Author Archives: amichaud

Acing finals through elaborative storage and creativity.


With finals week just around the corner, who doesn’t want a helpful way to retain information in a simple and fun way? Finals are dreadful for many, but they don’t have to be as dreadful any longer. There are a multitude of helpful study tips proven to work, but are they as fun as mnemonic’s? Mnemonic devices consolidate many benefits into one study aid. There are many different approaches to retain information through mnemonics. Students can make up allegorical stories that include exam information or use first letter schemes. In many instances, people can even include more than one mnemonic device for a certain concept. This strategy proves to be helpful as well as enjoyable because it engages the user and preserves knowledge in long term storage. When the user establishes a personal connection to the information rather than attempting to absorb the information raw, it becomes more accessible. Mnemonic devices make the perfect study device because they facilitate learning and can improve memory of material. There are many helpful examples on this website 

When using study aids the type of memory that is used plays into how long the information will be stored in the brain and whether or not it will be remembered well enough for later retrieval. The mnemonic study aid couples working and long term memory together which leads to elaborate processing. Mnemonic devices use this form of rehearsal through keeping the information active in the memory while at the same time understanding the material through relatable happenings. Keeping the information relevant and relatable facilitates the movement from working to long term memory. Seeing that remembering the information and understanding it does not come solely from exposure, there needs to be a deeper understating in order to store the material. This study technique guides the information into long term storage, truly understanding and comprehending the material to its fullest potential.
This website goes into detail explaining why this type of study aid can be so helpful for students. Mnemonic’s are both an entertaining and beneficial way to retain important material. Using your imagination instead of memorizing material will enhance both short term and long term memory, limiting the expended energy used for studying and establishing the information in context for later retrieval. According to the article, when a person attempts to recall information, the brain activates the nerve cells in order to store the new information, which enhances the memory. By visualizing a phrase or story, it becomes much easier to recall later on for the exam. I find it easier to visualize information when taking a test then trying to remember memorized facts.

A great representation of both story-telling and first letter schemes comes from This specific example uses a mnemonic device, which goes as follows: Phillip(P) wanted to eat(E) his friend Mary(M) but he died(D) from arsenic(AS) poisoning. Although this story seems absurd, it creates a better visual than an ordinary example that may otherwise be misconstrued as realistic. This example includes the student, his friend, and an intriguing plot line. I find that sometimes the more far-fetched the example is, the better it works. Through telling a story the student also used the mnemonic technique of first letter schemes. Using this technique can be useful when trying to retain information for math, but using a story along with it creates an even better image than using the first letter technique on its own. The images in the story are then stored in long term memory to be obtained for future reference.

I find that using mnemonic devices is more of a rewarding challenge than a way of studying.
There is so much room for creativity in a way that doesn’t otherwise present itself in other study
aids. Although other study aids are shown to work, I find that they only serve as a crutch for
short-term retention. To me, these techniques tend to feel like they are meant to be stored only in short term, working memory when the real purpose is to retain material that can be able called upon for later use. By implementing elaborative rehearsal the information is being used to for rehearsal as well as long term storage. This way the study material is put to use and used
creatively. You may even be able to remember the information to use in everyday occurrences.
Employing these mnemonic devices to study material uses less study time in the short run and
more retention in the long run. Why study to forget when you could start studying to retain?

Rebuilding social schemas


Recently, there has been a breakthrough in Autism research through computer games. This new development helps create a new schema for social interactions using a computer simulation. The computer game puts the autistic individual into the role of a computer character. The character encounters people in situations including dates, new neighbors, and interviews. In each of these circumstances the character needs to react appropriately. The distinct facial features of the other characters in the simulation make it easier for the autistic participant to think through an appropriate response based on how the other person presents his or herself. This in turn develops a script of how to act in social settings. Without support children with ASD are not able to properly form scripts, schemas for events. With this newly developed schema the child is then able to develop a script of how to react in certain situations as well as the chance to adhere to social norms. The program gives the player time to respond in a safe and inviting environment with many different encounters that facilitate the use of imperative social skills.
This new program is facilitated through the use of EEG’s and fMRI’s to show researchers which regions of the brain are activated during social interactions. As it turns out, tests have shown that the neural system is very malleable, showing regions of the brain associated with social cognition “light up.” The tests, in turn, show researchers what will be most useful for the simulations and what they can use in a specific social setting to help autistic individuals develop an updated script for their new social schema. Thus it facilitates individuals to feel more successful and comfortable in social situations. The virtual environment provides research centers such as BrainHealth researchers the opportunity to measure activation in the brain that leads to further developments in the computer simulation. The brain has shown major improvements with virtual training over time. Young adults with autism showed increased activation in brain regions associated with social understating. The results also show that there were more connections forming between brain regions needed to exchange information during social interactions.
Social schemas, developed in childhood are weak and even lacking in children with autism. They do not have knowledge relating to facial features and how to read them when interacting with their peers. Normally one has a script of what takes place in social settings such as walking up to a peer and immediately reading their facial features in order to predict what type of mood they may be in. Knowing this information, a conversation can be started based off of facial features as well as social cues. It is as if the schema is being recreated in order to help autistic children react properly in social settings. The ultimate goal of the computer simulation is to make social scripts more fluid with peers, constructing them as second nature.
For many years psychologists have taken an interest in children with Autism and why they react so differently in social situations. Studies show that there are insufficient pathways for transmitting information between the frontal and posterior regions of the brain. With insufficient connections in the brain comes the inability to communicate in a conscientious way. This creates communication problems, that without a standard representation of socializing impedes on everyday living. By definition, Autism spectrum disorder is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. These issues cause significant impairment in social, occupational and other areas of functioning. Psychologists are trying to find ways to train the brain in order to make adjustments so that autistic individuals can communicate effectively with their peers and community, without worry and insecurity. For it is believed that people must have an understanding of social skills to facilitate healthy relationships with others in any environment to become successful individuals.

Brian Williams possible case of misremembering.


While covering a story on the Iraq War in 2003, NBC news anchor Brian Williams was a passenger in a helicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. His story has since changed. Recently, after being questioned on the validity of his story reporters found out that it didn’t really happen – that he was in a following aircraft not impacted by the grenade. Many think that he purposefully twisted the story and lied to his viewers. This however, may not be the case if looked at from a psychologist’s perspective. In many past cases, people have misremembered events big and small. This article by the New York Times uses psychological research to counteract the argument at hand. According to this article, Mr.Williams may have actually misremembered this traumatic event.

The phenomena of misremembering happens to millions of people on a regular basis, including famous figures such as Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney. It never occurred to me that this problem could be something so controversial because it seems like a natural part of the brain’s processing. The brain performs so many tasks at any given moment that it’s nearly impossible to remember every event and detail correctly. I often find myself recalling childhood memories one way when they may have unfolded another.

These false memories, according to Harvard Psychologist Daniel Schacter, happen because our brains mean to tell stories about the future. “If memory is set up to use the past to imagine the future, its flexibility creates a vulnerability — a risk of confusing imagination with reality.” This may be an explanation for Brian William’s case because he imagined the rocket-propelled grenade striking the helicopter which would in turn justify the flexibility proposal. It did indeed create vulnerability mostly because according to Taylor Beck, author of Making Sense of Memory, emotions are the basis of memories. This situation created intense emotional arousal which would have made it simple for Williams to think the rocket struck his helicopter directly.

The part of the brain responsible for these emotional attachments to events is the hippocampus. Beck describes it as a “simulator”, creating movies in the mind of memories, drawing from a memory store to build new episodes. However, the brain does not store memories in just one part – it stores them in scattered fragments, which is why it is so difficult to gather all of the correct information for every memory. After several iterations of memory retrieval, the brain may mistake the original memory with newer memories from factors in the environment such as media. This may lead to the storage of false memories that can be told time and time again as if they happened in real life. The biggest issue here is that the individual thinks these memories are true. This is yet another explanation as to why Brian Williams’ false memory account for him supposedly twisting his story to mislead his viewers.

Although I am in no way certain what truly happened in Brian Williams’ case, countless sources support the fact that this may have been an instance of misremembering by the brain that happened subconsciously.

Debunking learning styles


Is it true that each and every student falls into the two common learning categories of auditory and visual? Many students, including myself, have been raised to believe that they have a certain learning style that works best for them individually. Throughout my life I was always told that I was a visual learner because I learned primarily through flashcards and constantly poring over study guides. Being categorized as a visual learner was like wearing blinders. Through the course of my educational career, I only learned in the way people told me I could learn. I believed that this way of learning was best suited for me, so I decided to make it work. Instead of trying new ways to obtain information, I constantly resorted to using the “visual” method because I thought that this was in my best interest, when in fact I should have been trying to expand my ways of learning new material. However, this is not to say that it’s the student’s responsibility. It was a norm promoted by the educational system then that still continues to be prevalent.

According to the New York Times and the Association for Psychological Science , these certain “learning styles” do not exist. Their existence along with the right and left brain phenomena,  has been a common misconception for many teachers and parents over the past thirty years. This raises the question, how can educators debunk this common belief that has been a guide for so many students? Personally, I believe that educators should expose children to all different types of studying methods. Encouraging students not to limit themselves but instead explore many different types of studying methods. Employing many different styles of teaching, using an assortment of stimuli, students will in turn be more engaged. Instead of categorizing oneself, we should instead find what works for each individual and, “not worry about where we lie on the learning spectrum.”

Although there have been many studies conducted in the past that have shown that these learning styles exist, recent research provides evidence that these studies were not conducted properly. The previous studies did not satisfy key criteria for scientific validity. This means that for over thirty years the educational community has believed that students learn in different ways than those around them, when in fact there is no difference.

The proposal to debunk these different learning styles is relatively new, proposed around 2009, which explains why these common misconceptions have not gained momentum in the American education system. Even though these current findings have shown many promises for future students, it seems that they have not yet been widely acknowledged by educators. With time, this should provide students with learning environments in which they can explore different, more effective ways to attain knowledge.

In conclusion, I strongly believe that the generations who were categorized into visual and auditory learning groups will explore different learning paths on their own. These recently disproved categories do not serve as limitations for attaining knowledge. I am personally very curious as well as excited to put the visual learning category, that I have been placed in for so many years, aside and expand on new approaches to learning. My hope is that after reading this, students will gain a better sense of freedom for their learning approaches. Exploring new and different ways to order the constant flow of information we are surrounded by.