Author Archives: Devan Turner


An article from EurekAlert titled ‘Recent research on memory/learning’ talked about a paper written by Nate Kornell. The paper’s main focus was metacognition. The textbook says that metacognition is important to the memory. According to Kornell metacognition is “the process of making judgements about one’s cognition and about one’s memory.” Kornell mentions something that we have been talking about most of the semester and that is that memory can be unreliable. Kornell opens the paper by saying that the human memory is prone to stability bias where we act as though our minds are stable and will continue to be stable in the future. By failing to recognize that our memories are influenced by external factors. The paper itself mainly focuses on metamemory. The book defines metamemory as an individual’s knowledge of and control over their own memory.

This semester we also talked about memory cues. In Kornell’s paper he discussed intrinsic cues, which is information that is being judged, mnemonic cues, information that is related to the person’s experience, and extrinsic cues, information that will be learned. These are described because they are thought to be part of metacognitive judgements. Metacognitive judgements are judgements that we make based on our memories.

Kornell says that metacognitive judgements seem to be influenced a lot by an individual’s experience at the time they are making a judgement. For this reason intrinsic and mnemonic cues happen relatively automatically.

Kornell’s study tested recall of the participants. He gave the participants a list of words and then tested their recall. He wanted to see if participants could remember the second word in the list if they were giving the first word of the list as a cue. Participants in the study showed stability bias because they thought that they would remember even though some of them did not get tested on their recall until a week later. However, they were confident that they would remember.

The conclusion of the study was that humans overestimate their learning and retention ability and do not take into account environmental factors that can affect memory. We discussed in class how memory is unreliable and this study supports that.

Perfect Memory

We have talked a lot about memory this semester. How memory works and how the memory can be faulty. Our memories are less reliable than we may believe or want to admit. When we ‘forget’ something it is more likely that we did not encode the information when we first encountered it or our retrieval cues are not connecting to the thing we want to remember. We also talked about how our memories can be updated or altered making them less reliable. Most of us at some point have tried to retrieve information from our memory and we just cannot seem to remember.

James McGaugh is a psychologist at the University of California at Irvine. His research focus is neurobiology of learning and memory (UCI Faculty Profile System, 2015). In an article from ABC News, it talks about McGaugh and his research team are working with a woman, nicknamed AJ, who has a perfect memory. AJ’s ability to recall events is so unique and so vast that the team has coined the term hyperthymestic syndrome that better describes her ability.

Part of McGaugh’s previous research is about how memory can be affected by hormones and emotional events. When McGaugh first encountered AJ he assumed that her memory was tied largely to her hormones. As it turns out this hypothesis does not completely explain AJ’s ability because she is able to recall every detail of any day. Although McGaugh and his team are still not completely sure how her memory works they do know that brain organizes each day in categories that make it easier for her to recall the information. She also displays frustration when there is not order in her life. The article stated that she is extremely organized and does not like change.

As we discussed in class there are three different ways to categorize information in our memory. These are classical, similarity based, and theory based. Classical categories are strictly rule based, similarity categories are based on family resemblance, and theory based categories are where information is stored based on meaning.  

The average memory is wired to remember general information and mostly information that is necessary for survival. AJ’s memory goes way beyond this. Her memory is remarkable and there is still much to learn about how it works (Woman with Perfect Memory Baffles Scientists, 2006).

Although I think AJ’s ability to remember everything is interesting, I do not think that I would like to have a perfect memory. Some events, I think are better forgotten about. I can imagine a perfect memory can become pretty frustrating sometimes because although an individual would remember good things, they also remember bad things.


UCI Faculty Profile System. (2015). Retrieved from The Regents of University of California:

Woman with Perfect Memory Baffles Scientists. (2006, March 20). Retrieved from ABC News:





Mental Autopilot

The Benefits of Autopilot Thinking by Seth Slater M.F.A from Psychology Today.

How many times have you been thinking about your to do list while driving and missed your turn? We have all been there when we are doing one task and thinking about what the next task will be. Slater describes that while attempting mental multitasking the mind creates a hierarchy so that the most important activities receive the most attention. In class we discussed that some activities do not require much mental attention, this is true for driving for the most part.

Slater points out that one good thing about completely tasks during autopilot thinking helps the mind use more energy for other thoughts. The down side is that individuals can become bored with the activity because a once exciting activity becomes mundane. These activities tend to not challenge the individual mentally and that could also lead to restlessness.

Although autopilot activities can become boring, making minor changes to these activities can make them seem exciting again. Slater talks about making changes in simple way such as, taking a different way home or taking a small walk after work instead of going straight home. These changes Slater says can boost the mind help challenge individuals mentally.

Selective attention has a limited capacity and it is the ability to focus one’s awareness on one stimulus at the deficit of another. Under selective attention is the idea of unintentional blindness. unintentional blindness is when an individual does not “see” something that is right in front of them. When an individual does not “see” their turn or their exit off the highway this is because of unintentional blindness.

When Slater talks about the mind creating a hierarchy when mentally multitasking he is referring to central executive. Central executive sets goals and priorities to direct cognitive processes. When individuals are driving, thinking about their to do list, and thinking about where they have to go, the central executive allows the appropriate amount of energy toward those mental tasks.

Performing tasks on autopilot is referred to as automaticity which is the ability to perform tasks without mental attention. In order to achieve automaticity the individual has to practice the task. Automatic tasks refer to the tasks themselves that have become automatic to the individual.

I thought that this article explained this idea of automaticity in simple terms that made it easy for anyone to understand it. The author did not use any cognitive psychology terminology and that made it an easy read. I also liked idea that Slater had of making small changes to daily routines can make life a little more interesting. I think making little changes can brighten up a day or even a week.

Severity Makes Events Feel Closer

There are times when the a day at work seems twice as long as it did yesterday and when the drive home takes way too long. Dr. Art Markman starts this article by posing the question of why our perception changes. Our perception of time, distance, importance of events, etc. change on a regular basis. This article suggests that our perception of time and distance change when the consequences of these are great. Our perception of  events change when their importance to us changes. In this article Markman talks about an exercise where two groups of people were asked how much distance was between two trees and what was the differences in time when addressing a serious situation.

Markman noticed that when the events that happened at each tree were more serious participants thought that the trees were closer together. When participants were asked if the response time from a really serious accident was faster than the response time from a less serious accident, participants thought the response time was longer for the more serious accident. Both of these exercises suggest that the severity of an event makes perception of the distance between two objects closer and time longer.

This article looks into how an individual processes and perceives information which is one of the topics that cognitive psychology looks at. This article takes an interesting perspective on how individuals perceive events. We take in visual information through our eyes through light. The light then hits cones and rods inside our eyes. From the cones and rods the information is sent to the brain. The brain then analyzes and interprets the visual information. This process is how we interpret our world. This is relevant when we look to have a better understanding of how we interpret the world. This article is a good start to understanding why events seem longer or shorter depending on the day.

I think that this article was okay. The information in the article was good. I never thought about severity being a factor in our perception of life. Logically I know that time does not change but sometimes it feels like eight hours turns into ten overnight. I enjoyed reading this article.