Author Archives: hsm5050


Ever heard a song that you haven’t in years, but remember every word? Ever read your favorite book over and over, but you noticed new things in it every time? It’s interesting how that works. Books and songs are somewhat of apples and oranges, but chances are you don’t remember every single detail of a book, short or long, like you might naturally remember all the words to a song that you may not have even liked that much. It just played, over and over, in the background. I’ll never forget the words to “Ice, Ice, Baby.”

That’s what’s interesting about our memories. A story could be so intriguing, but we don’t exactly remember it word for word. A song could, for the lack of a better word, suck….and we remember the whole thing. When we completed the phonological loop lab assignment, I was pretty intrigued. Songs use rhyming a lot, as does poetry, which I believe helps us to remember it, along with the music behind it. However, I had such a hard time recalling a sequence of letters that had phonological similarity. As we learned in that lesson, I could often remember the first and last. However, it took a lot of focus to correctly recite sequences such as B, C, P, D, E, Z, T. After a while, with more and more trials, all I could hear myself recalling sometimes was E, E, E….. I’d begin to say the letters out loud out of habit, in an attempt to memorize the sequence, quickly remembering that I wasn’t supposed to do that! But that brought my attention to an interesting point; why are things easier to recall when we say them aloud? Why is hearing so helpful to remembering?

This could explain why staring at textbooks for hours sometimes doesn’t always yield the best test results (for me at least), and why studying with other people and talking about the subject matter could be helpful. Perhaps it’s why songs are easier to recall, even years later. The Phonological loop is fascinating, and it seems pretty obvious. However, when we start to ask why, it starts to get interesting. As I mentioned earlier, the phonological similarity effect happens even when there is no auditory input, such as reading items silently to ourselves. It’s been suggested that this is evidence that we actually recode information. If we only used our eyes, and didn’t remember sounds, we would probably confuse letters that simply look similar, such as E and F, and not just sound similar. This idea was created by Baddeley and his concept of a phonological loop in 1986. Its two components, the phonological store and articulatory control process, are part of our working memory. The phonological store is responsible for taking visual information and turning it into auditory stores.

To me, this makes a lot of sense. When we look at anything at all, we identify whatever “it” is with a word, right? Well, a word has to sound like something. If we never learned what words sounded like, text would be meaningless. So, just like remembering a song, I believe that we are extremely good at remembering sounds. Hearing is a sense just as well as sight; however, when it comes to memory, the two seem to have very different and complex purposes. We don’t remember what happened in our favorite books because the text was intriguing. However, we do remember songs, even ones we don’t find intriguing or pleasing at all. We also remember sentences rather than random clusters of words because we’re used to hearing words together in a specific format. This suggests that our auditory storage is pretty fine-tuned!


Perception and Learning

There’s so much going on “up there.” So much swirling around at night before we fall asleep sometimes, and so much that we are supposed to remember to do, in a specific order, at a specific time.

“Crap! (or expletive) I have an appointment 30 minutes after work tomorrow.  I told Ethel we’d have coffee. Dang it, that project is due in four days.  Did I lock the door? Oh wow, my car payment is two days past due.”

Ok, so maybe this isn’t all of us, but sometimes, it’s me.  When I began reading about Gestalt Psychology and perception, I began to wonder; are we taught in a certain pattern when we’re young in an attempt to keep our brains more organized and clear when we’re older?  The beauty of psychology is that not all brains, genetics, or environment are alike.  But I began to wonder if the laws of proximity, similarity, good continuation, and connectedness are natural, or are they learned? Ah, yes, the everlasting debate- nature vs. nurture.  We’re well aware now that it’s both, but when we’re talking about this topic, perception, is the perception learned or innate? Hmm. If it’s a combination of the two, how do we know to what extent?

Reading about the laws of perception sparked these questions for me.  It’s easy to observe and agree that we tend to group things, categorize things, and connect things, and all for useful purposes.  However, when we look at what our brains often do in a picture of colored dots grouped together, a cluster of parallel lines, or a curved line on top of a straight line that we separate even though they touch.

Back to my original thought: I believe by some force, whether it be learned, innate, evolutionary, or whatever…. that we often think this way for a reason, and that these laws are pretty universal.  Even my scatter-brained self can agree with these laws of perception.  They seem like common sense, but when we analyze them, it can get us thinking.