Advertising

Last Updated on January 27, 2021

How Cognitive Learning Benefits Your Brain and Grows Knowledge

How Cognitive Learning Benefits Your Brain and Grows Knowledge
Advertising

Cognitive learning is an integral part of building knowledge. This is the type of learning that allows us to make connections in the world, building on bits of knowledge that we already possess.

When seeking to understand what knowledge and learning really are, we must turn to the appropriate field of study. Here, we must turn to the branch of philosophy known as epistemology.

Epistemology is defined as the study of the nature and scope of knowledge and justified belief.[1] Epistemology deals with the production of knowledge.

But what exactly brings about the production of knowledge? And what can we do to trigger cognitive learning to improve our knowledge, leading to changes in our brain?

The simple answer is that we must learn to think, but we can’t stop there. We must learn to think about our thinking. That’s when cognitive learning comes into place.

Cognition (thinking) is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

Advertising

Metacognition (thinking about thinking) is awareness and understanding of one’s own thought or mental processes.

Through an understanding of cognition and metacognition, we can begin to understand how knowledge is gained, stored, and improved.

Constructing Knowledge

In order to bring forth knowledge, we must learn to think. If we follow the advice of Derek and Laura Cabrera, we find that Information x Thinking = Knowledge.

How do we construct knowledge through the cognitive learning theory? Let’s examine an analogy for knowledge construction offered by Steve Stockdale in Here’s Something About General Semantics: A Primer for Making Sense of Your World.[2] Stockdale compares the “Building Block” analogy and the “Spiral” analogy in knowledge construction.

Building Blocks Analogy

Stockdale posits:

“Typically, we grow up with a view of learning using the building blocks analogy.”

Here, we do the following:

  • We see things segregated and compartmentalized.
  • We learn our alphabet as a block of stacked letters.
  • We learn our numbers as a block of numbers.
  • We learn to spell by visualizing blocks of letters.

Spiral Analogy

Stockdale argues:

“However, if we apply what we ‘know’ about what goes on around us, we can choose to use a more appropriate analogy: we tend to learn in more of a spiral pattern than simple building blocks.”

Stockdale describes the spiral nature of the learning process as follows:

  • Just as the spiral expands from the center, our learning is continual and never-ending.
  • As we learn about one thing, we enable ourselves to learn more about something else, from a different perspective.
  • What we learn relates to what we’ve already learned, and what we’ve yet to learn, just as the spiral connects, or relates, one region to another.
  • The spiral more appropriately implies the continually-changing and more complex nature of ourselves and the world around us.

The Pieces of Cognitive Learning

To effectively engage in cognitive learning experiences, several different cognitive processes need to be activated[3]. These include:

Advertising

Elements of Cognitive Learning graphic

    Comprehension

    Learning something just for the sake of learning it often leads to forgetting it quickly. If you’ve been through high school, you know this to be true. Instead, we need to comprehend what we learn by applying it to prior knowledge and understanding how that knowledge can benefit us in the long term.

    Memory

    When you use comprehension to understand the knowledge more deeply, it gets stored in your long-term memory, which allows you to recall that information later. This will integrate the new knowledge into your memory bank, which will allow you to then build off it in the future.

    Application

    Knowledge is stored best when we take what we have learned and apply it to real life situations. This allows us to engage in problem-solving and critical thinking using the new information we’ve learned.

    The Benefits of Cognitive Learning

    If we think of cognitive learning as a spiral that never ends, we can begin to understand the benefits[4] of cognitive learning strategies and the possibilities they offer.

    1. Increased Comprehension

    Cognitive learning promotes a hands-on approach, where individuals obtain knowledge by exploring the world around them. Because information is obtained in this way, it’s easier to apply it to future problems in your everyday life.

    2. Boosts Confidence

    Because you are better prepared to handle challenges and solve problems using cognitive learning, you will feel more confident in your abilities to overcome difficult tasks or moments in life. By solving problems using knowledge you have acquired, you will continue to learn and build off your previous knowledge.

    Advertising

    3. Promotes Lifelong Learning

    Because of the spiral that we discussed above, cognitive learning never stops. Each bit of information is added to the previous bit, extending the spiral and increasing your overall store of information. When you begin to understand this limitless capacity for knowledge, it creates a sense of excitement around learning.

    The Bottom Line

    Attaining cognitive learning benefits is like storing information on a computer’s hard drive (your brain). The next step is improving the brain’s ability to provide quick access to the information stored on it. The hard drive stores the information, but to connect and speed up your processing power, you need to insert thinking. Thus, Information x Thinking = Knowledge.

    By understanding how you think and learn, you can improve your level of understanding on any concept.

    Just as you should not use a map from 1940 to navigate across a country, you should not use a dated mental map to improve your learning capacity. Or better yet, use your newfound knowledge to draw your own map and work from there.

    More Tips on Learning

    Featured photo credit: CDC via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr. Jamie Schwandt

    Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

    10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus, and Creativity How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Smart Choices The Ultimate Exercises to Improve Posture (Simple and Effective) How Cognitive Learning Benefits Your Brain and Grows Knowledge 9 Game Changing Tips on How to Write Goals (and Reach Them!)

    Trending in Learning

    1 How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done 2 How to Become an Expert (And Spot out One Nearby) 3 17 Note-Taking Tips That Will Transform How You Retain Info 4 11 Most Effective Cognitive Skills To Speed Up Learning 5 Learning New Skills: 10 In-Demand Skills To Learn Online

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done

    How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done
    Advertising

    Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

    This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

    As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

    But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

    How Serious Is Information Overload?

    The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem.

    This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

    When we see some half-baked blog posts we don’t even consider reading, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it.

    We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

    No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on.

    Advertising

    The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

    That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

    Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control.

    Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it.

    But first, admit that information overload is really bad for you.

    Why Information Overload Is Bad for You

    Information overload stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here.

    When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

    Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

    The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

    Advertising

    You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work or enjoy your passion.

    How to Stop Information Overload (And Start to Achieve More)

    So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with setting goals.

    1. Set Your Goals

    If you don’t have your goals put in place, you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

    Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

    Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

    Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

    2. Know What to Skip When Facing New Information

    Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks, you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

    First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans, then skip it. You don’t need it.

    If it does, then ask yourself these questions:

    Advertising

    • Will you be able to put this information into action immediately?
    • Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks?
    • Is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away?

    If the information is not actionable in a day or two, then skip it.

    (You’ll forget about it anyway.) And that’s basically it.

    Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

    You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant.

    Self-control comes handy too. It’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future, then SKIP IT.

    3. Be Aware of the Minimal Effective Dose

    There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour BodyTim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs.

    Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose, no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

    Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life.

    Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

    Advertising

    4. Don’t Procrastinate by Consuming More Information

    Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article, we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

    This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

    Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

    The focus of this article is not on how to stop procrastinating, but if you’re having such issue, I recommend you read this: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

    Summing It Up

    As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance.

    I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over.

    I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

    More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Read Next