Psychology, the scientific study of the mind, like most disciplines contains many branches. An undergraduate student in psychology, while perhaps wishing to specialize in health psychology, must go through a panoply of introductory level courses: neuroscience, perception, child psychology, social psychology, abnormal psychology, learning and memory, cognition and so on.

Cognition relates to thought processes and mental schemas. Further, social cognition refers to how humans see, and think about, the social world. Social psychologists define social competence as the ability to positively interact with others, a crucial skill in teamwork, a quality many employers look for in potential candidates today.

But what about social cognition? How do humans perceive others' intentions, emotions and states of mind? One such process is called Theory of Mind (ToM) and has been widely documented as deficient in autistic individuals (Sally's hidden object test is often used to measure subjects' ability to "read others' minds"). Body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, vocabulary alongside content, and other social cues are likewise used in face-to-face interactions to detect deception and aid interpersonal communication in general.


In the long run, humans need sleep in order to survive. Even a single night out partying without sleeping can cause significant impairment to one's cognitive function. Sleep is divided into non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM). NREM consists of N1, N2 and N3 stages. Circadian rhythms vary from person to person, but typically span the usual daylight schedule.

Sleep deprivation weakens memory, a function associated with the hyppocampus. Conversely, the amygdala represents responses to real and imagined threats, fear and anxiety, respectively; while the frontal lobe is the seat of executive function (impulse control, decision-making, inhibition, planning). Executive dysfunction is diagnosed using the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test.


The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. (Robert Frost). Illustration : Megan Jorgensen