Author Archives: ccallowa

Why we let a small town girl, double as a superstar

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When making decisions or judgments we are able to use these mental shortcuts known as heuristics. Heuristics can be described as a rule of thumb or speedier ways in which to make decisions. When making a judgement or decision we do not always have the time or resources to shuffle through all the information. Heuristics allow for us to reach decisions as quickly and efficiently as possible. A Representative Heuristic can be described as making a decision or judgement based on the likelihood in terms of how well an object/person represents or matches a particular prototype. This may lead to individuals ignoring other relevant information about the object or person.

In Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman’s study of this idea of heuristics, they found that “people typically rely on the representativeness heuristic, in which probabilities are evaluated by the degree to which A is representative of B, that is, by the degree to which A resembles B.” (Amos) Through studies they found that when people tend to use probability when evaluating representativeness, previous probabilities will be neglected (Amos). Through evidence and research both men discovered how and why we tend to use heuristics. 

In the hit Disney Channel show Hannah Montana. Miley Cyrus is a small town girl from Tennessee, who moves to Malibu California to pursue her dreams of being a pop star. Although, Miley wanted to grow up as a normal girl and keep her fame a secret so she came up with a secret identity, Hannah Montana. While in school no one thought she was a pop star, even in the beginning of the show Miley’s best friends had no clue that she was Hannah Montana. One could say that it was right in front of their faces but Miley tried everything in her power to keep this secret away from her friends. Though, one could say that by her obvious lack of attendance at certain school dances, as well as her absence at Hannah Montana concerts that her friends would always go to, indicate that she may be living some sort of double life which is information being neglected. Though, it can be said that the reasons that Miley’s friends and enemies within the show were not aware of her being Hannah Montana was due to this idea of a Representative Heuristic.

Representative heuristics can play a role in the assessments that we make of other people (Cherry).We tend to make expectations about how people in certain roles ought to behave. A pop star may be seen as an individual that is into the glitz and glam in life, super popular, and just overall doing better than others. And in Miley’s case she was just your everyday teenager when she wasn’t on stage as Hannah Montana. So it isn’t a surprise to see that people were not aware of her secret fame. Individuals did not perceive her as a pop star, nor popular at all, she was bullied a bit within the show as well by her so called “enemies”. And in a few episodes when people would catch onto Miley’s mysterious behavior and begin to believe that she was truly Hannah Montana, they would always decide later on that, that wasn’t true because Miley was too “normal” to truly be Hannah Montana. Relating back to Amos and Daniel’s study, A-Miley- did not resemble B-pop star- to people that surrounded Miley. 

I believe that we tend to use Heuristics in our daily lives often. Relating things back to prototypes in order to identify them quickly and efficiently. Amos and Daniel’s study showed clear and concise evidence on the Representative Heuristic. It is interesting to be able to go back and look at such a loved childhood show, and reduce it down to everyone not knowing Miley was Hannah because of Representative Heuristics. Though, I can’t say I agree with characters in the show saying “oh Miley could never be Hannah, she doesn’t even look like her.”. Miley put on a blonde wig and walked out onto stage and suddenly became a completely different person? Interesting. 

Amos Tversky; Daniel Kahneman Science, New Series, Vol. 185, No. 4157. (Sep. 27, 1974), pp.


Cherry, Kendra. “How Representativeness Heuristic Influences the Decisions You Make.”

Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 6 May 2019,

Wait…Barack Obama was president during 9/11?

Barack Obama had a big part in 9/11. - GIF on Imgur

According to APA Dictionary of Psychology, false memory is a distorted recollection of an event that never actually occurred. False memories are constructed by combining actual memories with the content of suggestions received from others. During the process, individuals may forget the source of the information (Dictionary). Retroactive interference occurs when new information presented interferes with your ability to retain previously encoded information. Essentially, the new information that a person receives works backward in time to distort memory of the original event (“How…”).

At a 2016 Trump Rally, The Daily Show’s segment “Fingers the Pulse”, correspondent Jordan Klepper, interviewed several supporters of the now current president about their views. So let me put this into context for you…

Interviewee: Barack Obama had big part of 9/11.

Interviewer: Which part?

Interviewee: Not being around, always on vacation and never in the office.

Interviewer: Why do you think Barack Obama wasn’t in the oval office on 9/11?

Interviewee: That I don’t know. Would like to get to the bottom of that.

So can a false memory form because of retroactive interference? A recent study on this idea focuses on the idea that,“The argument advanced in this article is that false memories can arise because of…namely, the decline of distinctiveness and the rise of retroactive interference.” (Howe). In this particular situation, the interviewee’s recall of 9/11 may have been skewed because of information encoded during former President Obama’s actual presidency in 2009-2017. Because of retroactive interference-the information taken from Obama’s presidency-a false memory of the situation was formed. The interviewee may have felt as though during Obama’s presidency, he was not doing a good job, always on vacation, and never in the office to do his job. Though, when that information was encoded, it may have distorted his recollection of memory of our president during 9/11, former President George W. Bush. 

Though this show may be staged, this interviewee showed his confidence by stating that he felt as though Barack Obama was our president during the September 11 Attacks, which occurred in 2001. Similarly, false memories can be formed because, “finally, individuals can be encouraged not to think about whether their constructions are real or not.” (“How…”). With this in mind, no one in his life up until that point has informed him that his construction of that memory was incorrect. The strength in his false memory of Obama not doing his job during 9/11, was increased due to people not informing him that Obama was not the president until after 9/11. Agreement of an event by people is a very powerful technique for maintaining as well as instilling false memories.

This was just a quirky and fun example of false memory! But in all maybe we should cut this guy some slack, I mean, for all we know it could have been staged!


Dictionary. “APA Dictionary of Psychology.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 2020,

“How False Memories Form.” How False Memories Form,

Howe, Mark L. “Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology |, 1998,

Soo..Life isn’t like a box of videos?

Image result for forrest gump gif memory

In Paramount Pictures 1994 hit movie Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks -Forrest-, takes us as well as the stranger sitting next to him, on the journey of his life. Forrest recounts his life as if it were a story, a long winded movie almost, very detailed in orientation and very little left out. Though this movie has received great popularity, and is regarded highly among most, there is an unavoidable cognitive error within the story-line. We do not store information within our memory like videos. We are not able to recount memories as if they were movies, because they are not stored as such in our long-term memory. Similar to that of knowledge networks, our memory can be represented by networks of associations and connections; these networks are ever-changing and are updated frequently. Memory distortion and source error are common when identifying mental experiences. 

Because these networks are constantly being updated, we find that current information (such as mood or other disruptive mechanisms) change our recollection of past events. For example Forrest recalls the day he met Jenny on the bus and how taken aback he was by her beauty. He explains how he instantly fell for her and her looks. Though, psychology has shown that this feeling, may just be a projection of his current feelings for her back to the original encounter he had with her on the bus. Psychology has also found that, “The schema-based inferences we make in simply comprehending events initially can later be misattributed to perception.” (Johnson). In Forrest Gump there can be several examples of this all throughout his recognition of his past life events. Growing up Forrest’s mother ran a boarding house out of their home, where several tenants would come to live for a short time. When Forrest was young he recalls meeting Elvis Presley who happened to be staying at Forrest’s. Though, this may not seem like a memory you’d make up, there is a possibility that Forrest schematically associated anyone who played the guitar and dances, to Elvis Presley. According to the scientific journal, “people sometimes confuse what they inferred or imagined and what actually happened, what they saw and what was suggested to them…” (Johnson). So it is sad to say that we will never truly know Forrest Gump’s life story. 

  The scientific journal did a good job of explaining the ways in which source memory errors occur in individuals. It explains in great detail how “anything that disrupts the binding of features…into a complex event memory…will reduce source memory.” (Johnson). It does a great job in explaining how frequently source confusion occurs. The journal went into more depth about sources such as brain damage, which could also cause source memory error within individuals. It would have been nice if it touched base on the idea of memory not being like a video.

Although Forrest Gump is a highly regarded movie, memory retrieval is not as simple as pressing play and seeing your whole life story play out on a small tv screen in your head. It is hard to believe our recollection of our childhood is based on information someone told us, or a picture that we saw of ourselves and made up a story about. Our memories are ever changing due to new encoded information and factors that distort our recollection of a situation. We updated our recollection of a situation based on what is needed now. So don’t be sad in knowing that our memories don’t work like they do in the movies, always remember “Life is like a box of chocolates!” (Silvestri). 


Johnson, M K. “Source monitoring and memory distortion.” Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences vol. 352,1362 (1997): 1733-45. doi:10.1098/rstb.1997.0156

Silvestri, Alan. Forrest Gump : Original Motion Picture Score. New York :Sony Music Entertainment, 1994.

College isn’t what I expected!

Image result for college sucks gif"

Psychological misconceptions are unanimous with the field; although, cognition comes with many misconceptions as well. The most common misconception revolves around the idea that perception is just a physical experience, individuals tend to assume that this physical experience that your body processes can affect your behavior. However, perception is a psychological experience; how an individual interprets things depend on their past experiences, understandings, or expectations combined with physical experiences of sensation. With this, perception is not only based on the stimulus but also on past experiences driving how you interpret it as well as sensation being tied into it. Because our past experiences influence our perception, we will never interpret things exactly how they are. 

“College isn’t what I thought it would be” shows this top-down processing theory. She starts with talking about her wildly ridiculous expectations of college, “Pizza on school nights. Frat boys in boat shoes. Frisbee tosses in the quad. These were three of the most stereotypical and ridiculous ideals I had at just four days into my freshman year of college.” (hello). She goes on to talk about how her expectations of college came from individuals telling her that college was to be the best four years of her life, she was told that she would meet friends and make memories that she’d never forget. These wildly ridiculous expectations could also have stemmed from the many college films that raid the various movie streaming websites such as Netflix or Hulu. 

Though, in the scientific journal The Effects of Expectations on Perception top-down processing is attributed to her terrible experience in college. Top-down processing states that an individual’s mindset of the perceived stimuli to which the individual is responding to is a determinant of that person’s perception of that particular stimuli. Top-down processes act on perception and ultimately decision-making by clouding overall expectations of a particular experience. This is where the idea of “creating a need for image consistency” comes into play (effects). In the above article, the young girl talks of how her experience in college was inconsistent with her expectations beforehand. Her perception of college was solely based on expectations and due to the fact that her expectations were not met, she determined that her college experience is not what she believed it to truly be.

The scientific journal does a good job in correctly explaining the function of top-down processing and how it affects an individual’s overall perception of a particular situation. Though, it’s aim was geared towards explaining experimental design, issues revolving around the topic, it did well to explain why the girl felt the way that she does about college. Her experience is not truly one of her own, it is based on past experiences and expectations formed due to outside stimuli. 

It is easy to see how people view perception as an entity that only has to do with physical experience. Although, it is interesting to find that in reality our perception of stimuli is based on psychological experiences. These psychological experiences can greatly influence our perception of entities that we interact with daily. Top-down processing and bottom-up processing in cognition greatly explain the idea of perception. After reading the scientific journal, I would like to know if there overall more ways to fully test the idea of these processing theories.