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Posts Tagged ‘Encoding’

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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POV: You are in 2022—nostalgic rosy retrospection in the time of Covid-19

April 25th, 2022 No comments

Have you ever watched those short videos on Tik-Tok with titles like “POV: You are in 20XX” that are supposed to invoke nostalgic emotions in you? When such videos were recommended to me and I scrolled through their comments quickly, I often saw people saying things like “Everything used to be better before Covid” and “I would do anything to go back to 2016”. The number of such videos increased rapidly in recent years after the pandemic started with a speed so fast that makes me wonder what causes people to linger over those “good old days”. After all, are those days really as good as people assume they are, and why did such videos start to go viral in the pandemic era? Well, consider the saying “look through rose-colored glasses”—this is what psychologists have found about the way people look into their past, and the effect of Covid-19 on people’s memories seem to have deepened the “rosiness” of those glasses.

Rosy retrospection is the idea that we see the past through rose hinted glasses.
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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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Why Do I Recognize Everyone in these Ads? Explaining the Halo Effect Using Super Bowl Commercials

April 25th, 2022 No comments

The Super Bowl is one of the largest, most publicized sporting events in the world. And, even if you don’t know a thing about football, odds are you watch the Super Bowl to see the ads, or you look them up on YouTube the next day so you’re up to speed on the ones people are talking about. My personal favorite is the Bubly seltzer commercial with Michael Bublé. Michael Bublé is probably best known for his Christmas albums, but he also has a lot of non-holiday music that has made him a well-known and successful artist all around the world. In the commercial, Michael walks into a convenience store and looks at the rows of Bubly seltzers, then sits on the floor with a sharpie and changes them all to say Bublé instead of Bubly, as seen in the photo below. He also calls it Bublé seltzer instead of Bubly seltzer, and refuses to believe the workers when they tell him he is wrong.

Michael Bublé Stars in Bubly’s Super Bowl Ad

As mentioned above, Michael Bublé is pretty much the Christmas music representative of this generation (and every generation) and he has become a fairly popular household name. So, naturally, he would have to be in a Super Bowl commercial for one company or another. Big brands using famous celebrities in their ads demonstrates what is called the halo effect: brands like to use attractive, well-known people in their ads because when we see someone we have positive thoughts about, we will associate those positive attributes with the product they are advertising. Everyone loves Michael Bublé, or can at least feel favorably about him after seeing his charismatic personality in the commercial, so everyone will want to love Bubly seltzer, the product he is advertising. I mean, look at the picture of him sitting on the floor changing Bubly to Bublé. Who wouldn’t love that face?

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The Space-Time Continuum: How & Why to Space Your Time

November 22nd, 2020 No comments

We’ve all been there, even me. You might even be there right now.  You know the deal – it’s 10pm on a Sunday night.  You promised you would leave yourself time to study for your psychology exam, but you got caught up in weekend plans, the latest election news, and all of the other midterms you have to study for.  And let’s not forget about the two problem sets you also have due in the morning!  It seems that the hope you had when you first made that promise is slipping further and further down the drain.  Now, the exam is mere hours away, and it seems there’s nothing left to do but cram.  You stay up all night, attempting to review every single concept your professor introduced this semester.  You go through the motions of studying: rereading, highlighting, and underlining terms, as if to make up for the hours and days of lost time that you should have devoted to preparing for this exam.  

https://www.newcollege.utoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/demi-examcram-comic.png
Staying up late the night before an exam to cram is not an effective study strategy.

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Why we are so good at playing name that tune

November 20th, 2020 No comments

If you are driving in the car and your favorite song from middle school comes on, you are most likely able to instantly start singing every word of it. Have you ever stopped and wondered how you could remember all of the words from so long ago? Well, that is due to processes in your memory where lyrics to a song can be easier to encode into your memory. Before I get into that, I will first describe some basic aspects of memory. The steps in memory processes include encoding, which inputs environmental information into our memory; storage, which is the process of storing that information in memory; and retrieval, which is the output of information from our memory. The modal model of memory, created by Atkinson and Shiffrin, begins with an input of environmental stimuli that gets stored in sensory memory for a short period of time in order to recognize any patterns. We then focus our attention on the information we want to store in our memory, sending that information to short term memory. This information can also be placed into long term memory. Information can then be retrieved from our long term memory, such as the lyrics to that favorite song from middle school (McBride & Cutting, 2019). This information on memory provides some background of what I will now discuss, which is why we are able to remember the lyrics to so many songs.

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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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“Ohhh, ‘Cue!'”: Cue-Dependent Forgetting and Study Techniques

November 26th, 2019 2 comments

Picture yourself in a classroom taking a history quiz. You don’t consider yourself a history buff of course, but you feel as if you studied well enough. You breeze through the questions, until you come across one that stumps you a bit: “Which U.S. President served the shortest term?”. You have to know this, of course, because you remember looking over it yesterday. The weight of familiarity is killing you, as you rack your brain and sort through the order of United States Presidents you thought you had memorized. When you studied, you paired the President’s last names along with common words that sounded similar–Lincoln and Linkedin, Kennedy and candy– you thought you pretty much had it down. Your heart thumps as you begin to look around the room, hoping something will strike your memory and soon your attention is drawn to how weird your teacher’s hair looks today. Hair, hair, Harrison! Suddenly you have it, William Henry Harrison was the President who served the shortest term.

Ok, let’s try that scenario again: you find yourself looking around the room for something to spark that lightbulb in your mind, but nothing seems to do the trick. Your professor is bald and always has been. You simply just can’t remember the name you were looking for and accept defeat. You stare daggers at their head as you leave that question blank and go onto the next one.

What made these two scenarios so different? The second scenario describes a cognitive psychology term called “cue-dependent forgetting” where a person is unable to remember information in the absence of a retrieval cue (Chandler & Gargano, 1995). A retrieval cue in this case is something that signals or prompts the memory of something that you associated with it (Chandler and Gargano, 1995). In the previously described scenario, the retrieval cues were the common words that sounded similar to the President’s names. This is why, when the retrieval cue for Harrison (“hair”), was forgotten, you were unable to answer the question. Pairing items as a form of studying may seem like an efficient way to quickly memorize material, but as seen in the example, it isn’t always reliable. Why does cue-dependent forgetting happen? And are there ways to prevent it from having a negative effect on test performance? These questions can be understood with a quick summary of how memory works.

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Get Ready…You’re Next.

November 24th, 2019 2 comments

“When will I get to speak” – Instead of attending to Mr. Know-It-All, they wait in anticipation for their turn to speak next.

Imagine that you are in class and your teacher has split the class into multiple groups, assigning each group different chapters of your reading to summarize for the class. In your group, you collectively brainstorm with your other group members about chapter four and write down the main topics and themes that pop up throughout your discussion. When your teacher signals that it’s time for each group to share what they talked about, all your group members assign you to be the spokesperson since you have jotted down some general notes. “Yeah, sure. It’s no big deal,” you think to yourself. “It’s not a formal presentation or anything, I just have to summarize what we talked about.” The group’s spokesperson for chapter one goes first, followed by the group’s spokesperson for chapter two and then chapter three. As it nears your turn, you start to think about how to present a clear and concise summary to the class as your classmates have just done. All of a sudden, you’re up next, so you stand up and tell the class about the main topics your group discussed. When you sit back down, the group for chapter five begins to share, but you look back over your notes making sure you did not forget to include anything important. At the end of class, your teacher gives a mini quiz about the chapters the class just summarized, and you realize that you can’t really remember anything from the presentations on chapter three or five. What happened? You were subject to the next-in-line effect.

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“Uh sir, pay attention. You’re next-in-line.”

April 26th, 2018 2 comments

Sharing aloud in groups can be a stressful and anxiety-provoking situation. Picture a college classroom, the anticipation of your turn to speak. Your voice is finally going to be heard. “Let’s not mess this up,” you think to yourself. Imagine yourself present in this moment. How much of

what Kevin was just saying on your right could you remember if you were asked to do so? Probably not a lot, and you are not alone. You are not likely to remember the responses of the people who speak right before you do. This is referred to as the next-in-line effect. This effect has implications any time that you are in a group situation in which you are asked to publicly perform.

Attention!

The next-in-line effect was discovered when Malcom Brenner (1973) performed an experiment in which a group of participants read words aloud while trying to remember as many as possible. After each participant read aloud a practice card, they performed four trials. Recall was worst for the words immediately preceding the words that they had read aloud, also called pre-performance items. In conclusion, the next-in-line effect refers specifically to less recall of that precede reading an item aloud to a group when compared to recall of other items read.

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