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There are many different mental processes or cognitive skills that are important in learning and thinking.

Here are definitions of some of the most important. Click here to download a PDF of the definitions.


Attention Skills

Visual Sustained Attention | Auditory Sustained Attention
The ability to stay on task for sustained periods of time.

Visual Selective Attention | Auditory Selective Attention
The ability to screen out inputs other than the one that requires focus.

Divided Attention
The ability to attend to two activities at the same time, such as taking notes while listening to the teacher.

Flexible Attention
The ability to shift focus from one task to another quickly and efficiently when necessary.


Visual Processing Skills

Visual Discrimination
The ability to recognize the details of an image and distinguish differences.

Visual Figure Ground
The ability to attend to a specific feature or form while maintaining an awareness of the relationship of the form to less relevant background information.

Visual Form Consistency
The ability to reorganize the visual information in a form that is consistent, regardless of object distance, location or orientation.

The ability to interpret and project the concepts of “left” and “right” into space and onto other objects.

Visual Span
The ability to process a volume of visual information with a glance.

Visual Simultaneous Processing
The ability to combine and interpret the parts and the whole of a visual image and to recognize a pattern.

Visual Sequential Processing
The ability to see objects in a sequential order, as in reading.

The ability to recall an image of what has been and to mentally manipulate or change aspects of that image in the mind.

Visual Processing Speed
The ability to scanning, inspect and compare incoming visual information quickly.


Auditory Processing Skills

Auditory Discrimination
The ability to recognize the details of sounds and distinguish differences.

Auditory Sequential Processing
The ability of the auditory perceptual processing system to send auditory information to the brain in the same order it was received.

Auditory Processing Speed
The ability to process incoming auditory information quickly.


Sensory Integration Skills

Oculomotor Skill
The ability to use the eyes efficiently to read and gather information from the environment.

Visual-Motor Integration
The ability to use the eyes and hands together efficiently, as in writing, drawing, typing, catching a ball, etc.

Auditory-Motor Integration
The integration of auditory inputs and motor skills such as tapping to a beat.

Timing and Rhythm
The ability to process information at an adequate and consistent speed, the ability to appropriately pace oneself.

Visual-Auditory Integration
The ability to match auditory and visual stimuli and coordinate them into a meaningful product.


Memory Skills

Visual Sensory Memory | Auditory Sensory Memory
The ability to screen out unimportant sensory information and keep important information for further processing (approximately 1/1000th of a second).

Visual Short-Term Memory | Auditory Short-Term Memory
The ability to hold onto information in sensory memory for up to 30 seconds until sent on for further processing or discarded.

Visual Spatial Memory
The ability to recall the location of stimuli and to identify and reproduce a design.

Long-Term Memory
The ability to permanently store information and retrieve it when needed, Including semantic information and episodic information (experiences).

Visual Sequential Memory | Auditory Sequential Memory
The ability to recall a sequence of bits of information in the same order as originally received.

Visual Simultaneous Memory
The ability to recall several things received at the same time and preserve the relationships among them.


Executive Functions

Working Memory
The ability to hold and manipulate information consciously in the mind.

Inhibitory Control
The ability to suppress a thought or idea and to refrain from doing something one otherwise would do.

Cognitive Flexibility
The ability to change our mindset when the rules of the world around us change, to shift between mental processes.


Logic and Reasoning

Visual Thinking (Reasoning)
The ability to logically and systematically transform mental images to test a hypothesis.

Verbal Thinking (Reasoning)
The ability to understand and logically work through concepts and problems presented in words.

Conceptual Thinking (Abstract Reasoning)
The ability to recognize a collection of features that go together to create an idea or category of ideas.

The ability to identify cause and effect, to reason and think rationally and analytically.

Decision Speed
The ability to use our thinking skills quickly and efficiently to make correct decisions.


Higher-Order Executive Functions

The ability to use forethought to create a practical and systematic strategy for attaining defined goals.

Problem Solving
The ability to find solutions to complex issues and to constructively resolve challenges, mistakes, failures and conflicts.

Strategic Thinking
The ability to identify alternative solutions and select the solution most likely to help one attain defined objectives, keeping in mind relevant external factors and the likely consequences of one’s choices.


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