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Article

Animal Learning and Cognition  

Michael J. Beran

Comparative psychology is the study of behavior and cognition across species. In recent decades, much of this research has focused on cognitive capacities that are well studied in humans. This approach provides comparative perspectives on the evolution of these cognitive capacities. Although in many areas humans shows distinct aspects of various cognitive processes, it is clear that for most major topics in human cognition, important and illustrative data are available from studies with other animals. Moreover, these areas of investigation increasingly show continuities between the behavior of other species and human behavior. Several of these cognitive processes, including concept and category learning, numerical cognition, memory, mental time travel and prospective cognition, metacognition, and language learning, highlight these continuities and demonstrate the richness of mental lives in other animals. Nonhuman animals can discriminate between categories of perceptual and conceptual classes, they can form concepts, and they can use those concepts to guide decision making and choice behavior. Other species can engage in rudimentary numerical cognition, and more importantly share with humans certain core quantitative abilities for the approximate representation of magnitude and number. Nonhuman animals share many phenomena of memory that are well-recognized in humans, and in some cases may even share the capacity to mentally re-experience the past and to anticipate and plan for the future. In some cases, some species may even reflect on their own knowledge states, memory accessibility, and perceptual acuity as they make metacognitive judgments. And, studies of animal communication provided the basis for intensive assessments of language-like behavior in certain species. Taken together, these results argue much more for continuity than discontinuity. This should not be seen as a challenge to the uniqueness of human minds, but rather as a way to better understand how we became the species we are through the process of evolution.

Article

Cognitive Consistency in Social Cognition  

Skylar M. Brannon and Bertram Gawronski

The desire to maintain consistency between cognitions has been recognized by many psychologists as an important human motive. Research on this topic has been highly influential in a variety of areas of social cognition, including attitudes, person perception, prejudice and stereotyping, and self-evaluation. In his seminal work on cognitive dissonance, Leon Festinger noted that inconsistencies between cognitions result in negative affect. Further, he argued that the motivation to maintain consistency is a basic motive that is intrinsically important. Subsequent theorists posed revisions to Festinger’s original theory, suggesting that consistency is only important to the extent that it allows one to maintain a desired self-view or to communicate traits to others. According to these theorists, the motivation to maintain consistency serves as a means toward a superordinate motive, not as an end in itself. Building on this argument, more recent perspectives suggest that consistency is important for the execution of context-appropriate action and the acquisition and validation of knowledge. Several important lines of research grew out of the idea that cognitive consistency plays a central role in social information processing. One dominant line of research has aimed toward understanding how people deal with inconsistencies between their attitudes and their behaviors. Other research has investigated how individuals maintain their beliefs either by (1) avoiding exposure to contradictory information or (2) engaging in cognitive processes aimed toward reconciling an inconsistency after being exposed to contradictory information. Cognitive consistency perspectives have also been leveraged to understand (1) the conditions under which explicit and implicit evaluations correlate with one another, (2) when change in one type of evaluation corresponds with change in the other, and (3) the roles of distinct types of consistency principles underlying explicit and implicit evaluations. Expanding on these works, newer lines of research have provided important revisions and extensions to early research on cognitive consistency, focusing on (1) the identification of inconsistency, (2) the elicitation of negative affect in response to inconsistency, and (3) behavioral responses aimed to restore inconsistency or mitigate the negative feelings arising from inconsistency. For example, some research has suggested that, instead of following the rules of formal logic, perceptions of (in)consistency are driven by “psycho-logic” in that individuals may perceive inconsistency when there is logical consistency, and vice versa. Further, reconciling conflicting research on the affective responses to inconsistency, recent work suggests that all inconsistencies first elicit negative affect, but immediate affective reactions may change in line with the hedonic experience of the event when an individual has time to make sense of the inconsistency. Finally, new frameworks have been proposed to unite a broad range of phenomena under one unifying umbrella, using the concept of cognitive consistency as a common denominator.

Article

Illness-Related Cognition  

Amy E. Richardson and Elizabeth Broadbent

Cognitions about illness have been identified as contributors to health-related behavior, psychological well-being, and overall health. Several different theories have been developed to explain how cognitions may exert their impact on health outcomes. This article includes three theories: the Health Belief Model (HBM), the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), and the Common Sense Model (CSM), with the primary focus on the CSM. The HBM posits that cognitions regarding susceptibility to a health threat, the severity of the threat, and the benefits and costs associated with behavior, will determine whether or not a behavior is performed. In the TPB, behavior is thought to be a consequence of intention to act, which is shaped by attitudes regarding a behavior, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control. The Common Sense Model (CSM) proposes that individuals form cognitive representations of illness (known as illness perceptions) as well as emotional representations, which are key determinants of coping behaviors to manage the illness. Coping behaviors are theorized to have direct relationships with physical and psychological health outcomes. Cognitive representations encompass perceptions regarding the consequences posed by the illness, its timeline, personal ability to control the illness, whether the illness can be cured or controlled by treatment, and the identity of the illness (including its label and symptoms). Emotional representations reflect feelings such as fear, anger, and depression about the illness. The development of illness representations is influenced by a number of factors, including personal experience, the nature of physical symptoms, personality traits, and the social and cultural context. Illness cognitions can vary considerably between patients and health care professionals. There are a number of methods to assess illness-related cognitions, and increasing evidence that modifying negative or inaccurate cognitions can improve health outcomes.

Article

Organizational Sensemaking  

Ravi S. Kudesia

Since the 1980s, the management and organizations literature has grown substantially, turning over the years toward cognitive, discursive, and phenomenological perspectives. At the heart of this continued growth and its many turns is the matter of sensemaking. Construed narrowly, sensemaking describes the process whereby people notice and interpret equivocal events and coordinate a response to clarify what such events mean. More broadly, sensemaking offers a unique perspective on organizations. This perspective calls attention to how members of organizations reach understandings of their environment through verbal and embodied behaviors, how these understandings both enable and constrain their subsequent behavior, and how this subsequent behavior changes the environment in ways that necessitate new understandings. Whereas organizational psychology constructs typically fit most comfortably into a linear “boxes and arrows” paradigm, sensemaking highlights a recursive and ongoing process. Sense is never made in a lasting way: It is always subject to disruption and therefore must be continually re-accomplished. As a result, sensemaking is especially evident when equivocal events cause breakdowns in meaning. Such breakdowns render organizations incapable of answering two key questions: “What’s going on here?” and “What should we do about it?” Not coincidentally, such events—including crisis situations, strategic change episodes, firm formations and dissolutions, and new member socialization—are among the most pivotal events that occur in organizations. Sensemaking is therefore strongly implicated in organizational change, learning, and identity. Sensemaking can appear impenetrable to newcomers for precisely the same reason that it enables remarkably incisive analyses: the sensemaking perspective helps disrupt limiting rationality assumptions that are so often embedded in organizational theories. As such, sensemaking sensitizes scholars to counterintuitive aspects of organizational life. These aspects include how action in organizations often precedes understanding rather than following from it, how organizations are beset by a surplus of possible meanings rather than a scarcity of information, how retrospective thought processes often trump future-oriented ones, and how organizations help create the environments to which they must react. Nonetheless, despite these advances and insights, much remains to be learned about sensemaking as it relates to emotion and embodiment; as it occurs across individual, group, organizational, and institutional levels of analysis; and as it both shapes and is shaped by new technologies.

Article

Animal Cognition  

Sarah Krichbaum, Adam Davila, Lucia Lazarowski, and Jeffrey S. Katz

The contemporary field of animal cognition began over 150 years ago when Charles Darwin posed questions regarding the abilities of the animal mind. Animal cognition is a science dedicated to understanding the processes and mechanisms that allow nonhumans to think and behave. The techniques that are used and the species that are studied are diverse. The historical questions originally proposed by ethologist Nikolas Tinbergen as a framework for studying animal behavior remain at the core of the field. These questions are reviewed along with the domains and methods of animal cognition with a focus on concept learning, memory, and canine cognition. Finally, ideas on how a field rich in tradition and methodological strength should proceed in the future are presented.

Article

Cognitive Implications of Bilingualism  

Ellen Bialystok

There has been an enormous expansion during the early 21st century in psychological research on topics relating to bilingualism, paralleling developments in other fields of psychology that investigate the interface between experience and the mind. These issues reflect the view that brains and minds remain plastic and can be modified by experience throughout life. In the case of bilingualism, a central question is whether bilingual experience modifies cognitive systems in general, and more specifically, if it improves cognitive ability and executive functioning. The research has produced contradictory results, in some cases supporting a beneficial effect on cognition and in some cases indicating no effect. Crucially, there is essentially no research that indicates that bilingualism is associated with poorer cognitive outcomes than found for those who are monolingual. Studies showing a positive role for bilingualism on cognitive outcomes have been reported across the life span. Early research with children in the first half of the 20th century concluded that bilingualism was detrimental to children’s intelligence, a claim that has been thoroughly refuted and replaced with evidence identifying specific cognitive processes that are more advanced in bilingual than in monolingual children. A few studies have even reported better attentional control, the foundation of executive functioning, for infants in the first year of life being raised in bilingual homes than for those in monolingual environments. Young adults frequently show no behavioral differences between language groups when performing executive function tasks, but neuroimaging (electrophysiology or brain imaging) consistently indicates that monolinguals and bilinguals use different brain regions and different degrees of effort to perform these tasks. The clearest language group differences, however, occur in older age where evidence for cognitive reserve from bilingualism is found most clearly in the postponement of symptoms of dementia. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze the factors that mediate these effects, notably, the nature of bilingual experience and the details of the cognitive task being used. The conclusion is that bilingualism is complex but there is evidence for a consistent and systematic impact on cognitive systems.

Article

Synesthesia  

Jamie Ward

People with synesthesia have unusual sensory experiences whereby one stimulus elicits another: Words may evoke tastes, numbers evoke colors, and so on. The eliciting stimulus is called the inducer, whereas the synesthetic experience, which is normally percept-like in quality, is referred to as the concurrent. Synesthetic experiences use some of the same neural substrates as “real” perception. The associations are influenced by cross-modal correspondences between the senses (e.g., high pitch being bright or light) and regularities in one’s own environment. Synesthesia comes in many varieties, but these likely stem from a common cause (because different varieties tend to co-occur together). This is normally explained in terms of an atypical neurodevelopmental cascade from genetic differences that affect brain development and give rise to an atypical profile of behaviors (of which synesthesia is one). People with synesthesia not only have unusual sensory experiences—this being the trait that defines them—but also present with a distinctive cognitive profile (affecting memory, imagery, perception) that has impacts on their life choices (e.g., occupation) and may predispose selectively toward certain clinical vulnerabilities.

Article

Inference in Social Cognition  

D. Vaughn Becker, Christian Unkelbach, and Klaus Fiedler

Inferences are ubiquitous in social cognition, governing everything from first impressions to the communication of meaning itself. Social cognitive inferences are typically varieties of diagnostic reasoning or, more properly, “abductive” reasoning, in which people infer simple but plausible—although not deductively certain—underlying causes for observable social behaviors. Abductive inference and its relationship to inductive and deductive inference are first introduced. A description of how abductive inference operates on a continuum between those that arise rapidly and automatically (and appear like deductions) and those that inspire more deliberative efforts (and thus often recruit more inductive information gathering and testing) is then given. Next, many classic findings in social cognition, and social psychology more broadly, that reveal how widespread this type of inference is explored. Indeed, both judgements under uncertainty and dual-process theories can be illuminated by incorporating the abductive frame. What then follows is a discussion on the work in ecological and evolutionary approaches that suggest that, although these inferences often go beyond the information given and are prone to predictable errors, people are good enough at social inference to qualify as being “ecologically rational.” The conclusion explores emerging themes in social cognition that only heighten the need for this broader understanding of inference processes.

Article

Socioeconomic Status and Cultural Difference  

Keiko Ishii and Charis Eisen

Socioeconomic status (SES) is a multidimensional construct based on access to material resources and one’s own rank relative to others in a social hierarchy. It fundamentally shapes individuals’ psychological and behavioral tendencies. In many ways, socioeconomic variation parallels East–West cultural dynamics. Like East Asian cultures, lower SES fosters interdependence, a reduced striving for personal choice, holistic thinking, and the attribution of events and behavior to external causes. In contrast, similar to Western cultures, higher SES supports independence, a strong desire for control, self-expression through choice, analytic thinking, and internal attribution. SES has also been found to shape additional psychological tendencies. Because limited access to resources and education makes it necessary to rely on other people, lower SES has been shown to be linked to a greater understanding of others’ emotions and a tendency to act altruistically. Although the evidence is still limited, this article describes what is known about the simultaneous influence of SES and culture. Some studies have explored similar SES effects across cultures. However, reflecting the variation in the dominant ideas and practices shared among people within sociocultural contexts, some studies have suggested that socioeconomic contexts elicit different psychological processes across national cultures. Higher-SES individuals especially seem to adjust themselves to culturally sanctioned ideas and practices. The article suggests directions for future research that will enhance our understanding of the interplay between SES and national cultures.

Article

Metamemory and Cognitive Aging  

Christopher Hertzog and Taylor Curley

Metamemory is defined as cognitions about memory and related processes. Related terms in the literature include metacognition, self-evaluation, memory self-efficacy, executive function, self-regulation, cognitive control, and strategic behavior. Metamemory is a multidimensional construct that includes knowledge about how memory works, beliefs about memory (including beliefs about one’s own memory such as memory self-efficacy), monitoring of memory and related processes and products, and metacognitive control, in which adaptive changes in processing approaches and strategies may be contemplated if monitoring of memory processes (encoding, retention, retrieval) indicates that alternative strategies may be required. Older adults generally believe that their memory has declined and that, on average, they have less control over memory and lower memory self-efficacy than young and middle-aged adults. Many but not all aspects of online memory monitoring are well preserved in old age, such as the ability to discriminate between information that has been learned versus not learned. A major exception concerns confidence judgments concerning whether recognition memory decisions are correct; older adults are more prone to high-confidence memory errors, believing they are recognizing something they have not encountered previously. The evidence regarding metacognitive control is more mixed, with some hints that older adults do not use monitoring to adjust control behaviors (e.g., devoting more time and effort to studying items they believe have not yet been well-learned). However, any age deficits in self-regulation based on memory monitoring or adaptive strategy use can probably be addressed through instructions, practice, or training. In general, older adults seem capable of exerting metacognitive control in memory studies, although they may not necessarily do so without explicit support or prompting.

Article

Prejudice  

John F. Dovidio, Fabian M. H. Schellhaas, and Adam R. Pearson

Prejudice is an attitude toward a social group and its members that can be expressed as either a negative or positive (e.g., paternalistic) evaluation and creates or maintains hierarchical status relations between groups. The origins of prejudice include individual differences in personality and ideological preferences, socialization experiences relating to exposure to different social norms, and the functional ways that groups relate to one another. Prejudice can be measured directly through self-report measures or indirectly through patterns of behavior or with techniques such as response latency methods. Moreover, implicit prejudice, which is automatically activated, can be distinguished from explicit prejudice, an attitude people know that they hold and may be able to control. Both types of prejudice predict discrimination—the differential treatment of a group or its members—but the strength of these relationships varies as a function of a variety of contextual factors (e.g., social norms). Because of the wide range of forces that shape prejudice and the functional nature of bias, prejudice can be difficult to change. Among the more robust ways to reduce prejudice are strategies that promote frequent, positive contact with members of another group; encourage people to categorize others in ways that emphasize shared group identities; or alter automatic associations underlying implicit bias. The study of prejudice continues to be an important and actively researched topic in social psychology, with contemporary approaches increasingly considering a broader range of micro- (e.g., genetics) and macro-level (e.g., culture) forces that shape the nature of prejudice and its influence on discriminatory behavior.

Article

Acquired Brain Injury (Stroke and TBI) in Later Life  

Megan S. Barker, Emily C. Gibson, and Gail A. Robinson

The term “acquired brain injury” refers to any type of brain damage that occurs after birth. Two main types of acquired brain injury are stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI). A stroke occurs when there is a blockage or bleed in the vascular system of the brain, while a TBI results from an external force to the head. Older adults are at a higher risk of both stroke and TBI; thus, overall incidence is increasing as the proportion of older adults in the population is growing. Stroke and TBI result in immediate and long-term cognitive changes. Impairments in the domains of language, attention, memory, executive functions, perception, and social cognition have been documented following stroke and TBI. However, strokes tend to cause focal or selective cognitive disorders, while cognitive deficits following TBI are widespread and can be generalized. Individuals who have suffered a stroke or TBI may also experience psychosocial changes; for example, symptoms of depression and anxiety are common. Functional outcomes, including independence in activities, are varied and are associated with a range of factors including age, injury severity, cognitive disorders, and psychosocial factors. To achieve optimal outcomes for individuals following stroke and TBI, and to reduce the impact of the injury on everyday functioning, a multidisciplinary rehabilitation process is recommended.

Article

Physical Activity and Inactivity Impacts on Cognitive and Emotional Functioning in Later Life  

Patrick D. Gajewski and Michael Falkenstein

Healthy aging is associated with changes in sensory, motor, cognitive, and emotional functions. Such changes depend on various factors. In particular, physical activity not only improves physical and motor but also cognitive and emotional functions. Observational (i.e., associations) and cross-sectional studies generally show a positive effect of regular physical exercise on cognition in older adults. Most longitudinal randomized controlled intervention studies also show positive effects, but the results are inconsistent due to large heterogeneity of methodological setups. Positive changes accompanying physical activity mainly impact executive functions, memory functions, and processing speed. Several factors influence the impact of physical activity on cognition, mainly the type and format of the activity. Strength training and aerobic training yield comparable but also differential benefits, and all should be used in physical activities. Also, a combination of physical activity with cognitive activity appears to enhance its effect on cognition in older age. Hence, such combined training approaches are preferable to homogeneous trainings. Studies of brain physiology changes due to physical activity show general as well as specific effects on certain brain structures and functions, particularly in the frontal cortex and the hippocampus, which are those areas most affected by advanced age. Physical activity also appears to improve cognition in patients with mild cognitive dysfunction and dementia and often ameliorates the disease symptoms. This makes physical training an important intervention for those groups of older people. Apart from cognition, physical activity leads to improvement of emotional functions. Exercise can lead to improvement of psychological well-being in older adults. Most importantly, exercise appears to reduce symptoms of depression in seniors. In future intervention studies it should be clarified who profits most from physical activity. Further, the conditions that influence the cognitive and emotional benefits older people derive from physical activity should be investigated in more detail. Finally, measures of brain activity that can be easily applied should be included as far as possible.

Article

Life Space in Older Adults  

Markus Wettstein, Hans-Werner Wahl, and Michael Schwenk

When referring to life space, researchers usually mean the area in which individuals move in their everyday lives. Life space can be measured based on different approaches, by means of self-reports (i.e., questionnaires or diaries) or by more recent approaches of technology-based objective assessment (e.g., via Global Positioning System [GPS] devices or smartphones). Life space is an important indicator of older adults’ out-of-home mobility and is meaningfully associated with autonomy, well-being, and quality of life. Substantial relationships between life space and socio-demographic indicators, health, and cognitive abilities have been reported in previous research. Future research on life space in old age will benefit from a more comprehensive and stronger interdisciplinary perspective, from taking into account different time scales (i.e., short- and long-term variability), and from considering life space as a multidimensional measure that can be best assessed based on multi-method approaches with multiple indicators.

Article

Down Syndrome From a Neurodevelopmental Perspective  

Eloisa Tudella, Meyene Duque Weber, Carolina Fioroni Ribeiro da Silva, and Cristina Hamamura Moriyama

Down syndrome (DS) is the most common chromosomal condition associated with intellectual disability. Individuals with DS have restrictions on social participation. In addition, affected body structures and functions and activity limitations may lead to incapacity and impact individuals, families, health systems, and society. Evidence suggests using a window of therapeutic opportunity in early childhood when neuroplasticity is intense and that it is essential to plan treatment strategies for different phases of life. Pharmacological interventions have also been studied to improve cognitive performance, but effectiveness has not been proven. Nevertheless, early clinical interventions (e.g., physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy) are recommended to help children with DS acquire developmental milestones. The literature presents strong biopsychosocial and economic arguments for early intervention, starting with protection, support, and promotion of development of individuals with DS from conception to aging.

Article

Williams Syndrome  

Janette Atkinson

Williams Syndrome (WS) is a rare condition resulting from the deletion of approximately 25 genes on one copy of chromosome 7. As well as physical manifestations, most individuals with WS have a distinctive psychological profile including marked difficulties in visuospatial cognition, relatively fluent speech, and good face recognition, and a “hypersocial” personality including intense attention to faces and readiness to approach and engage with strangers. However, they show wide individual variations in cognitive and social abilities, from severe intellectual disability to normal range IQ scores. Many individuals with WS are prone to anxiety and obsessions and some meet the criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A number of features of the WS profile are consistent with a deficit in function of the dorsal cortical stream, and anomalies in dorsal stream structures, as well as other specific features of brain structure and function which have been identified in the brains of individuals with WS. A number of specific genes within the deletion have been characterized, and links between gene expression, neural structure, and behavior have been suggested, but understanding of these links remains very partial and uncertain. Individuals with WS display a friendly and engaging personality. However, their social and cognitive difficulties mean that specialist support is needed in their education and integration within the community so that people with WS can achieve a degree of independent living while optimizing their well-being.

Article

The Social Brain  

Halie Olson and Anila D'Mello

Humans are fundamentally social animals, and a large portion of the human brain is dedicated to social cognition—the set of mental functions and processes that scaffold our ability to observe, understand, and interact with others. While early philosophers and scientists relied on observation or isolated cases of brain damage to gain insight into social cognition, the advent of new technologies, including noninvasive neuroimaging, has opened a new window into the brain regions that support social cognition in humans, referred to as the social brain. These technologies have elucidated with new precision that individual brain regions are specialized for a variety of social functions including comprehending language, processing faces and emotions, anticipating what a social partner might do next, and even thinking about others’ thoughts. While the building blocks for the social brain are present from birth, individual regions continue to develop into adulthood and are shaped by experience.

Article

Human Movement, Kinesthesia, and Dance  

Roger Smith

There is intense contemporary public as well as professional psychological interest in bodily movement, gesture, and the subjective experience of movement. This has a background in knowledge that movements and the sensing of movements alike express the life of the whole person, whether in the arts, sports, and the pursuit of well-being or in physiotherapies and psychotherapies of many kinds. The background of the numerous and varied areas of scientific research that contribute to this field of interests has a long history in philosophy and cultural practices as well as in relations between different psychological and physiological topics. The significance of the sense of self-movement, kinesthesia, as opposed to the perception of moving objects, has not until recently been a central focus for research. To explain rising contemporary interest, it is necessary to elucidate the usage of current terms—kinesthesia, proprioception, and haptic sense. This in turn leads to discussion of the historical background to modern research on kinesthesia and motor imagery, on phenomenology and sensed movement, on practice centered on kinesthetic appreciation, and on agency. All this is part of the field of inquiry into the experiential psychology of performing and of appreciating dance.

Article

Social Cognition  

Kyle G. Ratner

Contemporary models of how the mind operates and methods for testing them emerged from the cognitive revolution in the middle of the 20th century. Social psychology researchers of the 1970s and 1980s were inspired by these developments and launched the field of social cognition to understand how cognitive approaches could advance understanding of social processes. Decades later, core social psychology topics, such as impression formation, the self, attitudes, stereotyping and prejudice, and interpersonal relationships, are interpreted through the lens of cognitive psychology conceptualizations of attention, perception, categorization, memory, and reasoning. Social cognitive methods and theory have touched every area of modern social psychology. Twenty-first-century efforts are shoring up methodological practices and revisiting old theories, investigating a wider range of human experience, and tackling new avenues of social functioning.

Article

Affect and Emotions in Social Cognition: How Feelings Influence Thinking  

Joseph P. Forgas

Affective states have a profound influence on how people view the world, yet the cognitive consequences of feelings for thinking have received relatively little attention until recently. There is growing evidence that people’s affective reactions have been shaped by evolutionary processes and have an adaptive influence on the way information is processed. There is now extensive evidence for the adaptive benefits of positive and negative affect for the way people think and process social information. Based on recent experimental research, there are two kinds of affective influences: affect congruence, in which an affective state influences the content and valence of thinking, and processing effects, where an affective state has a regulatory influence on the kind of processing strategy adopted. The evidence shows a broad spectrum of affective influences on memory, attention, inferences, associations, and judgments, as well as the way more complex social behaviors are planned and executed. All affective states, including the negative ones, confer significant adaptive benefits, serving as useful inputs to information processing strategies. These experimental findings, and recent theories linking affect and cognition have important practical implications for understanding how affective states influence everyday thinking and behavior.