Author Archives: elisepoffenberger

When Do Your Cognitive Powers Peak?

Your cognitive abilities have already peaked? Your cognitive abilities will peak in the future? Your cognitive abilities will never peak? Well, which one is it?! I though to myself “some people are getting better at some things and worse at other things at every age. Also, some things seem to never change. I certainly can’t be the only one who thinks this!” So, I decided to do some research and inform you all through this blog post.

 This article quotes:final blog image

“Scientists have long known that our ability to think quickly and recall information, also known as fluid intelligence, peaks around age 20 and then begins a slow decline.” 

Researchers Joshua Hartshorn and Laura Germine did a study to find out the truth behind this. 

To collect data, Hartshorn and Germine used a large pool of online participants. They had the participants complete four different types of cognitive tasks as well as one task that “looked at the ability to detect the emotional states of other people.” Interesting. These tasks were designed to measure cognitive abilities that change as people age. The results revealed what researchers called “considerable heterogeneity in when cognitive abilities peak.” 


  • 18-19: Information-processing speed peaks early, then immediately begins to decline.
  • 25: Short-term memory gets better until around age 25. It remains fairly steady for some time, but then begins to decline around age 35.
  • 30: Memory for faces peaks and then starts to gradually decline.
  • 35: Your short-term memory begins to weaken and decline.
  • 40s-50s: Emotional Understanding peaks in middle to later childhood.
  • 60s: Vocabulary abilities continue to increase.
  • 60s and 70s: Crystallized intelligence, or accumulated knowledge and facts about the world, peaks late in life.

Although some of these results were a surprise to me, I found all of them to be interesting. All of these deal with the day-to-day life of individuals. I can relate a lot of these findings to what we have learned in class, too. Earlier in the semester we talked about short-term memory. We learned about what it is, but not about the time in your life when it’s at its peak (around age 25) or even when it declines (around age 35). We also learned about information-processing in class, which peaks around ages 18-19. I’m only 19 years old so this is the only age range from this data that I have personally experienced- I agree with the data!

According to the researchers, the online research is continuing. Hartshorn and Germine are continuing research by incorporating more cognitive tasks and other tests. I believe that Hartshorn and Germine did a great job- what they found was really interesting and informative. I can’t wait to see what other cognitive research they come up with!

How Do You Read The Mind Of A Mind Reader?

You’ve read the title of this post and now you’re probably wondering “how CAN you read the mind of a mind reader?” Perhaps we just know the mind reader well enough to know what they’re thinking or is there actually a cognitive science behind this? You have questions. I have answers.

While scrolling through my twitter, I stumbled upon this tweet by Stephen Pinker, a cognitive scientist at Harvard University, and I wanted to learn more.

This article, which is located within the tweet, talks about understanding common knowledge. Understanding common knowledge helps us understand others, which also makes it easier for us to know what others might, or are, thinking. “Steven Pinker examines how people use ‘common knowledge’ — the shared understanding in which two or more people know something, know that the other one knows, know the other one knows that they know, and so on — to coordinate their actions, and how people’s efforts to cooperate may fail without this infinite level of shared beliefs.”

Another article I found states that there are two different accounts of mind-reading. “According to `theory theory’, mental states are represented as inferred posits of a naive theory. According to `simulation theory’, other people’s mental states are represented by adopting their perspective: by tracking or matching their states with resonant states of one’s own.” The fact that observers take part in motor facilitation in the same groups of muscles as those used by target agents, and the activity of mirror neurons, are both findings that go with the “simulation theory.” However, these same findings would NOT be predicted by “theory theory.”

As stated in the first article, people use common knowledge to “coordinate their actions, and how people’s efforts to cooperate may fail without this infinite level or shared beliefs.” Different levels of common knowledge affect coordination.

In this study, cooperation levels were higher under different conditions. For instance, there was about 50 percent cooperation with shared knowledge and about 85 percept cooperation with common knowledge. Take note though that “the effects of common knowledge, however, are hardly limited to the type of economic games described in the study.”

There is evidence seen in these coordination problems everywhere. This study also states that emotions such as guilt or pride, are more sensitive to common knowledge and that other emotions such as blushing or crying are built around the idea. So, really, all of these factors play a role in our ability to read the mind of anyone, including the mind of a mind reader.


Why We Remember Song Lyrics So Easily

music mind

Why is it that you have to try much harder to memorize your class notes than song lyrics? In fact, it might seem that you can memorize the lyrics to an entire album without even trying. You might feel like song lyrics are the only things that can stick to your brain, but the reasoning behind why this is, is fascinating. Repetition, Connections, Rhyme and Pattern are contributing factors to why it seems like it is easier to memorize song lyrics.

We remember music lyrics the same way we remember other things, by repetition. Along with repetition comes practice. Think about a dancer. He or she must repeatedly rehearse the dance they are learning over and over again so that they can remember it. Somewhat similarly, if you like a song you hear on the radio, you might listen to it over and over again. By repeating and practicing some tasks, such as memorizing song lyrics, become almost unconscious.

Connections also contribute to why memorizing some things are easier than others. Our brains use networks to retrieve and store information. It is easier for our brain to locate information that has more associations. When we remember lyrics to a song, we often remember a specific voice, sound, or instrument. All of these help us remember the words that were paired with.

Rhyme and Pattern also help us remember things. If you listen to the rhymes within a song, it is often easy to predict some of the context of the next line. The pattern of the song lyrics, or the beats, helps us line up the amount of syllables of the line. If you are trying to match the amount of syllables of one line to the next, there are many words you can eliminate.This makes it easier to predict what some of the lyrics might be.

In this article, an experiment was conducted. The first experiment was examining the word and tunes presented in an unfamiliar song. The second experiment was looking at memory for spoken words and tunes sung without words. The results clearly stated that the words were better memorized when sung with a song.

So, whether it is song lyrics or you class notes, repetition is important. Connections also play a key role in memorization. However, song lyrics seem easier to memorize because not only are they repeated, but they have a rhyme and pattern that our class notes often do not have.

Can Babies Tell Right From Wrong?

It would be normal to assume that most adults know right from wrong. However, some people might think you’re crazy if you tell them babies, to some extent, also know the difference between right and wrong from the very beginning of life. Although we assume that young children are still in the process of learning the difference between right and wrong, is our assumption accurate? No, our assumption is not exactly accurate. Some new studies show that babies have an actual understanding of mental life, which helps us conclude that babies can tell right from wrong long before they are “taught the difference.”

The video below shows a study that took place at the Infant Cognition Center at Yale University, not long ago. The study was performed to see if babies could distinguish the difference from right and wrong.

The video states that “babies aren’t necessarily taught the difference between right and wrong” but that they can tell the difference from the very start of life. In this experiment, a puppet show is performed for the babies. The first puppet show shows one object helping another object up the hill. Then, the baby is shown another object pushing the same object down the hill. After these “shows” are performed many times, the baby chooses between the “good” object and the “bad” object. In this video, all the babies shown chose the “good” object.

In the second experiment shown in this video, a similar puppet show is performed. However, this time, the puppets are stuffed animals: two bunnies (wearing different colors) and a zebra. When the zebra stuffed animal drops the ball, the “good” bunny returns the ball to him but the “bad” bunny runs away with the ball. Once again, when given the choice, all the babies shown chose the “good” character.

This article and video both show a great example that can be related to cognitive psychology. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, “our mind is like a computer.” It’s true! When we are born we are already programed with some basic skills, whether we realize it or not. As shown in the video above, this study is testing the cognitive ability of babies to tell right from wrong.

At first, I would be among the group to think people who said babies did not need to be taught the difference between right and wrong were crazy. However, after watching this video and doing further research, I was able to understand how this is possible by relating both the video and article to  what we have learned in Cognitive Psychology. Although I found this study to be extremely interesting and informative, there are a few questions I still have. How many babies were included in the study? Were the babies given equal opportunities to select their answer, or was the “correct” answer forced upon them?

Of course, we will never know the answer to all the questions that could rise after learning about this study. The research that I found provided many details to answer most questions. I believe that they did a wonderful job in understanding and applying their research. Overall, I find this topic to be both interesting and informative.