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26 Cognitive Science terms you should know from A-Z

26 Cognitive Science terms you should know from A-Z

3 min read
  • Becoming evidence-informed
  • The science of learning

Cognitive psychology is playing an ever increasing role in both education and sport. But psychological terms often sound complicated, which can put people off from using or exploring the concepts behind them. To help, we have put together an A-Z list explaining the key terms of Cognitive Science terms, we think are most important.

Authentic leadership

We are looking for leaders to be authentic so those who follow their instruction have a better social connection, as they understand who the leader is away from their professional role.


Blocking is a poor revision technique where you dedicate whole days to each subject rather than mixing them up, which has been shown to be more effective.

Circadian rhythm

Our circadian rhythm is our body’s internal clock that ensures we are most awake when it is light and sleepy when it is dark.

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate Practice is focused practice that looks to achieve a specific goal. 

Elaborative Interrogation

Elaborative Interrogation works by asking “why is this true?”, which helps connects new knowledge to existing memories, thus solidifying it in the brain.

Fixed Mindset

Having a Fixed Mindset means believing that your abilities are set in stone and cannot be improved.

Growth Mindset

Having a Growth Mindset means thinking that your abilities can be improved through effort and learning.

Halo Effect

The Halo Effect describes how we are unduly influenced by our first experience with a person, and how this can cloud all future perceptions.


Interleaving is a good revision technique which involves mixing up the type of question one revises.

Jigsaw method

The Jigsaw Method is a technique that uses cooperative learning. Students are split into groups and are each responsible for learning a specific set of information, which they then teach to the rest of their group.

Knowledge acquisition

It is easier to gain new knowledge if we already have similar existing knowledge. This places more anchor points in the brain for new information to connect to.


Looping is when students have the same teacher for two years or more, which can build relationships and thus improve academic performance.


Metacognition refers to the ability to critically analyse and monitor the way we think.

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Note taking

Taking notes in class gives students something positive and productive to focus on, reduces the need to seek distractions elsewhere and, when done well, makes revision much more effective.

Out Group

An Out Group is a social group that you don’t identify with, which often leads to a negative view of the people within the group.


Procrastination means finding other tasks to do to delay the completion of a more important task.

Quality of practice

It is not only about the number of hours of practice – the quality also needs to be high.

Retrieval Practice

Retrieval Practice involves doing an activity that requires you to answer questions, cementing this knowledge in the long-term memory.


Spacing is a learning strategy that consists in revising by doing a little and often, instead of a lot all at once.

Thinking biases

Thinking biases are an error in thinking that causes misconceptions and changes the decision and judgements we make.

Urgency vs Importance

This method famously used by Eisenhower gives a suggestion on how to manage time more effectively. He stated that a balance between urgency and importance is needed so that we can address issues promptly whilst still having time for issues that we personally value.

Verbal or visual feedback

Both verbal and visual feedback allows students to recognise what they have done well whilst also identifying areas they can improve on for next time.


Well-being means feeling healthy and content with our lives.


Being xenodochial means being friendly to new people and acting in a hospitable way. 

Yerkes-Dodson Law

Yerkes-Dodson Law is a concept that states that a little stress is ideal, as it focuses and energises individuals. Too much stress can lead to fatigue and exhaustion, whilst no stress can cause boredom.

Zeigarnik Effect

The Zeigarnik Effect describes the observation that, once you start a task, your brain remains alert until you finish it, which is why starting a task is often the hardest part.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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