Monthly Archives: December 2014

Working Memory

As Baddeley carried out an experiment testing the storage capacity of Short Term Memory, he found participants were able to carry on with one activity while performing another. As per his study, he found out “that participants were able to read while remembering numbers.” (Goldstein., p131, 2011) Baddeley concluded that short term processing must be active and must also consist of a several different components that can work separately. Through his understanding, he proposed a model in which a short-term component of the memory is the working memory. This model, the Braddeley’s working memory model, consists of three components which are the phonological loop, the visuospatial sketch pad, and the central executive. All three components are involved in the manipulation of information while complex cognition.
In other words, working memory allows us to focus on memory while in action, which gives us the ability to remember and use relevant information while in the middle of an activity. Working memory is defined as a “limited system for temporary storage and manipulation of information for complex tasks such as comprehension, learning and reasoning.” (Goldstein., p131, 2011) But what is more interesting is how focusing on the development of our working memory from an early age, can influence how we learn.
New research from Doctors Rapport, Tannock, and Fassbender/Schweitzer has brought to light that “A child’s success in all aspects of learning comes down to how good their working memory is regardless of their IQ score.” (UCanLearn, 2014) This means that developing a good working memory in a child’s early years, before the start of their formal education may have a more powerful impact in the child’s academic success than simply focusing on IQ score. Furthermore, the study also suggests that environmental influences, such as a family’s education or socio-economic background does not influence working memory; therefore children can have the same potential opportunity if working memory is enhanced or more developed.
When we think of working memory as a key factor of how children learn, I think it’s important to assess children with this in mind, especially as “Many children that had been thought to be lazy or underachievers really were found to have poor working memory ability.” (UCanLearn, 2014) I think this study can help parents focus on trying to identify whether children need to develop their working memory more, before assuming a lower IQ. It will also help parents pay attention to how their children are developing their working memory and look for memory exercises or games. Additionally, the study has identified that “with early identification and formalized memory training, these poor memory skills can improve and problems in ADHD, math, reading comprehension and overall learning speed also improved!” (UCanLearn, 2014)
References:
Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience, 3rd Edition. (pp.131) Wadsworth, Inc.
“Is Working Memory More Important than IQ?” UCanLearn. UCanLearn, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 14 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ucanlearn.net/working-memory.php>.

Cog blog Extra Credit: Heuristics

Raenisha Williams
12/11/2014
Cog blog Extra Credit:
Heuristics

One day after work my mother needed me to withdraw $50 out her account to buy my sister’s Christmas gift. Since I was going to the ATM anyway to withdraw $50 out mine to pay for some Eagles tickets, she thought I could kill two birds with one stone if I did the same for her.
Getting up to the ATM I used my debit card first to withdraw $50 from my account. While working through the ATM settings I noticed a $50 fast cash button. I felt like instead of getting any farther I could merely use this button and cash my $50 faster. It took less than 1 minute to finish my transaction.
After using my card, I processed to swipe my mother’s card. Knowing we have the same bank institution and I’m using the same ATM machine, the $50 fast cash button should pop up as well. Like before I flicked along the fast cash $50 button. A couple of seconds went by and the ATM machine seemed like it was preparing for something big. The money didn’t come out fast like mines did, that’s when I knew something was wrong. When the money started to come out the machine, it was more than $50. Going over my ticket I noticed it said, “$500 withdraw.” That’s when it dawned on me. The machine didn’t say fast cash $50 it said, “Fast cash $500.” I looked at my mother’s card to see why it came out different, and I saw her card wasn’t a debit card, it was a savings card. At that instant I knew I was a dead woman walking.

My experience was an example of lesson 14 reasoning and decision making, heuristics. Heuristics rely on past experience as a guide for a shortcut. (Goldstein. 2011) Since I used my card first to do the $50 fast cash I thought it would work using my mother’s card too. Instead of going through the options I jumped for a shortcut that landed me in trouble with my mother.
Work cities
Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience, 3rd Edition. Wadsworth, Inc.

Using Anxiety to my advantage

Anxious? Yes… Yes I am. Why? Because it is finals week and finals make me anxious. However, if I am smart (which I like to think I am occasionally) then I may be able to use this anxiety to my advantage. When we encode information it means that we are taking what we want to remember and transferring it into our long-term memory. This can be done a number of ways. When we want to retrieve something from our long-term memory it is called retrieval. Sometimes we want to retrieve something from out LTM but just cannot seem to do that at the appropriate time. Like myself when taking an exam. I freeze up, my mind goes blank and I panic!! Total anxiety attack! So how can my anxiety help me retrieve the information I have encoded for my exam? Hopefully by applying State-Dependent Learning.

State-Dependent Learning is associated with ones state of awareness and internal feelings. In other words, we are likely to recall an event or something we studied if our internal feelings are the same as when we encoded the information.

Eric Eich and Janet Metcalfe conducted a study where one group of participant listened to sad music and another group listened to happy music. Once they were in the desired state (happy or sad), they were told to study a list of words. Two days later they were asked to come back and recall the list that they studied. What Eich and Metcalf discovered was that those who had the same state of mind (happy or sad) while encoding the list, showed better memory when asked to recall the list from two days ago.

So the way that I see it is that if I am able to be anxious while I study for the exam then my memory should serve me better as I take the exam; because lets be honest, I will be very anxious taking the exam. In all honesty I think that it is the anticipation of clicking the submit button that gets to me the most! However, once the exams are over and my grade is what it is, I am able to move on relax.

It is rare that I am anxious while studying because usually I have help with my daily tasks to make time for studying, however this semester I have not been so lucky. Especially now. We have relocated and my husband is currently still working 150 miles away so he is gone during the week, we have five children under the age of eight and it seems that no matter which day it is I am always three days behind. I have no time and no energy and yet an eminence desire to do well in school. If I am able to keep these internal feelings while I study and also when I take my exam, there may be a chance that my memory will serve me better simply because my state of mind dose not change.

 

Schizophrenia and the effects on long term memory formation

Upon completing my abnormal psychology course I found the subject of schizophrenia an to be very interesting. I researched articles that allowed me to reflect across all the courses that I had been a part of during this semester. One of the most interesting factors that I read about was that ,it has been found that a decrease of sensory overload could cause a decrease in cognitive fragmentation, which is a commonly observed symptoms of schizophrenia (Sarnyai, 2015; 132). Previous research suggests that patients who suffer from schizophrenia also depict deficits in attention based situations (Sarnyai, 2015; 132). The research showed that when an individual with the disorder attempts to complete tasks there is an increased level of brain activity that deters the individual from focusing on one task at a time (Sarnyai, 2015; 132). The information gained from this study also theorized that the increased brain activity in a patient with schizophrenia also impairs the ability of long term memory processing (Sarnyai, 2015; 132). I never truly took the time before to realize that schizophrenia plays a key role on the ability form long lasting memories, which made me feel as if I had been ignorant to the subject before. After determining that my ignorance on the subject was not acceptable at all I set upon accoplishing a goal of forming a greater understanding of how schizophrenia can play a integral role in memory formation. When I attempted to compile a search of key words to learn more about schizophrenia, I came across many articles that stated the same conclusion that there needs to be more research on the subject of whether individuals who form a late onset of schizophrenia as to whether the condition is based solely on genetic attributions or if the disorder is also formed due to environmental pressures.  Overall throughout the semester I have strived to learn more about how the mind works, and have become facinated in the minds processes of forming memories. I know that memory formation is determined by repetative tasks, or the use of imagery, but I now want to strive for a greater understanding of how more psychological disorders are effected by the loss of long term memory formation. In a world where individuals value memories and events, I find it saddening that no matter our age, race, gender, and belief system we are still plagued with illnesses that deteriorate the mind and can potentially leave us as an “empty shell” of the person we once were. Overall I find that there is great importance in individuals to research and find cures in disesease that effect the mind just as much as all the other organs that lie within our bodies.

 

Sarnyai, Z., Jashar, C., & Olivier, B. (2015). Modeling combined schizophrenia-related behavioral and metabolic phenotypes in rodents. Behavioural Brain Research, 276, 130-142. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1560646137?accountid=13158

Forming Visual Images & The Self-Reference Effect

According to our textbook a visual imagery is the creation of visual images in the mind in the absence of a physical stimulus. (Goldstein). This topic interests me because when I really sit down and think about it, I participate in visual imagery all day long.
Most of us have a forty-hour a week job and most of us probably daydream about our most relaxing activity. Even though I live in Los Angeles, California, I generally dream about being in my bathing suit all-day and swimming in the ocean. While I am at work, I have visual images of the sand between my toes and abnormal tan lines because I applied my sunscreen on the wrong way, again.

Gordon Bower and David Winzenz tested if using visual imagery would connect words visually and create connections that enhance memory (Goldstein). Also, I would include T.B. Rogers and coworkers approach .If I was to take my images and link them with words, these are the words that I would use.

My image would be of an extremely tall palm tree on a white sandy beach. The physical characteristic and the word that I would associate with myself would be calm. Just thinking about the image of white sand makes my blood pressure lower. A rhyming word to incorporate would be palm. When thinking of a word that has meaning I would choose relaxed and for a self-referencing word I choose happy.

The visual images and the words that we relate them to, typically go hand in hand. One will generally relate to the other (my visual images & words). If I had to recall this image for a test or again for some reason I feel that I would be able to remember all of the information because it relates to me and has meaning.

Representativeness Heuristic

For this extra credit blog I will talk about representativeness heuristic.  This is when someone makes a judgement about someone based on looks, careers or where they live.  People tend to judge others this way.  Just because someone dresses very nice and in expensive looking clothing does not make them rich.  Just because someone dresses a little provocative does not make them a slut or promiscuous.  We all have a choice in how we represent ourselves but others will still judge.  Growing up, my sister dressed very wild and somewhat provocative and that lead her to have a “bad” name in school as being a ‘slut’, etc.   This is by far the farthest from the truth.  She did not sleep around and in fact did not even have a boyfriend but because of her state of dress, people used representativeness heuristic and labeled her wrong.  Others are judged the same way and this should stop.  People need to be judged by their character and actions, not how they look, dress or where they live.

 

Spatial vs Propositional

I have always had an easier time learning visually. Even in college, I found that it I received better grades whenever I had a visual learning guide like powerpoint over just a written study guide that just stated what to study. So, to overcome this issue that I faced, I would transform the material as I studied into a powerpoint. I saw a the impact that it had on my grades and have been continuing to do it for exams. I would add pictures to almost everything that I put into the powerpoints so that I could understand the material even better. I never knew about the difference in learning of the connection between imagery and propositions until now.

The propositional representation is the relationship that can be represented by abstract symbols (Goldstein, 2011). It explains what a picture looks like or features that stick out that are easy to remember. The spatial representation is when different parts of an image can be described as corresponding to specific locations in space (Goldstein, 2011). But, there is a mix of both when determining what some images mean or finding if they actually are what they appear to be. Some of these examples include pictures that are actually two pictures in one or they have different pictures depending on the way that you look at it. The underlying representation of an image doesn’t have to be spatial, this is what can be called an epiphenomenon. An epiphenomenon is something that accompanies the real mechanism but it isn’t actually part of the mechanism (Goldstein, 2011). This is when a proposition is actually telling what exactly is happening in an image. It’s the verbal statements that can be concluded from the image itself.

I believe that this concept is important especially to children trying to learn. I think that it makes a large impact on how an individual learns because everyone learns differently. There are people that are more visual learners like myself and other people that can read something and remember everything about it. I have found that it’s a combination of both that works best. Everyone has their own interpretation of pictures but its the propositional aspect that makes it everything come together.


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

Descartes, Quantum Mechanics, and Peek-a-boo

My daughter, Mila, thinks peek-a-boo is absolutely hilarious, and she may be right. Based on certain illusions, hallucinations, and misconceptions, Descartes surmised that our senses could be deceiving us. He concluded that if our senses are indeed deceptive, that sensory knowledge must be discarded. In order to gain insight into the true nature of reality, he therefore began his investigation with the only premise he could rely on with certainty: “cogito ergo sum,” I think therefore I am, his unquestionable axiom. Goldstein defines the mind as “a system that creates representations of the world” (p. 5), and goes on to say that “a tree, and everything else we perceive, is ‘represented’ in the brain” (p. 38). We experience mental representations, not actually what exists. He elucidated further: “our perception of the tree is therefore based not on direct contact with the tree, but on the way the tree is represented by action potentials within the brain” (p. 38). The imagery the brain processes may not actually be representative of what exists in objective reality.

Dr. Joseph Rudnick, former chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA, insists that quantum mechanics confirms this very idea, namely that Descartes’ skepticism may have been entirely justified. He discusses how newborns have the idea that when they can’t see something, it isn’t there, and that is why peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek games are so thrilling to young children. To the infant mind, it is as if you vanish into nothingness and reappear into nothing. Rudnick tells us that quantum mechanics verifies this way of thinking. When you are not looking at something, it is not safe to assume that it is what you saw before, but that it is in fact waiting for you to look at it again. He has verified this on a quantum level; essentially that perceived reality is based in part on the observer.

I find it fascinating that on a small enough scale, quantum mechanics confirms what my daughter knows and delights, specifically that our cognitive images are true, but they are not the whole truth. As Descartes speculated, we are tricked by our perceptions and the resultant assumptions about reality. The “reality” we experience is on some level a misconception, a false image produced by our brain based on limited information.

 

Rudnick paraphrased from:

Goodman, G. (Producer), & Russell, D. O. (Director). (2004). Special Feature on I Heart Huckabees

[Motion picture]. USA: Fox Searchlight.

 

 

Wait What actually happened?

Constructing memories can be very difficult, however most people do not realize it. When reconstructing memory we tend to pull information from various sources. These sources include the actual event, knowledge, experience, and our expectations according to Goldstein. In a sense our memories tend to be fabricated and padded. This occurrence is known as constructive nature of memory. In 1932 British psychologist Fredrick Bartlett decided to test this theory. His experiment was known as “The War of Ghosts.” During this experiment, participants read a story from a Canadian Indian Folklore. He then asked the participants to recall the story as accurately as possible. He had the participants return several times after the initial read and attempt to recall the story during longer periods of times. This process is known as repeated reproduction. The experiment had surprising result. Not only were people unable to recall the story accurately, people tend to transform the story into their own culture. The story was initially a Canadian Indian folklore, but the participants somehow transformed the details of the story to reflect British culture. This experiment proved when recalling memory people tend to add personal experiences, culture, and knowledge to memories.

When recalling memories we often fall victim to fabricating memories unintentionally. I have this one experience in particular. A few friends and I went to a bar, to hang out. We were having a great time, taking pictures and recording our experience. We all became a bit intoxicated, but still coherent.  So I called one of my friends a few days later to clarify what happened. I began telling her my version; we went to a bar and was drinking and dancing. We were flirting with guys and just dancing the night away. However she stopped me, and says it didn’t quite happen that way. Everything was fine at first, we were dancing and having a great time, however you became sleepy so went put you in the car. We even have a video of you snoring in the back seat. So in the process of recreating the memory of the night a few days ago, I began to include past experiences and unknowing alter the actual memory. This is actually a typical everyday thing, our brains retrieve memories however in the process it becomes colored and we tend to unknowingly add other life experiences to the memory causing them to blend together. This happens all time, especially when my mother and I attempt to recall my 21St birthday. Both of our accounts are just about the same except one detail. I remember us going to Bahamas breeze and I had the salmon pasta and my mom had lobster. However she remembers things slightly different and being the other way around. When we looked at a picture it turns out she was right, she had the salmon and I had the lobster. Majority of the time I visit that particular restaurant I almost always get Salmon, so my memory was retrieving that event and pieces of other times I visited the restaurant. The reason being, our memory is not a recording, you cannot press pause and play. Visual memory is stored in the back of the brain, so when retrieving memories the Prefrontal cortex guides us to find the missing pieces, which often are taking from various other memories according to Dr. Arthur Shimamura

Shimamura, Aruthur. “In the brain of the beholder.” Sussex Publishing., 4 September 2013. Web 12 Dec. 2014.< http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-brain-the-beholder/201309/reconstructing-memories-the-stories-we-tell>

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

I unintentionally classically conditioned my husband

Over the years that my husband and I have been together, we have come to know each other better than we know ourselves. This includes knowing what the other person will say before they even say it. Without realizing it, every time I would say, “guess what” to my husband, I would follow it up with “I love you.” Eventually, he began to expect that. This particular conversation between my husband and I is a perfect example of classical conditioning because he now associates my words, “guess what” with “I love you.”

Classical conditioning, according to our textbook definition, “occurs when the following two stimuli are paired: (1) a neutral stimulus that initially does not result in a response and (2) a conditioning stimulus that does result in a response” (Goldstein, 165). Therefore, the neutral stimulus then prompts the conditioned response. In my example of the conversation between my husband and I, the neutral stimulus would be “guess what” (which would usually result in a simple “what?”). The conditioning stimulus here is “I love you,” which obviously results in an “I love you too” response. After countless conversations like this, he apparently realized that I was going to say, “I love you,” and decided to skip the unnecessary part of the conversation by replying with “I love you too” right away. It never really occurred to me that I had classically conditioned him, until one day I said, “guess what,” and actually had something exciting and different to say. That conversation went something like, “hey, guess what,” to which he responded, “I love you too.” I was speechless, before finally saying “well yeah, that, but..” and I told him what I was excited about. My husband associated “guess what” with “I love you,” because I repeatedly paired the two stimuli in our conversations. Normally, however, these two stimuli are completely unrelated. It was only due to classical conditioning that they became related for my husband.

In the past, I had heard of individuals classically conditioning people they know as part of a project or experiment for school. Until recently, I had no idea that classical conditioning was a part of my life. It is quite fascinating that this was occurring right in front of me, and I was completely unaware of it!

Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.