Author Archives: tsiburn

CAUTION: Intelligence Tests

Competitiveness drives a lot of what we do, and how we perform in education is no exception. Students compete with each other to earn the best grades, gain admission to the best colleges, and accept the best internships or jobs. This drive pushes people to want to quantify how smart they are. Intelligence tests, in theory, do just that. The idea that someone can take a test and earn a number that defines their intelligence can be intriguing. However, what most people fail to realize is the major flaws in intelligence testing. In “The IG test wars: Why screening for intelligence is so controversial”, Daphne Martschenko explains the flaws in intelligence testing.These flaws pertain to differences in testing methods, and disparities in genetics, socio-economic status, academic achievement, and race. After reading this article, I found a lot of similarities in the issues Marschenko points out and our class discussion on intelligence testing. 


Marschenko first talks about how intelligence testing and the popularity grew during the early 1900s. These tests were developed and marketed as “unbiased ways to measure a person’s cognitive ability,” (Marschenko, 2018). The first intelligence test was developed by Alfred Benet, after the French government asked him to identify students who face the most difficulties in school. The United States used intelligence tests for screening military and police personnel, and during the First World War, screening was used to determine whether or not soldiers were fit to enter the war. In schools, intelligence tests were used to decide which students would be placed in the gifted programs as well as students who would qualify for special education services. 


As they became more and more popular, the use of intelligence testing took a dark turn as they became a “powerful way to exclude and control marginalized communities using empirical and scientific language” (Marschenko, 2018). It even got to the point that the Supreme Court ruled the sterilization of individuals with developmental disabilities. This ruling was known as Buck v Bell. 

The history of intelligence tests and the groups that they did a major disservice to should be enough to consider alternative ways to quantify someone’s intelligence. In class, we talked about the ways in which intelligence tests fail to represent certain groups of people. The controversial issues with intelligence testing include improved scores with instruction, highlighting only one type of intelligence, and having a major cultural bias. In looking at trends among white versus African American individuals, there are similarities in genetics, however other factors create a gap that the intelligence tests do not acknowledge. These can be differences in socio-ecnonomc status and the stereotype threat, which is how test scores are reported to be lower depending on how instructions are presented. Marschemnko also explains this in her article, as intelligence tests are typically biased towards the people who developed them, which were mainly white. This difference in representation means that different cultural values are not represented in the testing. This puts culturally diverse communities at a disadvantage in terms of the testing. 


While intelligence tests are not being completely thrown out, they are being accompanied by other measures to make up for some of the flaws. For example, they are still used to identify gifted students and students that qualify for special education services, however, schools rely on teacher observation and family referrals to make these decisions as well. Overall, intelligence tests have been argued to be completely ineffective as well as beneficial when used with other methods. Any organization that utilizes these tests should be held accountable for understanding the implications. 


Article: The IQ test wars: Why screening for intelligence is still so controversial


Limiting Social Media, Especially When it Matters

Take a minute and consider the time you spend looking at your phone, computer, or another device throughout the day. If you can do so, look at the breakdown of screen time on your phone. You see, down to the minute, your time spent on social networking applications. This number can be startling. Social media plays such a huge role in our lives that sometimes we don’t realize how strong of a presence it has in some moments. It becomes a place for us to display a highlight reel of the important moments in our lives. For the most part, this can be a benefit of social media, but research suggests this can also come at a cost. 

In a TIME article, “How Social Media Is Hurting Your Memory”, author Andrew Gregory talks about how our memory of these special moments we are so compelled to document on social media can be hindered by our need to share. Gregory reported on research conducted at Princeton University, and the results were very interesting. Three studies were conducted to investigate the impact of how documentation contributed to recollection and overall experience of a memorable moment. In the study, the participants watched a TED talk or went on a tour of a church at Stanford University. Groups of participants were prompted to document the experience in one of four ways; photographs or notes, record events but not save it, share the experience on social media, or internal reflection. After the experience, regardless of the instructions for documentation, participants were asked to report their enjoyment of the experience, ability to focus or lack thereof, and engaged in a quiz to test their memory of the event. Based on the information gathered, researchers concluded this: 

                “Across three studies, participants without media consistently remembered their experience more precisely than participants who used media. There is no conclusive evidence that media use impacted subjective measures of experience. Together, these findings suggest that using media may prevent people from remembering the very events they are attempting to preserve.” (Tamir et. al. 2018)

Gregory explained how this prevention of the memory was not completely due to social media but instead the act of recording the memory with the intent to go back to it later. This was explained by the two ways in which we store information. Internal storage is essentially what we can remember and external storage is when we put information elsewhere so that we do not have to actively put it in our memory. So the participants who recorded their experiences had less accurate memories of the experience because they were relying on the external storage. Additionally, researchers have coined the term “google effect” to show how external memory is so easily accessed, leaving less incentive to store information internally. Lastly, this lack of memory can be attributed to divided attention during the experience. We can only process so many bits of information at one time, so recording and posting to social media take away from the attention we could be allocated to the actual event or experience. 

In conclusion, if we want to have the best memory of an important event in our lives or an incredible experience, we are better off limiting the amount of focus we place on recording and posting to social media. Because we only have so much attention at any given moment, relying so much on external storage can cause us to miss out on things that can only be internally memorized, such as emotions. Overall, social media is not the only thing that could diminish your memory of an important event, but try not to be that person who posts a video of every single song at a concert on social media. Put your phone down and enjoy the concert. 

Gregory, A. (2018, May 8). How Social Media is Hurting Your Memory. TIME.

Tamir, D. I., Templeton, E. M., Ward, A. F., & Zaki, J. (2018). Media usage diminishes memory for experiences. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, 161–168. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2018.01.006


Does CTE Pose a Threat to Cognitive Function?

Recently, I watched a documentary on Netflix called Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. The mini series examined Aaron Harnandez, a former New England Patriot, and the investigations of him as a suspect in murder cases. Throughout the film, family and friends of Hernandez explain his upbringing and some of the factors that could have led to his violent behavior. Obviously football played a huge role in his life, making him susceptible to multiple injuries, especially concussion. Towards the end of the series, they bring up the possibility that Hernandez suffered from CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This is a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head trauma, and can have effects on mood, behavior, and cognition. On accounts of family and friends interviewed for the series, Hernandez’s behavior switched to aggressive and impulsive. He also struggled with his mental health, and took his own life after he was convicted of the murders.

The documentary clearly shows how this impacted Hernandez’s mood and behavior, but not too much on how his cognition was potentially compromised. If CTE can be such a big contributing factor to such problematic mood and behaviors, there must also be an impact on cognition. Upon initial research, I found that CTE is a neurodegenerative disease, so this led me to research the effects that neurodegenerative diseases have on cognition. Research shows that CTE has both early and late clinical presentations impacting different aspects of cognition. In the article Long-term Consequences of Repetitive Brain Trauma: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, researchers report findings of this in early and late clinical presentations. In the early presentations, short-term memory problems included poor executive functioning. Executive functioning is responsible for planning, organizations, multitasking, and working-memory. In our discussions on executive functioning, we touched on how it is imperative in solving problems. This being said, it would be interesting to see if some of the decisions Hernandez made in response to the problems in his life lead to his poor decisions that he might have seen as solutions to his problems.

This research article talked about how mood and behavior issues are more commonly seen than cognition issues in individuals with CTE. While the mood and behavior issues were very obvious in the presentation of CTE in Hernandez, I was still surprised to see how cognition was not apparent. I connected this back to the concussion baseline tests that we have to take to be able to participate in athletics here. A lot of the testing examines short-term memory, face recognition, cognitive interference. Throughout the test we have to remember sequences of words, recognize facial expressions, and variations of a Stroop Test. With all of the focus on cognition in the concussion tests, I have to wonder why it is not more of a concern in athletes who have had some many concussions, like Hernandez.

Concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy are relatively new issues that pertain to cognitive psychology. There is still very little research on the diagnosis of this, as most cases are determined after individuals have already died, whether it be related to CTE or not. It seems as though concussion tests are focused on cognition, but once an athlete is cleared, especially one who has had multiple concussions, cognition is not regarded or continuously monitored. This is why I see a need for just as much attention on cognition and impaired executive functioning, as is placed on examining mood and behavior issues.


Stern, R. A., Riley, D. O., Daneshvar, D. H., Nowinski, C. J., Cantu, R. C., & Mckee, A. C. (2011). Long-term Consequences of Repetitive Brain Trauma: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Pm&r, 3. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2011.08.008


Cult of Pedagogy: 6 Powerful Learning Strategies You MUST Share with Students

Teaching practices and cognitive psychology go hand in hand. Throughout this course, being in the education program,  I want to look at the principles we learn about with a lense of how it can be applied to the classroom. This is why I went to Cult of Pedagogy for this first blog post. This is a website with a blog, podcasts, and videos on anything related to teaching. I came across a blog post about an interview with cognitive psychologists regarding retrieval of information, “6 Powerful Learning Strategies You MUST Share with Students”. 

Based on the interview, the author of this post reports the following strategies that students should utilize when they study: spaced practice, retrieval practice, elaboration, interleaving, concrete examples, and dual coding. These strategies reflect many different principles of cognitive psychology, including elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy, early and late cognitive processes, as well as Ebbinghaus’ method of savings and forgetting curve. 

Bloom’s taxonomy is a hierarchy of learning where each step leads to higher order thinking, starting with basic recognition to create a product to show mastery of material. Each step in the taxonomy is important and one cannot move into the next step without a concrete understanding of the previous. 

The post talks about how students misunderstand recognition as simply looking over information, when it is really the ability to recall information without materials in front of them. This is the first step in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Our book refers to this as early cognitive processes, where new information is being taken in and actively stored into one’s memory. Anything beyond this is taking the learned information and increasing their understanding. This is where the elaboration and concrete examples strategies come into play. Students have to be able to understand, apply, and eventually move into the top three areas of the taxonomy. Long-term memory is considered a late cognitive process.

The strategies brought up in this post are also some of Ebbinghaus’ contributions to cognitive psychology. The method of savings says that it is easier to retain information overtime, but there is a forgetting curve in which we lose under-utilized information over time. The strategy calling for spaced practice is arguably the most important strategy to pay attention to. Based on what the forgetting curve and method of savings tells us, if study practices aren’t spaced out over time, the other strategies are not effective. If a student cannot recall the information, it is difficult to move into the higher order thinking practices such as evaluating, analyzing, and creating. 

I think that overall this article does a good job of taking cognitive psychology and creating concrete strategies for students to use. The strategies incorporate many different pieces in Bloom’s Taxonomy as well as account for the issues students might face in how they space out studying and combat the forgetting curve. 

Looking at these strategies from the standpoint of different grade levels and content areas, they are very generalized. Certain grade levels might not be able to switch back and forth between content areas, depending on how developed they are. Additionally, different content areas require different types of studying. Areas such as science and social studies would benefit from recall and recognition as a priority, whereas english is based on analyzing and creating. Content areas where practicing skills also require different approaches to studying. Students math typically spend time practicing problems. While these strategies are definitely useful and applicable to most disciplines, it is important to see where limitations occur in each and make adjustments to study practices as needed.