Cognitive Approach to Behavior


0. Introduction to cognitive psychology

Cognitive psychology - finding out how the human mind comes to know things about the
world and how it uses this knowledge comes after behaviourism which argues that the mind
is like a “black box”, input enters and output exits the mind, but the process within is
unknown and cannot be examined.

Cognition - the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through
thoughts, experience and the senses (aka thinking)

Cognitive processes - perception, thinking, decision-making/problem-solving,
memory, attention, language

- Cognitive theorists stated that we could carry out scientific studies - through
     observational-based research - that support how cognitive processes work

- By manipulating the variables we can see how observable outcomes change and
deduce how the process works (experimental method)

Assumptions of cognitive approach:
1. Psychologists see the mind as information processing machine using hardware (the
brain) and software (the mental representations)
- Input is from the interaction with the environment - bottom-up processing
- This information is then processed in the mind by top-down processing via
pre-stored information in the memory. Finally, there is some output in the form
of behaviour

2. Cognitive processing can be studied scientifically by scientific research methods
- Though sometimes experimental tasks did not always resemble what people
do in their daily lives now cognitive psychologists study cognition in the
laboratory as well as in a daily context

3. Mental representations guide behaviours - the way that we process and organize our
information determines how we behave
- We process information based on past experiences and understandings
Cognitive misers - we often make choices not to actively process information because we
want to save time and effort. We use mental shortcuts to make decisions because of:
knowledge, motivation and economy - “I don’t know, I don’t care, I don’t have time”



Beck/Ellis (negative triad/ABC model) - cognitive theories of depression:
- Negative triad: depressed people have a negative view of the self, the world, and
the future, this way of thinking is what has caused people to be depressed
- ABC model: Activating event → Belief → Consequence


1. Schema theory

Schema - a cognitive structure of preconceived ideas, a framework representing some
the aspect of the world, or a system of organising or perceiving new information
- Schemas are based on past experiences
- We use schemas to organise current knowledge and provide a framework for future
understanding - simplify reality and set up expectations
- Culturally specific as we are not born with schemas

Your mind includes the memory, which is like a computer hard drive and schemas are like
the folders on your computer. (computer metaphor)


Functions of schema:
- Organise our knowledge
- Allows us to recall our knowledge
- Helps us to behave appropriately and inappropriately
- Helps us predict likely outcomes in the environment
- Helps us make sense of the current experiences

History of schema: Jean Piaget (1926)
- Children learn using schemas that either accommodated or assimilated
- Accommodation is when the existing schema is replaced.
- Assimilation is when information is added to the existing schema.

Schema theory - the schematic process (top-down processing) takes place and predicts
that what we already know will influence the outcome of information processing.
- Bottom-up processing: taking sensory information and then assembling and
integrating it into a schema (creating a new schema that does not rely on the past)


Types of schemas:

Scripts - events that happened in time rather than objects (eg. what happens after
we walked into a restaurant). When events don’t follow the scripts, we can become
frustrated, angry, disappointed or simply confused
Self-schema - organise the information we have about ourselves (information stored
in our memory about our strengths and weaknesses and our feelings). The most
important factor determines if one is depressed or not.
Social schema - information about a group of people


Bartlett (1932)

- Aim: to investigate how the memory of a story is affected by previous knowledge. To
see if the cultural background and unfamiliarity with a text would lead to the distortion of
memory when the story was recalled
- Hypothesis: memory is reconstructive and people store and retrieve information
according to the expectations formed by cultural schemas.
- Procedure: the experimenter told the participants a Native American legend. The
participants were British so the story would be unfamiliar to them. The participants
were then allocated randomly into one of the two conditions. One group was asked to
use a repeated reproduction and the other was told to use a serial reproduction.
- Result: There was no significant difference between the way that the groups recalled
the story - the story would become shorter and more conventional, and only details
that could be assimilated by the participants are retained.
- Three patterns of distortion: story becomes more consistent with the participants’
own cultural expectations - details were changed to fit the norms of British culture.
Details that were considered unimportant were also omitted and the participants tend
to change the order of the story to make sense of it using terms more familiar to the
culture of the participants.


Schema memory processing stages:
- Encoding: transforming sensory information into memory
- Storage: creating a biological trace of encoded information in memory, which is
either consolidated or lost
- Retrieval: using the stored information in thinking, and problem-solving


Brewer and Treyens (1981)

- Aim: study the role of schema in the encoding and retrieval of memory
- Sample: 86 university psychology students
- Procedure: participants were seated in a room that was made to look like an office.
The room consisted of objects that were typical of offices such as the typewriter, and
usual office stationery, while some objects that do not typically belong to an office
(eg. a skill or toy top)
- The participants were asked to wait in the office while the researcher leaves for 35
seconds and the participants were then asked to recall using one of the three
conditions what they remembered from the office.
- Condition A: the recall condition - the participants were asked to write down a
description of objects in the office, as well as stating the location, size and colour of
the object. Condition B: drawing condition - the participants were given an outline of
the room and asked to draw the object they could remember. Condition C: verbal
recognition condition - the participants read a list of objects and were asked if they be
in the room or not in the room.
- Result: when the participants were asked to recall by writing or drawing, they are
more likely to recall items that fit to be in the office and those that do not fit with the
schema of an office are not often recalled. But when asked to select items on a list,
those that do not fit the schema were chosen the most.


Evaluation of schema theory:
● Strengths:
- A large amount of empirical evidence that supports the theory
- Useful for an understanding of how people categorize information, interpret
information and make inferences.
- Contributed to the existence of memory distortion and false memory
- A relatively robust theory that has generated a lot of research

● Limitations:
- It is not entirely clear how schemas are acquired in the first place or the exact
the way they influence our cognitive processes
- Too vague and cannot account for why schema-inconsistent information is


2. Multistore model of memory (MSM)

Memory - the process by which information is encoded, stored and retrieved

Types of memory:
- Declarative memory (explicit memory) - the memory of facts and events and refers to
those memories that can be consciously recalled. There are two subsets of declarative
memory (explicit memory)
Episodic memory - contains the memory of specific events that have occurred at a
given time and in a given space
Semantic memory - general knowledge of facts and people, concepts and schemas
and it is not linked to time and space
- Procedural memory - the unconscious memory of skill and how to do things


MSM Model - Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968):

- The first basic structure of memory inspired by computer science
- This model is based on several assumptions:

1. Memory consists of several separate locations in which information is
2. Memory processes are sequential
3. Each memory operates in a single, uniform way

- You need to pay attention to something in order to remember information, rehearsal is
also vital to keeping material active in STM by repeating it until it can be stored in LTM
- Sensory memory is modality specific (related to different senses). The most important
stores in the model are the visual store (iconic memory) and the auditory store
(echoic memory).
- Information in the sensory store will only stay for a few seconds and only a very small
amount will continue into the STM store
- STM store is limited to around seven items (7±2) with a duration of 6-18 seconds. But
with rehearsals, information can stay in STM for up to 30 seconds.
- Information will be displaced from the STM with new information if no rehearsal is being
carried out and is quickly lost.
- Rehearsals in STM play a key role in determining if it is stored in the LTM


Miller et al (1956)

- Aim: to see how many numbers an individual can recall in a sequence of numbers; to
test both the capacity and duration of the STM
- Procedure: the participants were asked to memorize a string of numbers, each time by
increasing one digit (similar to this
- Results: “Magic number 7”, the average memory span is between 5 and 9 items (7±2)


Cowan et al (2010)

- Argues that the magic number 7 might be an overestimate and too optimistic
- Cowan suggested that the procedure used by Miller allows participants to employ
“processing strategies” that do not reflect how we use STM daily (low ecological
- “Running span procedure” - participants would have no idea how long the list of numbers
is in advance and would listen and recall the list of numbers
- Participants only recalled with a range of 3-5 digits (4±1)
- Findings are supported by biological research (the use of fMRI), STM capacity relates to
the parietal cortex


Empirical evidence that supports the model:
- Patient HM case study
- Glanzer and Cunitz (1966): free recall of lists of 15 items combined with an interference
the task is to show that there are two processes involved in information retrieval.
→ Conditions: recall the words with no delay, 10-second delay, 30-second delay
→ No delay - first five and last three were recalled best; 10 seconds + 30 seconds -
words at the beginning of the list were not a problem, but poor recall of later words.
→ This suggests that the later words are in STM and memory was lost because of
interference; earlier words had been passed to LTM so are not lost.
Primacy effect - the ability to recall words at the beginning of a list (which went into LTM)
Recency effect - the ability to recall words that have just been spoken (still in STM)


Evaluation of the Multi-stored model of memory:
● Strength of MSM:
- Significant research to support the theory of separate memory states, the model
is supported by empirical evidence
- The model is of historical importance - gave psychologists a way to talk about
memory and allow potential research to be done based on this model

● Weakness of MSM:
- Over-simplified, it assumes that each of the stores works independently
- Does NOT explain memory distortion
- Does NOT explain why things may be learnt with a minimal amount of rehearsal
- Does NOT explain why memory is not transferred into the LTM even though the
material has been rehearsed multiple times
- The idea of STM as a gateway to LTM - information in STM does not simply pass
through into LTM with rehearsal (process between unknown)


3. Working Memory Model (WMM)

The Working memory model (WMM) is a development of the multi-store model of memory
(MSM). In MSM, the short-term store was stated to be a singular unit, while the WMM
suggested that STM is not a single store but rather consists of a number of different stores.
- There are different stores for visual and auditory processing
- Working memory (short memory) should be seen as a kind of mental workspace,
providing a temporary space that holds relevant information for tasks (buffer?)


WMM model - Baddeley and Hitch (1974)

Central executive (CE): prefrontal cortex
- An attention control system that monitors and coordinates the operations of the
subsystems of processing and storage, and decides how the subsystems are used.
- Has the capacity to focus attention, or divide attention between two or more sources
and switch attention from one to the other.
- Has limited capacity, cannot attend to large amounts of information simultaneously
- Modality free: can process any sensory information (visual and auditory)

Two ways of attention control in CE:
- Automatic level: based on habits that rely on schemas in the LTM and are
controlled more or less automatically by stimuli from the environment (eg. cycling to
school) and require little attention (almost like a reflex)
- Supervisory attention: deals with planning and decision-making. It creates new
strategies when the old ones are no longer sufficient. It is also active in emergency
situations. It is involved in situations that require self-regulation (eg. avoiding eating
junk food). The supervisory attention is capable of considering alternative plans and
choosing the most favourable.


Phonological loop (verbal STM):
- The auditory component of STM, and can be divided into two components.

- Articulatory control system (inner voice): can hold information in a verbal form.
(eg. when remembering phone numbers and repeating them to yourself)
- Phonological store (inner ear): holds auditory memory traces, and can only last 1.5
to 2 seconds if it is not rehearsed by the articulatory control system. Can receive
information directly from the sensory memory in the form of auditory material. Can
retrieve information from the LTM and the ACS in a verbal form.
Articulatory suppression - the process of inhibiting memory performance by speaking
while being presented with an item to remember.
- For example, the participants are asked to repeat a word or a number while
memorizing a list of words.
- Concurrent tasks (articulatory suppression task) would decrease the accuracy of
recall of the information because the phonological rehearsal system is overloaded.


Landry and Bartling (2011)

- Aim: to investigate if articulatory suppression would influence recall of a written list of
phonologically dissimilar letters in serial recall.
- Sample: thirty-four undergraduate psychology students
- Procedure: the participants were randomly assigned to different conditions. In the
experimental condition, participants were required to recall letters while saying the
numbers 1 and 2 at a rate of two numbers per second (articulatory suppression task),
there were no articulatory suppression tasks for the control group.
- Result: the scores from the experimental group were much lower than the scores
from the control group, the mean per cent of accurate recall in the control group was
76% compared to the mean of 45% in the experimental group.
- Conclusion: results supported the hypothesis that articulatory suppression is
preventing rehearsal in the phonological loop because of overload. Resulting in
difficulty in memorizing the letter strings for participants in the experimental
conditions whereas the participants in the control condition did not experience such


Visuospatial sketchpad (VSS; visual STM): occipital lobe
- The visual component of the STM could be called the inner eye
- Temporary store for visual and spatial information from either the sensory memory or
the LTM (eg. storage and manipulation of patterns and spatial movements in 2/3D)
- Helps us remember where the visual information is and creates visual imagery


The episodic buffer: parietal lobe
- The buffer temporarily holds several sources of information (auditory, visual) active at
At the same time, while you consider what is needed the most in the present situation
- Information from the LTM will appear via the episodic buffer, the role of the buffer is
to act as a temporary and passive display store until the information is needed
- It has a limited capacity and is responsible for our conscious awareness


Case study: Patient KF; Warrington and Shallice (1974)
- Patient KF had suffered brain damage as a result of a motorcycle accident, his LTM
was intact but he showed impairment in his STM

- Similar to Patient HM but very different, he was able to learn, indicating that he was
able to move information from the STM to the LTM.
- Patient KF had problems recalling numbers and words presented to him verbally but
had no problem recalling when the numbers and the words are presented to him
- This supports the WMM that there are separate stores in the STM
- On top of that, although Patient KF had trouble remembering words or letters, he had
no difficulty recalling cats meowing or telephones ringing, this suggests that the
damage in the STM was auditory and not visual, and verbal rather than non-verbal.


Evaluation of WMM:
● Strengths:
- The model is supported by a considerable amount of experimental evidence
- Brain imaging also shows that different areas of the brain are more active
when carrying out verbal tasks than when carrying out visual tasks.
- Case studies of patients with brain damage support the theory
- This model helps us understand why we are able to multi-task in some
situations and not in others

● Limitations:
- The model is relatively vague, the role of the CE is unclear, and how various
components of the model interaction are not yet clear
- Only explains short-term memory and tells us very little about the processes
involved in the long-term memory
- Does not explain memory distortion or the role of emotion in memory
- Does not address how the other sensory information is processed, and spatial
memory within the model is not fully developed


4. Thinking and decision making

Thinking - the process of using knowledge and information to make plans, interpret the
world and make predictions about the world in general. It is often the case that attention is
paid to the stimuli around us during the process of thinking.
- Components of thinking: problem-solving, creativity, reasoning and decision-making.
Decision making - the process of identifying and choosing alternatives based on the values
and preferences of the decision-maker. It is required during problem-solving to reach a

Problem-solving - thinking that is directed toward solving specific problems.


The dual process model - there are two basic modes of thinking, “System 1” and “System 2”

- System 1: an automatic, intuitive and effortless way of thinking. They often employ
heuristics (mental shortcuts that involve focusing on one aspect of a complex
problem and ignoring the others).
- This shortcut allows us to be more efficient but at the same time, we are more prone
to making mistakes.
- Gilbert and Gill (2000) have argued that we become more likely to use System 1
thinking when our cognitive load is high - when we have lots of different things to
think about at the same time or when we have to react to something quickly

- System 2: slower, conscious and rational mode of thinking, however, it requires
more effort and often does not employ the use of heuristics. (Rational thinking)
- Starts by thinking carefully about all the possible ways we could interpret a situation
and then gradually eliminate the possibilities based on sensory evidence until we
arrive at a solution.
- Allows us to analyse the world around us and think carefully about the surroundings


5. Reconstructive memory

Loftus supports Bartlett’s idea that memory is reconstructive, and that the nature of
questions asked by police or in a courtroom can influence witnesses’ memory.
- Misinformation effect - reading questions that are suggestive and post-event
information can affect schema processing which may influence the accuracy of recall
- But when eyewitnesses’ memories are distorted, it can have damaging effects
(Ronald Cotton case)


Loftus and Palmer (1974)

- Aim: to investigate whether the use of a leading question would affect an
eyewitness’s estimation of the speed at which the cars collide
- Sample: 45 students were divided into five groups of 9.
- Procedure: seven short films about traffic accidents were shown, the films were all
taken from the driver’s education films. After the film, the participants were given a
questionnaire to fill in about the video, one of the questions was asking the
participants to estimate the speed of the car involved in this accident.
- All the participants were asked the same questions but the critical question
(estimation of the speed) included different verbs. Five words were used: hit, collided,
bumped, smashed, and contacted, for the five conditions.
- Conclusion: memory about accidents can be changed, and the result also supports the
hypothesis and indicates that the choice of words in a question could consistently
affect participants’ answers to the question (memory distortion).
- Different word choices would have different connotations and activate differently
schemas based on the severity and cause memory distortion
- Evaluation: a controlled laboratory experiment, with low ecological validity;
- The methodology and the material (video used) are artificial, lowering the external
- When watching the video, one does not experience the emotions that one would
experience when actually seeing a real car accident;
- All participants were students, so the sample is highly biased thus the results cannot
be generalised with the general population.


Yuille and Cutshall (1986) - counterargument for Loftus and Palmer (memory is reliable)

- Aim: whether leading questions affect the memory of eyewitnesses at a real crime
the scene in Vancouver.
- Sample: 13 eyewitnesses (21 in total, but only 13 agreed)
- Procedure: an interview was conducted with the participants four months later.
There were two conditions (two leading questions):
- 1. Did you see a broken headlight on the getaway car?
- 2. Did you see a yellow panel on the car? (although the actual colour is blue)

- Afterwards, they were also asked to rate their stress on a rate of 1-7.
- Result: Participants recalled a large amount of accurate information confirmed by the
police reports. They did not make errors because of the leading questions and the
researcher found a positive correlation between the high level of stress and more
accurate memories
- Evaluation: way stronger ecological validity, as this is based on real-life experiences
and all of them had an emotional response to the incident;
- Not replicable and cannot be generalised because of the small sample size;
- No control variables, as it is difficult to know the level of rehearsal that was used by
the different participants


Bahrick et al (1975)

- Aim: to investigate the reliability of autobiographical memory over time - specifically the names and the faces of the people that had gone to school together
- Sample: 392 aged 17-74 with a published yearbook available
- Procedure: participants were asked to do the following five tests

- For each question, they were asked to rate their confidence level on 1-3 (3 being
certain, 2 being probable and 1 being a guess)
- Result: participants who were tested within 15 years of graduation were roughly 90%
accurate in identifying names and faces, after 48 years 80% for names and 70% for
faces. Free recall was worse, 60% for 15 years and 30% for 48 years.
- Evaluation: the study was cross-sectional and not a longitudinal study, so we cannot
account for participant variability. However, because of the large sample size, we are
able to establish a trend in the data that demonstrates that facial recognition has high


6. Flashbulb Memory (FBM)

Some events are not easily forgotten (ie: first date, national events) and it is because we
remember better if the experience is involved strong emotions.


Flashbulb memory theory - Brown and Kulik (1977):
- Highly detailed, exceptionally vivid snapshots of the moment when a surprising and
the emotionally arousing event happened.
- Special-mechanism hypothesis (SMH): argues for the existence of a
special biological memory mechanism that, when triggered by an event
exceeding critical levels of surprise creates a permanent record of the details
and circumstances surrounding the experience.

- Flashbulb memories are different from normal memories and some argue that they
are resistant to forgetting
- The SMH is supported by modern neuroscience, emotional events are better
remembered than fewer emotional events because of the role of the amygdala
- Importance-driven model - the most commonly accepted model for FBM,
emphasized that personal consequences determine the intensity of emotional


Brown and Kulik (1977)

- Sample: 80 participants
- Procedure: the participants were given a series of nine events (ie: the assassination
of President Kennedy) and asked if they recalled the circumstances in which they
first heard about the event. For those who said yes, they were asked to write one of
their memory and rate it on a scale of personal importance.

- Result: 90% of the participants recalled the circumstances of the nine events given
even after 13 years. 73/80 participants said that they had FBM associated with a
personal shock such as the sudden death of a close relative
- A lower rate of FBM among the white participants than the black participants when
the event was the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., displaying the link between
personal importance and the event is important in the creation of FBM.
- Evaluation: there is no way to verify whether the memories stated by the participants
are accurate and we cannot truly test the level of surprise upon hearing about the event, as
the emotional response cannot be measured directly and accurately
- Demand characteristics might be an issue in terms of events that are of national


Sharot et al (2007) - biological support for FBM

- Aim: to determine the potential role of biological factors on FBM
- Sample: 24 participants who witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks
- Procedure: in an fMRI scanner, the participants were presented with word cues on a
screen. The word “summer” and “September” was projected along with this word in
order to have the participants link the word to the summer holidays or events of 9-11.
The brain activity was observed while they recalled the event.
- After the brain scanning, they were asked to rate their memories for vividness, detail,
confidence in accuracy and arousal. They were also asked to write down their
personal memories.
- Result: Only half reported having FBM, and those who reported having FBM were
closer to the WTC (World Trade Center) on the day, and those that were close also
included more specific details in their written memories.
- Conclusion: close personal experience may be critical in engaging the neural
mechanisms that produce the vivid memories characteristic of FBM.
- Evaluation: the study demonstrated the role of the amygdala as a result of proximity
to the event, but it does not explain the reason why some people saw it on TV and
may claim to have an FBM.
- The study is also correlational and does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship
which explains how memory is attributed to the activity of the amygdala. The
interaction between the IV and DV remains unclear.


Evaluation of FBM:
+ Biological evidence that supports the theory (Sharot et al)
+ The theory challenged the understanding of memory and led to findings that different
types of memory are processed in different parts of the brain

- Neisser and Harsch (1992), Kulkofsky et al (2011)
- One’s level of confidence defines FBM
- Some of the constructs in the study of FBM are problematic - the level of personal
relevance, level of surprise, amount of overt rehearsal
- The cultural difference that indicates that rehearsal may play the most important role
- Impossible to verify the accuracy of memories
- It is not possible to measure one’s emotion at the time of the event - making it
impossible to demonstrate a clear causal explanation


7. Biases in thinking and decision making

System 1 thinking is faster and uses minimal effort and they apply heuristics.
- Heuristics: mental shortcut that is usually a simple rule which is applied with little or
no thought and quickly generates a probable answer
- Demonstrating the heuristics could be a good way to provide empirical support for
the system 1 mode of thinking.

Heuristics can result in patterns of thinking and decision-making that are consistently
inaccurate, the patterns are usually given the name of cognitive biases.
- In this course, the term cognitive bias will be used as a general term to include
- Three cognitive biases here: anchoring bias, peak-end rule and framing affect


Anchoring bias - the tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered
(the anchor) when making decisions (the jellybeans in a jar estimation).


Englich and Mussweiler (2001) 

- Aim: to investigate if anchoring bias could play a key role in determining to sentence
in courtrooms
- Sample: 19 young trial judges (15 male and 4 female) with an average age of 29.37
and an average of 9.34 months of experience
- Procedure: they were given a scenario of a rape case, where they demanded from
the prosecutor either a 34 or 2 months sentence in prison and they were asked to
give a sentence to the lawbreaker.
- Result: on average, when the prosecutor recommended a sentence of 34 months
(high anchor), participants sentenced on average eight months longer in prison than
when the prosecutor recommended that the sentence should be 2 months (low
anchor) for the same crime


Strack & Musseweiler (1997)

- Aim: to test the influence of anchoring bias on decision making
- Sample: opportunity sample of 69 Germna undergraduate students from the
university canteen at lunchtime
- Procedure: they were asked by the researcher if they would take part in a general
knowledge questionnaire (the true aim of the study is hidden), the participants
answered questions on a computer screen.
- The participants were then randomly divided into two conditions, the condition with
low anchor, they were asked “Did Mahatma Gandhi die before or after the age of 9?”,
while the condition for high anchor was asked if he die before or after the age of 140
- After the implausible anchor, the participants were then asked to estimate the age of
Gandhi when he died.
- Result: the participants with high anchor gave an average age of 66.7 years, while
those that have low anchor gave the answer of 50.1 years, compared to the actual
answer of 78 years old.
- Findings: even though the anchor presented was outlandish (strange), it still
demonstrated effects on participants’ estimates.

- The lower anchor (9) has been more influential than the high anchor, and this could
reflect the belief that the high anchor is in fact impossible, rather than implausible


Peak-end rule - a heuristics in which people judge an experience based on how they felt at
its peak (the most intense point) and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or
average of every moment of the experience.
- The other information in this experience is not forgotten, but rather not used when
reaching a conclusion or judgement for this piece of experience


Kahnemann et al (1993)

- Aim: to investigate the role of the peak-end rule on decision making
- Procedure: asked participants to hold up their hands to their wrists in cold water until
they were asked to remove them. Then they were asked to record how strong the
the pain was using a scale of 1-5. There were two conditions:
- Condition 1: 60 seconds of 14 degrees Celsius cold water, the researcher instructs
participants to take their hands out after the 60 seconds are up
- Condition 2: 90 seconds of 14 degrees Celsius cold water, after 60 seconds, the
researcher opens a valve which allows slightly warmer water to flow in, the
the temperature should rise by about 1 degree.
- Participants were then told there will be one more trial of condition 1 or 2 and they
were asked to choose the condition.
- Result: 80% of the participants choose the second condition.
- Conclusion: the second trial was long and was not taken into account (duration
neglect), the participants were basing their choice on how the condition ended,
rather than making an overall assessment of the pain.


Prospect theory - the way people choose between alternatives that involve risk, where the
possibilities of outcome are unknown.

Framing effect - people react to choices depending on how they were framed
- People prefer information that is framed in positive language


Tversky and Kahneman (1986)

- Aim: to test the influence of positive and negative frames on decision-making.
- Sample: self-volunteer sample of 307 US undergraduate students
- Procedure: participants were asked to make a decision between two options in a
hypothetical situation. For some participants, the information was framed positively
while for others it was framed negatively. The scenario is as follows:
- Imagine that the U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian
disease, which is expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to
combat the disease have been proposed. Assume that the exact scientific
estimate of the consequences of the programs is as follows.
- In condition 1, the participants were given the "positive frame." Their choices were
the following:
- If Program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved.
- If Program B is adopted, there is a 1/3 probability that 600 people will be saved and a
2/3 probability that no people will be saved.
- In condition 2, the participants were given the "negative frame." Their choices
were the following:

- If Program C is adopted 400 people will die.
- If Program D is adopted there is a 1/3 probability that nobody will die, and a 2/3
the probability that 600 people will die.
- It is important to note that all four options, (A, B, C, and D) are effectively the same;
200 people will survive and 400 people will not.
- Result: In condition 1, 72% of the participants chose Program A, whereas only 28%
chose program B. In condition 2, 22% of the participants chose Program C and 78%
chose Program D.


Evaluation of cognitive biases:
- Difficult to measure the actual use of biases in a real-world context, because there
are way more factors that will influence your decision
- Heuristics are often used unconsciously, our explanation as to how we decide was
not really a true reflection of our thinking processes
- Much of the research is done with Western university student samples under highly
controlled conditions. Studies lack ecological validity as well as cross-cultural
support, assuming that cognitive biases are universal


8. Emotion and decision making

Emotion is a factor in decision-making, although most models do not address exactly how
and why emotions might influence the way we think and the decisions we make (ie: Dual
processing model)
- Emotion may also be essential in decision-making


Somatic marker hypothesis (Damasio, 1994)

- good decision-making depends on an ability to access appropriate emotional information linked to the situation in which the decision is being made, and that emotional process guide decision-making
- Patients who consistently make poor decisions had all suffered bilateral damage
(both hemispheres of the brain) in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)
- Somatic markers - the feelings in the body that are associated with emotions, such
as the association of rapid heartbeat with anxiety or nausea with disgust. vmPFC is
involved in somatic markers


Bechara et al (1999)

- Aim: to determine the role of damage to the vmPFC on decision-making
- Sample: 13 healthy participants and 5 that suffer vmPFC damage
- Procedure: the participants were asked to play the game of ‘Iowa Gambling Task’, a
game developed by the key researcher to test the hypothesis.
- There are four desks labelled from A-D, the participants can choose one of the decks
and the face of the card appears with a message indicating the amount of money
participants win or lose. The participants were asked to do 100 trials and a test of
skin conductive response was given to measure the emotional response
- The decks have patterns, decks A and B was programmed to return high rewards
initially but would then deliver larger and larger loss as the game went on. C and D
were the opposite, with small rewards but small losses at the same time. Therefore,
to maximise the profit, participants should learn to favour decks C and D more.
- Result: the healthy participant quickly learnt the best strategy and developed
anticipatory skin conductive responses (SCRs) to the disadvantaged deck while
those who suffered from vmPFC damage did not fare so well and had lower
anticipatory SCR.


(HL) 0. the digital world

Technology has become an essential part of classrooms around the globe, but is technology
really good for us? There is much research that has been done to show the positives and
negatives of the digital world but they are often not replicated and are biased.


Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014)

- Aim: to test their theory that using laptops or other electronic devices to take notes
may hinder learning.
- When taking notes by hand, we cannot write fast enough to keep up with the
professors, so we have to process the information that is spoken and put it into our
own words in order to get it onto paper, and this processing helps to learn, so it is
better than taking notes on the computer, regardless of how complete the notes on
the computer might be.
- Sample: volunteer sample; 109 undergraduate students from UCLA (27 male)
- Procedure: Two conditions were assigned randomly to the participants, one group
had to take notes using paper and the other had to use a laptop to take notes. All the
participants watched a series of four lectures
- Participants were then told that they are receiving a test upon the lectures a week
later and they were not allowed to take home the notes.
- Before the test, participants from each condition were randomly assigned again to
two other conditions (study and no-study). In the study condition, participants were
given 10 minutes before the test to study their notes and in the no-study condition,
participants were not allowed to study their notes.
- Results:

- Evaluation: the study used an experimental design and a volunteer sample. The
the study lacked ecological validity, as the lectures were disconnected from the interests
of the students, and the test questions were too artificial.


Kramar et al (2014) - ethics in psychology

- Aim: to test the idea that information in an individual’s Facebook feed could cause
emotional contagion - the transfer of emotional states from one person to another.
- Sample: 689,003 Facebook users
- Procedure: Used an existing algorithm and a software system to identify posts with
positive and negative words. For some participants, 10%-90% of the positive posts
(posts containing one or more positive words) were omitted and for others, 10%-90%
of the negative posts were omitted. A control group was set where their feed 
omits both positive and negative posts randomly.
- The researcher did not manually alter the posts but rather it was done automatically
using the algorithm. Then, the words used by participants in their own posts were

analysed during the week of experimental manipulation and the percentage of
positive and negative words used in these posts was recorded
- Results: when participants had the positive content reduced, they were less likely to
use positive language in their own posts, and vice versa.
- Emotional content to which we are exposed through the internet does affect our
emotional state; when we see fewer positive posts we are less likely to post positive
events or positive opinions of our own.


Survey research:
- Much research was conducted by using survey data, often collected online. Despite
many benefits and strengths of this research method, for example, the absence of
any significant ethical concerns of the participants (they are often fully informed or at
least provided with a debrief and right to withdraw). However, there are various
limitations of this method in terms of internal and external validity
- Social desirability effect, being one of its limitations, participants might be reluctant
to provide information which could be negatively judged. Also likely that people are
unwilling to honestly describe what they are doing when they are online.
- Another limitation is sampling bias, surveys are often made available to every
people on the assumption that only some of them will choose to respond. But, we
might consider why some people would take part in a survey about social media while
other people choose not to do so. For example, is it likely that those taking part have a
particular interest in social media (or a particular aversion to it)? In either case, this may
make it difficult to generalize results to a wider population.


(HL) 1. Memory in the digital world

Transactive memory systems - an additional form of memory that exist within groups of
closely linked individuals suggest that collaboration between group members may be the
the essence of retrieval of essential information.

Google effect - the belief that people are using the internet as a personal memory


Sparrow et al (2011)

- Aim: to investigate the relationship between memory, digital technology and ease of
access to memory
- Sample: 60 undergraduate students at the University of Harvard using a 2x2
independent samples design
- Procedure: participants were asked to type 40 facts into the computer, some of the
facts were expected to represent new knowledge while some were more likely to be
already known to the participants. Half of the participants were told that the computer
would store everything they typed for later while the other half were told that it would
be erased. Within the two groups, half were instructed to remember the information
and the other half were not.
- Result: the participants being asked to remember the information made no
the significant difference in the participant’s ability to recall the facts, while there was a
significant difference if the participants believed that the information would be stored
in the computer.

- Conclusion: participants made less effort to remember the information when they
were told that the computer will be able to store the relevant information than those
who knew the information will be erased. However, we cannot directly measure the
level of effort and thus we cannot be certain as to why this difference exists.


Storm et al (2016):

- Aim: to test the idea that the successful use of Google to retrieve information made it
more likely that participants would rely on Google in the future rather than calling
information from their individual memory store.
- Sample: 60 undergraduate volunteers
- Procedure: the participants were randomly assigned to one of the three conditions.
The three conditions were internet, memory and baseline. In the internet condition,
the participants were asked to use Google to search a series of eight difficult
questions. In the memory condition, the participants were asked to answer the same
questions, but based on their own memory only. Participants in the baseline condition
were not given any questions.

- Then all participants were asked to answer eight easy questions as fast as possible.
They were all given access to Google but without any explicit instructions to use it.
The dependent variable was the proportion of easy questions the participants choose
to use Google to answer.

- Conclusion: the use of internet search engines makes us more likely to do so to
retrieve information in future information recall tasks


(HL) 2. Technology and thinking

Frequent use of technology (social media) could intensify negative cognitive biases based
on comparisons between ourselves and the apparent experience of our online friends,
having a direct effect on both our self-concept and our self-esteem.

Self-concept: the individual’s belief about oneself, our view of who we are, how we
perceive our own personality, advantages and shortages.
Self-esteem: our emotional response to our self-concept, a person’s overall
subjective evaluation of his or her own worth (ie: are we happy about who we are?)


Social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954) - there is a drive within the individual to have
accurate self-evaluations, we often compare ourselves to other people to determine our
worth and our self-concept.
- Social media increased the opportunity for social comparison and maybe more
influenced by negative comparisons, which reduces their self-esteem and potentially
impacts their mood as well
- Upward comparisons: comparisons where we deem the experience, behaviour and
characteristics of others to be preferable to that of our own.


Chou and Edge (2012)

- Aim: to test the influence of the availability heuristic on how Facebook users
evaluate themselves in comparison to other people
- Sample: opportunity sample of 425 US undergraduate students
- Procedure: participants were asked to complete a survey to indicate how strongly
they agree or disagree (on a scale of 1-10) with a series of statements such as
“many of my friends have a better life than me”.
- They were also asked to estimate the amount of time they spent each week on
Facebook, the average time spent with friends per week and the number of ‘friends’
on Facebook whom they did not know.
- Result: participants that spent the most hours per week on Facebook were more
likely to agree with the statement and those who spent the most time with their
friends in real life were more likely to disagree with the given statement.
- Those who reported having a larger number of unknown friends also were more likely
to agree with the statement “Many of my friends have a better life than me”.
- Conclusion: more time spent on social media like FB means more exposure to other
people’s fun social activities more ‘available’. Those people then tend to compare
their own lives to these examples.


Utall et al (2013)

- Research method: a meta-analysis
- Procedure: 217 different research that investigates the magnitude, moderators,
durability and generalisability of training on spatial memory
- Conclusion: playing shooter video games improves your spatial skills just as the
same as university courses
- Spatial skills can be trained with video games in a relatively brief period, and these
training benefits last over an extended period of time, and these skills transfer to
other spatial tasks outside the video game context, at the same time, develops
problem-solving skills



Bavelier et al (2011)

- Aim: to investigate the connection between action games and decision-making.
- Sample: two groups of men and women, an average age of 26, who never played
video games in the past.
- Procedure: participants were randomly assigned into two conditions: video game
and simulation game. After 50 hours of game time, participants were asked to take a
simple test on the computer to determine which way the majority of dots were moving
by pressing a key on the keyboard.
- Result: although both groups accomplished the task, the groups that played the
action video did the task faster and with fewer errors.
- Conclusion: this meant they were able to decipher a large amount of information
more quickly and come to a decision on there are positive effects of gaming on
cognitive processing


(HL) 3. Technology, emotion and cognition

Reception context - under what context or conditions, or how we hear the news
- Technology may play a key role in the creation of FBM
- The images that are displayed in the media lead to a strong emotional response and
overt rehearsal of the event


Schaefer et al (2011)

- Aim: to see if there was a difference in memories of the 9/11 terrorist attacks depending
on whether people heard the information on TV or from another person. (to see the
role visual images play in the creation of FBM)
- Sample: 38 university students (mean age 20.3)
- Procedure: the participants were asked to do a free recall when they heard of the
news about the attack both 28 hours after and 6 months after. They were not told
during the first recall that they will be back six months later (to prevent rehearsal?)
- There were two conditions: immediate (minutes) and delayed (hours) viewing of
television (visual images).
- Result: the response by the participants were then coded by two research assistants
who were blinded to the hypothesis (to prevent researcher bias), coded the
response for nine categories: time, location, what they were doing, informant,
presence of others, clothes worn, first thoughts, feelings, what they did immediately
- The quantity of information before and after did not get affected by the reception
context (visual image or verbal only), but those who are in the delayed viewing
conditions demonstrated less elaboration and less consistency in their recall 6
months after the initial recall.


Ahern et al (2002):

- Aim: to investigate the role that viewing graphic television images may play on PTSD
- Sample: 1008 adult residents of Manhattan
- Procedure: the researchers carried out a telephone survey in which the participants
exposure to media and symptoms of PTSD were discussed.
- Result: specific disaster-related images were associated with PTSD and depression.
The participants who had repeatedly seen people jumping off the WTC had a higher
prevalence of PTSD (17.4%) and depression (14.7%) than those who did not (6.2%
and 5.3%, respectively).
- For participants that were directly affected by the attacks, there was a correlation
between the frequency of TV viewing and the prevalence of PTSD, and there was no
for those who are not directly associated with the attack.


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