Cognitive ability

What is cognitive ability? The free dictionary defines cognitive ability as: The mental process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning and judgment.

Cognitive ability is nothing more than a set of mental abilities which help guide our decision making and success rate in every day life across different social settings and situations Cognitive ability is perhaps slightly wider than pure intellectual ability or IQ because of the inclusion of awareness, and judgment. The latter two components are closely associated with the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ).

Cognitive ability is more than just IQ. For instance, someone can have the absolute highest mathematical ability (typically associated with a high IQ) but could often end up saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. This is both a problem with perception, awareness and judgment (often referred to as sensitivity) but can also be linked to conditions of the brain (e.g. autism). Conversely, someone may be both well rounded, intelligent and successful socially in intellectual circles, but may come off as being insensitive and arrogant in environments where people are less high achieving. Again, this reflects a lack of social awareness and emotional control.

Cognitive ability
Cognitive ability encompasses a complex set of mental processes. IQ is key.

So how does one measure cognitive ability? Is there such a thing as a cognitive ability test? Well, there is a test named “the Cognitive Ability Test ” (CogAT, or CAT) which is a standardized K-12 test in the United States which seeks to test (1) verbal, (2) quantitative and (3) non-verbal skills and is often administered in conjunction with the Iowa test, to predict school achievement. The cynic in me says that this is little more than a performance and verbal IQ test, and it has been established that there is a correlation between this test and IQ tests.

Measuring Cognitive ability

So how does one go about establishing cognitive ability? I believe that there is no one test that will provide an accurate measurement. Measuring cognitive ability objectively starts with the measurement of general intelligence, which is a key component to all the rest. It has in fact been shown that IQ and EQ are often related, and a 2012 study using brain scans of Vietnam veterans showed that brain lesions in areas affecting reasoning, not only diminished intellectual capacity as measured by IQ, but also decreased performance on EQ related tasks. Hence, although IQ and EQ are distinct concepts, the two are in fact correlated.

Measuring cognitive ability therefore starts through the (reasonably) objective measurement of IQ, and followed by observational evidence around someone’s success in various social settings: from the family, to relationships, friendships and the workplace.

You can test your IQ here at