Author Archives: valvarez

What do you Notice?

Being a college kid, I can honestly say that meeting new people happens almost on a daily bases, intentional or not. Typically, we would like to think that we have individual differences when it comes to what key features draw our attention when it comes to interacting with others. For instance, I would like to think that some of the key features that I tend to notice are a person’s eyes and teeth while other people may differ. Now giving that times are changing and we do not interact with others as well as we use to, the question becomes how much of our initial interacting habits have changed. Better yet, instead of noticing people, are we actually avoiding them? At the Bouremouth University, that is what they were interested in finding. They wanted to see in which condition people were more likely to notice faces over other objects. “We thought that when participants believed that they would be meeting the people in the scene, they would have their attention drawn towards the faces of those people more readily, and look where they looked more often, than the other two groups as the people would be most socially relevant to the participants”. What the researchers ended up finding was the opposite effect, “when participants thought they were watching a live webcam they seemed to avoid looking at the faces of the people… When participants thought the scene was pre-recorded, they looked at the faces and followed gaze direction of the actors much more.” So the question becomes what happened?

One idea could be how we process information. Based on what we learned in class, form perceptions becomes a possibility. We can either use gestalt for an image, see the whole as different from the sum of parts within a picture or parsing, identify the parts of a complex as a whole to understand it as a complete picture. With that in mind, for the footage that was used as live feed, it is possible that the participants would use parsing, notice the surroundings of the individuals in the video in order to make sense of the situation. In doing so, they are avoiding looking at the participants because of the other information they would be trying to process. It is possible that labeling the footage as pre-record or live can shift an individual’s perception in how to process the information at hand. If parsing happens when participants think they are watching a live feed then with a pre-recording we would see participants use gestalt. In this case, participants focus on the individuals instead of those individual’s surroundings, possible trying to understand the footage as a whole with the participants included. When I first read the article, I thought because your society has shifted so much in how we interact with one another that this could be a glimpse into a potential problem we will face in the future, a lost art in human interaction. However, when applying cognitive psychology perspective, it is the context that matters when we perceive things. It can create a drastic change in not only what we focus on but how we perceive certain things.

If 84 people failed, are you confident enough that you could be the expectation?

Apple Logo Historie

For many of us today we encounter countless amounts of logos every day. Our daily life is so saturated with them to the point where there is a logo quiz available on iTunes. So here is my question to you, if I were to ask you to draw the Nike or Pepsi logo right now, could you do it? Try it! How did you do? At the University of California in Los Angeles, they did just that with the Apple logo we so famously know. “ …only one out of the 85 students was able to draw the famous Apple logo from memory.” For me, my first thought was how is that possible? From our phones to the laptops we use, we are more than likely to run into this famous logo at some point of the day. So how was only one person capable of replicating it? Well there are a couple of possible explanations.
Just because we encounter something on frequency bases does not mean we have it stored in our long-term memory and at best, we have created a retrieval pathway for the objects associated with the logo. Also, our recognition for the ‘apple’ is due to a mix of incidental learning and maintenance rehearsal. Maintenance rehearsal would be due to encountering it so much in our daily lives (mine included) and incidental learned because you have no real intentions for wanting to learn it. Therefore, it is possible that this one person, the studies expectation, at one point stored the logo into their long-term memory system because they had intentional learned. It is very possible that this individual just had a better memory for detail when the major of us have a poor memory for things like details. From what we know about the brain, its structure does not hold vivid details for everything that we see.
As stated in the article as well as in our class we have a poor memory for details. “One explanation may be that our brains have decided that it’s not important to remember specific details. An efficient memory system does not need to remember the details of a corporate logo, except perhaps to distinguish counterfeit products, the researchers concluded.” The other factor to keep in mind is that even if we cannot recall every little detail about an object we are still capable of recognizing that objects based on feature-based systems. However, “fewer than half of the students were able to identify the Apple logo when it was pictured alongside a number of similar logos.” So why is that?
Part of the advantages of feature-based systems, in this case, is probably the cause of a lack of recognition. For example, when you think about the building blocks of an apple, you think about a round figure with a stem and a leaf. If you place an image of an apple next to a pear, you could still tell the differences just based on fact that a pear has two curving grooves as part of its main structure. In that case, between an regular apple and the apple logo, what is the difference? The advantages of feature-based systems come from using the building blocks in your benefit to separate two objects like a box versus a ball. However, when the objects are similar to one another, those building blocks work against you giving us a better explanation as to how our memory and brain work. In the end what you can take away from this that familiarity does not mean we are capable of accuracy.



Got Confused?


Lost and Confused Signpost

How many of you have taken a class where you had no idea what was going on? How many of you wanted to learn the material but just drowned in the confusion of it all? Now, what if I told you that being confused was a good thing and that this article says you could use it to your benefit. At the University of Notre Dame they had conducted a study to see how strategic confusion can help with learning new material.

Here is the breakdown of the study, within a learn environment, subjects were introduced to a difficult conceptual topic.  They wanted to see if the subjects were able to apply critical thinking skills to the difficult conceptual topic in hopes that the subjects could solve new problems more effectively down the road. What the results showed is stated in the following: “subjects that were confused scored higher on a difficult post-test and did better at identifying flaws in a new case study.” Besides being in the right learning environment, the researchers also believed that emotions play a big role. “We have been investigating links between emotions and learning for almost a decade, and find that confusion can be beneficial to learning if appropriately regulated because it can cause learners to process the material more deeply in order to resolve their confusion,” says D’Mello (researcher).

Given from what we learned in class, part of the process to learn something involves processing information on a deeper level. To have truly learned something it would go into our long-term memory system. Part of long-term memory includes deeper processing; making the information more personal, more imagery, and more meaningful. With being confused, despite the more imagery part, it definitely becomes more personal and gains more meaning. I will give you an example to put things into perspective. My mom of over forty still remembers the day when she finally understood Calculus her sophomore year of college. She told me it just clicked one day after an entire semester of never getting it. She had worked her butt off, she had gone to the professor’s office hours every day, tired doing all the homework but just could not get it. Clearly, it became something personal since after all this time she can still recall her frustration she had with it. In the end, the class and the material matter more to her because of all the effort she had put into it.

From what the article suggest, maybe she could have learned calculus fast if she was in a better environment to do so. However, she did do the right thing in not giving up, “It is also important that the students are productively instead of hopelessly confused,” D’Mello. The other factor that is important is that we have to be in right mindset to deal with difficult topics. Subjects in the study were engaged in interactive conversations and were per-exposed to flawed ideas that could potential become confusing. Since they were already interacting with the material at a higher cognitive level, they became more successful in achieving their goal. The fact that emotions play a big part in our learning ability was interesting to me. The emotional aspect definitely makes it more reasonable for someone to recall something or allows for someone to have a better retrieval path for material they do not understand.

Overall, some of the key points that you should take away from this; being confused is a good thing. It helps with deeper processing and gives you a better opportunity to not only understand the material better but gives you the tools to deal with it the next time it comes around. You have to stay positive and be willing to risk being wrong. Be proactive; go seek help from a professor or even your peers. More than likely trying to figuring out a problem with classmates makes learning easier because your both trying to achieve the same goal. Sometimes what it comes down to is just needing another way to think about things.

Technology, Helping or Hurting us?

In today’s world, technology is all around us, it is in our hand, on your wrist, and you are probably starring at it now reading this.  It has undoubtedly become a huge part of your day-to-day life but as of semi-recent years we have begun to question what it is actually doing to us. Daniel Willingham from “The New York Times,” wrote the article ‘Smartphones Don’t Make us Dumb‘ which got me to think what technology could be potentially doing to us.

I do believe that with technology at the tip of your fingers, it does allow for priming of various things. To explain, priming is a thinking process that makes thinking or information easier to access later. In my case, for those of you that play trivia crack, it was not a bad thing to know the process of the cell cycle when a science question involving the particular topic came up. In that case, besides winning that round, you never know when something can be applicable. In that sense, smartphones and our advancement in technology can be beneficial.

However, there is always a good and bad side to everything. Daniel Willingham talks about the idea that technology takes up a huge amount of your attention, “Screen-based activities can take upward of 11 hours of a teenager’s day, and many demand rapid shifts of attention.” On the topic of attention, how does one go about studying it and getting the answers that Daniel desired? With applying the Transcendental Method described by Immauel Kant, it seemed like a good start. The method simply states, we begin with the observable facts and work backward from these observations. In the case of Daniel’s article, he had observed, “many of us have an uneasy sense that they (smartphones) are destroying our attention span.” The next logical step would be to develop an experiment to understand how attention works. Luckily for Daniel, there already is research done on the topic. The study done determined that our performance “today looks a whole lot as it did 50 years ago,” so what does this mean?

What Daniel ends up concluding about attentions is that “digital devices have not left us unable to pay attention, but have made us unwilling to do so.” With more research being done with this idea, so far it has provided supportive evidence.

Personally, just after reading the first paragraph of this article I completely agreed that I have noticed a shift in my attention span. I was not however, going to assume that it was as simple as to an aspect of desire. I thought our difficulty of focusing was due to the way we were processing information, serial and parallel processing. Serial processing is a set by set processes while parallel processing means doing multiple things at once. Note that multitasking is not the same as parallel processing. When we multitask we are focusing our attention on one thing at a time but it’s being divided by the amount of things that we are trying to accomplish, watching TV while having twitter open with your notebook, and textbooks in front of you attempting to study. With that in mind, I just figured our “shrinking” attention was due to increasing our amount of activity to decrease the amount of time it took to do those things individually. Killing two birds with one stone concept (but just with more birds).

Toward the end of the article, it does state that “attention requires not just ability but desire,” which in the end it really just comes down to this simple idea; if you want to focus on something you have to WANT to focus on it.