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Posts Tagged ‘Automatic Processes’

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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Are you SURE that happened or was that that just a (false) memory?

April 26th, 2018 3 comments

Imagine this. You’re in a convenience store and are getting ready to pay for some delicious Toll-House cookie dough (YUM). Suddenly, a man runs in wearing a mask and brandishing what appears to be a gun, so you decide to quickly hide near the front of the store behind some of the shelves. He demands for the cash in the register and the terrified workers quickly hand over the cash. You are so well hidden that the robber does not realize that there is anybody else in the store, and so as he is on his way out, he quickly removes his mask so that he can better see to escape. For a brief, fleeting couple of seconds, you get a perfect view of the man’s face. A few days later, the cops bring in some pictures of potential suspects to identify, and you are adamant that it was definitely a certain man in the pictures. However, the cops later realize that the man has an air-tight alibi from that day, which means that your identification of the criminal was incorrect. How could this happen?

This would’ve been a less scary robber to identify.

Well, thanks to cognitive psychology, we know that this misidentification probably happened due to the phenomenon called false memory. A false memory is when somebody has either a recollection of an event that did not actually occur, or when somebody remembers an event very differently from how it actually occurred. Essentially, no matter how sure you are that you remembered something correctly, there is a still a chance that you could be wrong. Crazy, right? So, next time you’re promising someone you are remembering some event correctly – just think and wonder how solid this promise actually is! Read more…

Keep it simple, silly. Design and the framing effect.

April 26th, 2018 No comments

Cognitive psychology, the study of the human mental processes, is an area of study that influences many fields beyond just psychology. One specific interdisciplinary field that heavily benefits from cognitive psychology research is user experience design. User experience design is a field that focuses on improving the accessibility (usable by a wide variety of people) , usability (easiness to use and learnability), and satisfaction of using a product. Whether creating an e-commerce website or an artificial home assistant, a well-designed positive user experience is at the forefront of success. However, there are many different ways in which great product, website, and interface designs can be viewed in a negative light by a user. One of the ways that user experience design can be negatively affected is by framing. Imagine that you have an online apparel business and a potential customer encounters two different scenarios:

  • Purchase the item at the full retail price of $100
  • Purchase the item at a 50% discount of a retail price of $200

While both options end up costing the same, customers would more likely purchase the item under the second scenario. Why is this the case? The first scenario frames the purchase of the item as a loss of $100. Conversely, the second scenario is framed so that the customer has the illusion that they are saving $100 by making the purchase. They are more likely to purchase the item because it is framed as a gain. This human bias is known as the framing effect.

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Tip-of-the-… wait what’s that word again?

April 25th, 2018 No comments

You are at a coffee shop with your friend telling them a story about something funny that happened in class last week, you remember all the details perfectly but when you get to the name of a student in the class you get stuck! You know that you know their name, the professor calls on them all of the time, but yet you just can’t remember. In situations such as these, some might say “It’s on the tip-of-my-tongue!”

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There’s no predicting when a TOT state will occur! sites.psu.edu

This feeling of confidence that you know the word and feeling as though the word is just within reach is an example of the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon (TOT). As most people have experienced, TOT states occur often, and there is no predicting when they will happen (Kikyo & Ohki, 2001). Although everyone experiences this, as is true with most things in life, TOT states become more prevalent with age. It’s expected that younger adults experience these states approximately once a week, but older adults often experience TOT states once a day (Radel & Fournier, 2017). Because we have all found ourselves in this state of frustration, lets explore why and when these states occur, and what we can do about it.

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Pay Attention! Divided Attention Impairs Memory Processes

December 12th, 2017 1 comment

Have you ever been certain a friend said something when they’re certain that they didn’t? How about remembering it completely differently from how they actually said it? If you have, chances are you had a false memory! Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. False memories occur when we remember events that didn’t happen or remember them very differently from how they actually happened (Schacter, 1999). Although it may be unsettling to hear, false memories are very common and hard to detect. As far as you’re concerned, these don’t seem like false memories at all! False memories can be very similar in nature to true memories, which makes them all the more difficult to distinguish. Psychologists interested in memory often study false memories to learn more about the underlying processes that drive memory.

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Cognitive psychologists have developed a few different methods of inducing false memories. Perhaps the most reliable and widely used is the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM; Roediger & McDermott, 1995) paradigm. In this paradigm, participants are presented with lists of words that are semantically associated, or related by meaning. For example, the words beach and ocean are semantically associated because people typically have strong connections between the ocean and the beach. After studying these words, participants take a memory test in which they have to decide whether they studied certain words or not. The DRM uses these types of associates to create false memories for words that are never presented, but are highly related to the words that are. One typical DRM list includes words such as banner, American, symbol, stars, and anthem, all of which converge upon the word flag. In this case, the word flag is called the critical lure. After studying this list of words, participants frequently remember seeing flag, even though it was never presented, because it is highly related to the words on the presented list.

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What Do High School Musical and the 2016 Election Have in Common? Status Quo Bias.

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

In 2006, the cast of High School Musical sang and danced wildly in a school cafeteria, preaching the benefits of “sticking to the status quo.” All the students in the school, jocks, academics, musicians, protested the changing school-climate, one becoming increasingly accepting and diverse. In the context of the movie, this song serves to characterize high schools across the nation as afraid of change and difference. To the audience’s later astonishment, the students are able to overcome this bias against change, celebrating the ultimate destruction of the rigid high school social borders! This heroic defeat of the high school caste system is certainly enjoyable for a generation of millennials, despite the 56% rotten tomatoes rating. Yet, in reality, change concerning social systems is far more difficult to achieve. In fact, the fear of change itself has its roots in cognitive and social psychology with what is called the status quo bias.

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Simply put, the status quo bias is known as people’s general preference for the existing and enduring states of the world and one’s own self (Eidelman & Crandall, 2012). Most people would sooner their life stay static than to welcome a new change, big or small. This phenomenon is what often prevents people from people making life changes, such as moving to a new home, trying a new diet, or even changing their preferred route home from work. Because stasis provides feelings of comfort and security, most people tend to avoid the threats of a new change or lifestyle. In High School Musical, super basketball stud Troy Bolton fears that his newfound interest in musical theatre will threaten the social safety in his athletic passions. Similarly, Gabriella is scared that the spotlight of a career in theatre will bring unwanted attention to her quiet, scholarly ways. Both protagonists show a preference for their current social group out of worry that they might be thought less of by other students if they joined another one- a prime example of sticking to the status quo! Read more…

Don’t get too personal when it’s the all about the situation: Fundamental Attribution Error

April 17th, 2017 2 comments

Fundamental attribution error (FAE) happens when people explain a behavior of another by drawing inferences about that person’s personalities, dispositions or other internal factors, but underestimate the effect of external factors such as the situation the person is in (Gilbert & Malone, 1995). People often make FAE without realizing it. What are some examples of FAE, why does it happen so often outside our consciousness, and how can we avoid it?

Let’s starts with some examples of FAE. Imagine you are traveling in a foreign country and want to buy souvenirs for your friends. After careful selection, you decide to buy seventeen homemade chocolate bars; each is thirteen dollars. Before checking out, you want to know how much do they cost but you are having a hard time calculating the exact number. Then, the little boy next to you says immediately: “Hey, that’s 221 dollars.”

So you take out the cell phone to check the total; you find out that the boy is correct. What would be your first reaction? Read more…

Google- How It’s Changing the Way We Remember

April 17th, 2017 4 comments

How many times have you found yourself googling a question that you know you’ve heard the answer to before, but you just couldn’t remember it? Or have you ever wondered why you just couldn’t recall a small factoid that you read about in a news article the other day? Probably quite often, right?

Well, the internet may be to blame. A new phenomenon associated with our ability to remember things that we believe to be easily accessible through a quick internet search has emerged and has been coined the “google effect” based on the popular search engine. The internet can be thought of as a memory storage system outside of our own brain- like how a USB drive is an external memory storage device.

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Finding Reason in Rhyme, Nearly Every Time

April 16th, 2017 No comments

Happiness, health, love, and money — what else would anyone need?  These most universal of human interests are often the center of common phrases, called aphorisms, that express some general principle about how our world works . . . or so they claim.  For example, we all know that great spenders are bad lenders, and surely, what sobriety conceals, alcohol reveals.  Many people are very familiar with these aphorisms through previous, repeated exposure to them.  One critical feature contributing to the popularity of these phrases is their rhyming pattern.  But how about the phrase an apple a day keeps you pretty healthy? Well, maybe not. The botched rhyme in this last phrase makes us question the truth behind the statement.  This is due to the Rhyme-as-Reason Effect.  This effect is a cognitive bias by which people judge the validity and accuracy of a statement as being more true if the statement rhymes.  So, although the aphorisms are very vague, the use of rhyme as a rhetorical device asserts their claim in a more persuasive way.   Read more…

How Well do You Really Know Your Acquaintances? The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight

April 16th, 2017 1 comment

Have you ever found yourself questioning the decisions of those around you, perhaps as if you had better insight into the thoughts and emotions of a person than they did themselves? Or do you ever catch yourself making internal judgments towards others in a way that pushes aside the legitimacy of one’s own self-understanding? “Why is she doing that? She should know herself better!” These are behaviors that can be understood through a phenomenon commonly referred to as the illusion of asymmetrical insight, a cognitive bias that describes our tendency to think we understand other people better than they understand themselves and us. To put it into other words, Kathy (person #1) would be experiencing the illusion of asymmetric insight if she thinks she knows Kathy (herself) better than Jake (person #2) knows Jake (himself) or Kathy (person #1).

The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight in Action

This bias can be seen in individuals throughout varying contexts, and is also very common among social, political, and religious groups. Multiple studies have explored the manifestations of the illusion of asymmetric insight, many of which attribute the bias to reasons outside our level of consciousness. In other words, we do not have full awareness of when this phenomenon is occurring due to the fact that it is an automatic processes (a process that is quick, easy, requires little cognitive resources, and has the ability to occur without full attention, as opposed to controlled processes, which are slow, difficult, and require cognitive resources and full attention).

So why do we experience this phenomenon so frequently without even realizing it?

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