What Is Cognitive System in Psychology?


Diego Sanchez

Cognitive system is a term used in psychology to refer to the mental processes that involve acquiring, processing, storing, and using information. It includes everything from perception and attention to memory, reasoning, problem-solving, decision-making, language, and communication.

The cognitive system can be viewed as a complex network of interconnected components that work together to create our conscious experience. These components include sensory inputs (such as visual and auditory stimuli), working memory (where information is temporarily held and manipulated), long-term memory (where information is stored for later use), and executive functions (which control attention, planning, and decision-making).

Components of the Cognitive System:

  • Sensory inputs: These are the raw materials that our cognitive system processes. Sensory inputs include all the sounds we hear, things we see, things we touch or feel through our skin.
  • Working memory: This component is responsible for processing information in real-time.

    Working memory holds onto information while it’s being processed by other parts of the brain.

  • Long-term memory: This component stores information for later use. Long-term memory can last anywhere from minutes to decades.
  • Executive functions: These are high-level cognitive processes responsible for controlling attention span, planning behavior/actions based on goals and evaluating outcomes or consequences.

The Cognitive System in Action:

One example of how the cognitive system works can be seen in reading a book. When reading a book:

Sensory Input

You start by looking at the letters on the page (sensory input) which are then processed by your brain’s visual cortex.

Working Memory

These letters are then combined into words which you hold onto in working memory. Your brain processes the words and sentences to extract meaning.

Long-term Memory

The meaning of the text is then stored in long-term memory, which allows you to recall the information later when needed.

Executive Functions

Throughout this process, executive functions help you maintain focus on the task at hand, block out distractions and control eye movements as necessary.

The Importance of Understanding the Cognitive System:

Understanding how the cognitive system works is important for a number of reasons. It helps us understand how people learn, process information, make decisions, solve problems and communicate. It also helps us identify potential problems that can occur when cognitive processes are disrupted or impaired such as in cases of memory loss or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


In summary, the cognitive system is a complex network of interconnected components that work together to create our conscious experience. These components involve sensory inputs, working memory, long-term memory, and executive functions.

Understanding how this system works is essential to understanding human behavior and mental processes. The use of cognitive psychology has many practical applications in fields like education, marketing research and design thinking etcetera.