PsychTalk speaker exposes new connections in the mind

Saddleback College welcomed guest speaker Emily Urban as a part of the ‘PsychTalks! Speaker Series’ last Thursday.

Emily Urban, a psychology major graduate student at University California Irvine, discussed the topic of the link between memory, emotion and well-being, based upon her current thesis.

The majority of those in attendance included students currently enrolled in psychology courses that were being offered extra credit.

The discussion drew upon Urban’s research, with plenty of opportunities for interacting and contributing to a better comprehension of the topic.

She began with a test where 15 words hit the screen quickly one after the other. After all had appeared, the test was to write down as many words as could be remembered.

Some of the words included drowsy, wake, tired, bed and rest. A turning point occurred as Urban asked how many had written the word “sleep.” Nearly half of the audience raised their hand even though the word never appeared on the screen.

This led into her first point, one being the primacy and regency effect, in which many people tend to remember the things that are presented at the beginning and the end of a list rather than the middle. Another point was lures, with the example of how the word sleep never appeared but since it had relation to the other words, the brain filled it in. She went on to describe lures as simply being a false recall and how this can be related to events and how people can sometimes recall a certain moment or detail of an event incorrectly.

Next she shared how memories and emotion often work hand in hand. One of the examples she used was flashbulb memories.

“Flashbulb memories are these really vivid significant memories that kind of stick out in your mind, usually for unexpected events, they are usually emotionally significant,” Urban said. “An example of this would be a memory for 9/11. If your old enough, you might remember what you were doing during 9/11.”

Another point dealt again with the significance of emotion and memory, however this time regarding those with depression. Through her research she uncovered that people with depression tend to recall a greater portion of negative memories.

“A lot of people think that emotion should be ignored. Right? People say ‘oh stop being so emotional’, ‘don’t let your emotions get in the way’,” Urban said. “But from this research I really learned that emotion is very helpful, very adaptive. It’s telling us what we need to remember, what we need to pay attention to. It’s wonderful that we have this system, that kind of highlights what is really important to us in our lives.”

This was the final PsychTalk of the semester’s series.