What is cognition

What Is Cognition?

Cognition is the process of thinking. How we take in a thought work on it and either forget it or send it to our long-term memory to be stored for later use.

Cognition starts with our sensory processing. It is the instant thought we get via our eight senses. These senses include: visual, proprioception, auditory, gustatory, olfactory, touch, interoception and vestibular.

When we have a learn new information via a sensory input event, it directs a thought very quickly into our short-term memory. The short-term memory has 18-30 seconds to displace this thought three different ways.

The thought is either spat out and forgotten, rehearsed over again in the executive function of the brain or sent to the long-term memory.

Sending sensory information to the long-term memory is the best place we want new information to travel to. Although, it’s not possible to happen every time we try something new, let alone expect a baby or preschooler to send it straight to long-term memory either.

How can we most efficiently support our child’s cognitive learning?


I can’t stress this enough. Whatever you do make it often and frequent and use language every time you repeat a task. We say that practice makes perfect. That’s because the short-term memory is rehearsing information in the central executive function of the brain known as the ‘working memory.’ The more experiences we give our children, and repetitively, the better chance information processing will end up in the long-term memory.

Remember, the short-term memory (working memory) has only 18-30 seconds to hold a thought. There are roughly seven other thoughts at the same time. We only have a short amount of time to react. So during rehearsal the sensory thought goes into one of three places very quickly.


The phonological loop is your inner voice. Visual-spatial sketchpad is the inner eye or picture you are imagining. The episodic buffer is the planning and conscious thought of what is occurring. It travels back to the central executive to be displaced: forgotten, rehearsed again or long-term memory.

Working memory thoughts:

Parent working memory might look like this: “It’s coming up to nap time, I need to make sure the toddler goes to the toilet. Have I got enough bread to make sandwiches? Did I put the washing machine on so it doesn’t wake them while they sleep? Who’s trying to call me? What is the dog barking at?”

However, for a child is might look like this: “My tummy is sore! Mummy why are you moving? I want you! That little person is running to the white seat again. What’s that sound? What is the dog saying?”

These thoughts are triggered by those eight senses. They occur so quickly and frequently that we don’t give them conscious thought unless we focus on them one at a time.

Targeting Babies

After reading this article, it starts to make sense why infants need new information repeated in short bursts of time. A baby’s brain is growing at such a rapid degree (250,000 brain cells per minute). We can harness their cognitive brain connections and build on that as early as possible. Repeating thoughts in the working memory produces strong early neural pathways from the long-term that are concreted and ready for pre-literacy prior to formal education.

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By understanding our cognition processes give us a deeper understanding of our own thinking about thinking. This process leads into our personal metacognition.

It’s important to have a qualifed early childhood teacher with quality university level training. They can expertly support your child’s brain development.

Interested in learning more about educational cognitive psychology? Check out our professional development masterclass for teachers, early childhood educators, parents, mentors and coaches who want to understand how learning occurs and how to encode it for better memory retrieval!

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Written By: Sarah Courtney