The Psychology World Podcast- What is Psychology and Cognition in a Digital World
Updated: Sep 17, 2020
What is psychology?
So now that you know a bit more about me, we're going to be moving on to what the episodes are actually about. The first of all what is that psychology? There are so many definitions out there and it does get ridiculously complicated. However for the purpose of the podcast, I simply put psychology as the scientific study of human behaviour, and I know that people have a lot of different opinions about psychology as a science. I've experienced quite a lot of prejudice about doing a psychology degree.
But everything we proposed in psychology is supported by data and if it's not then I frown upon those people because we can't just make these Grand sweeping gestures about behaviour and a say that this is responsible for that without evidence because that is wrong.
Yes, and as you'll see this throughout these podcast episodes, but I will be supporting these concepts with studies and yes, all of these studies might not be the greatest because some of them are bad however at the times and they were done they were revolutionary and it's still provides us with some evidence.
This is a topic. I'll address in the critical thinking sections. All that you need to remember is that psychology is the study of human behaviour. In psychology there are many sub-fields which I find fascinating because there are so many different aspects of the human mind I think because if you take biology, for example while biological psychology looks a how our biology affects our behaviour, for example, our genetics how some behaviours have evolved over ten of millions of generations and biological psychology.
I find really interesting. But it's also the closest we can get to the hard Sciences which my means that we can say that this definitely causes this even though it's closed. We still can't hundred per cent say that X causes y however in a few episodes time. I'm going to be focusing on biological psychology and this on the share more with you then.
However, what this episode and the next two are going to be about is cognitive psychology. Now cognitive psychology is again a subfield of psychology. Focusing on how mental processes impact our behaviour. For example, you have biases in our thinking which I'm going to do next episode.
Cognition in a digital world:
But I'll bring up an interest in that topic because for years ever since technology has come out ever since the TV became mainstream don't quote me on this, but I think of something like the 1980s is everyone's been debating about will it be good?
Would it be the end of humanity? What are the consequences of being exposed is a constant bombardment of that technology? We cannot avoid it even now you’re listening to my digital voice on a podcast on your phone. Even now as I'm recording this being exposed to my phone and earlier because I had to print these notes. I was exposed to my laptop.
So technology is all around us. However, how does it affect us?
If I wrote everything I knew about this topic. Then this podcast could easily last for about 2 hours because there are so many studies that say good things. So many studies about bad things about technology.
However, I'm going to simplify it and I'm just going to mention two. Yes. One thing that technology is good then one saying that it's bad. But let’s get into some theoretical content.
So we will know that technology must have some effect on us. However, why must it? how do we know that these Technologies actually have an effect compared to this just being hearsay and people just guessing some of the ways how we know what this is again through experiments have a bit more for theoretical content is that our brains are shaped through your daily interactions, processes and lots of complicated stuff for basically. Being exposed to new technologies new experiences causes our brain to react because as I'm going to look here look at in episode 4 is this concept of neuroplasticity and what that is, is that it stays the operating this can change in response to environmental demands.
For example, certain areas of all our brains can grow in response to environmental demands. However more on that in episode 4. However, is being exposed to new technologies or even older ones cause our brains to change and that's how technology has an effect. Yes now that we know the theory behind the technology and how it can affect our behaviour. We can dive into some studies.
Ferry and Ponsperre (2001)
So the first study we’ll look at is Ferry and Ponsperre (2001) and it is very interesting because it does show how technology can be very beneficial to people. So let's dive into the study. So what they did was that they have studied 62 right-handed people with no golfing experience.
And then what the researchers did was that they split into three groups and control group and learning group and an entertaining group now with the learning group; people who were wanted to improve their putting skills. Then the entertaining group just wanted to have fun and they won't really bothered about improving. Then they practised in the real world and using a golf stimulation.
And the results showed that Putting improved in the learning and the Entertainment Group, however, the interesting thing though that the putting most improved in at the learning group leading the researchers to conclude that's for a digital simulation to be useful.
The technology needed to be reliable by showing a realistic demonstration and there has to be motivated to improve. I'm reading my notes. I've just realized that that is actually quite a technical definition that appears not simple. So this led the researchers to conclude that for a technology simulation to be helpful and to help people learn is the simulation has to be realistic and you need to have motivation to improve.
In conclusion, the study shows that technology can be helpful to people as it clearly demonstrates that technology can be used to help people learn new skills.
Whilst, this study is very good because it has high internal validity, which means that the study accurately measures what it was able to measure what it wanted as it demonstrated how technology can impact our behaviour.
However, this study while is good I feel like it could be a bit better because this study has something called quite low ecological validity now ecological validity means that it doesn't necessarily represent the real world because of how many people do you actually know who would who wants to improve golfing skills? Personally, I know nobody who wants to improve their skills. Meaning, it doesn't mean you have any real-world applications. So what could have been more useful is that if they used a driving example because millions of people pretty much everyone wants to know how to drive or they already do for example, pretty much everyone. I know wants to learn how to drive over and that's a story for another time.
If a study has low ecological validity then as a researcher you do have a lot of problems about trying to link your findings to the real world because there’s no data to support your idea that your findings link to the real world so the study could be improved upon to make the results more valid.
Sparrow et al (2001)- theory
So moving on to our next study which shows that technology can have a bad effect is Sparrow et al 2001 before I go into the actual study. I need to you a bit of context. So as I'll mention in a future episode of there are many different types of memory and one of the types of memory is called transactional memory.
Now, this type of memory is, in essence, is lazy memory because we all do it. For example, do you know when all the birthdays up in your family or do you rely on someone else to be able to tell you? If I can suggest like I'm guilty of and that is a called transactional memory because you yourself don't store the information to yourself.
Don't remember the information instead you choose to transfer that information to somebody else. Therefore you don't have to remember. So the simplest definition of transactional memory is when you don't bother to remember it because you believe you can go somewhere else to get that information.
Now the reason why we do this, out of the many reasons but one of them is that we believe that our long-term memory capacity is limited. There’s some debate about whether it is or isn't however that's topic for a future episode.
Sparrow et al (2001)- study
Sparrow et al (2001). The researchers got participants to type 40 attribute trivial facts into a computer some facts were new And others were more common knowledge and this research study was an example of a 2 x 2 independent measurement design now believe me that's a lot taken in essence what it means there were two conditions. condition 1 and another condition to all that this condition means is that there were two groups.
Okay. Now the other two comes in with each of these groups were half. Okay, so you effectively have four groups within this experiment. So the four conditions were the same in terms of typing in the information. However, then it started to change. So what happened was that the first two groups were told that the information will be saved.
However, then half of them were told to remember the information then that the second group was told that the information would be erased afterwards so they could not come back to this information. And then what happened was that that half of these are were asked to remember the information.
Overall, you have four different groups two of them told that the information will be saved and half of them was asked to remember the information and then that the other two groups.
Finally, the two groups were tested to see how much the information they could remember. For more information on the results please look at my book Cognitive Psychology.
For the people that were asked to remember the information, but they also asked hold of that be information will be saved. They remember 19 per cent of the information. However for the same group of where they were told is that mean formation will be saved. They weren't asked to remember. They remember that 22%
Therefore there's not actually a lot of a different so being asked to remember the information doesn't really matter.
In conclusion, when people believed they could go back and retrieve that information didn't put as much effort into remembering the information. This supports the idea that technology could be bad as this study shows that when information is at our fingertips then we don't bother to remember information as much.
Now there is a massive problem with this study as we cannot measure the effort levels that the participants put into this task and we don't know why this difference exists and because of that we cannot say that the Google effect, which is another word for transactional memory to put it simply is responsible for this as other factors could be responsible for this different.
So this study is not hundred per cent saying that technology causes this Google Effect but it does support the idea that technology could be bad because it makes us lazy in terms of remembering.
However, if I was to do this I study again, what I would do at the end of the experiment is I would include semi-structured interviews, where you have some questions that you give everyone.
However, you will leave it open to some extent just so that you can have a bit more freedom and there is the possibility that you'll find out information that you wouldn't get if it if I only ask that you'll set questions and I believe that this would be a good idea simply because you could investigate the effort each of these people put in and then we can ask them directly. Why didn't you remember the information and I just think it'd be a bit easier in terms of helping us to narrow down if The Google effect was to be responsible for this. However, that's just my opinion.
Although, a positive of this study is that it does clearly show that technology must have some sort of effect on memory. Because if technology has no effect whatsoever. Surely all of these groups that should have the exact same result. There's a clear difference between people who believe if you go back to the information and people who believe that the information would be erased.
I definitely think there's something there. Yes, and that brings us to the end of our studies. So let's bring everything that we've learnt together. So we know that there are different pros and cons of technology and the reason why technology impacts our behaviour, is that because it because in essence these new experiences when we exposed to technology causes changes in our brains because of neuroplasticity.
And again, I will look at neuroplasticity a lot more in a future episode.
In conclusion, Ferry and Ponsperre 2001 shows that technology can help people to learn new skills and then again sparrow et al 2001 demonstrated that technology can that be bad as because in essence technology can make us lazy.
So that's it in a small nutshell. So I hope that you've learned something today and I hope that you'll continue to listen to the podcast.
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Have a great week!