Category Archives: Memes

Cognitive Illusions

For this blog post, I decided to go with a meme about cognitive illusions, one of the topics we discussed in class. I chose this specific image because we did not talk much about this one in class, however, it was probably one of the first images I came across in psychology.

In this illusion, depending on how you look at the image, you can see either a young woman or an old lady that looks like a witch, almost. The old lady is a profile view, and the young lady is looking over her shoulder. Where the old lady’s mouth is, the young lady is wearing a choker or necklace. Where the old lady’s eye is, the young lady’s ear is.

Ironically, my sensation and perception class with Professor Mailloux also went over optical illusions and topics including figure/ground perception and rules of segregation (in perception) which are similar to topics we discussed about in cognitive. Segregation rules include: depth, surroundedness, parallelism, convexity (edges that curve outwards tend to create figures), meaningfulness, orientation, and simplicity. Another process involved in recognizing visual objects is perceptual organization. Steps for this involve represent visual edges, represent regions bound by edges, identify regions as “figure” or “ground” (aka segregation), group similar regions, and lastly fill in missing edges and regions. As an example specific to this image, the convexity of the old lady’s nose can imply that she could be the main figure of the image. However, someone seeing the convexity of the young lady’s jawline can infer that the young woman is the main figure of the image. Although these steps and rules are not specifically relevant to this type of image, and mostly applies to patterns of cognitive/optical illusions, I still found it very intriguing and decided to share.


Is Spelling Truly Important?

As I was scrolling through Facebook a couple weeks ago, I came across this post.

This has tired me out

Posted by Awesome Inventions on Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I found this post intriguing since we were learning about word recognition in class. How was my brain able to sift through this mess relatively quickly? I’m going to be honest- I’m still not completely sure. Our brains are so incredibly complicated and amazing that it’s impossible to fully understand them.

I believe that this phenomenon has lots of different mechanisms at work. Since the post said that it was created by research at Cambridge University, I started looking for the original post since we all know Facebook isn’t exactly 100% reliable. What I found was an article by Matt Davis, who works at Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK. Read his research on this subject here. He was able to break down the brain processes behind this phenomenon a bit more with lots of relevant studies. The main effect that came to mind when I first saw the Facebook post was the Word Superiority Effect that we discussed in class. It is because of this effect that we recognize letters more easily when they are in words than on their own. Davis generalized this effect to this exercise, saying “Following brief presentations of written words, people are often better at guessing what word they saw, rather than guessing individual letters in that word.” If we were to spend an excess amount of time with one of these words we may second guess ourselves or see other words that could be made by these letters.

This is not the only mechanism at work here. Obviously the context comes into play. You are less likely to decipher “mtaetr” by itself than in the post where it says “it dseno’t mtaetr…” Although the word superiority effect comes in to play, it works better when paired with meaningful context. You may not have caught it while reading the post- but the function words are still in tact. Words such as “the,” “a,” and “not” cannot be jumbled while keeping the first and last letter the same. This helps us to read the passage easier since some words are still the same. Similarly, short words such as “what” are barely jumbled and quite easy to decipher.

So is the post correct? Do we only read words as a whole? Does spelling matter? According to the research, this is true to an extent. It is easier for us to read words as a whole, but we are still able to distinguish between “salt” and “slat.” According to the Facebook post, our minds would not know the difference between these words. Obviously there is more happening here than just looking at the first and last letter. Spelling matters to an extent.

I thought this was so cool to try for myself and really dig into. The research behind exercises like this is incredible and so intriguing (to me at least.) We will never truly know every aspect and mechanism of cognition, but the more we know about how we learn and read the better we can shape our learning. Since I am studying to teach elementary kids this was completely relevant to me. There is a lot of debate on spelling tests now and I was interested to see how this study would be relevant. I think I’d rather have my kids free write and correct them as they go rather than doing spelling tests. As we saw earlier- context is important! If you’d like to learn more about the word superiority effect or see it in action yourself, try out this lab!




Cognitive Dissonance

Throughout the election season and President Trump’s term, there are many people to point out his flaws. One of them being the recurrence of cognitive dissonance. I have never been more fascinated as to how many times someone can have inconsistent beliefs on so many different topics. Therefore, I decided to combine that with my passion for memes. Many people are familiar with the evil Kermit meme, for those who are not, in the Muppets Most Wanted movie, there is a scene where Kermit the frog is seen interacting with his evil lookalike Constantine (who wears a black coat). From that someone created a meme out of it that went viral. The meme that the user created quoted “me: sees a fluffy dog… me to me: steal him.” This meme is quite popular in the world of memes and I thought it fit my topic of cognitive dissonance very well. When I was creating the meme, I was stuck between writing about the Megyn Kelly topic and a nuclear weapon topic. I decided to go with the Megyn Kelly one because it was a little less controversial. If you are interested in seeing the other one, let me know in the comments!

In this meme, specifically, I am referencing when President Trump had an interview with Megyn Kelly in 2011 where she asked him if he thought he was better than her. He replied saying that he did not have a chance, etc. Then, in 2016, Trump ranted about how she is a nasty woman and not very good at what she does.

Cognitive dissonance, according to Merriam-Webster is a psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously. Cognitive dissonance is interesting to me because, is ironically is very relatable at surface level. Especially as displayed in the original meme: sees dog, steal him kind of way. A very popular example of cognitive dissonance is when people smoke regardless of knowing that it is highly linked to lung cancer.

Cognitive dissonance was first studied by Leon Festinger. He came out of an observation study on a cult which believed that the earth was going to be destroyed by a flood, and what happened to the members when it didn’t happen. The cognitive dissonance theory suggests that people have an inner drive to hold their attitudes and beliefs in harmony and avoid dissonance; which can also be known as the principle of cognitive consistency. It also represents a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions. When dissonance arises, there are three ways it can be reduced: Change one or more of the cognitions to make the relationship between the two elements, one constant; seek new information to outweigh dissonant beliefs; or reduce the importance of the cognitions.

I am not the most creative, artistic, or inventive person, so if you have any tips or pointers on improving meme-making skills let me know!

DISCLAIMER: this is in no way to offend anyone, it was used as an example to display cognitive dissonance, using current events.


Interference: what is it? & possible solutions

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I dread getting the email from the saying “UMW’s policy requires users to change Active Directory (AD) passwords every 90 days and your password is set to expire in 10 days.” I feel as if I just had changed my password and was finally starting to remember it and now have to remember a brand new password. Therefore, I decided to make a meme describing my struggle and possibly other students struggle here at Mary Wash!

Since we are required to frequently changing our password at UMW, I am continuously struggling with proactive interference.  Before I get into what I mean by this, what is interference?

Interference is the competition between targets for activation of retrieval cues and there are two types of interference: retroactive and proactive. Retroactive interference is when new information inhibits our ability to recall old information. For example, say your family moved a few years ago to another state. You most likely have your current house address memorized and it may take you a while to remember what your old house address was where you use to live because your retrieval cue for your home address actively retrieves where you live currently since you use your current home address for mail services, shipping, bills, GPS, etc.

In my case, and I assume other UMW students have the similar struggle I have, proactive interference is when the old information inhibits our ability to recall or remember new information. We use EagleNet, Canvas, and Windows in the UMW labs, library, convergence center, and offices everyday (or at least I do). So when we have to change our password every 90 days, the first few days, week, or even month we may enter our old password because we were so use to typing our old password for logging into UMW systems every day.

Some tips to maybe help fellow UMW students out if they are struggling with proactive interference? I know my computer and tablet that I use to log on to EagleNet and Canvas give me the option to “automatically save this password for this site?” or “update this password for this site?” and I always do it for my devices to help me out so it’s quicker when I use my devices in my room or on campus. I also make a password that is somewhat sequential. For example, say  I started off with “MaryWash17A” for my first password, then the next 90 days when I have to update it I would change my password to “MaryWash17B”, “MaryWash17C”, ….etc. For some reason that helps me out so when I type in my old password at the library and it says “invalid password” (proactive interference) I know that I probably just have change the last letter of my password to the next letter in the alphabet. Some people put their passwords in a notes app in their phone so when you update your password, put it in your notes in case you keep putting in your old password you know where your new password will be!

I hope you guys enjoyed my meme! If you have any other tips on how to remember new passwords please comment; I’d love to hear your ideas!

Face recognition: A daily struggle for some but not all.


A good friend of mine came up to me on Monday with a really bizarre story about her boyfriend. She said she had been meaning to ask me, as a psychology major, if I had any knowledge about the topic. I was very surprised and intrigued to know what this was all about. Shocked, herself, she proceeded with her story: “My boyfriend has this weird thing where he can see faces, but apparently can’t remember the features. I asked him the other day to look at me for a minute, pay attention to every detail possible, and then look away and describe what I look like. He was completely unable to do it. He says he has had this happen to him since he can remember, but he doesn’t know why. Do you know what it is?” I had no idea, but I was captivated, nonetheless, and started asking her all these questions in order to make an educated guess. I had never heard of any condition that sounded at least somewhat familiar to what she was mentioning. I said, it has to be some cognitive dysfunction, perhaps a short-term memory problem. Weirdly enough, that same week, Dr. Rettinger, my cognitive psychology professor, mentioned a cognitive disorder called prosopagnosia— “the inability to remember peoples faces” he said. I was perplexed. How can the world work in such a way? I thought this would make a great meme, and started brainstorming.

A meme is only a picture, so I decided on a gif that could speak a little bit more for itself. In this meme, there are twin brothers taking care of their daughter/niece. Although the little girl does not have prosopagnosia, she is highly confused at the likeness of the faces. She looks back and forth expressing a sense of dissonance and discomfort. I chose this gif because I believe it represented what a prosopagnosic might feel every day of their lives with every encounter they have with any human face. Their inability to recall faces should keep them asking the same question: “do I know you”?
Prosopagnosia is a cognitive disorder otherwise known as face blindness; one of the most extreme forms of behavioral dissociation in humans, so far. As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary: a form of visual agnosia characterized by an inability to recognize faces. Fortunately for our generation, we have highly advanced technological devices to help us decipher the root to cognitive disorders like this one; in this case CT being of high popularity. Research shows that face blindness is due to a lesion of the central visual system. More specifically, the lesion either destroys a sector within the system or disconnects it from limbic structures. The visual system is very complex. With it including many different aspects such as: object recognition, enhancement, color, etc. The interesting thing about prosopagnosics is that while they are incapable of recognizing faces, their object detection and intellectual functioning is not affected. Weirdly enough, recent cognitive analysis has demonstrated that this impairment isn’t only affecting the ability to recognize faces but also to detect or be alarmed by ambiguous stimuli.
So what can prosopagnosics do? As the first answer to many psychological conditions: therapy. Unfortunately the therapy being used to treat this disorder has demonstrated to be unsuccessful. In contrast, what these people are currently doing, in order to avoid acting like the girl with the twins in the gif above, is play a game: feature-to-feature. This game consists of using secondary clues such as voice recognition, clothing, hair color, etc. to make an educated guess of who the person is.

My knowledge in cognitive psychology is slowly evolving, and the facts given to me by my friend are also not too detailed for me to have a consice answer for her. But if I had to make an educated guess, I would think her boyfriend is prosopagnosic. I am now intrigued to meet this guy.

Can you imagine what it means to be playing a game every minute of your life? Can you imagine how frustrating it can get, at least growing up, to have a blur on peoples faces yet still be able to see everything else? Would you rather be blind or prosopagnosic? While these aren’t easy questions to answer, and can be quite controversial, I believe that putting yourself in someone else shoes can make understanding a situation ten times better.


There Was A Gorilla???



This meme is an accurate representation of how I felt after watching “The Invisible Gorilla” video. I just couldn’t believe that a gorilla had walked through the two teams, and that I wasn’t capable of seeing it! How did that happen? Why was it so hard to count the passes AND find the gorilla?


The original video was done for an experiment by cognitive psychologists Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris in 1999. It shows how easily people become blind to things that are right in front of their faces. When given the task of counting the passes thrown by either team, people develop something called selective attention. Although there is no one true definition for how selective attention is caused, there are several theories that try to explain the phenomenon.

There are currently three types of theories that are currently accepted: Filter theories, Bottleneck Theories, and Attentional Resource Theory.

Filter theories state that attention filters our extraneous information so that only the relevant stuff gets through to consciousness. So in the gorilla example, if someone chooses to focus on the white team’s passes, he/she filters all the extra things they see, these being the members of the black team and the gorilla crossing the screen.

Bottleneck theories are somewhat similar to Filter theories, but instead of a filter, there is a bottleneck in the flow of information that prioritizes the importance of information coming in, and only allows what is deemed necessary. So in terms of the video, this means that people do see the gorilla, however their brain deems in unnecessary due to the importance of counting the passes.

Attentional Resource theory says that we only have a limited amount of cognitive processing available at any one time. Once the cognitive processing has been used up, performance starts to suffer. In regards to the video, this means that trying to count the amount of passes uses up most of someone’s cognitive processing, making him/her unable to process that the gorilla is present.

After doing research on these different theories, it is much easier to understand why it was easy to miss the gorilla. Had there been no task to count the passes, the gorilla wouldn’t have been hard to miss. However, because the mind is preoccupied with a task, the gorilla essentially becomes obsolete and unnecessary information that becomes tuned out before the mind even processes it.

The theory that I agree with the most is the Attentional Resource Theory. This theory would also make sense as to why some people’s performance lowers while multi-tasking. If our mind only has a limited amount of space to process things at one time, then adding multiple targets of focus makes it more difficult on the mind, and thus making performance poor.

I think this video and experiment is a humbling experience for most people. We take advantage of our mind’s capacity on a daily basis, and because of this, we tend to believe that we are incapable of missing details in our environment that seem so obvious. However, we are not limitless in what we can process.

If you find videos like “The Invisible Gorilla”, here are a few more selective attention tests that you can try.