Is the “bad stuff” stronger than the “good stuff”?

April 26th, 2018 1 comment

Imagine that you are out in the city with some friends that you haven’t seen in a while. You have just finished a delicious brunch together and have had a morning full of fun and catching up with one another. You take a walk outside and soak up some sun before heading back to get some work done at home. When you leave your friends and get to the train station, you hear an announcement that the trains are delayed and you are stuck in the crowded station waiting for almost an hour. You become frustrated and upset, and by the time you get home, the bad experience at the train station weighs on your mind more heavily than does your morning with your friends.

Does this scenario seem plausible to you? Do you ever feel like the bad experiences in your life always seem to outweigh the good? If so, you have experienced the negativity bias, or negativity effect. The negativity bias states that negative events are more impactful on an individual’s mental state than neutral or positive events. These negative events could include unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or occurrences. Most of us are susceptible to the negativity bias, but certain conditions can make one even more vulnerable.

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Here’s a Suggestion: Don’t Trust Your (False) Memory

April 26th, 2018 2 comments

I want you to think back to a childhood memory. Maybe it’s your third birthday party, the first day of kindergarten, or learning how to ride a bike. Can you remember any details? What you were wearing, who you were with, or how you felt? Now, how accurate do you think those details are? If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard different versions of the same story about that day a thousands times by your parents, siblings, or friends. There may also be tons of pictures from the event that you look at from time to time, even now. So that means my memory of the event is pretty accurate, right? Interestingly enough, cognitive psychology tells us that the opposite is true–there are many things that can alter your memory (we’ll get to one of those things in just a bit). This can mean changing minor details, or even creating large portions of a memory that just didn’t happen. This extreme divergence from the truth is called a false memory.

That’s quite the false memory

A false memory is a recollection of an event that is either highly distorted or a complete (unintentional) fabrication. This isn’t about simply forgetting what happened. People with false memories believe that their misconstrued ideas of what occurred are accurate—and often with high confidence, too. So why do we have false memories? How does our brain allow us to have such confidence in the authenticity of events that never actually happened? Despite what you might be thinking, it is not the result of some mind control or hypnotism. So let’s look into how memory works to find out exactly what it is. Read more…

Why A Single Incident Can “Make Your Day” – The Peak-End Rule

April 26th, 2018 No comments

You Just Made My Day!

Following an exceptionally pleasant incident, people often use the expression “That just made my day!”. Of course, one single joyful moment cannot really change the nature of a day, but we use that expression because that moment does make us feel better, and will likely resonate with us until the end of day. Similar experience also applies to incidents that upsets us. For example, when we go to a restaurant, if a full bowl of hot soup gets flipped accidentally and spilled all over us at the end of that meal, even if the food and the service are good, it is likely that we would consider restaurant a terrible place and would never visit there again. The way we judge a situation or experience depends highly on moments that are associated with the most intense feelings, as well as what we get from the situation at the end. In psychology, such effect is called the Peak-End Rule, according to which the two points of peak (i.e. intense experience) and end (i.e. conclusion we have), instead of the sum or the average of our experience, serve as indicators which people use to judge their experience. Read more…

It’s on the Ttt….Tip de mi Lengua: Differences in the Tip of the Tongue States for Bilingual and Monolinguals

April 26th, 2018 No comments

Picture this: you run into someone you met last week. You remember you had a great conversation with them and got along well. But, there’s one problem. You can’t, for the life of you, remember their name.  You know it started with an “A” and was a relatively short name, but you can’t quite say the name out loud as you greet them. It’s RIGHT there though, on the tip of your tongue. Luckily, another mutual friend comes up to both of you and says, “Oh, how do you know Abigail?” Ah, yes, Abigail Rhodes. You remember now.

We all know that feeling that accompanies not being able to articulate something we are confident we know or should know. And, there’s a name for that feeling: it’s called the tip of the tongue phenomenon (TOT).  The TOT occurrence is a cognitive bias that is named after the colloquial phrase “it’s on the tip of my tongue” and helps to provide insights into why, even if we know something, we are sometimes unable to verbalize our answer.

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Me, myself, and Google: a brief search into the Google Effect

April 26th, 2018 1 comment

Ahh, Google… My most reliable friend. Google has a constant presence in the life of every human with access to it. Whether I forget basic information, such as the route from my house to the grocery store, or have an urgent question, like exactly how many calories are in a Bloomin’ Onion from Outback Steakhouse, Google is always there to clear up any confusion. With search engines constantly at our fingertips, we spend very little time grappling with trivial questions or attempting to recall answers from memory. Any question that I have can be answered almost instantly, regardless of my location or the time of day.

My best friend and me!

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What was I saying? Oh, right, Absent-mindedness…

April 26th, 2018 No comments

It’s a Saturday night. You come home early to catch your favorite TV show. You’re in such a hurry that you throw your keys somewhere carelessly. When it’s time to go out, you can’t remember where you put your keys. It’s not at the regular spot where you usually place your keys. It takes a long time for you to find them. Does this seem familiar? When things like this happen, you might wonder if there’s something wrong with your mind. In fact, it is a common phenomenon called absent-mindedness.

https://www.pinterest.com/

Absent-mindedness is a cognitive bias that happens when people “zone out” and make mistakes in daily life (Broadbent, Cooper, FitzGerald, & Parkes, 1982). The mistakes can be anything related to a lack of attention, e.g., walking in a room and forgetting why you came in, dropping something unintentionally, or throwing your phone in a trash can and keeping the coffee cup (which happened to me once). Absent-mindedness is where attention and memory come together, even though they seem to be two separate things.

How is absent-mindedness related to attention? Before answering this question, we need to know that our attention has a limited capacity (Sanbonmatsu, Strayer, Biondi, Behrends, & Moore, 2015). One theory suggests that when our limited attentional resource is occupied, the rate of absent-mindedness may increase (Fisher & Hood, 1987). This means that if you are talking to a friend while walking down the street and paying little attention to your surroundings, you might end up bumping into someone if that person is being absent-minded as well!
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“Everyones an Idiot Except for Me” Naive Realism

April 26th, 2018 No comments

“How could anyone think this way?”

Political polarization between members of America’s two major political is a common topic of discussion in modern America. People from opposite sides of the political spectrum no longer seem to view each other as having a different opinion, but as being either stupid or in some way morally contemptuous. A quick foray into a social media platform like twitter can demonstrate this. In a typical political argument on twitter there is very little debate and many more accusations of selfish motives and moral posturing. Has one side really become corrupted and the other’s loss of dialogue simply a response to that or are many Americans suffering from the cognitive bias “Naïve Realism“.

Naive Realism is commonly defined as the belief that one’s way of looking at the world is based on the objective interpretation of the world and therefore anyone who thinks differently must be misinformed, stupid, or morally dangerous. Experiments have been done that show the effects of naïve realism across a diverse range of areas, from sports to politics and beyond. One study commonly referred to as the “They Saw a Game Study” had students from Dartmouth and Princeton watch the same recording of a heated football game between the two schools. The footage was the same for students from both schools. Despite this, students from each school reported seeing very different events. Princeton students believed Dartmouth had made twice as many infractions as Princeton while students from Dartmouth believed the teams were equally violent and both were to blame (Hastorf & Cantril, 1954). These findings, while for something as simple as a game of football, are certainly very important. Perhaps a similar effect exists in politics. Issues that seem to have a common sense resolution to you may be viewed entirely differently by someone else down to the level of perception of the problem itself. All this might lead you to ask how could this be.

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Hop on the Bandwagon…. or Don’t!

April 26th, 2018 2 comments

Would you ever jump off a bridge because everyone else is? Have you ever bought a product because “everyone” has it and you feel left out? If so, you have fallen into the trap of the bandwagon effect. This cognitive bias is defined as  people’s tendencies to quickly conform to popular trends or beliefs within their society (Simon, 1954). This cognitive bias is one that is frequently seen within everyday behaviors. Whether it is seen in social media, advertisements, politics, fashion, or any other trends, people are always trying to jump on this metaphorical bandwagon. One question about why people choose to conform, even if it is not in line with their own personal values or opinions, can be partially answered by the bandwagon effect. Conforming to social norms is something that the Millennial generation has continued to do as a result of pressures from prior generations.

Bandwagon Effect Meme

Although the bias was proposed in 1954, nowadays, the constant pressures to always be up to date with the different trends will only continue to grow as social media continues to take over our lives. The recent creation of social media and other forms of communication only help such cognitive biases flourish. The image to the right is a meme that is mocking the bandwagon effect. Nowadays, people’s eating habits are changing purely because things like “not eating gluten” are cool. People are ignoring actual evidence about different product’s true purposes, and hopping on the bandwagon. People’s desires to consume, buy, and use certain products are not always influenced by the product’s usefulness, but rather by what trend setters are doing. For example, extraneous items that are not necessities of life, such as iPhones, are typically bought based on consumer reviews. Think about things you have purchased in the past. Can you think of any good examples of products you bought because it was advertised as, “everyone’s favorite,” or “America’s best?”

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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…

That Perfect Person Isn’t Quite So Perfect: The Halo Effect

April 26th, 2018 2 comments

Have you ever been frustrated by that one classmate or coworker who always seems to have the right answer? Whenever you’re in class or a meeting together they always seem to be excelling. Even though you have never hung out with them outside of the school or work environment you also think of them as social, outgoing, and a great family member. They occasionally wear shirts with running logos on them, so they must also go for runs on the weekend, and they’re probably faster than you. People who run are usually healthy eaters as well, so the chocolate bar you saw them eat yesterday afternoon must have been a special treat.

The Halo Effect can make people seem like devils or angels after one short interaction.

Does this description remind you of anyone? Even though you only know the person from one class at school, because they do well in that class you assume all these other positive characteristics about them. This tendency to generalize qualities from one specific instance to the person’s entire personality is called the Halo Effect. When a person does well in biology, other classmates assume that they must also do well in English and calculus. If a person is energetic and outgoing, they are also assumed to be intelligent and hardworking. This also applies to negative qualities, where if someone is rude to us in a meeting we assume they are lazy and untrustworthy.

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