Author Archives: magalyy

First Impressions and Last Impressions

I am sure we have all either received the “advice” or have heard someone say first impressions matter or leave with a bang. Considering these two ideas deal with the first and last actions a person makes, we can quickly make the connection they are related to the primacy and recency effect.As we learned earlier in the semester, the primacy effect is caused by remembering the items that come first in a list and the recency effect is remembering items that appeared last.

The first impressions are the ideas someone creates of us or anyone the meet for the first time. In a study conducted by Soloman Asch (1946) there were two groups of participants who received a list of traits of a person who they would later meet and make judgements about. The first group received this list of traits: intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn, envious; the second group received this list of traits: envious, stubborn, critical, impulsive, industrious, intelligent. If you noticed, these are the same list of traits just presented in a reverse order, one that being with positive traits and one that beings with negative traits. We can conclude that because the traits are the same, the judgement would be the same. However, Asch discovered that the participants who were presented the first list had a more positive first impression of the person; participants who were presented the second list, came up with more negative thoughts. In a similar study conducted by Edward Jones (1968), two groups of participants watched a video of the same women taking an intelligence test. In both videos the women answered the same number of questions correct and the same number of questions wrong. The only difference is that in the first video the questions answered correct appeared more in the beginning, influencing the participants to view the women as more intelligent compared to the video where the questions were answered wrong in the beginning.

Considering primacy effect is based off storage of our long term memory, when we meet someone for the first time, we create a schema about who they are and what we expect from them. Which is why it is important to make a good first impression because it is what sticks with a person and they are usually hard to change.

Luckily, if we do not make such a memorable first impression, then we have the opportunity to go out with a bang!

Unlike first impressions and the primacy effect, last impressions are just that, the last thing you remember about someone. Since they are the last memory we have of someone, they can be the most powerful. The last impressions will work as ‘cues’ for us to recall past interactions with that person; positive last impression, positive memory retrieval and vise versus. Like the in the first study presented for first impressions, if we are introduced to someone with a list of traits, we may end up just remembering the last trait. If negative we can totally just end up creating a negative image of a person but if positive, we may be excited to meet this person. In a study conducted by Bruin (2005) concluded that in competitions like the Eurovision Song Contest and ice skating, higher scores were given to acts that performed last. Recency correlates to short term memory, therefore in a competition with multiple contestants and where the judges can not give scores until the end, it is likely that acts who go last receive higher chances as they are the most recent.


A Psychological Defensive Mechanism


As we learned, repressed memories consist of an event that was encoded, then we choose to actively forget, and later one it is recalled or keeping certain thoughts, feelings, or urges out of conscious awareness. Repression is pretty much the ‘act’ of forgetting these memories. The idea of repression started with Sigmund Freud. He viewed our minds like an iceberg. If we viewed the iceberg from above water, all we would see in the tip of it (a very small part), making this our conscious mind. The enormous part of the iceberg that is below water, what we can not really see, is our unconscious mind. Freud believed that even though we are unaware of what may be in our unconscious minds, it has great power over our personality and could lead to psychological distress. After working with patients to uncover their conscious feelings, Freud he identifies repression as the first and most important defense mechanism.

According to Freud, there are two types of repression: primary repression and repression proper. Primary repression consists of hiding or preventing unwanted ideas or actions from reaching consciousness, which occurs unconsciously. Repression proper refers to being aware of a certain material but purposefully trying to remove it from awareness. Research has supported the idea of selective-forgetting. Which means people can block unwanted memories or thoughts. This can be done through a process called retrieval induced forgetting, which means retrieving only the wanted memories so often that you tend to make the other memories less accessible. This can explain why most people when asked about  events in their lives, 50% of people retrieve pleasant memories. We tend to try and block out/forget negative memories. Which I can say I most definitely have done.

While repression may be successful to a certain extent, it can also lead to a great increase in anxiety. Freud’s entire psychoanalysis approach was focused on bringing these unwanted feelings and memories to the light so they could be dealt with. Just because these repressed memories are not conscious, does not mean they do not cause pain or anxiety. Someone with these symptoms may not know why they are feeling this way because the memories are force-able blocked. In a series of studies, McNally presented evidence comparing individuals who believe they were sexually abused as children, but have no memory for these events and those who have never forgotten their childhood sexual abuse or have never been sexually abused. Individuals with repressed memories exhibited symptoms of psychological distress, elevated levels of dissociation and absorption, superior forgetting abilities for trauma-related material and memory distortions.

Sometimes, things that are repressed may start to peak their way through subtly. People who repress certain memories may experience a ‘slip of the tongue’ or Freudian slip. Mistaken slips of the tongue can be very revealing. We all have seen a movie or show where within a relationship, one of the partners slips out someone else name. This can reveal a dark secret that the person may have been trying to forget or block. Phobias can also cause repressed memories. A small child who grows up to have a fear of dogs does not remember they were attacked at the age of 5 by a dog. They are unaware of where this painful memory came from.

Many psychologist today believe although some repression may be likely, it is very rare. In many cases, trauma has actually shown to make the memory of an event stronger. People who live with PTSD experienced some strong events in their lives and they are forced to relive these events daily, instead of repressing the painful feelings.

If we do eventually realize or already know we have a repressed memory, it is important to understand that sometimes taken the big first step of allowing these memories to come to light may be what makes a huge difference. It may not completely fix the problem, but surely can help.


Living in a world filled with strangers: Face Blindness

During this weeks lecture, I was really interested in Prosopaganosia and to just get the basic knowledge on it, I googled it. As we learned in class, Prosopaganosia is the inability to recognize faces. While researching information, I came across a video of a women named Terry Sweeny, who used to be a firefighter until an accident damaged part of her social brain. Her injury caused her to not be able to recognize any faces. They conduct a simple test where they take a picture of her mother (that Terry herself just took) and they line it up with 3 other pictures. Within these pictures, the bottom half of the pictures are covered so that only the faces are being shown. She is asked to identify which picture is her mother and Terry simply answers “I don’t know”. Then the researcher uncovers the whole face and Terry is able to identify her mother by the pink and purple shirt she is wearing. Even though her mother is someone she has seen her entire life, she cannot identify her by her face. Terry explains that it is hard not being able to personalize her family and she is pretty much just left with “facts without faces”. The video goes on to show Terry being shown a slideshow of different celebrity faces. She is unable to recognize the faces, but certain surrounding cues like hairstyles help her come up with certain guesses. At the end is she shown a picture of herself, which Terry cannot identify, so the researcher tells her that is her in the picture. Terry simply chuckles responds “that better not be me” and her expression quickly changes to disbelief.

Terry’s diagnosis was caused by brain damage, so it it known as acquired prosopagnosia. Their impairment is often recognizable because they have experienced normal face recognition in the past. On the other hand, prosopagnosia can be developmental (also known as congenital prosopagnosia). Their impairment is often not as noticeable. Since it is something they just their every day-to-day lives with they do not really know there is a problem. Facial recognition problems are present early in life and are caused by neurodevelopmental impairment. Diagnosing acquired prosopagnosia in children is really difficult, even as adults some are unaware of their prosopagnosia.

Which leads me into an article published in the Washington Post written by Sadie Dingfelder and her experience living with face blindness. Sadie is an example of developmental prosopagnosia. In her article she starts by looking back to clear memories of when she experienced mistaking her coworkers Sara and Holley and some random dude at the store for her husband, which she blamed on them having the same coat. She had for months believed that both of her coworkers were the same person. She told her husband “Everyone at work looks the same, they’re all white girls with hipster glasses and ModCloth clothes”. To her everyone literally looked the same. The article goes on to explain how Sadie finds out she has prosopagnosia and she starts to question her life and do a bunch of research. She also submits herself to a bunch of test to find out more about her diagnosis and have more accurate results. Prosopagnosia has had a lot of research conducted, but still not much is known about it. Joseph DeGutis, the lead researcher of the face-blindness study she participates in, is a neuroscientist with a joint appointment at Harvard Medical School and the Boston VA, states  that people with developmental prosopagnosia are so good at working around their disability that they trick everyone into thinking that they are normal, even themselves. Plus, early tests of facial recognition were inaccurate because of prosopagnosiacs who used hair and ears and facial expressions to remember who was who.

Sadie’s diagnosis turned out she had one of the worst abilities to recognize faces. From DeGutis test, she was one of his lowest scores. Her fusiform face area is actually thicker than normal. Children start out with dense FFAs, but as the brain determines which neurons are useful and which ones are just getting in the way, it thins them out. DeGutis told her she has the fusiform face area of a 12-year-old and the face recognition of ” a mediocre or below-average macaque” .

The article goes in depth of Sadie’s experience and what she has learned about her diagnosis. It is a very interesting article and totally recommend it for someone who is interested in prosopagnosia.

Article Link:

Link to the video:

Want to test your Face Memory: and



Explicit vs Implicit Memory

There is both long term and short term memory. For long term memory there are two categories ‘explicit’ and ‘implicit’ memory. Implicit memory are unconscious, procedural memories such as riding a bike, eating, getting dressed, or driving. Explicit memory (or declarative memory), on the other hand, mainly refers to the conscious, intentional recollection of factual information. This can be knowing the capital of a state,  It can further be divided into episodic memory and semantic memory.

Implicit memory (or procedural memory) is mainly based on “knowing how” to do. it is normally acquired through repetition and practice. Once these memories are embedded into our brains, we tend to do these actions without thinking about them. The automatic sensorimotor behaviors are repeated so often that we become unaware of them. For example, usually when I commute to school, I spend about 20 minutes on I-95 southbound, I usually doze off and then suddenly realize I am one exist away from the school. Even though I may not fully be paying attention to how far I am driving, i have repeated my commute so often that my implicit memory just takes me to school.

The meme refers to explicit memory and more specifically semantic, which consists of recalling facts, concepts, meanings, and knowledge of the outside world. Although, as we all have learned cramming the night before an exam is usually not the best way to retain information, it is something a lot of us do. Luckily for us, if our exams or quizzes are mainly based on just recalling facts or plain memorization of information, our explicit memory may actually do wonders for us. During a test, these memories, of the information, can me retrieved through associations. I know personally, after I have studied a page or part of my notes so often, when I come across a question that includes that information, I have a short “photographic” memory of those notes. The questions on the test made an association with the notes I have studied. Same can be said with flash cards. If you are asked a question that is based off one of the cards you studied, you are likely to remember the card you studied. Even after all that cramming, I do get surprised that I was actually able to remember and recall the information studied.

One of the most famous studies conducted to understand the difference between explicit and implicit memory was on a patient named “H.M.”. He had parts of his medial temporal lobe, hippocampus and amygdala removed in 1953 in an attempt to cure his epilepsy. After the surgery, H.M. could still create procedural memories and short-term memories, but not declarative memories. This showed the distinction between the two main systems, especially within the hippocampus. Only explicit memory  can be retrieved through the hippocampus.