Author Archives: mhart2402

“Musical Mind”

In one of the live video lectures, I posed a question to Dr. Rettinger along the lines of “Can people become intelligent in the musical category by practicing with an instrument, or are they only skilled through practice and repetition and there was no natural skill there?” He shortened the question to something a bit less wordy and I came up with the topic of, “Does learning music make you more intelligent?”

The short answer is yes. And that’s it, I’m done.

I’m only joking.

As referenced within this article, one of the key points is that “Musicians are found to have superior working memory compared to non-musicians,” and I can absolutely support this theory. The idea that learning an instrument for one can improve your memory, capability to think on a specialized level working with the instrument you’re playing, is sensible when you think about how complicated it is to learn the fundamentals of music let alone just picking up an instrument and playing it. You have to learn how to read sheet music, how to know which cords or keys or whatever in order to produce a specific tone or sound and how striking them in a different way will create an entirely different sound. So even if you have no natural talent for music, even learning through intense practice and repetition will still inherently make you smarter through application and experience.

It can also improve things on a more physical level, because you have to hone your reflexes to act on impulses without having to think too deeply about playing a song considering you don’t have time to stand there and pontificate over what string to pluck next if you’re playing a guitar. You just have to be able to do it on the fly and that level of rapid thinking on top of rapid movement are used in such fascinating conjunction with one another and it has so many benefits to your neurological processing. Another point that was provided within the article is the idea of “musical experience strengthens many of the same aspects of brain function that are impaired in individuals with language and learning difficulties.” This helps support what I’m writing here because not only can learning and experiencing music help bolster your intelligence, but it can and has been proven to improve upon neurological processes within your brain.

I’ve never learned how to play an instrument because I lacked the patience to commit to it when I owned a guitar in my younger days, but I am someone who thoroughly enjoys music. I have a very eclectic taste in things, and I will often have “lofi hip hop radio” playing in the background with “beats to relax and study to” while I’m doing my work. People argue that having something like that will distract you, but I feel it helps focus my attention and aids me in getting my work done. I’m even listening to it right now as I type this.

I like to think that my experience with musical appreciation has in some way improved my overall intellect, because when you’re describing or talking about music it utilizes a different portion of your brain that you may not be typically using when performing other tasks throughout your daily life.

I think any number of things can really help improve your intellect even if someone else might detract from that and say asinine things like, “Oh you’ll never learn anything from that.” Because it is really just how people apply what they have learned and can use in practical situations. Intelligence isn’t just about what you learn from a book but it’s also what you can apply in the real world. Learning music and playing an instrument or just appreciating music and listening to it follow this ideology as well.

“The Mandela Effect”

Have you ever been so certain about something that nothing could convince you otherwise that you were correct? Of course you have. Everyone has thoughts like that regarding something they remembered from their past with utter certainty. “I know it was called Berenstein Bears and not Berenstain Bears,” you said. “What is this Berenstain Bears nonsense?” Then you go to trusty Google that knows all and you find your entire worldview has been rocked off its axis. So, you tell yourself that you’ll go find your old childhood books and you either cannot find them or they also reflect this Berenstain Bears phenomenon that you saw on the world wide web.

But you are so certain that when you were younger, it was Berenstein Bears, Oscar Meyer, Tostino’s Pizza Rolls, and there was a movie called “Shazam” starring Sinbad. A lot of folks seem to collectively remember these and many other examples, but can it really be attributed to something as simple as a false memory from our childhoods? There are even more people out there who call this phenomenon the “Mandela Effect” after Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa who allegedly died in the 1980s but in actuality lived until December 2013, passing at the age of 95. This has led a lot of conspiracy theorists to believe that we are living in a parallel universe where these events have changed and what we’re remembering is our time from the sibling universe we once lived in.

However, the easiest explanation of this is just the concept behind how faulty and easily manipulated the human memory is. The DRM Paradigm started initially as a study pioneered by James Deese in 1959 and expanded upon Henry L. Roediger III and Kathleen McDermott in 1995. This study was adapted in order to investigate false recognition as well as false recall. In our text “Cognitive Psychology: Applying the Science of the Mind,” this study is explained to us as quite successful in supporting the idea that illusory memories are very common. The subjects for this test were given a list of words that would be used in a test of recall immediately after; this test also had non-presented theme words for each list. According to the results, the false theme word was recalled nearly half the time and also falsely recognized to an equivalent level of the correct recognition.

With enough convincing, people can generally be led to believe almost anything, even if they were informed prior that it could not have been true. Deceiving the mind of a group of individuals is surprisingly easy given the nature of the test of the DRM Paradigm, so in an age of ultra-fast communication it’s not unreasonable to believe that an entire group of people from a similar age group, either born in the late 80s and early 90s would come to agree that everything they remembered from their childhood as the absolute truth instead of this scary new reality we all live in. We’re just as likely to believe in the absurd truth of us having leapt into a parallel universe instead of it just being our faulty memories that are tricking our brains into believing that it used to be Berenstein Bears instead of it having always been Berenstain Bears.

But let’s be real here, we all know it was really Berenstein Bears.

“82 82 82”

With our recent foray into studying memory, categories and object recognition, I was immediately drawn to the idea of how autism plays a part in cognitive psychology. The example that occurred to me the most was from the movie Rain Man where Dustin Hoffman’s character Raymond was able to immediately recognize the number of toothpicks as soon as they were dropped on the floor during this scene. He said “82” out loud three times which equals out to 246, the number of toothpicks on the floor. There were 250 total but 4 were left in the box, meaning Raymond either counted or simply knew the amount on the floor in a matter of seconds.

This comes back to the question I posed during class regarding people who can memorize Pi up to an absurd number and Dr. Rettinger stated that people who know it likely have an eidetic memory, allowing them to have an absurd string of numbers memorized. The current world record as of 2005 is 67,890 digits just to put that into perspective.

In the movie, Raymond was also able to memorize the names and phone numbers of people in the phone book up to “G” and this further solidifies the point that as someone who has autism, his immediate and long-term memory are considered abnormal and almost superhuman. During this scene, Raymond said he was reading the phone book the night before; therefore the implication there is that within the span of about 12 hours or so, he was able to use his short-term and working memory to completely memorize A through half of G in the phone book. This should be impossible considering short-term memory is only about 18-30 seconds. Raymond’s working memory is beyond human because normally we can consciously only remember 4 to 5 things at a time.

I just found this particularly fascinating because of how rapidly he can recall this information and recite it perfectly without any issue whatsoever, as seen when they are greeted by their waitress at the diner. A similar situation is seen in another part of the movie when they are in Vegas counting cards and winning big at Blackjack.

This scene also shows the inability for Raymond to act in a naturally cognitive fashion, as he reacts very childishly and immature when his brother grabs his neck and “hurts him,” citing it as a serious injury in his notebook.

The other part of this blog post involves categorization and object recognition with an article I found in a journal by researching on JSTOR. I will provide the link right here.

I found this article particularly fascinating because it studied typicality effects between children with autism versus healthy children ages 9-12 and 13-16 in two different study groups. As you can see in the graph of the reaction time, the autistic children were much slower than the healthy children in terms of typical categories and somewhat typical categories but the time in which it took them to recognize things of an atypical category were significantly higher and more dramatic, 42% more slowly to be exact.

This means that in spite of autism affecting things on a cognitive level in positive ways, such as with Raymond and his ability to instantly recognize numbers and patterns as well as memorize things on a superhuman level, it adversely affects them in very negative ways such as with their object recognition and ability to categorize things in simple ways.

This is definitely something that I just find intriguing and wanted to really share with the people in this class in order to raise some awareness of what people with autism have to deal with, even people on a high-functioning level or those that are just on the spectrum. My younger brother, incidentally, is a high-functioning autistic and these kinds of studies are especially meaningful to me in that regard.

Psychology within Video Games: What can you learn from them?

I am bad at school and good at video games. There is a video on YouTube titled “Why You’re Bad at Exams… But Are Great at Video Games!” I’ll link the URL below before continuing.


In the video, the commentator / narrator shows a chart with two axes worth of information with the vertical axis being treated as an actor for the information on the horizontal axis. This chart and the associated information comes in at 0:42 into the video, and it can seem overwhelming to have to remember all of this information that will be used on a test later without having access to the chart during the exam. To some people this will be simple to remember but to others (such as myself) who are not good at memorizing things, especially numbers, this will be a very difficult task. However, at 1:24 into the video he changes the example chart from an array of numbers to the type matchings from the game series Pokémon™. My nerd status is going to be on full display here and I’ll probably lose some people, although I can say with some level of certainty that a lot of people played Pokémon GO and as a result have some knowledge of the game.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I have the type matchings of Pokémon essentially memorized to perfection and can tell you without even referring to the chart what is bad or good against what or even what is neutral. Well why is this? The two charts featured in the video show the exact same thing and as stated, they are exact replicas of each other but the information is changed so it seems more mundane and arduous compared to its video game counterpart.

It is the manner in which this information is presented to you and how it grabs your attention. I know it may sound childish but everything about Chart Y is bright and colorful and those things often hold your gaze more than something that is colorless and drab, like almost everything about school is. Let’s be real here, no matter how much you like school most of it is very dry and monotonous; it’s just another part of your routine. Attention is an important part of imprinting things into your memory, and the more attention you hold onto the something the more likely it is to stay within your memory long enough to be stored away into your long-term memory. If someone tried to teach me about the information on Chart Y in a classroom, I’d probably get bored of it and start browsing the Internet or playing a game on my phone.

There are so many psychological factors within video games and for me that has a lot to do with why I put so much effort into doing well at them and regrettably not as much into doing well at school. Behaviorist theory comes up a lot when it comes to games because there are systems of rewards and punishment, but they aren’t so severe that when you fail, you’re out thousands of dollars, facing academic probation, expulsion from the college, and a life of debt without anything to show for it. Video games give you extra chances and allow you to learn from your mistakes in a more controlled environment that is very low risk. People would probably argue that the high-risk nature of college is what makes it worth it, and that it’s just real life. But does it really need to be that way?

Take it from someone who actually has performed poorly and faced both academic and financial aid suspension, it is not at all a good feeling when you fell seven points short of a passing grade to progress onto the next level of a course and that also put you in bad standing with the academic committee and the financial aid office. And the only way to rectify your mistake is to try again, but without the benefit of grants or loans you’re expected to pay for everything out of your own pocket, and so you get a credit card to pay for classes for a single semester which equals out to about $6,000 of debt you’re now facing because of that. The argument is that there is a “high risk, high reward” nature of college but a lot of people never reap any benefits from a university degree and are stuck at a dead-end retail job for seven years.

But I digress, this all ties into the ideologies of behaviorism because it gives you motivation to not perform poorly but it is such negative reinforcement and not everyone responds well to that. More often than not, positive reinforcement and a system of rewards will allow someone to perform better with higher motivation and morale than someone who is constantly pushed down by failure. I’m not so out of touch with reality that I expect life to be like a video game, but it helps to try and tackle life like a video game. As was stated in the YouTube video, it helps to gain your experience and knowledge through your adventure and journey instead of rushing to face the final boss from the very beginning and only attempting to apply knowledge on your last challenge instead of through practice runs in controlled environments that will prepare you for the endgame encounter you will face at the last leg of your journey.

Hopefully this doesn’t seem like an incoherent mess and it conveys the concept of how much psychology can be applied to something like a video game and how much it can actually teach you about various concepts of psychology itself. At least that way no one can say to you, “Well you’ll never learn anything from a video game.”

Good luck gamers, and enjoy that last bit of cringe.

Don’t worry, I cringed while writing it.

P.S. By all means if you have critiques or disagree with anything I’ve said here, I’m open to any comments. I’m not exactly the best at conveying thoughts that seem sensible to me, and I’d love to get feedback.