Blog 2: February 2012 Archives

How to train an animal.

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Chapter 6 describes many ways to train an animal. The first of those ways is Operant Conditioning, a technique that was invented by B.F. Skinner (Strongly associated with Behaviorism). Operant Conditioning is a method that involves rewarding an individual for completing a given task, or an "operant." This technique is effective because of the Law of Effect. The Law of Effect states that if an individual receives a reward for a given action, they are more likely to repeat this action. Operant Conditioning differs from Classical Conditioning in that Operant Conditioning is voluntary and conscious, while Classical Conditioning is more automatic. An example of Operant Conditioning is asking a dog to sit, and giving that dog a treat every time it sits. An example of Classical Conditioning is that a stove gets hot while red so an individually will automatically know not to touch the stove. However there are more factors that play a role in Operant Conditioning than just Operant and Reward, a third factor is known as Reinforcement. Reinforcement was added to this method by B. F. Skinner. A reinforcement is any outcome that strengthens the probability of a response. Chapter 6 gave me a further understanding of the science behind training an animal.

Are you still there?

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The question of whether someone in a vegetative state still has conscious awareness is something that has plagues us for a very long time. If we were able to find a reliable way to diagnose whether these patients have awareness or not, it could be life changing. These patients can fall into two different stages: persistent vegetative state, when the patient is in the vegetative state for longer than 4 weeks, or permanent vegetative state, when the condition persists for longer than a year. Once patients reach this permanent stage, there is very little hope for recovery and families are left with a really hard decision: do they continue to keep their loved ones on life support? In the BBC video, The Secret You, Adrian Owen attempts to possibly make the answer to this question a little easier. Since conscious awareness can currently only be tested by making a conscious decision to do something (which patients in a vegetative state cannot do) he's asking the patients to IMAGINE doing something. In the video he asks patients to imagine playing tennis. He then analyzes if and what brain regions are being activated compared to a healthy patient using an fMRI. While I think that there really isn't enough testing to prove that this is a full proof strategy, it's definitely really promising, and a step in the right direction.

A Whale of a Tale!

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SeaWorld uses operant conditioning techniques to train Orcas. Food is used as the primary positive reinforcer. It's essential for the whales to know they have performed their desired behaviors immediately. When performing tasks, the reinforcement cannot be administered immediately, so trainers also use conditioned reinforcers (hand/auditory signals) that are introduced prior to administering the primary reinforcers. Eventually, the whale associated the conditioned reinforcer with the primary reinforcer and will perceive it has performed the behavior correctly.

http://animal.discovery.com/videos/most-outrageous-killer-whale-training.html

Shaping is used to eventually get the Orcas to perform complex tricks. The animal is first reinforced to perform a natural movement that closely resembles the desired trained behavior. They're lead through behaviors in small steps using targets (ie flagsticks) that direct the whale towards specific positions or directions. Eventually, the animal is reinforced toward the final goal of the finished behavior. For example, a killer whale may be trained to perform a high jump by first being reinforced to touch a target on the surface of the water. The target is then raised above the water a few inches and the animal is reinforced again for touching it. The whale continues to be reinforced as it touches the target that is c raised higher and higher above the water until the whale brings its entire body out of the water!

I've always marveled at the killer whale performances performed at Sea World, so I thought researching the feat of training a 6,000 pound marine mammal would be fascinating. It was! I also train horses, so it was also really cool to see the applications of operant and classical used in my training. I've definitely developed a greater understanding and appreciation for them!


Information and images accredited to:
http://www.seaworld.org/infobooks/Training/atcueing.html

Way to train animal

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGazyH6fQQ4


There are many ways to train the animal, but in Chapter 6, it talks about Operant Conditioning that is used in animal training. Many people train their pets using method that was invented by B.F. Skinner. However, many people don't know who is B.F. Skinner is or why this training technique is working. He did many experiments with animals using operant conditioning procedure such as pigeon, rat or dog. B.F. Skinner's method is still using in many situation to train animals. For example, one of well used method is call method of successive approximations. On this video, it shows how train the parrot using this method. Basically, this method is when a parrot or other animal do the specific behavior that trainer asked to then they get a reward. However, using this method trainer can result to do other complex behaviors such as playing basketball or shaking hand. The animals perform at a circus, zoo, or aquarium are trained using this method of successive approximations one of the example of Operant Conditioning. It was very interesting that this simple way can make animals to do complex tricks or behave. Although, I got curious that is this is the easiest and simplest way to train the animals? Or there is no other influence using this method?



When you become you

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Have you ever asked yourself when you started knowing that a tree is a tree, or a desk is a desk? Have you ever wondered when you started distinguishing yourself from other living things (such as knowing that you are not that tree in your backyard, but you are you, a person, not a plant)? Do you know when you became aware of yourself?

In the video "BBC Horizon - The Secret You" featuring Marcus de Sautoy, the question is answered. An experiment in the video that I personally find interesting is called "The Mirror/Self Recognition Test" gives us an idea for when we become aware of ourselves. In the video, the experiment starts out with a 16 month old child, who is having his "nose wiped" by his parent, who is actually putting a small dot of paper on the child's cheek. The child is then placed in front of a large mirror. De Sautoy explains that if the child "knows who he is" then he will notice the dot and know it's on his cheek. Even though the child was clearly looking at himself in the mirror, he didn't take the dot off of his cheek, thus modeling the theory of humans not having self awareness at 1 year and 4 months (Reddy & Sautoy, 2009).

Next was a 22 month old girl. When the dot was placed on her cheek, she took it off when looking in the mirror. This suggests that at 22 months, we are aware of ourselves, and that between ages 18 and 24 months, we become aware of ourselves (Reddy & Sautoy, 2009).

I have always wondered when I have become aware of myself, but this evidence that I saw in the video still does not answer the question of how I become aware of myself. Is the "how" due to developmental process in the brain? Obviously, but to what extent? How do these things develop?
And now I'm second-guessing myself, and thinking that these may be stupid questions! What do you guys think? (Sorry, I know this blog is about when, but I'm really interested in how).

LINK TO VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Biv_8xjj8E (between 3:30 minutes and 12:30 minutes)

Autism Speaks

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yU2paLv1MGE

This video makes viewers see autistic people in a light of fear and pity. The dramatic themes it brings up, like autism causing divorces and essentially wrecking lives, caused huge backlash when released. People spoke out against this commercial everywhere. They claimed that autism isn't necessarily a bad thing. One person with autism said, "I would go through all of the suffering, the torments, the crying, again and again, because this made me a smart, and sometimes wise, person. I see things differently, and that is just what this planet needs more of if we want the human race to succeed."

So the question that comes to my mind is, even though some cases of autism are very severe and hard to deal with, why is autism always viewed in such a negative light? A huge portion of autistic people have minor cases of it, and say they are glad that they are autistic.

So is autism really that bad?

(http://www.time.com/time/health/article)

http://www.thephoblographer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/olympusfocus.jpg

The link to the image above is an ad for the new Olympus focus camera. Now, every ad that is produced is obviously trying to get a point across about why someone should buy their product. They want to get a clear message out. This all relates to psychology and our classical conditioning learning capabilities. Classical conditioning is similar to a chain effect, one part of the conditioning relies on another. It starts with the conditioned stimulus (CS) which leads to the unconditioned stimulus (US), which then goes to the unconditioned response (UR) and finally to the conditioned response (CR). That is what the classical conditioning looks like structurally, now let's look at the example from the image above. The ultimate message that the ad is trying to show is that this new camera offers incredibly fast and clear focus. Now we can look at how the ad is trying to get these emotions out step by step. The conditioned stimulus is the camera itself. The unconditioned stimulus would be the beautiful woman. The unconditioned response is excitement, and the conditioned response is excitement and desire to get the camera. That is an example of how an ad tries to manipulate your emotions to try and convince you to purchase their product in relation to the classical conditioning learning!

During recent psychology lectures, we have learned a very important concept: Pavlov (Classical) Conditioning. When thinking over this concept carefully, I have found that classical conditioning may provide much explanation for many experiences one has. For me, one notable example would be the strong test anxiety I used to experience during my last one and a half years in high school. It all began with a math exam I took one afternoon, during which time I grew more and more anxious because the exam was so hard and I seemed to be not able to fully concentrate (I felt that the person behind me kept making weak noises). Finally, there was this point where I found I could not focus at all and finish the exam as I usually did. Thus strong fear overwhelmed me as I might fail the exam. I spent the rest 30 minutes of the exam struggling against fear, anxiety and trying to focus but almost in vein. Not surprisingly, I ended up with an ugly score and since then I had suffered great anxiety both before and during exams. What I was anxious about was the relapse of the horrible psychological situation that might prevent me from focusing and solving test problems. In this case, the conditioned stimulus would be exams and conditioned response would be strong fear and anxiety. The unconditioned stimulus was the failure to concentrate in that particular exam and the resulted disappointing score.

This case, however, is a bit different from the general model implied by Pavlov Conditioning which stresses the repeatedness of the tied stimuli in order to induce conditioned response. In my case, the unconditioned stimulus seemed to have shown up only once, yet it led to strong conditioned response. The same thing can be said of the mental trauma among many caused by devastating catastrophes. And I wonder what implications Classical Conditioning could have for the treatment of these psychological problems.

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That's gonna leave a mark...

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All advertisements try to manipulate us to buy their products. Many ads use positive things to advertise their products by using famous actors or actresses, or using attractive women to sell something sexy or appealing (alcohol, perfume, etc..)

The advertisement I found online (Go to this link ---->>> http://www.flickr.com/photos/duvalguillaume/2360107161/ to check it out) uses a negative image to make us want to buy their product. The ad used a man in a full body cast to sell bicycle helmets. The advertisement agency's purpose was to show that the man was wearing a helmet because his head was not covered with a cast. Since he was wearing their helmet, he was not killed, but the rest of his body was injured. If we wear their helmet, then our head would be protected for injuries.

In regards to Classical Conditioning that we learned in class... CS (helmet) --> UCS (uninjured head but the rest of the body is in a cast) --> UCR (We are happy that our head wasn't damaged in the accident) --> CR (If we wore the helmet, our heads would be protected from harm.)... I hope I got that right!

If you want to look at the website where I got the picture from go to this website http://spyrestudios.com/hilarious-print-ads/ The ads are really funny.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

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When do we become consciously aware? Scientists have discovered that between the ages of 18-24 months we start to become consciously aware. That is, we become aware of who we are and how we look. At this stage in life we are still unsure of how we become aware; all we know is that we do become aware. In this video, to show the age at which someone becomes aware, they do an experiment where they take kids from 18 to 22 months and put a sticker on their cheek. Then they let them run up to a mirror. If they look at themselves and then see the sticker, then they are aware. If they look at the image reflected by the mirror and then look away, then it shows that they are unaware. My sister has twins who are about 5 months old. They are not consciously aware yet, according to this study. I agree with this study. The odd thing is how babies still respond to our actions such as feeding them or saying their name. It's not as if until they are aware they have no emotion or response. It's just that they don't recognize or have the intelligent ability to relay back images or responses. What I wonder is if individuals have a different kind of awareness at the stage before 18 months or if they simply do not have consciousness awareness.

One of psychology's many unanswered questions is this: Is there a way to know someone still has conscious awareness? For a long time, doctors didn't have a way of proving someone was still self-aware. Now, Professor Adrian Owen believes he's found one. In Owen's method, he asks vegetative patients to imagine they're playing tennis while monitoring their neural activity. If he observes activity in the premotor cortex, correspondent to mental imagery, it is evidence of higher thought, something only a conscious person can do. Because of his findings, people previously thought to be brain dead have been shown to have a 'different' relationship with the outside world.

If you ask me, I'd say Owen doesn't prove a whole lot with this. Does being able to imagine yourself playing a game of tennis really qualify as consciousness? In my eyes, 'vegetative state' is a sealed fate that doesn't offer much of an existence. My consciousness questions aren't about holding onto it- they're about letting it go.

In 2005, I knew a man that was terminally ill. He took a turn for the worse, and doctors gave him a few weeks to live. This man fought his illness solely to help his family, that was his goal. The night of that diagnosis, he said to his wife, "I won't be able to help you any more," and passed away in his sleep a few hours later.

My question is this: How much power does the mind have over one's life? Can the will to fight really keep one alive? Can someone actually will their self to pass on?

Can you Hear What I Hear?

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During these past chapters (particularly chapter 3) we learned about the various functions of the brain. I found it interesting that the brain played a role in every part of our senses including our hearing. I'm not 100% sure, though I have a feeling I am, that a lot of you experimented with the "Teen Buzz" sound in highschool. I know personally that I played around with it in study hall when me and my classmates could all hear a high frequency pitch that the teacher was completely unaware of. I have learned now that this could be due to the fact that my teenage brain was not fully developed and that is why I could hear it while the teacher could not. Are you as intrigued about this as I am, because before this class I thought it had something to do with my hearing being better than my teacher's but was surprised to learn otherwise.

Questions of Free Will

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I have further examined the idea of determined free will. At first in class I was skeptical, the example given of random numbers being predicted by brain activity prior to conscious awareness could also have been explained by a statistical analysis (unless trained or a random number generator, creating a random stream of numbers is impossible). Over the weekend, having watched the BBC movie, my curiosity has peaked. In this documentary, Marcus de Sautoy seeks to examine the same question. After participating in a study he learns through using an fMRI machine the computer was able to predict/know which button Marcus would push 6 seconds prior to Marcus's consciously making the decision. Which begs the question, at what point does our free will leave us? In my opinion, which is still highly malleable, the experiment conducted in this video could be an exaggerated account of what actually happens. Yes, it clearly shows that our subconscious/neural activity influences the decisions that we make. However, in everyday life we make thousands of decisions each minute: of course they are not all conscious. Additionally, I find it hard to ignore the probable imbedded patterns that Marcus has made over his lifetime, which could lead to a subconscious/neural command over such a menial task. Who's to say that even if the grey matter in our brain and our subconscious is causing our conscious to make decisions, that that precludes free will? I'm still skeptical of the implications.

The first time when I heard about "Teen Buzz" was in middle school. My cousin told me that he downloaded a new ringtone which could not be heard by adults. We tested in a car where there were me, my cousin, my aunt, and my parents. He turned it on and a sort of "squeezing sound" filled the car. Surprisingly, none of the adults recognized the ringtone. The "teen buzz" ringtone soon became a trend among teenagers. I could often hear the "squeezing sound" during class from someone's phone. Students could recognize it but not teachers. At first, it was interesting, but after awhile it became annoying and distracting. Listening to those "squeezing sounds" several times during a day often caused headaches too; some people like me hated it. Anyway, the trend soon disappeared. The basic concept of this ringtone was hearing range of humans. Humans can hear sounds from 20Hz to 20,000Hz. We learned from lecture that this range becomes narrower as we get older.
As I proceeded searching, I started to wonder how other organisms perceive the world. Would "their world" be same with "our world"? The answer was no. For example, dragonflies see the movements in slow motion due to their fast brain processing speed. It seems that each organism possesses senses that are the most appropriate for its life style. But what if humans can perceive the world like others creatures, for example insects? It will be fascinating that we will be able to see things that we cannot see with our human eyes.

Mosquito Ringtone

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Most people have heard of the mosquito ringtone. The high pitch ringtone used on student's phones in class that many teachers are unable to hear when the phone goes off. If you have not heard of this ringtone, or have not heard it yourself, you can use this site to test your hearing, http://www.freemosquitoringtones.org/hearing_test/. The mosquito ringtone has the frequency of 17.4 kHz, see if you can hear up to 17000 Hertz using the hearing test. According to The Epoch Times, a Canadian newspaper, the mosquito ringtone is designed so that it can only be heard by people between the ages of thirteen and twenty five. When you reach age twenty five your ability to hear high frequencies starts to deteriorate due to presbycusis, hearing loss that occurs as you age. The mosquito ring was first designed to discourage loitering among teens in certain areas. The sound was placed in areas that experienced a lot of vandalism. In many areas that the ring was placed, the effects were positive, and less vandalism and loitering occurred.
Article: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/canada/mosquito-high-frequency-repellent-2280.html

If and when does consciousness disappear? What happens during sleep? By wearing/wiring electrodes to his head, Marcus de Sautoy, utilizes the TMS device, which discharges a series of electrical shocks, in order to determine how active the brain is while we are sleeping. What changes did he find? When awake, areas far from the stimulated area are prompted, which allows us to conclude that the brain is an interacting network of interconnected elements. During sleep, however, the stimulated areas remain local to the shock origin. The brain works in an active/reactive fashion in both instances, but while sleeping the activated area is isolated in the "zap zone" in comparison to the effect a stimulation has during consciousness which disperses responses throughout the brain. The latter, indicates that a conscious brain is very much integrated via networking, diversity and unity simultaneously. The unconscious brain on the other hand, shuts down and does not have an active relationship with the rest of itself. I found this segment to be most intriguing due to the vibe I received initially while watching. To me, the makers of this film led me to believe that the brain was not active during sleep, even though it is. But I learned it is inactive in the sense that it is not having a conversation with other parts of the brain as it would during a state of non-rest.

Out of hundreds of animals that have been tested Humans, Chimpanzees, and Orangutans are the only ones that are capable of being aware of ones self. Humans usually become self-aware between the ages 18 - 24 months. The mirror self-recognition test is how animals are tested whether or not they are self-aware. This test involves placing a little sticker on a child's face and seeing if they realize that the sticker is on their own face. If a child does not respond to the sticker they think that the sticker is on the face that is in the mirror and not their own. I have taken self-awareness for granted my whole life. How do we become self-aware when no other animals are? Now that I think more on self-awareness I am curious if there are different animals that can be self-aware and how exactly we become self-aware. Also I am curious about why we become self-aware at that exact time in our lives. The one disadvantage to self-awareness (or maybe advantage) is that with it comes death-awareness.

Super Sensitive Senses

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I've heard of the "Teen Buzz," or the frequency us younger people can hear as opposed to adults. I actually know some people in junior high that had their text message tone set to a high frequency pitch. Most of us adolescents could hear whenever that persons phone went off, but the teacher was none the wiser. I actually found it quite annoying, couldn't they just have their cell on vibrate like the rest of us? If you can't feel the vibrations then that's their own fault, but I didn't enjoy being disrupted every ten minutes because of a high pitched noise.
I think it would be pretty cool to have some extra-sensitive sense like some animals. Chameleon's have the ability to move their eyes separately of each other and can see from many different angles without actually moving. Rat's have a hearing range up to 90,000 Hz. Pair just even those to extra-sensitive traits together and you could be the best spy in the world. (Granted a weird looking spy, if people saw the way your eyes moved, but the best.)
I am very grateful I am not a "super taster," I love food and all the flavors and am not exactly picky either. I always found when I was younger some of my friends were picky eaters, they may not have even been super tasters, but it was so hard to please their taste bud needs when they were over at my house, I'd give up. Some flavors are already extreme to me, but it would definitely suck if I could only eat certain, mostly bland foods, instead of risk something flavorful that would be too strong for me.

What animal senses would you want for yourself, and what would you use them for?

Still Amazed

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I understand that everybody already knows about this form of art, but i still find the complexity of the illusion astounding. I am talking about sidewalk art. This link (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/01/3d-sidwalk-art-that-will_n_478649.html#s71257&title=Rocky_Road) includes 20 separate pictures of this style of artwork. The artists play with our perception as the obviously two dimensional sidewalk suddenly starts to pop out with a three dimensional image. The images range from elaborate murals to over sized soda bottles. To create these the artist plays with our monocular cues. We know many things from everyday life, such as more distant objects seem smaller, and darker spots are shaded from the light source. Binocular cues are useless because the image is two dimensional in reality.

Becoming Self-Aware

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I thought it was interesting when the question was brought up of where does consciousness begin? I had never really thought about it before, but watching the video is was interesting to see that it develops when we are about 18-24 months old. Also, that other studies show it's only found in more intelligent animals like Chimps and Orangutans and dolphins, and that separates us from the rest of animal kingdom. It makes me wonder what part of the brain gives us this consciousness, and why do other animals not have this? Why is it only seen in mammals? The older man brought up a good point that with self awareness, we also have death awareness, and can think about ourselves in different ways. It made me think, would it almost be better to not be self aware? What would our views of death be if we didn't have a conscious mind, if we even had any views on it? I found that the BBC video gave me more questions than answers about the conscious mind, and how it is formed and why we have it. What benefit does it give us to be self aware?

What's all the buzz about?

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In physics class in twelfth grade, my teacher showed our class a video that went through the rising decibels of sound. It covered the lowest rangers below human hearing all the way to above what humans are able to perceive. Although everyone in our class weren't able to hear certain pitches at the same time, our teacher had stopped hearing them long before us. I've seen stores that play the high-pitched frequency outside their stores so that young people don't loiter. It's a scary thought to think about how over time our hearing deteriorates naturally. An even scarier thought than that is how much the world today is speeding up that process. With kids having things like iPods and other music players, they are most likely damaging their ears without even realizing it. Some activities that people are subjected to every day may be enough to cause damage. They may be a low enough frequency that short exposure to them doesn't matter but after repeated exposure it could cause irreversible damage. Yet other people just don't think about how certain things will affect their hearing, and they might not think about their hearing in the long term.

Cellphone Radiation

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In our daily routine we tend to forget about the possible consequences of the little things we got so used to do and we would rarely think about them. Electronic devices are everywhere and some of them are radioactive. Heating food in a microwave oven or talking through a cell phone involves the use of radio waves which have raised some concerns whether it's safe to be around these devices or not but we are often taking it for granted. However, the debate is still not settled since there is no evidence on whether these radio waves are harmful to us or not. So we can't really tell for sure.
A team of scientists from the World Health Organization (WHO) categorized cellphone radiation exposure to be possibly carcinogenic to humans. However, their decision was based on published studies that they reviewed and not from a new research they conducted themselves. So to this date, there isn't evidence from studies on animals and humans linking cellphone radiation to cancerous tumors. Though studies showed that cell phone radiation increased the activity of brain cells but the consequences of that are still unknown.
It's still advisable to keep a decent distance away from wireless devices just to be safe since there is a possibility of them causing cancer on the long run.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/05/31/who.cell.phones/index.html
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/cellphones
http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/AtHome/cellular-phones

Because your mother said so.

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Most of us have heard the old adage to "drink 8 glasses of water a day" by mothers, doctors, health teachers, etc.--but is it true? My mother has definitely chided me for not drinking enough water, but I never paid any mind because I assumed that I only needed to drink when I got thirsty since that's a pretty good indicator of dehydration, right? To anyone that believes in the 8 glasses rule, I'm sorely mistaken in that respect. According to the Institute of Medicine's recommendations, every person's required amount of water intake per day varies depending on multiple factors such as your health status, amount of daily activity, and where you live--but it agrees that 1.9 liters, or roughly 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water, is approximately the amount an average human should consume per day.
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283
The myth-busting website snopes.com claims to debunk this assertion with multiple sources of an LA Times article and Penn State nutrition researchers in this article:
http://www.snopes.com/medical/myths/8glasses.asp
This, and many other sources, assert that almost half of the water we need to replenish the amount lost during the day is recaptured though foods, especially those with high water content such as leafy greens, melons, and tomatoes. The other 6 glasses of water needed per day are usually consumed when one is eating a meal or exercising.
http://www.livestrong.com/article/286730-list-of-foods-with-a-high-water-content/
As for me, I think I'll believe the Institute of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic website because their facts seem reputable and founded in research.

When We Can't Hear

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While listening to music, I notice sometimes that I've turned up the volume on my iPod too loud. I can actually feel the damaging effect that loud music can have on one's eardrum. The book talks about conductive deafness, which is due to a malfunctioning of the ear, especially a failure of the eardrum or the ossicles of the inner ear. My friend's brother has this case of deafness, so I know a little bit about it. His pitch perception is close to being useless because his hair cells located in the basilar membrane are not working.
Humans have a hearing threshold. This is the minimum sound level of a pure tone that an average ear with normal hearing can hear with no other sound present, (Johnson, 5). The hearing threshold (and the hearing ability of the individual all together) can be impaired due to damaging frequencies of sound like listening to an iPod too loud. There has been some discrepancy about whether or not the eardrum can be damaged from an iPod, but I will most likely be turning my music down after learning this information.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hearing-loss/DS00172

As I began to accept the fact that many of the common psychology related statements and assumptions in reality myths (according to psychological studies our book talks about), I couldn't help but get caught up in a phenomena that has been occurring this year within my own life.
Chapter 1 of our textbook describes the experience known as apophenia where people have the tendency to perceive meaningful connections among unrelated phenomena. This past semester I have had odd experiences every week where street lights will either turn on or go out as I walk past them, and some nights this will occur multiple times, and always in different locations. I can't help but feel some connection to these occurrences especially since they usually turn off when I am feeling very faithful and have a full heart yet turn on when I may be feeling a little under the weather. I decided to explore online and found that the following article provided the best explanation for this phenomena.

http://paranormal.about.com/od/telekinesispsychokinesis/a/aa052508.htm

Though I feel that the easy answer is that these are simply coincidental occurrences, I can't help but wonder why it occurs so frequently! Let me know what you think!

Bigfoot Sightings

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Bigfoot sighting(s)

Link: http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_article.asp?id=621

In this article two children claim to have seen a Bigfoot in Wilson County, Tennessee. At the time of the claimed sighting they were each 12 years old. An investigator from the BFRO (Bigfoot Field Researcher Organization) looked into the sighting and met with the children. He claims that there is little doubt in his mind that they did indeed see "something" after hearing their story. One thing that I noticed is that there was no clear evidence that any large animal was even there in the fathers account (most notably the lack of footprints--the idea of Bigfoots giving off a certain odor is simply speculation given that no conclusive evidence has proved its existence). There are many variables that are unaccounted for in my opinion. The children are avid hunters according to the article and the fact that they spend a lot of time in the wilderness might lead some to believe their sighting may have some validity. However, perhaps they are falling into a similar trap that many studies can fall into--they are simply finding what they are looking for. It would seem to me that these kids were obviously well aware of the stories behind such creatures and this could result in them seeing it in the woods--they want to believe in Bigfoot. This claim, like many others regarding this topic, lacks compelling evidence but makes a good story for entertainment purposes in my opinion.

Nature vs. Nurture Debate

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Today, everyone knows about and has some stance on the nature vs. nurture debate. After years of research, many discoveries have been made in correspondence with this debate and it has become much less of a mystery. It is now proven that both nature and nurture help to shape our behavior; now it is simply a question of how much is nature, and how much is nurture. I usually would argue that most of who we are is from nurture. Yes, we may be like our parents or families, but that is not just because we are blood relatives, but because we live with them (in most circumstances) and have natural tendency to pick up on their traits. This is proven with friends. Think of how similar you and your friends are, or how much you've grown to be more like each other simply because you spend a lot of time together. However, with more recent studies of the Human Genome Project, more information has been revealed proving that some behavioral traits are passed down through genetics--it is no longer a guessing game of nature vs. nurture in some cases. Think about how much you are actually like your parents or family members, whether you want to be or not. Another aspect to view the argument through the points in life in which nature or nurture have more of an affect. For example, it is stated that psychological characteristics and behavioral differences developed from infancy to childhood is learned--nurture. It is also argued that "differences in intellectual ability are a product of social inequalities in access to material resources and opportunities", also due to nurture. Today, the debate has toned down a lot but there still is, and always will be more to research and discover.

http://www.simplypsychology.org/naturevsnurture.html

Super Bowl Brains

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With the Super Bowl this weekend, I thought it was a good time to examine a little bit of the science behind what makes a Super Bowl quarterback so impressive.

This also fits with what we have learned in class over the last week, since much of the article deals with Neuroscience psychology. I found an interesting article about the brain of NFL caliber quarterbacks in a recent article posted on Psychology Today.
Here is the link: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prime-your-gray-cells/201202/super-bowl-battle-the-quarterback-brains

One part of the article I found especially interesting was the portion about the extra oxygen and glucose in the neurons in the brain. This allows both quarterbacks brains to function at a higher level and create new synapses. It was fascinating to me that through experience, both Eli Manning and Tom Brady (the two quarterbacks in this years Super Bowl) have an ability to make themselves function at a high level.

They seem to be able to control their bodies enough so that they are able to perform their best in times of need, which is absolutely incredible. This ability seems to be helped when Manning and Brady think about game-scenarios. This allows the synapses to strengthen and help ensure the brain will "fire" when the game is on the line.

After reading this article, I wonder how long it took each quarterback to develop this ability. I also wonder if other athletes in other sports have a similar ability or whether or not athletes can be trained to develop this ability from a young age.

Forgetting Faces

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Imagine how awful it would be to not be able to recognize your own mother's face. The short video clip about prosopagnosia we watched in lecture on Monday stuck with me most of that day. I started thinking about just how difficult it would be to be incapable of committing anyone's face to memory. When I look back to my first week of college last fall, I think I received a taste of what that must be like.

There were so many strangers all at once and so many new faces. My poor brain was so overwhelmed it kept changing unfamiliar faces into the faces of friends from home. I would meet someone at lunch, see them the next day and not have any memory of meeting them. After that week, I felt like I could slightly relate to Barry Wainwright when he said "the world is a sea of unfamiliar faces" in his 2008 Guardian article.

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/nov/22/exp-erience-prosopagnosia-face-blindness-neurology#send-share).

In his article, Wainwright describes how difficult it is to go through life not being able to recognize his wife and children's faces. Instead, he has learned to remember their clothing and walking styles. His wife has a bright red "supermarket jacket" so he can find her if they get separated.

Barry Wainwright's case is more extreme than many other examples. The fact that he is even incapable of recognizing his own face is hard for me to grasp. Your own face - something you see multiple times a day, every day, every year of your life - seems like something that would be impossible to forget. Even after doing some minor research online about how this disorder works, I suppose I still don't entirely understand it.

Simulacrum

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According to the philosopher Jean Baudrillard, because of the advancement of the technology, humans have reached in an age when we are not able to distinguish a real object and its image (for example, a real person and a person's picture in the monitor) and the fake image is called simulacrum.

It sounds strange but as technology develops so much, the image is becoming more like the real one. Things we watch from TV is not a real view of the event; it is just electrical color lights that signals of TV produces. However, because the image looks real, people's reaction toward image is very similar to that toward a real one.

This idea reminds me of the Pavlovian conditioning and learning. Even if two things are different but the arousal they cause is the same, they are substituent.

Link to article: http://genealogy.about.com/cs/geneticgenealogy/a/nature_nurture.htm

While it is clear that physical traits such as eye and hair color are encoded in your genes, the debate still raged since the 13th century whether parts of your personality are also encoded in your genes. The part of this article that I found most interesting was when it referenced studies done on identical and fraternal twins. Whether raised in the same environment, their personalities resembled each others more similarly than did non-twin brothers and sisters. But even when researchers studied twins that had been raised apart from one another, they still found that they closely resembled each other. This seems to suggest that parts of our personalities' are encoded in our genes. It would make sense that humans, like almost all other animals, have instincts encoded in our genes, but scientists have been unable to locate these "behavioral genes" with 100% accuracy. Humans are the only animals that are born without instinctively knowing what kinds of food to eat, which is learned from our parents. On the other side of the debate are the nurture advocates, who believe our personalities are derived from the environment we are raised in. Early psychologist such as John Watson and BF Skinner showed that phobias could be acquired be acquired through conditioning, and pigeons could be taught to dance, fly figure 8 patterns, and even play tennis. If personality was 100% based on genes then identical twins would be the same in all aspects, but many studies have shown that this is not true. Humans, as well as almost all the animals in the animal kingdom, are made to adapt. If presented with a specific environment, humans are going to adapt so that they can be the most successful in it, and their genes determine what kind of adaptations they will make. It is probable that our personalities are determined by a mix of our genes and our environments. Nature AND Nurture.

Additionally, some of you may enjoy this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81szj1vpEu8

This article on paranormalhaze.com makes a few decent claims as to why there are Aliens in our universe. It however does not prove the existence of Aliens because there is a significant lack of extraordinary evidence to explain this extraordinary claim. The first piece of evidence that they gave was just first-hand accounts of seeing things that could possibly have been alien UFO's. We cannot trust these claims because we can't be sure of what the people saw. This is also what is wrong with the second piece of evidence that they give us. So far we are 0 for 2 on having any substantial evidence. The "wow!" signal evidence is a pretty cool thing but we cannot be positive as to what the origin of the signal was. This is not extraordinary enough evidence. The Drake Equation is just a made up calculation and we cannot be sure if it works because there is only one true evidence of life. The second radio signal that they write about is not good enough evidence for the same reason as the first radio signal. Overall this shows that the evidence for aliens is not extraordinary enough for this extraordinary claim.

Link: http://www.paranormalhaze.com/5-pieces-of-evidence-that-suggests-intelligent-alien-life-exists/

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Blog 2 category from February 2012.

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