Author Archives: cbilly

Does IQ really matter?


IQ tests were developed to test general intelligence. General intelligence is all about working memory, perception and attentional ability. This leads to better problem solving ability, spatial manipulation, and language acquisition. The whole test is one big complex task measuring many different verbal and spatial skills.  Usually if someone scores high on one aspect of intelligence they score high in others as well. It is thought that a higher IQ leads to better life outcomes, including health and longevity, and success. IQ test are commonly used at the elementary school level to test for learning disabilities and what areas a student might need more assistance in.

The problem is IQ scores are not an accurate representation of someone’s intelligence. The traditional IQ test only asks questions related to reading, comprehension, series and mathematical knowledge. The University Of Chapel Hill School Of Social studies claims that there are so many other areas that relate to intelligence. This includes mechanics, social skills and creativity. Howard Gardener was the first to propose that there are multiple intelligences and that people learn in different ways. He claimed that IQ tests were too narrow and don’t consider intelligence like musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic skills.

A study was done in 2012 that found that “there is no such thing as a single measure of IQ or a measure of general intelligence.” The study had 100,000 participants complete 12 online cognitive tests that measured memory, reasoning, attention and planning abilities. The results showed that there was no single test component that predicted how well a person could perform mental and cognitive tasks. However they found that short term memory, reasoning and a verbal component make up intelligence confirming past theories. The researchers also found that training ones bran to improve performance on cognitive tasks did not help people when tested on these three aspects of intelligence. The studies senior investigator said “We have shown categorically that you cannot sum up the difference between people in terms of one number, and that is what is important here.”

See the source image

Many people believe in this common misconception that IQ is the best representation of intelligence. I found it interesting when I came upon an article about our current president and his consistent comments in regarding to IQ tests. The way President Trump has mentioned IQ scores gives the impression that he believes that they are a measure of someone’s worth and intelligence. It has been revealed by half a dozen of people close to him that he frequently says that the people he likes have genius- IQs. He has even called himself a “very stable genius” on multiple occasions. On top of all of this he said his cabinet has the highest IQ of any assembled in history.  In 2013 he tweeted “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q is one of the highest –and all you know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.” This is a good example of the fact that a lot of people don’t understand that IQ scores aren’t the end all be all representation of intelligence. IQ tests just don’t fully represent someone’s capabilities and it needs to stop being used as a way to compete with others or represent intelligence.,c_limit/171030_r30777.jpg

Caution tape and repressed memories

In this blog post I am going to explain repressed memories and how the popular Netflix show Dexter used them. Repressed memories happen when a person experiences a traumatic, extremely emotional, or stressful event. This event is then encoded as an episodic memory. Because this memory creates a large amount of discomfort it is believed that we block it out as a psychological coping mechanism. Forgetting about the event is an active process. We reroute the pathway to this memory so that it is difficult to reach consciously. It is also believed that we block it out because it would create extreme emotions (anger, depression etc.). If someone had a repressed memory they wouldn’t know it because the whole point of a repressed memory is that you forget it. This makes a repressed memory very hard to diagnose. However, eventually repressed memories are able to be identified through development of other psychological problems like depression, PTSD, disassociative disorder and anxiety.

Psychologists believe that in order to discover a repressed memory the person has to be exposed to certain “cues”. Cues are objects, other memories, people, or concepts that we relate to a memory that cause us to recall (remember) it. In the case of repressed memories, it is harder to find a cue to recall that memory. The cue has to be very specific. Some Psychologists have found in order to recall a repressed memory the person has to be in the same state of consciousness that they were when it was encoded.

A study showed that extra synaptic GABA receptors in the brain help encode memories of fear inducing events and store them where they can’t be consciously recalled. These receptors are only activated during a traumatic event. When the brain isn’t in this stressful state the same pathways can’t be used making it so that you can’t recall the memory. They tested their theory on mice by infusing the hippocampus of the mice with a drug that activates the extra synaptic GABA receptors. While they were in this brain state they were on a box and given a mild shock. The next day when the mice were returned to the block and their brains were in their normal state and they were not afraid. However, when the scientists gave them the drug again they became afraid of the block. This supported the theory that the two different brain states encoded memories differently.

Image result for memory

In the popular Netflix series Dexter they use repressed memory to explain the main characters childhood and why he doesn’t remember what happened to his birth mother before being adopted. Spoiler alert! The show Dexter is about a man that works for the LA police department as a scientist and helps investigate murders. What his coworkers are not aware of is that Dexter uses the resources of the police department to find murderers secretly and kill them. In one episode of the show he goes to investigate a murder scene and it acts as a very specific retrieval cue for him to remember a repressed memory. All the sudden the show has you witness him remembering the traumatic event of his mother being killed. They use this repressed memory to explain why he kills people. I think while they sort of got the idea of repressed memories right, but they could have done it better. I definitely don’t believe repressed memories leads to murdering people.

All together I think that repressed memories are very interesting especially on the neurological level. However it is greatly disputed on its legitimacy and after all the research I did I am completely torn. Do you believe in repressed memories?

Exam panic

Imagine you are taking an exam that you crammed for that day at the library. You spent hours memorizing your notes and feel confident until you start answering the questions. You realize that you know what page the answer is on in your notes and just can’t visualize it. This is frustrating because you are completely remember the beginning and the end of your notes.  In this blog post I am going to explain why this phenomenon occurs. I will also give a study strategy to prevent this issue.

This frustrating situation that we all have experienced is best explained by the modal model theory. This was created by Atkinson and Shiffrin. This theory was studied when someone was presented with a list of words, one word at a time, equally spaced apart. When they were asked to list the words that they remember, they always remember the first and last words and forget the ones in the middle. When this is graphed it looks like an inverted bell curve. The reason for this odd distribution of memory is best explained by the primacy and recency effect.

The primacy effect is why you remember the beginning of the information that you studied. This is because you are just at the beginning so you aren’t trying to remember as much information. Therefore you have more time to dedicate to each concept; processing it, making sure you understand it, and repeating it to yourself (rehearsal). All of this deeper processing you are using to learn it, transfers it from working memory to long term memory. So, when you are sitting taking your test you can recall it no problem!

If you are cramming right up to the time of the test you will likely also remember the end of your notes. This is called the recency effect. This occurs because all the information you just read is still available in your short term memory. You have to be careful though! If you do a mentally complex task in between studying and the exam you will likely forget the information you are trying to remember. Because the information is just in short term memory and no deeper processing was performed to transfer it into long term memory, it is easily displaced or lost. You have no chance of recalling it.

The study strategy I propose to prevent forgetting the middle of your notes would be studying it more in advance and breaking it up into pieces. This way you can move slower through the material and have more time in between concepts. This extra time in between gives you the opportunity to rehearse the information and do some deeper processing so that it is transferred into long term memory. Because the information in the middle of your notes is in your long term memory now you will better be able to recall it during the test. Also if you review your notes before the test make sure to just relax between that and the test or the information will likely leave your working memory.


my notes from class


Ratatouille and psychology?!

In this blog post I am going to explain how the movie Ratatouille uses the Cognitive Psychological concept of synesthesia. This condition involves someone’s perception of different stimuli. This happens when you experience one stimulus and your response to the stimulus matches a different type of stimulus. For example listening to music and seeing colors. People with this condition can vary greatly, there are many different combinations of the senses that people can experience. The most popular form is the combination of letters and colors or color patterns. Some believe that people with this condition are better at distinguishing between different colors and smells. Synesthesia positively influences memory and creativity, this is thought because they can better relate two concepts. Because of this, it is more common for artists and poets to have this condition. “Synesthesia can be associative, so senses are connected and associated in a person’s mind, or projective, when the images and colors and projected into reality” (psychology today).  A very different type of this condition is Mirror-touch synesthesia. This is when the person sees someone else experience a physical sensation and they feel it too as if it was happening to them.

An investigation in the University of California proved that this is a real phenomenon and not caused my memory associations from childhood or metaphorical speech. Color- number synesthesia is when people associate a number with a certain color or color pattern. This study proposed that color- number synesthesia is caused by a strong connection between the color and number areas at different stages in processing. This investigation says that “there may be cross wiring between the brain regions that represent abstract concepts, which would explain the link between creativity, metaphor and synesthesia” (journal of consciousness studies). The study also believes that this condition can be genetic.


In the animated children’s movie ratatouille a rat dreams to be a chef. Throughout the movie you watch the rat go on an adventure and eventually become a head chef in a famous French restaurant that he opens. In the beginning of the movie the rat is used to eating trash and he sneaks into a house and tries human food for the first time. While he is eating the food, the movie shows colors swirling around the screen and music playing that coordinated with the colors. This was supposed to represent the new flavors that he was tasting. As he tries different foods, the flavors have their own color and sound. This creative way of portraying him exploring a new side of food is actually a good representation of projective synesthesia. This is very surprising because kid’s movies usually do a poor job of representing psychological conditions. For example, short term memory loss in “Finding Nemo”. If you are ever trying to explain this psychological experience I recommend using this scene from the movie.

Image result for ratatouille synesthesia

Overall I think that this is a very interesting psychological condition. I wish that more research was invested in this because it could be so informative about how people perceive things differently. I also find it especially interesting because synesthesia isn’t caused by memory associations and perception is largely believed to be influenced by past experiences.

My sources:

Synesthesia background


Synesthesia study