October 2011 Archives

Recently at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, a connection was made between low birth weight and children diagnosed with autism. The findings suggest that premature infants are five times more likely to have autism than children born at normal weight. The children under research, some as small as a single pound when they were born, were followed and studied for twenty-one years. All the infants were born between the years 1984 and 1987 in New Jersey with birth weights ranging from about five hundred to two thousand grams (or a maximum of 4.4 lbs.).
With the three million dollar study underway, links between a wide variety of motor and cognitive problems have been well established for some time now, but this study is the first to ever establish that these children are also at an increased risk for autism spectrum disorders. The researchers also wer conducting a similar study on eight hundred and sixty-two children from birth to young adulthood finding that five percent of the children were diagnosed with autism, compared to the one percent of the general public.
I actually chose this topic because it directly relates to myself. Being born a little over a month early, I was a mere 3.5 pounds, in other words, severely underweight. To this day I have had regular doctor visits and multiple trips to the hospital due to various injuries and sicknesses but I am completely healthy in terms of diseases or disorders. I am interested though in finding out if there are still any possibilities for me to obtain autism, or the alike, later in life due to my birth weight.

A false memory is a fabrication or warped recollection of an event that someone may believe happened, but in reality never happened. People think of memory as a video recorder, which accurately records everything. However, memory is very susceptible to fallacy. People who are completely confident that their memory is accurate could be fooling themselves.
Interestingly enough, according to two researchers, adults are more prone to this than children. Valerie Reyna, human development professor, and Chuck Brainerd, human development and law school professor; argue that memories are captured and recorded separately and differently in two distinct parts of the mind; much like the two-headed Roman god Janus
These two hypothesize that children depend more heavily on a part of the mind that records "what actually happened," while adults use the other part of the mind that records, "the meaning of what happened." Such a difference results in adults being more susceptible to false memories than children.
"Because children have fewer meaning-based experience records, they are less likely to form false memories," says Reyna. "But the law assumes children are more susceptible to false memories than adults."
Their research shows that children are less likely to produce false memories than adults, and are more likely to give accurate testimony when properly questioned. The finding doesn't exactly square with current legal tenets, and may cause many problems in future legal proceedings.

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/March08/Memory.on.trial.html

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070720100026.htm

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080313124445.htm

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While reading, I thought the concept of Linguistic Relativity to be extremely interesting. The basic idea of linguistic relativity is that characteristics of language shape our thought processes. Lilienfeld ultimately decides that the theory isn't conclusive and that other aspects of perception play an important role in shaping how we think.
I, personally, was intrigued by the study that goes against the idea that language affects thinking: color categorization. Although people across the world that are part of different societies and cultures speak various languages that have different numbers of basic color terms, still all people can, for the most part, divide the same color categories. This study shows that people can still understand something, even if their language doesn't outright teach it to them.
For example, in a New York TImes article, the author uses the example that even though an English speaker has never heard the German word "Schadenfreude" doesn't mean that he or she cannot understand the meaning if given an explanation or that he or she is incapable of feeling the emotion. (Schadenfreude refers to the pleasure derived from another person's misfortune.) Just because a language prohibits a person from an initial understanding, it does not rule out the possibility of being able to comprehend it if given the chance. Given this view, it seems to suggest that people from different cultures and societies cannot learn about or understand other people in different countries with opposite ways of living.
However the article also discusses the ways in which giving directions through language can affect the way we think. For example, most people typically use egocentric directions which are dependent on our own bodies..."go left then walk straight until the house and then turn right." Versus geographic directions which are oriented on the earths axises..."head north then turn east." The different sets of directions would influence the way we think of getting to each place.
Still, I think that Linguistic Relativity can be a little far reaching, but definitely holds true to a point.

Observational Learning

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I recently stumbled upon a very interesting psychology experiment dealing with monkeys and observational learning.

http://www.sageconcepts.com/5-monkeys-and-a-cage

After reading this i was rather taken back. I thought how ridiculous, humans could never be naive. The theory of observational learning begs to differ. Our book tells us that observational learning spares us the expense of having to learn everything first hand (Bandura, 1977). If you take a step back sometime observe large groups of people it can be easy to spot this. If you have ever tried to walk down a busy sidewalk on the left side you will find it to be very difficult and get an abundance of weird looks. There are no signs that ever say keep right, so why does everyone do so? People observe others and assume this to be correct behavior.

False Memories

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The reason false memories are easily implanted into our heads and tricks us begins to make more and more sense when you understand how we revive old memories. Jessica Snyder Sachs wrote an article for Popular Science about how our memories are like video tapes that are scattered around our head. As we look for a single video tape of a memory, we often cannot find it, but we have found pieces of the event. We cannot grasp every detail but we can try to guess what is missing. We take bit and pieces and try to weave them back into what we think happened, filling in blank spots with logical guesses. When more and more details are missing, the brain has to make even more guesses and As more details are missing from the memory, the more freedom the brain has to fill in what happened. This can stretch the truth further and further until the memory is barely a shell of its original self.
Now thinking about how the mind instinctively fills in blanks, we can see why we can be fooled by false memories. We do not want to think we forgot something so we use the tiny bit of information we have and fill in any detail we can imagine to form a logical recreation of what we think we have forgotten. Eventually the information begins to make sense with the details we fill in, we can easily believe that it did, in fact, happen.

Source:
A Spielberg in your own mind
By Jessica Snyder Sachs; Popular Science; July 25, 2003

False Memories

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The reason false memories are easily implanted into our heads and tricks us begins to make more and more sense when you understand how we revive old memories. Jessica Snyder Sachs wrote an article for Popular Science about how our memories are like video tapes that are scattered around our head. As we look for a single video tape of a memory, we often cannot find it, but we have found pieces of the event. We cannot grasp every detail but we can try to guess what is missing. We take bit and pieces and try to weave them back into what we think happened, filling in blank spots with logical guesses. When more and more details are missing, the brain has to make even more guesses and As more details are missing from the memory, the more freedom the brain has to fill in what happened. This can stretch the truth further and further until the memory is barely a shell of its original self.
Now thinking about how the mind instinctively fills in blanks, we can see why we can be fooled by false memories. We do not want to think we forgot something so we use the tiny bit of information we have and fill in any detail we can imagine to form a logical recreation of what we think we have forgotten. Eventually the information begins to make sense with the details we fill in, we can easily believe that it did, in fact, happen.

Source:
A Spielberg in your own mind
By Jessica Snyder Sachs; Popular Science; July 25, 2003

The Power of Advertisements

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As the Lilienfeld text says in chapter 6, "Few people grasp the principles of classical conditioning...better than advertisers". Since advertisements bombard us everyday on the radio, television, and billboards, I think classical conditioning is a very important concept for everyone to understand. It is a source of learning where an animal or human comes to respond to a previously neutral stimulus when it is paired with another stimulus that elicits an automatic response. In layman's terms, classical conditioning is a type of association. In the commercial above, there is an unconditioned stimulus, the beautiful Amazonian women. Such women tend to elicit a natural or unconditioned response, arousal and other positive emotions. The women are paired with Axe Body Spray, the conditioned stimulus. This association then elicits the conditioned response, the desire to purchase Axe Body Spray. I chose to use the Axe Body Spray commercial as my example because it is one of the most shameless attempts at classical conditioning through advertisements that I could think of, because it elicits the idea that putting on Axe Body Spray will automatically cause thousands of beautiful women in bikinis will run like animals to get close to you.

By pairing products with upbeat music, A-list celebrities, and beautiful people, advertisers are conditioning viewers and listeners to buy their products. When I sat and thought about advertisements, I realized how susceptible I am to classical conditioning. I use Neutrogena face wash because I want flawless skin like Hayden Panettiere, an actress who probably spent hours in front of the mirror with a make-up artist, trying to achieve the "natural look". Furthermore, I am sure her skin was then airbrushed after the commercial was shot to make sure her face was blemish-free and smooth. I apply Lancome mascara because the advertisement makes me believe I will have eyes as sparkling as Julia Roberts. I also use hair products from Pantene because I believe it will make my hair as smooth and voluminous as Eva Mendes'. Since buyers like me are so susceptible to classical conditioning, advertisers are some of the most powerful people in the world.


50 First Dates.. For Real?

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50 first dates is a pretty popular movie which has a main story line about a girl who is suffering from memory loss due to a car accident. This clip is one which outlines the movie somewhat, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_OW9UejdY8 giving the reader of this post an idea of Lucy's condition. I was really perplexed as to if this type of memory loss was even possible. Then i researched some and found this article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1285535/ Two-car-crashes-leave-Michelle-Philpots-24-hour-memory.html, which is surprisingly very similar to the plot of 50 first dates. Until now whenever i had watched 50 first dates I had though how impossible that memory loss would be not only physically but even to have to deal with that on a daily basis. Her husband and her wake up every day and he has to convince her that they are actually married and who her loved ones are. This article relates her story to the movie but it does not say that the movie was based on her story. In the movie everything ends up alright but by this article ends and no evidence is indicated that she can break the illusion and thought that it is 1994, she just has to go through a memory gauntlet barraging her brain every morning trying to convince her the current date and situation. I really feel for her situation because if I had to deal with this issue every single day either for me or for a loved one I don't know if I could put up with it day after day for months, years, or even decades on end.

Learning behavior as the core study area of behaviorism has high importance, and it does, may explain, how people are unique, as professor Briggs referred in first lecture.
There are two things I want to write in this blog. First is how I figure out that I could apply operant conditioning and classical conditioning into my daily life, or maybe, in the future, applying into education field. Second is that I am still wondering whether we could trying to explain learning behavior in an evolutionary respect, which may related to functional psychology. As well as I found a really interesting article about memory and our emotion from the web.

I think that most of our behavior is actually acquired through operant conditioning because there are not that much things which could cause an automatically unconditioned response. Most of the behaviors are result of conduction of our brain work and conducted of motor muscle. Like learning how to swim when I am quite young, a good move in water set me free from feeling suffocated and will not be chocked by water, which was a negative reinforcement. Also, more commonly behavior such as walking, getting what we want is a positive reinforcement which encourage our move another step and walk further and further. I think that this operant behavior is more involved after we have developed our sensation fully and have "kind of independent thinking ability". Because I think that compared with classical conditioning which requires an instinctive respond, operant conditioning requires more on logic thinking, which we have to actively connect two things together. When learning, we have to think the connection between two things.

Another topic is that whether we could using evolutionary respect to explain learning behavior. When reading the classical conditioning part, I was thinking that did at the beginning of learning, the UCR appeared are actually a result of learning through evolution? Millions of years of evolution left the creatures with ability to reflect these stimuli survive, and then those animals using these so called instincts to learn new behavior in order to survive and reproduce. Also, I believe, as far as I know about "feeling of safe", the conditioning responds should be the behavior should make the animal feel safe, could be safely survive. I am thinking whether fields of Maslow's safety theory and learning behavior as well as evolutionary respect of psychology could be combined together to understanding human behavior.

Here is an article I found on the internet about our emotion and memory from NYU, which I think are closely related to the learning behavior we learnt at the beginning of last week.
http://psych.nyu.edu/phelpslab/papers/04_CON_V14.pdf

Remembering Everything

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http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=7075443&page=1

I was intrigued when learning about the super-memories only a small fraction of the population is born with. Today, there are four known people with super-memories in America. The attached link is an interview with Bob Petrella. Petrella is one of the four Americans' who has a super-memory. He explains how the memory is truly a blessing and a curse.

Having an average memory capacity, I would love to vividly remember playing at the state tournament for basketball or playing with my cousins during Christmas gatherings. Being able to call upon these memories would truly be a blessing. In this sense, Petrella is lucky to have this gift. However, I am thankful that I can forget certain memories, such as embarrassing or sad events that took place in my past. Petrella is one of the few who cannot let go of these memories, even if he wanted to. Holding onto every life experience can be seen as the downside, or curse, of the gift.

Petrella explains how his memories actually are like videotapes, and can vividly report on every past occurrence; sports especially. It this sense, it would appear that every person who has a super-memory is more prone to recall a certain aspect of life. These four Americans do have a few things in common. For example, all three of the four expressed left-hand dominance, while the fourth has "...strong tendencies to be left-handed." However, we cannot say that this trait causes super-memories or visa-versa.

Reading this article, I was curious if people with super-memories would make better life choice or could more accurately guess future happenings. People can base decisions off of past experiences. Since there are people that can remember everything about their past, wouldn't they make the best choices? It would appear as this would be the case, but I could not find scientific research to back up this hypothesis. Hopefully someone else will have insight on this idea?

False Memories

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This weekend my roommate was watching a lifetime movie called "Committed." I got sucked in to watching the movie, which is the story of a woman psychologist who is freshly a widow. She decides to take a position offered to her at a psychiatric facility for the criminally insane, but soon after arriving she realizes that she has actually been tricked into coming and has been committed as a patient. The movie reminded me of something we touched on in lecture and discussion section because the woman in the movies "mentors" who we later find out are patients who have murdered their doctors work to implant false memories. First her "mentors" ask the woman over and over again to try to remember how her husband died. She insists that she remembers nothing. Finally they allude to the possibility that she found him. Yes, now she thinks she remembers finding his body and he was bloody. Then the therapists "reveal" to her that she had found his body after he committed suicide. They tell her what room in her house it happened in as well as what he used to hang himself. Later they tell her that first she had to accept that her husband was dead, but that he actually didn't die from committing suicide, apparently she killed him. She found out he was cheating on her with patients of his and she shot him. In the end we find out this is not true, and that the patients planted this in her head to convince her that she had killed before so that she would be more inclined to kill "again."
Our textbook goes into detail about how recalling events that never happened, such as those recalled by the victim in the movie are surprisingly easy to conjure up. The methods the criminals used to implant false memories in the victim are summarized in the textbook as suggestive memory techniques. These include providing misinformation, the misinformation they provided to the woman in the film was plausible and extremely detailed. By making the victim envision herself killing her husband over and over again it became more lucid. The criminals also created fake newspaper articles. Typically the newspaper is a source of truth, because of this the woman in the movie fell victim to bias, not questioning the newspaper because she never had before. The most annoying thing about the film was that the woman in it was supposed to be a psychologist, a person who is supposed to think scientifically. She didn't question the extraordinary claims her captors were presenting her with, she didn't try to falsify their claims, or question their legitimacy.

In Chapter 8 of Lilienfeld's book of Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, there are categories of special cases of language learning described from sign language to bilingualism. In reading about these less common ways of learning a language, I thought I'd look further into one of the perhaps greatest "miracles" in language learning; the case of the deaf and blind Helen Keller.

Around the time that young Helen turned 2 years old, she was stricken severely with a disease that left her both blind and deaf. At the age of 7 is when assistant Anne Sullivan came into aid and began teaching Helen everyday objects by complex combinations of taps to Helen's palm. After some time of teaching a huge breakthrough came about when Sullivan kept pouring water over Helen's hand and she eventually made out the sound of the word water with her voice. This was an exceptional feat considering her lack of vocal language her entire life. She also learned spoken language through the feelings of vibrations of those engaging in conversation. Here's an interesting interview with Anne Sullivan demonstrating this method of sensory teaching.

Following her education with Sullivan, she continued in her success in life and became very skilled at using Braille and sign language as well, giving her even more ways to communicate with others around her. She ended up earning a bachelor's degree and writing many novels as well.

Even after reading multiple articles in support of this "miracle", there are quite a few skeptics of the legitimacy of this case. Some claim that the amount of knowledge Helen gained before her deaf and blindness could be a huge factor in the way she relearned the world around her. Without measuring this at the time, it's uncertain to know if the way in which her particular brain adapted to this would be the same in any other case.

Even so, it has been scientifically proven that with the permanent damage of some of our senses, our other senses become stronger and more attentive in order to make up for this loss. This is where there is a thin line drawn, are the conditions that our brains adapt to to make up for one lost sense still possible when another is taken out as well, especially at such a young age were no legitimate verbal language has been built yet? Through the case of Helen Keller we can see there are extraordinary possibilities.


Suppressing Anger Shortens Life

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The Journal of Family Communication published an article concerning a study done at the University of Michigan on anger suppression and life span. This was a longitudinal study done over a 17 year period including 192 couples. Each couple was placed in one of four groups: both partners communicated their anger; one expressed while the other suppressed (and vice versa); and both suppressed their anger. The findings suggest that those who suppress their anger have a shorter life span than those who express their anger. The results of the study are as follows:

"Preliminary analysis shows that there had been 13 deaths among the group of 26 couples in which both suppressed their anger (one partner in 27 per cent and both in 23 per cent). There had been 41 deaths among the remaining 166 couples (one partner in 19 per cent and both in 6 per cent). Researchers adjusted for age, smoking, weight, blood pressure, bronchial problems, breathing, and cardiovascular risk. They are currently collecting 30-year follow-up data."

This claim is extraordinary! But, is the evidence just as extraordinary? The study included 192 couples but only 26 of them were placed in the group in which both suppressed their anger. In order for the results to be more representative of each category, each group should have had close to 48 couples (one-fourth of 192). Forty-one other deaths were recorded from the study. Although it is not listed as to which groups had a certain number of deaths, one-third of 41 is 13.67. This suggests that while the group in which each couple suppressed their anger may have had the most deaths and the highest percentage of deaths, in comparison to the other groups the data is not so impressive.

There are many factors that cause death. The suppression of anger would lead to a heightened stress level which would cause adverse health effects but cannot explain alone the cause of death. Were there any car accidents, severe illnesses, old age etc. that led to the death of anyone participating in this study? Many other possible explanations may exist for the deaths in these case studies not relating to anger suppression or expression.

False Memories

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQr_IJvYzbA
Many people are fooled by false memories. We see it in movies, in books, and even our real lives. In the link I posted, Elizabeth Loftus experimented with a subject about false memories. He gave such a detailed description of what never happened. Loftus decepted him into believing that he really went to the mall and had those encounters which in reality, he did not. We experience this kind of false memory all the time in our lives. For example, I could probably tell exactly what I was doing on September 11, 2001, but it would probably not be right. I can only remember bits and pieces of what actually happened. I would probably add a few things that I though happened, but really did not. This part of psychology intrigues me. I want to know how and why our mind tricks us like that. It would be helpful if we did not have any false memories at all, especially for crimes and finding the suspect. If we did not have false memory, we would be able to confidently identify a criminal. I wish I was one of those people with the rare condition of always remembering exactly what happened at any given moment. It would be easier to describe a crucial moment in your life. It would be enjoyable to be able to look back and remember any moment and remember how fun it really was.

False Memories

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQr_IJvYzbA
Many people are fooled by false memories. We see it in movies, in books, and even our real lives. In the link I posted, Elizabeth Loftus experimented with a subject about false memories. He gave such a detailed description of what never happened. Loftus decepted him into believing that he really went to the mall and had those encounters which in reality, he did not. We experience this kind of false memory all the time in our lives. For example, I could probably tell exactly what I was doing on September 11, 2001, but it would probably not be right. I can only remember bits and pieces of what actually happened. I would probably add a few things that I though happened, but really did not. This part of psychology intrigues me. I want to know how and why our mind tricks us like that. It would be helpful if we did not have any false memories at all, especially for crimes and finding the suspect. If we did not have false memory, we would be able to confidently identify a criminal. I wish I was one of those people with the rare condition of always remembering exactly what happened at any given moment. It would be easier to describe a crucial moment in your life. It would be enjoyable to be able to look back and remember any moment and remember how fun it really was.

Nursing homes and Memory

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On the days I'm not busy with school i work as a nursing assistant in Maple Plain. Many of my patients have suffered stokes and as a result have many difficulties they deal with on a daily basis. Many often forget who I am although they see me multiple times a shift. Certain patients have a harder time then others due to the location and severity of the stroke.
For example, Patients suffering a stroke in the right-hemisphere of their brain will be able to tell me all about fighting in World War II or how they met their husband, but will be unable to recall what they ate for dinner. (http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=EFFECT) In other words, Their retrieval of stored information is working properly but their ability to encode new information is flawed.
Some of my patients that have had strokes will also develop dementia. Dementia is "a loss of mental skills" and "can cause problems with your memory and how well you can think and plan." ( http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/tc/dementia-topic-overview) There are several different types of dementia and they affect different areas of the brain. For example Subcortical dementia effects emotions and movement as well as memory.
http://www.medicinenet.com/dementia_pictures_slideshow/article.htm#
Patient's that have dementia could also have developed it due to alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is actually a form of dementia. This disease is often the result of "When nerve cells (neurons) are destroyed, there is a decrease in the chemicals that help nerve cells send messages to one another (called neurotransmitters). As a result, areas of the brain that normally work together become disconnected." (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001767/)
It's often hard to watch a patient that you've become close with slowly loose their grasp of what's going on. In my time working, I've seen several residents have a slow decline in cognitive ability. there are those, though, who have suffered some sort of stroke or other brain injury that through physical therapy have been able to relearn their basic living skills and be able to return home to their families.

False Memory

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQr_IJvYzbA
Many people are fooled by false memories. We see it in movies, in books, and even our real lives. In the link I posted, Elizabeth Loftus experimented with a subject about false memories. He gave such a detailed description of what never happened. Loftus decepted him into believing that he really went to the mall and had those encounters which in reality, he did not. We experience this kind of false memory all the time in our lives. For example, I could probably tell exactly what I was doing on September 11, 2001, but it would probably not be right. I can only remember bits and pieces of what actually happened. I would probably add a few things that I though happened, but really did not. This part of psychology intrigues me. I want to know how and why our mind tricks us like that. It would be helpful if we did not have any false memories at all, especially for crimes and finding the suspect. If we did not have false memory, we would be able to confidently identify a criminal. I wish I was one of those people with the rare condition of always remembering exactly what happened at any given moment. It would be easier to describe a crucial moment in your life. It would be enjoyable to be able to look back and remember any moment and remember how fun it really was.

That Was Easy

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Russian scientist, Ivan Pavlov, researched digestion in dogs. In measuring the salivary response to meat powder, he observed that the dogs salivated to the neutral stimuli that was previously associated with it. They began salivating at the sound of the assistants' footsteps coming into the lab. We call the association of the meat power to the footsteps classical conditioning. Pavlov's classical conditioning is defined as a form of learning in which animals come to respond to a previously neutral stimulus that had been paired with another stimulus that elicits an automatic response. This finding is very important in researching relationships between unconditional stimulus and unconditioned response, and the relationships between conditioned response and conditioned stimulus.
A boy at BGSU did a test on his roommate of this study. After hitting the button saying, "that was easy", he would shoot his roommate with an airsoft gun. The roommate soon associated the easy button noise with being shot with the gun. After the boy shot his roommate a couple times, he did a test where he pressed the easy button but did not shoot him. When the easy button was played, the roommate cringed as if he was going to get shot, however, he wasn't actually shot. The easy button was the conditioned stimulus, while the shooting of the gun was the unconditioned stimulus. The unconditioned response was the pain or flinching of the roommate, while the conditioned response was the flinching from hearing the easy button sound.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo7jcI8fAuI

Near Death Experiences

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Do near death experiences really exist? Or are they just figments of our imaginations? There is no strong evidence to support this claim, as stated in our book, and maybe there are simpler explanations as to why we feel as if we have had NDEs. There a tons of stories from people who have said they had a near death experience, even my sister thinks she experienced one. Last year she had to have surgery to remove her cancerous thyroid, and due to complications with the removal, she had to undergo another surgery. During that second surgery, my sister believes she "died" because she was in a white room and said she saw my grandma, who passed away 2 years ago. She has vivid details and has described her experience to us multiple times. Could she really have had a near death experience?
In our Psychology text book it states that alternative explanations for NDEs could be based on the changes in the chemistry of the brain associated with cardiac arrest, anesthesia, and other physical traumas. Our brains could just be releasing different chemicals and neurotransmitters that make us believe that we are experiencing bright lights or seeing things/ people that we couldn't possibly truly be witnessing. People could think they are experiencing NDEs because of certain psychedelic drugs they are taking as well. There is no significant amount of evidence that can prove that NDEs are a real thing yet. Many scientists say that the characteristics of near death experiences could just be the effects of an oxygen deprived brain.

I found some of the information on this site interesting. It talks about interesting stories of near death experiences and tries to show the evidence that they are real.


http://readersupportednews.org/pm-section/398-science/7170-new-evidence-suggests-that-the-near-death-experience-is-the-spirit-leaving-the-body-and-not-just-a-dying-brain

Lucid Dreaming In Inception

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When I first read about lucid dreaming in chapter 5 of the Lilienfeld textbook, my mind immediately jumped to the concept behind one of my favorite films directed by Christopher Nolan, "Inception". I decided to look further into lucid dreaming because of how much it intrigued me.

The textbook describes lucid dreaming as the experience of becoming aware that one is dreaming. The book also says that a survey showed 72 percent of people who lucid dream are able to control what happens in their dream. After further investigating lucid dreaming, I found a website that acts as a "how to" guide.

The first steps are to start remembering dreams by waking up slowly and immediately recalling your dreams. You are then supposed to start recording your dreams in a journal. After you get better at recalling dreams, you must become increasingly familiar with the characteristics of your dreams. Most people have specific people, places, and situations that reoccur within their dreams, and recognizing these "dream signs" will further improve dream recall. After that, a person must pay attention to their surroundings in real life to become more aware, which will in turn make them more aware within their dreams.

When you finally do become consciously aware during a dream, there are certain ways you can check to make sure that you are actually in a dream. The "common sense" technique is the most useful, which consists of observing your surroundings and seeing if there is anything that could obviously not occur in real life. The "reading check" technique is another really easy check to do. To do it, you look at something with writing on it, look away, and then look back. If you are in a dream, the content of the writing will most likely be different when you look back the second time.

This somewhat crappy quality video shows how "Inception" describes the "memory check" method, where a person thinks back to see if there are any inconsistencies within their recent memory. Cobb explains that people often can't remember the beginning of their dreams, because they always wind up in the middle of the action. He then asks Ariadne if she remembers how they got to the cafe they are at during the scene.

to "How to Lucid Dream"

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Ok, so as cheesy and random as that is, every time I think of long term and short term memory loss, I just can't help but think of "Amnesia" by Chumbawumba. This song is sure to bring back memories from my childhood.

I'm sure the majority of us have seen the movie "Finding Nemo". Do you recall Dory having short term memory loss? This was a reoccurring plot during the movie, that made the journey to find Nemo, even more difficult. Here is a clip of Dory's memory loss.

I can recall hearing the urban legend that goldfish have a memory span of 3 seconds. Is this really a fact? Do they not have short term memory, but long term, or vice versa?


Scientists at Plymouth University have successfully trained the fish to collect food at particular times of day, showing the popular notion of the three-second memory to be very fishy indeed. The findings of this study is just adding to the growing evidence that gold fish are more intelligent than have been assumed.

The research, led by Phil Gee of Plymouth University, had goldfish placed in a bowl. They were only fed if they pressed a level. The fish learned quickly that pressing the level would give them a food reward.

Once they had been trained in this way, the researchers set up the lever to work for just one hour a day. The fish soon became wise to this, and learnt to press the lever at the same time every day to feed. "The fish worked out that if they hit the lever around that time, they would get some food," Dr Gee said. "Their activity around the lever increased enormously just before the set hour when their food was dispensed.

"But then if no food came out, they stopped pressing the lever when the hour was up. It shows that they are probably able to adapt to changes in their circumstances, like any other small animals and birds."

Another study was put on by Mythbusters to test if goldfish were able to do a maze.

So this being said, when people compare someone's memory to a goldfish, you can say thank you and proceed on, because you know, that the goldfish myth is just an urban legend.


Sleepwalking Nightmare

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The textbook has a short section on sleepwalking and some of the crazy things that people have done while possibly sleepwalking. As another example I ran across this news video about a man stabbing his wife while sleeping.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWPkmvzk0vg&feature=relmfu

I would like to know more about this case, but from what I find he has no memory of doing this, however his actions were analyzed by a doctor and he concluded that they were similar to that of an awake person. The man has had a past of sleepwalking, but the actions were different this time, and he had confronted his wife about an affair multiple times leading up to the attack.

This and the text lead me to ask the question: How do people continue to stay awake through such events". This man and others should become awaken through movements and noises it seems. Are these people dreaming and acting that out only some of the time. I wonder if there is something different biologically when people sleepwalk like the changes that occur through the different stages of sleep. Otherwise it would seem like sleepwalkers should always do it instead of just sometimes.

In cases like this it makes me wonder how we can determine if someone is asleep or awake during certain situations. The courts do their best to make sense of it, but in reality who knows? Testing is probably pretty difficult on these patients, which leads to just another innocence plea that people can use. Insanity pleas are well-known through movies and other cases, but for people to use psychology as an escape to freedom seems tough to grasp. I like the quote from the movie Case 39, "Do you remember when people were just bad".

There are so many psychological "problems" that affect people's behavior that it is almost impossible now to state a specific cause and effect. Sleepwalking is just another example of an altered state of mind that I believe requires more research and development.

According to the text, "Infantile amnesia is the inability of adults to retrieve accurate memories before an early age". I have this clear memory of a house we lived in when I was 0-1 years of age. I remember a pond in our backyard and these muskrats that occupied this pond. I told my parents about this and they said this was accurate. So according to infantile amnesia, this is not possible. So I am wondering where I got this memory. In the second paragraph on infantile amnesia, the text says, "it's almost certainly...a false memory". So according to the text, this memory of a pond in my backyard is a false memory. I do not remember when or where I got this memory. This is known as source monitoring confusion or as the Lilienfeld text says, "a lack of clarity about the origin of a memory". I may have seen a picture when I was younger of our old backyard and asked my parents about it, or my parents may have told me about this at a younger age. I am not sure. I wonder how many people have memories of before they were 2-3 and if they actually are trustworthy or not. Has anyone else experienced this, and what was the memory of? Are these types of memories usually episodic memories, explicit memories or implicit memories? My memory would be classified as an episodic memory I believe.

False Memories

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The most interesting topic so far to me has been the idea that we can implant false memories into someone else's head. I wonder if it is actually possible to implant a significant memory. There seems to be a lot of problems with the idea. I watched these video's where Elizabeth Loftus talks about the experiments she has done to try to prove her theory.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=il0u2s_WGXA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQr_IJvYzbA
While i think these studies are really interesting i feel like they have a lot of problems. In the mall experiment for instance, they had the subject remember something that happened when he was 5. No one can remember that far back very well, its similar to your whole family telling you something that you did when you were a baby. They could be lying we just choose to think they're not. Also getting lost in a big place is a really common thing that happens to almost everyone at least once. Trying to remember that far back his memories probably just got all jumbled and he mixed up the feeling of being lost at one point in his life and being at a mall and with everyone telling him that it happened its not that surprising that he believed it. What i do find impressive is how the subject continually adds details to the story. He really has no idea what he's talking about but his brain fills in the blank spots with what seems logical to happen.

Sleep Disorders

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We've all experienced problems sleeping: not being able to fall asleep, not being able to stay asleep, nightmares, some of us even walk or talk in our sleep, but these problems seem to come and go in phases. However, some of us just can't seem to ever get over these annoyances, which can last weeks, months, and even years.

The most common sleep disturbance is insomnia, which is described in our books as taking any of the following forms: having trouble falling asleep, waking up too early in the morning, and waking up during the night having trouble returning to sleep.

Other disorders of sleep in our books include narcolepsy (rapid and often unexpected onset of sleep), sleep apnea (blockage of the airway during sleep causing daytime fatigue), night terrors (sudden episodes of screaming, perspiring, and confusion followed by a return to deep sleep), and sleepwalking (walking while fully asleep). However, nearly all of us have already heard of these disorders before. So what about the disorders most of us haven't heard of? My interest in bizzare sleep disturbances will be sure to inform you of strange and rare sleep disorders that, believe it or not, affect people like you and me.

Sleeping Beauty Syndrome (Kleine-Levin Syndrome), although more common in males than females, is a strange sleep disorder in which sufferers sleep for unusual amounts of time. Most people with this disorder sleep for between 13 and 24 hours at a time, however, one 15 year old girl, Louisa Ball (see video below) reported to have slept for 13 days straight. People with this disorder typically have regular sleep patterns most of the time with random onsets of lengthy sleep periods that last from a few days to several weeks.

Exploding Head Syndrome, more common in elderly people but still experienced by those of all ages, is a strange disorder in which sufferers experience a loud sound one to two hours after falling asleep. These sounds are produced from in the brain and are not actually auditory, although people with this disorder seem to believe that the sound was actually something they heard. Most people experience a sense of anxiety or fear after experiencing the sound, yet the syndrome itself is harmless.

More sleep disorders involve sleep-eating, sleep-sex, and even sleep-murder, all of which the sufferer is unable to recollect any or recollects minimal amounts of what occured the prior night.


http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2779860/a_guide_to_strange_sleep_disorders.html?cat=5

By now, you already know the concept of classical conditioning. But I'm going to tell it to you anyways. An unconditioned stimulus (US) causes and unconditioned response (UCR). By associating a conditioned stimulus (CS) with a (US), one can achieve a conditioned response (CR).

Most of us probably see this as a very simple concept that would only work to teach less intelligent species. This works with dogs (think Pavlov), other animals, and babies (think Baby Albert and his fear of white rats). Most people probably believe that they are "too smart" to fall for this or not to recognize when they are being classically conditioned.

However, classical conditioning is all around us; in advertisements, especially. Because of higher-order conditioning, companies can make us feel a certain way towards their product by associating it with something else.

This commercial advertises for Old Spice. It uses approval of attractive women as a conditioned stimulus in order to make the consumer want to buy their product. Although most of us don't think about how advertisements try to condition, consumers are affected daily.

Humans can apparently be classically conditioned on lower levels too. In this video from the office, Jim classically conditions his co-worker, Dwight.

Sorry for the bad video quality. I'm on a horse.

An Out of Body Experience (OBE) is defined as an experience that usually involves a sense of floating outside of one's own body, and in some cases, perceiving one's physical body from an outer location. This bizarre sensation that 25% of college students and 10% of adults have claimed to have had, springs up many questions for scientists and specialists. Can this actually happen? - And how would we even be able to test this phenomenon to validate it?

So what may cause this sensation? It is impossible to find good evidence to support that people actually experience this sensation. Scientific findings appear to falsify these claims. According to the Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding textbook, people who have unusual fantasies, such as vivid fantasies, lucid dreams, hallucinations, perceptual distortions, and strange body experiences on a regular basis. People may also experience them when they are under the influence of psychedelic drugs, experiencing headaches or seizures, or under great relaxation or stress. Can we actually believe that these people are experiencing a true OBE, or can there be another explanation? Unfortunately, it's a claim that we will never know to be true or not.

The following is a brief synopsis and video from an episode of CSI: Miami:

"A man, wanders through Miami covered in blood but claiming total amnesia, except that he had killed someone. The blood is from insider trading-accused Mitch Crawford, his wife and their daughter, who were seen leaving by car early that day by courier Walter Leeson, who 'borrowed' their luxury pool. The amnesiac's only memories allow Eric to guess the triple knife murder site. His bloody wallet identifies Doug Benson, whose hammer on site wasn't the murder weapon. Using victim shots as a memory stimulus links with Doug's youth trauma. Horatio finds and links two other suspects."

As we read and learned in Chapter 7 about Memory, amnesia does not mean that all memories are lost. Retrograde amnesia is a loss of past memories and anterograde amnesia is the loss of encoding abilities, meaning that we cannot remember new experiences. In reality, the amnesia that T.V. and movies portray is considered general amnesia and it is very rare that this type of amnesia occurs.
When I saw this episode of CSI the first time, I wasn't aware that amnesia could not usually result in complete loss of one's identity and complete loss of all memories. After learning this chapter, I realized that the way in which CSI depicts amnesia is incorrect. Complete memory loss only occurs in very rare situations. So the suspect would not forget his actions, in this case, the murder.
Unfortunately, the T.V. and filmmaking industry, give society an incorrect interpretation of what amnesia is. In some cases, individuals have tried to fake complete amnesia with the incorrect understanding that this frequently occurs. Before being taught that amnesia essentially comes in two main forms, I was also unaware that amnesia doesn't just automatically mean a complete loss of all memories, including one's own identity.
Society should be informed about the situations of H.M. and Clive Wearing because amnesia is a real problem that causes difficulties in the lives of everyday people. In Clive Wearing's case, he forgot the last time he saw his wife. Media outlets do a poor job of depicting the impacts amnesia has on people. Instead, it has turned it into a way to cause drama and interest.

How Prominent is the Past?

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As we have discussed in class it is very possible for a person to mend their memory into remembering something that had never occurred, what if the opposite was true too? There have been many documented cases where people have repressed memories of traumatic experiences in their lives.

Many psychologists believe that in some traumatic experiences the mind will repress any memory of the event into a deep place within the unconscious. These memories may not be lost forever though; some of the memories reveal themselves during therapy sessions or just during everyday life when some action triggers the release of the memory. Such was the case for Eileen Franklin.

Eileen Franklin witnessed the murder of her best friend at the age of 8. For many years her memories had gone untapped and unremembered, until one day when playing with her daughter it all began to come back to her. Small pieces at first but then larger portions of her memory came back as time went on. This allowed her to put her father George Franklin on trial for the murder of her best friend that had been committed nearly 20 years in the past.

The topic of suppressed memories is widely debated in the field of psychology. Many psychologists believe that there is no such thing as suppressed memory and no way to run experiments to find out the real truth. Most of the instances of suppressed memory are anecdotal and in no way a scientific study. This leads to a lack of good scientific evidence behind either side. With no hard evidence, the question behind suppressed memories may never be answered either way.


http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/Articles/lof93.htm

Bilingualism

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As a bilingual and biliterate student, I found this passage particularly interesting. There are parts that I do and do not agree with. The authors state that "the best predictor of whether we'll become fluent is the age of acquisition: All things being equal, the earlier, the better(Johnson & Newport, 1989)" I completely agree with this statement. I began to learn Spanish when I was five years old. I attended a dual-immersion school, in which the curriculum was taught in both English and Spanish. We began our schooling on a 90-10 model. This means that for the first two years of schooling (kindergarten and 1st grade) I was taught 90% in Spanish and 10% in English. With every year, English curriculum increased by 10% and Spanish curriculum decreased by 10%, so that by the fifth grade we were taught on a 50-50 model. This method of schooling provided even amounts of both language curriculum for both native English and Spanish speakers. Native English speakers like myself developed rich Spanish accents by the third grade, and Native Spanish speakers developed clear English accents by the third grade. (I can demonstrate for you if you'd like) If you were to put myself and one of my native Spanish speaking friends behind a curtain and had us both speak in each language, you would not be able to decipher who was the native English speaker and who was the native Spanish speaker.
The book asks the question "How do bilingual persons fluent in two languages keep them straight, and how are these languages organized in their brains?" My answer to this is that we never even have to think about it, it basically just like a light switch. You can flip to whichever language you want to use, without any thought to it. I can hear or read something in Spanish and immediately start thinking and speaking in Spanish. Honestly I dream in Spanish, my Mom and friends have caught me sleep talking in Spanish multiple times. For bilingual individuals, we can read a book in Spanish, but then have a discussion about it in English. There have been multiple times where I have had to read a book in Spanish and write a book report on it in English, it truly is no struggle for us.
Another topic that the book discusses is delays in language, specifically with syntax. Although there is research to back it, I personally do not believe it to be true. I would like to know how exactly being bilingual would impare you to form sentences. In my view, we are able to form sentences in two languages and have a very wide vocabulary, therefore it is easier for us to form sentences. Again, this is my personal belief and if anyone has any specific information towards this, please let me know! I do agree, however, that with being bilingual comes a variety of long-term benefits and heightened mentalinguistic insight.
All in all, I believe that being bilingual will provide you with many benefits and opportunities in life. I highly advocate early learning dual-immersion programs and the teaching methods that go along with it.

Classical Conditioning

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The concept I chose to talk about is classical conditioning. Classical conditioning was first recognized in an experiment performed by Ivan Pavlov. In his famous experiment, he originally was researching digestion in dogs and was observing their salivary responses to the presence of meat powder. However, he also discovered that the dogs would start to salivate even before the meat was in front of them. Previous stimuli, such as footsteps of the assistant as he approached the dogs, caused the dogs to start salivating as well.

After accidentally stumbling upon this discovery, he took on a different experiment that was based specifically on classical conditioning. Once again, he used a dog but this time he had a metronome going off which he referred to as the neutral stimulus. Then he presented the meat powder to the dog and the dog would start to salivate. He repeated this process several times until finally the dog would start salivating to the sound of the metronome. This is the case because the dog was so used to receiving the meat powder at the sound of the metronome that he associated them with each other and therefore salivated without even having to see the meat powder.

I think that this concept is important because it shows how humans and animals become so used to a pattern that at some points they can hear or see or do one thing and then expect a certain thing to happen right after it because that's what they're used to. An example of how this is used is shown in an episode of the show, "The office". In this episode, Jim reboots his computer and after doing so asks Dwight if he wants an altoid. He repeats this process many times and finally one day doesn't offer him the altoid but Dwight sticks out his hand for one without even realizing. Here is a clip of the scene which does a great job of showing how classical conditioning works.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfZfMIHwSkU&feature=related

Parent Alienation Syndrome

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After reading in chapter 7 about how children are especially vulnerable to suggestibility and coercion, I became curious to know more about how this susceptibility may effect a child. I came across something called parent alienation syndrome which can be described as a parent conditioning his or her child to turn against or even become afraid of the other parent.
The controlling parent in this situation can be distinguished in many ways. The first thing a parent will do is try to discontinue contact with the child and the other parent. A child may be threatened with withdrawal of love, home, or support if he or she does not accept the views of the controlling parent. The controlling parent may also coerce the child to believe that the other parent has abused them. By continually repeating false stories of abuse a child eventually comes to accept them as true, consequently alienating the child from the innocent parent.
This syndrome is the result of a conditioned response. Imagine that a child sees his father who helps him with his homework and then takes him out for an ice cream. After this enjoyable day the child returns to his controlling mother who punishes him and treats him as if he was a possession as a result of the day he spent with his father. In this situation, the father would be the unconditioned stimulus, the enjoyable day would be the unconditioned response. Eventually, as the child continues to be abused by the mother as a result of seeing his father, the child will develop a conditioned response to the sight of his father and automatically become emotionally stressed.
This syndrome is a tragic example of how children can be controlled to become afraid of something that they would normally have no fearful response to. If a child can be coerced to become emotionally distressed at the sight of a parent, who is supposed to represent safety and love, what else can they be coerced to feel?

To begin, I'm allergic to cats. Specifically, the dander that cats shed, not the popular misconception of allergies to the fur. One of my cousin's family owned a cat for about 12 years, and whenever I'd visit I would need to bring my asthma inhaler because allergies to cats is a common irritant to asthma; the effects would be difficulty breathing, coughing etc. I visited many times before and after the cat passed away and had the same ashtmatic reaction everytime. Only after reading chapter 6 in the text book regarding negative reinforcement did I put a name to my finding. I wondered why the reactions didn't subside after the cat died, because the family cleaned the house everyday and without a constant source of cat dander, there'd be nothing to trigger my reactions.
asthma_splash.jpg

The definition of negative reinforcement is, "removal of stimulus that strengthens the probability of behavior" (Lilienfeld, 213). I believe that the reason I continued to cough, etc, before I used the inhaler, is that just seeing the house maybe triggered a reaction within my body, of the cat, and the results was my regular asthma. Inhalers act immediately and one can't use an inhaler before hand as a preventative medicine, but only once you're feeling the effect of the asthma. My body perhaps experienced negative reinforcement, in that, every time I visited my cousins house, I'd use my inhaler at some point, right after I felt the effects of asthma.Below is what an inhaler looks like, and how it is used, for those who are curious.inhaler.jpg

By using my inhaler, I therefore removed the stimulus that was bothering me (the difficulty breathing due to cat dander, and resulting expanding of my airways) and reinforced the behavior that at my cousins house, I'd start feeling the effects of my asthma and use my inhaler to stop them. I find this really incredible, but Occam's razor could prove me wrong: maybe the cat dander simply hasn't all been cleaned, perhaps it's still stuck to the clothes, carpet, etc. There are many ways to falsify this claim, but I feel that it could be a possibility that the reason I continue to feel the effects of my asthma at my cousins house, without the cat, is that my body is enduring negative reinforcement. Perhaps after a couple years, I will even experience extinction of this response, without the stimulus.
ceiling-cat-asthma.png
And finally, some humor to end with.

In Chapter 7 of Lilienfeld's textbook, Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, there was a paragraph that talked about Alzheimer's disease, which also went on to describe a study of nuns and how their life expectancy ranged from 87 to over 100 years--much higher than average American life expectancy of 77 years. Alzheimer's is a disease characterized by memory and language impairments (Lilienfeld 268). It affects 42 % of people over the age of 85. The fact that nuns had a higher life expectancy interested me and so I looked up other "nun studies" on the Internet. I also found another article detailing the same findings...


http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/205970/the_key_to_a_long_life_become_a_nun_pg3.html?cat=5

It was cool to see that the findings could be replicated, but we already know that studies and surveys do not yield causation. Which makes me wonder what the contributing factors are to leading a long healthy life. In the article, the author referenced that cloistered nuns live a very routine life causing the brain to be more at ease. This could account for the slower deterioration of brain cells. It also stated that they rarely live their communities resulting in lower sickness rates. Pair those things with the "no smoking or drinking rules" and you've created a less stressful life.

Another possible cause I'd like to point out is the fact that nuns are very compassionate, loving and peaceful people. They don't go on roller coaster rides of emotion or take big physical or mental risks. They have positive outlooks and are very much content with their purpose in life. I feel that having a demeanor like this also plays a critical role in having a healthier brain later in life. The brain is very intricate and powerful. It dictates what we do and what our bodies do, so it would makes sense to assume that people who think healthier have healthier lives. I mean, do you ever see a mad and grumpy 100 year old? No. Because people like that don't live to be that old! Just kidding. But it would be interesting to see the studies done on people with positive and negative demeanors and their life expectancy...

Kim Peek

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Over the past few weeks we had briefly discussed Kim Peek who is known as "the real rain man" and how great his memory was. In this article "Kim Peek, Inspiration for 'Rain Man', Dies at 58" Published by the magazine "Times" discusses this phenomenon. As mentioned in class, Kim had such a great memory he was able to do calendar calculations which is when someone tells Kim a date and he is able to tell you what day of the week that date falls on. However, what I thought was interesting was that the article states that Kim had a damaged corpus callosum and cerebellum; which are important for connecting the two brain hemispheres, regulating attention and language, and coordinating body movements. Although, this area was damaged his memory was above average. This is a great mystery to many doctors and scientists. After reading more about the brain I am still unsure how exactly Kim was able to have such a miraculous memory. Another thing I have found interesting is that even though he was extremely smart, he was unable to pick up social cues. Interestingly, doctors speculate that his neurons made unusual connections due to the absence of the corpus callosum; which increased his memory capacity. These special connections are probably also responsible for his ability to retain information as early as from 16 to 20 months of age, while normally, we learned in class that individuals are able to remember information/memories from age 4 and up. This article was very interesting and left me amazed with the complexity of brain's function. It helped me recognize the brain's pluripotent abilities and emphasized, why even today brain's function is not fully understood.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/27/us/27peek.html?pagewanted=1&hpw

Learning is the change in an organism's behavior or thought as a result of experience). Classical conditioning is a form of learning in which an organism comes to associate stimuli. There are four components of classical conditioning:
a) Unconditioned Stimulus: Stimulus that generates an automatic response
b) Unconditioned Response: Automatic response to a non- neutral stimulus.
c) Conditioned stimulus: Neutral stimulus that generates a learned response through repeated pairing of stimuli.
d) Conditioned Response: Learned response which was previously associated with the non-neutral stimulus.
In the case of Pavlov's dogs, the unconditioned stimulus was the meat powder, which stimulated the unconditioned response, salivation. The metronome, the conditioned stimulus, could generate a conditioned response, salivation, after being paired repeatedly with the unconditioned stimulus, meat. (Lilienfeld, 202).

Watch: http://vimeo.com/5371237

Classical conditioning can be applied to the video found on the link above. The unconditioned stimulus (the non-neutral stimulus) is Jim asking Dwight if he wants a mint. The unconditioned response (the automatic response) is Dwight reaching out to get the mint. The conditioned stimulus (the neutral stimulus) is the beep on the computer which Jim paired repeatedly with asking Dwight if he wanted a mint. Finally (the conditioned response) the learned response, is Dwight reaching out for a mint after hearing the beep on the computer.

Learning is the change in an organism's behavior or thought as a result of experience). Classical conditioning is a form of learning in which an organism comes to associate stimuli. There are four components of classical conditioning:
a) Unconditioned Stimulus: Stimulus that generates an automatic response
b) Unconditioned Response: Automatic response to a non- neutral stimulus.
c) Conditioned stimulus: Neutral stimulus that generates a learned response through repeated pairing of stimuli.
d) Conditioned Response: Learned response which was previously associated with the non-neutral stimulus.
In the case of Pavlov's dogs, the unconditioned stimulus was the meat powder, which stimulated the unconditioned response, salivation. The metronome, the conditioned stimulus, could generate a conditioned response, salivation, after being paired repeatedly with the unconditioned stimulus, meat. (Lilienfeld, 202).

Watch: http://vimeo.com/5371237

Classical conditioning can be applied to the video found on the link above. The unconditioned stimulus (the non-neutral stimulus) is Jim asking Dwight if he wants a mint. The unconditioned response (the automatic response) is Dwight reaching out to get the mint. The conditioned stimulus (the neutral stimulus) is the beep on the computer which Jim paired repeatedly with asking Dwight if he wanted a mint. Finally (the conditioned response) the learned response, is Dwight reaching out for a mint after hearing the beep on the computer.

Flashbulb Memory

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Flashbulb memories are highly detailed, exceptionally vivid 'snapshots' of the moment and circumstances in which a piece of surprising and emotionally arousing news was heard. Flashbulb memory is an appropriate name for this phenomenon in that it indicates it's a surprise. This name is actually inappropriate, however, in that an actual photograph the flash is indiscriminate and preserves everything within the scope. Flashbulb memories, in actuality, are only somewhat indiscriminate and far from being complete. These memories are highly resistant to extinction due to their vivid nature. Even though evidence has proven that although individuals are highly confident in their memories, the details are often the victims of forgetting.
Flashbulb memories are one type of autobiographical memory (memory system consisting of episodes recollected form and individual's life). There have been a growing number of studies; they are discussing whether flashbulb memories are inherently more accurate than other types of autobiographical memories.
Some researchers have argued that there is reason to distinguish these memories from other types of autobiographical memory. That is as long as there are elements of personal importance, consequentiality, emotion, and surprise.
Others however believe ordinary memories can be as accurate. That's if they are highly distinctive, personally significant, or repeatedly rehearsed.

The concept of false memories is an interesting one. It is possible for sources outside of the person to influence the way that one perceives an event, even if said event never occurred. With the strong influences of those around you and those that are close to you, false memories are a reality, as we learned in discussion this week.

Initially, I felt as if this concept was a hoax and could not be true, until the substantial evidence we reviewed and evaluated. The point that stood out most to me was the idea that if we are close friends or family with someone, we tend to take their word for things, especially if the effort of our family or friend is repeated by multiple members of this group.

Personally, I have experienced this scenario. A few months ago, a girlfriend (Sally) and I took a trip to visit the University of Minnesota Duluth campus to visit with some friends. During the trip, Sally and I did not leave each other's side, so anything that either of us did, the other one knew about.

A few weeks after returning from the trip, the rumor mill began to circulate in our hometown among friends, which I was unaware of. The rumor instigators, close friends of Sally, had told her that she had kissed a guy that she realistically had not, as I was present during the time the guy friend was with us. However, after hearing the same story from multiple parties within our social circle, Sally found herself creating a possible memory of the event. Once I was informed by Sally of the rumor, everything was set straight and she realized this memory was a created because of all the vivid stories she was told by our close friends. Luckily, Sally had me, a voice of reason, to stop her from totally believing the memory she created.

Sleep-creeper

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Take a look at this guy:

This man, named Bradley Boyce, is looking right into the eyes of a life long sentence. For what you may ask? He raped a woman. On August 29, 2010, the victim, identified as Jane Doe, called the police a little after 4 a.m. to report the incident. The most important piece of evidence? He was confirmed by the DNA testing that was done at the crime scene. Boyce was there that night whether he was aware of it or not. The victim suffered "traumatic injuries", but made it through. Boyce claimed he was sleepwalking through the entire incident.

What happened after the defendants and the prosecution made their statements?

He was found guilty and sentenced to a life in prison. This is really interesting to me, because there have been a variety of cases around the world that have been excused on the basis of sleepwalking. I keep on wondering why some get away and some are sentenced. The answer, I think, is due to court precedence. The less the court has to worry about precedence, the more proactive the judge can be. In this case, there must not have been too much precedence for the judge to use. Also, in this case it is important to consider the fact that the doctor herself had very little to test. All she was able to do was to check whether Boyce was eligible for sleepwalking, something that occurs in 4%-5% of adults. Chances are Boyce doesn't sleepwalk. The most invalid part of the entire test is the fact that instead of a sleep study on Boyce, she relied on what information was given by the defense attorney.

According to Psychology, from Inquiring to Understanding a man killed his mother-in-law with a tire iron, and seriously injured his father-in-law. He claimed that he was sleepwalking and was not guilty or responsible. The judges agreed.

When we compare a case like this one to the Boyce case it is interesting to see how differently the decisions went.


Check out the article here:
http://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/jury-convicts-sleepwalking-napa-man-of-rape/article_a0bc927e-fabe-11e0-8740-001cc4c03286.html

Pavlov and His Cat?

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This is Emma:
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Despite being less cute than any dog, she is okay for a roommate's pet. Emma is a fan of her treats and catnip, both which come in a crinkly, resealable container. Whenever she hears this crinkling, she is near you within seconds. Emma is a conditioned cat.

She has heard the crinkling of the bag so many times, a crinkling with normally follows a treat of some sort, that she is conditioned to react to it. The CS (conditioned stimulus) in this case is the crinkling noise of the treat and catnip bags. Emma's CR (conditioned response) to this stimulus is salivation, similar to Pavlov and his dogs. The UCS (unconditioned stimulus) is her treats or catnip, both of which she wants to eat, meaning the UCR (unconditioned response) is her salivation.

Emma also responds to stimulus generalization. When other's have food with a crinkly plastic bag, Emma will come running from her current napping spot to investigate. Things like chips, with louder plastic, illicit more of a response than a candy wrapper, which doesn't quite match the sound of her treats. This particular stimulus generalization can become quite annoying, especially when accompanied by several, whiny meows.

Memory and Amnesia

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Our textbook defines memory as our ability to retain information over time. Some of us have very good memories and can remember tons of the tiniest details. On the other hand, some of us have terrible memories. At any moment you can have your memory seriously damaged by being in an severe accident that can damage your brain and memory.

Amnesia is one of many conditions that could arise from such trauma to the brain. There are two types of amnesia, retrograde and anterograde (Psychology; From Inquiry to Understanding). Retro grade amnesia is where we lose memories from our past. Anterograde is where we lose the ability to form new memories. As stated in our textbook, one myth of amnesia is that most people with amnesia suffer from retrograde amnesia but, in reality, anterograde amnesia is much more common. Also, I believe it to be more difficult to deal with than retrograde amnesia. With that being said how does this type of amnesia affect the people with it and their family and friends?

I thought of this question when I was watching an episode of Private Practice last week. A couple came in for an appointment. As it turned out, the wife is pregnant AND she has anterograde amnesia. She can't form any new memories. She is always surprised by the fact that she is pregnant. Long story short, her husband finds this condition emotionally draining on himself and decides to leave her after they have the baby. He figures that she won't remember anything anyways.

This is just one example of the effects of amnesia on people. Is it morally right? Maybe not. But, regardless stories like this always leave me thinking...what would you do if someone you loved had anterograde amnesia? How would you deal with it?

There is much evidence of false memories being persuaded into people being put on trial for a crime that they have not committed. This evidence has been greatly discussed by Elizabeth Loftus who wrote an article entitled "The Memory of Things Unseen." For further information, I am going to provide you with a link to her article. (https://webfiles.uci.edu:443/eloftus/LoftusCurDir04.pdf)
One of these cases includes the McMartin Preshool Abuse Trial, which was the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history. Ray Buckey was one of the principal defendants, having spent five years in jail awaiting the trial of a crime he never committed. The case that led to no convictions and the sufferers included hundreds of emotionally damaged children, ruined careers of the McMartin staff, and Buckey, who paid the biggest price.
The accusation started off with a boy claiming to have been sexually abused by Ray Buckey and whose mother filed a police report. But instead of handling it in the right manner, in my opinion, the police and other people considering the case handled it in the wrong manner.
First of all the police sent out a letter informing 200 McMartin Preschool parents of these accusations and asking for information. In this letter they listed many forms of sexually assault that could have been performed on their children. This letter should not have been sent out without the conviction of Ray Buckey at a trial for it can lead parents on.
Then, the children were sent to the Children's Institute International (CII) to be interviewed. These interviews were not done in the right manner either, for the children were given suggestive techniques to persuade them into giving the CII the "right" answer although their initial response to their questioning of having been sexually abused was "no."
Another portion of the case handled wrong included the medical examinations, in which the examiner didn't look for physical evidence but instead looked into the medical history of the children and found causation where no correlation existed. And on top of that, the preliminary hearing was not handled correctly. Instead of conducting a typical preliminary hearing, the court held one that mounted on an affirmative case and with aggressively cross-examining the witnesses.
Not only was the cased handled in an unfair manner, but there was much evidence that contradicted this extraordinary claim. This included the fact that the original boy was unable to identify Ray from photos and showed no sign of sexual abuse after medical examinations. But the searches of both the preschool and homes of the defendants showed no evidence that could potentially lead to conviction. Also there were no findings of secret tunnels, animal bones, or photographs of nude children. Lastly, there were many inconsistencies and contradictions among the children's stories.
Overall, the trial proved to be an expensive waste of time. But it taught people a valuable lesson regarding false memories and suggestive memory techniques. McMartin juror Brenda Williams said that the trial experience taught her to be more cautious: "I now realize how easily something can be said and misinterpreted and blown out of proportion."

http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/mcmartin/mcmartinaccount.html

Sensory Memory

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Sensory memory is the brief storage of perceptual information before it is passed to short-term memory. Sensory memory is first one of the 3-stage- memory-systems. The other two are short term memory and long term memory. The sensory memory is the raw perception of the outside world. It perceives the world totally based on the biological senses, without subjective effect from the person's mind.
Humans have five main senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Sensory memory allows individuals to retain impressions of sensory information after the original stimulus has ceased. It is considered to be outside of cognitive control and is instead an automatic response. The information, which is raw data and provides a snapshot of a person's overall sensory experience, is represented totally in the sensory memory. There are 3 types of the sensory memory: iconic memory, echoic memory and haptic memory. The formation of the visual perception (aka sight) of the visual sense is the iconic memory. The hearing is represented by the echoic memory. The touch sense and over body detect sensations are represented by the haptic memory. And I think it is reasonable to assume the different psychological sense has a special memory sense. The sensory memory is different the short memory and long term memory, which is not with any other cognitive functions, such as comparison of information, and logical thinking, etc. In real life, the sensory is with us all the time, it is a gateway that allows the information to flow in mind. With the sensory we perceive the world with what it is, then transfer it to short term memory and to long term memory, which complete as what we think is our own mind. And that is the reason why the sensory is the most basic system of the memory system and yet the most complicated and important system in our human species.

Clicker Training 101

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A very important concept that was discovered by Ivan Pavlov while he was doing research on the digestion of dogs is classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is a form of learning in which animals come to respond to a previously neutral stimulus that had been paired with another stimulus that elicits an automatic response. This type of learning can be used to teach animals and humans to carry out a certain behavior or eliminate a certain behavior. Some everyday examples can be seen in advertising, fears and phobias, fetishes, disgust reactions, and training animals.

Clicker training was the way my family and I decided to train our new puppy Bella when we got her two years ago. Screen shot 2011-10-23 at 3.38.31 PM.png

I was hesitant at the idea of using a clicker to reinforce good behavior because I didn't understand how the noise of a clicker could tell the dog to continue a certain behavior. This became a lot clearer after learning about classical conditioning.

Training animals, and people for that matter, is not an easy task, but through classical conditioning it can be done. Training my dog simple things such as to sit when we told her to became a lot simpler using the clicker training. We conditioned our dog Bella to sit when she heard the noise of the clicker and then reinforced her with a treat. The clicker became the conditioned stimulus as it was now associated with a treat and then the conditioned response was her sitting. Eventually the treat was no longer needed to reinforce the behavior and then later on the clicker was able to be removed.

Here is an article that summarizes how to use clicker training and how the clicker becomes a conditioned stimulus:
http://www.understandinganimals.com/article/4

Now the question is, does clicker training, a form of classical conditioning really work? In my experience yes! Eventually my dog continued to sit on command even without the clicker which is what we wanted the outcome to be!

Here is a youtube video that shows a dog being trained using a clicker:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiSwb7iuVtw&feature=player_embedded

Research has found that there are many benefits to clicker training. Besides having your pet trained to do simple commands and difficult tricks, your dog will actually continue to display these learned behaviors after the clicker has been removed. Some other benefits of clicker training is that...
1) it's a positive training method free of harsh corrections
2) you can train dogs of any age
3) it creates a deep bond between you and your dog because it's based on cooperation
4) proven by animal behaviorists and animal trainers for many years
5) accurately marks the end of the desired behavior, which means clearer communication with the dog
6) the clicker can take the place of the treats so you don't have to worry about overfeeding your dog and spending extra cash buying treats.

These findings overrule the other hypotheses that clicker training doesn't last or isn't an effective method of training animals. (Ruling out Rival Hypothesis) Not only does clicker training work effectively it can also be repeated with the same animals, different animals, in people and in different environments. (Replicability)

Overall, classical conditioning was a huge discovery by Pavlov and has proved its way in research and in my experiences to work very well on animals and people.


Three Stage Memory

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For some time I have wondered why humans have developed memory into a three-stage process; sensory memories, short-term memory, followed by long-term memory. Specifically, I am most fascinated by the difference in short-term and long-term memory.
Short-term memory is defined as the ability to hold 7 +/-2 pieces that only last about 15 seconds in our brains. Long-term memory seems to be essentially infinite in storage, and lasts seemingly forever. What is the evolutionary advantage to keeping these two processes separate? If the long-term memory has an infinite capacity, would it be harmful to us if we remembered everything that ever entered our short-term memory? I can think of all kinds of advantages this would have, but we can only hypothesize on what types of harm it would have.
If we remembered everything we ever moved from sensory memory to short term memory would no longer need address books, flash cards and studying, and no more embarrassing moments of forgetting a new persons name. However, there must be a reason that humans did not evolve this way. Perhaps the human memory works like an external hard drive. Right out of the box, a new hard drive can clock very impressive numbers on data transfer speeds, but as the drive gets used more and has more data placed on it, those data transfer speeds slow down. Its possible the human brain works like this. If this were true, this would be one possible explanation as to why the human brain has placed a limit on how much it cares to remember. Or another possibility may be that long-term memory is not nearly as expansive as it may appear. Perhaps it is much more limited than we believe.
Although we may never know the exact reason humans have not evolved to combining short term and long term memory, it is a fascinating topic to imagine what could be/could have been if everything we ever came across was easy to recall.

I was surprised by authors' idea that direct instruction is more effective and efficient than discovery learning, when I read chapter 6 in textbook. Because we always hear educational scholars advocate developing discovery learning in classes, instead of suggesting to improve direct instruction. Why do authors support opposite ideas as we heard, and what is the evidence shown?

What Is Discovery Learning and Direct Instruction?
First,we recall the conceptions of discovery learning and direct instruction. Discovery learning is a method that students find principles by themselves without teachers instructing. Direct instruction is the opposite idea, which refers to a rigorously developed, highly scripted method for teaching that is fast-paced and provides constant interaction between students and the teacher. It emphasizes the use of small-group, face-to-face instruction by teachers and aides using carefully articulated lessons in which cognitive skills are broken down into small units, sequenced deliberately, and taught explicitly.

Discovery Learning V.S Direct Instruction
It is a controversy between these two ideas. Proponents of discovery learning theory believe that discovery learning could encourages active engagement,promotes independence and most important,develops creativity and problem solving skills. However, Critics cites this method could create cognitive overload and potential misconceptions. And they suggest classical teaching method, direct instruction, is more effective and efficient than discovery learning. What does evidence show?
Studies of Learning Methods
One study is completed in the 1970s, about Project Follow Through, which was the largest educational study up to now. It examined a variety of programs and educational philosophies to learn how to improve education of disadvantaged children in grades K-3. The studies could be grounded into basic skills, cognitive skills ("higher order thinking") and self-esteem. Subjects were divided into two groups, that are receiving direct instruction and receiving discovery learning. The results showed Students receiving Direct Instruction did better than those in all other programs when tested in reading, arithmetic, spelling, and language.Also, direct instruction improved cognitive skills dramatically relative to the control groups and also showed the highest improvement in self-esteem scores compared to control groups. Therefore, direct instruction is better than discovery learning.
Yet, Another study shows direct instruction is insufficient and inappropriate in the long term by DAVID DEAN JR. and DEANNA KUHN.
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In conclusion, both methods of learning have advantages. But, applying either one method alone in teaching is not a rational way. Therefore, we need consider to combine both methods during teaching.

How we trained our dog

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This is our dog, Ari. She is a four month old Labrador retriever. Thanks to B.F. Skinner, my husband and I were able to teach her to do some tricks such as sit, lie down, shake, drop, and stay.

This is how we trained her.
Step 1. Get her favorite food and the clicker ready
Step 2 Say some command words
Step 3 Click the clicker if she performs any similar behavior of the target behavior and give her food
Step 4 Repeat step 2 and 3. Keep reinforcing behaviors

We trained her by using shaping (also called shaping by successive approximations). Shaping was introduced by B.F Skinner, who was an American psychologist and one of the famous behaviorists. It is known that his work was influenced by Pavlov and Watson but do you know how he first knew about them?

The first time B.F Skinner encountered with Behavioral Science was after he graduated from Hamilton College. Actually he wanted to become a writer so he moved back home, Susquehanna, New York. He wrote little and worked as a bookstore clerk. While working at the bookstore he found the books written by Pavlov and Watson. He was impressed by them and wanted to learn more. So he enrolled in the Psychology Department of Harvard University at the age of 24 and studied more about it. Later on, he introduced the term shaping.

Shaping is a procedure that you reinforce behaviors although the behaviors are not target behaviors yet. By doing so, you can guide them to perform the target behavior. In other words, animals don't know why they get treats at first but as they get encouraged more times they eventually shape the target behavior.

We plan to teach Air to pick up her toys and put them in her toy box eventually by using chaining with shaping. Chaining is a technique to teach animals to perform longer series of tricks. For example, we will teach our dog to pick up a toy first. Later on we will reinforce her by giving her food, when she picks up a toy and goes to her toy box. Eventually we will teach her to pick up a toy and drop it in her toy box.

We have a long way to go but it will be fun. If she learns to clean up her toys, I'll post the video of her! Wish me luck!

As many well established dog trainers know, there are various different ways to teach your dog or puppy obedience and training. Two particular forms of training drew a lot of public attention and that is Positive and Negative Reinforcement. Negative Reinforcement in the dog world is defined as: A punishment that is given to your dog or puppy or something is taken away to increase the likelihood of the behavior being repeated more frequently. If any one is familiar with Cesar Millan we know that he is very much a fan of this particular approach, and his particular choice of training drew a lot of ethical questions. In the article I read it touched base with the correct way to train your dog with using negative reinforcement which drew a very thin line to punishment. In our text punishment is defined as an outcome or consequence of a behavior that weakens the probability of the behavior. In the article the trainer had stated you could use negative reinforcement when you are potty training your dog. The article has also stated, if your dog where to have an accident in the house to place him/her in their crate so they know they have to potty outside, is this really the proper use of negative reinforcement? It seems more like punishment because nothing has actually been taken away from the pooch, besides his freewill.
The other methods which were listed are the use of things such as, Shock Training Collars, Choke Collars, Bitter Apple and Cayenne Pepper spray, and water spray collars, or in Cesar Millan's case kicking the dog when unwanted behavior occurs. While all these methods seem more like punishment (in just scaring the dog out of the unwanted behavior) trainers nation wide are not using negative reinforcement correctly, making dog owners shun the idea of negative reinforcement, which if used properly could be a very effect method of dog training.
Trainers such as Cesar Millan have fell victim to being labeled as an animal abuser because of his particular methods in dog training. He claims that he is using negative reinforcement, when he's not actually removing a stimulus, but striking fear into a dog when an unwanted behavior occurs. He may run into less issues with the owners if he calls it as it is, and admits to using punishment whether the negative reinforcement to train his dogs.
More dog owners and trainers seem to be switching over to the less controversial training of positive reinforcement! Which in the dog world is defined as, A treat and lots of praise to increase the likelihood of the behavior being repeated more frequently. This method seems more beneficial to the owners and of course their dogs, I mean how can you go wrong with treats? I hope this particular article opens the eyes to our many dog trainers and owners out there, and helps them re-evaluate their method of training, and if they choose to stick with negative reinforcement make sure that it's done correctly, so you don't go from becoming a trainer to an abuser!

Over the past two weeks, we have learned about suggestive memory techniques in our textbook. Suggestive memory techniques are ways that encourage people to remember memories that were often impossible events. I believe this finding to be important because there are often many criminal cases that involve completely innocent people to be wrongfully imprisoned. Even when evidence does not confirm that the suspect is linked to the crime, eyewitnesses may incorrectly identify them at the scene of the crime.
One recent example is the case of Troy Davis. Troy Davis was a man wrongfully convicted of and executed for the murder of a police officer in Savannah, Georgia. He maintained his innocence until his execution.
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Though Troy Davis was innocent, eyewitness identification said otherwise. The entire case against Troy Davis was based on eyewitness testimony, despite the fact that the eyewitnesses' testimonies were unreliable.
Eyewitness recall is not a good enough base to rely on when it comes to criminal cases, according to Elizabeth Loftus, of whom we learned about in our discussion sections. Variables that may affect a witness' ability to recall facts include how far away the witnesses were from the scene, what the light was like, whether they were afraid, or whether they are of a different race than the person they witnessed.
This relates to the case of Troy Davis because the eyewitnesses clearly mistook someone else for him, which occurs a lot more frequently than I would like to think. Innocent people are being sent to jail and possibly executed. Why should we have such little faith in our judicial system for finding the true criminals in cases like this? What can we do to increase our efficiency in convicting the correct person?
Here is a link to an article from TIME magazine that gives more details about the Troy Davis case:
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2095209-1,00.html

Your moment of Zen

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Meditation pose
Call it Zen or Transcendental meditation (TM) or Mindfulness meditation (MM), or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)...they all relate to different forms of contemplation as a means to calm the body and mind. Meditation is an ancient practice with origins in India and China that has, in the past few decades, experienced an explosion of popularity. Claims regarding its benefits include improvements in concentration, perceptual sensitivity, memory, reaction times, and relaxation. Since we have been studying the process of memory, I was curious to find out more about the links between meditation and memory.

There is a positive correlation between the practice of meditation and memory. In recent years, mindfulness-meditation (MM) and Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction (MBSR) have been studied by neuroscientists and the results show that MM results in an increase in the cerebral cortex thickness which is in turn achieved by an increase in the blood flow to the region. Remember the London taxi drivers' phenomenal memory and the increased activity in their hippocampuses? Meditation increases the volume of the hippocampus, according to studies done at UCLA.

There is one study that caught my eye that compares Magnetic Resonance (MR) images of participants before and after they underwent an 8-week program of MBSR. Results included increased gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction and the cerebellum. These areas are associated with learning, memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking. There were NO downsides mentioned in ANY study. In fact, since major depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder subjects have associated with them lower volumes of the hippocampuses, researchers are seriously considering the use of meditation in such situations.

Results of MBSR

The scientists acknowledge that there may be an element of selection bias since the participants were people who had voluntarily (or at the instruction of a medical practitioner) signed up for the MBSR program and the control group consisted of people on the said waiting list. Confounds of the study are that MBSR includes group social interaction, stress-reduction education as well as gentle stretching any of which might be the real reason for the highly favorable results.

Don't let that confound you however. Go ahead....take your moment(s) of Zen.


Sources:

Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density
Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, Sara W. Lazar
Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging - 30 January 2011 (Vol. 191, Issue 1, Pages 36-43, DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006)

Mindfulness training affects attention--or is it attentional effort?
Jensen, Christian Gaden; Vangkilde, Signe; Frokjaer, Vibe; Hasselbalch, Steen G.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Sep 12, 2011, No Pagination

www.memory.improvement-tips.com/meditation-and-memory.html/

Attending to the present: mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference
Norman A. S. Farb, Zindel V. Segal, Helen Mayberg, Jim Bean, Deborah McKeon, Zainab Fatima, and Adam K. Anderson
Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2007 December; 2(4): 313-322.
Prepublished online 2007 August 13.

Memory and Alzheimer's

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Memory is crucial to our lives because it allows us to apply our past experiences to our present lives. Memory allows us to function normally. Without memory we wouldn't know what to do when we got up in the morning or recognize the faces of those we love. It is normal not to remember every detail of our lives, but sometimes people begin forgetting too much. This is a disease and it is called Alzheimer's.

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Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia that gets worse over time and affects memory, thinking, and behavior. Alzheimer's accounts for 50 to 60 percent of the cases of dementia, and it occurs at alarming rates as people age. For those people aged 65 and older the risk for the disease is 13 percent, but once you hit age 85 and older the percent jumps up to 42 percent. Alzheimer's begins with the forgetting of newer memories, and ends with older memories being the last to go.

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When you have Alzheimer's the brain contains many senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles that contribute to the loss of synapses, and death of cells in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex. It is not known what exactly causes Alzheimer's but it is thought to be partially genetic and partially environment and lifestyle based. For example, it has been shown that being physically active reduces your risk for Alzheimer's.

The disease of Alzheimer's is close to my heart because my grandfather had it. I personally experienced his decline and memory. He had to be moved from his house and to a nursing home because he could no longer take care of himself. I wonder if scientists will ever discover the exact cause of Alzheimer's and if there will be a treatment that works. What would our world be like if people no longer had memory loss? Would it increase life span? Would it be a good thing or a bad thing? I guess we will just have to give Alzheimer's research time and wait to see the outcome.

Sources:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001767/
Psychology Textbook

In chapter 6 we learned a great deal about the processes and types of learning. There were several examples in the text that focused on how animals learn. When I read these sections about animals, I found it funny how the authors of the text made animals sound less intelligent than humans. An example is from page 228 when it states " a genius of an ape named Sultan, who easy especially adept at solving puzzles. (Lilienfield 2010) My point in this is we give animals less credit than they deserve sometimes. I mean, would we consider a human a "genius" for solving simple tasks? Most likely the answer is no.
In my opinion we give animals much less credit than they deserve. So I thought I would look for cases that display evidence that animals can be better learners and problem solvers than humans. In my search I found two good examples in which primates outsmarted a human, in one case the human was me.
The first video I found was of a chimp named Ayumu. Ayumu was able to learn Arabic numerals, and then outsmart, or outperform a human in a short term memory task. The task was this. Numbers would appear on a touch screen computer. The numbers would then disappear soon after being displayed, Ayumu than had to touch squares where the numbers appeared in ascending order of the numbers that were previously in that location. When watching the video you can see clearly that the human struggles far more than Ayumu in this task.
The second video was very simple. A chimp in given a peanut in a tube that is fixed to the ground. The tube is too long for the chimp to reach with its fingers. As I watched it I had no idea how this chimp would get the peanut out. I thought maybe breaking the tube would be an easy way to do it; but if the tube is to sturdy, and I couldn't break it, than I would have no way of getting the peanut. The chimp however, wasn't as stumped as me. The chimp thought to get water from its drinking supply, and spit the water in the tube, making the peanut float. This in my opinion is an excellent display of animals' intelligence.
So the point again is, I think animals are given much less credit than they deserve. For the most part, yes animals are less intelligent than humans, but there are many situations that primates can out smart us in.


When this home video of two young twins appearing to talk to each other in a language unfamiliar to any outsiders was released, it was an instant hit. People immediately posted comments claiming that this was proof that babies indeed have their own secret language, while others tried to guess what these babies were actually talking about. Before you come up with your own funny translation, however, let us look deeper into this issue where a simpler explanation awaits.

I'm sure there has been a time in everyone's life when they wished they were a twin. This is probably because people have the false idea that twins have a special way to communicate that nobody else can decipher. This idea is so well known that it even has its own name, cryptophasia. At first glance, this makes sense because you are likely to have a close bond with someone who you have spent your whole life with. However, this claim is no match for Occam's razor, one of the six principles of critical thinking, which proposes a simpler explanation. Since twins learn how to talk around the same time, it is likely that they make similar errors when speaking. As a result, the twins are able to recognize what the other one is trying to say while outsiders have no clue what the twins are talking about. Occam's razor has saved the day once again.

But is this babbling completely pointless? Absolutely not! Although it is true that babbling consists of intentional, yet meaningless sounds that come out of a baby's mouth, these noises are the first step in learning how to talk. The babbling allows babies to experiment with their vocal tracts and discover how to create different sounds.

By putting Occam's razor to use, we learned that it is unlikely that twins have a mysterious language that only they can comprehend. However, babbling should not be seen (or I guess heard) as an annoying, worthless noise because it plays an important part in helping an infant learn how to talk.


Sources:

Video courtesy of:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JmA2ClUvUY

Information courtesy of:
Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding Textbook, pages 290 and 297

Narcoleptic Poodle

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While discussing our consciousness in Psychology, we talked about sleep and the various disorders associated with sleep. These disorders consisted of insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, night terrors, and sleepwalking. The one that especially stuck out me was narcolepsy. As we learned, narcolepsy is a disorder in which people or animals experience episodes of sudden sleep lasting anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Normally, people don't enter REM sleep, the stage of sleep where the brain is most active and dreaming often occurs, for more than an hour after they fall asleep. This is not the case for those who experience narcolepsy, who enter REM sleep as soon as they doze off.
Talking about this disorder in class reminded me of a video someone showed me a few years back of a narcoleptic dog. Although at first the video below may come off as funny, it shows how terrible this disorder can be. It appears the dog in the video, named Skeeter, is experiencing cataplexy, which is a complete loss of muscle control. According to the book, people and animals with narcolepsy can experience cataplexy when they become excited. This makes it extremely hard for Skeeter to enjoy the things every dog should, such as running, playing, and eating. It is also very dangerous, as dogs cannot be watched at all times, but an episode of narcolepsy can hit at any time.

I was left wondering how the dog could ever get the chance to experience a full day without being interfered by narcolepsy. After doing some research, I found that the answer is somewhere in between. While narcolepsy cannot completely be cured, there are ways to minimize its symptoms. This can be done with oral administration of tricyclic antidepressants. Although narcolepsy is not directly harmful to Sceeter, it is indirectly harming his life by taking away his excitement.

Spinning top: http://tinyurl.com/3lgrlwn

We have been learning about the psychology of dreams and the implantation of false memories. All this new information has made me reflect on the movie Inception, where a lot of these concepts play a significant role in the plot's premise and development- I think it would be interesting to examine the scientific plausibility of infiltrating a person's mind via his or her dreams. We should all recognize that in order to enjoy the film, it is necessary to suspend our belief and appreciate that the movie is a fictional tale that takes liberties with scientific facts.

In actual life, dreams only occur during the REM stage and only 25% of our entire night's worth of sleep is at the REM stage of the sleep cycle, if at all (Lilienfeld). It usually takes a while for normal humans to reach REM stage, with the majority of sleep being in stage 2. However, in the film, after attaching the necessary wires, people immediately fall asleep and being dreaming.

When we rest and go to sleep, our brains partially shut down and become inactive so that it can heal itself. REM sleep is characterized by active suppression of motor activity and presynaptic inhibition of sensory signals (Squire et al 2008). In the scene where DiCaprio introduces Ellen Page to the dream state, the dreamers display a highly advanced level of cognition, awareness, and memory that contradicts neuroscience. The wide-ranging inactivation of prefrontal brain regions during REM sleep would not allow for such a dream to occur.

The purpose of entering someone else's dreams is to implant an idea into the person's mind. Based on what we discussed in discussion, this could possible occur. Our memories are malleable and suggestible and we oftentimes believe things that never actually ever happened before (Loftus). The businessman may actually believe that his father told him to divide the company.

http://www.stanford.edu/group/neurostudents/cgi-bin/wordpress/?p=649

Alien Abduction

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The article I chose is about people being abducted by aliens. It talks about a couple that claimed to have been abducted while driving in their car. They couldn't remember anything for a two hour period and later when talking to a psychiatrist they seemed to remember details and both of their stories were the same in most details. http://jill-stefko.suite101.com/psychological-effects-of-alien-abduction-victims-a393581 The scientific thinking principal that I think this relates to is Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence. There were no witnesses or proof of the events that these people say occurred. This is a very unlikely thing to happen and with no proof it's hard to know if it is real or not. Another thinking principle that comes into play is Ruling out Rival Hypotheses. There could be other explanations then that they were abducted by aliens. They could have been making it all up for attention, their car could have been leaking exhaust fumes causing them to hallucinate, or perhaps it was a long ride and they were very tired causing either a dream or hallucination and one having told the other they both thought that id happened. They could only remember the details when they were hypnotized which is not an effective way to emerge memories. These could also be false memories planted be ideas from dreams. In a related article I read that the details they gave were similar to recent episode of "The Outer Limits" which is where they could have gotten the idea that planted the false memory. In this case we should consider Occam's Razor and go with what is much more probable, that they in some other way got the idea that they were abducted but really they were not.

Alzheimers

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In psychology lecture we have been discussing memory. Memory is something we typically take for granted. Yet, it is possible to lose our memory. An example of a man that tragically lost his memory is Clive Wearing. Clive suffers from both anterograde and retrograde amnesia. As his wife says, he lives in the moment.

His case is very unfortunate. However, we have learned quite a deal from his case. (You can see Clive Wearing interacting with his wife in the link to the video below.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwigmktix2Y

Even though Clive's condition is relatively uncommon, memory problems afflict numerous people. For instance, Alzheimers condition is relatively widespread effecting approximately 4.5 million Americans today. In 2050 this number is expected to increase to a total of 16 million Americans. Alzheimers leads not only to "personal losses" and hardship, but provides economic hardship as well. Caring for people suffering from Alzheimers in the United States alone costs around $100 billion a year. Therefore, finding the cure/treatment to this disease will not only provide relief to those afflicted with this disease and their loved ones, but it could also eliminate a major financial burden.

After learning this, I decided to research what the University of Minnesota is doing to prevent this devastating condition. I learned that the University has a research lab led by Karen Hsia Ashe who has had made important discoveries in Alzheimers research. For example, in 1996 her lab was the birthplace of a transgenic mouse that mimicked the early stages of the disease. This mouse had both memory loss and amyloid-beta plaques , one of the hallmarks of the disease, and is now the most widely used mouse for Alzheimers research in the world.

Hopefully the research here at the University of Minnesota and around the world will help mankind tackle this terrible disease. I have seen a family member suffer from Alzheimers and hope this disease will be cured in the future. However, for now, we should learn that memories are never guranteed and that we should not take this amazing phenomenon for granted.

Mnemonic devices are a type of memory aid. They are a way of encoding information in an easy to remember construct. There are many different types of Mnemonic devices, and they can be used to remember anything. Some examples include: acronyms, acrostic, method of Loci, and the peg system. Acronyms are made up of taking the first letter of each word or phrase you are trying to remember and making a new word from those letters. An example of this would be, NEWS. NEWS is an acronym for the directions on a compass; north, east, west, south. Acrostics are created by making a full sentence using the first letter of each word as indicators for the words you are trying to remember. An example of an acrostic would be, "My very energetic mother just served us nine pizzas." This acrostic is used to remember the planets. The method of Loci uses visualization of places to recall information. An example of this would be linking something you want to remember with a location you know well. This place will later cue you what you needed to remember. The peg system is a mnemonic device used commonly to memorize lists of things. An example of this would be remembering 1 and gun, later associating the first thing on a list fired from a gun. Second, remembering 2 and zoo, associating the second thing on a list and a zoo. This can go on and on. As I said before, mnemonic devices can be used to remember anything.

I have personally used mnemonic devices as a short cut to recall things my entire life. One very recent example where I used a mnemonic device was in my psychology class in order to remember the six principles of scientific thinking. The sentence I used to remember them on the test was: "Rival causes falsify repeated claims (Mr.) Occam." I have found that mnemonic devices are a very important type of memory aid. They may not help you understand the material you are studying, but they do help you remember key words or phrases quickly and easily.

Here is an example of an acrostic mnemonic device used to remember the order in which to solve a multi step mathematical equation:

PIC001

Does media violence cause real-world aggression? Although psychologists have differing opinions regarding correlation vs. causation, most can agree that media violence is a contributing factor.

http://youtu.be/Yx0X61jT5dw
(in case link above doesn't work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yx0X61jT5dw&feature=related)

Correlation vs. Causation: Through correlational designs, data has shown that children who watch violent TV shows are more aggressive than those who don't. However, this doesn't necessarily indicate a direct causation between the two. A third variable, like initial aggressiveness levels, could affect a kid's choice on whether or not to tune in to an aggressive TV show.

Ruling Out Rival Hypotheses: Longitudinal designs have also shown a relationship between media violence and real-world aggression; kids who watch violent TV shows commit more crimes than kids who don't, even if their initial aggression levels are similar. But is it a direct causation? No, because longitudinal designs aren't really experiments. The kids aren't randomly selected or assigned to a particular TV show; instead, they choose which shows to watch. Also, there can be many confounding variables like lack of parental supervision and boredom with regular TV shows that might contribute to this correlation.

Ruling Out Rival Hypotheses: In a field study conducted by David Phillips, it was discovered that homicide rates rose 12.5% after widely publicized boxing matches. This surprising information led people to believe that violent boxing matches caused a rise in homicide. However, psychologists realized that the relationship between these two occurrences could have been due to chance, because there are numerous other reasons why homicide rates increase.

Ruling Out Rival Hypotheses: In another field study, a town without TV access (A) was compared to a town with TV access (B). Initially, town A was less aggressive than town B. However, after enabling TV access to town A, the once media-free town became more aggressive. This shows a correlation between media violence and real-world aggression, but other factors could've influenced this relationship. For instance, after this field study began, the Canadian government constructed a highway that connected town A to town B. Because town A wasn't isolated anymore, town B could have negatively influenced kids by exposing them to things like crime.

Even though there are confounding variables in the relationship between media violence and real-world aggression, many psychologists agree that media violence contributes to aggression. However, psychologists can't confirm that there's a direct causation between the two.

This relates to college students, because so many shows we watch and video games we play depict violent acts of killing each other. Just look at the top video games sold in recent years: Gears of War 3, Dead Space 2, Twisted Medal, Halo Reach and many more. It's good to know that other factors affect the relationship between media violence and real-world aggression, because otherwise most people would become violent.

Sources:
Lilienfeld textbook chapter 6
http://www.cnbc.com/id/38036046/The_Hottest_Videogames_of_2011?slide=2

Sign Language

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American Sign Language is a vastly different language than most people think. The grammar rules, or syntax, are completely unlike speaking English. Though the syntax is different, sign languages are still considered languages because they follow specific rules just like speaking languages. Being a native speaker of English, it was hard for me to understand American Sign Language at first. I am currently in my second semester and I am still finding myself trying to translate the sentence I have in my head word-for-word in sign language. This is a no-no! A typical sentence in sign language isn't the English "subject-verb" norm. There aren't really any auxiliary verbs in ASL as well as any articles like "the" or "a". Going from English to sign language, this takes awhile to get used to.

When I walked into class of my first semester, two translators were present and I got to see them sign with the teacher. Besides watching their methodical hand gestures, I couldn't help but notice their general posture and facial expressions. These two elements play a crucial part in ASL grammar. My professor stresses how we have to show emotion in all of our sentences. We even have to do eyebrow exercises sometimes if we aren't focusing (eyebrows up, eyebrows down, eyebrows up, eyebrows down...)!!! These facial expressions in any speaking language could be thought of as over-dramatic but in ASL as well as any other sign language, these extralinguistic gestures are very important.

There are many myths about sign language. One of the main myths is when children are born deaf to hearing parents, people might think that they cannot acquire language like hearing children do. However, this is false. Deaf children can acquire language like anyone else. In fact, the parts of the brain that process spoken language are just used to process sign language. Also, children that are born deaf go to through the same developmental stages as hearing children do. For instance, when hearing children start babbling, deaf children babble with their hands. Here is a video of a deaf parent signing with her deaf child...very cute!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRzM7tO8rVk

Eidetic Memory...is it real?

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We learned in the Memory chapter about persons with exceptional memories, like those with eidetic memories or echoic memories.

One of my favorite shows, Psych, features a main character with an eidetic memory who uses this characteristic to his advantage in solving crimes. He claims to be a psychic and uses his memory to solve the crimes with his "psychic abilities". It's a very funny and clever show, if you haven't seen it, go watch it.

Another show that I love, Criminal Minds, also has a character with an eidetic memory. Fictional Dr. Spencer Reid uses his memory of things he's read or seen to help solve the crimes.

I'm really curious about the whole concept of eidetic memory. From Wikipedia and our textbook, it's defined as "the ability to recall images, sounds, or objects in memory with extreme precision and in abundant volume." With such an extraordinary claim, it really should be backed up.

I'm just baffled on how this is even possible. I think I have a pretty good memory, and I know that during tests I can recall whole pages in my notebook or textbook about the information being tested--it's not super precise, but does that mean that I can have a semi-eidetic memory? Or is my memory just really good? How is a person classified as having an eidetic memory?

I looked it up and found some interesting information. Wikipedia says, "there are distinct differences in the manner in which information is processed. People who have a generally capable memory often use mnemonic devices to retain information while those with eidetic memory remember very specific details, such as where a person was standing, what the person was wearing, etc. They may recall an event with greater detail while those with a different memory remember daily routines rather than specific details that may have interrupted a routine..." Interesting.

I read on and found that this topic is still a subject of skepticism. Many psychologists have conducted studies testing eidetic memory and have found different results. I don't know what to believe. Could good memories just be a result of rehearsal or repeated exposure? Strong attention to detail? There are many claims, and with every extraordinary claims there has to be sufficient evidence to back it up.

From what I've read, as of 2008, no one has been able to claim long-term eidetic memory in a scientific setting.

So until then, I'll just enjoy the antics of Shawn Spencer on Psych and the drama on Criminal Minds.

Source: Lilienfield textbook, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eidetic_memory

The Magic Number 7

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During the last lecture, we learned about memory and just how complex it is. I feel that as we have been learning about new things in class, we have been debunking myths surrounding these topics. This made me want to look up myths surrounding memory, and one of the ones that I found was mentioned in the last lecture. According to http://www.learningideas.me.uk/memmyths/index.html , the magic of 7 items (plus or minus 2) is a myth that came from a very good, but incorrect, theory by a famous psychologist named George A. Miller is just a myth.

The magic number 7 is one of the most highly cited papers in psychology. George A. Miller, of Princeton University's Department of Psychology published it in 1956 in Psychological Review. It theorizes that the number of objects that an average human can hold in their working memory is 7 +/- 2. More recent research has shown that the magic number 7 is not only based upon a misinterpretation of Miller's essay, but that the actual number of objects that can be held in the working memory is around three or four. The research revealed that span depends on the category of "chunks" used, and also features of these chunks within categories. For example, compare remembering a list of 7 things and a similar list split into categories. This could be 7 animals in one list and 2 birds, 2 cats, and 3 dogs in the other list. The second list is easier to remember.

There has been a widespread debate whether addiction is caused by the drugs themselves or some other factor. Psychology Today has an article that simply states the view point on "addictive personality".
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/look-it-way/200903/the-addictive-personality"

Addicted_by_DoraLovey.jpg

People across many societies and cultures can become addicted to alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. Is this addiction caused by their "addictive personality" or some other factor? According to Stephen Mason an author of Psychology Today, "addiction depends, first and foremost, upon having an addictive personality." Our society tends to believe that drugs are, all by themselves, addicting. Yet there are many people who can drink a few glasses of wine at dinner or who have smoked marijuana a few times and have not become addicted. Doesn't this fact, in and of itself, disprove our society's belief that drugs are addicting by themselves? Yes it does! Being addicted to something is merely an "out-of-control habit"; someone who wants to get that good feeling all the time and organizes there life around it. This means becoming absorbed in a task such as drinking, gambling, going to church or any other task that brings about good feelings for someone.
People with this "addictive personality",10%-15% of the population, simply don't know when to stop. This can refer to almost anything: drinking, smoking, going to church, or gambling. Stephen Mason brings up a common phrase that we have all heard of from our educators, peers, parents, and the media, "too much of a good thing can be bad." The people with this "addictive personality" are very good examples of this saying.

Here is a video that briefly explains "addictive personality":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85HM4b1cAsM

I agree with the many scientists that believe people can become easily addicted if they have an "addictive personality", yet there is proof that supports genetic influences on addiction as well. This being said, one cannot forget about other factors that can influence addiction and the other theories out there besides the "addictive personality" theory.

One more link that I would like to provide for this blog post includes a song written and performed by Rob Bryanton. This song explains a lot about the "addictive personality" and its possible causes.
http://imaginingthetenthdimension.blogspot.com/2008/02/song-10-of-26-addictive-personality.html

This song supports the idea of "addictive personality" but it also brings up questions of how this "addictive personality" came about. It could be from nature, nurture, media, or genes. All these things influence individuals, even their ability to become addicted to a certain drug or action.

"Watching" versus "Asking"

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Which method do you think determines someone's behavior better, watching behavior unfold in the real word or handing someone a questionnaire to fill out? In my opinion, naturalistic observation will compile the best results. These two approaches of studying human behavior have one major difference: "watching" versus "asking". The benefit of naturalistic observation is that the subject being studied doesn't know they are being observed so then the results aren't skewed. In this method of studying human behavior, the results seem to be truer as the subject is being one hundred percent themselves instead of possibly changing their behaviors or attitudes if they knew they were being studied.

Here is a short video that explains naturalistic observation really well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdXjPxOsfuo

Surveys can be an efficient approach to studying human behavior but there can be some downfalls. During surveys the participants might not put their full effort into their responses, they might not answer them honestly, and they could miss group variables such as race and gender. Overall, the method of naturalistic observation studies subjects in their elements without interference where as surveys can cause a participant to slightly alter their responses. I think these methods of observation are very important because they give scientists multiple ways of observing human behavior in a way that is best for their particular study whether that is naturalistic observation or a survey.

During high school I experienced both of these methods first hand. For one project I had to observe someone in his or her elements. While I was observing this person I had to be very careful not to be obvious that I was watching them so they wouldn't alter their behavior. For another project I had to survey a class for each subject regarding their grades and how much time they spent studying a week for that subject. Most of the results were typical straightforward answers such as a B or 3 hours a week. But then of course you had the students who didn't put answers such as "why do you need to know?" or "I don't know, you expect me to keep track". Answers like these skewed my results, as I had to take them out of my final results. These real life experiences helped me see that naturalistic behavior definitely allows the researcher into the person's behavior and life without skewing the results where as surveys can sometimes alter the outcome.

One thing that I still wonder about is, what kind of studies needs naturalistic observation and which studies would surveys work better for?

'Oh god, here it comes...no, please not tonight.' I thought. It would start with a loud buzzing, similar to that of someone screaming over radio static. A deep sinking weight into the bed from my fingers to my toes followed this sound. I was paralyzed...trapped in my own body! I would struggled to breath as everything seemed to last an eternity. The more I would try to move, the stronger the horrifying sound would become. The sound and weight could drive anyone mad. It was a sound deep in my ears. It was a sound hard to describe. And the worst part was it all sounded crazy.

At first I told my mom about these strange occurrences when I was falling asleep. I also added that it only occurred when I slept on my back. She responded by asking me a question that made me feel even crazier:
"Honey, do you hear voices with these screaming sounds?"
"Gez Mom, of course not!"

She left it at that, but the serious tone in her voice when she asked this seemingly ridiculous question made her concern evident. It made me wonder... am I going crazy?

I realized I was losing and unhealthy amount of sleep because I feared the frightening ascent into sleep and decided it was time to see a doctor. I prepared a list of the strange sensations I frequently had right as I fell asleep and made sure to throw in a disclaimer to assure the doctor I did not hear any voices.

I was relieved to hear that my sanity had not flown the coop, but really confused when the doctor told me I was experiencing something relatively common called "Sleep Paralysis". I was filled with questions. What is sleep paralysis? Why had I not heard of it before if it is 'relatively common'? Why me? Was there something wrong me? Is there a cure to this terrifying nightly experience?

I was sent away with only half of these questions answered. The 'cure' was healthier sleeping habits and she promised there was nothing wrong with me. The only problem was that the transition between my sleep stages was some times not smooth. The doctor broke it down by saying that my body was going to sleep faster than my mind. Elements of the REM stage were present while I was still conscious. As for the 'Why me?' sleep paralysis can be either hereditary, due to certain stressors, or because I sleep on my back.

My other concern was about the fact that this is 'relatively common'. Although roughly half of all people have experienced sleep paralysis in their lifetime, I have yet to meet one. Some cultures have folklore tales and interpretations of the experiences, often describing it as some sort of evil. Why is this strange and horrifying experience not talked about? Could it be because it sounds too crazy?

On his journey of "self-discovery" Marcus de Sautoy explored the very biological and spiritual aspects of the human brain. His journey led him to many different questions that still to this day cannot be answered. At what age do we become aware of ourselves? Where exactly does our conscious reside in our brain? Is it possible to know if someone is truly conscious or not? And, in my opinion, most importantly, are we really in charge of the decisions we make, or are our minds at bay to the desires of our subconscious?
During his travels, de Sautoy underwent various experiments, one that actually answered the question of who or what is in control of our choices? de Sautoy was determined to discover the source and timing of his decisions. He was placed in a scanner system and given to buttons. While he was inside the scanner he was to make the decision of pressing either the right or left button. While de Sautoy was making his decision the scanner was recording exactly when his mind made the decision to press the right button.
The results showed that the scientists were able to record up to six seconds before de Sautoy made his decision, what exactly he was going to do, which, in this case, was press the button on the right. With this data in hand, we can conclude that a human's conscious decision is a very secondary aspect to actual brain activity. That there is a lot of unconscious brain activity very early in the decision making stage that is shaping a person's decisions, and that our consciousness comes in a very late stage. The final thought was that if a person's thoughts are very closely encoded in their brain activity we cannot make a distinction between these thoughts and brain activity. That we do not need to assume that there are two separate entities existing in two separate spaces. Rather, they are different aspects of the same physical process, so therefore, our conscious is our brain activity, and that is what is leading our life.

Why do we sleep?

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Title: Why do we sleep?

The biology of sleep is a fascinating subject. The author of the text starts the discussion of sleep with a fact stating that humans spend as much as 1/3 of their lives sleeping. As we determined in our last discussion section, unfortunately, many college students are deprived of this mysterious, yet wonderful phenomenon. However, do we really understand the long term effects of sleep deprivation? What is the significance of sleep?

We know short term effects include drowsiness, trouble concentrating, and a possibility of increased vulnerability to irritation and frustration. However, are there long term consequences? In the text it states different ideas as to why sleep is so critical. It may be for memory consolidation, important for the immune system, or merely a conservation of energy. Yet, if the purpose of sleep is to help with a basic biological function, why do we dream?

Probably one of the most mysterious yet intriguing topics is dreaming. Why do we remember some and forget others? Do they have meaning in our everyday conscious lives? Is it possible to control our dreams? Or make conclusions from them?

So far, it doesn't seem that any type of dream analysis is commonly accepted by the scientific community. Yet, there is research on dreaming. Research is being more accessible because of technology such as EEG and fMRIs. We are able to determine the electrical activity in the brain and see differences in brain waves. It has been determined that the area of the brain most active during dreaming is also the area that controls emotion. (There are still other areas of the brain associated with dreaming.) Yet, even with today's technology we have much to discover. However, the good news is that today people are less likely to make conclusions similar to ancient societies in which dreams were viewed as prophetic messages.

Animals and time.

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In lecture last week Dr. Gail Peterson showed us a video of a mouse demonstrating instrumental conditioning. This was not the video of Skinners work, but one that compared the mouse's behavior to that of someone gambling at the end of the video. I do not want to talk about the gambling comparison, instead I want to discuss how the mouse reacted when the reward was given due to different circumstances.
In the video the mouse hits the lever, that activates a light and a food piece gets dispensed. The experimenter than changes the rules for the food reward. Now instead of being controlled by the mouse's actions, the food tablet is on a timer of 30 seconds. The mouse is now uncertain why his actions do not lead to the reward of food. He frantically presses on the lever, still illuminating the little light, but no food is dispensed. The experimenter claims that the mouse could just sit back and wait for the reward with no work, but instead he just puts in a lot of work for little reward.
I think there is something else to the mouse not just sitting back for the predetermined time and waiting for food. Animals do not understand the concept of time that humans have made. The little mouse has no clue that if he sits back for 30 seconds another piece of food will come out because it is set on a release timer. Time, like many other things, is human created. Money, time, freedom, art, these are just a few things humans have come up with that animals do not share. The mouse just thinks that he is doing something incorrectly, and that is the reason he is not receiving a reward.
When Skinner demonstrated his experiment on a mouse, the light was separate from the lever. When the light lit up, the mouse was then able to use the lever to activate the food dispenser. If the light was off, the lever had no effect.


I am still trying to find a link to the video that I am talking about. When I have found it I will link it as a comment.

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.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,167245,00.html

covert-hypnosis.jpg After my senior prom, some friends and I decided to go to the post-prom party that our high school hosted. At this party, there were refreshments, pizza, and many activities, including a hypnotist that came in right before the party ended. In his act, he asked students to perform multiple tasks after putting them into a "deep sleep." Some students obliged and others left the stage for the hypnosis did not work for them. But while watching, I couldn't help but to consider whether this performance put on by this man was actually hypnotization done by a hypnotist or a performance done by a fraud.
There have been many debates over the topic of hypnosis and whether or not hypnotists have the ability to truly hypnotize people. But to truly understand this debate, one must know what hypnosis really is and how it is performed amongst humans. Hypnosis, essentially, is a method of using deep relaxation and focus to communicate with the subconscious part of the human brain. During this relaxed state, a person tends to feel at easy physically but mentally awake and the person is highly susceptible to suggestion. This is where hypnotist comes in to suggest ideas or performances for the person to act on.
But there are two different types of hypnotists; there are stage hypnotists and hypnotherapists. Stage hypnotists focus on stage performances and having people perform odd tasks. This is the type of hypnotist talked about in my opening statement. But there are also hypnotherapists who use hypnosis for therapeutic purposes.
Also to look into this debate further, we must consider the following principal of critical thinking: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Is there actually evidence to support that these participants in hypnotic performances are actually being hypnotized or whether they are simply a performance by both the hypnotist and the participants. It is a very difficult subject to gain evidence on; especially considering evidence to support stage hypnotists true abilities. But there have been a great amount experimental evidence to support the abilities of hypnotherapists and their successes in their patients through therapeutic processes. So next time you are attending a performance done by a stage hypnotist, I would not suggest to fall for his fraud.

http://www.bt.com.bn/health_fitness/2008/01/15/hypnosis_fact_or_fiction
http://ezinearticles.com/?Is-Hypnosis-Fact-or-Fiction&id=510616

Anencephaly

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Today I came across a neurological disorder that I found both interesting and disturbing. The name of this horrifying disease is Anencephaly. It is a cephalic disorder that consists of a defect in the closure of the neural tube during fetal development. It occurs when the head end of the neural tube fails to close, which leaves the fetus with an absence of a large part of the brain, skull, and scalp. They have no forebrain and no cerebrum. What's left of the brain is usually uncovered by skin or scalp. Babies born with this disorder are usually blind, deaf, unable to feel pain, and/or unconscious.
The physical effects of Anencephaly are quite severe and unpleasant. These poor babies have a large part of their brains exposed and large, frog-like, and protruding eyes (as a result of no forebrain).
This disorder effects one in one-thousand pregnancies, and the lifespan on the baby spans from a few hours to a few days, if it survives the womb. In the end, the baby will not survive. It's controversial with many people whether or not people should abort the baby, knowing it has 0% chance of survival. 50% of fetuses with anencephaly are aborted, yet the other half of mothers believe there might be a miracle.
Scientists believe that anencephaly can be contributed to both genetic and environmental factors. It has been confirmed, however, that it can be prevented by folic acid. Drugs that lower the amount of folic acid, such as anti metabolic drugs, lowers this, hence increasing the risk. Anencephaly can also be the cause of high exposure to toxins such as lead, chromium, mercury, and nickle.
Sadly, there are no treatments. It's difficult to think of what parents experience when finding out their bundle-of-joy won't be able to survive, and that they will have to overcome the horrifying experience of losing a child.

"The customer is always right" is by and large the golden rule in the food service industry. But the longer I have worked as a waitress, the more clear it has become to me that customers, whether doing so intentionally or not, find pleasure in having control over servers and often see how much they can get away with. They take advantage of the fact that in general a server must remain respectful if they expect a tip. This is a real life example of operant conditioning. In the Lilienfeld text operant conditioning is defined as learning controlled by the consequences of an organisms behavior. So with money/a tip as a reward, over 4 years I have been shaping my behavior in ways I have found I can get the most money out of people (it sounds greedy, but it is my wage). The difference between waiting tables and the example given in the text of pigeons discerning Monet's from Picasso's paintings is that the pigeons were either right or wrong, with waiting tables there is a large amount of gray area. Some people wish they didn't have to talk to you at all, and others find it disconcerting that the person who is going to bring them their hamburger doesn't want to know their life story. So I have to resort to picking up cues based on my initial impressions of customers and past experience and act accordingly. My acting how I think they want me to is termed in psychology as "demand characteristics" and psychologists constantly try to prevent it with "distractor" tasks or "filler" items. I think customers do the same- many people try to catch me off guard, asking me for a knife and then asking me a personal question. I've also found they will watch me take orders at other tables and watch me interact with my co-workers. Sometimes people will shake their ice in their empty glasses to send me a "discriminative stimulus," I find this incredibly rude and respond not by immediately getting them another drink but walking to their table and insolently asking if they would like a refill. I can be cheeky with this person because I have already judged the probability of them leaving me a good tip as slim using "representativeness heuristic," and I'm not going to waste my time trying to please them when I have 7 other much more pleasant tables. Unlike classical conditioning, where a reward is provided unconditionally, reward in operant conditioning is contingent on the behavior. What makes being a waitress difficult is that desired behavior varies from each table, and you can't always get it right. A story from the radio and TV show "This American Life," investigated a restaurant in one episode that turns the operant organism into the customer- if you want your food and you get out of line the servers will get out of line with you too and you might not get what you paid for. The free for all going on at this place actually becomes pretty frightening-all inhibitions and taboos of how to act in society seem to be forgotten. If you want to see the video it is on youtube and can be found using the keywords "This American Life" and "Wiener Circle," I chose not to post it here because there is extremely inappropriate language and a lot of crude comments- but it shows how really terrifying people can be when they feel like they have no control over a situation.

According to the description and video in the lecture as well as lack of efficient evidence to support the explanation of existence OBD and NDE, more scientist assume that two phenomenon is illusion caused by our sensory mistake.

Current NDE research, as read in the text, are based on description of people who believed that the experienced OBD and NDE, as far as I know, I think it is more like the introspection because it depend heavily on personal description instead of valid and repeatable data base.

In personal opinion, I believe, that OBD and NDE is the illusion caused by overload information from our sensory. It is just a guess inspired by the text. As far as I concern, based on the situation which OBD and NDE phenomenon happened, it might because that under certain situation, especially emergency, our sensory become extremely sensitive which enable us catch even the smallest changes around. Tons of information then pass our nerve system and processed by our brain which may lead some mistakes because of the amount of information needed to be analysis simultaneously.

I personally don't have any experience and have never do any research in the field and the theme This guess needs sufficient evidences to supported because OBE and NDE involves mental activities a lot which is hard to accurately measured even us EEG. If I could conducted a experiments, I would like to inmate the few different situations under which NDE and OBE are mostly occurred and then detected the electronic wave changes in one's brain. Then according to the different reflection areas , we might could figure out whether the brain is actually super "busy" at that time. By analyze the data and MRI graph, more information could be provided and evidence might be founded as well.

Cortex of Consciousness

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Where does consciousness reside in our brains? Well, our brain has over 100 billion nerve cells in the brain. But are all of those cells or just some of the cells used in consciousness? (With consciousness being our subjective experience to the world and ourselves, our thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, events, and actions). In a BBC video, "A Secret You", Oxford mathematician Marcus de Sautoy becomes a human guinea pig and subjects himself to a series of experiences to seek when we become aware of ourselves as unique individuals. When de Sautoy went to visit Dr. Stephen Gentleman from Imperial College London, Gentleman explained that consciousness resides in the cortex. The cortex is the outside of the brain and is highly developed. In order for your consciousness to be activated, the feelings need to be put through a relay system. The reticular activating system in the brain begins in the brainstem with reticular activating cells: a group of diffused nerve cells that project into the thalamus and are then spread out into all areas of the cortex. This system activates the cortex and creates consciousness. Consciousness is all about constant activation of the cortex. This is only the anatomy of consciousness. It is valuable, yet, it doesn't tell how or what consciousness is. Although we have the definition of what consciousness is, it is hard to think about. Since it is our thoughts and emotions and everything we do, it is hard to think that it only resides in the cortex. If something happened where our brain got injured our bruised, would our consciousness change? Technically, it would because of what happened to Phineas Gage, when the tamping rod passed through his frontal lobes. His personality completely changed, but does that mean his consciousness changed? Are they the same thing?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Biv_8xjj8E&feature=player_embedded#!
12:30 - 15:50 minutes

Unconventional Sleep Diet

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Recently in Reader's Digest, I came across this article about some of the most recent (and craziest) diet fads in the states. Many people are trying to get skinny fast, but some of these ideas were ridiculous and just plain dangerous. They ranged anywhere from the 'baby food diet' where one only eats jars of baby food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, to the 'cotton ball diet' in which you consume cotton balls 30 minutes prior to eating, so you eat less because your stomach is already pretty full. It's not even necessary to get into the details of how easily falsifiable these anecdotal diets are- if babies weigh very little, then I'll lose weight? If I fill my stomach with inconsumable cotton balls, therefore I'll be full and eat less? Some research and scientific thinking is required before trying these out. From the diets listed, there was one that I believe had some truth to it. It was called the 'sleep diet' in which you slept right before every meal, so your hunger subsided, because the hypothalamus would not be able to alert your conscious body of hunger. When you woke up, you'd eat less. From there, every time you felt hungry you'd try to sleep and somehow take a nap. sleep.jpg
Every single diet trend in the article was a joke, but I did see an ounce of truth to this one. I do not condone 'sleeping away' your hunger and therefore starving yourself, depriving your body of nutrition, putting your sleep schedule in disarray and missing life. However, aside from their claim that sleeping reduces hunger, (and also the fact that if you don't eat, you will obviously lose weight rapidly and in an unhealthy manner) I came to the conclusion that you might lose weight because sleep also happens to burn a large amount of calories. losing-weight.jpg
An average woman about 5'5" and 130 lbs, who sleeps 8 hours a night, burns about 425 calories, according to the calorie counter on the webMD site: http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-fitness-calorie-counter. Based on this, I'd say that the 'sleep diet' has definitely been falsified. An extra two hours of sleep within the day for this average person amounts in an additional 120 calories burned. If they are sleeping an average of eight hours a night, that's 545 calories burned. This diet is neither safe nor healthy, but part of your weight loss aside from under eating and forcing away your hunger, is the additional calorie loss. I hope these diets all remain a joke as the article portrays them, but if not, perhaps the participants will do their research first.

During one of my favorite shows, Criminal Minds, one of the FBI agents, Spencer, tries to remember a crime taking place during his childhood. He has reoccurring dreams about this murder that he may or may not have encountered when he was a young child. To try and get him to remember these vivid dreams, he goes to a hypnotist.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-XGNbo-uYA

Hypnosis is a set of techniques that provides people with suggestions for alterations in their perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. So in other words, a person is put under a sleep like sort of state, and this ensures that the mind is relaxed and will respond to commands that the hypnotist says to do. When I first saw this episode of criminal minds, I wanted to know if it was actually possible to recover memories. If that was possible, then why aren't criminal investigators able to do it more often? Mythbusters did an episode to find out if this actually can happen in real life.

Below is a link from a scholarly journal from 1983 that investigates whether or not hypnotics is able to enhance the memory of witnesses.
http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/bul/94/3/387.pdf

"Despite the publication of a large number
of case studies in which hypnosis has apparently
been invaluable in the solving of a crime,
experimental attempts to demonstrate improved
memory under hypnosis have thus far
not been successful. It has been suggested that
the failure of laboratory studies to demonstrate
hypnotic memory enhancement may result
from the absence of certain essential features
present in the crime situation, such as meaningful,
dynamic stimulus materials, high emotional
arousal, and the realization that a human
life may depend on what is recalled. Furthermore,
the study of stimulus events in the
crime situation is rarely done intentionally, as
it is in the laboratory. However, several recent
laboratory studies that have attempted to include
these very characteristics nonetheless
persist in failing to demonstrate hypnotic
memory enhancement. One exception worth
pursuing is the suggestion of improved recall
under hypnosis for incidentally learned materials.
What these studies do demonstrate
quite clearly, however, is that when witnesses
are interrogated under hypnosis they are more
suggestible, showing a greater tendency to agree
with the interrogator. Because of this problem,
and an apparent trend for the courts to reject
the testimony of witnesses who have undergone
hypnosis, a search for nonhypnotic procedures
of memory enhancement appears warranted.
Three factors that may be responsible for the
improved memory under hypnosis reported
in so many anecdotes were suggested: (a) encouraging
witnesses to lower their criterion
level during memory retrieval; (b) contextual
reinstatement via a guided memory procedure;
and (c) repeated testing sessions that allow for
the occurrence of experimental hypermnesia.
If witnesses to a crime may be helped to remember
the details of the crime through the
application of these procedures without hypnosis,
the benefits of memory enhancement
could be achieved without the problematic effects
of bias inherent in hypnosis. Future research
to investigate these factors is required."

Woah. So the studies couldn't be taken in for account because they need more research. This needs replicability. I worked in Mythbusters, and in Criminal Minds, however, in an actual research setting, the experiments were not able to provide complete information. So, sorry criminal case solvers, but your job may have just gotten harder.

Stem Cells:

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Among one of the most controversial issues in the science world today is that of stem cell research. A stem cell is "a cell, often originating in embryos, having the capacity to differentiate into a more specialized cell" (Lilienfeld 92). In other words, these cells have the ability to transform themselves into nearly any type of cell in the body, from skin to lung tissue etc.

http://biochem118.stanford.edu/images/Stem%20Cell%20Slides/04%20Pluripotent%20Stem%20Cells.jpg

Furthermore, there are two type of stem cell research used widely today; adult stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research. The clear difference between these two is that embryonic research requires the manipulation of cells in developing embryos to create different types of cells, while adult stem cells are already developed in each individual's body that can be recreated into other types of cells. The main debate between the two is that embryonic stem cell research is essentially destroying embryos or potential lives to further research, an element that is considered extremely unethical. People not in support of embryonic stem cell research also claim that there have been few if none cases of cures or improvements in patients who use the embryos cells, and instead that embryonic cells can multiply at such an excessive rate that they have tendencies to turn into cancerous tumors. Meanwhile, adult cells do not divide as quickly so they don't cause tumors and the success rate of it is tremendously higher in patients than embryonic. This causes those in opposition to embryonic to also become upset with the fact that a large number of scientists spend their research and experiments on embryonic stem cells which have little or no success while they could instead be using their time and resources to further the success in adult stem cells. Those in favor of embryonic cells say that success is on its way and that in most cases, embryonic cells are being used from eggs in females that would otherwise go unused. In terms of psychology, the issue of stem cells can be applied to the use of using these cells to be recreated into different brain cells that may have been lost or severely damaged from various diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's or even accidents such as a car crash. I found this topic extremely intriguing especially after watching the second video attached below because Dr. Oz claims in this video that cures for diseases such as Parkinson's may be possible within the next ten years, and in being in close relationships in my life with people diagnosed with Parkinson's this cure could be monumental and life-changing. Will this extraordinary feat be made in this decade? We'll have to wait and see.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Axkn8G18t8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDFJOzu9SyM&feature=related
*Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding. Scott Lilienfeld, etc.

Insomnia

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An estimated 9 to 15 percent of people report severe or longstanding problems with insomnia. Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, waking up throughout the night and having trouble going back to sleep,waking up too early and feeling tired upon waking. There are two types of insomnia. The first, priamry insomnia, is in which a persons sleep problems are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem. Secondary insomnia means that a persons sleep problems are due to health conditions such as asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer or heartburn. Also pain, medication, or substance usage(alcohol). Brief insomnia is often due to stress and relationship prblems, medications and illness, long work hours, caffeine or napping during the day. Insomnia can be recurent if we become fristrated or anxious when we cant fall asleep at first. The most recommended treatment for insomnia is regular sleep patterns. Other recommended treatments include hiding clocks, sleeping in a cool room and avoiding caffeine, napping, reading, watching tv or surfing the web before going to sleep. Over the counter sleeping pills have undesired side effects and lose their effectiveness over time. Research has shown that brief psychotherapy is a more effective treatment than sleeping pills. The biggest question that I have about insomnia is how many of the reported cases of insomnia are legitimate, and how many are just people who dont have a regular sleep pattern?

Hypnosis is a set of techniques and suggestions that alter one's perceptions, thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Today, it is widely used therapeutically, for entertainment, or getting over addictions. There have always been misconceptions of the power of hypnosis and the trance in which the person being hypnotized succumbs to. Chapter 5 of Lilienfeld's text, Consciousness: Expanding the Boundaries of Psychological Inquiry goes into greater details of the myths behind hypnosis on pages 182 and 183. For my senior class party in high school, we invited a hypnotist to come in for part of the night's entertainment. It was definitely funny, but I always wondered what really went on when someone was under the hypnotist's spell. The following Youtube video gives an example of what we experienced at our senior party:

Are they really under a spell? Does the hypnotist have complete control over the person being hypnotized? What does the person being hypnotized feel/experience?

Although hypnosis is still very much used as an alternative way to treat many aspects of mental and physical disorders, most of the results can be disputed by ruling out rival hypotheses. According to our textbook it can be a great tool when used therapeutically depending on how susceptible the person is to suggestiveness, but we also have to rule out the fact that the success of hypnotic treatment could be because of the relaxed state one becomes or the suggestibility of the person being hypnotized. Either way, I think that one of the reasons that hypnosis is a great therapeutic tool is the fact that the mind is very powerful when it truly believes it can fight an addiction or overcome fears. Hypnosis is a good tool to help the person believe that they can achieve their goal of quitting smoking, losing weight, getting over their fear of flying, etc; therefore, enabling itself to overcome obstacles that a negative thinker would otherwise be defeated by.

So can hypnotism scientifically be proven to cure diseases and ailments? No. Can it aid in the recovery of certain mental blocks like addictions and fears? I think there are too many variables to determine what is actually causing its effectiveness, but it doesn't hurt to try. It's the right tool for some people and others, no.

While learning about Pavlov's classical conditioning and his experiments i got interested in looking at related topics. Subliminal perception got my attention. The fact that we can subconsciously pick up messages that are presented all around us and that those affect our behaviors is fascinating. I looked at subliminal messaging in advertising in this video:

Think of all of the ads that we see everyday. Every ad is persuading us somehow if it's by the ad's colors, words, images, music, etc. We hardly notice many of these things, but they do affect us. I always think that ads don't make me want to buy their products, but when i think about it I remember so many logos, slogans, color schemes, and jingles and isn't that the goal of an ad?

Now back to the video. Most of those images and messages were sexual in nature, which says a lot about how we as a population respond to sex appeal. I also use my skepticism to ask-Are these all intentional?
I have no doubt that many are, but our minds, as we've learned, are amazing and can perceive things that aren't really there. I think as humans we look for these things that aren't intentional. However, I do agree that most of these messages are intentional because the ad wants our minds to perceive them even if we don't realize it.

And why not? The products have to be appealing for us to buy into it, and they try to do that any way they can.

Crack is Wack

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Drugs of all kinds, including cocaine, are very often glorified in movies, music, and Hollywood. In college, students are swayed to believe that these four years are meant for experimentation with all sorts of drugs. Many students are influenced to believe that doing drugs makes you "cool", "edgy", and "rebellious". The Lilienfeld text in chapter six called cocaine the most powerful natural stimulant. Even classifying cocaine a stimulant, because it increases activity of the central nervous system, gives it a positive connotation. Cocaine gives users a sense of euphoria, an increase in energy, a decrease in appetite, and a more positive self-image, while they are high off the drug. However, whether snorting, shooting, or smoking cocaine, the effects are detrimental to the brain. If frying eggs and Clint Eastwood cannot convince you to stop using cocaine, then maybe the following information can.
Cocaine prompts neurons to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, which we learned about in chapter three of Lilienfeld text. The drug then prevents the dopamine from being absorbed, prolonging the sensation of euphoria. The high concentration of dopamine affects the user's consciousness as well. The euphoric feeling makes the user not as aware of his surroundings and actions. The high from cocaine can last anywhere from 5-30 minutes, depending on the amount of cocaine used and the way it was injected into the body. However, the brain does eventually absorb the dopamine, leading to an abrupt comedown off the drug, which includes moodiness and restlessness. Users can experience the after effect of cocaine for days where they are highly susceptible to headaches, irritability, and depression. Long-term effects of cocaine are very serious. Memory loss, learning problems, attention deficits, lung problems, and strokes may occur. Last, but certainly not least, there is the high chance of addiction, which can lead to an array of health and personal problems. Cocaine use is very serious and can rarely be handled "recreationally". Since cocaine is a stimulant, many users want to take it over and over again to regain that same euphoric feeling. When they do this, the users usually increase the amount of cocaine, which can lead to an overdose and/or death.
So do not pay attention to movies and music that glorify the euphoric feeling as a result of taking cocaine. The high never lasts as long as the regret and long term negative effects. Remember, hugs not drugs.


http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/1998/03.12/ResearchersSeeH.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voAntzB7EwE&feature=player_embedded

Magicians use the audiences' brains against themselves. It is the error in perception, change blindness, and misconception to fool the brain into piecing together "reality." Magicians will look in one direction, causing the audience to also look away from what is actually happening on stage. When people aren't looking, the "magic" takes place. Magicians will also focus the attention of the audience solely on one area of the trick, thus completely missing what is truly happening. When people focus their attention exclusively on one aspect of life, other events are happening and changing, but people are "blind" to them.

The above link is card trick; however the trick itself is not about the card number or suit. Instead, the real trick is when the magician flips the cards over and the color of the deck changes from the beginning of the trick to the end. Simple trick, right? Did you notice the other changes?

The viewer is so contently focusing on the cards that they will not notice the color change of the shirts, table cloth, or backdrop. When going through the video myself, I fell subject to change blindness. In discussion, we watched a video about change blindness. I thought, "How could someone not notice the man changing?!" And then I failed to notice what I thought previously would be an easy thing to pick up on. It would be a challenge to oneself to attempt to train your brain not to fall victim to change blindness. If one was able to do this, they would most likely be able to understand more magic tricks, and not fall for the deception the magician does throughout their act.

Rosemary Hopcroft, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, has made the claim that "intelligence is negatively associated with sex frequency". Her claim is proven true by the most recent National Survey of Family Growth, in which men with college degrees reported to have had a significantly lower number of sexual partners in the past year than men with only a high school diploma.
A health scientist at the Center for Disease Control, Anjani Sandra, and a professor at UNC, Carolyn Halpern, have both looked into this observation. Halpern's studies have shown that many teenagers with the highest intelligence are also virgins, and she assumes these tendencies carry on into adulthood. She says that the reason for this tendency may be because these teens are aware of the consequences promiscuity might have on their future. Chandra, however, says that while this makes sense for these teens not having sex, it does not account for the fact that the same teens are also less likely to have kissed someone, since kissing would obviously not have a negative effect on their future. Chandra also says this reasoning only makes sense for scholarly teenagers, not intelligent adults who already have jobs and are also having less sex.
In my opinion, it is incredibly hard to make assumptions based on the observation that smarter people have less sex. Halpern may be confusing causation with correlation in that the assumes these individuals are having less sex because they are intelligent, when in fact a third factor could account for both. For instance, it is entirely possible that these people felt pressured my authority figures growing up to do well academically and abstain from having sex, and these tendencies stayed with them through adulthood. It also could be that the more intelligent people spend more time doing other things, such as studying or working, and feel like they have less time for engaging in sexual behavior.
It is also a possibility that in the case of the national survey, men with college degrees were for some reason less likely to admit to having as many sexual partners as men with only high school education, or maybe the men with a high school education lied and said they had more sexual partners than they actually had.

The link to the article can be found here

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Nightmares

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If asked to describe the most frightening nightmare ever experienced, most people would be able to recall it, in detail, and might even get goose bumps. Nightmares are those dreams that bring up our worst fears, most pressing anxieties, and nerve pinching insecurities.
Although we are most likely to be plagued by these bad dreams as children, fifty percent of adults continue to be shaken by an occasional nightmare. Given that the textbook didn't talk much about nightmares I did some research online for some better insight. Nightmares occur most commonly during REM sleep, particularly in the later cycles towards the morning. This explains why it's so easy for people to remember the shaking nightmare that woke them up in the morning, but completely forget about that pleasant dream we had when we first fell asleep.
Although nightmares are often caused by nothing more than our busy minds, I did find some interesting things that trigger bad dreams. These include having a late night snack, certain medications, alcohol withdrawal, sleep deprivation, and certain sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.
If you find yourself having more frequent nightmares than normal, have no fear; in my research I found several easy fixes to promote a safe and sound sleep. The website suggests keeping a consistent sleep schedule, exercising regularly, and making your bedroom a tranquil, relaxing place.
This last suggestion made me wonder a little bit about the kind of sleep that college students living in dorms (such as me) are getting. Does sleeping in the room associated with cramming for a stressful exam cause less restful sleep? Does the new environment and drastic change that comes along with starting college cause more nightmares? I've never had serious issues with nightmares, but I hope that the stresses of college do not make me prone to these terrors.

What we actually see

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Inattentional blindness is an extraordinary event where we unconsciously "forget" to pay attention to small details. This often occurs when we are extremely focused on a task or some sort of event that we become blind to the simplest of perceptions available. This concept really strikes me as important because of how we could miss the smallest of things which in turn could wind up affecting us in a much greater way. This video is a great example of this phenomena in progress ( http://youtu.be/Ahg6qcgoay4 ) because unless you have already done it and know about it most will be shocked to find what they missed. There are other examples such as the "Disappearing Card" trick where the user simply swaps every card after asking the subject to focus solely on one, or this video http://youtu.be/vBPG_OBgTWg where the subjects are so determined to help the person in need that they forget about the person themselves. It simply fascinates me that we humans are constantly ruling our events and objects that our sub-conscience declares as unimportant. And I truly begin to wonder, "To what extend will our brain rule our things as unimportant but we the consciously determine important at a later time". I also wonder since Marc Green declares it normal for this action to occur at http://www.visualexpert.com/Resources/inattentionalblindness.html, what it takes for the few people that overcome this even feel and observe on a daily basis. Is it a ridiculous overload on information? Or is only linked with disorders such as ADD?

When a researcher thinks about testing their hypotheses they think about how they are going to perform their experiment. They consider what type of experiment to perform, what variables are going to be used, and what exactly is going to be tested. However, if animals or humans are involved in the experiment, the researcher must also be aware of the ethical issues involved.

Things for researchers to consider, but are not limited to, involve: honesty, integrity, objectivity, carefulness, openness, respect for intellectual property, confidentiality, responsible publication, responsible mentoring, respect for colleagues, social responsibility, non-discrimination, competence, legality, and human subjects protection (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences).

The institutional review board (IRB) requires researchers to exercise informed consent, which requires researchers to inform their subjects of what is involved in a study before asking them to participate. The IRB also requires researchers to inform subjects of any form of deception involved in the experiment along with a debriefing of the experiment. It's also notated that any deceit involved in an experiment may not cause the subjects physical pain or emotional distress. (Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding).

A very notable example of the breaches in ethical standards involved in research is the unfortunate occurrence of the Tuskegee study. In this study, African American men who had been diagnosed with syphilis were observed and experimented on in order to find out how syphilis reacted without treatment. However, the men involved in this study were not aware that they had syphilis, were not informed that there were antibiotics available to treat the disease, and were not aware that they were even subjects in an experiment.
tuskegee.jpg

On a lighter note, here's a cartoon of a more humorous incident.
hahaha.jpg

Are We Really A Blank Slate?

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Are we born pre-programmed or are do we start as a blank slate? This is the question that Steven Pinker looks at in his book "The Blank Slate". The Blank Slate theory of Pinker's states that the human mind is an empty vessel with nothing in it but a few basic instincts at birth.
This simplification of the mind has raised a lot of controversy over the years. The idea of the blank slate went against the age old theory of divine right of the king or that people are inherently better than other people. Pinker argues that a person's mind and demeanor are shaped by their environment and experiences rather than a pre-programmed mind. This idea of Pinker's can apply to anything from violent tendencies to the level of intelligence in a person.
There are a lot of people that argue against Pinker's theory of the Blank Slate, saying that much of the processes in the mind are hereditary and unchangeable. This way of thinking has been studied for many years in twin studies. The twin studies can be used for many different things from intelligence studies to behavioral studies, but the ultimate goal of these is to find out whether the differences are caused by the environment or inherited at berth.
With no clear cut answer in the field of psychology, the answer to are we a blank slate may never be answered. So this I leave up to you, are we inherently different or is it the world around us that makes who we are?

http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ff0616S.pdf

On May, 23 1987, Kenneth Parks, a twenty-three year old man with a wife and an infant daughter, drove 10 miles to his in-laws house and killed his mother-in-law as well as injuring his father-in-law. In court he was found NOT GUILTY of murder because he was "unaware of his actions" due to sleepwalking. Now this seems ridiculous. How can someone walk out of their house, drive a car 10 miles, and kill someone?


http://www.oddee.com/_media/imgs/articles2/a96680_a448_killedinlaws.jpg

Usually when people sleepwalk, they do not engage in any other actions other than walking. When someone is sleepwalking, it usually looks like they are walking normally (maybe a little more clumsily). So for someone to drive a car and commit murder is something extremely uncommon. But with 6 billion people in the world and with 4 to 5% of adults and up to 30% of children having experienced sleepwalking, there are some cases of "extreme sleepwalking."

One man is able to create beautiful artwork (but only when he's sleepwalking.) One women has sex with strangers in her "sleep". People have sleepwalked out of their bedroom windows. This website has more examples of extreme sleepwalking. http://www.oddee.com/item_96680.aspx

Sleepwalking occurs in the non-REM stages of sleep. Usually in stages 3 and 4 (the deepest stages of sleep.) Sleepwalking is a real thing and occurs naturally. It even occurs with animals. My dog run while he is sleeping, and here is a funny video of a sleepwalking dog.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2BgjH_CtIA

Whether you believe that a man could really drive a car and kill someone while still being asleep, or believe that there must be other motives, you cannot deny that sleepwalking is a real, psychological phenomenon.

Self Awareness

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In the BBC video, one of the scientific experiments in the beginning is trying to find out when human beings become aware of themselves: the mirror self recognition test. At first as you can see, there was an eighteen month old tested in front of a mirror to see if he can realize that it is himself in the mirror and notice the mark put on his face. The experimenter, a professor from Portsmith University, and Marcus de Sautoy came to the conclusion that the child did not have a sense of self because he didn't move his hand up to touch the mark placed on his face. The next participant was a twenty-two month old girl. When her mother put the little mark on her cheek and she looked into the mirror, she immediately put her hand up to her face and tried to remove the dot. The experimenter stated that "she(the child) recognized that the person she feels in her body is the same as that visual image." They concluded from replicable data that between the age of eighteen months and twenty-four months that we become self aware. Chimpanzees and Orangutans were also shown to be aware of themselves in the mirror test. It is incredible that we have this way of knowing who we are and being aware of our surroundings and everything that makes up our lives.
In a piece by P. Rochat, Conciousness and Cognition, the five levels of awareness are being described in accordance with the mirror test.
Level 0: Confusion
At this degree of self awareness, the individual is oblivious to any mirror reflection and perceives the image in the mirror as an extension of the world.
Level 1: Differentiation
At this level, the individual notices that there is a perfect contingency between what is being seen in the mirror and felt movements.
Level 2: Situation
The individual goes beyond the awareness of matched surface characteristics of seen
and felt movements. They explore the image being seen on the mirror and they know that it is unique to the self.
Level 3: Identification
In this level, the individuals understand that what is in the mirror is themselves. This is expressed when children refer explicitly to the self while exploring their own specular image. The behavior depicted in the video when the little girl went to pick the spot off from her face is considered by developmental psychologists as the "index of an emerging conceptual self."
Level 4: Permanence
The individual can identify themselves in pictures and movies taken at different times in their lives and in different locations. A permanent self is expressed.
Level 5: Self-Consciousness or Self- Awareness
Individuals are not only aware of what they are but how they are in the mind of others. This results in self conscious emotions.

http://www.psychology.emory.edu/cognition/rochat/lab/5%20levels%20of%20self-awareness.pdf

We can recognize a friend instantly, from any view. We can distinguish millions of shades of color, and over 10'000 smells. We can feel the cool breeze rush over our skin, or hear the leaves rustle in the distance. It seems so effortless; we just open our eyes and ears and let the world stream in.

Yet everything we sense requires billions of nerves cells to flash instant messages along cross-linked pathways in our brains. Performing intricate calculations that scientists have only begun to decipher.

Anthony Movshon, an investigator at New York University stated, "You can think of the sensory system as a bunch of little scientists. They make hypothesis about the world." The brain makes an educated guess about the information on hand and some simple assumptions.

The illusions in this video demonstrate how our brain is making these assumptions. Initially looking at most them one is asking how that is done.
Such as the Revolving Teeth, our brain perceives them to be different sizes. But as the guy in the video show upon rotating them in the same directions they will cover one another up. They are the same size but by setting them at a different depth our brain perceives one (the top) to be of a different size.
Another one that shows our brain making simple assumptions is the checkerboard wall. As it is move we assume that ever other row starts off small on one side and grows as it goes to the other. When in all actuality they are the same size.
In the end the brain is a magnificent vessel. It can do so many incredible and complex things, yet it can get fooled by the simplest of illusion.

We can recognize a friend instantly, from any view. We can distinguish millions of shades of color, and over 10'000 smells. We can feel the cool breeze rush over our skin, or hear the leaves rustle in the distance. It seems so effortless; we just open our eyes and ears and let the world stream in.

Yet everything we sense requires billions of nerves cells to flash instant messages along cross-linked pathways in our brains. Performing intricate calculations that scientists have only begun to decipher.

Anthony Movshon, an investigator at New York University stated, "You can think of the sensory system as a bunch of little scientists. They make hypothesis about the world." The brain makes an educated guess about the information on hand and some simple assumptions.

The illusions in this video demonstrate how our brain is making these assumptions. Initially looking at most them one is asking how that is done.
Such as the Revolving Teeth, our brain perceives them to be different sizes. But as the guy in the video show upon rotating them in the same directions they will cover one another up. They are the same size but by setting them at a different depth our brain perceives one (the top) to be of a different size.
Another one that shows our brain making simple assumptions is the checkerboard wall. As it is move we assume that ever other row starts off small on one side and grows as it goes to the other. When in all actuality they are the same size.
In the end the brain is a magnificent vessel. It can do so many incredible and complex things, yet it can get fooled by the simplest of illusion.

Not Just Your Imagination

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How do we recognize the present, without confusion from the past? Our visual perceptions of the world each day are composed of both unconscious inferences from sensory information, as well as knowledge we have gained from past experiences in life. When first encountering a situation or new information, our brain forms a sort of predictive hypothesis or relies on our most 'immediate reality' to understand visual perceptions. (Gregory) When our brain is relying on our most immediate reality, it is filling in the gaps to complete the full picture of what we are visually perceiving.
As an interior design major, I find perceptions and illusions an intriguing and important way to create stimulating yet safe environments for users. Designers can use simple methods to alter our perception of interior spaces. Things like color, lighting, interior element placement, integrated (horizontal or vertical) lines and even mirrors can have a huge impact on the size, proportion and mood of a space.
Color can have a huge impact on a space and has the ability to change a space in all three dimensions. Colors can make a space seem smaller or larger, higher or lower, or even make you see something that isn't really there (filling in the gaps). Color can also effect the mood of a user. Brighter bold colors like orange and red are stimulating and can promote action or stress from over-stimulation, while lighter, less saturated colors are calming and can relieve stress.

Unconventional Sleep Diet

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Recently in Reader's Digest, I came across this article about some of the most recent (and craziest) diet fads in the states. Everyone is trying to get skinny fast, but some of these ideas were ridiculous and just plain dangerous. They ranged anywhere from the 'baby food diet' where one only eats jars of baby food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, to the 'cotton ball diet' in which you consume cotton balls 30 minutes prior to eating, so you eat less because your stomach is already pretty full. It's not even necessary to get into the details of how easily falsifiable these anecdotal diets are- if babies weigh very little, then I'll lose weight? If I fill my stomach with inconsumable cotton balls, therefore I'll be full and eat less? Some research and scientific thinking is required before trying these out. From the diets listed, there was one that I believe had some truth to it. It was called the 'sleep diet' in which you slept right before every meal, so your hunger subsided, because the hypothalamus would not be able to alert your conscious body of hunger. When you woke up, you'd eat less. From there, every time you felt hungry you'd try to sleep and somehow take a nap. Every single diet trend in the article was a joke, but I did see an ounce of truth to this one. I do not condone 'sleeping away' your hunger and therefore starving yourself, depriving your body of nutrition, putting your sleep schedule in disarray and missing life. However, aside from their claim that sleeping reduces hunger, (and also the fact that if you don't eat, you will obviously lose weight rapidly and in an unhealthy manner) I came to the conclusion that you might lose weight because sleep also happens to burn a large amount of calories. An average woman about 5'5" and 130 lbs, who sleeps 8 hours a night, burns about 425 calories, according to the calorie counter on the webMD site: http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-fitness-calorie-counter. Based on this, I'd say that the 'sleep diet' has definitely been falsified. An extra two hours of sleep within the day for this average person amounts in an additional 120 calories burned. If they are sleeping an average of eight hours a night, that's 545 calories burned. This diet is neither safe nor healthy, but part of your weight loss aside from under eating and forcing away your hunger, is the additional calorie loss. I hope these diets all remain a joke as the article portrays them, but if not, perhaps the participants will do their research first.

Speed-Reading

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As college students, we are all used to individuals interrupting our busy, college lives by standing on our busy, college sidewalks and trying to peddle some crap (with the exception of free food) that busy, college kids don't need. After hypothetically attending Psych lecture last week, I received the following flyer: View image, View image

I was surprised that the University, especially the Psychology Department, would allow such a seminar to take place Coffman. Speed-reading does work, in the sense of being able to read a page of text in two mintues rather than three. The error in critical thinking is that correlation isn't caustion. People assume that reading speed ultimately means reading comprehension, but in fact, studies have shown that reading faster than 400 words a minute reduces the rate of comprehension by less than 50%. Techniques such as skimming, as know as not reading everything, allow you to read massive amounts of text in record time, but significantly hurt the amount of that text you actually understand. In this case, being an average college student (reading 200-300 words per minute) is perfectly acceptable.

I hope your Wednesday and Thursday was better spent, say by game-planning (not to be confused with pre-gaming) for the Zombie Pub Crawl.


The key to consciousness

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Consciousness is the state of being awake and aware of one's surroundings but can you still have a sense of consciousness while sleeping that tells us about our sense of self? The simple answer is no. The essence of consciousness is integration; the ability of our brain to jump communication pathways and share information with other parts of the brain.

While you are awake and conscious your brain has the ability to utilize integration. This is shown in the BBC Horizon: The Secret You video. In this video they conduct an experiment where they shock one part of the participants brain and watch the areas of the brain that light up with activity. In the awake brain you see that the initial area where the shock was given is the first spot to light up but from there the lighted areas jump to many different parts of the brain. This is because while the brain is in a conscious state it can use interact in a network and interconnect between different elements of the brain.

However, while you are asleep your brain is still function just not at a conscious state. In the experiment when the shock is given the initial site of the shock is lit up but that is the only area. There is brain activity but it stays localized. They describe it by saying the modules are active and reactive but stay isolated. While you are sleeping the communication channels in your brain shuts down for a while.

This study helps prove that the essence of consciousness is in fact the integration that takes place. To have a conscious awareness your brain needs to be able to talk to different parts to process information and make connections.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Biv_8xjj8E

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The Journal of Family Communication published an article concerning a study done at the University of Michigan on anger suppression and life span. This was a longitudinal study done over a 17 year period including 192 couples. Each couple was placed in one of four groups: both partners communicated their anger; one expressed while the other suppressed (and vice versa); and both suppressed their anger. The findings suggest that those who suppress their anger have a shorter life span than those who express their anger. The results of the study are as follows:

"Preliminary analysis shows that there had been 13 deaths among the group of 26 couples in which both suppressed their anger (one partner in 27 per cent and both in 23 per cent). There had been 41 deaths among the remaining 166 couples (one partner in 19 per cent and both in 6 per cent). Researchers adjusted for age, smoking, weight, blood pressure, bronchial problems, breathing, and cardiovascular risk. They are currently collecting 30-year follow-up data."

This claim is extraordinary! But, is the evidence just as extraordinary? The study included 192 couples but only 26 of them were placed in the group in which both suppressed their anger. In order for the results to be more representative of each category, each group should have had close to 48 couples (one-fourth of 192). Forty-one other deaths were recorded from the study. Although it is not listed as to which groups had a certain number of deaths, one-third of 41 is 13.67. This suggests that while the group in which each couple suppressed their anger may have had the most deaths and the highest percentage of deaths, in comparison to the other groups the data is not so impressive.

There are many factors that cause death. The suppression of anger would lead to a heightened stress level which would cause adverse health effects but cannot explain alone the cause of death. Were there any car accidents, severe illnesses, old age etc. that led to the death of anyone participating in this study? There may be many other causes unrelated to the suppression and/or expression of anger that would explain these deaths.
http://www.psyarticles.com/inter-personal/couples-fight.htm

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"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..." --Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act (AKA Title IX)
In 2006 the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, or as it is more commonly known by, Title IX, was amended to more easily allow public gender separated classrooms and schools. Recently, there has been growing resurgence of classrooms and schools being single sex. Professionals and political groups lie on both sides of this highly debated resurgence. Each side demonstrates strong reasons either for single-sex education or co-education, however the studies conducted in this field of education are not very convincing for either side.
Advocates of single-sex education display that gender separated education allows gender specific teaching, like providing the extra moral encouragement needed to ensure girls learn math at the same rate as boys. Gender segregated education also capitalizes on brain and developmental differences between genders, such as the more rapid development of the occipital lobe and language areas of the brain in girls. Single-sex education advocates also point to studies which show that gender separated schools lessen gender roles, as boys in single-sex schools are more likely to be involved in nontraditional gender role activities. Finally, proponents argue that single-sex education removes the complications that typically arise between members of the opposite sex during this time, such as the desire to impress the other gender.
Co-education proponents point to studies that have shown that single-sex education leads to greater gender discrimination in students as differences in boys and girls are exaggerated; for instance when boys are taught using techniques that encourage aggressiveness while girls are taught using techniques which promote passivity. Advocates also list studies that show that coeducation reduces gender roles by encouraging more blending between genders. Proponents claim that co-education teaches students how to interact with the opposite sex, an important skill for later life that single-sex education does not develop. Advocates of co-education also prove that separate resources for girls and boys are rarely equal, an observation that was also proven in other circumstances.
The Department of Education has not moved to all single-sex education but is letting it become more popular because there is little evidence for which works better. The primary fault of studies on gender separated classrooms and co-education is that variables are not held constant in studies. For instance, when schools switch from co-educational to gender separated, they often change many other teaching approaches at the same time. Another way in which variables are not held constant is that most studies of single-sex education occur in private schools, which already have an advantage over public schools in resources. However, both sides of the debate agree that education is not one size fits all and each child requires unique attention. This error in the scientific method of the studies conducted in this field of education must be corrected before any further decisions can be made regarding this aspect of schooling.

Musical Memory

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While going through the expanses of my iPod I will often stumble upon a song that will trigger a memory from years ago in vivid detail and leave me wondering why music couldn't trigger answers to test questions when I start singing it in my head. With music possessing such a powerful ability, it made me wonder how exactly this process occurs within the brain and whether or not a specific part had control over this odd "musical memory".

In class the topic of brain stimulation causing projections of vivid images came up. These projections have not been proven to be more than fantasies made up by the brain, which leaves them essentially useless in any practical sense. Music, on the other hand, has been proven to help the regaining of memory by those affected by brain injuries that inhibit recollection of memories. Often researchers have found that a simple verse from a familiar song will cause subjects to remember things that they previously thought they would never remember again. It is also used with those who have had damage to the part of brain that allows speech, by playing a melody and allowing victims to fill in the verses. With such an amazing ability to rehabilitate I immediately expected there to be some area of the brain completely dedicated to music. I was wrong, for just as memory does not seem to have one specific area of the brain it resides in, neither does music.

With music being something exclusive to humans, it would make sense that we would have some part of the brain that was unique to our species. It would also explain how some people, such as those affected by autism, sometimes have an unnatural talent for music while others are musically inept. Yet with this complex process requiring multiple areas of the brain and still not being completely understood, testing the applications of music and its rehabilitation powers still fall into the hands of those conducting the experiments.


The article can be found here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,46157,00.html

Narcolepsy

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Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder often identified by an excessive urge to sleep at inconvenient and inappropriate times. Work, school, while showering, and while driving are just a few examples of when this disease can click in and begin to affect the victim's life in a negative way (and others' lifes too). Not only can it be embarrassing for this to happen in the first place, but it often makes it even harder for the individual when the sleep lasts more than a couple seconds. Narcolepsy has been known to make the victim fall asleep for a few seconds, a few minutes, or even a few hours at a time.

While being affected by this disorder, one will often experience something called cataplexy which causes complete and total loss of muscle tone (causing them to fall to the ground). This is most common to happen for people with Narcolepsy when engaging in activities that cause strong emotions to emerge such as laughing or engaging in sexual intercourse. Cataplexy is a daily occurrence to most people on a daily basis while in REM sleep, however in those cases the person being affected is unconscious and also laying down for support, preventing them from falling to the ground. When a Narcoleptic patient is affected by cataplexy they often fall into REM sleep immediately.

Some of the common causes of Narcolepsy are genetic abnormalities, or a severe accident of some sort that results in brain damage. Within the brain there are certain cells that create a hormone called orexin, which is one of the main triggers for the sudden sleepiness. People affected by Narcolepsy are often treated with medications that either replace this hormone or mimic it in some way that has equal results that minimize the amounts of sleep attacks throughout daily life. These medications help victims live mostly normal lives again, resulting is happier patients overall.

Link to view the effects of Narcolepsy in a puppy:
http://youtu.be/wN1_yS6_5T4

Samantha Wojta

Sleepwalking

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Sleepwalking is the act of walking while one is fully asleep. Some sleepwalkers have been know to drive cars, turn on computers, or even have sexual intercourse, according to our text, From Inquiry to Understanding. Sleepwalking can be a very scary phenomenon when it occurs to you. One evening I slept walked. I was in the town of Chatfield sleeping over a friend's house. I remember going to sleep on the couch. The next thing that I remember is waking up because I stubbed my toe. I was very confused as to how I ended up walking barefoot around town. I was very confused and it took me some time to piece together the puzzle. As scared and estranged that I was to my situation, I was very happy that I at least had clothes on. Till today my mother worries me to not sleep naked. Just in case I have another sleeping promenade! Little is known as to why we sleepwalk. Strangely, sleepwalking normally doesn't occur throughout the REM sleep. REM, stands for Rapid Eye Movement. REM sleep is a period of time when the brain is most active while sleeping. Throughout the REM period it is almost as if we are awake. Logically, we could draw the conclusion that people sleep walk during REM sleep because of the fact that they are so active, almost awake. This is an incorrect assumption. Our text explains that "Contrary to popular misconception, sleepwalkers aren't acting out their dream, because sleepwalking almost always occurs during non REM (especially stage 3 o4 4) sleep. Sleepwalking is also know as Somnambulism, a subject of study that in our time may become less of a mystery.

Lilienfeld gave us a lot of good information about marijuana on pages 193-194, but after reading this section I asked myself "How exactly does marijuana work?" I turned to the Internet, and this is what I found.
Most of us are aware that the main chemical found in marijuana that affects users is called THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). THC mimics the effects of anandamide, a neurotransmitter found naturally in our brains, by binding to the cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptors are vast in the hippocampus, cerebellum, basal ganglia, and the hypothalamus. As we have learned in previous chapters the hippocampus is responsible for memory, the cerebellum is responsible for balance control and coordinated movements, the basal ganglia is responsible for movement control, and the hypothalamus is responsible for motivation, emotion, and hunger regulation. Within seconds of inhaling THC, it has reached the brain and begins to attack these areas. This is why users have a hard time remembering things, controlling their emotions, and controlling their appetite.

Consciousness

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Consciousness is the awareness of our selves being exist, which is our subjective experience of the world and ourselves. But the important question is what is consciousness exactly? Is it fire power of the neurons? Is it the reaction of the chemicals? Or is it god? We can't measure the consciousness , but we can tell our existence by feeling and react with the world around us. The feedback from the outside world is the reflection of our consciousness. But What is exactly is it? We are nothing but trillions of atoms piled up items in this world, which is no difference than a rock. However, it is consciousness makes us feel our existence and feel our value. But that value is nothing and that existence is nothing. Because those are just different chemicals react with each other in our brain. And the sequence and patterns of those reactions is our awareness and our consciousness. Maybe that 's the reason why when we compare to each other we think we are so much powerful and yet when looking into the real world just feel so small and powerless.

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

Remembering Dreams

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I rarely remember my dreams when I wake up in the morning, and I have always wondered why this was so. I heard a while back that REM sleep had a lot to do with dreaming. Most nights I usually wake up 4-6 times a night for short periods of time. I always thought that I was waking up right before REM sleep and that's why I wasn't dreaming. After reading the Stage 5: REM Sleep and Dreams section in chapter five in the Lilienfeld text, I found out a little more about my predicament.

According to the Lilienfeld text, REM Sleep is the stage of sleep during which the brain is most active and during which vivid dreaming most often occurs. In a study where rats were deprived of REM sleep, the rats ended up dying within a few weeks. So my hypothesis already seems bogus because if I were actually being deprived of REM sleep I would eventually die. In the textbook, Lilienfeld talks about REM Rebound: when humans are deprived of REM sleep, the amount and intensity of REM sleep increases. When we have REM rebound, our dreams are very intense and vivid. So there is this natural response to REM deprivation that causes us to have even more vivid dreams. These REM rebounds are associated with great nights of sleep and I have had these, but I usually don't remember my dreams.

In the text it says, a lot of people say they never dream. The text also says that when someone is woken up out of REM sleep, most of them report having vivid dreams. Maybe I don't wake up that often when I am in REM sleep. So I do not remember dreaming. In the text, there is a statistic that says that "children under the age of seven or eight recall dreaming on only 20-30% of occasions when awakened from REM sleep compared with 80 to 90 percent of adults. So this probably shows that I usually don't awaken during REM sleep, so I don't remember dreams I was just having.

In the early twentieth century a school of thought arose in Germany that explored how people organize visual information into patterns and forms. This school of thought was known as Gestalt psychology. Gestalt psychologists described several principles people use to make sense of what they see. These principles include figure and ground, proximity, closure, similarity, continuity, and simplicity.

Today, companies have mastered these principles and heavily incorporate them into their advertising. Gestalt principles keep the logos interesting and tend to catch peoples attention. Many of the logos and ads you see everyday consist at least one of the Gestalt principles. I will explore many of the principles and find real life examples of advertising applications that apply to each.

Figure and Ground: People often divide visual information into figure and ground. Figure is what stands out, while ground is the background. This effect is used in one of the Macintosh logos. As you see below, the logo can be viewed as a regular happy face and as a happy face in profile looking at a computer screen.

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Proximity: When people see objects that lie close together, they often perceive the objects as a group. In 2002 the MTV European Music Awards used an ad that demonstrated the law of proximity. We perceive the two logos in the top left as a group and the logos of the sponsors in the bottom right as a group. The white space and the proximity of the logos indicate that the logos are meant to be groups, without MTV needing to identify it.

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Closure: People tend to complete objects that are in fact incomplete by filling in gaps. The IBM logo is actually only blue lines of different length, but we perceive the letters I, B, and M.

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Similarity: People tend to group similar objects together. The company Lega-Lega used this principle in their website design. They use the orange color for all the icons at the top right of the webpage so that people group the icons together.

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Symmetry: When we perceive objects we tend to perceive them as symmetrical shapes that form around their center. When we see two unconnected objects that are symmetrical, we unconsciously see them as one object. Since the U's are symmetrical to one another, we automatically group each U with the one it is next to, leaving us with four objects rather than eight.

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When We Know Who We Are

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After watching the BBC Horizon: The Secret You, I was better able to understand when we become aware as we are as ourselves. Marcus was trying to recall the point where he became conscious, but was not able to do so. He then was able to recall when he realized that his son became self aware, which happened at around 18 months. The most common test for self awareness is the mirror self recognition test. In this test a toddler will be put in front of a mirror. They will first be given the chance to see their reflection and become familiar with it. Their parents would then pretend to wipe their nose and while doing so place a sticker on the toddler's cheek with out them knowing. The test is then to see whether the toddler will recognize that they have a sticker on their cheek. The signs of recognition are if the toddlers attempt to remove the mark. If they do, this shows that they realize that it is them who they see in the mirror. These are the first signs of self recognition. This usually happens between the ages of 18-24 months. After this realization, Marcus began to question whether animals could recognize self, or even a single cell. After research we have been able to conclude that those who are members of the Great Apes family (Humans, Chimpanzees and Orangutans) are able to recognize themselves. He puts it as "we engage in a mental time travel."

I find self awareness to be very interesting, but also very tricky. Even today when I look in the mirror, I can recognize myself, but I feel I look different every time I look. It makes me realize that our subconscious mind is very complex and hard to understand. I think it is very worthwhile and interesting to study further on the interworking of our consciousness.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I face a major problem every time I sit down at a computer. When I go to Google, with the full intention of doing something productive, I unconsciously begin to type "f-a-c-e-b..." oh wait, that's not what I wanted to do right now. I wanted to do something important, like research for a class. Not go on Facebook.

A lot of people now just naturally go onto facebook.com without even realizing their doing it. The unconscious mind notices habits and looks to continue them because it feels natural. To sit down at a computer, open up the Internet browser, and immediately go to Facebook has become second nature to many people around the world.

Looking more into the phenomena could be extremely useful. If we could understand why the mind attempts to repeat habits over and over, we may be better be able to understand why habits are so hard to break. Possibly habits go down to the deepest sections of the brain: the unconscious. We also may be better able to understand how mental addictions work and why the mind desires to continue these addictions or trends. Or maybe it's as simple that using Facebook is just an addiction.

Perhaps the greatest question of all is: Why does the brain unconsciously do something like return to Facebook when it knows the body has more important things to be doing. It's as if our unconscious intentionally wastes time by automatically performing actions that will waste time. We may one day be able to answer these questions and better understand why the brain appears to have a desire to waste time.
Speaking of which, I had Facebook open for the entire duration of writing this blog post.

REM Sleep

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

REM sleep is the 5th stage in the sleep cycle and it is when the brain is most active and the most vivid dreaming occurs. Each night a person spends about an hour in REM sleep.

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I think REM sleep is important because our bodies physically need it. It is also interesting because it is such a strange thing. Why does REM sleep happen? Why do our brains get so excited and why are are dream more vivid? What is the point of REM sleep? I can apply the finding of REM sleep to my life by making sure I get it every night. It is important to be well rested to live healthfully. REM sleep is considered to be biologically important, and most likely essential. When people don't get enough REM sleep their bodies rebound, and the amount and intensity of REM sleep increases. I know when I don't get enough sleep I feel terrible the next day and cannot concentrate on anything. I think it's important for me and others my age to go through the entire sleep cycle which allows good REM sleep to happen.

I wonder why REM sleep happens? What is the reason our bodies do it? Why do we dream more vividly in REM sleep? Why do some people get more REM sleep than others?

#2 Hypnosis

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At my high school senior lock in, a hypnotist performed in front of us and used our own classmates as test subjects. Some responded well and others did not; all in all it was quite entertaining and proved to be what I expected of hypnosis. Hypnosis has always peaked my interest, although I've never known that much about it until I had read the psychology book. It is defined as a set of techniques that provides people with suggestions for alterations in their perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. An induction method is used to increase people's suggestibility, which often includes suggestions for relaxation and calmness.

Prior to reading the text, I had believed in nearly all of the myths that I read about in the book. These are all preconceived notions that popular culture has taught us about hypnosis, yet all are untrue. I learned that hypnosis does not in fact produce a trance state in which "amazing" things happen. It all depends on how suggestive the subject is. Hypnotic phenomena are not unique. The same tricks we see in hypnosis shows can be replicated without hypnosis. Hypnosis is nothing like a sleeplike state. People who are hypnotized don't show brain waves similar to those of sleep. Hypnotized people are aware of their surroundings. Contrary to the popular idea that hypnotized people are so entranced that they forget about their surroundings, some people can recall whole telephone conversations they overheard while hypnotized.

While hypnosis shows may be more entertaining when you believe in the myths surrounding hypnosis, it is still just as interesting after learning more about it. Its wide range of clinical applications also make it worth researching more.

http://www.deeptrancenow.com/myths.htm

Hypnosis Simply a Hoax?

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Growing up in America, many of us have heard of the crazy "phenomena" of Hypnosis. If not, check out this video clip: http://youtu.be/jGlYg2UENQI Hypnosis is a "set of techniques that provides people suggestions for alterations in their perceptions, thoughts, feelings and behaviors". Hypnosis is especially prevalent in Hollywood movies and during big events. If you have ever seen someone get "hypnotized" you may have been instantly amazed! However, have you ever stopped to think about exactly how hypnosis works? Can it really make people unconsciously quack like a duck or completely change personalities? The following ideas may change your perception on hypnosis and challenge your beliefs about it.

Last year I went to the "Senior All-Night Party" at my high school. One event of the night included a hypnotist that called up 20 of my classmates and proceeded to "make" them do CRAZY things like driving fake cars, singing popular songs, and literally crying over the fact that their kitten had just died (there were no real kittens, apparently the hypnotist imposed these feelings on the students). This whole act was very skeptical and did not seem real.

Looking farther into hypnosis I found out that hypnotists actually choose their participants based on their personality features. Some people respond to waking imaginative suggestions. These are highly correlated with response to hypnotic suggestions. So, hypnotists choose people because they will more easily obey what they say. Does this suggest hypnotism really works, or is it just tricks that work with certain people? Many people think that people that are hypnotized are completely unconscious and unaware of their surroundings. However, people that are hypnotized are actually hyper-attentive and can later completely recall things that happened when they are in a "trance". This makes me think that people convince themselves into entering a hypnotized state. Both of these things lead me to believe that the students at our All-Night Party were simply faking their unconscious state while being hypnotized. Although it would take extensive research and countless numbers of studies to show the true effect of hypnosis, as of now, hypnosis simply seems like a hoax.

Sources: http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/extrasensory-perceptions/hypnosis.htm
Psychology 1001 From Inquiry to Understanding, Scott Lilienfeld

I would have never classified myself as having a sleeping problem, that is until I read chapter 5 of our Lilienfled textbook and discovered that Insomnia can take multiple forms including: Having trouble falling asleep, Waking up too early in the morning and waking up during the night and having trouble falling back to sleep. Scared that I fell into all 3 of these categories of Insomnia I did some more research on Insomnia in the adult population and discovered that most adults have experienced Insomnia or sleeplessness at one time or another in their lives, an estimated 30-50% of the general population are affected by Insomnia (Wow! that's half), and about 10% affected by Chronic Insomnia. I went on learning that Insomnia is also classified by the duration of the problem, and not everyone agrees on the definition. I would also have to agree with this statement seeing as there have been times in my life, particularly the stressful periods were I did experience all the symptoms listed for Insomnia. I do love my sleep and didn't think that I had a sleeping disorder so I blamed it on stress which was altering my sleeping patterns. This brought rise to my next question, can stress cause Insomnia?
Researching a bit further I discovered that Insomnia affects woman more so than men and that the incidence tends to increase with age. It is typically more common in people in lower socioeconomic groups, chronic alcoholics and mental health patients. Stress most commonly triggers short term and acute Insomnia, and if not treated or address can turn into Chronic Insomnia. Although stress and Insomnia seem to have a real strong correlation, I don't believe there is enough statistical evidence to actually prove the causation of Insomnia due to stress, many other factors can contribute to irregular sleeping patterns, whether it is stress or simply what you ate right before you went to bed. So is it accurate to diagnose someone with Insomnia because they've had a couple of rough nights of sleep? I don't believe so, however symptoms lasting for less than one week would be diagnosed and defined as Transient Insomnia, symptoms lasting anywhere between one to three weeks would be diagnosed as Short-Term Insomnia and anything longer than that would be considered Chronic Insomnia.
They did come out with a new drug that is supposed to help those experiencing all the above categories of Insomnia, but is more geared towards people who are suffering from Transient or Short-Term Insomnia. I have added the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqN49Dy7Mgw

One concept we have been learning about that i find interesting is the how our brain interprets what our eyes sense. When we see things, we aren't seeing the actual image, our eyes pick up light bouncing off objects and convert it to electrical signals. These signals then go to our brain which concocts an image of what it believes we were seeing. Our brain is fooled in this way all the time. An example is when you look at a painting of a landscape. The painter purposefully makes objects smaller to give them the illusion of being farther back than other objects in the painting. This simple technique almost completely tricks your brain giving the painting the illusion of having real depth. Below are some examples of different illusions that confuse your brain's perceptions of what it is seeing. http://historygroupnine.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/paintings-by-gustave-caillebotte-2.jpg
http://www.moillusions.com/

The article "Teenage Mind: First Time Evidence Links Over Interpretation of Social Situations to Personality Disorder" published by Science Daily discusses a relationship between borderline personality disorder traits and hypermentalizing in adolescents. This is an example of behaviorism the school of psychology that focuses on uncovering the general laws of learning by looking at observable traits. The goal of the study was to answer: "why does someone with borderline personality disorder do certain things" for example why they might key a car if doing so will lead to bad consequences? Focusing on what happens in the brain of these patients. The study consisted of 111 adolescent inpatients between the ages of 12 to 17 they were asked to watch some movie scenes and report what the character was feeling based on four options. Based on this information I am still unsure which part of the brain is responsible for personality disorder. And this correlation between the responses to the movie are not very persuading for me are their MRI scans that demonstrate similar findings? This is an example of using scientific skepticism it does not look though the articles author used scientific skepticism in writing this. Also as mentioned in class the right hemisphere is responsible for social behaviors but how do these disorders come to be? In addition it stated that there is a relationship between the answers the participants had chosen but not why they believe there is a correlation. In my opinion I think this article needs to be replicated and further explained to be persuasive. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110928142454.htm

Blog #2 Faith vs Thinking

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An article published by the American Psychological Association provides an interesting look at the relationship between intuitive thinking and faith. Scientists at Harvard University studied the hypothesis that more intuitive thinkers have stronger religious beliefs. The article explains that intuitive thinking means going with ones first guess and coming to conclusions quickly. In opposition, a reflexive thinker is one who thinks deeply about a decision before coming to a conclusion. For example, reflexive thinkers are the type who would second-guess their initial answer to a question on a test. Researcher Amitai Shenhave explains that they were testing to see how religious beliefs were influenced when a person relied on instincts or if they required more thinking beyond what their instincts originally tell them. In a sample of 882 U.S. adults, participants were asked to take a survey about their beliefs in God before taking a cognitive test that rated how intuitively they thought. They were asked trick-like questions that tested how much they relied on intuition. The study shows that individuals who replied intuitively to the questions were one and a half times more likely to have strong faith in God. Intuitive thinkers were also shown to have increased belief in God over their lifetimes. In another study of 373 participants, scientists noticed that faith levels could be temporarily influenced when intuitive or reflective thinking was focused on. One group was asked to write about a time in which they used intuition, the other, a time in which they used reflective thinking. The group who wrote about intuition showed a greater belief in God after writing the essay than the group who was asked to write reflectively.
At the end of the article the author brings up an important point that should be considered in all correlational studies; that correlation does not show causation. He reflects that the studies show a causal link between intuitive thinking and faith but not which causes which. Although these studies tested the effects of intuitive thinking on faith, they acknowledge that an opposing situation could be true. In this case, faith could actually cause intuitive thinking. This study is an example of the importance of remembering that correlation does not show causation. There is an obvious correlation between intuitive thinking and faith but we cannot be certain of which causes which.

article link: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/09/thinking-god.aspx

Gateway Drugs

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Many articles have been written about Marijuana being the "gateway drug" into many other harmful drugs. A gateway drug is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as a drug (as alcohol or marijuana) whose use is thought to lead to the use of and dependence on a harder drug (as cocaine or heroin). I am firm believer in this theory. I am from a small town in Minnesota where I see this happen all the time. Many students from my high school first got involved with alcohol and marijuana, which led to the usage of other drugs. It also led to some becoming dealers of the drugs. I have seen it happen in person as well. I have been around some of my friends when they start experimenting with these harmful drugs. It's not just drugs either. I have seen alcohol lead to smoking cigarettes regularly. Getting involved with the harmful drugs can lead to trouble. Trouble with the law as well as trouble with education and career. The harmful drugs harness someone from succeeding in what they do. The students from my high school that used the harmful drugs ended up dropping out of school. The others that graduated did not go on to college. There are just too many consequences of getting involved with alcohol and marijuana. You do not want to get sucked in to the gateway for other harmful drugs. I feel that there is a lack of effort in trying to stop kids getting involved with gateway drugs. I want there to be more programs and awareness of this problem.

Gateway Drugs

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Many articles have been written about Marijuana being the "gateway drug" into many other harmful drugs. A gateway drug is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as a drug (as alcohol or marijuana) whose use is thought to lead to the use of and dependence on a harder drug (as cocaine or heroin). I am firm believer in this theory. I am from a small town in Minnesota where I see this happen all the time. Many students from my high school first got involved with alcohol and marijuana, which led to the usage of other drugs. It also led to some becoming dealers of the drugs. I have seen it happen in person as well. I have been around some of my friends when they start experimenting with these harmful drugs. It's not just drugs either. I have seen alcohol lead to smoking cigarettes regularly. Getting involved with the harmful drugs can lead to trouble. Trouble with the law as well as trouble with education and career. The harmful drugs harness someone from succeeding in what they do. The students from my high school that used the harmful drugs ended up dropping out of school. The others that graduated did not go on to college. There are just too many consequences of getting involved with alcohol and marijuana. You do not want to get sucked in to the gateway for other harmful drugs. I feel that there is a lack of effort in trying to stop kids getting involved with gateway drugs. I want there to be more programs and awareness of this problem.

Thorndike's Instrumental Conditioning is what we learn from the relationships between behavior and consequences. An important aspect of this type of learning is that behavior can change due to the effects or consequences that the behavior has had on the individual. This is a very important aspect of psychology because it shows that we are able to adapt to situations and read patterns within our own lives and circumstances. I'm going to share with you my own experience with Instrumental conditioning and the law of effect.

I have two miniature wiener dogs; dachshunds are notorious for not being able to be fully potty trained. After months upon months of accidents in the house, we decided to try out using a signal for our dogs to tell us when they wanted to go outside. The signal we used was a bell like those at front desks of office buildings. The dogs were showed the bell and initially they would not go near it unless I tapped the bell with their paw. After the bell made a ringing noise, I brought my dogs outside and if they went potty they got a treat. My family and I continued this training with a positive consequence of a treat and eventually the dogs started ringing the bell on their own when they had to go to the bathroom, as we continued to give them a treat afterward. It took months to train these dogs, but after some time had passed, they became independent in ringing the bell and they were also doing it on a regular basis.

This example is a demonstration of how living things are able to adapt mentally and learn from their environments, especially when there is a consequence or effect attached to that action.

Brief video of a random dog, same training: http://youtu.be/Fn5TtyDIRAM

SOURCES: Gail Peterson Lecture Oct 5, 2011 (UMN-TC PSY 1001-F11)
http://youtu.be/Fn5TtyDIRAM

Sleep Apnea

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According to our textbook, Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder that affects roughly 2-20% of the general population. It is caused by a blockage of the airway during sleep resulting in fatigue, weight gain, night sweats, and irregular heart beat. Of course this is only some of the affects of sleep apnea and there are many more short and long term effects.

What I am most interested in is what are the most popular and/or effective treatments for sleep apnea? Again, according to the textbook, most doctors recommend weight loss because this disorder is associated with being overweight. But, also mentioned in the book is the use of the CPAP machine. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. I was curious as to how it worked so I found a simple video on sleep apnea and how CPAP works:
http://youtu.be/6QcmK24ZNyQ

Still curious as to what treatment was better, I found an article from the American Sleep Association on CPAP and other sleep apnea treatments. They stated that the CPAP machine is the more popular treatment and potentially the most effective. Weight loss, as pointed out by the ASA, is still a very viable treatment, but it is a very slow process. So, most patients who are trying to lose weight are also put on CPAP to help open up their airways right away.

So I guess, in a way, I've answered my question. CPAP is the more popular and effective treatment for sleep apnea if it's essentially being used not matter what.

article from the American Sleep Association: http://www.sleepassociation.org/index.php?p=whatiscpap

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Schadenfreude is a term used to describe pleasure taken from other people's pain. It is a feeling that we all have experienced, me especially, when celebrities have highly publicized break-ups, and in children's cartoons when one of the characters is involved in a dynamite explosion or trips on a banana peel.

According to the article, "Malicious Pleasure: Schadenfreude at the Suffering of Another Group ," "John Heider (1958) argued that schadenfreude is malicious because pleasure is a "discordant" reaction to another's misfortune. Unlike the "concordant" reaction of sympathy, schadenfreude establishes an antagonistic relationship to the unfortunate other. For this reason Heider saw schadenfreude as harmful to social relations." In other words, where we should feel sympathy for other people when they suffer, we instead feel glee and happiness.
One of the hypotheses for the cause of schadenfreude is that of perceived identity and inferiority. An experiment conducted in 1996 by RH Smith et al included a male subject who was portrayed as being much superior/inferior to an experimental group. The male subject then suffered the misfortune of being denied admission into medical school. The group who perceived themselves inferior felt more pleasure at his suffering. The study suggested that feeling inferior to the successful peer is what led to schadenfreude in response to the adversity.
When people feel threatened by another group, schadenfreude tends to increase in between groups. An example of this is apparent in the world of sport. One researcher studied German and Dutch football fans. The threat of the Netherlands's chronic inferiority in football increased Dutch schadenfreude toward Germany's loss in the world cup. To make it more relevant to us, Packers and Viking fans experience joy when the other team makes a fumble or suffers a penalty.

Dreams are stories that keep us entertained while we are sleeping and our body is relaxing. Most dreams occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, yet they can also take place during non-REM sleep. Dreams can be both logical or outlandish depending upon what stage of sleep they occur during.

Many people enjoy having crazy dreams and they cannot wait to tell their friends about them the next day. These people should thank their forebrain because without it we would not be able to dream. Dreams that occur during REM sleep are usually ridiculous and involve situations that would never happen in real life, such as flying. When I was younger, I had a dream that I was with my family in a mysterious, foreign country. There was a strict leader there that would send his guards to kill you if you ever made eye contact with him. Within seconds, I was at my elementary school in Minnesota. Wait, what? How did this happen? I had just become living proof that REM dreams do indeed consist of erratic shifts in plot. The new part of my dream brought me to my elementary school where I was watching an airshow with my family. This makes absolutely no sense because the nearest airport is over five miles away and it would be dangerous to perform stunning loops with airplanes if there was no where to land safely if they had an emergency. As a result, this supports the theory that REM dreams tend to be unrealistic. However, the bizarreness did not end there. All of a sudden, hundreds of alien-filled spaceships appeared. As the crowd tried to rush inside the school, my alarm clock went off. Although this dream happened years ago, I still remember it since it was so strange. Dreams are known to contain more negative emotions than postive ones. My dream that night definitely backed this claim up because I was frightened that one of my family members would fall prey to the leader's violent ways or I would be abducted by aliens and never see my family again. Let's just say that I kept a close eye on the sky whenever my mom dropped my brother and I off at school for many days to come.

ufos.png

Other dreams involve situations that occur in everyday life, such as homework or going to school. These dreams take place during non-REM sleep. Personally, I have had numerous dreams in which I am in the hallway at my junior high school. This reinforces the theory that non-REM dreams are repetitive. Every time I have this dream, I always have trouble finding where my classrooms are and the hallways are endless. In addition, I am always late to class because I keep getting distracted by my friends that I stop to chat to in the hallway. This dream always leaves me frustrated because one of my biggest fears is being late to class and getting detention. Again, this dream supports the idea that dreams are more likely to be full of misfortune than luck. It seems that whenever I am about to start a new school year, I get one of these dreams. This makes me wonder if a dream's topic involves what a person was worried about right before they dozed off.

hallway19.jpg

Dreams come in a variety of different types. Some are out-of-the-ordinary while other dreams involve everyday problems. This makes me wonder if we have any control over what events occur in our dreams. Are our non-REM dreams focused on problems that we are currently facing in our lives? However, we should try not to lose any sleep over this question. Instead, we should head off to bed early and hope the answer appears to us in our dreams.

UFO picture courtesy of:
http://www.popfi.com/wp-content/uploads/ufos.png

Hallway picture courtesy of:
http://www.photographyblogger.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/hallway19.jpg

Narcolepsy is "a chronic sleep disorder characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep." In this case(video), a dog is suffering from narcolepsy. At first, I found it somewhat funny because, ironically, every time the dog got too excited, it would fall asleep. But by the end of the video and through the textbook reading, I realized that narcolepsy is a serious sleep disorder that dramatically affects people's lives.
Some people with narcolepsy experience cataplexy, which is a complete loss of muscle tone. This can happen from surprise, excitement or any strong emotion. When I imagine my own life being affected by narcolepsy/cataplexy, I realize how problematic this condition would be. You couldn't drive, safely anyways, which for me growing up would have made life difficult. Thinking back on birthdays, Christmas, and just other happy moments in my life, suffering from narcolepsy would completely change all of these memories. I think it's really unfortunate that it seems to affect people during the more exciting or significant moments of their life.
While some people are born with narcolepsy, (some with a genetic abnormality that increases the risk) others develop it after sustaining damage to the brain. So, unfortunately, everyone is susceptible to developing narcolepsy.
Complications that come with narcolepsy include: a misunderstanding of the disorder, an interference with close relationships, and physical harm. People can mistake the side effects of narcolepsy with laziness and apathy. Because extreme emotions can trigger narcolepsy or cataplexy, people sometimes refrain from forming close relationships that would be affected by the disorder. Physical harm may result from many activities that are interrupted by a sleep attack. Clearly, narcolepsy affects people on a personal and everyday basis, changing the way he/she lives. In the case of the dog from the video, narcolepsy has made a normal, happy life impossible.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/narcolepsy/DS00345

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall

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Have you ever walked up to a door like this and then tried to push the door open to get to the other side?

PUSH.png

The next time that I do it, I will probably not feel as silly about it because of having read about the new research that delves into the human brain's ability to understand mirror-image words.

It turns out that we actually process chiral (mirror-imaged) words, presented individually, automatically and unconsciously at least for a few instants. The visual system rotates the words reflected in the mirror and recognizes them at a very early stage of 150 - 250 milliseconds. The brain then realizes that there is something different about this scene and changes the processing steps accordingly.

The research was conducted at the Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain and Languages in Spain and involved the monitoring the brain activity of 27 participants by use of encephalograms. The subjects were shown words for 50 milliseconds on a computer screen in one of two ways:

- words where some of the letters or other information were rotated or

- words where the entire word was rotated as in
HTUOM instead of MOUTH

The encephalogram results show that, at between 150 - 250 msec, the brain's response was the same in both cases as when the words are read normally. This means that the visual system sees both forms as equivalent.

The researchers believe that this helps explain why a lot of children have trouble distinguishing p from q, d from b, and write their 's' in the mirror-image form. They further hypothesize that the acquisition of reading skills somehow inhibits the processing of chiral words as normal words in most of us. The scientists believe that further investigations will help us understand dyslexia and dysgrafia better.

Research by other scientists is not in complete agreement with this study and there have not been many investigations in this field. More studies have been done comparing normal pictures with their mirror-image counterparts and have found similar brain activity in those cases. Studies using fMRI by Stanislas Dehaene at the French medical research agency, INSERM, does not show the same brain activity with mirror-image words as the Spanish research does but they believe that if they were to have children or illiterate adults as the subjects, the findings would be different. Again, they believe that the acquisition of reading skills changes the way we process words.

Most of the time, anyway. I am sure that I will still have occasions when I will be pushing a door instead of pulling it.


Sources: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110331080037.htm
http://www.economist.com/node/16537618

I have. I used to experience sleep paralysis in middle school. It usually happened when I woke up from a nap or fell asleep for a short time. When I experienced sleep paralysis, I was able to hear ghosts calling my name in my ear or felt them on my chest. Although I tried to get some help I could not move my body or say anything. It made me so frightened that I was even afraid of sleeping sometimes. I did not know what it was back then, but now I know that it was sleep paralysis.


Here are other people who have experienced sleep paralysis and one of explanations for sleep paralysis.

So what is sleep paralysis?
As you can guess, you feel paralyzed when you falling asleep or awakening. You can see or feel things but you simply cannot move your body or say things.

Sleep paralysis occurs in two different ways.

1. If it occurs while you are falling asleep it is called hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis. When you fall asleep your body normally relaxes and you become unconscious. However, if you still remain conscious you may experience sleep paralysis.

2. If it occurs while you are waking up, it's called hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis.
When we sleep, we go through 5 stages of sleep. The stage one through four is considered non-REM(NREM). During these stages your body relaxes and these four stages take up the most of sleeping time. The last stage is called REM(rapid eye movements). You have more dreams at this stage as your eye move rapidly. When your body remained relaxed from NREM but enter REM and become aware before the REM cycle finishes, you may experience sleep paralysis.

What are the possible causes?


  • Disruption in the sleep cycle

  • Anxiety, stress

  • Sleeping with your face up

  • Sudden changes in lifestyle

So if you have ever experienced sleep paralysis and are afraid of it, I hope you no longer worry about it. It is very unlikely to be caused by ghosts or aliens.

Thanks for your time!


Reference : Wikipedia, Google, Textbook, and youtube

Scientific Smackdown

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I have to say, this is by far one of the most interesting articles I have seen in a long time. First off, this article is almost like the "WWE smackdown" of science. There is a man named Martin Lindstrom, a respected opinion page contributor to the New York Times. He wrote an article about the effects of the iPhone on the brain. He used functional magnetic resonance imaging to test how people react to things they love, such as electronics and their religions. What he did in this test was he showed a subject a picture of an Apple product, and then showed the same subject a picture of the Pope. He found that there were some striking similarities. When subjects viewed the Apple product, and a picture of the Pope the brain activity was similar. It seems Lindstrom has done some extensive tests (though he has not provided any link to his tests) even with babies and Blackberrys.

He even goes as far as saying:
"I enlisted eight men and eight women between the ages of 18 and 25. Our 16 subjects were exposed separately to audio and to video of a ringing and vibrating iPhone. In each instance, the results showed activation in both the audio and visual cortices of the subjects' brains. In other words, when they were exposed to the video, our subjects' brains didn't just see the vibrating iPhone, they "heard" it, too; and when they were exposed to the audio, they also "saw" it. This powerful cross-sensory phenomenon is known as synesthesia."
Honestly, there are a few problems. First off, did he randomly assign? He didn't seem to clarify this, but with that he only had 16 people. Secondly, this is not a representative sample of the population. There needs to be more than sixteen people. Third, it seemed like he diagnosed quickly. A few days after this was published (originally published on September 30th, 2011), Russel Poldrack a Psychology and Neurobiology professor from University of Texas at Austin that wrote to the editor. Poldrack said: 'The brain region that he points to as being "associated with feelings of love and compassion" (the insular cortex) is active in as many as one-third of all brain imaging studies.' It seems Lindstrom not only conducted a poor test, but also made an extraordinary claim he had no clear evidence for. In the end, the fact that Lindstrom thought he had found a case of synesthesia, cross-modial sensation, didn't really matter. More importantly however Poldrack made sure to "punch hard" by adding a list of 44 other neuroscientists that signed his letter to the New York Times. Poldrack even stated how disappointed he was in the New York Times. That list had name of neuroscientists from Duke, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, Princeton, Cornell, Harvard, Columbia, and more. Ironically, the population of neuroscientists was larger than Lindstrom's sixteen subjects.

No matter what, we all make mistakes.

So what is a better conclusion than Lindstrom's conclusion? Here is a simple equation:
+=

Also, I happened to pick this article because of the iPhone and in memory of Steve Jobs.

Thanks,

Ishan

Websites Used:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/05/opinion/the-iphone-and-the-brain.html?_r=1&ref=brain
http://www.foxnews.com/images/377822/0_61_etrade_blackberry_baby.jpg
http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/brain-intro.gif
http://mos.futurenet.com/techradar/classifications/gadgets/phones/mobile-phones/iPhone/iphone4_2up_front_side-420-90.jpg
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/01/opinion/you-love-your-iphone-literally.html
http://www.russpoldrack.org/ (Full list of neuroscientists available).
http://img6.imageshack.us/img6/1973/060127rmkickdonkeytn.jpg

Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, and P&G recently unveiled the results of a study they conducted about perceived trustworthiness, competence, and likability.

In the study, 149 adults were shown images of 25 women wearing various "stages" of makeup. A professional makeup artist applied makeup to the women, with "natural" and no makeup, "professional", and "glamorous".

The images were flashed for 250 milliseconds to one group subjects and asked about first impressions, and another group was shown the images for a longer length of time and asked whether they would hire the woman and whether she would be competent.

In both groups, the subjects rated the women wearing makeup higher approval compared to the bare-faced women.

Apparently, this was the first study ever done to explore the long-standing belief that attractive people are more successful in their careers and are more successful in getting jobs.

"For the first time, we have found that applying makeup has an effect beyond increasing attractiveness - it impacts first impressions and overall judgments of perceived likeability, trustworthiness, and competence," said Nancy Etcoff PhD.

While I think that part of the study was to research better ways to effectively market cosmetics, it definitely touches into perception. From what I read, the study only explored the surface of the issue--they did find that people find makeup-wearers more attractive, but I want to know why.

Since this is the first study ever done, there could be many other explanations. Such as why does someone who is makeup free appear to be incompetent? The study didn't seem to answer that. It has been said that humans are wired to be drawn to more attractive people because of evolution and such--but how does this factor into job search? That wasn't explored either. Ruling out rival hypotheses is really important when considering this study.

People have different tastes and preferences when it comes to makeup on women, too. Does every employer share the same tastes? Speaking of which, maybe they should've gotten their sample from a group of hiring managers if that's part of the reason why they conducted the study. Hmm...

So like with any study, people shouldn't just jump to conclusions--women shouldn't just go out and buy lots of P&G makeup because of the results.


Source: http://www.multivu.com/mnr/52087-p-g-harvard-study-reveals-cosmetics-alter-instinctual-perception

Narcolepsy

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In the 2001 film Rat Race, a group of people are picked by another group of millionaires to race for a large sum of money. As the group departed on their journey, racing down the halls of the hotel, one of the characters suddenly stops and starts sleeping in the middle of the hallway! He does this throughout movie, falling asleep during important parts of the race. At the end of the movie, he ends up being the first one at the money safe, with his key in the lock, only to fall asleep as he was about to unlock the door! The other members of the group catch up to him, resulting in a big fight for the money.

Picture of character in Rat Race:
http://www.ahafilm.info/mimg/pictures/556.jpg

Though the film pokes fun at this character's disorder, narcolepsy is nothing to make fun of. Narcolepsy is characterized by the fast and usually unexpected arrival of sleep. This sleep can last a few seconds to even an hour. Imagine not being able to control when you fall asleep. You could sleep through the most basic of everyday activities such as being at work, going to class, cooking dinner at night, or even going to the bathroom!

Cataplexy is also associated with narcolepsy and is the complete loss of muscle tone. This means that the muscles go limp and one can fall very easily. People with ordinary sleeping habits are afflicted by cataplexy too during their REM sleep. However, because these people are normally in bed, cannot tell. People with narcolepsy, because they sleep at random times, are more prone to falling simply because they could fall asleep while standing up.

Narcolepsy can occur if there are any abnormalities in genetic information. Orexin, a hormone, plays an important role in wakefulness. Abnorallites in the brain cells that produce this hormone can result in narcolepsy. People that have this strange condition can take medications to help to regulate orexin and wakefulness, though it may not work for everyone.

As I was looking up information about this condition, I came across a blog written by a narcoleptic woman. She posted that," Everyday is such a struggle for me... no one understands what I am going through. Even my husband gets so frustrated that I am practically disabled and cannot do many things that normal people do... I feel very lonely and sad... I wish I can be alert and refreshed after sleeping just 8 hours like other normal people". I cannot even fathom not being able to control when I do and when I don't want to sleep. Narcolepsy sounds like a tough condition to deal with, not just for the one afflicted with it but also their family and friends. I thought it was hard staying up all night studying, only to get a few hours of sleep for the next day. Now that I know what narcolepsy is and what it entails, I feel lucky to be a normal sleeper.

http://www.experienceproject.com/stories/Have-Narcolepsy/294178

Perception Deception

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There are many illusions that are known to us that force us to perceive things as different then they really are. (http://visualfunhouse.com/wpcontent/uploads/2009/03/flaming-street-ofchalk.jpg)
The ponzo illusion makes things look smaller the farther away they are. Railroad tracks look as though they run into each other far away but they are really the same distance apart all the way down. They also make the wooden planks between the tracks look shorter and shorter but they are also all the same length all the way down.
(http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/pictures/11000/velka/railroad-tracks-23521292901749uK0.jpg)
There are many real life instances where we perceive things as different then what they really are. It is important for us to know about illusions that effect our real world perception so we know that things aren't always what they seem. These illusions can be especially important with driving. It is important to know how far away things and people are from you. There is that little message in your side mirrors also "objects in mirror are closer then they appear"
(http://www.jcsnotebook.org/wpcontent/uploads/2010/01/objects_in_mirror_are_closer_than_they_appear1.jpg)
which is another way that your perceptions trick you. Things can be close but look further away in the mirror which can be dangerous when driving. This is why it is so important to be aware of illusions that can be tricking you in sometimes dangerous ways. There is also the perception related to the ponzo illusion that people who are further away look smaller than they are. They are still a normal sized person but from a distance a person close to you looks much bigger than them although the two people could be the same or very close to each other in actual size.

Perception Deception

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There are many illusions that are known to us that force us to perceive things as different then they really are. (http://visualfunhouse.com/wpcontent/uploads/2009/03/flaming-street-ofchalk.jpg)
The ponzo illusion makes things look smaller the farther away they are. Railroad tracks look as though they run into each other far away but they are really the same distance apart all the way down. They also make the wooden planks between the tracks look shorter and shorter but they are also all the same length all the way down.
(http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/pictures/11000/velka/railroad-tracks-23521292901749uK0.jpg)
There are many real life instances where we perceive things as different then what they really are. It is important for us to know about illusions that effect our real world perception so we know that things aren't always what they seem. These illusions can be especially important with driving. It is important to know how far away things and people are from you. There is that little message in your side mirrors also "objects in mirror are closer then they appear"
(http://www.jcsnotebook.org/wpcontent/uploads/2010/01/objects_in_mirror_are_closer_than_they_appear1.jpg)
which is another way that your perceptions trick you. Things can be close but look further away in the mirror which can be dangerous when driving. This is why it is so important to be aware of illusions that can be tricking you in sometimes dangerous ways. There is also the perception related to the ponzo illusion that people who are further away look smaller than they are. They are still a normal sized person but from a distance a person close to you looks much bigger than them although the two people could be the same or very close to each other in actual size.

Mysterious Nightmares

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Sleep paralysis, known as nightmare, is a kind of mystery of our daily life because most of us have to encounter it at least once in a lifetime. The statistics show that 20% to 60% of individuals reported having experienced sleep paralysis at least once in their lifetime in Canada, China, England, Japan and Nigeria.Sleep_Paralysis.jpg
Mystery around the world
The original definition of sleep paralysis in English is a nightmare, and is mainly considered as demons sitting on the chests of sleepers. It is similar in North American folk belief, that sleepers suffer breath difficulty after waking and are unable to move, because of perceived heavy invisible weight of demons on their chest. Also, It is considered a sign of an approaching tragedy or accident. In Mexico, it is believed that this is caused by the spirit of a dead person. Swedish people think sleep paralysis is related to a damned woman who has a super power to make nightmares when she visits villagers at night. However, Most Asian cultures consider that sleep paralysis is a ghost or dark spirit pressing on the bed.modern-art-prints.jpegfairy1.jpg
What is sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. It occurs either at sleep onset, which is called hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis, or upon awakening that is hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis. For example, one cannot move on the bed but he or she can hear or see things that do not exist. There are other symptoms like skeletal muscle paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations or dream-like mentation during sleep.nightmare.jpg
What causes "nightmares"?
The factors that influence sleep (SP) paralysis are studied by J. A. CHEYNE at the university of Waterloo. He set two situational conditions for sleep paralysis, different body position and different timing of sleep (beginning, middle or end of sleep ) as independent variables, and the number of SP occurred during an individual's sleep as the dependent variable. In addition, the sample size was 6730 subjects. He measured REM during sleep time to examine when SP episodes occurred and compared the difference of dreams between REM and NREM, as well as the intensity of SP hallucinations.
The results showed that more subjects reported SP in the supine position, lying down on their back, than all other positions combined; SP occurred more at the middle and end of sleep than at the beginning; SP Hallucinations were found for SP timing more body position. He summarized that body position and timing of SP episodes both appeared and affected the quality of the SP experience. There is the article by J.A.CHEYNE 6726710.pdf
Do we need to worry about nightmare?
As most articles mention most of us do not need treatment for sleep paralysis. But there are some suggestions that can help us escape from nightmares. We need to improve sleep habits like getting enough sleep every night. Furthermore, we need to find doctors to treat any mental health problems and other sleep disorders that may contribute to sleep paralysis, such as narcolepsy or leg cramps.sleeping_peaceful.jpg

Article links: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-paralysis
http://www.stanford.edu/~dement/paralysis.html

Every year there are numerous accounts of people reporting that an alien or something strange visited them in their sleep. These people often wake up from their sleep and report that they had feelings of something pressing down on them, or they felt an eerie presence in the room. This phenomenon is known to psychologists as sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis in short is the inability to move after falling asleep, or immediately waking up. The condition is often associated with feelings of extreme anxiety and fear.

I think this concept of psychology is a very important one to study because so many people suffer from it, and do no not know what to do about it. In my personal experience I have had numerous accounts of waking up in the middle of the night, and not being able to move because I was so terrified that something was in my room. I thought I was going crazy until about a month after when a friend of mine reported having very similar experiences. It was good to know that this isn't an abnormal experience, but I was still inquisitive to what was going on.

After some basic studying in the text and some support online, it seems that a basic hypothesis to what happens during sleep paralysis is available. In the simplest terms, what happens is, part of your brain wakes up from the sleep cycle, giving you conscious awareness, but the rest of your brain that controls motor functions is still sleeping. This results in the inability to move which can seem so terrifying, especially in the middle of the night.

So next time if you wake up in the middle of the night and think there is something in your room watching you, try to remember that you are most likely suffering from sleep paralysis, and there is nothing to really fear.

One thing we have learned in the past two weeks is conditioning. Ivan Pavlov discovered the process of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning, also known as Pavlovian conditioning, is a form of learning that involves animals automatically responding to an action. Basically, classical conditioning is the act of an animal doing something in response to a stimulus that was previously neutral. An excellent example is Pavlov's dogs. Pavlov used the sound of a metronome to trigger salivation in a dog by turning a metronome on whenever the dogs were fed. After many trials of this, the dogs would salivate whenever the metronome was turned on because they were expecting food to appear before them. The metronome acted as a signal that announced food.
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Another example of Pavlovian conditioning, which is likely to be more familiar, is the conditioning that middle- and high school students undertake. Many schools use bells to indicate the beginning and end of classes for students. Those students are classically conditioned to either leave class or be in their seats when the bell rings between classes. I thought this was interesting because there were a few times in high school when the bells would go off at incorrect times, and students would get up to leave class before realizing that it was a false alarm. The bell meant leaving class, and now that there are no bells in college, it's weird leaving class without that proper indicator.
What are other examples of classical conditioning used? The zipping of multiple backpacks? The shutting of the door when people leave the lecture early?
In an episode of The Office, there is an excellent example of how classical conditioning works.

The Office - Pavlov's dog from Rauno Villberg on Vimeo.

Stages of Sleep

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In 1951, an important discovery was made at the University of Chicago. Nathaniel Kleitman's grad student monitored a sleeping boy's brain waves and eye movements and discovered that, every so often, the boy's eyes darted from side to side and his brain activity fluctuated. From these findings, Kleitman concluded that there are five stages of sleep.

Stage 1 sleep is the lightest stage of sleep, lasting anywhere from five to ten minutes. During this stage, the brain relaxes by about 50% and produces theta waves, which occur four to seven cycles per second. If you've ever jolted awake due to a sudden sense of falling or felt very confused after waking up, chances are you were in this stage of sleep.

Stage 2 sleep is where we spend 65% of our sleep time. Although the brain continues to relax, occasional bursts of electrical activity, called sleep spindles, occur twelve to fourteen cycles per second. Also, K complexes appear. During this stage, heart rate and body temperature decrease, muscles relax, and eye movements stop.

Sleep stages 3 and 4 are the deepest stages of sleep. In these stages, delta waves become prevalent and occur one to two cycles per second. In stage 3, these waves happen 20% to 50% of the time, and in stage 4, they happen over 50% of the time. In order for us to have a fulfilling night's sleep, we have to experience these two stages of sleep.

Stage 5 sleep is called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Here, we dream vividly and more often than in any other stage. During this stage, the brain kicks into high gear and produces waves that look like those of wakefulness. Heart rate and blood pressure increase, and rapid and irregular breathing occurs. We're in this stage for about 20% to 25% of our night's sleep.

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Stages of Sleep video

As college students, most of us don't get enough sleep due to homework assignments, studying for tests, and participating in extracurricular activities. We might think that sleep isn't as important as getting good grades in our classes, but we're wrong. It's important that people get enough sleep each night, because sleep reduces stress, improves our memory, and reduces our chances of developing a physical or mental disorder.

Sources:
http://www.better-sleep-better-life.com/benefits-of-sleep.html
Chapter 5 of our Lilienfeld Psychology book

How to Create an Entry

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One of your fellow students has created a very helpful post on the easiest way to create blog entries:

Follow her instructions for successful blog posts!

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!

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Article Used: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Health/story?id=7880954&page=1
Picture 1:
http://www.google.com/imgres?q=brooke+greenberg+life&um=1&hl=en&biw=1040&bih=632&noj=1&tbm=isch&tbnid=QX3-Dun2avE9dM:&imgrefurl=http://www.comicvine.com/forums/off-topic/5/the-life-of-brooke-greenberg-how-is-it-possible/400631/&docid=y6B78hJjgx8gLM&w=260&h=191&ei=AzKFTt_8L4WFtgf6uP07&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=270&page=1&tbnh=132&tbnw=180&start=0&ndsp=13&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:0&tx=89&ty=77
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".

http://www.childrenintherapy.org/victims/newmaker.html

http://articles.cnn.com/2001-04-05/justice/rebirthing.trial_1_jeane-newmaker-connell-watkins-rebirthing?_s=PM:LAW

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.

http://harvardmagazine.com/2005/05/the-nocebo-effect.html

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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.

http://www.queendom.com/articles/articles.htm?a=42

http://extras.denverpost.com/news/shot0422gg.htm

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.

http://www.queendom.com/articles/articles.htm?a=42

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.

http://www.snopes.com/sports/football/maddencurse.asp

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:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,960148,00.html

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.

http://www.bfro.net/
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.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15629096

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:
http://news.discovery.com/human/serial-killer-society.html

View a video about why some psychologists believe more men are serial killers than women here:
http://investigation.discovery.com/videos/most-evil-secrets-of-murder.html

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:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/21/divorce-causes-hair-loss-_n_974544.html

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.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yTCShemS_0

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFCdhr6l3ls

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.


VIDEO: WATCH SUN EXPLOSION-SUMMER 2011
The video is only 20 seconds long and pretty cool, take a look!
http://youtu.be/Hyi4hjG6kDM


Sources:
http://youtu.be/Hyi4hjG6kDM
http://io9.com/5810057/massive-eruption-on-the-sun-yesterday-means-a-solar-storm-zooming-by-earth-tomorrow
http://www.snopes.com/science/sunboom.asp

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).

http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/resources/FAQ.html#Laumann

"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.

http://vickie-britton.suite101.com/the-truth-behind-the-blair-witch-project-film-a231966

http://paranormal.lovetoknow.com/urban-legends/urban-legends-blair-witch-project

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:

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

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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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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLn-GdVsYBE

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.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/06/AR2006080600809_2.html

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:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBzGn525Glk
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".

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/wrinkle-creams-revealed-trust-hype/story?id=10575028
http://www.olay.com/skin-care-products/OlayPro-X

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.


http://abcnews.go.com/2020/desiree-jennings-fake-muscle-disorder/story?id=11228285

http://health.msn.com/health-topics/vaccinations/slideshow.aspx?cp-documentid=100240459

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:
http://www.snopes.com/oldwives/earthquake.asp

Information about the Ring of Fire courtesy of:
http://geography.about.com/cs/earthquakes/a/ringoffire.htm

Ring of Fire image courtesy of:
http://maps.unomaha.edu/peterson/funda/Pictures/Philippines-3/Philippines_files/image003.gif

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
http://mugwump.pitzer.edu/~bkeeley/pix/Portugal/Nervus_Terminalis.pdf

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:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/21/divorce-causes-hair-loss-_n_974544.html

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.

Sources:
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/
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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.
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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.
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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?
Sources:
http://cognitivebiasmodification.com/ (1)
Our Lilienfield textbook Psychology, From inquiry to understanding (2)

Bistable Optical Illusion

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udfDvXMU5os

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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