Learning starts from the very first days of a human life. People learn how to walk, how to perform complicated tasks and how to cooperate with other individuals. People have tried to understand what learning is throughout centuries. There are various approaches to this issue. However, all researchers agree that learning is closely connected to such concept as cognition.
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Though, there are researchers who challenge this assumption stating that there are cases when learning is possible without cognition. To understand the relationship between cognition and learning, it is important to take a closer look at the concept of learning.
Firstly, it is necessary to provide a proper definition for the concept of learning. Some people see learning as “an outcome of the social experiences in and out of schools to which young people are exposed” (Yates & McLeod, 2011, p. 230). However, it is clear that learning goes beyond classroom environment.
People acquire knowledge and gain new skills in a variety of settings. Ellstrom (2011, p. 238) provides a more comprehensive definition of learning, “learning is a process of knowledge acquisition through experienced-based changes in cognition or action”. Therefore, learning happens in various settings, but it is associated with certain changes, i.e. acquisition of knowledge and skills which is, in its turn, connected with cognition.
It is necessary to note that behavior plays an important role in learning. For instance, active people can be exposed to a great amount of information which can be learnt easily (Ellstrom, 2011). At the same time, some people find it rather difficult to concentrate as they are often distracted by numerous things. Lack of concentration can lead to difficulties while learning.
Notably, those who are less active are not exposed to new information as they tend to be in settings they know perfectly well, i.e. they remain on the safe side. Interestingly, behavior and learning are regarded in terms of the evolutionary approach (Ellstrom, 2011).
Ability to acquire knowledge and actively use it is associated with ability to survive in the animal world. This can also be applied to the contemporary world as people who acquire more knowledge have lots of opportunities, e.g. they get better jobs and get more resources, etc.
Apart from different types of behavior, there are two types of learning. Thus, learning can be explicit and implicit (Yates & McLeod, 2011). Explicit learning is often associated with education. People are explicitly exposed to certain information. They try to use a variety of strategies to facilitate learning. For instance, students try to memorize data and they train the skills they have acquired.
Adult people also have to learn new skills, e.g. professional, communicative, leadership skills, etc. As far as implicit learning is concerned, it happens without training or extra effort. As has been mentioned above, people are often exposed to a lot of information. They memorize facts, faces, places without extra effort. This is a characteristic feature of human cognitive ability to perceive and process information (Shanks, 2010). Therefore, the two types of learning help people gain knowledge and develop cognitive abilities.
Clearly, learning and cognition are interrelated. Researchers claim that there can be no learning without cognition (Shanks, 2010). Admittedly, people learn things after they have processed information cognitively. It is easy to provide an example to this concept. A 5-year-old child can be given a task to build a toy house. The child will be given major parts of the house, i.e. 4 walls and the roof. There will be no difficulties and the child will be able to build the toy house as he has the necessary experience, i.e. he/she has seen lots of houses.
However, if the child will be shown (and given instructions on) how to build the toy house quickly, he/she will spend less time building the house as the child has seen how to do it, i.e. have acquired experience. Thus, the child looks at and touches the parts of the house and gets information about the material and shape. The child pictures houses he/she has seen in his/her life. This enables the child to put the parts of the house together.
Next time, the child will be able to complete the same task much faster. Admittedly, if the child had not had the instructions and certain experience, he/she would not be able to perform the task. Nonetheless, some researchers claim that cognition is not an indispensible part of learning as learning without cognition is also possible (Shanks, 2010). However, these theories are yet to be researched and grounded.
To sum up, it is possible to note that learning and cognition are interrelated. People get the vast majority of knowledge due to their cognitive abilities. People perceive objects and gain experience through learning, implicit or explicit. It is also important to add that behavior plays an important role in learning, especially when it comes to implicit learning.
However, further research is required as there are lots of learning mechanisms which are unclear. It is also necessary to take a closer look at the correlation between learning and cognition.
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Ellstrom, P.E. (2011). Organizational learning. In V.G. Aukrust (Ed.), Learning and cognition in education (pp. 229-235). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.
Shanks, D.R. (2010). Learning: From Association to cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 61(1), 273-301.
Yates, L., & McLeod, J. (2011). Gender and schooling. In V.G. Aukrust (Ed.), Learning and cognition in education (pp. 229-235). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.