#1: October 2011 Archives

A famous poet once claimed, "A person's a person, no matter how small." This was the astounding Dr. Suess, a rhythmical author of children's books. In his prose, "Horton Hears a Who," he stated this brief, yet complex sentence that brings about the moral debate over stem cell use.
Stem cell research is a process in which scientists use embryotic stem cells in attempt to treat or potentially cure diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. In this process, scientists take the embryotic stem cells and transplant them in areas where there is damaged tissue, in attempt to heal it. Here's the site to a 6 minute youtube video discussing more about stem cells and how they can be used for medical benefit--> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JTw2RpDo9o&feature=related Although this process seems quite remarkable, it is not yet considered a treatment and has brought on debate over its morality.
Debate has been about in many aspects, including moral, religious, and scientific. People consider it morally corrupt for someone to use an embryo, which is essentially a child that has the potential of life, for both scientific research and as a treatment. This brings about the religious debate on stem cell research. In most religions, it is inhumane to abort a child. And in a sense, using these embryos kills the child held within them.
But, now to the scientific portion regarding this debate. Of course this research could bring about success in the world of science under certain circumstances.
So now it is up to the world to raise their voice in this debate to decide whether it undergoes further research and experimentation or whether it's cons should put an end to it's potential pros and its potential cure to extreme diseases.


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:

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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!


Article Used: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Health/story?id=7880954&page=1
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Picture 2: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=brooke+greenberg+life&um=1&hl=en&biw=1040&bih=632&noj=1&tbm=isch&tbnid=QhNifKaq9DFz9M:&imgrefurl=http://allofstrange.blogspot.com/2011/05/brooke-greenberg-16-year-old-has-body.html&docid=yHPZtYbFWoTMhM&w=450&h=350&ei=AzKFTt_8L4WFtgf6uP07&zoom=1

Rebirthing Therapy

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Pseudoscience is a set of claims that is presented as scientific, yet does not follow a valid scientific method, nor has evidence, plausibility, and testability. It is usually characterized by vague, exaggerated claims and an over-reliance on the confirmation bias as opposed to evaluation by other experts. I have always known of pseudoscience, and I have always dismissed it as illogical and harmless. I had always thought of it as a type of for-profit, phony "science". However, after reading about the tragic case of Candace Newmaker, a 10 year old child who received pseudoscientific care for her behavioral problems in Colorado in 2000, I found out that pseudoscience can be deadly.

Candace received a treatment called "rebirthing therapy" which was premised on the notion that children's behavioral problems are due to difficulties forming attachments to their parents that stem from birth. Candace's mother paid $7,000 and flew from North Carolina to Colorado to get the controversial treatment provided by Watkins and Ponder.

During her rebirthing session, which was taped, the two therapists tried to simulate birth contractions. The tape showed them first wrapping Candace up in a multitude of flannel blankets. Then, instructing Candace to try to come out of her flannel "womb" and afterwards making it more difficult for her to do so. They blocked her, retied the ends of the sheets, shifted their weight around and ignored her cries for help at least 34 times. Even though Candace complained of being nauseous, needing to poop, and a lack of air, they continued the session. At one point she could be heard vomiting, and seven times she said she felt like she was dying. Once she was unwrapped, she was discovered to be blue and without a heartbeat.

To think that people could do such a thing to a 10 year old child is absolutely disgusting. At least pseudoscience forces actually scientists to think so critically, as to safeguard against such drastic human errors such as this ridiculous "rebirthing therapy".



The Nocebo Effect

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The nocebo effect, often shadowed by the popularized placebo effect, is a strange phenomenon in which a person receives negative side effects from expecting negativity.
As stated in the Lilienfeld text "Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding", the nocebo effect is considered the "evil twin" of the placebo effect. While the definition of the placebo effect "is improvement resulting from the mere expectation of improvement", the nocebo effect "is harm resulting from the mere expectation of harm". [In Latin, placebo means "I shall please," and nocebo, "I shall harm"(harvardmagazine.com)].

As listed in "Psychology: From Inquiry to understanding", one study showed that people who were allergic to roses sneezed in the presence of fake roses. The text also points out that the nocebo effect is common in people who believe in voodoo, blaming the aches and pains they experience on their belief that pins are being pierced into dolls made to symbolize them.

In my own experiences, I definitely believe the nocebo effect is a valid occurrence. Just the thought of getting a headache are enough to give me one and my joints begin to ache just as I think of running marathons. Back in the day when I would pretend to be sick in order to skip school I would commonly fall ill later in the day with the symptoms I had falsely claimed I had been experiencing that morning.



Train vs. Penny

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I was looking into urban legends and I found one that was amusing to me, both by the outrageous claim and the fact it brought back a very old memory. The tale was that of a penny, having been laid on a train track, derailed a train form its fixed course. This story was proven false and is very entertaining, the thought of a single penny vs. a train is quite humorous.
The claim is extraordinary, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Using that scientific thinking principal we can easily reject this claim. If a penny could really derail a train you would be hearing about the dangers of coins on the train tracks in the news, and these dangers would be common knowledge. I have laid many pennies on train tracks and was never told of any such news story or witness such an event.
Other things have been laid on train tracks, such as bricks, that have derailed trains. This leads to the ruling out of rival hypotheses principal of scientific thinking. When this myth started there was probably one occurrence of something that was on the train tracks. It could not have been a penny, but there may have been a penny on the track as well as a much more sizable obstacle on the tracks.

Source: http://www.snopes.com/science/train.asp

Here is an interview with Manson about the Columbine massacre:

April 20, 1999 will always be a day that lives in infamy. On that morning in Littleton, Colorado, two teenagers went to school in attempt to kill as many classmates and faculty members as they could. This event is known as the Columbine High School massacre. After this tragedy, many people wanted answers as to why two teenagers were so full of hate and anger that they wanted to shoot and bomb their school. While looking for these answers, the police and the community found out that both of the boys listened to the rocker Marilyn Manson, who is known for his gothic and dark music, which has recurring themes of death and anger. After this correlation was discovered, Manson was given the majority of the blame for the Columbine massacre. So, is Manson's music the main reason these teenage boys committed murder? If so, why do other people who listen to his music not have violent outbursts?
This debate on whether or not Manson is responsible for the Columbine massacre is an example of the correlation vs. causation debate, which is one of the six research methods discussed in Psy1001. Correlation vs. causation means that as critical thinkers, we must separate relationships and causations. Did listening to Manson's music force the boys to commit the Columbine massacre? Or are there more variables that need to be taken into account?
Studies conducted by researchers Pirkis and Blood, described in the link below, did show that there is a relation between listening to heavy metal and suicide risk. However, the article states that it is unknown if the two are directly related. That means that listening to heavy metal does not guarantee that the person will commit murder or suicide. The study could mean that teenagers who already have suicidal thoughts prefer to listen to heavy metal, because the messages in the songs relate to how they are feeling. It is most likely that listening to Manson's music was not the only factor in the teenagers' decision to murder their classmates. If it were the only factor, then every listener of Manson would be a murderer also.
I believe that Manson was singled out because he is an easy scapegoat. His music is dark and disturbing, so it was easy to blame his gothic lifestyle for the massacre. The Littleton community wanted answers to why the massacre occurred, and I believe that the relationship between Manson and the boys' decision was an easy thing for the public to pinpoint and choose as the reason for the tragedy.



Here is an interview with Manson about the Columbine massacre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYApo2d8o_A

April 20, 1999 will always be a day that lives in infamy. On that morning in Littleton, Colorado, two teenagers went to school in attempt to kill as many classmates and faculty members as they could. This event is known as the Columbine High School massacre. After this tragedy, many people wanted answers as to why two teenagers were so full of hate and anger that they wanted to shoot and bomb their school. While looking for these answers, the police and the community found out that both of the boys listened to the rocker Marilyn Manson, who is known for his gothic and dark music, which has recurring themes of death and anger. After this correlation was discovered, Manson was given the majority of the blame for the Columbine massacre. So, is Manson's music the main reason these teenage boys committed murder? If so, why do other people who listen to his music not have violent outbursts?
This debate on whether or not Manson is responsible for the Columbine massacre is an example of the correlation vs. causation debate, which is one of the six research methods discussed in Psy1001. Correlation vs. causation means that as critical thinkers, we must separate relationships and causations. Did listening to Manson's music force the boys to commit the Columbine massacre? Or are there more variables that need to be taken into account?
Studies conducted by researchers Pirkis and Blood, described in the link below, did show that there is a relation between listening to heavy metal and suicide risk. However, the article states that it is unknown if the two are directly related. That means that listening to heavy metal does not guarantee that the person will commit murder or suicide. The study could mean that teenagers who already have suicidal thoughts prefer to listen to heavy metal, because the messages in the songs relate to how they are feeling. It is most likely that listening to Manson's music was not the only factor in the teenagers' decision to murder their classmates. If it were the only factor, then every listener of Manson would be a murderer also.
I believe that Manson was singled out because he is an easy scapegoat. His music is dark and disturbing, so it was easy to blame his gothic lifestyle for the massacre. The Littleton community wanted answers to why the massacre occurred, and I believe that the relationship between Manson and the boys' decision was an easy thing for the public to pinpoint and choose as the reason for the tragedy.


In chapter three we learned the importance that adoption studies have in the Nature and Nurture debate. Through adoption studies one is able to observe whether a trait is biologically or environmentally influenced. If the characteristic is similar to that of the child's biological parent it is deemed "biologiaclly influenced". If the characteristic is similar to the adopted parents and not to the biological parents then it is deemed "environmentally influenced". One major confound in Adoption studies is selective placement, this is where the child is placed in a home similar to that of their biological parents. This has lead investigators to deem characteristics as biologically influenced, when they are truly environmentally influenced. In the mid 60's one man came up with the perfect study, he would seperate identical twins at infancy and observe their behavior as they grew. This is now known as the Neubauer Study. In this specific experiment, the twins were put into families where the two sets of parents looked very much alike, along with the son. Both of these families had adopted a son from the same agency. The boys looked very similar. Now looking back, there were some very noticeable similarities between the twins. Both girls had the same haircut at ages 7 and 11, they were both the editor in chief of their school newspaper and they both went to school studying film. After the twins had met and shared life stories, they stated that they share the same interest in books and music and that they share the same personality.The documented results for this experiment will not be available until 2066, because Neubauer has put them in an Archive at Yale University because he feels that the public would view his study as unethical. The twins on the other have published a book entitled "Identical Strangers". In their book they narrate their life stories ,along with the multiple behavioral and physical similarities they have shared throughout their lives apart.Their personal belief is that atleast 50% of one's personality is due to genetic makeup. Viola Bernard, a child psychologist for this experiment stated that twins should be raised in seperate homes, because they are often dressed the same and treated the same and she feels that it interferes with their independent psychological development. This set of twins in particular, seemed(for the most part) to have developed fairly similar while being raised in two seperate homes. This adoption study provided evidence proving that even when raised in different homes, identical twins grow up very similarly due to their genetic makeup.

Over the past decade EA sport's Madden has become by far the most popular football video game. The game originally had John Madden on the cover each year. Starting in 2000 they decided to put NFL stars on the cover. After a couple years of doing this observers came up with the theory call the "Madden Curse". This theory claims that whoever appears on the cover will have a decline in performance, typically due to injury, the following year. A more in depth explanation and history can be found here.


Some year it appears as if the curse was real. For example in 2004 Michael Vick was put on the cover. That year Vick broke his Fibula in a preseason game, one day after the game was released. Ray Lewis was put on the cover in 2005 and that was the only year of his career so far he was not voted into the pro-bowl! These findings have not been consistent or replicable. For example Larry Fitzgerald appeared on the 2009 cover and had a career season and led his team to the playoffs the following year.
Some of the examples are quite spooky although. After appearing on the 2003 cover Marshal Faulk experienced career low numbers and was never quite the same. But could there be an alternative explanation? Have observers ruled out rival hypotheses? During the year Faulk was on the cover he was 32. This is considered old in the NFL and could explain his decline in performance. Another explanation for apparent decline in numbers could lie in the Madden cover decision process. Players who appear on the cover are often chosen as they had a stellar year the previous season. They typically chose a player who was the MVP or won the super bowl. An alternative factor could be that it is incredibly difficult to repeat such a stellar performance back to back seasons in the NFL.
While I do not believe in the "Madden Curse" it is quite eerie. I was rather upset when Aaron Rodgers was completely y snubbed by not getting on the cover, but who knows, the Pack are 4-0 and the Browns are 2-2. Call me superstitious but maybe it's a good thing!

This question is often irrefutably answered with the conclusion that society and upbringing is the cause of criminal activity among people, however I never quite believed that and went looking for some supportive evidence. In the article "Behavior: Are Criminals Born or Made?" the question once again comes up only this time it is answered with a different approach. I have always had the mindset that even with a terrible childhood and horrific upbringing a person must have a certain characteristic that would make them more prone to be a criminal than someone else. With recent research two scientists conducted in the article, it turns out my hunch is somewhat correct.

With the data gained from the experiments, and not to my surprise, the results claimed that criminals can be characterized by much more than just a bad upbringing. I have noticed this on multiple occasions when walking through a shady area of a city or watching some cops show where an offender is getting arrested, they often have the same physique as well as personality traits. It is somewhat of a stereotype I'll admit, but it very rarely fails to produce the correct assumption and can be claimed as another factor that leads into being a criminal. In my eyes, these factors such as aggressive personalities and having a stronger body type can be larger players in the role of being inclined to criminal activity. Crime requires a person to be aggressive and intimidating in some cases, and having a powerful physique and the abrasive personality can make this all the easier for the person, and I know that when I have a strength I will play on it until it essentially becomes a weakness. This principle can be applied here and make people more inclined to use their strengths in a profitable way: crime.

While the whole nature versus nurture debate in this topic may still favor nurture, I do believe there is compelling evidence on the side of nature. Stereotypes may be a harsh thing to apply to a person and throw them into the category of criminal, but these stereotype characteristics may have more justification to them than most will currently admit.

The link for the article can be found here:

Big Feet, Little Evidence

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You know what big feet mean? Nothing. The myth of Bigfoot has been around since the early 1900's. Although this myth is one of the oldest known, it has some of the least amount of reliable evidence to support the claims.

The most famous of this "evidence" is the Patterson footage in 1967. This video catches the supposed creature on camera walking through the woods. This video is a microcosm of the entire myth itself because of the lack of any other proof except for what was seen. Most of the reports are single eyewitness accounts that can be verified in no way.

These extraordinary claims of seeing Bigfoot require extraordinary evidence. This principle of scientific thinking cannot be backed up by the evidence that is being found by Bigfoot enthusiasts. The best evidence is a video that has never been confirmed to be true. All of the other evidence is eyewitness accounts late at night in many cases.

Another principle of scientific thinking that is broken here is Occams Razor. Many of the eyewitnesses believe that they are hearing or seeing something much more complicated than they actually are. If the principal of Occams Razor is used there are many simpler explanations such as everyday wildlife.

The claims around Bigfoot will always exist because of the human fascination for the unknown and unexplainable, but with good scientific procedures maybe the myth surrounding Bigfoot can be solved once and for all.

Patterson Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJjUt2sXo5o

As we learned in Chapter 3, nature vs. nurture is the debate that has spanned for many generations. Nature vs. Nurture, as defined in our textbook is the shaping of our nervous system by our genes (nature) and our environment (nurture). In other words, is our behavior affected by our genes? Or the environment in which we live in?

An example of the debate between nature and nurture would be the story of two thirty-five year old women that were seperated at birth and reunited in 2004. These women were raised by two seperate families in two different countries. One had been from Paris, and the other from New York. This study is the only one of it's kind that seperated twins at birth to test nature vs nurture.

The results of this study found that genetics make up more than 50% of their personalities, but they both have different stories and backgrounds in which they lived for thirty-five years. Also in a photo shown, it is indicated that the twin from Paris has darker hair, and the twin from New York has red hair. Also, the twins do not look as if they are identical; they look related, but not identical.

I think this story is interesting, because the person that decided to seperate them from birth refused to apologize, and there are still more out there that are seperated from their families for science. I also think it's cool that the twins look nothing alike as well. It adds to the science that maybe some people, given that they must look a certain way to fit in with their adopted families, alter their appearances to make themselves look different than the way that they were born. These findings are also locked away to be uncovered in 2066 at Yale University.


More often than one would expect some very trivial headlines pop up in even the most reliable news resources. Some that are particularly interesting to me are the constant accounts of the Virgin Mary and her many manifestations. She will appear as the burnt part of your toast, in the wrinkles of your sticky bun, in the scratches on the bottom of your Teflon pan, or in the reflections on the panels of the office building you work in. This recognition should sound familiar, as we learned in chapter one that humans often experience pareiodolia, which is defined in the Lilienfeld text as "The phenomenon of seeing meaningful images in meaningless visual stimuli."
People from Clearwater, Florida likely know of the event characterized on youtube as "A Miracle in Clearwater." This refers to a face on the side of an office building that had what some thought to be an uncanny likeness to the Virgin Mary. In one video created for the likeness to Mary (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWul9UC_w_c) the author of the video asserts that the "apparition" was sighted on December 17th, and this date being so close to Christmas led many viewers to believe that the reflection had something to do with the birth of Christ. This tendency to make a connection is called apophenia "perceiving meaningful connections among unrelated and even random phenomena" (Carroll, 2003) It could be argued that only religious persons would see any significance in the event, but as the Lilienfeld text states "Our brains are predisposed to make order out of disorder and find sense in nonsense." Because it is human to want to dismiss entropy, we make sense of things that should not make sense sometimes, and this leads many people to make what is classified in our book as an extraordinary claim. What the people who truly believed that this was an apparition likely did not consider was why the Virgin Mary was showing up on "A Finance company office building," or how she came to be there. In a video from ted.com, Michael Shermer reveals that a sprinkler hitting a palm tree and then the building caused the image. He jokes that the same image showed up on the backside of the building, but that "they started to wipe off, I guess you can only have one miracle per building." (http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_shermer_on_believing_strange_things.html)

By placing the tendency we have to create meaningless connections in the pseudoscience section of the text, the author has given the condition negative connotations. I don't believe that creating such connections is always a bad thing, it can spark creativity, and it keeps people happy, and gives them a sense of security and control.

Racism: Is it in Everyone?

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Many people believe that everyone is a little bit racist and many studies agree with their evidence. A recent psychological study published on ScienceDaily.com looks at the root of racism and how it can be that everyone is a little racist. The study named, "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist, but It May Not Be Your Fault", gave people a survey with words to match based on their first reaction. Words such as black and lazy, white and greedy, old and wise, young and healthy, etc were the most popular matches and had the fastest response time. Other words were matched like summer and warm, night and cool to show that not only racial prejudices, but also other associations are made quickly by people.

Now it seems obvious that summer is warm and night time is cool, but where did we pick up these racist associations? How did we associate black with lazy or women with weak? The study points out that media and the environment have influenced us and installed these beliefs in us. The study looked at books newspapers and magazines from the BEAGLE and found that the most common words matched in the study showed up together the most in all of the literature. So does that mean we were raised or possibly nurtured into believing these things?

It is difficult to falsify these claims as it is hard to find evidence against it and this study could probably be replicated if the claims are true. However, the fact that the environment affected us enough to instill our beliefs in us shows how nurturing can really affect our behaviors in many ways. Now just because everyone may associate two words together that show racism doesn't mean everyone behaves and acts out as a racist. It is a scary thought that we might not have control of our own beliefs from an early age because the media available to us puts those ideas in our head.

Can we break free of the environment instilling the racist thoughts in us?
It is difficult to say, maybe things can change.

I am going to put this out there right away and say that I am a believer in ghosts and the whole paranormal thing because I think I have experienced some activity in this area. I'm going to try and not be confirmation biased. There is little to no scientific evidence that shows that ghosts exist. I think that most of the evidence that proves this pseudoscience is true is anecdotal evidence. We believe ghosts exist from the stories we hear, and tend to believe that things happen to us because mysterious things have happened to other which makes it more believable. My family thinks that our house may have some "spirits" in it because we hear a lot of noises at night and things get knocked around in the kitchen when no one is there. Maybe we should consider the sixth scientific principle though: Occam's Razor. Although the fact that it could be actions of the paranormal that we hear/see, it could also very well just be the house or appliances making noises, or a slight breeze moving something, or there may not be a reason that something falls. Something in the kitchen could just fall for no reason. We also need to pay attention to the fifth scientific principle of extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. There is no scientific evidence that proves the ghosts exist, but then again, nothing is ever "proved." There have been some studies that say geomagnetic fields cause many of the experiences and feelings associated with ghostly activity, according to Professor Michael Persinger of Laurentian University in Canada. With such extraordinary claims as seeing ghosts and spirits of the after life, there needs to be some pretty extraordinary evidence to support this claim, I agree. But is there even a way to test this idea? How do we know what equipment to use or where to go or anything about the research process to finding ghostly evidence? We just have to keep trying until we achieve substantial evidence that can be used to build this theory. Will we ever know if there are actually entities causing things to go bump in the night? Or are the things we see and hear just our minds playing tricks on us? Is it really just geomagnetic fields stimulating our temporal lobes?

Within the textbook, there have been many real life examples along with the text. In Chapter 3 I was interested with Broca's Area- a language area in the prefrontal cortex that helps to control speech production (Lilienfeld, 98). The example with this text was a patient named Tan who only responded with the word "Tan" when asked a question, due to brain damage that resulted in a speech disorder.

When some research, I found the case of a young girl named Sarah Scott. She was 18 years old when she had an unexpected ischemic stroke, which resulted in brain damage: a communication disorder called Aphasia, which results from Broca's Area being affected. Attached are three Youtube videos of Sarah answering questions about herself and her condition. The videos span over two years, and I felt that Sarah's improvement is especially important.

From the first video, Sarah has difficulty answering questions about her name and age. During the last video, she answers them easily. Though I thought this may be because of repetition and familiarity, I continued watching and saw that she undoubtedly made improvements. This reminded me of Chapter 3, discussing brain damage and how there is limited regeneration when it occurs (Lilinfeld, 92). However, aside from stem cells, our book mentions another way that may allow regeneration of neurons, and that is Neurogenesis- creation of new neurons in the adult brain.
Though the definition says adult brain, would that be considered 18 years old? It is possible that Sarah's improvement has come from her brain not being completely fully developed as an 'adult' brain.

It is possible that her intensive speech therapy has triggered neurogenesis, because it plays a role in learning. Also, aiding recovery following brain injury may trigger neurogenesis and induce the adult nervous system to heal itself; Sarah is receiving aid through her supportive family, speech therapy, as well as practicing reading and writing.

I feel that this is possibly a case of neurogenesis, although it may also be the fact that Sarah's brain is in the later stage of development. A multiple amount of variables are taking place- her age, her condition, the time that she had the stroke and was given medicine to stop it, her intensive speech therapy as well as her home life. However, it is fascinating to see that neurogenesis could also plausibly be part of the solution of her improvement.

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After studying the six principles of scientific thinking, Occam's Razor struct me as the most interesting. It can be applied to a myriad of supposed paranormal events that can usually not be disproven as a paranormal explanation; this is why we often consider the paranormal explanation for these events. The paranormal explanation for random phenomena such as UFOs, reincarnation, psychics, and near death out of body experiences occurrences seem abnormally exciting in our ordinary lives.
When studying Occam's Razor, a personal experience as a child came to mind. When I was 7 years old, I awoke Christmas morning like any bright eyed, exciting child at 6 am to discover what santa had delivered this year. To my surprise, this year was different; santa had left more than presents under our tree. My dad dressed my brother and I and brought us out to the driveway to see what santa had left, it was tracks from his sleigh left from landing on our roof! We were so excited, but I was old enough to question if santa could really fly all the way to our house and land on our roof to deliver presents. After thinking it through, I figured santa must have left those sleigh tracks, how else would they have gotten there?
Even as a child Occam's Razor determined my reasoning for a random phenomena. A paranormal explanation seemed more simple than trying to determine how else these sleigh tracks could have appeared...

-Amber Etzel

Critical thinking as have been learnt in Chapter one, the concept includes six principles, ruling out rival hypotheses, correlation and causation, falsifiability, replicability, extraordinary claims and occam's razor.

Ruling out rival hypotheses means that we need to check if there was alternative explanation for a finding or statement.

Correlation VS. Causation represents that the correlation between two things doesn't represent the logic causation between them. Those two concept should be think separately.

Falsifiability shows that for a scientific statement, whether we could disprove it. A scientific hypotheses should be able to be disproved by people.

Replicability is the way to show the valid of a test. During experiement and research, we need to make sure that our result could be repeat and has the same result again and again to show that it is a valid answer instead a product of consequences.

Extraordinary claims is that when notice some really extraordinary claim or findings, same extraordinary evidences should be showed to prove the hypotheses and the claim.

The last one, occam's razor, is saying that sometimes, the simplest answer may the best answer to explain.

I think these six principles important because it is the way we could get over traps in daily life not only about scientific statement as well as daily life affairs. Also, since I want to learn social psychology which involve with not only individual human, small environment around him, but the whole society as well as many different kinds of person in it. There are so many different element involve in social psychology making it quite hard to isolate all the procedure in behaviors. Especially the second principle, causation and correlation, which is one of the most confused part in social psychology I think, because many people in our daily life has tendency of saying "A cause B" just because they show up together. I believe, remembering and learning analysis correlation and then using logical details to track causation is the way a social psychologist do. Also, I am still trying combine scientific thinking principles and oriental philosophy to learning the social effect and position of it in oriental culture.

One concept brought up in Psychology 1001 thus far is illusory correlations from Chapter 2, "Research Methods," of Scott Lilienfeld's textbook, Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding. An illusory correlation is the ongoing belief of a certain claim or association to be true even though there is no statistical data or scientific evidence backing it up.
I think that at some point or another everyone entertains the idea that these myths could be real (usually when we are younger and eager to believe what anyone else tells us). But then you reach a point in your life when you realize that there needs to be evidence supporting such outrageous claims if you're going to continue believing them. For me, it is amazing that many urban legends and superstitions have survived multiple generations without scientific proof. However, it is still interesting to see the concept of belief perseverance in action; and then being able to use the 6 principles of scientific thinking to discern whether or not I want to believe in it.

Growing up, I fed into the superstition of Friday the 13th. Every Friday the 13th I would take note of the negative things that happened to me on that day and attribute it to that myth, not thinking it was just coincidence. I have provided the link to an article about Friday the 13th and the persistent belief that it is unlucky. http://urbanlegends.about.com/cs/historical/a/friday_the_13th.htm. This article also includes a link to a study done in 1993, which was published in the British Medical Journal supporting the 13th's unluckiness. In this case, I used the principle of correlation vs. causation.
In the study done by the Department of Public Health by the United Kingdom in 1993, I questioned it using the correlation vs causation principle. Although it reported a standard deviation of p<0.05 between the variables of the number of vehicles on the road, the numbers of shoppers in supermarkets, and the number of hospital admissions due to accidents, the exact cause of this statistic still cannot be identified, only assumed. Is there a 3rd variable causing this correlation? Is it just coincidence?
And going along with the principle of replicability, can we do another study and get the same results? I was not able to find another one.

Throughout the article, there were many theories and ancient beliefs as to why Friday and the number 13 were considered unlucky; but there was no scientific data. A lot of the theories had to do with death and religion, which are both scientific mysterious. We cannot know what happens when we die and we cannot verify if there really is a god. I think that people feed into these superstitions to satisfy their own need for answers--even if they are wrong. People seek explanations to the unknown no matter how absurd it is. It's a great way to entertain ones self as well.

A sociologist and criminologist at the University of Alberta, Kevin Haggerty, claims his new research proves that serial killers are not shaped by psychological factors, but by society. Haggerty says that as a whole, psychology has made little to no progress in understanding serial killers. He claims that in his research he has found that in many cases, serial murderers choose their victims based on the individuals that society deems unwanted. The example he gives is Robert Pickton from Vancouver, who chose victims who all happened to be female prostitutes.
Haggerty also says that the fame serial killers get from the media may provoke more fame-seeking individuals to pursue the act of killing.

Many, including myself, would disagree with these findings completely. In the case of society playing a factor in how serial killers choose their victims, Haggerty may be confusing correlation with causation. Just because society alienates a certain group of people, and some serial killers victimize that same group of people, does not mean that the serial killers victimize these people BECAUSE of their alienation. It very well could be that the two factors have little to do with one another.
Also, Haggerty's "research" on the effects of fame on serial killers is not very replicable. Eric Hickey, a sociologist and criminal psychologist, pointed out that only some serial killers seem to be motivated by fame and society. He gives examples of killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Gary Ridgway, both very well known serial killers who were not interested in their killings being publicized, to show that Haggerty's "findings" do not provide an explanation for why serial killers do what they do.
It is more realistic to assume that serial killers do what they do based on a combination of factors relating to both nature and nurture.

The article about Haggerty's ideas can be found here:

View a video about why some psychologists believe more men are serial killers than women here:

Correlation Studies

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We have talked some about correlational studies. Correlational studies are designs meant to examine the extent to which two variables are related. There are three types of correlation; negative, positive, and zero correlation. Negative is when one variable goes up the other goes down or in the opposite direction. Positive is when both variables go in the same direction. A zero correlation means that neither of the variables are related. I believe this is very important in psychology because psychologists do numerous studies and it is important to be able to find out whether two variables are correlated or not.
In psychology we can't always be sure that two variables are correlated. Of course there are studies, like the one we did in class, where we graphed the correlation of quiz scores to exam scores. If you think about it, those two variables make sense. In most cases the higher the quiz scores the higher the exam score. But, sometimes there are outrageous correlations that don't make any sense. For example, eye color and math exam score. There would most likely be a zero correlation and those two things are pretty ridiculous to correlate in the first place. Sometimes there are studies that you just can't tell and that is when the research and experiments can help to support your claim.
Here is an article about an interesting correlation study I found:

As today's scientists make efforts to solve the seemingly unanswerable questions to issues like curing terminal illnesses or learning about different functions of our brains and bodies, about 7-8% of this published researched is performed on animals (Lilienfeld 69). In performing this type of research, the ethical treatment of these tested animals has brought forth a highly controversial issue all over the world. While some claim animal research has given us useful insight into the human mind and functions, opposers like the world-reknown PETA organization state on their wedsite that ".. animals have rights and deserve to have their best interests taken into consideration, regardless of whether they are useful to humans."

It is estimated that mice and rats account for 90% of the animals that are used in laboratory testing according to the S.O.S group at the University of Georgia's website. Among other animals to be experimented on are primates, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, rabbits, and various others. Some of the purposes of these animals are to test human medications to determine harmful side effects, or to inject them with harmful diseases or even cancer in order to try to find cures to these terminal illnesses.

cat experiment 2.jpg

With both sides taken into account, my view on this issue is with the PETA organization in that since animals do not have the ability to stick up for themselves and give consent to their bodies being used in experiments, this type of research should not be allowed. There are so many different types of new testing and scans that scientists have developed that can be used safely on humans like CTs, MRIs, PETs, fMRIs, MEGs, etc. that there should be even less of a reason to have to resort to inhumane practices on defenseless animals. My stake in the defense against this type of testing is also strong due to my ownership of an animal myself. Though my dog has never been tested on, I could never allow myself to think it's understandable or ethical to allow an animal of any kind to be harmed or killed for the purpose of proving or disproving someone's research.

*Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, Scott Lilienfeld, etc.

Twins Separated at Birth

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One important concept from Psychology 1001 text is the study of Nature vs. Nurture. Gregor Medel was the first to suggest heredity. By studying a series of pea plants and how they carried different characteristics through generation to generation. Now we understand that chromosomes are responsible for carrying out this process. Genes are accountable for telling how tall one will be, your hair color, eye color, and personality types; or are they? The age-old question nature vs. nurture comes into play while talking about genetics and heritability, meaning what is one able to inherit from your genes? Nature vs. nurture seeks to find out this question using family studies, twin studies, and adoption studies. Scientists use these three measures to track the presences or absences among certain trait in different relatives. Family studies measure what traits are passed along in families. Twin studies are the easiest to determine because of some sets of twins being dizygotic. Since these sets of twins are identical in genes, one is able to figure out whether genes are passed on through genes, or simply by environmental factors. Adoption studies examine how many traits are passed on using environmental factors. If the adopted child still contains personality genes from their parents and not from their new environments.

This is an important concept to me because it makes me wonder if the way I act is actually genetic or just in part due to whom I have grown up and lived with all my life. Being away at college it makes me wonder if I will adapt to my new environment and change who I am just because I am not around the same people anymore.

Correlation vs. Causation: Does A really cause B? With these twins separated at birth, is the reason they have similar interests in many things due to the fact that they have the same genes or simply just a coincidence?

The brain really has a mind of its own. This can be seen when talking about the placebo effect. The placebo effect is the improvement resulting from the mere expectation of improvement. In an experiment testing the effectiveness of a certain drug, one group may be given a placebo, or a blank pill. The group does not know that they have received a blank pill, and records positive improvements. This leads scientist to believe that the mere fact that people know they are taking a pill, they trick their body into thinking they are getting better. The placebo effect can help us determine how effective things are, such as medicine.
Here is an example of the workings of a placebo affect:


Though this example is a bit different than a blank pill, it still shows the same effect. College students wanted to prank new freshman by serving non alcoholic beer. The freshman didn't know that they were being served non alcoholic beer and were fooled into thinking that they were drunk. Based on this video, they did in fact feel intoxicated and were even vomiting.
It is hard to tell if anything really will become of the placebo effect. Will it eventually be used as a cure? If people record to significantly feeling better after unknowingly taking a placebo pill, could it actually be used as a cure? Though it is used in experimental design, I think it deserves some of its own experimenting itself.

In the Weekly World News, an entertainment tabloid, there was a claim made that stated that in less than six years the sun was going to blow up. The evidence stated was that there was a large explosion that had occurred on the surface of the sun that sent a massive plume of fire into space captured by satellite. The writers claim to have spoken to and gotten quotes on this information from a credible scientist. The scientist gave the writes at WWN the idea that the sun was over heating and would soon incinerate the earth and all of its inhabitants in less than six years.
These statements made by WWN are not credible for a few reasons. Primarily, the scientist that the WWN writers spoke with has no affiliation with the credible scientific association that the article claims. Therefore, his testimony and comments regarding the explosion on the sun being a "sign" of the sun incinerating earth are not even ones to be considered. Also, the word "sign" does not meant that there is any evidentiary support or research done, but simply just his opinion. There could be other explanations and this violates the principle of extraordinary claims, along with my next point. Second, the WWN is an entertainment tabloid with no reliability. In fact, WWN produces many articles that are hoaxes and speculation based on minimal or no evidence, such as an article stating that there was a plan to blow up the moon to change the effect of global warming, which turned out to be a totally false article as well. Finally, this goes against Occam's razor because the thought of the fact the sun had an explosion will lead to the incineration of the earth is far-fetched.
The simplest explanation is probably the best in this case, which is that there was a solar flare coupled with a buildup of physical gas causing a massive eruption. This however does not mean that there is a reason to worry that we will be blown to smithereens.

The video is only 20 seconds long and pretty cool, take a look!


We've all heard common myths; "if you swallow gum it'll stay in your stomach for years", "a dog's mouth is cleaner than a humans", and "guys think about sex every seven seconds." But can these myths actually be proven true?

It's a pretty accepted fact that men think about sex often, but when it comes to people claiming that men think about it multiple times a minute... that's pushing it a little bit.

Extraordinary Claims: Let's logically think about this... if you assume that the average man is awake for 16 hours a day that would mean the average man thinks about sex more than 8,000 times a day. Now I'm not saying this is impossible, but it is a pretty far reach. There is no absolute way to measure the amount of times sex goes through an individual's mind in a given period of time. In order to prove this supposed theory you need to maintain a constant measure in that person's natural environment. To measure this number you would need to map the areas of the brain and pinpoint the area that reveals sexual feelings, and in order to do that the subject would need to be in a laboratory setting.

There is no way of knowing the origin of this myth; many assume it was a claim made to put a tangible number on the subject matter for the opposite gender to grasp. Over time it has become a popular topic of research and discussion, and it has been found that it is due mainly to the way in which the male brain was wired; they are more inclined to have not only a stronger sex-drive but also a more straightforward one.

The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction is known to many as the "bible of sexual studies." They have conducted many studies over the years focusing around sex drive. One in particular study called Sexual Behavior in the Human Male found that "54% of men think about sex everyday or several times a day, 43% a few times per month or a few times per week, and 4% less than once a month" (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, Michaels, 1994). On the other end of things it was found that "19% of women think about sex everyday or several times a day, 67% a few times per month or a few times per week, and 14% less than once a month" (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, Michaels, 1994).


"Gloomy Sunday" Suicides

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Here is a provided link to the hoax I found about a claim that a Hungarian song "Gloomy Sunday" that allegedly caused many suicides in Hungary and more in the United States after it was translated and re-recorded by Billie Holiday. Lyrics are provided. http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/gloomy.asp.

--Just in case you're curious, here is the link to the original, Hungarian version written by Rezso Seress and Laszo Javor in 1933: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WBZwLkvpFI
--and the American version by Billie Holiday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48cTUnUtzx4
More recent and modern versions have also be created.

This hoax claims that the song and lyrics caused the deaths of up to 200 people worldwide after the songs release in Hungary and translated to English by Billie Holiday in the U.S. The first questions that arise to validate this claim would be: How were the suicides linked to the song? Did the song itself cause many individuals to kill themselves, or were they linked in some other way?

Suicides were linked to the song in a variety of ways, some left suicide notes with references to lyrics, held Gloomy Sunday sheet music in their hands, or had "Gloomy Sunday" playing when they died. These claims could have been placed by some biased by the people that found them dead or they may have believed they found references to the song when there were none (confirmation bias).

Firstly, we cannot disprove or disprove this hoax because it is not falsifiable. We simply cannot bring back the dead and conduct a study to find out whether there is sufficient evidence that the song caused such emotional destruction that it led the listener to kill them self. We can only use inferences by clues left behind by the subjects.

Secondly, it is unclear whether or not the song caused the suicides, or if there was another or several other factors that influenced the person to commit. It is coincidental that many people referred to "Gloomy Sunday", but it is extremely common to have songs and lyrics referred to in the event of suicide. We could take many examples of songs and relate them to several suicides. For this reason it cannot be proven that the song is what caused the suicide. This is the most useful principle for evaluating this particular claim.

This hoax reminds me of the Judas Priest example of the alleged subliminal message in one of their songs that caused people to kill themselves.

The Blair Witch

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The Blair Witch

The Blair Witch Project, a movie released in 1999, followed the experiences of a group of college students that traveled into the backwoods of Maryland to search for the supernatural Blair Witch. The Blair Witch is the topic of an urban legend, or myth, common in rural Maryland. It is simply a horror story to tell small children. The Blair Witch Project follows these College students in a documentary style format as they search for the infamous Blair Witch. When night falls upon these college students, strange things begin to happen, the footage gets shaky, and flashes of light and complete darkness ensue. According to this documentary, the college students are never seen again and the film that the viewers watched was "found" in the forest.

Pretty scary, right? The way that this footage was filmed made it feel so real to the viewer. These college students found the Blair Witch and were never seen again. The Blair Witch Project created a nationwide fear for this supernatural being in Maryland. Except, here's the catch: before 1999, no one, not even those in rural Maryland, had ever heard of the Blair Witch. These college students that created the documentary also created the entire urban legend. About the time previews started airing for this new film, the students created dozens of websites explaining the legend of the Blair Witch. (http://www.blairwitch.com/mythology.html). People who viewed the movie believed that the idea of the Blair Witch originated over a century ago, when in reality, it was an urban legend from only months before. These students ingeniously used the media, pop culture, and most of all, the Internet, to spawn an entirely new urban legend that is still believed by some today.

This extraordinary claim of a 100-year-old urban legend was believed by the masses even though all the evidence about it popped up on the internet only months before the release. It is not even a story passed down from father to son over the generations; it is simply a story that appeared on the internet. This hardly counts as extraordinary evidence to back up extraordinary claims. People should have asked themselves "have I ever heard of the Blair Witch before this movie" and the truth would have been always, no.



Oh, and the college students that were never seen again? They were seen at the Oscars that year and no one thought anything strange of it.

Optical Illusions

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In chapter 4, we learned about illusions and how the brain can be tricked in seeing something that is not actually there. An optical illusion is textbook-defined as an "image that differs from virtual reality". This is exactly what Julian Beever does for a living. He is a sidewalk chalk artist who has been working all over the world to draw breathtaking optical illusions for almost 20 years. He has worked in the UK, Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Denmark, the USA and Australia. He uses a process called anamorphosis to create his drawings. Anamorphosis is basically another way of saying that his drawings are only recognizable from one exact angle. Take a look at this example:


Now, here is a picture of that same drawing from the wrong angle:


This type of sidewalk art is becoming more and more popular all over the world, even right on campus! A few days ago, I noticed a man drawing an optical illusion just like Beevers right outside of Coffman Memorial Union (seeing this drawing is what gave me the idea to write this blog post). He was drawing a picture of the Minneapolis skyline, but just by walking by you would have a hard time telling what the picture was of, unless you looked at it from just the right angle. Our brains are easily tricked by this phenomenon because, as we learned from our textbooks, our perception keeps our brain from seeing the reality of what is there. When we look at the above example, we see a swimming pool in the middle of the ground. Obviously, there is no swimming pool; it's just a drawing. We interpret what we see as a three dimensional image when in reality it is only two dimensional.

To find out more about Julius Beever and 3d sidewalk chalk drawings, simple google "sidewalk chalk optical illusion" or visit www.juliusbeever.net.

-Samantha Wojta

Can You Feel The Magic?

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I don't know about most of you but I have been a fan of magic shows my entire life. But reading into it I have always wondered if magic was truly real. Now that we have looked at the Scientific Principles it really has got me to start thinking. It's really easy to look at a few of these principles and just start looking back on everything you ever thought about magic.
Occam's Razor- Many people believe one explanation for the ability of one to perform magic is they posses some sort of supernatural abilities. This just seems a very common explanation for most things that we can't explain. Wouldn't it be simpler to think that these magicians are extraordinary showmen that practice their craft for hours and hours. They refine the skills the same a chef would to perfect a recipe, but in this case it's a trick.
Extraordinary Claims- Some of the tricks just seem way too incredible for any one person to be able to accomplish. Some of these would include making objects of extraordinary size just "disappear" into thin air or a puff of smoke. Also they claim to be able to take themselves and another individual and move them selves to distant lands.
Even after looking at some of these studies it has made me reevaluate everything I have thought about magic. I will still be a huge fan however because I still find some of these trick perfomed to be amazing. Real or not.

Free Will

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One important idea discussed in the Lilienfeld text is free will and whether it is an illusion. Free will is the ability to make decisions without any outside influence and it is not externally determined. This is debated in the free will-determinism debate, which asks the question: To what extent are our behaviors freely selected rather than caused by factors outside of our control. Which brings up the idea of free will as an illusion, meaning people do not really make their own choices because the choices are pre determined. Behaviorist B.F. Skinner argued "free will stems from the fact that we aren't consciously aware of the thousands of subtle environmental influences impinging on our behavior at any given moment" (Lilienfeld 35). This idea is important because it discusses how people form decisions and that everyone is making decisions that they might not necessarily want but the decisions that society has engraved upon us, which is why I find this idea very interesting. This in my opinion demonstrates how nature has a huge impact on our daily lives. Our environment, the people around us and what we have been grown up to believe to be the right decision influence our decisions which in turn makes us not really have free will. Even though people do have the power to go against all of this it is not as easy to do and people do not tend to they instead settle for these "premade choices." In the youtube video "The illusion of Free Will" discusses whether a conscious person or the brain makes the decision. From the experiment in the video it becomes clear that the brain makes the decision before the conscious person does in other words the unconscious mind makes the decision first. After viewing this video and reading more in depth about free will I believe that free will is made by our unconscious. I also began to wonder whether since the unconscious mind already makes a decision whether the conscious mind is able to change that decision. Also it has made me wonder if nature (the environment and people surrounding me) are really the ones that have influenced my unconscious or if it is pre-wired.

After studying the six principles of scientific thinking, I came across an article that demonstrates the principle that correlation does not mean causation.


A common correlational study compares the rates between changes in temperature and the number of crimes committed. As we know however, it cannot be automatically assumed that an increase in air temperature directly causes an increase or decrease in crime. In an article published by the Washington Post, journalist Shankar Vedantam discusses the correlation and possible causations of a decrease in crimes after long periods of heat. He notes that crime and high heat show a curvilinear shape, meaning that crime increases initially during a heat wave but then fell. But he also does a good job of recognizing that temperature is not the only factor in crime. For example, population density and time of year can effect criminal action. He also delves deeper into some other possible explanations for why temperature might not necessarily be the cause of an increase in crime. The possible explanation I found most interesting regarded increased alcohol consumption. When the heat goes up, so does alcohol consumption. When this happens, increased crime, especially assaults can take place. Yet another possible explanation, shows a potential reason why crime eventually falls during a particularly long heat wave. Psychologist Paul Bell states that "at a certain point, people prefer to leave rather than fight." Essentially, people might feel extra aggressive due to heat, but after a certain amount of time, the heat becomes too overwhelming.
All of these potential explanations for changes in the crime rate when there is an increase in heat show why it is important not to assume causation. The correlation-causation fallacy must be prevented so that we do not lose sight of outside variables. In this case, alcohol consumption can cause an increase in crime rather than the traditional belief that people become more aggressive when it is hot.

As we all are now fully aware there is still the endless debate of Nature Vs. Nurture studies. Twins potentially provide us with one of the most powerful techniques available for separating the influenced of genetic and environmental factors, and on psychological and behavioral traits. This process is called twin studies, as Lilienfeld would state in our text the logic of twin studies rests on the fact that identical twins are more similar genetically than are fraternal twins, if identical twins are more alike on a psychological characteristic we can infer that this characteristic is genetically influenced.
There are several articles every year that assures us there's a link between homosexuality and biological features, the headlines imply that people are born with tendencies which will make them gay or lesbian and that change of sexual orientation would be impossible. The article had discovered that only about 38% of the time the identical twin brother would be a homosexual, however the public still believes that genes "nature" still play a major role in if one "chooses" to be homosexual or not.

studies have also shown that many family factors had a strong influence on the sexual preference of the specific twins in which were involved in this particular case study, therefore making homosexuality and environmental "nurture" factor. The study had also showed that the same family environment was perceived in different ways by identical twins, these differences later lead to homosexuality in one twin but not in the other.

in conclusion no specific study shows if homosexual twins are genetically influenced or if it is simply family factors, this will be an ongoing debate for generations to come it's one of those studies that may go even further than genes itself. Will we ever come to a conclusion? so far all hypotheses have been ruled out, and there are still many more being made.

Source: . Bailey, JM; Pillard,RC (1991): A genetic study of male sexual orientation. Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 48, 1089-1096

Jean Piaget

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Cognitive Psychology, according to our text, intends to examine the role of mental processes on behavior. The understanding of this field grew tremendously because of Jean Piaget's theory on Cognitive Development. Jean Piaget was a French spoken man who lived from 1896-1980. His theory of Cognitive Development consisted of four stages.
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1. Sensorimotor: (birth to about age 2)
During this stage, the child learns about himself and his environment through motor and reflex actions. Thought derives from sensation and movement. The child learns that he is separate from his environment and that aspects of his environment -- his parents or favorite toy -- continue to exist even though they may be outside the reach of his senses. Teaching for a child in this stage should be geared to the sensor motor system. You can modify behavior by using the senses a frown, a stern or soothing voice -- all serve as appropriate techniques.
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2. Preoperational: (begins about the time the child starts to talk to about age 7)
Applying his new knowledge of language, the child begins to use symbols to represent objects. Early in this stage he also personifies objects. He is now better able to think about things and events that aren't immediately present. Oriented to the present, the child has difficulty conceptualizing time. His thinking is influenced by fantasy -- the way he'd like things to be -- and he assumes that others see situations from his viewpoint. He takes in information and then changes it in his mind to fit his ideas. Teaching must take into account the child's vivid fantasies and undeveloped sense of time. Using neutral words, body outlines and equipment a child can touch gives him an active role in.
3. Concrete: (about first grade to early adolescence)
During this stage, accommodation increases. The child develops an ability to think abstractly and to make rational judgments about concrete or observable phenomena, which in the past he needed to manipulate physically to understand. In teaching this child, giving him the opportunity to ask questions and to explain things back to you allows him to mentally manipulate information.
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4. Formal Operations: (adolescence)
This stage brings cognition to its final form. This person no longer requires concrete objects to make rational judgments. At his point, he is capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning. Teaching for the adolescent may be wide-ranging because he'll be able to consider many possibilities from several perspectives of learning (Definitions of Piaget's 4 Stages, Patient Teaching, Loose Leaf Library, Spring House Corporation,1990 http://www2.honolulu.hawaii.edu/facdev/guidebk/teachtip/piaget.htm).

Cognitive Psychology for me is very interesting because it has challenged the ideas of great thinkers like Freud who thought children were much more vegetable like. Piaget embraced the fact that children have depth perception. That they learn by cues, and are constantly observing there surrounding creating connections. However, these connections would not be possible if the slate did not contain some information previously, DNA. Tabula Rasa is the theory that we are born with a blank slate. This to me is a bogus Idea. First we must point out, in consideration of our biology, that scientists have over whelming evidence that DNA are the true survivors of time, and evolution. Through natural selection, our traits, have been passed down from parent to child. The DNA that was not capable of survival has died off. Our DNA produces human beings that are born with a recipe for survival. Newly born babies have abilities that were far overlooked before Jean Piaget's time, and the birth of Cognitive Psychology. In reality "The newborn is endowed with a rich set of reflexes, unlearned responses that are triggered by a specific form of stimulation (Human Development a Life Span View 5th ed., Robert V. Kail, John C. Cavanaugh; pp.84). None of us should be blind to the innate possibilities that our Biology has evolved for us. Through the understandings of Cognitive Psychology we can better understand how our Biology directs, and co-creates our human growth simultaneously with our environments.

Do you guys remember the Bogle family'? Twenty eight out of thirty four people from the Bogle family have been or still are in jail. The other two who did not go to jail either hanged themselves or got shot and were killed by the police. When we studied about them, I found them very interesting and started thinking whether nature is more important to determine who we are or nurture is more important.

There have been many debates about nature vs. nurture among psychologists to figure out which one determines who you are. They have invented adoption studies, twin studies (which the Psychology department of the University of Minnesota is famous for) and family studies. Nowadays, it is more acceptable to think that both the environment you grew up in and your genetic makeup are important. However, I wonder which one contributes a tiny bit more when people turn out to be criminals like serial killers. I found an interesting video clip about this topic from TED.com and want to share it with you before we discuss more.

So according to Professor Jim Fallon, the major violence gene called, MAO-A, that is on the X chromosome has to do with these psychopathic killers. When people have more MAO-A genes and have been exposed to violent things, it makes them to become criminals like murderers or serial killers. Isn't that interesting?

So my question here is would it be possible for us to use this data and research to predict serial killers before disasters occur like in the movie, Minority report?

"Hope in a Jar"

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"Hope in a Jar"

Looking younger is a high priority for many women, so it is no surprise that women will believe that a crème can do such a thing. Anti-aging crèmes are all over the market. For example, Olay's Pro X wrinkle smoothing crème is a product that claims to create younger looking, younger acting skin in 28 days:
The six principles of scientific thinking are there to save you from believing claims such as this:
Ruling out rival hypothesis: Is just using this crème going to help the skin? Or are other factors contributing to the skin's change? Tests have shown, according to ABC news, that some consumers, when given sugar-watered crème, still report a positive change in their skin. Also, according to the article, it states that they seem effective at first, but are actually harming the skin.
Correlation vs. causation: Just because the wrinkles on the skin are less apparent, this does not mean that the crème caused it. The article also states that with putting so many products onto your face, "you're going to gain some degree of inflammation and irritation which makes the skin swell slightly, plumping it up and making your wrinkles look temporarily less visible." So yes, the crème did cause the wrinkles to be less apparent, but not because of what they said would happen. The inflammation that the crème causes will go down in time, causing more wrinkles in the end anyway.
Falsifiability: It is not as much being disproved, but this product can be tested against other products that seem to work more and be more productive over a longer period of time. Sunblock is one example that seems so simple but is so effective. This prevents the sun's harmful rays from drying out your skin and is the "number one thing for anti-aging... as well as not smoking" (Cheung).
Replicability: The studies that were mentioned before, about giving the sugar crème to the consumers and they would still report a difference, were experiments that were replicated to prove that this product would "work" all the time.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence: As the article clearly states, and basic biology clearly taught us, skin is meant to keep things out, not take things in. So the fact that the products are trying to have your skin absorb vitamins and minerals is something very extraordinary and harmful to your skin. Pro X claims to, "Pro-X re-signals skin to repair the moisture barrier and boost surface-cell turnover rate." According to ABC news, if it were able to do this, it would be considered a drug by the FDA.
Occam's razor: If the product can change the cells in the skin, does it sound very simple?

Anti-aging crème could work for a short-term skin care, but in the long run is just "hope in a bottle".


Faking a muscle disorder?

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I came across an article about Desiree Jennings- a young, lively woman in the prime of her life, that is suddenly reduced to limping, stuttering, convulsions and other degenerating symptoms. She believes that a flu shot vaccination caused her current condition, however, some medical experts disagree.
My first thought after reading the article was, "This is an extraordinary claim." If it was the flu shot that caused her affliction, then why hasn't anyone else reported a similar case? I'm not saying that she is faking, just that maybe there is another cause, maybe she ruled out a rival hypothesis. Desiree became a poster child for the anti vaccine movement. Whether involuntarily or by choice, this label presented the movement with a new force, making me wonder if vaccines truly are a problem? Is it safe to take these drugs that can have such malicious effects? Well, it's definitely not safe to not get them. Vaccines have even managed to eliminate smallpox in the human population.
Thinking critically to avoid ruling out a rival hypothesis, I moved to the idea that she could be faking it. It seems like a lot of people are looking for ways to make themselves famous, whatever the repercussions. However, this claim would be difficult to disprove (falsifiability). Some medical experts believe that she is suffering from a psychogenic disorder rather than a physical or neurological disorder, meaning...it's all in her head. If her symptoms really were unconsciously invented, then her up and down improvements from various unreliable treatments would indicate the placebo effect. She anticipates her improvement after a treatment, therefore, she temporarily improves.
So, is she faking it? No, I don't think so. While her flu shot claim seems extraordinary and her symptoms can appear suspicious, doesn't mean she's lying. However, instead of an extremely complex, degenerating physical disorder, it seems more likely that she is unknowingly causing her own symptoms.



We all understand that many factors can affect the development of our emotions. There are two main factors of them : nature and nurture. Nature vs Natur is one of the classic battle of the main explaination of human behaviors in psychology.

"Nature" relates to biological and chemical properties of the human being. Sometimes, the short of or high levels of some specific hormone can markedly affect one's emotional development. For instance, we have lots of studies shown that a high level of testosterone can let someone's character become more courageous and aggressive, where else extreme amounts of estrogen will lead to a sensitivity and emotional character. T All of these are scientific approach to nature affect the development of emotion.

At meantime, "Nurture" refers to the environment that a human being is surrounded by. We also have evidence shown a significant impact on the influence to a child from its parents or other family members. For instance, a kid who is grow up in a emotional sensitivity family is more likely to accept the same values than who was grow up in a suppress family environment. For all these reasons, we cannot disaffirm that nurture also play a important roll in human's emotional developerment.

It is important to realize that emotional development is cumulative reslut from both these factors and it is necessary for us to achieve our fullest potential.

Source: http://blogs.psychcentral.com/dbt/2011/03/is-your-emotional-sensitivity-nature-or-nurture/

The brain is a paradoxical organ; we know so much about it yet still understand very little. We can identify the general functions associated with a region but still the brain remains a mystery. Trying to understand the complexity of brain functions and its amazing abilities can be a humbling experience.

In 2009 an unfortunate bicycle accident led me to experience another paradox; how the brain can be both fragile and resilient at the same time. I suffered from an Epidural Hematoma, essentially a blood clot on the outside of the outermost membrane of the brain, resulting in what is called a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The epidural hematoma was caused by a skull fracture and removed by performing an Emergency Craniotomy. This involved removing a section of skull just above the left frontal lobe, 'evacuating the hematoma', and replacing the bone with six titanium reinforcements.

The regions of my brain directly affected by the blunt impact and surgery were the left frontal and temporal lobe. The frontal lobe is associated with motor function, language, and executive functional and houses Broca's Area, a region vital for speech formation. The temporal lobe is related to hearing and overlaps with the frontal lobe on responsibilities of memory functions and language. Before I woke up from the procedure the outcome was a mystery. Brain injuries can manifest in a variety of ways and my parents were told to prepare for anything. When I did wake up, the outcome was a miracle.

After rehabilitative therapy, the residual effects range from balance problems to recollection of nonexistent memories. At times it is difficult to really know what to attribute to the brain injury (i.e. forgetting my keys daily), but overall the effects are minimal. According to the neurosurgeon, in his twenty years of work my cognitive bounce back was most surprising considering the damage and bleeding he saw. He said that my quick and strong recover most likely due to my age and good state of health. Could this have been neural plasticity working miracles?

Earthquakes are life-threatening phenomena that occur without notice. As a result, people are always looking for ways to predict them so that they have time to move their families to safe locations before the earthquakes strike. Some people believe that earthquakes are most likely to occur when the weather is hot and humid. Others are convinced that animals will act strangely before a major earthquake. However, many main ideas of psychology, including the six principles of critical thinking, can be used to discredit these outrageous statements.

The Ring of Fire forms a large circle around the Pacific Ocean and is where many of the world's main tectonic plates come together. As a result, it is a hotspot for volcanoes and frequent earthquake activity. This helps disprove the claim that earthquakes are more probable during hot and humid weather through correlation versus causation. Instead of the weather being the cause of the earthquake, it could be a third variable altogether, such as location. Places along the ocean are usually more humid than landlocked areas due to the wet air blowing in from the ocean. In addition, the Ring of Fire includes areas that are near the equator, which are known for being boiling hot. Knowing this, it is clear that weather may not be a cause of earthquakes.

The psychology principal of apophenia leads us to disprove the idea that animals will act peculiarly before an earthquake. Apophenia occurs when a person believes that two independent acts are related. On any given day, a person may view a squirrel erratically running around in a circle. Normally, a person will forget that this ever happened within a few days. However, if a devastating earthquake occurs later that afternoon, the person may wrongly come to the realization that the squirrel was acting that way due to the upcoming earthquake.

Until someone finds a way to successfully forecast earthquakes, we will have to continue looking for ways to reduce the damage they cause, such as by building stronger buildings. However, their prophecies must hold up on multiple occasions in order to be taken seriously. Do you think that scientists will ever discover a reliable way to predict earthquakes? If so, do you think we already have the technologies needed to do so and all we need to do is put them to a better use?

Article about the proposed causes of earthquakes courtesy of:

Information about the Ring of Fire courtesy of:

Ring of Fire image courtesy of:

The Secret of Nerve Zero

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Nerve zero is the secret cranial nerve in our brain and it is not mentioned in typical textbooks. Some anatomical evidences show the little nerve may be the hot button in our body. However its presence in human remains controversial.
Where is the mysterious nerve?
The nerve zero is in front of the olfactory nerve which was discovered by German scientist Gustav Fritsch in 1878 in the shark brain. The anatomists found it in vertebrates over the next century. That means nerve zero also in human body. Because other 12 cranial nerves have been numbered at that time, therefore, it is named nerve zero or terminal nerve.
How does it work?
One ending of nerve zero in the nose as the receptor of pheromone, another endings is located in the nasal cavity. Thus, the terminal nerve can send nerve fibers to the medical and lateral septal nuclei and preoptic areas which are sex and reproduction region that can be affected by the amygdala, hippocampus and hypothalamus, when the pheromone is received by the receptor in the nose.
Where is controversial?
There are some debates about nerve zero. Some scientists argue that nerve zero is the branch of the olfactory nerve and not a separate nerve. In other words, the sexual responses in animals body are stimulated by olfactory nerve.
What is new finding?
In 2007, Professor R. Douglas Fields suspected that nerve zero related to sex, if whales and dolphins reserved nerve zero in their brain, because they lost the sense of smell and olfactory nerve in the evolutionary exchange. He got a chance to open a pilot whale's brain and he found that a pair of nerve zero headed toward the whale's blowhole. In other words, nerve zero was a separate nerve.
More questions
However, there remains uncertain about zero nerve. We do not know the role of nerve zero in the sexual behavior in human and the dominance relationship between olfactory nerve and nerve zero is unclear.

Correlational Studies

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We have talked some about correlational studies. Correlational studies are designs meant to examine the extent to which two variables are related. There are three types of correlation; negative, positive, and zero correlation. Negative is when one variable goes up the other goes down or in the opposite direction. Positive is when both variables go in the same direction. A zero correlation means that neither of the variables are related. I believe this is very important in psychology because psychologists do numerous studies and it is important to be able to find out whether two variables are correlated or not.
In psychology we can't always be sure that two variables are correlated. Of course there are studies, like the one we did in class, where we graphed the correlation of quiz scores to exam scores. If you think about it, those two variables make sense. In most cases the higher the quiz scores the higher the exam score. But, sometimes there are outrageous correlations that don't make any sense. For example, eye color and math exam score. There would most likely be a zero correlation and those two things are pretty ridiculous to correlate in the first place. Sometimes there are studies that you just can't tell and that is when the research and experiments can help to support your claim.
Here is an article about an interesting correlation study I found:

The 10% Myth

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With the evidence we have today, the myth that we only use 10% of our brains sounds ridiculous. But back in the day, why did so many people believe it?

Nobody knows exactly how this myth started, but some psychologists believe Karl Lashley had something to do with it. In the 1920s and 30s, Lashley did many experiments on rats; he would make them learn a task with their brains intact, then he would remove large portions of their brains and make them redo the task (Washington). His results showed that the even without most of their brain, the rats could still accomplish the task. Therefore, Lashley concluded that most of the brain is unused and unnecessary. Another psychologist that contributed to this myth is William James. In the 1900s, James was discussing the brain and said, "The average person rarely achieves but a small portion of his or her potential" (How Stuff Works). From these men, the idea that people only use 10% of their brain was spread across the world.

In more recent years, psychics and major national companies have publicly announced their agreement with the myth that humans only use 10% of their brains. Psychics Caroline Myss, Uri Geller, and Michael Clark have all stated that everyone has the potential of psychic powers, but people don't know how to tap into it since they only use 10% of their brains (Snopes). In 1998, a U.S. Satellite Broadcasting ad showed a picture of a brain and the words, "You only use 11 percent of its potential" (Snopes). Because the ad was on television and from a seemingly reliable source, many people believed the myth.

However, it has been proven that we use more than 10% of our brains. Since there is no way to test the ability of psychic powers, psychologists consider this to be an extraordinary claim. In addition, with the availability of different types of brain imaging machines, it can be physically proven that humans use their whole brains (Snopes). Brain scans have shown that regardless of what people are doing, their brains are always active. An inactive part of the brain would only occur if it was brain damaged (How Things Work). These are solid ways to prove that humans use more than 10% of their brains.

http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/10percent.asp (Snopes)
http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/tenper.html (Washington)
http://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/nervous-system/10-brain-myths10.htm (How Stuff Works)

Link: http://www.subliminal-messaging.com/visual-examples-of-subliminal-messages/
People often accuse advertising firms of using subliminal messaging to persuade customers to unconsciously associate a product with a pleasurable experience or activity, such as intercourse. The above advertisement is considered a "classic" subliminal message. At first the ad seems to be nothing more than a traditional drawing of a woman and an ambiguous slogan. However, if the image is flipped upside down, one can see the image of a woman masturbating.
classic, part deuce.jpg
It is believed that this ad creates a strong desire to choose this flooring company because, unknowingly, the viewer associates the company with sex. Most people claim this advertisement strategy uses subliminal messaging to persuade people without their knowledge. This extraordinary claim, which would surely have huge affects on society, must be supported by extraordinary evidence. However, the extensive evidence that exists proves this claim to be wrong.
Subliminal perception is the processing of sensory information that occurs below the limen, the threshold of conscious awareness. This is done by flashing an image very quickly and then following it with a mask to block mental processing of the image. Evidence has proven that subliminal perception can affect a subject's thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. However, studies of subliminal persuasion, using subliminal perception to influence one's choices (also known as subliminal messaging,) show that subliminal perception has very little power to persuade a person's decision. This is because even though the brain identifies the subliminal message, it does not participate in much, if any, processing of what that stimulus means. As a result, subliminal persuasion cannot produce large-scale, enduring changes in attitudes or decisions (Lilienfeld, Lynn, Namy, & Woolf, 2011).
Furthermore, by definition, a still image advertisement cannot contain subliminal messages, as the stimuli can be consciously acknowledged. The ineffective results of subliminal persuasion and the fact that still images cannot contain subliminal stimuli show that these suggestive advertisements, such as those below, do not affect buyers' decisions. So, even though these advertisements may be considered inappropriate, they cannot be considered subliminal messages and do not affect consumers.
heiniken-subliminal-231x300.jpg heineken-subliminal-advert-2-231x300.jpg

I came upon this article on ScienceDaily.com, about how people who are easily embarrassed are more likely to be trusted.
Really? Personally, I don't believe this because I think that if you're easily embarrassed, you may not have that much confidence...and if you're not too confident about yourself and/or what you believe in, how am I going to trust you? I do think that if you get embarrassed easily, it just goes to show that you're human and I can relate to you easily.
But my question is, what did the researchers mean by "trust"? I don't think that they shared embarrassing stories and did "trust falls". The study, which as conducted at UC-Berkeley involved "a series of experiments that used video testimonials, economic trust games, and surveys to gauge the relationship between embarrassment and pro-sociality" that involved college students and Craigslist users.
In the survey portion, Craigslist users were the subjects, which is good because it was random selection. Like the college students, they were asked about times they felt embarrassed and they played some games. One of the games involved participants giving each other tickets or keeping them for themselves--the researchers found, with both the Craigslist group and the college kids, that the people whose stories were more embarrassing ended up giving away more of their raffle tickets.
The article states that the researchers concluded that the more embarrassed people were more generous, hence more trustworthy. But what about other factors? Could they have just given tickets for the heck of it? Maybe they're just more generous people, regardless of being easily embarrassed. The same applies to the college kids' group. I'm sure the researchers thought about this, but it wasn't mentioned in the article. There could be lurking variables that weren't addressed in the design of the experiment, and it's things like that that really affect the outcome of an experiment.
Also, I want to question the reliability of the experiment. They only performed that portion twice, and I don't think that their results could be consistent enough after 2 trials. Plus, were they comparing the two? Or just using them as trials? That is unclear.
Another part of the experiment was that a trained actor received news and had to respond with either embarrassment or pride. The trust the participants had in that person was "measured" through games. I don't really know how that worked, but the results from this portion don't seem very trustworthy to me.
I think that this experiment overall relied too much on anecdotal evidence, one of the warning signs of pseudoscience. I also think that there are still too many unanswered questions that the study did not address. For example, why are the easily embarrassed more trustworthy? Their experiment just found this occurrence but did not answer why.
I believe that if replicated, the study would yield different results. They only did it with 2 groups and I don't trust the results. That principle is especially significant in evaluating this study, as well as exploring rival hypotheses. No other studies have been done, as far as I've searched, on this issue and the researchers of this study have yet to investigate the opposite--are overconfident people are less-trustworthy?

University of California - Berkeley. "Easily embarrassed? Study finds people will trust you more." ScienceDaily, 29 Sep. 2011. Web. 1 Oct. 2011.

Cognitive biases have long been plaguing the minds of people by making "Systematic errors in thinking" (2). Looking into the topic I read the article at http://cognitivebiasmodification.com/ but now there is a new computer based system in the works called "Cognitive Bias Modification" which allows for a therapy to common cognitive biases. Some of these biases include "Hindsight bias" and "Overconfidence" both of which give us a security blanket making us feel safe in our predictions and in our biased thoughts. According to this article, "People who suffer from social anxiety typically focus on the faces of negative or disgusted people rather than people with happy faces" (1) and they do this without even realizing it. So these new computer-based therapies will eventually give the option to patients to completely change their negative thinking to a more optimistic point of view. This article does not mention anything about correcting the overconfidence bias possibly because the technology doesn't exist or possibly because our society in general is way too overconfident with their abilities. My question with this technology is will it work consistently and will it actually make an impact on the lives of the people who use it? Also how much further can we push the limits of this to change thought process in general?
http://cognitivebiasmodification.com/ (1)
Our Lilienfield textbook Psychology, From inquiry to understanding (2)

Bistable Optical Illusion

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The link above is a video of three dancers, all rotating in one direction. As the video progresses, the outside dancers will take on more human characteristics, while the middle dancer remains a black shadow.

When this video was first produced, media spread that the video revealed whether the watcher was right-brained dominate or left-brained dominate. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this hypothesis.

The idea of the video is to represent
how people's depth perception is inaccurate when there are a lack of visual cues for depth. When the dancers are all black shadows, one person's perception of the dancer is that she is circling clockwise while another person views her spinning counter-clockwise. At the beginning of the video, there are no surface features or human characteristics to reveal which way the dancer is facing, so viewers will see opposing legs on the ground and arms spinning in the air. Thus, the dancer motion is dependent on how the viewer perceives the shadow. It is when the outside dancers take on human characteristics and visual cues for depth that the viewer understands the illusion. The outside dancers will spin in opposing directions, and the middle dancers will remain spinning dependently on how the viewer perceives the image. The image may also be influenced by the outside dancers.

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