Author Archives: Brenna Mordan

Observational Learning

We learned in class that animals with higher intelligence, such as humans, do not need direct experience to learn things. Instead, mirror neurons in our brains make us capable of observational learning, or, learning simply by watching someone else. When watching someone else perform an action, these neurons fire as if we were actually performing the action ourselves. This opens up many opportunities for learning about things we cannot directly experience, and also allow us to feel empathy for others.

I experience observational learning everyday! Many classes teach material that I cannot experience first hand. The most prominent example comes from my time in high school chemistry class. Not all of the chemical reactions we learned were safe for high school juniors to reenact, so we instead watched videos or watched the teacher perform the experiment. Although I was not physically combining the chemicals, I was able to understand the point of the reaction. When the material appeared on the test, I was able to answer questions about the experiment even though I had not done it. This is because I learned the reaction through observing it, and thanks to my mirror neurons, it was almost as if i had done the experiment myself. As long as we have the attention, memory, imitation, and motivation necessary, we can effectively use observational learning!

Hindsight Bias

A hindsight bias in psychology is defined as a false belief that one should have known the outcome of an event. This occurs due to the constructive processes of memory in the brain. Once we know a piece of information, it’s impossible for us to imagine what it’s like not to know it. I experience this often, especially during tests in school.

During the test, I’ll rack my brain for the answer to a question, but find nothing. This may be due to retrieval problems I encounter, where I know I studied a piece of information and it is almost as if I can picture the answer in my head, but I cannot access the memory. I’ll eventually accept that I don’t know the particular answer, and guess, and move on.

After the test, I’ll be so curious as to what the correct answer was, I’ll rush to my book and my notes to look it up. I can usually recall the exact page where I read the information I needed, and the second I see the words, it all comes back to me. Reading over the information again, I feel incredibly stupid for not knowing the answer. All those memories that were, so to say, ‘at the tip of my tongue’, suddenly become solidified in my mind, and I can’t imagine not knowing the answer to that question in retrospect. If I ever received the same test question again, I feel confident that I would know the correct answer. However, the only reason I feel this way is because through paying closer attention to right information, I formed a better memory. I’m biased looking back at the test question, and I always feel like I should have been able to recall that memory.

I think the hindsight bias helps me in the long run. Obviously the information presented on exams is there for a reason: it’s important. By going back and re-studying the questions that stump me on the test, I form a more solid connection with the information in my brain. My memory of the answer improves, and once I learn it, I’ll never completely lose that information. This helps me become more knowledgeable overall. Though it’s frustrating to not be able to recall things on command all of the time, the hindsight bias allows me to remember more things for longer periods of time. It’s much harder to forget information that you, at one point, didn’t know , which cost you your perfect grade on a test, than information that came easily to your recalled memory. I seem to remember those things that I really have to work for more effectively than things that just come and go for a single exam.

-Brenna Mordan

Descriptive Research at Chocolate World

Psychologists use various methods of research to gather the information they need to reach conclusions, including descriptive research, correlational research, and experimental research. Every one of these broad designs has smaller subcategories within it that help researchers gather and understand data from their subjects. I have personally experienced being asked to take a survey, which falls under the category of descriptive research. Surveys can be helpful in polling a large amount of people on their attitudes, opinions, and behaviors by asking them to assess themselves through a series of questions. Though it sounds relatively simple, researchers put a lot of time and effort into creating surveys that represent everyone. This concept, called representative sampling, requires that the survey does not exclude any one person or group so that the results are fair and accurate. Random sampling should also be used to ensure that everyone has an equal chance of being selected for the survey. By using these sampling techniques, and keeping the proportions of the samples similar to accurately reflect the real population, surveys can be great tools for getting the public’s opinion.

For example, I once was pulled aside in Hershey, Pennsylvania’s famous attraction ‘Chocolate World’ when leaving the ride and asked to participate in a survey for them. Perhaps I was randomly selected, or maybe the pulled every other guest that day and asked them to participate. I was given two different glasses of chocolate milk and asked to taste both before filling out the little blue slip of paper presented to me when I agreed to take the survey. However, the researchers did not take into account that with my young age, I might not have understood everything the questions were asking me. Some were simple, like, “Which glass tasted better?” However, as I progressed through the questions they became increasingly more complicated, partially due to the fact that the two glasses of milk looked identical and the survey kept referring to them as ‘Glass A’ and ‘Glass B’. I had a hard time keeping up with the way the questions were worded, as well as defining some of the vocabulary used. This is an example of a problem with surveys, knowledge. Not everyone can read at the same level and, since I was so young, I probably did not give my best or most valid answers to the questions. Perhaps Chocolate World knew this, and used the wording effect to their advantage. Psychologists know that the wording of questions can affect the outcome of the survey.

Combining these two common problems associated with surveys may have led to unreliable answers about the milk presented to me. My contribution to Hershey Park’s Chocolate World was probably not the most helpful in determining the better recipe because of some of the negative sides of surveys, but at least I got free chocolate milk!


-Brenna Mordan