Welcome to the CogBlog

January 16th, 2013 No comments

The CogBlog is created and maintained by research assistants working in the Memory and Language Lab and students enrolled in courses in cognitive psychology and memory at Colby College. The CogBlog is a space to think about and discuss recent research findings in cognitive psychology, with an emphasis on how basic research in cognition can help us understand how we navigate through our everyday lives, how we learn and remember, how we speak and listen.

The CogBlog was recently cited as one of the top psychology blogs of 2017.  You can also read an interview with Professor Jen Coane about how the blog was developed and how the content is generated.

 

 

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Beyond the black box: Unpacking performative activism

December 8th, 2020 No comments

If you didn’t see a single black square in your timeline, feed, dashboard, or any social media or news platform this summer—well, I’m not sure whether I’d be impressed or horrified. On June 2nd, Instagram feeds and social media platforms were flooded with black squares. Most of these were captioned with #BlackOutTuesday. Some included resources to take action through links to donate, sign petitions, or inform people about current issues. And then there were the ones captioned with #BlackLivesMatter or #BLM.

Black lives matter. That’s not up for debate. Yet the inclusion of hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #BLM in the captions of posts with black squares, whether well-intentioned or not, was entirely destructive.  Read more…

Bilinguals’ twisted tongues: the Tip-Of-the-Tongue phenomenon in other language systems and bilingualism

December 8th, 2020 No comments

My friend is not a native English speaker. I still remember his most funny yet embarrassing moment when we were both freshmen. He was introducing himself in front of the whole dorm, and I know he wanted to say he’s hard-working or diligent, because I almost heard him uttering “di”. But he seemed to be suddenly forgetting the word. Instead, after a long pause, he said something like “I’m a detergent person”. Everyone looked confused, and I couldn’t help laughing. I totally feel him. As a bilingual, I’m just too familiar with this tip-of-the-tongue state. From time to time, I lose the English word I was trying to say (especially during a zoom meeting, ah, guess how embarrassing it could be), and I would burst into a silent cry, not again! I know I know it; I know the corresponding word in my first language, and I can almost see it in the printed form in my mind. Yet I just can’t pull it out from my memory. 

A comic illustrating the tip of the tongue effect…it’s just so annoying!

When you are reading this blog, does it come to your mind that you have experienced this Tip-Of-the-Tongue (TOT) effect in your own life? You are nodding and smiling, because even if English is your native language, you know that annoying feeling as well as I do. In cognitive psychology, the TOT phenomenon refers to when people fail to retrieve a target word, yet the feeling of retrieval is imminent. In other words, you are 100% sure you know it somewhere in your mind, and you can even give the first few syllabus or letters, but no matter how hard you try, you just can’t remember it. You might even feel painful and anxious, because you are just so eager to know what it is exactly. Why are we interested in this topic? Well, the TOT states may not influence a native speaker’s life too much, but that unsatisfying feeling is still bothersome; For bilinguals and second-language learners, on the other hand, TOTs not only bring embarrassment and hurt confidence, it also happens more often. So it would be useful to ask why we experience it at all, how it would affect us if we are going to learn a second language, and what it reveals about our fundamental cognitive system.  

Read more…

When ‘Just Cheering Up’ Isn’t Possible- the cognitions behind depression may be the key to ending misconceptions

December 7th, 2020 No comments

Your friend reveals to you that she suffers from depression. When she hangs out with you and your other friends, she always sees things negatively and seems to bring the whole group down. Why can’t she just think positive? Does she even have a real condition? Everyone gets sad sometimes. You don’t understand why she can’t just cheer up, especially because you always eventually cheer up when you’re sad. You’re confused because there is nothing she needs to be sad about anyways; she has a good life! Besides, it’s all in her head. She just needs to change her mindset. 

Depressed people are all too used to the unhelpful advice to ‘just cheer up.’ The cognitive processes behind depression mean that those suffering from it are simply unable to ‘just cheer up.’ They would cheer up if they were able to.

A multitude of misconceptions surround depression. The stigma surrounding depression often leaves individuals who suffer from it to be perceived as lazy, negative, sad, and dramatic. Depression can be very difficult to understand for those who have not suffered from it. This leads to the perpetuation of misconceptions and a lack of the effective support that depressed individuals need grately. If you’ve ever had thoughts similar to the ones above about someone in your life, while you may have good intentions and want them to get better, you are lacking a basic understanding of depression itself and the cognitive processes behind it. Here’s the thing: Platitudes such as, ‘just think positive!’ ‘snap out of it!’ and ‘you need to cheer up!,’ which are all too commonly used as advice for depressed people, completely miss the mark. Because of the various cognitive processes underlying depression, it is impossible for depressed individuals to fix the issue in the ways that are suggested. It’s not that simple. Believe me, if it was that simple, they would surely be free of their depression by now.

Read more…

Famous or Not: the Competition between Familiarity and Recollection

December 7th, 2020 No comments

Do you know Brett Cohen? Sounds familiar? Even if you answered no, just keep reading. Let me show you how he made himself “famous” in one night.

Brett Cohen was a YouTuber who dreamed of being famous. One day, he decided to do a celebrity prank in the busiest streets in New York City and to see what it feels like to be at the center of attention. Brett dressed like a typical celebrity: a striped shirt with top buttons unbuttoned, sunglasses (classic!), and combed hair. He also hired some people to pretend as his bodyguards, personal assistants, and even paparazzi and reporters. Off he went, on this exciting journey. Once Brett walked from the NBC Observation Deck into the public, guess what? The crowd went nuts. People formed circles around him, yelled his name, and rushed to get a picture with him. When people were asked where they knew Brett from, they all responded with Spider-Man. One of the conversations went like this:

Common Cohen (up) vs Famous Cohen (bottom) How did he trick people into thinking that he was a celebrity? (pictures from Cohen 2012)

The “reporter”: Do you know Brett Cohen? 
The guy: Yea.
The “reporter”: Where do you know him from?
The guy: Well, when he was in Spider-Man? 
The “reporter”: Yea?
The guy: Yea. Very good actor.
The “reporter”: You liked him there?
The guy: Yea.
(Cohen 2012)

Read more…

Are You Smarter Than A Doctor? The Dunning-Kruger Effect and Vaccine Misinformation

December 7th, 2020 No comments

Picture this: it’s a beautiful fall day in elementary school, and one day after you get home from school, your parents tell you to get in the car because you have a doctor’s appointment. You’re not very excited, but you have no choice but to go along with them. When you arrive, you receive some dreadful news from the doctor: it’s time for you to get your seasonal flu shot! You’re terrified, but your parents tell you to close your eyes and that it will be over quickly, and that getting a shot isn’t nearly as bad as getting the flu later on. You hold your breath, and before you know it, you’re out the door with a Pokémon band-aid on your arm and a lollipop in your mouth.

For most Americans, receiving vaccinations against diseases such as the seasonal flu or measles is a common and expected practice. In fact, vaccines are often considered to be one of the greatest medical achievements of the 20thcentury. Although vaccines have been heralded as a medical breakthrough, anti-vaccination sentiments are by no means a new phenomenon. In the past decade or so, this anti-vaccination movement has grown tremendously on the internet. The public’s attitude towards vaccines is shaped by multiple factors, such as scientific, political, and psychological factors, as well as people’s levels of knowledge and exposure to misinformation. Despite overwhelming clinical evidence that vaccinations are safe and effective, there is still a community that stands strong in their beliefs in misconceptions about vaccines. People who hold these beliefs are generally known as “anti-vaxxers“.

Anti-vaxxer’s lack of metacognitive awareness leads often leads them to disregard science in favor of their own opinions.

Read more…

Why You Should Stop Multitasking…Right Now

December 5th, 2020 No comments

Multitasking is often thought of as a magical tool that will help people be more productive.

About ten years ago the Internet became flooded with articles about multitasking and its potential benefits for productivity and time management. Now and then you can stumble upon articles, written for entrepreneurs, employers, or people who want to increase their productivity, promoting multitasking. A lot of people face the issue of not having enough time due to the fast pace of modern life, having a lot of commitments, or not being good at time management, so they choose to multitask, hoping it would allow them to save some time. However, what people don’t realize is that multitasking can be harmful, both for the quality of their work and their productivity.

Attention is a limited resource so if we multitask, we have to divide it between the tasks.

What is exactly multitasking? Cognitive psychologists define multitasking as performing multiple tasks while constantly switching between them. A key feature of multitasking is that a person focuses on each task over a short time span (Oswald et al., 2007). Multitasking can take a lot of forms: it can be listening to a podcast while walking, watching a TV show while doing your homework, or texting while driving. Some tasks mix well, like listening to a podcast while you are walking because walking is an automatic process that does not require a lot of cognitive resources. However, most of the time it is impossible for us to focus on two tasks simultaneously, especially if both of them are controlled processes, which require a lot of attentional resources, so we have to divide our attention between them, which comes at a cost.

 

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Why Can’t I Stop Eating?

December 5th, 2020 No comments

Can you ever imagine that you can finish eating all forty cookies, one bucket of pretzels, two packs of chips, one pot of boiled milk, one jar of nuts, half of the pomelo, and two chocolate pies just in an hour without a second of rest? And can you also imagine even after you finish all of that food, your brain still craves for food though your belly is so swollen that you are about to puke? You may think that the person who can eat all of these must be a monster. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case

Kung Fu Panda ate 103 dumplings

Kung Fu Panda ate 103 dumplings

(though you may recall the scene Kung Fu Panda ate 103 dumplings). Or you are probably going to think of those competitive eaters. They can shovel so much food into their stomach in a short period of time. However, what might surprise you is that many people, myself included, even including those skinny, ripped athletes, can finish the amount of food all at once, roughly equivalent to nine meals for an adult. And this behavior is neither normal nor beneficial for people’s mental and physical health. So, what is this uncontrollable, torturous, and unstoppable action of food-intaking? The answer is binge eating disorder (BED), which is defined as the uncontrollable consumption of a large amount of food. Then what led to the creation of “glutton”? Why can’t these people control themselves from eating normally and healthily? And what are some treatments for the abnormal cravings and intaking of food?

Read more…

“Stocks only go up, $TSLA to the moon” — Elon Musk (probably)

December 3rd, 2020 No comments
A graph of $TSLA (Tesla Inc.) stock price going up.

A graph of $TSLA (Tesla Inc.) stock price going up.

I hope that you haven’t put all your life savings on $TSLA after seeing that juicy green graph. Hopefully, you won’t open the Robinhood app on your phone before reading this article. Even if you are one of the teenagers contributing to Robinhood’s 4.3 million daily average trades, I suggest you read this post before you go make another trade from your (or worse, your mom’s) life savings.

Here is a simple game for you. From what you can observe in the graph above, where do you think Tesla stock will go next. Would you buy some stocks? What about if you already had some Tesla stock. Would you hold, buy more, or sell? There is a lot of information missing from the graph, however, this type of graph remains the most important visual information that everyone sees first when. If you are a reader of this blog, you can probably guess that our primate brain isn’t as rational as we would like it to be!

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Never Doubt The Power of Patterns

November 30th, 2020 No comments

Imagine starting every day being dropped in a maze you have never seen before and having to find the exit. Nothing is familiar. Nothing is recognizable. Success is determined through trial and error, and every day starts from ground zero. Frustrating? Yes. Inefficient? Absolutely! This is a world without two cognitive processes called pattern recognition and unconscious inference. These cognitive processes influence real-life behaviors, activities, and outcomes. It is because of these processes we take many things we do effortlessly every day for granted.But what is pattern recognition and how does it play an important role in our everyday lives? Pattern recognition is a cognitive process that refers to our ability to recognize the large amounts of objects in our environment and then label and identify these objects. Pattern recognition is our ability to identify myriad different patterns, transform these patterns into individual, unique, and respective mental representations stored in memory, and then be able to retrieve this information and apply it to new incoming environmental stimuli to recognize new objects (Michaels & Carello, 1981).

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When you read this, you will only look out for what confirms your prior beliefs

November 28th, 2020 No comments

Or not. But probably not. Science has demonstrated that we have a natural tendency to search for and interpret information in a way that only confirms our prior beliefs or values. Ever been doing research for a paper in a class and only searched for information and evidence that supports your argument? Now answer this. While doing that, have you ever just let yourself skip by that evidence and those examples that went against your paper thesis? I know I have. What you probably didn’t realize, though, is that what you’re doing is exhibiting what is known as confirmation bias. And you might think big deal, right? Well, it kind of is. When you ignored those counterarguments and that contradictory evidence, you were arguing through a lens that only took into account one side of the story and one version of the truth. In order to make a complete and impartial argument we must consider all of the evidence and all of the facts. Confirmation bias hinders our ability to do this. And unfortunately, we have no defense to confirmation bias–it’s an automatic process that occurs without us even being aware of it happening. Understanding the nature of confirmation bias and its effects, however, can help reduce the detrimental effects it is known to have on us and society. 

This is what confirmation bias turns our research process into without us even realizing it!

Read more…

Categories: Cognitive Bias, Education Tags: