What are Cognitive Skills? (with photos)

Cognitive function declines with age.

Cognitive skills are a set of skills that are learned to varying degrees as a person grows and develops mentally. Unlike skills based on academic knowledge, cognitive skills are skills that are used to learn, understand and integrate information in a meaningful way. Cognitively learned information is understood, not just memorized. There are many groups of cognitive skills and each broad category can be broken down into very specific skill sets. Milestones are often used to track children’s progress and can be employed to diagnose learning disabilities or other problems that may require special attention.

Cognitive skills allow people to understand reading and writing through the use of an alphabet.

Some examples of cognitive skills include motor skills, memory, attention, perception, and a broad category known as executive skills. Each of these skills can be subdivided into specific mental operations that can be used in different situations or to complete tasks. Primarily, these skills are employed to solve problems, perceive the world in a way that makes sense and is consistent, and to learn new skills and information.

Motor skills develop and are strengthened while children are babies and toddlers.

One of the most important categories of cognitive skills involves executive functions. These are skills that can help govern other skills and provide an essential mental framework for learning. Executive functions include sequencing, inhibition, problem solving and flexibility. Some of these skills can be used to support other categories and, more importantly, can help provide a means of integrating information into the mind so that it can be understood.

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Born without eye coordination, babies typically develop manipulative motor skills during their first few years of life.

Certain learned tasks, such as reading and writing, rely heavily on cognitive skills. Symbolic thinking is one of those skills. This is the cognitive ability to relate a symbol to a specific sound, image, or other meaning that is not necessarily implied by the symbol’s actual appearance. This skill is vital to understanding how to read and write through the use of an alphabet, in which the letters really have no visual relationship to the meaning or sounds they make.

Cognitive skills are needed for many self-care tasks, including self-dressing.

Most of these abilities work together to allow some everyday actions to be performed. Answering a door after a bell has rung is an example. To answer a door, a person must be able to identify a sound, shift attention to the sound, relate the sound to a physical object within the room, even if it is not the actual object making the noise, and then use the motor skills to reach the door and open it. All these steps are classified as cognitive skills.

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