Category Archives: Social Media

These posts describe and review mentions of cognitive research in the media.

 

Gaming and Cognitive Functioning

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For my first blog post I decided to look for something that is of interest to the general public, but also has some sort of interesting connection to cognitive psychology. One of the first things that came to mind was video games. They are literally everywhere. If we are not playing one at home, most of us tend to have a game or two on our phones. I was interested in seeing if any articles had been written, or any studies had been done to connect these two different subjects. So, I started searching the internet and to my surprise I found a few articles on the topic that seem to be legit.

This article started off discussing how enhancing cognitive function of our brain, through gaming, we can be more effective learners. They aren’t just talking about any ordinary video game. They call the technique gamification. Gamification uses the element of games to motivate and engage the user. The theory itself is that you can use game techniques to have people learn and solve problems in a non-gaming setting. This concept first came out in 2002, but only started receiving recognition in 2010. Although it is becoming more and more popular, it is still being criticized for only being able to work half of the brain. It is said that these game will have some benefit, but it is impossible to optimize brain connectivity, and grow new neurons playing a game on a two-dimensional screen.

 

There is a belief that there are types of gamification, structural and content. This belief comes from award winning training professional, Karl Kapp. Structural gamification is the application of game-like elements but with no alteration to content. An example of this would be an employee doing training for the company they work for. As they complete the training they are rewarded by points. The game-like scoring system will help distract the person from negative thought they may have about completing that task, by engaging them and enhancing cognitive functions. The second type of gamification is Content gamification. This type of gamification applies game-like elements to the content. An example of this would be when instructors add practical challenges and tasks to programs to maybe help with team-building sessions.

Even with the criticism gamification is becoming popular in the workplace.  In the workplace environment these games can increase optimism, enhance social skills through multi-player scenarios, and create meaning by making it possible for participants to achieve success. It also works as a distracter for some employees. If you are earning points for completing a work activity more like a game, you will be more willing to finish the task, and do it with a good attitude. With these positive outcomes it is clear why some many companies are experimenting with this new concept. Even the Ford Motor Company of Canada used gamification for their employees and saw benefits. It is still a growing concept, but it is thought to be something used a lot more frequently in the near future.

 

Sources: http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/blogs-post/enhancing-your-cognitive-function-through-gamification/188303

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201403/eight-habits-improve-cognitive-function

http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2013/10/07/adam-penenberg-how-gamification-is-going-to-change-the-workplace/

Technology and Cognition: Helpful or Harmful?

 

Personal Technology in Class

The availability and practicality of technology has increased drastically in the last few decades alone. As the development of personal devices has progressed, and social media has increased in popularity, young people are increasingly sucked into a virtual world. This begs the question, is technology hampering or helping us? Especially in a class setting, is it problematic that students are continually “plugged into” their devices and networks? Is it distracting them or providing new and unique ways for them to connect with information?

An article in the student newspaper of Texas Tech connected with students and professors to assess their opinions regarding technology and learning. There are two basic positions. First, the article discusses the negative aspects of technology in class. Several students say that having their phones available to them in study time is detrimental to their attention and efficiency. Not only do students misjudge their own ability to multitask, but they also find themselves going to their phones for distraction when they’re bored in class, or between ideas in an essay. Secondarily, the article discusses the way that personal technology can be helpful to learning. It can provide helpful study tools, such as providing music (although studies looking at music and studying have mixed results, music can often increase positive mood while studying). More significantly, it connects students with a vast pool of information. With just a few taps, students have a world of data and research at their fingertips. Overall, the article doesn’t pass judgement on technology in the classroom, but simply interviews and presents various opinions.

The cognitive ideas behind this article include the idea of parallel processing vs. serial processing. We know that the human mind is capable of doing multiple things at once on a neural level. However, this does not mean that we are good at multitasking. Research has shown that it is very difficult for us to focus consciously on multiple things at once. A specific study cites how those individuals who were heavy media multitaskers (those who use more than one type of media at once were not actually able to multitask on cognitive tasks. Another issue with technology in the classroom addressed in this article is it’s effect on how we relate to others. This study discusses the social distancing that occurs when individuals make excessive use of the internet. Could this have something to do with the lack of involvement that occurs with technology-addicted students? Students who are already prone to social anxiety or shyness seem more likely to be addicted to the Internet. Perhaps these students are the ones that “hide” in their technology instead of participating in class discussions.

Adaptive Communication Technology in the Classroom

Adaptive Communication Technology in the Classroom

While I think that this article prompts interesting discussions, I was concerned that the article didn’t bring up several important aspects of technology in the classroom. First, it did not discuss the use of technology for adaptation and accessibility in communication. How we communicate is certainly an important aspect of cognitive psychology. My younger brother has autism and Down syndrome, and he has made progress in his communication since he began using iPads, Smartboards, and other adaptive technology. The use of images and switches and recorded voice to assist him in communicating in class has been incredibly helpful. Second, the article doesn’t mention the use of technology as a memory aide. I have known many students who use flashcard apps to practice memorization. These apps quiz you on information and cycle through the ones you struggle with. It would be interesting to look into the effectiveness of technology such as this, and how students feel about it.

What do you you all think? Does having access to technology help or harm your cognitive functions in class?

Spritzing – Sprinting through reading

After we discussed object recognition and letter recognition in class, I was reminded of an article I had read a year or so ago on Facebook about speed reading. I remembered going through this stimulation where words were flashed at you one by one creating a sentence, and one letter of the word was red (the rest of the text was black). From what I could remember, the article asserted that it could increase your reading speed to ~1000wpm (roughly 1000 words per minute) through using this version of Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP). I had a strong feeling that this phenomenon would connect greatly to our in-class discussions.

Read faster

I attempted to find the original article in order to write my blog post, and was surprised to see that “Spritzing” is already taking over. Since this article emerged, the latest version of the Huffington Post has adopted Spritz, which allows you to read an article using the Spritz technology and method in order to decrease time spent reading. Other partnerships include, but are not limited to, Samsung, Intel, HP, Cengage Learning, Financial Times, and Harvard University. Spritzing has also been featured by over 1,000 publications across the globe, many including Fox Business, CNBC, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal (http://www.spritzinc.com/press-gallery/). They have also developed software to download on your computer for you to “spritz” (Spritzlet). There are also apps you can download on your phone for Spritz. The Spritz webpage has an application where you can “test yourself”, seeing how well Spritz works for you (you can try multiple reading speeds, seeing which works best for you). Spritz is available in English, Spanish, French, German, Russian and Korean. The Spritz website itself has only been recently copyrighted, making it clear how new this particular technology is.

I believed prior to reading information on the Spritz website that “spritzing” would have a lot to do with cognitive studies regarding letter detection and recognition, involving perhaps word superiority, visual search, and overall increasing accuracy and efficiency. It turns out, I had the right idea. On the website, the science behind Spritz(ing) is discussed. According to the website, the traditional style of reading (reading text in a line, moving your eyes sequentially from one word to the next) is inefficient. Each word has an ORP, or an optimal recognition point, and the ORP for each word (depending on word length) is different. During reading, your eye moves from ORP to the next ORP (eye movement = saccades), reading comprehension and retention then following the processing of the word for meaning and context. This takes a significant amount of time to do, with 80% of the time spent just moving your eyes word to word, seeking out the ORPs. Spritz highlights the ORP instead, and places the word in the right ORP spot, making it so your eye does not have to move in order to process the word. This decreases the time spent searching for these ORPs (decreasing visual search) and thereby increases your reading speed.

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The following video demonstrates the difference in eye movements (saccades) between traditional reading, Rapid Serial Visual Presentation, and Spritzing.

I honestly found all of this very interesting. I liked how the website discussed the science behind “spritzing” on its webpage, making it easy to understand the processes behind its application. I tested myself however, and although it did increase my reading speed, my reading comprehension and retention decreased a bit. I could understand what I was reading, but its 40 minutes later now and I barely remember what I read (although I do remember the general idea). Spritz seems like a useful way to save time in the long run when reading for fun, or for the general idea of things. However, if you are reading to remember (*cough cough* for cognitive psychology), I do not recommend “spritzing”. Then again, I did not test myself at every wpm level. Perhaps if I did I could find one that is just right!

http://www.spritzinc.com/

Left Brain / Right Brain

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For my January blog post, I took to Twitter to see what the “Twitterverse” had to say about Cognitive Psychology. From there I found an article called “Left Brain vs. Right Brain: The Surprising Truth” (http://psychology.about.com/od/cognitivepsychology/a/left-brain-right-brain.htm). I picked this article because I remember being in high school psychology and taking little tests and questionnaires to see if I was either Left Brained or Right Brained. Later on in college psychology classes Left Brain/Right Brain was mentioned again. Not until this semester in Dr. Rettinger’s Cognitive Psychology class, I was told the whole theory of Left Brain/Right Brain was completely inaccurate.

From the article I found, it states that the Right Brain-Left Brain theory is only just a myth. It is now believed that brain function is not just in one hemisphere or the other, it is the whole brain functioning and working together. Prior theory of Left Brain or Right Brain dominance said, if you were Left Brained you were more logical, analytical and objective or if you were Right Brained were more intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective. It is true that certain areas of the brain control certain functions for example language occurs on the left, and attention on the right side. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that people have a stronger left-side or right-side brain network.

During my research, I googled left brain/right brain tests and it directed me to this website, http://testyourself.psychtests.com/bin/transfer. After taking the test I received got a score of 50. According to the website “Both your right and left hemisphere seem to have reached a level of perfect harmony – rather than trying to dominant each other, they work together to create a unique and well-balanced “you”. I had the previous theory in my mind of receiving a Left or Right brain result but in reality my results were correct in that the whole brain works and functions together.

A Cogntive Review of “Memento”

Nobody in their right mind would ever accuse Hollywood of being a halfway decent source of scientific information. Understandably so, facts are twisted to service the plot, real science merges absurdly with pseudoscience, and the laws of physics are largely ignored as action heroes perform feats that defy gravity and logic. Which is completely fine- Hollywood is an entertainment business, and nobody comes to an action movie to gain a deeper understanding of the human brain. However, once in a while a movie will be both entertaining and surprisingly accurate.

Memento is a thriller that takes us inside the mind of Leonard Shelby, a hero suffering from amnesia as he single-mindedly pursues the man who killed his wife. Amnesia is great dramatic fodder for Hollywood, although its portrayal is usually improbable at best. Heroes are bopped on the head and wake up remembering nothing of their past- until another head trauma or plot convenience miraculously gives them back their memory. In most movies, amnesia is simply another plot device.

 

However, Memento is different. Unusual for Hollywood, the hero suffers from anterograde amnesia, where he remembers with perfect clarity his life before the attack that left his wife (in his recollection) dead and his brain damaged by blunt force trauma. However, Leonard cannot form any new memories, and spends the entirety of the movie in this state- leaving himself notes on his own body to give himself clues, and forgetting character reveals and betrayals midway through a scene. Several scenes show him frantically jotting down something important on a photograph before his amnesia forces him to forget. The film has a fragmented, twisty feel that actually does a lot of justice to real cases of anterograde amnesia.

 

In Latin, the word for “seahorse” is hippocampus. Located under the medial temporal lobe, the hippocampus is highly involved in long-term memory. It is hypothesized that the hippocampus serves as a “gateway” for new memories- they must travel through the hippocampus before being stored permanently as long-term memories in the brain. Damage to the hippocampus, whether by injury, infection, or chronic alcoholism (Korsakoff’s syndrome) can result in anterograde amnesia. Like in Memento, people with anterograde amnesia may be able to access old memories already laid down in long term storage. However, they will not be able to form new memories, due to failures in encoding and storage. A famous case of anterograde amnesia is patient H.M. – apparently an inspiration for the director of Memento.

 

Before he became a vigilante hunting down “John G”, Leonard was an insurance investigator. In light of his amnesia, it seems unlikely that Leonard would be able to maintain any of the new skills he learned hunting for John G. However, even this can have a cognitive basis. Research has shown that people with retrograde amnesia can retain their procedural memory, which is involved with learning skills and habits. This is because the hippocampus is not involved in procedural memory the same way it is involved in declarative, or autobiographical, memories.

 

On top of being a stellar movie in its own right, Memento has the additional value of being an atypically cognitively solid movie by Hollywood standards. In fact, the most improbable thing seems to be why Leonard wasn’t under hospital care or study, instead of being free to track down a rapist.

Horrorscopes

If you ask someone what their blood type is, a fundamental aspect of what their body is comprised of, odds are they might not know. However, if you ask them something important, like what their Zodiac sign is, they’ll answer with no hesitation. For example, I’ll be able to tell you that I’m a Leo without a second thought. Some people live under the false notion that their zodiac sign is a major determining factor in their overall personality, but could this be true? Is it possible that there are only 12 different types of personality in over 7 billion people? And is it likely that you’ll be having the exact same kind of day with 1/12th of the population based on an arbitrary assignment? According to horoscopes, yes, you and 1 in every 12 people will find love today in the place you least expect it.

But why do people believe that the cosmos have an effect on personality? There’s this thing called subjective validation which basically states that two completely unrelated events are connected because a relationship is demanded. In other words, we find a way to make our horoscope apply to us. This “relationship” between the stars and personalities was put to the test by psychologist Bertram Forer. He gave a “unique” personality assessment to a group of students based on  a personality exam that they took and asked them to rate the accuracy of their assessment on a scale from 0 to 5, 5 being the most accurate. The average score was 4.26/5, meaning that everyone thought their personality assessment accurately captured how they view themselves. But here comes the plot twist:

Every student’s “unique” result was actually the exact same one.

What Forer basically did is he took a line or two from each horoscope’s description and compiled them into a single paragraph. This is where subjective validation comes into play. Odds are, people paid more attention to the “hits” rather than the “misses” in this paragraph and tried to make the traits apply to them. This unique paragraph also consisted of a number of Barnum statements, or statements that could apply equally to anyone. For example, “you have a great desire to be liked by everyone around you.” Well yeah, I haven’t met anyone whose sole goal in life was to be hated by everyone in their life.

To further debunk the astrological myth, all you have to do is look around you. The 25% of people who rely on “compatibility” to find destiny’s one true love for them are living under the world’s greatest delusion. My best friend is a Sagittarius and I’m a Leo, so apparently we’re supposed to be enemies. My parents are also supposed to remain as friends. 40 years of marriage and 5 kids would all beg to differ. Does compatibility largely rely on personality? Of course it does! But does personality rely on the stars? Not at all. This is one of those moments where A = B but B C, so it should logically follow that A C.

But what are some of the factors that make horoscopes so convincing? First of all, the subject believes that the unique description of how their day/week/month/year/life will pan out applies only to them, hence the term unique. However, as I’ve said before, this “unique” description applies to 1 in every 12 people. This is where you have to keep in mind that snowflakes are the only things that are abundant yet still remain unique, unlike humans. What’s more, people tend to believe what’s being told to them if they’re being told by a veritable source of authority, such as a psychic with a turban, a crystal ball, and maybe some incense burning in the back room to set the mood. So with this divine being forecasting your future and your love life, of course there will be some sense of credibility to it. But again, this is where people tend to make their own self-fulfilling prophecies.

Another experiment was carried out by French astrologist, Michel Gauquelin. He provided readers of a French newspaper with a free horoscope so long as they provided feedback of the accuracy of the prediction. Lo and behold, over 90% of the readers said their prediction was accurate. This is where the next trick comes in: the horoscope was exactly the same for all readers, much like Forer’s experiment.

What’s more, personality may change but not as quickly as some people may think. In 2011, the planet underwent some slight realignment, which meant that the stars realigned as well and therefore changed everyone’s zodiac sign. I was a Leo before this change and apparently now I’m a Cancer (a change I refuse to accept because I liked being a lion and I don’t know how to feel about being demoted to a teeny little crab). But this means that everyone’s personalities will change as a result, making those who were introverted before relatively extroverted because their date of birth fell within a different range. Just because the signs changed, that doesn’t mean that personalities changed overnight.

So when determining your personality, don’t rely so much on horoscopes. Consult a psychological examination backed by a credible institution or just ask the people around you and obtain some Informant Data. Better yet, do some introspecting and ask yourself rather than the crystal ball.

Lucy: A film fascinated with the human brain

Many of you may have  seen in theaters or a glimpse on TV commercials the movie “Lucy” (Trailer for Lucy) that was released in theaters July 25th, 2014. I personally have not seen this movie but I have seen TV commercials and have watched the trailer for this movie and grasped a basic understanding of what the movie is about. The concept of this movie was that humans only use 10% of their brains capacity but in a rare case, this woman Lucy is able to go beyond that 10% and acquire certain skills that other humans can not retrieve in their brain.

If you did not know before, this claim that we only use 10% of our brain is a myth. Authors, producers, directors, and the media use anything they can to make an interesting film or book society will want to buy or pay to see. There have been tons of movies and books on the end of the world phenomenon, for example, that people are fascinated with because it’s interesting for us to think about something we do not really know. The “10% Myth” is one of those marvels that some people may believe in and others not at all.

There has been many theories about where this myth of “We only use 10% of our brain” has come from. According to the Scientific American, the myth has been linked to the American psychologist and author William James, who argued in his novel “The Energies of Men” published in 1907, that we are only making use of a small part of our mental resources. They also said it has been associated with Albert Einstein, who used this figure to describe his own intellect.

Now we may ask ourselves, “Why does such a myth still exist?” A plausible reason why this myth has been popularly is because it is sometimes used to describe psychic powers according to Snope Magazine. People pay to see someone with “intuition” or “supernatural power.” These unique individuals are able to use 80-90% of their brain compared to the ordinary person that is only able to use “10%” favoring the myth for this specific business or entertainment. The myth is also common for people to use when one cannot remember or retain information that they want to tap into. If we can’t remember something, what else to blame but the brain?

If you are one of those people that are firm believers that we do only use 10% of our brain, then you probably found the film, “Lucy” pretty intriguing. From what I saw, she learned how to write Chinese in an hour, can move people with her mind, feel every living thing, and much more. This mix of unused intellect and intuitive brain powers fascinates people who believe in the 10% Myth that if we could access the other 90% of our brain, what would we be like and how would that change our society?

On the other side of the subject, people who believe the 10% Myth is really a myth can back the brain up with scientific studies on the brain. Looking at the Scientific American again, it’s true that at any given moment all of the brain’s regions are not simultaneously active, but brain researchers using imaging technology have shown that, just like the body’s muscles, most are continually active over a 24-hour period. This evidence would show over a day you use 100 percent of the brain according to neurologist John Henley. Barry Gordon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine did admit that at certain moments when we are simply just resting and thinking, we may be using only 10 percent of our brains. He also said that we use virtually every part of the brain, and that [most of] the brain is active almost all the time. If you study the brain, you’ll find out that 10 percent of it is composed of neurons the other 90 percent are glial cells. The mystery of this known fact is that glial cells support neurons but their function are unknown. Coincidentally, it’s not that we use 10 percent of our brains, merely that we only understand about 10 percent of how it functions.

The film “Lucy” gives the field of cognitive psychology attention to where the field is advancing in the future with the improvement in imaging technology and scientific studies that can help us find out more about what goes on inside our head.