What Is a Cognitive Description?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2019
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A cognitive description is a model of brain function that integrates information from both cognitive psychology and neurology. Such descriptions provide information about the mechanisms that underlie mental processes. They can be determined through experimental means, using research such as brain imaging studies, interviews with patients, and observation of various human populations. This subject is of particular interest in the field of psychology, especially when researchers want to find out what happens when mental functions go awry as a result of psychological problems or neurological errors.

One example is the models used to explain how people learn. Researchers can follow a series of mental processes to determine how subjects interpret, acquire, and retain information for future reference. This cognitive description can inform educational theory and research, where the goal is to find new ways to help children learn effectively and appropriately. It also becomes useful in the study of learning disabilities, where researchers may want to know how a child's mental processes differ from the cognitive description that encompasses conventional learning.


Such models can also be useful for research into subjects like teamwork, problem solving, and visual perception. Each cognitive description considers what is known about human psychology and the existing neurological underpinnings of mental processes. For example, researchers may understand some of the tricks the brain uses to handle visual information, and need to know where in the brain these processes occur to develop a functional working model. This can show how humans experience perceptual experiences like three dimensional vision when this is not theoretically possible with eyes that collect a two dimensional image.

The way brains process and use information is relevant to a cognitive description. Such descriptions can become the basis for recommendations issued by psychologists to help people work together more smoothly. In the workplace, for example, cognitive descriptions discussing teamwork explain why some approaches work and others do not. Educators work with such models to help their students learn and apply their knowledge to new situations and problems.

People with an interest in cognitive description research may be able to contribute as study subjects. Researchers commonly recruit people for participation in surveys, imaging studies, and other activities to learn more about the human brain and how it functions in a variety of situations. Some studies offer compensation and benefits like a place to stay during multi-day research, or meals provided for subjects who need to stay in a facility for several hours.


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