What are Cognitive Skills, and is it possible to develop them?
Gigabytes of information reach our brains every day. But that doesn't mean that all of it is successfully stored on their shelves and can be successfully used later for learning, working or simply solving everyday tasks. Interpreting and applying information is a cognitive skill. Human memory and intelligence are largely innate, but these skills can and even must be trained, and with the right methodology, it is even possible to significantly improve one's academic or work performance.
What are cognitive skills?
But what are cognitive skills anyway? How do we measure them? To measure these skills, experts look at a number of key parameters. These include the ability to sustain attention for long periods of time. And also to do so without overreacting to external stimuli. They also look at whether a person can do two things at once. Long-term and short-term memory is tested. Logical and reasoning skills are also tested. How well the person manages to process and perceive auditory and visual information. Finally, it measures the speed with which various tasks can be completed. Each of these skills is essential for the effective assimilation of information. According to Justina Inkrataitė, an expert at the Braingym Intellectual Development Centre, if any of the cognitive skills are too weak, it is difficult for a person to absorb information.
"This makes it difficult to learn, even with a lot of effort. Eventually, if you don't get the results you want, the very motivation to learn disappears. As Dr Amy Lawson Moore of the Gibson Institute has observed, our brain is only as strong as our weakest skill. So learning can be difficult or easy, depending on how our cognitive skills as a whole are functioning," she explains.
Why are they so important?
The importance of cognitive skills is easiest to grasp by looking a little more closely at what we lose by not developing them. This manifests itself in an ever-growing to-do list and jumping from task to task. It is also distraction, frequent mistakes and the difficulty of handling several tasks at once. They often forget even things they seemed to know well before, such as names. Adults with neglected cognitive abilities have problems with their work schedules - tasks get mixed up and lost, they often feel lost and stuck. Sometimes they may even have trouble holding a smooth conversation. For children and adolescents, untrained cognitive abilities usually lead to learning problems.
Cognitive skills themselves have nothing to do with academic knowledge, but without them, it is simply too difficult to acquire the latter. The absorption of information itself is impaired, so even long hours of study do not produce the desired results. Children with poor cognitive skills find it harder to read and follow instructions (for example, in maths problems). They are often the ones teachers have to spend the most time with and recommend tutors for, when the problem is not really a lack of effort.
Is all lost?
Cognitive skills are crucial for processing and using the new information that comes to us. This means that if any one of them is not properly developed, we will inevitably run into problems. The good news is that it is never too late to start. The first step in this process should be the so-called Gibson test. The Gibson test assesses basic learning skills using specific scientific methods: memory, speed of processing, logical and deductive reasoning, and linguistic skills. If weaknesses in a person's cognitive skills are detected, they can be focused on strengthening them. However, there is one major difference compared to traditional learning. The focus is not on the symptoms but on the root of the problem.
Brain exercises can be compared to a kind of hybrid of sports training and computer games. Like games, you go through levels and collect different medals. But to get to a higher level, you have to develop an automatic skill, which comes from repeating an exercise as many times as necessary, trying to do at least a little bit more and a little bit better each time. You will work individually, with a personal trainer, using a personalised digital programme.
What results can be expected?
Such exercise can also have a measurable effect quite quickly. Compared to a control group, those who have received 60 hours of cognitive training improve in all their skills: memory, rationalisation, speed of thought, processing of visual and auditory information, and concentration. During training, the human brain The brain is trained to better absorb, remember and use information. It is very important to realise that, although it cannot fill academic gaps, cognitive exercises have a very important indirect effect.
"When we are approached by children at a young age, their grades often improve dramatically after the training, because not only do they strengthen their cognitive abilities, but they also don't have to make up for their academic gaps yet. Older children already come with them, which makes it harder to use the new information. For example, a child who has not been able to understand and learn well the multiplication table will have difficulties in later mathematics classes. So after the programme, a child's grades may not necessarily jump immediately, but he or she will be ready to absorb new information and begin to patch up the gaps more effectively," says Justina Inkrataitė