Why we overlook our own shortcomings: a description of the Actor Observer Bias

November 26th, 2019 5 comments

Picture this: you are running late to drop your kids off at school in the morning and your children are having a fit in the back seat. On top of this, it is pouring rain outside. While you are driving down the highway, another car abruptly cuts you off as they are merging. As a result of your frustration, you begin to think of how they must be a rude person who is also a terrible driver. You assign internal (personality) traits to this person based on their action of cutting you off. You do not take into account the situational factors that were affecting their driving ability, like the fact that they were late for an important meeting, or they were driving their sick pet to the vet. You automatically attribute their actions to internal factors without even thinking about what else could have caused them to cut you off. A couple of minutes later, you, yourself accidentally cut off someone while trying to take the exit off the highway to your child’s school. Instead of reacting in the same way you did to the previous person who carried out the same action as you did and automatically telling yourself you are a bad driver and rude person, you inform yourself your action is a result of the fact that you are late for your child’s dropoff at school and you cannot see well as a result of the heavy rain. You tell yourself that on a normal day you would be much more careful. You do not think of yourself as a bad driver and rude person, as you thought of the other person, even though they did the same thing that you did. Why is it that we automatically assume others’ negative actions are a result of who they are as a person while being sympathetic and giving ourselves excuses? The actor-observer bias is an explanation for this confusing phenomenon. Read more…

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

November 26th, 2019 4 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 inform your Mom that you need to leave by 7:20am to get to school by 7:50am. As planned, you and your Mom 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.

The First Day of Senior Year

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 that 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 before the bell rings, you wonder why you got to school so late.

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Did you really know it all along??

November 26th, 2019 No comments

Your sibling’s face…

“I KNEW IT!!!!!” your sibling gleefully exclaims after the clock hits 0:00 and your favorite team has just lost to your least favorite team. You start thinking, how could they possibly know that team was going to win? The teams had similar records with equally talented players and you are left glumly wishing you hadn’t bet $10 on the game. This kind of scenario happens all the time and is pretty hard to avoid.  For instance, you may be amazed that your friend who walks carelessly across the ice is surprised when she falls. Of course she was going to fall! The key pattern in these instances is that the feelings of frustration or foreknowledge occur after the event. Often times, we believe that we knew something would happen because we assess the situation after it occurs and reflect upon it with information we did not previously have. This common phenomenon is known as the hindsight bias. 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…

“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 who served the shortest term.

Ok, let’s try that scenario again: you find yourself looking around the room for something to spark that lightbulb in your mind, but nothing seems to do the trick. Your professor is bald and always has been. You simply just can’t remember the name you were looking for and accept defeat. You stare daggers at their head as you leave that question blank and go onto the next one.

What made these two scenarios so different? The second scenario describes a cognitive psychology term called “cue-dependent forgetting” where a person is unable to remember information in the absence of a retrieval cue (Chandler & 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 1 comment

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 found 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 topics, 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. Overconfidence 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; Sanbonmatsu et al., 2016; Zuckerman & Jost, 2001).     Read more…

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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I’m a Little Confused on How You Got Here

November 26th, 2019 No comments

Where did I see that from?

One day, a psychologist was brought into the police office and was told being accused of rape. Little did he know that the woman who accused him of rape saw him on television prior to being raped. The woman had confused his face with the face of her attacker. The woman’s memory had failed at being able to differentiate where she saw the two faces. She wasn’t able to distinguish whether she had seen the psychologist face on television or as the attacker (Schacter, 1999). This is an example of a cognitive bias called misattribution of memory.

Let’s take the phrase “misattribution of memory” apart. Misattribute means to incorrectly assign the origin, cause, or source of something. For instance, you remember that someone made great coffee for you. You thought that it was your friend Amy so, you ask her to make it for you again.  However, it turned out that it was actually your friend, Sam. If you add the word memory to it, then misattribution of memory is when one incorrectly assigns the origin, cause or source of a memory. Misattribution of memory is a cognitive bias in which, people can remember what took place or the piece of information. However, they can’t remember where this information came from.

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Google: An External Hard Drive for Our Memory

November 26th, 2019 1 comment

Have you ever tried to share a random tidbit of information you know that you should remember and just totally failed to recall it? Have you ever gotten in the car to drive across town and realized you’d have to consult the internet for the address? Or, have you ever zoned out in class because you know you can just check Wikipedia to catch up once you get the study guide for the next exam? You might have fallen victim to what psychologists have come to recognize as the Google Effect. We walk around with our smartphones in hand and laptops in our bags, knowing the internet is always available, so why should we bother remembering something we can just look up later? Due to the constant availability of the internet, in modern times, individuals are increasingly failing to encode information and instead, have encoded one simple fact: I can Google it later.

Is Google consuming your mind?

Searching for things on the internet has become commonplace, whenever we need an answer, we simply type a few key words into a search bar and in under seconds there are billions of results available to answer our question. We rely on this resource to such a great degree we often feel lost or experience withdrawal when we can’t instantly access the endless information held on the internet. Individuals are rarely entirely offline, unless by choice. Due to the increasing presence of technology in our everyday lives, the internet has become a sort of external hard drive that our brains are adapting to rely on. Believe it or not, as evidenced by the Google Effect, the internet is causing the cognitive process of retrieving information from memory to occur in a different manner.

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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 2 comments

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…