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Why do attitudes not change readily?

Q. Attitudes are changeable but they remain largely maintained in the actual practice. Explain why .10 marks
Model answer hints:
Attitudes or our evaluative tendencies, once formed, remain largely constant because
1) some attitudes are because of personality traits and dynamics/defences. Extraversion, for example, is an attitude which remains constant as our personality doesn’t change over night. ( Danial Katz).
2) knowledge based attitude or prejudice remains constant. Hitler’s atrocities are registered in history and knowledge does not change frequently.
3) Socially, some attitudes develop through modeling. As our parents, models, leader etc do not change so are our attitudes. Moreover, social reinforcements come from family, friends and community. This is also a reason for its maintenance as we live almost with the same groups. Some attitudes are value expressive.
4 . Cognitive design of the human beings: we human beings seek consistency and consonance in our experience.( Heider, Festinger) We have tendencies to avoid those information that contradict our present attitudes. This is achieved through a process called selective attention.
5. Attitudes developed out of classical conditioning remain maintained due to avoidance tendencies. Negative attitude towards some restaurant remains unchanged as we don’t try to visit the the same due to prior bad experience. So whenever we see its name, we feel aversion.
# you should elaborate these points adequately.

Decision making

Q. Judging things on the basis of how they look, often but not always, lead to correct decisions. Elaborate and explain its reasons citing research evidences in support 15 marks

Model answer Hints :
We often make judgements about things on the basis of how they look, without considering their deeper characteristics. We also judge “what or who is this ” on the basis of its looks. This is a natural tendency which is so compelling that we often ignore its statistical probability.
Statistically, base rate or relative frequency of the item in the population sometimes could be more important than the mere appearance. If, for instance, in a group of students in a class , a student by her  appearance may resembles the prototype of professor, and  a new visitor might judge her to be a professor, but statistical probability of this would be almost zero.
This happens partly because of our natural tendency of judging quickly without much analysis and partly because of lack experience and training. Trained people, studies reveal, also count the relative frequency while taking decisions. ( Khaneman & Teversky).
Moreover, ignorance of sample size is often seen in judgment. The principle of large number says , everything being equal, “the larger the sample size, larger the probability of any incident “. But when asked, where ( small or big cities) is the probability of higher frequency of the days when  traffic challan went up to 80%,. most people answer – smaller cities. The statistically, the correct answer is larger cities.
Likewise, conjuction fallacy is also a factor in such situations. Statistically, the probability of occurring two independent incidents simultaneously can not be higher than the sum total of their individual probability.
But research studies show that appearance or face information sometimes is so compelling we overlook other factors . What is the probability that a  girl who is waiting for Rajdhani express on the new Delhi railway station, is a mechanical engineer, votes in every election, donates blood regularly etc.. People would often judge at least two traits like what has been reported out of Khaneman and Teversky’ studies. But it’s statistically less likely.
# You should elaborate these points adequately. Most students didn’t answer this question well.

Representational knowledge can be investigated neuro-cognitively.

Q. Representational knowledge can be investigated neuro-cognitively through the studies of amnesia.” Elaborate this statement. (CSE 2008, 15 marks* adjusted )
Model answer outline :


Cognitive neuroscience examines how the structure and function of the brain explain cognitive processes. Neuroscience methods like brain lesion, regional cerebral blood flow studies(eg PET scan) , evoked potential, technique, single cell recording technique etc have enabled researchers to understand WHERE  information is processed and REPRESENTED in the brain.
The case study of HM having anterograde amnesia, shows that information in STM is sent to LTM due to  Hippopotamus. The same brain structure however doesn’t control the development of implicit or procedural LTM as HM showed improvement in procedural memory.


The case study of KF, who had dysfunctional STM but functional LTM, however has raised question questions on hippocampus theory and pathway mechanisms.


Research on amnesic patients by Warrington and Roediger shows a concept of representation called ” Dissociation“. A dissociation occurs when a variable has large effects on one kind of test, but little, no effects or just opposite effects on another kind of test. Explicit and implicit dissociation was evident from their research studies.
Similarly, cases of prosopagnosia or inability to recognize the faces of familiar people show the role of brain structure in the memory of image.
Korsakoff syndrome involves confabulation( make up) which shows false memories about the past events. Cognitive tests reveal that they don’t do it intentionally. False memories are the fillers of the missing information. Moreover, it also shows gradient in the retrograde amnesia in which severe forgetting is of the recent events than of the remote past.
Likewise, we have postmortem data and data from evoked potential technique used on the Alzheimer’s  patients, that show distorted memory representation of the past events.

Roles of constructive process in memory

Q. What is the role of constructive and reconstructive processes in human memory? Explain. (CSE 2014-15 marks)

Model answer Hints :
Our memory system is constructive and reconstructive by nature. Many of the informations we learn don’t remain the same as the time passes. They undergo changes. Unlike Ebbinghaus who attempted to quantify the loss of material as a function of time, Bartlett, a British psychologist emphasized the qualitative changes that come in our memory as a function of time.

Everything is not forgotten as the time passes. Some meaningful things remain their for long. Moreover, we don’t forget everything with uniform rate.
In this connection, Elizabeth Loftus , in her studies on eyewitness,  proved the construction of false memory and distortion of memory.

Let’s try to understand the role of construction and reconstruction processes in human memory.
Helper of the cognitive misers? : we find that “inferences about the past incidents ” are constructed on the basis of information and schema. We don’t store inferences but informations .

Moreover, researches show that even false memories, that are consistent with the knowledge schema of the person, are constructed without conscious awareness.  When asked, what was the reason of the fire, most subjects in a study replied ” carelessly discarded cigarette” because they had been told about a person who discarded cigarette near a grassy land. But subjects were never told that there was any fire.
Construction is the bases for logical reasoning and inferences from the past which connect with the current informations. This way, construction and reconstruction processes are effort saver( we don’t save inferences) & cognitive empowering ( creating missing details).
Motivation & emotional adaptor :
Secondly, we find that a lot of omission and commission in the memory takes place just to keep our cognitive and emotional system balanced as both systems interact . For example, informations inconsistent with our stereotypes (over-generalized beliefs) get lost more readily that the consistent informations. Moreover, memory gets distorted towards better coherence of our mind. Construction and reconstruction process are thus ” cognitive-emotional balancer”.
Thirdly, If we analyse the cases of amnesia, some of the cases like fugue( loss of memory of the part of an episode), we find the some emotionally adaptive roles of selective forgetting. Such omission or distortion provide some relief from some traumatic incidents. Normal forgetfulness is also consistent along this line. ( Freud. S. ” motivated forgetting).
We thus can say that some roles of constructive and reconstructive processes are adaptive but some changes are not desirable and are thus maladaptive too.

Effect of meaningfulness and emotional arousal on encoding. (CSE 2017. 15 Marks)

Q. Explain the role of meaningfulness and emotional arousal in encoding. Discuss the implications of encoding specificity principle. (CSE 2017- 15 marks ).


Model answer :
Encoding is an active process of putting in material in the memory system. Meaningfulness of material has influence on memory process right from attention to retention.
Although Atkinson and Shiffrin’s Model of memory didn’t acknowledge the role of meaningfulness of material for sensory and STM but researches show that meaningfulness matters for STM and sensory memory too. (Baddeley, Wickens ).
Lockhart’s model puts heavy emphasis over meaningfulness.
Lockhart says that meaning is not just all or none phenomenon. Meaning of a word may vary in connotations Elaborations signify the importance of multitudes of meaning. The depth of meaning increases with elaboration.
In one influential study, Rogers compared the amount of recalls following the learning trials in which some subjects were given only main idea, some were given main ideas plus one example, some subjects main idea plus two examples and the like.
The result showed, the greater the elaboration, the better the recall.
Effect of emotions :
There are several evidences that show effect of mood on encoding.
Effect of self reference: Subjects who relate themselves with the “to be learnt material” retain better. (Craik).
The Pollyanna Principle says that we process pleasant material more efficiently and accurately.
Zeigarnik effect shows that memory of unfinished task is better.
Mood congruence effect shows we pay more attention to those content that is congruent with our current mood.


Implications of Encoding specificity principle :
Encoding specificity principle says that recall is better in the same context of encoding. Moreover, context could be real or imagined, physical or emotional. ( Smith).
This principle thus implies that
1) while recalling something, we should focus on both content and context. Context facilitates memory recalls.
2) Outshining hypothesis, however, shows that context helps only when our content cues are weak. Therefore, we must try to over-learn the material while encoding . It will lower our dependence on the contextual cues.
3) Inducing congruent emotion with imagery helps in recalls.

Is the Multi store model of memory perfect?

“Multistore model of memory best explains the nature of memory ” evaluate the statement in theoretical perspective and empirical evidences. (20 marks) (CSE 2019)
Model answer :
Human memory system is very fascinating. All the continuity in behaviour is because of this.
How does our memory system work? This has been an intriguing question.
The information processing model of memory attempted to explain the structure and functioning of human memory using the computer analogy. It assumes that human memory system comprises at least two subsystem, STM and LTM like RAM and ROM systems of computer. This Duplex theory emphasizes the distinction of STM and LTM. Moreover, at the initial stage, a sensory register kind of memory was later added and renamed as the multi store model due to its very structure. The distinction is primarily made on the basis of duration or term of holding the information. Sensory memory holds information for very brief period ( about a second), the STM holds for more( about 20/30 second) and the LTM holds for the longest.
Functionally, sensation takes information to sensory register, attention to STM and meaningful processing to LTM.
This theory answers the basic questions of memory very well. How do we encode, store, retrieve and sometimes forget information.
There is debate over the nature of encoding, duration, capacity, functionality of each system but the debate doesn’t discard the analogy of multi stores.
But there are theories that have different perspectives on the human memory system. Craik and Lockhart criticised the distinction among sensory, short and long term memory system. They argue” why we should see these systems as distinct and different. Why not to see them as a part of single system…Rather to distinguishing them on the basis of duration of holding information, why we can’t see the difference just in terms of elaboration which causes different longevity of the information we hold “
Moreover, Tulving argues that apart from duration & elaboration, nature of material that we encode also matters.
Empirically, all models have evidences to support their points.
Without maintenance rehearsal, information is lost and with meaningful rehearsals information it lives longer . But such an evidence is indirect and could be interpreted differently. Rogers, for instance, found that distinction of maintenance and meaningful rehearsals is not very appropriate. Actual difference is in the nature of elaboration. Briefer duration of memory could be due to physical or acoustic elaboration whereas semantic and self reference based elaboration give longer retention.
Secondly, the distinction between STM and LTM on the nature of encoding is also questioned. STM doesn’t have only acoustic encoding as suggested by Atkinson model. ( Baddeley).

The hard evidence for the multi store model, however, comes from neuroscience studies of HM. HM has functional STM but dysfunctional LTM.

Critics raise the question of Atkinson and Shiffrin’s explanation of the pathway that information must pass from STM in order to reach LTM (K. F case, in this despite having dysfunctional STM , his LTM remains intact) . Likewise, procedural memory of HM improved with practice.
Moreover, incidental memory, that develops without intention, also questions the control mechanisms suggested by the multi store model.
We, therefore, can judge that STM and LTM kind of distinction suggested by the multi store model has some merits but it doesn’t answer all the questions related to its functioning. The alternate, the level of processing model by Lockhart, has good explanation for functioning but doesn’t discard the structural distinction completely.
We, thus, don’t have sufficient evidences and reasons to say that multi store model is the best theory of memory.

Skills to describe an abstract or confusing concept?

Arun kumar,
Mentor – Beautiful Mind IAS

Dear student!

You often need to discuss a concept while answering a given question. Some concepts are so clear, concrete and well known that you just need to define and exemplify. Some concepts however are not very clear and obvious. In this case, in order to clarify them adequately , you need to define and elaborate them adequately.

In order to elaborate, you need to give suitable examples, analogies and often contrast them with other similar concepts. For instance, while dealing with the concept of sensory adaptation , you may define it as the process of diminishing sensation towards a constant environmental stimulus. This could even be more clear if we contrast the concept with the similar concept of habituation which is the process of diminishing attention towards a constant stimulus. Creating contrast is a good answering skill.

Here purpose is not to describe the second concept or give a comparative account of both concepts but to throw light on the main concept and make its semantic contours even more clear and distinct. This is a well known practice in creative as well as scientific writing. Make use of this skills and score better in the exams.

Happy learning

Arun kumar, Mentor – Beautiful Mind IAS

Reading doesn’t necessarily mean learning..

As a faculty and Mentor for the CSE examination, I have noticed that several students read a lot; they seemingly work very hard and give more time for study than other students do , but when the time comes to actually perform in the tests they do not do well. This was a very intriguing matter for me. In order to understand the problem i started observing and analyzing my own as well as our students studying behaviours.
Now after knowing and understanding a no. of cases i came to discover a crucial fact:
“Reading doesn’t necessarily mean learning.”
you may read a topic for hours without understanding its matter. it’s interesting to note that most of us are not aware that we are not getting while reading. Just mechanically moving on the lines across a page gives feedback to ourselves that we have read the matter. But like we see other things around without understanding, we do read a topic without fully understanding it. This is why some students fail even after doing hard work.
So my advice is whatever you study, you ensure you know and understand it well. For this, elaborating the topic adequately and answering a questions from the topic you have read help a lot.
Arun Kumar