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Until Dawn and Decision Making

During the lecture about decision making, I knew that the monthly blog post was coming up and was trying to think of ways to connect the material to real-life so that I’d have something substantial to write about. Then, I thought of the “choose your own adventure” trope that often appears in books and various video games, entertainment that is solely based on making decisions, and I wondered “what causes people to decide what”? Why do people decide certain things when it comes to this entertainment? The decisions don’t affect them personally, but their decisions still must be motivated by something.


I recently watched a playthrough of this game that I think has very good examples of things that we talked about in class. The game is called “Until Dawn”, and follows a story of eight friends who become trapped on a remote mountain during a snowstorm, and they become hunted by what they suppose is a serial killer of some sort. The player then must switch between the perspectives of each character and make decisions to progress through the storyline, and the object of the game is to survive “until dawn”.  These decisions cause what the game calls a butterfly effect, which is an action that will affect your ability to make certain decisions in the future.

There is one instance, in particular, that is a very good example of framing. There is a scene where a character, Mike, finds a machete, but when he picks it up, his fingers get caught in a bear trap. He can then use the machete to either cut his fingers off or open the bear trap. Opening the bear trap will break the machete down to its handle, but cutting his fingers off will leave him with a weapon to defend himself later on in the game. At this point in the game, the player is faced with a loss. In this case, the loss of fingers. Players tend to be more risk-seeking, as in, they risk losing their only weapon so that they don’t have to lose their only weapon, however, this is the poorer choice that leaves you with less utility, in a sense.

Later on in the game, this machete can be used to cut away the restraints of another character, Sam, who ends up tied to a chair by the serial killer who is hunting them, and then again when Mike is attacked by a wendigo. The decision of opening the bear trap leaves you with less utility because the loss of Mike’s fingers doesn’t otherwise affect gameplay. He can still do everything that he needs to do, it is simply the idea of losing the fingers that is offputting to most players. So, why then would people choose to save the fingers, when cutting them off is the more rational choice? The answer is negative framing. The choice with more utility is framed as a loss, which people tend to be aversive to, and instead, they choose something that leaves them less functional.

However, wouldn’t they be losing the machete? Why isn’t that loss held to as high a standard as losing fingers? My theory to this is that they encounter the conflict and must decide immediately on gaining the machete. They have not yet experienced its uses, and have had it for a very short amount of time, whereas fingers are a convenient part of the body in real-life, and most people can imagine how difficult life would be without them. However, most people have not encountered the need for a machete in their personal lives, so they have a more detached opinion of whether they have it in the game or not, whereas losing fingers is relatable and invokes empathy.

Overcoming The Errors of Heuristics

AHHH! Last blog post of the semester! It’s so weird to think about! What a crazy cognitive psychology ride it’s been! I just want to say that I have enjoyed reading so many of these very interesting blog posts, and I want to thank you for bearing with my weird posts this semester! 🙂

OKAY! Let’s talk heuristics! So, after briefly covering heuristics in last week’s lecture, I decided that I wanted to gain a deeper understanding about this concept, and why we make so many errors when using heuristics. Below is a video that helped me understand what heuristics are in greater detail!

Based on this video and my lecture notes, heuristics are quick, mental short cuts that allow us to solve problems, and make decisions. Heuristics help take the unnecessary pressure of choice making off one’s shoulders. However, because these are quick judgments, they can come at a price.

Economist (and psychologist), Daniel Kahneman claimed that we have two decision systems that work at the same time. Hence, both these systems are used in different contexts. They’re known as the Automatic System (System 1), and the Conscious System (System 2). System 1 is fast and frugal, which means that it doesn’t require a lot of cognitive resources to make a decision. By using this system to make decisions, there isn’t as much drain on your cognitive capacity. System 2 is a conscious and controlled system, using lots of cognitive mechanisms to make a choice. Heuristics aligns with the automatic system (system 1). By using heuristics, one makes a rapid decision. It is because of these rapid and unconscious decisions that we can make errors.

Heuristics can often lead one into false assumptions, mistaken conclusions, or just wrong judgements. This can be shown through some specific types of heuristics. For instance, take representative heuristics. This judgement is used to categorize objects or people based on a representative prototype. For example, let’s say you meet someone who is really quiet. You may make a rapid representative heuristic and judge that person, thinking that they must work at a library or be an author because of how silent they are. It would never cross your mind that they could have a career as a lawyer or a manager (two positions that generally loud people have). In your mind, you created a representative prototype about quiet people. When you think of quiet careers, the first job that pops in your head is a librarian or a writer. Therefore, when you meet someone who is quiet, heuristics kicks in, and you may make a quick false judgement about what kind of job that person has. He or she could be a loud scary chef like Gordon Ramsey for all you know!

Another example is availability heuristics. With this heuristic, a person makes a judgment based on recent events that happened, and they estimate the probability of that recent event happening to them based on how quick those events came to mind. Take a person who is watching the news. He keeps flipping through the channels and all he sees are news stories about shark attacks, on every channel he switches to. Chances are that person is not going to a beach anytime soon because they believe the chances of a shark attacking them is highly likely to happen to them. However, if he kept watching the channels he could have avoided this availability heuristic upon learning that those shark attacks were so frequent because they applied to the beaches in Florida.

These are some of the many ways we as human’s make quick decisions and judgments without even thinking. Yes this can be beneficial like when you want to determine which biking trail to take, which movie you want to see, or which ice cream flavor you will choose at the store. Consequently, these heuristics can lead to incorrect judgements. So how do we change this? We simply need to tap into our conscious system (also known as system 2) from time to time. By being more alert and conscious, one is highly likely to catch a heuristic error before it comes out. In ways as simple as thinking before you speak. Or simply backtracking your thought process anytime you make a quick judgement. Although, the heuristic error examples I listed were small and seemed unimportant there are bigger, harmful judgments we can make because of how fast our heuristic decision making is. So, that is why it is important to take a bit more time when making a decision, think things through, think about your judgements before you accept them, and just be more aware the next time you are about to make a heuristic based decision. 😉


“Musical Mind”

In one of the live video lectures, I posed a question to Dr. Rettinger along the lines of “Can people become intelligent in the musical category by practicing with an instrument, or are they only skilled through practice and repetition and there was no natural skill there?” He shortened the question to something a bit less wordy and I came up with the topic of, “Does learning music make you more intelligent?”

The short answer is yes. And that’s it, I’m done.

I’m only joking.

As referenced within this article, one of the key points is that “Musicians are found to have superior working memory compared to non-musicians,” and I can absolutely support this theory. The idea that learning an instrument for one can improve your memory, capability to think on a specialized level working with the instrument you’re playing, is sensible when you think about how complicated it is to learn the fundamentals of music let alone just picking up an instrument and playing it. You have to learn how to read sheet music, how to know which cords or keys or whatever in order to produce a specific tone or sound and how striking them in a different way will create an entirely different sound. So even if you have no natural talent for music, even learning through intense practice and repetition will still inherently make you smarter through application and experience.

It can also improve things on a more physical level, because you have to hone your reflexes to act on impulses without having to think too deeply about playing a song considering you don’t have time to stand there and pontificate over what string to pluck next if you’re playing a guitar. You just have to be able to do it on the fly and that level of rapid thinking on top of rapid movement are used in such fascinating conjunction with one another and it has so many benefits to your neurological processing. Another point that was provided within the article is the idea of “musical experience strengthens many of the same aspects of brain function that are impaired in individuals with language and learning difficulties.” This helps support what I’m writing here because not only can learning and experiencing music help bolster your intelligence, but it can and has been proven to improve upon neurological processes within your brain.

I’ve never learned how to play an instrument because I lacked the patience to commit to it when I owned a guitar in my younger days, but I am someone who thoroughly enjoys music. I have a very eclectic taste in things, and I will often have “lofi hip hop radio” playing in the background with “beats to relax and study to” while I’m doing my work. People argue that having something like that will distract you, but I feel it helps focus my attention and aids me in getting my work done. I’m even listening to it right now as I type this.

I like to think that my experience with musical appreciation has in some way improved my overall intellect, because when you’re describing or talking about music it utilizes a different portion of your brain that you may not be typically using when performing other tasks throughout your daily life.

I think any number of things can really help improve your intellect even if someone else might detract from that and say asinine things like, “Oh you’ll never learn anything from that.” Because it is really just how people apply what they have learned and can use in practical situations. Intelligence isn’t just about what you learn from a book but it’s also what you can apply in the real world. Learning music and playing an instrument or just appreciating music and listening to it follow this ideology as well.

Magic Shrooms: Can They Rewire the Brain?

When Michael Pollan heard that psychedelic mushrooms were being used to treat the mental distress often found in terminally ill cancer patients, he was reluctant. Then, he went a step further and decided to try them out for himself. As it turns out, psilocybin, the active ingredient in ‘shrooms,’ was being used to treat a variety of mental distresses, including depression, addiction, and fear of death.

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound produced in over 200 species of mushrooms. When absorbed into the bloodstream, psilocybin is converted into psilocin, which can induce similar effects to LSD, mescaline, and DMT. Basically, they make you hallucinate and feel euphoric, but they can also trigger nausea and panic attacks. In fact, cave paintings in Spain and Algeria suggest that humans have been using ‘shrooms’ since before recorded history!

Research into the effects of psilocybin was significantly curbed in the 1960s due to strict drug legislation, but those studies that were conducted revealed that psilocin, the metabolized form of psilocybin, acts on serotonin receptors in the brain. The mind-altering effects brought on by psilocybin ingestion can last for several hours and the substance itself has a low toxicity and low harm potential. It’s no wonder someone thought to use it to treat depression!

The way psilocybin therapy for depression works is very controlled, typically with the assistance of two “guides.” Participants are prepared in advance of taking the substance due to the adverse side effects that may occur if they have a bad ‘trip.’ While the underlying mechanism of this therapy is heavily biopsychological, the work on the participant’s part is completely cognitive. The mind-altering states initiated by psilocybin allow participants to see old problems in new perspectives, primarily through the temporary disablement of what is called the “default mode network.” This is the part of the brain where self-reflection and rumination occur, which are both cognitive functions that play heavy roles in depression.

Due to the disablement of this default mode network, participants have the opportunity to, essentially, “rewire” their brains. They are able to go into the self, the ego, and change their perspective about themselves. Once those negative thought processes are stopped and altered, participants are more easily able to free themselves from the maladaptive rumination and self-reflection that is so characteristic of depression.

This information was all revealed in an interview on NPR, titled ‘Reluctant Psychonaut’ Michael Pollan Embraces the ‘New Science’ of Psychedelics. I’d argue, however, that this science is not really all that new. According to those cave paintings, humans have been ingesting magic mushrooms for thousands of years; and this leads one to think, “why?” My guess would be that it made them feel good, or better, or gave them the ability to forget about saber-tooth tigers for a while. Having listened to the interview and researched psilocybin, I find it interesting that this is not a recognized form of psychotherapy, particularly with regards to the low toxicity and low harm potential of the substance. For the most part, this is a black market form of therapy.

In terms of how this applies to cognitive psychology, it can be difficult to separate the cognitive aspects from the biological aspects. While the phenomenon is completely facilitated by a substance, the therapeutic processes are entirely cognitive. It requires the individual to challenge their self-schemas and rewire their default mode network. And if you’re still not convinced, modal senses are very much a part of cognitive psychology, and psilocybin definitely has interesting effects on each.

Overall, I found this interview fascinating. As someone who struggles with depression, I completely understand the desire to press ‘restart’ on your brain. Psychedelics might just be a way to do that. I hope that more research is done on this phenomenon in the future, and that it might be recognized as a legitimate form of psychotherapy at some point.

For those who are interested, you can listen to the entire interview here:

Working Memory Capacity and Mind Wandering

In class we have discussed working memory and its functioning, but I found a study that delves into the phenomenon of mind wandering in relation to working memory.  As we know form class, Working Memory Capacity (WMC)  is an individual’s in-the-moment, dynamic phenomenology of cognitive ability. Mind Wandering is a person’s subjective experience of task-unrelated thought such as getting distracted or “zoning-out”. Mind wandering can often lead to errors in memory recall. In this study, they looked at mind wandering as an indicator of both momentary failures and enduring deficits in executive control functioning. They predicted that people with a higher working memory capacity will be less prone to mind wandering, and people with a lower working memory capacity will be more prone to mind wandering. The main question being asked in this study is whether or not one’s working memory capacity predicts their likelihood of mind-wandering in daily life. They were also interested in whether people “who differ in intellectual capability also differ in subjective experience” and whether people “who differ in working memory capacity also differentially experience the disruptive effects of mind wandering in daily life, at least in cognitively demanding contexts”.  The results were consistent with their hypothesis that people of lower working memory capacity mind-wandered more than people of higher working memory capacity when their activities required more effort and focused concentration.  They also found that people with lower working memory capacity were more prone to making errors. They concluded that it seems to be the case that executive control over one’s thoughts therefore seems to contribute to the effective regulation of behavior. I just thought that this article was interesting because I feel that mind wandering is something that many of us can relate to. I think that many of us have found ourselves “zoning out” or “day dreaming”. 

Kane, M. J., & McVay, J. C. (2012). What mind wandering reveals about executive-control abilities and failures. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(5), 348–354.

The Impact of Anxiety and How to Potentially Reduce it

Throughout this entire semester, I’ve always managed to get stumped in regard to coming up with a topic to write about for these blog posts. I’ve stared at my computer, became frustrated, and even procrastinated. With many days of me saying, “Oh, I’ll just write my blog post tomorrow.”, came an overwhelming and increasingly amount of stress and anxiety. On each passing day of me not writing my blogs, I would continue to worry about everything surrounding this one assignment. Basically, I would continue to think about all of the “what-ifs”. What if I didn’t do the assignment and my grade dropped? What if I failed my class? Essentially, I would lose my mind and get extremely anxious over something as small as a simple blog post. This is ultimately why I’ve decided that, for this blog post, I would somehow connect cognition to anxiety. After taking some time to fully think about the topic of anxiety in relation to cognition, I wondered, how exactly could anxiety impact working memory and attention?

Bubbles powerpuff girls | Powerpuff girls


For those who may not know, anxiety is basically an emotion where people feel worried, nervous, or uneasy, especially when there’s an uncertain outcome. In order for anxiety to occur, there needs to be something that completely captures someone’s focus and then causes them to process it [and mostly likely lead to overthinking]. In other words, it involves their attention and working memory. Attention refers to “the processes we use to monitor incoming events” (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2017, ch. 3). Working memory, on the other hand, refers to a cognitive system that temporarily stores and manages the information needed to accomplish complex cognitive tasks such as planning, organizing, maintaining goals, etc. Although attention and working memory are two different cognitive functions, they are very much connected.

In regard to the idea that anxiety impacts attention and working memory, there’s a lot of mixed evidence. However, I managed to find a study that looked at numerous studies with mixed evidence and ultimately resulted in the support of the overall idea. According to a study done by a researcher, named Tim Moran, the study suggests “that anxiety can causally influence performance on WMC [working memory capacity] tasks and that the most pronounced effects of anxiety are on measures tapping domain-general attentional processes rather than on domain-specific stores” (Moran, 2016, pg.843). In other words, anxiety can in fact influence what we focus on and basically think about. After realizing the impact that anxiety has on attention and working memory, I also wondered, could coloring [i.e., in coloring books] somehow influence such cognitive processes by potentially reducing anxiety?

Bubblez GIF | Gfycat

For as long as I can remember, coloring has always been a relaxing activity for me to do. Even though I haven’t done it in a while, it’s an activity that I highly recommend others to partake in. In my opinion, it can help take your mind off of things, especially during these troubling times. As I’m sure you all already know, the world has been dealing with a pandemic called the Coronavirus. One way in which world leaders have tried to help limit the spread of the virus is by ordering citizens to basically stay home. Even though staying at home is believed to be a safe precaution in regard to limiting the spread of the virus, being told to stay home and not go outside unless absolutely necessary can be quite stressful and cause a lot of anxiety.

Dirty Jokes In 'The Powerpuff Girls' That You Missed When You Were ...

With this pandemic in our midst, people are most likely becoming stressed/anxious due to not being employed, not seeing family or friends, and not having the ability to explore the world as humans are basically meant to do. To reduce such anxiety, people need healthy ways to help cope. This therefore leads to my belief that coloring in coloring books could potentially help reduce such anxiety-filled feelings. One study in which I found supported the idea of coloring reducing anxiety was done by a researcher, named Jayde Flett, and her colleagues. Together, they decided to test whether coloring was related to improvements in various psychological effects. Among such effects was anxiety. The entire study is linked down below, but, ultimately, they found that “following a week of coloring, … participants reported lower levels of depressive symptoms and anxiety [and it extended] prior laboratory-based research where participants reported reductions in anxiety or negative mood following a single session of coloring” (Flett et. al., pg. 413). With that being said, I believe that this study proves that focusing your attention on something else besides something that gives you anxiety, can make you process things differently and ultimately reduce your stress and anxiety.

Coloring GIF - Coloring GIFs

Even though there was only one article that I mentioned in this blog about coloring, and it supported my claim, I believe that there may be other sources that support it as well. I wasn’t able to find any contradictory evidence in regard to this topic, but I’m sure that there actually might be some available. In addition, coloring may not be the only way to reduce anxiety. I’m sure that there are many different healthy ways of reducing anxiety. Besides that, it’s quite interesting that coloring in coloring pages can help reduce anxiety. With all of this in mind, what do you think that there are other ways to potentially reduce anxiety? Please do share your ideas in the comments and tell me what you think!


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[Image 2]: {*NOTE: I made this meme…}

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Flett, J. A. M., Lie, C., Riordan, B. C., Thompson, L. M., Conner, T. S., & Hayne, H. (2017). “Sharpen your pencils: Preliminary evidence that adult coloring reduces depressive symptoms and anxiety”. Creativity Research Journal, 29(4), 409–416.

Moran, T. (2016). “Anxiety and Working Memory Capacity: A Meta-Analysis and Narrative Review.” Psychological Bulletin, 142(8), 831-864.

Robinson-Riegler & Robinson Riegler. Cognitive Psychology: Applying the Science of the Mind. Pearson, 2017. ISBN: 9780134003405.

Adolescents participating in Risky Behavior- Is it just a Stereotype?

We have all heard about the risks that adolescents have the possibility of making. This includes smoking, drugs, alcohol, driving, and unsafe sexual behavior. The development of adolescents relates to the decision making process that teenagers face when they are growing up. New opportunities, like high school, being able to work, and getting a driver’s license are all new areas for teenagers to explore. Naturally, this comes with choices. Although some bad choices might not make or break a person’s life or well-being, in some cases, it heavily affects the well being of a teenager, possibly the rest of their lives. Decision making in adolescents is studied extensively, considering it is a time period of excitement and major development, which heavily affects cognitive processes. Certain biases that occur during this time period affect the type of decisions an adolescent makes, along with how they view the world. The judgement a person carries and the type of outlook they have, skews the type of decisions they make. Adolescent Decision Making: Implications for Prevention Programs: Summary of a Workshop by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine and a brief article about Decision Making Framework explores how cognitive processes play a role in decision making.

As mentioned in the article, an example of risky behavior is unsafe sexual activities. It is mentioned that a study was done with teenage girls and were only educated on one type of birth control- the pill. Given this, these teenagers only knew about that one option of birth control, instead of a series of options. Being uneducated on a topic such as sex, results in severe consequences. The type of information that an adolescent knows is the type they will act on. Based on sex education from schools and families, facts and information provided affects how adolescents make decisions. Relating to availability heuristics, when making decisions, adolescence will judge what situation they are in based on the information and examples they were provided. An example is finding out a friend had unprotected sex and didn’t get pregnant. Remembering this information when making a risky decision, plays a role into the thought process of going through the choice a person is going to make. If an adolescent sees that there were no consequences to those activities, they will become adamant on imitating those actions. Another example of risky behavior is vaping and smoking. Doing it once might not show the consequences that come with smoking, so teenagers might defend their habits. Belief perseverance is the tendency to continue endorsing a belief even when evidence has completely undermined it. From personal experience and by hearing different stories on social media, teenagers will not stop their behavior, despite being shown videos about teenagers who suffered from long time smoking. Using their own experience to back up facts and saying “that won’t happen to me”, is an example of confirmation bias. Coming up with information like “smoking helps relieve stress”, gives adolescents a chance to justify their thoughts processes and the decisions they make.

The article also mentions how emotion plays a role into the types of decisions adolescents are making. Seeking out evidence that applies to what they are feeling and decisions is a large part in how adolescents behave. Using the evidence they find and possibly misinterpreting facts, may have negative consequences. Considering the level of judgement relates to the development of adolescents, some adolescents are not capable of thinking long term and the consequences that decisions carry. The mindset behind having no consequences, “young people favor their own experience and anecdotal evidence over probabilistic information in making decisions” (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine). The biases that adolescents form is important in how they go about the world, influencing who they become as a person. Although once out of the adolescent stage, there is a form of responsibility that forms over time, but consequences can have a lasting effect. Seeking out false information and supporting those platforms can also have a lasting effect into adulthood. Considering the thought process that adolescents are partaking in, system 1 would apply to the risky choices adolescents might be making. At an emotional time period, it is normal for teenagers to be making decisions without thinking and impulsively. It is also instinctive for adolescents to be participating in such behavior, especially if they have “that won’t happen to me” mindsets.

Based on the article, it provided a well rounded, overall perspective on what might affect the decision making of an adolescent and what types of situations they might face. A critique I have is that published before the year 2000, and focuses a lot on the 80’s and 90’s trends in adolescents. For future research, I would like to read more about recent trends in adolescence and if there are any differences between decision making processes. Something that would also give a deeper and more modern perspective on how adolescents think about decisions, are in depth interviews. This could be over the span from their adolescence years through adulthood to see how they would handle different situations and compare their thought processes. Decision making in adolescence is an important aspect in cognitive psychology, considering the range is from ages 10 to around 24 years. This is large portion of a person’s life and can determine how they react to having different situations in their life. Research done on this topic is important to determine if thought processes could change due to environment, along with how long certain biases last.

First Impressions and Last Impressions

I am sure we have all either received the “advice” or have heard someone say first impressions matter or leave with a bang. Considering these two ideas deal with the first and last actions a person makes, we can quickly make the connection they are related to the primacy and recency effect.As we learned earlier in the semester, the primacy effect is caused by remembering the items that come first in a list and the recency effect is remembering items that appeared last.

The first impressions are the ideas someone creates of us or anyone the meet for the first time. In a study conducted by Soloman Asch (1946) there were two groups of participants who received a list of traits of a person who they would later meet and make judgements about. The first group received this list of traits: intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn, envious; the second group received this list of traits: envious, stubborn, critical, impulsive, industrious, intelligent. If you noticed, these are the same list of traits just presented in a reverse order, one that being with positive traits and one that beings with negative traits. We can conclude that because the traits are the same, the judgement would be the same. However, Asch discovered that the participants who were presented the first list had a more positive first impression of the person; participants who were presented the second list, came up with more negative thoughts. In a similar study conducted by Edward Jones (1968), two groups of participants watched a video of the same women taking an intelligence test. In both videos the women answered the same number of questions correct and the same number of questions wrong. The only difference is that in the first video the questions answered correct appeared more in the beginning, influencing the participants to view the women as more intelligent compared to the video where the questions were answered wrong in the beginning.

Considering primacy effect is based off storage of our long term memory, when we meet someone for the first time, we create a schema about who they are and what we expect from them. Which is why it is important to make a good first impression because it is what sticks with a person and they are usually hard to change.

Luckily, if we do not make such a memorable first impression, then we have the opportunity to go out with a bang!

Unlike first impressions and the primacy effect, last impressions are just that, the last thing you remember about someone. Since they are the last memory we have of someone, they can be the most powerful. The last impressions will work as ‘cues’ for us to recall past interactions with that person; positive last impression, positive memory retrieval and vise versus. Like the in the first study presented for first impressions, if we are introduced to someone with a list of traits, we may end up just remembering the last trait. If negative we can totally just end up creating a negative image of a person but if positive, we may be excited to meet this person. In a study conducted by Bruin (2005) concluded that in competitions like the Eurovision Song Contest and ice skating, higher scores were given to acts that performed last. Recency correlates to short term memory, therefore in a competition with multiple contestants and where the judges can not give scores until the end, it is likely that acts who go last receive higher chances as they are the most recent.


Freudian Slips…?

I have always been interested in Freudian Slips because I think it’s such a fascinating phenomenon.

I know people tend to discredit Freud, but I think some of his findings were pretty interesting (the Freudian Slip, of course, being one of them). I imagine all of us have had this happen before or we have heard about them on the news. For example, saying “I’m mad you’re here!” Sigmund Freud Painting Painting by Suzann Sinesinstead of saying “I’m glad you’re here!” Is something like this just an innocent mistake, or does it unearth your unconscious mind? Does it actually reveal your true feelings for another person, ulterior motives, or other repressed memories?

First of all, where did Freudian Slips come from?

Well, as we know, Freudian Slips are named after the father of Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Freud based his research on a young man who had previously had a pregnancy scare with his girlfriend. Upon reciting The Aeneid, the young man completely mispronounced the Latin word for “blood.” According to Freud, this happened because the word “blood” was associated with the pregnancy scare the young man had desperately tried to repress, and was therefore mispronounced entirely (Cherry, Kendra). Freud wrote further about these Freudian Slips in his 1901 book entitled The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. He said: 

“Almost invariably I discover a disturbing influence from something outside of the intended speech. The disturbing element is a single unconscious thought, which comes to light through the special blunder” (Freud, Sigmund).  

So, are we buying this at all?

Has this theory ever been tested in a laboratory setting? In fact, it has. A Harvard psychologist decided to test this Freud’s theory. Psychologist Daniel Wegner asked participants to engage in a stream of verbalization for at least five minutes. Basically, the participants could babble about almost anything they pleased. However, Wegner asked them not to think about a white bear in freudian slip | Psychology humor, Therapy humorthe process. If the participant happened to think about the white bear, they were supposed to ring a bell. He found that the participants rang the bell about once per minute (Cherry, Kendra)

What does this tell us about the theory?

Wegner came to the conclusion that even though the participants were told not to think about the white bear, there were parts of their minds that were responsible for a mental “check-in.” This “check-in” made sure that the part of the mind responsible for repressing the thought of the white bear was indeed working, ironically bringing the thought back up again in the process (Cherry, Kendra). The more we think about something, Wegner concluded, the more likely we are to verbalize it in some fashion, which can result in a Freudian Slip.

It has also been suggested that Freudian Slips are also much more likely to happen under stress, and are truly just mistakes, not a gateway into our unconscious mind (Goleman, Daniel).  Even though Freudian Slips have often been discredited, they are incredibly interesting to read about. So, maybe saying something like “I’m mad you’re here!” is really just a simple slip-of-the-tongue. You probably shouldn’t sweat it!



Cherry, Kendra. “What’s Really Happening When You Have a Freudian Slip.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 27 Sept. 2019.

Freud, Sigmund. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life: (1901). Hogarth Press, 1995.

Goleman, Daniel. “DO ‘FREUDIAN SLIPS’ BETRAY A DARKER, HIDDEN MEANING?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Nov. 1984.

Smarty Pants

Why are we still so insistent on our methods of measuring intelligence, when we know that it is flawed? How is it possible that we can accurately assess intelligence if there is so much disagreement over how it is defined, and what qualities make a person “smart”. Generally, people think of intelligence as how much a person knows and is reflected in a person’s academic career. This implies that a person who does not do well in school or pursue academics in the future are not intelligent, and may face challenges formed by stigmas against poor-performers. But we shouldn’t be so quick to judge those who don’t do well in school because their tests only seem to reflect psychometric forms of intelligence, which includes linguistic, logical-mathematical, and spatial. This means that you are only evaluated by 3 of the 8 forms of intelligence. You can be successful and never go to college. There are other important skills necessary to life that don’t have anything to do with regurgitating information from a classroom. Reading a room, understanding a person’s body language, being able to predict scenarios and plan for them, making art, so many things can never really be measured and graded because there are things so important you can’t put a numeric value on it. 


It’s also important to note that how well a person performs on an exam is largely influenced by numerous factors outside of their control, and even day to day or moment to moment. Factors such as sleep or mood can drastically lower a person’s score, even if they can recall information later. Socioeconomic status and race can also give people major disadvantages because those who typically make the tests are constructing them with unconscious biases that can set students up for failure. If you evaluate someone from the “out-group” by the standards of the “in-group” it only reflects how well they would do in that particular environment. 


One of my family’s favorite shows to watch for the past several years was Big Bang Theory, and it’s main character Sheldon is a prime example of someone who is extremely gifted in mathematics and science, but completely fails to be a human being when it comes to other basic tasks. For example if asked, he would be able to define what the definition of sarcasm is, who it can be used in a sentence, the linguistic origins of the word, etc. But he is not able to detect someone’s sarcastic tone of voice which tends to get him in trouble, as well as his inability to understand what is considered rude or identify behaviors that cross people’s boundaries. In the prequel series Young Sheldon, which follows his childhood, season 2 episode 5 shows Sheldon and his twin sister Missy volunteering in a study about intelligence and how it is related to genetics and environment. Sheldon performs extremely well on the psychometric section of the exam while Missy struggles. Later on, the test administrators show them images of scenes that they need to describe (separately). Sheldon was able to describe the objects within, but not how they are related to another, and general tones/feelings or dynamics within, while his sister aces this section in flying colors, even stating that she “wasn’t finished yet” and pointed out several more things. Sheldon gets frustrated and asks to go back to other questions like before and protests when the administrator states that there are multiple types of intelligence. I don’t watch the show anymore, I lost interest after season 1, but I like this scene because it showcased how their family had been inadvertently overlooking Missy and what she has to offer just because her brother was a prodigy and needed special attention. 


That being said, does this mean that we should just throw all forms of testing out the window? No, I don’t think that it’s fair to those who work hard and do well to just have all their efforts ignored. Also, it is still important to evaluate ourselves and teachers to make sure that people are given the quality education they deserve and provide additional help to those who need it. However, I think that we should be doing more to make sure that a student’s self worth isn’t tied to a number, or multiple numbers. There are deeper qualities to a person that may never be defined or standardized and we are not a stagnant species. We are forever fluid and changing, and a test cannot capture that.