Author Archives: jwhearty

Could Social Isolation Be Hurting Cognitive Health?

With everyone at home for long periods because of COVID-19, there is a lot of talk about how this could affect people’s mental health. One article on The American Psychological Association website talks about how social isolation and loneliness can lead to negative psychological effects. The negative effects listed include poor sleep quality, depression, and impaired executive function. The first few psychological effects weren’t surprising, however, the last effect of a decrease in executive functioning was surprising  

There was a study that supports this finding of a decrease in executive functioning do to a lack of social interaction. The study mainly looked at those over sixty-five because they are at a higher risk of becoming socially isolated than those younger than them. This important not only for mental health but also for cognitive health This study was done in 2018 before COVID-19. The question the study asked was if social isolation caused peoples cognitive abilities to decline overtime. 

 The participants from the study were randomly selected in a welsh country and were give baseline tests to find out their cognitive ability score on the Cambridge cognitive examination which is similar to other IQ tests. This test looked at basic cognitive abilities. They also tested cognitive activity in general and tested them to find out how much they interacted with other people daily. The participants were then given the same tests again two years later to see if the environment such as social isolation had an impact on their cognitive abilities. 

The study found that people who are over sixty-five could be negatively impacted by social isolation. This is because social isolation leads to less social stimulation which causes less cognitive ability. This could be a larger problem right now with COVID-19 since the older generation is less likely to use or know how to use new technologies which are how people are keeping in touch. The study also found that those who had jobs that were simple and did not involve a lot of cognitive challenges led to participants later in life having a decline in cognitive abilities. This suggests that it is important for people as they get older to be social with neighbors, friends, and family to take care of there cognitive health. This highlights how important it is that during social distancing people should reach out and engage with their older relatives so that they don’t become socially isolated and have their cognitive health affected. I highly encourage everyone to reach out to there older relatives and friends during social distancing. 




How understanding Language Can Help Students Learn a New One

One of the General education requirements that can be daunting for college students is the foreign language requirement. One way for this to become a less daunting task is to understand how humans learn language and to use those skills we used as a child to learn English. We can do this by applying our English learning skills to a new language. All languages have aspects that are the same such as having phonemes which is the smallest unit of sound and morphemes which is the syntax and meaning of words that are formed from putting phonemes together.  

By understanding the way, we learn these parts of language we can find effective study strategies for learning a new language. This can allow students to feel confident in our skills since we have used these skills before. An article in Psychology today discusses some of these strategies. Why these strategies are effective can be understood by looking at how humans learn languages. The tips are as follows 

 1.) Listen and watch the target language. This will help in that it will make students more familiar with the phonemes of that language by listening and picking out the small units of sound. Then watching native speakers speak the target language will allow students to see how the different sounds in the language are made. This practice can be especially useful for new letters in foreign languages such as the RR in Spanish which can be very difficult to learn.  

2.) Another way to improve learning of a new language is to copy what others are saying or singing in the target language. This allows new connections to be made about how to produce new sounds. One way to implement this and the previous tip would be watching and listening to a Spanish person saying the RR sound and then you copy.  

3.) The last way to help with learning a new language is to read information in the target language. This is useful because it shows the grammar of the language more that can be learned from spoken language. It gives a visual to differences in syntax in different languages.  

Another article discusses the important parts of a new language starting with the importance of mouth position.  For new sounds the muscles in the mouth need to be trained how to make them through practice. This goes with the second tip of copying words and sounds in the target language. Next the article brings up how our brains expect to see certain word together because of our N400 signal. This skill gets developed the longer a person spends learning a new language. A good way to develop the ability to recognize these patterns is to read in the foreign language where patterns will become more apparent.  

Learning a new language can be daunting, however, Humans have the necessary skills to learn new language. Students and professors need to understand how language is learned to better learn and teach foreign languages.   

Is it Time to Ditch the Music While Studying?

Many students in the library, HCC, and around campus can be found with headphones in while they study, but this music might not be helping these students study as effectively as they could. Chapter 4 of the textbook goes into how this is related to the irrelevant speech effect and how any speech can disrupt the encoding of information. After reading this I went to find out more, worried that I would have to start studying in silence all the time. In the article “Does Listening to music while studying make you a better student?”(Segren,2019) it discussed how listening to music that is calm and has no lyrics is better than listening to lyrical music. It’s better to ditch listening to music though according to the textbook as well as this article The reason for this is because memory recall is better when information is encoded in a similar environment to the one a student will be in when they need to recall the information, which is usually a silent classroom. Therefore here at UMW, I think the best places to study would be like the silent floor in the library, or an empty classroom, without headphones in. The next article I looked at called “ The Impact of Music in Memory” was a study that also had significant findings that not listening to music was the best way to study. Unlike the first article, this study did not find that listening to calm music had an effect on the participant’s cognitive ability compared to the group who studied in silence. This article found that type of music had more of an effect on peoples abilities in activities such as sports, but not IQ 

For those who still want to listen to music while studying and can’t fathom not listening to music, there is still hope according to the Segren article. There are some benefits to listening to music. If a student feels they need music/music with lyrics to study, it is beneficial for the student to listen to the same songs every time that they study. This is because the brain will learn that the music is unimportant and almost tune it out while the student studies because the music has become generalized. 

 According to the Segren article as well as the “should you listen to music while studying” (US Today, 2019), studies found when people are in a good mood, they tend to be more productive and better problem solvers. Therefore, if music helps a student get in the mood to study and feel happy it can help them study more effectively. The dopamine release from the music can help a student continue to feel energized and engaged in studying especially for longer study sessions. As mentioned above not all music is the same when it comes to studying. It’s best to stay away from angry music because it can increase cortisol levels and stress which will lead to worse performance in cognition. Unless angry music makes the student happy. For students looking for music to listen to while studying, I would recommend the music from animal crossing, Lindsay sterling, or listening to music scores from movies or plays. The mood boost that music gives a student could possibly be used to help a student prepared to get in the right mindset to take a test. People are more likely to remember information when they are in the same mood that they were in when they encoded it. This is known as memory bias. Therefore, a student could make a studying playlist that puts them in a good, positive and productive mood that they listen to while studying. They could then before going take the test they studied for listening to that playlist to get into the same mindset they were in when they studied it. Listening to music while studying can be good or bad it really depends on the person, what type of music, and how the student can use listening to music to their advantage  




Useful Study Tips From Youtube and How to Apply Them to Learning a Language

College classes tend to be a step up from any type of class that students have taken before. Therefore,students tend to need to create new study habits once they are in college . The video “five best ways to study effectively, scientifically proven”on YouTube brings up study habits backed by principles from cognitive psychology.It Highlights ways that students can ditch ineffective study habits and use more effective ones to improve their academic career. For all classes these tips could apply, but  they could definitely be highly effective for students trying to learn a second language. The first technique the video gives is putting the desired learning on an object in the student’s environment. A way this could be done for trying to learn a language is by putting the vocabulary on the objects in the environment that they are linked to . This was done in a Spanish class that I took,for class room vocabulary by putting labels on things such as the door that had the Spanish word for door. This first technique uses the encoding ability of your brain to move concepts and learning objectives from working memory and short term memory to long term memory. The next technique the video talks about was teaching others the material that a student is trying to learn. By doing the student gains a better understanding of what they are  trying to learn and theyalso realize whatthey still need to encode if they are struggling to teach any of the material that theyare trying to learn. This technique uses and test or retrieval abilities, being able to take information from long term memory and bring it back into working memory. This technique in the setting of studying for a language class could be done by teach friends or fellow classmates the grammar concepts that a student just learned in class. The third technique is using practice tests which also uses the student’s ability to retrieve information from long term memory. Practice tests are a highly effective way of studying because theytest whether or nota student has encoded the information thatthey wanted to learnand is also a way of rehearsing the information so thattheysolidify the connections they have already encoded intotheir long termmemory on the topic. In a langue class practice tests could be using flash cards, or an online study tool that teststhe studenton the information. The fourth technique that the video discusses is have long periods of intense focused studying with short breaks. In a language class or studying for any classa student could take five minute breaks to take a walk , look at social media, or doanything other than what they werestudying and then aftertheirbreak going back to the material.The fifth technique that the video discussed is spaced repetition.  This technique allows the student to encoded information better than cramming the night before a test. For a language classa studentcould apply this by studying after class each day leading up totheirtest instead of the day before. This allows your long term memory to build stronger connections.  

The cognitive principles that were applied in this video were the way that the various parts of memory works. It focuses on how the brain encodes information and moves it to long term memory for retrieval. The video references studies that talked about the best ways to encoded information.

This video appeared to have a very good understanding as how memory works. It present a lot of peer-reviewed research to back the claims that it was making about how to study more effectively.

Link to video and references from the video