Progress of Cognitive Science: Learning Language and Understanding

Cognitive science provides new insights into language, learning, memory, and emotion. New findings are changing how we think about the understanding of meaning. 

The field is progressing by producing a comprehensive understanding of cognition at all stages of human development. 

The scientific enterprise has not only revealed the existence of many cognitive abilities but also revealed how these abilities develop over time with experience and across multiple domains within each individual’s lifespan.

 Here at has some more information about progress of cognitive science.

This post explores some recent highlights of progress in this fast-growing field of study. 

More than ever before, research in cognitive science will yield fundamental insights into human nature that can be applied to education, life skills development for children or adults, rehabilitation following brain damage, and more. 

A central theme emerging from the cognitive sciences is that much of knowledge comes from the environment, people, and other animals. Within this larger framework researchers are finding insights into how humans learn by observing or imitating others. 

Learning happens because of interactions between learners and their environment such as language acquisition such as by watching the way others speak. 

As a result, children learn language by seeing what others do and not necessarily how they think or feel. Emphasis on environmental factors differentiating language users is also true for infants learning their native tongue or adults learning a new language. 

This perspective helps us understand why some people fail to master a second language and why some native speakers forget how to speak their first language after losing experience with it.

Linguists and linguistics also provide a perspective on how we learn and how we think about what we learn. Language acquisition is a form of learning and like all learning it is inherently influenced by the environment. 

Language is learned through exposure to language and through imitation of the way others speak. Imitation is not necessarily based on direct observation but rather on observing others as they speak. 

Infants can copy naturally occurring sounds such as those of their native language, making it possible for them to acquire speech before they have completely understood meaning or grammar. 

This phenomenon of social learning helps explain why children may acquire language so early with no conscious awareness of the grammatical rules that govern language use.

The idea that we, as humans, can describe and understand the world around us is one of the fundamental assumptions in cognitive science. But what exactly does it mean to “understand” something?

5 productivity tips informed by cognitive science

1) The brain has a fluid and dynamic structure. 

The ability to quickly shift between different thinking modes or “mental sets” is referred to as “meta-cognitive flexibility”  research has shown this capacity for cognitive flexibility may provide an important component of education.

2) The brain is predictive. 

The human brain is an incredible predictor of its environment; this predictive nature enables us to anticipate future events and react more quickly than would be possible if we had to wait for signals from our senses. 

Scientists call this property of the brain “anticipatory processing.” For example, when you hear the sound of your name, you don’t make a physical effort to identify what you heard; instead, your experience makes it seem that it is effortless for you to recognize that someone called your name. Your experience makes it seem that the sound was already extracted by your brain.

3) The brain is compositional. 

For many things that we see, hear or touch, it seems like they are made up of separate parts (the chair is made of wood, the table is flat). 

However, when you look closely at how these objects function inside of our bodies you will find that they are not made up of separate parts; they are made up of many different interacting elements – what is called the “compositional nature” of understanding.

4) The brain is goal-oriented. 

Understanding something entails being able to predict what you will do next with the information in front of you. Scientists refer to this property as “intentionality” – the idea that a person is able to say what he or she is going to do next, and why. To illustrate this, consider the following:

In the previous problems you will notice that infants were not asked about their intentions, rather they watched an adult perform a series of actions. 

The children were then given a toy and encouraged to play with it in the same way as the adult. In these situations it is quite common for children to mimic all of the actions that they have seen before, even when it is vastly different from what they had been learning beforehand.

5) The brain is distributed. 

According to the standard perspective in cognitive science, the brain is composed of two regions, the “left” and the “right hemispheres”. Studies done in recent years have shown that this distinction may be an outdated view of cognitive processes. 

Researchers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Harvard University and elsewhere are currently investigating how areas in both hemispheres work together to understand a given situation.