The 8 higher psychological processes

Higher psychological processes, such as language or reasoningThey are involved in the abilities that distinguish people from other animals. These voluntary and controlled functions, along with others, have allowed us to dominate the planet and explain much of the complexity that characterizes our societies.

But, What exactly are the higher cognitive functions? In this article you will find the description of the main higher psychological processes and the definition of this concept.

    What are the higher psychological processes?

    According to Lev Vygotsky, higher mental processes are human psychological systems that develop from more basic systems, shared with animals. They are mediated by symbols and they emerge from social interaction, In addition to being a natural consequence of brain development.

    Conversely, basic or elementary psychological processes they are shared by many species of animals and are present in humans from birth. These processes fundamentally encompass attention, perception and memory.

    The concept of a higher psychological process is widely used today, especially in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, although the definition is not always equivalent to Vygotsky’s.

    In the field of neuropsychology, we speak of higher psychological processes to designate the brain functions that they depend on the integration zones of the cortex. As the name suggests, these regions integrate information from the rest of the brain, enabling very complex processes such as language or reasoning.

      The main higher cognitive functions

      There is no clear consensus on how many higher psychological processes exist, although they are generally included in this concept at least. gnosis, praxis, language and executive functions, Such as reasoning and inhibition; we will deal with these separately.

      1. Gnosias

      Gnosis is defined as the ability to recognize and make sense of what we perceive. It depends on the memory and the senses, so we can speak of visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory or tactile gnosis; these are the simple gnosis, by which we give meaning directly to the external stimulation.

      On the other hand, there are also complex gnosis, which combine the information of the senses with other brain functions, leading to the perception of one’s own body or to its visuospatial orientation.

      2. Praxis

      When we run 1 motor behavior under voluntary control to achieve a goal, we perform praxis, usually learned motor programs. Disorders of these functions are called “apraxia”.

      The practices are divided into three types: visuoconstructive (using different elements to create a whole, such as a drawing), ideomotor or ideomotor (recognizing and performing simple gestures, such as waving), and ideational or ideational (using a sequence of movements with meaning. ).

        3. Attention

        Attention can be considered a basic or superior mental process depending on the complexity of the task and whether voluntary control is given. It is defined as the ability to focus cognitive resources on certain stimuli, And is mediated by the processes of vigilance and perception.

        Among the types of care, we could consider higher psychological processes it is necessary to emphasize the selective attention, the sustained and the divided. Selective attention is the ability to focus on a single stimulus, sustained attention involves paying attention for an extended period of time and the split allows you to alternate attention between multiple stimuli.

        4. Language

        Language is a fundamental psychological process because it facilitates other cognitive and intermediate functions in many types of learning. Symbolic function is required for language developmentThat is, the ability to represent ideas through symbols and understand them, in case they were created by other people.

        In this higher mental process we find various abilities, such as expressing or discriminating between phonemes and letters. Both oral and written language, based on the spoken language, allows information or requests to be given to other people; the development of this capacity was the key to the progress of human societies.

        5. Decision making

        Decision making is the ability to choose the most appropriate course of action from those available to us. This competency includes a detailed analysis of the options and their possible consequences, as well as the comparison of alternatives.

        It encompasses decision-making within executive functions, such as reasoning, planning, or inhibition, which we will describe in the following sections. Executive functions are complex brain processes that allow us to achieve our objectives and to maximize our adaptation to the environment by supervising voluntary behavior.

        6. Reasoning

        Reasoning can be defined as the process by which we draw conclusions, make inferences and establish abstract relationships between concepts. It can be inductive (when we use individual cases to arrive at a general rule), deductive (drawing conclusions from the general rule), or abductive (making the inference as simple as possible).

        7. Planning

        By planning, we not only create plans to achieve our goals, but we also allow ourselves to set goals for ourselves. Creating plans and forecasts is part of projecting memories into the future: that is, they work from knowledge about the past and present to make assumptions about what will happen and what could be done.

        In addition, planning is heavily involved in decision making and problem solving.

        8. Inhibition

        When we speak of higher psychological processes, the term “inhibition” refers to the ability to ignore irrelevant stimuli, Or to curb inappropriate impulses in a given context.

        Brain inhibition appears to be impaired in various psychological disorders, including schizophrenia and ADHD. In addition, as with many other higher psychological processes, this ability comes to be consolidated in adolescence and early adulthood.

        Bibliographical references:

        • De vega, M. (1999). Introduction to cognitive psychology. Psychology Alliance. Madrid.
        • Fonts, L. and García-Sevilla, J. (2008). Textbook of attentional psychology: a neuroscientific perspective. Madrid: Synthesis.
        • Tirapu-Ustárroz, J. and Muñoz-Céspedes, JM (2005). Memory and executive functions. Journal of Neurology, 41 (8): p. 475-484.
        • De Eckardt, B. (1996). What is cognitive science? Massachusetts: MIT Press. pages 45 to 72.

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