Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

2012 Edition
| Editors: Norbert M. Seel

Abilities to Learn: Cognitive Abilities

  • Peter RobinsonEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_620



Cognitive abilities are aspects of mental functioning, such as memorizing and remembering; inhibiting and focusing attention; speed of information processing; and spatial and causal reasoning. Individual differences between people are measured by comparing scores on tests of these mental abilities. Tests of general intelligence, such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Test, are based on a broad sample of these mental ability tests, and measures of aptitudes for learning in specific instructional domains, such as mathematics, or language learning, are based on a narrower sampling of the domain-relevant abilities.

Theoretical Background

Theoretical and empirical research into the structure of memory by Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850–1909) and the functions of attention by William James (1842–1910) provided the foundations for the development of operational tests of cognitive abilities at the beginning...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Carroll, J. B. (1993). Human cognitive abilities: A survey of factor-analytic studies. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Dehn, M. J. (2008). Working memory and academic learning: Assessment and intervention. Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  3. Robinson, P. (2005). Aptitude and second language acquisition. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 25, 46–73.Google Scholar
  4. Salthouse, T. A. (2010). Major issues in cognitive aging. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Shavelson, R. J., & Roeser, R. W. (Eds.) (2002). Educational assessment. Special issue: A multidimensional approach to achievement validation. (Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 77–205). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  6. Snow, R. E. (1994). Abilities in academic tasks. In R. J. Sternberg & R. K. Wagner (Eds.), Mind in context: Interactionist perspectives on human intelligence (pp. 3–37). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishAoyama Gakuin UniversityTokyoJapan