Author Archives: sophiakovalcik22

False Childhood Memories?

I often wonder if I have false, or distorted, memories of my time spent in the NICU as an infant. I was born at 25 weeks, weighed 1lb 12oz, and therefore had to spend 89 days in the NICU after I was born. I underwent two surgeries before I was discharged, and I often wonder if I can remember details about my hospitalization. I’ve often asked my mom if she placed a pink rabbit in my incubator, as I seem to vaguely remember some details about this very early stage in my life. This memory could, however, possibly have occurred due to a photograph of my incubator that I have seen as a child. Other times, I wonder if I can remember the sensations of nurses and doctors placing my central line in my ankle or taking blood samples when I look at the scars on myself that are left behind from my birth trauma. Again, this memory could have occurred in reality or have been generated falsely when I was told stories about my scars.

In another example of false memories, my younger sister, Lindsay, once believed that she was adopted when she was younger. Lindsay believed that all the photos of her in her scrapbook were staged. For some time, she thought that she was not my biological sister, and she admitted years later that she once had memories that proved this to be true. 

Some of our memories sometimes seem to be connected to very real and salient events, even if they are random or incorrect in nature. False memories, as defined in this article, are related to cognitive psychology in the context of the “misinformation effect,” which occurs when people’s memories of an event are distorted in some way due to additional, and often incorrect, information. In one study about false memories, participants were told that they had once been lost in a department store at the age of five. The subjects, aged 18 to 53, were asked to remember three childhood events that had been recounted by a close relative of the subject. They were shown three paragraphs that recounted separate childhood events written in a booklet. One of the events described in the booklet included the false event in which the participant was lost in a shopping center as a child, comforted by an elderly woman, and later returned to their family. 

If the participants did not remember the false event, they were told to write that they did not recall that specific memory. Twenty-nine percent of the subjects wrote that they remembered getting lost in a shopping center when shown the booklet of memories. Later, when asked if they partially or completely remembered the constructed event in follow up interviews, twenty-five percent of the subjects claimed to remember the pretend event. 

  The lost-in-the-mall memory was not about the trauma that some people claim to have remembered about their childhood, but it was focused on the impact of a planted memory and the misinformation effect. It was also noted in this study that if an onlooker was to watch the participants describe both the accurate memories and the false memory, it would be difficult for one determine which memory was fabricated. Thus, is it natural to wonder if false memories are applicable in events we recall from our younger years, such as my experiences of remembering my days spent in the NICU or my sister’s belief that she was adopted as a child. It is important to remind ourselves that our memories and cognition can be faulty and easily manipulated by relatives’ stories, pictures, or other evidence. 

Dogs and Empathy!

If you own a dog, have you ever noticed that your dog yawns when they see you yawn? A recent study on how often dogs yawn around their owners suggests that they may experience empathy.
Teresa Romero and her research team believe that dogs show that they are emotionally connected to people through their yawning, despite that yawning can also be caused by a dog’s mild stress or anxiety. Therefore, Romero and her team set up an experiment in which 25 pet dogs watched both strangers and their owners yawn – or at least pretend to yawn. In order to rule out stress or anxiety as a reason behind the dog’s choice to yawn and copy humans, Romero and her team studied the heartbeats of each dog. They saw no significant differences in the dog’s heartbeats, and the team concluded that the dog’s yawing was in response to their owners.

At the end of the study, the team of researchers found that the dogs yawned more in response to their owner’s legitimate yawns versus their pretend yawns. This was found to be significant because in a similar study, it was discovered that people yawn more in response to people they care about most. This could be due to people empathizing with people who may yawn because they are stressed, anxious, bored, or tired.
What would make this study more interesting is if it included mirror neurons, which have been recognized as a cornerstone of human empathy, language, and other important processes. So how do mirror neurons determine empathy? In our brains are regular motor command neurons. They fire and create a sequence of muscle movements that allow us to reach out and grab something or do some other action. After years of research, a subset of these motor command neurons in our brains were found to fire when someone simply watches the actions or emotional responses of another person. For example, if you were to see someone get pricked by a needle, you might flinch or experience pain. In this situation, mirror neurons are creating a theory of your intentions, which is important for all kinds of social interaction, including empathy.

It is important to note that perhaps both dogs and humans experience empathy towards those important to their lives via contagious yawning. Also, I would not be surprised to find that the mirror neurons in dogs fire in response to their owner’s actions as a sign of empathy.

I Might Have A Bad Memory – Sophia Kovalcik

 

For the entirety of my childhood, most of my adolescence, and my current young-adult life, I have dealt with memory problems. Early on in my life, my poor working memory and executive functioning primarily showed up in an educational setting. I would read, and then re-read paragraphs or definitions and have little to no recall of the information. Nowadays, its more of a social issue. I find myself asking my friends a random question about their lives much too often, sometimes even multiple times a week. I also get lost easily, even in familiar environments. In short, having a poor memory will definitely impact one’s ability to retain information that plays in sequences. After learning about the episodic buffer in class, I wondered if my working memory, central executive or, and more specifically my episodic buffer process, are manipulated by my ADHD diagnosis. 

A study conducted via both the Department of Psychology at Florida State University and University of Mississippi Medical Center Department of Pediatrics, focused on the episodic buffer component of working memory in children with ADHD. The study defines working memory as “a limited capacity, multicomponent system that serves a critical role in planning and guiding everyday behavior.” The episodic buffer defined in this study as a part of memory that is elicited when information from multiple modalities must be compiled and stored as a single chunk of information.

Why is this process so important? According to this study, day-to-day activities of individuals are likely to rely on the episodic buffer. For example, linking a name of a building with a physical location is important if someone like myself needs to remember a complex route to the library. The episodes buffer helps when integrating what someone is saying and their non-verbal body language, or when I have to follow multiple steps of a lab procedure. 

The study was conducted across multiple testing days. A sample of 86 children (ages 8– 13) with ADHD and without ADHD were told to complete three working memory tests. These tests were the same in all aspects except for the key process: phonological, visuospatial, and episodic buffer. The episodic buffer working memory task combined the phonological and visuospatial tasks. Children were shown a series of numbers and a letter that appeared in visuospatial squares. Children were told to remember the spatial location of each number or letter. They then were instructed to reorder the numbers in ascending order and put the letter last. Thus, the episodic buffer test required the children to connect the phonological, which were the numbers and letters, with visuospatial elements (the location each appearing number or letter). 

The results of this study indicated that that adding episodic buffer demands resulted in decreased accuracy for both groups. The ADHD group of children  demonstrated similarly large deficits on all three tasks. Thus, their performance deficits on the episodic buffer task can be better explained by their overall executive function deficits, rather than a unique problem with the episodic buffer. Therefore, learning about this study reconfirmed that a poor memory has its effects on the day-to-day lives of those who have ADHD. It also showed me that my episodic buffer works closely both working memory and central executive functions  🙂  

Ultraviolet Vision – The Bees Knees

Not only are bees preferential to the color and shape of flowers, they can also see a range of ultraviolet colors! The study of bee cognition began back in the 1900’s with the Austrian scientist Karl von Frisch. Frisch won the Nobel prize for his work with honeybees, and his experiments resulted in the super cool discovery of bee color recognition.

In the 1900’s, Karl noted two important things about bees: they revisit visit hundreds of types of flowers, and not all flowers that bees visit are at all the same. Flowers can vary in how much pollen and nectar they provide, and some flowers, such as orchids, offer bees no food at all. Thus, is can be concluded that bees purposely choose not to visit only one type of flower, and for good reason. After all, if a bee is getting quality food for her colony, then she needs to quickly learn which flowers are worthwhile to visit.

Using this information, Karl von Fritch designed his experiment. He most likely knew that bees were good subjects for associative learning. Just as Pavlov’s dogs learned that a sound predicted food, a bee learns that a particular flower offers better nectar than surrounding flowers. First, Fritch trained bees to collect a sugar water solution off of blue colored cards. He then placed the blue cards among cards that ranged from a light grey to a dark grey. The darkest grays resembled the same dark coloration as the blue cards. Thus, the bees landed on one of the grey cards, right?

Not quite – the bees chose to land on the blue cards, thus proving that they can perceive color. This theory was tested again with other colors such as: orange, green, violet, and yellow. Just as before, the bees chose the colored cards versus the grey scaled cards. However, they could not distinguish the color red.

Following Karl von Fritch’s studies, scientists have proven that bees re-visit flowers based on shape, temperature, and even electrical field. What I find most fascinating is the fact that bees can see the ultraviolet. So how do bees use this vision superpower? In 1927, Alfred Kühn used irradiating squares that included ultraviolet light in a similar study to Karl’s.

 

The experiment worked because like humans, bees are trichromatic, meaning that they have photoreceptors within the eye to create color combinations. Humans base their color combinations on red, blue and green; bees, on the other hand, base their combinations on ultraviolet light, blue, and green. Unfortunately, this is why bees are unable to see the color red. However, bees will choose to pollinate poppies, but only if the flowers have a reflective ultraviolet light. Bees also see a combination of yellow and ultraviolet light – the color that most likely attracts bees to flowers besides purple.

 

Finally, it helps that bees can focus on individual flowers, even when they buzz around from plant to plant so rapidly. They also pick up on flower petals that change color depending on their angle, also known as iridescence. When bees see these shiny petals in the UV spectrum, they associate the perceived colors with sugar. Thus, the shinier, violet, and UV spectrum based flowers are more attractive to bees as a whole. I’m sure if humans had this special vision, a field of flowers would look like it was colored in glow-in-the-dark glitter!

– Sophie Kovalcik

Hi it’s Sophie :)

Hey everyone 🙂 just wanted to introduce myself as Sophie! I’m a sophomore who is planning on declaring a psych major. I have three dogs at home, all of whom I adore and would love to talk about for hours. I also have a passion for photography and movies – I am always willing to hear about someone’s favorite movie. I find myself to be an empathatic person, and I love to meet new people. The only downside to knowing me is my terrible memory. Through this class, I might be able to better unsdertand how and why my memory is the way it is.