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 or peyote. Psychedelic experiences often involve sudden shifts in cognitive association and emotive content.

Religious mystic experiences are often described as cognitive shifts, 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) can also refer to the understanding that thoughts (i.e. cognitions) play a key role in a person's emotional state and 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 environments are evaluated.[citation needed] Ukrainian-American linguist Aneta Pavlenko defines coexistence as the tendency of those who speak multiple languages to create and maintain cognitive patterns that are specific to each language.[7] Sachs and Coley provided evidence for this phenomenon in 2006 through their investigation of Russian–English bilinguals’ emotional understanding. Their results showed that multilingual people explain the difference between jealousy and envy differently depending on which language the question is asked in, lending credence to the idea of coexistence.[8]

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]

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.

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