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Posts Tagged ‘Encoding’

The Space-Time Continuum: How & Why to Space Your Time

November 22nd, 2020 No comments

We’ve all been there, even me. You might even be there right now.  You know the deal – it’s 10pm on a Sunday night.  You promised you would leave yourself time to study for your psychology exam, but you got caught up in weekend plans, the latest election news, and all of the other midterms you have to study for.  And let’s not forget about the two problem sets you also have due in the morning!  It seems that the hope you had when you first made that promise is slipping further and further down the drain.  Now, the exam is mere hours away, and it seems there’s nothing left to do but cram.  You stay up all night, attempting to review every single concept your professor introduced this semester.  You go through the motions of studying: rereading, highlighting, and underlining terms, as if to make up for the hours and days of lost time that you should have devoted to preparing for this exam.  

https://www.newcollege.utoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/demi-examcram-comic.png
Staying up late the night before an exam to cram is not an effective study strategy.

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Why we are so good at playing name that tune

November 20th, 2020 No comments

If you are driving in the car and your favorite song from middle school comes on, you are most likely able to instantly start singing every word of it. Have you ever stopped and wondered how you could remember all of the words from so long ago? Well, that is due to processes in your memory where lyrics to a song can be easier to encode into your memory. Before I get into that, I will first describe some basic aspects of memory. The steps in memory processes include encoding, which inputs environmental information into our memory; storage, which is the process of storing that information in memory; and retrieval, which is the output of information from our memory. The modal model of memory, created by Atkinson and Shiffrin, begins with an input of environmental stimuli that gets stored in sensory memory for a short period of time in order to recognize any patterns. We then focus our attention on the information we want to store in our memory, sending that information to short term memory. This information can also be placed into long term memory. Information can then be retrieved from our long term memory, such as the lyrics to that favorite song from middle school (McBride & Cutting, 2019). This information on memory provides some background of what I will now discuss, which is why we are able to remember the lyrics to so many songs.

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Mood-Congruent Memory and Depression: A Vicious, Unrelenting Cycle

November 20th, 2020 No comments

Imagine this: You enter your dorm room after a long, difficult day, and you’re in a bad mood. You’ve been in the library all afternoon, you’re drenched to the core from walking back in the rain, and you still have what feels like an actual mountain of homework left. As you’re unpacking your bag, events from the day run through your mind, and they’re all negative: the test that didn’t go so well, the lunch that wasn’t great, the workout that felt particularly hard… the list goes on. Your day was not entirely bad, yet you’re only able to remember the not-so-great moments.

If you can relate to the above story, you’ve experienced the effects of mood-congruent memory, which is the idea that the memories we retrieve tend to be consistent with our current emotional state. This explains why people who are in a bad mood recall negative memories, and the same goes for all types of moods. Mood-congruency affects people’s attention, too, but I’m going to focus on memory. Essentially, individuals’ moods dictate the types of memories to which they have access, which in turn reinforce their current mood state. This can be helpful when the positive memories contribute to the happy mood, and it’s generally not a big deal when the bad mood is temporary, since the negative memories will likely soon be replaced by more cheerful ones. That being said, the reciprocal relationship between mood and memory can be dangerous when the sad mood state is constant. Consider, for instance, individuals who suffer from depression.

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“Ohhh, ‘Cue!'”: Cue-Dependent Forgetting and Study Techniques

November 26th, 2019 2 comments

Picture yourself in a classroom taking a history quiz. You don’t consider yourself a history buff of course, but you feel as if you studied well enough. You breeze through the questions, until you come across one that stumps you a bit: “Which U.S. President served the shortest term?”. You have to know this, of course, because you remember looking over it yesterday. The weight of familiarity is killing you, as you rack your brain and sort through the order of United States Presidents you thought you had memorized. When you studied, you paired the President’s last names along with common words that sounded similar–Lincoln and Linkedin, Kennedy and candy– you thought you pretty much had it down. Your heart thumps as you begin to look around the room, hoping something will strike your memory and soon your attention is drawn to how weird your teacher’s hair looks today. Hair, hair, Harrison! Suddenly you have it, William Henry Harrison was the President who served the shortest term.

Ok, let’s try that scenario again: you find yourself looking around the room for something to spark that lightbulb in your mind, but nothing seems to do the trick. Your professor is bald and always has been. You simply just can’t remember the name you were looking for and accept defeat. You stare daggers at their head as you leave that question blank and go onto the next one.

What made these two scenarios so different? The second scenario describes a cognitive psychology term called “cue-dependent forgetting” where a person is unable to remember information in the absence of a retrieval cue (Chandler & Gargano, 1995). A retrieval cue in this case is something that signals or prompts the memory of something that you associated with it (Chandler and Gargano, 1995). In the previously described scenario, the retrieval cues were the common words that sounded similar to the President’s names. This is why, when the retrieval cue for Harrison (“hair”), was forgotten, you were unable to answer the question. Pairing items as a form of studying may seem like an efficient way to quickly memorize material, but as seen in the example, it isn’t always reliable. Why does cue-dependent forgetting happen? And are there ways to prevent it from having a negative effect on test performance? These questions can be understood with a quick summary of how memory works.

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Get Ready…You’re Next.

November 24th, 2019 2 comments

“When will I get to speak” – Instead of attending to Mr. Know-It-All, they wait in anticipation for their turn to speak next.

Imagine that you are in class and your teacher has split the class into multiple groups, assigning each group different chapters of your reading to summarize for the class. In your group, you collectively brainstorm with your other group members about chapter four and write down the main topics and themes that pop up throughout your discussion. When your teacher signals that it’s time for each group to share what they talked about, all your group members assign you to be the spokesperson since you have jotted down some general notes. “Yeah, sure. It’s no big deal,” you think to yourself. “It’s not a formal presentation or anything, I just have to summarize what we talked about.” The group’s spokesperson for chapter one goes first, followed by the group’s spokesperson for chapter two and then chapter three. As it nears your turn, you start to think about how to present a clear and concise summary to the class as your classmates have just done. All of a sudden, you’re up next, so you stand up and tell the class about the main topics your group discussed. When you sit back down, the group for chapter five begins to share, but you look back over your notes making sure you did not forget to include anything important. At the end of class, your teacher gives a mini quiz about the chapters the class just summarized, and you realize that you can’t really remember anything from the presentations on chapter three or five. What happened? You were subject to the next-in-line effect.

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“Uh sir, pay attention. You’re next-in-line.”

April 26th, 2018 2 comments

Sharing aloud in groups can be a stressful and anxiety-provoking situation. Picture a college classroom, the anticipation of your turn to speak. Your voice is finally going to be heard. “Let’s not mess this up,” you think to yourself. Imagine yourself present in this moment. How much of

what Kevin was just saying on your right could you remember if you were asked to do so? Probably not a lot, and you are not alone. You are not likely to remember the responses of the people who speak right before you do. This is referred to as the next-in-line effect. This effect has implications any time that you are in a group situation in which you are asked to publicly perform.

Attention!

The next-in-line effect was discovered when Malcom Brenner (1973) performed an experiment in which a group of participants read words aloud while trying to remember as many as possible. After each participant read aloud a practice card, they performed four trials. Recall was worst for the words immediately preceding the words that they had read aloud, also called pre-performance items. In conclusion, the next-in-line effect refers specifically to less recall of that precede reading an item aloud to a group when compared to recall of other items read.

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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.

https://www.pinterest.com/

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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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 4 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.”

http://www.phonearena.com/news/Which-carrier-offers-the-fastest-mobile-data-and-coverage-4G–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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