• Posted Social Contagion to Psych 1001 Section 010 and 011 Fall 2011
    Have you ever not known how to feel? Ever think a joke is not humorous until someone else laughs? Ever been with a group of people who are angry or upset and suddenly you become angry and upset for no reason? This are social contagions, which, according to, is emotion spreading rapidly through crowds. Common examples of social contagions include laughing, yawning, menstruation,making purchases, language, emotions, and even obesity. In our books, Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding mass hysteria and urban legends are focused on. According to the book, mass hysteria is a "contagious outbreak of irrational behavior that spreads much like a flu epidemic" and urban legends are false stories repeated so many times that people believe them to be true. Mass hysteria is also capable of leading to collective delusions, most commonly as UFO sightings. In reality, 98% of all UFO sightings can be accounted for by misinterpretations of familiar phenomena. However, once UFO is mentioned, people will go out looking for them and will then typically label normal sightings, such as airplanes and shooting stars, as UFOs. Urban legends are very popular among all age groups because, although as ridiculous as some may be, they are definitely plausible. Most urban legends provoke disgust, curiosity, and fear, which all grab anyone's attention who has fallen victim to the possibility of these stories. The most recent urban legend I have fallen victim to is that of Slender Man, a tall, faceless man in a black suit with extendable arms that kidnaps you when you think of him. I lost a weeks worth of sleep over this all thanks to my oh-so-wonderful roommate! Urgh! For more information on Slender Man, I suggest watching the MarbleHornets documentary-style string of videos on YouTube to get a truly chilling sense of him. There is very little hard evidence as to why there are social contagions. All we can really tell from them is that as human beings we are largely effected by the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others. We are highly susceptible to extreme emotions such as happiness, anger, and uneasiness and when others experience these emotions we are extremely likely to mirror their thoughts and feelings. Imagine all of the times you've been having fun with friends. Everything is going great and everyone is happy, that is, until that one person brings everyone down by bringing a bit of drama into the picture and ruins everyone else's moods and evenings. Social contagions are everywhere and effect us greatly in our everyday lives, even when we are completely unaware of them!
  • Posted Sleep Disorders to Psych 1001 Section 010 and 011 Fall 2011
    We've all experienced problems sleeping: not being able to fall asleep, not being able to stay asleep, nightmares, some of us even walk or talk in our sleep, but these problems seem to come and go in phases. However, some of us just can't seem to ever get over these annoyances, which can last weeks, months, and even years. The most common sleep disturbance is insomnia, which is described in our books as taking any of the following forms: having trouble falling asleep, waking up too early in the morning, and waking up during the night having trouble returning to sleep. Other disorders of sleep in our books include narcolepsy (rapid and often unexpected onset of sleep), sleep apnea (blockage of the airway during sleep causing daytime fatigue), night terrors (sudden episodes of screaming, perspiring, and confusion followed by a return to deep sleep), and sleepwalking (walking while fully asleep). However, nearly all of us have already heard of these disorders before. So what about the disorders most of us haven't heard of? My interest in bizzare sleep disturbances will be sure to inform you of strange and rare sleep disorders that, believe it or not, affect people like you and me. Sleeping Beauty Syndrome (Kleine-Levin Syndrome), although more common in males than females, is a strange sleep disorder in which sufferers sleep for unusual amounts of time. Most people with this disorder sleep for between 13 and 24 hours at a time, however, one 15 year old girl, Louisa Ball (see video below) reported to have slept for 13 days straight. People with this disorder typically have regular sleep patterns most of the time with random onsets of lengthy sleep periods that last from a few days to several weeks. Exploding Head Syndrome, more common in elderly people but still experienced by those of all ages, is a strange disorder in which sufferers experience a loud sound one to two hours after falling asleep. These sounds are produced from in the brain and are not actually auditory, although people with this disorder seem to believe that the sound was actually something they heard. Most people experience a sense of anxiety or fear after experiencing the sound, yet the syndrome itself is harmless. More sleep disorders involve sleep-eating, sleep-sex, and even sleep-murder, all of which the sufferer is unable to recollect any or recollects minimal amounts of what occured the prior night.
  • Posted Ethical Issues in Human Research to Psych 1001 Section 010 and 011 Fall 2011
    When a researcher thinks about testing their hypotheses they think about how they are going to perform their experiment. They consider what type of experiment to perform, what variables are going to be used, and what exactly is going to be tested. However, if animals or humans are involved in the experiment, the researcher must also be aware of the ethical issues involved. Things for researchers to consider, but are not limited to, involve: honesty, integrity, objectivity, carefulness, openness, respect for intellectual property, confidentiality, responsible publication, responsible mentoring, respect for colleagues, social responsibility, non-discrimination, competence, legality, and human subjects protection (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences). The institutional review board (IRB) requires researchers to exercise informed consent, which requires researchers to inform their subjects of what is involved in a study before asking them to participate. The IRB also requires researchers to inform subjects of any form of deception involved in the experiment along with a debriefing of the experiment. It's also notated that any deceit involved in an experiment may not cause the subjects physical pain or emotional distress. (Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding). A very notable example of the breaches in ethical standards involved in research is the unfortunate occurrence of the Tuskegee study. In this study, African American men who had been diagnosed with syphilis were observed and experimented on in order to find out how syphilis reacted without treatment. However, the men involved in this study were not aware that they had syphilis, were not informed that there were antibiotics available to treat the disease, and were not aware that they were even subjects in an experiment. On a lighter note, here's a cartoon of a more humorous incident....
  • Posted The Nocebo Effect to Psych 1001 Section 010 and 011 Fall 2011
    The nocebo effect, often shadowed by the popularized placebo effect, is a strange phenomenon in which a person receives negative side effects from expecting negativity. As stated in the Lilienfeld text "Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding", the nocebo effect is considered the "evil twin" of the placebo effect. While the definition of the placebo effect "is improvement resulting from the mere expectation of improvement", the nocebo effect "is harm resulting from the mere expectation of harm". [In Latin, placebo means "I shall please," and nocebo, "I shall harm"(]. As listed in "Psychology: From Inquiry to understanding", one study showed that people who were allergic to roses sneezed in the presence of fake roses. The text also points out that the nocebo effect is common in people who believe in voodoo, blaming the aches and pains they experience on their belief that pins are being pierced into dolls made to symbolize them. In my own experiences, I definitely believe the nocebo effect is a valid occurrence. Just the thought of getting a headache are enough to give me one and my joints begin to ache just as I think of running marathons. Back in the day when I would pretend to be sick in order to skip school I would commonly fall ill later in the day with the symptoms I had falsely claimed I had been experiencing that morning.
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