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Posts Tagged ‘Emotion’

Will you waver over the same tough decision 20 years later? Cognitive dissonance is wove into the aging story.

November 13th, 2022 No comments

Do older adults more often feel relieved than younger people? A fair judgment from the developmental perspective would tell you that people in different stages of life confront different tasks and challenges. At early ages, you might have imagined how satisfying your life would be when you get older. Cognitive dissonance embodies the perception of contradictory information in one’s action, belief, and thought. Two lingering questions focus on the interaction of aging and cognitive dissonance. First, when people get older, will they similarly experience cognitive dissonance as their younger counterparts? If so, do older adults grow to deal with them with wise strategies? In the rest of the blog, I will unveil the underlying mechanisms of cognitive dissonance for older adults and how age-related cognitive functions interact with the dissonant experience. 

People incline to the comforting lies to resolve their cognitive dissonance. Picture is taken from https://www.thedailystar.net/shout/life/news/the-phenomenon-cognitive-dissonance-1685263

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Categories: Aging Tags: ,

Are You Really Remembering It as All Sunshine and Rainbows? The Positivity Effect in Cognitive Aging 

November 12th, 2022 No comments

In a phone conversation with my mom following our family’s week-long trip to Sebago Lake this past summer, my grandma thanked my family for inviting her along for “the most wonderful week.” When my mom recounted this interaction to me, I couldn’t help but wonder whether my grandma had actually had such a “wonderful” week. After all, the vacation did not really go as planned: my brother left for Colby hall staff duties after only a day; I spent the bulk of the week alternating between doing remote internship work and sleeping to recover from my hectic summer job; my dad worked for almost the entire week, so we only saw him at meals; and, for the cherry on top, my grandma had recently suffered a severe compression fracture in her back that had left her in pain and fairly immobile. 

My grandma and me, circa 2017. She is the greatest!

It’s very possible that my grandma was just grateful for a week in close geographical proximity to my family, especially given she had been a fairly long drive away from us, cooped up inside with a broken back until right before the trip (she moved up near my family home a few weeks before our vacation). However, it is also possible that my grandma was actually remembering our trip in a positive way – maybe even in a more positive way than she had experienced it. Although I’ll never know which is true, my grandma may have been exhibiting the positivity effect in that phone conversation with my mom.

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Categories: Aging Tags: ,

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!
Picture from bing.com
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Let’s Talk About Your Feelings: They Change How You See the World

April 24th, 2022 No comments

Have you ever been so stressed about an upcoming assignment that it’s all you can think about? Consumed with procrastination, you find yourself thinking about it while eating dinner with your friends—what were you talking about again? You were too busy thinking about your calculus midterm. If that doesn’t ring a bell, maybe this will: imagine relaxing in your home, making dinner, and watching television, when you see a cockroach scamper across your kitchen floor (eek!). If you’re like me, you would jump on the table and become all-consumed with how to get rid of the intruder. In your preoccupation, you severely burn the chicken you were cooking for dinner.

Our emotions are mentally taxing! (source)

While I can’t save your spoiled meal or ensure a good grade on your exam, I can explain the origins of the narrow-mindedness we experience when we are stressed or scared. Let’s talk about an idiom for a second. When you are stressed out, a cognitive psychologist might say that you “can’t see the forest for the trees.” In other words, you’ve become too focused on the details to see the bigger picture. You have a paper due tomorrow, but you spent all day deciding what font to use.

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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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Categories: Memory Tags: ,

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…

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