Author Archives: amarti22

We can see what you are thinking…..WHAT?

I remember at the very beginning of the year, when we started talking about memory, and Dr. Rettinger shared his wife’s ability to remember exactly what each other were wearing on their first date. We very quickly distrusted her explanation because very rarely do people actually remember such specific details for such a long period of time. Along with that misconception is the constant psychological struggle to find the most accurate way to explain peoples thoughts. In fact, Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis was quickly challenged and questioned because there was no way to prove what was being heard. But here is the turn of the generation and a perfect example of how technology continues to impact society, what if i told you that “one day scientists will be able to see the images and memories in our mind?” (Beck, 2015).  If the thought of people being able to see what you are thinking does not scare you and freak you out, then I do not know what could.

I stumbled upon the Princeton Alumni Weekly Magazine, and to my advantage the cover of the magazine said  “BRAIN” and the theme of the articles are all information related to the function of the brain. This article about being able to see what we are thinking completely blew my mind; so I decided to share it with y’all. The whole idea of the article is to explain how we will be able to do such a thing, and basically it is a device that is very similar to the eye tracker but that you can place in the brain and watch the mental images in real life. They realized that they can place the tracker in corresponding area of the brain that needs to be analyzed or looked at, with the help of the fMRI. The mind tracker imager does not exist yet, but its a work-in process. They are hoping this will elaborate and help the outcomes of therapies, specially with people suffering from phobias, depression, and PTSD.

               

I am really interested to see how this works, and the effects it will have on society. Specially areas like psychology and the law. Imagine if all of a sudden we can see exactly what happened without having to prove it right from wrong? If you hadn’t already thought about the future and the crazy things it may bring, and the amusingly ways in which our lives will be changed, this will do that for you and hopefully scare you a little bit.

 

 

Beck, Taylor. “Decoding the Brain.” Princeton Alumni Weekly (2015): 38-41. Print.

“What language do you think in?”

I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela were the native language is Spanish, and I was lucky enough to attend a bilingual school where I learned English. Ever since I moved to the United States, about eight years ago, when people find out that I speak two languages, they ask which one is my native language, and although I learned both almost at the same time, I had always considered myself more fluent in Spanish; time has changed that. Living in the States has made me as native in English as I am in Spanish. The question that follows is: what language do you think in? To be completely honest, the answer to this question is almost as hard as Dr. Rettinger’s favorite question: Does the tree make a sound if it falls in the middle of the forest? The truth is, I do not know. For the most part I consider myself to think in English when I am in an English-speaking environment and vice versa, but there is always the exception to the rule like when I count in English, once I get to 20 I start counting in Spanish

So while we learned about language in our cognitive class, I thought this would be a great time to see if there had been any research done about bilingualism and which language people think in when they speak more than one language. I found an interesting article that talks about the function of the brain when people switch form one language to the next. While the different languages activated the same exact area of the brain, there was an increase in intensity for when the participants switched languages, and no difference when they switched tasks in the same language. Although the article isn’t exactly about how to detect which language I think in, it most definitely suggests that something does occur when switching language and that given that they activate the same area of the brain, it could be highly impossible to think in two languages at a time.

Interestingly enough, I also found an article that suggests that the way people think changes with the language they are thinking in, or the environment they are in. What I mean by this is that language can activate specific cultural frames and therefore change your personality to some extent. This was shown to be true with Hispanic people and Arabs. Maybe then, it makes sense that I think and congruently act a certain way when I’m in an English speaking environment, as well as a Spanish speaking one.

Overall, bilingualism has been proven to be more beneficial than detrimental, here is a fun video that summarizes a few of them:

Although I did not find much of an answer to my impossible question, I did find a lot of interesting studies about language, more specifically speaking more than one, and how it can affect us without it us even realizing it.

PSA: Even if you are not good at learning languages, explore the world, you will learn so much from it!

Prove your mom wrong: Gaming is beneficial to cognitive development.

Do you remember when you were a child and your mom would limit your television watching time, or when she would take away your Nintendo DS, or not let you use the computer for those addicting games? As a normal child your response was always “WHY MOM?” but she always had a better answer and it almost always include something like “You could be spending this time reading, or playing outside, those video games are only making you dumber.” Do you remember? Well I am here to tell you that there is a possibility that your mom was wrong. Research has demonstrated that video games can be beneficial to cognitive development.

When people talk about video games they focus on the negative effects it has on gamers’ lives: social isolation, violence, and addiction; but very rarely do you hear anything about beneficence. As I scrolled through my twitter feed, I saw an article that Psychology Today called Cognitive Benefits of Playing Video Games. It automatically caught my attention, but the context was even more interesting.

The underlying theme of the article is to explain what aspects of the video games has a positive effect on our intelligence and why. When you engage in the activity to play video games, you are signing yourself up for a multitasking adventure, faced with obstacles that require you to overcome them in matters of second, while keeping in mind your goal and the best ways to achieve it. With this being said research has suggested that this process demonstrates long-lasting positive effects on: perception, attention, memory, and decision-making. It has demonstrated that gamers test higher on visual attention, executive function and cognitive flexibility.

When it comes to visual attention, research specifically focused on Sustained attention, impulsiveness and vigilance. This accounts for the amount of time you spend looking at a specific stimulus, while also improving your selective attention, in that sense that you are able to pay attention to many things at once. Impulsiveness accounts for ability in which you respond to the stimuli in a certain way without putting much thought into it, while also knowing that perhaps that was the best option. Also, when you play video games, and have this visual attention, and make a certain move, you need to keep an eye out for any new stimuli that may appear as a result of a past action. After all, your vision is being over stimulated in a way that games believe to be compensatory. Yet while your visual sense is being stimulated, Eichenbaum believes that gaming also has a positive effect on executive functioning, specifically in frontal lobe and the ability to make decisions, plan ahead, switch tasks, and multitasking.

I believe that a lot of these benefits can be traced to the very basic cognitive definition of elaborative rehearsal. I thought of this automatically primarily because it has been primed, but also because when I think about gaming, I think about the fact that these people are playing the same game over and over again. So they are repeating the information but in a way that is meaningful: learning what to do from previous experience. On another note, I thought about unintentional learning, the idea that they do not think they are learning, much less sitting in front of a book on how to successfully accomplish the goal of the game. Instead, they are thinking they are engaging in this activity for fun and not doing any precious research on how to accomplish the goal. In my perspective, gaming can help you to think faster on your toes, while taking into consideration the best available option.

If you are anything like me, you like to prove people wrong. So take advantage of this opportunity, call your mom, and tell her that she was wrong. Also keep this in mind, when you have kids of your own. Save yourself from that call from tem telling you that you were wrong.

If you want to read some more about this topic, here are the links.

Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201502/cognitive-benefits-playing-video-games

Research: http://www.journalofplay.org/sites/www.journalofplay.org/files/pdf-articles/7-1-article-video-games.pdf

Face recognition: A daily struggle for some but not all.

uhhhh

A good friend of mine came up to me on Monday with a really bizarre story about her boyfriend. She said she had been meaning to ask me, as a psychology major, if I had any knowledge about the topic. I was very surprised and intrigued to know what this was all about. Shocked, herself, she proceeded with her story: “My boyfriend has this weird thing where he can see faces, but apparently can’t remember the features. I asked him the other day to look at me for a minute, pay attention to every detail possible, and then look away and describe what I look like. He was completely unable to do it. He says he has had this happen to him since he can remember, but he doesn’t know why. Do you know what it is?” I had no idea, but I was captivated, nonetheless, and started asking her all these questions in order to make an educated guess. I had never heard of any condition that sounded at least somewhat familiar to what she was mentioning. I said, it has to be some cognitive dysfunction, perhaps a short-term memory problem. Weirdly enough, that same week, Dr. Rettinger, my cognitive psychology professor, mentioned a cognitive disorder called prosopagnosia— “the inability to remember peoples faces” he said. I was perplexed. How can the world work in such a way? I thought this would make a great meme, and started brainstorming.

A meme is only a picture, so I decided on a gif that could speak a little bit more for itself. In this meme, there are twin brothers taking care of their daughter/niece. Although the little girl does not have prosopagnosia, she is highly confused at the likeness of the faces. She looks back and forth expressing a sense of dissonance and discomfort. I chose this gif because I believe it represented what a prosopagnosic might feel every day of their lives with every encounter they have with any human face. Their inability to recall faces should keep them asking the same question: “do I know you”?
Prosopagnosia is a cognitive disorder otherwise known as face blindness; one of the most extreme forms of behavioral dissociation in humans, so far. As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary: a form of visual agnosia characterized by an inability to recognize faces. Fortunately for our generation, we have highly advanced technological devices to help us decipher the root to cognitive disorders like this one; in this case CT being of high popularity. Research shows that face blindness is due to a lesion of the central visual system. More specifically, the lesion either destroys a sector within the system or disconnects it from limbic structures. The visual system is very complex. With it including many different aspects such as: object recognition, enhancement, color, etc. The interesting thing about prosopagnosics is that while they are incapable of recognizing faces, their object detection and intellectual functioning is not affected. Weirdly enough, recent cognitive analysis has demonstrated that this impairment isn’t only affecting the ability to recognize faces but also to detect or be alarmed by ambiguous stimuli.
So what can prosopagnosics do? As the first answer to many psychological conditions: therapy. Unfortunately the therapy being used to treat this disorder has demonstrated to be unsuccessful. In contrast, what these people are currently doing, in order to avoid acting like the girl with the twins in the gif above, is play a game: feature-to-feature. This game consists of using secondary clues such as voice recognition, clothing, hair color, etc. to make an educated guess of who the person is.

My knowledge in cognitive psychology is slowly evolving, and the facts given to me by my friend are also not too detailed for me to have a consice answer for her. But if I had to make an educated guess, I would think her boyfriend is prosopagnosic. I am now intrigued to meet this guy.

Can you imagine what it means to be playing a game every minute of your life? Can you imagine how frustrating it can get, at least growing up, to have a blur on peoples faces yet still be able to see everything else? Would you rather be blind or prosopagnosic? While these aren’t easy questions to answer, and can be quite controversial, I believe that putting yourself in someone else shoes can make understanding a situation ten times better.