Abstract: Electroencephalography (EEG) signals reflect and measure activities in certain brain areas. Its zero clinical risk and easy-to-use features make it a good choice of providing insights into the cognitive process. However, effective analysis of time-varying EEG signals remains challenging. First, EEG signal processing and feature engineering are time-consuming and highly rely on expert knowledge, and most existing studies focus on domain-specific classification algorithms, which may not apply to other domains. Second, EEG signals usually have low signal-to-noise ratios and are more chaotic than other sensor signals. In this regard, we propose a generic EEG-based cognitive activity recognition framework that can adaptively support a wide range of cognitive applications to address the above issues. The framework uses a reinforced selective attention model to choose the characteristic information among raw EEG signals automatically. It employs a convolutional mapping operation to dynamically transform the selected information into a feature space to uncover the implicit spatial dependency of EEG sample distribution. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the framework under three representative scenarios: intention recognition with motor imagery EEG, person identification, and neurological diagnosis, and further evaluate it on three widely used public datasets. The experimental results show our framework outperforms multiple state-of-the-art baselines and achieves competitive accuracy on all the datasets while achieving low latency and high resilience in handling complex EEG signals across various domains. The results confirm the suitability of the proposed generic approach for a range of problems in the realm of brain-computer Interface applications.