Deciding to fly home

A couple of months ago I decided to fly home in summer after the spring term because I would like to see my son as he would fly to Australia for his study and the other son would take a test for another scholarship and it had been about 7 months I did not go home. It seemed simple to decide in the beginning but I found there were several factors to take into account. First, about the dates so that I could meet them all together; second, it should be after the Spring Term; next, I should get the cheapest airfare and shortest flight; and finally, I should be able to fly back to Texas before my presentation at ALA conference in June. In addition, I also considered the invitations to speak in discussions, seminars and a conference–things that I could do during my stay in my home country so that my stay would be beneficial not only for me but also for others.

The first thing I did was finding out the exact dates of my sons’ activities, scheduling some invitations for discussions, seminars, and conferences in my country. Then I looked for relevant information of flight schedule that would fit with my activities while in Indonesia and it would comply with the scholarship’s terms and condition which said that I should not leave the U.S. more than 30 days.

Deciding which flight schedule requires another decision-making process as I had to choose the cheapest airfare, shortest time with few stop overs, and I should land in the capital city of Indonesia in the afternoon so that I wouldn’t need to stay in a hotel but I can directly fly to my city. Prior to this process, I also had to decide which service that I took to buy an airline ticket and it resulted in my best option: I chose Priceline because I had used this online service before and considered it as the most reliable. Luckily, I got the most suitable flight schedule that fit my plan: It was the cheapest flight I ever got and the fastest flight I would take, although my return flight wouldn’t be the best one as I should spend 12 hours in San Francisco before departing to Dallas.

Making a decision is a process to construct a set of criteria and strategies in order to choose a decision out of some alternatives (Wang & Ruhe, 2007, p. 78). Wang and Ruhe (2007) further stated that decision-making is considered as “one of the basic cognitive processes of human behaviors by which a preferred option or a course of actions is chosen from among a set of alternatives based on certain criteria” (Wang & Ruhe, 2007, p. 83). It should also be noted that selecting an option adaptively among several or many actions needs a cost-benefit analysis (Kool, W., McGuire, Rosen, Botvinick, 2010) and “selecting an adequate choice entails constant updating and integrating of information about the value of present and potential actions as well as future states pertaining to current needs” (Hulka, et al., 2014, p. 1015). Therefore, even deciding to do a simple thing sometimes needs some considerations.

Having relevant information may result in a good decision with maximum expected and desirable outcomes Goldstein (2011). That means that before making a decision, we need to know the basics or reasons of doing something. Wang & Ruhe (2007) also mentioned that “the first step in the cognitive process of decision making is to understand the given decision-making problem” (p. 80).

As stated earlier, my decision-making problem is that I would like to fly home to meet my sons and hold some activities at a certain time frame and still comply with the scholarship terms and condition and finally I had made the decision that fulfill all of them and I feel satisfied. In fact, Decision-making is said to be rational if it maximizes benefit or utility (Kidd, Plameri, & Aslin, 2013).


Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage.

Hulka, L., Eisenegger, C., Preller, K., Vonmoos, M., Jenni, D., Bendrick, K., Baumgartner, M., Seifritz, E., Quednow, B. (2014). Altered social and non-social decision-making in recreational and dependent cocaine users. Psychological Medicine, 44, 1015–1028.

Kidd, C., Palmeri, H., & Aslin, R. (2012). Rational snacking: Young children’s decision-making on the marshmallow task is moderated by beliefs about environmental reliability. Cognition, 126(1), 109 – 114.

Kool, W. McGuire, W., Rosen, Z., & Botvinick, M. (2010). Decision making and the avoidance of cognitive demand. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 139(4), 665–682.

Wang, Y. & Ruhe, G. (2007). The Cognitive Process of Decision Making. International Journal of Cognitive, Informatics, and Natural Intelligence, 1(2), 73-85.


Language Learning

I grew up in the island of Java in Indonesia, therefore, my mother tongue is Javanese.  As I was born in the Javanese environment, I learned the language in my childhood without any schooling. The environment  and experiences affect the development of a child’s language learning (Wasserman, 2007). In fact, “Before age five, children learn through exploration and play, after age five, children are expected to sit still and learn at a desk or table” (Wasserman, 2007, p. 418). At the age of five, I went to the elementary school and I started studying Indonesian—the national language. Up to this point, learning another language seemed fine. At least because all students spoke Javanese and students learned Indonesian at the same time.

When I was in junior high school I started studying English as a foreign language. While I found not so much problems when learning Indonesian, I faced some challenges when studying English. The English class was really teacher-centered and the teacher wanted the students to be perfect and discipline in her way—students should be quiet when the teacher spoke; and students should speak when the teacher asked the students to do so. This is what is called ‘The direct transmission view’ of learning. In this view, the teachers’ role is “to communicate knowledge in a clear and structured way, to explain correct solutions, to give students clear and resolvable problems, and to ensure calm and concentration in the classroom” (OECD, 2009. p. 92).

However, my English teacher’s way of teaching discouraged most of the students. She didn’t want her students made mistakes and when a student made a mistake, even making a little mistake in a sentence, the student would be punished. If the student made mistake in writing a sentence, he or she should write 50 same corrected sentences. If the student made wrong pronunciation, he or she should repeat the same corrected sentence fifty times. Of course this is not a general example, but it happened in my case. Nowadays the problem of studying English is not because of the scary teacher but too many lessons to study and only about four hours a week to study English. Some faculty members in my undergraduate level did similar things and the effect was discouraging.

In Indonesia, students have to study both English and another language in senior high school. In my high school, however, students were only given Arabic as an additional language learning and was only 2 hours a week. I found my English was improving although it was not so much, but I think it was because our teachers made it more fun. Meanwhile my Arabic was poor. It really hard to study two other languages at the same time, while we speak at least two other languages. I did not remember many Arabic words when I graduated from high school as we never practiced speaking or writing Arabic during high school and in daily conversation. Siegler (as cited in wasserman, 2007) stated that “Information that is not important or relevant will die off while other information that is relevant will be stored in the brain” (p. 415). Similar condition happened when I took French and German in my undergraduate.

It should be noted that even the same language is affected by cognition and culture. As my undergraduate English learning was influenced by American English, I found some problems with the language when I continued studying in the UK as some differences existed. Here is an example that I found confusing when I arrived in the UK for the first time: When the British officer asked me to go to the first floor, I went exactly to the first floor as I thought it should be, but I was wrong. The first floor in British English is the same as second floor in American English. In British English, the first floor is called ground floor. I notice that expressions in English may different in meaning in different places. In Singapore, for example, the expression “Not happy, talk outside!” means a challenge to a fight in order to settle an argument, by taking it outside of the house or any other place. It is indeed that “sentence understanding is influenced by the meanings of words” (Goldstein, 2011, p. 306).

Learning another language needs cognition and culture in context. We should understand that even a language we learn may have different meaning in a different places. Boroditsky (2011) stated that “distinctions that exist in particular languages are meddling in our mental lives very broadly” (p. 65).


Boroditsky, L. (2001). Does Language Shape Thought? Mandarin and English Speakers’ Conceptions of Time. Cognitive Psychology 43, 1–22.

Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2009). Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments: First Result s from TALIS. Retrieved from

Wasserman, L. (2007). The Correlation between brain development, language acquisition, and cognition. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(6), 145-418.

Visual Short-Term Memory

actual-sketch pictures
When you look at someone’s picture, in fact you will see various objects in it and your attention to the object or objects most will affect your visual short-term memory. In this case, “memory is required to retain and accumulate visual information from local objects as the eyes and attention are oriented from object-to-object within a scene.” (Hollingworth, 2006, p. 781).

Indeed, there are several or many objects in a scene and you see all the objects but not all objects come to your attention. In fact, only few objects attract your attention most and it is your attention that governs the selection of objects (Wolfe, 1998, p. R303). In addition, “visual representations do not accumulate as attention is oriented from object-to-object within a scene, and visual scene representations are therefore impoverished, leading to change blindness” Hollingworth, 2006, p. 784).

When I browsed the images from the Internet, I found a picture of a person with strange face. Looking closer at the picture of the person for a minute, I felt sure that I have seen the whole picture of the person. Then I turned off the computer and started to work on my sketch of that person.

Based on my short-term memory of the picture of the person, I sketched it. In the beginning I was so sure that I remembered the whole picture well. I also thought that I had seen the whole parts of the picture and felt sure that I could sketched completely. However, I found this was wrong. When I compared my sketch and the picture, it was clear that my sketch and the original photo did not show the same things. There are some missing objects in the sketch. Brady, Konkle, Gill, Oliva, & Alvarez (2013) mentioned that “observers lose significant precision in their representation of real-world objects when going from perception to working memory” (p. 987). Our visual short-term memory has limited capacity to store objects and how visual information about each object is packaged and stored as a unit in visual short-term memory. (Alvarez & Cavanagh, 2008, p. 361).

In fact, my first and main attention of the picture came to his beard and moustache as they were the most visible in my mind. I was also very sure that I remembered other objects in the picture. When I finished with the sketch, I noticed there were some missing objects and objects that are different from the picture. The missing objects were the two corneas in the eyes and the eyebrows. The objects that were different from the pictures included the shape of head. The shape of the head is oval in the original picture, but in the sketch, the shape changed into round. The hair in front of the ears falsely sketched behind the ears. Also, the person in the picture and that of the sketch leaned in different direction. Another missing objects were books and the shelf behind the person. It seemed that my attention was focused only on the person not the environment. Wolfe (1998) mentioned that “common sense tells us that our memory for a picture is not some sort of highly detailed neural photocopy.” (p. R303), while Mandler & Ritchey as cited by Wolfe (1998) stated that “the details of the image are not well remembered” (p. R303). “ It should also be noted that we often lose significant precision in representing objects’ color (Brady, Konkle, Gill, Oliva, & Alvarez, 2013, p. 982), while Behrmann and coworkers (cited by Goldstein (2011) emphasized that bottom-up processing plays part in visual perception.

Alvarez, G. & Cavanagh, (2008). Visual short-term memory operates more efficiently on boundary features than on surface features. Perception & Psychophysics, 70(2), 346-364.

Brady, T., Konkle, T., Gill, J., Oliva, A., & Alvarez, G. (2013). Visual Long-Term Memory Has the Same Limit on Fidelity as Visual Working Memory. Psychological Science, 24(6) 981–990.

Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Hollingworth, A. (2006). Visual memory for natural scenes: Evidence from change detection and visual search. Visual Cognition,14 (4/5/6/7/8), 781-807.
Wolfe, J. (1998). Visual memory: What do you know about what you saw? Current Biology, 8(9), R303-R304.

From high school to graduate school: How I have evolved as a learner

I majored in natural science when I was in high school. The lessons I enjoyed most were physics, math, and chemistry. I didn’t enjoy biology much. However, when I was in undergraduate, I took literature instead of continuing my interest in natural science and then I took information and library studies for my master’s degree. I am currently studying information science at UNT. I think what I have learned in high school, undergraduate, and master’s level have all shaped my current knowledge and understanding. I feel lucky to have learned them, besides learning other skills and knowledge when taking training and other educational programs.

To some extent, I found the shifts from natural science, to literature, and then to information science have been interesting as natural science and literature were mixed in my knowledge and they enriched my understanding of knowledge. Recalling what I have learned so far, I feel that most of my knowledge I gained from high school to current study affects my life.

As we all know, most of what we have learned in the past are stored in our long-term memory—“Archive” of knowledge that we have learned and past events that we experienced (Goldstein, 2012). The knowledge that we gained from our learning becomes part of the explicit or conscious long-term memory and it is called semantic memory which means “a form of declarative or explicit memory, as we are consciously aware of and can declare this knowledge” (Badre and Wagner, 2002, p. 207). McLeod (2010) described that “declarative knowledge involves ‘knowing that’ and recalling information from declarative memory involves some degree of conscious effort – information is consciously brought to mind and declared”. In addition, Goldstein (2012) viewed semantic memory works closely with short-term memory in the retrieval process. 

Memory retrieval plays an important role in various aspects of life—it could be about what you learned in your high school or what you are learning currently. There are also other factors that affect memory retrieval from long-term memory.

When I was a high school student, I depended my understanding of knowledge on relearning. I usually could not learn by, for example, reading only once, so I need to relearn. By relearning, I could remember better. Atkins (2001) emphasized that “part-set relearning strengthens a subset of the items in memory (Atkins, 2001, p. 213). This method continued until now.

Repetition is a good practice in my opinion and that is why I also learn a subject from two or more different learning media during my study at UNT, but I never did it before. I usually use pdf, printed materials, and powerpoint formats that deal with the same subject. “If two or more presentations of the same learning point are repeated with some sort of time delay between them, they are likely to produce the spacing effect” (Thalheimer, 2006, p. 6). He further stated that “spaced repetitions produce more learning—better long-term retention—than repetitions that are not spaced” (p. 6)

I also practice writing articles based on the subjects I learn while studying at UNT for different purposes but mainly I write articles for newspapers and journals in my country and sometimes I just write an article and publish it in website. However, recently there is one topic that I have learned at UNT and based on the topic, I wrote and submitted a proposal that was accepted by the American Library Association (ALA) conference committee. I will present it in the coming ALA conference this June 2014.

This kind of practice really helps me understand a subject better as I feel like being encouraged to learn more about the subject. In my opinion, this practice is similar to testing effect which refers to “the phenomenon of better retention of the material when the individual has practiced retrieving the information from memory, relative to merely reading the information” (

Finally, in order for us to succeed in learning a subject, we should choose the subject we like best because “people tend to spend more time thinking about things they care about. They tend to avoid ideas and things they dislike. The more our learning concepts seem enjoyable (to think about or work with), the more time learners will attend to them” (Thalheimer, 2006, p. 9).



Atkins, P. (2001). What happens when we relearn part of what we previously knew? Predictions and constrains for models of long-term memory. Psychological Research, 65, 202-215.

Badre, D. & Wagner, A. (2002). Semantic Retrieval, Mnemonic Control, and Prefrontal Cortex Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 1(3), 206-218

Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Lewis-Peacock, J.  & Postle, B. (2008). Temporary Activation of Long-Term Memory Supports Working Memory. The Journal of Neuroscience, 28(35), 8765–8771

Neely, J. H. (1991). Semantic priming effects in visual word recognition: A selective review of current findings and theories. In D. Besner & G.W. Humphreys (Eds.), Basic processes in reading: Visual word recognition (pp. 264-336). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

McLeod, S. A. (2010). Long Term Memory. Retrieved from

Thalheimer, W. (2006). Spacing learning events over time: What the research says.

Attention Distractors: How to cope with them

As a learner, what strategies do you use to pay attention? This writing discusses 3 or more strategies and explains from a cognition point of view why these strategies may work for you.


There are two sources of disruption to our attention: external and internal sources. The internal source comes from our mind and it is often called as mind wandering; while the external sources come from outside of us in the forms of sound, noise, movement, and physical distraction.

Coping with external distractors

Students have different learning styles. Some students can study in the crowd, while others may enjoy studying in the silent places. I like studying in the environment where it is not too quiet but it is not so crowded. This atmosphere can usually enhance my attention to study. For my personal purposes of studying, I usually go to the UNT library. For me, a library environment may help enhance my attention to study although I sometimes feel there are some distractors, for example, sound, voice, and movement distractors.

I sometimes choose the open area of the library where I can see other students studying but at other times I also go to the quiet area. However, the sound of ringtones and windows pop-up as well as voice of students talking on the phones sometimes are heard in the quiet area. While sound is sometimes disturbing, Sundstrom (cited in Kjellberg & Skoldstrom, 1991, p. 45) said that another person’s voice can be an annoyance source for any kind of works. To cope with this types of distraction, I sometimes bring my headset so that I can listen to music that I like while reading, writing, or typing in the library and I don’t feel disturbed by other sound. I can listen to music and study in the library or any other places as long as it is not so loud or as long as I play it from my own device so that I can adjust the volume. In fact “not very loud sound can have an appreciable impact on cognitive performance” while “sounds of modest intensity can be distracting” (Hughes, Vachon, Hurlstone, Marsh, Macken, & Jones, 2011, p. 6). When I don’t bring my headset, I can still tolerate with the less annoying low noise in the library. Low noise or speech is less annoying compares to high one (Kjellberg & Skoldstrom, 1991).

Most often I turn down my mobile phone and tablet as low as possible so that I won’t be distracted by the sound of the ring tones from my own gadgets. My hand usually grabs the mobile phone or tablet directly whenever it sounds. I also turn off the gadgets whenever I am in the classroom or any formal meetings.

In addition to sound and noise distraction, the movement or appearance of other persons may also distract my attention when studying in the library. Therefore, I usually find a place that I cannot see people walking here and there. The best place is the carrel in which the front, left, and right sides of the desk are closed. In this place I usually have better attention to study. Having better attention and focus on the main task is usually called attention selectivity (Hughes, Vachon, Hurlstone, Mash, Machen, & Jones, 2011). They further stated that “attentional selectivity—the capacity to focus on task-relevant events and ignore effectively task-irrelevant events—is a core feature of all efficient information processing” (p. 1). I usually also try to keep myself busy with reading or typing so that I can have high task load. According to Lavie (2010) the response to an irrelevant motion is usually seen “in a network of motion responsive sensory brain areas under low task load, but not under high task load (p. 147).

In addition, it is also common for a student to find a windows pop-up when working with a laptop in the library—it can be a messenger pop-up, video calling pop-up, or unrelated contents due to malware or adware in the laptop. Lavie (2010) viewed that some distractions may not be disturbing, but they do affect people’s attention to do their work as those distractions are irrelevant stimuli that interfere their attention. He further mentioned that those distractions mostly affect people’s attention when they have low workload. To cope with this problem, I usually try to get resources from only UNT libraries and I don’t turn on the instant messenger nor log in to any social media.

Coping with internal distractor

Apart from the external distraction to attention, every person usually has to fight against internal distractors. The frustrating distractor facing a person is “the experience of distraction produced by one’s own mind” (Lavie, 2010, p. 146). This type of distraction is usually called mind wandering. Hasenkamp, Wilson-Mendenhall, Duncan, & Barsalou (2012) consider mind wandering as a representation of cognitive activity. However, mind wandering may impair someone to perform tasks with high load memory (Smallwood & Schooler, 2006). Reducing mind wandering can be done while performing high load cognitive tasks such as studying “without altering their semantic content or complexity” (Lavie, 2010, p. 146). Whenever I am aware of experiencing mind wandering, I try to find pictures or powerpoint materials that relate to the work I am doing but if it fails, I usually stand up and walk around for a while. I sometimes just walk around in the library or go out of the library and see the scenery, then I return to my seat and pay attention to my work again.


  1. Hasenkamp, W., Wilson-Mendenhall, W., Duncan, E., & Barsalou, L. (2012). Mind wandering and attention during focused meditation: A fine-grained temporal analysis of fluctuating cognitive states. NeuroImage, 59, 750–760.
  2. Hughes, R., Vachon, F., Hurlstone, M., Marsh, J., Macken, W., & Jones, D. (2011). Disruption of cognitive performance by sound: Differentiating two forms of auditory distraction. A paper presented at 11th International Congress on Noise as a Public Health Problem (ICBEN) 2011, London, UK 14-28 July, 2011. Accessed from  
  3. Jonathan Smallwood, J. & Schooler, J. (2006). The Restless Mind. Psychological Bulletin, 132(6), 946–958.

  4. Kjellberg, A. & Skoldstorm, B. (1991). Noise annoyance during the performance of different non-auditory tasks. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 73, 39-49.
  5. Lavie, N. (2010). Attention, distraction, and cognitive control under load. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(3), 143-148.

Staring at someone


CECS 5300: Go to a coffee shop with a notebook, order some coffee and sit down. Find someone in the room to stare at for two minutes or until they look back. Write a one or more page response on how they reacted and how it made you feel to do this.

I did staring at persons in two different places. The first place was a coffee shop near UNT. After ordering a cup of coffee, I sat down and worked on my laptop for a while, then I stared at a woman sitting on the other table next to me. After almost a minute or so, she stared me back curiously. I just wondered if she became angry because of my staring at her. After a few second staring at me, she went back to her coffee. I tried to stare at her again and I found surprising as she also stared back at me, but from her eyes, I noticed that she was displeased with my staring at her. It seemed that she wanted to shout at me, but she didn’t do it and instead she turned her body so that I couldn’t see her face anymore.

The next place I did was in a supermarket. I used to go to the nearest supermarket to buy my daily needs or sending letters and other stuff via the post office inside it. Entering the supermarket last week, my first thing to do was getting a basket and then took some bananas. There I stared at the post office staff who was about 5 meters (16 feet) away. I stared at her for about 40-50 seconds and then I was surprised that the girl stared back at me and smiled. I thought she recognized me as I met her before in different place. She didn’t stare at me for long and then she went back to the papers in front of her and I also continued filling my basket. However, when I was about to leave the area, I stared at her again, and this time she stared back at me nicely. This was a good encounter as she recognized me better than I did.

Staring at a person for whatever reasons may attract the person to stare back. Garland-Thomson (2006) defined staring as “a state of being arrested by and in thrall to the extraordinary” (p. 189). By staring at a person, someone may want to get a person’s attention and in this process of staring, “an influence seems to pass from the observer to the observed” (Sheldrake, 2005b, p. 32). There is a relationship between conscious and unconscious experience as stated by Atkinson (2005) that “conscious experiences arise from unconscious and preconscious processes in the mind/brain interacting with the surrounding world” (p. 116). He further stated that “if there are connections between human individuals of the kind suggested by staring experiments, it is in the unconscious processes that support conscious experience” (p. 116)

A person stares at another person because of various reason but according to Sheldrake (2003) as cited by Sheldrake (2005a) the reason for staring at someone else is mostly curiosity and the desire to get someone’s attention. Garland-Thomson (2006) stated that staring at someone is “a good thing when it promotes attentive identification between viewer and viewed; it is a bad thing when it satisfies salacious curiosity” (p. 189).

Meanwhile Sheldrake (2005b) also stated that the sense of being watched is more relevant with the theories of vision involving “both inward and outward movements of influence” (p. 32) while from the social perspective, Waytz (2013) mentioned that “if we all believe we are being watched, we are more likely to abide by the rules and to follow social norms (


Atkinson, A. (2005). Open Peer Commentary on ‘The Sense of Being Stared At’ Parts 1 & 2. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 12(6), 50–116.

Anthony Freeman, The sense of being glared at: What is it like to be a heretic? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 12, No. 6, 2005, pp. 4–9.

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, R. (2006). Ways of Staring. Journal of visual culture, 5(2), 173–192.

Sheldrake, R. (2005a). The sense of being stared at part 1: Is it real or illusory? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 12(6), 10–31

Sheldrake. R. (2005b). The sense of being stared at part 2: Its implications for theories of vision. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 12(6), 32–49.

Waytz, A. (2013). The feeling of being stared at. Scientific American. Accessed from (

Book Chapter published!

A few days ago I felt so excited as finally the book that I contributed to write was published by IGI-Global. The book’s title is “Library and Information Science Research in Asia-Oceania Theory and Practice” (ISBN13: 9.78E+12; EISBN13: 9.78E+12). It really was worthwhile after working on the chapter for as long as 9000 words in one semester or so last year.

This year I don’t have a lot of projects, but last week I submitted another book chapter on LIS Education and Training to Germany. I don’t know whether this proposal will be successful or not. I have to wait for the result next month. If so, I will have to work on this book chapter until July while working on another paper and poster for American Library Association Conference in Las Vegas this June.

Discovery Park-UNT, January 29, 2014