Posts Tagged ‘Encoding’

What Was That? I Can’t Remember What You Said, I Was Next-In-Line

April 17th, 2017 5 comments

Don’t You Hate When This Happens?

Imagine it’s the first day of classes for the semester. Your professor announces to the class that you are going to do an icebreaker activity to get to know each other. There are probably a few groans and a little bit of fear from the shyer students. You must tell the class your name, your class year, where you’re from, and a fun fact about yourself. The dread sets in as you panic and try to think of something interesting. You don’t want everyone to think you’re lame or a weirdo. You spend the whole time everyone else is talking trying to think of what to say and finally it’s your turn: “Hi my name is Emma, I’m a senior, I’m from Jacksonville, Florida, and, um, I can lick my elbow.” Now you wonder if maybe that was a little too interesting, while the person sitting next to you talks about his summer in Belize. Or was it Nicaragua? You can’t really remember. Actually you can’t quite recall what any of the people before you said. You were so focused on your own presentation that you did not pay attention to what other people said. This is called the next-in-line effect.

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Are Pictures Really Worth A Thousand Words? When It Comes to Memory They Are

April 16th, 2017 3 comments

Have you ever looked at the coverage map for a telecommunications company, like Verizon, and wondered why a company would choose to spend the money on a colored picture instead of just presenting the information in the paragraph? I mean, wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to just write it all out? Probably, but it wouldn’t be as effective.

Below is a paragraph that describes Verizon’s coverage in the U.S., and a corresponding image that displays the data. When the information is laid out in text, I bet that you, the consumer, would have a much harder time articulating and remembering the information. But by presenting the information in a picture (like that shown below), you can easily discern and remember the differences between the coverage of four telecommunication companies. Why would this be true? It has to do with the way that we encode, or initially learn, information. This is a perfect example of the picture superiority effect, the phenomenon in which people are better at remembering images than they are at remembering words (click here for a quick, fun video that explains this phenomenon).

“Among the four major wireless carriers, only Verizon’s 4G network is 100% 4G LTE the gold standard of wireless technology. Available in over 500 cities, Verizon 4G LTE covers almost 97% of the U.S. population. Experience the speed and power in more places.”–3G-speed-comparison_id53828

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Own-race Bias: Why Some People Might Look The Same to You

April 16th, 2017 4 comments

As someone who is a fan of true crime podcasts, I couldn’t help but to binge-listen to the episodes of Wrongful Convictions–a podcast by the Innocence Project detailing stories of people who were convicted for crimes they did not commit. In one of the stories, a person was convicted due to the misidentification by one of the victims of the crime. This eyewitness testimony was enough to carry a 30-year-old sentence in prison.

Pattern recognition of faces of other races can vary according to the cross-race bias.
PC: The Guardian

There are several cognitive errors that could make of this eyewitness testimony (and others) unreliable. Daniel Schacter described in the Seven Sins of Memory (2001) different cognitive errors that the memory is sensitive to, including memory biases. In the case of the person wrongfully convicted, a cross-race or own-race bias could have influenced the misidentification. An own-race bias refers to the tendency of being more accurate at recognizing faces of your own race than faces of another race (Malpass & Kravits, 1969).  The bias is not exclusive to the context of eyewitness testimonies and the criminal justice system, however; you can stumble upon the own-race bias during a trivial day. For example, have you ever had a feeling that people who don’t belong to your racial category look “all the same” to you? Or have you wondered why you are very good at recognizing faces of your own racial profile yet can’t make the same accurate distinctions cross-racially? Or maybe, have you ever confused two people from outside your race because you couldn’t distinguish certain individual characteristics to make them apart? Then you’re in the right place to learn about this cross-race phenomenon! In this blog, we discuss possible mechanisms behind the cross-race bias.

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Keep Calm and Encode this Face… Then Panic and Freak Out while Retrieving It!

November 23rd, 2015 2 comments


Imagine that you are sitting in a coffee shop, peacefully eating your cannoli and sipping your latte. As you look out the window, you notice someone approach
a parked car, smash the window, and steal something out of the front seat of the car. Your calm afternoon quickly becomes anxiety-ridden: your leg bounces, your voice shakes, your heart pounds, your stomach churns, and your mind races. You catch a glimpse of the criminal’s face as they are running off, and you promptly call 911. But did you know that the anxiety that you experienced when witnessing the crime could impact your ability to remember the criminal’s face later? We tend to recognize faces pretty easily, especially when someone is familiar to us, so you’re probably thinking that you would also be able to recognize the criminal’s face without a problem. After all, you did just watch them commit a crime right in front of your eyes. PAFF_090513_anxietyperception_newsfeature Your anxiety about the situation may have impaired your ability to recognize that person’s face, though, and a recent study conducted by Curtis, Russ, and Ackland (2015) sought to determine why and how this happens. Their research wanted to see how a spike in anxiety impacts someone’s ability to remember a face. More specifically, they wanted to know when the time of onset of anxiety is most impactful (before or after seeing a face) and whether or not anxiety increases stereotypes, or assumptions about the thoughts, actions, and behaviors another group of people, when someone is recognizing a face that is a different ethnicity than their own.

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Is a picture worth one thousand MORE words?

November 23rd, 2015 No comments

Ever notice the diagrams in your textbook? Or the visuals in your professor’s slides? Or maybe the pictures in an instruction manual to construct furniture? It seems that professionals have caught onto the idea that pictures are beneficial to learning and understanding content. Whether is comes to providing information in a presentation, deciding how to best visualize data for a report, or giving directions for a task, it obvious that visual content provides some benefit in absorbing information that is not attainable through simple text. I am going to walk your through when visuals are most helpful, when they aren’t, and how to best include visuals in your own work. Read more…

The Method of Loci and Learning Through Headphones: A Powerful and Overlooked Learning Method.

November 17th, 2014 No comments


Let’s say you are given a standard short-term memory test. A list of words is presented to you; maybe 10 or 12 items, and you have to remember as many of them as you can at a later recall test. With the standard 5 to 9 item capacity of short-term memory, you can likely recall most of them. If you have time to use long-term memory, you can come up with a way to remember them all. There are plenty of useful mnemonics that can give you a hand, so let’s up the ante and make it 25 items. That’s a little bit tougher but, after a day with it, you can commit it to memory. People have to memorize things all the time, and we’ve found ways that are better than just repeated exposure. Memory is very dependent on cues and semantic connections, so creating those for certain bits of information is very helpful and not too hard. Let’s try one.

Toothpaste – Spider – Traffic – Mountain – Laser – Tuna – Calendar – Jacket – Pig – Cactus – Racquet – Leash

It’s not expected that you can remember all of these items based on short-term memory alone, so let’s use a quick mnemonic technique. Imagine a place that you are very familiar with, like your house, and picture the items on the list in various places in your house as you read them. You can do this very quickly if it’s a familiar place, and it helps to construct a specific path. For example, maybe you walk up to your house and there’s a tube of toothpaste sitting on the front doorstep. Maybe a spider crawls onto it as you’re looking at it, or maybe you see it as you reach for the door. You open the door and there’s someone else there who is trying to leave, causing traffic. There’s a painting of a mountain on the wall, or if you’re not too concerned about the constraints of reality you can just place an actual mountain in your living room. Later when you try to recall the words, you can just mentally walk through your house and find the objects there just where you put them. This is called the Method of Loci. Using this technique, you can create cues out of locations and remember this list after possibly just one presentation. Read more…

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