Author Archives: Wendy Estright

Confused About Where I Heard That From

While I was talking to Tammy, she told me about the upcoming changes at work that were going to be taking place in the near future. Tammy explained to me that new supervisors were being hired and that there would be more supervisors than there was before and it would affect the electricians, elevator technicians, plumbers, basically all the trade workers but it did not affect our chain of supervisors.

After talking with Tammy, I talked with a few instructors, students, and Jenn who is another co-worker. At lunch I sat with Nickie in the breakroom. I asked her if she had heard about the upcoming changes for the trade workers. She told me that she had heard about the changes earlier that morning from Bob, one of the plumbers. Nickie then asked me who I had heard about the changes from and I replied that I had heard it from Jenn. After thinking about it I realized that I had committed a source monitoring error and that I had actually heard about the upcoming changes from Tammy.

Source monitoring, according to our textbook written by E. Bruce Goldstein, “is the process of determining the origins of our memories, knowledge, or beliefs” (2011). When I mistakenly identified Jenn as the source who originally informed me of the upcoming changes, I first retrieved the memory of the conversation and then I had to use a decision process to determine who I had the conversation with. The last person that I had talked to about the changes before talking to Nickie was Jenn and I confused the original conversation with Tammy to my more recent conversation with Jenn.

Committing a source monitoring error is common. Emotions, thoughts, and experiences that occur before or after the memory is created can influence that memory. In this particular situation my experiences after talking with Tammy about the upcoming changes, which was me talking with a few other people including Jenn, was involved with me confusing Jenn as the actual source of the original conversation I had with Tammy.

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


How Did I Get Here?

How many others have driven to work and then can’t remember their drive to work? This has happened to me many times. I get so focused on what needs done when I get home from work or there was a bunch of good songs on the radio and I sang along with them without any recollection of driving. This is an example of automatic processing. Driving has become so automatic to me after all these years of driving that it does not take up much of my cognitive resources or is also known as a low-load task.

I have also left the house and frantically worried if I shut off my hair straightener and then returned home to it not only being shut off, unplugged from the outlet, but also hung back up on the organizer that I store it on. This is another example of automatic processing. This is something that I do automatically without paying any attention to my actions.

Driving may have become an automatic process but if a deer jumps out across the road or another circumstance occurs I snap to attention and turn off my “auto pilot” mode as I call it and pay closer attention to the task at hand. This is when the “easy or well-practiced” task becomes “more difficult and you need to devote all cognitive resources to driving” or also called a high-load task (Goldstein, E. Bruce, 2011, p. 87, 93).

All of these examples are also examples of divided attention. Driving and thinking, driving and singing, driving and avoiding a deer that could jump out across the road, and shutting off the hair straightener while thinking about getting out the door for work are all things we do with our divided attention. Divided attention is performing two or more tasks at once.

Divided attention can be an automatic process with an easy or well-practiced task or a controlled process when the task is harder. Easier tasks are considered low-load tasks and harder tasks are considered high-load tasks. Practice can turn those high-load tasks from a controlled processes to an automatic process without you even intending to do it.

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

Laws of Organization

 Laws of Organization

A group called the Gestalt psychologists consisted of Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler, and Kurt Koffka. Together they proposed a number of laws of perceptual organization. The five laws of perceptual organization are as follows: the Law of Similarity, the Law of Pragnanz, the Law of Proximity, the Law of Continuity, and the Law of Closure (Cherry, Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organization).

The Law of Similarity suggests that “similar things appear to be grouped together” (Goldstein, 2011, p.60). This grouping can occur with either visual or auditory stimulation. An example of the Law of Similarity is a pattern of dots. Some perceive the pattern of dots as horizontal rows, vertical rows, or even as both horizontal and vertical rows as seen in figure 1 below.

dots                paw Figure 1 (Unknown, Gestaltpsychology)   Figure 2 (Unknown, Gestaltpsychology)

The Law of Pragnanz or the Law of Simplicity suggests that “reality is reduced to the simplest form possible” (Cherry, Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organization). An example of this law at work is the Olympic symbol. The Olympic symbol consists of a series of five circles and is perceived as a simple figure not a series of complicated shapes.

The Law of Proximity also known as the Law of Familiarity suggests that objects near each other appear to be grouped together. An example of this law can be seen above in figure 2. The dots are perceived to resemble a paw print because of the close proximity of the maroon dots.

The Law of Continuity suggests that lines are perceived to follow the smoothest path whether the result is curving, overlapping, or straight lines. A good example of the Law of Continuity is rope that is overlapping other parts of itself. Figure 2 below shows a rope overlapping itself.

rope       image

Figure 3 (Image from a Bing search)          Figure 4 (Image from a Bing search)

The final law is the Law of Closure. This law suggests that “objects grouped together are seen as a whole” (Cherry, Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organization). Figure 4 above is an example of the Law of Closure. Our minds fill in the missing gaps to complete the shapes or images.

All of the Gestalt Laws try to explain how we perceive objects in our environment. ‘The whole is different from the sum of its parts’ is a Gestalt belief and is what led to the development of the principles explaining perceptual organization. These principles or phenomenon are considered to be mental shortcuts for solving problems or called heuristics.



Bing. Retrieved from

Bing. Retrieved from

Cherry, K. What are the Gestalt laws of perceptual organization? Retrieved from

GestaltPsychology. Retrieved from

Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive psychology (3rd edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.