Monthly Archives: March 2014

False memories and

Growing up my mother always used to tell her friends stories about what a bad baby I was. One such story always starts out saying she left me alone on the sofa, but only for a second. I was around 8 months old at the time and while my mother went to warm a bottle, I climbed on top of the sofa and and onto a bay window that was hidden behind those 90’s style blinds. When my mother came back she was frantic, she checked to make sure all the doors were locked and ran around the house. She was in tears and picked up the phone to call my dad and work when she heard a small cough. She followed the sound and found me sitting by the window. I honestly have no idea if this actually happened, but this story has been told to me so many times I can actually see myself climbing on top a white leather sofa in a onesy and staring out the window looking at cars.

Another one of these stories occurs when I am about 5 months old and sitting in a stroller outside. My aunt and I were about to go for a stroll when she remembered she hadn’t locked the front door. She left the stroller and ran back to the door. She also forgot to put the brakes on so I rolled down the porch stairs, into the street and got hit by car. My forehead was all scratched up and when my mom came home and saw me in that condition she got into a huge fight with my aunt. Again I have no idea if this actually happened, but because the story was told to me so many times I have vivid “memories” of the event.

The reason I know that I am just creating these memories from the stories that are told to me is because of phenomenon referred to as childhood amnesia. There are many theories about why childhood amnesia occurs but basically most people cannot remember what happened to them before the ages of 2-4. So you ask “How do I remember those two events?” Well that is because of a phenomenon called false memories. Our memory is not like a video camera, but more like a puzzle that is reconstructed every time you recall it. I was given so many pieces of the puzzle from stories that I started thinking I actually remembered it when in fact it was just a memory of the story telling.

Gestalt Principles of Art

Ever since I was a child, I was always really interested in art. My parents every year would renew our membership to the Philadelphia Museum of art-and for a time my dad even served as the curator of a small gallery near “The Electric Factory” concert venue right in the heart of the city. Contacting artists to show their low brow modernist graphic works in the building lovingly titled-“Philamoca”, or the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Modern Art. Through the development of my appreciation and thus inspiration to create art, I really honed in on how to understand and apply the gestalt graphing principles (without even realizing it!) Concepts such as proximity, similarity, continuity, texture gradient, linear perspective and closure are those which I find myself noticing or making the most use of. In any painting, sculpture or other type of masterpiece, an artist is trying to recreate some unique visual representation of a reality which surrounds them-be it an object, a location, a person or something else-on a scaled down, enhanced or abstract form. Would a painting of the Parthenon, from Ancient Greece make visual sense if we perceived the columns as independent lines? Proximity gives us the ability to understand that objects exist and are not just randomly appearing on the canvas. Imagine if when looking at a photo taken from the bottom of the Empire State Building looking upwards, we had no linear perspective. The photo would make no sense because the top of the building would look the same as the bottom. More perplexing would be if there was a person looking down at us from the viewing platform, how could we make sense of their size not changing-but their distance greatly increasing? What if there was no texture gradient and everything remained equally detailed regardless of how far away it was? That could never be-our eye naturally focuses sends information to our brain, which then interprets the different shapes within art to create a proper image which we can understand and appreciate. Occlusion is another principle which explains a lot in art, when one object is partially covering another object-we can still understand that a woman who’s body is half covered by another’s shoulder is not misshapen but rather in the background of the image. I am so grateful for my parents appreciation of art throughout my childhood because I think it helped me to understand these topics much more easily as I got older. My understanding of a work of art in its most basic form has become natural enough for me to be able to look for meanings behind the symbols which my eyes have been trained to interpret, I really should switch majors-art is one of my true passions.

Brain Tumors and Memory

Memory is an active system that receives information from the senses, puts it into a usable form, organizes it, and then retrieves this information from the storage. The three parts of the process are known as-encoding, storage, and retrieving. The two types of memory are short and long term. Short term memory is for holding information in an active, available state for a short period of time. It is said that short term memory is readily available in the human mind for about twelve to thirty seconds long. Long term memory, is the system of memory into which all information is placed to be kept more or less permanently. There are two types of long term memory, procedural and declarative. Procedural, also known as implicit memories are memories that are remembered through physically doing the specific actions-tying your shoes or riding a bike. Declarative memories on the other hand are memories that can be explained through language.

My grandpa suffered from a brain tumor. A known symptom of brain tumors is memory loss. Long-term in the way of recognizing our faces. He would remember the names in our family but would always get each person mixed up. This would be considered a failure in the retrieval procedure. His short-term memory was affected greatly. This was caused from damage to the temporal lobe. I remember having to repeat things plenty of times because he would not be able to store what was just heard.



Recognition is the one form of memory retrieval. This is the ability to match a piece of information or a stimulus to a stored image or fact. Recognition is usually much easier than recall because the cue is the actual object, word, sound, and so on, that one is simply trying to detect as familiar and known. Recognition tends to be very accurate for images. Imagine taking a seat on a crowded bus. You look to your left and notice a man. Immediately, you are overcome with this sense that you’ve seen this man before, but you cannot remember who he is. You may try to recognize who he is and what his name is. This is the common example we can find in our everyday life.

Recognition is not foolproof, however. Sometimes there is just enough similarity between a stimulus that is not already in memory and one that is in memory so that a false positive occurs. A false positive is defined as a positive result on a test for a disease or a condition, in an individual who does not have that disease or condition. There are some examples of a false positive. Let’s suppose there is a program that filters out spam mails. At this time if the program says a certain mail is a spam mail, that is actually not, then it is a false positive.

Also, in medical field, I’ve seen many people who were told to have diseases by doctor, but actually did not have any disease. Sometimes the problems are found while they are having a surgery. A false positive test can lead to biopsies and surgeries, which have a low but real rate of serious complications, such as infection, anesthetic reactions and bleeding. Repeated scans involving ionizing radiation  can also increase the risk of future cancers.

Short/Long Term Memories

            Short term memory is for holding information in an active, available state for a short period of time. It is said that short term memory is readily available in the human mind for about twelve to thirty seconds long. A process that people use to expand the amount of short term memories kept in the head is called chunking. Chunking is the process of breaking down a visual or auditory memory into pieces to help preserve that memory. An example of chunking could be when trying to remember a telephone number you might break the number down into remembering the area code, the next three digits and then the last four digits instead of trying to remember the number as a whole. The opposite of short term memory is long term memory. Long term memory, unlike short term memory has an unlimited amount of space to store memories. Long term memory is also broken down into two different types, procedural and declarative. Procedural, or also known as implicit memories are memories that are remembered through physically doing the specific actions. A couple examples of procedural memories could include, tying your shoes or riding a bike. Declarative memories on the other hand are memories that can be explained through language. There are two types of declarative memories. One is sematic memories, and they are general knowledge that just about anyone can understand. The other one is episodic memories, they are explained by someone who has personally experienced a certain situation.

            I have had an unpleasant experience with my short term memory once, and the problem is that I could not remember any of my memories. I played lacrosse in high school, and during one of the games I was body checked really hard to the point where I was concussed. My short term memory was effected by this situation because I could not remember the play that lead up to me being hit or how I even got hit. Even after seeing myself getting drilled on video I still could not bring back any memories of it happening. Unfortunately this is pretty common in contact sports and I am sure this has happened to a lot of others taking this course as well.

Flashbulb Memory: 13 Years Later

When searching for a term to write this blog post on I found the concept of a flashbulb memory to be the most interesting. To my surprise however I have found that for some reason I do not have many moments I can remember very clearly. A flashbulb memory is a vivid, almost photographic memory of a particularly significant event. A memory is usually considered a flashbulb memory when a person can remember virtually every detail surrounding the event. Personally I feel that I only have two true flashbulb memories in which I can recall most details. The first event being September 11th 2001, and the second being the death of my grandmother in 2011. Considering I was only seven on September 11th 2001, I find it is more shocking to recall.

In 2001 I was still living in Phoenix, Arizona which is three hours behind New York. At the time of the attack I was still asleep in the morning before I got up for school. When I awoke, surprisingly on my own and not by my mother as usual, I immediately knew something strange had occurred. I used to have a playroom across from my bedroom that had a television in it and oddly enough I heard that it was on. I remember wondering why I heard my older siblings in the room considering they typically were in a rush to get to school around that time. The most vivid memory I have of this day is when I walked into that room and saw my mother standing in front of the television with a dish towel covering her mouth and tears in her eyes. I asked her what was wrong and asked my siblings why they were not getting ready for school. I clearly remember my brother saying “a plane hit a building in New York”, feeling extremely confused, and my mother telling me not to worry because “New York is very far away”. The last feeling I remember clearly is that it was hard not to worry when I saw my mother in that state and also feeling completely lost just staring at the newscast. As defined by a flashbulb memory, it is clear why this event is so easy for me to recall in vivid detail to this day even though I am now twenty years old.


As we talked about in class, when babies are born they go through habituation, which allows them to decrease responsiveness with repeated stimulation. It is said that at four months a newborn infant will focus on the face first, be able to discriminate between colors and shapes and also have a general understanding of number. However, like we talked about in class, a baby’s perception is actually quite comical. We discussed in class why playing peek-a-boo with a baby is so entertaining to them. When we cover our faces with our hands, the baby truly believes that our face has vanished because it is no longer there and they cannot see it. This game could go on for hours and the baby is always entertained because as soon as you remove your hands from your face you pop back into existence.

My neighbors recently had a child and her first birthday was last week. When I got home for spring break I was asked to babysit for them one night. While babysitting, I played peek-a-boo for their daughter for at least an hour and she loved every second of it. After playing I remembered what we talked about in class and found it so strange as to why it is so amusing to them. Imagine if as we aged we never lost that form of perception. The world would be completely different and the way we acted as adults would be entirely abnormal. While thinking this, I remembered that we lose this form of perception due to habituation because we lose our responsiveness to that repeated stimuli. I even began to notice it that night when after an hour of peek-a-boo I could tell she was getting bored with it and I had to find a new game to play with her.

Food, sex and danger

Ever come across traffic that is going noticeably under the speed limit only to find the only reason traffic is moving at a slower pace is so people can see an accident that doesn’t even effect their lanes.  Susan Weinschenk attributes this to our brains basic functions.

The animalistic nature of the brain is to do three things, determine if  you can eat it, if you can have sex with it and if it will kill you.  These are the three most basic functions of our brain and have been around since the beginning of life.  These three things make sense though, without food you die, without sex the species does not continue and if you’re dead, the first two don’t matter.

It is impossible to resist food, sex or danger. Your “old brain” will always notice these things. You may not find it necessary to eat a piece of cake, or flirt with someone attractive but you will notice them whether you want to or not.  Next time traffic is at a stand still and you’re swearing at everyone for holding you up, see how hard it is not to glance over at the accident.  You may not want to see whatever it is but your brain is going to get you to look.




Jordyn Simner

Blog Assignment 2

Forming an Identity


According to Erikson, in order to form an identity and a sense of one’s self; one must try out different roles. This meaning that in order for someone to fully understand who they are and come to terms with their personality they must explore the different types of people they can be. I feel that this idea of personal exploration is very important in almost all ages of the life cycle. I do not think that you have to be the same person day to day; your life is filled with time to explore your options.

While growing up I was never set on who I wanted to be. Whether it was the “sporty” type, playing any sport I can get into. Or the “girly girl” who always wanted to shop and goes to dance class. My parents let me try any new hobby that I set my mind to. I think that all my hobbies as a child really shaped who I am today and I am thankful I had the opportunities that I did. I was involved with numerous sports, instruments, art classes, dance classes and even different groups of friends while growing up. By being able to explore all these different activities I was really able to get a sense of what I loved most.

When I finally got to high school, I was able to narrow down my interests and really focus on what I loved the most. Art was my number one hobby throughout high school and this really helped form my identity that I am today. Being in a high level art course in school, I was always devoting my time to my art. It was not a burden though, it was a blessing. Because I always needed to devote time to this, my friends and me would have amazing opportunities to do things such as go to different museums and meet different artists. This really helped me become more open minded and able to see things in a different and more creative light.

I feel that by exploring opportunities as children, you are able to really know what you enjoy. I think it is important for parents to let their children be the ones to pick hobbies to try and not force anything upon them. When you let a child do anything they put their mind to, it really encourages them to be an active part of society and try to form into one of their own. We are all individuals and have different interests so we should explore all of them to make ourselves who we want to be.

Apples and Piaget

Piaget established the theory that our minds develop in stages and create different schemas for recognizing things as we grow older. While he was not entirely accurate, his theories are completely valid. Piaget’s stages of cognitive development are not exactly steps, but a gradual change in the growth and expansion of the child’s mental processes. I have a niece who is almost three years old, and I have watched her create all kinds of schemas for many objects as she grows. For example, she has a schema for beach balls, and everything that is round is automatically a ball. She has insisted several times that the rocks in our driveway are okay to play with and bring in the house because to her, they are very obviously beach balls. She also frequently associates the word ‘apple’ with any and every kind of fruit offered to her. Even when it is a different color and shape, it is still an apple. The only thing that can be done is to correct her mistakes and help to accommodate her existing schemas to account for her new knowledge and experiences.

How can we be sure that they remember the difference, and that they don’t forget what we’ve taught them? Reinforcement is the answer, if we keep emphasizing the differences between the two objects they will eventually develop a new schema for the new object. My niece says that oranges are the same as apples, so we need to reinforce the fact that oranges are different. Their unique colors, textures, and vastly dissimilar flavors are all characteristics that we can use to help her create new schemas for types of fruits, and organize new information. These are skills that she will be able to use for the rest of her life, if applied properly the way that certain schemas fit together can work for other objects as well.