yooxx156: October 2011 Archives

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!

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

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?

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