Posts Tagged ‘cognitive effort’

Passing 74

May 6, 2020

Meaning that today HM is entering his 75th year. One might think that when one has lived this long, he has seen everything. But that is not the case. COVID-19 is new and is, by far, the worst pandemic he has ever experienced. We are not coping well with this pandemic, due in large part to Trump declaring it was a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats to destroy him. When he finally had to concede that the pandemic was real, he said that he had a test for the disease, he called it a beautiful test, that anyone could have just for the asking. Well there was no test and the absence of the test has seriously hindered the tracking of this disease and impacts when we might be able to return to a normal life.

Trump further exacerbated the situation by saying it was the responsibility of the states. He eventually declared a national emergency but did not lead the emergency as he was supposed to do. He said it was the problem of the states. The result of this was to put the states in competition not only with each other, but also with FEMA in competing for needed resources. This not only made this important task extremely difficult, it also made it more expensive.

Trump’s only interest in the pandemic is the likely risk it poses for his re-election campaign. Consequently, his focus is not on dealing with the pandemic, but rather in deflecting any blame off himself and onto others. This is nothing new. If someone does know of anytime that Trump has accepted blame for anything, please comment.

HM engages in ikigai, the Japanese term referring to living a life with purpose, a meaningful life. His purpose, in addition to living a fulfilling life with his wife, is to learn and share his thoughts and knowledge with others. HM does this primarily through his blog healthymemory, which focuses on memory health and technology.

HM’s Ph.D is in cognitive psychology. That field has transitioned to cognitive neuroscience, a field of research and a term that did not exist when HM was awarded his Ph.D. HM is envious of today’s students. However, he is still fortunate enough to be able to keep abreast of current research and to relay relevant and meaningful research from this field to his readers.

What is most disturbing is the atmosphere of fear and hate that prevails today. It is ironic that technology, which had, and still has, a tremendous potential for spreading knowledge, now largely spreads disinformation, hatred, and fear.
HM understands why this is the case, but, unfortunately, he does not know how to counter it.
The problem can best be understood in terms of Kahneman’s Two System View of cognition. In Nobel Lauerate Daniel Kahneman’s Two System View of cognition, System 1, intuition, is our normal mode of processing and requires little or no attention. Unfortunately, System 1 is largely governed by emotions. Fear and hate are System 1 processes. System 2, commonly referred to as thinking, requires our attention. One of the roles of System 2 is to monitor System 1. When we encounter something contradictory to what we believe, the brain sets off a distinct signal. It is easier to ignore this signal and to continue System 1 processing. To engage System 2 requires attentional resources to attempt to resolve the discrepancy and to seek further understanding. System 2 involves thinking. System 1 is automatic and requires virtually no cognitive effort. Emotions are a System 1 process, as are identity based politics. Politics based on going with people who look like you requires no thinking yet provides social support.

Through brain imaging, the field of cognitive science has identified what is termed default processing, or default mode processing. As the name implies, this is the default mode for the brain, which is virtually identical to System 1 processing. One must think to get out of this default mode and that takes mental effort, which too many people do not want to expend. Consequently, someone like Donald Trump is elected.

It is common knowledge that Donald Trump is a narcissist, meaning that he comes first and everything is about him. Unfortunately, HM has come to the conclusion that the United States is suffering from a narcissism epidemic. Narcissists vote for Trump because they regard him as a fellow narcissist.

Previous healthy memory posts have emphasized the enormous potential of technology. Today people, especially young people, are plugged in to their iPhones. Unfortunately, the end result is superficial processing. They get information expeditiously, but they are so consumed with staying in touch with updated information, that they have neither time nor attention left for meaningful System 2 processing. Unfortunately, technology, specifically social media, amplifies these bad effects, thus increasing misinformation, hatred and fear. Countering these bad effects requires implementing System 2 processes, that is thinking. A massive failure to do this enables Trump to build his politics on lies spreading hatred and fear.
As has been written in many previous healthy memory posts, System 2 processing will not only benefit politics, but will also decrease the probability of suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Personally, all this is upsetting. But HM believes it is essential to love one’s fellow humans. He tries to deal with this via meditation. Progress is both difficult and slow, but it needs to be done. Hatred destroys the one who hates. So HM continues a daily struggle to be a better human being.

This post began on 17 October 2009. HM thinks that there is valuable information on all posts, and encourages readers to review old posts. HM will endeavor to provide new information in all upcoming posts. Readers will find that some points are repeated, but one can take the number of repeats of information as a rough index of the importance of that information.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Late Night Cramming is Harmful

July 9, 2019

This post is motivated by programs showing students cramming for tests. The scenario is that such demands are being placed on these students for success that they are working extremely hard. Should these stories be true, then not only are these students risking their health, but there is a limit on how much study can been done effectively. Beyond this, they are spinning their wheels, not enhancing their knowledge, and risking their health.

Consider placement tests like the ACT and the SAT. There has been some research showing some benefits of preparing for these tests. What is needed is further research in which the students log not only the time studying was done, but also the time of day the studying was done. HM would predict that there is some benefit, but this benefit would max out and additional time might even be harmful (scores would decline). The time at which the studying was done should also be studied. HM predicts that little would be gained for studying at late hours and that there even might be some decrement. After all, presumably these tests are supposed to measure aptitude. If this is true, there should be limits on the amount of benefit.

These programs also portray students at prestigious universities cramming and putting in late hours preparing for tests. HM attended state universities and saw this same phenomena. The reason these students were cramming and pulling late or all-nighters was that they did not keep up with the work. They were cramming in an attempt to catch up.

HM strongly suspects that this is also the case at prestigious universities. If these universities do require excessive workloads, then prestigious university or not, students should withdraw from the school and their parents should encourage them to withdraw, because the instruction is harming, not benefiting, the students.

Learning requires cognitive effort, which can be exhausted. When this cognitive effort is exhausted little learning takes place. Sleep is also essential. Memories are consolidated during sleep. So studies pulling all nighters are cheating themselves of their memories consolidating. In other words, the all-nighter is harmful, not beneficial.

In the military sometimes military personnel must push themselves to operate long hours with little or no sleep. Unfortunately, this is a reality of military operations and requires training to be prepared for these operations. However, for normal instruction to be effective, students need their sleep. There have been studies on trainees that have shown when trainees are allowed to get their necessary sleep, their learning and performance on tests improve. So for regular training, planning should include regular sleep, but there will need to be training for prolonged operations that should be done separately. Actually, what is being learned during training for these prolonged operations is how to compensate for degraded performance when the body is fatigued and crying for sleep.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Passing 73

May 6, 2019

Meaning that today HM is entering his 74th year. He engages in ikigai, the Japanese term referring to living a life with purpose, a meaningful life. His purpose, in addition to living a fulfilling life with his wife, is to learn and share his thoughts and knowledge with others. HM does this primarily through his blog healthymemory, which focuses on memory health and technology.

HM’s Ph.D is in cognitive psychology. That field has transitioned to cognitive neuroscience, a field of research and a term that did not exist when HM was awarded his Ph.D. HM is envious of today’s students. However, he is still fortunate enough to be able to keep abreast of current research and to relay relevant and meaningful research from this field to his readers.

What is most disturbing is the atmosphere of fear and hate that prevails today. It is ironic that technology, which had, and still has, a tremendous potential for spreading knowledge, now largely spreads disinformation, hatred, and fear.

HM understands why this is the case, but, unfortunately, he does not know how to counter it.

The problem can best be understood in terms of Kahneman’s Two Process Theory of cognition. In Nobel Lauerate Daniel Kahneman’s Two System View of Cognition. System 1, intuition, is our normal mode of processing and requires little or no attention. Unfortunately System 1 is largely governed by emotions. Fear and hate are System 1 processes. System 2, commonly referred to as thinking, requires our attention. One of the roles of System 2 is to monitor System 1. When we encounter something contradictory to what we believe, the brain sets off a distinct signal. It is easier to ignore this signal and to continue System 1 processing. To engage System 2 requires attentional resources to attempt to resolve the discrepancy and to seek further understanding. To put Kahneman’s ideas into the vernacular, System 2 involves thinking. System 1 is automatic and requires virtually no cognitive effort. Emotions are a System 1 process, as are identity based politics. Politics based on going with people who look like you requires no thinking yet provides social support.

Trump’s lying is ubiquitous. Odds are that anything he says is a lie. His entire candidacy was based on lies. So why is he popular? Identifying lies and correcting misinformation requires mental effort, System 2 processing. It is easier to be guided by emotions than to expend mental effort. The product of this cognitive miserliness is a stupidity pandemic.

Previous healthy memory posts have emphasized the enormous potential of technology. Today people, especially young people, are plugged in to their iPhones. Unfortunately, the end result is superficial processing. They get information expeditiously, but they are so consumed with staying in touch with updated information, that they have neither time nor attention left for meaningful System 2 processing. Unfortunately, technology, specifically social media, amplifies these bad effects, thus increasing misinformation, hatred and fear. Countering these bad effects requires implementing System 2 processes, that is thinking. A massive failure to do this enables Trump to build his politics on lies spreading hatred and fear.

As has been written in many previous healthy memory posts, System 2 processing will not only benefit politics, but will also decrease the probability of suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Personally, all this is upsetting. But HM believes it is essential to love one’s fellow humans. He tries to deal with this via meditation. Progress is both difficult and slow but it needs to be done. Hatred destroys the one who hates. So HM continues a daily struggle to be a better human being.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Unhealthful Memories Can Lead to Alzheimer’s and the Loss of Democracy

May 3, 2019

This post is motivated by an article by Greg Miller titled “With Mueller silent, Barr speaks for him—and defends the president” in the 2 May 2019 issue of the Washington Post. The article is about how Barr has gotten ahead of Mueller and completely misrepresented the report of the special council. Mueller has remained silent trying to observe the normal protocols. Barr has completely misrepresented Mueller’s report and continues to lie and misrepresent his characterization of the report when questioned by Democratic members of the Senate. Most Republicans seem to be complicit in Barr’s lies and misrepresentation.

Mueller will eventually testify, but much damage has been done by Trump’s puppet Barr. However, it is more than time that truth will need to overcome. The failure of too many Americans to use their critical thinking processes also hinders their reaching truth.

A brief review of Kahneman’s two process theory of cognition is appropriate here. System 1 is fast and is called intuition.  System 1 needs to be fast so we can process language and make the fast decisions we need to make everyday.  System 1 is also the seat of our emotions.  System 2 is called reasoning and corresponds loosely to what we mean by thinking.  System 2 requires mental effort and our attentional processes.

The default mode network will be mentioned in future posts. Basically it corresponds to System 1 processing. What is important is the word “default.” Once misinformation has gotten into memory it takes cognitive effort to remove and correct it.

Without knowing it, Trump is a genius at exploiting the default mode network. The default mode network is also responsive to emotion. Emotion comes first. That’s why it is important to stop and think, when you become angry, so you do not respond foolishly. But by exploiting pre-existing biases and out and out lying, misinformation gets into memory. And it will remain there until the individual thinks, discovers the information is wrong, and corrects this memory.

This problem is exacerbated by social media. As has been shown in previous posts, social media reinforces this disinformation. Much of this misinformation is emotional. Hate spreads easily, unfortunately, much faster than does love and caring.

There have been many previous posts on how cognitive activity, system 2 processing, getting free of the default mode network decreases the likelihood of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Moreover, there are many cases of individuals whose brains have the defining characteristics of Alzheimer’s, the amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles, who die never knowing that they had Alzheimer’s because they had none of the behavioral or cognitive symptoms.

Effective democracy also depends on healthy memories. It requires that citizens know how democracy works and seek and evaluate information as to how the democracy should proceed. There is ample evidence that few citizens know how the government is supposed to work as outlined in the U.S. Constitution. And there is ample evidence that most voting citizens have little understanding of the issues and candidates on which they are voting.

If Russia waged a conventional military attack on the United States, citizens would be outraged and demand that we fight back. But the Russians are smart, and too many Americans are stupid. The Russians used cyberattacks. These cyberattacks have been described in previous healthy memory posts. These cyberattacks promoted Trump for president and created disruption and polarization among the American public. Remember that Trump was not elected in the popular vote. He lost that by three million votes. He won due to an irresponsible electoral college.

Trump built his campaign on lies, and continues to support himself on lies. Obviously it requires too much mental effort for too many citizens to recognize this individual as the fraud and obscenity he actually is.

Regardless of the Mueller report, there is ample evidence that Trump needs to be impeached. And reading the Mueller report one quickly realizes that if Trump did not commit any crimes of which he could be convicted, his behavior still puts democracy at risk. Should he not be impeached and should he lose a reelection, he will claim fraud and refuse to leave the office. Our democracy is at risk of becoming a de facto totalitarian dictatorship. Obviously that is something that Barr would prefer, as he thinks there are no limits on presidential power.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thinking 2.0

March 9, 2016

This  post was inspired by an article in the February 26, 2016 edition of the “New Scientist” written by Michael Brooks.  The title of the article is “A new kind of logic:  How to upgrade the way we think.”    There are many healthymemoy blog posts about the limitations of our cognitive processes.  First of all, are attentional capacity is quite limited and requires selection.  Our working memory capacity is around 5 or fewer items.  There are healthy memory blog posts on cognitive misers and cognitive spendthrifts.  Thought requires cognitive effort that we are often reluctant to spend making us cognitive misers.  And there are limits to the amount of cognitive effort we can expend.  Cognitive effort spent unwisely can be costly.

Let me elaborate on the last statement with some personal anecdotes.  Ohio State was on the quarter system when I attended and my initial goal was to begin college right after graduation in the summer quarter and to attend quarter consecutively so that I would graduate within three years.  Matters when fairly well until my second quarter when I earned the only “D” in my life.  Although I did get one “A” it was in a course for which I had already read the textbook in high school.  I replaced and continued to attend consecutive quarters, but only part time during he summer.  I was in the honors program and managed to graduate in 3.5 years with a Bachelor’s of Arts with Distinction in Psychology.  I tried going directly into graduate studies, but found that I had already expended my remaining cognitive capital.  So I entered the Army to give my mind a rest.

When I returned and began graduate school I was a cognitive spendthrift who wanted to learn as much as I could in my field.  However, I found that I could not work long hours.  If I did my brain turned to mush and I was on the verge of drooling.  So I found it profitable to stop my cognitive spendthrift days and marshal my cognitive resources. It worked and I earned my doctorate psychology from the University of Utah.

Michael Brooks argues that we are stuck in Thinking 1.0.   He mentions that our conventional economic models bear no resemblance to the real world.  We’ve had unpredicted financial crises because of incorrect rational economic models.  This point has been  made many times in the healthy memory blog.  Behavioral economics should address these shortcomings, but it is still in an early stage of development.

Ioannidis’s article has convinced  statisticians and epidemiologists that more than half of scientific papers reach flawed conclusions especially in medical science, neuroscience and psychology.

Currently we do have big data, machine learning, neural nets, and, of course, the Jeopardy champion Watson.  Although these systems provide answers, they do not provide explanations as to how they arrived at the answers.  And there are statistical relations in which it is difficult to determine causality, that is, what causes what.

Michael Brooks argues that Thinking 2.0 is needed.  Quantum logic makes the distinction between cause and effect (one thing influencing another) and common cause (two things responding to the same effect).  The University of Pittsburgh opened the Center for Causal Discovery (www.ccd.pit.edu) in 2014.

Judea Pearl, a computer scientist and philosopher at UCLA (and the father of the tragically slain journalist Daniel Pearl) says “You simply cannot grasp causal relationships with statistical language.”  Judea Perl has done some outstanding mathematics and has developed software that has made intractable AI programs tractable and has provided for distinguishing  cause and effect.  Unlike neural nets, machine learning, and Watson, it provides the logic, 2.0 logic I believe, as to reasoning behind the conclusions or actions.

It is clear that Thinking 2.0 will require computers.  But let us hope that humans will understand and be able to develop narratives from their output.  If we just get answers from machine oracles will we still be thinking in 2.0

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cognitive Misers, Cognitive Spendthrifts, and Democracy

March 4, 2016

I fear that an earlier post, “Cognitive Misers and Democracy,” did not adequately explain the term “cognitive miser.”  It referenced previous healthy memory blog posts, but unless you went back and read those posts or are an assiduous healthy memory blog reader, I do not think that the term was clear.  To make the term clearer, I have created a new term, cognitive spendthrift.

Here is a quick synopsis of how we process information.  The default upon the receipt of new information is to believe it. This is Kahneman’s System One processing. This default value makes sense because if we questioned everything when we came out of the womb, we would not be able to survive.  When we receive new information, if it is in accord with previous information, it is accepted.  However, when discordant information is received, the brain responds so that it is obvious from brain recordings.  This is an example of Kahneman’s System 2 processing.  An important role for System 2 is to monitor the processing from System 1.  To resolve this discordant information requires thinking, searching for, and trying to discover additional information.   This is effortful System 2 processing.  This can require substantial effort. This is basically what scientists do.  They look for discrepant information, and then conduct research to resolve this discrepant information.  Of course this is an oversimplification of the process, but it is a very brief synopsis of what occurs.  And it is science, the systematic use of tis process, that provides the basis for the advancement of civilizations.

So, by default we are cognitive misers.  Moreover, we have defense mechanisms that makes us feel that we know more and perform better than we actually do, but these mechanisms will be discussed in another post (until then, enter “overconfidence” into the healthy memory blog search block).  Unfortunately the internet typically facilitates further biased searches, which exacerbate the problem further.The term cognitive spendthrift refers to someone who questions and thinks about many things.  The internet is an ideal too for cognitive spendthrifts when they use the internet to explore contrary opinions and new information.   If too much cognitive capital is spent, mental illness and other adverse consequences result.  Even scientists ned to be focused on a subset of questions that they can handle.

The healthy memory blog encourages growth mindsets.  Growth mindsets require the spending of cognitive capital to think and to grow, but this expenditure of cognitive capital must be expended with regard to a budget.  You grow within the constraints in which you are comfortable and continue to grow.

The primary point of “Cognitive Misers and Democracy” was to encourage people to think.  Democracy is important enough to warrant the expenditure of cognitive capital.  And politics is an area where beliefs can be deeply held.  But these deeply held beliefs do need to be questioned.  They always need to be amenable to change.  This is why I was so disturbed by the survey indicating beliefs and principals were more important than the willingness to compromise.  Without  any compromise, democracies cannot survive.

Watching the political debates in one of the parties this year suggests that some opinions are not even being governed by beliefs, but rather by anger and disenchantment.  I am not sure that the opinions these people offer even make it to the cortex.  They see to come directly from the limbic system,

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

More on the Myth of Cognitive Decline

July 18, 2015

This post builds on an earlier healthy memory blog post, “The Myth of Cognitive Decline.”  That post summarized research in which simulations indicated that the slow down in processing by older adults could be accounted for by the vastly increased amount of information they have managed to store.  The fact that crystalized intelligence, which is learned knowledge, continues to increase as we age supports this view.  Simply put, there is much more information to sift through, hence the processing appears to be slower.  However, in reviewing the research there are other factors contributing to this myth.

There is research on how the brain changes as we age.  However, autopsies have found many individuals whose brains were wracked with the amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles that are taken as the definitive diagnosis for Alzheimer’s, yet showed no behavioral or cognitive indicators of Alzheimer’s when they were alive.  Consequently, data on changes in the brain should be taken with a grain of salt.

What I find interesting are data indicating that some of the data pointing to poorer memory performance by the elderly are due to stereotypes of the elderly that are believed by the elderly.  This is research showing that the elderly show evidence of memory decline when they think the study is about age differences and memory, but the decline is absent when they think that the study has nothing to do with aging (See the healthy memory blog post, “REDIRECT:  Range of Applications”).  So some of the myth of cognitive aging might be due to the elderly themselves believing in stereotypes about aging.

There is also research showing that, although the elderly know of memory strategies to help them remember, they do not use these strategies because they entail the expenditure of cognitive effort.  That is, they are cognitively lazy.  Unfortunately, this cognitive laziness can foster cognitive decline.  This is where the notion “use it or lose it”  applies.  Similarly, physical decline can be accelerated by laziness and the failure to exercise.

So to reiterate a constant message of the healthy memory blog, it is important to stay cognitively, physically, and socially active throughout one’s lifetime.  Moreover, one should not delay these habits until one advances in age.  They provide a prescription for living a healthy, productive, and enjoyable life.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.