Understanding Cognitive Functions: Boost Decision Making
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What are cognitive functions?
  2. Types of cognitive functions
  3. How cognitive functions affect decision making
  4. Techniques to enhance cognitive functions
  5. How to apply cognitive functions to boost decision making
  6. Why cognitive functions influence leadership
  7. Case studies on cognitive functions and decision making

Have you ever wondered why you make the decisions that you do? It's all down to something called cognitive functions. These are the mental processes that help us perceive, think, remember, and, most importantly, make decisions. In this blog post, we'll explore how cognitive functions play a pivotal role in decision making, and how you can enhance these functions to make better decisions. Let's start at the very beginning—what exactly are cognitive functions?

What are cognitive functions?

Cognitive functions are the mental skills your brain uses to process information, solve problems, and make decisions. You use these functions every day—whether you're deciding what to wear, what to eat, or even how to respond in a conversation.

There are several key cognitive functions, each with its own role. Let's take a look at some of them:

  • Perception: This is how you interpret and understand the world around you. It's all about making sense of what your senses are telling you.
  • Memory: Your memory stores all the knowledge and experiences you've had. It's like the hard drive of your brain. It's crucial for learning new things and making informed decisions.
  • Attention: This is all about focus. Whether you're listening to a friend's story or completing a task at work, attention allows you to concentrate on what's important.

These are just a few examples of the cognitive functions in decision making. There are many more, all working together to help you navigate the world. By understanding these functions, you can become more aware of how you make decisions and how to make better ones.

Types of cognitive functions

When it comes to cognitive functions, not all are created equal. They can be split into two main types: basic and complex. Let's learn about them:

  • Basic cognitive functions: These are the building blocks of your cognitive system. They include things like perception, which helps you understand what you see and hear; attention, which lets you focus on specific things; and memory, which stores your experiences and knowledge for later use.
  • Complex cognitive functions: These use the basic functions to carry out more complicated tasks. For instance, problem-solving involves using your memory and attention to find a solution to a problem. Decision making is another complex function—it pulls in information from your perception, memory, and attention to help you choose the best course of action.

By understanding these two types of cognitive functions in decision making, you can start to see how your brain processes information and makes decisions. This understanding can then help you make more informed and better decisions in your daily life.

How cognitive functions affect decision making

Ever wondered why you chose one option over another? Well, it's all down to those cognitive functions. Let's break it down and see how each function plays its part in decision making.

First, let's talk about perception. This function helps you gather information from your surroundings. For example, when you're deciding which ice cream flavor to pick, it's your perception that takes in the colors and names of the options.

Next up is attention. Attention narrows down your focus and allows you to concentrate on specific details. So, if you're lactose intolerant, your attention would spotlight the 'dairy-free' labels.

Then comes memory. This function stores all your past experiences, preferences, and knowledge. In our ice cream scenario, your memory recalls that you enjoyed chocolate flavor the last time. So, you're likely to consider it again.

Lastly, we have the complex functions, like problem-solving and decision making. These take all the information from the basic functions and use it to make a decision. So, you weigh your options, consider your preferences and dietary restrictions, and finally, make a choice.

In essence, cognitive functions in decision making are like the behind-the-scenes crew of a movie. Quietly, yet effectively, they shape the end product—your decision.

Techniques to enhance cognitive functions

Just like muscles, cognitive functions can be trained and enhanced. Here are some techniques you can use to give your decision-making skills a boost.

Firstly, a well-rested mind is a well-functioning mind. Getting enough sleep is crucial. It's like hitting the reset button on your brain, giving it the energy to take on the next day's decisions.

Another technique is regular exercise. It's not just for your physical health; it benefits your brain too. Regular workouts can increase brain function, improving memory and attention span.

Consider also trying brain-training games. These games are designed to challenge and strengthen different cognitive functions. It's like a gym for your brain.

Mindfulness and meditation are also excellent ways to enhance cognitive functions. They can help improve focus and attention, and reduce stress, making decision making easier.

Lastly, never underestimate the power of a balanced diet. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients can help boost brain health and enhance cognitive functions.

Remember, cognitive functions in decision making aren't set in stone. With a little effort and practice, you can enhance them.

How to apply cognitive functions to boost decision making

Now that we've explored various techniques to strengthen cognitive functions, let's focus on how to apply these functions to enhance decision-making skills.

First, let's look at perception. Perception feeds your brain with information about your environment. By improving this function, you can ensure you're making decisions based on accurate and comprehensive information. You can train your perception by engaging in activities that require a keen eye for detail, like puzzles or reading.

Next up is attention. Having a sharp focus can help you filter out unnecessary noise and concentrate on the factors that truly matter in your decision-making process. You can enhance your attention through mindfulness techniques or brain-training games that require focus.

Memory also plays a big role in decision making. Remembering past decisions and their outcomes can guide you in making better choices in the future. Techniques to enhance memory include regular exercise and eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients that boost brain health.

Finally, your problem-solving cognitive function is central to decision making. This function helps you analyze different solutions and choose the best one. To enhance your problem-solving skills, engage in activities that challenge your brain, like learning a new language or playing a musical instrument.

With these enhanced cognitive functions in decision making, you'll find yourself making smarter, more effective decisions in no time!

Why cognitive functions influence leadership

Let's now shift our focus to leadership. Why does understanding cognitive functions in decision making matter to a leader? Well, let's break it down.

Leaders are decision-makers; they guide teams, organizations, and even entire nations. Their choices can have huge impacts, whether it's deciding on a new project, managing resources, or setting the overall direction. So, having a firm grasp on cognitive functions can significantly boost their decision-making prowess.

Take perception, for instance. Leaders must be able to accurately perceive their team's strengths and weaknesses, the market's demands, and the organization's resources. This perception directly affects their decisions and, ultimately, the success of their team or organization.

Then there's attention. Leaders are often bombarded with information and demands. Being able to focus their attention on what truly matters and filter out distractions is crucial for effective decision making.

What about memory? Leaders must remember past decisions and outcomes, successful or not, to avoid repeating mistakes and to build on successes. This is where a well-honed memory function can be incredibly valuable.

And let's not forget problem-solving. Leaders are frequently faced with complex challenges. Having a strong problem-solving cognitive function can help them navigate these challenges and make sound decisions.

When leaders strengthen these cognitive functions, they can make more informed, effective decisions. This, in turn, can lead to more successful leadership — and who doesn't want that?

Case studies on cognitive functions and decision making

Now that we've talked about cognitive functions in decision making and leadership, let's look at a couple of real-life examples. These case studies will help illustrate how cognitive functions can influence decision-making processes.

Case study #1: Apple Inc.

Think about one of the world's leading tech companies, Apple Inc. It's no secret that their success can be largely attributed to the visionary leadership of the late Steve Jobs. Jobs had an exceptional ability to perceive market trends and consumer needs, even before they themselves knew what they wanted. This ability, a key cognitive function, allowed him to make innovative decisions, leading to groundbreaking products like the iPhone and iPad.

Case study #2: SpaceX

Now consider SpaceX, Elon Musk's ambitious space venture. Musk is known for his problem-solving abilities, another key cognitive function. Faced with challenges such as reducing the cost of space travel and developing reusable rockets, Musk's decision making has been instrumental in SpaceX's success. His ability to solve complex problems has led to breakthrough innovations, making commercial space travel a potential reality.

Case study #3: IKEA

Last but not least, let's look at IKEA. This global furniture retailer owes much of its success to its founder, Ingvar Kamprad. Kamprad had a unique ability to focus his attention on what mattered most—providing affordable, quality furniture to the masses. This cognitive function played a significant role in his decision making, shaping IKEA's cost-saving strategies such as flat-pack design and self-assembly.

These case studies show how enhancing cognitive functions can lead to improved decision making, resulting in successful leadership and groundbreaking achievements. So, whether you're a leader in your field or aspiring to be one, knowing and applying cognitive functions in decision making can truly make a difference.

If you enjoyed learning about cognitive functions and want to further improve your decision-making skills, don't miss the workshop 'Making The Right Decisions' by Debbie Knox-Hewson. This workshop will provide you with practical techniques and insights to help you make better decisions in both your personal and professional life.