The Importance of Our Cognitive Skills

The Importance of our Cognitive Skills

Cognitive skills are the skills of human beings related to information processing: those involving the use of memory, attention, perception, creativity, and abstract or analogical thinking.

Human thinking is the result of a complex and abstract series of processes, which range from the capture of specific stimuli, their interpretation, their storage in memory, and their translation into a system of values and concepts from which a response will subsequently emerge.

Cognitive skills have much to do with notions of intelligence, learning, and experience, thanks to which an individual can grow cognitively and learn to perform complex tasks or foresee future situations concerning what he or she has experienced.

Thus, this skill corresponds to a set of concrete intellectual capacities, which a person employs more or less throughout the different situations of his life.

There are many cognitive skills that we have and that we regularly use to survive, mostly even unconsciously.

These are the most important:


The ability to perceive is something we usually take for granted, but the truth is that we can consider it one of the essential cognitive skills.

It is the ability to transform signals from the senses into information with which our brain can work to perceive in a coordinated manner, for example, the different information that constitutes an image or what a person is telling us.


Is one of the most fundamental cognitive skills. Attention allows us to focus our cognitive resources so that we can operate and work with them.

Within it, we can include capabilities such as maintaining it, dividing it, and moving it away from previously perceived stimulation to save cognitive resources.

It also includes orientation responses to outgoing stimuli, allowing us to activate and react to possible threats.


Memory allows us to temporarily store and manipulate information to perform more complex cognitive tasks.

In our performance, we will have to use this skill since it helps us understand language, reading, mathematical skills, learning, or reasoning.


Curiously inconsiderate when we think of cognitive skills, it is a fundamental ability without which we could not have an identity.

It is about being able to recognize oneself. To consider oneself as an independent being from the rest of the environment. It also allows us to have and self-manage a personal history and establish and make learning meaningful.


This skill has always been considered extremely important, to the extent that it is considered to be what separated us from the rest of the animals.

The ability to reason allows us to draw conclusions from the observation of reality and act accordingly. We can include inductive reasoning (moving from particular cases to general axioms), deductive reasoning (deducing from the general how the behavior of specific instances will be), and hypothetical-deductive reasoning.

Motivation and Goal Setting

Motivation allows the human being to acquire and feel the energy and drive necessary to initiate and maintain a specific course of action, allowing us to set and pursue our goals and objectives actively.

The total absence of motivation could even cause us not to look for food or water to survive.


To establish relationships between different events is a fundamental ability not only for the human being but also for any living being with the capacity to learn. It is the basis of any learning.

Cognitive Flexibility

Being flexible allows us to adapt to changing conditions and modify our schemes according to our experience demands.

It also allows us to assume different perspectives and understand others’ motivations and thoughts, being of great help for socialization.


Ability to use the knowledge acquired, organize it, and link it to the search for solutions.

Indeed, this capacity would include the functions of anticipation and planning that allow us to establish adequate plans and actions to achieve our objectives.

Creativity and Lateral Thinking

Generating new strategies beyond the information and methods that we have had until now has allowed human beings to evolve — for example, contributing to creating new technologies, techniques, and procedures that enable us to reach our objectives or to solve a problem in the most efficient way.

Decision Making

Decision-making is the process by which a course of action is chosen in response to a problem.

Behavior Inhibition and Management

Inhibition is defined as the ability of the human being to control impulsive responses and generate responses governed by reasoning.

This ability is related to anticipation, planning, and goal setting. Inhibition or inhibitory control puts a brake on our behavior and helps us to give a more reasoned and more adapted response to the situation.

It is just as important to do something as it is to be able not to do it or to inhibit our already initiated behavioral patterns to cope with new information or changing strategies if they are not effective.

It allows us to save time and effort or directly avoid dangers and adapt to the environment.


The ability to evaluate the consequences or implications of an action before it is carried out, thus being able to desist from it if those consequences are inconvenient; or, perhaps, stop, having seen them coming beforehand.

This capacity is key to the survival of the individual and his or her integration into society.


The ability to anticipate a range of future consequences from actions undertaken and, therefore, set goals and objectives arising from those actions.

It is the ability to choose the consequences and to achieve future purposes.

Symbolization and Interpretation

Something fundamental for the human being is the capacity to generate elements that allow representing an idea, as well as the ability to evaluate what a particular action or symbol implies.

This allows us to communicate with our fellow beings and socialize, which is vital for a gregarious species like ours.


Although it is more than a cognitive skill, language could be considered a fundamental capacity when relating to each other and transmitting the information.

We are not only talking about speech but also reading and writing, gestures, and expressions.


Those that have as their object, not the perceived reality, but the cognitive processes themselves, thus allowing the ability to think about the way one thinks: Thinking-about-thoughts.

This ability allows the control, explanation, and transmission of experienced knowledge and the formulation of a useful language and other complex systems of representation of ideas.

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