Piero Scaruffi(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"
Cognition is the set of faculties that allow the mind to process stimuli from the external world and to determine action in the external world. They comprise of perception, learning, memory, reasoning and so forth. Basically, we perceive something, we store it in memory, we retrieve related information, we process the whole, we learn something, we store it in memory, we use it to decide what to do next. All of these functions make up cognition.
Is all of cognition conscious? Is there something that we remember, learn or process without being aware of it? Probably. At least, the level of awareness may vary wildly. Sometimes we study a poem until we can remember all the words in the exact order: that requires a lot of awareness. Sometimes we simply store an event without paying too much attention to it. Consciousness is like another dimension. One can be engaged in this or that cognitive task (first dimension) and then it can be aware of it at different levels of intensity (second dimension). It is, therefore, likely that cognitive faculties and consciousness are independent processes.
Since it processes inputs and yields outputs, cognition has the invaluable advantage that it lends itself to modeling and testing endeavours, in a more scientific fashion than studies on consciousness.
Language too is a cognitive process. Given its importance for humans, it deserves a separate treatment, but it is likely that language's fundamental mechanisms are closely related to the mechanisms that support the other faculties.
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