Cognitive shift

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A cognitive shift or shift in cognitive focus is triggered by the brain's response and change due to some external force.[1]

General cause[edit]

A cognitive shift can occur when a person undergoes a new experience, such as astronauts experiencing the overview effect when launched into space.[2]

Cognitive shifts can occur with or without the aid of an externally ingested psychoactive substance such as LSD, peyote, or other psychoactive drugs. Religious mystic experiences are often described as a sudden shift from one cognitive function or another, for instance in the writings of William James.[3] For example, William James described how one can shift from being anxious to calm by the "phenomena of seership" or the "exercise of power".[3]

Traditional psychology[edit]

Cognitive shift (in the development of psychology) is also a term that relates to the understanding that thoughts (i.e. cognitions) play a key role in a person's emotional state and actions (behaviour). It was theorised by earlier behavioral psychologists that individuals were empty vessels and new experiences would be created by being repeatedly exposed and/or rewarded in relation to certain things (such as in rote learning of times tables).[4]

The cognitive shift however, demonstrated that thoughts also play an integral process. A key experiment placed a rat in a maze and after rotating the maze the rat was able to use pointers around the room in order to find a food reward. This suggested that the rat had used internal cognition in order to influence its behavior to gain a reward.[5] This experiment was performed by Edward C. Tolman and he explained this phenomenon as a cognitive map.

Also the fact that children, when learning a language, often and quite suddenly begin to apply rules they have learned to new phrases such as saying "I've drinken all my drink" after learning "I've eaten all my food". This is usually without being taught these rules first and as such demonstrate a key role of cognition in terms of learning. This principal is further illustrated by study conducted by Park, H. I., & Ziegler, N. (2014).[6] Their study illustrates that overall, Cross-linguistics show a connection between language and our ability to conceptualize concepts. Linguistics influence an individual's mind from a very early age. A lot of attention has been given to the topic of bilingual cognition research due to the fact that speaking multiple languages changes the way we evaluate the perceptual attributes of our environment. One of the ways the mind of those who speak different languages differs in experience is what Pavlenko (2011)[7] calls coexistence. By this, he means those who speak multiple languages create and maintain categories that are specific to each language and use them in accordance to the specific languages. Sachs and Coley (2006)[8] provided evidence for co-existence through their investigation of Russian–English bilinguals’ emotional. How the concepts of Jealousy and envy are understood. The results showed that those who speak multiple languages and were tested in English understood envy and jealousy the same way English monolinguals did, while those who also speak multiple languages, but were tested in Russian categorized the understood the emotions in a way similar to Russian Monolinguals.

Cognitive shifts may occur after a therapist identifies an underlying fear or response mechanism and assists the client with developing remedial actions via Cognitive behavioral therapy.[9]

Psychedelic Phenomenon[edit]

With the ingestion of psychedelics people often experience sudden shifts in cognitive association and emotive content. The experience can shift rapidly from negative to euphoric, and in certain cases mimic the schizophrenic condition, as researched by Humphry Osmond and others.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spink, Amanda; Dee, Cheryl (2007-11-27). "Cognitive shifts related to interactive information retrieval". Online Information Review. 31 (6): 845–860. doi:10.1108/14684520710841801. ISSN 1468-4527.
  2. ^ Yaden, David B.; Iwry, Jonathan; Slack, Kelley J.; Eichstaedt, Johannes C.; Zhao, Yukun; Vaillant, George E.; Newberg, Andrew B. (2016). "The overview effect: Awe and self-transcendent experience in space flight". Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice. 3 (1): 1–11. doi:10.1037/cns0000086. ISSN 2326-5531.
  3. ^ a b James, William (1996-08-01). The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature.
  4. ^ "Redefining Situation Schema under Chronic Stress: A Mixed Methods Construct Validation of Positive Cognitive Shift - ProQuest". ProQuest 2086460474. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Goldstein, E. Bruce, 1941- (2015). Cognitive psychology : connecting mind, research and everyday experience (4th ed.). New york: Cengage learning. ISBN 978-1285763880. OCLC 885178247.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ PARK, HAE IN; ZIEGLER, NICOLE (2013-10-08). "Cognitive shift in the bilingual mind: Spatial concepts in Korean–English bilinguals". Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. 17 (2): 410–430. doi:10.1017/s1366728913000400. ISSN 1366-7289.
  7. ^ Athanasopoulos, Panos (2011-12-31), "2. Cognitive Restructuring in Bilingualism", in Pavlenko, Aneta (ed.), Thinking and Speaking in Two Languages, Multilingual Matters, pp. 29–65, doi:10.21832/9781847693389-004, ISBN 978-1-84769-338-9
  8. ^ Sachs, Olga Stepanova; Coley, John D. (2006-12-31), "8. Envy and Jealousy in Russian and English: Labeling and Conceptualization of Emotions by Monolinguals and Bilinguals", Bilingual Minds, Multilingual Matters, pp. 209–231, doi:10.21832/9781853598746-010, ISBN 978-1-85359-874-6
  9. ^ Williamson, D (1994). "Binge eating: Nature, assessment, and treatment Fairburn, C.G., & Wilson G.T. (Eds.). New York: The Guilford Press, 1993. 419 pp. $40.00". Clinical Psychology Review. 14 (4): 329–330. doi:10.1016/0272-7358(94)90031-0. ISSN 0272-7358.
  10. ^ Preller, Katrin H.; Razi, Adeel; Zeidman, Peter; Stämpfli, Philipp; Friston, Karl J.; Vollenweider, Franz X. (2019-02-12). "Effective connectivity changes in LSD-induced altered states of consciousness in humans". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116 (7): 2743–2748. doi:10.1073/pnas.1815129116. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 6377471. PMID 30692255.

Kingdon, D. G., & Turkington, D. (1994). Cognitive-behavioral therapy of schizophrenia. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.