'We can learn to think well'

Psychologist Dr Fiona Beddoes-Jones is running a British Psychological Society webinar on cognitive fitness in March. Ella Rhodes asked her about it.

What will your webinar cover?

The short answer is that the webinar will cover what Cognitive Fitness is, why it’s important and how we can actively develop it to become better practitioners, consultants, coaches, employees, leaders, managers, parents and friends.

How did you first become interested in this area?

I remember very clearly my father accusing me of something that I hadn’t in fact done, and stating that he ‘could read me like a book, and that he ‘knew exactly what I was thinking’. I was around 8 at the time and he was wrong on both counts. So from the age of around 8, I’ve always been interested in how people think, what they think and why they might think in those ways; similarly or differently to others. It’s one of the reasons I became a psychologist. I always take a pragmatic and applied approach, so simply focusing on the theory has never been enough… I really want to understand the real-life implications of cognition and meta-cognition, that is ‘thinking about thinking’.

What still needs to change in this area?

There are two main things. Firstly, that learning to think well is a skill set that we need to, and can, actively develop. It’s implied within our education system, but it’s not made explicit enough. Secondly – and this is getting much better within our profession, but still needs wider, broader societal understanding – is the recognition of, and valuing of, neurodiversity; that “thinking in the right ways at the right time” may mean thinking in different ways for different people, or in possibly thinking in similar ways but in a different processing order for example. 

Could you tell us something that might surprise someone not familiar with this area of work?

The difference between UK usage of the term ‘cognitive fitness’ and the US usage is quite striking. In the UK we use the term mainly within a work context, where we talk about “thinking in the right ways at the right time, with flexibility, agility and strength”. So in the UK, we emphasise the cognitive, whereas in the US, they emphasise the fitness and relate the term to levels of cognitive decline associated with aging. A brilliant example of diverse perspectives, where we could have a dichotomy, but instead, both perspectives can be incorporated to create synergistic and more valuable conversations with real-world implications.

What do you hope people will take away from the webinar?

A greater understanding of Cognitive Fitness and their own cognitive style preferences and the implications of those, and a desire to increase their personal and professional Cognitive Fitness.

- The cognitive fitness webinar is on Friday 11 March. Find out more and register.  

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