Posts Tagged ‘Top Down Processing’

False memories in native and non-native English speakers

December 14th, 2017 No comments

Memory – a simple word consisting of six letters. Memory – a term we frequently use to encompass a broad range of concepts. Memory – the thing that’s left after an event has long passed. But what happens when memory fails us? What happens when we fail to remember the past as accurately as we thought we would?

False memory

In cognitive research, false memories describe memories of events that did not take place or they happened quite differently from how they are remembered. The most common technique to induce false memories in a laboratory setting is a word learning paradigm called Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM), in which people study a list of words (such as bounce, throw, basket, bowling, and golf) that are all related to a common item (in this case, ball). When given a memory test people will often indicate that the non-presented common item (ball) was on the list with high confidence (Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995).

This is what researchers described as false memory: remembering something that did not happen.

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Handwashing, Heliocentrism, and Global Warming: To Reject or Accept?

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

How often do you wash your hands? The Center for Disease Control recommends hand washing in numerous scenarios, such as before, during, and after preparing food, before and after tending to someone who is sick, before and after treating a wound, after going to the bathroom, after touching animals, and the list goes on. Now I know it might seem a little ridiculous to wash your hands as often as it is recommended, but I am crossing my fingers that you at least understand why it is necessary. One of the first things we teach our children is to always wash their hands, and how to do so effectively (such as washing for the duration of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”… twice). If you don’t believe me when I say hand washing is deep-seated in our modern society, just look at the 3.1 billion dollar market for hand soaps (Nielsen 2016). I, for one, certainly get overwhelmed when I walk down the aisle at my local Target and have to choose between the exhaustive collection of soaps with which I can lather up. And if I don’t find any soap I like then I can make my way over to the various types of hand sanitizers nearby. We can credit Ignaz Semmelweis and his microbial discoveries for the normalization of hand washing in our culture, but can you imagine a world where we didn’t wash our hands? And even stranger – can you imagine rejecting the science behind it? 
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Naïve Realism: Our Misinterpretation of How We Interpret the World

April 17th, 2017 6 comments

“I disagree.” Words that make us cringe. We have an innate desire for our worldview to be the correct one. This motivation is further exacerbated by our overconfidence in ourselves. We enter arguments thinking we are correct, but in reality, we have subconscious biases that may lead to us not being as accurate as we think we are.

Imagine that you are having an argument with a close friend about who deserves the title of the best baseball player of all time. You are adamant that the title goes to Barry Bonds, but your friend is dead set on Babe Ruth. You present your respective arguments, stating your opinions and even backing them up with the players’ incredible stats. You wonder to yourself, why doesn’t your friend have the same opinion as you? You figure they must be ill informed, that any logical person would choose Barry Bonds. However, you forget to take into account that your dad brought you to the Giants game on August 7, 2007, when Bonds broke the record for most career home runs (Baseball-Reference, 2017). The crowd went wild, the atmosphere was electric, and this became your favorite sports moment of all time. However, because you experienced this momentous event, you have a strong emotional connection to Bonds that tampers with your ability to objectively analyze him as a baseball player. Even though statistically, he may NOT be the best baseball player, your opinion is subconsciously swayed by your incredible experience that day at the ballpark. This highlights the basis of the cognitive error in psychology called naïve realism.

Naïve realism refers to the notion that our world view is strictly objective and veridical. We also believe that others will interpret information with this same view, and if their view differs, they must be biased or have an irrational thought process (Ross & Ward, 1996). To read about all the different psychological concepts that contribute evidence to naïve realism, click here.

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How Well do You Really Know Your Acquaintances? The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight

April 16th, 2017 1 comment

Have you ever found yourself questioning the decisions of those around you, perhaps as if you had better insight into the thoughts and emotions of a person than they did themselves? Or do you ever catch yourself making internal judgments towards others in a way that pushes aside the legitimacy of one’s own self-understanding? “Why is she doing that? She should know herself better!” These are behaviors that can be understood through a phenomenon commonly referred to as the illusion of asymmetrical insight, a cognitive bias that describes our tendency to think we understand other people better than they understand themselves and us. To put it into other words, Kathy (person #1) would be experiencing the illusion of asymmetric insight if she thinks she knows Kathy (herself) better than Jake (person #2) knows Jake (himself) or Kathy (person #1).

The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight in Action

This bias can be seen in individuals throughout varying contexts, and is also very common among social, political, and religious groups. Multiple studies have explored the manifestations of the illusion of asymmetric insight, many of which attribute the bias to reasons outside our level of consciousness. In other words, we do not have full awareness of when this phenomenon is occurring due to the fact that it is an automatic processes (a process that is quick, easy, requires little cognitive resources, and has the ability to occur without full attention, as opposed to controlled processes, which are slow, difficult, and require cognitive resources and full attention).

So why do we experience this phenomenon so frequently without even realizing it?

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The Halo Effect: Swiping Right For the Wrong Reasons

April 14th, 2017 No comments The Tinder logo


Have you ever used the incredibly popular dating app called Tinder? The app presents users with pictures of singles in the area, prompting the user to make a snap decision to either swipe right “to approve” in hopes of matching with the individual or left “to decline”(more information about how tinder works is available here if you’re so inclined). Very little personal information, if any, is listed about the individuals, so most of the time judgments are made based off pictures alone. You could swipe through hundreds of different people in a short amount of time, because the information is so limited, and the basic principles behind the app are so simple and user friendly. If you’ve ever used Tinder, you might have swiped right on a person that you find to be incredibly attractive, because if they’re hot they must have other great personality traits right?

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