Cognitive processes (otherwise known as thought processes) cover an incredibly wide spectrum of thoughts and behaviors: perception, information storage, information retrieval, association, abstract processing. It is the process by which existing knowledge is used to create new knowledge. Human cognition is comprised of both conscious and unconscious processes. It can deal with both the concrete and abstract as well as matters both intuitive and conceptual.
For example, it is through "cognition" that a person can look at a problem and find a solution through their own mental processes and existing knowledge. This is how the Wright brothers took what they knew about mechanical processes and and examination of the physics of flight (through observing bird flight) and used this combination of information to create the first airplane through observation, storing previous knowledge, retrieving and combining this information, making deductions, and using trial and error to make conclusions.