Cognitive obstacles are limitations that are an inherent part of the neurological architecture of the brain.
In other words, they are obstacles that one can do very little about and are a common feature of the human brain.
We cannot, for example, carry out an indefinite number of tasks simultaneoulsy.
We are limited in how much attention we can pay to a task at hand, and although many people can multi-task, there’s only so many tasks one can perform at the same time.
If we try to use more task-fulfilling resources than we actually have available, our brains compensate by performing some of those tasks at a lower performance level.
Multi-tasking and Cognitive Tunneling
In the above picture we can see a where a drivers attention ‘scans’ the road ahead when undistracted (left hand image) compared to when they are multi-tasking (right hand image).
In this research the dual tasking activities where driving the car and using a hands-free car phone!
More recently, the phenomenon of cognitive tunneling has been applied to the availability of problem solving resources when facing multiple psychological stressors such as those produced by growing inequalities in society, difficulties paying bills due to inflation and so on.
In other words, whereas somebody might normally be able to find a positive solution to a problem, when there are too many stressors being dealt with at the same time there is simply not enough available ‘coping resource’ to go around due to stress-overload.
Another cognitive obstacle to mental wellbeing is a process called confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias describes how people tend to look for evidence in support of what they already believe to be true rather than using an unbiased assessment in which contradictory evidence may be available.
For example, people who struggle with their own body image (known as body dysmorphia) may cognitively ‘see’ themslves as being over-weight (see above image) whilst in reality they be seriously under-weight.
People who believe in ghosts, as another example, may classify random events, such as something falling off a table, as proof that a ghost has knocked it off.
Although confirmation bias can be overcome by being as open minded as possible, it IS a natural tendency across humans.