Cognitive Processes and Learning*

One way we use the cognitive processes in our daily lives is with learning.

Learning is not just something we do in school or in formal settings. We learn every day. Sometimes our very survival depends on how well we can learn. That may mean unlearning our learned limitations and regaining confidence in our ability to direct our own learning.

In today's world, someone who doesn't know how to learn is left behind. By exploring your own learning process and determining your natural learning style, you can find the best ways for you to learn. Then you, not the instructor or the situation, are in charge of your learning.

Learning is broadly defined as change. The focus can be on what we learn (the product of learning) or on how we learn (the process). It is about how we change and how we adapt, grow, and develop. This adaptation, growth, and development occur from the inside out.

All eight cognitive processes play a role in our learning. We enter a learning situation with some perceptions already formed and some judgments already made. We are more open to certain kinds of information and more inclined to organize that information in certain ways.

What if we all could learn how we learn? Then if some kinds of learning were harder than others, we could find the source of that difficulty rather than rejecting what is being taught or feeling bad about ourselves for not learning.

Take Charge of Your Learning

We are born to learn. Learning is how we grow and develop. It is how we adjust and adapt to an ever-changing and demanding world.

When we look at learning, we need to examine three factors:

  • What - the content or skill to be learned
  • How - the learning context
  • Who- the learning style of the learner

When all of these factors are congruent, the result is effective, efficient learning. When they are not congruent, at best we have a high energy cost, and at worst we have no learning.

To take charge of your own learning, capitalize on lessons from the past to plan for the future. Think about the cognitive processes we just explored, as well as your descriptions of your best and worst learning experiences. Answer the following questions and then think of your preferred learning pattern to anticipate what will make your next learning experience better.


Your Learning
Best Learning
Worst Learning
• What was being taught or learned?
• What cognitive processes seemed to be activated by the content or task?
• What was the context of the learning—instructional techniques being used, atmosphere, environment, purpose, behaviors and mannerisms of the instructor (if there was one), behaviors of others, and so on?
• What cognitive processes seemed to be encouraged by the environment?
• How well did your preferences in your learning style match or mismatch the content and the context?
• What cognitive processes did you have to stretch to use?
• When the learning involved processes other than your preferred ones (leading or supporting roles), what helped you learn in spite of everything?


What learning conditions do you need to arrange for yourself in your future learning experiences?


If the content or the context is going to require you to operate from other than your leading or supporting role processes, be patient with yourself. Allow extra time. Be extra forgiving. Get a coach. Ask for what you need. Often an instructor can provide it, if you only ask for it.


Learning and the Cognitive Processes


Extraverted Sensing: Experiencing and noticing the physical world, scanning for visible reactions and relevant data

What is really happening? What are the facts of the situation? What can I do with this now?


Introverted Sensing: Recalling past experiences, remembering detailed data and what it is linked to

What have I already learned that I can build on? What resources and materials are available? What practical use does this have?


Extraverted iNtuiting: Inferring relationships, noticing threads of meaning, and scanning for what could be

What inferences can I make? What meanings am I perceiving? What hypotheses can I generate?


Introverted iNtuiting: Foreseeing implications, conceptualizing, and having images of the future or profound meaning

What are the implications for the future? What are the concepts? What is the greater purpose?


Extraverted Thinking: Organizing, segmenting, sorting, and applying logic and criteria

How can I structure and organize my learning? What is the sequence and arrangement of what I am learning?
What is the logic behind what I am learning?


Introverted Thinking: Analyzing, categorizing, and figuring out how something works

What principles do I need to learn? What models can I fit the learning into? What techniques or approaches can I apply?


Extraverted Feeling: Considering others and responding to them

Who can I connect with, or relate to in order to learn better? Who can I help with this learning? How can I use this to improve my relationships?


Introverted Feeling: Evaluating importance and maintaining congruence

What is really important here? What is of value to me, and what do I want out of this? Who is good to learn from?

*Adapted from Linda V. Berens, Dynamics of Personality Type: Understanding and Applying Jung's Cognitive Processes (Understanding yourself and others series) (Telos Publications, 2000) Used with permission.

Type Training & Certification with Linda Berens Ph.D.

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