Archive for the ‘Attention’ Category

Pay Attention! Divided Attention Impairs Memory Processes

December 12th, 2017 No comments

Have you ever been certain a friend said something when they’re certain that they didn’t? How about remembering it completely differently from how they actually said it? If you have, chances are you had a false memory! Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. False memories occur when we remember events that didn’t happen or remember them very differently from how they actually happened (Schacter, 1999). Although it may be unsettling to hear, false memories are very common and hard to detect. As far as you’re concerned, these don’t seem like false memories at all! False memories can be very similar in nature to true memories, which makes them all the more difficult to distinguish. Psychologists interested in memory often study false memories to learn more about the underlying processes that drive memory.

Cognitive psychologists have developed a few different methods of inducing false memories. Perhaps the most reliable and widely used is the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM; Roediger & McDermott, 1995) paradigm. In this paradigm, participants are presented with lists of words that are semantically associated, or related by meaning. For example, the words beach and ocean are semantically associated because people typically have strong connections between the ocean and the beach. After studying these words, participants take a memory test in which they have to decide whether they studied certain words or not. The DRM uses these types of associates to create false memories for words that are never presented, but are highly related to the words that are. One typical DRM list includes words such as banner, American, symbol, stars, and anthem, all of which converge upon the word flag. In this case, the word flag is called the critical lure. After studying this list of words, participants frequently remember seeing flag, even though it was never presented, because it is highly related to the words on the presented list.

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Let me google that for you

May 11th, 2017 1 comment

Everyone loves Google, right? All the information you could possibly ever want access to is right at your fingertips – quite literally – with search engines carried around in our pockets. Is Google making us smarter? It should, right? I mean it does provide us with an almost infinite amount of information. Well, here is where things get interesting. Recent studies have introduced a new concept known as The Google Effect, in which we are actually seeing some cognitive deficits caused by our dependency on Google and other search engines.

It is quite counterintuitive that these tools, which provide us with any information we want in just a matter of seconds, would actually hurt and not help our brain’s functioning ability. I know this is confusing, but let me put this into a real-life context that you might relate to a little more. 

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The Sixth (not so good) Sense: Always Expecting the Best, Always Getting the Worst

May 11th, 2017 No comments

Have you ever found yourself hoping for a positive outcome but instead, you end up experiencing the worst possible outcome? For example, you have endlessly searched and finally found the perfect shampoo to combat your excessive dandruff when all of a sudden, the company decides to discontinue the product. Or when you finally have the confidence to exchange phone numbers with your all-time crush and you call but not only did they give you a wrong number, it is a rejection hotline number. Even those times when you finally make a doctor’s appointment for that 3 week long pain you have endured and when you arrive, you feel as brand new as you have ever felt before. Reflecting on these instances make us wonder why expecting a certain outcome can result in, not only the opposite outcome, but also the worst one. Furthermore, the real question is why? Why does it feel as if the worst always happens? It almost feels as if we wished upon the bad. Read more…

What do Ostriches and Finance Have in Common?

May 7th, 2017 3 comments

In college it is hard to save money. With the costs of textbooks, late night pizza, and online shopping, I know my bank account is looking a little scary. Often times I find myself avoiding looking at my bank app because I’m afraid to see what my bank statement is, but on payday it is the first thing that I check. Why is that?

This tendency – to avoid checking financial standings when we know that they could be bad – is known as “the ostrich effect,” and is defined as the tendency for people to ignore their problems with the hopes that they will just disappear, similarly to how an ostrich hides their head in the sand when they are hiding from danger, and this tendency is not seen only in broke college students.

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You will remember this post. Why? Because it is weird!

April 20th, 2017 3 comments

Did you notice that you are actually very good at remembering weird things? You may not remember every single person who walks a dog on your way home because it’s just normal. However, if you see a dog walking a dog, you are very unlikely to forget the dogs. Why? Because they are weird! As you may expect, research supports that people do remember “weird” things better than normal things.

Von Restorff (1933) demonstrated that people are more likely to remember a distinctive item in a list of homogeneous items than in a list of heterogeneous items (e.g., an orange in a bunch of bananas vs. an orange in a bunch of different fruit). This is called the Von Restorff effect or the isolation effect.


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Why Students of Politics Should Leave The Colby Hill: The Confirmation Bias

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

On Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Although his supporters were excited and triumphant, many students at Colby College and other campuses across America were left shell-shocked. Students at Ivy League colleges – and those at Ivy League wannabees – seemed especially devastated and stunned. The website The College Fix reported numerous scenarios that suggested that students had expected a completely different outcome. Students at Columbia “came running, screaming, and crying to College Walk at 1 a.m.”, and insisted that exams be postponed so they could recover from the ordeal of Trump’s win. Over at Cornell, a completely bewildered student wandered around campus mid-election screaming, “How the f*** is he winning? What the f***?” At Yale, campus organizers actually organized a post-election group primal scream so students could “express their frustration productively.” Even at Penn, Trump’s alma mater, as it appeared likely that Trump would win the election, a student described a “miserable and most depressing scene.” How could some of the supposedly smartest students in America, schooled on the most elite of college campuses be so befuddled? What happened? Were they really so stupid, or had they perhaps been dumbed-down by their rarefied environment and media predictions based on misleading polls? To read more about misleading polls, click here. The answer can be found in a better understanding of the way the brain selects information from the environment, assesses it for accuracy, and reconciles it with pre-existing beliefs.

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T-E-A-M GO TEAM: The Cheerleader Effect

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

Middle School Man…

In middle school I hated the popular girls because they were so damn pretty. Have you ever hated a group of people because they were good looking? Maybe you thought that a team was automatically attractive without seeing every member? If so then you, like middle-school-me, have fallen victim to the Cheerleader Effect. Read more…

Under Budget and Over Time: The Planning Fallacy is Why You’re Always Behind Schedule

April 17th, 2017 8 comments

You are a busy college student who has a lot to do after a long day of classes. So you decide to try to organize your life and make a detailed schedule for your evening. You set aside an hour to get that workout in, and then another generous hour for dinner with your friends. Then to the library, you give yourself 45 minutes to read a history article and an hour to finish your lab report, followed

Evening Schedule

by an hour and a half for that chapter of chemistry notes. If all goes as planned, you’ll be back in your room snuggled up with Netflix by 11pm. The problem is, halfway through that chemistry chapter, you glance at your phone and it reads 11:43pm. What happened? You planned out everything you had to do and thought you had given yourself enough time to do it. Unfortunately, you have fallen victim to the planning fallacy. Read more…

Why Have I Seen so Many Dogs Today… and Other Affects of the Attentional Bias

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

Have you ever experienced that feeling where you’re in a bad mood and everything seems to be going wrong that day? Maybe all of your friends seem mad at you, or maybe you do something embarrassing like trip, and you feel like everybody is making fun of you.  These are basic examples of the phenomenon that cognitive psychologists call the attentional bias.  This describes the tendency for you to focus on certain pictures, objects, facial expressions, or other stimuli in your environment based on what is dominating your thoughts.  This means that someone who is very interested in dogs and reads a lot of information about them, or looks at pictures of them online all the time, will tend to focus more on dogs in their environment.

Cute dogs

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Pleasure from your pain: how the empathy bias makes us kinda shitty people

April 17th, 2017 9 comments

Notice the girl wearing a white sweater in the background smiling as she walks by? Her reaction could be a perfect example of the empathy bias. (

Remember in high school when there was that clique (or whatever the boy-version of a clique would be called) that you absolutely loved to hate and got a sense of personal pleasure when something went wrong for a member of the group? For example, when the fourteen-year-old you watched that annoyingly pretty girl drop her lunch in the cafeteria all over her side-kick best friend, you laughed and felt a swell of happiness. I might not be able to claim that you’re not still a slightly shitty person for feeling that way, but cognitive psychology research may have some reasoning behind those feelings and it’s called the empathy bias.

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