Is there a single word which describes the following activities:

  • Studying (i.e. being an academic student), possibly including memory, research, writing, and perhaps expecially concentration
  • Supposedly-cerebral professional work, for example being a software developer or scientist

I'd like a noun, or an adjective; and preferably not too idiomatic, i.e. I'd prefer a word that's understood by English-as-a-second-language speakers.

Not too general a word however, e.g. not "thinking", "mindfulness", or "concentration": I'd prefer a word which emphasizes the applied, practical, maybe career-oriented nature of this mental activity.

For context, I'm looking for a word I could use as a tag for the set of questions listed in this meta-answer, Want a new tag, e.g. for office work and academic work?, which include:

  • Software programming/Art and Buddhist Practice - Pursuing creative activity
  • Scientific Problem solving and Wu Wei
  • Is Buddhism against scientific attitude?
  • Can meditation help students in exams?
  • How to be mindful while studying?
  • Can meditation help me in my academics?

These are topics from "students" and from "scientists" asking whether e.g. meditation can improve their performance, so I'd like to tag them accordingly.

Because it's to use as a tag I might also (instead of only a single word) accept a pseudo compound/hyphenated word, e.g. "white-collar".

  • I think "academic" would imply only students, teachers, university researchers (not in-career "workers" including software developers).
    – ChrisW
    Apr 25, 2017 at 19:10
  • 1
    I believe the common term for such people is knowledge workers, although I'm not certain if students are normally included in that.
    – Hellion
    Apr 25, 2017 at 19:45
  • 1
    I hear three areas: 1. the experiential realm (senses, awareness) 2. intellectual-analytical realm (thinking, analyzing, studying, doing work that is thought-based) 3. the spiritual realm NB: for me, mindfulness is in the experiential realm, not the intellectual realm, though some would disagree. I make a distinction between the kind of thought used in mindfulness and the kind of thoughts used in intellectual analysis and synthesis.
    – user227547
    Apr 25, 2017 at 20:17
  • @Hellion Would you post that as an answer instead of as a comment?
    – ChrisW
    Apr 25, 2017 at 20:38
  • @Palizsche Yes, "mindfulness" is not suitable. I'm looking for a word to refer to that "second area".
    – ChrisW
    Apr 25, 2017 at 20:40

4 Answers 4


The common term for people who do "thinking-based work" is Knowledge Workers:

Knowledge workers are workers whose main capital is knowledge. Examples include software engineers, physicians, pharmacists, architects, engineers, scientists, public accountants, lawyers, and academics, whose job is to "think for a living".
definition from wikipedia

I am not sure if students are normally included in the term, since they are not really workers in the traditional sense, but a case could definitely be made for it since their "job" as students is to learn.

An appropriate tag, therefore, could be or .


Could something like "cogitation" work?

I mean yes, it generally means "meditation, deep thought, consideration", which, while fitting for most of your examples, wouldn't necessarily fit all of them, but it can also mean simply "think" or "think seriously", so I believe that if we account for most definitions it could work.

The only problem that I see, is that it's not so well known to most of the people using English as a foreign language.

  • Thank you. The Thesaurus suggests 'intellect' and 'intellection' as alternatives to that.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 25, 2017 at 19:29
  • Yes indeed, intellect or something along those lines would work.
    – Madbranch
    Apr 25, 2017 at 19:36
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    @Madbranch, "cognition" is better and more currently used. Certainly, in psychology, cognition is the opposite of emotion. That said, mindfulness and meditation are often considered part of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) because the mind is used to bring cognitive awareness to experience.
    – user227547
    Apr 25, 2017 at 20:07
  • @Palizsche My main complaint with "cognition" et. al. is that it doesn't imply "thinking as a career", "thinking for a living", "thinking for a career-oriented or science-oriented practical purpose". Most questions on Buddhism.SE are about dharma or dharma-practice; there's another much smaller class of questions (which I'd like to tag) which are asked with a specifically "lay" intent, e.g. "can meditation improve my school-work?".
    – ChrisW
    Apr 25, 2017 at 20:45

How about Analytic Thinking? See my underlying thinking below for that. I'd probably also do a tag for Academic & Professional or School & Work. and another for Creativity


Your question causes me to identify three realms. One uses the mind in different ways in each realm and also behaves with different motivations.

  1. the intellectual-analytical realm

  2. the experiential realm (the senses, emotions, awareness, creative expression)

  3. the spiritual realm

The intellectual-analytical realm involves activities like schoolwork, studying, problem-solving, hypothesizing and analyzing and work that is based on this kind of thinking.

Mindfulness, for me, is in the experiential realm, not the intellectual-analytical realm, though some would disagree. I make a distinction between the kind of thought used in mindfulness and the kind of thoughts used in intellectual analysis. Prayer and certain meditative practices may be a kind of thought-based activity too, but you would not confuse this with analytic thought. Creative process is not an analytic process, so I cannot really see putting the art questions together with computer programming ones.

  • Thank you for the suggestions. academic might unfortunately be understood as referring to academic approaches to Buddhism: there's an academic-buddhism tag already. school&work with an ampersand can't be used as a tag. school-and-work is pretty short, but now three words. Maybe your examples show that it's better to use nouns than adjectives.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 25, 2017 at 22:23
  • I edited, as I looked back at the questions. I added "analytic thinking" and "creativity". I'm not very good at brevity, but fairly good at seeing useful categories. Best wishes to you @ChrisW.
    – user227547
    Apr 25, 2017 at 22:27

M-W defines mentation as:

Mental activity

This would certainly cover both studying and cerebral work, but I am not sure if it would suit as a tag.

Wikipedia describes ideation as

the process of creating new ideas

However, I have most often heard it used in a clinical context, in which "suicidal ideation" means "thoughts of suicide."

There is a link on the Wikipedia page to meditation, so this may be more suitable as a tag.

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