All posts by Bryce Fry

Remember, remember

Giving a detailed account of the history and use of the Wechsler memory scale, and offering improvements on the method of comparing immediate and delayed memory, Tulsky, Chelune, and Price’s “Development of a new delayed memory index for the WMS-III” is invalvuable for understanding the use of the Wechsler memory scale. In particular the analysis of the test and how it can be adapted to suit the experimental purpose should play into the method of the proposal. Of particular interest are the revise General Memory Index (GMI) and Immediate Memory Index (IMI) that allow more transparent comparison. Having a means of comparing long term and short term memory is essential to a study of attention, encoding, and learning, especially in the classroom. Without them, the study would not be significant or interesting in the broader context of education and retention.

Tulsky, D. S., Chelune, G. J., & Price, L. R. (2004). Development of a New Delayed Memory Index for the WMS-III. Journal Of Clinical & Experimental Neuropsychology26(4), 563-576.

Education, Age, and Neurological Measures

Lam, Eng, Rapisarda, and Subramaniam in “Formulation of the Age-Education Index” aim to determine the validity of different measures of one’s education level using cognitive batteries. Unfortunately from the perspective of the proposal, their measures and methods did not have a clear relation to attention. Nevertheless, they give an important account of how neurological tests are affected by education. Most importantly for the proposal, they note that these tests are particularly influenced by language and literacy. Their focus is more on using these neurological measures and education level to assess individuals facing memory and other cognitive deficits, which is beyond the purpose of the attention proposal, but might be useful elsewhere.

Lam, M., Eng, G. K., Rapisarda, A., Subramaniam, M., Kraus, M., Keefe, R. E., & Collinson, S. L. (2013). Formulation of the age–education index: Measuring age and education effects in neuropsychological performance. Psychological Assessment25(1), 61-70. doi:10.1037/a0030548

Statistically thinking

Marambe, Vermunt, Boshuizen in their “A cross-cultural comparison of student learning patterns in higher educaiton” remind us that there are not simple models of the Asian learner, especially because of the way that education systems are set up and the impact of colonialism. They show that an ANOVA analysis of cognitive batteries, in this case the ISL, ICB, and ARPM can show differences in the use of cognitive faculties. In particular, while there was a significance between Dutch learners compared to Sri Lankan and Indonesian learners, there were almost as many differences between Sri Lankan and Indonesian students.

More than just establishing the significance of their results, Marambe, Vermunt, and Boshuizen place the results in a cultural context, noting how similarities correspond to the place of the student in all of these societies, while cognitive differences match socio-cultural differences as well as the relationship between educators and educated.

Because of how well this cognitive test could correspond to cultural differences, I was tempted to include it in the proposal. Ultimately, it seemed like an interesting test, but one that would add too much workload to the researchers, especially if they were going to process heat maps and the simpler memory scale. Although the Weschler memory scale is not as comprehensive, it does have clear elements related to visual processing, which can be compared to the attention data.

Marambe, K., Vermunt, J. j., & Boshuizen, H. (2012). A cross-cultural comparison of student learning patterns in higher education. Higher Education64(3), 299-316.

Thought for Thought

In a study where you’re asking students to put on a bunch of gear that they known monitors where they look and ask them to behave as normal, understanding how thinking about your thinking seemed important. Bromme, Pieschl, and Stahl in “Epistemological beliefs are standards for adaptive learning” give an account of how epistemological beliefs, meta-cognition knowledge, and meta-cognitive skill affect learning seemed like a natural choice. They go beyond the scope needed for my simple proposal, but in a more serious study, accounting for the circular nature of thought processes, especially if you are making a mechanism or schematic map of how culture, attention, sensory modalities, and learning interact, this meta-cognitive account would be indispensable.

On another level, we can consider this meta-cognitive account an important means of internalizing cultural norms of thinking and even of basic neurological mechanisms such as where you should look and what you should look at. Bromme, Pieschl, and Stahl then provide important evidence for not only how a study of thought should be set up, but also provide background on the basic direction such studies should take. In light of Marambe et al. and their study of cross-cultural learning patterns, the notions of meta-cognition and self-directed learning are particularly important.

Bromme, R., Pieschl, S., & Stahl, E. (2010). Epistemological beliefs are standards for adaptive learning: a functional theory about epistemological beliefs and metacognition. Metacognition & Learning5(1), 7-26.

Looking to Others: In-group attention and evaluation

In some ways, the work of Kawakami, Williams, and Sidhy in “An eye for the I: Preferential attention to the eyes of ingroup members” builds on some of what we’ve talked about facial recognition from Chiao et al. in 2008, although Kawakami et al. found that more than responses to fear produce different neurological responses. I read the article hoping that they would have a method for looking at attention to the social queues and facial expressions of in-group individuals that could be adapted to the purposes of looking at a classroom of students. In the end, other methods seemed to have a clearer relation to what my proposal was interested in studying. Nevertheless, the study introduces some background information about how cultural can affect sensory modalities and attention.

Kawakami, K., Williams, A., Sidhu, D., Choma, B. L., Rodriguez-Bailón, R., Cañadas, E., & Hugenberg, K. (2014). An eye for the I: Preferential attention to the eyes of ingroup members. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology,107(1), 1-20. doi:10.1037/a0036838

More to West and East at a Glance

Akechia, Senju, Kikuchi, Hasegawa, and Hietanen give a solid method of assessing eye contact between individuals in “Attention to eye contact in the West and East: Autonomic responses and evaluative ratings.” In particular, I like that they give participants a degree of control over the duration of eye contact, as well as including self-evaluative measures of participants affective states over the course of the trials. They incorporated the quantitative and qualitative measures well and integrated them easily enough in the conclusion.

Their point about eye contact being a social interaction and consisting of some give and take between two subjects seemed an important experimental point. When designing studies that look at social interactions like these, they cannot be too contrived or they lose part of their cultural context. Having a bit of give and take, a more relaxed atmosphere in the study, even done as a formal part of the method, adds more than is immediately apparent.

In short, they offer a more nuanced and examined look at a simple dichotomy, which also showed solid methods and analysis.

Akechi, H., Senju, A., Uibo, H., Kikuchi, Y., Hasegawa, T., & Hietanen, J. K. (2013). Attention to Eye Contact in the West and East: Autonomic Responses and Evaluative Ratings. Plos ONE, 8(3), 1-10. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059312

Taking It All in: Data and Eye Movement

After the details of the electrooculargram and seeing how difficult the results could be, this articular was a bit of a relief. Berger, Winkels, Lischke, and Höppner offer a program capable of analyzing the raw data of eye tracking in “GazeAlyze: A MATLAB toolbox for the analysis of eye movement data.” It was not any less detailed or methodical than the article about raw electrooculargraphy, but knowing that there is a program like GazeAlyze that works through MATLAB, a program available on a number of universities, including Alabama, made eye movement a more feasible experimental measure. This also opens up the possibility that researchers experienced in MATLAB would find the eye tracking data easy to read, or at least could become familiar with the analysis relatively easily.

Beyond my personal relief, the authors note a few improvements that would be convenient for researchers and improve on previous software such as ILAB. GazeAlyze allows files to be exported as images and marking of regions of importance (ROI). Although these features might be easier to use if the subjects look at static images while their eye movements are tracked, they also allow easier sharing and reproduction of results. In particular, compared to the raw data of eye movements, heat maps generated by the program would be more intuitive to understand.

Berger, C., Winkels, M., Lischke, A., & Höppner, J. (2012). GazeAlyze: A MATLAB toolbox for the analysis of eye movement data. Behavior Research Methods44(2), 404-419. doi:10.3758/s13428-011-0149-x

A Look at Eye Tracking

Although it tends toward the sci-fi side of tracking eye movement, particularly in it’s discussion of “brain-to-machine interface (BMI),” the Fricke, Sobot, and Dounavis in their article “Analogue portable electrooculargram real-time processor” show that measuring eye movement is feasible on a small scale, opening the possibility of future applications.

The authors looked at a simple electrooculargram with five electrodes: one centered on the forehead, two above either eyebrow to measure vertical movement, and two on the outside of either eye to measure horizontal movement. Although it would be difficult to determine exactly where someone is looking, this instrument should give enough information for the purposes of studying where students are looking in a classroom and what sort of stimuli they respond to, such as the teacher’s gaze and emoting or material on the board. Ideally, five electrodes would not be too invasive or distracting for a period of about an hour, and the low power requirement and real time data would be helpful in the field.

I cannot speak for the technical details of the circuits and signal processing, but the authors show some favorable results. Their primary focus was on clear, precise movements involved in tracking a white dot that moves only horizontally or vertically, which do not match up with the more varied eye movement in a classroom setting, but could be adapted. They note that trained subjects produce clearer results, which is not unexpected. Nevertheless, with some signal boosting and processing, the electrooculargram gives a clear indication of eye movement with even a simple instrument.

Looking at their results, researchers would have to have significant training to interpret them, which might be a significant setback for a real proposal. Unless their instrument can be adapted to produce results that are more intuitive to interpret or can be processed by another program to produce clearer graphs and figures, then the utility of eye tracking instruments might be limited.


Fricke, K., Sobot, R., & Dounavis, A. (n.d). Analogue portable electrooculogram real-time signal processor. International Journal Of Circuit Theory And Applications, 42(2), 195-208.

Recall Your Way to Health

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Cameron Hay is a premier cultural anthropologist in the study of health, medical systems, and medical knowledge, her major project being ethnography and comparison of the Sasak people of Lambok, Indonesia and their medical practice to American people. She cites her father as her strongest intellectual influence for his empathy and critical eye. Jon Andelson and Ron Kurtz sparked her interest in anthropology at Grinnell College. At Emory University, Dr. Hays earned her MA and  Ph.D. in anthropology with a biocultural focus. Earning a NSF Advanced Fellows award helped her continue her postdoctoral studies at UCLA, where she currently holds her secondary position as an associate research anthropologist.  She published her her first major paper in 1999 in the Medical Anthropology journal under the title “Dying Mothers: Maternal Mortality in Rural Indonesia.” Since then she has published 18 other papers and a book, Remembering to Live: Illness at the Intersection of Anxiety and Knowledge in Rural Indonesia.

Challenging Understanding of Medical Learning

Hay hopes to demonstrate three things about medical practice in particular and the effect of culture on the neurology of learning as a whole. The cultural context of medical learning affects how important different types of knowledge appear, in turn changing what and how we recall information. What information we tend to recall and how we recall it over time affects the tradition and practice of medicine.This process of ‘co-creation’ between medical knowledge and medical practice extends to “anytime learning takes place” (142). The process of learning then is generalized, not compartmentalized as academia would make it seem. Knowledge affects how we learn and is both culturally contextual and holistic.

Sasak Medical Tradition

Sasak tradition practiced in impoverished, rural community that continues to deal with the consequences of “domination, exploitation, and extraction.” Their history contributes to malnutrition, low wealth, low literacy, and life expectancy being around 50 years. Nevertheless, they have a self-sufficient medical practice, one not dependent on outside aid, in the form of jampi, “inherently potent sequences of words.” These words are memorized and used sparingly so as not to diminish their efficacy.

Although the Sasak medical tradition is vastly different from American medical practice and the communities American practice thrives in, Hay maintains that they can both be understood in terms of medical terminology, organization, and retrieval co-evolving to suit the needs of the community.

The Sasak regard biomedical care as speeding recovery but not healing like jampi. Jampi act as memorized responses to illness and are precious in part because they are not written down.  Giving and receiving jampi requires isolation. To limit degredation of memory, Sasak employ “multiple constraints:” consistent form, limited words around the limit of human memory capacity, the association of jampi with great importance leading to heightened arousal and thus encoding, self-concept of healers reinforcing already strong recall, and the intentional encoding based on future need. Because of the importance of memorization, Sasak tradition relies on the hippocampus, medial temporal lobes, and prefrontal cortex.

American Medical Tradition

American practice relies on several assumptions. Skilled practice is supposedly scientifically sound, with medical education valuing semantic knowledge over episodic. By being consistent, American practice hopes to avoid individual variation, especially through guidlines, even though American students are not good at memorization. American practice also assumes that it can be wrong, and thus can always be improved. Physicians tend to become more skeptical the more experience they have reading journals and practicing. Finally, American practice does not transfer knowledge of how medicine works in practice, but expects students to gain a holistic view over time.

Embodied cognition offers a way to understand why practical experience and episodic memory serve physicians better than semantic memory. Cognitive action can stimulate motor action, generating procedural memories. Procedural memory and episodic memory combine to make schemas, maps of one’s knowledge and appropriate response; the process of memory consolidation is closely tied to the hippocampus and neocortex, which takes over the cognitive burden. Over time and with enough reinforcement schemas become hippocampal independent and automatic, employing the basal ganglia and caudate.

Diagnosis and Motivation

Illness not recognized immediately push both Sasak and American healers toward more effortful recall. In Sasak communities, when few people gather, there are fewer jampi and low anxiety, but larger groups talk more often about illness, increasing anxiety and the stress response. Stress leads to release norepinephrine, activating the amygdala and thalamus, increasing attentiveness and potentially leading to activation of the hippocampus, facilitating recall. Since American healers tend not to rely on recall as much, stress pushes physicians to external resources, which might then be reintegrated by the stimulated hippocampus into their schema of treatment. Each of these strategies have a use: the Sasak reliance on memorization and connection to specific individuals helps when someone does not have personal experience treating an illness, whereas the American dependence on schemas and skepticism is suited to developing procedures for and diagnosis of new diseases.


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