It seems that cognition is developed by following a biased pathway, directed by personal experience as well as by human means of thought and perception, imposed on the child during social interactions. Why we choose this pathway over any other is explained in the development of our neuronal system. The journey along this well-controlled pathway is called training and maturation. Cognitive control is the mental process of controlling our attention and thoughts. S. A. Bunge, A. P. Mackey, and K. J. Whitaker (2009, 73) listed the putative cognitive control functions as follows:
1. Selectively attending to relevant information (selective attention) and ignoring distracting stimuli or thoughts (interference suppression/ resolution)
2. Selecting between competing response tendencies (response selection) and inhibiting inappropriate response tendencies (response inhibition)
3. Using contextual information to identify currently relevant information and appropriate responses (rule/task-set representation)
4. Reorganizing information currently held in working memory (manipulation, updating)
5. Flexibility in switching between tasks and performing two tasks concurrently (task-switching, dual-task performance)
6. Monitoring one’s own actions and the consequences of these actions (performance monitoring, error/feedback processing)
Feedback from the environment is an important factor in developing and modifying our cognition. With his more advanced cognitive system, Homo sapiens is much better adapted to his environment. However, controlling (i.e., ignoring) so-called logically irrelevant and distracting sensory inputs brings the generality (i.e., inclusivity) of our cognition into question.
As a normal course of brain development, the process of synapse elimination in response to environmental influences lasts from fifteen to nineteen years. In the human, the synapses may be lost at the rate of 100,000 per second. The decline in synaptic density is due primarily to elimination of excitatory junctions located on dendritic spines, while inhibitory synapses on dendritic shafts remain relatively constant (Rakic, Arellano, and Breunig 2009, 19). In other words, brain development means the elimination of many of the original cognitive pathways and the creation of a restricted perception.