Monthly Archives: November 2014

Break it up-Speech Segmentation

Language is one of the most complex areas of human existence. Even more fascinating is the way our brain processes it. On our last quiz I had some difficulty with the issue of speech segmentation, and the physical energy of conversational speech. Amazingly enough, our brain tends to perceive speech in a “continuous flow”, and does not recognize pauses between words. While we may perceive these breaks via our auditory system, our brain recognizes them by several components. Familiarity with a language, meaning of the words, pronunciation, and context of the word in the sentence all aid our brains in identifying the spaces between words (Goldstein, 2011, p. 299). Due to our understanding of a language, we can generally fish out the separation between words. As we recognize a word, we can often formulate the cut-off between the next word begins. The way our brain processes sentences is truly astounding. Prior to reading the chapter on language, I never would have imagined our brains would process speech this way, mainly because I never really thought about how our minds accomplish this everyday task.
Anyone who has ever listened to or tried to learn another language can relate to the brain’s elaborate process of sorting out words. During my three consecutive semesters of Spanish and one summer course of German, I was convinced that the native speakers in the recordings were simply talking too fast for me to understand. I would often replay the recordings several times, picking out a few familiar vocabulary words, yet still finding quite a few to be unrecognizable. It was extremely difficult to differentiate between words because I was not familiar with the language or the context in which words were being presented. From my perspective, it seemed like the entire sentence could have been one long word! So it was not so much that I was hearing the sentence incorrectly, but more because my brain did not recognize the language, and thus could not space out the words. As I learned more vocabulary, I was able to discern between words and fill in the pauses to make sense of the statement’s structure.
To aid in the understanding of non-native languages, there are several plug-ins and tools that have been created to aid in speech segmentation and grapheme to phoneme conversions. One such plug-in, dubbed EasyAlign, translates text and word pauses by scanning a transcript (Goldman, J.P., n.d.). Another similar and widely available segmentation tool is distributed by Microsoft’s Hidden Markov Toolkit. Segmentation tools such as these allow non-native speakers to interpret audio sentences and text, so that the learner can easily understand sentence breaks and contexts (Goldman, J.P., n.d.)
Gaining a better understanding of speech segmentation, morphemes, and phonemes has allowed me to realize why learning a new language is such an arduous challenge. Not only does an individual need to learn new vocabulary terms, but also must process where pauses occur in sentences that were previously unfamiliar. Learning a new language is no small task, but dedication and review will eventually allow our brains to process the auditory or written information automatically, rather than just perceiving the sentence as one continuous word!

References:

Goldstein, B. E. (2011) Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Belmont: Wadsworth.

Goldman, J.P. (n.d) EasyAlign: A Friendly Automatic Phonetic Alignment Tool Under Praat. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from http://latlcui.unige.ch/phonetique/easyalign/easyalign_unpublished.pdf

 

 

emotions have gotten the best of me

“When you feel the rise of unpleasant emotions, take a moment and make an effort to identify their source. The answers are far more available than you may have previously believed. Accept such feelings as your own in the moment. Do not shove them underneath, ignore them or try to substitute what you think of as good thoughts.”—  Jane Roberts, Seth, “The Nature of Personal Reality”

I never took the time to stop and think about how my emotions have affected some of the decisions that I have made in my life. I can look back and honestly say that Integral immediate emotions which “are emotions that are associated with the act of making a decision” (Goldstein, 377) have affected some of my decision making. For example, when I had to make a big decision about putting my grandmother on hospice care I had experienced immediate emotions such as anxiety, trepidation and helplessness. These emotions were Integral emotions associated with having to make that tough decision. On a lighter note, having to make a decision about which outfit I was going to wear to my graduation from CCP brought on Integral immediate emotions of happiness, joy and excitement.

Usually I don’t notice the Integral immediate emotions that I may be experiencing while having to make a decision unless the decision is very important. Most of the time I’m usually trying not to think about my emotions and how I feel about a particular outcome. Often times when it comes to expected emotions (“emotions that people predict they will feel for a particular outcome” (Goldstein, 377) I have found that “a positive emotion will likely be a good outcome and one that results in a negative emotion will likely be a poor outcome” (Lowenstein et al., 2003; Wilson & Gilbert, 2003). For example, this July I had to take my PA Cosmetologist State Board theory exam. I had prepared for this exam throughout my whole time in Cosmetology School so I was already thinking about how happy and proud I would feel if I actually passed the exam. This positive emotion was followed by a good outcome because I passed the exam. In another instance, one day while driving to work in traffic I was thinking about how mad I would feel if I was late for work. Unfortunately, the outcome was that I was late for work and absolutely correct on my predicted emotion.

Looking back I have always assumed that my emotions have little association with my outcomes and decision making. Therefore, learning about the different kinds of emotions and the affects they can have on decision making and outcomes has made me realize that I should pay more attention to my emotions especially the negative and less positive emotions.

Works Cited

Goldstein, Bruce. “Introduction to Cognitive Psychology.” Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Third Edition ed. Belmont, CA 94002-3098: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2011. Page 377. Print.

Quote taken from http://www.tumblr.com/search/psychology%20of%20emotion

Language and Pittsburghese

Language is the basis for verbal communication. It is a system of communication using sounds or symbols that enables us to express our feelings, thoughts, ideas, and experiences. This allows people to talk to each other and understand one another so it is easier to get things accomplished. Without language we would not be able to communicate verbally so it was created for this reason. The components of words like phonemes and morphemes are the two smallest units of language. They change the meanings of words and have definable meaning or grammatical function

Language begins with words that can become sentences and then to create paragraphs and so on. Both humans and animals communicate, and this includes movements of our bodies, sign language, brail, along with verbal communication. There are thousands of languages around the world and there are also accents in the same language. In the United States you can tell if some people are from New York, Boston, the South, and this includes Pittsburgh. I never knew Pittsburgh had its own accent, but we say words and group words together so some people can tell if you live near the city of Pittsburgh.

I found out about “Pittsburghese” when vacationing in Myrtle Beach. My friends and I were walking on the boardwalk and met some kids are age and started talking. After talking for a while my friend asked where they were from and they told us, but when we thought they would ask us where we were from they said, “You guys are from Pittsburgh, huh?” I was stunned. They did not say, “You are from Pennsylvania,” they knew we were from the outskirts of Pittsburgh. Later on as I got older I saw t-shirts that said, “Pittsburghese,” on the back and there were about thirty sentences that people from Pittsburgh use when they talk that makes us unique. Such words and phrases include, ” Around ere,” meaning “Around there”.  “Diju,” Is supposed to mean “Did you?” We also use “Yinz,” to replace the problem with plural you. A lot of people from the United States use other words for you, because it just does not sounds right just saying the word, “you,” words like “Yal and yinz ” are used. Other examples are Mundy” “Worsh,” and “N nat.”

While reading I came across an experiment by Pollack and Pickett that did using unaware participants. It explains how people sound unintelligent when certain words are taken out of the sentence and the word is therefor used alone. Before to experiment was to begin the participants were being recorded while having conversations among themselves. They spoke like they normally would. Later the words that had been picked out alone from the sentences were played back for the participants to hear. They could not figure out at least half of the words they used that came from their own mouth. So this means people need the context of words, sentences, and paragraphs in order to  perceive words that make up the conversation. Just how it makes a difference if a word is stood out alone or said wrong, we also have to use pauses in speech to make a sentence understood. This involves speech segmentation. This is the process of perceiving individual words in a continuous flow of the speech signal.

There are many rules n language and it is known that people have a difficult time understanding rules in grammar but can talk fluently and know how to speak correctly. I have always found grammar very easy and understood rules and was always great in reading, language, and speech and writing classes. When I talk now I try to pay attention to what I say. It is very easy to use Pittsburghese words and phrases. If you are aware of language and the rules starting at the basic ones to the more complex rules, you will not only speak better but sound more intelligent. .

 

Memory Errors in Eye Witnesses

When is your mother’s birthday? What outfit did you wear yesterday? Did you remember to turn the stove off before you left the house? You can probably come up with the answer to these question and many others thanks to an impressive memory system in the brain. The capacity of knowledge our brain is capable of holding overtime is impressive. Yet, research has found that while we may be confident in questions regarding to memory, you may be surprised how often our memory is wrong.

Perhaps one of the most important applications of this memory failing phenomenon is how impactful it can be in the case of eye witnesses. For decades, criminal trials have placed incredible pressure on eye witnesses to accurately recount crimes. The consequences of these accounts can cost an innocent man years in prison or possibly worse, a guilty man to walk away without penalties. These memory errors can occur due to many reasons from inability to recall the memory, attentional deficits during the event, and weapon focus which refers to an attentional focus on a weapon in a situation therein taking away concentration and reliability about the full nature of the crime (McLeod, 2009). Luckily, in today’s society juries and judges also have reliable DNA evidence to supplement their verdicts.

A most recent and prominent example of the influence of eyewitness testimonies is that in the case of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO.  60 eye witness testimonies were considered by the 13 jurors before deciding not indict Officer Darren Wilson. Riots formed all over the country in response to what was believed to be a racially biased hearing, when so many people accounted that Michael Brown was unarmed and fleeing when shot and killed by Officer Wilson. Yet, DNA backs Officer Wilson’s account that he and Brown wrestled over possession of the fire arm, “The wound on Brown’s thumb contained “microscopic matter from the barrel” of the officer’s pistol, according to the report. Wilson’s other five shots hit Brown from the front, contradicting some witness reports that Brown had been running away from the officer when he was shot”( Upper, 2014). DNA has proven over time to be incredibly reliable, so whether or not the eye witnesses in the case were just friends of Michael Brown , experiencing weapon focus, or incorrectly recalled memories; thanks largely in part to forensic evidence, Officer Wilson was able to walk away from very serious accusations despite confliction eyewitnesses.

 

References

Upper, G. (2014). New Autopsy Report Changes Everything About the Michael Brown Shooting. Conservative Tribune. Retrieved from http://conservativetribune.com/new-autopsy-michael-brown/.

McLeod, S. A. (2009). Eyewitness Testimony. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/eyewitness-testimony.html

 

We Face Them Everyday…

Each and everyday we wake up we are sure to have some type of problem we need to solve. Whether they are well defined problems such as answering statistic homework questions, or taking on an ill-defined problem like trying to untangle a balled up mess the grandson has made with his wired remote control car. (Goldstein, 2011)

Before my vision went south I worked as a Master electrician for a company that specialized in the electrical construction of coal cleaning plants. Each day you faced a multitude of problems. The easy ones were figuring the wire sizes and conduit size. These were well-defined problems. You would plug the figures into mathematical formulas, take the answer and use the tables in the National Electrical code book to determine the correct conduit size, then use the next conduit up. You see, it did not take long to figure out that by the small increase in conduit cost was greatly offset by the huge savings in man hour cost by using a larger conduit.

The hardest part of the job was taking what was drawn as nice neat right angles on the blueprints and applying it to the real word and what was really in the location(s) where you had to run your conduit rack. Yes, you knew how many and the sizes of the conduits you had to put in but the flat one dimensional paper drawing never is the same as the three dimensional real world. It was not unusual to start mapping out your route to find a window, door, steel beam or some other piece of equipment in the way. Now you were faced with an ill-defined problem of getting from point A to point B in the shortest distance to remain within wire code requirements and save money on materials. There were plenty of those “Aha” moments with that job because you could not fixate on one area of the run, you had to look at the whole picture because there is nothing worse than bending conduit around one obstacle then having to go back and tear it out because you did not take into account the next obstacle. The other factor that played a part in in deciding how to run that conduit was the opinion of your partner. You never know they may see a better route than you did.

Everybody faces problems each and everyday. It does not matter if you are an electrician, baker, or doctor. The well-defined problems are easy to solve. The ill-defined, not so easy. You have to observe, process, and then decide how to go about figuring out the problem in the most efficient manner.

 

 

 

 

 

I just can’t figure it out: The story of insight

The Gestalt psychologists also introduced the idea that restructuring is associated with insight–the sudden realization of a problem’s solution, according to Goldstein. Insight can be a major factor in solving problems. At first it feels like you are stuck and can’t quite figure out a solution, then all of a sudden a light bulb goes off. That light bulb going off can possibly be due to insight. Janet Metcalfe and David Wiebe did an experiment to differentiate between insight problems and noninsight problems.  They believed if a person was completing an insight problem they should not know if they are close to a solution. “They predicted that participants working on an insight problem, in which the answer appears suddenly, should not be very good at predicting how near they are to a solution. Participants working on a noninsight problem, which involves a more methodical process, would be more likely to know when they are getting closer to the solution,” according to Goldstein. During the experiment they gave participants insight and noninsight problems and had them make judgments of warmth during 15 second intervals. One of the insight problems was a pyramid of dots, and you can only move three dots so the pyramid pointed downward.  And for noninsight problems people were given an algebra problem. The results showed that people with insight problems had a flat line and no increase in warmth during the 15 second intervals. Which mean they were unable to predict that their progression in finding a solution for the problem, then in the last 15 seconds they arrived at a solution.  Whereas the noninsight which was the algebra problem people had steady increase in warmth, meaning they were progressing to a solution.

Have you ever played a game of chess and gave up because for the life of you were unable to figure the next move you should take. Or even a game of dominos has this occurred to you? You take a break and start watching TV, an hour goes by and you realize what move you need to make next. This is the power of insight, without reason the solution pops into your head out of nowhere. Another example could be a crossword puzzle, you could be baffled for hours, then when you least expect it the answer magically pops into your head, again the power of insight. Insight occurs in every facet of life, it can occur during a science lab, board games, video games, or even exercise. Experiences when I have insight are typically while I try to answer riddles, for the life of me I am typically baffled. But once I stop trying and focus my attention on something else the answer out of nowhere comes to me. I do graphic design from time to time to assist friends. I was working on one specific project for a friend which was a CD Cover, initially everything was flowing, I had a vision and I just had to execute it. While creating the CD cover I ran into a problem with the quality of one of the images. I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, I did a googled search to find an image similar to it but failed to find an image similar. I even attempted to recreate the image, but it wasn’t working to well. I changed the file size to see if it would help. I tried playing with the levels, contrast, and curves, but nothing was helping. I didn’t want to disturb my friend so I continue to look for a solution. I sat at the computer for hours then finally gave up. The next day I awaken and a solution pops into my head as I am brushing my teeth getting ready for work. I did not dream about the project nor spoken to anyone in regards to the project.  I realized I had to set the file to a higher resolution, and utilize the clone tool to blend the pixels so the image appeared crisper.

Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience, 3rd Edition. Wadsworth, Inc.

Autobiographical Memory

I am sure that there are hundreds of experiences that you can remember the who, what, when and where’s of. For instance, I can remember getting into the bathtub on Christmas morning when I was five years old and my mom freaking out because apparently I had chicken pox. I can also remember October 30, 2009 when I turned 21 and had a costume party that stretched into Halloween. However, if you gave me a random date, say, April 28, 2003, I would have no idea what I did that day. These are called autobiographical memories, or memories that occur from personal experience. Most of us remember events that are significant to us but some of us remember nearly everything (Goldstein).
The text uses the example of a woman called A.J. that was capable of recalling any date for over 24 years. She could remember what day of the week it was and what happened to her on that day. These facts could be confirmed given her daily journal that she kept. A.J. has what they call a “super memory” (Goldstein). Another name for it is Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, or HSAM for short. Since A.J. became a study, researchers have discovered structural differences between the brains of HSAM subjects and those without the trait. One of the differences is an “amplified white matter coherence” which could mean that information being transferred between connecting neural regions is improved and that could cause their superior memories. Maybe they are born that way or maybe something developmental helped make them that way–that much is still unknown (Cleary Ph.D., 2013).
Autobiographical memories are more intricate than “laboratory memories,” like recalling lists of words, because they have spatial, sensory and emotional components (Goldstein). This is why many of us recall things easier not only when they happened to us, but when they were significant to us. As I mentioned before…I couldn’t tell you one date from the next. However, I have a friend that can text me and say “I haven’t seen you in three months and twelve days!” with no problem. If you asked me the last time I saw him I would probably say something along the lines of “umm…maybe the beginning of the year?” I have no idea. While he always associated this ability with having a “photographic memory” he could most likely be considered as having a “Super memory” instead.
Cleary Ph.D, A. (2013, January 9). People with Extraordinary Autobiographical Memory. Retrieved November 23, 2014, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/quirks-memory/201301/people-extraordinary-autobiographical-memory

Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience, 3rd Edition. Wadsworth, Inc.

Short term memory and strokes

Short term memory and stroke

I would like to talk about short term memory and strokes.  Strokes can affect the short term memory where they can’t remember things in short terms.  My father had a stroke and although he can remember long term memories, he has a very hard time with short term memory.  When his stroke first occurred he seemed fine.  He could remember everything except for what happened right before his stroke and immediately after.  Then, about a week after his stroke his short term memory started to fail.  He would forget to shut doors, turn lights off, turn the water off, flush the toilet, brush his teeth, among other things.

The doctors told him to rehearse everything and try to remember by repetition.  He tried doing this but he could not master it.  He still forgets to shut doors and turn things off, like lights and the tv.  He will forget where he laid his car keys.  He can remember things from his childhood and other memories that were before his stroke.  These memories are his long term memories.

It’s odd how the mind works.  Just a little damage and things are forgotten forever.  I do not know if it was the swelling on his brain or perhaps the medicines they put my dad on, but his short term memory has been affected for life.  It has been 10 years since his stroke and he has come a very long way and is back to normal as much as possible, but will never regain his short term memory.  This frustrates my father because he can no longer work on things around the house because he forgets how to do things.  He has an idea, which would come from his long term memory, but when he actually starts on the project, he will forget mid-way what he was doing.  This has also been very frustrating to my mom because she feels that he is not the same person.  Strokes are a pretty bad thing, and if they can be avoided, it is best to listen to your doctor’s advice.

Misinformation Effect

The misinformation effect happens when our recall of episodic memories become less accurate because of post-event information (Wayne, 2010). In other words, the information presented after we encode an event can change how the event is later recalled. People believe false material presented to them by the media every day, and many criminals are prosecuted on the foundation of eyewitness testimony. Loftus and colleagues studied the misinformation effect in which they had participants look at a series of pictures that followed a car as it stops, turns, and then crashes (1978). One group was asked if the car stopped at the stop sign, while the other group was asked if the car stopped at the yield sign. An interesting fact about this study is that each participant’s answer depended on which question they heard immediately following the accident. So when we recall information, there is a possibility that the misleading post-event information changes our memory entirely. We were given examples in our textbook and commentary readings, and given this recently learned knowledge, it wasn’t hard to find a false memory of my own.

Misinformation_Effect_Study

            Elizabeth Loftus’ game of “Remember when…” influenced me to analyze some of my own childhood memories. I recalled a young memory of sitting on a bee while trying to use a slide at my grandparent house that caused enormous pain. Keep in mind, I was little. This event caused me to be afraid of bees and wasps most of my younger years, and was brought up jokingly every time I had an encounter with the insect. Many times I recalled this memory, not to mention my family always added new details to embarrass me, and it even led to as my mom telling me that’s how I got my birthmark on my lower back. But as I grew older, I understandably learned that a birthmark usually appears shortly after birth and it nothing more than an overgrowth of blood vessels, NOT caused by the sting by a bee. Although this was a humorous memory to recall, and repeat thanks to the sense of humor of my relatives, it seems I based this memory on inferences that I took from schemas or scripts. These mental structures are used to organize our knowledge of events and in this situation implanted details of this memory that in fact did not exist. I called my grandmother who happened to video tape every childhood moment and asked if she had documented this infamous bee experience. I had to ask myself if this memory was real or is it possible that I created it.

Just like Wade and colleagues (2002) who used a procedure of creating fake childhood photographs of events such as taking a hot air balloon ride and asking family members if they recalled the event even though it never happened. Shockingly, 50% of individuals recalled the counterfeit event. We have learned in this course that memory is an assembly of details we build in our own mind. False memories are common and can form quite effortlessly, even grow more convincing as time elapses.  Well in conclusion, my grandmother sent me the videotape, there was in fact a slide that I loved to play on, and there was a bee, but in no way did I “sit” on such insect in order to create my birth mark. Just that easy, a memory was implanted into my mind. Induced false memories derived from suggestions beginning with my family transpired; overall, still an amusing story.

 

Reference List:

Loftus, E.F., Miller, D.G., & Burns, H.J. (1978). Semantic integration of verbal information into a visual memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 4, 19-31.

Wade, K.A., Garry, M., Read, J.D. & Lindsay D.S. (2002). A picture is worth a thousand lies: Using false photographs to create false childhood memories. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9, 597-603.

Wayne Weiten (2010). Psychology: Themes and Variations: Themes and Variations. Cengage Learning. p. 338.

Making a Salad With My Lawnmower

The method of using mental imagery to help remember is so useful and important to help me to remember important, and sometimes not so important things. After reading the lesson on Visual Imagery, it became so clear to me that I was already practicing this in my every day life. Visual imagery is also known to serve as a powerful retrieval cue for memory. In fact, one method that has been used to improve memory is based on the relationship between mental imagery and memory (Pennsylvania State University, 2014 Lesson 12 P8).

I have a pretty good memory but as time goes on it does seem to falter, just a bit. The lesson notes explain the idea behind the method of loci is that we can relate items we want to remember (parts of a speech, grocery list, etc.) to a location that we know well (Pennsylvania State University, 2014 Lesson 12 P8). This is exactly what I do when preparing a trip to the store. Just recently the grocery store that I go to completely rearranged its store. The cereal wasn’t where it used to be or the bread, and the same with the paper towels. Before the overhaul, I could do my shopping with my eyes closed because I could visually see every item that I needed and it’s location in the store when I made my list. According to Roland & Friberg, they explain how the occipital lobe is involved with the processing of incoming sensory information and parts of the temporal lobe are involved with object recognition. They found that when we are mentally visualizing something, our perceptual system behaves as if we are looking at the real thing (Roland & Friberg, 1985).

Now I had to use a map of the store that the store manager handed out during the “Grand Re-Opening”. Re training my brain to remember how the new store was laid out was tricky and I still have trouble sometimes. But, I have trained my mind to find things that I use often as opposed to seldom items.

The notes explain an amazing way to remember things by creating a visual cue with a place that is familiar like my house, the street I live on or any cue that would spark my memory to an item that I want to remember. By visually imagining places of familiarity with what ever I want to remember will to put together a memory as to remember what ever it is I want to remember like my door as a box of cereal or my garage filled with eggs. So when I get to the store (say that’s my destination) I will imagine walking into my front door and remember that I need cereal or pulling into my garage and think, “eggs!”

This type of memory recall can have an extreme impact on the brain and creating some very significant cues for remembering. It will be fun for my next trip to the grocery store to think of my lawn mower when I need to pick up items for a salad.

 

Reference:

Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience, 3rd Edition. Wadsworth, Inc.

The Pennsylvania State University (2014). Commentary. Lesson 12: Visual Imagery. Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/fa14/psych256/001/content/13_lesson/08_page.html