In science, cognition is a group of mental processes that includes attention, memory, producing and understanding language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Various disciplines, such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science all study cognition. However, the term's usage varies across disciplines; for example, in psychology and cognitive science, "cognition" usually refers to an information processing view of an individual's psychological functions. It is also used in a branch of social psychology called social cognition to explain attitudes, attribution, and groups dynamics. In cognitive psychology and cognitive engineering, cognition is typically assumed to be information processing in a participant’s or operator’s mind or brain.
Cognition is a faculty for the processing of information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences. Cognition, or cognitive processes, can be natural or artificial, conscious or unconscious. These processes are analyzed from different perspectives within different contexts, notably in the fields of linguistics, anesthesia, neurology and psychiatry, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, systemics, and computer science. Within psychology or philosophy, the concept of cognition is closely related to abstract concepts such as mind, intelligence. It encompasses the mental functions, mental processes (thoughts), and states of intelligent entities (humans, collaborative groups, human organizations, highly autonomous machines, and artificial intelligences).
The word cognition comes from the Latin verb cognosco (con 'with' + gnōscō 'know'), itself a cognate of the Ancient Greek verb gnόsko "γνώσκω" meaning 'I know' (noun: gnόsis "γνώσις" = knowledge), so broadly, 'to conceptualize' or 'to recognize'.
Attention to the cognitive process came about more than twenty-three centuries ago, beginning with Aristotle and his interest in the inner-workings of the mind and how they affect the human experience. Aristotle focused on cognitive areas pertaining to memory, perception, and mental imagery. The Greek philosopher found great importance in ensuring that his studies were based on empirical evidence; scientific information that is gathered through thorough observation and conscientious experimentation. Centuries later, as psychology became a blooming study in Europe and then gaining a following in America, other scientists like Wilhelm Wundt, Herman Ebbinghaus, Mary Whiton Calkins, and William James, to name a few, would offer their contributions to the study of cognition.
Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) heavily emphasized the notion of what he called introspection; examining the inner feelings of an individual. With introspection, the subject had to be careful to describe their feelings in the most objective manner possible in order for Wundt to find the information scientific. Though Wundt's contributions are by no means minimal, modern psychologists find his methods to be quite subjective, and choose to rely on more objective procedures of experimentations to make conclusions about the human cognitive process.