fenlo012: October 2011 Archives

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.

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

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.

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