Definition of Cognitive Learning

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Cognitive Learning is a term that is often used in the academic arena but more recently it has started to pop up in the business world.

But what does it mean? To most people probably very little. Essentially what ‘cognition’ means is ‘to know’, gaining knowledge through thought or perception.

Cognitive learning is about enabling people to learn by using their reason, intuition and perception. This technique is often used to change peoples’ behaviour. But people’s behaviour is influenced by many factors such as culture, upbringing, education and motivation. Therefore cognitive learning involves understanding how these factors influence behaviour and then using this information to develop learning programmes.

So it is far more subtle than just telling people what you want them to do differently it involves presenting the message in such a way that it allows people to work out the answer themselves. This can be achieved a number of ways

  • Response consequences – should you reward for demonstrating the right behaviour or punish for demonstrating the wrong behaviour? Which approach will achieve the required outcomes? In reality there needs to be a combination of both as people will be motivated by different things.
  • Observation – observation is a very powerful learning tool as it enables us to see whether performing an action is desirable or not without making the mistake ourselves. Also employees will be more likely to demonstrate the right behaviours if they see managers and senior managers doing so.
  • Symbolism – allows us to create mental pictures and act out scenarios so that we can think through the consequences without actually performing it.

Therefore cognitive awareness involves using cognitive learning techniques which are then used to make informed decisions about how to deal with new or similar situations.

This may sound complicated but in reality its how we learn.