Author Archives: jzaccagn

About jzaccagn

I'm a human unfortunately.

Dr. Rettinger: A Grand Finale

Key Concepts Applied: Working Memory, Short-term Memory, Executive Functioning, Intelligence, Vision, Language, MRIs

My final topic for this semester is a nervy one: Dr. Rettinger’s “How are Visuospatial Work Memory, Executive Functioning, and Spatial Abilities Related? A Latent-Variable Analysis” which was published in 2001 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology:General. Who does this? Who writes about the professor teaching the course in his specialty? Apparently, I am this ridiculously foolish person.

I believe Dr. Rettinger alluded to this article a few times at the beginning of the semester, so I was naturally curious and wanted to read his work. His article, “How are Visuospatial Working Memory, Executive Functioning, and Spatial Abilities Related? A Latent-Variable Analysis”, is absolute, pure cognitive psychology. I think a greater challenge would be to find pieces of the article that do NOT pertain to cognitive psychology; but let me tell you about the article, so you can discern for yourself! Dr. Rettinger, I am sincerely sorry if I butcher my attempt at analyzing your work!

Concepts of Interest

The first goal of this study is to identify the relationship between short-term memory, which is storage-oriented, and working memory, which is both storage and processing oriented, in the visuospatial domain as well their relationship to the central executive.

The second goal of this study seeks to examine how the three spatial abilities (spatial visualization, spatial relations, and perceptual speed) are related to executive functioning and the visuospatial  sketchpad.

Details of the Study       

167 undergraduate students at the University of Colorado at Boulder were recruited for this study. The students completed 12 tasks: 2 for Executive Functioning (Tower of Hanoi task and random number generation task), 2 for Visuospatial STM tasks (Corsi Blocks and dot memory task), 2 for Visuospatial WM tasks (letter rotation task and dot matrix task), and then a set of psychometrics to test their spatial abilities for spatial visualizations (Paper Folding Test), spatial relations (Flags Test), and perceptual speed (Identical Pictures Test).

You guys might remember the paper folding test from our Intelligence ZAPS! I did terribly on this task! Digression of the day: “Back in the day”, an internet IQ test told me my IQ is 130. In reality, especially if the test is timed, I would likely be at a 95. I am soooooo slooooow and, not to mention, quite basic! My uncle on my mom’s side worked for IBM and NASA, and my dad is a rocket scientist/computer scientist/ultra “nerd”. Unfortunately, I inherited the recessive genes of pure stupidity. It’s not fair!! Wait, no, just kidding. My IQ is TOTALLY 130….. #beliefperseverance

Speaking of being a ‘genius’, it is time to fast forward passed the nerdy, general procedural ‘stuff’ that is ‘over my head’ to the interesting, juicy ‘stuff’!


Summarily, the researchers conclude that visuospatial working memory and visuospatial short-term memory are related, (r=.86). Not only is there a relationship between these types of memory for the visuospatial domain, but executive functioning is equally associated to visuospatial working memory (r=0.55) and to visuospatial short-term memory (r=0.56). The researchers contrast these results to previous results of working memory and short-term memory for the verbal domain. For the verbal domain, working memory and short-term memory are easily differentiated. The central executive is less involved in the verbal domain.

After establishing the interrelationship between STM and WM visuospatial memory and the central executive, the researchers addressed the roles of visuospatial storage and executive functioning for the three spatial abilities of visualizations, relations, and perceptual speed. The researchers concluded that the central executive played the greatest role for spatial visualizations and was least involved for perceptual speed. Secondly, all three spatial abilities required visuospatial storage, but also depend on executive functioning. The researchers emphasize the substantial relationships between spatial abilities and the working memory constructs!

At the end of the article, the authors infer that the results of their study supports that the phenomenon, “g”, AKA, general fluid intelligence, is measurable. (We JUST covered this in class!!) The authors close their article asserting that additional research on working memory would complement humanity’s understanding on intelligence.

 Valencian Thoughts

Initially, the assertion that the central executive has a stronger association with the visuospatial domain than the verbal domain was surprising and counterintuitive. After I gave it some thought, the notion of the relationship of executive functioning and the visuospatial domain makes more sense. *Most* people on average have perfect use of our eyes. We are CONSTANTLY encoding sensory input visually. Like Rettinger has mentioned in class, a huge portion of our brains are dedicated for just visual processing. Vision allows us to navigate space. I am speculating here, but my hunch is that the interrelationships between working memory, short-term memory, and executive functioning might not be AS strong for the verbal domain, because the verbal domain might be relatively ‘new’ for humans. As long as we have been evolving, our eyes (and minds) have guided and protected us from predators. At least, language is one of our ‘newer’ skillsets, I think. This is interesting, too, because as we have learned in class, language also greatly influences our cognitive processes; but is language universal across cultures? In any case, our eyes developed first, and obviously, our brains interpret that information first (PRIMACY EFFECT, just kidding). Before I wrap up my blog, I want to make sure I give proper credit to the researchers of the study, because honesty is the best policy. Everything above “Valencian Thoughts” is all their work. Please feel free to read the article for yourselves, my dear fellow, students! Finally, I need to say, something I hate (and love) about many theories in psychology is that we are comparing constructs against constructs, like in the present article, working memory versus short-term memory versus executive functioning versus intelligence. The beauty of the present times is now we have all these fancy machines to test our theories of these constructs. I recently remembered an old favorite song of mine, “IRM”, by Charlotte Gainsbourg, which means “Imagerie par résonance magnétique”, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). I believe the music contains actual MRI ‘beats’. Enjoy!


Miyake, A., Friedman, N. P., Rettinger, D. A., Shah, P., & Hegarty, M. (2001). How are visuospatial working memory, executive functioning, and spatial abilities related? A latent-variable analysis. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130(4), 621-640. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.130.4.621

Reisburg, D. (2016). Cognition: exploring the science of the mind.

The Girl Who Gouged Out Her Own Eyes

****WARNING**** Some readers may find the content of this article disturbing******

Key Concepts Applied: Memory and emotion, autobiographical memory, Cognition and Brain Anatomy and Functioning, Visual Perception, Visual and Spatial Imagery

After taking crystal meth, Kaylee Muthart, only 20 years-old, was looking for an acquaintance. She was walking along a railroad track towards a church. She said the world was upside down and dark. She thought the dead were stuck in their graves, and that God needed a sacrifice. She said she “thought everything would end, everyone would die, if I did not tear out my eyes immediately”.

My memory of the news is an example of memory of emotion (if not, flashbulb memory). Hearing the news evoked feelings of fear and sadness in me. The textbook highlights that emotion promotes consolidation, that “the emotional events trigger a response in the amygdala, and the amygdala, in turn increases memory in the hippocampus”. I am not likely to forget this incident. Besides the biological markers that enhance the consolidation of memory, the attention narrows on the emotional event, which a girl gouging out her own eyes demands. The textbook also proposes that emotional events are followed by appropriate goals. For me, my goal is to understand, and this goal to understand, in turn, increases rehearsal. I need to understand, because the action of tearing out one’s eyes fits none of my schemas.

However, I must include another type of autobiographical memory, the self-reference effect. We better remember events that pertain to oneself, and I am sad to say, this is why the event saddens me. Even though I do not do drugs, mental illness and I have digressed into some “interesting” situations. For this reason, I can sympathize with Ms. Kaylee, and I feel upset that this situation has happened to her. She seems like a beautiful person and I hope the best for her. Anyhow, since I, as human being, can relate to Kaylee, another human being, this is more evidence that I will not forget this incident.


Indisputably, the event that transpired her “self-enucleation” was a horrifying event. To better understand this event, I researched what crystal meth does to the brain, and how it affects cognitive processes. According to American Addiction Centers, chronic use of meth does quite a bit of damage to several structures of the central nervous system, and consequentially, impairs cognitive processes. Chronic use of crystal meth increases the death rate of neuronal and glial cells, in structures such as the hippocampus, cerebellum, parietal cortex, the frontal and prefrontal cortexes, and the subcortical regions. I am honestly just listing some of the avenues of damage! I do think I need address the decrease of dopamine and serotonin transporters, which are the specialized proteins in the CNS that return the neurotransmitters from the synaptic cleft, and repackage them so they be re-used. This explains why crystal meth is so addictive. The extended, overloaded release of dopamine and serotonin makes the person feel like God, and then after the neurotransmitters are depleted, a person crashes into a state of depression; and who does not want to feel like God? Returning to the concepts of cognitive psychology, the long-term damage to regions which involve attention, judgment, and memory, would expectedly impair attention, judgment and memory. The decision-making process of the prefrontal cortex was undeniably impaired, because gouging out ones’ own eyeballs is not exactly the best choice, not meaning to be insensitive.

The crystal meth alone is not likely to have spurred the incident. The methamphetamine was likely mixed with another unknown substance, which caused Kaylee’s hallucinations. For the sake of brevity, the interaction of cognitive processes and hallucinations is interesting. Summarily, hallucinations are the product of the confusion of the “where” and “what” system, as well as, a misattribution of the inner world to the outer world. The mind’s relationship to the senses has changed, and the mind’s interpretation distorted the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Kaylee said she did not even feel the pain when she pulled out her eyeballs. The decision-making disparity coupled with the mind’s distorted reality led to the incident. What interests me though is Kaylee’s experiences after the event.

In her interview with People magazine, Kaylee says she has been learning the human echolation, and that she “often forgets that she is blind”, because “she still knows what her mom’s house looks like”. These ideas pertain to cognitive psychology by several ideas. Since she has lived 20 years of her life having sight, her long-term memory contains visual imagery, which I think, acts as a rough framework of her mobility. The textbook addresses that the “Mind’s Eye” of the individuals who have blind since birth acts as “spatial imagery” rather than “visual imagery”. People who have blind since birth perceive their world by “spatial imagery”, or the distance between objects, rather than information derived from vision. Even with a “visual imagery” template, Kaylee’s memories will gradually be encoding through echolation, or the location of objects through hearing. Through this process, her newer memories will be encoded as “spatial imagery”.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned this semester is to appreciate my eyes. When I saw our chapter dedicated to the visual perception, I was especially surprised! Now, it seems like a no “brain”-er. Our eyes are our primary link us to the world surrounding us. It sounds cheesy, but I keep a gratitude journal to help keep my mental health on track. Between the chapter on visual perception (and imagery) and imagining Kaylee’s life without eyes, eyes have consistently made it into my gratitude journal. I am grateful for my eyes.

“Aeroplane over the Sea” was written about Anne Frank, but “the beautiful face I have found in this place” reminds me of Kaylee, and the sadness I feel about the situation and the fragile connection to life. If someone in Kaylee’s life googles her name and finds this blog, I hope they know that I think Kaylee is a true “bamf” and that I am delighted to know that she perceives “life is more beautiful now”.



Reisberg, Cognition: Exploring the Science of the Mind, 2016

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Today, my power went off at 12:45 P.M. My only plan for the day was to write a bullet-proof blog post for this class. I was going to give up; but I am here at Starbucks with my slow  and ancient tablet. I have changed from a complicated  topic to an easier topic because it is dear to my heart( which is a reference to deep processing to be honest):

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you have not seen this movie, I demand that you stop what you are doing immediately and watch this movie right now. I cannot express how much I love this film. This movie evoked feelings I did not know I could feel. Lucky for me, I know this film well enough to use it  as an example to apply the principles of  cognitive psychology.

If you are a terrible human being who will not watch this movie and enjoy it, please google Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and read the summary, so I do not have to spend time explaining the premise and boring everyone through the process. The brief summary is that the main characters Joel (Jim Carey) and Clementine (Kate Winselt) attempted to erase each other from their memories after a terrible break-up. Cognitive Psychology explains how this attempt to erase a person from memory was an epic fail.

I think it is perfect how we are covering Chapter 7 now, and most of my points on memory-erasing comes from this chapter. Memory is a network. Memory is not a series of isolated thoughts. The retrieval paths, the associative links, meet together at nodes and continue to spread to other nodes, to create a “net”. Joel and Clementine were an intimate, romantic couple who lived together. Many memories are being intertwined. From sleeping to waking, if I remember correctly, the couple were lived together for two years, which to me, is a lot of time spent with another person. It’s enough time for daily habits to be associated with one’s romantic partner. Daily habits are “deeply” ingrained. I almost wrote my blog on how much my daily habits were disturbed due to the power outage. Every time I walked into the room, I still attempted to turn on the light though I knew the power was out. Turning lights is extremely automatic. I think this is an example “processing fluency”. The spreading activation is strong for automatic motions, like to turning on light switches. Living with someone else, you become accustomed to that other person, and memories of that person become intertwined with association links.

With all these associations in mind, imagine erasing a targeted memory. After removing the targeted memory, associations remain. In the movie, “Lacuna, Inc.” attempts  to correct this issue by asking their clients to remove all belongings that would remind them of the person being erased. That said, places cannot be erased. Sights,  sounds, smells, taste, touch, and feelings cannot be erased.

I bring up feelings not being erased to make another point. In the cases of H.M., Korsakoff’s syndrome patients, and amnesiac patients, explicit memory is impaired, but not implicit. To me, this is fascinating. These patients can remember without remembering! What a paradox! Within the impicit memory paradigm, is familiarity. In Chapter 2, we learned what happens when familiarity is impaired: Capgras Syndrome. The people we love are recognizable but they are not familiar. Now, we can imagine the reverse situation: seeing a complete “stranger” who is eerily familiar.

This is what happened in the film. The explicit memories were erased with no problem, but implicit memory remained in tact. Our hearts, or our  amygdala rather, cannot forget. Sorry, I icannot help but be cheesy. At the last second while Joel was erasing Clementine, she tells him to meet her at Montauk beach. When he wakes up, he meets her at Montauk for the first time, a second time.

This is the theme song, because music is life.

The Age of misInformation

I do not remember how I learned the coined term, “Age of Information”, but when I was thinking about it one day, I googled it. Whenever I use Google, as I have done for this project, I think to myself how grateful I am to not have to walk, bicycle, drive my car, ride the bus, or even better, ride in my stagecoach in a massive dress and hat, to the nearest library to discover the answers to my questions. This is the beauty of Internet. I have all the answers to my questions readily available at my fingertips. With this convenience though comes a cost. Not all the information on the internet is necessarily true. No information anywhere is necessarily true. So what happens when we do learn the accurate information to incorrect information? Is this new, accurate information easy to replace the old, false information? My search for the term, “Age of Information”, is a somewhat small, yet ironic, example. I will not lie: I romanticize the notion of the Digital Age. When I looked it up for “giggles” and I saw a few results that stated, “We are no longer in the ‘Age of Information’.”, my reaction was “NO! THAT IS NOT TRUE WE ARE TOTALLY STILL IN THE AGE OF INFORMATION WITH ALL THIS INFORMATION EVERYWHERE!”. I was unable (and unwilling) to accept that an alternate “fact” could be true. This is a pretty petty example, because besides, who makes the decision on what “Age” we are in anyway?

One of University of Mary Washington’s own, Professor Patrick Rich, has done research on this phenomenon: the continued influence effect. According to the continued influence effect, misinformation sometimes persists even after its retraction and correction. Rich’s “The Continued Influence Effect of Implied and Explicitly Stated Misinformation in News Reports” investigates how implied misinformation is more resilient to change than explicit misinformation. What does this mean? An example used in his paper is a real life news story that reported a family of four dying on the same night they ate Chinese food. Even after the story was recanted with the fact that the family actually died from a “faulty furnace”, the Chinese restaurant from which they ate still went out of business due the bad, and false, publicity. Implied misinformation requires the readers to “self-generate” their own stories and explanations to a certain event, which certainly happened in this case.

Well, that is nice. What does this have to do with Cognitive Psychology? A better question would be how this does NOT relate to Cognitive Psychology. Only 121 out of 565 pages of our textbook, Cognition: Exploring the Science of the Mind, is dedicated to the explanation of Memory. (Fun Un-related Fact: mnemonic is one of my favorite words of the English language). Not only does the persistence of Implied Misinformation pertain to the functions of memory but also the profound, intricate, and powerful functions of judgment and reasoning.


Before I elaborate further on these two concepts, I need to say, as a novel student in cognitive psychology, I am definitely “in over my head”!


Let’s start with the working-memory system. We did learn a little about that in Chapter 1. Chapter 6 describes the working-memory System, which is essentially an updated name of short-term memory, in more detail. Some interesting qualities of the working-memory are that information is easy to gain, but also easy to lose, and that working-memory is much more fragile than long-term memory. I thought I had while reading Prof. Rich’s article is, “what if the implied misinformation happens to reach long-term memory?”. Long-term memory is much more permanent after all, which would be an apparent hurdle for correcting the misinformation. As stated previously, newer information is as easy to learn as it is to forget. This is a rather simple perspective.

Something I find to be extremely interesting is that, the textbook states that connections promote retrieval of memories. In context of continued influence effect, this means the self-generated stories of implicit misinformation makes it easier to remember, rather than the retracted version of information.

Persistence of implied misinformation, or more precisely, explicit misinformation, may also be related to confirmation bias and belief perseverance, which are supposedly, functions of judgment and reasoning. Explicit misinformation is information that is blatantly false. Professor Rich’s heroes, Ullrich Ecker and Stephen Lewandowsky, are experts in terms of the continued influence effect of explicit misinformation, and I will link one article written by them, too. I think we are all guilty of confirmation bias. We accept information, which supports our beliefs and worldviews, and dismiss anything that contradicts our ideas. I am a bit of a hypocrite. I profess to being the queen of open-mindedness and objectivity and yet, if I learn something that logically conflicts with my beliefs, I become “emo” for a week and question all of my life decisions until I decide whether to disregard the challenging concept or revise my beliefs to accommodate the seemingly conflicting idea.

What can we learn from the phenomenon of the continued influence effect of misinformation? How can the continued influence effect be applied to real life? I personally believe that social media, particularly Facebook, is polluted with explicit misinformation.


I do not Facebook anymore. John Donne was a complete liar when he said, “no man is an island”. I am a remote, deserted, inaccessible island in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. So no one will witness when my ice caps melt and I sink into the ocean. So, take that, John Donne!

(Depending on my grade on this assignment, “Pause” and “Play” might be my thing because I like it)


Anyhow, everyone generates the media now, and information travels fast, whether it is true or not true. “Huey Newton”, a song by one of my favorite artists, St. Vincent, often gets stuck in my head, particularly the descriptive lyrics, “cowboys of information”. With the magic that is the internet, we are all cowboys of information! As “Cowboys of Information”, we are going to need to learn, practice, and educate others in the importance of healthy skepticism and critical thinking when discerning new information.  Alas, these are the times of the “Information Age”.



<-Because I am not as intelligent as I pretend to be

Topic Idea

Hey, guys!

Have you seen today’s Google Doodle? I almost choked on my coffee when I saw it.

This is not my official blog post for credit. I just thought I would share in case anyone was feeling lost. I am pressed for time right now, plus I am mentally unprepared to write a quality blog. If this topic does not pertain to cognitive psychology (Chapter 2, specifically),I do not know what does!

It’s lame when we will all right about the same thing, but if none of you write about this in the next few days, I will myself! Good luck and happy reading!





Good thing we have this testing opportunity! I am Julie Zaccagnino and I already managed to delete my first post! I prefer to go by Valencia rather than Julie or Zaccagnino. I am both ecstatic and terrified of this blogging experience, but I’m sure it will all work out in the end. I do look forward to reading your posts! Here’s to a fun and thoughtful semester! Since the weather is actually nice, it is now time for me to go on a study picnic with my cats. This is my paradise: cats, outdoors, books, blankets, and coffee.