Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Baker/Baker Paradox

I struggle with my memory. It has been a key factor for me in many areas of my life. I am singer and when I am on stage there are many things to remember, the first would be the song lyrics. There are many things happening simultaneously while performing and if your nerves get the best of you, as they do me, the lyrics will disappear quickly and what kind of performer forgets their lyrics? It has also plagued me in my capacity for learning. I have always struggled with tests my whole life. I have an amazing brain and I know that I have strong processing skills and yet when it comes to test time, I freeze up, I cannot recall anything that I spent hours and hours trying to absorb. Chapters five and six on short term and long-term memory really hit home for me. I understand the process of sensory memory to short term memory to long-term memory back to short term memory, and still the experience eludes me.

In the process of doing research for this blog, I stumbled on a Ted Talk titled feats of memory anyone can do by Joshua Foer. In this 20-minute video he explains how people for centuries have been using these very fine tuned techniques to expand their capacity for memorizing almost anything. He calls it the memory palace. He begins his talk with asking the audience to close theirs eyes as he describes the most ludicrous images to everyone.  These images include cookie monster, a talking tan horse, Brittney spears singing along with Dorothy and the tin man all in your living room. These images provoke certain memories that help anchor the bits of information that you are working to retain he explains.

He went on to explain that once upon a time people invested in their memory and their minds. We have become a society that now outsources our memories with technology, smart phones, and computers. It seems we have forgotten how to remember. In researching how people who were memory champions seemed to be able to retain so much information in very short periods of time, these researchers concluded that the part of the brain that uses spatial memory and navigation was being used and stimulated.  They titled it elaborative encoding and the trick is to associate something that is very familiar to something you are trying to remember that may be mundane. They call it the Baker/Baker paradox.  The name baker may mean nothing to you and has no real meaning that would make it unique to all of the other information that is swirling round in your cognition, but if you tell someone the man is a baker, you begin to associate things that go along with a baker; good food, a large white hat, little anchors that will help navigate your Nero pathways in order to recall the memory.

This is an art form that some people have mastered and they have found a system of taking words and content that have no meaning to them at all and associating meaning to the content in order to stimulate cognition. I am very interested in this technique and it seems that a good memory is also a sign of intelligence. So what I have come away with is that great memories are learned. They create a mindfulness that is present and that draws meaning into what is being observed and remembered. This is great news for me, because there may be hope for my memory yet.



Filmed Feb 2012 • TEDTalk2012

Where and What Matters when Studying for a Test

The other day, my 16 year old daughter, Olivia, came home excited to share with me that she was the only student in her History class to pass a difficult test. Normally, I don’t hear about the results of her tests. In fact, she hates it if I ask her about school at all, assuming that my curiosity is actually a way of “trying to get in her business” or “accusing her of not keeping up with her school work”. But when she received a poor grade on a test a couple of weeks earlier, she suddenly became interested in some of the study tips I have been learning in my cognitive psychology class. Over a Route 66 Pharmacy Hot Fudge Sundae, we recalled her study habits before the poorly graded test and compared them to some of the research in my text book, Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience, by Bruce Goldstein. One particular strategy that caught her attention was the idea of matching her learning conditions to her testing conditions, based on the principles of encoding specificity and state-dependent learning.

Olivia likes to study at a big desk in our kitchen. There is lots of table space and she often listens to music while she studies. On the day of her test, she sat at a small desk in a quiet classroom. According to the principle of encoding specificity, we “encode information along with its context” (Goldstein, 2011, p.184). This means, when we learn something new, our brains not only encode the new information but information about the environment we are in as well. So, the theory is, if you study for a test in an environment similar or the same as the environment that you will be in while taking the test, you will increase your ability of remembering the information that you learned. Sound a bit unreal? We thought so too, except that research results have supported this theory (Goldstein, 2011).

In the text book, Goldstein (2011) describes a well known study performed by D.R Godden and Alan Baddeley in 1975. In a nutshell, they divided their participants into two groups and had one group learn a list of words on land while the other group learned the list of words wearing scuba gear underwater. Then they placed participants from both groups in each environment and asked them to recall the list of words they learned. The results showed that the participants who were in the same environment as when they were learning the words, recalled more words than those who were tested in a different environment (Goldstein, 2011).

The concept of state dependent learning is similar to encoding specificity, except that it pertains to the state a person is in when encoding and retrieving information. Olivia recalled that when she was studying for the poorly graded test she was very frustrated and annoyed because of an argument she had with her boyfriend. However, when she took the test, she was happy and energized because she had just finished taking her dance class. According to state dependent learning, she would have been able to retrieve more of the information she learned if she was frustrated and annoyed. Once again, it sounds a bit unreal, right? But just like encoding specificity, Goldstein (2011) presented research that supports this theory, such as  Eric Eich and Janet Metcalfe’s 1989 “mood” experiment. In this experiment, participants learned words while in a happy or depressed mood. Two days later, the participants did an exercise to put them in the same or opposite mood they were in while learning the words, then they were tested. Those who were in the same mood recalled more words than those who were in the opposite mood (Goldstein, 2011).

After learning about encoding specificity and state-dependent learning, Olivia decided to study for her History test during her free periods at school. This allowed her to learn the information for the test in the same environment as she would be in when taking the test. Because her History class is always after her dance class, she also made a point to get her heart rate up and to put herself in a happy mood by dancing or exercising to music she likes for fifteen minutes before studying. As mentioned, her efforts appeared to work because she did very well on her History test. Of course, one must include other study habits that may have influenced Olivia’s test results, such as her note taking  during a lecture and time spent reading or talking about the material. However, the results of Olivia’s efforts to match her learning conditions to her test conditions, along with results of formal research, proves that it is a technique worth considering when studying for your next exam at school, at work or maybe even at a game show!


 Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Matching conditions of encoding and retrieval. In Cognitive psychology: Mind, research and everyday experience (3rd ed., pp. 183-186). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Where Am I Going Again?

Every 3 months, I drive my son to his doctor appointment. The first time I used direction that I printed from the Google map. Easy. The second time I figured that I could easily remember how to get there…not so easy. There were no multiple turns or freeway driving, so I tried to remember without the directions. I had to call to find my way there. I felt like an idiot. The third time I thought for sure I can find it, again couldn’t remember where to turn. It has been one and a half years now and just last Saturday was the first time I could remember my exact route. I have a good memory for most other things but for some reason, not for this particular memory (PSU Campus, 2014).

This would be an example of memory shifting from sensory to short-term to it’s final resting place in my long-term memory. My problem was that because I didn’t frequent this particular route on a daily basis, there was no rehearsal. So as soon as we left the appointment, I didn’t think about these driving directions again for 3 months.

Modal model of memory, or also known as the Atkinson-Shiffrin (1968), model of memory, explains that there are 3 different systems that memory passes through sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Each system has a limited amount of time that a memory is held, except for long-term.

Sensory memory is the earliest stage of memory. In this stage, sensory information from the environment is stored for a very brief period of time, generally for no longer than a half to 5 seconds. We only pay attention to certain aspects of this sensory memory, allowing some of this information to pass into the next stage, short-term memory (PSU Campus, 2014).

Short-term memory (working memory), also known as active memory, is the second stage according to Atkinson-Shiffrin (1968). It is the information we are currently aware of or thinking about. Paying attention to sensory memories or rehearsal of particular information generates that information in short-term memory. Most of the information stored in active memory will be kept for approximately 15 to 30 seconds. While many of our short-term memories are quickly forgotten, attending to this information allows it to continue on the next stage, long-term memory (PSU Campus, 2014).

In long-term memory, there is a limitless amount of storage for information. This information is largely outside of our awareness, but can be called into working memory to be used when needed. Some of this information is sometimes easy to recall, while other memories are could be more difficult to access (PSU Campus, 2014).

In all, our memory is an amazing system filled with many memories, thoughts, and to-do lists. How we choose to recall certain information depends largely on how we perceive it, file, and store it. So when driving to a destination that you will need to remember at a later time, pay visual attention to where things are and what the street sign say. That way, you’ll never (hopefully) get lost.


Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2014, 2 17). Lesson 06. Retrieved 3 14, 2014, from PSYCH 256 Introduction to Cognitive Psycholoy:

Painful Memories?

I recently read a blog written by an obstetric nurse about research done in regards done in regards to how a woman’s child birth experience related to her memory of how bad the pain was.  The original study was published in the March 2009 issue of BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  It reported that for about 50% of women who have given birth, their memories of the intensity of labor decrease over a period of time.  Some women report the memory of pain does not seem to diminish and for a small amount of women, their memory of the pain actually increased over time.

I remember my own birth experience when I had my son 12+ years ago.  The pregnancy was difficult, labor was 36 hours long and harder than I had imagined it might be, and delivery was torturous until I was finally put to sleep and the baby was taken by caesarian section.

I can recall every part of those awful couple of days.  I swore I would never have another child because I just didn’t think I could stand the pain again.  I didn’t want to go through it.  Could this study be right?  Sounds like I’m making up the pain because of a horrible birth experience?

I can honestly say, “childbirth amnesia” (another term I came across while reading) applies to me for sure.  12 years later, a divorce and feeling too old to have more children,  I would do all of it again for another child.  I’d endure the pain.  I’d endure the long sweltering hours in the closet sized hospital room,  I’d let them put me to sleep and miss my baby’s first cry, I’d agree to another c-section and the many weeks of recovery and now a distorted body, all to have another baby.

I thought I’d be one that would remember the pain forever.  I thought it would be the constant reminder that I just couldn’t deal with it all again.  But, I can and would.

Our memories are amazing things.  We can choose to remember certain things.  We can suppress memories and remember them later.  Our mind can choose to forget the things that will hurt us.  Our memories are even variable as to how we feel and remember pain.  I’m in awe.

Labor and Delivery Nurse, Melissa. “Study Finds That Memory of Labor Pain Is Influenced By A Woman’s Childbirth Experience.” Nursing Birth., 30 Mar. 2009. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. <>.

Did you see that?

Inattentional blindness is an effect that happens when you focus your attention one thing and fail to notice other things right in front of you. Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris created a film that demonstrated inattentional blindness. They filmed two teams, one team passing a basketball to each other and the other team not handling the ball. They used the film in an experiment where they had observers focus their attention on counting how many times the ball was passed. During the film a person in a gorilla suit walked through the scene which almost half of the observers missed.

After reading about inattentional blindness I automatically thought about subliminal messages and if they really work. There are many claims about subliminal messages particularly about how they are used to influence people’s behaviors. My curiosity about this subject lead me to question my instructor, Dr. Wede. I asked him, when considering inattentional blindness, does subliminal messages really work? He responded by telling me ” There is evidence in isolated types of studies where subliminal presentation can affect reaction times and certain types of basic memory tasks. But there is no evidence suggesting that subliminal messages affect more complex behaviors (like buying choice, language learning, dieting, quitting smoking or any other number of products that claim to use subliminal messages to change your behavior).”

Based on the information I read about inattentional blindness and the information I received from Dr. Wede, I don’t think subliminal messages work. For example, hidden pictures or messages used in advertising.





Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience, 3rd Edition.Wadsworth, Inc.

Dementia and Memory

According to the text, memory can be defined as a process that involves retaining, retrieving, and using information about stimuli, events, images, ideas and skills after the original information is not present (Goldstein, 2011). Furthermore, working memory refers to a brain function that temporarily stores and manipulates information necessary for cognitive tasks such as language, learning, and reasoning (Baddeley). Memory is very important to life, in general. The brain allows people to encode, store, and retrieve information that’s occurred in past and present time. Although our memory is very important, it is a function of our brain that is not eternal. Many situations can interfere with retaining, retrieving, and using information such as accidents, alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. For the past two years, I have had the privilege of helping an elderly couple with chores around the house and the wife was previously diagnosed with dementia. Unfortunately, I have been able to observe her deteriorating mobility, inability to make decisions and completing normal daily tasks.

Dementia is an overall name for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. People with dementia may be unable to complete normal, everyday tasks such as getting dressed and eating which I have been able to see on a firsthand basis. Although memory loss is a common symptom of dementia, other symptoms include the inability to solve problems, control emotions, and have serious problems with two or more brain functions (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke).

As I have conducted research, dementia affects several functions of the brain. For example, the temporal lobe of the brain is involved in object and face recognition and damage to the temporal lobe can result in memory deficit (PSU, 2014). As of now, I believe the elderly woman still recognizes who I am. I have not had a feeling of her being uncomfortable or scared around me. I feel these will be determining factors to her inability to recognize faces. After comparing the affects of dementia to the commentary information, I have concluded that that damage to the temporal lobe contributes to the symptom of memory loss. To add, the overall localization of function that contributes to dementia appears to be the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe consists of three separate regions. The motor cortex directs voluntary movements and fine motor control and the pre-motor cortex pertains to planning these movements (PSU, 2014). Considering I have been helping the couple for two years, I have been able to visual see how the woman simply cannot move much. She needs help getting out of her chair and she is unable to feed herself. Lastly, the pre-frontal cortex involves executive functioning which includes planning, making decisions, creating and using strategies, and inhibiting inappropriate behaviors (PSU, 2014). The main executives functioning present are planning and decision making. Overall, someone with dementia is insufficient to make decision for themselves due to the deterioration of their brain function(s).

Dementia is only one disease that can affect one’s memory and overall well-being. It is also important to note dementia does not come with old age and in fact, another diseases or medical condition like multiple sclerosis can cause dementia. Sadly, dementia is not preventable but there are ways of reducing the risks of dementia like quit smoking and controlling high blood pressure. It’s become very important to me how valuable memory is. I can relate both the mind and memory together because I feel these are two brain functions we take for granted. Although these medical are not preventable, there are many ways to reduce the risks of developing these debilitating conditions.

Baddeley, A. (1992). Working memory. Science, 255(5044), 556-559.

Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience, 3rd Edition.Wadsworth, Inc.

Pennsylvania State University (2014). Introduction to Cognitive Psychology Commentary. Lesson 2: Cognitive Neuroscience.

Elaborative Rehearsal: How to Impress Your Significant Other

During a long drive home with my husband, we were listening to Capital Public Radio, as we do wherever we can pick up the signal. Max is a musician who teaches fundamentals at a community college, and he also has a passion for world music. I have been lucky enough to experience a wide range of music since we have met- everything from Spanish classical guitar, to Tuvan throat singing.  On this particular day, a specific interview piqued his interest. A young Israeli musician had discovered old recordings of his famous grandfather and decided to cover them for a more contemporary audience. This musician would be performing at SXSW and was excited to bring sounds of the world to the festival.

“Write down his name!” Max said with excitement. He was driving and was excited to be hearing something that was fresh to his ears and to his liking.

“Don’t worry, I won’t forget his name.” I said confidently.

Without knowing, I have been exercising Craick & Lockhart’s (1972) Levels of Processing model of memory for many years. For example, when I memorized my license plate number I grouped the letters and numbers into chunks that resembled funny words, and I haven’t forgotten it since!

The name of the singer is Dudu Tassa and one of his albums is called Dudu Tassa & The Kuwaitis. I decided to break this information into individual pieces that could form an interesting visual image in my brain. I mean no disrespect, but ‘Dudu’ wasn’t difficult when searching for something to associate it to. Next, Tassa sounds like the name of one of my favorite bloggers whose name is Taza. Finally, I am great at geography and I knew exactly where Kuwait was on the map. In less than 30 seconds, I was able to successfully match new information to items that I had an understanding of (a visual of a world map), held comical significance (bathroom humor), or were personal to me (a favorite blogger who I follow daily). Our drive continued and as we listened to other interviews and programs, Dudu Tassa left our short-term memory.

The next evening we were in our car again driving to dinner. Max was reminded of the interview we had heard the day before and looked to me for answers. The pressure was on! My brain lit up with the visual I had developed and I responded successfully: “Dudu Tassa & The Kuwaitis.” Amazed by my cognitive strength, Max said, “I don’t know how you do it.”

I finally understand how we can all exercise a more efficient way of transferring information from our STM to our LTM. Instead of practicing maintenance rehearsal, a method I have depended on more than I like to admit, elaborative rehearsal serves each individual and helps build a base for greater understanding.  Phaf & Wolters (1993) state that when comparing elaborative rehearsal to maintenance rehearsal, the elaborative approach focuses on the relations and context clues that relate to the item in question. Alternatively, habituation wears away at these variables when practicing maintenance rehearsal. I look forward to using my newfound knowledge in other areas besides impressing my husband, but that doesn’t make life bad either!


Craik, F. I., & Lockhart, R. S. (1972). Levels of processing: A framework for memory research. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11(6), 671-684.

doi: 10.1016/S0022-5371(72)80001-X.

Phaf, R. H., & Wolters, G. (1993). Attentional Shifts in Maintenance Rehearsal. The American Journal of Psychology, 106(3), 353-382.

doi: 10.2307/1423182

Public Radio International. (2014). An Israeli rocker sets a modern groove to his Iraqi grandfather’s Arabic music. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from

Dementia and Music Therapy by Ashishpal Singh

Dementia and Music Therapy

                Dementia is a devastating ailment that continues to challenge its sufferers, caregivers and the healthcare system.  In his editorial piece Music Therapy for Dementia, SangNam Ahn writes, “Dementia is defined as loss in short- and long-term memory, associated with impairment in abstract thinking and judgment…and in some cases, personality change” (Ahn). I work as a nurse’s aide in the ICU at a local hospital and have often times had to manage patients suffering from this devastating disease. There is no cure and treatment usually just involves pharmacotherapy that is targeted at treating symptoms and often leaves patients with undesirable side effects that severely affect quality of life. However, I recently stumbled onto a discussion on Democracy Now about a documentary entitled “Alive Inside” that follows social worker Dan Cohen around as he creates personalized iPod playlists for patients who suffer from Dementia at a nursing home facility.


The results certainly shook me to tears.  Some of the examples include Denise, a patient who was using a walker every day for two years, but when introduced to the music of her past, she pushes her walker away, grabs Cohen and begins dancing. Another subject is Henry, a gentleman who has suffered from dementia for a decade and subsequently, rarely spoke to anyone. Most days he would remain mute and assume his usual seating position with his head buried in his hands. However, soon after the music from his younger years was introduced to him, he suddenly becomes animated, his eyes open wide and he begins to sing and dance in his wheelchair. The effects also continue to linger after the headphones are taken off. Henry, who suffers from dysphasia (difficulty speaking) and has great difficulty answering the simplest of “yes or no” questions becomes quiet voluble and articulate.  Cohen states in the video, “Even though Alzheimer’s and various forms of dementia will ravage many parts of the brain, long-term memory of music from when one was young remains very often. So if you tap that, you really get that kind of awakening response. It’s pretty exciting to see” (Cohen).  Alzheimer’s and patients who suffer from other forms of Dementia often cling onto memories of the past and generally have a sound long term memory.  Although this is usually most effective with patients with lesser forms of dementia, music can open these individuals up to discuss places, people and events from their past.  This form of therapy can activate areas of the brain that seem otherwise inaccessible.

I have gone as far to present the studies from this documentary to my nursing supervisor in hopes to implementing it into patient care plans on the unit. Our unit is often frequented by elderly psych patients, and I suggested that we speak with family members regarding what type of music these individuals enjoyed during the course of their life and use that information to construct personalized playlists. The proposal is still in the process of being approved, but I am curious to see it implemented and the results, if any, they will bring. I will keep those who are interested updated on the process.


Halpern, A. R. (2012). DEMENTIA AND MUSIC: CHALLENGES AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS. Music Perception, 29(5), 543-545. Retrieved from

Ahn, Sangnam, and Sato Ashida. “Music Therapy for Dementia.” Maturitas 71.1 (2012): 6-7. Print.

“Alive Inside: How the Magic of Music Proves Therapeutic for Patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.” Democracy Now! N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. <>.

Feeling Neglected


What do you notice about the pictures below?

Drawing of scene

( )

Obviously, the “copies” of the original drawings are incomplete.  More specifically, they are missing their left halves.  This is an effect of a condition called contralateral neglect, which is a result of damages/lesions to the right parietal lobe (Wede, 2014).  Victims of this condition unconsciously neglect the world to their left.  This lack of attention spans from drawings like the ones above, to bathing only one side of the body, eating only half of a plate of food, and brushing only one side of teeth within the mouth (Wede, 2014).



Aside from receiving sensory information such as touch and temperature, the parietal lobe is responsible for visual tasks, such as mapping (Anon., 2014).  The visual/mapping skills pertain more so to the right parietal lobe, which is where contralateral neglect comes into play.  Along with visually mapping our surroundings, the parietal lobe also maps out our bodies (Freudenrich, Boyd, 2001).   It is this that allows us to know if something is touching us, an instant description of this something (sharp, hot, wet, etc), and most importantly in this case, where it is touching us.

When our brain cannot receive proper sensory information from the left side of the body, it is as if the left side does not exist; this leads contralateral neglect sufferers to behave as such, in ways like those relayed above (Anon., 2001).  To summarize an example given by British neurologist W. R. Brain, subjects now known to have suffered from contralateral neglect would frequently get lost in their own homes.  They would repeatedly make right turns throughout hallways, or choose to enter/exit doors only on their rights (Anon., 2001 [Brain, 1941]).  According to Brain’s research, some people can acknowledge the existence of the left sides of their bodies, while others live in denial of its existence due to lack of sensory “evidence.”

The following is a series of paintings done by stroke sufferer Anton Raederscheidt, who displayed neglect.  You can see the improvement in his spatial skills through his self-portraits over time (Anon., 2001).


Contralateral neglect deals not only with attentional processing, but also displays what we call localization of function, or how “specific functions are served by specific areas of the brain” (Goldstein, 29).  The fact that damage to a specific area (in this case, the right parietal lobe) causes consistent results (neglecting the left half of the world, no sensory information received from left half of body, poor mapping skills) demonstrates exactly what localization defines.  This condition also provides insight into how the brain processes the objects we attend to.  It has been acknowledged across a number of studies that many areas of the brain are involved with attentional processing, and “attentional processing enhances neural responses” (Wede, 2014).  Basically, even though visual information may be attended to by areas all over the brain, the right parietal lobe seems to be of extreme importance in this realm.

The right parietal lobe within the brain is responsible for receiving sensory information like touch, along with mapping out visual information we receive.  This mapping ability not only applies to our surroundings, but also to the different parts of our bodies.  When the right parietal lobe is damaged, our spatial and sensory knowledge becomes less accurate.  Known as contralateral neglect, this condition causes its victims to mind only the right side of the world, neglecting the left side of the body and surrounding area.  This bizarre condition provides evidence for localization of function within the brain, and gives us more interest in learning about the power and complexity which exists inside of our own bodies.



Anon. “Lesions of the Parietal Association Cortex: Deficits of Attention” NCBI 2001 < >

Anon. “Parietal Lobes” Centre for Neuro Skills 2014 <>

Wede, Joshua. “Physiological Underpinnings of Attentional Processing” Psych256: Introduction to Cognitive Psychology 2014     <>

Goldstein, Bruce E. Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2011, 2008.

Freudenrich, Ph.D., Craig, and Robynne Boyd.  “How Your Brain Works” 06 June 2001.  <>

Chunking Chess by Karen Rudd

No, I am not referring to throwing your chess pieces across the room when you get frustrated. Chunking refers to our ability to retain more information in our short term memory than originally thought. When George Miller wrote his seminal paper, “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information” he showed our short term memory can expand past 5-7 items by utilizing a process called “chunking”. Chunking is defined as, “a collection of elements that are strongly associated with one another but are weakly associated with elements in other chunks.” (Goldstein, 2011) It is how we group items into categories according to how they relate to each other semantically or perceptually. I believe the most important aspect of chunking is that it has to have meaning to the person who is trying to recall the information.

For a chess player, one of the most essential aspects of playing successfully is the ability to recognize patterns of piece arrangement on the board. This recognition happens only after thousands of hours of studying and playing at the chess board. This identification of configurations, or to put it in cognitive psychology terms, chunking, is an integral aspect of chess tactics. The ability to recognize a tactic, whether it is a pin or a skewer, is the main component which separates a chess master from a chess patzer. Most of us can push the pieces across the board in some meaningful way, but do we have the ability to recognize a smothered mate when it presents itself? I have found, most people do not, as they do not have the time it takes to devout to chess.

Adrian de Groot was the first to hypothesis about the ability of chess masters recognition of patterns of chess piece placement on the board. The masters were able to recognize the patterns, if they were ones they were familiar, after only a few seconds. If the chess masters were unfamiliar with the patterns, then their ability to retain the pattern in their memories were equivalent to a regular player.

Recently for my English class I wrote an ethnography which was based on chess players my local chess club. I was able to see firsthand how some of the grandmasters and international masters were able to pick out patterns which were familiar to them in order to defeat their opponent. Some patterns I recognized, though most I did not. It became clear to me quickly, who put in more time at the chess board than whom. The use of chunking in chess is an easy concept to understand, as the more you play the more patterns you recognize, and the more you recognize, the more significant the patterns become.



Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience. (3rd ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth.