February 2012 Archives

Skidboot the "Genius" Dog


Man's best friend will always have a special place in most people's hearts. Our four legged companions can show such loyalty, love, affection, and companionship towards us; those are characteristics that dog owners live for! As humans seem to like doing with anything we're proud of, we also like to show off our pets a little bit too. A few "ooh your dog is so cute!" and "what a precious little thing" can make a dog owners day. It gets all the sweeter when they're well behaved, but what about if they're a genius...?

Skidboot (born in 1972 of owner David Hartwig) was nothing short of "genius." Winning $25,000 on Animal Planet's "Pet Star" and even making an appearance on Oprah, Skidboot can wow audiences from 2 to 90 yrs old with his ability to understand plain English. (See video below)

As we look more closely at Skidboot and his interactions with his owner we can start to see how Skidboot accomplishes this seemingly "genius" feat. In several other videos, owner David shows how he has trained Skidboot to do what he does: through simple operant conditioning. By offering verbal and tactile praise (positive reinforcement) David is able to teach Skidboot each individual portion of an act (the one that won him $25,000 too). By chaining together many small tasks (likely shaping those tasks as well) Skidboot seems to go from a dog that only fetches to a dog that "understands the English language".

Yes it's cute. Enjoy it, but sorry to ruin the magic; Skidboot is a cute dog with a patient trainer who knows the art of operant conditioning.


Man's best friend, an Ape?


When we look at Kohler's experiment from a far we see, an ape with no food and then an ape with food. It is when we dissect the "star" chimpanzee's actions when we can truly learn from its decisions and overall better ourselves. In the chimpanzee example, we see star faced with the obstacle of having to get the food and take the necessary steps to reach this goal. From connected the bamboo sticks together and stacking the boxes, it was clear the apes were learning and teaching themselves on the fly. Kohler spoke on how the apes appeared to experience an "aha reaction" and that they were not learning from trial and error. I then tried to look at my life as a hole and find the connections in my learning to these chimpanzees learning to get the food. I found a strong comparison to myself becoming a welcome week leader this upcoming fall. I am smart enough to realize during the task of leading these incoming freshmen, I will be placed in tough situations where I must think on my feet. Trial and error will not be an option when it comes to helping real human beings, and it is with that pressure that I must be able to figure out that "aha moment" as quickly as possible. This is another amazing aspect of psychology, that I can make a connection with a chimpanzee, and truly better myself in my own learning on the fly.


We Have a Conscious, but Do Animals?



Many of us would like to think that our pets and animals have a conscious, but does anyone truly know if they do? Besides, a lot of the behaviors that animals and our pets show are similar to a lot of the behaviors that humans show too. For example, animals communicate with each other often by making different pitched vocalizations. Animals also sense pain and we see that when animals get hurt, they nurse their injuries and try to take care of them. Finally, we see animals sense different feelings of happiness, sadness, hunger, remember certain things, etc. These behaviors are most observable in our pets and how they get happy or excited when they see us or want to go for a walk, sad when we scold them for doing something wrong, or being scared of bigger animals or doing things that they haven't done before. Although animals show a lot of the same basic behaviors as humans, it does not mean that they have the same level of consciousness as us.

As it turns out, scientists believe that animals do have a conscious, but the complexity of their consciousness has a wide range. When we look at the animal kingdom, we see that the animals at the bottom have the simplest type of conscious, if any conscious at all. As we move up higher and higher on the list, we see animal's consciousness to become more and more complex. "Mammals and birds are considered to have a primary consciousness because they can process simultaneous stimuli and they have an internal representation of their experiences," says Svene. This would be an example of a snake chasing after its prey. The snake does not have a central image of its prey, it just sees food. Also, if the mouse disappears behind a bush, the snake does not have the consciousness to comprehend that the mouse will reappear. This is not the case though, with mammals and birds. Animals who are warm blooded generally have a higher level of consciousness than cold-blooded animals, such as reptiles. When we from our pets, that they clearly know what type of food they are eating which is why they don't get their normal food mixed up with treats or food that we eat. We also can see that our pets know where we possibly might be even if we are in a different room or not in their line of sight. To me, it seems like animals do in fact have a conscious, even though it may not be nearly as complex as ours. Its nice to know that all the attention and care we give to our pets actually means something to them and that are genuinely happy to be with us.


Elephant Paints Portrait: Trick or Something More?


Watch Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He7Ge7Sogrk

Training an elephant to paint a detailed picture of another elephant holding a flower is probably way more difficult then Pavlov training his dogs to salivate. This video taken in Thailand shows that animals can learn to have the most amazing talents through the correct training. This elephant was trained using treats, like sugar cane and bananas. The elephants' trainer help the elephants learn how to hold a paintbrush and create paint strokes on a canvas, but the trainers tend to let the elephants paint their own creations, expand their own creativity and develop a style.

This talent poses a few questions: Is this elephant's gift just due to training? Or does this show animals have some level of consciousness as well? The elephant has been known for its great memory, but is it possible that elephants have self-awareness and self-recognition? They have the ability to paint portraits that accurately depict images of their own species. Do they view the world the ways humans do? Elephants are not the only creatures in the animal kingdom with stunning cognitive abilities. Many primates, dolphins, birds and insects have similar amazing qualities that allow for self-recognition and other examples of powerful brain functions. Do you believe that all animals have a high level of consciousness?


Animal trick or human prick?



When I typed in the phrase "cool animal tricks," into my search engine, this video popped up. The answer is yes, you just wasted forty seconds of your time watching a dog walk on its hands and pee in a circle...First off, I would like to know what pet owner decides that they want to train their animal to urinate in a circle while walking on its two front feet. Don't get me wrong, the whole walking on hands thing is pretty neat, but I'm concerned as to why the second part of the "cool trick" had to be added on. While watching this video, I was not sure if I should laugh or be disgusted (I was a little bit of both). Why would anyone want to videotape their pet using the bathroom? It's completely different when your child uses the toilet for the first time, but other than this example, it's never acceptable to record anything using the bathroom. Or has my humor not yet evolved to that level? There are more than two thousand views on this video so some people find this cool animal trick funny. What I'd like to know is how one trains their animal to do this; there has to be an odd way of giving the dog treats while he's upside down and "going number one."

Just Do It.

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What is Victoria's Secret?


Every year Victoria's Secret sells millions of dollars worth of lingerie. The items are no different than any other lingerie company, some have even agreed that their bras are worse than a department store brand. So how do they get people to come back year after year? They put out A LOT of advertising. The advertising manages to appeal to men and women, meaning their customer base is much larger than a smaller lingerie company. The set up in their stores is also meant to keep men from feeling like total perverts while buying items for that special someone. Right now, though, the focus is on how their advertising emotionally manipulates both men and women.
I don't think any young adult has managed to avoid seeing all Victoria's Secret commercials, I'm sure some of us even watch their runway show. In the commercials the "Angels" (Victoria's Secret models) are pictured in underwear and heels walking around and writhing on the floor. Sometimes they even have the models speak, and flash words on the screen. The models obviously appeal to men and do a lot better of a job selling underwear than maniquins who don't have sex appeal. Men are also conviced that if they purchase this lingerie for their girlfriend, they will be rewarded with love and lots of erm...fun memories. As for women, these commercials play to insecurities. The models look GREAT in this lingerie and have tons of fun, so that must mean we'll look great in the lingerie and feel better about ourselves. In short not only will this lingerie bring a man's greatest fantisies to life, it will also make women look and feel like bubbly models. If you ask me, that seems like kind of a lot to expect from a tiny piece of fabric. Can you think of another company that appeals to men and women? Do they use the same tactics?

Seeing the world around you!

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Lets say you are sitting on a bench waiting on a bus watching, and noting the cars that pass by. Now lets say a man is sitting next to you during this whole time, as the bus finally pulls up you turn your attention to this man to only see now that he is a woman! Did this man magically turn into a woman right before your eyes? Or is it your mind playing the tricks. In chapter 4 of our text we get an opportunity to learn and discover some fascinating truths about our senses and perception. One function our brains demonstrate is a phenomena called "Unintentional bias",this is when we are unable to notice stimuli right in front of us due to our brains paying attention to someone or something else.
What and why do we choose what things we block out? Well when we notice something our brains processes different factors of what we are look at. Visual clues like color, and shape all play a apart in how and what we perceive. So things that catch your attention might be have visual cues that you are more drawn too. Many scientist are still not sure why Unintentional bias happens but hope information about it will shape ideas of perception and attention. But we can say that it is a useful phenomenon. WIthout Unintentional bias our brains would be scrambled with the attraction of stimuli everywhere.

Is There Purpose to Our Dreams?


We have read in our textbook that Freud believed dreams to be the "guardians of sleep" and our dreams contain the "pesky sexual and aggressive impulses by transforming them into symbols that represent the wish fulfillment"; however, today scientists have rejected the idea that our dreams protect us and wish fulfillment theories and instead believe that "dreams reflect brain activation in sleep" and that the forebrain makes sense of "random and internally generated neural signals during REM sleep" (Lilienfeld, 175). Our dreams are nothing more than fragmented ideas, thoughts, etc. that the forebrain makes sense and puts into a story.
In an article written by Gayle Green, PhD in the magazine Psychology Today, dreams are said to be more than just random ideas put together, but a way to define what creativity is. We need our dreams in order to be creative and allow for each of us to have the ability to form the creative process in our every day tasks. Without dreams, our creativity dwindles. "Sleep has survival value not only for you as an individual but for a society whose vitality depends on individuals' thinking outside the box" (Psychology Today). Robert Stickgold was quoted as saying that "dreams may help us to find new patterns and create combinations that break through well-worn ruts" (Psychology Today). Although dreams may be a random assortment of neural signals put together in the forebrain, perhaps this randomness allows for our thoughts to take shape and enable our human cognitive functions. In another article from Psychology Today, Jay Dixit wrote that "dreams are really just thinking in a different biochemical state". From these articles it could be assumed that the more we dream, the more creative we may become. Our textbook seems to think that dreams are usually "ordinary in content and seem to reflect more than random neural impulses generated by the brain stem" (Lilienfeld, 177) and that there is really nothing more to it. I think that more research should be conducted, as it would be something worthwhile to find out. Could there be some kind of link to our dreams and how creative we may be? Or, perhaps our dreams are just the formation of our random thoughts and emotions from situations and events of our day that all come together to form a random story.

My question now is this:

Are dreams more than just random neural signals, but enablers to our creativity?

Sex in Ads


Almost all advertisements use your emotions against you. They try to link your emotions-positive or negative-to their products or services. Ads usually want to associate good or pleasurable memories to their brand. They use your past experiences to make their products more appealing. This BMW ad is no different. Most men respond to sexualized images of women and BMW uses this to their advantage. In trying to get consumers to buy their used car, they compare it to having sex with the beautiful model featured in the ad. Their provocative language, "You know you're not the first. But do you really care?," pulls on men's desires and links it to their used cars. From the way the woman is positioned to way she is dressed, or lack there of, creates an image in men's minds. They want their consumers to picture this image when they think of BMW.

By buying their cars, BMW is presenting this fantasy. Men think they will be able to have this lifestyle if the buy this car which MOST likely won't happen. However, due to emotional appeal, companies and advertisers are able to sell their products. The can use images of beautiful models, a great vacation, or a night out with friends to promote different lifestyle that are associated with their products. Ads like this can be found everywhere, and aren't just targeted towards men, but do people have to be fooled by it? I don't think so!


OK Trained

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OK Go is a band that you can always rely on for a great music video that brightens your day. They don't disappoint with this video, White Knuckles, taking animal training to a new level. It is clear in parts of the video that they use positive reinforcement, something that B.F. Skinner stressed, to train the dogs. For example at 1:05 when the dogs are switching to different levels one of the singers is rewarding the action of the dog with a treat, enticing them into the box and to do it again. For other parts in the video it is unclear on exactly what tactic they used to train the dogs. With classic training found towards the end with having the two dogs walk and sit with only the movement of the artists' hands, my guess is that clicker training or shaping were used to teach these dogs. I'm always amazed when I see a dog that is well trained even just for the little day-to-day things because my Aunt has the worst behaved dog ever. After this last week's unit on learning, Skinner, Pavlov, and Thorndike training a dog to seems to be a simple task and yet so many dog owners spend hundreds on dog training. Does this unit make training seem easier to you or would you still pay for a dog trainer?

Does a Conscious Self exist?

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We all think that the decisions we make everyday is a result of our conscious self, in other words we are consciously aware of what we do and choose everyday. But this assumption, that we believe in without doubt, has been questioned and tested in the field of psychology. It has been stated that consciousness is not the cause of our behaviors but rather is the product of what we do. We are not consciously aware of evey choice or decision we make, the decision is actally made in our brain and the function of conscious awareness only comes in later to help us explain why we did what we did. This proposal, made by psychologists and tested and supported through the use of MRI scanning of the brain activity, had left me in total surprise at first. I had always thought of consciousness as part of science and hence unquestionable, but now I realize consciouness is actually a pholosophical concept that helps human beings explain their behaviors. Therfore, this whole debate of who or what is really in charge of our day to day decisions and behaviors, our conscious self or our brain, is very intriguing to me.
Much evidence supports the proposal that these decisions are controlled by our brain and consciouness is just something we humans have invented to help exaplin our behaviors. Eventhough I found it very hard to believe in this idea, that we don't consciouly control our decisions, after watching the BBC video "The Secret You", I was able to undertand the scientific logic behind this hypothesis that made it plausible to me. In the video it is stated that the idea: our decisions are already made in our brain even before we consciously become aware of it, does not mean that we are not in control of what we do and our behavior. It was stated in the video that our values, beliefs, personality and experiences in life are accounted for when the decision is made in our brain without conscious awareness of it from us. This revelation has helped me understand and comprehend this new hypothesis that questions the existence of a consious self, however, it is still very mind boggling to me. Reseach is still being done to further study and understand this new hypothesis. However for now, I leave all of you to wonder...WHO is the secret you? Are you able to accept this new hypothesis as a genuine possibility that can be proven true?

Here is the link I referred to: BBC Horizon - "The Secret You", watch from 47:53(end) (minutes)

Animal Training

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Here is a small video of a dog doing amazing stuff. It's interesting how he can do such small details. I wander if a trained dog really understands what he is doing. Is he self-aware?


The most successful form of training combines positive reinforcement (follow a desired behavior with something worthwhile to the animal and the behavior will increase) with negative punishment (withdraw something the animal wants when it performs undesirable behaviors).

Service animals, such as assistance dogs, Capuchin monkeys and miniature horses, are trained to utilize their sensory and social skills to bond with a human and help that person to offset a disability in daily life. The use of service animals, especially dogs, is an ever-growing field, with a wide range of special adaptations.

In the United States, selected inmates in prisons are used to train service dogs. In addition to adding to the short-supply of service animals, such programs have produced benefits in improved socialization skills and behavior of inmates.

Training must take into consideration the natural social tendencies of the animal species (or even breed), such as predilections for attention span, food-motivation, dominance hierarchies, aggression, or bonding to individuals (conspecifics as well as humans).

emotion in advertising

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The amount of adverting we are subjected to in our daily lives has increased dramatically, it has got to the point where one can hardly turn his/her head without seeing a wide array of media images. Here is the perfume video of Chanel:


Primarily advertising is a vehicle for business and it aims to sell product. A good advertiser really good at manipulating customers emotion. In the coco mademoiselle perfume commercial advertising, a beautiful woman appears with a passionate song, about 39 seconds, three man wearing black clothes chasing after her, and also every time she pass by, no matter man or woman will look at her, which gives customers a feeling that if you wear this perfume, you will become this gorgeous lady. During the whole video, everything is nice and amazing. According to classical conditioning, in this specific case,
Unconditioned stimulus(UCS) is the beauty and the song,
Unconditioned Response(UCR): make us feel excited.
Conditioned Stimulus(CS) is the perfume
Conditioned Response(CR) give us a good feeling and excitement.

The strategy is very reasonable, because in many of these types of advertisements there are women in compromising positions, these ads draw us in and make us think that we can be better and more beautiful of we have the product.

Emotional Manipulation in Advertising


Car ads are notorious for using sex to sell. Typically, print and television ads use gorgeous ladies to draw consumers' interest to the commercial. One easily comes to mind: an exiting TV ad featuring several beautiful women driving a thrilling car:

This ad is obviously using sex to sell the car, using classical conditioning techniques first discovered by Pavlov. In this scenario, the conditioned stimulus is the specific car being sold, the unconditioned stimulus is the beautiful women, the unconditioned response is excitement and arousal at the sight of gorgeous women, and the conditioned response is excitement and arousal generated, but aimed toward the car. In this way, consumers begin to relate the car company with the same interest and thrill they receive from the sight of a model.

Similarly, the print ad below uses another famous model dressed similarly to Marilyn Monroe, a very famous bombshell, to sell a GM car. What do you think are the CS, UCS, UCR, and CR for this ad? Why do you think this technique is so effective?

GM Car Ad.jpg

Like Father, Like Son


In chapter 7, it discusses different learning styles and different ways that we learn things. One variant of learning is observational learning. This is the form of learning in which one learns something by watching others, in many cases, children watching their parents. This is a very profound way of learning due to the fact that one does not have to learn things without reinforcement, we can just watch someone else do something and in turn learn how to do that same thing. For example, my family and I go up to our cabin quite frequently but it still requires quite a bit of upkeep. As kids we would watch our dad do all sorts of miscellaneous jobs around the cabin. We would watch him chop wood, mow the lawn, make fires, put the docks and boats in as well as many other things. It turns out that watching him paid off, as soon as were old enough we would help him and already have the basic skills mastered. It seems that for some things, observational learning can be mutually beneficial and quite effective for everyone. The fact that children absorb information at a much higher rate than adults could be a factor but it is also quite interesting that one can learn different skills merely by watching their parents do it.

What makes me "I", and not just a body with a brain?


In the BBC Horizon video, it presents the idea that who we are, and what makes our consciousness, is the interaction between different parts of our brain. It is not any specific part of the brain, but the interaction between parts.

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A study was done in this video where psychologists tested the difference between being awake and being asleep. When the subject was awake, they activated a certain part of the brain with a series of mild electrical shocks. The activation in this part sparked interactions between other areas of the brain. On the other hand, when they repeated this action when the subject was asleep, the activation remained in the part of the brain that had the electrical shock.

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This tells us that our consciousness is not present while being asleep: unconscious. Our consciousness is also thought to be what makes us have our sense of self. If we do not have that consciousness while being asleep, we, in turn, do not have our sense of self. In the Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, it gives examples of what sense of self is: "Social self-concept [is] one's perceptions about how one is regarded by others: 'people think I have a great sense of humor'; and self-ideals [are] what or how one would like to be: 'I want to be a lawyer" or "I wish I were thinner'."

I believe that the BBC video makes us realize the significance of psychology and science in understanding ourselves. I understand more how my mind works after watching this video.

This makes me wonder: at which point does someone become conscious? Why is it that even when I am asleep, I still feel that I am me? I still have my "soul," which is another name that some call the distinction between body and mind. I also still dream when I am sleeping. What does this tell us about the link between dreaming and our sense of self?

What makes us who we are?

Eat It All and Don't Feel Guilty!


According to research done by Brian Wansink of Cornell University, changing size and color of plates and glasses can make enough look like enough (not less). Studies have shown that smaller plates make healthy portions look more satisfying than when they are surrounded by the empty space of oversized plates. The same goes for drinks in tall skinny glasses (compared to wider ones). The more space we give ourselves, the more likely we are to try to fill it up and then eat it all.

When there is a bunch of food on our plate, we eat and eat and eat and eat until it's all gone. This is because our visual cues of what is left on the plate reach our brain before our stomach can signal that we're full. If we cut down how much we put on our plate and give our brain time to process the stimulus, then we could avoid stomachaches from eating too much.

But how do we cut these portions without making people feel cheated when they're paying money at restaurants and fast food places? At Duke University, they have a theory: The focus of a dish is the entre, right? So instead of taking away from the main attraction, portions of side dishes (that are often packed with calories) can be reduced with little, if any, notice.

At a glance, the portions above look the same but there's actually about half the amount of rice in the picture on the right. The light color of the plate and the rice gives the illusion that there's more than if it were to be set on a dark plate. Also, the entre is what probably got your attention initially. If you don't focus on what's missing and pay more attention to your stomach's cues, portion control could be a piece of cake.

Cutting back doesn't mean starving yourself; it means taking control and adapting to the way your brain and body works so that you maximize the nutrition you get from every meal. Most of us don't have the self-control to throw away perfectly tasty food. Adopting these simple tips will help lessen the amount you eat and how much you end up wasting once you do realize that you are way too full to eat another yummy bite.


illusion art


Artists have used illusions and perception in their art for centuries. There are many examples of using perception tools such as symmetry or figure-ground. The photo shown here plays with depth perception. If you are standing at the right angle when looking at this photo it appears as though there is a river cutting through the sidewalk. However, as you change your angle and become closer to the drawing you realize that it is just a drawing. Depth perception is the ability to judge distance and three-dimensional relations. We judge these dimensions based on monocular clues and binocular clues. The elements to judging depth are relative size, texture gradient, height on plane...Artists can use these clues when creating a piece to deceive our eyes into thinking a 2D work is actually 3D, or real to life. There are many of these chalk drawings scattered thorughout the internet, many are done Julian Beever. He is a famous chalk artist who often draws these optical illusion chalk drawing for companies and other groups. This form of art continues to grow as people learn knew ways to trick the mind into perceiving new things in art. check out the attached picture to see some 3D chalk art.
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Gadget Senses



The iPhone is an example of a current gadget that expertly illustrates the interaction of human senses with technology. The iPhone is a wildly popular device that many people use constantly in their lives for personal and professional reasons. The iPhone engages humans' sight, hearing, and touch with the gadget's visual displays, phone calls and music, and the buttons and touch screen. As technology grows, improves, and expands, society is able to experience it more and more in different ways. When a type of technology that builds on multiple principles of sensation (such as the iPhone does) is created, then we as consumers and users of the devices are more engaged and drawn to the technology, what it does, and what we can do with it.

What do you see from these artworks?


In the lecture, we learned about visual perception. We can have a better understanding on how the visual perception works by Gestalt Principles. Gestalt Principles are the rules that explain how we perceive objects as unified form within overall context. Main principles of Gestalt theory are proximity, similarity, continuity, closure, symmetry, and figure-ground.

Now we know what Gestalt theory is. Let's apply the theory to the work of art that triggers illusion.

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skull 2.jpg

These two prints are done by William Gillbert. Look at these two arts. What do you see at the moment you look at these? Most of you might say that when you guys view the artworks, you see the skulls. You are right. These two pictures create the illusions of skulls. In order to create or heighten such illusions, the author of these artworks used one of the principles of the Gestalt theory. Among many, the author, William Gillbert used figure-ground principle which means he used the fact that we tend to focus on what we believe is the central figure that we ignore the background. Therefore, when we view these artworks, we give attention to the central figure which is skull that we ignore the background of the paints, hardly noticing people in the background.

Where does consciousness reside? The question of interest here is what part of the brain is responsible for self-awareness? humans highly developed cortex is the part of the brain responsible for human's self-awareness.
Consciousness appears to be all about the constant activation of the cortex. This activation of the cortex that keeps us self-aware and conscious begins in the Reticular Activating System, which is a group of nerve cells in the brain stem. These nerve cells then project up to what is essentially a relay station called the thalamus. The thalamus then sends projections out to all the areas of the cortex; it is this system that appears to keep our cortex activated. This is how doctors and researchers anatomically explain consciousness and self-awareness. Is it as simple as nerve impulses activating our cortex that creates the unique self-awareness, this knowledge that we are different from others and that we are in control of ourselves?
Based off this explanation, does this system slow down or shut off when we are unconscious? When a person, due to injury, is put into a coma is it due to damage that was caused to this system? Is a coma due to the brains inability to continually activate the cortex, and is the recovery time for a person in a coma related to their brains ability to "fix" or heal the damaged that was caused?
Unconsciousness like sleep. following the anatomical explanation, must be due to the system being slowed down or shut down. Forced unconsciousness must be due to damage to this system. The extent of this damage is what determines if there is a chance of recovery, and if there is, how long the recovery will take before a person regains consciousness.

Ergonomics in a Tablet War

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It seems the tech industry is continually booming with new tablets and new designs every week, with Ipad 3 rumors before Ipad 2 releases, Google software spreading like wildfire, nameless companies entering the fray, and the continual push and pull of market domination. Put simply, there are a lot of designs for tablets on the market or in the oven right now, and each company is pressured to create the perfect one, which would imply that each company is searching for the perfect ergonomic platform. It's my belief that Sony (yes, Sony) has stepped forward with platform ergonomics and raised the bar with the Tablet S. The CNET review can be viewed on the URL below.


Notice the thicker side. It the design fits far better with our sense of touch and comfort by fitting more securely in our hand, taking on the "folded magazine" profile. What's more, Sony went with the "True Black" technology to improve our visual sense and perception of contrasts and colors on the tablet's screen.

In essence, Sony created a tablet that was more crafted to the human form than the general "boxy" tablets out there, like the Ipad 1 or 2; yes they're thin and light, but the feel of the S is possibly far superior, and the colors have much more pop to them. I think these things allude to what proper ergonomics is all about; conforming our gadgets to the human form, and not the other way around. Sony has built a tablet around the hand and for the eye, and so I think they win the ergonomic battle in the tablet wars.

Finding a self-awareness test

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There is an obvious difference to when one is conscious and unconscious. The difference between being awake and self-aware and sleeping tells us much about our senses and how the change in brain activity differs. Finding the difference was a task of finding a way to test how the brain responds to stimulation. The test devised sends a small shock to the brain and by testing neuro-electron activity they could find the active areas the brain responds with. When conscious and shocked, the brain showed activity on different parts of the brain showing a link of responses all over the brain. When unconscious and shocked, the brain showed activity only where stimulated. Communication within the brain seems to be the key to what makes us "conscious". This test seems to be the closest thing to finding what it means to have self-awareness. This spurs questions to whether or not inanimate objects such as computers and other artificial intelligence can cross the "threshold of consciousness".

So what do you think the characteristics of being self-aware or conscious are? Do you think this devised test is a full-proof way to test brain activity? And do you think artificial intelligence could ever become "conscious"?

In the video "The Secret is You", the conscious mind was defined as a very separate entity from the sleeping mind. According to the scientists in the film, our sense of self only develops when the different parts of our brain our connected in our waking state.

However, I have regular experiences with two phenomena that seem to contradict that conclusion: sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming.

Sleep paralysis occurs when the body is still in the sleep cycle but the mind wakes up. It is a bizarre and frightening experience because, as the name implies, it involves being conscious but unable to move. I use the term 'conscious' lightly, because when sleep paralysis is sometimes accompanied by hallucinations. It is a very, very disorienting experience.

Lucid dreaming is somewhat similar. It occurs when you become aware that you are dreaming within a dream. Once this awareness occurs, the dream can be controlled by the dreamer. This has happened to me many times. It usually happens when I am having a scary dream: I suddenly realize that there is nothing to be afraid of, because I am dreaming. And I can take it from there.

I realize that both of these experiences are strange, but you can look them up for yourself. Though rare, they are real. Some people even try to train themselves to have lucid dreams.

Anyway, the point of introducing them is this: If our sense of self only forms when the different parts of our mind are connected in a wakened state, where do these two phenomena fit in? When I am experiencing them, I feel the same consciousness as when truly awake. So, is that a false sense of consciousness?

Have you ever experienced lucid dreaming or sleep paralysis? Even if you haven't, where do you think they fit in between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind?

Wait, did you hear that?


"Wait, did you hear that?" This is a question that you might hear a teenager asking an adult regarding a high frequency noise nicknamed "teen buzz", and the answer you will likely hear from the adult is "No." Teens have been using this high pitched noise as their cell phone ringtones during school because the teachers cannot hear it, and the science behind this is a degenerative condition called Presbycusis. It affects most of the adult population, and in a nut shell, it impairs your ability to hear high frequency noises (greater than 17khz) starting around age 18 and progressing as you get older.


I find this really interesting and would like to know more about the true reasons behind this phenomenon. What's even more interesting is that some adults can hear the noise, which suggests that there might be some aspect of the brain that is different in the adults that can hear it than the ones that cannot.


A personal example of this occurred in my high school Accounting class, when one of the kids was playing the ringtone over and over as a prank because he thought the teacher couldn't hear it (like most adults can't). However, after playing it about 5 times, the teacher called the kid out and told him that she heard it all along and made him look like a fool in front of everyone. If I were the teacher, I think that I would be more excited about the fact that I could actually hear the noise than upset about trying to be pranked by a student!


What is Consciousness?

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Throughout the BBC Horizon show "The Secret You" the idea of consciousness is considered. "Where does consciousness reside?" being one of the many prompts given for this video. To describe where consciousness comes from, we also need to define what consciousness itself is.


Within the brain stem is a group of nerve cells called the reticular activating system. These nerve cells send signals to the thalamus, which acts as a "relay station" to send signals to different areas of the cortex. To quote the video, "consciousness appears to be all about constant activation of the cortex."

In the last ten minutes of the video they talk about conscious and unconscious brain activity.They show scans of a brain that is awake and also of the same brain when it is asleep. When the brain is awake it will trigger other parts of the brain after another part of the brain was stimulated, but when the brain is asleep the stimulation remains localized and does not trigger other parts of the brain, as is does when you're awake. If you say being awake means you are conscious and being asleep means you are unconscious, then it would almost appear that consciousness is the continuous transfer of activity of the brain.




Our special and different abilities of sense

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Everybody has different ability along with the inborn ability or the environment that people have grown up. I think "Teen Buzz" and "insect vision or hearing" correspond with this principle. Although "Teen Buzz" is known as that teens can hear the sound but adult cannot hear it, it's not applied to all of us always. For example, I can hear teen buzz even though I'm not a teenager. I think my good hearing ability is due to the experience of playing violin for a long time. Actually, I have the sense of perfect pitch. On the other hand, when I tested "Teen Buzz" to one of my friends who is a teenager, she said that she could hear nothing. In general, however, "Teen Buzz" is applied. It is a fact that the young tend to have good condition of their ears and the old tend to have bad condition of their ears.
However, the case of animal is different from the content of above. Each animals has inborn ability of their sense. For example, dog has much more excellent ability of olfactory sense. That's why dogs are used to find suspicious objects at the airport. On the other hand, there are some people who have excellent ability of a certain sense by constant training or repetition. Super-tasters are the very people. For instance, a person can guess the substances and the date of production of a wine right! He said that he interested in wine a lot and he studied about wine for a long time. As a result, he could be a super taster.

Some ancient cultures have refered to left-handers as "products of the devil", some have even called it a disease. Today, 70-90 percent of the world is right-handed, making the unfortunate left-handers an under appreciated minority. But what exactly is the cause of this? Why has right-handedness dominated societies for thousands of centuries?

The explanation has to do with the use of our left and right brains to control our motor functions. It is theorized by Lems Hopkins that hand orientation is developed in fetuses, most commonly determined by observing which hand is predominantly held close to the mouth. Finally, left-handedness has developed due to adaptations of the brain and continually promotion of right-handedness in society. Interestingly, one boy from a city in California who was predominately right handed had his right hand cut off. He was forced to adapt dexterity in his left hand; a task that is no easy feat but can be done through concentration and development of skills.

However, a new study has shown that left-handed individuals are known to have higher IQ's and grades, and have a correlation with higher incomes. Lefties have had to live in a right hand society and the compensation for learning how to deal with right hand equipment has increased their critical thinking skills. Besides this, being left-handed is a pure advantage in the sports world. Left-handed hitters in baseball are truly special because right-handers have a difficult time pitching to them.

Individuals once condemned by cultures of the past are now a rare commodity. But even rarer is an individual who is ambidextrous; the ability to complete tasks with both hands equally. The video below shows two baseball players whose ambidexterity causes problems during a baseball game.

Therefore, no longer should left-handers be an outcast and seen as unnormal. They may just be dominating the world someday.

Hopkins, B., Lems, W., Janssen, B. & Butterworth, G. (1987) Postural and motor asymmetries in newborns. Human Neurobiology 6:153-56

Do you consider yourself as a absolute-pitch detector?


Music.jpg According to the textbook, human ear can detect the sound range between 20 Hz to 20,000Hz. As if visual acuity is differ from the species, auditory perception is also differed. For instance, bats may hear higher pitched sounds that are not going to be perceived through our ears. However, certain people, especially engaged in a field of musical activities, have shown acute perception of sound. Special ability in pitch or reference tone is referred as absolute pitch (Absolute Pitch, 2005).
The interesting fact is that certain people who are absolute pitch detector, identifies and make inferences of environment sounds into the musical notes. In other words, they have ability of naming the pitch of non-musical tones. For instance, sound of rustling from the heap of leaves is recognized as sound of 'sol' to a person with perfect-pitch. I come up with a question that what makes them to be so specialized? Actually, I myself devoted quiet a lot of years in music by playing several instruments. I'm also able to identify most of the notes only by hearing. So I actually tried absolute pitch test holds from University of California, San Francisco which I got a result of not an absolute pitch person (bit disappointed).
Only several hypotheses are out in the research world. But usually the researchers assume that there might have genes that link this ability (Absolute Pitch, 2005). I was determined as non absolute-pitch person, but I still available to detect certain notes. Likewise, it seems we are able to enhance certain level of hearing by lifelong training.

You can actually check out your ability from the following link:
Give it a shot!


Coolest Illusion EVER!

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Okay bear with me here, I'm going to start off with the boring part. Artists take advantage of perception to help increase the overall effect of their painting or other work of art. I will define perception for those of you (including me) who forgot its meaning. The book definition of perception is the brain's interpretation of raw sensory inputs. In other words, perception is how our minds organize and put the bits of sensory data that we see into more meaningful concepts. When we perceive the real world, we sacrifice small details in favor of crisp and often more meaningful representations of it. Artists use this perception to recreate the impression of depth, like on a flat canvas, by using the monocular depth cues that are apart of the visual perception of the everyday world. There are six types of monocular dept cues that artists love to use; relative size, texture gradient, interposition, linear perspective, height in plane, and light and shadow. I'm not going to give you the definitions of all six, because that would just be repetitive for the both of us, but the definitions are on page 144 in our own kick a$$ UofM psych book. Finally, let's get to the cool stuff!

Follow these instructions to perceive the coolest illusion ever:

1) Relax and concentrate on the 4 small dots in the middle of the picture for about 30-40 seconds.
2) Then, take a look at the wall near you (or any smooth, single colored surface).
3) You will see a circle of light developing
4) Start BLINKING (very crucial) your eyes a couple of times and you will see a figure emerging.
5) What do you see? Moreover, who do you see?


Tricks on the Eyes



In the few art classes I have taken in my lifetime, one artist always boggled my mind. Some artists have the ability to make you sit and stare at one a piece for a while, never figuring out how they could create such a thing. M.C. Escher had this ability.

This piece, entitled Ascending and Descending, looks like a normal building. However, the roof of the structure has been drawn in an impossible way. The steps are always ascending, however you always end up in the same place. But how can that be?

Escher, instead of using one vanishing point, has used two. Vanishing points are where lines in a scene meet and typical artists use only one. However, M.C. Escher was not a typical artist. He broke the laws of physics in his work and messed with his audience's monocular cue of linear perspective to create an impossible structure.

Dog's Unique, Unheard of Hearing


Ever wonder why dog's have better hearing than humans? Most of us have witnessed someone blow a dog whistle, but never heard it ourselves. Why is that? Well, it's pretty simple actually. It turns out dogs can hearing ranges from 40Hz-60,000Hz. They are able to do this because of their extremely unique ears. When dog's hear something they immediately move their ears towards the sound wave to increase reception. How are they so successful in doing this? Dog's have a whopping 18 muscles in their ears which allows them to tilt and rotate their ears towards the sound. In addition, dog's are able to amplify the sounds they hear because of their uniquely shaped ears- most times upright and curved.

Another interesting facet to dog hearing is the fact that a large majority of dog's become deaf when they age. It is usually due to a degenaration of the nerves that are reliable for sensing sounds. Deafness usually occurs gradually over time as the dog continues to age. Interestingly most dogs with hearing loss can still hear the high pitched sound whistle or siren that human's are unable to hear.

Many people believe a dog typically howls when it hears a sound that hurts it ears, however Laura Hungerford of the University of Nebraska claims that they may relate the sound to a past event. Dog's ability to hear is a very interesting topic that can seen through this video:



Twins and Nature or Twins and Nurture


For this blog, I searched for anything that came across interesting for the nature versus nurture debate. I've questioned some of the things I did as a kid if it was because of the environment I was in as a child or is it because my parents were the same way. In the book, I learned that both nature and nature plays important roles psychological traits. I found one article in particular that sided more with nature but nurture was involved. Nurture was not involved purposely though. Two twins were separated by birth purposefully and were adopted by two different set of parents. One twin lived in London while the other resided in New York City. Both were born in New York City. The parents or twins did not know exactly what kind of study they were participating in until 2004. That was thirty-five years after the twins' birth. Peter Neubauer, the child psychiatrist behind the whole one of a kind experiment" , knew that public opinion would be against the story for ethical reasons-( which I learned in the book)- it will not be published until 2066. Through this article, I learned that the twins were more than 50% similar after being separated for 35 years. They have almost the same personality. They like the same music as well. That meant genetics played a big role. At the same time, they were raised in similar households and wore similar clothing. Ethinically, I felt like what he did wasn't right. This has me questioning is it really genetics or is it a fair amount of both?

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15629096 Nature_vs_Nurture2.jpg

Strangers all around you


Have you ever introduced yourself to someone, only to be told that you've met at such-and-such a place or at such-and-such a time? It's pretty embarrassing for you and it can even make the forgotten person feel pretty lousy as well. This has no-doubt happened to most people in their lives, but only a few people can say that it has happened to them with their family members, friends, or even themselves! I was very interested in the disorder called PROSOPAGNOSIA which we learned about in lecture, and so I decided to learn more. There are two types of prosopagnosia; developmental and acquired. Acquired prosopagnosia usually happens after a brain injury or stroke has occurred whereas developmental prosopagnosia is comparable to being color-blind, where the person doesn't realize they have the condition until they are tested. I was interested in this disorder after seeing the video clip in lecture of the woman who didn't recognize a picture of her mother (even one that she took herself) and she also didn't recognize a picture of herself. I think the part where she didn't recognize that the picture in front of her was actually her, was the weirdest part. I cannot imagine looking in the mirror and not recognizing the person that I see in the mirror. I think that it would be very hard if a loved one had this psychological disorder because it would be hard to not be offended every time the other person looks at you like a stranger.

Can you imagine living in a world where each person that you came in contact with is a stranger at first glance?

Left-Brained Versus Right-Brained


Growing up I was always told that if your brain orientation is left-brained that you are book smart and if you were right-brained that you were smart with common sense. According to the Psychology textbook, the myth is that left-brained people are scholarly, logical and analytical, while right-brained people are artistic, creative, and emotional. Although my thoughts of left vs. right brained people and the myth are closely related I see more flaws with the myth than with my thoughts.

Growing up and all through high school I was always the book smart, good grades student but I lacked street smarts and common sense. Therefore according to my observations I always figured my theory of the right vs. left side of the brain was accurate and thought my brain orientation was left-brained. Although once I read the myth in the textbook it made more sense to me why both theories were false. I am both scholarly and artistic. I need improvements on my analytical skills and I am less emotional than most. I observed that I had qualities from both the mythological left-brained and right-brained orientations.

The reading in the textbook, did help me realize that people are not left or right brained because the brain works together in many ways to complete different tasks; although I still do not understand how the brain works to create people that may be book smart but have no common sense, or have little book smarts but have a wealth of common sense. Is it possibly how people are raised in their surroundings and environment or is it something in the brain?

Source: Lilienfeld, Scott O. "Emotions and Motivation." Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding. Boston: Pearson/Allyn Bacon, 2009. 436-37. Print.

Free Will? Determinism and How We Judge It

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In the article "Do You Have Free Will? Yes, It's the Only Choice," (found at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/science/22tier.html?pagewanted=all) John Tierney discusses free will and determinism. The question posed in the study explored in the article was if in a hypothetical, completely deterministic world, were people morally responsible for their actions? In the situations that the subjects had to judge, people usually said that "Bill" and "Mark"--the hypothetical men living in this world--were not responsible for their actions like cheating on their taxes, since their actions were caused by past events. However, people judged that "Bill" was morally responsible for killing his family because he chose to do so. This study looked at people's perception of free will and determinism. The article also discussed the fact that people who believed in free will were often better performers in their jobs.

My reaction to this article is that there still could be debate over free will vs. determinism. However, I think this debate really lays in people's own perceptions. People didn't blame "Mark" for cheating on his taxes because there was no one that could easily be shown as the victim. But people had harsher judgment for "Bill" because it is obvious who the victim is when he killed his family. People don't want to believe that this is an event that was bound to happen no matter what, caused entirely by previous events. It's easier for people to make sense of something horrific if they can blame it on one person's choice. Believing in free will gives people a sense of control which is comforting.

Chocolate- good or bad for you health?


Chocolate has long been under debate. Does it increase blood circulation? Will it lower cholesterol? Does the health benefits of chocolate outweigh its consequences? I decided to look more closely at three articles that all give explanations to the question, is chocolate good of bad for your health?


The first article is a report by CNN that outlines only the benefits of chocolate. From increasing blood flow to boosting your memory, this article details a wide variety of reasons why it is advantageous for one to consume chocolate. The fact that "136 studies on coco" (Ingall) were examined makes it appear that these sources are reputable, yet we have no understanding of how these studies were actually conducted. The statement, "In a small study at Indiana..." (Ingall) may also seem questionable. We have no reason to believe that these studies are actually valid. A study that involves only 24 women should also raise some eyebrows. A study this small might not represent the population as a whole.

Another article that appears to be knowledgeable on the topic of chocolate also raises many questions to the critical thinker. Softpedia writes solely of the consequences of chocolate consumption. The article states that chocolate "...could cause weaker bones and osteoporosis" (Anitel) while also saying that it "may induce more harm than increased fatty deposits..." (Anitel). The words 'could' and 'may' should inform the reader that there is no concrete evidence. As with much of science, these statements are just hypothesis that are being developed and examined. This article described a study of 1,001 females, which, when comparing to the study described above with 24 women, seems that the results could be considered valid, but we should still be reluctant. Was random selection and random assignment involved?

Finally I looked at an article by MSNBC that looked at both the good and bad of eating chocolate. The article describes "new research" that eating chocolate may lower the risk of heart disease. Critical thinkers should see this and understand that new research does not provide definite answers. There has yet to be other sources and research that can support its findings. On the other hand, the article later talks of research that "pooled results from 7 studies involving 100,000 people" (Reuters). The large amount of people involved in this study and the fact that 7 studies were looked at total should increase the likelihood of the validity of these findings.

While these articles all propose different answers to the question, there is no clear-cut answer. I think that more studies and better support are necessary to establish any health benefits or consequences regarding chocolate consumption. One must learn from this that not all sources can be trusted. The controversial nature of these articles prove that sources should be looked at closely for their reliability before one can trust its findings.

CNN Report: Marjorie Ingall

Softpedia: Stefan Anitel

MSNBC: Thomson Reuters

Is studying and homework pointless ?


After surfing the web for hours, I found two similar claims about nature from reputable sites. Both the websites put forth the theory of intelligence being heritable. More importantly, each article said that the intelligence passed down from generation creates more of an impact than environmental factors. That is not to say that social economic status and hard work counts for nothing. It makes sense that if a person has more money or a better family situation, they have more opportunities. If a child is placed in a home with a much greater socio-economic status, his/her scores can improve up to sixteen points. None of this is very shocking. Saying 75 % of all IQ differences can be linked to varying genetics.When comparing monoxygotic twins raised together this number was as high as 88 %. Books such as the " The Bell Curve" (1994) have been wildly discredited due to false claims and racism. The book insists that some races are naturally smarter and social programs are a waste of taxpayer money. Overall, there is debate on if nature or nurture creates more of an impact on test scores. More recently UCLA researchers observed pictures of the brain and realized that the brains wiring is more influential on intelligence than once thought. Our genes determine how much our axons are encased by myelin. Through HARDI technology ( high-angular resolution diffusion imaging) the speed through which water diffuses is measured. The faster water flows indicates the speed of the brains connections. Genetics being influential in intelligence makes sense. How else does one explain why some people have a better propensity for languages or math. We have all seen a student who never studies, does homework, or pays attention in class. Nevertheless, that same student consistently does well on test scores and placement tests. Is it possible that these students are just good test takers ? If so, is that just another form of intelligence ?


Do we really have free will?


The great debate between free will and determinism is one that cannot be answered easily although ideas and beliefs are suggested supporting each side. The idea for determinism is that everything that happens in the world is a result of something else, controlled by someone other than yourself, such as a higher power. If this idea is true then human beings would possess no true free will. This idea is very hard to grasp because of how deep the question being asked is and the issue of religion playing its part. It is crazy to think that everything that we do is predetermined and we have no control over it. It is also weird to think of freedom as an illusion. I do not believe in this claim because I feel as though I have choices of what I do with my life and I can control what I do. My religion and God guides me to make these choices. I also believe that nature does have an impact on who we are, and if determinism was so, it would rule out the possibility of nature affecting how we end up. In turn we would be puppets " dancing on the strings of our genes", having everything in life predetermined for us. So who wins the battle, free will or determinism?

free choice.jpg

1) http://reportfromthefuture.blogspot.com/2010/12/democracy-vs-determinism.html
2) http://www.thegreatdebate.org.uk/determinismandfreewill.html

The Shape of A Girl: Nature vs. Nurture On Adoption


Nature vs. Nurture is an age old argument psychologists and researchers have debated for many years. Both sides being defended in a passionate manner has created the continuous battle we still see today. As I began researching the topic, I found adoption interesting in the context of this debate. In the article Adopted Children: Genetics, Heredity, and Environment, both sides of the debate are discussed however I found a prevailing dominance of the nurturing aspect throughout my reading. Being adopted presents many strong points in favor of the nurture side to the argument such as the presence of your surroundings, and the importance of role models and influences in your life that help shape your personality. I know that in my own life many of my personal traits are directly related to how my parents and siblings acted as I grew up. One of my most interesting take a ways from the article however strengthens my opinion that nurture outweighs nature by exploring the alternative explanations. It discussed the difficultly of obtaining a medical history or family tree for adopted children, and without knowing previous conditions that may have been relevant within your family, some conditions may never fully develop in your new environment. For instance in my family I have a history of high blood pressure, and because my mom was aware of this, she was quite careful about the food she fed us, therefor shaping a small aspect of my life. For adopted children however certain genetic aspects never influence their lives because they are not aware of them. Being unaware of the genetic side strengths the argument that heredity is not solely driving the development of each individual. The environment in which they learn to adapt and grow shapes the human they become, and begins a new history. Outside sources for genetic information could change the lifestyle of an individual; however it would be changing the way in which they were originally nurtured throughout life. After reading the article I thought of my cousin Al who was adopted from Peru. She directly follows the arguments presented in this article. The nurturing aspect had played such a key role in how she has developed as a person. I often forget she was not born into our family, because she has such similar mannerisms and personality traits as many of my actual family members. It made me further understand that although genetics may have played a role in how she has grown physically; her entire lifestyle and personality has been shaped by her family and surroundings in her home today. I re-evaluated my life after reading this article, and I think it is important for other to do so as well in order to strengthen their opinions on whether nature or nurture is the main contributor in this debate. Some questions to keep in mind might be; what do you think your life would be like growing up in a different town, or country, or maybe even a different family? How would you have been shaped differently?


Drug Addiction- Nature or Nurture


After discussing the article that was due for discussion last week I started wondering whether the drug addiction of the Bogle family could possibly be genetic rather than all environmental. Do not get me wrong, I believe that kids being exposed to drugs at an early age does cause a problem and leads to experimentation with drugs but what about those who were exposed to drugs while in the womb? Does this lead to addiction, or maybe the personality to experiment with drugs. So I did some research and found..

Addiction is due to 50% genetics and 50% to poor coping skills. One study that was done was that if a parent had an addiction, the daughter/son would be 8 times more likely to have an addiction also. However this does not exactly show whether nature or nurture is the reason. Then, there was a twin study. The study found that if an identical twin had an addiction, the other twin had a higher probability than those that are fraternal.

To me, I feel like science is developed enough to figure out is addiction is more the effect of nature or nurture and not just saying it is 50/50. What would you say? Do you think nature or nurture has a higher effect on addiction?

Are you born with it?


Intelligence, are we born with it? Or is intelligence acquired? Looking at IQ scores over the last 75-100 years there is a very noticeable upward trend. Which would leave one to assume nurture has proved to be a stronger impact on one's intelligence. Because during this time frame, eduction has come to the fore-front and became a very important factor in todays society. Looking deeper you can look at the economic factor, and the lower test scores in areas that don't generate as much income, and there0fore have a lesser education system compared to wealthier areas. This could also be a factor of nature, but there are cases of students who have the potential to be very intelligent, but don't have the means to achieve it.



For this blog, I looked up recent articles on the "nature vs. nurture" debate and came across one that I found particularly interesting. Now that we have realized that both nature and nurture play important roles, there may be a third option called the "differential susceptibility hypothesis." This hypothesis proposes that one's genes may affect their sensitivity to their environment.

There is a gene that is related to the amount of serotonin being recycled in our brains. Those that have the short variation of this gene have shown "associations with a higher incidence of a variety of mood disorders, slower responses to antidepressant medication, and a variety of different sensitivities in their mental health."

In a study testing this hypothesis, children's gene types were determined and they put into three groups at random. Each group was tested in different ways on the child's sensitivity towards their parents positive/negative affect. In all three cases, children with the short gene variation were more sensitive to the parenting and environment, whereas children with the long gene variation weren't affected nearly as much.

I have always thought that nature and nurture separately shaped us in different ways, but I never thought that one could play off of the other. After reading this article, it seems like depending on which type of gene (short or long) we have, it may determine whether we have been affected more by our genes than our environment or if it is the other way around.

- http://theconversation.edu.au/nature-v-nurture-score-one-all-3697
- http://www.sodahead.com/living/do-you-did-you-live-up-to-your-parents-expectations/

An Unresolved Homosexuality Debate

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It is hard to say whether I believe homosexuality is based off the natural genetic make-up of a human being or if it is based off the nurture one receives in their environment (whether it be inside the womb or after birth). Still to this day, there are many theories that show correlation, but not causation, of the nature side and nurture side of the homosexuality debate. Can one be pinpointed?
As seen in the video clip of a 60 minutes report (youtube link below), identical twins (twins with the same genes) can still have different sexual preferences. Does this mean it is strictly the environment around someone? Yet, on the other hand, males who have extended family members that are gay have are more likely to be gay. Does this mean it is strongly linked to genetics?
In emphasis of this case (but not in any political bias), during the latest presidential race, Gingrich was asked whether he believes homosexuality is due to nature or nurture. In the best response, Gingrich did not choose one or the other, but simply said he believes it is both. Yet, in the overall view of the topic, Gingrich chose a logical answer in my view. There are multiple, well supported theories on the basis of homosexuality from both the nature and nurture sides.
Although the topic of homosexual creation by nature or nurture is mind-blowing, we should accept everyone for who they are.

Homosexuality: Nature vs. Nurture

"Gingrich on Homosexuality: It's Both Nature and Nurture - CNN Political Ticker - CNN.com Blogs." CNN Political TickerAll Politics, All the Time - CNN.com Blogs. 15 Dec. 2011. Web. 05 Feb. 2012. .

Adrenaline: The Superhuman Hormone

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"I climbed out of the drivers window and saw that his leg was under the car, so I grabbed the sun roof visor, and lifted the car six or seven inches to get it out" said Kyla Smith, a 23-year-old 5' 7" woman from England. An article from the BBC ( ) described how this woman lifted a car 20 times her weight, a feat few people could pull off themselves.

In the article a psychologist said that when such traumatic events happen to a person, "What happens in an emergency is that all your physiology gets into gear and you can do things that are really quite superhuman."

This epic phenomenon that this psychologist speaks of is the effects of adrenaline, a hormone created in the adrenal gland and part of the sympathetic nervous system.
I've always been curious about adrenaline and how and why it does what it does. The most recent chapter in the Psych textbook talks about adrenaline's effects:

-It contracts our heart and constricts our blood vessels to provide more blood to the body
-It opens our airways to allow more air in
-It breaks down fat into fatty acids to provide more fuel
-It breaks down carbs into glucose which gives our muscles a jolt of energy
-It opens our pupils to enable better sight during emergency situations

The sympathetic nervous system releases adrenaline in dire situations to give us a natural advantage against whatever it is that we face. It's like beast mode, and I find it particularly interesting. Beast mode


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At certain points, we say that there are certain things in life that we cannot go without. This isn't always true, since not having a cell phone will not actively cause someone to cease existing, but it does mean that without intervening forces, we will never give some things up. There are certain extremes, such as cocaine and alcohol, which leave little to doubt about how addictive they are. But there are certain other habits that are more difficult to prove as addictive; for example, someone who is a regular caffeine consumer forced to go several days without the stimulant, will likely have more trouble focusing or staying awake during certain hours, but he is much less likely to suffer hallucinations, violent temper changes, and sweat, than someone addicted to a drug as defined by the FDA. But the more interesting case is video games. There are numerous stories about individuals who have failed to compete in the real life arena because they were busy playing. And several studies have shown that people who spend significant amounts of time playing games show brain function changes similar to those who abuse illegal substances. This is made interesting by the fact that video games are not a substance, but cause the same effect on the brain, including making some people change behavior to extremely violent or neglectful. The question is: should video game addiction be treated as a separate mental disorder?

Reference article: http://www.siliconrepublic.com/comms/item/25321-internet-addiction-is/

Are Great Athletes Born or Made?


There is always a case of a child in sports that seems almost super human for their age. Look at the Minnesota Gopher's hockey team. Kyle Rau is only a freshman yet is a 1st line starter. Travis Boyd is a 2nd line player as a freshman, but he is the age of a high school senior. How did these players get so good? Is it a matter of their physical and genetic qualities? Or is it all due to the fact that they train harder than all the other hockey players that try to play at a D-1 school? The answer is hard to come by, but it could be a result of either or, or a combination of the two. Take for example Micheal Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. He did not make his high school basketball team for the reasons of being too short and not having the skills necessary to play at that level. The next year Jordan grew 4 inches. That took care of the height issue but what about the skills issue? Jordan practiced more in the off season than any other player and made the team. This is more of an example of how nurture prevailed. Sure Jordan grew 4 inches, but if he hadn't have practiced and been coached he never would have developed the skills to become that great basketball player. There is also the case of Usain Bolt. A freak of nature that shatters records in sprints. "Bolt was born fast though". He does not have to train for the as much as other athletes and he will still win. This is the example nature prevailing. Can you figure out the answer to the question, are great athletes born or made?




Many people argue whether or not Alcoholism-an addiction to the consumption of alcohol- is due to nurture by our genetics or nature by environment. Some argue that it is due to genetics because many people who become alcoholics also had parents and grandparents who were alcoholics as well. In contrary, others believe that this addiction is due to the environment that they are grown up it whether or not it is in their genes. However, according to the article http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_n5_v141/ai_11809138/ both nature and nurture play a role in the development of Alcoholism. Studies show that children who have alcoholic parents with similar genetic code are 4 times more likely to become alcoholic than children with parents who are not. This is due to nurture where genetics play a crucial role. However, children with no similar genes to their parents who grow up in a home with alcoholic parents also have a high chance of becoming alcoholics. This is due to nature and how the environment plays a crucial role. I do believe that both nature and nurture play a role in the development of Alcoholism but I also believe that both play a role in preventing people from suffering alcoholism.

For example, when my grandma was a child, she and 8 other siblings were raised by abusive parents who suffered from alcoholism. My grandma, being the oldest, was just 14 years old and basically took care of herself as well as her other siblings. Both her mother and father were always at the bar they owned drinking and didn't get home until 4 or 5 in the morning. Because my grandma was raised in an environment and had genes similar to parents who suffered from alcoholism, she definitely could've had the tendency to become an alcoholic due to both nature and nurture. However, I believe that because she had this tendency, she realized the type of life she'd live as an alcoholic was not what she wanted and therefore has never suffered from alcoholism.



Conditioning and the Influences

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Probably one of the most widely known concepts in psychology is the concept of classical conditioning. First demonstrated by Ivan Pavlov, classical conditioning, also called Pavlovian conditioning, shows how certain stimuli (noted as neutral stimuli) can be associated with an original stimulus (noted as the unconditioned stimulus) in order trigger the same response. In his experiment, Pavlov used meat powder (an unconditioned stimulus), which stimulated the dog's salivation (an unconditioned response), and a metronome (a neutral stimulus) which didn't produce salivation. Pavlov then began to associate the two stimuli together, in which the metronome and the meat powder were offered simultaneously in order to encourage the dog's salivation. After allowing the dogs to become use to this routine, Pavlov removed the meat power and learned that the sound of the metronome still produced salivation (a conditioned response here).

Another example of classical conditioning can be found in this entertaining segment:

Although, this observation was useful, anybody can use classical conditioning in their everyday lives. For example, my neighbors, who are dog breeders and trainers, trained their dogs to respond to the different tones of a piano. From kenneling up, to feeding time, to going outside, each one was well orchestrated.

Lilienfeld, Scott. "Stress, Coping, and Health." Psychology: From Inquiry to Understand. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2011. 454-87. Print.
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