Cognitive Skills (A Comprehensive Guide)

Cognitive skills can be used in any professional field to solve problems in a work environment and to enhance the quality of work you are doing.

If you have some cognitive skills, make sure to put it on display not only on your resume but also during the interview which will help in making you a more suitable job candidate.

The development of cognitive skills is carried out throughout one’s life but improving them strategically can help you use these abilities at your workplace.

Here, we are gonna discuss what cognitive skills are and how you can improve such skills.

In this article, we will discuss cognitive skills. 

What are the cognitive skills?

Cognitive skills are the specific way in which your brain reasons, remembers, thinks, learns, holds the attention, and reads.

These cognitive skills of a person help oneself to process the new information that is taken in by distributing it to the specific and appropriate areas of the brain.

When that specific information is needed by you, the brain again uses the same cognitive skills to retrieve that information and utilize it.

Development of these cognitive skills are beneficial for a person as it helps their brain to complete the process of storing and retrieving information more efficiently and quickly, it also helps the person effectively process and understand the information in a better way.

By using the cognitive skills in the workplace, these skills can help people to remember team goals, interpret data, keep focus during an important meeting, and more.

These cognitive skills can help you make connections between new and old information and recall information from previous encounters that may relate to the organization’s goals so you can work more effectively. 

But if a person stores some information in his brain, which contradicts his previously stored information, or lets say when two views in a persons mind contradict, he is said to be suffering from Cognitive Dissonance.

This is when cognitive skills comes into play, to choose which view he prefers to keep.

The heuristic, rule-of-thumb is what makes decision making easy.

Examples of cognitive skills

Cognitive skills are usually divided into different categories, nine to be precise with each of the cognitive skills reflecting on a different way that the brain uses to interpret and utilize the information effectively.

  1. Selective attention
  2. Sustained attention
  3. Long-term memory
  4. Divided attention
  5. Logic and reasoning
  6. Visual processing
  7. Working memory
  8. Processing speed
  9. Auditory processing

All these cognitive skills are required in the first, out of the three motor learning stages, to learn new skills and make decisions.

1. Sustained attention

Sustained attention helps a person to keep his focus on a single task for a long time.

This skill is especially effective in the workplace as this helps you to stay motivated and focused on a single task until its completion.

Sustain attention helps a person to work on the same project for a longer period and resist him to move towards another project without completing the present one.

2. Selective attention

Selective attention is the skill that helps you to focus on a single task even if there are other distractions near or around you.

This skill helps you to focus your attention on one place even if you have multiple choices available for it and helps you to stay on the task at hand.

For example, a person can try to answer emails rather than socializing with his coworkers or checking your phone and answering texts. 

3. Divided attention

There may be occurrences in your workplace when you have to keep your attention divided between multiple places, this cognitive skill of divided attention helps you to keep the information while completing multiple tasks at the same time.

For example, you can finish up the preparation for the next project while you are also finishing up your current project.

Divided attention helps you to complete the task at hand without forgetting anything about the other or the next task at hand. 

4. Long-term memory

This cognitive skill helps a person to recall some information from the brain even after a long time.

This skill can help a person to remember a colleague’s name after a long time or remember the points from last week’s meeting.

This skill also helps the person to remember the training given at the workplace and apply it to the tasks at hand. 

5. Working memory

This cognitive skill is also known as short term memory or the working memory which can help you to keep the important information and utilize it while you are working on the project.

For example, if there are certain instructions for a project and you just have to look at it once and don’t need it to look at the instructions during your project which means that you have a strong short term memory.

This cognitive skill can also help a person to keep the main points of a discussion or recent conversation in their mind.

6. Logic and reasoning

This cognitive skill of reasoning and logic can help you to generate ideas and solve problems.

This skill is mostly used by a person when you need to identify the wants of a consumer and brainstorm ideas and process them using problem-solving to meet those needs.

You mostly use logic and reasoning to compile reports or to analyze data.

7. Auditory processing

The cognitive skill that is used to process information coming through the ears is known as auditory processing which blends, segments and analyzes the sounds coming from ears for future or immediate use.

This cognitive skill helps a person to attentively listen to leaders, customers, and colleagues and also helps them to interpret the information and utilize it in a productive way. 

8. Visual processing

This cognitive skill helps a person to interpret images effectively, it allows the user to analyze designs, make sense of visual data like charts, tables, and graphs alongside proofreading important documents in an efficient way. 

9. Processing speed

The final cognitive skill is that of processing speed that helps you to perform tasks accurately and quickly.

When the processing speed of a person’s brain is high, that person can interpret information more quickly and apply the extracted information to the tasks at hand effectively.

By strengthening this skill a person can increase the productivity and efficiency of their way of completing tasks. 

How to improve cognitive skills

It is important to strengthen your cognitive skills as it can help you do better at different aspects of your job. Improving the attention skill can help you remain focused on the task at hand but it can also help you become a good and active listener which can result in improving work relations with other colleagues.

Similarly, building up the cognitive skill of logic and reasoning can help you in the generation of creative solutions for various difficult challenges. Some of the ways, which can be used to improve one’s cognitive skills are:

  1. Reduce stress
  2. Care for your body
  3. Practice focusing
  4. Exercise your brain

1. Reduce stress

One of the ways to improve the attention span and focus of oneself is to reduce the stress levels.

If you have some stressful situations try to remove them or avoid them as much as possible, if removing them is not an option then it is best to go for stress-reducing activities.

It is best to take a walk or a break for a coffee if you are at the workplace or listen to some soothing music with headphones to focus your thoughts and relax.

While at home doing exercise or yoga can help out in reducing stress levels.

Sitting quietly in some comfortable place focusing on your thoughts or breathing can also help calm your mind and relieve your stress.

These activities for stress reduction can help you to improve your focus and build up the cognitive skills related to attention.

2. Care for your body

It is also important to maintain the physical health of a person and it can also help in improving one’s cognitive skills.

Eating a balanced diet, drinking a lot of water, and getting enough sleep at least around 7 hours can improve the attention-related cognitive skills of a person and can enhance the person’s performance at the workplace.

Sufficient sleep can also help in improving the memory of a person as while sleeping the brain sort through different memories and store them.

3. Practice focusing

One of the activities that can help improve memory skills and cognitive skills related to attention is to purposefully train your mind for focusing throughout the day.

While working, you can try to focus on a task by removing distractions and see for how long you can retain your focus on the task at hand.

This can include a simple practice like wearing your headphones or placing your smartphones in your drawer.

In the same way, the focus can be further improved by engaging more of your senses. 

4. Exercise your brain

You can also find activities to enhance the capabilities of your brain or even to improve certain areas of the brain rather than overhauling the whole brain.

You can look towards the improvement of some of the associated cognitive skills.

Some of the activities that can be used to strengthen one’s cognitive abilities are :

  • Read a book before going to bed or during your break.
  • Solve puzzles that you enjoy like Sudoku or a crossword.
  • Memorize a song or write a story.
  • Play any game that engages your mind like chess.

These challenging activities can help you to further improve your mental abilities like focus, processing skills, memory, and reasoning.

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Using cognitive skills in the workplace

While cognitive skills can be applied to almost any workplace situation to improve the outcome, there are some specific ways in which you can exercise cognitive skills at your workplace:

  • Identify patterns. You can take advantage of the logic and reasoning skill alongside memory skills to recognize patterns at your workplace. There might be specific trends appearing in data or they are from repeated results which can be recognized using cognitive skills. For example, recognizing that the sales of a certain product increasing after some specific market initiative can help you further enhance those strategies and focus on them to reach more audiences. 
  • Analyze resources. Use the logic and reasoning skills to look at reports and data more thoroughly. Think about the critical questions that can be asked about your audience and not just skim through the reports but also analyze them. You can find creative solutions to the problem by being analytical about it.
  • Focus your attention. You can use the cognitive skill to be focused on a single task that can improve its predictability. You can complete a project more effectively, with greater accuracy and more quickly by focusing on a single project. 

FAQ about Cognitive Skills

What are some of the cognitive skills?

Some of the cognitive skills which are helpful to a person in their workplace or daily life are given as : 

– Sustained attention.

– Selective attention.

– Divided attention.

– Long-term memory.

What are cognitive skills in a child?

The development of cognitive skills in a child involves building different learning skills progressively like memory, thinking, and attention.

These skills are crucial for the child to improve his processing and sensory information ability and will eventually result in learning to analyze, evaluate, remember, understand the cause and effect, and comparisons skills.


Cognitive Skills: Definitions, Examples and How to Improve Them (2019)

What are Cognitive Abilities and Skills, and How to Boost Them? By By: Dr. Pascale Michelon (2016)

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