- General

Social and Cognitive Skills

Social and cognitive skills are the tools for which we access the world around us and devise reactions to outside stimuli. This may refer to interaction with other humans, the realm of social skills; or more generally to any situation that offers opportunity to collect, interpret and respond to things in the word around us, which is when cognitive skills are critical. These are skills that we are not always conscious of employing, so we take them for granted. In fact, their importance is only truly made clear when they are lacking. Some people will naturally develop these skills while other will need for them to be actively taught. It is critical that these lessons come at a young age while the brain is developing at a rapid rate and is most open to learning.

Cognitive skills can be best described by four main categories: concentration, perception, memory, and logical thinking. They are all steps in the basic decision making process we use hundreds of times each day. Cognition is the act of acquiring knowledge and these skills are the method. Social skills are the application of these cognitive skills to interactions with other human beings. The following will review each of these skills and discuss how they are related.

Skill #1: Concentration

Concentration is far more than paying attention. The key to concentration is the ability to focus, a skill that requires practice. As attention shifts quickly from one external stimuli to the next, we are naturally “paying attention” to each one. Concentration involves paying attention to one thing while simultaneously ignoring all others. Without the ability to concentrate, learning is all but impossible. That makes this the first and most important of the cognitive skills.

Skill #2: Perception

Perception is the ability to process the information that you are focusing on. Concentration has no value if you are not able to interpret the results of the information you senses, usually vision and hearing, are telling you. Perception is a skill that develops with experience because the brain compares what it is currently experiencing with memories of other past experiences in order to understand it. The greater our collection of past experiences, the better we are able to comprehend the current situation.

Skill #3: Memory

Memory is the ability to catalogue details of an experience and then recall them at a later time. Human memory is not perfectly straightforward, but rather an extraordinarily complex process that is not completely understood by modern science. We use memory in different ways, from short term, such as remembering a phone number someone just told us to long term, such as remembering summer vacations from your childhood. Each of these types of memory is focused in different portions of the brain and seem to function differently. It is possible for a person to have different levels of ability for the different types of memory. This skill is a critical part of cognition as it dictates the limits of our perception.

Skill #4: Logical Thinking

If the previous three skills have been sequential steps: concentrate, remember, perceive, then the final skill, logical thinking, is the ability to leap. When confronted with a situation that we have not previously experiences, logical thinking allows us to apply our experiences from related situations to understand the current one. It allows us to build upon our knowledge base and learn on our own instead of having to be taught each new thing. This is the key to our ability as problem solvers.