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Posts Tagged ‘Automatic Processes’

Pay Attention! Divided Attention Impairs Memory Processes

December 12th, 2017 No comments

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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The Identifiable Victim Effect: Why you should reconsider donating to the child on GoFundMe

April 15th, 2017 1 comment

What kinds of charities do you give to? What spurs you to give to them? Is it images on GoFundMe of your friend’s neighbor’s child suffering from cancer, or the story of an exploited woman finding refuge and employment through a non-profit? Do you get a feeling of satisfaction when you type in your annual donations as deductibles to send to the IRS?

These are questions that can be answered and understood through the Identifiable Victim Effect, which says that people are more willing to give aid when they can identify a specific victim who will benefit from their donation. That is, when you or I hear a suffering child’s story or see their picture, we are more likely to whip out our wallets.

Why is this? It isn’t a rational or effective strategy for doing the most good for the most people. People donated $700,000 upon hearing the publicized plight of Baby Jessica who fell into a well in 1987, an amount of money that was probably not necessary to save Baby Jessica and perhaps should have been shared with other necessary causes, such as the thousands of nameless babies who are abandoned and dying around the world (Small, Loewenstein, & Slovic, 2007). The Identifiable Victim Effect does not rely on logic, so its explanation certainly isn’t going to be found in the sensible decisions of kind citizens.

What a cute child! His story of suffering from cancer raised more than twice the amount of the original goal. Source: GoFundMe.

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The Cheerleader Effect: How You Can Actually Seem More Attractive With a Little Help From Your Friends

April 12th, 2017 No comments

Imagine you’re sitting in a restaurant, walking through the mall, or even scrolling through social media, and you notice a really good looking group of guys or girls. Maybe you admire them, maybe you’re attracted to them, maybe you’re envious of them, or maybe you even resent them. Regardless of exactly how you react to their attractiveness, you may want to reassess their looks. Research suggests that people are perceived as more attractive when they’re seen in a group than they are when they’re seen individually (Walker and Vul, 2104). So, that glorified group of guys or gals I asked you to imagine before? They might not be just as attractive as they appear. 

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If you’ve ever seen the show “How I Met Your Mother,” you might be familiar with this phenomena that is commonly referred to as “the Cheerleader Effect.” In season four, episode seven, main character Barney Stinson coined the term. He explains the phenomenon when he encounters a group of seemingly attractive women at a bar. He explains, quite discourteously, that, just like cheerleaders that look stunningly gorgeous as a squad, but like the average girl next door individually, “They seem hot, but only as a group. Take each individually? Sled dogs.” This phenomenon has also been referred to as the Bridesmaid Paradox, Sorority Girl Syndrome, or even the Spice Girls Conspiracy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDzkMXpDZfc). Regardless of how superficial and shallow some of these phrases are, there is, in fact, psychological research backing the “How I Met Your Mother” hypothesis.

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Are you falling victim to the bandwagon effect?

April 5th, 2017 2 comments

Do you ever find yourself wondering what clothing to buy? What TV series or movie to watch? Or even where to eat? These are common dilemmas all of us run into on a daily basis. If you selected the movie or item that had the most stars or likes attributed to it or the majority of people chose it previously, then you may be falling victim to ‘the bandwagon effect’.

The ultimate decision – which one do you choose and why?

Everyday people are making decisions of various levels of importance, however few stop to seriously analyse and understand the underlying cognitive processes involved. Often decisions are influenced by a phenomenon called the ‘bandwagon effect’ whether this occurs consciously or unconsciously. Bandwagon effect is the idea that people align with or follow the opinions, beliefs and/or actions the majority of the population follows. An example of this phenomenon is illustrated in a study conducted by Sundar, Knobloch-Westerwick and Hastall (2007). When people were given a choice between reading an article recommended by a journalist, website or by crowd support, people were more inclined to choose the crowd option. This is despite the journalist being an acknowledged expert in the particular field. 

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The Mind of a Champion

November 24th, 2015 1 comment

Going in to the 2012 Olympics, gymnast McKayla Maroney was considered to be the best vaulter in the world. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that McKayla would win the Olympic gold medal. After contributing a nearly perfect vault to help her team win the gold medal, she was ready to do it again for event finals. She did her first vault and took a hop that would likely cost her 3/10 of a

mckayla maroneypoint. Nothing major, but she knew that she could do better. When she went back to the end of the runway and prepared for her second vault, all McKayla wanted to do was to stick the landing like she had done so many times in practice. She wanted it so badly that she overthought what should have been automatic, she did not rotate enough, and she ended up landing on her butt, causing a full point to be deducted. McKayla choked, costing her the Olympic gold medal.

Mental toughness is a key aspect in all sports. Every athlete knows that no matter how strong you are, how skilled you are, or how much time you have put into practice, when you are in a pressure situation, it all comes down to how mentally tough you are. It is one of the most frustrating things as an athlete to mess up on a skill that you can normally do in your sleep, especially when that one mistake costs you the game or competition. Read more…

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