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Archive for the ‘Attention’ Category

You Should Be Paying Attention(al) to this Bias 

November 26th, 2019 2 comments

Putting all of your attentional resources towards studying!

You rush into a library late on a rainy night, toting all your calculus notes with you. In just a few days, you have the biggest exam of the semester, and you know you have to do well to keep up your grades. As you walk in, you are greeted by an extensive number of stimuli, the warmth of the library, the smell of coffee floating through the air, the sound of pages rustling. You head to your favorite spot in the cubicle section of the library, pull your books out of your backpack, and get ready to start studying for your exam. Before you do though, you take a quick look at the people around you. You notice a person in a bright red rain jacket about 20 feet away from you, sitting on a chair reading a book. You also notice a group of students huddled around a table, and a man in a suit typing away on his laptop. But that’s enough of observing people, you are here to work on calculus! You really immerse yourself in the math, reading your textbook, reviewing notes, and solving problems in your notebook. You check the clock on the wall every once in a while and after a solid hour and a half of intense studying, you decide to take a break. You feel proud of what you’ve accomplished and decide to go to the next door cafe to get yourself a treat. As you stand up you scan the environment around you – to your surprise, you don’t see the group of students, the businessman, or the woman in the bright red raincoat. Instead there are new people around you that you don’t recognize – How did this happen? You weren’t asleep and you didn’t leave your spot in the library, yet you didn’t notice people leave or enter the space. This is an example of attentional bias, which causes people to pay attention to certain things while ignoring other stimuli. In this example, your attention was directed to the task at hand – so much so that attention was not paid to your surroundings.

Now, imagine you are in a classroom where a professor is going through a lecture with slides. You start to zone out, thinking about something completely unrelated to the class, while staring at the floor. You snap back to reality, look at the slides, and don’t recognize what your professor is talking about. Despite being in the closed classroom without distractions, you can’t remember what your professor was talking about, or what the past couple slides covered. This once again is attentional bias allowing you to ignore certain stimuli in your environment.

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Face it, You are Not THAT Important: The Spotlight Effect

November 26th, 2019 4 comments

www.pinterest.com Have you ever eaten alone in your college dining hall?

Now picture this: You walk into the dining hall alone, and you realize that most of the seats are already occupied by those sports teams, girls’ squads, and study groups… Everyone seems to be around with a bunch of people, except for you. You walk into this situation as if you break the “harmony”, and you feel like that everyone is staring at you or even secretly laughing at you — “Oh, she/he eats alone? Pathetic!” “Poor thing.” … But in reality, no one is actually watching you. They may not even notice that someone just came in. This also occurs in other scenarios: when you answered a question wrong in your class, when you had a bad hair, or when you got a zit on your nose tip, etc. If you find these situations familiar, please don’t worry! You are not pathetic, and you do not look ugly (or at least not that ugly, for sure) — You’ve just run into the Spotlight Effect! Read more…

The Real Reason Why Freshmen are Always Early and Seniors are Always Late to School

November 26th, 2019 2 comments

The First Day of Freshman Year

Imagine it is the morning before the first day of your freshman year of high school. You have only visited your new school once before for orientation so the drive there is unfamiliar.  After getting dressed and eating your breakfast, you determine that you need to leave by 7:20am to get to school by 7:50am.  As planned, you get in the car at 7:20am and drive to school. The drive seems to take forever but somehow you manage to get to school ten minutes earlier than you had originally planned.  Embarrassed by how early you are, you ask your Mom if she can wait in the parking lot until it is socially acceptable to arrive at school.  She agrees and finds a spot to park.  You recline your seat all the way hoping that no one will see you through the car window.  While you wait, you wonder why you got to school so early.

Fast forward to the morning before the first day of your senior year of high school.  Now that you are a senior, you drive yourself to school.  The route to school is no longer new and unfamiliar.  Sometimes you wonder if you could drive there with your eyes closed.  After getting dressed and eating breakfast, you determine you need to leave by 7:35am to get to school by 7:50am.  The drive seems to fly by but somehow you manage to pull in to the parking lot at 7:55 am.  With only five minutes to spare instead of ten minutes, you sprint from the parking lot to class. As you slide into your seat just as the bell rings, you wonder why you got to school so late.

The First Day of Senior Year

The real reason you find yourself waiting in the parking lot on the first day of freshman year and racing to class on the first day of senior year is because of the well-travelled road effect. The well-travelled road  effect makes traveling unfamiliar routes seem longer and traveling familiar routes seem shorter.  The drive to school on the first day of your freshman year felt longer because it was unfamiliar while the drive to school on the first day of school of your senior year felt shorter because it was familiar.  This difference in perceived duration is caused by how your attention is allocated (Avni-Babad & Ritov, 2003). Read more…

Read this a FEW times… I Promise You’ll like it: The Mere Exposure Effect At Work

November 26th, 2019 1 comment

Why do you really like your favorite song?

     When Party in the USA comes at a party, there is nothing stopping me. I know every word, every beat, and every guitar strum to that song. The energy in the room is wild, and I can confidently say that everyone is enjoying themselves, maybe not as much as I am, but nonetheless, enjoying themselves. I mean, what else can you expect from a 2009 banger that has been played on repeat since its debiew on Disney Channel? But what happens when the kid on AUX, switches to one of his soundcloud mystery raps that no one knows? I find myself enjoying the time much less, and everyone seemingly starts to mingle instead of dance. Why would Party in the USA have better success at a party over a new soundcloud rap? Cognitive psychology and the mere exposure effect can explain this.

     The mere exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon where people tend to like and prefer things better that they are exposed to more often (Pieter Van Dessel, Gaëtan Mertens, Colin Tucker Smith, & Jan De Houwer). People are more likely to be in favor of certain things that they have repeated exposure to and are more familiar with, even if they are unaware of it. This can explain why Party in the USA is such a hit at parties compared to the soundcloud rap. It is simply because the song has been heard so many times and everyone is so familiar with it. The mere exposure effect is used by artists having their songs played over and over again on the radio for people to like it better, by brands in their constant advertising to make you want to buy a product more, and can even explain why you like the person that sits next to you in two classes every day over somebody else. Reflecting on this phenomenon, it is easy to see why this can be true. In general, we do not like to go to unfamiliar places, spend time with unfamiliar people or put ourselves in unfamiliar situations. The comfort of familiarity drives us to be in the same places, same type of situations and hang out with the same people, and the more often we do it, the more we prefer it. Investigating the mere exposure effect can tell us why familiarity is so important to how we judge something and make us realize how influential it can really be in our lives. So how does it really work?  Read more…

“Ohhh, ‘Cue!'”: Cue-Dependent Forgetting and Study Techniques

November 26th, 2019 2 comments

Picture yourself in a classroom taking a history quiz. You don’t consider yourself a history buff of course, but you feel as if you studied well enough. You breeze through the questions, until you come across one that stumps you a bit: “Which U.S. President served the shortest term?”. You have to know this, of course, because you remember looking over it yesterday. The weight of familiarity is killing you, as you rack your brain and sort through the order of United States Presidents you thought you had memorized. When you studied, you paired the President’s last names along with common words that sounded similar–Lincoln and Linkedin, Kennedy and candy– you thought you pretty much had it down. Your heart thumps as you begin to look around the room, hoping something will strike your memory and soon your attention is drawn to how weird your teacher’s hair looks today. Hair, hair, Harrison! Suddenly you have it, William Henry Harrison was the President that served the shortest term.

Try putting down those cue cards and seeing how much you remember. https://i1.wp.com/boingboing.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/wally_feresten.jpg?fit=952%2C713&ssl=1

This scenario describes a cognitive psychology term called “cue-dependent forgetting” where a person is unable to remember information in the absence of a memory cue (Chandler and Gargano, 1995). A retrieval cue in this case is something that signals or prompts the memory of something that you associated with it (Chandler and Gargano, 1995). In the previously described scenario, the retrieval cues were the common words that sounded similar to the President’s names. This is why, when the retrieval cue for Harrison (“hair”), was forgotten, you were unable to answer the question. Pairing items as a form of studying may seem like an efficient way to quickly memorize material, but as seen in the example, it isn’t always reliable. Why does cue-dependent forgetting happen? And are there ways to prevent it from having a negative effect on test performance? These questions can be understood with a quick summary of how memory works.

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Don’t worry, you can Google this blog after you’ve read it

November 26th, 2019 2 comments

Do you know the capital of Indonesia? Or who the 11th President of the United States was? Perhaps, instead, you could tell me what arachibutyrophobia is?

pretend edward cullen GIF

Don’t know something? Well…

No? Well, that’s okay. I mean, what’s the point of knowing stuff like geography or US history when you have all that information at the tips of your fingers? Maybe you won’t place first in your school’s trivia contest or apply to be on Jeopardy, but who cares, you can just Google it!

A long, long time ago, searching for information wasn’t so easy. People had to look through encyclopedias, dictionaries, and maps (ugh, can you imagine?) to figure out information that these days, we can find within seconds. Thanks to the previous work of dozens of brilliant scientists, the world was forever changed with Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web. What is fascinating is that in just the short amount of time that the Internet has been available, the human mind has already begun to develop and work in synergy with this technology. One of the most prevalent ways in which we see this is the Google effect. That’s right, an important cognitive bias was actually named after the world’s most popular search engine – and for good reason!

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The empathy gap: how walking a mile in someone else’s shoes (and in your own shoes) is harder than it seems

November 26th, 2019 1 comment

You’d never do this… right? Source: ballmemes.com

Growing up you are often told to exercise empathy and compassion by ‘walking a mile in someone else’s shoes’. However, what if I were to ask you, for example, if you’ve ever had a friend, usually super strict about only having safe sex, who told you about her last hookup, where in the heat of the moment decided to have unprotected sex. Did you judge that friend for being irresponsible even when that exact same thing happened to you a month ago? What if that same friend had told you this when you yourself had minutes ago just done the same thing? Do you think you would have had the same reaction?

Happen often? Source: me.me

What if I now asked you to walk a mile in your own shoes. For example, have you ever gone grocery shopping with the intention of only buying what was on your list but ended up buying five million other things that you, in hindsight, after eating, never actually needed? Were you famished while doing the grocery shopping? Has this happened to you more than once? When repeated did you expect a different outcome from the last time you shopped while hungry?

If you answered yes to these questions then you most probably have fallen victim to the empathy gap. Read more…

Don’t Worry, Your New Friend Isn’t Actually Following You

November 25th, 2019 2 comments

Imagine you are a college student at a party on a Saturday night. A friend introduces you to a guy that you have never met before; in fact, you have never even seen him before. The next day, you see the guy you just met in the dining hall, and then again later that afternoon in the library. Over the next few weeks, you start to feel like you see this guy everywhere you go on campus. This is called the frequency illusion. You may think that you are seeing him more often, but this is a distortion of reality and likely false.

When you meet a new person on campus and then you start seeing them all the time.

So, why are you feeling this way? It’s due to the frequency illusion, which is a cognitive bias that describes our tendency to notice something we have recently been introduced to much more often than we remember in the past. You may begin to notice the boy from the party more often, even though you do not recall ever seeing him before. The two major cognitive aspects of the frequency illusion are confirmation bias and selective attention (Zwicky, 2006). Confirmation bias occurs when people actively seek ways to confirm their original beliefs, while selective attention refers to our ability to focus on a particular stimulus while in the presence of multiple stimuli. Since attention is a limited resource, we are not able to attend to all of the stimuli that may be present in our environment. We need to recognize which is the most relevant, and dedicate our attentional resources to that stimulus. The two combine to create the frequency illusion; from the example above, now that you have met this guy, you choose to pay attention to him when you encounter him on campus (selective attention). Once you see him around a few times, you believe that he is everywhere and start to look for ways to confirm this belief (confirmation bias).  Read more…

Get Ready…You’re Next.

November 24th, 2019 No comments

“When will I get to speak” – Instead of attending to Mr. Know-It-All, they wait in anticipation for their turn to speak next.

Imagine that you are in class and your teacher has split the class into multiple groups, assigning each group different chapters of your reading to summarize for the class. In your group, you collectively brainstorm with your other group members about chapter four and write down the main topics and themes that pop up throughout your discussion. When your teacher signals that it’s time for each group to share what they talked about, all your group members assign you to be the spokesperson since you have jotted down some general notes. “Yeah, sure. It’s no big deal,” you think to yourself. “It’s not a formal presentation or anything, I just have to summarize what we talked about.” The group’s spokesperson for chapter one goes first, followed by the group’s spokesperson for chapter two and then chapter three. As it nears your turn, you start to think about how to present a clear and concise summary to the class as your classmates have just done. All of a sudden, you’re up next, so you stand up and tell the class about the main topics your group discussed. When you sit back down, the group for chapter five begins to share, but you look back over your notes making sure you did not forget to include anything important. At the end of class, your teacher gives a mini quiz about the chapters the class just summarized, and you realize that you can’t really remember anything from the presentations on chapter three or five. What happened? You were subject to the next-in-line effect.

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Its Official: Mind Reading is a Joke!

April 26th, 2018 No comments

Photo by Dorothy Thomas (https://dorothyjoseph.com)

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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