness, semanticity, displacement, prevarication, reflectiveness, and productivity. Arbitrariness means that the concepts are not represented by the symbols.
Semanticity means that the symbols refer to the real world. Displacement means the ability to refer to the future and the past. Prevarication refers to deception in an effort to create alternate realities. Reflectiveness is communication about a language. Productivity refers to the unlimited number of messages possible to create. Those with a modular view of language believe that language “relies on special mechanisms devoted to nothing else” (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2008, p. 388). The non-modular view is opposite in that language is a combined product of other cognitive processes.
Pragmatic Differentiation and Language Abilities Bilingual children are becoming more common in the United States (Tare & Gelman, 2010). In a study conducted by Tare and Gelman, developing cognitive abilities were assessed to determine the relationship to pragmatic language ability as well as how this ability reflects greater cognitive abilities (2010). Pragmatic differentiation is the ability to appropriately use two different languages to accommodate the needs of other speakers. The study compared 28 children who were bilingual in English and the Native American language, Marathi.
Results of the study conclude that pragmatic language abilities begin during the preschool years switching language to best communicate with other speakers, as well as adjusting speech according to the person the child is addressing. For example, the children spoke with other children using simpler sentences compared to when speaking with adults (Tare & Gelman, 2010). Problem Solving Researchers are methodologically challenged by the process of problem solving because accuracy and reaction time limit the information provided leading researchers to often use verbal protocols (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2008).
A problem consists of four components including the initial state, goal state, set of rules, and obstacles to overcome. The initial state is the beginning of the situation. The goal state is the acceptable solution of the problem. The set of rules involves the constraints that must be adhered to. The obstacles to overcome are simply all the hurdles that must be faced to solve the problem. Problems can be well defined and easily solved or ill defined and difficult to solve (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2008). Problems can either be routine with well-practiced procedures for solving or they can be on-routine involving procedures that are unfamiliar. Problem types include arrangement, transformation, induction, deduction, and divergent. Arrangement problems require the person solving the problem to determine how the various elements of the problem are to be arranged. Transformation problems require the person solving the problem to change the initial problem into a workable goal. Induction problems require the person solving the problem to determine the rule to solve the problem. Deduction problems require the person solving the problem to figure out if a conclusion follows.
Divergent problems require the person solving the problem to generate as many ways possible to solve the problem (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2008). Problem Solving Abilities in Older Adults Numerous studies have been performed to assess the cognitive performance in older adults using traditional tests to measure performance (Burton, Strauss, Hultsch, & Hunter, 2009). Because these tests often measure situations that are not everyday tasks, these tests may underestimate the performance of everyday tasks preformed by older adults.
Burton, Strauss, Hultsch, and Hunter conducted research to determine if the reaction time in adults became inconsistent with age (2009). The study measured everyday problem solving of 304 adults ages 62 to 92 using the Everyday Problems Test (EBT). Each individual was assessed on four tasks to determine if reaction time was inconsistent. The results of the study concluded that problem solving abilities decrease with both age and cognitive impairment, even when such impairment was mild.
Older adults’ ability to solve problems was affected by across trail inconsistencies and level of performance. According to Burton, Strauss, Hultsch, and Hunter, “even after accounting for age, education, and mean level of performance, inconsistency in reaction time continued to account for a significant proportion of the variance in EPT scores” (2009, p. 1). Additional research should be performed to determine what the functional relevance of inconsistency is in problem solving in older adults (Burton, Strauss, Hultsch, and Hunter, 2009). Attention
Attention is the “process used to monitor and focus on incoming information” (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2008, p. 106). Visual attention is either object based or spatial. Object based attention means focusing on or paying attention to important objects. Spatial attention means noticing the amount of space in front of an individual or in relevance to other people, objects, or locations. Anytime something captures the attention of an individual, he or she perceives information about it and (often unconsciously) separates it into categories.
Researchers study auditory attention using dichotic listening and speech shadowing. Both of these techniques show attention is limited to attend to only one stimulus; however, even unattended information sometimes in analyzed. Divided attention is researched by focusing on dual-task interference. According to Robinson-Riegler and Robinson-Riegler, research proves that older adults handle dual-task interference as well as younger adults as long as the tasks are well practiced (2008). A Study on the Speed of Feature Based Attention
In studies conducted by L. Huang, creator of the Boolean map, the measurement of speed to perceive information is based on attention and selecting the information from the stimulus and processing the information. According to Huang, visual attention refers to information that is selected for conscious access. Huang also separates another term often conflated with attention. Processing optimization is “that one act of selection may influence the selection (and processing) of other visual information residing in the same region” (Huang, 2010, p. 1).
An example of this is that an individual perceiving an object may improve the perception of other objects in the general location. In this study, Huang used 17 undergraduate students, all with normal or corrected to normal vision. The students were asked to detest a single digit among letters. Three different colors were used and attention was given to symmetry. The duration of the stimulus was varied systematically while the time was measured for the course of creating a Boolean map to see if it differed from the time until processing optimization.
The study by Huang concluded that “in the process of feature-based attention, a spatial representation is created very quickly, whereas the processing optimization of items occurs significantly later” (2010, p. 4). This supports the belief that attention based on specific features is mediated to locations containing certain features by paying spatial attention (Huang, 2010). Conclusion Cognitive abilities can be altered by variables including age, mental health, and physical health as well as other variables. Cognitive processes are unobservable, often occurring unconsciously, and are altered by previous experience.
Many basic cognitive processes occur within a second or less. The use of language begins very young, some would argue before birth. Language, attention, and problem solving are three cognitive processes that affect the daily life of all humans. References Burton, C. , Strauss, E. , Hultsch, D. , & Hunter, M. (2009). The relationship between everyday problem solving and inconsistency in reaction time in older adults. Neuropsychology, Development, and Cognition. Section B, Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, 16(5), 607-632. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Huang, L. (2010).
The speed of feature-based attention: Attentional advantage is slow, but selection is fast. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 36(6), 1382-1390. doi:10. 1037/a0018736 Robinson-Riegler, G. , & Robinson-Riegler, B. (2008). Cognitive psychology: Applying the science of the mind (2nd ed. ). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Tare, M. , & Gelman, S. A. (2010). Can You Say It Another Way? Cognitive Factors in Bilingual Children’s Pragmatic Language Skills. Journal of Cognition & Development, 11(2), 137-158. doi:10. 1080/15248371003699951