What is a Human's Cognitive Capability?

Question: What is a Human's Cognitive Capability?


A component of Human Factors is a human’s cognitive capability. This isn’t just how smart people are but also how the brain works, how information is understood, how it is processed and how it is recalled. Cognition refers to higher level brain functions such as perception, planning, problem solving and using language.

How much information can be tracked and understood at the same time?

Is the layout logical or confusing? Are the controls intuitive or do they require intense training? Can you read upside down? Can you tell the difference between two different warning buzzers? These type of questions are what cognitive ergonomics attempts to answer.

A person’s cognitive capability is an important factor when evaluating a human-machine interface. How effective the design communication is depends largely on how people can understand the information being presented to them, whether it is a shape that may signify a handle or a number pad for a 12 digit PIN entry.

The human brain is an amazing machine capable of more than we can consciously understand. Yet it also has some major limitations that have been theorized. One of those limitations is the theory of working memory. Working memory is the section of your memory that deals with immediate information, not memory recall.

So it is what your brain uses to process what is going on in real time.

You can’t keep track of that many things at once. Most people can handle about seven pieces of information in real time. As such if you see a control panel with a hundred buttons it will be very confusing. But if those buttons are organized into half a dozen groups you can keep track of them. Limitations in working memory are why multi-tasking is so inefficient.

Know More – What is Working Memory?

On the other hand the brain has a number of mechanisms that allow us to organize, understand and recall a lot of information, especially if the design or system supports the cognitive capability of humans.

Have you ever thought the layout of one remote control was confusing while another just seemed logical? You have pattern recognition software in your noggin. Patterns support understanding through a known and predictable organization.

Grouping works along similar lines as patterns by combining a number of individual items into one unit for your working memory to process. If your volume button on the remote is two distinct buttons in separate places it is much harder to remember where they are and operate them. However if they are right next to each other in a group (and also a pattern if one points up above one that points down) then you can find them by feel and operate them without much thought.

Forming habits is one way the brain increases cognitive efficiency. It basically automates things that you do a lot and reinforces them for being done that way. However, that part of the brain doesn't have morals so it doesn’t distinguish between good or bad habits.

That is why it is hard to break a bad habit. But a good habit is a great thing for reducing your cognitive load.

Training establishes habits so that some actions can be run automatically or semi-automatically by your brain. If you drive a car, and have done it for a while, then you benefit from this. Remember back to when you were first learning to drive. You had to consciously think about every aspect of what you were doing. And if you tried to change the radio and lost your concentration on steering who knows where you would end up. Now you get home on your daily commute almost on auto pilot.

Know More - The Essentials of Habits

Cognitive Psychology studies cognitive capability in great detail and studies not only what the brain is capable of but also why?

Gestalt Psychology theories provide ways to organize and present information within the framework of the brain's cognitive capability.

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Your Citation
Adams, Chris. "What is a Human's Cognitive Capability?" ThoughtCo, Mar. 9, 2012, thoughtco.com/what-is-humans-cognitive-capability-1206395. Adams, Chris. (2012, March 9). What is a Human's Cognitive Capability? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-humans-cognitive-capability-1206395 Adams, Chris. "What is a Human's Cognitive Capability?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-humans-cognitive-capability-1206395 (accessed September 24, 2017).