Author Archives: Mahra Alshamsi

Decision Making


Decision Making

Chinese or American for lunch? Grab a taxi or ride a bike? Engineering or medicine? Through our life, we face many questions to decide on.We choose actions and form opinions with our mental processes which are influenced by biases,reason,emotions,memories and culture.Decision making or what our textbook calls it “Choosing among alternatives” is an everyday process that we go through whether we are conscious of it or not.In this blog post, I’ll be talking about how people make judgments that involve choices between different courses of action and factors that influence decision making.


When decisions are made two properties are put in mind: benefits and costs.This makes an individual choose the right decision that would benefit him and not harm him.However,I believe that people have different styles and ways of making decisions.For example,when it comes to my family my husband is always the one who give me the choices and make me decide at the beginning of our marriage and after a while, I told him can you stop letting me decide because it’s sometimes very tiring.What he replied made me think twice as he told me that its hard for him to decide as he would be overthinking and creating all different scenarios and sometimes it’s indifferent to him whether we choose A or B so this makes it much more difficult.This made me think that some people always like to set decisions and they would easily do it while others may find it hard.This difference in decision making leads us to our next paragraph which is the factors that affect decision making.

Several factors influence decision making.Some of these factors are past experiences,cognitive biases, and individual differences.Also,the types of decisions could affect our choices as we handle political decisions,personal decisions,medical decisions,romantic decisions and financial decisions differently than day to day decisions like what to wear or what to eat today.Some choices are simple and seem straight forward, while others are complex and require a multi-step approach to making the decisions.

Past experiences can affect how we decide in the future as it could encourage us on deciding the same way or avoid repeating past mistakes.Furthermore, as I said that cognitive biases influence our decisions as it changes our thinking patterns based on observation and generalization.This leads the individual to over rely on expected observations and previous knowledge while dismissing the uncertain information.Finally,individual differences such as age,Socioeconomic status (SES) and cognitive abilities may influence decision making.Older people may be overconfident in making decisions.

Furthermore,emotions play a major role in decision making in several ways.Expected emotions are what we predict we will feel after a particular outcome.Whereas Immediate emotions are emotions that are experienced at the time of decision.Integral immediate emotions are emotions  associated with the act of making a decision.Incidental immediate emotions that are unrelated to the decision.For example,Expected emotions are when I predict how I will feel when I will graduate with a masters degree.Immediate emotions would be when I decide on continuing my studies and taking a masters degree.Integral immediate emotions would be deciding whether I take a masters degree or not.Lastly Incidental immediate emotions  would be a fight with mom earlier in the day.

As a conclusion, decision making is an important area of research in cognitive psychology. Understanding the process by which individuals make decisions is important to understanding the decisions they make.There is yet a lot of research to be conducted on decision making, which will enable psychologists and educators to positively influence the lives of many.

Visual perception




I would sometimes look at the clouds and imagine faces or animals. Also, I would find faces in landscapes,food or even man-made objects…..this experience always made me feel clueless. I didn’t know what I am experiencing or why I am imagining this. While reading my Cognitive Psychology textbook I came across a demonstration about finding faces in landscapes which reminded me of my past experiences. Searching more about this topic I came across the term “Face Pareidolia” which is the illusory perception of non-existent faces. I believe most people have never heard about it but nearly everyone has experienced it. According to the World English Dictionary Pareidolia is defined as “the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist.”(BBC, 2013)
Furthermore, Gestalt Law of perception explains how humans have the cognitive tendency to combine isolated, simple ideas and stimuli into meaningful and complex configurations. Gestalt describes in details five laws of perception which are continuity, closure, proximity, similarity and simplicity. Each type looks at a different side of our organizational perception. Continuity perception is when we perceive objects that seem to have a relationship to each other as being continuous. Closure describes our tendency to look for unity in objects and to see lines as a single unit so we tend to fill in details. Proximity indicates our tendency to group together close items in a meaningful way. Law of similarity suggests that similar things tend to appear grouped together. Finally, a law of simplicity or Pragnanz explains how objects in the environment are seen in a way that makes them appear as simple as possible. This cognitive ability is considered a survival technique that our brain uses to automatically seek sensible wholes out of random context.



BBC (2013, May 31). Pareidolia: Why we see faces in hills, the moon and toasties. BBC Magazine. Retrieved from

Gestalt challenge. Retrieved July 12, 2016, from

Goldstein, B. E. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research and everyday experience with Coglab manual (3rd ed.). United States: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Mirror Neurons


Mirror neurons

Mirror neurons are one of the most important discoveries in the last decade of neuroscience.As we know that the brain consists of 100 billion neurons which are the nerve cells that makes us who we are (Mastin,2009). These neurons communicate electrically to provide us with any cognitive task.I will be talking specifically about mirror neurons which are “A cortical network of areas that enables individuals to understand the meaning of actions performed by others through the activation of internal representations.” (Acharya et al.,2012) When you see a stranger injured you immediately feel pain and hurt, or you see a person crying when facing a loss of a family member suddenly you feel sad and depressed. This ability to instinctively and immediately understand what other people are going through is where mirror neurons are introduced by neuroscientists.

The Experiment behind Mirror neurons is done by the scientist Gales when he observed the premotor cortex of the monkeys and found out that a number of neurons respond both when a monkey performed a goal-oriented task,and when the monkey watched another (human or monkey) perform that task.This lead to the evolution of mirror neurons and neuroscientist tried to base this on the human brain.Regarding humans mirror neurons plays several roles as it appears to allow us to determine other people’s intentions as well as their actions. For example, one area of the mirror neuron system exhibits greater activation in our brains when we observe someone picking up a cup to have a drink than when we watch the same person picking it up to clear it from a table (Mullen,2010).

Moreover, mirror neurons have a huge role in empathy which I found very interesting and it was this topic about empathy that made get to write about mirror neurons.As empathy is the feeling that I get the most and sometimes it could make me forget about myself and focus on other’s problems and issues which I believe is not always right.As I found that Mirror neurons contribute to understanding other’s emotions and sensations which is empathy (Lacaboni,2009). It makes us feel what other’s are going through as if it was our own emotions which emphasize how we are social human beings and we get our positivity and energy from interactions and communicating with the others In fact, “It seems we’re wired to see other people as similar to us, rather than different,” Gallese says. “At the root, as humans, we identify the person we’re facing as someone like ourselves” (Gallese,1998).

Furthermore,studies have found that people with autism—a disorder characterized, in part, by problems during social interactions—appear to have a dysfunctional mirror neuron system. The more severe the symptoms of autism, the less active the mirror neuron system seems to be. Studies have demonstrated that children with autism have difficulties understanding the intention of others on the basis of the action they observe. In order to decide what others are doing, they rely on object meaning or the context in which the action is performed (Williams, et al., 2001).

Finally, it seems clear that mirror neurons are one key to understanding how human beings survive and thrive in a complex social world, says neuroscientist Vittorio Gallese, MD, Ph.D., one of Rizzolatti’s colleagues at the University of Parma.Mirror neurons are in fact still a very new finding in biological psychology and needs more studies and experiments to further understand its capabilities.






Mastin, L. (2010). Neurons & synapses – memory & the brain – the human memory. Retrieved June 28, 2016, from

Gallese, V., & Goldman, A. (1998). Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind-reading. Trends in cognitive sciences, 2(12), 493-501.

Sinigaglia, C., & Rizzolatti, G. (2011). Through the looking glass: self and others. Consciousness and cognition, 20(1), 64-74.

Iacoboni, M. (2009). Imitation, empathy, and mirror neurons. Annual review of psychology, 60, 653-670.


Miall, R. C. (2003). Connecting mirror neurons and forward models. Neuroreport, 14(17), 2135-2137.

Williams, J. H., Whiten, A., Suddendorf, T., & Perrett, D. I. (2001). Imitation, mirror neurons and autism. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 25(4), 287-295.