How to Make Communication More Effective Using Cognitive Psychology

Understanding the way people perceive information or stay focused can help you communicate with them better and successfully achieve your communication goals.

Communication between people has been around for as long as they have. It came in different forms as people have expressed their ideas and thoughts differently throughout history. Today, the most popular forms of communication are spoken and written communication.

Even though we’ve perfected the use of language and learned how to express ourselves using this complex, layered system of words and language structures, there are still things we can do to make our communication even better. Cognitive psychology is one of the fields of study that can be applied to communication. Let’s take a look at how cognitive psychology can improve communication and make it more attractive.

What Is Cognitive Psychology?

Cognitive psychology is “the branch of psychology that explores the operation of mental processes related to perceiving, attending, thinking, language, and memory, mainly through inferences from behavior,” as defined by the American Psychology Association.

This means that cognitive psychology studies the way we:

  • Think
  • Perceive
  • Memorize
  • Understand

Therefore, it’s no wonder we can use cognitive psychology to improve our communication and get the most out of it.

Let’s take a closer look at the way cognitive psychology can make communication more effective.

First Impressions

When we meet someone for the first time, we tend to make a “first impression judgment” about that person. We analyze the little we know about them and somehow shape an opinion, which tends to stick around for a long time.

The same happens in communication.

When expressing your ideas, sharing your thoughts, or convincing someone of something, the person listening is probably going to memorize the information you place at the beginning.

You can use this principle to make your presentation, speeches, or interviews more successful:

  • Open up with the most important information.
  • Share your opinion in the beginning and then explain it.
  • Repeat the most important at the end.

This will ensure more successful communication since your audience will leave memorizing exactly what you wanted them to memorize.

Attention Span

Attention is defined as “a component of higher cortical cognitive functioning and refers to a person’s ability to detect and focus on general stimuli and to select important environmental stimuli.”

To put it simply, attention is our ability to:

  • Detect things in our environment
  • Choose what to focus on
  • Manage to ignore what we find useless at a given moment

In communication, it’s very important to track the attention span of the person you’re talking to and use it to get your message across. 

Attention span is “the length of time someone can keep their thoughts and interest fixed on something.”

So how long can the person you’re talking to keep up with you? Will they be able to detect all the important points of your conversation? Will your presentation be successful?

To ensure you’re communicating your message the right way:

  • Open big, evoking interest
  • Let them know what you’re going to tell them but don’t say it just yet
  • Build your way to your main point using anticipation
  • Emphasize the main point using your voice and your body language

You need to keep your audience interested and entertained, drawing their attention and helping them stay focused. 

Cognitive Fluency

Effective communication is not something we succeed in overnight. It requires strategic planning, practicing, and understanding yet another principle of cognitive psychology: cognitive fluency.

Cognitive fluency deals with the ease with which we perceive information, understand it, and determine what it means to us.

So what does this imply in terms of spoken and written communication and how can we apply it? Let’s take a closer look.

1. Applying cognitive fluency to improve written communication means:

  • Structuring the information in a clear, easy-to-understand manner
  • Using easy-to-read fonts 
  • Writing in a conversational manner

Studies have shown that if a piece of writing is easy to read, it’s also easy to understand. In addition, people tend to believe as message is true if they can easily perceive it.

2. Applying cognitive fluency to improve spoken communication means:

  • Speak fluently and calmly, with no interruptions
  • Make information easy to digest
  • Be persuasive in terms of self-confidence
  • Make information sound familiar

Using this principle of cognitive psychology, you’re being sneaky about persuading your listener or reader that what you’re saying is what they should believe. 


When the goal of your communication with someone is to persuade them to take desirable actions, you need to walk the extra mile to achieve this goal.

It’s not an easy task, and convincing people to do what you say can be tricky. However, with a little help of cognitive psychology, you can still make it happen. Here’s what to do:

  • Use motivation
  • Explain why they need to do it
  • Give a strong reason
  • Ask them to do it

People need a motive, a reason, and a trigger to perform a certain action.

Give them what they need and you’ll successfully communicate your message.

This can be applied to various relationships such as teacher-student, employer-employee, parent-child, etc.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the way people perceive information or stay focused and concentrated can help you communicate with them better and achieve your communication goals easier. Cognitive psychology can help you gain insight into the way human communication functions and help you improve your interactions with others.

Melanie Sovann is a seasoned writer and blogger, passionate about a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from technology to sociology. She is currently a writer and editor at Trust My Paper and an avid contributor to, a blog that has amassed a sizable following over the years.