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
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
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
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
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
When we look at learning, we need to examine
- What - the
content or skill to be learned
- How - the
- Who- the
learning style of the learner
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.
What was being taught or learned?
What cognitive processes seemed
to be activated by the content or
What was the context of the learninginstructional
techniques being used, atmosphere,
environment, purpose, behaviors and
mannerisms of the instructor (if there
was one), behaviors of others, and
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
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
Sensing: Experiencing and
noticing the physical world, scanning
for visible reactions and relevant
What is really happening? What
are the facts of the situation?
What can I do with this now?
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?
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?
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?
Thinking: Organizing, segmenting,
sorting, and applying logic and
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
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?
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?
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.