Posts Tagged ‘Emotion’

Did fake news really help Trump win the election?

December 3rd, 2019 No comments

As the 2016 election drew closer, headlines such as “Pope Francis shocks world, endorses Trump as president” or “WikiLeaks confirms Hillary sold weapons to ISIS…Then 

drops another bombshell”. There was even a scandal insinuating that in Hillary’s leaked email, “pizza” was just a cover up for a possible human trafficking scheme or child sex abuse ring. In actuality, these events never took place, and several reputable news sources, such as the New York Times and Fox News debunked any criminal activity involving “pizza”. So why did so many people believe the headlines? And is there a possibility that this helped Trump win the election?

Memory is a system that is extremely important in our day to day lives. Without it we wouldn’t know where to go for food or water and we would have to learn basic tasks, like how to drive, every day. Memory is made of three processes: encoding, storage, and retrieval. Encoding allows us to take in information from our environment, for example, sound waves that are produced by our friend talking. Storage is the process of storing the information, in either our short term memory or long term memory. However, before something can enter our short term memory, it is first stored in our sensory memory. Retrieval is how we re access information stored in our long term memory. Take the example of seeing a red light. First, we recognize the light is red when it’s encoded into our sensory memory. Then, we retrieve the memory of the law that we must stop at red lights. Your body begins the automatic process (a process in which requires no cognitive practice as its been performed many times) of stepping on the brake.  Retrieval is how we access information stored in our long term memory. 

While it is widely believed that our memories are perfect, the fact of the matter is that they are far from it. In 2002, Daniel Schacter developed the seven sins of memory. The first three are sins of omission, or forgetting. Transience is just plain old forgetting of information. Over time, we naturally forget information that no longer has a use, such as a childhood friend’s landline number. The second sin of omission is absentmindness, which is a failure to pay attention during the encoding process. This decreases our ability to properly retrieve information. The third and final sin of omission is blocking, in which you know that you have the information but cannot retrieve it. One example is the tip of the tongue state. The other sins of memory are sins of commission in which precious memories are altered due to new information being presented. The first two are the sins of source misattribution in which you believe you had an

idea first but in reality you heard from someone else first. The second sin of commission is persistence in which your mind focuses on certain memories and plays over and over. PTSD is an example of persistence. The two sins of commission that I would like to focus on are suggestibility and bias. 

Suggestibility occurs when other’s suggestions and ideas can influence how memory of an event to fit their suggestions. Can alter old memories or create new, false ones. Hearing about and imagining an event multiple times can create a memory for the event that seem real to us as something we experienced. Bias occurs when current experiences are affected by our memories of past experiences. For example, if you break up with someone you may remember a positive event being more negative than it actually was. Can happen when our impressions of a person change. 

A study done by Brainerd et al. focused on how word connotations affected people’s memory of those words. They found that as the word connotations became more negative, false memories increased and true memories decreased. 

A study done by Porter et al. focused on scenes rather than words. However, they found very similar results. Memory distortion was found to be significantly affected by negative emotions surrounding the scene. In fact, 80% of participants that were in the negative emotion condition falsey remembered a major detail, while only 40% in the neutral and positive misled groups falsely remembered the same one. This shows that while it never took place, less people in the groups that were misleadingly told about the detail remembered it than participants who were never told about it remembered it, just because there was negative emotion surrounding the scene. 

During the election, there were big supporters of trump who wanted to lock up Hillary and there were big supporters of Hillary who believed Trump would be the downfall of our country. There were negative emotions surrounding both candidates almost all the time. It is not surprising that when these fake news stories emerged, it altered peoples’ memories so that they felt more negative about Trump/Hillary. The majority of these news stories put Trump in a positive light, and Hillary in a negative one. Because of this, people started to remember Trump as a person who would make America great again, and Hillary as a person who was crooked and belonged behind bars. 



Brainerd, C. J., & Bookbinder, S. H. (2019). The semantics of emotion in false memory. Emotion, 19(1), 146–159.


Porter, S., Spencer, L., & Birt, A. R. (2003). Blinded by emotion? Effect of the emotionality of a scene on susceptibility to false memories. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue Canadienne Des Sciences Du Comportement, 35(3), 165–175.


McBride, D., Cutting, J., (2016). Cognitive Psychology: Theory, Processes, and Methodology., Sage Publications. 


Silverman, Craig. “Here Are 50 Of The Biggest Fake News Hits On Facebook From 2016.” BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed News, 30 Dec. 2016,


“Emotion Affects Memory’s Reliability.” NSF,


Categories: Memory Tags: ,

Glory Days and Faded Heartbreaks: How Assessments of our Past Shape and Reflect Psychological Well-being in the Present.

November 26th, 2019 No comments

Peaked in High School or remembering it better than it was?

Before I present you with a base level summary of our current understanding of the psychological phenomenon known as Fading Affect Bias (FAB) and its relation to the conceptual system of autobiographical memory–complete with the associated empirical support, of course–I would first like to overanalyze some Bruce Springsteen lyrics. Don’t worry; it will all make sense soon enough. Read more…

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

November 26th, 2019 2 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 start assigning internal traits to this person based on their action of cutting you off. You tell yourself they are a terrible driver and a rude person in general. You do not take into account that they may have had another factor that was 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 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 empathy gap: how walking a mile in someone else’s shoes (and in your own shoes) is harder than it seems

November 26th, 2019 1 comment

You’d never do this… right? Source:

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:

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 hungry/famished while doing the grocery shopping? Has this happened to you more than once? Did you question why this happened in the first place? Did you learn from your past experience? 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…

The Real Reason We Like Subpar Art (and other self-creations)

November 23rd, 2019 No comments

I want you to think of the furniture in your house. There is the bedroom furniture set or the kitchen chairs or the family room couch or even the framed photos in the hallway. But, you know that self-constructed bookshelf, the one that is a little lopsided but “has character”? Or what about the barely-functional pinch pots you made in summer camp? If you are anything like me, you have held these items in your grips for years and can’t just throw them away. You built those things! Your blood, sweat, and tears (ok maybe that’s a stretch…) went into creating something and you like them. You like them maybe even more than store bought things. You are willing to pay more for something handmade. But should you? This trap you are falling into is so quirkily named the IKEA effect (yes after the Swedish furniture brand). This concept describes the tendency for people to overvalue products that they themselves created, even more than machine manufactured products. So yes, that handmade ornament by little cousin Johnny WILL remain on the Christmas tree for years to come, despite the poor craftsmanship!

What is valued does not always hold the highest value!

This effect was originally coined in the field of Consumer Psychology to describe cognitive processes that underlie consumer behavior. A study that first proposed the term described the tendency for people to overvalue their own creations. This effect does not just rely on objective value of the products either; IKEA boxes of the same caliber are rated as worth more money if they are self-assembled (Norton, Mochon, & Ariely, 2012) and so are origami structures and LEGO buildings (Norton, Mochon, & Ariely, 2012). Products themselves clearly hold intrinsic value to those beholding them, but other subjective factors are contributing to filling the gap between objective value and customer value. This is crazy! It seems like we are not consciously in control of our judgments on objects! Yikes!

Read more…

No One Ever Understands Me! Ah, yes – The Illusion of Transparency

April 17th, 2017 5 comments

Your world is collapsing. Okay no it’s not, but you are extremely stressed, sad, and worried. Do you ever wonder why no one seems to care that you’re feeling these things, or wish that someone would only ask if you’re okay? We all feel like this sometimes! But see, everybody else is not the problem. It’s not that people don’t care or don’t want to help (most likely); it’s just simply the fact that they may not even know you’re feeling like this. Think about the last time you gave a presentation in one of your classes or to a group of people. You’re standing up there, fidgeting, sweating, and you feel like your thoughts are jumbled and that your speech reflects that. You look into the crowd and see a girl twirling her hair – I must look like an idiot. You see someone else staring right at you and smiling – I must sound so stupid that he can’t help but stare directly at me. False! The girl is just bored and the boy is trying to show the teacher that he’s paying attention – so stop sweating and remain calm, you’re fine. These feelings are not out of the ordinary, in fact, they’re quite normal, and they can be attributed to the illusion of transparency.

That feeling when no one understands you…

The illusion of transparency is the tendency to believe that one’s internal states are more obvious to others than they actually are. We believe that the outside world can see and understand what we’re feeling and thinking, because we feel like we show our feelings, thoughts and emotions explicitly. However in reality, we overestimate the extent to which other people can tell what’s really going on inside our heads or what we’re trying to say. To test the theory out for yourself, watch this video to see if you can guess the song behind the rhythm! Or, to learn more about this illusion (after you’ve finished reading this post, of course), check out this other awesome post from the CogBlog! Additionally, many studies have been conducted that aim to look at why this happens, and to see if this illusion actually holds true when tested. Read more…

Reader, Do People Actually Know How You Feel? Welcome to Your Tape…

April 17th, 2017 6 comments

I recently got into this Netflix original called 13 Reasons Why. It’s an adaptation of a book with the same name that was probably on your summer “to read” booklist in middle school. It tells a story of a high school girl named Hannah who commits suicide and releases a set of cassette tapes to the people who were “instrumental” to her death. I put instrumental in quotation marks because we don’t really know what happened and we all know that memory could be untrustworthy; but that’s for another blog (This link will take you to another blog that talks about Confabulation). The question is why is this relevant in a blog about cognitive psychology?

Hannah from 13 Reasons Why

Read more…

Have a Little Empathy: How to Overcome the Empathy Gap and Understand Each Other

April 17th, 2017 5 comments

Road rage is an example of a common emotional reaction that we might not understand in others

Picture this: you’re driving on a busy street with your friend. All of a sudden, a car comes out of nowhere and cuts you off. You’re in a hurry to get somewhere, and this makes you angry. So, you take the first opportunity to zoom into the left lane and speed past the car that cut you off, looking at the driver as you pass. Its not until your friend shouts “Watch out!” that you slam on the brakes and realize you almost hit the car in front of you at a red light. Your friend chastises you for overreacting and driving recklessly. They don’t understand why you would do what you did, and after calming down, you don’t either. Sound familiar?

Read more…

If I could just stop thinking about it! The effect of emotional input on working memory.

November 24th, 2015 7 comments

An overtime loss. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t all your fault. Now you sit in the image001library trying to finish your research paper due in an hour; you can’t concentrate as visions of the puck slowly sliding through your goalie pads into the awaiting net behind you consume your thoughts. Do you ever find yourself helplessly replaying events that you’re upset about while trying to focus on something else? But why do we have so much trouble thinking when something is bothering us, yet we can work so productively the rest of the time?

If only we could effectively think about multiple things at the same time. You could process the events of the game last night while writing your paper; you could replay that upsetting fight you had with your boyfriend while studying for your Spanish vocab quiz. Essentially, our lives would be that much more efficient, if only we could process multiple thoughts at once.

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Is it just me or is that athlete really aggressive looking?: The importance of context in the memory of faces

November 24th, 2015 2 comments

Remember back in high school, the last basketball game of the season against your biggest rival? You were guarding the best player on the other team, let’s call her Chelsey. The teams were going back and forth in points. As the seconds ticked off the clock the game picked up in intensity. There was a lot of pushing and shoving that was going unnoticed by the refs. You personally were being elbowed and pushed out of the box by Chelsey. The look on her face was pure determination and aggression; a desire to win the competition. Unfortunately, your team lost, and it was a long bus ride home. During it, all you and your teammates could talk about were the other players and how aggressive they looked.

Later, you see Chelsey again at the All-star game. This time, the two of you are on the same team. You play alongside Chelsey for the entire game, feeding her passes and rebounding her misses, working as a real team. After the game, you hear someone from the other team talking about how aggressive looking Chelsey was. This makes you think back to how you remembered Chelsey’s face as aggressive as well. But thinking back to the playing in the All-star game you don’t remember Chelsey as having an aggressive face.

Why did the way you remember Chelsey’s face change? The answer is context. Read more…

Categories: Memory Tags: ,