Non-Cognitive Skills: What They Are, Types and Examples

Let's see what non-cognitive skills are and how they influence people's development.

Non-cognitive skills are relatively independent of the subject's intelligence, and it is important to work on and train them from childhood in order to achieve good social, cognitive and emotional development.

In this article we will describe what is understood by non-cognitive skills, we will see examples of some of them and we will present some techniques and programs that are used to work and enhance them.

What are non-cognitive skills?

Non-cognitive skills, or also called socio-emotional skills, cover a wide spectrum of aptitudes or traits such as empathy, resilience, self-control or even personality characteristics such as extroversion or openness to experience.

These abilities are independent of cognitive abilities, that is, we can develop them even if the latter are altered, but they are related to each other, this means that non-cognitive abilities function as the basis for a correct functioning of cognitive abilities.

In this way, non-cognitive skills make it easier for us to learn and develop our knowledge and are essential for the child to develop well cognitively, emotionally and socially, keeping these components in balance. For this reason, given their characteristics, they will be necessary for children to have a good functioning and school performance and the adult to achieve a prosperous job in the workplace.

It is known that these abilities, like most capacities and psychological characteristics of human beings, have a genetic component, although they also have environmental influence. Thus, it will be possible to work, train them, to improve and enhance their presence in the subjects.

What are non-cognitive skills?

There are many different non-cognitive abilities that, as we have seen, will be fundamental for the development of the individual. So let's get to know some of them better.

1. Self-control

Self-control consists of the ability to control oneself, to manage our thoughts, emotions and behavior in general taking into account our interests in a global sense (and not just paying attention to the here and now).

To be able to speak of self-control, two characteristics must be presented. The first is that at least two behaviors are involved where one will be the controlled response, that is, the one that we want to increase and one or more the controlling ones, which allow us to increase the controlled response. The other necessary element will be that there is or exists a conflict of consequences between the different choices of behavior, this means that carrying out one or another behavior entails different consequences, they present important differences.

In this way we will speak of decisional control when the conflict is resolved in the act or prolonged self-control in which, even when making the choice, the conflicting responses are continuously evaluated, we must continue to maintain the self-control behavior for a longer time.

2. Motivation

Motivation is described as a union of forces that are responsible for initiating and directing the individual's behavior. This is how through motivation we can try to understand, explain and modify behavior. It is the one that sets a goal and drives us to achieve it.

There are two main types of motivation; the intrinsic, which places its strength within the individual (that is, the subject performs the behavior as an end in itself, simply by doing it); and extrinsic, where, on the contrary, the force or motivation is fixed on the outside (the subject performs the behavior in order to obtain a reward, the activity alone does not motivate him).

3. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in the place of the other, to identify and feel the emotions of the other person. In this way, it goes far beyond understanding their abilities, it is necessary, as we have already said, to place oneself in the place of the other individual.

That ability will gradually develop as we become socialized. In the same way it is an important component to be able to have an altruistic behavior.

4. Resilience

Resilience is defined as the ability of some people who, despite having been surrounded by risk factors, in adverse situations, have developed psychologically in a healthy and correct way, with the ability to overcome different adversities and lead a positive, organized life or as we have already said healthy despite the complicated environment.

5. Self-esteem

Self-esteem refers to how we perceive, evaluate and value ourselves.

This ability evolves and varies throughout the life of the subject. Thus, generally during preschool and in adulthood it will be when the individual will have a higher self-esteem; on the other hand, it tends to decrease when the subject starts school, during adolescence and in old age.

6. Perseverance

Perseverance is the ability to ** stay firm in the achievement of goals **. In this way we will also say that it consists of being constant to achieve our fixed goals, that is, we must have a clear purpose that justifies our dedication to achieve it.

Despite the positive benefits that this ability brings us, a misuse of it or not control of it, can end up being maladaptive and dysfunctional, since it can cause the subject to remain anchored in constantly performing an action, a behavior or in achieving an unattainable goal, affecting its normal functioning.

7. Social skills

Social skills are a set of capacities or competencies that allow us to interact and act appropriately in society and that will be seen and valued positively by others.

It is for this reason that depending on the context we must adapt them, for example, not all cultures perceive and value the different social skills in the same way.

8. Self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is self-confidence or the conviction that one can satisfactorily perform the necessary behavior to achieve a desired goal or result.

9. Work ethic

The work ethic is defined as the ability to perceive that hard work and effort has a moral benefit and that it helps strengthen us to achieve goals.

10. Personality traits

Personality traits refer to both cognitions, emotions and behaviors. In short, the behavior that subjects tend to behave consistently in different situations, maintaining themselves over time.

There have been different authors who have made different classifications of personality traits, we will focus on one of them, which is the Big Five or the "big five". This as its name suggests describes 5 personality traits.

We fear extraversion, which is related to the amount and intensity of interpersonal interactions; neuroticism, which is linked to the degree of emotional adjustment; openness to experience, which is related to a taste for the unknown and to live new experiences; responsibility, which refers to the ability to organize, self-control and persist to achieve your goals; and kindness, linked to social interaction in a positive, empathetic way.

How to train and develop non-cognitive skills

As we already pointed out in the first section, non-cognitive skills have both a genetic and an environmental component. It is for this reason that it will be important to work and train them to achieve a better function of them.

In this way, it is recommended that both from school and their parents, teach and reinforce the use of non-cognitive skills from an early age, since these will be essential for proper cognitive, emotional and social development.

Thus, different activities or programs have been proposed. For example, hold assemblies or debates where students can give their opinion on different aspects of their school or their peers, both positive and negative, and be able to propose improvements. For this activity to be useful, the teacher must act as a moderator and ensure that all students participate.

Another technique that we can use is role playing, that is, presenting the students with different situations, being them the actors and practicing what would be the most appropriate behaviors or behaviors. We can also make use of the emotional cards technique, which consists of knowledge and emotional work where each child expresses and represents the emotion of the card they have received and in this way a joint learning can be done.

To continue knowing and training emotions, to get a good use of them and a certain stability, we can also practice relaxation. For example, we can work with the children so that they know and locate where they feel the sensation of fear, in which part of the body and then be able to express what they notice, what they feel and share the experience.