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Posts Tagged ‘Stress’

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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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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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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What was I saying? Oh, right, Absent-mindedness…

April 26th, 2018 No comments

It’s a Saturday night. You come home early to catch your favorite TV show. You’re in such a hurry that you throw your keys somewhere carelessly. When it’s time to go out, you can’t remember where you put your keys. It’s not at the regular spot where you usually place your keys. It takes a long time for you to find them. Does this seem familiar? When things like this happen, you might wonder if there’s something wrong with your mind. In fact, it is a common phenomenon called absent-mindedness.

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Absent-mindedness is a cognitive bias that happens when people “zone out” and make mistakes in daily life (Broadbent, Cooper, FitzGerald, & Parkes, 1982). The mistakes can be anything related to a lack of attention, e.g., walking in a room and forgetting why you came in, dropping something unintentionally, or throwing your phone in a trash can and keeping the coffee cup (which happened to me once). Absent-mindedness is where attention and memory come together, even though they seem to be two separate things.

How is absent-mindedness related to attention? Before answering this question, we need to know that our attention has a limited capacity (Sanbonmatsu, Strayer, Biondi, Behrends, & Moore, 2015). One theory suggests that when our limited attentional resource is occupied, the rate of absent-mindedness may increase (Fisher & Hood, 1987). This means that if you are talking to a friend while walking down the street and paying little attention to your surroundings, you might end up bumping into someone if that person is being absent-minded as well!
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How to Become More Adaptive to Negative Outcomes in Life

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

An Unfortunate Event

Sometimes life feels like a progression of unfortunate events. You go and get ice cream and right before you take a bite the cone slips out of your hand, falls and then oozes on the pavement. You go back to the end of the ice cream line and by the time you get to the front they are out of your favorite flavor. It is easy to feel this way when you are having a bad day or if you are incredibly stressed by an overbearing workload. People also tend to feel this way around deadlines especially if nothing is going their way. For example, as a student you may have had a day like this. You walk into class and realize you left your assignment in another notebook. After class you check your phone and see a rejection email from the summer internship you had your heart set on. Just as you are putting your phone away you drop it and the screen cracks. Meanwhile the kid standing next to you asks how your final paper is going. In that moment you realize you wrote the due date incorrectly on your planner. A minute later you get a text from your lab partner (on your shattered phone) saying that tonight is the only night she can meet to work on the final project. It feels as if every possible thing in your life has gone wrong.

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What’s Outside Your Window?

May 8th, 2016 No comments

By Leah, Lynna, Aiya, & Hannah

It’s room draw time.

What dorm do I want to be in? Do I want a double? Or a suite? Do I want to be close to the library? The dining hall? Where are my friends living?

b8335f7a0be0c4169a4942f618734848Although all of these questions are valid, an important element of room selection often fails to be considered. You may or may not think about it that much, but the view from your window has important effects on you, particularly if you’re a mentally drained and stressed-out college student. You have to look through it every day, and know which direction it faces relative to the sun. You want to have the best view without worrying about strangers peering in. But besides these concerns, the specifics of your window should be at the top of your dorm priority list. Research shows that a view of nature from your window has immense benefits, including improved mood, replenished attention and cognitive functioning, and reduced stress.

One of the dominant theories explaining nature’s positive cognitive benefits is Attention Restoration Theory (ART; Kaplan, 1995). Sustained effortful attention reduces your ability to pay attention. Imagine, for example, the cognitive resources it takes to proofread a long essay, and how exhausted you feel afterwards. You might make more mistakes as time goes on and be in a more negative mood. ART suggests that these cognitive resources can be replenished by engaging with nature (Kaplan, 1995). Proofreading an essay requires effortful sustained focus. Nature is less demanding because it easily draws attention and allows resources for effortful attention to replenish. Read more…

Brain adaptations to stressful childhood environments

November 24th, 2015 No comments

Childhood_AdversityImagine a boy who grew up never knowing where his next meal would come from or when it would come. Now imagine a boy who had everything handed to him.

Who do you predict will have higher cognitive functioning, which consists of processes such as pattern recognition, memory, attention, and language? If you guessed the second boy, you are correct. Childhood adversity has been shown to negatively impact important cognitive functions, such as language development, sustained attention, and memory, which result in poor reading and math abilities, lower IQs and academic achievement (Fernald, Weber, Galasso & Ratsifandrihamanana, 2011). To figure out why this is the case, we must consider an important characteristic of our brains—their plasticity, or ability to change!

So, why is plasticity an important characteristic of our brains? What are the advantages of our cognitive functioning being susceptible to change? Adaptation! Adaptation got Mittal, Griskevicius, Simpson, Sung, and Young (2015) thinking about the universality of the negative impact on cognitive functions that childhood adversity has been shown to have. If the brains of those who grow up in stressful environments can be negatively affected by their experiences shouldn’t that mean that they could also be positively affected? The work of Mittal et al. (2015) tells us the answer!

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Do You Remember What Happened? The Power of Memory Distortion

May 1st, 2014 2 comments

A memory is an event we remember from our past. We have memories of the first time we rode a bike, the time we graduated high school, our first boyfriend/girlfriend and even memories of where we were on 9/11. We believe that our memories are true recollections of what happened, and that what we remember is accurate. However, this isn’t always true; memories are fallible even under the best conditions. In fact, false memories, implanted memories and misinformation are very likely to distort our memory.

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