Author Archives: cwarren2

Time Constraint and Decision Making

Catherine Warren

19 April 2019

Dr. Rettinger

Time Constraint and Decision Making

Every day, everywhere, everyone makes decisions. Whether that choice is to have coffee versus tea in the morning or whether or not to send troops to a foreign nation, everyone experiences decision making all the time and they use cognitive energy to do so. The utility theory tells us that people make these choices by observing which choice or option is most useful and by weighing the costs and benefits. When there is uncertainty about an option’s usefulness or costs and benefits, we generally choose options that are the “most likely.”The utility theory may be best described by its equation: Expected utility of an event= probability of an outcome x utility of an outcome. But the utility theory can’t explain everything about the decisions we make. For example when people gamble, they are more likely to make risky decisions for losses, and less likely to do so for gains. The prospect theory tries to explain decision making differently because not all probabilities are perceived equally, as the valuations are made based on a reference point. The gains and losses are also viewed separately. Given all of this, it is interesting to consider how time may affect decisions. Do rushed decisions have different cognitive processes than those decisions we have time to think through?

Steven Miletic and Leendert van Maanen conducted a study titled “Caution in Decision Making under Time Pressure is Mediated by Timing Ability.” While the title is a bit of a spoiler, I thought this piece was really fitting for the question I’ve posed. Miletic and Maanen set out to test this concept because they believed “the relation between temporal cognition and decision-making under time pressure is poorly understood.” Using a time reproduction task and a perceptual decision making task, the experimenters found “that precision correlated significantly with mean reaction time” and “participants with a higher temporal precision made slower and more accurate decisions in the choice task.” Each of these tasks was done on a computer and involved reproducing an amount of time using a space bar and deciding which circle on their screen appeared most frequently. The researchers were interested in temporal cognition, and people’s existing abilities to accurately represent time. The study found that people with an accurate representation of time made more cautious decisions, evidence that people collapse decision bounds under time pressure, and no relation between temporal cognition and collapsing decision bounds. These results were in a fairly direct contrast to what the researchers describe as “predictions from theory of optimal decision-making” made previously.

What feels interesting about this topic to me is that it makes perfect sense to assume that decisions made under time constraints will differ, or even be worse than those not under time constraints, but why is this? Going back to the utility theory or the prospect theory, could this be because we don’t have time to create valuations? Or the time to weigh costs and benefits accurately? Steven Miletic and Leendert van Maanen’s research may tell us that the real indicators of decision success may be an already existing skill of being able to accurately represent time, however the big-picture take away of their study is that people in general collapse decision bounds under time pressure, regardless of how strong their temporal cognition is.


Miletić, S., & van Maanen, L. (2019). Caution in decision-making under time pressure is mediated by timing ability. Cognitive Psychology, 110, 16-29.


Cognitive Linguistics

Catherine Warren

Cognitive Psych 02

Dr. Rettinger

31 March 201

Blog 3

Lately our class has explored some elements of language, including topics within terminology, phonology, and syntax. As this is an area of interest for me, I chose to use this blog as an reason to explore the field known as “cognitive linguistics.” This is discussed by Ariadna Stugielska in her work titled “Between Galileo and Darwin, or Towards a Unified Mode of Idealization in Cognitive Linguistics.”

To paraphrase, cognitive linguistics describes how language interacts with cognition. This may take the form of exploring how language forms our thoughts, or “the evolution of language parallel with the change in the common mindset across time.” Stugielska first points out that “cognitive linguistics” in many regards is lacking uniformity. I am a psychology major with a linguistics minor, and one day hope to become a speech language pathologist. In my experience at UMW the closest I’ve come to sharpening these skills was in psycholinguistics class, where we often discussed concepts best described as forms of “cognitive linguistics.” Perhaps what sticks out the most was our section on language acquisition. It feels highly difficult to me to refute that language is an essential element of cognition.

If we understand cognition as the process of acquiring knowledge through thoughts, experiences, and the senses, there seems a lot of interplay there with language. How differently would our thoughts be if we’d never learned a language to begin with? The thought truthfully hurts my head. As a slight aside, I like to point out that linguistics acknowledges all forms of  human communication as forms of language. The most valuable tidbit of information I took out of linguistics 101 is that just because the spoken utterance used isn’t considered grammatically or socially “correct,” that has no effect on how much meaning it has. For lack of a better word, “slang” carries great value in understanding any new culture. Academic culture has normalized slashing out sentences in red pen because of passive voice, sentence fragments, or any other grammatical blunder, but many linguists value the errors a means to understand semantics and other overlooked language tendencies.

Stugielska centers her research around two main points: “Cognitive linguistics as a Theory of Meaning” and “Idealization in Cognitive Linguistics.” But before these, she discusses that if cognitive linguistics is to be taken seriously as a scientific field, it requires a more unified level of framework, rather than a jumbled assortment of idealizations.

Her points on “Cognitive Linguistics as a Theory of Meaning” begins with a recap of our understanding that language is thoroughly symbolic and its basic component is a symbolic unit-  a form-meaning pairing. She tells us that “symbolic units are thus bipolar, with a phonological unit constituting the form and a semantic unit defining the other pole.” Linguistic meaning combines the ideas that meaning “involves knowledge of the world coupled with our cognitive capacities.” Our cognitive capacities are contingent upon our biological properties and our life experience depending on sociocultural identity. As we know, these two things are not set in stone but change frequently for many people. So, each person’s interpretation of “meaning” behind a symbolic linguistic unit is inevitably open for construal.

Stugielska discusses three levels to“Idealization in Cognitive Linguistics:” The problem, the solution, and the challenge. In short, the problem is that cognitive linguistics’ origins can be traced back to Chompsky, Galileo, and Darwin and their theories are not particularly cohesive. The solutions she discusses include several semantic frames introduced by academics like Charles Fillmore in the 1970s, and  Lakoff’s Idealized Cognitive Model (ICM) in 1987. The challenge then remains that it’s difficult to establish uniformity among an area that even by definition is a blend.

My own opinion on the matter is that cognitive linguistics deserves attention, and more highlighted research. I agree that it’s difficult to study cognitive linguistics without a consensus on what is exactly is, or how to specifically apply it. But regardless, I think language and cognition are implicitly related, just as many concepts are we’ve discussed in class are, and it goes without saying that it’s a challenge to go about one without the other.

How are Screens Affecting our Cognition?

Catherine Warren, 24 February 2019, Cognitive Psychology, Dr. Rettinger

As a child of the 90’s, I recognize that I am a part of the digital age. Many of us in my generation have grown up with cell phones, laptops, computers, really all screens, available at all times. While many consider this rapid technological boom as a benefit to society or as a massive increase in efficiency, I worry that we may be seriously overlooking the possible effects these screens may have on our long term cognition (or perhaps our vision, although that is not fully related to this class).

Think about it… what does your daily life look like? How often do you stare at a screen?

I wake up every morning to an alarm on my phone, where I expose my eyes to the screen for the first time that day. Usually I’ll check my messages, my snapchat, my instagram, any notifications I might have on facebook… all before I even get out of bed. Once I’m ready to leave for class I’ll usually put in my headphones and listen to music on the way. I’ll then spend the rest of my morning and afternoon staring at and frantically reading from a projector screen during class, and checking my phone or texting in between classes. When I’m done with class I use my computer to do my homework, and often watch or read something on a tv or computer screen at the end of the day to relax. There is hardly ever any downtime from screens, because I rely them for so many different parts of my life.

I’d imagine this is the same for many of my classmates. I think a debatably unfortunate truth about this generation is that when someone asks what we do all day, an honest answer is “stared at screens.”

Even when I’m trying to be extra conscious of my daily blue light exposure, my average screen-time is typically over 5 hours a day.

Given all of this, I can’t help but wonder how these screens are going to affect our processing in the long term. We are the first generation with truly constant exposure to blue-lighted screens and instant tech gratification, and it seems like there is no telling what how this can affect cognition in the long-term.

It’s easy to say, “well, all this technology is ruining our youth,” or “all this screen exposure is going to ruin our eyes” (which truthfully I am worried about). However, the seemingly more involved question to explore is “will technology change the way we process?”

We know humans are evolutionary beings. Considering this, is it outlandish to hypothesize that our high speed internet and quick access to, well anything, online will decrease our attention span and problem solving skills?

I want to propose a study intended to test the problem solving skills of two groups: an experimental condition (constant screen exposure +/-5 hours a day) and a control condition (+/-1 hour a day) in which the groups are given a task to challenge information processing and problem solving. For example, this task could be solving a walking maze.

A task like this involves the central executive which sets goals, chooses strategies, and directs the functions of many of our cognitive processes. My study could take place over a ten-year period to analyze the effects of screen use on cognition via problem solving speed.