Tag Archives: cognition

Convergent Thinking: The key to problem-solving

Imagine sitting in class shading the bubble on a multiple-choice test. You would not think that simple action has a whole lot to do with creativity, but when combined with divergent thinking, convergent thinking is an integral component of problem-solving. The thought process that goes into answering standard questions opens up a world of possibilities known as convergent thinking.

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What is Convergent Thinking?

While studying human creativity, psychologist Joy Paul Guilford first created the term as the opposite of divergent thinking.

When presented with a problem, it allows someone to arrive at a solution by analyzing the information available to them and later applying established rules and reasoning. It relies heavily on logic. Its purpose is to decrease the chance of ambiguity—seeking to bridge the gap between multiple interpretations. Ideally, it leads to one correct answer or method to solve a problem. Examples are IQ tests, standardized tests, math quizzes, and spelling tests.

Convergent VS. Divergent Thinking

Being linear and systematic, convergent thinking is straightforward. It filters ideas to a single solution. The process focuses on the questions, “why?” and “what’s best?”

Contrarily, divergent thinking is web-like—creating connections between ideas. Divergent thinking generates multiple ideas that are original, open to more than one solution, and unconcerned with the risks or limitations.

While different concepts, convergent and divergent thinking go hand-in-hand. Typically, we use divergent thinking to generate multiple ideas followed by convergent thinking to analyze and narrow down those ideas.  

Convergent Thinking and Brain Activity

Brain activity in convergent thinkers is unique. Such activity is measured by a test called an electroencephalogram (EEG). Electrodes on the scalp measure a person’s brain waves. It causes a distinct increase in Theta bands, which is a type of brain wave linked to learning, memory, and intuition.

Studies of patients with hippocampal damage suggest that the ability to apply convergent thinking is associated with the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory (Warren et al., 2016). Neurotransmitter systems that carry signals to brain cells are also involved. Convergent thinking function is greater when lower levels of dopamine—the chemical for arousal, thinking, and planning—are present in the nervous system.

Convergent Thinking and Personality

Thinking processes affect personality. Personality traits are categorized into 5 basic dimensions. This is known as the Big Five method.

The Big Five personality traits are:

  • Openness—Curious, imaginative, sensitive to inner feelings
  • Conscientiousness—Efficient, organized, and diligently hardworking
  • Extraversion—Enjoys interacting with the world, talkative, energetic
  • Agreeableness—Considerate and kind to others, optimistic of human nature
  • Neuroticism—Sensitive and nervous, likely to be moody, anxious, or depressed, easily angered

After assessing brain activity studies, researchers conclude that divergent thinking, with its emphasis on creativity, is specifically linked to the traits of openness and extraversion. It was not found to be affected by any of the core personality traits. However, cognition does affect mood. Convergent thinkers tend to display more negative moods than their divergent thinking counterparts.

Executive Function Skills For Convergent Thinking

Executive functions are cognitive skills that assist in goal formation and achievement. There are three main areas: working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. Like this type of thinking, we practice executive function skills in daily life. These skills have a predominant role in creativity.

Executive function skills include but are not limited to:

Attention and Initiation

Attention is an executive function characterized by staying focused on a task. Attention is especially important for it because narrowing down one best solution requires focus. Additionally, attention helps sustain initiation—the executive function responsible for beginning a task and finishing it to completion.

Inhibition

Inhibition is an executive function that utilizes attention and reasoning to control impulsive, automatic responses. To put it simply, inhibition is part of self-control. A lack of inhibition prevents the ability to discard partial or incorrect solutions. When a person does not have inhibition, it also impacts their attention. They cannot remain focused enough to stay on task. Thus, poor inhibitory control is a disadvantage for convergent thinking.

Shifting

Although divergent thinking is unconcerned with limitations, the ‘best’ solution determined by convergent thinking tasks cannot be deterred by extensive limitations. Shifting is the executive function that allows us to adjust to these situations as they change or as limitations arise. In it, focus must shift to narrow down the ideas that were generated during divergent thinking.

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Regulating Emotions

Depending on the task, the thinking process can be stressful. Studies conclude that both convergent and divergent thinking tasks induce mood swings (Chermahini et al., 2011). Regulating emotions is the ability to deal with feelings, which is essential in times of stress. With its focus on filtering ideas, convergent thinking demands the managing of emotions. One has to acknowledge what they are feeling and address those feelings to overcome barriers to the most suitable solution.

Organizing

Convergent thinking is structured. The executive function, organizing, provides that much-needed structure. Organizing entails planning and prioritizing—each of which is relevant in convergent thinking. It is the point in the thinking process when ideas come to life. One has to identify key priorities to achieve their goals.  

IQ Tests and Convergent Thinking

Intelligence is a major component of cognition and thinking. IQ, which stands for intelligence quotient, measures convergent thinking. Questions on standard IQ tests are a prime example of this type of thinking. They measure logic, reasoning, basic knowledge, and thought flow. Intelligence does not depend on creativity, but they do have a relationship. Indicative of intelligence, higher IQ scores provide a starting point to it carry out. Problem-solving increases in difficulty if intelligence is low. However, intelligence does not guarantee creativity. Arriving at a correct textbook answer to a problem does not guarantee the capacity to generate original ideas before delving into the convergent thinking process.

How To Explore Creativity with Convergent Thinking

Most assume only divergent thinking is associated with creativity, but that is incorrect. It is necessary for creativity too. According to the Geneplore model, creativity is a cycle consisting of the generation stage and the exploration stage. Divergent thinking is the generation of ideas and convergent thinking explores ideas to put them in motion.

These general guidelines are beneficial to enhance creativity with convergent thinking:

Be Original

Do not dismiss novelty ideas. While divergent thinking is the stage in which original ideas are generated, convergent thinking involves actually working with ideas. Creative ideas may initially seem impossible due to limitations but think deeper. They may be able to be revised or modified. Step out of the ‘norm’ to courageously approach new ideas others do not understand.

Ask Questions

Questions beginning with “what,” who,” “when,” or “where” are typically convergent thinking questions. Convergent questions are less complex, easy to formulate, and strategic in nature. Asking questions creates goals to strive towards. The questions structure the thinking process. They also determine which information is no longer relevant and should be discarded.

Practice Objectivity

Convergent thinking is an objective experience. After establishing clear goals, those goals become the basis for the thought process. Objectiveness is focal for the organization and planning. Guide all questions around the objectives. This ensures the overall solution is met competently and without excessive distraction.

Take Time

Although we all appreciate situations of instant gratification, arriving at the single best solution to a problem is not instantaneous. Be deliberate when practicing convergent thinking. Hasty decisions prematurely eliminate ideas that could have potentially been successful. If overwhelmed, take a break from the process and return later with a fresh perspective.   

Convergent Thinking In Education

As previously stated, convergent thinking is implemented throughout the tasks of daily life. It has been put to practical use in educational settings. When convergent thinking is implemented for educational purposes, it requires information to be provided from numerous sources. Teachers are wise to deliver rigid, well-defined information for convergent thinking—not unfocused, open-ended ideas subjected to change. Concepts and materials are then combined to conclude the correct answer.

Examples of convergent thinking in school are study materials like flashcards, rote memorization, and drill learning. Class discussions between students and the teacher also contribute to convergent learning, as it is an opportunity to filter out incorrect ideas.

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Techniques of convergent thinking in the classroom are:

Grouping

Problem-solving processes originate with many ideas generated during divergent thinking. In contrast, those ideas must be organized into groups for convergent thinking. Some of the ideas are likely to be similar. By combining like-ideas, grouping makes the data easier to find the most accurate solution to the problem. The like-ideas can be merged into a single comprehensive solution.

Outlining

Students benefit from outlining because it offers structure. Facts and information in excess get disorganized, so outlining prevents useful data from getting lost amongst what is non-useful. Outlining techniques ensure the gathered research is easier retrieved from working memory. This is similar to grouping, except with more structure. Examples of outlining include step by step lists, web maps, or reframing questions with multiple choice answers.

Filtering

Both outlining and grouping are vital to the technique known as filtering. Outlining and grouping present the information in an organized manner to filter or weed out ideas that offer no solution to the problem at hand. Students cannot ‘choose the best answer’ on their exam without methodically eliminate the incorrect answers first.

As with anything, practice makes perfect. Convergent thinking does not come effortlessly. It requires repetition to refine the process.

References

Akbari Chermahini, S., & Hommel, B. (2012). Creative mood swings: divergent and convergent thinking affect mood in opposite ways. Psychological research, 76(5), 634–640. doi:10.1007/s00426-011-0358-z

Warren, D. E., Kurczek, J., and Duff, M. C. 2016. What relates newspaper, definite, and clothing? An article describing deficits in convergent problem solving and creativity following hippocampal damage. Hippocampus 26(7):835–40. doi:10.1002/hipo.22591

Empathy: Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes?

You’ve probably talked or heard about it, but do you really know the implications of empathy and its meaning? Empathy is much more than putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.  Find out everything you need to know about empathy: What is empathy, definition, and concept, characteristics of empathetic people, types of empathy, differences between empathy and assertiveness, its benefits, how to improve or practice it and much more. If you want to share your experience or ask us any questions please leave your comment below.

Empathy

What is empathy? Definition and Concept

The term “empathy” comes from the Greek ἐμπάθεια: empátheia. Dictionaries define it as a feeling of identification with something or someone. The Oxford dictionary defines it as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

The first description of empathy is the one we usually use and refers to the emotional aspect. The second is the cause of the first since it would be impossible for us to feel if our cognition and thoughts didn’t allow it.

Therefore, we could say that empathy is the ability to put oneself in the other’s place, both emotionally and intellectually. Thus, the verb “empathize” appeals to the action of understanding other’s reality, including cognitively and emotionally.

The art of understanding emotions is more complex than it may seem. A study done by the University of Amsterdam indicates that empathy is bidirectional. This means that empathic interaction is significant for both individuals, for the one that is empathic and the one who feels comprehended.  It is easy to see that we are not empathic to the same extent everybody in the same way.

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Empathy: Characteristics of empathic people

People who feel empathy share a number of personality traits or behavioral patterns among themselves that foster the development of empathic capacity. Take a look at the following list to know the main characteristics of empathic people:

  • They are highly sensitive. Empathetic men and women are good listeners, open-minded to new experiences, kind and selfless. They are usually attentive to the needs of others and do not hesitate to lend a hand. It is not surprising, then, that they have a fascinating ability to transmit good feelings while interacting with others. However, the negative side of being highly sensitive is that people are more susceptible to feeling more empathy, more than they can handle. Therefore, any offense or ugly gesture they may receive hurts them more.
  • They capture people’s emotionality. As if it were a sponge, someone empathic is capable of absorbing the emotions of others. The mood of the other person has a significant influence on that of a person with a high level of empathy so that their emotionality is intensely adapted to both negative and positive feelings. Thus, it is difficult for them not to feel overwhelmed if they meet someone who is going through a time of anxiety and stress, or not to catch the joy of a happy person.
  • Your kindness can affect your own well-being. Having a big heart and caring sincerely for others are indisputable virtues. The disadvantage of this is that empathic people become more dedicated to other people’s problems than to their own, which often leads to frustration, stress, and difficulties in managing their lives.
  • They are careful with their language. Communication is essential to demonstrate empathic skills. When we empathize with others, we review our words twice before we say them because we are aware of the impact language can have on the other person’s well-being, for better or for worse.
  • They avoid extremes. People with empathy prefer the middle ground. They avoid extreme thinking. Therefore, when they surround themselves with someone who is extremist, they are able to teach them that not everything is black or white, but that there are many colors from which to perceive things and the most appropriate thing is to be open to that diversity that life offers us.
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Types of empathy

There are different types of empathy among which are:

Affective empathy: also called emotional empathy, it consists of three differentiated elements. To begin with, you need to feel the same emotion as the other person. Then, a distressing component appears as a natural reaction to vividly perceiving the feelings of the other. Finally, this leads to compassion.

Cognitive empathy: refers to the intellectual potential to perceive and understand the emotions of others. It could be said that cognitive empathy is the previous step to feeling affective empathy. It is necessary to learn to recognize emotions and then to understand their repercussion on one’s state of mind.

Unconscious empathy: Unconscious empathy implies a high level of involvement. Excessive involvement can lead to confusion caused by emotional contagion. Unconsciously empathetic people become so involved in others’ emotions they end up making them theirs. Consequently, controlling, and managing one’s emotions becomes tremendously complex.

Conscious empathy: This kind of empathy involves less emotional involvement. Conscious empathy allows you to observe the other person from an objective perspective and distance, which is essential to encourage emotional self-regulation and allow for a better understanding of the other person’s needs. A person who consciously empathizes is more effective in helping others because they support others without being overwhelmed with their feelings. This is the healthiest way to empathize because in this way you don’t carry the weight of the emotions that don’t correspond to yours and you can offer your best self.

Intercultural empathy

From empathy, one learns to respect and value the decisions of others, and also to understand the concerns and aspirations of others. And this process occurs in the same way across cultures. To empathize with other cultures means to know and understand the importance that each person gives to their customs, traditions and artistic productions.

To recognize multiculturalism is to accept human diversity because not all people are equal and have not grown up in the same environment. There are many cultures, languages, religions, professions, ways of thinking, skin tones, etc. and they are all equally valid.

Intercultural Empathy

It is essential to teach this kind of empathy in school, as children educated in the diversity of ethnic groups will develop a much healthier and more open way of thinking. Moreover, learning to accept the differences and not confront them will avoid numerous social problems in the future.

Empathy and assertiveness

It is important to make the distinction between empathy and assertiveness, given the confusion that both terms can cause.

To begin with, the similarities observed indicate that both empathy and assertiveness are considered to be potentially developable social skills in all human beings, since both can be learned in different contexts intentionally, by chance or due to daily life experiences.

Both skills need respect to be put into practice: respect for others (because the last thing you want is to hurt others’ feelings or hurt them) and respect for yourself (because you are defending the rights of another human being). In addition, other qualities such as honesty, integrity, and consistency are important.

The differences are more noticeable. While assertiveness implies a more personal aspect where there is a concern for not attacking others with words while allowing others to express their thoughts and opinions. Empathy doesn’t restrict or concern itself about feelings or others opinions when it needs to be expressed. Assertiveness defends the words that are pronounced, and empathy understands the words that others pronounce.

In conclusion, when we have the capacity to say what we think without hurting someone else’s feelings, and we also have the capacity to understand others by giving them the opportunity to speak, and express what they think, an enriching dialogue is established. This allows both parties to learn from each other, and communication flows clearly towards the goal that has been established.

These are two very useful skills for learning and communicating that complement each other. Both of these skills need to be learned to develop excellent communication and listening abilities.

Benefits of empathy

Empathy has many benefits. Let’s look at some examples:

1 – Helps emotional harmony:

Empathic people connect quickly with others, making the vast majority feel comfortable and making interpersonal relationships seem easier.

2- Helps to be objective and fair:

The best way to gain the respect of others is to show it to ourselves, even if we may differ in opinions.

3- It improves self-esteem and stimulates our learning:

Feeling that we have a positive effect on others works as a powerful personal enhancer. Furthermore, the empathic exercise allows us to learn from other’s, enriching the prism of reality with different perspectives.

4- It transmits generosity:

Those who demonstrate empathy are collaborative and more successful. It helps them act as brilliant catalysts for change by influencing others to achieve common goals

5- Strengthens professional relationships and maintains them over time:

Working empathically increases the strength of the bonds. This aspect is great in negotiation as well as in those cases in which it is necessary to seal agreements based on trust.

6- It helps show our most peaceful and constructive side:

There is numerous scientific evidence to corroborate that empathy and violence are, neuropsychologically, incompatible with each other. As our understanding increases, our inclination to belligerence decreases and the way we are perceived socially improves.

Keys to practicing empathy

Like all skills, empathy can be trained. Here are some tips for practicing empathy:

  • Listen with an open mind and without prejudice. Be respectful of others.
  • Pay attention and show interest in what they are telling you because it is not enough to know what the other person feels, but we have to show them you care.
  • Do not interrupt while being talked to and avoid becoming experts at giving advice, rather than trying to feel what the other person feels.
  • Learn to discover, recognize and reward the qualities and achievements of others. This will not only contribute to building their capacities but will also reveal our concern and interest in them.
  • When we have to give our opinion on what we are being told, it is very important to do so constructively, to be honest, and not to hurt anyone.
  • Be willing to accept differences with others, be tolerant and patient with those around you and with yourself.

Learning Styles: What are They, Models and Discussion

Learning Styles. Learning is a massive part of everyone’s life. From childhood to adolescence, we go to school for hours daily to learn about various subjects. Outside of schooling, we continue to learn in everyday life — including how to perform better in the workplace, how to work through interpersonal issues, or how to fix practical household dilemmas. But does everyone learn in the same way? That doesn’t seem to be the case. There is no one-size-fits-all method of learning. To learn and teach most effectively, we must know an individual’s preferred learning styles.

Learning is an important part of life.

Different Learning Styles?

It is often recognized that there are differences in the ways individuals learn. Even at a very young age, a child will prefer certain subjects and teachers over others. They may be excited at their performance on a math assignment, but spend their time in history class doodling. Alternatively, a child may be an enthusiastic art student under the guidance of one teacher, and then lose interest when that teacher is replaced. These are the consequences of a child’s unique learning style.

In the classroom, teachers will notice that students vary remarkably in the pace and manner by which they pick up new ideas and information. This same concept carries into the workplace, where employers notice that employees learn and perform better under different conditions. Conversely, each teacher has their own preferred method of teaching. Each teacher has their particular style and then so does each learner. Problems can occur when teachers and learners don’t match.

Models of Learning Styles

Since the 1970s, researchers have theorized models to describe individual differences in learning. Everyone has a mix of preferred learning styles. These preferences guide the way we learn. They determine the way an individual mentally represents and recalls information. Research shows that different learning styles involve different parts of the brain. Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted model of learning styles. Rather there are dozens of competing models. The most widely recognized model, “The Seven Learning Styles”, as well as David Kolb’s and Neil Fleming’s models are discussed below.

What are the different learning styles?

The Seven Learning Styles

Known simply as “The Seven Learning Styles”, this is the most commonly accepted model of learning styles. It is referenced by researchers and teachers alike. To find out which of the seven learning styles apply to you, fill out this questionnaire. This is an unofficial inventory of the Seven Learning Styles provided by Memletics (care for the pop-ups!). The Seven Learning styles are as follows:

Visual (Spatial)

Visual learners have an ability to perceive the visual. They prefer to learn through pictures and images and are good at spatial understanding (relating to a given space and the relationship of objects within it). They create vivid mental images to remember information and enjoy viewing pictures, videos, maps, and charts.

Skills:

  • Interpreting and manipulating images
  • Drawing and painting
  • Charting and graphing
  • Good sense of direction
  • Creating visual analogies and metaphors
  • Puzzle Building
  • Constructing
  • Designing and fixing objects

Tips:

  • Use images, pictures, and other visuals to learn
  • Pay attention to color, layout, and spatial organization
  • Make use of ‘visual words’ when speaking
  • Use ‘mind maps’ (diagrams used to visually organize information)

Aural (Auditory/Musical)

Aural learners prefer to learn through sounds and music and are able to produce and appreciate music. They tend to think in rhythms and patterns, and are particularly sensitive to sounds in the immediate environment.

Skills:

  • Singing and whistling
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Writing music
  • Recognizing melodies and tonal patterns
  • Understanding rhythm and structure of music

Tips:

  • Use mnemonics, rhyming, and rhythm to memorize new ideas
  • Ambient recordings can increase concentration
  • Music can inspire certain feelings and emotional states. Make use of music to anchor your emotions.

Verbal (Linguistic)

Verbal learners have an ability to use words and language. While many people think in pictures, these learners think in words. They tend to be elegant speakers, with highly developed auditory skills.

Skills:

  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Explaining
  • Listening
  • Storytelling
  • Persuasion
  • Analyzing language

Tips:

  • Read content aloud, and try to make it dramatic and varied to aid recall
  • Verbal role-playing can aid in understanding concepts
  • Make use of techniques such as assertion and scripting
  • Record your scripts and listen back

Physical (Kinaesthetic)

Physical learners prefer learning with their body and sense of touch. They are adept art controlling their bodies and handling objects. Information is processed by interacting with the space around them. A good sense of balance and hand-eye coordination is common.

Skills:

  • Physical coordination
  • Working with hands
  • Using body language
  • Sports
  • Dancing
  • Acting

Learning tips:

  • Use hands-on activities to learn
  • Describe the physical sensations of an experience with verbs and adverbs
  • Use physical objects as much as possible, including flash cards and miniature models
  • Writing and drawing diagrams may help, as these are physical activities
The Seven Learning Styles is the most popular model. 

Logical (Mathematical)

Logical learners are able to use reason, logic, and numbers. They think in terms of systems, patterns, and concepts. These learners also seek to understand the reasoning or the “why” behind each new concept and like to experiment.

Skills:

  • Categorization
  • Problem solving
  • Complex mathematical calculations
  • Connecting concepts
  • Making logical conclusions from long chains of reasoning
  • Geometry
  • Experimentation

Learning tips:

  • Focus on exploring connections between ideas
  • Make lists of key concepts from material
  • Think in terms of procedures
  • Think in terms of systems
  • Thinking in terms of systems may help you understand the “big picture”
  • Create diagrams that outline entire systems

Social (Interpersonal)

Social learners have an ability to relate to and understand others. These learners are good at sensing the feelings, intentions, and motivations of others.  They are also able to see things from multiple perspectives. These learners are often good at encouraging cooperation, but sometimes their abilities enable them to manipulate others.

Skills:

  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Communication, both verbal and non-verbal
  • Conflict resolution
  • Establishing relations with others
  • Building trust
  • Noticing the feelings, moods, intentions, and motivations of others

Learning tips:

  • Work with others as much as possible
  • Use one-on-one or group roleplaying
  • Share what you have learned with others, including associations and visualizations you have made
  • Learn from others’ practices, associations, and visualizations
  • Learn from others’ mistakes

Solitary (Intrapersonal)

These learners like to introspect and self-reflect. This gives them a keen awareness of their own inner state of being. They understand their own inner desires, motivations, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses.

Skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-analysis
  • Evaluating one’s own thoughts and emotions
  • Understanding one’s role in relationships with others

Learning tips:

  • Study in private
  • Try to invest yourself personally in your work
  • Adjust your goals to fit your personal values.  This maximizes motivation.
  • Keep a journal to record thoughts and observations
  • Focus on what you would be feeling or thinking about when you associate or visualize
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David Kolb’s Model of Learning Styles

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” – David A. Kolb

David A. Kolb’s model is outlined his book “Experiential Learning”, published in 1984. In this book, Kolb speaks of a four-stage cycle of learning as well as four independent learning styles. According to Kolb, all four stages of the learning cycle will be engaged in a complete learning process. The four stages are described below.

  1. Concrete Experience – This occurs when a new experience, or a reinterpretation of an existing experience, is encountered.
  2. Reflective Observation – This occurs when the experience is reviewed or reflected upon, with the goal of achieving a consistent understanding.
  3. Abstract Conceptualization – This occurs when a new idea or concept arises from reflection.
  4. Active Experimentation – This occurs when new ideas are applied to the world and the results are observed.

David Kolb’s four learning styles are built upon this four-stage learning cycle.  An individual will naturally prefer one of these styles over the others. This preference is influenced by social and educational environments as well as cognitive structures. Although everyone will occasionally need the stimulus of all four of these learning styles, it is useful to know your personal orientation.

Learning Styles: Diverging

This style corresponds with the first two stages and involves watching and feeling. People who are oriented towards diverging are able to see things from many different perspectives. They gather information by watching rather than doing and use their imagination to solve problems. This means that they are good at brainstorming and other methods of generating ideas. Diverging thinkers tend to have an open mind and broad interests. They tend to be imaginative and emotional and can be talented in the arts.

Learning Styles: Assimilating

This style corresponds with the second and third stages. It involves watching and thinking. People who prefer assimilating have a concise, logical approach to processing information. To them, ideas and concepts are primary, while people and practical applications are secondary. Information should be organized in a clear logical format. Because of their preference for the abstract, these learners tend to prefer reading, lectures, and analyzing concepts.

Learning Styles: Converging

This styles corresponds with the last two stages and involves doing and thinking. These learners strive for practical, “hands-on” solutions. They excel at technical work, finding practical uses for ideas and theories, and are less concerned with the interpersonal. Problem-solving comes most naturally to these learners. They like to experiment with new ideas and find practical applications. This allows for great technical and specialist abilities.

Learning Styles: Accommodating

This style corresponds with the fourth and first stages. It involves doing and feeling. Much like converging learners, accommodating learners are “hands on”.  They rely on intuition rather than logic, and their strength lies in imaginative ability and discussion. “Gut” instinct is primary. They do not shy away from an interpersonal approach, often relying on others for information or analysis. New challenges and experiences excite these learners.

Neil Fleming’s Model of Learning Styles

Dr. Neil Fleming identified four learning styles in the 1980’s. These four styles came to be known as the “VARK” model of learning styles. This model describes the sensory preferences of learning. It is built on earlier notions of sensory processing, such the VAK model. This is perhaps the most straightforward of models. It is simple yet insightful.

  1. Visual – You learn best from images, pictures, symbols, charts, graphs, diagrams and other forms of spatial organization.
  2. Auditory – You learn best from sound, rhythm, music, speaking and listening.
  3. Reading and Writing – You learn best from reading and writing.
  4. Kinesthetic – You learn best from interacting with their physical surroundings, making use of your body and sense of touch.

Learning Styles: A myth?

There has been recent controversy regarding the subject of learning styles. Although the idea has a lot of intuitive appeals, many disagree with it altogether. There are some problems that can be easily identified.

The first is that there is no agreed-upon model for learning styles. Over 70 different models have been identified, including The Seven Learning Styles, David Kolb’s model, Neil Fleming’s model, “right” and “left” brain model, “holistic” vs. “serialist” model, and so on. All of these models have very little research that supports their validity over others — some are merely more popular than others.

The second and most important problem is that there is no research to support the effectiveness of teaching to an individual’s learning style. A major premise of the theory of learning styles is that individuals learn better when the material is matched to their learning style. Unfortunately, studies have shown either no evidence or weak evidence to support this. On the other hand, studies do show that individuals will learn better if they reflect on their own learning style. This alone lends credence to the theory of learning styles. While it may not be useful to teach to individual learning styles, it is useful to reflect on your own preferences.

Some argue that the lack of evidence means that learning styles don’t exist. Many agree that they do exist, but are simply difficult to measure. Regardless of the extent of their validity, it is always interesting to learn more about yourself.

Learning can be daunting. Knowing your preferences will help.

References

Cherry, Kendra. “Are You a Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, or Tactile Learner?” Verywell, 15 June 2017.
“Learning Styles Explained.” Idpride.
“Learning-Styles-Online.com.” Overview of learning styles, Advanogy.Com, 2017
McLeod, Saul. “Saul McLeod.” Kolb’s Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle | Simply Psychology, 2010.

Left Brain, Right Brain: 9 Ways Our Brain Hemispheres Work Together

What are the functions of each brain hemisphere? What does each half of our brains do? Is it true that the left side is the analytic hemisphere and the right side the emotional side of the brain? Is it true that the ‘right brain’ is the creative one and the ‘left brain’ is the logical one? In this article, we will reveal everything you need to know about brain hemispheres.

Brain Hemispheres

We have often been told that the left hemisphere of the brain is the analytic, mathematical, and logical side, the side which is in charge of reasoning. You’ve probably also heard that the right hemisphere of the brain is the emotional, creative side.

In fact, people often use this difference as a way to define personality, referring to people as either left-brained or right-brained. “If you are a creative, sensitive, and passionate person, then you use your right hemisphere more; if you are an analytical, organized, and thoughtful person you use your left hemisphere more.” We hear that all the time, so let’s check some facts to see whether there is any truth to this common saying. 

How the Two Hemispheres Work

How do the brain hemispheres work?

There is still a lot left to discover about brain hemispheres but here are some facts we do know:

  • The brain is composed of two well-differentiated halves called hemispheres. These halves are connected by a structure called the corpus callosum, which facilitates communication between the hemispheres. These two hemispheres are in constant communication, and in most activities, both work equally.
  • Experts suggest that our level of intelligence is directly related to the quality of the connection between hemispheres. The more connected they are, the more intellectual we will be, such is the example of Einstein’s brain.
  • Each hemisphere is responsible for the activity on the opposite side of the body. That is, the right hemisphere will be responsible for the movements of the left side of the body and vice versa. Therefore, an injury to the left brain will have an impact on the right side of the body.
  • The processing of visual and auditory stimuli, spatial manipulation, facial perception and artistic ability is found bilaterally, although they may show some superiority in the right hemisphere.
  • Contrary to what was thought until recently, according to a study, the visual processing of numbers is performed by both hemispheres equally.

What Do The Two Sides of the Brain Do?

The Right Hemisphere of the Brain:

It deals, to a greater extent, with the following functions:

  • The consciousness of oneself.
  • Recognizing our image in a mirror.
  • Facial recognition.
  • Processing the emotional part of language, such as prosody and intonation.
  • Feelings associated with intense romantic love.
  • Managing visual-spatial attention.

The Left Hemisphere of the Brain

The left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for:

  • Understanding and producing language.
  • Mathematical abilities and recalling facts.
  • Processing attractive faces.

In the next video, Ian Mcgilchrist explains why our brain is divided into two hemispheres, and what each one is responsible for.

The Two Hemispheres and Brain Lateralization

Brain lateralization is the idea that some brain functions rely more heavily on one hemisphere than on another. One example of this is when we process language. The left hemisphere is in charge of language processing for the most part, whereas the right hemisphere only processes verbal information in relation to emotion. However, it has recently been discovered that speech is processed in both hemispheres equally, so perhaps language is not as lateralized as we previously thought. 

Likewise, it was believed that a left-handed person’s brain was less lateralized for language development. That is, it was believed that these people would use more of the right brain hemisphere for language, contrary to the general right-handed population. It has been proven that this only happens in 1% of the left-handed population. 

It was even found that the degree of lateralization of some brain functions may vary from individual to individual.

Our brain is lateralized in some of its functions, however, most of these happen in both hemispheres. If a brain region or even a whole hemisphere is damaged or destroyed, other neighboring areas or even the opposite hemisphere may, in some cases, take over the activity typically performed by the damaged region. When brain damage interferes in the connections between one area and another, alternative connections can be developed to bridge the difficulties. This is only possible thanks to the brain’s great ability to adapt, which is called brain plasticity.

Brain Hemispheres: Do we use one more than the other?

A study from the University of Utah, USA, dismantled these myths:

There is no evidence that people use one of the brain hemispheres more than the other. This group of researchers identified brain networks in charge of process lateralized functions (brain functions that are processed more in one hemisphere than another), to see if it was true that some people used more one of the brain hemispheres more than the other.

During the study, the researchers analyzed the brains of 1,000 people and found that no individual was consistently using one hemisphere over another. They concluded that no personality type is related to the greater use of the left or right hemisphere.

Therefore, it is false that some people use one brain hemisphere more than another depending on their personality. Some functions may be specialized in a particular cerebral hemisphere, but the truth is that we use both hemispheres equally. 

Some functions may be specific to a particular brain hemisphere; however, we use both brain hemispheres equally. Even though one hemisphere is specific for a function, it will always work better in continuous communication with the other hemisphere.Scientists can’t even establish that the right hemisphere is our creative brain. Creativity is a very complex process. According to a study, creative thinking does not seem to depend on a single mental process or brain region. Nor is it particularly associated with the right brain, attention, low level of activation, or synchronization with the alpha waves emitted by our brain.

Where Did the Myth of the Right Brain and the Left Brain Come From?

This myth arose from the misinterpretation of Roger Sperry’s experiments on divided brains. Studying the effects of epilepsy, Sperry found that cutting corpus callosum could reduce or eliminate epileptic seizures.

However, these patients also suffered other symptoms after communication channels between the brain hemispheres were severed. For example, many brain-split patients found themselves unable to name objects that were processed on the right side (those in the left visual field) but were able to name those processed on the left side (those in the right field of vision).

From this information, Sperry suggested that language was controlled exclusively by the left side of the brain.

We hoped you liked our article and please feel free to comment below.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Andrea García Cerdán, translated by Alejandra Salazar. 

Experimental Psychology: Learn everything about its history

The field of experimental psychology branches out into many various sub-fields and directions with people believing in various things. Even now scientists do not have a clear picture of the connection between the mind and the body. There have been many different attempts to unravel and end the dilemma. Understanding even the majority of the connection and the brain by itself will be a major development in today’s science. The attempt has brought on many big collaborative initiatives with big names like the Human Brain Project coming to mind. Psychology in itself has had a long history and has shaped itself in various ways and directions. To understand it, one needs to look at the first mentions of what we now call psychology from centuries ago.

Experimental Psychology

History of Experimental Psychology

Experimental psychology today is completely different from what the discipline looked like years and centuries ago.  Back then we didn’t have the technology and the infrastructure available to us today. The question of mind and body was on the lips of many prominent philosophers. Names like Plato and Aristotle come to mind when the first mentions of the mind-body problem arise. The arguments and debates over free will and determinism and nature vs. nurture take roots centuries ago. These debates are still prevalent nowadays. They turn into years long research projects in the fields of experimental psychology and neuroscience.

Philosophical beginnings: nature vs. nurture & free will vs. determinism

Famous philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, and René Descartes made the first references to experimental psychology. Plato and Aristotle both contemplated the famous nature vs. nurture question. They disagreed on the fundamental point of the origin of what makes us human comes from. Plato argued from the genetic point of view, saying that certain things are a part of our biological configuration. He believed that everything is set in stone from the very beginning. Aristotle, on the other hand, put the emphasis on the nurture side of the debate. He preached that humans are sponges that soak up the information with every new experience and learning opportunity.

Descartes looked at a different question that boggles the minds of scientists and researchers nowadays. He believed that actions and behaviors of people are predetermined and free will in itself does not exist. According to Descartes, pineal gland controls every behavior in the brain. His view formed a very popular belief called the mind-body dualism. The pineal gland being the master gland for all actions was proven wrong at a later point. The free will vs. determinism debate, however, still remains open in the 21st century.

Research into decision making has become one of the hottest topics in neuroscience nowadays. We now have different research studies that show neuronal spiking activity before a decision is made (1). This sparked a lot of controversy in favor of determinism. Many started proclaiming that if there is neuronal activity before a behavior, that means, that all actions are predetermined beforehand. All the philosophical questions are still very present today and experimental psychology tries to answer the questions with various methods. It does so by looking at the problem in hand from various perspectives.

First steps to science

The beginning of psychology as a discipline emerged in Leipzig, Germany. In 1879 Wilhelm Wundt built his first experimental laboratory on the grounds of the University of Leipzig. Wundt governed the term introspection. Wundt believed that by asking subjects to talk in detail about the experience during an assigned task, he will be able to develop a guideline for the consciousness elements. That became the ultimate goal for introspection. Wundt believed that since conscious experiences could be described by people, there was a possibility to explore and observe these experiences and create a map of them.

Nowadays, looking back, the approach that Wundt had was a bit naïve. Despite that, it became the first milestone in creating what is now known as cognitive psychology. Wundt and his colleagues have discovered that there is a difference in realizing that something is happening or sensing it and understanding what that something is or, perceiving it. He noted a time difference between this notion of sensation and perception. Perception seemed to occur later than sensation.

Wundt’s impact on science today

Experimental Psychology – Laboratory

Nowadays, in cognitive psychology, measuring reaction times happening during various mental tasks is a regular occurrence. Scientists try to show exactly which events happen in the brain first and which ones occur later. Researchers are attempting to acquire the answer to the origin of consciousness. They want to unravel where and when the very first series of neuronal spikes occur in the brain with the introduction of a new stimulus. Researchers trace it back to that same question of free will and determinism. They are still trying to figure out what happens first, the behavior or the action itself or a certain event that happens in the brain.

Of course, nowadays, scientists have a lot more advanced tools to measure these time lapses and series of events. Despite that fact, we seem to not be a lot closer to the truth. We are still trying to figure out the truth behind the conscious experiences and the external behaviors and actions.

Functionalism: evolutionary psychology

Another branch of experimental psychology went into quite the opposite direction from what Wundt and his colleagues were doing. It solidified the ground for what later would become behavioral psychology. Behavioral psychology would dominate the field of the entire discipline for quite some time.

The functionalists, as they called themselves, tried to understand why humans and nonhuman animals behaved in the way they do. Functionalism thesis moved onto to what is also known as evolutionary psychology. It quite heavily operates upon the principles of Darwin’s natural selection. The notion that the best genetic components survived and the not useful ones have disappeared over the years. All actions intend to pass our genes on to our descendants with the goal of keeping our species alive.

Evolutionary psychology is still quite a prominent part of the discipline right now. Despite that it poses a slight problem in the face of experimental psychology. Experimental psychology values reliable and valid experiments. Evolutionary psychology experiments are quite difficult to arrange. Because of this, it is not as popular as some other branches of psychology.

Psychoanalysis: what do you dream of?

After Wundt’s laboratory and the waves of functionalism have died off, a new branch of psychology developed. It is the branch that the majority of the population associated with psychology nowadays. Despite the fact that not many practitioners use it nowadays, it is still quite popular.

Sigmund Freud created the psychodynamic approach was created and it focuses a lot on the unconscious. Id (the unconscious), desires, feelings, memories, and dreams are prime targets for psychodynamic therapists. Compared to other branches of psychology this one does not have very reliable results when it comes to proving its theories. Despite that fact, it came as a result of Freud’s observations of his many patients and their behaviors. Ordinary public associates it with clinical psychology and the methods of treatments for various psychological disorders up to this day.

Freud focused a lot on experiences that a patient cannot remember that could result in various disorders and dysfunctions in the adult life. Freud governed concepts like Oedipal complex, ego, superego, and interpretations of dreams. As mentioned above, not a lot of research went into the psychodynamic theory. Sometimes experimental psychology doesn’t consider the psychodynamic approach a part of it. Despite that, the contributions that the psychodynamic approach provided to the discipline still resonate to this day.

Behaviorism

Behaviorism is one of the prime examples of experimental psychology. Behaviorists believe that the true way to study the mind is by the actions and behaviors themselves and they attempt to do so in an objective and a clear way.

Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner are the big names for behaviorism. Their experiments in classical and operational conditioning are popular in classes to this day. The experiments that they did became the premise for behaviorism. This approach understands everything as results of things happening in the environment – stimuli – and the actions that these stimuli produce – responses.

John. B. Watson was one of the famous American behaviorists with his experiments involving fear stimuli. His experiments were highly unethical and would be quite illegal today, but, despite that, they were the ones that brought quite a lot of light into the concepts of learning and developed phobias. Nowadays, the treatment for various phobias comes exclusively from the behaviorist point of view. Clinicians use exposure therapy to treat phobias and are quite successful in curing the majority of them.

Revolution of cognition

After behaviorism, the cognitive approach became popular as well. It did so due to the fact that scientists at that time became more and more interested in the brain and how the brain influences the behaviors that we do. The development of computers was a big step forward. Researchers saw the potential of how the brain is similar to a computer and how they can utilize information technologies in order to measure the brain and see the anatomy and functions and be able to model different events that happen in the nervous system. Cognitive psychology studies mental processes, memory, learning, attention, judgment, language and uses a variety of different methods including eye tracking and both, non-invasive and invasive neuroimaging methods.

Collaboration of all

Overall, the entire field of experimental psychology encompasses many different sub-disciplines and fields. It developed quite a bit from the first laboratory that Wundt created to hundreds upon hundreds experimental laboratories around the world today. Modern state-of-the art machinery and popular technology methods equip these laboratories in an attempt to help objectively study the mind and the body and the relationship between the two.

References

Marcos E, Genovesio A. Determining Monkey Free Choice Long before the Choice Is Made: The Principal Role of Prefrontal Neurons Involved in Both Decision and Motor Processes. Front Neural Circuits [Internet]. 2016;10:75. Available from: http://journal.frontiersin.org/Article/10.3389/fncir.2016.00075/abstract

Evaluative Conditioning: The How and Why of Forming Opinions without Facts.

Have you ever wondered why we judge a book by its cover? Here, you will read about how and why we form first opinions without evidence and pass judgment on things we barely know. A process termed evaluative conditioning tries to give an explanation on why the book with the beautiful cover is nicely written.

Evaluative Conditioning: Why we judge a book by its cover.

Every day, each of us is exposed to several different, and often new, experiences. This is inevitable in a world as dynamic and diverse as ours. A new shop opened three blocks down the road, Katie has a new boyfriend and your favorite musician just released his new album. Sometimes, we then catch ourselves judging things we barely know and giving opinions on matters we scarcely heard of. I’m sure that new shop won’t last much longer than the previous one, Katie’s boyfriend is most likely a handsome lad and the new album? Well, that’s undoubtedly going to be terrific! However, are our predictions true? And on what ground do we so confidently exclaim what arguably has no basis? These questions are of importance for both psychological and industrial research. How we evaluate our surrounding influences our behavior towards it. That said, whoever understands its underlying mechanisms and manages to willingly direct them could, in turn, manipulate a patient into ceasing ill behavior or a client into buying a certain product.

Classical conditioning: learning based on experience

Classical Conditioning: also known as Pavlovian conditioning

One mechanism of interest was termed evaluative conditioning. It was named in accordance to the previously established classical conditioning. The latter, famous for its initial experiments by Pavlov featuring dog salivation, describes a learning process that creates expectations based on reoccurring patterns. If a situation is always followed by the same event, just experiencing the first will be enough to foretell that the other will also set in.

So, for example, when you see the signaling light of a car’s left blinker, you automatically expect it to take a left turn. This is the natural sequence of events, as we have learned to know it: blinking light then turning the car.

Classical conditioning

First empirical research on this dogma was conducted on dogs. Each time they were fed, the same ringing noise of a bell would precede the serving of their food. At first, the dogs would happily welcome the meal, spittle flowing into their mouth once the food was presented to them. Then, after some time, the saliva would start dripping just by the mere sound of the bell. Over time, the dogs had learned that when the bell starts ringing, food will soon follow. Formally, the ringing of the bell was categorized as a conditioned stimulus (CS), while the serving of food was described as an unconditioned stimulus (US). Thereafter, it was concluded that the process termed classical conditioning occurs when one stimulus, an unconditioned stimulus, is reliably preceded by another stimulus, a neutral stimulus. The meaning of the latter unconditioned stimulus is applied to the neutral stimulus. Once the association is set, the neutral stimulus is termed conditioned stimulus, as it triggers the same reaction pattern as the unconditioned one. If we apply this to our example with the car, then the blinking light would be the conditioned stimulus, while the subsequent turning would be the unconditioned. Furthermore, the blinkers would be meaningless unless they were to reliably indicate the turning of the car.

Afterward, several studies were conducted on classical conditioning elucidating its properties. As turns out, the stimuli do not have to co-occur every time, just frequent enough. Furthermore, the required rate depends on the nature of the stimuli, as some can be stronger indicators than others. The research was also conducted on the stability of the effect. Here, it was shown that once the stimuli reliably stop cooccurring, the association ceases to exist. From that point onwards, the conditioned stimulus returns to being a neutral stimulus.

Evaluative conditioning: opinions based on experience

Evaluative Conditioning

While the basis of evaluative conditioning is found in classical conditioning, its roots dig deeper. It emerged from research on attitudes. As it became clear that evaluative conditioning could be one mechanism influencing the formation and change of attitudes, a research field of its own was established. Evaluative conditioning follows similar rules to classical conditioning, as both have an unconditioned and a conditioned stimulus. Here, however, one event is not followed by the other, but both occur at the same time. Also, instead of predicting an immediate event and preparing the appropriate reaction to it, a long-term influence is predicted and the appropriate stance towards it chosen.

Opinions influence behavior

It goes like this: the rating of something on a two-dimensional scale (such as good and bad, likes and dislikes), officially called valence, influences the behavior towards it. You approach something you like and distance yourself from something you do not like. Hereby, imminent harmful or even life-threatening events must be disregarded, as a defense, and self-preserving mechanisms would influence behavior in ways beyond just attitudes. You approach or distance yourself from something that may have a long-term positive or negative influence on you. You recently got to know Thomas, however, you do not like Thomas. He has opinions you disagree with. Although he does nothing harmful, you guess that he would still be a “bad” influence on you. Therefore, you try to distance yourself from him. (Sorry to all Thomas’, it is just an example, please do not take it personally.)

Baseless assumptions?

If then an unknown factor appears together with an already judged factor, the process called evaluative conditioning uses the assessment of the known one to predict the long-term influence of the new event. In other words, this is a mechanism that uses the categorization of a known target to sort a somehow connected but still unknown target into the same subjective two-dimensional scale (e.g. good and bad, like and dislike).

For ease of comparison, the events were similarly named to those of classical conditioning. First, we have an unconditioned stimulus which is either positively or negatively valenced. Then, we have the conditioned stimulus with a neutral valence, or at least a lesser valence, than that of its unconditioned counterpart. When both stimuli are then viewed together, seemingly connected to each other, the opinion of the unconditioned stimulus is then applied to the conditioned one.

Sorry Thomas, but to keep to our example: if this previously mentioned Thomas appears with a friend of his, you will most likely be not too keen on getting to know this new fellow. He will probably have a similar conviction to the one you disagree with and would, therefore, be the same “bad” influence as Thomas. Thus, he is just as unlikable as his friend. Hereby, a cognitive association between Thomas and this stranger was created that categorized the unknown person similarly to the known Thomas, thereby triggering a distancing stance towards the new subject. It goes without saying that we have no factual evidence of this newly met person to be as “bad” as the first, furthermore we do not know for certain if Thomas would influence us in a wrong way.

Properties of evaluative conditioning

It seems that the attitude adopted is always that of the more extreme opinion. To clarify, if a slightly negative and a strongly positive viewed stimulus appear together, the slightly negative will surely be judged more positively upon that. If your best friend Rebecca suddenly introduces you to an acquaintance of hers, surprisingly the same stranger you saw earlier chatting with Thomas in a friendly manner, then you will probably change your mind and give him a chance. Rebecca is awesome, no chance in hell that this guy could be a disappointment. Sure, he seemed friendly with Thomas earlier, but if he is with Rebecca, then he will be all right.

However, it should be noted, especially regarding our example with poor Thomas, that it is still under debate whether this change of valence occurs consciously or subconsciously, or if it even could be prevented through conscious knowledge. Even more, no hard evidence was presented on how we were to judge a positive or negative conditioned stimulus after several presentations with neutral stimuli. Unfortunately, some studies showed that after repeated co-occurrence the formerly conditioned stimulus turns neutral again, while other showed that the valence evaluation resists this so-called extinction phase. At last, the timing seems to play a role in the process. It was shown that evaluative conditioning works best when both stimuli appear at the same time. Nonetheless, if the conditioned stimulus is presented shortly before or after the unconditioned stimulus, the conditioning can still take place.

Implications of evaluative conditioning

Evaluative Conditioning

Knowledge about opinion formation and their change is a serious topic and like many others must be approached with responsibility. Private companies are most likely already conducting research in the field, as efficiently associating a product with something pleasant could greatly boost their sales. There are two main problems with this:

  1. First, these findings would not be accessible to neither the public nor other researchers.
  2. The second problem we face is that its properties are not fully understood. This means that whoever uncovers them could influence the public without a specialist’s notice.

For example, if it were to turn out that evaluative conditioning functions only subconsciously, commercials would be viewed while the tv-program is running, instead of in-between, or products would appear more often in the background of a movie. These changes would seem insignificant to the eyes of an unknowledgeable observer, while actually heavily influencing sales. That said, research funds must be invested into topics such as opinion formation, thereby preventing their abuse for personal gain (as a possible propaganda tool, for instance) while utilizing their enormous potential.

Think of the benefit for health care. Unhealthy behavior (such as certain addictions) could be cured or productivity and motivation increased through according to associations. So, if someone had a horrifying phobia that impeded his life’s quality, for example, the poor botanist Steven with his sudden fear of spiders after an unfortunate vacation, simple associations with strongly positive topics could hastily cure his unpleasant situation. Or, as media addiction is a seemingly increasing problem among our youths, this knowledge could be used to reintroduce the fun of the real-life through gradually improving the attitude towards real experiences. Furthermore, these findings could bear a countermeasure against prejudice, that would benefit the whole of humanity.

Nonetheless, we have a long way ahead of us until then. The current findings can be contradicting and confusing. Most of the research was done on humans which bears certain risks such as demand awareness, among others. Demand awareness can create artificial results due to the test subjects suspecting what results are looked for and reacting accordingly. It should be noted that findings from other research fields suggest that animals also like and dislike, just as us, and have ways of expressing these feelings. I would suggest an additional approach through animal experiments. This would extinguish some of the risks, while at the same time rendering the results more comparable to other experiments on evaluative conditioning and classical conditioning. However, we must acknowledge the research done on the topic and encourage the researchers to keep up their work, stay creative and not give up when all seems to play out differently. The first step to shorten the distance to the above-mentioned vision and prevent abuse of important findings is to create awareness of this field so that more researchers are acknowledged funds to look further into evaluative conditioning.

Check out the following articles to get further knowledge on the topic and give credit to the diligent men and women who worked hard for this knowledge:

References

Bethell, E. J. (2015). A “how-to” guide for designing judgment bias studies to assess captive animal welfare. Journal of applied animal welfare science, 18 Suppl 1, S18-42. doi:10.1080/10888705.2015.1075833

Bohner, G., & Dickel, N. (2011). Attitudes and attitude change. Annual review of psychology, 62, 391–417. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.121208.131609

Davey, G. C. (1994). Is evaluative conditioning a qualitatively distinct form of classical conditioning? Behavior research and therapy, 32(3), 291–299.

De Houwer, J., Thomas, S., & Baeyens, F. (2001). Association learning of likes and dislikes: A review of 25 years of research on human evaluative conditioning. Psychological bulletin, 127(6), 853–869. doi:10.1037//0033-2909.127.6.853

Field, A. P. (2000). Evaluative conditioning is pavlovian conditioning: Issues of definition, measurement, and the theoretical importance of contingency awareness. Consciousness and cognition, 9(1), 41–49. doi:10.1006/ccog.1999.0412

Gawronski, B., & Bodenhausen, G. V. (2006). Associative and propositional processes in evaluation: An integrative review of implicit and explicit attitude change. Psychological bulletin, 132(5), 692–731. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.132.5.692

Havermans, R. C., & Jansen, A. (2007). Evaluative conditioning: A review and a model. Netherlands journal of psychology, 63(2), 31–41. doi:10.1007/BF03061060

Rozin, P., Wrzesniewski, A., & Byrnes, D. (1998). The elusiveness of evaluative conditioning. Learning and motivation, 29(4), 397–415. doi:10.1006/lmot.1998.1012

 

Sensory Memory: The Motor Behind Your Hidden Abilities

Can you see with your eyes closed? Can you hear someone’s voice, even when you’re alone? Have you ever traveled in time with a smell that reminds you of a certain place? These are just some of the amazing powers of our sensory memory, which uses all five of our senses to capture and remember the world. Find out what sensory memory is, the different types of sensory memory, and how to improve it.

Sensory memory

“…taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest…” -Marcel Proust

What is sensory memory?

We have the unlimited ability to perceive, register, and store information about our environments, and sensory memory is what makes it possible. Our senses perceive and capture information about objects and ideas around us. The sensory memory system makes the exterior information that we perceive “last” longer, which makes it possible to be captured and understood by other memory systems.

The sensory information that we retain doesn’t only make it possible to recognize our environment (smell someone’s perfume and know who it is, recognize a person’s voice, etc.), it also makes it possible to make sense of the future. For example, when you eat a lemon and perceive the taste of the acidity, your body and brain will remember the sensation. Later, when you see a lemon being cut, your mouth will salivate due to the sensory memory of the flavor. We store sensory information that is linked to a degree of attraction or different sensations that are felt in the moment of their “recording”. The same stimulus that one person sees as an unpleasant experience, another may perceive as a pleasant one.

Sensory memory also plays a role in our other memory systems. It quickly and effectively tells the brain which stimuli should be attended to by short-term memory and saves particular parts of the original memory in long-term memory which can be recognized later on.

Types of sensory memory

Our five senses make up the five types of sensory memory. Each one makes it possible to recognize and remember perceived impressions, along with the value that it was given during perception.

1. Auditory or Echoic Sensory Memory

The main function of auditory sensory memory is to capture sounds and auditory experiences in order to prolong its presence and be captured by other response systems. This type of memory can prolong the presence of a sound for up to 10 seconds after it has ended.

You may find that sometimes you ask someone to repeat what they’ve said, but after they’ve started, you realize that you actually heard them the first time. You didn’t know that you were listening, but your ears did their work and captured the auditory information from the environment.

2. Visual or Iconic Sensory Memory

Visual or iconic memory plays an important role when recording visual sensory experiences. Our eyes work like a camera that is constantly taking pictures of our surroundings and makes it possible to make each bit of information last longer so that it can be linked to other images. While this ability to capture visual information from the environment makes the information “last” longer, it does not last quite as long as echoic (auditory) memory. If auditory sensory memory can last up to 10 seconds, iconic sensory memory can last up to a maximum of 250 milliseconds after being captured. This short amount of time keeps the system from being overloaded with information. We sometimes unintentionally store this visual information in superior memory systems accidentally.

Imagine that you’re riding the subway for 40 minutes. During this commute, you sit in front of someone who you seemingly pay no attention to. The next day, you run into the same person in the grocery store and you recognize them. The images that you remember from the subway were processed and sent to other memory systems.

3. Tactile Sensory Memory

Tactile sensory memory makes it possible to record information about the characteristics of the objects that we touch and feel. Bliss, Crane, Manfield, and Townsend (1966) found in their studies that this ability differs in people with congenital blindness, late onset blindness, and people with normal vision. These differences reflect the ability for improvement through the practice of the tactile memory system.

Suppose that you need to get something from your closet, but they lights went out in your room and you’re left in the dark. You’ll probably find that you’re able to recognize a good amount of your clothes just by touch, without having to see them visually. While you may have never stopped to intentionally take in this kind of information, your sense of touch did its work and processed the information correctly.

4. Olfactory Sensory Memory

Olfactory sensory memory records information about the smells that different stimuli emit. We have the ability to smell and distinguish between a large number of different scents that arrive at our senses every day. In fact, our olfactory skills are able to detect a wider variety of stimuli than any other sense. We are able to link smells to different stimuli and retain this information for quite a long time.

Imagine that you have dinner at your house with a few friends. The next day, you find a jacket in the hallway that someone must have left. You don’t know whose it is because they took the jacket off before coming in the house so you didn’t see anyone wearing it. Smelling the jacket is one of the best ways to figure out whose it is. It’s possible that although you didn’t realize it at the time, you were subconsciously smelling everyone at the dinner all night so you might recognize whose it is.

5. Gustatory Sensory Memory

Gustatory sensory memory captures flavors and later classifies then and retains them as a memory. The sensations that we experience the first few times that we receive a gustatory stimulus are remembered quite strongly. Gustatory sensory memory, like olfactory memory, tends to create strong ties to feelings and reception of stimuli and keep them in a lasting way. Often, eating a certain food will bring you back to another time or situation. Like tactile memory, gustatory memory also requires quite a bit of practice.

Imagine that you go to live in a different country for a while and get used to a certain type of food. After returning to your home country, you try the same food a few years later and find that you’re transported back to the old country with memories that may not have anything to do with the food itself.

Sensory memory- Brain

How can you improve your sensory memory?

Some people have excellent sensory skills that make it easy for them to perceive and distinguish between stimuli with their skills (or one sense in particular). However, anyone can improve their different types of memory and sensory skills by properly training them. If you are able to develop your senses, you will also be able to improve memory.

Before starting to train and improve your different senses, it’s important to know which are stronger and which are weaker. People with sensory deficits usually compensate their necessities by improving another skill.

Once you have a better idea about each of your sensory memory skills, you’ll know how to best combine them. Imagine that a friend bought a book that you’re interested in reading. You ask them the name of the book and go straight to the bookstore to buy it, but you forget it on the way. However, if you ask the name of the book and look at the cover, noticing what it looks like and the picture it has, you’ll have more sensory data available, thus having a better possibility of remembering the book when you go to the bookstore.

Lastly, in order to complete sensory memory processes, it’s important to develop attention. There are programs available that make it possible to take an online cognitive assessment to help you better understand if your attention and memory processes are working adequately. CogniFit is a professional tool that can help carefully measure attention and other cognitive processes. The program makes it possible to find out your cognitive score with different brain games and activities. CogniFit uses advanced algorithms to find out each user’s cognitive profile and adapt to each person’s cognitive needs. The tasks assigned to the user will be adjusted to their specific needs.

Poor attention affects perception, and without perception, there is no memory. We said earlier that our senses capture information subconsciously, but that’s not always the case. Many people with poor attention also have a poor memory. This is not usually a big problem and is usually caused by missing steps when a memory is perceived. It’s not the same to see passively or watch something, and hearing and listening are two different activities. Being intentional in your actions makes it possible to better manage your memory.

This article was originally written in Spanish and translated into English

References

Bliss, J. C., Crane, H. D., Mansfield, P. K., & Townsend, J. T. (1966). Information available in brief tactile presentations. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 1(4), 273-283.

Young men have a strong cognitive advantage over young women

A new study by CogniFit finds that young men have a strong cognitive advantage over young women. New finding also shows that as men and women grow older, men lose their cognitive advantage faster.

Using its extensive and validated cognitive database, CogniFit found that young males aged 20 years of age or under have significantly better results in a large number of cognitive skills over females. This male advantage is observed at least until age 40 in cognitive abilities such as working memory, divided attention, eye-hand coordination, planning and response time. Males and females perform equally well on cognitive skills such as auditory memory, naming, processing speed and recognition.

The new study also reveals that over the lifespan both men and women exhibit similar patterns of cognitive decline. Young men however, start with a significant cognitive advantage over women on most cognitive functions and this advantage remains for several decades. The study shows that, eventually, men lose this advantage and their performance, when older, equals that of women. Only two abilities, divided attention and shifting still show an advantage for men by the time they reach 60 years old. For most other abilities the gap is closing or has closed. Closure starts after 40 years old.

The study is the first to mention an advantage for young males across so many variables. The fact that, as men and women grow older, men lose their cognitive advantage over women is also a new finding. This closing of the gap around the fifth or sixth decades seems to indicate a steeper, more precipitated decline for men. We know that mortality occurs earlier for men and this could be related to cardiovascular disease, which is more frequent in males. Cardiovascular sickness is known to impair cognition and men could be losing their cognitive edge, perhaps due to higher rates of cardiovascular difficulties. This is also interesting as decreasing cognitive status could predict cardiovascular risk as early as age 40.

Dr. Evelyn Shatil Head of Cognitive Science at CogniFit, explains: “The present findings make a case for brain training for the prevention of the steeper cognitive decline observed in men, and for bridging the cognitive difference observed in women, a gap which could explain the documented differences between men and women in mathematical ability.”

The study was conducted on 29,835 men and women who were divided into 4 age-groups that spanned ages from 17 to 90 and above. The cognitive decline was documented for each age-group for both men and women, together and separately, on a large and varied array of cognitive abilities. The study is comprehensive enough to also conclude with reasonable certainty that no cognitive ability is immune from cognitive decline. There was a main effect of Gender for 13 among the 19 cognitive abilities measured.

Real-time data on the CogniFit evaluation are collected online each time a user takes the evaluation. For this study, data obtained from users’ first-time administration of the CogniFit evaluation were processed and reduced, using Expert-Judge variable allocation to abilities as well as Factor Analysis Procedures, to yield 19 different cognitive ability scores. Scores on the 19 abilities were then standardized based on norms previously calculated using a well-defined general normative sample.

People’s memory for Facebook posts is stronger than memory for human faces

People’s memory for Facebook posts is strikingly stronger than their memory for human faces or sentences from books, according to a new study.

Try to remember a line from the last book you read. Or, if you’re not a big reader, the face of the last new person you met. Now try to remember your significant other’s last Facebook status update.

According to a new study published in the journal Memory & Cognition, our brains may be more adequately wired to remember status updates and tweets rather than snippets from novels or faces. Subjects in the study were one and a half times more likely to remember posts than sentences from a novel and almost two and a half times more likely than to remember faces.

The findings shed light on how our memories favour natural, spontaneous writing over polished, edited content, and could have wider implications for the worlds of education, communications and advertising.

The Trouble With Background Noise

The Trouble With Background Noise.

Everyday background noise, whether it is a neighbor’s television or passing aircraft, can have a disruptive effect on people’s cognition, cognitive learning and unconscious physiological processes, says a study in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health. The health hazards of loud noise are well studied, but low-intensity background noise has received less attention, researchers said.

How the Internet is shaping our “global brain”

How the Internet is shaping our “global brain”.

The South Africans have a beautiful philosophy called Ubuntu, which translates as “I am what I am because of who we all are.” This is a perfect way to think about the way a brain and our cognition develops, influenced by its surrounding people and experiences. It’s also how we should think about the way the Internet is developing, and about the way our choices in how we use technology are shaping this global brain. For both the brain and the Internet, networks are always binding us in new ways and changing our understanding of who we are and how we perceive the world. If we believe that the Internet comparatively is in the same critical stage of early development as a child, making as many connections as possible, then we need to be mindful of how we’re building its foundation.