Archive for the ‘Attention’ Category

Are the Stereotypes True: The Effects of Divided Attention Declines in Older Adults on Every Day Activities

November 14th, 2022 No comments

Have you ever seen a meme or a video that depicts older adults not being able to drive, not being able to walk, not being able to remember things, or not being able to focus. These types of media are very present in our lives today, and are reflective of many of the stereotypes that surround older adults in our society today. But, have you ever taken a second to think about why these stereotypes exist, and why we are so quick to believe them? In other words, are there actually age-related changes or declines that older adults are experiencing that impact their ability to walk, drive, remember, or perform any other daily function, or is it just stereotyping of older adults that create these perceptions in our minds about how older adults perform on these tasks? Research about cognitive aging has provided us with insight into how our brain and cognitive functioning changes as a result of getting older, and how this in turn influences performance on a daily basis as we age. The field of cognitive aging is very wide, and research encompasses a wide variety of topics, including memory, perception, attention, language, prior knowledge, and much more. Additionally, a wide variety of theories have been carefully developed and researched to provide explanations for the declines that we see in older adults as they age. Although everyday functions for older adults such as driving, walking or memory could be influenced by declines in a wide variety of areas, present research about divided attention declines in older adults provide significant insight into how decline in divided attention impacts a variety of every day functions for older adults.

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Ever been mistaken for the other Black student in your class by a White professor?

May 16th, 2022 No comments

Ever been mistaken for the other Black student in your class by a White professor? Is it because you both look alike? Do you resemble one another? Or is it because your face is unrecognizable? Let me tell you, it’s not you, you aren’t the problem. Recognizing faces is a critical part of many social interactions as is the combination of how our ingroup and outgroup biases inform how we recognize people in other social groups.

A visual representation of what the confusion on Black students' face when they get mistake for somebody else
A visual representation of the confusion on Black students’ face when they get mistake for somebody else
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Why Cognition Makes Funny and Weird Ads so Great

April 29th, 2022 No comments

Let’s be honest, most of us don’t like commercials or advertisements interrupting our entertainment, but for many Americans super bowl Sunday is the one night of the year where we actually look forward to the commercials. In fact, many even relate to the meme below. We often even discuss them afterward with our friends. Unsurprisingly, the boring commercials rarely get brought up, but the bizarre ones that made us laugh will certainly start some conversation. In fact, we probably don’t remember the boring commercials we saw the day before. This is due to the humor and von Restroff effects which are cognitive biases that result in remembering information better when humor or something bizarre is involved.

Super Bowl Commercial Ad

Shopping Through the Eyes of the Attentional Bias

The mail man delivers the mail for the day, and sitting on your kitchen table is the new Amazon catalog filled with everything you could imagine, including all of the latest electronic products. The front cover is the latest Iphone you have been wanting, and now that you see it in the catalog, you have never wanted it more. You scroll through the pages quickly, and scan for good deals. You see so many great devices you would love to have. So how could you possibly see all of the products offered when briefly flipping through the pages? It’s simple, you didn’t. Although you closed the catalog, there is no doubt that there are many products inside it that you did not even notice. This is because our attention capacity is limited. We can not be aware of all of our surrounding stimuli. 

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Eating Disorders: Why They are Shaped by Bias and Social Media

April 28th, 2022 No comments

When I was 15 years old my best friend had Anorexia Nervosa. 

Did something happen that I don’t know about? Why is she acting this way? These were questions I constantly asked myself as I watched my best friend struggle with inner demons throughout my first year of high school. She progressively became more fatigued, impulsive, and quiet. At the time, I had no prior knowledge of Anorexia, an eating disorder that causes extensive weight loss alongside a skewed perception of gaining weight and food altogether. I never understood what was happening to my best friend for the longest time. I could only observe the complete alteration of who she was. Eating Disorders are categorized as psychological disorders with disturbed eating patterns and habits. These disorders have a severely detrimental impact on the mind, which is why it can take, on average, six months to two full years for the brain alone to recover from an eating disorder. 

It was not until years later that I realized my best friend was exhibiting the signs of an eating disorder in high school. Over time, she expressed to me how she felt about the illness. As if she was no longer in control, another part of herself decided to forcefully take the keys to the car and not stop driving. It took her years to climb out of the hole she was thrown in. Although even after she shared her story with me, I continued to struggle to wrap my head around the idea of how your brain can entirely change your perception of body image. It wasn’t until I learned about Attentional Bias in my Cognitive Psychology course that I noticed how eating disorders occur and develop in the brain. I find it quite terrifying how our brain controls how we perceive the world around us, especially in recent years, where the idea of “thinness” has been preached across social media platforms and among influential celebrities. 

Some popular social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, to name a few. Even well-known television shows such as America’s Next Top Model and The Biggest Loser actively normalize the idea that being “too big” is ugly, unattractive, and shameful. They either force contestants to lose weight in an unhealthy way or point out women’s insecurities for why they aren’t physically good enough to be the next top model. Constant advertisements for weight loss, diets, fitness, and cosmetic surgery are also to blame for our society willingness to support “thinness” (Leavy et al, 2006). For generations, our society has set unrealistic beauty standards, especially for women, that undoubtedly lead to low self-esteem and insecurities that have the potential to develop into an Eating Disorder. Even the most recognized celebrities have influenced bad and unhealthy habits with eating. Earlier this month, Kim Kardashian talked about how she lost sixteen pounds in three weeks to fit into a dress for the Met Gala. She spoke of nearly having to “starve herself” but how it was also worth it. From such a well-known celebrity that millions of people watch, to preach the idea of having to completely alter your diet to lose an unhealthy amount in a short time for the Met Gala is destructive to your body and mind. Mass media promoting this image allows Attentional biases to form and keep confirming themselves. Social media can have a firm grasp on how we view ourselves, especially in younger generations. This is extremely important because the most common age to develop an eating disorder is between twelve and twenty-five years old, meaning the most targeted crowd for social media is also the most vulnerable to this disorder(Leavy et al, 2006).

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Laser Focus: How Meditation Can Improve Attention

April 27th, 2022 No comments
The Rangers Offseason is Turning into the Galaxy Brain Meme - Blue Seat  Blogs
Could meditation do this to our brains? Source:

Doesn’t meditation just seem great? If you’re anything like me, you have tried it a couple of times but never got the habit to stick. Maybe you’re already meditating regularly, and if so, you have my respect. For us failing meditators of the world, we’ve all seen the glorious images of peaceful meditators with pristine lifestyles. It’s nice to romanticize ourselves sitting and being one with the moment. And sure, we know that it might be great for our mental well-being, but who has the time? You may ask yourself: why would I sit there and focus hard when I could not do that? And fair enough, you don’t really have to, and I’m not going to try and convince you. But I want to lay out the science for myself because I’m curious about how powerful meditation can be. I wonder how realistic the romantic images of monks and yogis are. Maybe, just maybe, if nothing else can get me to meditate, the wonders of science can! I’m looking for the cold, hard facts on what meditation can do. Specifically, since I’ve become aware of the importance of attention: I want to know if I can get outrageously good focus from meditating—laser focus.

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Consumerism and the Spotlight Effect: how our minds convince us to spend

April 27th, 2022 No comments

What is the spotlight effect?

The spotlight effect envelopes our everyday lives, something that we all experience and unique for every person. It is the fact that we believe we are being perceived and seen by others around us on an exaggerated scale, and that those people take a more conscious and meaningful critique.

The spotlight effect makes a great deal of sense, for our entire lives we are the center of our own universe, and we know nothing else. We experience everything through our own perspective, which makes it difficult to remove ourselves from this and accurately think about how others might perceive the world, or more specifically, yourself. Changing from person to person, this we each may have different aspects of ourself that we believe are on display. They may revolve around self-conscious aspects of our person, or around things we take pride in.

We simply fail to comprehend that other people are too preoccupied with their own thoughts and actions, and in a consumer society, this can be taken advantage of and lead to big consequences.

What cognitive psychology components are at play?

It is clear why we might assume others take such notice to our actions, but why don’t they? The main reason is that in the human brain, we sift through the vast amount of incoming sensory data with the cognitive function of attention. We have the ability to direct our attention, focusing our actions and thoughts, allowing us to not be overcome with the infinitely large amounts of raw data we could perceive.

Because of this, attention must be thought of as a limiting factor, as we cannot attend to every stimuli that we receive, we rather use attention to block out much of the other stimuli that would cause interference. In the case of the spotlight effect, often when we believe that others would be perceiving us, they are rather using attention to attend to actions that are currently meaningful or important to them, making our existence and actions irrelevant and therefor unattended too.

How does the spotlight effect influence consumerism?

It is well known that the USA us a consumerist society. Everyone scrambles for the newest clothes and phones, and while doing so quickly lose interest in past fixations for the next down the line. But where does the spotlight effect come into all this?

Companies know well the effects of the spotlight effect, and often use them to their advantage to sell their products. They use celebrities to market their products, preying on our wants to be similar and seen with such stature.

It is helpful to break down why we consume; do the products really get any better month to month? Probably not, in most cases one could argue that it would be very possible for some of these changes to be simply added to the old products. Phones are a great example of this, often much that is promised by getting a new phone, such as the newest software and capabilities, could simply be added to your existing phone in a software update.

So if not that, then is it for our own personal gain? Would we feel the same enjoyment if nobody else could see our new items? Arguably not. Often times the only enjoyment that is felt comes from the validation from others, a friend telling you how cool something is for example. This validation is what we crave and pursue, and where the spotlight effect comes into play. Because we believe that others are seeing us and caring about how we look and what we have, this pushes us to want to have the best, look the best, and present a false persona about ourselves. We buy expensive clothing because we believe that others will see us and care. Then, once more and more people have what we have, we begin to feel less in the spotlight, and pursue the next thing. We buy the expensive phones because we believe others will care if your number is green in their phone and not blue. These phones don’t work any better, but we believe that others live to view and judge ourselves.

After a deeper look, the spotlight effect is deeply…deeply integrated in our consumerist society. 

How can we combat the influence of the spotlight effect?

So, we after reading this far, we can see that we all have suffered from the spotlight effect is some way, shape, or form. But what now? How can we learn from this? Much of the spotlight effect lives unconsciously in our brains, it is a learned process which we do not consciously uphold, an automatic process. So, to combat this, we must consciously reflect in moments of vulnerability. Ask yourself questions that remove yourself from the subject of the situation. Something like, if I saw someone with this, would I really care, or even notice? Questions like these can help to combat the spotlight effect in consumerist settings, which can be both helpful and calming.

Literature Citations

Czarnecka, Barbara; Schivinski, Bruno (17 June 2019). “Do Consumers Acculturated to Global Consumer Culture Buy More Impulsively? The Moderating Role of Attitudes towards and Beliefs about Advertising” (PDF). Journal of Global Marketing32 (4): 219–238.

Gilovich, T.; Medvec, V. H.; Savitsky, K. (2000). “The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one’s own actions and appearance” (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Gilovich, Thomas; Kruger, Justin; Medvec, Victoria Husted (2002). “The Spotlight Effect Revisited: Overestimating the Manifest Variability of Our Actions and Appearance” (PDF). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Matthew James Hall (2020) ,”Are You Paying Attention? Consumption-Related Antecedents and Consequences of the Spotlight Effect”, in NA – Advances in Consumer Research Volume 48, eds. Jennifer Argo, Tina M. Lowrey, and Hope Jensen Schau, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 383-384.

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Drink Up! Laughter is the Best Medicine

April 27th, 2022 No comments

You walk into your friend’s room and find them crying, and so you desperately try to cheer them up. Give them a hug? No, they look like they want their space. Tell them it’ll all work out? No, they won’t believe you. Ok, how about you crack a light-hearted joke? Yes! They’re smiling so you add a little more humor. Suddenly, your friend begins to laugh so hard that the tears disappear. Who knew you were so funny that you could cure stress! Well, actually, quite a few cognitive researchers could’ve told you that. Turns out laughter really is the best medicine…

Laughter is the best medicine!
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It’s All Semantics. Literally.

April 27th, 2022 No comments

Some time ago, I realized a fundamental truth: that memory was weird. Now, I see that what middle-school-me thought was “weird” is more complicated than I ever could’ve imagined.

It was back in 2017 when I first learned that memory was a bit like a slot machine: you never knew what you’d end up with—or rather, you never knew what you’d be left with, after having had multiple strokes. I remember my trip to that rehabilitation facility in Maryland briefly, but the important parts are clear: I was with my parents and my brother. We had come to visit my uncle, who’d undergone two major strokes and countless minor ones. The big ones had been less than a year apart. The first stroke had left him weak yet intact, but the second one had taken things from him. The second stroke had taken his mobility, his memory, and his speech fluency. Years and years ago, I remember this uncle of mine before he had become hindered by his health and subsequent cognitive impairments. I don’t have many memories of my uncle, but one thing I remember being in complete awe of was that he was the only person in the world I knew who could make a seven-letter-word in Scrabble. But now, he could barely say seven words, and my uncle, this fragile man in a wheelchair, was nearly unrecognizable.

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Chewing Gum May Help You Remember That Last Bit of Information Before an Exam

April 25th, 2022 No comments

What is your favorite flavor of gum? Mint? Bubblegum? Tropical Twist? None? Turns out, chewing gum may have more effects than simply making your breath smell good, or giving you something to do when bored. In fact, some studies show chewing gum can actually increase feelings of relaxation, increase attention, lower stress levels, and improve memory. Now, this is not to say that simply chewing gum while studying will get you an automatic 100% on an exam. But it may help enough to bump your grade up and boost your confidence!

Chewing gum is something a lot of researchers have recently realized might help students out, especially those who are in a cram session! Studies have been conducted to see whether chewing gum actually has an effect on recalling information and keeping us awake. In 2018, authors Ginns, Kim, and Zervos looked into seeing if chewing gum affected alertness and test performance. Participants were split up into two groups: one that chewed gum while studying and another group that studied without gum. It was found that chewing gum did in fact impact learning for the better – people who chewed gum and studied performed better on an exam given after the fact and felt much more alert and awake during the exam than the non-chewing gum group.

While portrayed in this image as someone not paying attention in class, chewing gum can actually increase alertness and attention!
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