Archive for the ‘Development’ Category

“It’s an acquired taste”: Beer and the Mere-Exposure Effect

April 17th, 2017 8 comments

I remember when I had my first beer…

It was vile.

Whether you’re sneaking one from the fridge in high school, playing pong during your first college weekend, or (rarely the case) enjoying your inaugural brew on the night of your 21st birthday, there is nothing too remarkable about this adult soda striking our taste buds for the first time. In fact, there is a pretty generic response: it simply does not taste good. As we drink more beer we begin to appreciate this canned goodness. This is not the alcohol talking. That first Natty light, a beverage I remember initially resembling a nauseating blend of pinto beans and carbonated water, took every muscle in our bodies to choke down. Now it has become nothing less than a fine pilsner: the most Natural of Light, some would say. Why?

It is pretty common knowledge that most of us do not like our first taste of beer!

Where and when does the transformation occur? How do we go from having a negative opinion about something to having a beer every night at dinner? The classic saying is that beer is an acquired taste, but the real work behind this acquisition is the mere-exposure effect. This psychological phenomenon explains why we learn to like things (in this case, malt beverages) as we encounter them more. According to the findings of psychological studies in the sixties, the more we are exposed to something, the more “likable” it becomes (Zajonc 1968). Read more…

Are Pictures Really Worth A Thousand Words? When It Comes to Memory They Are

April 16th, 2017 3 comments

Have you ever looked at the coverage map for a telecommunications company, like Verizon, and wondered why a company would choose to spend the money on a colored picture instead of just presenting the information in the paragraph? I mean, wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to just write it all out? Probably, but it wouldn’t be as effective.

Below is a paragraph that describes Verizon’s coverage in the U.S., and a corresponding image that displays the data. When the information is laid out in text, I bet that you, the consumer, would have a much harder time articulating and remembering the information. But by presenting the information in a picture (like that shown below), you can easily discern and remember the differences between the coverage of four telecommunication companies. Why would this be true? It has to do with the way that we encode, or initially learn, information. This is a perfect example of the picture superiority effect, the phenomenon in which people are better at remembering images than they are at remembering words (click here for a quick, fun video that explains this phenomenon).

“Among the four major wireless carriers, only Verizon’s 4G network is 100% 4G LTE the gold standard of wireless technology. Available in over 500 cities, Verizon 4G LTE covers almost 97% of the U.S. population. Experience the speed and power in more places.”–3G-speed-comparison_id53828

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What’s Outside Your Window?

May 8th, 2016 No comments

By Leah, Lynna, Aiya, & Hannah

It’s room draw time.

What dorm do I want to be in? Do I want a double? Or a suite? Do I want to be close to the library? The dining hall? Where are my friends living?

b8335f7a0be0c4169a4942f618734848Although all of these questions are valid, an important element of room selection often fails to be considered. You may or may not think about it that much, but the view from your window has important effects on you, particularly if you’re a mentally drained and stressed-out college student. You have to look through it every day, and know which direction it faces relative to the sun. You want to have the best view without worrying about strangers peering in. But besides these concerns, the specifics of your window should be at the top of your dorm priority list. Research shows that a view of nature from your window has immense benefits, including improved mood, replenished attention and cognitive functioning, and reduced stress.

One of the dominant theories explaining nature’s positive cognitive benefits is Attention Restoration Theory (ART; Kaplan, 1995). Sustained effortful attention reduces your ability to pay attention. Imagine, for example, the cognitive resources it takes to proofread a long essay, and how exhausted you feel afterwards. You might make more mistakes as time goes on and be in a more negative mood. ART suggests that these cognitive resources can be replenished by engaging with nature (Kaplan, 1995). Proofreading an essay requires effortful sustained focus. Nature is less demanding because it easily draws attention and allows resources for effortful attention to replenish. Read more…

Brain adaptations to stressful childhood environments

November 24th, 2015 No comments

Childhood_AdversityImagine a boy who grew up never knowing where his next meal would come from or when it would come. Now imagine a boy who had everything handed to him.

Who do you predict will have higher cognitive functioning, which consists of processes such as pattern recognition, memory, attention, and language? If you guessed the second boy, you are correct. Childhood adversity has been shown to negatively impact important cognitive functions, such as language development, sustained attention, and memory, which result in poor reading and math abilities, lower IQs and academic achievement (Fernald, Weber, Galasso & Ratsifandrihamanana, 2011). To figure out why this is the case, we must consider an important characteristic of our brains—their plasticity, or ability to change!

So, why is plasticity an important characteristic of our brains? What are the advantages of our cognitive functioning being susceptible to change? Adaptation! Adaptation got Mittal, Griskevicius, Simpson, Sung, and Young (2015) thinking about the universality of the negative impact on cognitive functions that childhood adversity has been shown to have. If the brains of those who grow up in stressful environments can be negatively affected by their experiences shouldn’t that mean that they could also be positively affected? The work of Mittal et al. (2015) tells us the answer!

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Can a Habit of Sleep Deprivation Have Permanent Consequences?

November 23rd, 2014 10 comments

Many people sacrifice sleep in order to finish that last little bit of work, but it turns out that you may be better off just going to sleep.  Few people realize the harmful effects of developing a habit of forgoing sleep.  A recent study conducted by Bawden, Oliveira, and Caramelli (2011) reveals that continued sleep deprivation can have an adverse effect on an individual’s executive functioning, attention, and memory.  Executive functioning is essentially an individual’s management system.  It is responsible for directing attention, planning, and regulating mental representations (an individual’s mental image of reality).  These functions are among the most important in carrying out daily life, and people that deprive their bodies of sufficient sleep may be cultivating a ticking time-bomb.



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Categories: Attention, Development, Memory Tags:

Do Deaf Children Lack Attentional Control? How Language may be the Answer

November 10th, 2014 3 comments

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Imagine being deaf. Do you think it would make it harder for you to pay attention to things? Make it easier to be impulsive? It is easy for many people to take for granted many of the things that they have in life. Especially some things as that are so seemingly common as a sense. However, for those people, such as deaf people, they know that there is much more to their struggle than it would appear. It is a common misconception that the only difference between those who are deaf and those who are not is the ability to hear. However, lacking the sense of hearing has far-reaching implications, some of which are still being discovered. One of these areas of implication is within the domain of attention. Attention is a fundamental cognitive ability in which one is able to select a particular stimulus from the environment and focus certain resources on it. For example, when one is in class there are many things happening all at once: other students are on their computers, maybe there is something happening outside the window, and/or your phone is ringing in your pocket. As a student, you are expected to block out all of these distractions and focus your attention onto the teacher, and, specifically, what the teacher is saying.

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Categories: Attention, Development, Language Tags:

Are you a Patriots or Giants fan? Transitive Reasoning Skills will help your first-born decipher which die-hard fan you are before Potty Training!

May 7th, 2014 2 comments

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We all pick “favorites” or have things that we prefer in our everyday lives. It may be chicken alfredo over marinara sauce at your favorite Italian restaurant, moose tracks ice cream over cookies and cream or the Patriots over the Giants. But – would you believe that an infant of only 16 months could understand and interpret YOUR preferences?

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Categories: Development Tags: ,

Effects of Divided Attention on False Memories: Good News for Children, Not So for Adults

May 3rd, 2014 2 comments

Memory is an indispensable tool in our everyday lives, yet it is not perfect. Sometimes our own memory systems fail us, we remember things that we have never seen or recall events that have never happened. Such memories are called false memories, which have served as the topic of a large body of psychology research. Studies on false memories usually use the DRM paradigm (Desse, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995). This paradigm requires participants to study lists of words that are related in meaning to each other and to a critical lure (CL) that do not appear in the lists. After that, participants take a memory test. Results show that people tend to remember or recall the CL as frequently as they do the studied words, and each time the CL is recalled is considered a false memory. Read more…

Parenting Tips: How Bilingualism Can Save You From the Terrible Twos

May 2nd, 2014 6 comments

Leash child


“Look at Mommy!” “Come with Daddy!” Kids in the terrible two’s and even three’s just don’t seem to listen. Their world appears to be full of distractions. One moment they are giving you their undivided attention as you ask them to sit still, the next they are waddling off as fast as possible in the crowded supermarket. Their attention seems almost hopelessly uncontrollable. They dart from one toy to the next, and eventually you wonder how on earth their teacher gets them to focus for even a minute in school. Is there any way to reduce the distractions of these problematic preschoolers? A cure is bilingualism. Being bilingual means that you have the ability to speak in two or even several languages. Now, I’m not saying popular children’s shows teaching simple phrases from another language, such as Dora the Explorer, may have the most influence on your child’s attentional control, but actually being fairly fluent in multiple languages has a positive effect on preschooler’s attention. Read more…

Exonerate the Innocent!

November 26th, 2013 6 comments

Many innocent people are wrongly convicted of crimes every year, and many of these wrongful convictions are due to a mistaken identification during eyewitness testimony. In many criminal investigations, eyewitness identification can be a deciding factor in the case. The Innocence Project (2012) has exonerated 289 people in the U.S. based on DNA evidence. About 75% of those wrongfully imprisoned were people mistakenly identified in a line-up. (To learn more about the Innocence Project, click here.) Surprisingly, recent data have shown that approximately a third of witnesses for line-ups are children younger than 16 years old. The data also show that about a third of these children under 16 are likely to make a false identification of an innocent person as the culprit. It goes without saying that there can be very serious and severe outcomes for people as a result of false identification. For these reasons, research on eyewitness testimony has become more important and prominent in recent times.  Read more…