Archive | Visualization RSS feed for this section

How a study gets misrepresented

8 Jan

So I was looking at a blog post “This 5-Minute Visualization Technique Can Change The World,” when I came across this claim:

Visualization is a tool that helps us imagine things into being. Studies show that envisioning a brighter future can help boost our happiness in the present,

I am always skeptical about claims like “studies show” until I have actually looked at the cited studies. Here is the abstract for the referenced study, I have underlined the relevant sentence:

Theoretical conceptions on happiness have generally considered two broad perspectives: hedonic enjoyment and eudaemonia. However, most research on how to improve people’s happiness has focused primarily on the enhancement of hedonic happiness. In this longitudinal experimental study we test the differential impact of two positive exercises—Best Possible Selves and the Lottery Question—on hedonic and eudaemonic happiness. The hypothesis that the practice of the Best Possible Selves exercise would increase hedonic happiness was confirmed. This effect was immediate and maintained a week after the exercise. Furthermore, this exercise also increased eudaemonic happiness. However, its effect decreased after a week. Contrary to what was expected the Lottery Question exercise decreased both eudaemonic happiness and hedonic happiness over time. We discuss implications of this study for the literature on positive psychological and behavioral interventions to increase happiness.

Technically the blog post is not wrong, the visualization did increase happiness “in the present.” but the author failed to mention that it decreased happiness over time.

Taking photos affects memory

14 Jul

Taking a cell phone photograph in a convenient way to store information for later retrieval. Many people take photos to remember their parking places and I have, on occasion, photographed the cover of a book in a library, so that I could order a copy later. But but does taking pictures affect a memory?

Yes, says a paper in the most recent Psychological Science.  It seems to improve our visual memory for specific information, but degrades our audio memory. Here is the abstract:

How does volitional photo taking affect unaided memory for visual and auditory aspects of experiences? Across one field and three lab studies, we found that, even without revisiting any photos, participants who could freely take photographs during an experience recognized more of what they saw and less of what they heard, compared with those who could not take any photographs. Further, merely taking mental photos had similar effects on memory. These results provide support for the idea that photo taking induces a shift in attention toward visual aspects and away from auditory aspects of an experience. Additional findings were in line with this mechanism: Participants with a camera had better recognition of aspects of the scene that they photographed than of aspects they did not photograph. Furthermore, participants who used a camera during their experience recognized even nonphotographed aspects better than participants without a camera did. Meta-analyses including all reported studies support these findings.


Better memory with closed eyes

3 Apr

An interesting line of research suggests that we can recall events better when our eyes are closed. For example, here is a study that found the children’s memory for visual material improves when eyes are shut. And here is a recent paper that reports a substantial memory benefit with closed eyes. A popular account of the study can be found here:


“The team found that closing their eyes led participants to answer 23 per cent more of the questions correctly.”


Chinese techniques for cognitive enhancement

30 May

One of the most interesting sessions I attended at last weeks Associaiton for Psychological Science meeting was titled “Educational Neuroscience in China: Examination of Culture-Specific Learning Tools/Activities.” The session was chaired by  Yi Hu of the East China Normal University

Here is a brief description from the program:

“The symposium will focus on the neuroscience studies of long-history learning tools and activities specific to the Chinese culture (e.g., abacus, Go play, writing, and mnemonics). Our studies provide evidence for explaining the cognitive processing differences between Chinese and Western cultures in an educational context.”

Here is a more detailed description:

“In Chinese educational context, the long-history learning tools/activities (e.g., abacus, Go play, writing, mnemonic) are now learned and practiced by most children or students with the aim to improve their basic skills and therefore academic performance. There are four presentations in current symposium. The first is on the calculation with abacus and corresponding mental calculation. Before the advent of computer, the Chinese were accustomed to use the tool of abacus, especially in calculating the arithmetical operations in their daily life. The using of abacus and the related mental calculation are supposed to improve the memory abilities and academic mathematic performance. In the paradigms of expert-novice and expertise development, we explored the effects of the using of the tool on cognitive processing and neural activations through the classic experimental tasks (e.g., stroop task) and the brain image techniques (e.g., fMRI, ERP). The second presentation is on the game of Go. It plays by two opponents with the purpose of enclosure of larger space than the opposition. The game is supposed to improve the holistic cognitive processing that is typically associated with the Chinese. Several experiments were then manipulated to examine the holistic processing in playing Go. Furthermore, the hyperscanning technique of NIRS was used to explore two categories of playing activities in Go, namely making a move by oneself and waiting the move by the opponent. The technique allows us to reproduce the competition context capturing the dynamic cognitive processes per se in Go. The third presentation is on the writing system. Chinese and English represent very different writing systems that vary significantly in how graphemic symbols is mapped onto spoken language, yet both writing systems activate similar brain circuits with some variations. Chinese as a logographic writing system represents morphosyllabic information while English as an alphabetic one represents phonemic information. Our research aims to compare universal features in these writing systems and analyze how literacy education changes brain function and anatomy and its implications for reading instruction based on evidence–based strategies. The last presentation is on the mnemonics. Some memorists in China demonstrated the exceptional short-term memory (e.g., Feng Wang, the champion in World Memory Championship 2010 and 2011) or the largest long-term memory (e.g., Chao Lu, the holder of Guiness World Record for reciting 67,890 digits in pi). Although they have reported some mnemonics, the related neural mechanisms remained unknown. We tested their material-specific mnemonics (i.e., imagery, generate stories, method of loci) through the fMRI and ERP. Furthermore, we trained some developing children on the mnemonics and observed the intentionally targeted cognitive processing. In sum, the symposium will discuss the effect of the culture-specific learning tools/activities in China. The corresponding empirical studies provide evidences for explaining the cognitive processing differences between the Chinese and the Westerns in educational context.”

I was struck by the description of Chinese mnemonic systems for memorizing digits. In the two most widely used Western systems (the Major System and the Domonic System) numbers are converted into letters and then memorable words or names are constructed. Since Chinese is character based, strings of numbers are directly converted into words. It seemed to me that the Chinese system would be harder to learn, but, once learned would be faster and more efficient.

As the result of hearing these talks I intend to learn how to use an abacus and play Go.

Below is a promotional video I found for an Indian program that teaches abacus to children. Notice that some of the kids have internalized the abacus and make their calculations mentally.



Enhanced by Zemanta

Visualization techniques embraced by athletes

25 Feb

An article in The New York Times tells us that:

“INCREASING numbers of athletes are turning to a sports psychology training technique known as visualization to sharpen their competitive edge. The technique involves mentally rehearsing for a competition, playing ”movies” in the mind over and over of a superb past performance or the ideal performance.”

Here is an interesting paper, from 2001, suggesting that visualization might be helpful in geriatric rehabilitation. This is the abstract:

“The challenge of geriatric rehabilitation continues to grow with decreasing Medicare reimbursement and societal access to therapy. Occupational and physical therapists must be proactive in developing strategies that optimize therapy outcomes for patients. Mental rehearsal is a complementary treatment technique that should be considered for facilitation of motor skill acquisition. This technique has been used extensively in sport, music, and dance performance. While it is not a viable substitute for physical practice, it most certainly can be helpful in motor learning enhancement. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of mental rehearsal: describe mental rehearsal, review the available research on the topic, consider possible mechanisms of action, and suggest its application to the geriatric patient population.”

Read More:

Enhanced by Zemanta
%d bloggers like this: