Category Archives: Social Media

These posts describe and review mentions of cognitive research in the media.

Can doodling improve memory and attention?

I have always been a doodler. For as long as I can remember my notebook pages have been covered in them. I honestly have no idea when or why I started doodling, it’s not like I sketch out masterpieces or anything and teachers are never happy to see you “distracted” during their lesson. However, i’ve found that doodling helps me stay engaged and focused, especially on days when I am seriously fighting to stay awake. Nevertheless, doodles have a bad rap in our culture and they are viewed as meaningless and distracting scribbles. Because of this, I have tried hard not to doodle as much, especially in college, I would never want my professors to feel disrespected!!

However, freshman year my digital storytelling professor showed us this TED talk by Sunni Brown. She argues that doodling shouldn’t be ousted from learning situations, in fact, she encourages it and thinks it helps us process the complex information we might be taking in. Not only did I feel like less of a delinquent after watching this, but it encouraged me to start doodling again, and I have definitely noticed a difference in the amount of information I retain from an in-class lecture.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fx0QcHyrFk[/youtube]

Brown talks a little bit about a study in which people who were doodling while taking in information recalled at least 29% than those who did not. Of course I became more interested in the effects doodling might have on memory and after some further research, I found the infamous “Doodle Study.” The researchers contribute the beneficial effect of doodling to its ability to retain an individuals attention and therefore promote deep processing of information. As we have learned this semester, stimuli that are processed deeply are more likely to enter long-term memory.

http://pignottia.faculty.mjc.edu/math134/homework/doodlingCaseStudy.pdf

Cell Phone Apocalypse?

Imagine yourself bench sitting on a beautiful day out and you look up and you see student after student mindlessly walking on campus walk with their heads bowed down- bumping into poles, falling down stairs, and even running into other people. BUT the weird thing is that after they run into things whether it be a pole, a tree, or other people, they go right back to putting their heads down and walking mindlessly.

Are you in the middle of a zombie apocalypse? No you’re witnessing a different kind- the 21st century cell phone apocalypse. 

If you are like the majority of the people today, you are constantly on your phone. This is extremely distracting and most especially with finals week coming up, it is much harder to resist the temptation to waste countless hours on twitter, instagram, facebook, etc.

According to a study done by researchers Przybylski and Weinstein, the mere presence of a cell phone during a social interaction in which individuals are having a casual conversation led people to have lower trust and an overall lower quality of relationship. So, due to this, cell phones have been found to impede human social interaction.

But despite this, according to the Student Science website, the average college student still uses their cell phone fore about NINE hours each day. This article also puts into perspective that If you think about it, the average college student spends more time on their cell phones than they do sleeping!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwPHRn7JcEU[/youtube]

James Roberts, a marketing professor at Baylor University associates cell phone use with addiction. Yes, a behavioral addiction! People panic when their batteries die or when there’s no service. Roberts ties this in with symptoms of withdrawal that is seen in many if not all addiction problems. A newly coined term called ringxiety has also made its way to popular culture which is when you think that your phone is ringing or vibrating when in reality is isn’t.

So, the big question is- how can we rely less on our cell phones? Again, especially with finals week coming up and us college students need to stay focused

Webmd offers three basic tips that people could follow in order to better manage their time better with their cell phone use- they can do this by being conscious, strong, and disciplined. 

1.) Being conscious– of all situations and emotions that you feel whenever you feel as if you have to check your phone, such as boredom, loneliness, or procrastination, you can find something else that would fill your time that is much more productive.
2.) Being strong- whenever your phone beeps or rings. This allows you to manage your time better and not losing track of time when you do check it. Try turning of the sound and the vibration so you aren’t tempted to check your phone every single time it goes off.
3.) Being disciplined- in certain situations where you should not be using your cell phone such as in class, when you are driving, and especially right before you go to bed.

Yes, it seems to be easier said than done. However, although it’s hard- trust me I have tried to follow these 3 steps. You can always start small. I started putting my phone away for 5, then 10, then 15 minutes when I’m studying and I have personally seen the increase in my productivity with my work. So next time you’re itching to grab that phone, try silencing it for a couple minutes and resisting the urge to go on social media. According to the article, you will not only be able to concentrate better but you will also feel less stressed and more relaxed.

*Even if it’s only for 5 minutes a day 🙂

Can you draw the Apple Logo from memory?

In class, we discussed a study conducted in 1979 that examined whether or not people would be able to correctly identify the most accurate version of a penny when shown a series of similar but slightly different pennies. In this particular study, it was found that people were unable to correctly pick out the real penny despite it being an object they saw frequently in their day to day life. These findings were important in establishing the importance of active encoding in successful memory retrieval, suggesting that work must be done in order for something to be stored in your memory, even if that object is in frequently in front of you.

While obviously compelling, these findings left me with some questions after lecture. Sure, the penny is something people see quite frequently, but it’s also a pretty detailed piece of currency. It wasn’t designed to be easily memorized, only to be distinct from other coins and currency, so is it all that surprising that we aren’t able to recall exactly which way Lincoln is facing? What about things we see everyday that are meant to be remembered? Are things that are simple and designed specifically to be recognizable and memorable any easier to recall without active encoding?

... pres/White_Collaborators_Judy/Collaborators logos/Industry/Apple logo

Thanks to a study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, which was recently reported on by Buzzfeed, those questions and some have now been answered. Researchers at Ghent University in Belgium asked 85 participants to draw the apple logo from memory. They then had those participants identify the true Apple logo from a series of similar, but slightly different, versions of the famous logo. Like the penny study, majority of the participants were unable to accurately identify the correct logo from the options given, supporting the idea that active encoding is necessary for successful retrieval later on.

More than half of the 85 students who took this test as part of research conducted by a team from University of California, Los Angeles, got it wrong.

What was interesting about this study were the additional conclusions drawn by the researchers. While the Buzzfeed article stated that the experimenters believed their results stemmed from the fact that people might not bother to remember the logo because it’s so prevelant that we have no need to do so, the original study discusses it’s findings in slightly different terms. As we learned in class, people often use schemas to fill in missing information. Researcher’s in this particular case believe, based on the drawings done by participants, that people used their schema of what an ideal apple logo should look like (e.g. apple shape, stem) instead on relying of their actual memory of the logo, resulting in recall errors.  Even in cases where the logo is simple, in your face almost daily, and designed to be remembered, it is still possible to have an inaccurate idea of what something looks like.

 

Impacts of Technology: Digital Amnesia

Everyone uses technology in one form or another, from sending an email to a professor to posting on this blog. Although we enjoy the benefits and many uses of technology daily, we often don’t realize how technology can negatively impact the brain, memory, or our thought processes. I found this study particularly interesting in light of all the recent controversy surrounding “false” memories.

An article from the TechTimes, entitled, “Don’t Lie on Facebook, Other Social Networks. It causes ‘Digital Amnesia’” describes a phenomenon where an individual lies about personal details of their lives on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter but then end up essentially rewriting their own memories. This phenomenon which psychologists are calling “digital amnesia” is a result of anxiety, shame, or paranoia that some people feel about keeping up their social media image. This can cause memories that are stored to be less accurate and more conforming to a certain image. Alarmingly, the article notes that 68% of people said they “regularly lie, exaggerate, or embellish” when posting on social media with 1 in 10 people saying that the original memory of the event has known become skewed when trying to retrieve it. Unsurprisingly, the 18-24 age bracket is the group most affected by this phenomenon with 16% reporting “completely compromised memories.”

There has been only one study, “The effect of Twitter exposure on false memory information” that specifically looked at the effects of Twitter on autobiographical memory published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review in May 2014. However, this study was focused on whether or not Twitter could alter a person’s perception about real news events they saw while scrolling on their feed. The experiment was carried out where they showed “participants pictures that depicted a news story. Then they were shown false information about the images in a feed that either highly resembled a Twitter feed or one that did not at all. The confidence for correct information was similar across groups but confidence for suggested information was significantly lower when false information was presented in a Twitter format.” The results depicted that it is likely people will have trouble determining whether or not information is accurate on social media and incorrectly remembering what was accurate and what was not. They repeated this experiment using Facebook as well as information read from a book. Twitter prompted higher false memory rates than Facebook and information from a book.

I personally found this fascinating as this is something I see a lot on social media. Some people definitely have a tendency to recall or talk about things they’ve seen on social media without being sure the information is accurate and I find that scary. I personally take things I see on social media sites like Facebook at face-value until I can check another source. In an age where people enjoy sharing every little detail of their lives on social media, it may be a good idea to hold back and share only essential details to prevent “digital” amnesia.

Prove your mom wrong: Gaming is beneficial to cognitive development.

Do you remember when you were a child and your mom would limit your television watching time, or when she would take away your Nintendo DS, or not let you use the computer for those addicting games? As a normal child your response was always “WHY MOM?” but she always had a better answer and it almost always include something like “You could be spending this time reading, or playing outside, those video games are only making you dumber.” Do you remember? Well I am here to tell you that there is a possibility that your mom was wrong. Research has demonstrated that video games can be beneficial to cognitive development.

When people talk about video games they focus on the negative effects it has on gamers’ lives: social isolation, violence, and addiction; but very rarely do you hear anything about beneficence. As I scrolled through my twitter feed, I saw an article that Psychology Today called Cognitive Benefits of Playing Video Games. It automatically caught my attention, but the context was even more interesting.

The underlying theme of the article is to explain what aspects of the video games has a positive effect on our intelligence and why. When you engage in the activity to play video games, you are signing yourself up for a multitasking adventure, faced with obstacles that require you to overcome them in matters of second, while keeping in mind your goal and the best ways to achieve it. With this being said research has suggested that this process demonstrates long-lasting positive effects on: perception, attention, memory, and decision-making. It has demonstrated that gamers test higher on visual attention, executive function and cognitive flexibility.

When it comes to visual attention, research specifically focused on Sustained attention, impulsiveness and vigilance. This accounts for the amount of time you spend looking at a specific stimulus, while also improving your selective attention, in that sense that you are able to pay attention to many things at once. Impulsiveness accounts for ability in which you respond to the stimuli in a certain way without putting much thought into it, while also knowing that perhaps that was the best option. Also, when you play video games, and have this visual attention, and make a certain move, you need to keep an eye out for any new stimuli that may appear as a result of a past action. After all, your vision is being over stimulated in a way that games believe to be compensatory. Yet while your visual sense is being stimulated, Eichenbaum believes that gaming also has a positive effect on executive functioning, specifically in frontal lobe and the ability to make decisions, plan ahead, switch tasks, and multitasking.

I believe that a lot of these benefits can be traced to the very basic cognitive definition of elaborative rehearsal. I thought of this automatically primarily because it has been primed, but also because when I think about gaming, I think about the fact that these people are playing the same game over and over again. So they are repeating the information but in a way that is meaningful: learning what to do from previous experience. On another note, I thought about unintentional learning, the idea that they do not think they are learning, much less sitting in front of a book on how to successfully accomplish the goal of the game. Instead, they are thinking they are engaging in this activity for fun and not doing any precious research on how to accomplish the goal. In my perspective, gaming can help you to think faster on your toes, while taking into consideration the best available option.

If you are anything like me, you like to prove people wrong. So take advantage of this opportunity, call your mom, and tell her that she was wrong. Also keep this in mind, when you have kids of your own. Save yourself from that call from tem telling you that you were wrong.

If you want to read some more about this topic, here are the links.

Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201502/cognitive-benefits-playing-video-games

Research: http://www.journalofplay.org/sites/www.journalofplay.org/files/pdf-articles/7-1-article-video-games.pdf

Brian Williams possible case of misremembering.

 

While covering a story on the Iraq War in 2003, NBC news anchor Brian Williams was a passenger in a helicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. His story has since changed. Recently, after being questioned on the validity of his story reporters found out that it didn’t really happen – that he was in a following aircraft not impacted by the grenade. Many think that he purposefully twisted the story and lied to his viewers. This however, may not be the case if looked at from a psychologist’s perspective. In many past cases, people have misremembered events big and small. This article by the New York Times http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/09/was-brian-williams-a-victim-of-false-memory/?ref=health&_r=0 uses psychological research to counteract the argument at hand. According to this article, Mr.Williams may have actually misremembered this traumatic event.

The phenomena of misremembering happens to millions of people on a regular basis, including famous figures such as Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney. It never occurred to me that this problem could be something so controversial because it seems like a natural part of the brain’s processing. The brain performs so many tasks at any given moment that it’s nearly impossible to remember every event and detail correctly. I often find myself recalling childhood memories one way when they may have unfolded another.

These false memories, according to Harvard Psychologist Daniel Schacter, happen because our brains mean to tell stories about the future. “If memory is set up to use the past to imagine the future, its flexibility creates a vulnerability — a risk of confusing imagination with reality.” This may be an explanation for Brian William’s case because he imagined the rocket-propelled grenade striking the helicopter which would in turn justify the flexibility proposal. It did indeed create vulnerability mostly because according to Taylor Beck, author of Making Sense of Memory http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/08/making-sense-of-memory/, emotions are the basis of memories. This situation created intense emotional arousal which would have made it simple for Williams to think the rocket struck his helicopter directly.

The part of the brain responsible for these emotional attachments to events is the hippocampus. Beck describes it as a “simulator”, creating movies in the mind of memories, drawing from a memory store to build new episodes. However, the brain does not store memories in just one part – it stores them in scattered fragments, which is why it is so difficult to gather all of the correct information for every memory. After several iterations of memory retrieval, the brain may mistake the original memory with newer memories from factors in the environment such as media. This may lead to the storage of false memories that can be told time and time again as if they happened in real life. The biggest issue here is that the individual thinks these memories are true. This is yet another explanation as to why Brian Williams’ false memory account for him supposedly twisting his story to mislead his viewers.

Although I am in no way certain what truly happened in Brian Williams’ case, countless sources support the fact that this may have been an instance of misremembering by the brain that happened subconsciously.

 

Gaming and Cognitive Functioning

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For my first blog post I decided to look for something that is of interest to the general public, but also has some sort of interesting connection to cognitive psychology. One of the first things that came to mind was video games. They are literally everywhere. If we are not playing one at home, most of us tend to have a game or two on our phones. I was interested in seeing if any articles had been written, or any studies had been done to connect these two different subjects. So, I started searching the internet and to my surprise I found a few articles on the topic that seem to be legit.

This article started off discussing how enhancing cognitive function of our brain, through gaming, we can be more effective learners. They aren’t just talking about any ordinary video game. They call the technique gamification. Gamification uses the element of games to motivate and engage the user. The theory itself is that you can use game techniques to have people learn and solve problems in a non-gaming setting. This concept first came out in 2002, but only started receiving recognition in 2010. Although it is becoming more and more popular, it is still being criticized for only being able to work half of the brain. It is said that these game will have some benefit, but it is impossible to optimize brain connectivity, and grow new neurons playing a game on a two-dimensional screen.

 

There is a belief that there are types of gamification, structural and content. This belief comes from award winning training professional, Karl Kapp. Structural gamification is the application of game-like elements but with no alteration to content. An example of this would be an employee doing training for the company they work for. As they complete the training they are rewarded by points. The game-like scoring system will help distract the person from negative thought they may have about completing that task, by engaging them and enhancing cognitive functions. The second type of gamification is Content gamification. This type of gamification applies game-like elements to the content. An example of this would be when instructors add practical challenges and tasks to programs to maybe help with team-building sessions.

Even with the criticism gamification is becoming popular in the workplace.  In the workplace environment these games can increase optimism, enhance social skills through multi-player scenarios, and create meaning by making it possible for participants to achieve success. It also works as a distracter for some employees. If you are earning points for completing a work activity more like a game, you will be more willing to finish the task, and do it with a good attitude. With these positive outcomes it is clear why some many companies are experimenting with this new concept. Even the Ford Motor Company of Canada used gamification for their employees and saw benefits. It is still a growing concept, but it is thought to be something used a lot more frequently in the near future.

 

Sources: http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/blogs-post/enhancing-your-cognitive-function-through-gamification/188303

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201403/eight-habits-improve-cognitive-function

http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2013/10/07/adam-penenberg-how-gamification-is-going-to-change-the-workplace/

Technology and Cognition: Helpful or Harmful?

 

Personal Technology in Class

The availability and practicality of technology has increased drastically in the last few decades alone. As the development of personal devices has progressed, and social media has increased in popularity, young people are increasingly sucked into a virtual world. This begs the question, is technology hampering or helping us? Especially in a class setting, is it problematic that students are continually “plugged into” their devices and networks? Is it distracting them or providing new and unique ways for them to connect with information?

An article in the student newspaper of Texas Tech connected with students and professors to assess their opinions regarding technology and learning. There are two basic positions. First, the article discusses the negative aspects of technology in class. Several students say that having their phones available to them in study time is detrimental to their attention and efficiency. Not only do students misjudge their own ability to multitask, but they also find themselves going to their phones for distraction when they’re bored in class, or between ideas in an essay. Secondarily, the article discusses the way that personal technology can be helpful to learning. It can provide helpful study tools, such as providing music (although studies looking at music and studying have mixed results, music can often increase positive mood while studying). More significantly, it connects students with a vast pool of information. With just a few taps, students have a world of data and research at their fingertips. Overall, the article doesn’t pass judgement on technology in the classroom, but simply interviews and presents various opinions.

The cognitive ideas behind this article include the idea of parallel processing vs. serial processing. We know that the human mind is capable of doing multiple things at once on a neural level. However, this does not mean that we are good at multitasking. Research has shown that it is very difficult for us to focus consciously on multiple things at once. A specific study cites how those individuals who were heavy media multitaskers (those who use more than one type of media at once were not actually able to multitask on cognitive tasks. Another issue with technology in the classroom addressed in this article is it’s effect on how we relate to others. This study discusses the social distancing that occurs when individuals make excessive use of the internet. Could this have something to do with the lack of involvement that occurs with technology-addicted students? Students who are already prone to social anxiety or shyness seem more likely to be addicted to the Internet. Perhaps these students are the ones that “hide” in their technology instead of participating in class discussions.

Adaptive Communication Technology in the Classroom

Adaptive Communication Technology in the Classroom

While I think that this article prompts interesting discussions, I was concerned that the article didn’t bring up several important aspects of technology in the classroom. First, it did not discuss the use of technology for adaptation and accessibility in communication. How we communicate is certainly an important aspect of cognitive psychology. My younger brother has autism and Down syndrome, and he has made progress in his communication since he began using iPads, Smartboards, and other adaptive technology. The use of images and switches and recorded voice to assist him in communicating in class has been incredibly helpful. Second, the article doesn’t mention the use of technology as a memory aide. I have known many students who use flashcard apps to practice memorization. These apps quiz you on information and cycle through the ones you struggle with. It would be interesting to look into the effectiveness of technology such as this, and how students feel about it.

What do you you all think? Does having access to technology help or harm your cognitive functions in class?

Spritzing – Sprinting through reading

After we discussed object recognition and letter recognition in class, I was reminded of an article I had read a year or so ago on Facebook about speed reading. I remembered going through this stimulation where words were flashed at you one by one creating a sentence, and one letter of the word was red (the rest of the text was black). From what I could remember, the article asserted that it could increase your reading speed to ~1000wpm (roughly 1000 words per minute) through using this version of Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP). I had a strong feeling that this phenomenon would connect greatly to our in-class discussions.

Read faster

I attempted to find the original article in order to write my blog post, and was surprised to see that “Spritzing” is already taking over. Since this article emerged, the latest version of the Huffington Post has adopted Spritz, which allows you to read an article using the Spritz technology and method in order to decrease time spent reading. Other partnerships include, but are not limited to, Samsung, Intel, HP, Cengage Learning, Financial Times, and Harvard University. Spritzing has also been featured by over 1,000 publications across the globe, many including Fox Business, CNBC, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal (http://www.spritzinc.com/press-gallery/). They have also developed software to download on your computer for you to “spritz” (Spritzlet). There are also apps you can download on your phone for Spritz. The Spritz webpage has an application where you can “test yourself”, seeing how well Spritz works for you (you can try multiple reading speeds, seeing which works best for you). Spritz is available in English, Spanish, French, German, Russian and Korean. The Spritz website itself has only been recently copyrighted, making it clear how new this particular technology is.

I believed prior to reading information on the Spritz website that “spritzing” would have a lot to do with cognitive studies regarding letter detection and recognition, involving perhaps word superiority, visual search, and overall increasing accuracy and efficiency. It turns out, I had the right idea. On the website, the science behind Spritz(ing) is discussed. According to the website, the traditional style of reading (reading text in a line, moving your eyes sequentially from one word to the next) is inefficient. Each word has an ORP, or an optimal recognition point, and the ORP for each word (depending on word length) is different. During reading, your eye moves from ORP to the next ORP (eye movement = saccades), reading comprehension and retention then following the processing of the word for meaning and context. This takes a significant amount of time to do, with 80% of the time spent just moving your eyes word to word, seeking out the ORPs. Spritz highlights the ORP instead, and places the word in the right ORP spot, making it so your eye does not have to move in order to process the word. This decreases the time spent searching for these ORPs (decreasing visual search) and thereby increases your reading speed.

word_positioning_blog

The following video demonstrates the difference in eye movements (saccades) between traditional reading, Rapid Serial Visual Presentation, and Spritzing.

I honestly found all of this very interesting. I liked how the website discussed the science behind “spritzing” on its webpage, making it easy to understand the processes behind its application. I tested myself however, and although it did increase my reading speed, my reading comprehension and retention decreased a bit. I could understand what I was reading, but its 40 minutes later now and I barely remember what I read (although I do remember the general idea). Spritz seems like a useful way to save time in the long run when reading for fun, or for the general idea of things. However, if you are reading to remember (*cough cough* for cognitive psychology), I do not recommend “spritzing”. Then again, I did not test myself at every wpm level. Perhaps if I did I could find one that is just right!

http://www.spritzinc.com/

Left Brain / Right Brain

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For my January blog post, I took to Twitter to see what the “Twitterverse” had to say about Cognitive Psychology. From there I found an article called “Left Brain vs. Right Brain: The Surprising Truth” (http://psychology.about.com/od/cognitivepsychology/a/left-brain-right-brain.htm). I picked this article because I remember being in high school psychology and taking little tests and questionnaires to see if I was either Left Brained or Right Brained. Later on in college psychology classes Left Brain/Right Brain was mentioned again. Not until this semester in Dr. Rettinger’s Cognitive Psychology class, I was told the whole theory of Left Brain/Right Brain was completely inaccurate.

From the article I found, it states that the Right Brain-Left Brain theory is only just a myth. It is now believed that brain function is not just in one hemisphere or the other, it is the whole brain functioning and working together. Prior theory of Left Brain or Right Brain dominance said, if you were Left Brained you were more logical, analytical and objective or if you were Right Brained were more intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective. It is true that certain areas of the brain control certain functions for example language occurs on the left, and attention on the right side. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that people have a stronger left-side or right-side brain network.

During my research, I googled left brain/right brain tests and it directed me to this website, http://testyourself.psychtests.com/bin/transfer. After taking the test I received got a score of 50. According to the website “Both your right and left hemisphere seem to have reached a level of perfect harmony – rather than trying to dominant each other, they work together to create a unique and well-balanced “you”. I had the previous theory in my mind of receiving a Left or Right brain result but in reality my results were correct in that the whole brain works and functions together.