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

November 26th, 2019 1 comment

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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“I totally nailed it and I am pretty sure I did better than most people”- The Pitfall of Overconfidence

November 26th, 2019 No comments

Have you ever been disappointed by your exam score when you thought you actually did pretty well on it? Or have you ever overestimated how sufficiently you have prepared for a test and panicked as you read through the actual exam and find questions more difficult than expected? If you have had these experiences, you have been a victim of overconfidence effect.

Although we hardly realize such errors or often feel reluctant to admit them, we are all familiar with the mismatch between self-evaluation and actual outcomes. This phenomenon is called the overconfidence effect, a cognitive bias that occurs when people inaccurately evaluate their own performance as above average or higher in accuracy or quality than it actually is.

Overestimation of Capacity                    [https://advanced-hindsight.com/blog/b-e-dogs-overconfidence/]

People have faith in their erroneous self-evaluation about a variety of targets, including but not limited to application of factual knowledge, as in a college exam scenario. Psychologists have found that people tend to position themselves above others when assessing their own capacity. Overplacement is explicit not only in self-estimation about skills like safe driving but also in self-positioning within a community when participants see themselves as more popular and sociable than their friends (Svenson, 1981; Zuckerman & Jost, 2001).     Read more…

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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Let me google that for you

May 11th, 2017 3 comments

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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Handwashing, Heliocentrism, and Global Warming: To Reject or Accept?

April 17th, 2017 4 comments

How often do you wash your hands? The Center for Disease Control recommends hand washing in numerous scenarios, such as before, during, and after preparing food, before and after tending to someone who is sick, before and after treating a wound, after going to the bathroom, after touching animals, and the list goes on. Now I know it might seem a little ridiculous to wash your hands as often as it is recommended, but I am crossing my fingers that you at least understand why it is necessary. One of the first things we teach our children is to always wash their hands, and how to do so effectively (such as washing for the duration of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”… twice). If you don’t believe me when I say hand washing is deep-seated in our modern society, just look at the 3.1 billion dollar market for hand soaps (Nielsen 2016). I, for one, certainly get overwhelmed when I walk down the aisle at my local Target and have to choose between the exhaustive collection of soaps with which I can lather up. And if I don’t find any soap I like then I can make my way over to the various types of hand sanitizers nearby. We can credit Ignaz Semmelweis and his microbial discoveries for the normalization of hand washing in our culture, but can you imagine a world where we didn’t wash our hands? And even stranger – can you imagine rejecting the science behind it? 
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You’ll still probably have to Google what the Google effect is later on, even if you read this now

April 17th, 2017 2 comments

http://www.medicaldaily.com/smartphones-tablets-and-tvs-all-screen-time-hurting-your-mind-and-body-335808

Imagine you encounter a time traveler who recently arrived in the present day from a couple hundred years ago. What would he or she be most impressed by in this day and age? Would it be the skyscrapers and developed roadways? The drastic decrease in the amount of untouched nature? The amount of leisure time and luxuries people have today compared to back then? No; perhaps the most amazing breakthrough that distinguishes today from a few centuries ago, though it is seemingly taken for granted by most who use it, is the phenomenon of us having almost all the information we could possibly need contained in a small box in our pockets. The ability to search the plethora of knowledge that is the internet at any time and any place allows us to access any information we want within seconds. Gone are the archaic days in which we needed to flip through countless books looking for a single quote or memorize facts that may or may not be useful in the future. So, why would we bother taking up space in our memory with such knowledge when we could simply remember where to find it? Read more…

Categories: Education, Memory Tags:

Nature: The Natural Adderall

e9cab5788e12f4abd64a03a1739df4e2By Erin, Michaela, & McKayla

 

Having a hard time paying attention? Can’t remember all the definitions? Finals at Colby are no walk in the park. Exam week requires a lot of focused attention in order to study, write 15 page papers, and sit down for three-hour examinations. We all have gotten to that point where we feel like we can’t focus or direct our attention anymore. Research has shown that this happens when we overuse the brain’s inhibitory attention mechanisms and can no longer inhibit distractions (Kaplan, 1995). The person walking into the library, the pen tapping on the desk, the music coming from down the hall, all prevent us from maintaining focus on the task at hand. We have all suffered from directed attention fatigue. But what if a walk in the park could actually restore this fatigue and give you an edge academically? Read more…

Categories: Attention, Education, Memory Tags: ,

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…

Is a picture worth one thousand MORE words?

November 23rd, 2015 No comments

Ever notice the diagrams in your textbook? Or the visuals in your professor’s slides? Or maybe the pictures in an instruction manual to construct furniture? It seems that professionals have caught onto the idea that pictures are beneficial to learning and understanding content. Whether is comes to providing information in a presentation, deciding how to best visualize data for a report, or giving directions for a task, it obvious that visual content provides some benefit in absorbing information that is not attainable through simple text. I am going to walk your through when visuals are most helpful, when they aren’t, and how to best include visuals in your own work. Read more…

Is your favorite music distracting you?

November 23rd, 2015 2 comments

Do you listen to music while you do assigned homework? Do you listen to music while you study? Do you listen to music while you are reading for class? If you are a college student I would assume that you said yes to at least one of these questions. As college student, when I am in the library or any public study space I often see the majority of my peers with headphones in while doing their work. Whether or not they are all just trying to avoid talking to me, I will never know, but I usually assume that there is some sort of sound or music coming from the headphones. Often people’s reasoning for doing this is because they want to “tune out” all of the distractions and conversations happening around them. Furthermore, if they are “tuning out” all of the distracting sounds around them then they think they are successfully staying focused and internalizing whatever material they are working on.

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Categories: Attention, Education, Memory Tags: