Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Few Reaction Papers From Pysch 101

Memory is an organism's basic mental ability to store, keep and recall information. It can help us remember numbers, formulas, experiences and emotions. However, our memories are rarely objective. For people with a varying, daily spectrum of emotions and perspectives, the light in which a memory is cast is often affected by emotions. As we retrieve and recall past events, the psychological principles of “state-dependent memory” and “mood-congruency” come into play by demonstrating how memories are more easily recalled when linked with unique or highly emotional experiences.

Clearly defined, state-dependent memory is a phenomenon that increases our capacity to remember things we have learned in a certain emotional state when again in that state. Events in the past may have caused us to experience specific emotions that later can aid us in recalling their associated events. Whether we were content, depressed or nervous when the memory was captured, we can more easily recall the event when we are in that situation again.

In relation to this principle, our moods also bias our memories. Many of our memories are mood-congruent. According to the theory, we seem to associate good or bad events with their accompanying emotions which become retrieval clues (Fiedler & others, 2001). For example, being depressed taints memories and gives them negative association when later recalled. Inversely, if in a “buoyant mood, people recall the world through rose-colored glasses. They judge themselves competent and effective, other people benevolent, happy events more likely” (Schwarz, 1987). Yet, as the text book points out, in a good or bad mood, we persist in attributing to reality our own changing judgments and memories (Myers, 2005).

These principles of associated memories strike me as inherently true. While I’d like to believe that we can recall memories as they really were and not be affected by our own deeply-held feelings—both at the time the memory was made and the time recalled—I think more often they are biased. I’ve often noticed that people can experience a similar event and engage in similar activities, yet come away with differing perspectives afterwards. Stemming from a cumulative difference in attitudes and emotions, these individuals can have profoundly separate views. In this way of thinking, it becomes somewhat difficult to completely trust other peoples’ view points. Often I find myself taking advice or opinions with a grain of salt, always doubting to some degree the truth of what the person is telling me since it is tainted by their convictions and experiences. I think this practice is both healthy and detrimental. On one hand, I can more easily sift the truth from falsehoods by looking at the situation objectively and reasonably. On the other hand, however, I find myself unable to trust others as completely as I would like.

The way I want to try to be, and the people I find happiest, are those who seek to cultivate a positive attitude and view their experiences in life favorably. In doing so, I think it becomes not only easier to recall memories in a favorable light, but those memories contribute to our current happiness by reinforcing the paradigm that we’ve have chosen to strive for. I want my most remembered memories to be those that come from highly-emotional, positive experiences.

Throughout the history of psychology, there has been an ongoing battle regarding what truly defines intelligence and how it can accurately be measured. In the search for an accurate assessment of one’s intellectual capacity, psychologists have argued that intelligence is both one general ability as well as several specific abilities. As these definitions and theories continue to broaden, the principle of emotional intelligence has been included in the debate.

Emotional intelligence, first known as social intelligence, is an important facet of the intelligence debate to take into account (Cantor as cited in Myers, 2005). Distinct from academic intelligence, commonly classified as “book smarts,” emotional intelligence deals with the ability to “perceive, understand, manage, and use emotions” (Myers, 2005). This emotional understanding does not deal with numbers and logic as much as it does with a sense of social savvy and self-awareness.

Mayer, Salovey, and David Caruso (as cited in Myers, 2005) have developed a test to measure general emotional intelligence as well as its four parts—the ability to perceive emotions, to understand emotions, to manage emotions, and to use emotions to enable adaptive or creative thinking. In Germany and the United States, those scoring high on tests dealing with emotional management enjoy better relationships, are better able to read others’ emotions, and avoid anxiety and depression (Lopes as cited in Myers, 2005). People with a high amount of this type of intelligence often can more easily “delay gratification in pursuit of long-range rewards” (Myers, 2005). Though an individual may be academically smart, emotionally intelligent people often enjoy more marital and professional success.

I think that the inclusion of emotional intelligence into the spectrum of intelligence analysis is essential to accurately measure someone’s aptitude. Humans are inherently emotional and therefore it makes sense that including the measurement of this kind of intelligence is necessary. Though simple and basic social behaviors are noted and praised such as academic success, often it is the subtle, understanding responses that establish someone’s emotional intelligence in a given situation. In a social setting, I find myself drawn to those who “just get it,” or in other words have a high degree of emotional intelligence and can relate to me. As the studies pointed out in the book, people with a good amount of this type of intelligence are often successful in their marriages, relationships and even professions. I think there is need for a people who understand circumstances, people and relationships.

Another important trait of someone with high emotional intelligence I find important is a distinct sense of awareness, both for the individual and for others. I think having this attribute more easily allows you to meet peoples’ needs and to be able to carry yourself in a way that is respectful or needful. To me, the people I view as the most intelligent are those who can anticipate someone’s social needs and be able to “read them” in a sense. I’ve always valued being able to find out who a person truly is and then complement their personality by identifying what is most meaningful to them and playing to their strengths and interests. This ability is useful in a variety of situations as it enriches relationships and facilitates greater harmony.