The Role of Thought and Cognition in Learning

The human brain has always been a versatile field for investigations within psychology. It is considered to be the only tool for receiving and analyzing information. Nevertheless, the proper organization of its work requires a deeper understanding of learning processes in terms of their effective usage. Defining the role of thought and cognition in learning would make studying process easier since each cognitive mechanism will start to perform its primary functions.

Psychologists define thinking as the manipulation of a mental representation of the information (Feldman, 2011). It transforms the data received by a person into mental images which will become steady associations for the given subject in a human mind. High productivity level of mental imaging would be a solid foundation for successful learning and improving various skills. For example, mental rehearsal of a song is a much easier way to play it than by following its note script with no image kept in mind. In the first case, the brain is ready to perform an action on the subconscious level instead of subsequent receiving certain notes, analyzing what is required to play a song the right way and starting the performance.

Creation of mental images helps a person to categorize the world according to his or her own system of concepts. Feldman (2011) claims that “concepts help us to classify newly encountered objects on the basis of our past experience” (p. 245). Moreover, they play the crucial role in forming persons behavior since everyone has both positive and negative experience and thus the reaction to some people or events may vary due to the character of a related object one dealt with in the past. For instance, a pupil would rather work hard on an essay in psychology keeping in mind the concept of a fair teacher assessing the work deservedly than do his best to pass the physical education test which would anyway produce the only possible result of teacher screaming and fellow pupils laughing. However, the nature of the cognitive process in learning is greatly varied as it depends on characteristic features of a personality. A child having powerful volition would force himself to find a motivation for breaking a negative tendency and turn negative images into positive while others would give up on the idea of boosting their cognition because of a negative concept producing fear and mental constraint.

On the other hand, cognition and thought are not all-sufficient elements of learning since this activity requires efficient sequence with other mental processes. In the first paragraphs, thought and cognition were characterized from the perspective of separate phenomena, although they are considered to be parts of the complex process of learning among such elements as attention, volition, motivation, memory, etc. In addition, the success of thinking as a part of learning is determined by its type. Zhang and Sternberg distinguish three types of thinking styles. The first one is characterized by the high level of cognitive complexity and creativity, thus is considered to be the most productive among students (Zhang & Sternberg, 2011). The second type of thinking styles shows norm-favoring tendency and a lower degree of creativity while the third one is the mixture of the previous two and gives more flexibility for different learning situations according to the current needs (Zhang & Sternberg, 2011), although it cannot be as productive as the first one due to a lack of creativity.

All in all, it is evident that thought and cognition have the leading roles in the process of learning. These mental phenomena have a strong impact on the quality of studying and pupils behavior. Nevertheless, thinking and cognition in learning are dependent on the other mental processes such as attention, memory, and volition, thus they could only be viewed as the elements of the complex process.


Feldman, R. (2011). Understanding Psychology. New York, USA: McGraw-Hill.

Zhang, F., Sternberg, R. (2011). Learning in a Cross-Cultural Perspective. In V. Aukrust (Ed.), Learning and Cognition in Education (pp. 16-25). Oxford, UK: Academic Press.

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PsychologyWriting. 2022. "The Role of Thought and Cognition in Learning." January 26, 2022.

1. PsychologyWriting. "The Role of Thought and Cognition in Learning." January 26, 2022.


PsychologyWriting. "The Role of Thought and Cognition in Learning." January 26, 2022.