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Posts Tagged ‘Top Down Processing’

Take off the rose-tinted glasses: Rosy retrospection and the fallibility of memory

April 26th, 2018 8 comments

If you’ve ever binge-watched The Office, you probably remember the moment in the series finale when Andy Bernard reflects on his days at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Thinking back on his past – on the friends he made and the fun times he had – he says, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” Is he right? At the moment he said it, was Andy living in the “good old days?” Why will he be able to think back on that moment as if it were the “good old days” if he can’t see it right now? Five years from now, will we be looking back on 2018 like it was the “good old days?” Cognitive psychology has an answer: yes.

Allow me to explain: we often tend to remember and recollect past events in a more favorable light than when they actually occur. This is called rosy retrospection – have you ever heard of the idiom “to see through rose-tinted glasses?” It refers to the tendency to see something in a positive light, often better than it actually is. This memory bias applies to all of us – and it explains why we often recall the past much more fondly than the present. More generally, rosy retrospection represents one example of the way memory is not as accurate or reliable as we would like to believe. Memory is surprisingly fallible.
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Do You See What I See? I See Jesus in Toast!

April 25th, 2018 2 comments

Have you ever gone to hang up your coat and thought, “An angry octopus is staring right at me!” Did you wonder afterwards if this is common and if everyone was seeing what you were seeing? This is known as a phenomenon called pareidolia, where external stimuli (such as coat hangers) trigger perceptions of non-existent entities (such as faces) presenting an erroneous match between internal representations and sensory inputs (Liu et al., 2014). Face pareidolia is the most common form, which is where humans tend to see faces in non-face objects (Ichikawa et al., 2011). Some examples include seeing a face in the clouds, Jesus in toast, or the Virgin Mary in a tortilla (to see more cool examples of pareidolia, click here!) How and why does this happen?

Washing Machine Pareidolia Example

Angry Octopus Pareidolia Example

To examine these questions, we must delve into the process of pattern recognition and face recognition in cognitive psychology. Pattern recognition is the process of constructing a mental representation and assigning meaning to it. Pattern recognition relies tremendously on top-down processing, which is the idea that we use prior knowledge, context, and expectations to aid our perceptions.

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There is a monster under your bed, and I have evidence to confirm it.

April 24th, 2018 2 comments

Not all princesses need saving, it has been confirmed. (Image 1)

You are a hero, off on an adventure. Riding on horseback, glorious as you are, you see a dragon in the distance. It is wrapped around a twisting tower and a fair maiden gazes down from the window up above. This is your chance, you know she needs saving, so you ride closer to get a better look. Exactly as you thought, the maiden looks sad, almost wistful, and you know she is dreaming of escaping this terrible beast. With a flash of your sword and the pure strength of your muscles to climb the tower, you kill the beast and finally reach the princess. To your surprise, she does not look pleased. You explain that you have saved her from the terrible dragon which kept her imprisoned, as if this really requires explaining. Astonishingly, she admonishes you! She tells you with great anger that the dragon was her beloved pet and she did not need saving. You look back on the events which occurred and explain to her that she did, in fact, need saving, because she looked so sad and wistful in the tower, clearly longing for sweet escape. Yet, as she soon points out, she was not sad due to imprisonment, but because her “Do Not Feed The Dragon” sign had fell from the castle wall, which you could now clearly see was laying on the lawn in visible sight the entire time. Yet even after she points out this contradictory information, you stick to your guns and tell her she must be delusional from the time she has spent in the tower, and saving her was the only option. So, what caused you to vindicate your decision by addressing only the evidence which made you believe the princess needed rescuing while completely disregarding the clear information which demonstrated otherwise? It is the real monster that needs slaying, and its name is Confirmation Bias. Confirmation bias affects our decision making by facilitating our attentional resources towards evidence confirming what we already believe to be true. When one demonstrates prejudice towards a certain outcome or decision prior to gathering all of the information available on this topic, one is inclined to only address the information which confirms their predictions while ignoring conflicting evidence which may hold more gravity. Therefore, confirmation bias results in a disregard for contradictory evidence and reasoning (Jonas et al., 2001). Read more…

Isn’t The Weber-Fechner Law The Same As Any Other Equation? Never mind, I Just Noticed The Difference

April 24th, 2018 No comments

https://tenor.com/view/loud-too-loud-cant-hear-sorry-music-gif-5494161

Imagine that you and your best friend are sitting in the back of the classroom during a lecture on a Friday afternoon. All you can think about is the concert  you’re going to tonight that you’ve been excited about for months, so you give up on trying to listen to your professor explain nuclear chemistry. You quietly whisper back and forth with your friend, talking about what you plan on wearing and what time you need to leave. Finally, the lecture ends and before you know it you’re at the concert. The music is blasting and you’re having a great time, but after singing along to several songs you decide you need to go buy something to drink. You start to tell your friend that you’ll be right back, but she doesn’t hear you. You say her name louder a few times, but she still doesn’t notice. Finally, you lean in close and yell in her ear. She nods and says something back but you can’t hear it over the music. You could hear each other just fine a few hours ago in class, but now it’s nearly impossible. What you’re experiencing is a difference in background intensity, and Ernest Weber and Gustav Fechner have a law that will tell you all about it. Read more…

That Band is Really Cool, But I Swear It’s Everywhere

April 24th, 2018 2 comments

Have you ever scrolled through Spotify and discovered a band you like?  Have you ever started listening to all its songs and suddenly you start hearing it all the time on the radio and seeing advertisements for its new album or concert? Or maybe you just found out you’re pregnant and see parents with their kids everywhere you go? While it’s easy to think that maybe you just discover bands that magically and suddenly get really big or that maybe more people suddenly have kids these days, you’re actually probably experiencing what is called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon or frequency illusion.

Kids are everywhere! Or so you think.

The frequency illusion occurs when a person experiences something, like finding a song he or she likes on Spotify or becoming pregnant, and then afterwards believes that the experience or phenomenon happens all the time. So why does this occur? Well, there are two cognitive processes that are involved in creating the frequency illusion: selective attention and confirmation bias (Zwicky, 2006).  Read more…

False memories in native and non-native English speakers

December 14th, 2017 1 comment

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 4 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 1 comment

www.akns-images.eonline.com 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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