Author Archives: iloaiza

Overcoming The Errors of Heuristics

AHHH! Last blog post of the semester! It’s so weird to think about! What a crazy cognitive psychology ride it’s been! I just want to say that I have enjoyed reading so many of these very interesting blog posts, and I want to thank you for bearing with my weird posts this semester! 🙂

OKAY! Let’s talk heuristics! So, after briefly covering heuristics in last week’s lecture, I decided that I wanted to gain a deeper understanding about this concept, and why we make so many errors when using heuristics. Below is a video that helped me understand what heuristics are in greater detail!

Based on this video and my lecture notes, heuristics are quick, mental short cuts that allow us to solve problems, and make decisions. Heuristics help take the unnecessary pressure of choice making off one’s shoulders. However, because these are quick judgments, they can come at a price.

Economist (and psychologist), Daniel Kahneman claimed that we have two decision systems that work at the same time. Hence, both these systems are used in different contexts. They’re known as the Automatic System (System 1), and the Conscious System (System 2). System 1 is fast and frugal, which means that it doesn’t require a lot of cognitive resources to make a decision. By using this system to make decisions, there isn’t as much drain on your cognitive capacity. System 2 is a conscious and controlled system, using lots of cognitive mechanisms to make a choice. Heuristics aligns with the automatic system (system 1). By using heuristics, one makes a rapid decision. It is because of these rapid and unconscious decisions that we can make errors.

Heuristics can often lead one into false assumptions, mistaken conclusions, or just wrong judgements. This can be shown through some specific types of heuristics. For instance, take representative heuristics. This judgement is used to categorize objects or people based on a representative prototype. For example, let’s say you meet someone who is really quiet. You may make a rapid representative heuristic and judge that person, thinking that they must work at a library or be an author because of how silent they are. It would never cross your mind that they could have a career as a lawyer or a manager (two positions that generally loud people have). In your mind, you created a representative prototype about quiet people. When you think of quiet careers, the first job that pops in your head is a librarian or a writer. Therefore, when you meet someone who is quiet, heuristics kicks in, and you may make a quick false judgement about what kind of job that person has. He or she could be a loud scary chef like Gordon Ramsey for all you know!

Another example is availability heuristics. With this heuristic, a person makes a judgment based on recent events that happened, and they estimate the probability of that recent event happening to them based on how quick those events came to mind. Take a person who is watching the news. He keeps flipping through the channels and all he sees are news stories about shark attacks, on every channel he switches to. Chances are that person is not going to a beach anytime soon because they believe the chances of a shark attacking them is highly likely to happen to them. However, if he kept watching the channels he could have avoided this availability heuristic upon learning that those shark attacks were so frequent because they applied to the beaches in Florida.

These are some of the many ways we as human’s make quick decisions and judgments without even thinking. Yes this can be beneficial like when you want to determine which biking trail to take, which movie you want to see, or which ice cream flavor you will choose at the store. Consequently, these heuristics can lead to incorrect judgements. So how do we change this? We simply need to tap into our conscious system (also known as system 2) from time to time. By being more alert and conscious, one is highly likely to catch a heuristic error before it comes out. In ways as simple as thinking before you speak. Or simply backtracking your thought process anytime you make a quick judgement. Although, the heuristic error examples I listed were small and seemed unimportant there are bigger, harmful judgments we can make because of how fast our heuristic decision making is. So, that is why it is important to take a bit more time when making a decision, think things through, think about your judgements before you accept them, and just be more aware the next time you are about to make a heuristic based decision. 😉


Mirror Neurons in Empathy

I was getting worried that I wouldn’t be able to come up with a topic to write about for this month’s blog post. However, I figured it out as Professor Rettinger talked about mirror neurons and empathy in the last 5 minutes of last Thursday’s lecture. So without further ado, here is a meme of my good friend Jimmy Fallon.

*Fun fact this is actually a photo my grandpa took of Jimmy (with his permission… kinda) at the Steelers vs. the Cardinals Super Bowl in 2009. Where he actually saw and got a photo of Jimmy Fallon as well as Rain Wilson (Dwight Schrute from The Office)*

ANYWAYS! Back to mirror neurons, empathy and cognitive psychology. As Professor Rettinger stated “Mirror neurons are neurons that tend to be active in watching either perceptual or motor activity of another person.” He stated that we tend to have mirror neuron responses to specific neural activity. Professor Rettinger gave an example about how his hand hurts each time he watches Luke Skywalker’s hand get chopped off while watching Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back. Towards the end of his lecture he briefly talked about how we as humans have the ability to empathize with others. We are able to understand how another person is feeling in a literal sense because we can mirror that feeling based on their responses. Therefore, this was what I wanted to conduct a bit more research on!

I read an article from Lesley University that stated the official definition of empathy, “Empathy is a broad concept that refers to the cognitive and emotional reactions of an individual to the observed experiences of another.” (Lesley University). In the case of empathy, mirror neurons fire when humans observe and experience emotion. For instance, when I see my mother’s eyes start to get watery, just like her eyes, my eyes begin to fill up with tears. With a bit of time we both end of crying. My mirror neurons fired when they detected the feeling my mom was having, and because of the love and compassion I have for my mom, I ended up empathizing her emotions and feelings with her.

One thing I learned upon reading this article is that there is actually two types of empathy. Emotional empathy and cognitive empathy. Emotional empathy refers to feeling the same emotion as another, one’s feelings of distress in response to feeling the emotion of another, and feeling compassion for another. Cognitive empathy on the other hand refers to how someone can perceive and understand emotions of another person. Cognitive empathy relates more closely with cognitive psychology where a person has more complete and accurate knowledge regarding the contents of someone else’s mind.

I have a good friend who is capable of showing the most empathy I have ever seen. She pretty much cries because of anything whether it’s because of a show, a movie, witnessing a friend cry, even being encouraged makes her cry! She’s just full of empathy! I’ve noticed how there are many people out there who thing empathetic people are just emotional crybabies. However, after reading this article, there are definitely lots of positive benefits of having such high amounts of empathy. Having this much empathy simply shows that this person has a lot of compassion towards others, and truly desires helping others. An interesting point from this article stated that empathy is a key factor in successful relationships because it helps better understand the perspective, intentions, and needs of others. People who have high levels of empathy are much more likely to function well in society. Luckily for my friend, she does great in large crowds of people and she has rarely any fights with any of her friends. She proves that she is a wonderful caring, compassionate person, full of empathy. Where she is so in touch with her mirror neurons, for she can show empathy to anyone, anywhere, anytime!

Challenge: Next time you witness a friend, peer, family member, stranger, or raccoon having a hard time. Try to empathize with them and think about the process your mind went through to get there. Ask yourself the following questions:

What exactly triggered your mirror neurons to fire? Are you emitting cognitive empathy or emotional empathy? How can you view this situation in this person (or animal’s) shoes?

It’s quite fascinating!


Crying Helps Reduce Stress?!

According to an article I found on Psychology Today, stress is a psychological perception of pressure as well as, the body’s response to it. Stress can be often triggered during a fight or flight response (automatic response system). As one becomes stressed, their heartbeat may start to increase, a rush of hormones may begin to circulate throughout their body, and they may become hyper-focused on the stimulus that triggered their stress. Stress can also have harmful consequences on one’s health. Such as anxiety, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, heart disease, and much more.

There are many known ways to help manage and decrease the amount of stress in one’s life. Such as yoga, meditation, exercise, therapy, etc. The most well-known way to help de-stress is to simply change one’s stressful mindset, right? Well… There’s another way.

As college students, we all tend to get stressed very easily. The challenge of being stressed is figuring out a way to unstress. As you may already know, you can’t just flip a switch to turn off the stress.

As I researched the Googley (Google) for any new findings related to Cognitive Psychology, I found this article about the effects crying has on stress. According to the article, crying once a week helps to reduce one’s stress and ultimately, live a stress-free life. High school teacher Hidefumi Yoshida (also known as the “tears teacher”), travels across Japan speaking at lectures, and workshops to help better educate people on the psychological benefits of crying. He explains how our parasympathetic nerves are stimulated by factors that make us cry. Such as, listening to sad music, reading sad stories, or watching tear-jerking movies. All these factors would typically make us cry, and as we cry our heart rate decreases. It begins to slow down, our breathing starts to get calmer, and longer. As we cry, our minds go into a soothing place to release the emotions to help de-stress.

A study in 1981, by Dr. William Frey at the University of Minnesota claimed that crying releases endorphins, which promotes feelings of happiness and wellbeing. To add, in another study conducted in 2008, participants found that crying made them feel a lot better in difficult and stressful situations.

In my experience, I find myself being stressed almost 24/7. Whether it’s in regards to education, life, my career, or even my future. I have tried deep breathing techniques, meditation, listening to calm music, and much more. However, I honestly haven’t tried the crying option. Personally, I’m ashamed to cry. I feel like I need to be strong all the time and never show any weakness. Although, that can sometimes make me even more stressed. I know I need to find good ways to de-stress to have a healthier lifestyle. Therefore, one thing I will definitely try the next time I find myself stressed, is to let my tears out. This way my body and my mind can simultaneously slow down, feel everything, and just de-stress. I encourage you to try this de-stressifying technique as well, and see how it works for you! 🙂


Is Trypophobia Synesthesia?

Today in class, we discussed the concept of synesthesia, and how it refers to experiences where input from one sensory system produces a conscious experience in that modality and in another. For instance, when you hear a certain sound, you see a certain color.

When I heard this, I asked myself “Is trypophobia a form of synesthesia?”

Trypophobia is the fear of looking at closely-packed holes. However, for me, the fear is beyond just holes. I react upon seeing certain holes, textures, color gradients, landscapes, and much more. When my eyes are exposed to these things, I get an overwhelmingly, uneasy feeling all throughout my body. I get a physical reaction all over. I feel super uncomfortable, and repulsed as painful goosebumps spread all over my skin, specific parts of my body start to shake, and my skin feels like its crawling! I know, it’s weird!

Here are some of the images that make me “whig out!”






I did some research and found that Trypophobia is actually considered a form of Tactile-Emotion Synaesthesia. Where certain emotions are evoked when specific textures are seen or touched. An experiment was conducted on two women in their 20s. From their childhood up till now, they both had experienced strong emotions brought on by certain textures. For example, they would have a rush of disgustful as well as, depressive feelings when the texture of denim was present. I thought that this was all very interesting and intriguing. It makes me wonder what it will take for trypophobia to be considered an actual condition.

More information can be found in the following links: