101 Cognition Examples

cognition examples and definition, explained below

Cognition refers to the multiple ways in which our minds process information, from interpreting raw information through the senses through to complex acts of analysis, inference, critique, and memory retrieval.

A simple scholarly definition is provided below:

“The definition of cognition that we prefer is both broad and commonly used, and can be described as “information processing.” This definition encompasses the acquisition of sensory information, the storage, retrieval, and use of that information for making behavioral decisions.”

(Rowe & Healy, 2014)

Cognitive psychologists and neurologists tend to agree that our cognition develops over the early years of life. Through both physical development and socialization, we learn to use our brains, unlocking increasingly complex capacities such as skills in evaluation and metacognition (‘thinking about thinking’).

Cognition Examples

1. Memory Retrieval: This refers to remembering past events or information (such as recollecting a forgotten phone number).

2. Visual Processing: This cognitive process involves interpreting and understanding visual inputs (like identifying your friend in a crowd).

3. Language Comprehension: Here, you decode spoken and written words to understand their meanings (an example could be following the storyline while reading a book).

4. Problem-Solving: This includes analyzing a problem and coming up with a solution (akin to fixing a broken bicycle).

5. Decision Making: This entails making a choice from multiple options (a real-world situation may involve choosing which vacation destination to visit).

6. Selective Attention: This enables you to focus mental resources on specific details (similar to paying attention to the ingredients while cooking a new dish).

7. Logical Reasoning: Logical reasoning requires drawing conclusions from facts (it can be illustrated by proving a mathematical theorem).

8. Auditory Processing: This cognitive ability involves interpreting and understanding what you hear (as when you listen and react to a friend’s question).

9. Spatial Orientation: Spatial orientation deals with understanding your physical location and navigating through spaces (like finding your way in a new city).

10. Perception: This cognitive function allows you to interpret sensory information to understand your environment (for instance, distinguishing a car’s honk amidst traffic noise).

11. Abstract Thinking: This involves processing ideas beyond concrete specifics (like understanding concepts such as democracy or love).

12. Emotional Processing: Taking care of emotional responses and applying them appropriately falls under this category (such as feeling and expressing happiness on receiving good news).

13. Critical Thinking: This cognitive function allows you to mentally dissect complex problems or arguments (like analysing different viewpoints in a political debate).

14. Sensory Integration: This involves receiving and synthesizing sensory inputs to respond appropriately (for instance, adjusting your body when the ground beneath you is uneven).

15. Motor Planning: This crucial cognitive ability involves conceptualizing, organizing, and executing physical activities (this happens when you learn a new sport).

16. Executive Function: This directs higher-level functions such as planning, organization, and goal setting (like planning your work schedule for the week).

17. Social Cognition: This refers to how your social interactions (especially with parents) mediate understanding and interpretations. For example, your knowledge of culturally-defined context cues might help you interpret others’ thoughts, feelings, and intentions (exemplified when interpreting a friend’s sarcastic remark).

18. Working Memory: Working memory allows short-term retention and manipulation of information for cognitive tasks (like keeping track of the different items on your shopping list). Pop psychology says we can only hold about 7 items in our working memory at any one time.

19. Learning: This involves acquiring knowledge or skills through experience or instruction (such as learning to play a musical instrument).

20. Metacognition: Reflecting on and monitoring one’s own thought processes is part of this cognitive function (much like reconsidering your decision-making process after a wrong decision).

21. Information Processing: This involves getting, organizing, and interpreting data (for example, investigating and understanding tomorrow’s weather forecast).

22. Creativity: This cognitive function involves thinking of new, original concepts or ideas (like designing a unique art piece).

23. Concentration: This involves maintaining focus on a task for an extended period of time (examples include studying for a final exam).

24. Stimulus Discrimination: This involves distinguishing between similar sensory inputs (like differentiating between the scent of lavender and rosemary).

25. Self-Awareness: Self-awareness refers to understanding personal strengths, weaknesses, and emotions (such as recognizing when you’re stressed or anxious).

26. Imagery and Visualization: This cognitive activity involves creating or recalling mental pictures (such as visualizing a peaceful beach to calm oneself).

27. Object Recognition: This involves identifying and understanding the properties of an object (like recognizing an apple by its shape and color).

28. Pattern Recognition: Detecting and analyzing patterns in data or visual cues is central to this cognitive process (such as recognizing and understanding the beats in a piece of music).

29. Numerical Processing: This cognitive function involves interpreting and manipulating numeric data (as in calculating the total cost of items in a shopping cart).

30. Self-regulation: This capability allows managing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to achieve goals (like controlling the impulse to eat dessert when trying to lose weight).

31. Response Inhibition: This involves controlling impulsive responses (like stopping yourself from blurting out an answer in a quiz before thinking it through).

32. Cognitive Flexibility: This refers to the ability to switch between different tasks or thought processes (such as shifting your focus from writing a report to answering a sudden phone call).

33. Feedback Utilization: Processing and applying feedback is central to this cognitive function (like improving your presentation skills based on criticism).

34. Prospective Memory: This refers to remembering to carry out intended actions in the future (like recalling to attend a meeting scheduled for next week).

35. Verbal Fluency: This cognitive function includes easy retrieval and articulation of words (akin to presenting a speech without fumbling).

36. Face Recognition: This involves associating facial features with individuals (like recognizing your colleague in a crowd).

37. Causal Understanding: This involves comprehending cause-and-effect relationships (such as understanding why soap is used for cleaning).

38. Inference: This refers to drawing conclusions based on information that is not explicitly stated (like deducing that it will rain because of dark clouds).

39. Empathy: This cognitive ability involves understanding and sharing the feelings of others (similar to feeling sad when a friend is heartbroken).

40. Intuitive Thinking: Intuition involves making judgments and decisions quickly, relying on unconscious information processing (like choosing a familiar brand of cereal over multiple options without much deliberation).

41. Habituation: This cognitive function entails getting used to repeated stimuli over time (like as when you gradually stop noticing the noise of an air conditioner).

42. Mental Arithmetic: Here, you perform calculations in your mind (such as adding up the cost of your lunch menu).

43. Reading Skills: This refers to the cognitive process involved in making meaning from text (akin to reading and comprehending this sentence).

44. Coding: The ability to code refers to the cognitive process of transforming information for efficient storage and retrieval (like creating a unique system to remember the names of all the countries of the world).

45. Sequencing: This cognitive function entails putting information, concepts, or actions in order (an example might be figuring out the steps to bake a cake).

46. Temporal Orientation: This helps to perceive and estimate time accurately (like estimating how long you’ve been reading this list).

47. Interpretation: This cognitive function involves making sense of various inputs (as in understanding a political cartoon).

48. Deductive Reasoning: This refers to deriving specific conclusions from general principles (such as deducing that all apples are fruits, and so, the red item in your hand being an apple, is a fruit).

49. Inductive Reasoning: Here, general conclusions are drawn based on specific observations or facts (as when you observe that the sun has risen from the east every day and conclude that it will do so tomorrow).

50. Play: Though more commonly associated with leisure, play too is a cognitive process that allows for exploration, problem-solving, creativity, and learning (like engaging in a strategy-based board game like chess).

Full List of Cognitive Processes

  • Perception
  • Attention
  • Memory retrieval
  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Judgment formation
  • Imagery visualization
  • Language comprehension
  • Reasoning (inductive and deductive)
  • Concept formation
  • Classification
  • Learning (associative, observational)
  • Metacognition
  • Moral reasoning
  • Spatial navigation
  • Time estimation
  • Forecasting outcomes
  • Emotional regulation
  • Belief formation
  • Intuition
  • Planning and organization
  • Reflection
  • Perspective-taking
  • Abstract thinking
  • Mental rotation
  • Schema formation
  • Working memory processing
  • Semantic memory activation
  • Episodic memory recall
  • Procedural memory use
  • Cognitive mapping
  • Transitive inference
  • Analogy recognition
  • Executive function
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Pattern recognition
  • Categorization
  • Syllogistic reasoning
  • Recognition memory
  • Cognitive dissonance resolution
  • Expectation setting
  • Counterfactual thinking
  • Insight generation
  • Risk assessment
  • Habituation
  • Psychological Priming
  • Information filtering
  • Temporal ordering
  • Source monitoring
  • Inhibition control
  • Cognitive rehearsal

The Cognitive Hierarchy

Benjamin Bloom came up with a useful cognitive hierarchy to help us to rank cognitive capacities based upon the depth of cognitive capacity required for each level (Krathwohl, 2002). This is known as ‘Bloom’s taxonomy’, shown below:

blooms taxonomy, explained below

The above image is duplicated below in table format:

Level of Learning (Shallow to Deep)Description of LearningRelevant Verbs
RememberRetain and recall informationReiterate, memorize, duplicate, repeat, identify
UnderstandGrasp the meaning of somethingExplain, paraphrase, report, describe, summarize
ApplyUse existing knowledge in new contextsPractice, calculate, implement, operate, use, illustrate
AnalyzeExplore relationships, causes, and connectionsCompare, contrast, categorize, organize, distinguish
EvaluateMake judgments based on sound analysisAssess, judge, defend, prioritize, critique, recommend
CreateUse existing information to make something newInvent, develop, design, compose, generate, construct

This taxonomy can not only help us conceptualize cognition on a hierarchy from lower-order to higher-order cognition. It’s also useful for educators when grading papers or creating curricula (Adams, 2015). It allows them to identify the appropriate verbiage to explain which types and levels of thinking and working with information are required in order to demonstrate benchmark levels of understanding of a topic.


Adams, N. E. (2015). Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive learning objectives. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA103(3), 152. doi: https://doi.org/10.3163%2F1536-5050.103.3.010

Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory into practice41(4), 212-218.

Rowe, C., & Healy, S. D. (2014). Measuring variation in cognition. Behavioral Ecology25(6), 1287-1292.

Website | + posts

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *