Welcome to the CogBlog

January 16th, 2013 No comments

The CogBlog is created and maintained by research assistants working in the Memory and Language Lab and students enrolled in courses in cognitive psychology and memory at Colby College. The CogBlog is a space to think about and discuss recent research findings in cognitive psychology, with an emphasis on how basic research in cognition can help us understand how we navigate through our everyday lives, how we learn and remember, how we speak and listen.

The CogBlog was recently cited as one of the top psychology blogs of 2017.  You can also read an interview with Professor Jen Coane about how the blog was developed and how the content is generated.

 

 

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Rule #1: Always Travel in a Pack, Rule #2: Pick the Friends You Go Out with Wisely

April 30th, 2018 6 comments

 

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/why-do-girls-travel-in-packs

Have you ever been out with friends when a squad of girls walks in, and, although you hate to admit it, they look so good that they catch everyone in the room’s eye? Fortunately, as jealous as they might make you, and as much as you might want to look like them, there is a cognitive bias tricking your brain into making them seem more attractive. If you have had a similar experience to this one, you, my friend, have been fooled by a common cognitive bias known as The Cheerleader Effect.

 

 

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“Want to try something new?””Nah, let’s just go to McDonald’s.” — How mere exposure affect decision making.

April 27th, 2018 3 comments

Imagine you start to feel hungry when you walk on the street while traveling in Florida. You see a McDonald’s and another local fast-food restaurant, “Hook” on the side of the street. Which one would you choose to go?

“Hook” (hooksfishnchicken.com)

McDonald’s(US Pirg)

Well, the choice of the majority would be McDonald’s. But why is this the case? They are all fast-food restaurants. Is it because McDonald’s is tastier? Or does McDonald’s often have a better price? Not necessarily. Hook, the restaurant that you’ve probably never heard of, could just as well be cheaper and tastier. Yet, your familiarity with McDonald’s prompts you to steer your vehicle into the drive-thru lane. Our tendency to prefer familiar things is referred to as the “mere exposure effect”.

 

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Elude the Illusion: Understand The Illusion of Validity So You Don’t Fall Victim To This Common Decision Making Bias

April 27th, 2018 2 comments

The illusion of validity will often cause people to make risky bets on a roulette wheel

Have you ever placed a bet that a certain number will appear on dice or a roulette wheel? Maybe a number has come up repeatedly so you assume that there is less of a chance that this number will appear in the next roll or spin, even though every number has an equal probability of coming up. Many people fall victim to this bias and end up losing money at casinos. This phenomenon can be explained by the illusion of validity. Defined as a person’s tendency to overestimate their accuracy in making predictions given a set of data, the illusion of validity is one common source of bias in decision making (Einhorn, 1978).

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“I Swear It Happened!” But It Never Did…

April 27th, 2018 2 comments

Image 1- Ok, Gerard… 

Has someone ever told you a tale that made you think, “That just can’t be true!”. Well, you may be right. Here’s the thing, you may fondly remember your eighth birthday party at a local barn with a bunch of cute animals. You and your friends rode the horses, brushed the horses, and you even remember feeding the horses straight from your hand. Oh, and the cake! Your mother ordered a special strawberry shortcake for your birthday party. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day, and you remember that party like it was yesterday. But the even more important thing is, none of this really happened.

In reality, you have never ridden a horse in your life and you are allergic to strawberries… Even when a childhood friend of yours gently reminds you that that never really happened, you still firmly believe (and can even remember specific details!) that your eighth birthday party happened exactly that way (Pederson, 2018). Your friend softly says to you, “You have created a confabulation”, to which you respond, “I’ve created a WHAT?!”

Image 2– Maybe… 

Confabulation is a memory disturbance that results in people reporting memories of events in their own personal history that actually never happened. Confabulations can take the form of small inaccuracies, such as simply filling in gaps in one’s memory with false details, or they can be large events, such as the horseback riding birthday party described earlier. Regardless of the magnitude of the memory, it is difficult to convince the person that their “memories” are false.

It is sometimes difficult to identify a confabulation because the person reporting the memory could seem very convincing and in touch with reality, but really the story is untrue (Shingaki et al., 2016). People who confabulate confidently describe imagined scenarios and present them as being completely true (Pederson, 2018). Another difficulty in identifying a confabulation is that a person’s autobiographical memory is generally quite difficult to study because if we did not experience the event with the person telling the story, then we can never really know if it actually happened or not. Even if we can’t thoroughly study someone’s episodic history, we can at least know that the person who experiences these confabulations is not purposefully deceiving you with inaccurate information. In fact, they wholeheartedly believe that what they are saying is the truth (Nall, 2017).
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Is there truth to the Hot-Hand Fallacy?

April 27th, 2018 2 comments

Have you ever been playing a game of basketball with friends and then you make a shot, and then you make the next one? Did your confidence suddenly go up, despite the fact that the chances of you making the shot again are exactly the same as they were before? You, my friend, have just fallen victim to the hot hand fallacy.  The hot hand fallacy is the belief that because a person has had a successful experience with one event they will be able to reproduce the same event with success again or vice versa where if they miss they are more likely to miss again. The hot hand fallacy has been accepted by the psychology community as a cognitive illusion. A mistake in processing and in pattern recognition, but what if the hot-hand fallacy is not a fallacy at all?

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How reliable was that awesome memory anyways? False memories and how they happen.

April 27th, 2018 3 comments

Have your friends ever enthusiastically asked you if you remembered that time they hit that home run in the bottom of the 9th or told that killer joke in class? Chances are once they’re done describing the event you can totally remember it as well and even remember how much you cheered or how you couldn’t stop laughing. The event feels so real to you now and you can’t believe how you didn’t immediately remember it before, but even though you both remember it so vividly that’s no guarantee that it happened the way you remember.

Do you remember the time you went to college? Do you really?

Hold on one second though, there’s no way your friend didn’t hit that home run to win your baseball game; you can clearly remember how happy you were and how the whole team stormed the plate to congratulate him. This is a great example of a false memory. A false memory is simply a memory that did not actually happen, or happened in a way very differently than remembered. Our memories are not nearly as a accurate as we make them out to be, and unfortunately it is far too easy to misremember an event, or remember something that never happened in this first place.

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Its Official: Mind Reading is a Joke!

April 26th, 2018 No comments

Imagine you are visiting your friend at another college for an event. Because you got into a lot of traffic, you have to go to directly there and meet your friend. All you know is that it is some sort of celebration towards success, and, thinking it’s semi-casual,  you go with your skirt, t-shirt and sneaker look. Once you get there, you realize everybody is dressed up in formal dresses and blazers. You feel embarrassed about your look and feel that everybody is aware of that. You feel that everyone can see how awkward and uncomfortable you feel. In your case you have just experienced the Illusion of Transparency effect: the tendency for people to overestimate the extent to which their inner thoughts, feelings, and attitudes ‘leak out’ and are seen by others. You thought everybody was reading your mind, but in reality they probably never even noticed you were there.
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Do you trust Google more than yourself?

April 26th, 2018 2 comments

Are you using Google to answer all your questions?

Have you ever been asked a question that you do not know the answer to and you responded, “I don’t. I’ll just Google it”? If you said yes, like the overwhelming majority of people with internet access, your brain has already adjusted to work in synergy with technology. When you rely on the internet for information, it can negatively affect your memory, especially in exams or interviews, where technology isn’t available. An example of such negative influence can be seen in my own personal experience. I was preparing for an internship interview and I wrote on my application that I had background knowledge in the stock market. I panicked as I headed into the interview and tried to look up the company’s current stock and how their business was doing. In the interview itself, I word vomited and spewed out miscellaneous facts and numbers. After my display of panic, the interviewer asked me, “So…what does that mean for our company?” This demonstrates the reliance on Google (or the internet in general!), to gather information, but the inability to process, comprehend and retain the information. This lack of understanding and remembering is called the Google effect. In other words, we look up the information and find it on the internet, but when we try to recall the information, we can only remember the website or where it was located, but cannot remember the content or its significance.
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Take off the rose-tinted glasses: Rosy retrospection and the fallibility of memory

April 26th, 2018 8 comments

If you’ve ever binge-watched The Office, you probably remember the moment in the series finale when Andy Bernard reflects on his days at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Thinking back on his past – on the friends he made and the fun times he had – he says, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” Is he right? At the moment he said it, was Andy living in the “good old days?” Why will he be able to think back on that moment as if it were the “good old days” if he can’t see it right now? Five years from now, will we be looking back on 2018 like it was the “good old days?” Cognitive psychology has an answer: yes.

Allow me to explain: we often tend to remember and recollect past events in a more favorable light than when they actually occur. This is called rosy retrospection – have you ever heard of the idiom “to see through rose-tinted glasses?” It refers to the tendency to see something in a positive light, often better than it actually is. This memory bias applies to all of us – and it explains why we often recall the past much more fondly than the present. More generally, rosy retrospection represents one example of the way memory is not as accurate or reliable as we would like to believe. Memory is surprisingly fallible.
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“Uh sir, pay attention. You’re next-in-line.”

April 26th, 2018 2 comments

Sharing aloud in groups can be a stressful and anxiety-provoking situation. Picture a college classroom, the anticipation of your turn to speak. Your voice is finally going to be heard. “Let’s not mess this up,” you think to yourself. Imagine yourself present in this moment. How much of

what Kevin was just saying on your right could you remember if you were asked to do so? Probably not a lot, and you are not alone. You are not likely to remember the responses of the people who speak right before you do. This is referred to as the next-in-line effect. This effect has implications any time that you are in a group situation in which you are asked to publicly perform.

Attention!

The next-in-line effect was discovered when Malcom Brenner (1973) performed an experiment in which a group of participants read words aloud while trying to remember as many as possible. After each participant read aloud a practice card, they performed four trials. Recall was worst for the words immediately preceding the words that they had read aloud, also called pre-performance items. In conclusion, the next-in-line effect refers specifically to less recall of that precede reading an item aloud to a group when compared to recall of other items read.

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