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My name is Falisha or Fee-li-cii-ahh?

My name is Falisha or Fee-li-cii-ahh?

Have you ever tried learning a new language as an adult? Did you grow up speaking more than one language? Did you learn the second language as a child? I did. I was 11 years old soon to be 12 when I first landed through the gates of JFK airport in NYC.  All the words I now know in the English language are because I have stored them in my lexicon. Lexicon is a person knowledge of the meanings, sounds of words and how we use them. I have been learning English words since 11 years of age until now. I learned the Spanish words from birth to 11 years of age. Am i a dominant in English or Spanish?

Language is defined as a system of communication which uses symbols and sounds that let us express our ideas, feelings, experiences and thoughts. (Cognitive Psychology Pg.294). As I started a new school. Learning a new language was not easy. I was accustomed to speaking Spanish and learning in Spanish.

I remember my first day of school at I.S 90, an uptown Washington heights school. I remember my English teacher and how he pronounced my first name. I had to look twice to see who he was calling. Then I noticed it was me whom he was calling. He was calling me by my first name. I was used to been called Felicia with a Spanish sound to it. When my English teacher said my name, it had a whole different tone to it. The phonemes which are the short segment of speeches, seems to have changed the sounding of my first name.

Although, I believe myself to be bilingual and not a late second language learner. My idea of a late second language learner would be 18 year of age and older. An online article has me questioning myself or my children bilingualism. An article called (Study Shows How Bilinguals Switch Between Languages by Kalim Gonzales), describe how we switch from one language to the other and how some people perceive bilinguals as being more proficient on one language more than the other. The article also states, that the reason why some late second language learner have an accent is because they are dominant on the first language and not the second.

My questions are; are my kids going to know one language more than the other? Are they going to be more proficient in English than Spanish because they will be taught all their classes in English instead of Spanish?  What if they learn to read, write and speak Spanish as well as English? Will that still make them dominant in English and not Spanish? My conclusion is that, being proficient or dominant in one language has a lot to do with how often the language is spoken.

 

 

References:

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

Study Shows How Bilinguals Switch Between Languages, Kalim Gonzales, Retrieved on 11/19/2016 from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/exploring-how-bilinguals-switch-between-languages.html#.WDJm4PkrLIU.

Crystallizing your Intelligence Around Writing

I used to like writing a lot and be a pretty good writer, but recently I have felt like since I don’t use that skill as much, it has been getting a lot harder and less enjoyable, which is unfortunate. This has made even short writing assignments for school the last few years a lot harder. I already decided to start writing more in my free time, even just writing activities in a journal, to hopefully fix this. It was really concerning me that at such a young age I would see such a sharp decline in a skill that I took for granted as a constant for so long. When I found this article, I was relieved to see that I was right to want to start writing again to build up these neuron pathways in the brain. It talks about growing and strengthening these neuronal pathways to be more centralized around writing. One way they propose to do this is by starting to write about what you are most passionate about. This is not just a general idea to spur you to be interested in writing, but seems to be a way to get these neurons firing because the pathways should be well established if it is something you think about frequently and gets you excited. To get new pathways to form, some neurons have to be firing to ignite the “global excitation” that can start to form new connections. For your brain to be its healthiest, you need to constantly be learning and reading and writing and talking about other issues that interest you to keep these connections strong, and build as many new connections as possible. Especially helpful is “deep reading” with detailed descriptions and complex ideas that you read slowly and fully process, not just skimming over. The last tip to improve how you process writing is to write slowly out on paper, especially in cursive, which forces you to think more. This makes sense because I feel sometimes typing on the computer you barely process what you are writing because you type so fast. An example of this is how writing things out make you remember them more. Whenever I am writing notes to try to study for a test, I find it much easier to recall the information if I have written it out by hand, rather than typing out notes. Given that these suggestions all seem to make sense, I hope to see a noticeable difference. Anything to keep your brain sharp is always a good idea.

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prime-your-gray-cells/201512/5-ways-crystallize-your-intelligence-around-writing

Factors Affecting Depression

For the past few months, since my sister started medical school, I have been hearing a lot about what compounds from vitamins your brain and body need to function at its peak. This article mentions vitamin D deficiencies as one of the possible causes of depression, and shows some pretty scary statistics about the correlation between the two. In a recent study of individuals with depression and anxiety, recovering from depression, or otherwise healthy individuals, 33% had insufficient levels of vitamin D, and the lowest levels were found in a individuals with the most severe depression. These are pretty high numbers, so getting levels tested is recommended for anyone who is depressed, which I think is a good idea. The other factors mentioned in the article are tips you hear often, but that doesn’t make them any less important. These are things like a social support system, physical activity, and being optimistic and more reasonable with your expectations with yourself. If you explain things that happen in your life pessimistically it starts to form a cycle where it can make your more depressed, and then more likely to again explain things pessimistically. Another way to break out of this cycle that goes along with social support is having discussions that stimulate your mind that are more cognitively challenging, which if lacking can make you feel like you are stuck in a rut. Even though some of these tips are well known by most people, the tips such as getting vitamin D levels tested, are something to consider if you haven’t been able to make any progress in your depression just to understand yourself better.

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fearless-you/201511/6-little-known-factors-can-affect-depression

Only as Smart as Your Weakest Pathway

 

Brain (3)

Recall more than Recognition has always been an issue for me.  Remembering most things, from general information to small task has always been a huge challenge. Growing up as a child, if someone gave me a few simple tasks to accomplish at once, it was almost always inevitable that I would only accomplish two at most.  Throughout all 12 grades of regular schooling, the simplest lessons taught; which most people still remember today, such as capitals of states, who the first 5 Presidents of the United States was, and perhaps what a neuron and a cell is, seemed to escape me relatively quickly.  Even now as an adult, remembering day to day information, names of regular faces at work, and recalling lessons taught in college courses, seem to be the most challenging task.  The bottom line is if I fail to write down a task or whatever information is provided to me, whoever provided the information in hopes of me utilizing for a purpose, might as well forget it also… after 30 seconds it all decays and becomes lost in translation.

So as I read Goldstein’s Cognitive Psychology book and began to conduct further research, I realized that memory recall and retrieval are complex.  As I researched, I found information which explained that memories are stored in our brains more like a jigsaw puzzle with different elements stored in disparate parts of the brain which are linked together by “neural networks”, as opposed to all information being stored as a collection of organized books or videos (http://www.human-memory.net/processes_recall.html).  Since memory retrieval is in essence the act of gathering information from different areas of the brain, retrieval requires the nerve pathways that the brain formed to encode the information to be revisited. “The strength of those pathways determines how quickly the memory can be recalled” (http://www.human-memory.net/processes_recall.html).  Without encoded information first being retrieved, it cannot be utilized; therefore, the retrieval process is paramount.  More often than not, the inability to remember is the result of retrieval failures (Goldstein, 2011).

As I continued to read Goldstein’s text, I became certain that I discovered one possible culprit that may cause my inability to remember; which is the infamous “Illusion of Learning” (Goldstein, 2011).  Rereading material over and over; which I now know only increases fluency and the familiarity effect, not increase memory of the material, is a study habit that I’ve used ever since I can remember.  Familiarity Effect causes the tendency to believe that because you recognize material in front of you, you will remember it later; which I’ve always been able to attest to the fact that it’s untrue; however, I too, also thought it was simply MY inability to remember.  Lastly, highlighting material is also an illusion of learning.  Highlighting only creates repetitive motions of your hand, as opposed to deep processing of the material because as the material is highlighted; deep thought about WHAT is being highlighted fails to occur (Goldstein, 2011).  I’ve also been guilty of highlighting until my hand was sore; only to later trigger the “deer in headlight stare” upon attempting to use my notes as study or test taking material.  Certainly, if I would have know then what I know now in regards to study habits and the illusion of learning, I perhaps could have given the illusion of being smarter than a 5th grader.

One observation that I’ve always noticed is that events and information which seems to be connected to emotions and are “heartfelt” in some way, I appear to recall a lot easier than other information or events.  Enhanced memories for emotional events are linked to interactions between the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex (PFC) (Cahill & McGaugh, 1996). “This seems to affect women more so than men. This is due to the fact that women and men process emotional memories differently.”  The encoding and consolidation of memory for emotional events takes place in the amygdala; which is triggered by emotions to influence the memory during emotional situations (Goldstein, E. B., 2011).  As I also read, Memory recall appears to be state-dependent to some extent.  Information is subsequently recalled more accurately when an individual is in the same emotional state at the time of retrieval as similar to the emotional state at the time the information is encoded (http://www.human-memory.net/processes_recall.html).

As I now know that as the pathways can be influenced by emotions, events, rehearsals, and test; even the weakest pathway can become the strongest.

New Studies on Memory and Marijuana usage.

Research shows that marijuana use affects short term memory, but how does it also affect Long Term Memory. How are short and Long Term memories are related. STM holds a small amount of information for a short amount of time. STM is processed in one of two ways, maintenance rehearsal and elaborative rehearsal. Elaborative rehearsal works better when transferring memories into LTM. Elaborative rehearsal is when you relate the information in STM to information you already have stored in LTM. Elaborative rehearsal works because we are processing the information on a deeper level. So in order to form LTM we must first be able to form STMs. How does the use of marijuana affect this process?
According to International weekly journal of science the THC in marijuana weakens the connections, or synapses, between neurons in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a structure in the Medial Temporal lobe that is crucial for forming new LTMs. This was shown in a case where a person’s hippocampus’ were removed from both sides of the brain to eliminate epileptic seizures but also eliminated their ability to form new LTMs. Smoking marijuana is not as drastic as removing the hippocampus but because the hippocampus contains a lot of THC receptors it does affect the ability to form new LTMs. By the weakening of the connections in the hippocampus memory function is slowed down or stopped in Short and long term memory while on the substance.
Although the memory process is slowed down while using marijuana until recently long term affects affecting memory had not been seen. A study was done on teens who were using marijuana on a daily basis. The people in the study had started using marijuana between the ages of 16 and 17 and used it daily for 3 years. At the time of the study they had been marijuana free for two years. These participants performed 18% worse on long-term memory tests than young adults who had never used cannabis on a long term daily basis. These same participants who scored 18% less also had abnormally shaped hippocampus’. This is one of the first studies to show that correlation between long term memory problems and abnormally shaped hippocampus.
Marijuana is shown now to affect both short and long term memory. Although studies are just starting to be completed and further studies are starting up all over the globe. It is exciting to see what more we can learn about ourselves and the world around us.
Smith, M. J., Cobia, D. J., Reilly, J. L., Gilman, J. M., Roberts, A. G., Alpert, K. I., Wang, L., Breiter, H. C. and Csernansky, J. G. (2015), Cannabis-related episodic memory deficits and hippocampal morphological differences in healthy individuals and schizophrenia subjects. Hippocampus, 25: 1042–1051. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22427

HOW DOES MARIJUANA AFFECT THE BRAIN? (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1808
(n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from http://www.nature.com/news/how-marijuana-makes-you-forget-1.10152

Video Killed the Cognitive Star

In every corner of the Earth, there’s someone using technology. Whether it is a tablet, a cellphone, or a laptop, someone is engaging with an electronic. Today’s society is driven by immediate gratification, which we achieve through instantaneous messages, live updates, and social media. Picking up an encyclopedia to read for knowledge or finding a good book to immerse oneself has become a thing of the past. Recently a popular talk show discussed the idea of not needing to know how to spell common words because spell check does it automatically. But has this progression actually been a hindrance to our cognitive health? Perhaps there is an over reliance on technology to solve what our brains once could do? The reality seems to be that cognitive skills and problem-solving have received the short end of the stick in our technological advancement, and continue to dissipate like our outdated processes. Problem-solving skills, memory, and emotion processing decline because of our technology use. It can be hoped that advocacy for using less technology and increasing physical and mental activity may rectify this well-defined problem.

One of the best features humans have is the ability to critically think. Problem-solving is commonly taught throughout all levels of schooling and mandated for most employment opportunities. It is a prerequisite for life and learning how to do it effectively can be a lifelong challenge. Thanks to technology, some problem-solving can be done immediately. Think of calculators or thermometers. It’s a wonder what people ever did before they existed. School systems have even begun to implement videos into their curriculum, with parents supporting visual learning a lot more as well. Consequently, it was also found that wiring the classroom for internet access does not enhance learning. One study analyzed the retention of lecture information and tested students who had internet access during class and those without. Those without internet access did better than those with internet access (Wolfpert, 2009). Reading develops critical thinking, reflection, induction, and imagination, yet reading has also declined in the lack couple of decades among young people (Wolfpert, 2009). Patricia Greenfield, a psychologist at UCLA found that reading for pleasure enhances thinking and engages imagination in a way that visual media does not (Wolfpert, 2009). Surely students may learn to think in more engaging ways and absolve their functional fixedness, the inability to see objects, people, or events in views outside of what is customary for them, by learning in multiple forms. It is simply a matter of finding a balance between using multiple methods of visual and audible learning.

Rarely ever do we go to a payphone and dial in our friend’s number. Cellphones today are equipped with an address book and a favorites list to make phone calls more convenient. What does this mean for our memories though? When was the last time we were required to remember a phone number, or a grocery list, or a show time? Scientist at Columbia University ran experiments on how students remembered random trivia. Students were given random trivia facts and requested to place them in a folder labeled true or fact. Some students were told the computer would save which folder they were in. Later on, students were asked to recall which facts were placed in the fact folder. The results indicated that students who knew the computer saved the information were less likely to remember the trivia facts (Thompson, 2013). When we know a device will remember a piece of information for us, we will less likely remember it ourselves. It was found that 40 percent of all search queries were of people trying to refresh details of something they previously knew (Thompson, 2013). Recalling information involves both short-term and long-term memory. If we are overindulged in our apps and cellphones, it would be hard to retain information in your short-term memory, and even harder to encode that into long-term memory. Helpful it may be, technology should be a tool not a guide.

Lastly, technology has a great way of bridging the gap that land and sea have created. People from all over the world can communicate with each other in seconds or minutes. While people are fond of getting to know each other and transcend to another place online, some people maintain the extent of substituting physical relationships with electronic ones. Consequently, these people experience social isolation when withdrawn from their devices (Lickerman, 2010). Being online can also give the advantage of identity protection in some cases, and this can make confrontations and harassment (Lickerman, 2010). It’s possible that people are more irresponsible and hurtful with their dialogue since their comments can’t be traced directly to their person. Empathy, compassion, and sympathy can be reduced by offering an anonymous platform to be just the opposite. Cognitive biases like prejudice that misrepresent social issues are given a platform on social media and their own websites. While the internet can be great for achieving factual information, it does a disservice to gaining the interpersonal interactions lexchanged in communicating.

How and what we perceive as a problem plays a big role in how we solve it. Improving through mechanical and online advancement has been a significant goal of civilizations. The benefits of our progress are never fully aligned with their detriments; therefore we’ve never perceived any need for a resolve. The fact of the matter remains that improvement is necessary, but our previous modes of communication, reading, and learning are still very vital to our cognitive health. We are sacrificing our mental capabilities in exchange for convenience. In return our spelling, our intelligence, our memory, and our creativity suffer. This is not to justify a ban on all technology or to limit the advancement of machinery and electronic tools. This is to make others aware of the implications of cognitive dependence on technology. Social psychologist and educators should start intervention at an early age, introducing children to more interesting ways in reading, reinforcing the family to try trivia and mental activities, or to advocate a reduced amount of cellphone or internet usage. The primary importance is that society advances without compromising any aspect of our health.

References

Lickerman, Alex. 2010, June 8. The Effect of Technology on Relationships. Psychology Today, retrieved from:https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201006/the-effect-technology-relationships

Thompson, Clive. 2013, September 20. Is Google Wrecking Our Memory? Slate, retrieved from: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/09/are_search_engines_and_the_internet_hurting_human_memory.2.html

Wolpert, Stuart. 2009, January 27. Is Technology Producing a Decline in Critical Thinking and Analysis? UCLA Newsroom, retrieved from: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/is-technology-producing-a-decline-79127

Stories are more than just words

I love reading books, magazines, news articles, facebook, etc… I just finished reading a book called Armada. While reading this book I found myself making inferences as I created the scenes in mind. What is an inference you ask? An inference is when we use the knowledge we already have to go beyond the meaning of what is printed in the text (Goldstein, 2011). In the book Armada by Ernest Cline he starts off the book with the sentence “I was staring out the classroom window and daydreaming of adventure when I spotted the flying saucer.” When I read this sentence I began to infer that the teacher was still teaching the class while this was occurring. This story is a narrative story which means that it is an account of progressive events but can include flashbacks. As I continued reading I noticed I began making more and more inferences. There are more than one type of inference and I used all of them with this book. An anaphoric inference is when a person or object is connected by an inference from another sentence. This occurred numerous times just like this example, “The Sobrukai and their Glaive Fighters were fictional videogame creations. They didn’t exist in the real world-they couldn’t”. They in the second sentence was referring to the Sobrukai and Glaive Fighters which we made the inference from the previous sentence to figure out what the word they referred to. These types of inferences are fairly easy for us to make. Another type of inference that I used while reading was the casual inference which it can be inferred that the events described in one sentence were caused by events that occurred in the previous sentence according to Chapter 11 Language in our textbook (Goldstein, pg. 310). “When I finally lowered my fist I glanced at Casey and expected him to offer me a nod of thanks. But he was still cowering at his desk like a whipped dog, and he wouldn’t make eye contact with me.” This is an example from the story that you can make the casual inference that Lightman, the main character, frightened Casey when he had his fists raised and stood up to the bully that was bullying Casey by the reaction that Casey had from Lightman. Reading involves much more than just understanding the words and sentences and using inferences help us create the connections we need to help create the coherence, representation of what we read in our mind that relates one part of the text to another, and piece everything together. Next time you read a book, story, article or whatever it may be stop and really look at what you just read and I am sure you will find that you have been making some inferences yourself along the way.

 

 

 

Cline, E. (n.d.). Armada: A novel.

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

 

CTE = Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

This is personal topic to me. My husband and many other veterans are trying to live a normal life, after a traumatic brain injury, and the research is still so very new, that we don’t know much about it.

CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disease that is once again making the news. Over the past few years many football players and combat veterans have been diagnosed posthumously with this disease, as it can’t be diagnosed while the patient is alive. Junior Seau, who was a hometown hero of mine, playing for my San Diego Chargers, was diagnosed with CTE after he committed suicide in 2012, and most recently Frank Gifford showed signs of CTE.

Those with CTE show symptoms in some of the areas we have discussed and learned about in this course. Some of these symptoms are: deterioration of attention and concentration, poor judgment, lack of insight, social instability, erratic behavior, aggression, depression, suicide, and memory loss (Ziegler, T). These injuries to the brain are caused by concussions, or traumatic brain injury. At this time it’s not known what the magic number is, or how many concussions are too many. What comes into play is the amount of concussions, the severity of the concussions, are some athletes more prone to CTE than others, and obviously not every individual is the same.

Atrophy of the frontal lobe is often caused by CTE. This is the area of the brain that affects decision-making, planning and memory retrieval. Another cognitive area that is affected by CTE is the Hippocampus, which is involved in memory function as well (Ziegler, T). All of these effects are what lead to the instability of the individual and in some cases unreasonable decision making resulting in suicide.

The reason why I chose to investigate this disease further is because I was curious about the lack of decision making, and memory. Also, being a wife to a retired United States Army Veteran who has seen combat, and all those he served with. The amount of combat veterans committing suicide is at a ridiculous rate, and while we know that many of the causes are linked to PTSD, the area of CTE needs to be examined further. Research shows that these types of brain injuries lead to erratic behavior and suicide, and at this time there is no help for that. While we can find help on the mental health side of PTSD there is still much to be learned about CTE and the effects that it has on the mind.

 

 

 

References:

 

Ziegler, T. (n.d.). Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) – SportsMD. Retrieved November 19, 2015, from http://www.sportsmd.com/concussions-head-injuries/chronic-traumatic-encephalopathy-cte-2/

 

How reliable is “eyewitness” testimony?

According to The Innocence Project, when looking at their first 325 DNA exonerations, nearly three-quarters (72%) of the wrongful conviction cases were due to eyewitness misidentification. A scary thought. In the latter part of 2011, the New Jersey Supreme Court joined a growing list of institutions who were calling into question the use of eyewitness identification in criminal trials. The unanimously passed ruling by the New Jersey court noted that this type of evidence suffered from a “troubling lack of reliability” and called for the revision of the tests used to measure eyewitness reliability. The issue was taken up by the United States Supreme Court in November 2011.

The New Jersey court’s decision was based on recent scientific studies and was brought on by the 2004 case of Larry Henderson. Convicted of manslaughter, Henderson’s lawyers later argued that police involved in the investigation exploited the flawed memories of witnesses through suggestibility by influencing identification efforts with subtle suggestions aimed at leading witnesses towards falsely identifying Henderson as the killer. The ruling by the New Jersey court is a recognition of the fact that our memories are not videotaped playbacks of the past. In fact, memory is easily influenced and therefore fallible.

There are many factors that make eyewitness testimony far from fail-safe. Suggestibility which I mentioned previously is one of the most concerning. Identifying faces is already a difficult task. The difficulty increases when the high emotions present during crimes influences what an individual pays attention to. Our emotions narrow our range of attention, perhaps most notably by causing witnesses to crimes focus on any weapons rather than assailant’s faces.

Familiarity with faces can also lead to errors, as already distracted witnesses can sometimes identify someone merely because they are familiar with the individuals face but cannot remember the correct source of their familiarity – also called source monitoring. Being questioned after witnessing a crime can also be problematic because reactivating one’s memory of an event makes it easier to influence and create false memories.

In order to ward off any of these errors, a number of actions have been proposed to help maintain the integrity of eyewitness testimony. Notifying witnesses that they perpetrator may not be in the lineup, using similar looking people in lineups, presenting each individual in a lineup one at a time, making sure that the officer administering the lineup does not know who the suspect is, and lastly, developing effective interview techniques such as the cognitive interview which was created to facilitate memory retrieval. These suggestions are based on psychological research.

Going back to the court’s ruling, in 2012, the US Supreme Court did find in favor of law enforcement agencies when it decided to back eyewitness identification in an 8-1 ruling. Still, Justice Ginsberg again iterated the importance of guarding against suggestibility during eyewitness testimony both by putting in place the safeguards mentioned previously as well as through ensuring proper police conduct.

 

References

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

Mears, B. (2012, Jan 11). Supreme Court backs eyewitness identification with 8-1 ruling. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/11/us/scotus-identification/

Spoto, M. (2011, March 28). Camden manslaughter case has N.J. Supreme Court questioning reliability of witness identifications. Retrieved from http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/03/manslaughter_case_brings_i.html

The Causes of Wrongful Conviction. (n.d.) The Innocence Project. Retrieved from http://www.innocenceproject.org/causes-wrongful-conviction

 

 

Midlands vs Joaquin: Seen it all Before… Wait, Not Like This!

Hurricane Joaquin

Top-down processing is also known as conceptually-driven processing, given that an individual’s perceptions are influenced by expectations, existing beliefs, and cognitions.  In some instances people are aware of these influences, but in other occurrences this process occurs without conscious awareness.  On 2 OCT 2015, I believe that I, along with the majority of the people of Columbia South Carolina were not consciously aware of the top-down processing that we possessed; which influence the perception that we had in regards to believing that Hurricane Joaquin would not have an impact on the Midlands…

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division was paying close attention to Hurricane Joaquin, and as a result of the storm’s projected movement, key agencies in South Carolina government had been notified to be ready to respond if the need arose. http://www.wistv.com

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the forecasts from the National Hurricane Center. We are preparing for the possibility that this storm could affect South Carolina, we’re asking residents to do the same.”  http://www.wistv.com

As hurricane Joaquin approached the East Coast, many “Midlands” residents received all the weather reports and warnings.  The storm’s path was meteorologically mapped, constantly updated, and broadcast just as with all other hurricanes and tropical storms that preceded Joaquin.  The city of Columbia certainly understood the possibilities of what could happen from natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding; however, for the residents of Columbia, South Carolina, that understanding was based off of previous knowledge of hurricanes such as Katrina; which wreaked havoc and caused major flooding throughout the state of Louisiana in 2005.  Or even other hurricanes which were seemingly destined to make landfall and relentlessly travel across the “Lowcountry”, such as Hurricane Hugo; which severely inflicted damage to Charleston, SC and the neighboring city to Columbia, Sumter, in 1989.  Also, Hurricane Jeanne in 2004 and Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 caused major flooding in South Carolina, but ironically, not in Columbia.  So over the years, the people of Columbia’s understanding of these types of natural disaster somehow did not apply to the city of Columbia itself since the perception was that even though natural disasters had threatened the city in the past, some even threatened a direct impact, all the storms previously amounted to no more than dark clouds and heavy rainfall; which quickly passed through without major concern or destruction.

Hugo_track2thumb   allison_2001_thumbnailjeanne_2004_thumbnail

Despite having prior knowledge of hurricanes and flooding, Top-Down Processing hindered the ability of the Columbia, SC residents to perceive such devastation for this particular environment.  Patterns of previous storms in the city, and the faint aftermath of their existence had apparently caused a perceptual set, or bias towards anything of the sort occurring in the capitol city; which limited the expectations and beliefs:

We haven’t seen this level of rain in the Lowcountry in 1,000 years. That’s how big this is,” Gov. Nikki Haley said at a press conference Sunday afternoon. “That’s what South Carolina is dealing with right now. The Congaree River is at its highest level since 1936.” http://www.nydailynews.com

Though the warnings were given, the dark clouds quickly rolled in, and the rain poured down, what the residents of Columbia (to include myself) visualized and perceived was simply another heavy rainfall that would quickly pass. With that perception of this particular environment, obviously, not many prepared for the devastation that occurred on 3 OCT 2015.  Hours into the day, the rain poured in and major roadways were starting to flood.  Well into the next day the rain was still pouring in, and vehicles, homes, and apartments were flooded.  Residents were being rescued from their flooding vehicles, airlift rescues were being conducted for residents stuck on the rooftops of their homes, several dams were broken within the city, major roadways and bridges were washed out, and businesses were now under water.  Days later after the rain stopped, all potable water systems and electric power to the city were out.  Hurricane Joaquin had taken 9 lives, and had relentlessly inflicted unimaginable havoc and loss in the city of Columbia.  As of today, though power and water has been restored, the city is still in the recovery stage of restoring roadways, businesses, homes, and supplementing the financial needs of those who have lost everything and are still living in “temporary shelters.”

As previously mentioned, a determination was made about the storm unconsciously, just as with unconscious inference.  The theory of unconscious inference includes the likelihood principle, which states that we perceive the object that is most likely to have caused the pattern of stimuli we have received. (Cognitive Psychology, E. Bruce Goldstein, 3rd Ed.)   Thus, it was inferred that the dark clouds and heavy rain was simply a rain storm that would soon pass because of experiences we have had with similar situations in the past.  As stated in the text, Helmholtz describes the process of perception as being similar to the process involved in solving a problem. As explained, for perception, the problem is to determine which object has caused a particular pattern of stimulation, and this problem is solved by a process in which the observer applies his or her knowledge of the environment in order to infer what the object might be. (Cognitive Psychology, E. Bruce Golstein, 3rd Ed.)

As the clouds and rain were identified, this process was unconscious, hence the term unconscious inference.

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