What is Cognitive Education?
IACEP is the International Association for Cognitive Education and Psychology. What is cognitive education, anyway?
At the dawn of the twentieth century, Frenchman Alfred Binet and his colleague Theodore Simon made two monumental contributions to psychology. One became well-known; the other remained cloaked in obscurity. The one that became well known was the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales, which were the forerunners of almost all modern intelligence tests. The contribution that remained cloaked in obscurity was a plan for a system of “mental orthopedics”—that is, a program for developing the cognitive skills of young people who were in need of remediation.
Perhaps because of the advent of World War I, the United States and some other countries became enamored of the idea of testing recruits to see whether they were mentally qualified for military service. For those who were qualified, a further question was the level of military job that they would be able cognitively to handle. At roughly the same time, issues began to arise about immigration, and some policy-makers became concerned with the question of whether immigrants who were coming to their countries were maintaining or even raising the cognitive level of the population, or instead were bringing this level down. IQ testing appeared to provide a way of screening immigrants. In the United States, tests came to be administered at Ellis Island, the entry point for immigrants. Questionable uses of tests abounded.
Meanwhile, Binet’s ideas about mental orthopedics were all but forgotten. These ideas were given a new breath of life later in the twentieth century with the advent of constructs such as the “zone of proximal development,” proposed by Lev Vygotsky, and “mediated learning experience,” proposed by Reuven Feuerstein. Psychologists once again began to take seriously the notion that an intelligence test provides only limited information about cognitive skills, and that it is possible to help all children improve their cognitive skills. Around the same time, gerontologists such as Warner Schaie and Sherry Willis were showing that it is possible to improve as well the cognitive skills of aging populations. Carmi Schooler even showed that in the world of work, it is “use it or lose it”: Those who entered more cognitively demanding jobs were more likely to retain higher levels of cognitive functioning as they aged.
Our association is dedicated to the notion that virtually everyone can improve his or her cognitive skills through education. Indeed, Stephen Ceci and his collaborators have shown that schooling, in and of itself, increases students’ cognitive skills. James Flynn has shown that factors in the environment as yet not fully elucidated resulted in higher levels of cognitive abilities, as measured by IQ tests, later in the twentieth century than earlier in the century.
Many of us in the association are dedicated theorists, researchers, and/or practitioners interested in elucidating the factors that can help people of all ages increase their cognitive skills and performance. As an association, we are not aligned with any one particular school of thought regarding how cognitive education should take place. Some of the interrelated concepts members use include cognitive assessment (e.g., “dynamic” or “interactive” assessment), as well as speech and language therapy, psychotherapy, educational psychology, and related approaches and treatment modalities that are based on cognitive and cognitive-behavioral approaches.
We go about our tasks in different ways. Some of us specialize in assessment, others in training, and still others in the theories underlying assessment and training. Other members are not specialists at all. Whatever we do, however, we are all committed to the mission of helping people better face the challenges of the environment through cognitive education that helps people increase their level of mental functioning.
IACEP engages in a variety of activities to further our mission. These activities include:
- biennial international conferences and regional conferences during in-between years
- on-line publication of a professional scientific journal (JCEP)
- keeping members up to date on events in the field (association newsletters)
- development and maintenance of the IACEP website, at www.coged.org
- promotion of professional training in cognitive education
- facilitates networking of cognitive education and cognitive psychology enthusiasts (member directory, forums, interest groups, junior researchers, leadership activities)