This article will answer the question “Which school of thought studies how cognitive processes help people and animals develop habits?” It will also discuss why understanding cognitive processes are important. In the end, the article will answer some frequently asked questions.
Which school of thought studies how cognitive processes help people and animals develop habits?
Neuroscience is the field that studies how cognitive processes help people and animals develop habits. Neuroscience is a vast field and many overlapping subfields have emerged from it as it has the same subject of interest- the human brain.
Cognitive psychology. Neuroscience relates most to cognitive psychology because this branch investigates the mental processes of the individual. It tries to understand how the brain engages in several mental activities.
Cognitive psychology understands how we learn, solve problems, memorise, and acquire language. It also looks into how we perceive the world, think about the world, communicate, and store information.
Cognitive psychology is closely related to the fields of neuroscience, philosophy and linguistics. It also tries to understand how people can improve their memory, increase their decision-making abilities, and boost learning.
The term “neuroscience”, stemming from the Greek word νεῦρον (neûron) means “string, nerve”. This probably is explained better by the fact that the neural pathway which builds the connections within the brain is a network of nerves attached like a string.
This string bundle is then wrapped over and over in as many layers as would require to contain a staggering amount of 86 billion neurons.
As mentioned above, there are a wide number of fields that have newly emerged from the singular field of neuroscience. Thanks to the advancement of modern technology and to the fact that we are living in the information age, we have been able to build computers and come up with state-of-the-art techniques to be able to study the brain.
Not only do these techniques facilitate the process of studying the complex organ that is the brain, but it also helps us paint pictures and produce videos of the brain in its active phase.
This is a huge leap from our days of having to wait for people to get injured through brain damage, get a stroke, or worse, die- so we could be able to extract their brain from their body after conducting an autopsy and then proceeding to study the brain and its structure.
One problem with the decades-old method of the autopsy was that the brain begins to heal almost as soon as it faces any injury. Research on brain plasticity proves just that.
Moreover, it could only possibly tell us about the structure of the brain. Brain injury studies could tell us very slightly about the functions of the brain, however, these modern techniques of studying the brain have not only told us more about the functions and the building blocks of the brain, but they have also shed immense light on the ways in which our brain processes internal cognitive information, as well external behaviour and habits.
Yes, you read that right!
If you’ve ever speculated that cognitive processes might help animals and humans develop habits, you were not incorrect in any capacity. In fact, there is a specific field for that very type of study.
It may not be very difficult to guess its name, as we are talking about two very particular aspects of the study: habits and thought processes. Because we are talking about cognition and behaviour, the field of study that helps us develop these behaviours is behavioural neuroscience.
What is Behavioural Neuroscience?
Behavioural neuroscience is the field of neuroscience that is dedicated to the study of how the brain, along with the rest of the nervous system, creates the groundwork on which behaviour is formed.
It conducts an in-depth study of the neural basis for various day-to-day cognitive processes like thinking, perception, learning, emotion and motivation.
In doing so, behavioural neuroscience overlaps with a number of newly emerging modern fields of neuroscience.
Some of these are cognitive neuroscience, which focuses on how neurons in the brain affect our thought process and perception and affective neuroscience, which focuses on how the same neuroscience affects our feelings and emotions.
The topic of research in behavioural neuroscience includes, but is not limited to, the neural process that is characterised by addiction, the formation of memories and forgetting of the information, conditioning, etc.
A behavioural neuroscientist would conduct scientific studies on topics like, how the brain reacts to hunger, how we form habits, what brain areas are responsible for maintaining habits, why the brain forgets some habits, etc.
A behavioural neuroscientist does not just limit his area of study to the connections between the brain, body and behaviour in humans, but also expands it to study animal behaviour. In fact, most of the testing is first done on animals to be able to meet ethical standards and pass safety regulation and then carried out on participating human beings.
Apart from behavioural neuroscience, there is another field of neuroscience that closely studies human behaviour. However, this field is focused entirely on human beings, not animals and is centred around social situations and relationships.
This field does look at habits but in the context of human relationships and social perception. These habits are rules that can essentially be allowed to most human beings in similar social situations. This is the field of social neuroscience.
What is social neuroscience?
Social neuroscience, as the name suggests, focuses on the aspects of social relations, social behaviour and social perceptions, as well as how the underlying cognitive processes affect the same.
Social neuroscience studies the brain by keeping in mind that human beings are social animals and that our cognitive processes influenced by our neurons deeply affect our relational habits.
This is why it becomes important for us to be able to understand how the brain responds to social relations, as well as how it responds in certain social situations.
This could be key to understanding people with personality disorders like anti-social personality disorder, as well as other disorders that affect people’s relationships.
A social neuroscientist focuses his research on brain activity related to categorizing people into groups, as well as prejudice. It also studies individual differences in loneliness and how the brain makes mental representations of the self and others.
A social neuroscientist thus studies the link between the nervous system and the various aspects of social cognition, relationships and behaviour.
Emerging Fields of Neuroscience
Apart from these, there are also some newly emerging areas of neuroscience that are making huge leaps. Some of them are affective neuroscience, which studies how the brain plays a role in producing feelings and emotions.
This field tries to understand how thoughts, feelings and emotions may be affected by or even triggered by neurons and the role of the brain in producing them.
Affective neuroscience would carry our research on topics like empathy and how the brain processes it, the pathways that are activated when we are feeling intense emotions like anger, and what brain regions light up on scans and images when we feel disgusted.
Knowing how the brain forms habits would help us form good habits, and break bad ones.
This article answers the question “Which school of thought studies how cognitive processes help people and animals develop habits?” It also discusses why understanding cognitive processes are important. In the end, the article will answer some frequently asked questions.
Frequently Asked Questions: Which school of thought studies how cognitive processes help people and animals develop habits?
How did cognitive neuroscience emerge as a field?
Cognitive neuroscience is considered to be a new field in both neuroscience and psychology. In the 1970s, Michael Gazzaniga, who was a neuroscientist and George Miller, who was a cognitive psychologist, pioneered the way toward cognitive neuroscience.
How much intelligence is required to get into neuroscience?
You require higher levels of intelligence to get into neuroscience. You need to be able to have qualities of self-learning and analytical thinking.
Who are brain surgeons?
Brain surgeons or neurosurgeons are trained medical doctors who diagnose and treat various conditions affecting the nervous system. This includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. They perform surgeries on the nervous system. However, they can also provide non-surgical treatments that include medications, steroids, as well as physical therapies. Usually, these methods are tried and tested before recommending surgery.
Gazzaniga, M. S. (2009). The cognitive neurosciences. MIT press.
Miller, G. A. (1989). George A. Miller. Stanford University Press.