Author Archives: csulliv3

Who’s Smarter: You or the Computer?

In class we often talk about how the way humans process information is very similar to that of a computer. This is because as we’ve discussed the way a computers networking is formed is similar to how our brain networking works as it takes in new information. But does a computer process information better than we do? Is a computer smarter?

It definitely feels like in some areas there is just no way we are as smart as a computer. Just thinking about all the databases and information that is held on a computer feels nothing close to the amount of information in my brain. I also feel like a computer is able to process some things faster than I can. I mean math would take me a quite a while if I couldn’t just pull up a calculator on my laptop when I forget my handheld calculator!

As we have talked about in class the area where we as humans surpass computers is our ability to think abstractly. Humans don’t always need a formula or procedure for all the things that our brain thinks of or is able to do throughout the day.

According the an article from Time, computers are indeed better at processing certain information at a faster pace than humans are. Computers are able to spit out calculations, answers, and provide multiple outcomes at “superhuman speeds.” The article also mentions how computers have a better memory than humans do. As computers are able to retain large amounts of information and recall the information almost instantly with no changes. We as humans do not always remember events perfectly like a computer. with each time we recall an event rom our memory it becomes less and less reliable as the memory of recalling the event gets added to the original memory. Our memories can also change by framing. This means that the way we are triggered to remember a certain event could cause us to unconsciously change the details of the event to fit how we were prompted.

Although computers are indeed very smart, the article reminds us that the human brain still surpasses that of a computer in several ways. Humans are able to perform tasks, make decisions and solve problems by thinking more abstractly. One way we do this is just when doing different things throughout our day! Throughout the day humans are able to use past life experiences to help influence how they should act in different situations. Although computers are programmed with a vast amount of information they cannot create life experiences to influence their actions. Humans are also able to think creatively (part of that abstract thinking we do!). As humans we can create art, new music or imagine a whole new world. Computers however, are only able to duplicate information that they a;ready have. If the computer has not been programmed with that specific information, they will not be able to come up with it.

Ok but what about artificial intelligence?

Well if we define “intelligence” as Senior Research Fellow for the S. Neaman Institute at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology has done as two different aspects; “one is the ability to learn, the other is the ability to solve problems. And in those areas, computers can be smarter than humans.” Then in this sense yes, computers are more “intelligent” than humans. According to the article, today computers learn faster than humans and are able to solve various complex problems. The tasks that computers are able to perform these skills well on however all have one or two things in common. First, there is a vast amount of data can be gathered to solve these tasks and second, they are repetitive tasks. Any repetitive task that creates a lot of data will eventually be learned by computers.

However, others say that speed does not qualify as intelligences Murray Shanahan, Professor of Cognitive Robotics for the Department of Computing at Imperial College in London says that computers will never match humans general intelligence. Shanahan points out how human are able to adapt in a multitude of different environments, where computers are unable to adapt. Finally, humans are also are able to develop meaning to concepts where a computer can only tell you what the concept is.

Overall, I don’t think computers are nearly as smart as humans. There are areas in speed, processing, and in memory that a computers database may surpass ours. A human brain however can think about things with meaning and in a more complex and abstract manor than a computer will ever be able to.

So to will always beat machine.

Can memory be connected between people?

In class we have talked about how we make memories and if we ever forget memories. But what if some memories we have trouble remembering are because it is shared with another person? Scrolling through Facebook once day I saw a little video that said that couples who are in a long-term relationship begin to “share” memory over time.

Being in a long-term relationship myself I found this to be a very interesting idea. Although, I don’t have the best memory in general and my fiancé’s memory is definitely a more reliable source; it did’t seem like an entirely far fetched idea to me. My fiancé is often able to bring up old stories or details of things that I didn’t even realize I remembered until he has reminded me. You know when you have a conversation like:

– “Remember when we ate a whole gallon of ice cream in one sitting?”

~ “No?”

–  “At my parents house?”

~ “Oh yeah! Now I remember”

And allll the details come flooding back.

This could also be explained by false memories being implanted as we recreate our old stories but of course I’d like to think our minds are just working as a team to pull all the details together!

I decided to look into this idea to see if it holds any truth or if I fell into a Facebook trap. I at first had trouble finding an article that was reliable while also not being a journal that I had to pay for. Eventually I stumbled upon an article with a similar concept called “Study: Best Friends Build Shared Memory Networks” posted on The Atlantic.

According to the article the concept of having a “shared” memory with another person is known as a transactive memory system (TMS).  A transactive memory system is defined as “repositories of knowledge that are shared between two or more people.” This explains what happens when you need help recalling events. Such as being super fat and happy while eating an entire gallon of ice cream with your fiancé! The article also points out that this phenomenon applies to remembering smaller details with the help of a friend too. Like when you see an actor that guest stars in your favorite show and you just cant place why they look so familiar, and then your friend is able to remind you why you recognize them. The transactive memory system only occurs when there is trust between two individuals making it so they can call on one another for information.

A study conducted at the University of Penn State found that the longer the friendship the stronger the transactive memory networks were between the individuals. The study also found that a string foundation of trust between the individuals is essential for a transactive memory system to occur. The study found that individuals who had transactive memory systems developed had stronger friendships and better communication.

All in all it sound like there could be the possibility of creating connections between each other and our memories. I don’t know if I am 100% sold on the idea after reading this article. I feel like there could be lots o reason why someone you spend a lot of time with is able to help you remember certain memories. It could be that they have just learned how you tend to think about things (Aka where you were probably trying to go with your story), or that they were there in the memory of an event and aren’t necessarily “connected” but just remembering the event themselves. Best friends or significant others can also help you recall memories by mentioning something that triggers the memory recall.

I think the idea of having connected networks of memory with the people you are closest to is a really interesting idea, however I would need to to some more research (like maybe pay for one of the journals on the concept) to be sure. I will admit every now and then when trying to remember something or telling a story it definitely feels like my fiancé and I, on some level, share a brain.

What do you think?

This is the original video I saw on Facebook! (The video talks more about intimacy but I believe in this sense intimacy could be interchangeable with the ideas connected to trust I mentioned before)

Also, here is the article from The Atlantic if you’d like to see what it has to say for yourself!

Disney Pixar’s Inside Out and Memory

In class we have been discussing the different components of of working memory\short term memory and long term memory. Discussion how these processes work instantly made the disney fan in me think of Disney Pixar’s movie Inside Out and if how they represented the different memory processes in the movie are truly accurate to how we process memories. I decided to do a little research to see what others have found memory processing to be represented in the movie. After some ‘googling’ I actually found an article on that tries to explain and compare just that!

For those of you that think you are too old for the magic of Disney or have made some other excuse for not seeing this fantastic movie; Inside Out is about a girl named Riley who has just moved with her parents to a new home. The movie take place inside Riley’s mind where the main characters or her four main emotions (Joy, Disgust, Fear and Sadness) run the show and help to determine how Riley’s memories are formed. In the movie Sadness begins to cause mayhem so Joy travels through long term memory to try to fix things.

So how accurately does Inside Out represent memory?

Well, in the brain the part called the amygdala is know for the emotions we feel. In this movie sense the emotions run the show in a place they call Headquarters we might be able to assume this is the amygdala. When the emotions have a string reaction to one of Riley’s experiences they press a corresponding button to generate a memory of that experience in that emotion. For example, in the movie Riley tries pizza with broccoli on it and doesn’t like the broccoli so disgust presses her green button to form a memory of broccoli with the emotion of disgust. the memory then pops up as a little bubble colored with the corresponding memory (in this case a green bubble). The bobble then gets sent up a tube to join the other memories in long term memory. This process does have some accuracy to it. For memories to be transitioned into long term memory it often helps to associate an emotion with it to allow for deeper processing.

In the movie, longterm memory is made up of what would seem to be endless shelves of memories all coded with a different color to represent one of the four main emotions. In our brain long term memory isn’t necessarily stored in shelve like formation but more of scattered webs of information that link to one another; branching webs of neurons.

The movie also shows the emotions able to replay the memories from the formed memory bubbles perfectly like a recorded TV episode that wont ever change. As discussed in class, our memory recall is not perfectly accurate. According to the Forbes article “Research by American psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has shown that our minds can be manipulated via a ‘misinformation effect’ that implants false memories.” In reality we are unable to remember all the details of our memories can easily be forgotten or changed depending on the context we try to remember them. Unfortunately it is no where close to a recorded TV episode that we can rewind and replay whenever we would like.

Overall Inside out provides a good basic guideline for an understanding and a visual representation of memory and how it works. However, there are many differences in how our memory processing really works as to how it is shown in the movie.


Sill a great movie if you ask me! For more information or to read the Forbes article for yourself, click here


Earlier this week in lecture we discussed the idea of someone who has “blind sight.” The idea that someone who is blind still contains some sort of sight or visual abilities was just mind-blowing to me. I decided to look a liter deeper into the concept.

Blindsight is basically when someone is able to see things without consciously knowing that they are seeing. To a person with blindsight they are convinced that they are 100% blind and cannot see anything at all. However, through various tests doctors have been able to prove that people with blind sight are indeed able to “see” to some extent unknowingly.

So does this mean that no one is actually blind?

Blindsight is not the case with every person who is visually impaired. True blindness can occur when your visual system (eyes and such) are damaged. Blindsight however, occurs when the visual system is fully functioning and it is instead the visual cortex in the brain that has been damaged.

You see (no pun intended), the visual context takes all the information that is received through the visual system and translates it into something that make sense to us. Thus, when someone has blindsight they can technically “see” through their visual system just fine. However, with a damaged visual cortex the information gathered through their visual system has no where to go, and no way to be translated into something we can understand. This is why someone with blind sight thinks that they cannot see at all.

The article “Blindsight: The strangest for of consciousness” discusses a case of someone who has blind sight named Daniel. Daniel underwent a surgery to cure headaches which ended up destroying the visual cortex. According to the article, Daniel thought himself to be “half blind.” Everything to the left of his nose seemed to be completely black to him. As a result Daniel went to London’s National Hospital where ophthalmologist Michael Sanders began administering tests to see what as going on with Daniel’s vision. Sanders quickly noticed that Daniel was able to perform certain tasks proficiently within his blind spot as if a “second sight was guiding his behavior, beyond conscious awareness.” When referred to psychologists Elizabeth Warrington and Lawrence Weiskrantz Daniel was asked to complete a few tests. One text they had him complete was to point at a circle on a screen placed in his blind spot. Although Daniel insisted he could not see anything he was almost always correct when pointing at the screen.

The article then goes on to raise the question: How much really goes on without our consciousness? When we make decisions do we only have the illusion of conscious control?

These of course are some of the most difficult and controversial questions to be answered in psychology. I’d like to believe that it is a combination of both systems at work when we are making decisions and doing other things but who really knows!

If you’d like to read more about Daniel or what the article has to say on the pressing questions of our unconscious verses conscious control feel free to read the article below: