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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Choi

Cognitive Processes

You wake up in the morning and start to get ready, going through your daily morning. Brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating breakfast, getting dressed. You then get ready to leave the house, putting shoes on and deciding on how to make your commute. All of these rudimentary actions involve critical cognitive skills. From deciding on what to eat and what to wear, to remembering what commute is the fastest, to simple things such as knowing to brush your teeth involve cognitive skills. Such skills such as thinking, judging, and remembering play a major role in human life. Cognitive processes, also known as cognitive functions or skills, are the psychological functions the brain performs in order to take in and process information received. Information is received through the five basic senses.  This information is then analyzed, stored, and then used in making relevant decisions in everyday life. 

Cognitive processes, also known as cognitive functions or skills, are the psychological functions the brain performs in order to take in and process information received.



There are two types of cognitive processes: basic and higher. Basic cognition refers to capacities, such as attention, perception,  information, and memory. Attention is the action of selecting and focusing on stimuli in order to retain the information. The five senses are focused and used to interact with the environment around a person. One may use their eyesight and hearing  to learn during a psychology class, or smell and taste to pick up distinctive characteristics of a food. Perception is the processing of the information given by the five senses and through attention. The brain captures sensations and gives them meaning, associating something picked up to an item, idea, or a concept. This information is then compiled together  to create an organized space to access this information. This leads to the final type of basic cognitive process, memory. Stored information is retained within the system for later access. This varies from both short-term and long-term memory, depending on how the brain sorts the information. 



The second type of cognitive process is higher-level cognition. This involves actions, such as critical thinking, creativity, language, and learning. Thinking is the bringing together of information, leading to meaningful judgments and deductions. People can plan for their futures, make important decisions, and manage their behavior by using the previously stored information in new ways. Creativity is the development of new ideas based upon what is already in one’s system. When using previously accessible information, sometimes people begin to create their own path and use that information to develop more advanced  ideas or concepts. Language is the fundamental method for communication, and knowing how to speak a language is important for living life. In general, humans communicate with one another using speech, reading, and writing, though there are also gesture-based languages, such as sign language. Finally, learning is the process in which humans do everything in life. The taking in of information and using it in everyday life is something that we cannot live without and is an important cognitive process. 

However, there exists a number of biases that affect how people utilize cognitive processes, due to systematic errors that occur when shortcuts, or quick rules, are used when using cognitive processes.

When executing these actions, however, there exists a number of biases that affect how people utilize cognitive processes, due to systematic errors that occur when shortcuts, or quick rules, are used when using cognitive processes. These are known as cognitive biases. The most common five biases are anchoring bias, confirmation bias, negativity bias, actor-observer bias, and the halo effect.

Anchoring bias involves relying excessively on the initial information received when making decisions, even if it’s irrelevant or incorrect. People tend to go with their natural instinct and what is first presented to them. For instance, in shopping. If you see a shirt first retailing for $1,200 then see another shirt for $500, it is not uncommon for the second shirt to be viewed as cheap because in comparison to the first $1,200, it seems drastically cheaper. By first taking in the information of a shirt being $1,200 and internalizing that, and then seeing a $500 shirt, the expectations for the normal price of a shirt are shot up because you are anchored on the first price.

The second type of bias, confirmation bias, is the inclination to favor information that supports existing beliefs and values while disregarding contradictory information. Once again, humans can be considered very self-centered and assume that they are always correct. As a result, when looking into information on a topic with pre-existing knowledge, people tend to favor information and sources that agree with what they initially believed and fail to look at opposing arguments closely, if any at all. For example, when looking into new smartphones, there may be a pre-existing, strong bias for a certain brand of smartphone. When reading reviews, recommendations, and opinions, it is common to subconsciously pay more attention to positive information about that brand or product. This, in turn, clouds the true facts and leads to a stronger inclination to prefer an object or idea due to this pre-existing bias.

Negativity bias is the tendency to give more importance to negative information or experiences compared to positive ones. Negative events, emotions, or information is usually paid more attention to and often have a stronger impact on thoughts and behaviors. Memories, for instance, tend to be more vivid and clear with more negative experiences rather than positive ones. Humiliation, embarrassment, and anger are all recalled more vividly because of its negative qualities and stand out more as a result. News stations also use this to their advantage, opting to display more negative stories as it captures attention and keeps the audience engaged. Stories involving conflict, natural disasters, and bad news are focused on more as it keeps the audience watching and intrigued. 

The fourth type of bias, actor-observer bias, is the cognitive bias that refers to the tendency of people to attribute their own behavior to external factors that are out of their control. On the contrary, people often attribute others’ behaviors to their personality and other internal factors. For instance, in traffic, if you cut someone off, you might tell yourself that you were just in a hurry or you didn’t see the car. However, when someone else cuts you off, it is not uncommon for the reaction to be to blame the other person, to call them careless, reckless, and an aggressive driver. 

The horn and halo effect make up the fifth type of cognitive bias. The halo effect is where our overall positive impression of a person influences how we feel and think about other parts of their character. If we perceive someone positively in one aspect, we are more likely to have a positive impression of them as a whole, allowing the positive trait to "radiate" and create a favorable "halo" around the person. Conversely, the horn effect is the opposite, where an initial negative impression results in continuous negative views about that person. This bias can lead to judgments that are not entirely objective, as our perception is influenced by a single trait. The most common instance is with physical attractiveness. If we find a person especially appealing, we often presume other positive qualities, such as kindness and intelligence, but this may not always be the case. This bias is also the basis for the idea of “having a good first impression,” where the initial interaction with a person can either set up or ruin the way that the other person visualizes the rest of your character and you as a person.



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