• Posted The importance of scientific thinking to Psych 1001 Section 010 and 011 Fall 2011
    The psychological concept of physical and emotional attraction was one of the more interesting subjects to learn about within the field of psychology. According to the textbook, people are more attracted to people who are similar in personality and attractiveness, and tend to pair with one another. At first, I was reluctant to accept this theory because the phrase "Opposites Attract" was an adage I had heard very often, but the activity during discussion supported the hypothesis of similarity. People with higher numbers were more often than not paired up with others with higher numbers on their foreheads. Other hypotheses such as the proximity make sense because frequent contact and exposure would naturally increase the chances of attraction. On a deeper level, being in this introductory psychology class has opened my eyes and has allowed me to become a better critical thinker. The lecture and the text heavily emphasized the importance of not thinking simplistically and accepting claims blindly. Thinking scientifically and empirically becomes a vital tool in our everyday lives since we are bombarded by extraordinary statements and biased messages in the media. In order to progress, we need to be able to know what could logically, plausibly occur and thus eliminate the impossible, as Sherlock Holmes once said. Scientific evaluation is definitely one skill that I will need down the road....
  • Posted A social gene that is spotted in 20 seconds to Psych 1001 Section 010 and 011 Fall 2011
    Our psychology textbook puts a lot on emphasis on the fact that shared environment does not factor into a person's personality. Twin studies and adoption studies have been performed and identical twins are likely to share many of their personality traits and adopted children adopt the personality traits of their biological parents, even though they may never have had contact with them. Genetics seems to be the key driving force of how a person acts, thinks, and behaves. New evidence in the field of neuropsychology has recently emerged that supports the hypothesis that a person's traits are determined by his or her genes. Researchers have discovered an oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) that is linked to social traits. Oxytocin is a hormone known by some as the "love" or "cuddle" hormone because it has a role in birth and bonding between mother and child. There are two behaviour-linked alleles of the gene- G and A. According to the research, people with both copies of the G allele tend to be more social, outgoing, and more interpersonally inclined than those who have only one G allele or two A alleles. People homozygous for G allele are also at lower risk of mental disorders such as autism or schizophrenia. I infer that the G variant of the biological receptor allows better binding of the hormone to the active site of the receptor, leading to the positive, prosocial attitudes displayed by people. People with GG would probably score higher in the extraversion area of the Big Five, and score lower in Neuroticism. Researchers said that people could instantly detect the genotype by a first impression of the person based on how the person acts in front of another. I would classify myself as a GA, and my best friend as an AA, whereas many of my coworkers would be GGs. Since this study is new, more research on the gene/protein product must be done in order to confirm the validity of their hypothesis. Little is known about how these differences manifest behaviorally and whether they actually are readily detectable by outside observers.
  • Posted Can an infection make you gay? to Psych 1001 Section 010 and 011 Fall 2011
    Sexual orientation is a polarizing and controversial topic of discussion in American society. Sadly, there is not much concordance between people about the origins of one's sexuality: many still believe that homosexuality is a choice, whereas modern science and Lady Gaga give evidence of people being born this way. It has entered the sphere of social politics, where perceptions of homosexuality have been clouded by heteronormative personal convictions and outdated religious dogma. It is my personal opinion that religion impedes the progress of humanity, so I will focus only on the biology of sexual orientation. Many hypotheses exist for how sexual orientation is gained. In our textbook, it gives birth order, exposure to hormones/pheromones in the womb, early upbringing, and temperament as possible factors in determining it. One hypothesis I found particularly interesting was that homosexuality was caused by a pathogen. As a microbiology major, I found the 'gay germ hypothesis' interesting. Gregory Cochran and Paul Ewald argued that evolution would strongly select against homosexuals, who have lower fitness (i.e. reduced chance of reproducing and passing down genes). This would make sense. In my biology class, however, we learned of kin selection- in this case, fitness of the homosexual's family increases because it devotes time to caring for its relatives' young, allowing their similar genes greater chance to be passed down. Furthermore, they argued that higher prevalence of homosexuality in dense, urban areas suggested an infectious agent at work. However, you can't infer causation from that correlation- there might be another reason why there are more homosexuals in big cities such as bigger cities being more accepting and/or increased proportion because of a higher population. The gay germ theory has largely been rejected by the scientific community because of lack of peer review and replicability. The American Philosophical Association said "there is ultimately very little to be said in favour of these contentions" that liken homosexuality to a disease that needs to be treated. Sources: An Evolutionary Look at Homosexuality by Gregory Cochran: Crain, C. "Did a Germ Make You Gay?" in Out Magazine, August 1999....
  • Posted Inception: How plausible is it? to Psych 1001 Section 010 and 011 Fall 2011
    Spinning top: We have been learning about the psychology of dreams and the implantation of false memories. All this new information has made me reflect on the movie Inception, where a lot of these concepts play a significant role in the plot's premise and development- I think it would be interesting to examine the scientific plausibility of infiltrating a person's mind via his or her dreams. We should all recognize that in order to enjoy the film, it is necessary to suspend our belief and appreciate that the movie is a fictional tale that takes liberties with scientific facts. In actual life, dreams only occur during the REM stage and only 25% of our entire night's worth of sleep is at the REM stage of the sleep cycle, if at all (Lilienfeld). It usually takes a while for normal humans to reach REM stage, with the majority of sleep being in stage 2. However, in the film, after attaching the necessary wires, people immediately fall asleep and being dreaming. When we rest and go to sleep, our brains partially shut down and become inactive so that it can heal itself. REM sleep is characterized by active suppression of motor activity and presynaptic inhibition of sensory signals (Squire et al 2008). In the scene where DiCaprio introduces Ellen Page to the dream state, the dreamers display a highly advanced level of cognition, awareness, and memory that contradicts neuroscience. The wide-ranging inactivation of prefrontal brain regions during REM sleep would not allow for such a dream to occur. The purpose of entering someone else's dreams is to implant an idea into the person's mind. Based on what we discussed in discussion, this could possible occur. Our memories are malleable and suggestible and we oftentimes believe things that never actually ever happened before (Loftus). The businessman may actually believe that his father told him to divide the company.
  • Commented on Relishing in other people's pain- there's a word for that.
    A comic that represents schadenfreude quite well: Journals Consulted
  • Posted Relishing in other people's pain- there's a word for that. to Psych 1001 Section 010 and 011 Fall 2011
    Schadenfreude is a term used to describe pleasure taken from other people's pain. It is a feeling that we all have experienced, me especially, when celebrities have highly publicized break-ups, and in children's cartoons when one of the characters is involved in a dynamite explosion or trips on a banana peel. According to the article, "Malicious Pleasure: Schadenfreude at the Suffering of Another Group ," "John Heider (1958) argued that schadenfreude is malicious because pleasure is a "discordant" reaction to another's misfortune. Unlike the "concordant" reaction of sympathy, schadenfreude establishes an antagonistic relationship to the unfortunate other. For this reason Heider saw schadenfreude as harmful to social relations." In other words, where we should feel sympathy for other people when they suffer, we instead feel glee and happiness. One of the hypotheses for the cause of schadenfreude is that of perceived identity and inferiority. An experiment conducted in 1996 by RH Smith et al included a male subject who was portrayed as being much superior/inferior to an experimental group. The male subject then suffered the misfortune of being denied admission into medical school. The group who perceived themselves inferior felt more pleasure at his suffering. The study suggested that feeling inferior to the successful peer is what led to schadenfreude in response to the adversity. When people feel threatened by another group, schadenfreude tends to increase in between groups. An example of this is apparent in the world of sport. One researcher studied German and Dutch football fans. The threat of the Netherlands's chronic inferiority in football increased Dutch schadenfreude toward Germany's loss in the world cup. To make it more relevant to us, Packers and Viking fans experience joy when the other team makes a fumble or suffers a penalty....
  • Posted Is artificial sugar actually linked to cancer? to Psych 1001 Section 010 and 011 Fall 2011
    Since the 1980s, the Food and Drug Administration /a> and the American Council of Health and Science /a> have rejected repeated claims that aspartame, the active ingredient in artificial sugar brands like Equal and Splenda, is toxic to the human body. However, these organizations did advise patients suffering from the rare genetic disorder phenylketonuria to limit intake of or not consume at all products containing aspartame because they are unable to process a certain amino acid, phenylalanine, one of the components of aspartame. Soon after learning this, the media has jumped to conclusions by making sensational claims /a> about aspartame, saying that people who consume aspartame are killing brain cells and at greater risk for neurological conditions such as chronic seizures, Alzheimer's disease, Multiple sclerosis, brain cancer, and systemic lupus. News articles are committing the fallacy of equating correlation with causation given the increase in number of patients with multiple sclerosis over the past years. They are failing to consider that there may be other factors leading to the rise of diagnosis of mentioned diseases besides aspartame, such as sedentary lifestyles, obesity, or excessive caffeine intake. It is important to realize that one chemical is not responsible for a wide slew of illnesses and afflictions and there has not been substantial evidence to suggest that aspartame has a negative effect on an average healthy human being. In fact, there have been several studies /a> that showed that even after taking high doses of aspartame, there were no effects on mood, memory, behaviour, or activity level. Peer review and generalizability of the results among other studies support this finding. Instead, they have spread mistruths disguised as scientific fact by including quasi-medical jargon to confuse and unnecessarily cause worry in readers and complex biochemical vocabulary to feign authority and credibility in their findings....
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