Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

You will remember this post. Why? Because it is weird!

April 20th, 2017 3 comments

Did you notice that you are actually very good at remembering weird things? You may not remember every single person who walks a dog on your way home because it’s just normal. However, if you see a dog walking a dog, you are very unlikely to forget the dogs. Why? Because they are weird! As you may expect, research supports that people do remember “weird” things better than normal things.

Von Restorff (1933) demonstrated that people are more likely to remember a distinctive item in a list of homogeneous items than in a list of heterogeneous items (e.g., an orange in a bunch of bananas vs. an orange in a bunch of different fruit). This is called the Von Restorff effect or the isolation effect.


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Why Students of Politics Should Leave The Colby Hill: The Confirmation Bias

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

On Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Although his supporters were excited and triumphant, many students at Colby College and other campuses across America were left shell-shocked. Students at Ivy League colleges – and those at Ivy League wannabees – seemed especially devastated and stunned. The website The College Fix reported numerous scenarios that suggested that students had expected a completely different outcome. Students at Columbia “came running, screaming, and crying to College Walk at 1 a.m.”, and insisted that exams be postponed so they could recover from the ordeal of Trump’s win. Over at Cornell, a completely bewildered student wandered around campus mid-election screaming, “How the f*** is he winning? What the f***?” At Yale, campus organizers actually organized a post-election group primal scream so students could “express their frustration productively.” Even at Penn, Trump’s alma mater, as it appeared likely that Trump would win the election, a student described a “miserable and most depressing scene.” How could some of the supposedly smartest students in America, schooled on the most elite of college campuses be so befuddled? What happened? Were they really so stupid, or had they perhaps been dumbed-down by their rarefied environment and media predictions based on misleading polls? To read more about misleading polls, click here. The answer can be found in a better understanding of the way the brain selects information from the environment, assesses it for accuracy, and reconciles it with pre-existing beliefs.

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The Show Must Go On! The War on Terrorism and Other Escalations of Commitment

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

We are in the 16th year of the War on Terrorism and less than a week ago, Donald Trump raised the stakes by bombing Syria and Afganistan. The Afganistan bombing was the largest non-nuclear bomb deployed in the history of the United States. When confronted about the decision, Trump referred to the dropping of the 30 ft, 11 ton MOAB (Massive Ordinance Air Blast) on an Islamic State cave and tunnel complex as a, “very, very successful mission.” Successful by what means? Every decision by the past three presidents to further engage in this war has led to more US soldier and Middle Eastern civilian casualties and we have made no steps towards conflict resolution. If this sort of stubborn persistence seems familiar that’s because this kind of error has been repeated throughout history as seen in the Vietnam War, in economic bailouts, and in failed skyscraper building projects just to name a few. This behavioral error is a cognitive bias known as escalation of commitment, or the Sunk Cost Effect.

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Presidential election vs bilingualism: how does the framing effect impact our decision-making

April 17th, 2017 2 comments

Are you a logical thinker?

If you are a human being with a healthy dose of confidence, your answer is most likely “Sure, I use logic most of the time.” Or, if you identify with the virtue of modesty, you would probably say, “No guarantees, but I make my best effort.” If either of the above describes you, at one point or another the election of the 45th U.S. president was probably among the biggest mysteries for you. Hillary Clinton sure has had her fair share of scandals and hypocrisy, but so do many seasoned politicians; Donald Trump, on the other hand, had no political experience, more than a handful racist, sexist, and xenophobic statements, and multiple alleged sexual assaults. Furthermore, because of his background, Donald Trump is also under a lot of suspicion of abusing power for personal gains. How on earth did Donald Trump turn out so much more appealing in a presidential election?

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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.

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…

Do your political mental representations differ from mine? If you’re a Republican, they probably do.

November 24th, 2015 4 comments


Have you ever wondered if people picture others differently in their minds? Is the picture of Barack Obama in your mind different from that in your brother’s mind? Research suggests that depending on the attitudes you have, it might be. A recent study has proposed that political opinions can change the mental pictures we have of politicians.

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In cognitive psychology, the concept of pattern recognition is commonly understood as assigning meaning to some incoming stimulus. One example of pattern recognition is face recognition. There are two main systems used for face recognition: analytic and holistic. The holistic approach assigns meaning by using top-down processes. These processes are those that are generated from knowledge or experience that we have about the stimulus. Bottom-up processes, which use the features of a stimulus to ascribe meaning, are prevalent in the analytic approach to face recognition. However, it is the top-down approaches that can help explain why Young, Ratner, and Fazio (2014) found that mental representations of Mitt Romney depend on political affiliations.

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