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Posts Tagged ‘Emotion’

A Stereotypical Blog Post

November 27th, 2020 No comments

During my sophomore year of high school, my once favorite teacher, Mrs. Kahler, looked at me and exclaimed, “You’re lucky! God taught you Jews how to handle money well! It’s in your blood.” At the time, I actually didn’t mind. I had heard my fair share of jokes about Jews and, perhaps naturally, something about me—be it my nose, financial status, or diet—always seemed to be the punchline. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but inform her that those “Jews are great with money” jokes aren’t funny—nor are they particularly accurate. Unfortunately, this kind of experience is common. In fact, even Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has to deal with harmful, pejorative stereotypes. Most recently, Harris experienced these stereotypes from President Donald Trump himself, as he appeared to weaponize the classic trope of the ‘angry Black woman,’ labeling her “nasty,” “mad,” and “angry” after an impressive cross-examination of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. More recently, Harris faced public criticismoften from conservative men, and supporters of President Trump—following her debate against Vice President Mike Pence, after she faced repeated interruptions and simply attempted to keep the discussion fair by saying, “I’m speaking.”

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Is 2020 Making Us More Stupid?

November 26th, 2020 No comments

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened fear, social isolation, and economic anxiety across many communities around the country.  In a recent survey of roughly 300 American workers, about 40% said they feel less productive than usual during the pandemic (Ducharme, 2020). College students, including those at Colby College, are not immune to similar feelings such as a lack of productivity, inability to pay attention, and an overall decrease in work performance. When talking to students at Colby College there is a general consensus that one’s ability to focus on one’s work has decreased in addition to overall cognitive performance. This general belief of decreased productivity and ability got me thinking about possible reasons for this widespread feeling. I began to wonder, “have students become lazier?”, “have Colby College students become less intelligent?”, or “have classes become harder?”. Logically thinking through these questions, I conclude a reasonable answer to these questions is “no” to all. But what could be driving these changes in cognitive performance across the Colby campus and beyond? Thinking back to my own peaks in academic performance, I think about the times in which I have seen the greatest success. Overall, I have found that my academic performance seems to be positively correlated with my level of happiness. These observations from the world of the pandemic, my own life, and the general trends on the Colby campus this year has led me to wonder, how do emotions affect one’s cognitive performance? Due to the magnitude of studies varying by different moods and cognitive processes, this blog will primarily focus on positive mood’s effects on learning and memory.

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Mood-Congruent Memory and Depression: A Vicious, Unrelenting Cycle

November 20th, 2020 No comments

Imagine this: You enter your dorm room after a long, difficult day, and you’re in a bad mood. You’ve been in the library all afternoon, you’re drenched to the core from walking back in the rain, and you still have what feels like an actual mountain of homework left. As you’re unpacking your bag, events from the day run through your mind, and they’re all negative: the test that didn’t go so well, the lunch that wasn’t great, the workout that felt particularly hard… the list goes on. Your day was not entirely bad, yet you’re only able to remember the not-so-great moments.

If you can relate to the above story, you’ve experienced the effects of mood-congruent memory, which is the idea that the memories we retrieve tend to be consistent with our current emotional state. This explains why people who are in a bad mood recall negative memories, and the same goes for all types of moods. Mood-congruency affects people’s attention, too, but I’m going to focus on memory. Essentially, individuals’ moods dictate the types of memories to which they have access, which in turn reinforce their current mood state. This can be helpful when the positive memories contribute to the happy mood, and it’s generally not a big deal when the bad mood is temporary, since the negative memories will likely soon be replaced by more cheerful ones. That being said, the reciprocal relationship between mood and memory can be dangerous when the sad mood state is constant. Consider, for instance, individuals who suffer from depression.

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Did fake news really help Trump win the election?

December 3rd, 2019 2 comments

As the 2016 election drew closer, headlines such as “Pope Francis shocks world, endorses Trump as president” or “WikiLeaks confirms Hillary sold weapons to ISIS…Then 

Fig 1. An example of a fake news headline

drops another bombshell”. There was even a scandal insinuating that in Hillary’s leaked email, “pizza” was just a cover up for a possible human trafficking scheme or child sex abuse ring. In actuality, these events never took place, and several reputable news sources, such as the New York Times and Fox News debunked any criminal activity involving “pizza”. So how did so many people fall victim to the headlines and why were these false memories so wide spread? Is there a possibility they could have helped Trump win the election?

Memory is a system that is important to our day to day lives. Without it we wouldn’t know where to go for food or water and we have to relearn basic tasks, like driving, every day. If memory is so important, how could our brains twists our memories, falsify them, and change our truths? 

Memory is made up of three processes: encoding, storage, and retrieval. Encoding allows us to take in sensory information from our environment before we store it in our short term or long term memory during the process of storage. Retrieval is then where we go to reassess that information. One example could be as simple memorizing vocabulary words for an exam. When you first learn the words, your auditory processes recognize the words, where they are stored into your short term memory. When you study those words at home, they are then stored into your long term memory. During the actual exam, the words are retrieved from your long term memory in order to ace the exam. While our memories decay over time, most false memories are a product of failure to encode or a failure to store information properly.

 

 

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Glory Days and Faded Heartbreaks: How Assessments of our Past Shape and Reflect Psychological Well-being in the Present.

November 26th, 2019 No comments

Peaked in High School or remembering it better than it was?

Before I present you with a base level summary of our current understanding of the psychological phenomenon known as Fading Affect Bias (FAB) and its relation to the conceptual system of autobiographical memory–complete with the associated empirical support, of course–I would first like to overanalyze some Bruce Springsteen lyrics. Don’t worry; it will all make sense soon enough. Read more…

Why we overlook our own shortcomings: a description of the Actor Observer Bias

November 26th, 2019 5 comments

Picture this: you are running late to drop your kids off at school in the morning and your children are having a fit in the back seat. On top of this, it is pouring rain outside. While you are driving down the highway, another car abruptly cuts you off as they are merging. As a result of your frustration, you begin to think of how they must be a rude person who is also a terrible driver. You assign internal (personality) traits to this person based on their action of cutting you off. You do not take into account the situational factors that were affecting their driving ability, like the fact that they were late for an important meeting, or they were driving their sick pet to the vet. You automatically attribute their actions to internal factors without even thinking about what else could have caused them to cut you off. A couple of minutes later, you, yourself accidentally cut off someone while trying to take the exit off the highway to your child’s school. Instead of reacting in the same way you did to the previous person who carried out the same action as you did and automatically telling yourself you are a bad driver and rude person, you inform yourself your action is a result of the fact that you are late for your child’s dropoff at school and you cannot see well as a result of the heavy rain. You tell yourself that on a normal day you would be much more careful. You do not think of yourself as a bad driver and rude person, as you thought of the other person, even though they did the same thing that you did. Why is it that we automatically assume others’ negative actions are a result of who they are as a person while being sympathetic and giving ourselves excuses? The actor-observer bias is an explanation for this confusing phenomenon. Read more…

The empathy gap: how walking a mile in someone else’s shoes (and in your own shoes) is harder than it seems

November 26th, 2019 2 comments

You’d never do this… right? Source: ballmemes.com

Growing up you are often told to exercise empathy and compassion by ‘walking a mile in someone else’s shoes’. However, what if I were to ask you, for example, if you’ve ever had a friend, usually super strict about only having safe sex, who told you about her last hookup, where in the heat of the moment decided to have unprotected sex. Did you judge that friend for being irresponsible even when that exact same thing happened to you a month ago? What if that same friend had told you this when you yourself had minutes ago just done the same thing? Do you think you would have had the same reaction?

Happen often? Source: me.me

What if I now asked you to walk a mile in your own shoes. For example, have you ever gone grocery shopping with the intention of only buying what was on your list but ended up buying five million other things that you, in hindsight, after eating, never actually needed? Were you famished while doing the grocery shopping? Has this happened to you more than once? When repeated did you expect a different outcome from the last time you shopped while hungry?

If you answered yes to these questions then you most probably have fallen victim to the empathy gap. Read more…

The Real Reason We Like Subpar Art (and other self-creations)

November 23rd, 2019 No comments

I want you to think of the furniture in your house. There is the bedroom furniture set or the kitchen chairs or the family room couch or even the framed photos in the hallway. But, you know that handmade bookshelf, the one that is a little lopsided but “has character”? Or what about the barely-functional pinch pots you made in summer camp? If you are anything like me, you have held these items in your grips for years and can’t just throw them away. You built those things! Your blood, sweat, and tears (ok maybe that’s a stretch…) went into creating something and you like them. You like them maybe even more than the thing you bought at the craft store. Store bought things should be more expensive because they are made professionally, but you are willing to pay more for something handmade. But should you? Handmade items are often made by amateurs and are lower quality than something made by a machine. However, the crooked, scuffed items you assemble from a box get more attention and praise. This trap you are falling into is so quirkily named the IKEA effect (yes after the Swedish furniture brand). This concept describes the tendency for people to overvalue products that they themselves created, even more than machine manufactured products. So yes, that handmade ornament by little cousin Johnny WILL remain on the Christmas tree for years to come, despite the poor craftsmanship!

What is valued does not always hold the highest value!

This effect originated in the field of Consumer Psychology to describe cognitive processes that underlie consumer behavior. A study that first proposed the term described the tendency for people to overvalue their own creations in comparison to professional creations of the same or better quality. This effect does not just rely on objective value of the products either; IKEA boxes of the same caliber are rated as worth more money if they are self-assembled (Norton, Mochon, & Ariely, 2012) and so are origami structures and LEGO buildings (Norton et al., 2012). Products themselves clearly hold intrinsic value (perceived natural value) to those beholding them, but other subjective factors are contributing to filling the gap between objective value and customer value. Our emotions play a large role in decision making. Wow! It seems like we are not consciously in control of our judgments on objects! Yikes!

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The empathy gap: the cognitive scapegoat least likely to earn you brownie points in intimate relationships (or with HR)

April 22nd, 2018 No comments

I think you’d call that an objective overreaction (Marcinski, 2015)

Try to remember to the last time you had a fight with a romantic partner or friend, especially over a small misstep or misunderstanding. Were you angry at the time? Jealous? Hurt? If so, you probably said and did things you didn’t mean; perhaps you were intending to cause your partner the same pain you felt, or were simply lashing out impulsively, not caring to listen to their side of the story. Only your own feelings mattered.

Now think back to the aftermath, when you had resolved the issue and moved forward. Everything that happened in the heat of the argument might seem a bit silly to you now. Maybe your partner pointed out that you had overreacted; your emotions seemed perfectly valid then, but now, in a state of calm as you and your relationship are, you’re inclined to agree with them. There’s no way you acted like that; you had no reason to. You certainly won’t do so the next time you’re in an argument…right?

Unlike faucet taps, these states are rather mutually exclusive: no lukewarm middle ground here (http://image.wikifoundry.com/image/3/5ac715be43f996a35f99bf5976ec1348/GW350H215)

Wrong, says the empathy gap. Read more…

No One Ever Understands Me! Ah, yes – The Illusion of Transparency

April 17th, 2017 5 comments

Your world is collapsing. Okay no it’s not, but you are extremely stressed, sad, and worried. Do you ever wonder why no one seems to care that you’re feeling these things, or wish that someone would only ask if you’re okay? We all feel like this sometimes! But see, everybody else is not the problem. It’s not that people don’t care or don’t want to help (most likely); it’s just simply the fact that they may not even know you’re feeling like this. Think about the last time you gave a presentation in one of your classes or to a group of people. You’re standing up there, fidgeting, sweating, and you feel like your thoughts are jumbled and that your speech reflects that. You look into the crowd and see a girl twirling her hair – I must look like an idiot. You see someone else staring right at you and smiling – I must sound so stupid that he can’t help but stare directly at me. False! The girl is just bored and the boy is trying to show the teacher that he’s paying attention – so stop sweating and remain calm, you’re fine. These feelings are not out of the ordinary, in fact, they’re quite normal, and they can be attributed to the illusion of transparency.

That feeling when no one understands you…

The illusion of transparency is the tendency to believe that one’s internal states are more obvious to others than they actually are. We believe that the outside world can see and understand what we’re feeling and thinking, because we feel like we show our feelings, thoughts and emotions explicitly. However in reality, we overestimate the extent to which other people can tell what’s really going on inside our heads or what we’re trying to say. To test the theory out for yourself, watch this video to see if you can guess the song behind the rhythm! Or, to learn more about this illusion (after you’ve finished reading this post, of course), check out this other awesome post from the CogBlog! Additionally, many studies have been conducted that aim to look at why this happens, and to see if this illusion actually holds true when tested. Read more…