Learning and Memory

When working memory works with ⺙x – 2 = ⻂: Effects of prior training on performance

“Working memory” is a broad term that describes what we do with information that is consciously accessible. For instance, when students take notes in class, they are hearing the lecturer’s sentences, placing them in the context of what they know about the topic, and synthesizing both to form the note they ultimately write on the […]

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When a flash a memory makes: Memorability of pictures in an RSVP task

What is it we remember, and why? Research in cognitive psychology has provided a broad and often very reliable sketch of the variables that determine memory performance. For example, recall of words is better when word repetitions are spaced rather than massed. To learn the Lithuanian word for cookie, you are better off spreading apart […]

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From zero to mayhem in 4 to 7 seconds: Memory and temporal preparation

The start of a Formula 1 Grand Prix is always exciting and adrenalin producing, even if you watch it on TV from thousands of miles away and keep the noise level below the pain threshold. (A Formula 1 cockpit is one of the loudest places on Earth.) Have a look at a start of a […]

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When actions have consequences you’ll know right from left more readily

When a person “doesn’t know right from left”, they are metaphorically confused, or unable to navigate the world. In the non-metaphorical meaning of the phrase, we’re talking about a person whose concepts of right and left are somehow undeveloped – and telling left from right is an ability that we definitely need in order to […]

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From “Rush Hour” to a tidy room: effective conversations find common ground

Have you ever had a conversation with someone, maybe with your spouse, your co-worker, or a student, and based on their response (or lack thereof) you ask yourself, “Did they even hear a word I said?” In the famous American movie, Rush Hour, the actor Chris Tucker posed the question a different way: In these […]

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Porcine aviators’ attire: The indestructible causal rationality of magical worlds

Suppose your task is to design a stylish aviator outfit for pigs. How would you go about doing that? You might find it helpful to know that the 1616 edition of John Withals’s English-Latin dictionary, A Shorte Dictionarie for Yonge Begynners, notes that “Pigs fly in the ayre with their tayles forward.” So you might […]

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“Fuhgeddaboudit” if you can: When remembering may help you forget about a bad date

Have you ever had a day where nothing seemed to go according to plan? Maybe you had a flat tire, were caught in the rain, or maybe even a bad date? The type of day that feels like a page out of Judith Viorst’s, “Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day”. Click […]

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Chunks amidst the ruins of Giuoco Pianissimo: Superior expert memory for random domain-relevant material

In 1974, philosopher Thomas Nagel famously asked, what’s it like to be a bat? I am not sure that this question has been answered satisfactorily, so maybe we should focus on a slightly more circumscribed variant of the same question: What’s it like to be a chess grand master? Cognitive scientists have been addressing this […]

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Call your first witness (and again and again…): Multiple trial viewings have no effect on eyewitness outcomes

Have you ever watched one of your favorite procedural crime shows (there are plenty, so pick your poison) and wondered who designs the techniques used to elicit eyewitness accounts of the crime? Certainly shouting in the face of the witness is likely to influence the quality of recall, but what other factors play a role […]

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