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Archive for the ‘Pattern Recognition’ Category

A Stereotypical Blog Post

November 27th, 2020 No comments

During my sophomore year of high school, my once favorite teacher—Mrs. Kahler—shamelessly looked at me, smiled, and exclaimed, “You’re lucky! God taught you Jews how to handle money well! It’s in your blood.” At the time, I actually didn’t mind. I had heard my fair share of jokes about Jews and, perhaps naturally, something about me—be it my nose, financial status, or diet—always seemed to be the punchline. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but inform her that those “Jews are great with money” jokes aren’t funny—nor are they particularly accurate. Unfortunately, this experience is common. In fact, even Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has to deal with harmful, pejorative stereotypes. Most recently, Harris experienced these stereotypes from President Donald Trump himself, as he appeared to weaponize the classic trope of the ‘angry Black woman,’ labeling her “nasty,” “mad,” and “angry” after an impressive cross-examination of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Most recently, Harris faced public criticism following her debate against Vice President Mike Pence, after she faced repeated interruptions and simply attempted to keep the discussion fair by saying, “I’m speaking.”  Read more…

Brett Cohen? I Know Him. He’s Famous: Why Do We Recognize Unfamiliar “Celebrities” and Go Crazy for Them??

November 22nd, 2020 No comments

Hey You! (YES YOU!) Have you ever thought about being famous? Imagine when you are walking in the street, everybody goes crazy for you. They shout your name and ask for an autograph or a selfie with you. Woo, enjoy the fame and attention!

Have you ever dreamed of being FAMOUS? (Meme Generator)

Read more…

Toast and a side of Pareidolia all for the bargain price of $28,000!

November 19th, 2020 No comments

Imagine yourself on a chilly day cooking up a nice golden-brown grilled cheese sandwich. You go to take your first bite, when all of a sudden you see the Virgin Mary staring back at you imprinted in the char of the toast. This is how Diane Duyser started one of her days back in 1994, thinking that she had been blessed by the Virgin Mary because of this vague imagery on her toast. This grilled cheese sandwich ended up being sold for $28,000 because Duyser was able to market it as having mystical powers. However, mechanisms of cognitive psychology would reveal that the true power at work in this story is pareidolia.

Fig. 1: Diane Duyser and her famous piece of toast.

Pareidolia is the tendency to perceive an often meaningful entity in a random or ambiguous stimulus. I will be focusing on face pareidolia which is the most common form of pareidolia (Taubert, Wardle, Flessert, Leopold, & Ungerleider, 2017). Face Pareidolia can be specifically defined as seeing face-like features in everyday objects. Some additional examples of face pareidolia can be seen in figure 2 and figure 3 in the form of memes. (Here are 30 more examples!) Now that you’ve had a few laughs about these often hilarious faces, it is time to answer the question: how and why do we experience pareidolia?

Fig. 2: Pareidolia for someone with a broken heart.

Fig. 3: Donald Trump as a cardboard box?

In order to answer this question, we need to examine the processes of pattern recognition and face recognition. Pattern recognition is the process of constructing a mental representation and assigning meaning to it. Face recognition is a unique form of pattern recognition that uses a specific area in our brains called the right fusiform face area (rFFA) to selectively respond to face stimuli. Empirical evidence has shown that the rFFA not only activates when processing real faces, but also when processing instances of face pareidolia (Liu, Li, Feng, Li, Tian, & Lee, 2014). This means that we are able to see illusionary faces because we are applying the same perceptual processes we used to see real faces to see the illusionary faces. The perceptual processes that are facilitated by our rFFA is the interaction between our bottom-up information from our visual cortices and top-down signals from the prefrontal cortex (Liu, et al. 2014). Bottom-up information are the visuals we experience when looking at the illusionary face, like seeing the ovular hole in the cardboard box in figure 3. Top-down signals are the pieces of prior knowledge and context that can help inform us that an ovular hole can typically signify a mouth. This means that human face processing has a strong top-down component whereby sensory input with even the slightest suggestion of a face can result in the interpretation of a face (Liu, et al. 2014). In summary, we sometimes see illusionary faces in random objects because we are using the rFFA which recognizes faces at the slightest suggestion of their features.

Not only is the recognition of face pareidolia similar to how we recognize real faces, but evidence has shown that we process these illusionary faces at a deep social level. A study showed that we pay attention to the gaze direction of face pareidolia (Palmer, & Clifford, 2020). Gaze direction is key information for creating eye contact which is an essential social mechanism between humans. This means that face pareidolia is processed by sensory mechanisms in our visual system that have been developed to extract and encode specific social content from human faces. We know that the object does not have a mind, but we cannot help but see it as having social qualities (Palmer, & Clifford, 2020).

This leads me to my next point about why the brain feels the need to recognize faces so often. This tendency to detect faces in ambiguous visual information is perhaps highly adaptive given the supreme importance of faces in our social life and the high cost resulting from failure to detect a true face (Liu, et al. 2014). This reasoning is supported by a study that found that infants aged 10 months old experience pareidolia once they make the connection that the mouth is a sound source. Infants discover that faces convey primal information for our social life, like the sound we use to communicate, triggering them to try and recognize faces at the slightest suggestion of one leading to their first experiences with face pareidolia (Kato, & Mugitani, 2015). Pareidolia is not only reserved for humans. Other social animals have been shown to experience face pareidolia like the rhesus monkey. The ease with which both humans and rhesus monkeys perceive illusionary face structures in random objects highlights the biological advantage for social animals to preferentially detect faces in their environment (Taubert, et al. 2017).

In conclusion, we are able to experience pareidolia because we use our rFFA which uses the same perceptual processes to see the illusionary faces in random objects as the real faces we see everyday. The rFFA is geared to recognize faces at the slightest suggestion of a face meaning that this highly sensitive face detection system comes with the small cost of frequent false positives which are the times in which we can experience pareidolia. Furthermore, we have this urge to find faces because they convey primal information for our social life. So the next time you see a face where there isn’t one, you’ll know what your brain is doing and why.

References:

Kato, M., & Mugitani, R. (2015) Pareidolia in Infants. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0118539. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0118539

Liu, J., Li, J., Feng, L., Li, L., Tian, J., & Lee, K. (2014). Seeing Jesus in toast: neural and behavioral correlates of face pareidolia. Cortex, 53, 60-77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2014.01.013

Palmer, C. J., & Clifford, C. W. G. (2020). Face pareidolia recruits mechanisms for detecting human social attention. Psychological Science, 31(8), 1001–1012. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620924814

Taubert, J., Wardle, S. G., Flessert, M., Leopold, D. A., & Ungerleider, L. G. (2017). Face pareidolia in the rhesus monkey. Current Biology, 27(16), 2505-2509. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.06.075

It was him! He committed the crime! So I thought….

November 27th, 2019 5 comments

Imagine that you have witnessed a crime where a burglar broke into your neighbor’s home and committed assault on the people present in the home. As the burglar left your neighbor’s house, you catch a quick glimpse of the burglar’s face. You are brought in the following week to choose from a list of suspects who potentially committed the crime. You notice that the suspects are all the same race as the burglar from last week, and to you, these suspects all look the same. As you are examining all the suspects in the room, you believe that suspect #3 committed the crime; Suspect #3 is then taken into custody.

No one is safe from the cross race effect.

You leave the police station thinking that the person you identified was the criminal. Justice has been served to the burglar, and he will pay for his crimes. Without your help, the law enforcement would have never caught the criminal. Well, Surprise! The actual criminal was actually absent from the police station and was never taken in as a suspect. The person responsible for the crime is still out there somewhere roaming the streets as an innocent person How could this be? (If you want to try to see if you can beat the effect, watch this video.)
This phenomenon is known as the cross-race effect, which has been notoriousfor convicting innocent people through both false memories of the description of the person and the failure to recognize other races’ faces. Read more…

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

November 26th, 2019 2 comments

Sometimes when you hear a song for the first time you do not like it. The mere exposure effect may cause you to like it after hearing it so many times!

     When Party in the USA comes at a party, there is nothing stopping me. I know every word, every beat, and every guitar strum of 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 debut 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 prefer things that they are exposed to more often, compared to things that they have normal exposure to (Van Dessel, Mertens, Smith, & Houwer, 2019). 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.The mere exposure effect is used by artists, having their songs played on the radio repeatedly for people to develop positive feelings towards it, 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 do the same things over and over again, which eventually increases our liking if 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…

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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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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Shoot to get hot, shoot to stay hot – or not?

April 26th, 2018 1 comment

Picture this: you’re watching your favorite professional basketball team on television
when suddenly their best player gets fouled again—that’s already the sixth time tonight, and he
hasn’t missed a free throw yet! You watch eagerly as he steps to the free throw line for the first
of two shots. He bounces the ball, once, twice, stares down the rim, and shoots—swish—a
perfect shot once again. The referee hands him the ball for his second and final shot while you
think to yourself, “There is no way he will miss this shot, he’s hot and having a great night. He
hasn’t missed a single free throw all night, and he just made the first shot, so this one has to go
in.” But your confidence is shattered when the ball leaves his hands and soars just a bit too far,
bricking off of the backboard

Nothing but air.

and into the hands of the other team. If this situation sounds
familiar to you, then you’ve fallen victim to what psychologists call the “Hot Hand Fallacy,” or
the erroneous belief that someone’s performance in a sporting event or similar life circumstance
is expected to occur in significant “streaks”—in other words, good outcomes are more likely to
occur in conjunction with other good outcomes, and, likewise, bad with bad.

Yes, that’s right, the erroneous belief, as there exists significant research that tells us that
the state of a player “being hot” is nothing more than a figment of our imagination. If you have
trouble believing this, then you’re not alone. Gilovich et al.’s extensive 1985 study found that
91% of college-aged basketball fans believed that one is more likely to make a shot after just
having made a basket as opposed to missing a basket. Furthermore, the participants, on average,
estimated a player was nearly 20% more likely to make a shot after having made one compared
to after having missed one (Gilovich, Tversky, & Vallone, 1985).

So, if this belief is so ingrained in people’s minds, how can it be wrong? Read more…

Do You See What I See? I See Jesus in Toast!

April 25th, 2018 2 comments

Have you ever gone to hang up your coat and thought, “An angry octopus is staring right at me!” Did you wonder afterwards if this is common and if everyone was seeing what you were seeing? This is known as a phenomenon called pareidolia, where external stimuli (such as coat hangers) trigger perceptions of non-existent entities (such as faces) presenting an erroneous match between internal representations and sensory inputs (Liu et al., 2014). Face pareidolia is the most common form, which is where humans tend to see faces in non-face objects (Ichikawa et al., 2011). Some examples include seeing a face in the clouds, Jesus in toast, or the Virgin Mary in a tortilla (to see more cool examples of pareidolia, click here!) How and why does this happen?

Washing Machine Pareidolia Example

Angry Octopus Pareidolia Example

To examine these questions, we must delve into the process of pattern recognition and face recognition in cognitive psychology. Pattern recognition is the process of constructing a mental representation and assigning meaning to it. Pattern recognition relies tremendously on top-down processing, which is the idea that we use prior knowledge, context, and expectations to aid our perceptions.

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Isn’t The Weber-Fechner Law The Same As Any Other Equation? Never mind, I Just Noticed The Difference

April 24th, 2018 No comments

https://tenor.com/view/loud-too-loud-cant-hear-sorry-music-gif-5494161

Imagine that you and your best friend are sitting in the back of the classroom during a lecture on a Friday afternoon. All you can think about is the concert  you’re going to tonight that you’ve been excited about for months, so you give up on trying to listen to your professor explain nuclear chemistry. You quietly whisper back and forth with your friend, talking about what you plan on wearing and what time you need to leave. Finally, the lecture ends and before you know it you’re at the concert. The music is blasting and you’re having a great time, but after singing along to several songs you decide you need to go buy something to drink. You start to tell your friend that you’ll be right back, but she doesn’t hear you. You say her name louder a few times, but she still doesn’t notice. Finally, you lean in close and yell in her ear. She nods and says something back but you can’t hear it over the music. You could hear each other just fine a few hours ago in class, but now it’s nearly impossible. What you’re experiencing is a difference in background intensity, and Ernest Weber and Gustav Fechner have a law that will tell you all about it. Read more…