Monthly Archives: October 2015

After speaking with my aunt about her grandson learning to speak with bilingual parents, I was interested to look at the cognitive differences in learning related to this class. A lot of the articles debate whether or not having bilingual parents delay the onset of infants speaking, but there is conflicting evidence that also says that growing up bilingual affects your brain in so many positive ways. Studies show that “monolingual” babies recognize phonetic sounds earlier, in both the language they were used to hearing and a foreign language, but after 10 months have “neural commitment” and don’t recognize new languages. On the other hand, bilinguals babies did not recognize these same phonetic sounds until 10-12 months, but were then able to distinguish between the phonetic sounds in both languages, and don’t have the more narrow minded brain wiring. When shown silent videos of people speaking, brain waves show that monolingual babies recognized mouth movements earlier on and were engaged to recognize when a language that they didn’t know was being spoken, but at 8 months stopped responding and lost interest, whereas bilingual infants learned to recognize facial and mouth movements from video later on, but remained engaged for longer, trying to figure out what the unknown foreign language was. This suggests that bilingual babies have better logic solving skills, are better at multitasking, and have higher executive function. This seems like enough positive traits for me to believe it is worth the delay in onset in speaking to raise a child speaking two languages. Having your brain wired better to handle multitasking and logic problems is a huge advantage throughout life, and there is no reason for the child to need to be speaking at such a young age. The delay in onset of speaking is not a sign of lower cognitive abilities, so it doesn’t seem like something to worry about. This is just the baby taking their time to figure out both languages.

Hearing  Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language

Me and my ADD

Three years ago I was feeling really scatter brained and unfocused. I would have my keys one moment, set them down and not remember where I put them. I would start cooking, and get distracted only to remember I had something on the stove when I smelled something burning. I decided to meet with a psychiatrist and find out what was going on with me. I was diagnosed with adult ADD (attention deficit disorder).

The most common symptoms of ADD are failing to pay close attention, making careless errors, and failure to sustain attention. ADD affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain. An article titled ADD-Unmasking attention Difficulties written by Dr. Russell Griffiths states that the prefrontal cortex inhibits impulses, initiates behavior and controls working memory (Griffiths). When this area of the brain is underactive it limits the ability to screen out unnecessary information, and the person pays attention to everything, which makes staying on task very difficult.

There is also information out there written by Dr. Thomas E. Brown that addresses that ADD affects the executive processes of the brain. Dr. Brown created his own model called the “Executive functions impaired in ADD/ADHD model. It lists six different executive functions that are impaired. One of the six functions affected is memory, precisely the act of utilizing working memory and accessing recall (Brown, n.d.). When the working memory is affected in the pre-frontal cortex, people can remember things that happened long ago, but have difficulty remembering where they put something, what someone just said or what they were about to say.

Learning about this and getting a diagnosis makes me feel better about myself as a person. Prior to this I felt dumb, lazy, and flakey. My school was suffering. My husband was frustrated with my inability to focus on things, locking myself out of the house, burning dinner, and losing things. Knowing that it’s a problem I can’t control is helpful. Understanding the working parts of my brain and the roles it plays in this disorder stops me from feeling sorry for my self. Instead, I do what I need to do to manage it. Right now I manage it with a stimulant prescription. I notice the difference and lack of focus when I don’t take it. The stimulant medicines strengthen the area of the brain that is affected by releasing dopamine. Underactive cortexes may have less dopamine neurons or are less able to use these messengers (Griffiths). The stimulants regulate the underactive pre-frontal cortex, aiding in focus, attention, and memory. Stimulants are not for everyone, but they work for me in controlling my ADD.




Brown, T. E. (n.d.). Executive functions impaired in ADD/ADHD. Retrieved October 17, 2015, from

Griffiths, R. (). ADD-unmasking attention difficulties. LearningRX. Retrieved from



When Conditions of Encoding and Retireval Matched in my Color Guard Experiences

I have done color guard for 6 years; color guard is the name for the flags with marching bands. I never put any thought into exactly how I was remembering everything and why different techniques for practice worked better than others. I just thought about how different practices we had could have helped us better remember the show we performed.  Or how practices changed in what exactly we focused on as the season went on. The different moves and techniques we used are all part of procedural memory.  While they had to be encoded into LTM and the ways in which they occurred changed as I advanced to different levels of color guard. We actually had higher levels of processing the moves and put more thought into them.

In the earliest form at my high school it was very low levels of processing just constant repetition after repetition to counts and not the music we performed to.  We constantly used counts (1,2,3,4…) to correct any mistakes make any changes and everything instead of the music we were to recall the actions to.  The retrieval cues were not the same as the external stimulus at the time of encoding.  We were also supposed to express some emotion during performances; however we never practiced that outside of performances.  So, we did not have a similar internal state at encoding and retrieval.  Overtime, we constant rehearsal consolidation did occur usually just in time for finals after weeks of practice. Things were different went I joined a higher level of color guard.

While, we did learn the different moves to counts at first but we did it in small parts and applied it to the pieces of accompanied music that the work went with every time we went over new things. Due to encoding specificity we more easily recalled the information during performances due to the similarities of external stimuli at encoding and retrieval.  We also were also told to express the proper emotions needed in our performances while we were practicing our work with the music. This is relevant to state-dependent learning since the internal state at encoding was (should have been) similar to the internal state of retrieval.  With all of these similarities at encoding and retrieval the performance was better and easier, although it was actually more challenging moves, from my higher levels of color guard than for my last year of doing it in high school.




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

More Tests Please!

In preparation for our recent midterm, I did what your average college student does: I crammed the day before and attempted to essentially parrot back the information for the test. And as is also typically the case, I did a mediocre job. But over the course of the midterm, I was struck by how much information one needed to remember and understand in order to pass this cumulative examination of the first half of the course. It seemed, frankly, somewhat unreasonable, particularly for online students. Without the benefit of a professor to visually and verbally engage me in a complex topic that I only have a vague understanding of, the task seemed a bit overwhelming. Additionally, knowing that my midterm score would dramatically change my overall grade if I did not perform well caused me a fair degree of stress.

With all of this in mind, I was intrigued by the notion of the “testing effect”. According to our Lesson 8 commentary, the testing effect suggests that frequent testing would improve our performance due to the increased opportunities to practice retrieving information. In a 2014 piece for The Atlantic, Jessica Lahey explores research on this topic. Henry Roediger , a cognitive psychologist at Washington University asserts that the type of tests used on students comes into play when attempting to maximize their understanding and retention of material. So-called “summative” tests such as the SAT’s and standardized tests fail to teach while being taken, focusing instead on measuring students’ sum total abilities at a particular time. Instead, Roediger promotes the frequent use of “formative” tests throughout the course of the class in order to “reveal gaps and foster active, continuous engagement in the material”. Formative testing allows educators to monitor student progress and adapt accordingly. Meanwhile, students are able to identify areas of strength and target weaknesses.

The theory behind continuous formative testing is in fact the testing effect – information that is repeatedly tested is more likely to be recalled. Roediger posits that students who are tested frequently must remain more engaged, knowing that there is, for instance, a weekly exam. The information these students are learning is thus processed more deeply and with frequent testing, becomes encoded in their long-term memory for longer periods of time. To contrast, cramming information for midterm and final exams usually does not allow for contemplation on the meaning of to-be-remembered information and therefore is no strategy for ensuring the long-term storage of knowledge – crammed information is typically quickly forgotten.

It seems almost sacrilegious to promote the use of frequent testing as a student. However, for courses that require the absorption of complex information, and especially in an online schooling environment where so much time is spent just reading and attempting to comprehend on one’s own – I am an advocate of any method that could help me increase my understanding and performance.


Lahey, Jessica. (21 January 2014). Students Should Be Tested More, Not Less. The    Atlantic. Retrieved from be-tested-more-not-less/283195/

Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2015). Psychology 256. Lesson 8: Long-Term Memory: Encoding and Retrieval. Retrieved from




A Deer in the Headlights

Around three o’clock in the morning, I was sleeping in the passenger seat of my boyfriend’s car after a long day of driving. We were on the home-stretch through the forest preserve only a half of a mile away from his parent’s house where we were going to stay. My boyfriend came over a blind hill, only to find a large buck standing in the middle of the unlit road. He slammed on his breaks and swerved to the left, causing my head to slam into the car door with immense force. I was sleeping before this happened, so I was never aware of a deer in the road to begin with, but due to the moderate-to-severe concussion I suffered, I do not recall the events for the hour following the concussion either.

 I do not remember waking up from an unconscious state, crying inconsolably the way a child would. I do not remember my boyfriend trying to calm me down before we pulled up to his parent’s house. I do not remember my boyfriend trying to help me walk into the house because my coordination was impaired, becoming physically ill, or his dad (luckily a medical doctor) waking up to evaluate my situation. I do, however, remember everything leading up to falling asleep in the car. This temporary loss of memory is generally called anterograde amnesia, which refers to the inability to “assimilate or retain new knowledge” (Goldstein, 2011, pp. 149). When dealing with a concussion, or other traumatic brain injury, it is more specifically referred to as anterograde post-traumatic amnesia (National Institution of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2015). Part of the reason it is common to lose memory of the concussion and what immediately followed, is due to the fragility of new memories (Goldstein, pp. 193). The newer the memory is, the less time it has had to consolidate (become more permanent), and therefore relies more heavily on the hippocampus for retrieval (Goldstein, 194).

A few days later, my boyfriend was driving me from downtown Chicago to the suburbs where both of our parents live. Originally, we planned to visit both of our families, starting with his and ending with mine. On the ride, I decided just to visit my own parents, and asked if he could drop me off on the way to his, since I was still feeling fairly fatigued from my concussion. We continued down the Eisenhower Expressway for about ten minutes, and he took the exit for Roosevelt Road towards my parent’s house. Confused, I quickly responded “Wait! Why are you taking this exit? This is not the way to your Mom’s house.” I had completely forgotten that I had asked to be dropped off at my family’s house. My short-term memory had also been affected.

When I hit my head, my frontal lobe was the part of my brain that endured the trauma. Usually trauma to the prefrontal cortex affects the ability to control attention through the central executive, which controls and coordinates which information is processed through the phonological loop or the visuospatial sketch pad on its way to long term memory (Goldstein, 2013, pp. 136). We had agreed to visit his family first and discussed it a few times before I decided differently in the car. When I was surprised by the change of route, it was an effect of preservation (Goldstein, pp. 136). Had I been in control of the car, we would have followed the old plans and I would have driven to the undesired destination. Essentially, the concussion inhibited my prefrontal cortex’s ability to briefly hold information.

Lia Stoffle


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

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2015). Traumatic Brain Injury: Hope Through Research. (NIH Publication No. 02-2478). Bethesda, MD: Author. Retrieved from:

Your poor aging episodic memory.

Have you ever wondered why you remember an event differently than a friend who was at the same even as you? You tell a story of an event that you and your friend went to together and as you’re telling a story you one of your other friends, the friend you went with cuts in and says that wasn’t how it happened and starts to explain it how they believed it went. You wonder why they are making up a story as well as they are wondering why you are making up the story. This is due to episodic memory. Episodic memory is when you have an experience in a time of your life that someone may also have had and experience f that is different that you are later able to recall as part of our long-term memory. While you age, being able to recall these memories isn’t too hard, but you may not remember everything. You also have a harder time forming new episodic memories as you age.

When we age we know a lot of things are hard on us whether it be our legs, joints, or memories. We know there are a lot of mental diagnoses that are given as we age such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. One study researched looked at high performance and low performance people to see how their episodic memory was, relative to their IQ, using the standard classification method. Dockree, Brennan, O’Sullivan, Robertson & Redmond (2015), stated “…some individuals showing progressive decline with advancing age and others showing preservation of this essential cognitive ability.” They are not saying that all people have a decline in episodic memory, but they do have some people that do. This is how they separate them into high performance and low performance brain functions. They resulted that the high performance people “accumulate memorial evidence for learned information more effectively, show compensatory neural activity during encoding and preserved neural mechanisms at retrieval” (Dockree, et. al. 2015). Most participants in the study were able to gather memories with no problem. They were able to compensate the parts of the memory that was missing with something logical that would fit in and fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, the lower performance group had a harder time with episodic memories.

In another article about episodic memory, they used resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) to look at episodic memory. Fjell, Sneve, Grydeland, Storsve, DeLange & Amlien (2015) cited:

Tambini et. al. (2010) found enhanced functional connectivity (FC) between the hippocampus and a portion of the lateral occipital complex during rest following a task with high subsequent memory, an effect that was not seen during a task with poor sub- sequent memory. Additionally, the magnitude of the hippocampal- occipital correlation during post-task rest predicted later associative memory.

When we do tasks that we enjoy, we are able to better recall them. This is all involved in the hippocampus, we are able to filter what information is relevant and what we want to remember and what we are able to forget. The neurons fire information that we need in order for our cortex to be able to hold our memories. As we get older, the firing rate of neurons is much slower and we have a harder time in retaining and recalling information.






Works Cited


Dockree, P. M., Brennan, S., O’Sullivan, M., Robertson, I. H., Redmond G.

O’Connell, Characterizing neural signatures of successful aging: Electrophysiological

correlates of preserved episodic memory in older age, Brain and Cognition, Volume

97, July 2015, Pages 40-50, ISSN 0278-2626,



Fjell, A. M., Sneve, M. H., Grydeland, H., Storsve, A. B., de Lange, A. G., Amlien, I. K., . . .

Walhovd, K. B. (2015). Functional connectivity change across multiple cortical

networks relates to episodic memory changes in aging. Neurobiology of Aging,



Bottom Line: Objects Grab Our Eyes

So, I’m cruising down the aisles at the local market, looking at all of the brand selections for my next week’s dinner compilation when I think to myself how vivid all of the imagery on the packaging of the branded items is. Have you ever noticed how strikingly lucid some of the packages are or noticed how the shapes just draw your eyeballs to them? Well, this is no magical act, the packaging of an item and the shape are made that way on purpose, so your object-based attention is activated while you are shopping for these items.

In reading an article by Elias Cohen and Frank Tong, they made it very clear what “neural mechanisms of Object-Based attention” affect our human behaviors. In their research, they used fMRI and multivariate analysis. After using these technologies to study the effects of object-based attention, they found “superior knowledge of upright objects led to improved attentional selection in early areas.” In other words, people’s attention got better as they looked at objects and if the objects were familiar to them from seeing the shapes previously. So, as I’m still shopping at the market, I come to the dairy section and what grabs my eyes right away? The 3D triangular sized cheese product that looks like the cheese you would see back in the cartoons you watched as a child. Why did this cheese stand out to me more than the others? It was because I was familiar with its shape from my previous experience with watching a triangle shaped piece of cheese in cartoons growing up. According to our textbook Goldstein, B. (2011), “attention can be based…on where a person is looking on a specific object (object based attention.” So, it was pretty clever that the manufacturer of the cheese product decided to shape the cheese into a 3D object so as to grab a consumer’s attention right away, giving them an advantage over all the other cheese brands.

This leads me back to Cohen and Tong’s argument. They cited a simple idea from another researcher Duncan 1984, who said “according to prominent theories of object-based attention, the attentional system is predisposed to select entire visual objects during top-down enhancement.” We as humans will turn our attention straight to something that is of a shape form right away because we are just built that way. Most of the companies in today’s day and age are constantly trying to grab the consumer in different ways of advertisement and will have a leg up in the race when they choose to add a 3D dimensional shape to their product. This is what we know from Goldstein B. (2011) as the feature integration theory “when we look at an object, we see the whole object, not an object that has been divided into its individual features.” This process is occurring before we ever even know it is happening just because we as humans will analyze everything about an object since it is in our physiological nature.

In essence, objects will grab our eyes. Once we engage our attention to the object we will begin the process of what we will choose to do with that visual stimulation.

cheese triangle





Cohen, Elias H. & Tong, Frank “Neural Mechanisms of Object-Based Attention” 2015-03-06
Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Wadsworth, Inc.

To Tweet, or Not to Tweet?

In response to a study published this year on the effect of social media on student performance, one commenter wrote “Yet another study proving what someone with half a brain already: if you are distracted, you are not going to learn very much (petercherman, 2015).” The author of the study, Jeffrey Kuznekoff, would probably disagree. Kuznekoff wondered how social media us in the classroom, like texting and tweeting, affected a student’s ability to learn new material. So, he conducted an experiment comparing the effects of tweeting, texting, and note-taking on test performance. The procedures he used reflect several of those developed by memory scientists. In the end, Kuznekoff showed that the implementation of mobile devices in the classroom has the potential to improve how we learn in ways that reflect our current understanding of memory.

Kuznekoff’s study demonstrates the generation effect discussed in our textbook’s chapter on encoding and retrieval. According textbook author, generating material helps us transfer memories more effectively to long-term memory than passively receiving it (Goldstein, 2011). Goldstein cites the research of Slameka and Graf, in which participants remembered more words when they used them to answer fill-in-the-blank questions rather than just reading them (2011). Kuznekoff took advantage of the generation effect by asking some participants to text or tweet messages that were relevant to material being taught to them in class (Straumsheim, 2015). There scores were nearly as high as those who old-fashioned notes and much better than those who sent irrelevant texts or tweets.

Kuznekoff also makes use of the testing effect. This study demonstrates the testing effect discussed in the same chapter. The testing effect predicts improved memory when we are tested on material that we want to commit to memory (Goldstein, 2011). Roediger and Karpicke tested this hypothesis by comparing the performance of groups that were tested after either rereading a prose passage or taking a recall test (Goldstein 2011). A week later, those who took the recall test forgot much less about the passage than those who simply reread it. In Kuznekoff’s study, some participants received text messages with prompts about the material as it was being presented, testing their recall in real-time (Straumsheim, 2015). Significantly, participants who received these text messages performed much better than even those who sent relevant tweets during class.

Social media are powerful tools. Even this blog assignment is an example of how social media can improve memory. Writing a good thesis statement is an example of the generation effect. Like with encoding strategies, some social media are more effective memory enhancers than others. However, social media is not just a distraction. Advances in technology can help us learn the advances made in science, like memory research. Just because they have a bad reputation, it doesn’t mean that social media can’t play a positive role in learning. Or as tamaraz, who replied to the commenter quoted at the beginning of this entry, said “It is important to critically examine things that ‘everyone already knows’ (2015).”


Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Long-term memory: Encoding and retrieval. In Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (pp. 178-180). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Petercherman. (2015, June 8). Re: Take note [Web log comment]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from

Straumsheim, C. (2015, June 8). Take note [Web log post]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from P. (2015, June 8). Re: Take note [Web log comment]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from

Tamaraz. (2015, January 8). Re: Take note [Web log comment]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from P. (2015, June 8). Re: Take note [Web log comment]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from



Got Memory?


Have you ever wondered how you encode, and later on retrieve a phone number? Do you still remember the first phone number of the home you grew up in?  I do. I first encoded the number when I got to the United States at age 11. I remember it starts with a NYC 212 area code. I still remember the rest of the sever digits. How do I remember important information at work? Encoding is defined as the process of acquiring information and transferring into the long term memory (LTM). Cognitive Psychology, Pg173

How do I get information into my long term memory? I try using Shallow processing method which is through the maintenance rehearsal process. It consists of repeating it until it is passed into long term memory. When I came to live in NYC, I never had memorized a phone number before.  There are a lot of risks while going to school, coming home from school in a big city like New York City. I needed to memorize the home phone number.  I memorized it by a process called chunking.  The phone number was 212-368-1108. I practiced chunking while trying to keep it alive on my short term memory, then it was passed onto my long term memory.  I am now 32 years old, and I first memorized the number at 11 years old.

Another instance when I use memory, either short term or long term is at work.  I need to recognize inmate’s faces and their name and inmate number in case of an inmate on inmate assault or inmate or staff assault. Most of the time if I cannot recall the inmate name or number, I use my long term memory and remember the inmate block.  By retrieving such information I can log into the computer and search for more information. Although I might have a computer available, I rely on my short term, and long term memory to retrieve important information at work.

In conclusion, memory sure is a powerful thing. It helps me keep others and myself safe at work. I can retrieve information from the yard, chow hall etc. By retrieving such information, I can go back and analyze if I certain gang members gathered in the yard, etc. It helps me get home and to work. It helps me not forget my 4 months old in the car. It helps me remember that I need to pick up the 7 year old at school. How do you use your memory?




Goldstein, E. Bruce. (2011). Cognitive psychology connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

I’ll take Semantic Memory for $100, Alex

“Get your facts straight!” This expression usually comes up in the context of debating someone about a topic in the news, your political beliefs, or even supporting your favorite sports team.  These “facts” are paralleled with our semantic memory.  I want to explain what semantic memory is, how it’s different from episodic memory, and an easy way you can challenge your memory right from the own comfort of your living room.

To be able to understand semantic memory, you must first know how it is defined. Semantic memory refers to a portion of long-term memory that processes ideas and concepts that are not drawn from personal experiences.  Semantic memory includes things that are common knowledge, such as the names of colors, the sounds of letters, the capitals of countries and basic facts acquired over a long time (Zimmerman, 2014).  To sum it up, it’s basically the facts that we have learned during our lifetime.  The sky is blue.  The first President of the United States was George Washington.  The 2003 Super Bowl Champions were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (had to get that in there).  Semantic memory is recalling facts from our memory, not by experience, but what we have learned at one point growing up.

While semantic memory is recalling facts that we have learned, episodic memory is recalling events from our own individual lives. It is the recollection of biographical experiences and specific events in time in a social form, from which we can reconstruct the actual events that took place at specific points in time from our lives (Zimmerman, 2014).  Semantic memories are facts that we may know, but we’re not sure when and where we learned it.  Episodic memory is just the opposite where we can recall when and where our experiences happened.  Probably the most common experience that everyone can relate to is what we were doing when we first heard about the tragic events on 9/11.  I was still living in Nevada, which means that it wasn’t even 6am yet when I first got the call from my roommate at the time.  He was a local golf professional so usually he was at work by 5am.  I remember he called me and woke me up with the news, and I immediately turned on the television.  I’m sure we all have many experiences like this, events that we will remember when and where we were when it happened.

We have learned thousands of facts during our lifetime, but can we always recall them when needed? Here’s an easy way you can put your memory to the test beyond the classroom:  television game shows.  Nothing can boost, or torment, your semantic memory more than watching an episode of a show like Jeopardy.  The reason why it’s been on for so many years is because there hasn’t been a show that consistently challenges your knowledges of facts quite like Mr. Trebek has.  If you’re like me, you then always wait for “College Week” so you can give yourself a fighting chance.  Having said that, you can also tune into an episode of Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader, and you can be sure that the confidence you have in your semantic memory can quickly take an unexpected nose-dive.

I’ve explained what semantic memory is, how it can be compared to episodic memory, and an example of how knowledge of facts can be put to the test. So the next time you get into a heated debate with someone, just make sure you have your semantic memories straight!



Zimmerman, Kim Ann. (2014, January, 29). Semantic Memory: Definition & Examples.  Life Science.  Retrieved from