Katherine Sanchez: October 2011 Archives

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...


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...

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.

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.

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Katherine Sanchez in October 2011.

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