Dear Tom Hadley,
This time my letter is about such interesting and absorbing topics from my psychology course as intelligence, memory, and motivation. All of them concern each person, as all humans have the brain which generates intelligence, stores memories, and can motivate them for better or worse results. That is why having the knowledge about our brain functioning can be compared to maintaining an instruction about ourselves. Being homo sapience, humans should responsibly consider and practically use all benefits of their brains.
First of all, one has to mention thinking and intelligence. Let us define the difference between these two notions. Thinking process lies in digesting and analyzing the information, which is contained in the memory to understand the problem and find the decision. However, decisions taken in the process of thinking can be either good, or bad. Intelligence, in its turn, lies in rational purposeful and efficient thinking, which orients towards right decisions only. Such psychological blocks as overconfidence of the own opinion, functional fixedness, inability to see others’ point of view, confirmation bias or searching for facts that confirm one’s rightness, often lead to inflexibility and prevent making right and successful decisions (Thinking and Intelligence, 10). The ability of a person to “profit from experience, acquire knowledge and think abstractly” develops his/her intelligence (Thinking and Intelligence, 14).
Contemporary psychology rates intelligence level with the help of logical tests. The most respectful are IQ and WISC for children and WAIS for adults. Both of them have proven their reliability and validity, and are standardized. Thanks to these tests, Psychological researches shown that both genetic and environment influence on the grade of intelligence of every person; moreover, they showed that “healthy and stimulating environment can raise IQ, sometimes dramatically” (Thinking and Intelligence, 26). Malnutrition of a mother during pregnancy, “exposure to toxins and stressful family circumstances,” on the contrary, reduce IQ level (Thinking and Intelligence, 26). Thus, intelligence is not a stable notion and can be improved throughout life.
Scientific studies of nurture versus nature, which proved that the change of the environment could increase the IQ level, reassured me. I dream of having two own children and an adopted one, but some fear of bad genes was present in my consciousness until I discovered that genes are important but not decisive. Now, when I know for sure that everything can be corrected, I am glad for all children who are waiting for parents, since this fact adds the chances for happier life.
Another fact considering this topic that surprised me was the acceptance that thinking process could result in bad decisions. As a rule, people consider their point of view to be right, but the study of blocks for right decisions showed me unreasonable rigidity and inflexibility in many situations. Therefore, now before arguing with my mother I try to understand and weigh all her advantages and disadvantages. Besides, the fact that such approach has proven our relationships, it helps me to increase my IQ, as I am oriented only to wise decisions now.
The second topic of my letter is memory. It continuously interacts with thinking process as its target is storing and retrieving information for thinking and communication. However, every person knows the feeling when information is on the tip of the tongue but is so hard to remind. Forgetting can be motivated, when a person aims to forget undesired circumstances and suppresses unpleasant topics, and unmotivated, when a person wants to remember something but forgets it. As a rule, unmotivated forgetting becomes more common with age. In general, young people face forgetting approximately once per week (Memory, 10). The ascertaining of the process of memory work explains the reasons of forgetting.
Scientists distinguish sensory, short-term, and long-term memory. Sensory memory is a memory for our surroundings. It lasts from a quarter of a second to three seconds and provides us with the information about danger, obstacles, and other outer conditions. Only the most primary, recent, and effective formation is transferred from the sensory to the short-term memory. The last is a working part, whose longevity is 20 seconds. The task of short-term memory is to pass information to the long-term memory and retrieve it back when there is a need. Short-term memory is limited and cannot operate with too much information at the same time. Long-term memory, on the contrary, is unlimited and permanent. Its task is to store the information. It is surprising that a human brain can store much more information that millions of computers do, but in this case, why do people tend to forget? Psychologists say that the reason lies in failure of encoding, when information passes to the long-term memory and retrieval together with “gradual fading of memory trace in brain” (Memory, 12). Consequently, in order to omit fading and encode the information in the long-term memory, a person should repeat, rehear, and explain the information to someone else. It is easier to keep in mind more bits of information when a person focuses attention and spends enough time trying to remember it. Moreover, visual images and mnemonic devices help to avoid quick forgetting.
The knowledge of memory functioning and the explanation of forgetting process is vital to all humans, as it can help to economize time for studying. I often notice that I have learned the topics perfectly before the examination, but my memory for the material fades so quickly after having passed it. Now I understand that all this happens because of the lack of repetition and rehearsal. Therefore, if I am not lazy to revise my studying notes after the examinations, I have all chances to be the cleverest student in the class.
The knowledge of memory function produces astonishing results for the learning of a foreign language. I, for example, can remember a word from the film or from the life situation at once, when someone from my company or I use it. All this occurs because the words blend with emotion and mnemonic images. Moreover, a lot of reading, listening, and watching in foreign language helps me consolidate and remind the words I have already met. Thus, thanks to the knowledge of memory functions I can improve my languages in faster and easier way now.
The third topic that is very popular nowadays is motivation, which initiates and directs our behavior. The humanistic theory demonstrates the hierarchy of needs, which encourage people in certain actions in certain order. This hierarchy shows that the basic physiological needs, such as rest, food, water, warmth, and feeling of safety, are the most important and of top priority for every human being. Only when a person feels comfortable and safe, he/she starts satisfying psychological needs, which consists of the need for belongingness, love, and esteem or prestige. It is significant for everyone to be loved, involved, have social significance, and be active at least within a small group of people (Motivation, 5). Only if both basic physiological and psychological needs are satisfied, the need of self-actualization, which focuses on creative thinking and full potential development, appears.
Interesting here is the phenomenon of hunger, which is primary the simple physiological need, that should be satisfied with some amount of food when body temperature rises, glucose drops in blood, and metabolism decreases (Motivation, 7). However, with the development of society, some traits of psychological needs have transformed the eating. Appropriate time of the day, good company, food’s taste, appetizing look or flavor motivate people to eat even when there is no physiological need for this. It results in the fact that “2 of 3 Americans are not at the weight they should be” (Motivation, 9). Among the factors that raise the weight of the nation is the contemporary temp of life, which characterizes in sedentary lifestyle, cafeteria diet, and lack of sleep. However, palatable food takes the first positions too. If a person eats raw and healthy food without flavoring additives, he/she is rarely seduced to eat again without need, as many psychological factors are missing. Thus, overeating is a psychological, not physiological problem, and a person can fight with it just with the help of deeper understanding of its functioning.
I fear to think how weak people are struggling against outer seductions. Food becomes some kind of a drug. The problem of overweighting is not just aesthetic; it often causes many health problems. I regard myself as a food conscious person and avoid buying junk food or food with a lot of calories, but I can hardly cope with my groundless hunger when I study hard. Food breaks are the only pleasure during that period. Very often I even do not notice what I have eaten. However, now I know for sure that this hunger comes not from my brain, it lies in my psychological need to relax, remove stress, and change the activity. The next time I will better have a break to listen to music or do some physical exercises instead of eating. How long will I cope with the temptation? I hope that the motivation of saving some money and slim figure at the same time will help a lot.
People’s brain is the fantastic, captivating, and immense field for study. Getting knowledge in psychology does not only develop the outlook of a person, but also provides him/her with inappreciable practical information for everyday usage. The knowledge of thinking and intelligence, for example, shows the factors, which cause wrong decisions taking and tells that people can raise their IQ. The knowledge of memory functioning is helpful for everyone who aims at learning faster and limit forgetting of the studied information. Motivation knowledge shows how to motivate oneself in the right way and avoid hidden manipulation of the outer world. It is fantastic, how little people know about themselves and how much each piece of knowledge can improve their everyday life. I hope that these topics will evoke the same curiosity in your mind as they did in mine.