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How Art Can Strengthen Cognitive Skills

How Art Can Strengthen Cognitive Skills

Cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties are the brain-based skills and thinking processes that you use to carry out any task — from the sim­plest to the most com­plex.

Firstly to understand how art can strengthen your cognitive skills we need to briefly understand what they are and why they are important. 

Next we look at a list of some specific cognitive skills. 

After that it's easy to understand why learing to draw can strengthen particular cognitive skills ...

The term cognition (From the Latin cognoscere, "to know", "to conceptualize" or "to recognize") refers to your ability to process information, apply knowledge, and change preferences. Cognitive processes, can be either conscious or unconscious

Every task you do can be bro­ken down into the dif­fer­ent cog­ni­tive skills that are needed to com­plete that task suc­cess­fully.  Just like any skill if you do not use your your cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties they will get weaker over time.  For­tu­nately, these skills can also be improved at any age with reg­u­lar practice.

Below are some of the basic cognitive skills that are used to complete some of the more complex tasks at work or home.

As you scan through the list you can readily recognise that learning how to draw or paint may have a direct impact in exercising or developing that particular cognitive ability.  For others the reason may not be as evident. 

Alter­nat­ing Atten­tion: the abil­ity to shift the focus of atten­tion quickly. 
Audi­tory Pro­cess­ing Speed: the time it takes to per­ceive rel­e­vant audi­tory stim­uli, encode, and inter­pret it and then make an appro­pri­ate response. 
Cen­tral Pro­cess­ing Speed: the time it takes to encode, cat­e­go­rize, and under­stand the mean­ing of any sen­sory stimuli.
Con­cep­tual Rea­son­ing: includes con­cept for­ma­tion, abstrac­tion, deduc­tive logic, and/or induc­tive logic.
Divided Atten­tion: the capa­bil­ity to rec­og­nize and respond to mul­ti­ple stim­uli at the same time. 
Fine Motor Con­trol: the abil­ity to accu­rately con­trol fine motor movements.
Fine Motor Speed: the time it takes to per­form a sim­ple motor response.
Focused (or Selec­tive) Atten­tion: the abil­ity to screen out dis­tract­ing stimuli.
Response Inhi­bi­tion: the abil­ity to avoid auto­mat­i­cally react­ing to incor­rect stimuli.
Sus­tained Atten­tion: the abil­ity to main­tain vigilance.
Visu­ospa­tial Clas­si­fi­ca­tion: the abil­ity to dis­crim­i­nate between visual objects based on a con­cept or rule. 
Visu­ospa­tial Sequenc­ing: the abil­ity to dis­cern the sequen­tial order of visual objects based on a con­cept or rule.
Visual Per­cep­tion: the abil­ity to per­ceive fixed visual objects.
Visual Pro­cess­ing Speed: the time it takes to per­ceive visual stimuli.
Visual Scan­ning: the abil­ity to find a ran­dom visual cue.
Visual Track­ing: the abil­ity to fol­low a con­tin­u­ous visual cue.
Work­ing Mem­ory: the abil­ity to hold task-relevant infor­ma­tion while pro­cess­ing it 
For the visual and visuospatial abilities there is a clear benefit in the practice of drawing and painting.  Similarly for the fine motor skills

For the attention based abilities there is an easily recognised relevance between art and the "Focused Attention" ability.  Also it is likely that specific drawing exercises such as sketching a model in rapidly moving poses may assist in exercising the "Alternating Attention" ability.

Central Processing Speed is an interesting area for discussion.  There is evidence that the visual "right brain" has a significantly faster processing speed than the mathematical "left brain".  This is highlighted when you consider that a computer can perform calculations at a rate far superior than a person - but even the worlds fastes computers struggle at visual tasks such as facial recognition.

It is possible that "Conceptual Reasoning" can benefit from art in a number of ways. The process of drawing that takes a set of visual elements (lines, shapes, tones) and organises them into a higher level framework.  Abstract art takes a real item and creates a new but related image - exercising concept formation.

Also the ability to perceive and correct differences between a subject and a drawn image is relevant to the "Response Inhibition" cognitive ability.

 Finally for some of the auditory skills the relevance may not exist at all. (To exercise those you might like to take up a musical instrument as well)

So in summary the activities involved in drawing and painting would also provide a way to exercise many of the cognitive abilities.  If you want to maintain or improve your ability to to perform higher level tasks then art can provide the necessary "drills" while being a highly pleasurable activity in its own right.  Some might say that it is the anti-ageing medicine for the brain!


Discussion and list based upon article What is Cognitive Ability/ What are cognitive abilities?   By: Caroline Latham   http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2006/12/18/what-are-cognitive-abilities/

Categories: 8 Reasons to Learn How to Draw

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