Posts Tagged ‘Divided Attention’

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.

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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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.

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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Fidget Less, More Success!

November 23rd, 2014 5 comments

You’re sitting in class trying to scratch down notes as your professor drones on and on. In the midst of the monotonous task, you begin to think of the busy day ahead of you. Lost in thought, you shift in your seat, and soon your notes have become little more than a few random words on a page, and you realize you’ve missed the last five minutes of the lecture.


We’ve all been there. We all find our minds wandering off from time-to-time, and we’ve all experienced that feeling where your leg starts shaking, fingers start tapping, and you just can’t seem to sit still and focus on the task at hand.

It makes sense that if your mind is elsewhere, your performance on the current task will be largely inhibited, but why is it that the deeper we fall into this trance, the less control we have over bodily movements too? What is the connection between this occurrence of motor and mental restlessness—that is, how do fidgeting and mind wandering relate?

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Effects of Divided Attention on False Memories: Good News for Children, Not So for Adults

May 3rd, 2014 2 comments

Memory is an indispensable tool in our everyday lives, yet it is not perfect. Sometimes our own memory systems fail us, we remember things that we have never seen or recall events that have never happened. Such memories are called false memories, which have served as the topic of a large body of psychology research. Studies on false memories usually use the DRM paradigm (Desse, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995). This paradigm requires participants to study lists of words that are related in meaning to each other and to a critical lure (CL) that do not appear in the lists. After that, participants take a memory test. Results show that people tend to remember or recall the CL as frequently as they do the studied words, and each time the CL is recalled is considered a false memory. Read more…

Listen to Miley Cyrus then study or Study while listening to Miley Cyrus?

November 23rd, 2013 4 comments

           Forgetting, which is defined as an inability to remember something, occurs daily. We forget a variety of things such as where we parked our cars, what our old and new cellphone numbers are, who Paul Walker was, the color of our parents’ cars and when assignments are due. Forgetting is a common occurrence and we have invented numerous methods to help us remember important information. However, writing down information does not always help, especially in circumstances like interviews or exams where we have to rely on our memory. When you try to remember an event that is filed in your memory, and you can’t remember, it seems like it has disappeared or was never there to begin with. Despite this feeling, the information is stored in long-term memory, but at that time you cannot access it. Most students can relate to this experience, because sometime after an exam we immediately remember the answer to a certain question—sometimes just a second after submitting the examination paper. Instead of relying on written information, we can increase the probability of remembering stored material by engaging in challenging learning practices, such as self-quizzes.

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