September 2011 Archives

Real Magic in Mushrooms?

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-checkup/post/psilocybin-from-magic-mushrooms-can-change-personaility-study-finds/2011/09/27/gIQAYFak4K_blog.html

The link above is an article that describes a study that was done and suggests that psilocybin, the hallucinogenic found in "magic mushrooms", can lead to a change in personality. The main change being studied is the participants' increase in their willingness to be open. In this case open meaning, "traits such as having imagination, a strong sense of aesthetics, a tendency to have a lot of feelings, enjoying abstract ideas, being broad-minded and being interested in learning and doing new things."

However, viewing this claim with the scientific thinking principles in mind, one may not be so open to believing in the magic.
1. The article does not rule out other hypotheses.
2. The article seems to be in favor of correlation equals causation. One must remember that correlation does not equal causation. There could possibly be a third, outside cause, of the participants' personality change.
3. This claim does not allow for falsifiability. It would be difficult to show if the psilocybin was or was not the cause of the personality change unless besides being given the same hallucinogenic, the participants had something else in common which could have caused the change in personality.
4. The article discusses how describes how the study was done which will allow for the study to be replicated to see if the same results are found.
5. The claim itself isn't very extraordinary and therefore doesn't need extraordinary evidence.
6. The claim is a simple one, following Occam's Razor.

Perhaps the reason that the results appear as they do is because of the way the study may have been done. The article makes it sound as if the study was not double blind. Therefore those who were studying the participants knew what they were looking for, but the participants were not sure what their reaction was supposed to be. The participants did know that they were being given psilocybin. If the study was not done double blind then there can be many explanations as to how the findings turned out the way they did.

Since the participants were given personality tests every couple of months they may have picked up on the demand characteristics of those conducting the study. Demand characteristics are, "cues that participants pick up from a study that allow them to generate guesses regarding the researcher's hypothesis" (Lilienfeld, 65). Also the researchers involved may have been victims of the experimenter expectancy effect. Since the researchers knew what the hypothesis was and wanted it to be true, they may have put some of their own bias into the results unintentionally.

Furthermore, the study fails to mention whether or not a control group was involved.

Spilt Salt

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Spilling_salt_by_Moonbeam13.jpg

Though mainly a European superstition, the activity of spilling salt has been "shown" to be a bad omen. Its origins trace back to ancient Rome, where the mineral was seen as a symbol of friendship due to its lasting quality and preservation ability. It was considered ominous to spill salt because of its usefulness and became a sign of bad things to come for you or your relationships with others. This tradition has been kept up from the Roman times and appears throughout history and lasts to this day. The painter Leonardo da Vinci depicted Judas Iscariot knocking over the salt container in his painting of "The Last Supper."

800px-Detail_of_the_Da_Vinci's_The_Last_Supper_by_Giacomo_Raffaelli,_Vienna.jpg

This displays part of the superstition because Judas Iscariot was the disciple that betrayed Jesus and this ultimately, according to the Bible, led to the death of both Judas, from being too ashamed and committing suicide, and turning Jesus over to the Sanhedrin for crucifixion.
If you spill salt you are supposed to throw a pinch of the spilt salt over your left shoulder as to ward off the devil, who lurks on your shoulder.
Correlation vs. Causation forms a basis of many superstitions. Illusory correlation is the perception of a statistical association between two variables where none actually exist. "We attend to and recall events that are striking coincidences, and ignore or forget events that aren't." Lillenfeld (134) A parallel effect occurs when people judge whether two events, such as spilled salt and bad events, are correlated. They rely heavily on the number of cases where the two go together: in this example, instances of both spilled salt and bad events. They pay relatively little attention to the other kinds of observation (of not spilled salt and/or good events).

Sources:
http://www.wisegeek.com/why-is-it-bad-luck-to-spill-salt.htm
Psychology, From Inquiry to Understanding Lillenfeld, Namy, Woolf

Vaccine Links To Autism

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This story has been going on for years. In a 2007 article by CBS, they state, "Nobody makes the claim that all ADD and autism cases are caused by the mercury in vaccines. But many researchers believe it plays a large role in our epidemic of the 1990's." http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/06/22/eveningnews/main625458.shtml

Adding fuel to the fire, Michele Bachman said on NBC's "Today" show this pat month that a woman "told me that her little daughter took [the HPV vaccine, Gardasil], that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter." http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0911/63369.html

While this claim has been disputed in many studies, the claim cannot properly be falsified. It is not ethical to randomly choose two groups and give one certain vaccinations and not give any to the other group. Additionally, it is not possible to know ahead of time which people in either of those chosen groups might have ended up with an illness anyways. The claim is also implying causation where it cannot be proven. Correlation on the other hand might be more accurate. And a third factor must be taken into consideration when looking for causation. As the population has grown exponentially, so have the number of people who receive vaccines, and so has the number of people who suffer from autism, Asperger syndrome, and other illnesses that people could be incorrectly linking to vaccines.

I believe that people are victim to Illusory Correlation, but decidedly calling it causation. People who believe in the claims are not looking at the fact that millions of people have received all of the required and recommended vaccinations and do not have any illnesses. It is easier to decide that the illness is the end result of the vaccine when an one is diagnosed after a vaccine is given, rather than the absence of an illness being the typical end result.

Perception and Illusions

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People usually take perception for granted and trust it completely which can sometimes result in some sort of illusion. Take for instance the trick Derren Brown is playing of these people getting them to allow him to pay them in paper. It is amazing what someone can do with the knowledge of how to alter one's perception into thinking situations such as allowing someone to pay you 4,500 dollars for a ring in paper is ok. In order to achieve this illusion Derren Brown tells the sales person the line, "take it, it's fine" as he is handing him the paper as a payment for the item he is purchasing. The illusion is the perception the sales person is receiving from Derren Brown that the paper for the moment he is telling him, "take it, it's fine" is a perfectly acceptable payment for the item he is purchasing.

The book talks about how some "illusions can illustrate principles of sensation and perception." p.145 That is exactly what Derren Brown is doing to create this illusion. He is correlating a sensation by telling the person "it's fine" they are going to naturally feel more of a sense of calm and gratitude, by putting the paper into the person's hands they are also feeling the sensation of receiving something in return for what they have given him. In other words a payment. By putting together the phrases, "take it, it's fine", he is allowing the person to perceive that the sensations he is feeling are good and that they should feel at ease with the situation.

It is interesting how easily Derren Brown was able to deceive these people into taking the paper as payment by merely telling them, "take it, it's fine". It shows how easily someone's perception can be altered to create an illusion such as paper becoming money. This reminds me of the ways many large retail stores use their advertisements to give consumers a false perception of what the store is really selling and/or how much they are selling it for. An example would be a Big Mac from McDonalds. On commercials they show the viewer pictures of a delicious, juicy looking burger in a warm, soft golden brown bun with crispy bright green lettuce and red tomatoes bulging out of the sides. When you go there and purchase one the experience is not at all the same. When receiving the burger it is all squished and wrapped up in a crinkled paper. The bun is completely smashed, the hamburger itself incredibly greasy and the lettuce and tomatoes are scarcely there. This is a common illusionary perception that affects people every day. Therefore these types of illusions have replicability.

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=derren+brown+paying+with+paper&aq=0&oq=derren+brown+pa

Humans only use ten-percent of their brains?

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PYSCH PHOTO 1.png
Humans only use ten percent of their brains? Although it has been scientifically proven, people all around the world continue to believe this far-fetched claim. Made popular various times in media throughout the years, the "ten-percent" claim has been one of those bizarre facts that everyone thought was puzzling to hear; whether the viewer read it in national magazines, such as U.S. Satellite Broadcasting or seeing it on TV during The Secret Lives of Men. Although we would all love to believe we have more brain power capabilities than currently present, one should look to the six principles of scientific thinking in order to truly evaluate this claim. The main principle of scientific thinking to observe in this situation is extraordinary claims. Before looking into extraordinary claims, we have to realize that with any claim, evidence is needed to back support what it is saying. So using this phrase, it would only make sense that an extraordinary claim must be backed with extraordinary evidence. While reading the webpage on this extraordinary claim, I did not find any believable extraordinary evidence to support this claim. A few scientists, such as Craig Karges, have made this extraordinary claim, giving people belief in the claim, but once again no evidence was supported with their claims. In addition, with the use of functional MRI and various other brain-activity detecting machines, it has been proven that indeed we do not use only ten percent of our brains.

All in all, the principles of scientific thinking are very important to consider when analyzing a claim or any sort of scientific proposal. Without these principles, our own personal biases, such as confirmation bias, would blind us from the evidence that is important to evaluate the claim.

Link for website: http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/10percent.asp
Link for picture: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-dtEq2pwr-Ao/TZfsK3DEJ-I/AAAAAAAAAEA/QtCOqoOhLlg/s1600/Picture+28.png
Addition article about the myth: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-we-really-use-only-10

Population Prediction

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WPG.jpg
After looking at this photo, have you wondered how many people have ever existed on this Earth? The snopes.com site stated that the amount of people alive today is greater than the amount of people who have ever died. When I first read this, I used the scientific thinking principle of falsifiability to show that this statement is false. There is no possible study to disprove this claim, as well as there is no possible way to get evidence of the exact number of people in our past. Also, extraordinary claim is another scientific thinking principle because there is no actual evidence to support such a remarkable claim. If one were to make a noteworthy claim, then the evidence must be equally as great.
In this research finding (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12288594), it predicts that the world has had around 105 billion people on Earth in its life. This definitely surpasses the amount of people that currently live on the Earth today. This finding proves my point that the number of the people who have ever lived is not certain; but that it is certain that it is more than the people on the Earth today.
In my opinion, I think that it is extremely interesting to think about all the people who have lived in this world. Below is a link showing the population growth from 0 A.D. to 2030 A.D. It's a neat video, and it gives you an understanding on how fast the world is growing now-a-days. I hope you enjoy it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsEGd1sMAgo

The snopes site is (Snopes.com)

Miracles? or Science?

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Sometimes, we can find the articles about the recovery story called "miracle." Most of the miracle recovery stories are very interesting to look at and these stories have the similarities. Usually they start with this repertoire. One day, a patient who seemed he is never going to wake up suddenly open his eyes and be recovered; however, doctors can't find what happened to him.

Here is an article about a miracle recovery story what happened to Chuck Hale's daughter: http://urbandale.patch.com/articles/chuck-hale-says-daughters-recovery-is-a-miracle

While reading this article, I wondered whether it is metaphysical claims or not. Metaphysical claims are the affirmations about what is happening in the world that cannot be proved. Scientific methods can't be used to prove these claims. According to the Lilienfeld text, metaphysical claims should be distinguished from scientific claims.
The article above is saying that Chuck Hale's daughter had an accident and she was in a coma; and fortunately she woke up after nine days of being in coma. Chuck Hale and his pastor consider what happened to her is a miracle what God protested.

In my opinion, what Chuck Hale and his pastor claiming are the metaphysical claims which we cannot prove its true or not. For now, no one can figure out that why and how comma patients who recovered themselves happen. It seems pretty difficult to prove that there is no God who can make miracles. It cannot be proved by scientific methods. That doesn't mean that we can be sure that there is a God who makes the miracles like mysterious recoveries, because it is hard to define metaphysical claims are right or wrong.

Now I am wondering that What if we discover the scientific areas that we haven't found? What if recovering from being coma can be proved after we learn and improve more medical techniques?

My bipolar bro

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My younger brother has bipolar disorder (along with ADD and several other disorders), and growing up with him has made me worry that my own children will be as difficult to raise as he was and is. So of course reading this, "In other words, the genetic link doesn't mean that one bipolar parent or even two will necessarily produce a bipolar child," made me feel a little bit better about the idea of raising my own offspring. (http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20275258,00.html)
I guess that this comes back to the nature vs nurture argument - it may be in my brother's nature to be bipolar, ADD, and generally crazy (my future offspring being similar, potentially), but with my families support and resources, he will probably be able to live a close to normal and stable life.
But hey, here's an article on psychologytoday.com that says we need a bipolar preseident : http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/bipolar-advantage/201108/we-need-bipolar-president, so maybe my brother or future children could actually be the next president! But my science-senses are tingling - the article claims that empathy and realism are heightened by depression, creativity by mania, and resilience by both. The person claiming these things wrote a book saying that people like MLK Jr and JFK were great because they had mental illnesses. This sounds a lot like pop psych to me, and sells books by validating people who have or think that they have mental illness or even their children. Like my dad - he's convinced that his ADD helps him run a company - that his ADD is actually an ability to jump from one thing to another. I would lecture my whole family on causality vs correlation, but I figure it's a lost cause.

The Skewed Views of the Media in the Middle East

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The following link is one I found while searching myths of Middle Eastern media. Since there is so much conflict in the Middle East, as well as animosity between the United States and the Middle East, I thought it would be very interesting to learn what they might see on the news in their daily life. This link brought me to several myths with corresponding facts that answer what is really going on. For example, a particular claim that stood out to me is that "Al-Jazeera is the 'Arabic CNN' providing the Arab world with an objective source of news." Using the most important critical thinking principle related to this claim, falsifiability, I think about how the claim that their news may be objective can be contradicted. In fact, there is specific evidence explained in the above link that it is objective, confirming the claim even after using critical thinking principles. A scholar, Dr. Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, dean of Shar'ia and Law at Qatar University, described it the best, "There is a difference between giving different opinions an opportunity [to be heard] and leaving the screen open to armed murderers to spread their ideas," My personal opinion is that ours is as well. Just as our media has turned us to believe that the Middle East and all or most of its people are terrorists, maybe their media portrays all Americans to be something we are not. According to this logic, I believe that the claim has some truth behind it and that the idea that all media outlets will have some obscurity when viewing cultures that are foreign to them.


http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths/mf23a.html#n

Twin Study

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In my opinion, twin studies are a very interesting topic to look at. Because of this, I feel that it is very important as well. Twin studies, if conducted correctly, can be very useful in determining whether genetic or environmental traits are more influential in a person's life. Twin studies can also be used to determine whether a certain correlation is due to genetics or not by giving identical twins and fraternal twins the same intelligence tests and studying the results. The only issue with doing one of the studies that involves Nature versus Nurture is that sometimes researchers feel that it is necessary to actually separate the twin siblings and raise them in different environments. This type of scenario actually happened in New York; twin sisters Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein were separated at birth by their adoption agency in order to be a part of a secret Nature vs. Nurture study, that even their adoptive parents had no idea that were a part of. They found each other in their mid-thirties and were very outraged that something like this could actually be done.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gwnzW4jOMI&ob=av3e

Despite their anger, they did realize that even though they grew up in different families, they had a lot of similarities, which included getting a degree in film, becoming film critics, and claiming to feel as if they had a missing part throughout their lives. As a result, genetics has a very large part in how an individual decides to live, but it is definitely present alongside the environmental factors.
This topic interests me because we have several sets of twins in my family, some cousins and an aunt and uncle, who are actually each fraternal and very different from each other. It interests me to see that even though they grew up in the same environment, they made several different choices in their lives.
I guess I still find myself wondering how often twin studies are conducted and if they would still separate a set of twins today if they were put up for adoption due to the fact that it is so unethical and that these women have decided to share their story with the world.

Subliminal Perception

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My first understanding of subliminal perception came to me as a 9 year old while watching the film Josie and the Pussycats. In the movie a famous music producer uses subliminal messaging to change popular trends among teens every week. Underneath music tracks, this producer inserts information about what's cool to wear and who's cool to listen to. The teens buy into the trend because they are unaware that the messages behind the track are even there. The following is a scene from the movie where the music producer gives one of his newest tracks to an employee of a music store. Immediately after the playing the new song, the listeners of the store suddenly feel the urge to buy orange clothes instead of pink. Subliminally and unconsciously there are messages within the music telling people to buy orange clothes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNOgGIgPZF4

It took me until I was much older to understand what subliminal messaging is. Reading the Lilienfeld text clarified the concept of subliminal perception even more. We are subject to subliminal messaging when we process information of which we are unconscious. It's a tough concept to understand because it is difficult to figure out how we can know we process things subconsciously, but consciously are not aware of our own exposure to subliminal perception. Although it is difficult to comprehend, subliminal perception is an important concept to understand because it is something we are exposed to every single day. The amounts of advertisements we see, hear, and read about on a daily basis subconsciously affect the choices and decisions we make. If we can do such important thing like breath without conscious awareness being necessary, how many other decisions/thoughts do we have that also require no conscious awareness? How important are the subconscious decisions I make? Is subliminal perception necessary in any way?

The idea of subliminal messaging is just as frightening to me as it is fascinating. Thinking about this concept makes me wonder how often I fall prey to subliminal messages. I wish I could think of a personal and specific example of when my subliminal perception kicked in but as it is a completely subconscious occurrence, I can't recall any examples. Now I'm wondering what will happen if I start paying more attention to the idea of subliminal perception. Will I lose all sense of influence if I become aware of the influence's existence as the book suggests?

Left-Brained People vs. Right Brained People

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Considering that we only use about 10% of our brain, I want to know what we actually do with that percentage.

We know that indeed out brain is split in half, creating a left and right hemisphere, each having their our characteristics/actions that they "control". Going along with the split we have in our brains, the question comes up about being "left-brained" or "right-brained".

Left-brained people are thought of as scholarly, logical, mathematical and analytical.
Right brained people are thought of as artistic, creative, imaginative and emotional.

So is it true that there is such thing as "left-brained" people and "right-brained" people or is this a myth?

To start exploring the answer to this question, I pulled up Google and typed in: left vs right brain. The first couple of hits where tests to figure what side of the brain you used and the test that shocked me the most was a ballerina dancing; if you were left brained you would see the figure moving counter-clock wise and if you were right brained you would see the figure moving clockwise.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CEr2GfGilw

When I did this test, I saw the ballerina moving clockwise, meaning that I am a right-brained person. Ok.. great, so I am creative and have a good imagination, does this mean I am not logical or mathematical? How can this simple little video tell me what I am like? Doesn't seem too logical if you ask me, but then again what do I know, I am a right-brained person.

Digging a little deeper I found an article about this topic.(http://www.positscience.com/human-brain/facts-myths/brain-mythology)
In here it stated that this myth of being left or right brained started in the 1800's "when scientists discovered that an injury to one side of the brain often caused a loss of specific abilities " But because of technology, it has been found that the two sides of the brains are not as "separate" as we thought. The two hemispheres are actually very connected and play off each other. With this information it seems to be that left and right brained people is a myth because what we know about the two different sides is that the left brain controls the right side of the body and the right controls the left side of the body.

In this article it states that left-brained and right-brained is a myth, but if they have such a strong connection, we should have characteristics of both. So does this mean that my left side of my body is the my creative side and my right is my logical side?

PETA falls prey to the confirmation bias

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In the video that can be found at: http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/default2.aspx, you will find PETA's pleas for you not to eat meat.

At first you may be shocked by the video and numbers the narrator states, but when these numbers are further looked into you will find that the numbers are not all that shocking and PETA has a case of confirmation bias. The producers of this video had predetermined opinions of meat production and the way animals are treated in this industry, which led them to distort the evidence. These opinions caused the producers to find the little evidence there is that these animals are treated poorly and over exaggerate it. The producers never looked at the evidence that most animals used for meat are treated humanely.

The producers did actually give a couple numbers about the amount of animals that are treated poorly. One statistic was that 100,000 animals used for meat are abused. This number may seem alarming at first, but when it is looked at a little closer this is only about .001 percent of the animals that are used for meat. This is a much lower percentage than the percentage of children being abused in the United States.

It seems as though the producers of this video used their previous beliefs and did not take the evidence in to consideration when making this video. Instead they chose to present information in a way to make the audience think animal abuse in the meat production industry was more prevalent than it is in reality. It clearly is important to look at both sides of every argument because the confirmation bias can influence people to report ideas that may not be completely accurate, even if unintentional.

The sources I used are:
http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/default2.aspx http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables.asp
http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics
http://news.change.org/stories/animal-use-and-abuse-statistics-the-shocking-numbers

Seeing things???

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Every once in a while we hear about a potato chip that looks just like Mother Teresa or a Grilled Cheese with the outline of Mary. Are these claims valid or are people trying to see something that isn't there? Even more plausible, are people actually making the images themselves to gain attention? I stumbled upon an article that highlights a chef discovery of a holy cross in the potato she cut open.

Potato with Cross.jpg

Here is the article:
http://www.halifaxlive.com/content/view/250/2/

There are a variety of explanations for how and why the potato looks like this. Most likely it is just a coincidence, but our tendency to find patterns can go too far and cause pareidolia or apophenia. Apophenia is a phenomenon happens when we a meaningful connection is drawn between unrelated or even completely random events. Pareidolia is a similar phenomenon that occurs with images just as happened with this chef. She believes that the potato is some sort of sign as a result of advent. That may be possible, but there are much simple explanations, but she instantly drew the connection and drew conclusions. It is important for us to be aware of this before we draw conclusions or develop beliefs without scientific evidence. For example many people believe in ESP, or conspiracy theories through these pseudosciences, but no scientific evidence exists. Our book exposes one instance in which claims were made of life on Mars based on an image only to be shown by a later, more clear photograph to be a simple configuration of rocks. Keep in mind, we should use critical thinking and scientific methods to draw conclusions instead of falling into the pseudoscience traps of pareidoli or apophenia.

If you are interested, I have posted a web page with a variety of images that trick you into seeing something that is not actually there; a cloud becomes a heart or a rock is suddenly a face.

Here is the link:
http://morfis.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/pareidolia-things-are-not-as-they-seem/

The Magic Diet Pill...Or Not

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Hundreds of commercials, ads and billboards promise their product would make them lose large amounts of weight, safely and quickly. Life would be a lot easier if there was in fact a magic diet pill, the problem of obesity would be cured. Hydroxycut is a dietary supplement that promises fast, effective and safe weight loss in pill form. They advertise before and after photos of supposed successful customers, and not only do they promise weight loss, they also say their product will increase energy levels and significantly lower BMI.

Using the Principles of Critical Thinking, it's easy to apply the Ruling out Rival Hypothesis to this example of a claim. It is just as plausible that these individuals are working out for long amounts of time every day, strictly dieting or suffering from an eating disorder and this is what leads to their weight loss results, not the pill. Another example is that the before and after images could be the result of intense photo shopping and computer editing of photos and not actual photos of real results.

A concept from class and our textbook that also could relate to this claim and provide some explanation is the Placebo Effect. The Placebo Effect can be defined by Encarta World English Dictionary as a psychological effect of treatment that is a sense of benefit felt by a patient that arises solely from the knowledge that treatment has been given. Once again it is plausible that these consumers of Hydroxycut could be losing weight simply because they expect to be losing weight. They may subconsciously be eating less or working out more or leading a healthier lifestyle in addition to taking Hydroxycut yet they believe all results are coming from the pill because it's what they are already expecting.
As consumers we need to be conscious and not fall for the many media and advertisement traps that are not really what they appear.

Link to Hydroxycut's official website:
www.hydroxycut.com

Hydroxycut before and after photos used for advertising:

hydroxycut photo.jpg


Nature vs. Nurture

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1) Identify one important concept, research finding, theory or idea from Psy 1001 lectures or the Lilienfeld text from the past two weeks. Summarize the concept in your own words and explain why you believe this concept research finding, theory or idea is important. Apply this to some aspect of your life (real life example are an excellent way to learn. Photos, You-tube videos, etc. are encouraged.) As you reflect on this concept, research finding, theory or other idea, what other questions occur to you? What are you still wondering about?

The Nature vs. Nurture Debate


Nature vs. Nurture is mentioned in multiple chapters of our textbook. It raises questions on what influences human behavior and thought; Is it genetics or the environment in which we're raised? Additionally, it could serve to clarify numerous aspects of human life. For example, do I have a genetic disposition (nature) to become addicted to certain substances (nicotine, alcohol, caffeine), or is it a result of mass media advertisements, a decline of moral values, and the people I was surrounded with from birth (nurture)? One could ask, do my feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression stem from an extensive family history of psychological illness, or because society places high expectations for college students to succeed, earn a substantial income, etc.? Although it is now generally understood that both factors account for behaviors and emotions, further research of this topic is imperative for preventing certain societal diseases/epidemics (high levels of substance abuse, suicide, and obesity).

The nature vs. nurture debate was recently discussed in my Principles of Nutrition class here at the University. Our textbook asked us who is to blame for America's unhealthy rise of obesity? Is it that we're creating a genetic desire for unhealthy foods (nature), or is it because low-cost, unhealthy foods are what is most available (and desired) to the majority of Americans.

The following link shows an image of the rise of obesity through America from 1991-2003; needless to say, every state in the US is represented and every state's number of obese citizens greatly increases from 1991-2003:

http://www.getamericafit.org/statistics-obesity-in-america.html


As the image above shows, this unprecedented rise of obesity must have some explanation: Nature or nurture?

One can postulate from the data that it's clear that more Americans are leading unhealthy lifestyles, but who is to blame? Is it the abundance of low cost, unhealthy foods available surrounding us, or is it that people are now raised in an environment of mass advertising of obviously unhealthy foods (recall popular advertisements and celebrity endorsements for McDonalds, Pizza Hut, frozen meals, etc.)

On the topic of media, it's interesting to note that in a time of increasing American obesity, the following graph shows the BMI (body mass index) for the winner of Miss America over the last 50 years.

http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/283/12/1569.full

From the contrasting data, how does one come up with solutions and answers to America's growing epidemic of obesity? What plays a larger role, nature or nurture?

Talisman, The Metaphysical claim? or The Illusory correlation?

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Thumbnail image for photo.JPG
Talisman, object considered to possess supernatural or magical power, is one of the most common superstitions around the world, especially in Asian countries. As I stated, talisman is superstition, which can be referred to illusory correlation. As I am writing this post, I want to discuss about talisman to identify whether it is metaphysical claim, or illusory correlation, or something else.

In the Lilienfield text, it says one of the important scientific thinking principles is 'correlation isn't causation', which means even though two variables are correlated, and they may seem like having either positive or negative correlation, we don't know for sure which one causes which. Also, it is not guaranteed that one is causation to another. There could be a 3rd variable that makes one look like to be causation to another. The Principle 'correlation isn't causation' is important, because we can apply this principle to various scientific thinking, researches, experiments, and data, when we try to infer causation.

Many people believe that, by wearing or having talisman, they could have good lucks or superficial powers. A number of people even testify their experiences from wearing talismans. Even, I had this experience, and I'm still keeping my talismans on me. Our family was pretty decent catholic family. I can still say that I am a Christianity man, since I believe in god. But we just became too indifferent to any religious activities, and we started to believe in talismans just for fun, which made me carrying on talismans. I have two of those, one is good for relationships with people and the other is good for my academic achievements. I feel anxious when I don't have talismans, and I feel like I'm doing better with it. I know some people will say talisman has nothing to do with those outcomes. (Correlation isn't causation).

However, if you think it as a religion, no one can really prove it. I feel safe with my talismans. People who believe in religion are eventually people who seek for comfort on their exhausted minds. Rather than just putting talisman as illusory correlation, think it as metaphysical claim. It's nonoverlapping realm to science.

As I referred to text, I might be having belief perseverance, and all those outcomes could be apophenia, which means I'm trying to make connections. But it is too ambiguous issue that if we see talisman as religion, it becomes metaphysical claim, but when we think it as illusory correlation, I become a victim of pseudoscience, belief perseverance, and apophenia. I think considering talisman as whether illusory correlation or metaphysical claim is highly depended on people's viewpoint.

Instructions

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Hi everyone, Here are the basic instructions, including grading criteria, that can be also found in your syllabus.

For this first writing assignment: The due date is modified to Oct 2.

From the syllabus:
WRITING ACTIVITIES--worth 6 points each
In addition, we have a writing component for discussion sections. Each section leader will create a UThink blog for their students. You will post on this blog as a contributor six times during the semester, and read posts by your classmates. Posts are due no later than 11:59 PM on the following dates. Late posts will be penalized 2 points per day.

Post #1: Sunday, Sept 25--note, that we are modifying this so it will be due a week from Sept 25, on Oct 2.
Post #2: Sunday, Oct 9
Post #3: Sunday, Oct 23
Post #4: Sunday, Nov 6
Post #5: Sunday, Nov 20
Post #6: Sunday, Dec 4

While you can definitely write your posts anytime and post more than one post, cluster posting will not be accepted. That is, you can't write six posts before Sept 25, and figure you are done with that for the semester. Only one post will be graded per fortnight, so you should plan to pace your posts.
Length: Posts should be ~250 - 350 words long. If you can answer the prompts in less than 350 words, great, you don't need to pad, "Brevity is the soul of wit." But neither should your post be deficient, too short to do justice to the questions.

What to write about:
A blog post is a specific form of writing, but one that is easily adapted to other settings. A good post starts with some prompt--an idea, a claim, an article, an experience--and the post responds to this prompt by providing evidence to support or rebut the prompt, in writing that is brief, focused and interesting. One of our goals in Psy 1001 is to help you develop critical thinking skills and a blog post is an excellent way to practice critical thinking as you write. Behaviorally, writing that reflects critical thinking has these features: the author a) asks questions and is willing to wonder; b) defines problems clearly; c) examines evidence; d) analyzes assumptions and biases; e) avoids emotional reasoning; f) avoids oversimplification; g) considers alternative interpretations; h) tolerates uncertainty. (from Wade, C. (1995). Using writing to develop and assess critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, 22. 24-28.) I would add to this list, i) takes the perspective of others.

Generic prompts:
We have several general topics that can be used for any of your posts, 1-6. In addition, we will provide articles, questions and readings on the discussion page on the website to which you can respond if one of these don't work for you.

1) Identify one important concept, research finding, theory or idea from Psy 1001 lectures or the Lilienfeld text from the past two weeks. Summarize the concept in your own words and explain why you believe this concept research finding, theory or idea is important. Apply this to some aspect of your life (real life example are an excellent way to learn. Photos, You-tube videos, etc. are encouraged.) As you reflect on this concept, research finding, theory or other idea, what other questions occur to you? What are you still wondering about?

2) Provide a link to an article, hoax or claim that has been made in the media and evaluate the claim using one or more of the six principles of critical thinking. Apply a concept, research finding, theory or idea that you have learned about in Psychology to provide an alternative explanation. Which principle is most useful for evaluating this particular claim? Remember to cite your sources.

3) If you can think of a different explanation or want to support something one of your classmates has posted, you can respond with a post of your own. Be sure to provide evidence to support your response.

Grading criteria: Each post is worth up to six points.

Concepts,0-3 points: Have you followed instructions? Have you provided a relevant concept or prompt? How well have you summarized the psychological concept or applied the six principles of critical thinking? Are you thinking "beyond" the example, that is, making inference and forming connections? Have you provided an original insight? Have you provided evidence to support your claims? Is this post worth reading? Are you demonstrating behaviorally that you are thinking critically? (See above.)

Mechanics: 0-1.5 points. Have you used paragraphs to divide your thoughts? Is your post visually interesting? Have you used correct grammar, spelling, and standard speech (not slang, not jargon)? Is your post easy to read? Have you cited your sources or provided links?

Clarity of writing, 0-1.5 points: Is your writing crisp? Clear? Engaging? Are you using words precisely? Do you have words that are unnecessary or filler words? Are you on-topic? Have you provided clear transitions and a clear flow of logic?

Welcome!

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Hi everyone! Welcome to our course blog site. You can post your writing assignments here. Be sure to put each writing assignment into the correct category so that I can easily find it! I look forward to reading your thoughts and impressions! Happy writing!!

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