Posts Tagged ‘Working Memory’

Good Liars: Working Memory and the Cherry Tree

November 25th, 2015 1 comment

As the legend goes, an angry father confronts his son about the damage to a cherry tree. “I cannot tell a lie,” young George Washington proudly asserts, “I did cut it with my hatchet.” Washington Senior proceeds to forgive his son, because George’s honesty was more valuable than a thousand trees. This legend has been retold over and over to extol the virtues of honesty and morality. But what if the young George cannot tell a lie because he is a bad liar with a poor working memory?

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Categories: Attention, Memory Tags: ,

Under pressure

November 23rd, 2015 2 comments

Did somebody ever tell you not to be afraid of pressure because after all pressure is what turns coal into a diamond? This saying encourages us to embrace new challenges and to see pressure as a possibility to grow. In other words, if we manage stress well, we can transform ourselves from a lump of coal into a precious diamond. Accordingly, having a certain amount of pressure in our lives can help us to excel. However, if the pressure becomes too much, we freeze and are overwhelmed by a task.

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Working Memory: Can we Improve It?

November 22nd, 2014 2 comments

Don’t you wish you had perfect attention skills? That you could become so immersed in your studying that even hearing your name wouldn’t pull you away from the task at hand? The level of focus which you have for the task at hand is regulated by the central executive portion of the brain, where working memory is. Working memory has been studied extensively, and one example of research that demonstrates good working memory is called the cocktail party effect. This refers to the phenomenon of being in a busy room, yet still hearing your name from somewhere in the crowd, even when you are having your own conversation. When looking at the cocktail party effect, it was found that people with stronger working memory are less likely to hear their name said while in a busy room with lots of people. (Conway et al., 2001). This makes sense, because strong working memory would indicate that you are so absolutely immersed and focused on the conversation or task at hand that outside stimuli, such as your name, will not distract you. Working memory is different than short-term memory because it is much more active; it helps with reading comprehension, and has specialized parts for holding onto different types of information. Working memory is predictive of performance various activities, whereas short-term memory does not predict many cognitive processes. What is in your working memory is what you are thinking about right here and right now. Read more…

Categories: Attention, Memory Tags: ,

Do You Ever Say You’re Going To Do Something And Never End Up Doing It?

November 20th, 2014 No comments


Have you ever wondered why when you plan to do something beforehand, you usually end up getting it done? For example, for something as minuscule as taking out the trash – the act of reminding yourself to do so or envisioning yourself taking out the trash (maybe don’t envision it…) is proven to help you complete tasks. This is called an implementation intention (II), i.e. the act of specifying when, where, and how you will perform a specific task or action. To carry out an II, you use an if-then structure, such as “If it rains, I will put on my raincoat.” The formation of II’s is confirmed to improve prospective memory, which is the ability to remember to perform a specific action at an intended time. As Peter Gollwitzer and Gabriele Oettingen write in their article (2013), “Successful goal pursuit requires solving both of two subsequent tasks: first, strongly committing to goals, and then, effectively implementing them.” However, what cognitive processes do you need to act on an II, and can people of all ages and conditions exhibit excellent prospective memory?

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Categories: Aging, Memory Tags: ,

The Secret to Getting Out of Jury Duty

April 29th, 2014 No comments


Jury duty: two words that strike fear into even the most masculine of men. Often when people get their jury duty summons they spend inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out how to get out of it whether by claiming to be wildly biased (a rather conservative approach) or by creating a whole character of crazy a la Liz Lemon dressing up as Princess Leia and claiming, “I don’t really think it’s fair for me to be on a jury because I can read thoughts.” Either way, these tactics are often unsuccessful and you would most likely be better served by giving truthful answers to the qualifying questions than anything else.

In reality, if you know yourself and your mind, the truth might actually get you out of jury duty while also helping the court avoid a possible wrongful conviction. Although some cases are easily decided, the most ambiguous cases increase chance of wrongful conviction and application of heuristics in damaging ways. A heuristic, which is a mental shortcut that our brain creates in order to allow us to make quick decisions and judgments, is applied automatically when we approach a decision. However, because these heuristics may embody socially unacceptable implicit attitudes and beliefs, these automatic decisions can and often are overridden by controlled thinking. However, these heuristics may still be applied when the individual is using cognitive resources on other tasks. Research has shown that three factors play an important role in the jury member’s determination of defendant guilt: prejudice, working memory capacity (WMC), and cognitive load.

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Sentence Comprehension Deficits in Alzheimer’s Disease

December 13th, 2013 5 comments

Most people know that there are extreme cognitive deficits associated with DAT, otherwise known as Alzheimer ’s disease, but what is the nature of these struggles? What do those with DAT have the most trouble on, and what is the biggest cause of the troubles? It turns out that those with DAT have the biggest deficits in attentional tasks, and a lot of their memory issues stem from an inability to focus and maintain attention. In 1998 “Sentence Comprehension Deficits in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Comparison of Off-Line VS. On-Line Sentence Processing” looked at and tried to analyze the reasons behind memory deficits in DAT individuals.

The experimenters wanted to test whether the problems were stemming from a lack of syntactic knowledge, or the knowledge of how words form into sentences correctly, or from a working memory deficit. Working memory is the system that holds information in short term memory, deciding whether to attend to it, rehearse it, and transfer it into long term memory or to just throw it out. The better a person’s working memory, the better they can learn and pay attention to what they are looking at. Read more…

Cognitive Compensations for the Visually Impaired

November 25th, 2013 2 comments

Two summers ago, I volunteered at a special education academic program at the Weston High School in Weston, Massachusetts. As I observed the students work, I was astounded by how behind in learning their disabilities put them compared to the average level their age would normally be associated with. While I was there, I helped a 13-year-old blind girl with her reading comprehension homework. I was asked to dictate a passage to her, and she had to answer one of four questions that she read in brail. As I watched her fingers trace the dots, and dictate to me the correct answer, I was both astounded and intrigued.  I wondered and still wonder, how does the human body adapt and reorganize itself to compensate for deficits, by birth or by injury? More specifically, how can blindness affect one’s cognitive abilities, in particular the various parts of the human memory?

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Money helps ADHD students perform on task!

November 23rd, 2013 1 comment

More and more children are being diagnosed with Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) across the United States every year. ADHD symptoms include problems paying attention, staying focused, controlling impulses, and uncontrollable hyperactivity (NIMH). There is much debate about whether this increase in diagnosis is because of an increase in occurrence of ADHD, or an increased need to pathologize childhood behavior in order to medicate. With this influx of ADHD diagnoses across the country, there are more ADHD students in schools across the country that are having significant problems learning and attending to different information. So, it is important that cognitive researchers look at the ways that ADHD affects the cognition and learning process of students so that school lessons can be more effectively taught!

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