#1: September 2011 Archives

What shapes human behavior and psychological makeup? Is it genetics, or one's environment? This is the Nature vs. Nurture "debate" that has been such a key idea in psychology. What is the reason for human actions? Does someone become a criminal because they were raised to, or were they inherently born to become one? The answer is both. The Nature vs. Nurture debate is essentially dead, because psychologists have identified both elements to be important in shaping human behavior. For example, I am not a criminal, nor have ever seriously considered committing a crime. Is that because I was born to resist criminal actions, or was it due to the way my parents raised me? I would agree with most psychologists that both of those are reasons for my lack of criminality. Over the summer, I had a real dank part-time job of being a valet for important and ritzy events. I would park wealthy peoples' expensive cars for them. Very cool job. However, what is to prevent me from driving off in a $200,000 Bentley? I would attribute it to two causes: nature and nurture. Nurture because: Both my parents are hard-working and have taught me that stealing is wrong. Also, they have raised me in the Catholic faith, which teaches to "do right" and "thou shall not steal". Nevertheless, while I am sitting in an all leather, tinted windows, decked-out Bentley, I am thinking "Hell yea I want this car!" For a brief moment I think "what would happen if I was to drive off? I would have about a five hour head-start. I could drive to California and sell the car for thousands." But those thoughts are hollow. I would never actually steal the car. I would think that it is morally wrong and I was BORN with enough sense to realize this would not be a smart decision. Most people born with at least an average intelligence would realize the consequences of stealing a car. While I may be able to escape and even sell it, I would be a wanted criminal, and eventually would be caught and wind up in jail. Even if I was never caught, The money would eventually run out, then I would have no source of income opposed to much more income over my career if I continue with schooling. Intelligence is the genetic, nature reason. Environment is the Nurture Reason.
This theory (that behavior is caused by both Nature and Nurture) can be applied to every person. We already discussed the Bogle family in class. A family of criminals. All children are born with similar genetics and raised in an abusive environment. Another example is Adam Sandler's character in the movie Billy Madison. He is born to a wealthy family and has everything he could ever need. However, he did not even pass grade school. Why? Due to nature and nurture. He was not born with high intelligence, however he was still very capable of passing grade school. His environment also played a roll. He was brought up in a very wealthy family, where he was spoiled and did not have to do anything for himself. Both contribute to the way he is. Here is a link showing the previous statement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzYZh28O9ak

After talking about Nature vs. Nurture in class, and doing further research I would still like to know more. Does one have a bigger impact than the other does in different aspects of behavior? Thumbnail image for bentley_continental-5938.jpg

When I Googled "list of topics characterized as pseudoscience" a large list came up ranging from Astrology to Feng Shui. One of these topics, conversion therapy, really interested me. According to the American Psychological Association, conversion therapy is a type of therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation. Conversion therapy's practices are based on the assumption that homosexuality is a mental condition. Through various techniques, such as electric shock to the hands and genitals, administration of nausea- inducing drugs in conjunction with homoerotic stimulation, social skills training, prayer, and group support, patients attempt to rid themselves of their homosexual attractions. Although this is practiced throughout many religious organizations, medical professionals and scientists agree that conversion therapy is virtually useless as well as potentially harmful. It is now considered pseudoscientific by most. According to a column written by Damon Suden, "The potential risks of 'conversion therapy' are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient."

The idea that conversion therapy is a pseudoscience is strengthened by the fact that it is very reliant on anecdotal claims, lacks review and replication, and does not connect to other research. For example, it is widely accepted that homosexuality is not a mental condition and cannot be scientifically proven to be one.


This is my first blog ever. Aaah....now you all know who I am and where I sit in the class. My name is Hema (pronounced Hey-ma as in "Hey- ma,
what's for dinner?").

I am having a bit of a problem with one of the six principles of scientific thinking - the one which states that "extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary evidence". The adjective, extra-ordinary, is way too subjective in my opinion and does not belong in a science-oriented class.

Not many years ago, people would have thought it extra-ordinary if someone had said that they could determine the gender of the fetus but to us, it is rather straight-forward. On a related matter, the claim that the child's gender is determined by the male parent would have seemed preposterous. I know that my mother was astounded when I told her that she was not to 'blame' for having four daughters and no sons.

Following are a few more examples of what we once would have deemed extra-ordinary claims but now accept:

- You can go from New York to LA in 7 hours,
- The continents were once joined,
- Sound, video, and data can be transmitted speedily over great distances.
- Humans and the great apes share a common ancestor.

A claim is a claim. Evidence can either support it or refute it. To say that a claim is extra-ordinary says more about the reference frame of the speaker, not of the claim. As the examples above show, our collective ignorance is what convinced us that the statements are extra-ordinary. No claim needs to be cloaked by an adjective, not by scientists. Such embellishments are more the realm of politicians, the tabloid news media, and the like. Scientists ought to be more interested in the robustness of the idea and the succinctness of their wording.

Please note that I only have a problem with the word 'extra-ordinary' and none whatsoever with the principle that a claim requires evidence. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
While on the subject of 'extra-ordinary', check this out:


Who would have thought it possible?!!!

Nature vs. Nurture

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The Nature vs. Nurture debate has been going on for some time now. My viewpoint on this debate is that children are nurtured into the way they act. Sure, your genes have impact in how you act, but it's the life experiences that you encounter and learn from that make you who you are. For example, my father is a hard working man that didn't go to college. Yet he worked hard throughout his life managing his family and job to provide the best life for us. I am the exact same way. I work hard in everything I do. I don't expect things to be handed to me. Nurture can also be affected by not just your family, but your friends and elders. Another example for me is my Physical Education teacher. He was the guy that instilled with me discipline that I will live with for the rest of my life. He made me determined and motivated to achieve greatness in everything I do. I do not believe I was born with these characteristics. They were taught to me by one of my elders proving that learning through my life experiences (nurture), made me what I am today. I would like to see studies performed that show that nature was the main factor in who someone is today. It would be interesting to find out how he or she differ from their parents and also how they are similar to one another. The subject intrigues me to find out how children are who they are today.

What do we really know?

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Since the beginning of time, humans have had mysteries. As a human, I think we have significantly progressed from when we first came to earth (still disputed). However, even with mass transit running at two hundred miles an hour and multi-national trade organizations we still have some mysteries that we encounter. From the many mysteries we still encounter, here we have Brooke Greenberg:

[Picture 1]

How old is this girl? Maybe one or two years old? No, this girl was born in 1993 making her eighteen years old now. At this point she is equivalent in age to a college freshman! According to Dr. Walker in South Florida, Brooke's body is aging out of synchronization. Some parts of her body are aging faster than other parts of her body. He nails and hair seem to be the only things that grow normally. In 2009, her bone development was equivalent to that of a ten year old. Of course Brooke has had some health problems, but she has recovered sometimes spontaneously. For example, Brooke was only four years old when she fell into a fourteen day lethargy. The doctors diagnosed her with a brain tumor. After the parents bought a casket for her, she woke up like nothing had ever happened.
What I am so intrigued by is how unique she is. The only thing doctors can do at this point is rule out rival hypotheses. I could be a simple miracle, but scientists are skeptical and strive to scientifically explain this. All around the country, doctors could guess what might cause this across the world, but Dr. Richard Walker and geneticist Maxine Sutcliffe have to work together to rule out other hypothesis. This, in the world of medicine, is sometimes the best way to narrow the results. Many times diagnosing a patient is a "team endeavor". Doctors will give a diagnosis and after many tests, the patients doctor must rule out other hypothesis. In the end, however, the doctor will try his/her best to correctly diagnose the patient. In this case, Walker could claim one mutation for example, but in this case this claim requires extraordinary evidence. However, it seems like doctors have not been able to diagnose Brooke.

Maybe she holds the secret to staying young forever?

Stay tuned Vogue Magazine!

[Picture 2]

-Ishan S.

Article Used: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Health/story?id=7880954&page=1

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Picture 2:


(I apologize the pictures are not inserting!)

10 Percent of Our Brain

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For years now there has been the urban legend that, as humans, we actually only use 10 percent of our brain every day of our lives. This so called legend has appeared in claims in the media rather frequently over time, but now society has officially concluded that this "legend" is very much false.
There is one main reason as to why this myth was able to go on for so long. This myth was pushed forward by psychics and other paranormal activists that use it to explain psychic abilities. Looking at this claim from a critical standpoint, it is clear to see that these claims that were made by these so called "psychics" were extremely exaggerated. They had no real proof that anything they said was true. In each example listed in the article every person that made a claim about the brain and how much it is used never gave any substantial evidence. Here are two examples from the article, "We normally only use 10 to 20 percent of our minds. Think how different your life would be if you could utilize that other 80 to 90 percent known as the subconscious mind", and "Our minds are capable of remarkable, incredible feats, yet we don't use them to their full capacity. In fact, most of us only use about 10 percent of our brains, if that. The other 90 percent is full of untapped potential and undiscovered abilities."
To make matters worse, these exaggerated claims about "psychic" powers that had no criteria to back them up were also being pushed forward by people that refused to keep an open disposition on the matter.
Evidence that went against the "10 percent brain theory" can be seen in PET scans as well as MRI scans which clearly show that different parts of the brain are being used at different points but more than 10 percent of it is being used overall. Clearly anyone that still believes that only 10 percent of the brain is used in our everyday lives is ignoring the clear scientific evidence that is out there.

Article: http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/10percent.asp
(I tried to put photos on here but I couldn't figure it out.... so here are some links to the photos I was going to use).




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How do people, who have been blind since birth, perceive our world? This is a question that consumed my mind earlier today when I happened to see a young child, around four years old, walking on the sidewalk with his mother. On any normal occasion, this would be something I overlooked. However, after taking a second glance at this child, I could tell there was something different. The young boy had a long, white cane that he poked out in front of him with each hesitant step, and appeared to have a glazed look over his eyes, as if oblivious to all of his surroundings. It was no question to me that this child was blind. As I continued my walk back to my dorm, some questions emerged. How did the child envision this world? Could he dream, and if so, what of? Could his mind make out shapes, textures, or colors? The stream of questions was endless.

After doing some of my own researching, I came to some conclusions. When it comes to the question of blind people dreaming, answers range, however it was typically stated that people who have been blind since birth have dreams with only sound factors, no images. In an article from the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois, a blind woman states that "blind people do dream. What they see in their dreams depends on how much they could ever see. If someone has been totally blind since birth, they only have auditory dreams."

Branching off from the dreaming question, it seems only reasonable to believe that if blind people cannot see in their dreams, their minds don't conjure up pictures in their minds to suit real-life objects. They may see forms, shapes, textures, but can they actually think of it as an object since they have never seen an actual object before?

As I searched for answers, they varied. Some say the blind see nothing at all in their minds and dreams, some say the blind see many abstract blurs and colors in both, and some even say that the blind can make ideal pictures based on what their four other increased senses can understand. I can't conform to any of these, because I don't believe that anyone will ever be able to fully understand this situation, unless they are involved.

Going back to the young child that caused this array of ideas, it seems cruel that such an innocent individual would be punished with the absence of this wonderful gift. It causes one to think how things that seem so miniscule in our everyday lives can be such a treasure. On my walk back, I made sure to take in the reds, oranges, and yellows of the gorgeous late September trees, the skyline of Minneapolis beyond the Mississippi River and the west bank, and the historically beautiful buildings of the UofM. How often we take our sight for granted.

One of the most interesting topics to me that we have been talking about in class is the Nature Vs. Nurture debate. While i think that both have a great deal with how a child develops, I recently read an article that proves to me that the social aspects of a child developing are almost completely due to how he is raised. The article was about children who had been neglected or abandoned by there families and who had basically been raised by animals. It seems that young children our so impressionable that any sort of parenting or family figure can affect how they develop. The article has multiple stories of kids around the age of three surviving and living with packs of dogs. They run around on all fours, bark, and even look for food with the dogs. What's stranger is that the packs of dogs eventually end up accepting the children into their group and become protective. As far as the animals or the children are concerned they are basically the same.
This has severe social consequences on the children. They have almost no social skills to communicate with other humans and some cannot even speak. As far as i know most of these children were born completely mentally and physically healthy just like you and me, however because of their upbringing they may never fit in to human society.
Here is the article if you want to learn more.


I found this article, "The Baby Train", on Snopes.com that claims a small town near Sydney, Australia is filled with children because the town has a main train line running through it. The author swears that the direct cause of this major child influx is that the train wakes up people in the middle of the night and instead of going right back to sleep, couples feel compelled to fill that time with, let's just say, a different "extracurricular activity". His hypothesis is very scientifically sound, isn't it? NOT!
His theory contradicts many of the six principles of scientific thinking. However, the two main ones that help indicate that this is not a scientifically proven fact are extraordinary claim and correlation versus causation. The author has no evidence to support his claim and therefore is extraordinary. It sounds more like an episode of The Twilight Zone more than a scientific hypothesis if you ask me--a magic train that produces kids in the blink of an eye! What also makes this extraordinary is the author's mistake of falling into the traps of the correlation versus causation fallacy. He assumes that the train is causing babymania but in reality, a third outside event or situation could explain what is going on.
Besides the violation of the principles, the author is also falling victim to confirmation bias which is when we tend to only seek out evidence that supports our hypothesis. Observing only that there were many children running around (so much so, that the schools were overfull as well as the maternity ward in the hospital), he didn't take the time to uncover other reasons to why couples had their children. An easy way to fix this problem would be to do a survey or some interviews instead of jumping to conclusions.
Clearly, although some might find trains very appealing (whatever floats your boat), I think most people would say that the train passing through the middle of the night is not causing couples to get their freak-on!

Over the past two weeks of Psychology class, we have learned about the concept of hindsight bias. Hindsight bias, also known as the "knew-it-all-along effect" or "creeping determinism", is the tendency to believe that we could have predicted something that has already occurred. Hindsight bias is important because it occurs in everyday life. It is especially prevalent in sports and politics. For example, when someone fumbles the ball in a football game, a viewer could say that they knew that was going to happen. Did they really know that was going to happen, or did they become an example of hindsight bias? Chances are, the answer is of the latter.

Another example of hindsight bias is exemplified when viewers see a commercial or advertisement for a product. If you have found yourself looking at a product and thinking, "I could have thought of something like that a long time ago", then you have fallen victim to hindsight bias. Often times, I see products at the store or see an advertisement that are so simple and useful and say to myself, "I could have invented that!" However, I never really would have thought to invent such an item before seeing that product or advertisement.
The question is this: What are other examples of hindsight bias in everyday life? And how often do you believe we fall victim to this theory?

The small things in life.

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Every time I learn more science I am always fascinated. I always figured complicated processes were driven by even more complicated "parts." Yet, it is amazing how very basic laws and ideas can produce a very complex system. Take the nervous system as an example. The brain and nervous system combined is arguably the most complex machine in the world. It retains memories, makes new memories, develops, changes, and has a vast amount of potential. Yet, in the end, part of the communication process is due to positively and negatively charged ions and electricity. How can something so basic allow for such complex function?

Another amazing concept introduced in the text is the idea of neuroplasticity. The idea that the nervous system can change due to thought, activity, and learning gives every individual the potential to better themselves. It is almost like a "leveling tool." Even though some people are born with extremely high IQs and others with amazing talent for music, maybe there is unknown potential to change what we start with. I wonder, to what extent can we change the brain? Could neuroplasticity be the key to treating learning problems? Finding treatments for neurological disorders? Is there a limit to this seemingly unlimited potential for improvement?

I am very excited to see what future research will find. How will both current and new research take advantage of this opportunity? Maybe it will start in education or medicine and become widespread. Take a look at the Arrowsmith school in Canada. It utilizes this idea to help with learning! (check out the video at http://www.arrowsmithschool.org/video-broadband.htm)

The woman who founded this school was Barbara Arrowsmith. She herself had many challenges to overcome including poor spatial understanding, a poor working memory, and a difficult grasping concepts. She applied her research on neuroplasticity to improve her life. She even utilized Donald Hebb's theory in which neurons that fire wire together along with the idea of use to improve it. Overall, her approach to therapy is to utilize the parts of the affected brain area to strengthen its original function.

After improving her learning ability she founded the Arrowsmith School and is helping kids overcome their learning setbacks. This is a great example of how science and psychology can drastically improve people's lives.

That Can't be Right. Can it?

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The emotional reasoning fallacy is the act of disregarding scientific claims that contradict or oppose our current beliefs. This logical fallacy tends to be very popular because nobody wants to hear claims that give them negative emotions. It is important to be aware of this fallacy and to avoid it at all costs, as not doing so may lead to unwanted results.
I have found myself to be a victim to the emotional reasoning fallacy in many instances. I find it much easier to completely reject a statement or proven claim rather than change my current ideals, as i can be quite ignorant at times. Last year while playing soccer i began experiencing extreme pain in my foot every time i stepped onto the field. I figured i had just bruised my foot, and that the pain would be gone soon enough. Well, this thinking went on for days so i decided to get it checked out. After getting it examined, the school trainer told me i could not play, and that if i continued putting that kind of pressure on my foot it could fracture. The words that came out of the trainers mouth were hidden behind my ego, and i disregarded everything she said. Sure enough, less than a week later i was in the hospital for surgery.
After this incident i became much more aware of this fallacy, and i do all i can to avoid it. It is amazing how many people overlook proven claims because they do not want to change their current beliefs and do not want to accept the truth. It would be interesting to know how many severe injuries in sports are a direct result of the emotional reasoning fallacy.

The Onion: Ugly Babies

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I found this hoax article that says that the babies born this year are the ugliest babies born in the past 30 years. The scientific thinking principles I can apply to this are ruling out rival hypotheses, falsifiability, replicabitity and extraordinary claims. Ruling out rival hypotheses applies to this because the reason that this is said could be merely because the man that said it was upset or biased or just had a different opinion then many other people. Falsifiability is a part of it because it cannot be disproved because it is a mere matter of opinion. Opinion cannot be the basis of scientific facts. Replicability applies to this story because this is only tested among one group of babies that were born at one hospital and to one doctor. If anyone else were to look at the same children they could say that they aren't ugly babies at all. If they were to test this on a different group of children born this year they may not be ugly either. This is an extraordinary claim because it is far from being able to be proven and it is an opinion and not a well-tested result. The evidence would need to be in depth and substantial to prove that this year had the ugliest babies that were born ever. A concept that could explain how these results came about could be a confirmation bias by the doctor. For whatever reason he may have expected this to happen and he ignored any pretty babies and only saw the ugly ones or ignored that they were pretty and accentuated their uglier features.

Taste & Smell

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Each person has his or her own routine waking up in the morning. One may choose to turn on a cartoon, go for a jog or listen to a favorite song. In my case, stimulating my mouth and nose by eating a big bowl of cereal is the best way to wake up.

This is not to say the senses of smell and taste only allow humans to enjoy a good breakfast. With these senses a person is able to attract the opposite sex, create a warm atmosphere with a cinnamon scented candle, sniff out sour milk and enjoy a warm day swirling with fresh air.

Imagine a life void of the comforting smell caused by mom's freshly baked cookies, or the smell of the roses kindly sent by a loved one. The pleasures accompanied with the senses of smell and taste are a necessary part of life and may even be a person's favorite part of the day. Just like a husband and wife work together to create a wonderful meal, the senses taste and smell work together create a part of life far different from seeing or hearing.

Reflecting on how appealing these senses are in every day life also brings up the question of why this appeal affects certain people differently than others. Do people with food addictions have stronger olfactory and gustatory perception? What causes a person to prefer chocolate to vanilla? If these questions require an experiment involving taste testing; I'm sure we'll all be more than willing to help out.

Cassie Wagner

Facebook to start Charging?

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With social networking on a constant rise, hoaxers see popular sites such as Facebook, twitter, and the more outdated MySpace as good places to attack. If you have a Facebook account, you may have just noticed a viral status floating around that reads "IT IS OFFICIAL. IT WAS EVEN ON THE NEWS. FACEBOOK WILL START CHARGING DUE TO THE NEW PROFILE CHANGES. IF YOU COPY THIS ON YOUR WALL YOUR ICON WILL TURN BLUE AND FACEBOOK WILL BE FREE FOR YOU. PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON, IF NOT YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE DELETE ID YOU DO NOT PAY". Not long after this post became viral, another post very similar arose. It seemed to hold stronger "evidence" by declaring the price grid for the new Facebook membership. Many people fell for this trickery, but if they would have just analyzed the situation, and applied the concepts of critical thinking, they would have been able to tell it was a fake.
A person could start with the concept of Extraordinary Claims. Is there extraordinary evidence to support this extraordinary claim? The answer is no. The post said, "IT IS OFFICIAL. IT WAS EVEN ON THE NEWS. FACEBOOK WILL START CHARGING DUE TO THE NEW PROFILE CHANGES". The closest thing to evidence in this part of the post is that it says "it was even on the news". This however, is incorrect. One could simply use the internet to find a news website and prove this statement false. There is also evidence that contradicts the entire post completely. The login screen for Facebook says. "It's free and always will be".
So next time you see or hear about one of these posts think critically before deciding to pass it on. Be a scientific skeptic and look for the evidence that proves it. Or just remember "it's free and always will be.


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A metaphysical claim is one that can not be proven scientifically because it is outside the realm of scientific experiments. I think these claims are important because I don't think we should know everything, I think there still has to be some parts of our world that we don't understand. I'm not saying I agree with every single metaphysical claim there is, but I think that it's important they are there.

In my life, a good example of a metaphysical claim is astrology. Personally, I believe in astrology because the information it has given about me and who I will be has lined up exactly with my character. However, the scientific part of me knows I probably shouldn't believe in it, because how can astrology actually be proven? I think this article does a good job of going over astrology and what it qualifies as; http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/skepticism/blfaq_astro_sci_pseudo.htm

In the media, astrology is commonly used. For example, you can always find horoscopes in newspapers and magazines. For example this website offers horoscopes every day: http://my.horoscope.com/astrology/free-daily-horoscope-pisces.html
1. Ruling out Rival Hypotheses: Horoscopes and astrology tell you certain things are just going to happen, but that really isn't true. People have the ability to make their own choices and decide where they want their life to go.
2. Correlation vs. Causation: A horoscope may claim that you are going to have a horrible day and you actually do end up having a horrible day. You therefore decide it's because of what sign you are, when in reality it's other things going on in your life.
3. Falsifiability: A study can't really be designed to test astrology.
4. Replicability: Horoscopes and astrology may claim to be accurate, but that isn't true. What horoscopes say are going to happen can't happen to every single person of that sign.

In reality I don't think horoscopes are anything to really be paid attention to, because events in our lives occur because of chance and what we ourselves do. In spite of this, there is still that part of me that believes in astrology and I know this is true of many others. I wonder why we do this? What is it about astrology that makes me and others believe parts of it are true?

How antidepressants work

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Some antidepressants work by increasing neurotransmitters released (MAOIs). Some block neurotransmitter clearance (Tricyclics, SSRIs). Prozac, or Fluoxetine, is an SSRI, or serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitor, that reduces the reuptake of serotonin from the synapse. This makes it so the neurotransmitter stays in the receptor for a longer period of time, lengthening the overall effect of the serotonin. Serotonin plays roles in sleep cycles, aggression, and mood and temperature regulation.

How antidepressants work is an important concept because many people are affected by depression. I know people close to me that have suffered from depression and have also been prescribed antidepressants, so this topic is very relevant to me.

I know depression relates to a chemical imbalance in the brain, but is depression caused by this chemical imbalance? What are some other possible causes of depression? Could drug abuse relate to depression?

Genetics may be a possible answer to the cause of depression. Some people may not produce as much serotonin or norepinephrine, which both affect mood. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the frontal lobe that is responsible for thinking. I know people who are depressed, often have this downward spiral way of thinking. They start thinking negatively about themselves and have a hard time getting out of that way of thinking. Maybe an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex relates to depression in some way. The limbic system of the brain is known as the emotional center of the brain. I would imagine that the limbic system could be linked somehow to depression.

How antidepressants work

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Some antidepressants work by increasing neurotransmitters released (MAOIs). Some block neurotransmitter clearance (Tricyclics, SSRIs). Prozac, or Fluoxetine, is an SSRI, or serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitor, that reduces the reuptake of serotonin from the synapse. This makes it so the neurotransmitter stays in the receptor for a longer period of time, lengthening the overall effect of the serotonin. Serotonin plays roles in sleep cycles, aggression, and mood and temperature regulation.

How antidepressants work is an important concept because many people are affected by depression. I know people close to me that have suffered from depression and have also been prescribed antidepressants, so this topic is very relevant to me.

I know depression relates to a chemical imbalance in the brain, but is depression caused by this chemical imbalance? What are some other possible causes of depression? Could drug abuse relate to depression?

Genetics may be a possible answer to the cause of depression. Some people may not produce as much serotonin or norepinephrine, which both affect mood. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the frontal lobe that is responsible for thinking. I know people who are depressed, often have this downward spiral way of thinking. They start thinking negatively about themselves and have a hard time getting out of that way of thinking. Maybe an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex relates to depression in some way. The limbic system of the brain is known as the emotional center of the brain. I would imagine that the limbic system could be linked somehow to depression.

Protection from the Abstract

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One of the most important concepts that have been introduced in Psychology 1001 so far is the idea that there are "metaphysical claims" (Lilienfeld, Psychology From Inquiry to Understanding, 9). We must separate these claims from our scientific thinking in order to protect ourselves from accepting false truths. Metaphysical claims are assertions or arguments that confront issues and beliefs that we cannot see or test in order to prove them right or wrong. A few examples of metaphysical claims include the existence of god, ideas about the soul and thoughts about the afterlife. These metaphysical claims are very often held close to people's hearts. Important aspects of one's life like religion, values and morals usually rely strongly on metaphysical claims. However, in order recognize the validity of science and studies we must separate metaphysical claims from scientific claims.

Take a look at this video clip: http://youtu.be/glRAN_8CkvQ . It seems like the speaker has some degree of try-hard "logic" that accompanies his argument that God does, indeed, exist. This is a kind of metaphysical claim that someone sought to prove and has provided "evidence" to that fact that their argument is correct. Obviously, God is outside the realm of human understanding. Being able to realize that a video like the one you just watched has assertions that cannot be proven will help protect you from being sucked into ploys and phony beliefs that the people of this world are trying to spread.

Keeping in mind the Scientific Thinking Principles, (Lilienfeld, Psychology From Inquiry to Understanding, 22) you can easily pick out these metaphysical claims when you come across them. For example, Metaphysical claims cannot be proven wrong, or right for that matter; the claims are usually very extraordinary and would require very extraordinary evidence (which the video clip absolutely did not have). The only question that still arises in my mind is how people can be SO SURE on their own metaphysical claims? If we are to think scientifically, how can people, without a doubt, rely on such ideas?

*For the record, I do believe God exists and I am a very strong Christian. I simply used the "existence of God" as an example to provide a better understanding about what a metaphysical claim is.

Since the 1980s, the Food and Drug Administration /a> and the American Council of Health and Science /a> have rejected repeated claims that aspartame, the active ingredient in artificial sugar brands like Equal and Splenda, is toxic to the human body. However, these organizations did advise patients suffering from the rare genetic disorder phenylketonuria to limit intake of or not consume at all products containing aspartame because they are unable to process a certain amino acid, phenylalanine, one of the components of aspartame.

Soon after learning this, the media has jumped to conclusions by making sensational claims /a> about aspartame, saying that people who consume aspartame are killing brain cells and at greater risk for neurological conditions such as chronic seizures, Alzheimer's disease, Multiple sclerosis, brain cancer, and systemic lupus. News articles are committing the fallacy of equating correlation with causation given the increase in number of patients with multiple sclerosis over the past years. They are failing to consider that there may be other factors leading to the rise of diagnosis of mentioned diseases besides aspartame, such as sedentary lifestyles, obesity, or excessive caffeine intake.

It is important to realize that one chemical is not responsible for a wide slew of illnesses and afflictions and there has not been substantial evidence to suggest that aspartame has a negative effect on an average healthy human being. In fact, there have been several studies /a> that showed that even after taking high doses of aspartame, there were no effects on mood, memory, behaviour, or activity level. Peer review and generalizability of the results among other studies support this finding.

Instead, they have spread mistruths disguised as scientific fact by including quasi-medical jargon to confuse and unnecessarily cause worry in readers and complex biochemical vocabulary to feign authority and credibility in their findings.

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