Author Archives: kownbey

Freudian Slips…?

I have always been interested in Freudian Slips because I think it’s such a fascinating phenomenon.

I know people tend to discredit Freud, but I think some of his findings were pretty interesting (the Freudian Slip, of course, being one of them). I imagine all of us have had this happen before or we have heard about them on the news. For example, saying “I’m mad you’re here!” Sigmund Freud Painting Painting by Suzann Sinesinstead of saying “I’m glad you’re here!” Is something like this just an innocent mistake, or does it unearth your unconscious mind? Does it actually reveal your true feelings for another person, ulterior motives, or other repressed memories?

First of all, where did Freudian Slips come from?

Well, as we know, Freudian Slips are named after the father of Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Freud based his research on a young man who had previously had a pregnancy scare with his girlfriend. Upon reciting The Aeneid, the young man completely mispronounced the Latin word for “blood.” According to Freud, this happened because the word “blood” was associated with the pregnancy scare the young man had desperately tried to repress, and was therefore mispronounced entirely (Cherry, Kendra). Freud wrote further about these Freudian Slips in his 1901 book entitled The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. He said: 

“Almost invariably I discover a disturbing influence from something outside of the intended speech. The disturbing element is a single unconscious thought, which comes to light through the special blunder” (Freud, Sigmund).  

So, are we buying this at all?

Has this theory ever been tested in a laboratory setting? In fact, it has. A Harvard psychologist decided to test this Freud’s theory. Psychologist Daniel Wegner asked participants to engage in a stream of verbalization for at least five minutes. Basically, the participants could babble about almost anything they pleased. However, Wegner asked them not to think about a white bear in freudian slip | Psychology humor, Therapy humorthe process. If the participant happened to think about the white bear, they were supposed to ring a bell. He found that the participants rang the bell about once per minute (Cherry, Kendra)

What does this tell us about the theory?

Wegner came to the conclusion that even though the participants were told not to think about the white bear, there were parts of their minds that were responsible for a mental “check-in.” This “check-in” made sure that the part of the mind responsible for repressing the thought of the white bear was indeed working, ironically bringing the thought back up again in the process (Cherry, Kendra). The more we think about something, Wegner concluded, the more likely we are to verbalize it in some fashion, which can result in a Freudian Slip.

It has also been suggested that Freudian Slips are also much more likely to happen under stress, and are truly just mistakes, not a gateway into our unconscious mind (Goleman, Daniel).  Even though Freudian Slips have often been discredited, they are incredibly interesting to read about. So, maybe saying something like “I’m mad you’re here!” is really just a simple slip-of-the-tongue. You probably shouldn’t sweat it!



Cherry, Kendra. “What’s Really Happening When You Have a Freudian Slip.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 27 Sept. 2019.

Freud, Sigmund. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life: (1901). Hogarth Press, 1995.

Goleman, Daniel. “DO ‘FREUDIAN SLIPS’ BETRAY A DARKER, HIDDEN MEANING?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Nov. 1984.

Flashbulb Memories…

I want to start with a personal story (sort of). My dad was in the first grade when he heard the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. The principal of his school alerted everyone to leave, including the teachers. He had to walk home by himself, not really knowing what was going on, but being aware of the strong emotional response he felt from those around him. When he got home, he said that he saw my grandmother crying in front of the television. He asked, “What’s wrong?” She responded, “Someone has killed the president” (he’s currently telling me this story as I type it).

That had to be a very impactful moment for my dad, and one that makes me glad I wasn’t around just yet! 

This is definitely a flashbulb memory, and one that my dad has been able to recall again and again throughout his life in “perfect,” vivid detail. In fact, flashbulb memories became a concrete “thing” in 1977, shortly after the horrific assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Researchers found that people were able to recall what they were doing, what they felt, and who told them of the assassination (Hassan, Zainab).

So was anyone else aware of flashbulb memories before this time, or was it triggered by President Kennedy’s assassination? The answer: flashbulb memories have been a “thing” for a very, very long time. Amazingly, a psychologist by the name of F.W. Colegrove conducted a study in 1899 that tested participants’ memories upon hearing that President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated 33 years earlier. Colegrove came to the conclusion that the recollections from people he was getting were especially engaging and vivid (Vinney, Cynthia).

What is truly remarkable about flashbulb memories is how they are different from our generic autobiographical memories. The main difference between these two types of memories is sort of simple: the main difference is our personal beliefs. It has been said that the rate of forgetting for both flashbulb memories and generic autobiographical memories is roughly the same. However, when asking someone to recall a flashbulb memory, they are overly confident about it compared to other memories (even if they have forgotten some of the facts) (Talarico, Jennifer). So, lately I’ve been quizzing my dad about the day President Kennedy died. I’ve been asking him things like “Dad, how sure are you that you were in school when President Kennedy was assassinated?” He always answers “I’m positive I was in school.” Considering his story has been confirmed by my grandparents, I have no choice but to believe him! 

Lately, there have been movements within certain communities to retain particular flashbulb memories. This has recently been applied to the date of 9/11, with people posting pictures of the Twin Towers on social media and simply captioning it with the phrase “never forget.” According to some, these movements “serve to maintain memories not just collectively, but individually” (Talarico, Jennifer). Whatever the case may be, flashbulb memories are extremely interesting and important to our lives. The emotion that some flashbulb memories can hold is extremely raw, and the way we recall these events is equally remarkable. 

Kaitlyn Ownbey

Works Cited: 

Talarico, Jennifer. “Flashbulb Memories of Dramatic Events Arent as Accurate as Believed.” The Conversation, 11 Nov. 2019.

Hassan, Zainab. “Flashbulb Memories: How Emotion Influences Cognition.” Psych Central, 27 Aug. 2019.

Vinney, Cynthia. “Flashbulb Memory: Definition and Examples.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 31 July 2019.

And The Survey Says…

I was thinking really hard about what I wanted to write for this February blog post, when suddenly Family Feud came to my mind. At first I wasn’t necessarily sure why this happened, until I started thinking about the structure of the game. What is Family Feud, truly? The game consists of contestants essentially guessing about how “average” Americans might answer a question that is presented to them by the producers of the show. This, luckily enough for me, is a great cognitive tool! However, because I was unable to find much scientific literature that linked Family Feud with any specific cognitive concepts, I thought it would be interesting to simply brainstorm some things that I think could be going on. Feel free to comment after reading and let me know what you think! For me, I could see Family Feud contestants utilizing two things when they answer questions: basic-level concepts and typicality effects. Basic-level concepts are the most frequently used concept category, and usually provide us with quick, often automatic information that is useful to us. Examples of this might be words that trigger specific cognitive categorization (e.g., cat in the animal category) (1). The overall theory of typicality effects states that individuals are more likely to respond to typical examples of a category rather than something that is atypical (e.g., being asked to name a fruit and responding with “Apple” instead of “Jackfruit”) (2). Some very basic questions from Family Feud might include “Name something you fill with air.” I’ll give you a second… If you guessed balloons, good job! Balloons was the “number one answer.” These so-called “number one answers” are simply answers that occur more frequently than others, and are more-than-likely brought to our mind through basic-level concepts. For example, the “number two answer” was simply “tires.” This doesn’t make tires a wrong answer, but it was less frequently used and therefore scored lower on the list. The last answer was air mattresses. According to typicality, this scored last perhaps because it was the most “atypical” of the group. 

Another game show that utilizes typicality effects and basic-level concepts (that actually just came out in 2018) is aptly called America Says. This game is similar to Family Feud in that contestants are asked to come up with answers to questions that earn them points. Questions might consist of “People usually eat ______ in one bite,” and “I’m really afraid of _____.” The contestants are then asked to come up with relevant answers to these questions in a short amount of time, literally based on what they think “America” most typically “says.” As we all know, typicality effects differ from culture to culture. I think it would be really interesting to see different variations of this game in other cultures to test typicality effects more thoroughly. There are most definitely other versions of Family Feud, but since America Says is fairly new, I’m unsure if the concept has reached other countries. Either way, if you are more interested in testing yourself for typicality effect greatness, I recommend watching Family Feud or America Says and playing along! 

Kaitlyn Ownbey





Reading About Reading

Dante Alighieri

Not to be a nerd, but one of my favorite hobbies is reading. I can thank my father for my love of reading; he thought it was one of the most important necessities of life (besides breathing). I was never without books in my room, and surprisingly I never remember hating it. Reading, in my opinion, is a fundamental access knowledge; besides, none of us know much of anything unless we are able to read and garner information about what we are eager to understand. We read everyday, whether it be a menu or the name of an academic building here on the UMW campus. I can assume that most of you are actively reading this right now to further explore what I have to say on a particular cognitive phenomenon. Reading is almost automatic, and you can do it without doing much thinking. How do our minds process words, which are composed of an array of different letters, and form sentences that we are then able to comprehend and understand? 

As I have come to find out, there is great cognitive debate as to whether reading is a serial or parallel process. While reading this post, are you able to process more than one word at a time? If not, do you think you could even be capable of this task? One interesting study I found says that reading two words at one time is impossible. While it is entirely possible for our eyes to visually place all the words on a page, we are not able to process more than one word at a time. In a study conducted by Alex L. White, he and his research team found that the research participants were able to acknowledge that two words were displayed on a screen in front of them, but the participants were unable to actually read and garner information from the words at the same time (this was measured with high-tech eye movement stuff). This would point to our minds as serial processors when it comes to reading, but this is not entirely the truth! While the way we process individual words might be in favor of the serial process theory, White also acknowledged that “parallel processing may be more likely when pairs of words are related to each other and form phrases” (Alex L White, John Palmer & Geoffrey M. Boynton). 

After this explanation, it might seem to be a sort of “no-brainer,” but why is it important to cognitively explore how humans read? The foundations of cognitive psychology are rooted in how we perceive, understand, and process information. Reading contains all of these things functions. It is truly interesting that we are able to read out loud or in our heads (something else I would really like to explore), but it is even more interesting that all of these words are formed in such a manner that makes them comprehensible. Reading is something we hardly think about, but something we do constantly. So, the next time you’re reading for class or for leisure, try to pinpoint how you cognitively process words, sentences, and paragraphs.

Kaitlyn OwnbeyFreud

file:///Users/shatteringteacups/Downloads/WhitePalmerBoynton17_Preprint.pdf (This is a weird link. The study is a PDF, so if you Google “You can’t read two words at once,” the first link to pop up is this study in particular).