Sunday, June 24, 2018

Why you think your phone is vibrating when it's not.

Are we hallucinating when we feel our phone "vibrate" and we look down and do not have any notifications? While it may not necessarily be an actual syndrome, this does happen regularly to a lot of people including myself. Sometimes I either think I felt my phone vibrate or I think I heard a ring. Some researchers and doctors argue we could be hallicinating because our brains are perceiving a sensation that is not actually present. This also has probably been a thing since landline phones were invented; however, it is more common now because people are always on their phone and we have the ability to take it every where we go. One article I read even states, "Individuals with phantom vibration syndrome are so accustomed to hearing their phone vibrate or ring, that their brain expects more." There are many other factors as to why this could be happening as well. There are many studies that show the reasons why and even more studies are still being conducted today.

Coke or Pepsi?

In the video, Buzz-feed does an experiment where the participants try and determine if they're drinking Coke or Pepsi. This experiment has been repeated over and over through out the years with different participants but it is interesting to see if people are able to determine the difference between the two. Most participants were able to tell the difference but most likely because they have drank a decent amount of both in their life time. Just like the book, See What I'm Saying, states, "we all have the ability to be expert taste testers." It's all about attention an practice. Therefore, someone like me who prefers coke over Pepsi will most likely be able to tell the difference between the two because I'm actually paying attention to what I am drinking. Where as someone who likes both, does not necessarily prefer one over the other, may not be able to tell the difference. This is because they most likely aren't concerned about which one the restaurant carries and just asks for "Coke or Pepsi, what ever you have." Nine times out of ten the waiter or waitress brings either over without telling you what it is and these people are the ones who aren't paying attention.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Perception And The Art of Magic

Luke Dancy is a well-known magician who has been practicing magic for almost 30 years! In the video I attached, he talks about perception and says how the art of magic is making people perceive things in a way that will fool their minds. Luke says “The same thing can be said about life: Things are based on the way you look at it; there are two sides to every reality.” Living in Las Vegas, he says he sees it all the time - people tend to get fooled by the “friendly” environment there, but in reality, it’s usually just one big illusion. After a short talk, he goes right into a simple card trick (which you can watch on the video.) When the “act” is over, he shows the people watching how he did it and explains that it was just testing their perception. We all enjoy watching magic shows because they’re entertaining and exciting; however, what I find interesting is that the whole thrill we get from the performance is just somebody manipulating our brains to perceive things the way he or she wants us to. I always knew that magicians learned to do certain tricks, practiced them, and then performed, but I never thought about it in depth until now. What amazes me is how all it takes is one (experienced) human-being to stand up in front of a crowd, and literally fool every person’s mind and perception! Does that scare you at all? To me it seems just a little “creepy”, what do you think? 

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

After reading Chapter 6 in the text, I couldn't help but think of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. It's a rare condition that causes people to experience size distortion such as micropsia, macropsia, teleopsia, and pelopsia. In other words, it causes one to perceive objects and/or one's own body to either grow or shrink, just like Alice in Lewis Carroll's novel, for which the condition is named. This condition is not one of the eyes, but rather, one of perception. These episodes may also occur alongside migraines and epilepsy, but typically don't last long, resolving in under an hour.

As a child, I experienced this quite often, mostly at night when I would try to fall asleep. It was terrifying. Even with my eyes closed, I could see and feel everything shrinking and moving away from me, sort of like the endless hallway scene in Poltergeist, and I felt like I was growing in size. I would perceive my hands growing, my fingers extending in length so far that to bend them required the same amount of force as to twirl a long wooden rod. Using my mediocre 7-year-old vocabulary, I could not effectively communicate that I was hallucinating, so my parents took me to an eye doctor. They found nothing wrong with my eyes; I have 25/20 vision, but the doctor fitted me with bifocals anyway, because I described things as appearing "small" and "far away" during these episodes. As I aged, the episodes became less and less common, and now rarely happen at all, and only occur if I'm extremely sleep deprived. It wasn't until I was a senior in high school and came across an article about Alice in Wonderland Syndrome that I suspected what might have been going on when I was a kid.
Anyway, I just thought this is an interesting example of how perception can go awry. Below are a couple of websites that describe the condition in more detail.

Color Affects Perception of Taste

We taste what we see. I'm sure we all want to think we'd be smart enough to taste the difference between, say, lime and strawberry gummy bears. But if you've ever looked at the back of a bag of Haribo gummy bears, under the green gummy bear, you won't see "lime" or "green apple" listed as the flavor. Green Haribo gummy bears are actually strawberry flavored.

If you're anything like me, you'll question whether your entire existence is a lie. But as it turns out, this is a perfect example of how what we see - color - can influence what we taste. Generally, we perceive red foods as sweet, green foods as tart, yellow foods as sour, and so on. This is the reason food manufacturers put dyes in food to begin with. It enhances the food's perceived taste. Only, in this case, the color choice is rather deceptive.
This video shows this effect in action. So if you could have sworn green Haribo gummy bears tasted like lime or strawberry, don't feel so bad. You aren't alone. It turns out your brain is to blame for jumping the gun.

Visual Cliff Experiment

Is depth perception innate or is it learned through experience? The visual cliff experiment sought to answer this question. In the experiment, a table was designed so that a checkered pattern would appear to drop off like a cliff. Infants were placed on this table and coaxed to cross the "deep end" of the table by their mothers to determine whether or not these infants possessed depth perception. And as it turns out, they did. The original conclusion of these experiments was that depth perception was innate, although all these infants had unavoidably already had experience interacting with their environment.

Of course, these experiments took place before ethical concerns were more widely considered. Many of the infants would cry for their mother's help because they were too afraid to cross the "deep end". Regardless, depth perception is now considered to be partially innate, refined through experience.

How do you remember where you parked your car?

Neuroscientist Neil Burgess gives us a good understanding on how the hippocampal, the area responsible for memory, works to create a cognitive map for us to know where you we parked the car or if we going in the right direction.  My husband seems to have a good sense of direction and always does all the driving anytime we take a trip. I on the other hand don’t feel I am as good in finding my way.  
Neil Burgess points to studies with rats and mice that point to the finding that the brain neurons communicate with each other by sending little pulses or spikes of electricity marking a spot in the space the rats are in. Together these space cells form a map for the rest of the brain, informing where you are. Place cells activating each other via dense interconnections and then reactivating boundary cells to create the spatial structure of your surroundings and viewpoint.  Grid cells move this viewpoint through that space. Head direction cells, fire like a compass providing the viewing direction from which you generate an image for your visual imagery. This is an impressive mechanism that all works together to tell you where you parked your car.
The hippocampal continues to grow as place cells, grid cells, boundary cells, head-direction cells and visual imagery continue to develop its cognitive map.  This explains why my husband is better at direction then I am. He simply does more driving and his hippocampal is more developed. I tend to do less driving and in fact if I am going somewhere for the first time I would rather ask my husband to take me then to make the effort to learn how to get there. Well, based on this, I think I will try to do more of the driving and develop my hippocampal to get better at knowing my way around.

Below is the link for Neil Burgess Ted Talk:

Gene Purdie-Stargardt's Disease

I remembered watching this touching story on Rachael Ray and I wanted to post about it. There is a father named Gene Purdie. He has a disease where it caused him to have extremely blurry central vision, basically being blind. He cannot see features and he has an extremely difficult time reading things. He still tries to be normal and cooking is his favorite thing to do. His wife even says that something that takes him about 30 minutes would take her a lot longer. So, when they heard about Rachael Ray helping another lady with the same disease, they wrote to her to see if Gene could also try these special glasses and see his wife and son for the first time. These glasses are supposed to take someone with essentially no eye sight, back to normal. These worked and I just thought it was a really cool story to share.

15 Year Old Girl Assists Blind Man on Plane

A man was flying unaccompanied after visiting his sister, and he was blind and deaf. None of the flight attendants knew how to communicate with him. He could feel sign language and feel objects to know what they were. So a 15 year old girl, who was also on the flight came over to assist. She taught herself sign language because she is dyslexic and that was the easiest language for her to learn. She attended to him and helped the flight attendants understand his needs for the duration of the flight. She made sure everything he needed was communicated clearly and he was very well taken care of.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Hearing Things

The "Hearing Things" game is a perfect example of how we rely on both our auditory and visual systems to understand what someone is saying. Some of things the "deaf" participant believes that the other player is saying is very entertaining! When one is taken away, it becomes much more difficult to understand the person. I work in a large physical therapy outpatient clinic. There, I work with people that I have known for years and can easily have a conversation with them while multitasking. However, there is one therapist who has a thick Russian accent. When I have conversation with him, I now notice that I have to be in close proximity to him and definitely pay closer attention to what he is saying so I can fully understand him. For me, using what I see and hear from this therapist helps me to understand what he is communicating.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Hallucinations during the grieving process

After the death of a loved one, human or animal, a person may experience visual and auditory hallucinations. The grieving individual may believe that they have heard the individual/companion animal or have seen a passing glimpse of them. This phenomenon could be due to how habituated we are to that person/animal's presence and the impact that they had on our daily life.

When my elderly cat Audrey passed away I was convinced that I saw her and heard her in the house for several days after her passing. It was briefly comforting hearing and seeing her, but then the realization that she was gone would set in and cause intense waves of grief. She was a special needs cat and required a lot of care and attention. I believe it was due to the extreme bond that we had and the countless daily hours that I spent taking care of her needs that my grief hallucinations occurred.

Misophonia: the hatred of sound

People with Misophonia can be tortured by certain sounds and tend to react emotionally to sound. The sound created by someone chewing food, chewing gum, scraping a plate, or even the sound of someone breathing can cause intense reactions for someone suffering from the disorder. Some individuals may just get up and leave the room to avoid the noise whereas others may get visibly angry with the offender. The offending sound may cause intense internal physical reactions as well, such as muscle tension. The disorder can be isolating for the sufferer. They may be unable to share meals with their family/friends, go to the movies, or be in large crowds.

There is not much research being done on the disorder. It is often mistaken for anxiety due to the intense anxious reaction that some people feel when exposed to a noise that triggers them. There are treatments available such as white noise headphones and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Follow this link for more information:

Monday, June 18, 2018

Harnessing the power of placebos

The power of the Placebo effect is well document with patients who are let to believe that  
that a pain-pill will give them pain relief while in reality they where getting a sugar pill. Yet the patients actually experienced relief.  A person's expectation  effects both perceptions as well as physiological responding. In a 2016 TEDMED Talk we hear from Alia Crum, a Stanford professor, athlete, and psychologist. She investigates how our mindset can affect our health behaviors and outcomes. Crum shares her research on placebos and builds the case for considering  the placebo effect as more than just a mysterious effect but  one with lots of potential and real power to help patients. She explores how the social context plays a big role setting expectations in our minds and actually contributes in improving outcomes. What the patients thinks of the doctor; was the doctor warm and engaging, or cold ? All these social context are important to the expectation of the brain and can actually produce a placebos effect just as well as the sugar pill. 

Here is the link on Alia Crum’s TEDMED Talk:

Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder

My mom showed me this optical illusion when I was younger, by artist Charles Allan Gilbert, and told me that we choose what we want to see. We can choose to see the skull, or death, or we can choose to see the vanity which can symbolize beauty. Our perception and outlook on life has a lot to do with our emotions. Having a positive mood encourages a positive environment.When people first see this painting, some say they see the vanity first while others say they see the skull first. I wonder if their initial thought of the painting determines their perception. It makes sense to think that having a positive perception on life results in seeing the positives in our surroundings. However, holding a negative perception no doubt will encourage seeing the negatives in every day life.

Zadra, J. R., & Clore, G. L. (2011). Emotion and Perception: The Role of Affective Information. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Cognitive Science2(6), 676–685.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

"Feeling" the Music

Most people can tell the difference between good and bad sounding music. In general, the common person can hear if someone's voice or an instrument is off tune. It is even more likely for a musician to determine if the pitch is flat or sharp. However, could you feel if a note is sharp or flat? Is your muscle memory developed enough to know what note you are hitting? The singer and contestant of America's Got Talent, Mandy Harvey, is deaf but plays her ukulele and sings because of muscle memory and vibrations through the floor. Instead of hearing her music as most do, she feels her music. As a violinist, I thought this to be extremely interesting because I, too, know if I am hitting a correct note through the vibrations I feel on my jaw from the violin. I cannot distinguish every note this way, but there are a number of notes that have a very specific vibration that tell me that I am playing in tune. So, not only is music something that you hear, but it is something that you can feel.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Can You Hear This GIF?

Check out this silent video above. Are you hearing a thumping noise in your head from the bouncing structure hitting the ground? If you are, this is due to a form of synesthesia; a systematic and involuntary sensory experience induced by an unrelated stimuli. Since we are expecting to hear a sound from a large structure hitting the ground, our brain is creating the feeling of hearing a sound that is not actually there. After watching a few times over, you can feel the pressure in your head and even experience your ears ringing!

Virtual Reality and Perception

Image result for virtual reality

If you like video games, then you've most likely have heard of Virtual Reality (VR). By putting on a headset, you are able to go to a completely new word in your living room. The sensation of being on an alien planet fighting aliens or exploring through a jungle is right at your fingertips. VR creates an out-of-body experience from actual reality. Although you do not see your actual body as explained with the out-of-body experience experiment in the textbook, you begin to think that you are in the reality that your VR headset has created for you, even though you just have a headset over your eyes. You begin to feel the environment around you, and if you're fighting villains and getting shot at with fictional ray guns, you're most likely fearing for your life. The reason for that is because the body that you see in the game feels like your own since it moves as if it was your actual body. As explained in Chapter 6, the brain is constantly figuring out where you are, and which body parts are yours as explained with the out-of-body experience and rubber hand illusion experiments. By putting on the VR headset, your brain sees what you see through the headset as reality, even though you know deep down that it is a virtual reality.

Guenard, Rebecca. “Perception Is Reality-And Virtual Reality.” Omnia, 13 July 2017,

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Temperature and Our Interpretation

You sit down on the couch for your nightly weather report. The TV states that it will be 70 degrees tomorrow. A simple question you should be able to answer is if that temperature means a hot or cold day, right? Well in reality it is not that simple as you will get different answers depending on who you ask. Temperature and our interpretation of hot and cold becomes subject to the environment in which we live. Instead the relationship between hot, cold, and temperature becomes one in perspective to what we are use to rather than an absolute defined temperature range for hot and cold.

Hearing With Our Eyes

In the Video above, you will see that when looking away you hear the word "Bah," but as you look at the man speaking in the second part of the video you hear "Fah." This is when hearing with our eyes comes into play. By just looking at someone talking and watching their lip movements, this could influence you into hearing something they may not even have said. When the man is saying "Bah" in the first clip, his lips are moving to make a B sound, but in the second part of the clip the man is moving his lips to make an F sound, even though he is still saying the word "Bah." When our brains see this, we automatically think he is saying "Fah." Lip movements are a big influence when speaking to someone and reading what they are saying. This could lead to misinterpretations when you are not clearly listening. Our brains intertwine these two senses and mesh them together without us even realizing!

Monday, June 11, 2018


One of my biggest pet peeves is “earworms”. An earworm is a “cognitive itch” that gives your brain the urge to fill in gaps to a songs rhythm. When songs get stuck in our heads, the only way to scratch that “itch” is to constantly repeat the song over again. Some researchers believe that songs get stuck in our heads, because it is similar to trying to repress thoughts. The more we try not to think about it, the harder it becomes to forget about it. Other researchers believe that earworms are just a task for our brains while they idle. When we listen to music it triggers our auditory cortex, and researchers found that when they played a familiar song our brains automatically fill in the rest. As many as 99% of the population has been affected by a tune stuck in their head. There is no true way to get songs out of our heads once they are stuck, but some people swear by listening to a song all the way through, singing another song, or switching to another activity.

Turning Down the Volume to "See"

For years, listening to the radio while driving has been misconceived as a driving distraction. A study done, by the University of Groningen, shows that listening to music while driving actually has little effect on driving performance. I personally feel like I can drive better while listening to music, but once I am in an unfamiliar area looking for my next turn I immediately reach to turn down my volume to “see better”. I have seen several social media posts about people who share a common habit, but how does the radio affect our ability to navigate directions? How stuff works states that it has to do with our brains ability to concentrate. Turning down the radio is our brains natural reaction when you find yourself lost. When the brain combines all the information from our primary senses, it has to decide how to proceed on its primary task. This is called encoding, and the brain chooses one task to primarily focus on, and less focus is given to its secondary tasks. Turning down the radio allows our brains attention to switch more easily, and eliminates a task from its focus.

Deceptive Perception

Speech misperceptions are fairly common due to the importance of our ability to keep up with a conversation in troubling environments. People are scratching their heads over a viral video of a toy that is circling the internet right now. The toy is activated and says a word that can be perceived as both “Brain Storm” and “Green Needle”. It is impossible to hear both words at the same time, what you hear completely relies on what you are expecting to hear. Helen Blank, Matt Davis, and colleagues presented a study to investigate speech misperception. Their findings showed that reduced activity in the left superior temporal sulcus was the cause of misperception. Their research strengthens the idea that speech perception relies heavily on what we expect to hear.

Smiling is Contagious

Everyone knows that smiling is contagious and I wanted to understand why a little more after reading the chapter one smiling and mood change. In the article on the Huffington Post, says that we mimic the behavior we see. This mimicry is sometimes unnoticeable to us.  This can also be why when you see someone yawn you do it as well. In our brains there is sensorimotor simulation which is why we mimic behavior that we see. For instance, if you see someone smile you mimic the behavior and soon you will feel happy. The mimicry also helps us when communicating effectively with someone and making appropriate decisions in these conversations. We see a behavior and act accordingly, which also helps with our social interactions with people. This could also show why people with neurological disorders don't communicate as well as others
without the disorder.

McGurk Effect

With the whole Yanny/Laurel video I became interested in the McGurk Effect. I found this video on YouTube about audio illusions and if you can trust your ears. They start out with a video saying bar and then they make a same video but saying the word far. Then, they mute the far video and insert the sound from the bar video. You are still hearing bar but you are seeing far, so your brain interprets it as you hearing far. They also talk about how sound overrides your vision by doing an example with a circle, first they show you sound with video that beeps when the circle appears and you have to say how many times the circle appears, most would say twice, then, they show it without sound and you can see that the circle only appeared once. The video goes into detail about other sound illusions, the tritone paradox and the Shepard tone illusion. The Tritone paradox is when you play a pair of Shepard tones sequentially separated by a half octave. Then you have to guess is the sound descending or ascending, and everyone hears it differently, some hearing it go up and others down.The Shepard tone illusion is a sound consisting of sine waves on top of each other, then played with the bass pitch of the tone moving up or down, and it makes you believe that the sound is either getting higher or lower. I found the McGurk effect interesting when reading about ba, ga, and va, and how our eyes and ears can trick our brain into perceiving something different from what we are hearing.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Amnosia and Insecurities

I found an article on the Huffington Post about how anosmia can lead to insecurities in men and women. People who suffer from anosmia miss smell cues. It is said that social signals are transmitted through the nose, and if you have anosmia, than your missing out on these cues. Anosmia sufferers are known to have less sexual relationships and feel more insecure which leads to them not having as many partners as a person who doesn't suffer from anosmia. These insecurities also come from anosmia sufferers not knowing if they smell bad. This article relate
s to the chapter explaining anosmia and how we give off odors. This article brings to light the things that people have to worry about when they lose their sense of smell that is beyond not knowing what different foods taste like, but trying to find and keep relationship.

What Color Are These Sneakers?

Similar to internet's debate of #TheDress, there is another color debate about what is that color of these shoes. Some are saying that they are seeing teal and grey while others are saying pink and white. So which is it - teal/grey or pink/white? Well... the answer is that they are actually pink and white! The reason why people are seeing teal and grey is because of the picture's bad lighting that gives off the color of teal and grey (similiar to people seeing blue and black for the #TheDress). Also it has something to do with the cones in the back of our eyeballs that perceive colors in a slightly different way depending upon our eyeballs. Our brains are constantly estimating the color of light that's falling on the object and then factoring the light out. With this, many people still believe that they see teal and grey rather than pink and white.

A Video Game That Uses Echlocation?

For my horror video game lovers, this may be the game for you! In the game Perception (coincidence? I think not) , it's a first person narrative adventure game that takes you on a journey as the main heroine Cassie, who is blind, that uses her extraordinary hearing and quick wits to unravel and solve the mysteries of an abandoned mansion. With this, the player uses echolocation or the character's cane in order to make out and "see" the surroundings as they progress through the game. Also, the player has a cell phone that they can take pictures and send them to an operator that helps describes what's in their surroundings. However, if the player taps too much the antagonists called the Presence will try to hurt them. I haven't played this game but it definitely has a very different aspect that many games today don't offer. It's interesting to see that there are games out that give the player a point of view that they normally wouldn't have such as blindness.

Do you have what it takes to help Cassie solve the mysteries of the mansion?