October 2011 Archives

Can Honey Make You Smarter?

| No Comments

I got my first test in college back, and man did I need some help for the next one. Maybe honey is the answer? According to the article below, there is some research to back this up. A recent study showed that a daily spoonful of Malaysian honey can increase a person's intellect. Now the results of the study aren't what is important, rather it is how they measured "intellect" was and how it relates to what we have been talking about in lecture and discussion.
First off, intellect was measure was measuring a person's short term memory by presenting them with a list of words. They looked at the words for a short time, and then they were told to remember as many as they could. As we learned in lecture through multiple examples, our short term memory typically remembers between 5 plus or minus 2 items. These items can be put into chunks of multiple items to remember more. For example, instead of remembering 7 numbers individually, we can remember numbers in chunks of 3's. This cuts the used short term memory in half, thus allowing us to remember more chunks of numbers or whatever it may be.
We do have to keep in mind however, that there are some extraordinary claims being present in this article. Another problem with this study is that it didn't take into account the possibility that the subjects became better at the task of remembering words or just remembering general pieces of information. Both of these are clouding the results of this study immensely.
With this in mind, the presence of our short term memory is vitally important to everyday living, and researching possible ways to increase this skill would be a great discovery in science and psychology.


False Memories

| No Comments

I like to think that I have a fabulous memory for details. Sometimes I find myself under the impression that i can safely rely on my memory because of my vivid recollections. However, I do find that my when I first tell someone a story about something that happened to me, I am very good at remembering every detail. Admittedly however, as time goes on it becomes harder for me to recall certain details about events, and then I often question if things actually happen how I remember it. This happens especially when other people correct me on how things happened.
The movie Memento is a perfect example of someone who, as time goes on, is able to purposely repress and change his memories. Though he has a condition which makes him unable to remember any events from the previous day, he can remember everything before his accident. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0209144/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memento_(film) give excellent descriptions of what happens in this movie. Protagonist Leonard Shelby is able to change his memories and denies the fact that it was his wife who purposely injected too much insulin into her body because she could not deal with Shelby's disability.
Though Memento is fictional, it shows an opinion on the false memory controversy. It shows that many people think that people are able to repress memories so much that they can actually change their perceptions of what actually happened. I do agree with that opinion, but I wonder, where do the true memories go when someone manipulates them in their mind?

Does getting bullied create a bully?

| No Comments

Teaching children right from wrong can be a challenge and very controversial. Punishment is one way to teach young ones not to repeat the behavior that they are receiving the punishment. Does punishment always have a positive affect? Positive punishment is the administering of an action like a spanking on a person when their behavior was unacceptable. An example would be a spanking. Typically children try to avoid spankings so in turn, they will not repeat the behavior to not get punished.

B.F. Skinner and other researchers think that punishment might not be as useful as reinforcement. Punishment demonstrates what behavior is wrong, causes anxiety, and can lead to the child to become a more aggressive person. Something to keep in mind is that correlation does not mean causation. Aggressive behavior can be affected by both nature and nurture aspects.

I read in an article about positive punishment contributing to aggressive behavior. They thought that getting spanked when a child leads to bully -type behavior when they mature. The researchers conducted a study where they surveyed 2500 parents about how aggressive they thought they children were. They were questioned whether or not they punished them positively. The results showed that the kids that were spanked were said to act more aggressively. This makes me wonder if you can conclude that spanking can cause a person to become aggressive. Can a person become a bully if they are punished too much? I don't know if the correlation is strong enough to be able to conclude that. I need to remember to think scientifically to know that correlation doesn't equal causation. I think that punishment can help teach children what not to do and they would learn what behavior they should not repeat. Reinforcement helps teach kids because the behavior that is appropriate and demonstrated leads to the praise of the child. This gives them the incentive to continue good behavior. I think that the most effective way to teach children how they should act for parents would be to use some form of non-violent punishment (like a time-out) and reinforcement. This way the kids will know what is not tolerated and what behavior is praised.

Marijuana: How the legalization of medical "ghanja" in all 50 states could benefit people's mental health

Anorexia is a somewhat common disorder in which those affected have an acute loss of appetite, usually stemming from an exaggerated response to cultural standards of beauty. Those affected force themselves not to eat to meet a certain image they want themselves to portray. Over time, those affected become accustomed to not eating and do not provide themselves with the necessary calories.

One of the components of marijuana is delta-9 THC which increases appetite. Coincidentally, the chemical in our body that increases appetite is THC. Studies show that when THC is consumed in precise amounts it doubles a person's appetite. If those affected by anorexia were allowed the right to purchase medical marijuana in states such as Florida, which doesn't have legal medical marijuana, they could eventually reverse the effects of their anorexia. Without making marijuana legal in all 50 states, people in Florida would have to drive all the way to New Jersey to find their outlet.

With the increase appetite in appetite it will stabilize their weight back to healthy levels. The legalization of medical marijuana would help many people psychology, especially those with anorexia. Hopefully someday the legalization of marijuana will come into effect and those in need will receive help. Although it does need to happen for those people there is one main obstacle legalization must overcome: stigma. The awful stigma associated with marijuana in America has been the main source of the problem with legalization. In order to fix this problem I propose the statistics be shared with the people of America and remove the stigma. Giving people the true facts about medical marijuana will change people's views on the drug.

Hopefully the change in stigma will take place in the near future and the people in true need of medical marijuana will have access to this.

Facts taken from: http://www.cannabismd.net/anorexia/


| No Comments

The paradox of memory is remarkable. Our capacity for memory is so vast yet so flawed in many simple ways, such as with false memories. The phenomenon is discussed in this article. The article mentions a study on the susceptibility of our memory to social influences. In Following the Crowd: Brain Substrates of Long-Term Memory Conformity, researchers Micah Edelson Tali Sharot, Raymond J. Dolan, Yadin Dudai used suggestive memory techniques to see if a groups input would have any effect on a persons own memory of a movie.The participants exhibited a strong tendency to conform to the false recollections of the group even when their initial memory was right and they were confident about it. Even when it was reveled to them that the group input was fake they, for the most part, didn't change back, indicating that their memory of the event truly had changed, as apposed to simply agreeing with the group against their better judgment. The use of the misinformation effect shows that social manipulation can alter memory.
What I found most interesting about that article however, was the scientists speculation on why this effect may exist in the first place. "memory conformity may also serve an adaptive purpose, because social learning is often more efficient and accurate than individual learning. ... humans may be predisposed to trust the judgment of the group, even when it stands in opposition to their own original beliefs". This speculation points to the the possible origin of this phenomenon as being primal. If one were to remember something and then be told by everyone else that he is wrong, then he would change his beliefs. This proposition claims that you cut out the step where you change your mind and you simply believe that you remembered it that way all along. Pretty confusing.

Effects of Sleep on Memory

| No Comments

I imagine that we've all heard that in order to do well on a test we need sleep. Teachers have always stressed that sleep is important to doing well. There's the obvious part to it: it's hard to pay attention and learn when you're half awake. But there's also the important part of how sleep plays a vital role in memory retention.
When people are tired and lacking sleep they can't focus at optimal levels. Research has shown that the memory circuits may also get fatigued as well. Neurons can become overworked and lose ability to properly form memories and access previously learned information. Both of these will dampen just how well people can remember things. Fortunately a large part of memory formation requires no effort from us at all. All we have to do is sleep.
Sleep is an integral part to the memory process. While we sleep, our brain starts to process the information we learned. Memories are stored by the connections between brain cells, and during our slumber, the connections that form the basis for our memories become strengthened. It is also the time where the brain is sorting the information that we've learned. Different sleep stages are also involved in processing different types of memories.
Lack of sleep has been shown to have many negative effects on judgment and performance. The Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters have both been attributed to some degree with sleep deprivation. It's also been associated with the Exxon Valdez oil spill and space shuttle challenger explosion. When people can't properly access memories, they can't perform their tasks with the precision that they could if rested.
There's not a whole lot to debate about whether or not a good night sleep will affect performance, but what is not known is the effects of loss of REM sleep on memory. It's been shown that people who have to take medication that suppresses REM sleep have not reported a significant loss in memory. In a study with mice, after going through a complicated maze, the REM sleep of the mice increased. Some believe that it's the increase in demand on the brain's processing while others believe that it's just due to the stress of the task.

The number of people alive. - bobby Zilisch

| No Comments

The number of people who are alive today is greater than the number of people who have ever died. This is an absolutely loaded statement that many of us have heard and not given a second though to. Now that I am taking psychology and have a scope on the six principles of critical thinking, I can say that this is defiantly a loaded statement. The most glaringly obvious offense is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Claiming that there are more people alive today than have ever died, requires you to say that you have an accurate estimation of how many people have ever lived. There are many estimated from 6 to 60 to hundreds of billions of people. If the answer really is 6 billion people have ever lived, then the current world population is higher than that, but that is often refuted by scientists. It is not so much that this statement is false, as it is that there is no way to prove it either way. This goes against the element of critical thinking falsifiability. There is no way to count how many people have ever lived accurately as there is no record of people thousands of years back. There was no census in 10000 BC. I chose this link because I found it to be really interesting how psychology and the six elements of critical thinking can help realize that many common believes are easily refuted.

Different Languages, Different Phonemes

| No Comments

"Ohana" means family in Hawaiian, a word with a few number of sounds. These categories of sounds our vocal apparatus produces are called phonemes (Lilienfeld). According to the Lilienfeld text, "The Hawaiian language contains a remarkably small number of phonemes (some estimates place it as though as 13)..." Some more examples of this are "kaukau" (food), "kakahiaka (morning), and "Humuhumunukunukuapua'a" (Lilienfeld).

One could wonder how this compares to other languages. The English language has 44 phonemes and some languages in Africa have more than 100 (A Walk in the WoRds). Why such a difference? According to the blog A Walk in the WoRds (http://walkinthewords.blogspot.com/2011/05/phonemes-count-and-phoneme-counts.html), "According to some recent phonetic analysis conducted by University of Aukland psychologist Quentin Atkinson, places more recently settled by humans have fewer phonemes." It is possible that settlement causes the difference in phonemes between languages; however, it could instead be related to population size. A Science article, "Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa", explains, "The number of phonemes...in a language is positively correlated with the size of its speaker population (1) in such a way that small populations have fewer phonemes" (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/332/6027/346.full). It is curious whether population size, time of settlement, or some other reason really explains why different languages have varying numbers of phonemes.


What does this difference in phonemes really mean? Lilienfeld states, "Although there's some overlap across languages, some languages contain sounds that don't occur in other languages." Because of this, it is difficult to learn other languages, most especially when the languages have fewer phonemes that coincide. This, for example, explains why is it easy to learn from one Romantic language to another, because many of the phonemes overlap.

The differences in languages is intriguing. Different languages have varying number of phonemes for uncertain reasons - possibly population size or time of inhabitance. Due to this, the ease of learning a language is correlated positively to the number of shared phonemes between two languages. Because the sounds in the Hawaiian word for family ("ohana") are phonemes that also exist in English, thus, it is easy for English speakers to learn the word.

Sleep Paralysis

| No Comments

Just two weeks into college I had an extremely vivid dream in which I was laying exactly where I fell asleep, but was entirely unable to move. It was extremely unnerving, and a couple weeks later the same thing happened again. This was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and it wasn't until I read about sleep paralysis in my psychology book that I realized that this was what had happened to me.
Sleep Paralysis is a phenomenon caused by a disruption in the sleep cycle. People are hypotonic while asleep to prevent them from flailing about and acting out their dreams, and when the bodies sleeping rhythms are off it can cause a person to feel this affect while awake. The phenomenon has been known to occur both just before falling asleep or just after waking up. In addition it is much more common in those who suffer from narcolepsy.
One of the major things that causes sleep paralysis is not just a disruption in sleep cycles but also being in a new setting such as college. I think a combination of being in a college setting and having sleep cycles often disrupted is what caused my sleep paralysis.
In addition, different cultures experience this differently. While some people experience it as a demon or old hag on their chest, I had an experience of thinking I was on some type of Inception related dream level. While there is no scientific evidence for this being in anyway plausible, but in the brief panicked moments that I was laying there this was the explanation that my mind came up with.

| No Comments

Memory loss in pop culture

| No Comments

Amnesia is a very interesting phenomenon, which tends to be presented in various forms in movies as well as TV shows. Amnesia is split into two major types, retrograde - the inability to remember past events - and anterograde - the inability to create new memories.  While both are shown in popular culture, there are some interesting instances of anterograde in terms of short term memory loss. Some examples include Lucy and Ten Second Tom in 50 First Dates

Both of these examples show signs of short term explicit memory loss, but at the same time, all three of them showed signs of their implicit memory still being intact. Explicit memory is that which we make a conscious effort to remember, such as events in our lives and facts.  On the other hand, our implicit memory is automatic and includes muscle memory and can also be probed using priming.

Lucy had a fictional type of amnesia, called "Goldfield Syndrome, in which she was stuck in the same day due to damage to her hippocampus during a car accident the year before. Every day, she would wake up thinking it was her dad's birthday. When she went to bed, all the events of the day would be forgotten. While she would events of the day, she still remembered some events without trying.  For example, she told Henry that she didn't know who he was, but she remembered dreaming about him every night.  This shows that her unconscious still recognizes him but explicit memories, such as the dates that they went on were never encoded in her long term memory.

In the case of Ten Second Tom, the character was based on Clive Wearing.  Tom would converse with a person, forget all about it in ten seconds, and then reintroduce himself.  In this case, the explicit memories are clearly lost, as he cannot remember events that happened ten seconds ago; yet muscle memories such as waving and shaking hands when introducing oneself, still exist.

Here's a clip of Tom in the movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jk7WuvNKe_g

Corporal Punishment- Is it ethical?

| No Comments

There are many debates going on today about whether or not corporal punishment for your child is ethical. In reality, to understand this debate you must know what it is, why some parents decide to go this route and what psychological effects it may have on your children.

Corporal punishment is defined as deliberate infliction of pain for disciplinary reasons. It can be looked at in two different views, positive and negative, both of which decrease the targets behavior and lower the chance of them performing similar actions in the future. Because of this, most parents decide to use corporal punishment as a way of teaching/learning. Using it to "teach" their children never to perform similar actions again. So what psychological effects does something like this have on children? Studies show that "slapping your child around," has its benefits, like teaching them right from wrong, but what about the negative aspects? There is multiple studies showing hitting your child greatly increases the risk of them becoming abusive themselves in the future. In an article by Richard Niolan, he talks about parents stopping their child's aggression with their own. Arising the question of "is the hitting really raising the chances of them becoming aggressive as adults, or is it something hereditary. Either way, you have to look at the ethical view of it. So in the end, is it really ethical to raise your child teaching them to treat others the way they want to be treated, but then as a father figure hit them to "teach your child a lesson?" Well, from the psychological effects that we have learned, no. There are many alternative routes to solving your child's problems then abuse. It is setting them up for a higher risk of becoming an abusive individual in the future.

All in all, raising your child into physical abuse to deter them away from doing something wrong is far from ethical. As more and more American's check in and pay attention to the effects this may have on their children, the better off we may be; lowering their overall chances of becoming a violent and aggressive individual.



Anterograde Amnesia, as seen in Finding Nemo

| No Comments

In the animated Pixar movie "Finding Nemo," the Regal Blue Tang Fish, named Dory, suffers from short term memory loss, or anterograde amnesia. In this video clip, found at , viewers are able to understand what Dory suffers from. She can't recall any events that happened several minutes ago, or even several seconds. She can however remember events from her past. She is obviously able to recall specific facts, like the fact that she does suffer from short term memory loss. She is also able to tell Marlin, the fish that she meets, that she thinks it runs her family, however, she is unable to recall meeting him, or volunteering to help him.
This account of amnesia partially accurate. When a person has anterograde amnesia, they are unable to create new memories. This type of amnesia can cause problems, not only for the person that has the disorder, but for those who interact with that person. In this case, Marlin, the clown fish, is trying to ask Dory for help. All he wants to know is which way a boat went, but Dory can't remember who he is or what she was going to show him long enough to actually show him.
On the other hand, If she is unable to create short term memories, how is she able to remember that she saw a boat several minutes ago. If it was recent enough that she is able to show him where it went, how can she remember that she actually saw a boat in the first place? Clearly, her case is severe enough that she can't remember more than a few minutes at most.
This is an example of short term memory loss, otherwise known as anterograde amnesia. Seen in the children's movie "Finding Nemo," Dory shows how this disorder can affect those not only with the disorder, but those around them, though not completely accurate.

Improving Memory: The Pegword Method

| No Comments

Numeric Pegword System.jpg
Whenever there was a test in school where I had to remember a list of words, it would take me a long time to memorize them all correctly. But then I learnt a mnemonic that would help me achieve high scores on pop quizzes and exams in high school. This method is called the Pegword Method.
To make this mnemonic work, you first have to associate each number in a list with a word that rhymes with each number, such as "One is Bun," and "Two is Shoe." Once you have associated words with all the numbers you need, you can start to apply this rhyming system to the list of words you need to memorize through imagery. Let's say you need to memorize the first ten presidents of the United States. The technique you would use would go something like this: (1) George Washington is eating a bun; (2) John Adams is tripping on his shoe, etc. You would find that remembering these names are much easier through this method.
In my opinion, this mnemonic is the most effective because it actually contains more than one type of mnemonic device. The Pegword Method utilizes both the rhyming of words and imagery to help create increase recalling ability. If you repeat the list of words out loud while using the Pegword Method, a third tool of memorization comes into play, which is elaborate rehearsal. That would further strengthen the duration of memory you have of those words. The key foundation of this mnemonic is simply knowing the rhyming system by heart, so that you can apply it to any list of words you come across efficiently.

Here is more information on the Pegword Method along with the rhyming list from 1-10: http://www.vcld.org/pages/newsletters/00_01_fall/mnemonic4.htm

The Smartest Elementary Kids Around

| No Comments

During my time as an elementary school student here in Minnesota, I first started to develop my likeliness for one school subject over another. Quietly I would sit in class waiting for recess and gym while math and history seemed to drag on forever. Once it got to the point where doodling and adding 1+1+1+1 on my calculator could not hold my attention anymore, I had to find a new way to distract myself. I cannot take credit for this idea but one day on the playground somebody came up with the ingenious idea to get sent to the hallway to avoid sitting through our lecture. I actually remember the year we thought of the plan, all of the necessary pieces fit on paper; my teacher was nice, my friends had class right across the hall and we had math at the same times every day. We used getting sent to the hall, which was supposed to be our punishment, as a sense of positive reinforcement. We got to see our friends instead of sitting through a boring math class. Even though it only took a few days for our teachers to see the pattern, they were the most fun math classes of my life! We used what was supposed to be our teacher's form of punishment to encourage our behavior. Overall, we did end up getting punished for what we did and this time it worked. I can only speak for myself when I say this, but I haven't tried to pull that stunt again.

50 First Dates

| No Comments

A movie that very well portrays the psychological phenomena of anterograde amnesia is 50 First Dates starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. It is about a girl named Lucy who got in a bad car accident and lost her ability to retain new memories from it. She can remember her whole life up until the accident, but everyday her memories are wiped. She basically lives the rest of her life thinking its July 24th 2003. Then Henry decides to make a video of her new life with him to remind her everyday of what happened. Of course they fall in love and eventually get married and have kids and live happily ever after. Another example within this movie is the crazy case of ten-second Tom. Tom can only remember ten seconds of new memory then he forgets it without noticing. Here is a video of ten-second Tom to better your understanding of his made up condition. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jk7WuvNKe_g These examples are very intriguing and entertaining but also are very false. Dr. Stephan John did research on the truth within the claims and says that although it is possible to lose some new memories after an accident it is impossible to permanently have this intense effect of anterograde amnesia.

Bonobos and Language

| No Comments

An article for Smithsonian featuring bonobo apes took a look at their amazing ability to utilize symbols to comment on and engage in social interactions. The author of the article, Paul Raffaele, visited a 26-year-old male bonobo, named Kanzi, who is currently being housed at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa. There, Raffaele learned that Kanzi communicates with American psychologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh via a keyboard labeled with geometric figures. When Kanzi was just learning, he was only able to use about 18 symbols; today he is up to 348 symbols has come to understand roughly 3,000 spoken English words. One example that really stuck out to me was the fact that one day, while on an outing, Kanzi pushed the symbols for 'fire' and 'marshmallows'. Once given matches and marshmallows, he went about collecting and breaking twigs, started a fire, and proceeded to roast his own marshmallow!
The crew at the Great Ape Trust complex has been working on getting Kanzi and the other bonobos to communicate vocally rather than just through the keyboard. In one experiment, they put Kanzi and his sister in separate rooms where they could hear each other but couldn't see each other. Savage-Rumbaugh told Kanzi that he would be given yogurt. In response, he verbally communicated with his sister, who communicated back, and then selected the 'yogurt' button on her keyboard. This is an amazing example of their abilities to understand, process, and convey information in order to get what they want. As our psychology book states, however, the apes have a hard time following the rules of syntax. They can understand short sentences such as "Put the soap in the water," but they are unable to form them on their own. They have no way of commenting on what is happening in the world, or divulging their emotional states.
Despite this shortcoming, the apes at the Great Ape Trust complex have such a large understanding of knowing how to get what they want that they actually live in an 18-room house. They control who enters their home, they have a vending machine they can operate to get snacks, and they can choose DVDs they wish to watch, among them The Legend of Tarzan. As Savage-Rumbaugh put it, they are definitely challenging the idea that language is only unique to humans. It is impressive, needless to say.

split-brain procedure

| No Comments

One of the most interesting topics thus far has been split-brain procedure and how the left and right hemispheres work together via communication through the corpus callosum.


In the video attached, you will see a boy, Tony, who was born without a corpus callosum. This means that his brain hemispheres work independent of one another. When Tony was being asked questions he seemed completely normal, but in experiments he illustrated some of the down-falls of not having a corpus callosum.

For example, Tony saw pictures of faces with different emotions and was asked to pick an emotion from a list of words that described the emotions. He got emotions like fear wrong 50% of the time. This illustrates that his right hemisphere, which is in charge of some sensory information and emotion, cannot communicate the emotion that he sees with his left brain. So he is not able to express/isn't aware of the emotion.

Tony mentions that he isn't a "social person". This could be related to his inability to pick up on emotions consistently and accurately. It can probably be difficult to communicate when his right brain cannot communicate emotions (and information from his other senses too) to the left brain so that he can express it/be aware of it/tell about it. He is essentially unaware of some things because of this lack of communication between his left and right hemispheres.

Narcolepsy in movies

| No Comments

I am writing about a sleep condition called narcolepsy. Although it is not a very common disorder, I have seen it in one movie and it is presented correctly. Although I've never seen someone who actually has the disorder in person, the movie presents it in a way that I would assume it to be like. The movie is Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. While reading about this, this scene popped into my mind.


I think they over dramatized her disorder because it is a comedy, but it does overall display what narcolepsy is. Deuce Bigalow is a male prostitute and the female with the disorder is one of his customers. Rather then having sex with her, he just sleeps in her bed. The book talks about how it is common for an urge to sleep occur during strong emotions- such as sexual intercourse. This is displayed in the movie. I think that even without purpose, the movie director created the scene into a knowledgeable learning session (this is kind of an over exaggeration) by throwing the disorder in the movie. Before viewing that movie, I never knew or had even heard of narcolepsy.

I don't think the movie director knew exactly what narcolepsy was, but I wouldn't change the way he did anything simply because it fits in with the rest of the movie. It puts a little humor in the disorder, which could offend someone with the disorder. Over all though, I think it's a perfect example of psychology and disorders that you would not always recognize if you hadn't taken this course!

One question I do have about this disorder is in what ways does it restrict someone's life. I feel like it would be very dangerous for these people to operate vehicles, etc. One thing this makes me think about is what jobs these people have as well. I give people with this disorder a lot of props because I'm sure it is hard to live with something like this.

Learning Fads: The Simpsons

| No Comments

In a Simpsons episode from a few years ago, the Simpsons travel to Brazil in hopes of finding a lost orphan. While on the 10+ hour plane trip, Bart sleeps while listening to the Bumble bee man's Spanish tapes. At the end of the flight, he is completely fluent in Spanish; at which point Bart is informed that they in fact speak Portugese in Brazil, and Homer forces Bart to forget every word of it (which he does by hitting himself in the head repeatedly with the tape recorder. This is very different than the way the book portrays learning while sleeping. The way the book puts it "things that sound too good to be true often are" (Linienfield 233). It is later stated that in most of these cases of listening to tapes while sleeping, the subject is woken up, and consciously learns the material. That can be illustrated through the fact (as the book states) that nobody making the claim that these sleeping learning are quick fixes ruled out rival hypotheses. Though I suspect this was merely a joke rather than a major plot point, the writers of the textbook would have made Bart fully aware, or at least showed him drifting off into sleep, and being woken up by Maggie pulling on his ear.
However, new results are coming in that say that we do a bit of learning while dozing off, but not in the way the Simpsons portrays it. A new study states that "A separate form of memory" is operating. By improving our sleep in some ways, we may be able to recall dormant memories, or those we had forgotten. This would better be described as 'sleep recollection' rather than 'sleep learning.'

Learning Fads: The Simpsons

| No Comments

In a Simpsons episode from a few years ago, the Simpsons travel to Brazil in hopes of finding a lost orphan. While on the 10+ hour plane trip, Bart sleeps while listening to the Bumble bee man's Spanish tapes. At the end of the flight, he is completely fluent in Spanish; at which point Bart is informed that they in fact speak Portugese in Brazil, and Homer forces Bart to forget every word of it (which he does by hitting himself in the head repeatedly with the tape recorder. This is very different than the way the book portrays learning while sleeping. The way the book puts it "things that sound too good to be true often are" (Linienfield 233). It is later stated that in most of these cases of listening to tapes while sleeping, the subject is woken up, and consciously learns the material. That can be illustrated through the fact (as the book states) that nobody making the claim that these sleeping learning are quick fixes ruled out rival hypotheses. Though I suspect this was merely a joke rather than a major plot point, the writers of the textbook would have made Bart fully aware, or at least showed him drifting off into sleep, and being woken up by Maggie pulling on his ear.
However, new results are coming in that say that we do a bit of learning while dozing off, but not in the way the Simpsons portrays it. A new study states that "A separate form of memory" is operating. By improving our sleep in some ways, we may be able to recall dormant memories, or those we had forgotten. This would better be described as 'sleep recollection' rather than 'sleep learning.'


| No Comments

Do you ever wonder how your life would change if you could not remember your childhood, or if you can't form new memories? Well if you had amnesia, those possibilities might become a reality. There are different types of amnesia. The two most common types are retrograde amnesia and anterograde amnesia. Retrograde amnesia is where you lose part of your memories of your past. The amount of memories you lose is different in each circumstance. Retrograde amnesia is often caused by an injury or by the onset of a disease. Anterograde amnesia is the loss of the ability to create new memories. Damage to the hippocampus is a common cause of both retrograde amnesia and anterograde amnesia. Alcohol intoxication can cause anterograde amnesia, usually known as a blackout. Rapid rises in blood alcohol concentration over a short period of time can block the brain's ability to transfer short-term memories during intoxication. Studies have showed that drinking slowly decreases the chance of experiencing amnesia. During college, many students make the mistake of drinking more than their bodies can take, which often results into a blackout. According to education-portal.com fifty four percent of binge drinking college students black out and forget what they did or where they were at some point in the year. Another example of amnesia is the movie "50 First Dates" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErjP5xMTc8I). In the movie, Adam Sandler falls in love with a girl with anterograde amnesia. The girl he falls in love with believes it is the same exact day every day she wakes up. All her memories are forgotten when she falls asleep. So eventually, Adam Sandler makes a tape of all their experiences together and eventually makes her fall in love with him every day even though she feels like she just met him today. Korsakoff's syndrome can also cause anterograde amnesia. Korsakoff's syndrome is a neurological disorder caused by the lack of thiamine in the brain which causes you to have apathy, delusions that form invented memories, and anterograde amnesia. I feel that amnesia is a dreadful disability that can ruin the life of a person. Forgetting your past can not only hurt yourself, but also your family. The trauma amnesia can bring towards your family can be devastating. Imagine developing retrograde amnesia and forgetting the names of your kids. There are some questions I still have about amnesia. I wonder if different forms of amnesia are easier to recover from. I also want to know if having both retrograde and anterograde amnesia would be possible. Living without a present and a without a past would be horrifying. Living would be pointless if you had both retrograde and anterograde amnesia. Overall, I feel that amnesia is a devastating disorder that can drastically alters a person's life.

The lack of extralinguistics...Texting

| No Comments

In the text they used the analogy of a restaurant experience in order to portray the different features of language. Where phonemes, the categories of sound, are the ingredients. Morphemes, small units of meaning, such as words, are the menu items. Syntax, the grammatical rules, are the creation of the meal. And extralinguistic information, the context and body language, are the overall dining experience. All of these features are very important in how we communicate with and understand one another.
Well, since the rise in texting, we have started to communicate more and more lacking the final feature of language: the extralinguistics. When we have a conversation via text message, more problems in relationships are able to arise because often times the language can be misinterpreted due to the inexistence of body language and context. But, the fact that we are often times able to communicate efficiently without those variables, makes me wonder how that will effect our future social interactions, or on a larger scale, the language areas in our brain. Could we possibly be adapting to be more efficient in communicating with just text? People have been writing letters for ages, but those included correct syntax where text messages are often lacking that as well? Or is texting just becoming a different dialect?

This article published in USA today, goes a little farther into these questions/problems.

Near Death Experiences: Can We Really See the Light?

| No Comments

After reading Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, I began wondering if near death experiences could really occur. The book focuses on a four year old boy's account of his visit to heaven during an emergency appendectomy. He recalls meeting his miscarried sister, whom he was never informed of, and his great grandfather who passed away 30 years before he was born. He was able to describe "impossible-to-know details" about both of them, astonishing his family and doctors.
This book raises the question, can near death experiences really occur? Over the last 20 years research on this topic has dramatically increased, and there are disputing opinions on what causes this to happen. Many psychologists agree that there are 3 main possible causes of NDE's including: expectation, endorphins, and temporal lobe stimulation. Expectation simply means that people think they are going to die and engage in thoughts of an afterlife. Endorphins are released during times of stress or during physical trauma or fear, and are known to block pain and induce feelings of well-being and intense pleasure. During their stages of relaxation and pleasure their brain wanders to thoughts of being in the presence of everlasting peace. Lastly temporal lobe stimulation is said to be crucial because of its sensitivity to anoxia, the absence of oxygen. This is important because temporal lobe stimulation is said to have a large part in hallucinations, out of body experiences and memory flash backs. This is due in large part to the limbic system which is also sensitive to anoxia and in charge of the organization of emotion and memory. When the brain is deprived of oxygen these processes do not function normally and can cause someone to believe they have passed away. Doctors claim that administered drugs are responsible for NDE's however psychologists have proved that wrong. NDE's have occurred while under the influence of administered drugs however the accounts were less detailed and "more mutated," leading psychologist to believe drugs are an unimportant factor.

Method of Loci - A Life Saving Method?

| No Comments

Being students of the University of Minnesota, I'm sure each of us has our own preferred mnemonic, or strategy we use in order to enhance our memory, for studying. I know I am a constant user of the pegword method, which puts a lot of emphasis on rhyming, however I was intrigued when Professor Fletcher introduced the method of loci because I have never heard of it or tried it before.

The method of loci is a mnemonic that emphasizes the use of locations [1]. When used properly, one should picture a well-known area and designate a specific term or phrase that needs to be memorized to each area. The reason why this method works so well is because integrates visual information with someone's personal history [2]. Using the example below, a person could memorize a phone number by picturing different areas they pass on their way home from work [3]. The phone number begins and ends with the number nine; they could picture the baseball field and think the number three since a baseball field has three bases, and they could remember the farm represents the number five if they picture five cows on the farm. However, in order to make the strategy most efficient it is necessary to remember each area or number in a specific sequence. It defeats the purpose of remembering a phone number if you remember each number for each location but you can't remember what order they go in.

Although I have never used this mnemonic, I have already thought of several cases where it could be very useful. For the past year I have worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor so I have had to take many CPR and first aid classes. I have realized that the method of loci would be perfect for memorizing steps for proper CPR care. The steps involving CPR which include call 911, check for signs of life, two response breaths, and 30 chest compressions could easily be assigned to a well-known path. I also feel that this technique would be especially effective since its common to panic during dangerous situations, or when CPR is necessary, and forget what you're supposed to do. I strongly believe this technique would make it easier to focus on you're steps and keep you alert while at the same time it makes the situation less stressful. I plan on using this technique much more as I continue my studies.

[1] Lilienfeld Text
[2] http://www.ba.infn.it/~zito/loci.html
[3] http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/580273_3


| No Comments

Inception is a very popular movie that incorporates false memories as well as lucid dreaming. In the movie some people know how to get into other people's dreams with a certain machine. They were paid to implant a simple memory into the son of a major electric company that was about to take over. The memory they were told to implant was that his dad wanted him to make his own legacy. This false memory was to be implanted to ensure that the electric company would be broken up in to smaller firms. If this company wasn't split up the competitors company would have gone out of business.
Lucid dreaming played a huge role in this movie because if the man would have known that he was dreaming the whole time and he would have kept the company together. The men that were doing the implanting did in fact know that they were dreaming which gave them the upper hand and allowed them to implant a false memory.
False memories also played a huge role in this particular movie. It allowed them to make the subject believe that his dad loved him and that he wanted him to create his own future instead of following in his footsteps.
False memories also are a part of our everyday life. Some memoires change over time and if one is told that they are a rapist like Paul Ingram's case they will start to think they are one. This happens because our brain starts to make memories to go along with what people have told us even though we never experienced them.

Retrieval and Acoustic Guidance

| No Comments


This weekend as I watched Akeelah and the Bee, I thought about psychology class because of what I featured in my linked video. If you watch the last thirty seconds of the video, you will observe that Akeelah taps the side of her leg with her hand as she recalls the letters of the words she is spelling. This is a replacement for her other retrieval method of jump roping. This makes me wonder if this is a direct connection to acoustic guidance. Possibly Akeelah does so well in the competition because she uses a retrieval method when spelling words.

This causes me to wonder that if I begin playing a rhythm while I study for psychology, or other classes and then repeated that rhythm during a test, or when I'm trying to recall the information if I would have increased retrieval. I also wonder if it would work more effectively in simply connected memories, for example vocabulary words and definitions or German words and their meanings, or if it would work more effectively with general information, for example if I used the repeated rhythm while I read my psychology chapter.

This would be an interesting subject to test, but at the same time, it would be difficult in a few different ways. If given an exam to test retrieval skills twice, people could improve just because it is the second time they are taking the test. This could be avoided by having two equalized, randomized groups of people study with the rhythm playing, and then a group without. Testing retrieval of the different types of information could really be a challenge though, because it is impossible to determine equally challenging random chapter facts with German vocabulary words. This can be avoided by repeating the last study I explained, and then comparing the difference between the two averages in scores in the data.

Dexter America's Psychopath

| No Comments

Dexter is popular Showtime television drama that follows a handsome, intelligent blood spatter analyst named Dexter with a dark secret. He is a serial killer with a twist. His victims are criminals, child molesters, rapists, thieves, etc. This intriguing plot plus an attractive cast makes for television hit viewed by millions of people. But has the growing popularity of crime drama's such as these harming viewers besides just entertaining? dex.jpg
Criminals and the heinous crimes they commit are often glamorized in television. Witty or charming criminals engage officials in "cat-n-mouse games" and everything is resolved in a one hour time slot. But this is far from the actual process of crime solving and criminals are not usually witty or charming. People become desensitized to the fact that serial killer and plain common criminals are dangerous people. Gruesome real-life crimes become entertainment rather than horrific misfortunes. The more gruesome the crime the more news coverage it gets. The line between tragedy and entertainment becomes blurred.
Crime dramas should not be a scapegoat for all unfortunate events. Such as Andrew Conley, 17, who killed his brother and claimed Dexter was his inspiration. Andrew is clearly troubled and in need of mental help. Instead of seeing this as a sad situation where mental aid was lacking, people flocked to criticize the television series.
In conclusion crime dramas are a risky form of entertainment but as long as viewers remember it as fantasy not reality. We will be able to continue viewing in a healthy way.

sleep walking analysis

| No Comments

I found this scene from Step Brothers of the two brothers sleepwalking. They are seen with their arms slightly outward when they walk into their parents' room. I consider this an inaccurate portrayal of sleepwalking because sleepwalkers actually do not walk with their arms out or in a zombie fashion. True sleepwalkers walk as they would when they are actually awake, with very few differences. The step brothers from the clip also are mumbling to themselves and seem to be interacting with each other. It would not make sense to me that someone would be doing the same act as someone else while they're asleep. In other words, how are they asleep yet communicating that they need to bring the presents and the Christmas tree into their parents' room? How are they both doing the same thing? This is another aspect of the scene that is unrealistic/inaccurate. The mumbling, however, is not unrealistic. Web MD says "In some cases, sleepwalking is associated with incoherent talking." They also say, "on questioning, responses are slow or absent."
One of the most important parts of this scene to analyze is when the dad wakes the sleepwalkers up. Before he does this, the mom says "Never wake up a sleepwalker." And upon awakening, the men start screaming and flailing their arms. So, the movie is portraying that sleepwalkers get angry upon being woken up. The attached article from the New York Times claims that it is not dangerous to wake a sleepwalker, but they may be confused.
Overall, this scene from Step Brothers was not an accurate portrayal of sleepwalking, but if the writers had made it accurate, it probably would not have had entertainment value.

Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpIKX8VIaT8

Web MD: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleepwalking-causes

Article: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpIKX8VIaT8

Language Acquisition Device

| No Comments

The language acquisition device is a specific language "organ" in the brain that Noam Chomsky hypothesized humans possess. Since children say things like "foots" instead of "feet" and "goed" instead of "went" even though they've most likely never heard these terms before implied to Chomsky that children follow syntactic rules in their heads rather than just imitating what they hear.
Here's a short video of Chomsky himself explaining this idea:

Think of it this way, your parents probably never taught you specifically to add an 's' at the end of a word to make it plural, or an 'ed' to make it past tense, it's something you picked up on our own. Chomsky's theory says this is because we're biologically inclined to know and pick up on syntactic rules rather than having to be specifically taught them.
This theory is important to nativists because it gives evidence to their belief that children are born with some basic knowledge of how language work.

I would like to look more in to studies done on the language acquisition device, to see if there's more evidence showing that syntactic rules are something we're born with and if there are other parts of language that we could possibly be born with rather than having to learn.

Proactive Interference

| No Comments

Within the NFL there are a great number of quarterbacks, including both starters and backups. Both the starters and the backups are equally responsible for learning, knowing and understanding the entire offensive scheme of their particular team and the defensive scheme of their opponents. These schemes or playbooks can be quite massive such as the Oakland Raiders offensive playbook which is 800 pages. In the NFL throughout the entire season the starting quarterbacks take every single practice snap at every practice unless their injured or tired. Despite this fact, the backup quarterbacks are required to know all of the same information and be ready to play at a moment's notice. The article below further explains the difficulties faced by backup quarterbacks attempting to learn offenses.


As a result, backup quarterbacks face a number of psychological hurdles one of which is proactive interference. One prime example of proactive interference faced by an NFL quarterback is Carson Palmer's case. He was traded from the Bengals to the Raiders less than a week ago, but is now going to be expected to start. This means that he is going to have to learn the entire 800 page offensive playbook, while having to deal with proactive interference. Palmer played for several years on the Bengals and as a result knew their playbook very well but now has learn all the new plays, some of which may be the exact same with different names. Since many of the play concepts will be similar but slightly different and have different names he is likely going to have issues with proactive inference, in learning the offense. Despite this fact he is expected to learn the playbook without being confused and then recall it entirely under stressful situations and correctly execute the plays. This concept of trading NFL quarterbacks and expecting them to learn, remember and perform under these circumstances is mind boggling to me because of the numerous psychological hurdles they face particularly in dealing with proactive interference.

Spanking as an effective form of punishment?

| No Comments

Punishing a child brings up many controversial methods. What is considered appropriate? What is crossing the lines? Which type of punishment is actually effective? Spanking is a well-known "positive" punishment that is used here in our society, but it is also one of the most controversial.

Young children are the most susceptible to punishment as they are still learning right from wrong. There are many methods that are useful in punishing a child, positive punishment being one of them. Positive punishment means that a person or animal experiences something they wish to avoid that weakens the chances of their behavior of happening again. A few examples of positive punishment would be spanking, yelling, and physical shock. When is enough though? Spanking is thought to be an effective form of punishment in our society, but is it? Research says otherwise.

To set up a situation, lets have Betty be a young child, 3 years of age. Betty really wanted a piece of chocolate, but it was only 9 am, too early for candy. When Todd, her father, says she can't have candy this early, Betty throws a fit and calls her dad "stupid." Todd wants Betty to know that calling people names is not okay, so he gives her a few spankings and leaves her crying in her room until she calms down. Is Betty less likely to call her father names in the future?

Research shows that this type of "positive" punishment is ineffective and can have long-term psychological effects on the child, in this case, Betty. Some of these effects include aggression, antisocial behavior and mental health problems in the future [1]. This type of punishment is also said to conflict with learning how to deal with problems in an acceptable way. [2] Many more effects of this type of punishment are listed in these two articles.

Although "positive" punishment may have immediate results, the long-term affects of positive punishment are not worth the spankings. Todd in this situation needs to find other ways to punish Betty for calling him names. A form of "negative" punishment may be more effective although there may not be immediate results. In this case, taking away Betty's favorite toy would be a more effective and less harmful punishment than spanking. The following video gives other examples of effective punishment techniques that would be considered "negative" punishment; taking away something that the child wishes to experience to weaken the chances of that behavior happening again.


[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/09/health/a-new-look-at-effects-of-spanking.html

[2] http://www.naturalchild.org/jan_hunt/tenreasons.html

Latent Inhibition in Advertising

| No Comments

The concept of latent inhibition formally means, "difficulty in establishing classical conditioning to a conditioned stimulus we've repeatedly experienced... without the unconditioned stimulus"(Lilienfeld pg. 208). In other words, this means that if there is a stimulus that had little significance to us in the past then it will probably take more time for that stimulus to acquire more meaning compared to a brand new stimulus. This phenomena is basically saying it is hard to break norms that we have already known.

Perhaps this is a phenomena that can be applied to the Advertising world. Marketers come up with thousands of new advertisements and commercials throughout the year and each of them is pushing a single product. Specifically in commercials there is usually always background music that can become associated with the product being advertised. Because of Latent Inhibition, these songs are chosen instead of sounds that we hear every day, like the air conditioner, or even the flushing of a toilet. If these were sounds that were in the background, then it would be more difficult to become classically conditioned to the product. By choosing a perhaps more new and exciting song, or noise, the product is easier to become conditioned to.

Psychologists are found in any marketing agency and I think that this is especially important for consumers to be aware of. Psychologists know how people think and how they react. They know exactly how to get consumers to by the products they want them to. But by becoming aware of this fact, it is easier to distinguish what a commercial is actually trying to sell you and how.

Psychology on the Bus

| No Comments

The other day, I was riding the bus to school. There was a cute little girl with little pink sunglasses munching on some Cheezits. All of a sudden, I started to hear whimpers. I watched as she began to wrinkle her nose and jerk her arms-- sure sign of an impending temper-tantrum. Sure enough, she began to cry.

Normally, I would have rolled my eyes and tried not to stare. That day, however, her hissy-fit was a real-world example of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a learning technique developed by B.F. Skinner and Edward Thorndike. It relies on four basic principles: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. In this scenario, the mother used both negative punishment to alter the undesired behavior, and then positive reinforcement to encourage the altered behavior.

Crying Girl.jpg

Her mom first took away her crackers. Negative punishment. The little girl continued to cry. After ignoring her for a little while, her mom took away the shiny, pink, sparkly sunglasses the girl had been wearing. When she didn't get her beloved sunglasses back, the girl's cries began to wane. Within 5 minutes, the whole ordeal was over, and the little girl was sitting, a little bleary-eyed, next to her mother. Eventually, her mother put her arm around her daughter and returned the sunglasses. A little while later she gave back the Cheezits. In the end, operant conditioning had been used (most likely unknowingly) by a mother to remedy a frustrating situation.

Another example of operant conditioning comes from the television show, Big Bang Theory. In one episode, Sheldon uses chocolates as positive reinforcement to tweak Penny's idiosyncrasies. He also uses negative punishment on Leonard by squirting him with a water bottle, only adding to this comical example of an academic concept. You can watch clips from this episode by clicking on the link below:

Sheldon Trains Penny

All of this still left some questions unanswered for me. In both of these examples, only positive reinforcement and negative punishment were used. What about the other two principles? I can think of real-world examples for both PP and NR, but they are used decidedly less, especially NR. Why is that? Is it because PR and NP come more readily to mind, or is it because they are simply more effective?

Ultimately, I find operant conditioning fascinating. Four simple principles create a virtually limitless means of altering and teaching behavior, with both human and animal applications. This incredible versatility and applicability of operant conditioning is definitely what makes it such an important concept.

We've all heard of "I before E except after C", PEMDAS, and ROY G BIV. These are all examples of mnemonic devices. A mnemonic device is a learning aid, strategy, or device that helps you remember something. Some types of mnemonic devices include rhymes, pictures, graphs and even poems. I also included a link to an website which states the top ten most mnemonic devices and when I looked at them I realized I have learned most of them! Mnemonic devices rely on memory strategy's. They help people remember things more easily. There are different types of mnemonic devices like the Pegword method which is a rhyming method. Also there is the method of Loci which relies on the imagery of places. We can provide mnemonic devices to everyday things like remembering the colors of the rainbow or something as simple as what we need from the grocery store.

Mnemonic devices have worked in the past for me very well. I find it easier to remember a poem or a sentence rather than having to remember some bit of information all at once. Many mnemonic devices I have learned throughout my years in school. For example , PEMDAS which stands for parenthesis, exponents, multiply, division, addition,subtraction. This is a math operation I learned in middle school and I am still using it today.

This makes me wonder why teachers don't turn everything in mnemonic devices? This would mean that everything we would be learning in classrooms would be either in the form of rhyme , picture or maybe even a poem. I think that this would be a useful approach but it would also be a difficult approach.


Dr. Spencer Reid

| No Comments

One of my favorite shows on television right now is "Criminal Minds", a show which features the behavioral analysis unit at the FBI. This group of agents specializes in making psychological profiles of serial killers and helping to hunt them down. One of the characters on the show is Dr. Spencer Reid, a genius in his mid-twenties with amazing mental capabilities. To catch of glimpse of what Dr. Reid is like, here's a clip from the series premiere of the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qMKGuel6OQ

The kind of intelligence that Reid possesses is impressive, and it is a major factor in the show. However, there are also several discrepancies in it. Reid states in several episodes he does not have a photographic memory; rather, he claims to have an eidetic memory. He is able to recite back entire conversations word-for-word. It is stated in the above clip that he can read 20,000 words a minute (more on that later), but he can also remember everything he reads and discuss it with other people. However, our textbook defines eidetic memory as another name for "photographic memory." It strictly deals with iconic memory, and it is stated in the book that it is exceedingly rare in adults. But it is very clear that Reid has not only a remarkably impressive iconic memory, but also an impressive echoic memory. He attempts to use the word "eidetic" to account for both of these proficiencies, but in reality it is an incorrect term. His memory is quite remarkable, because it would appear as though he can commit almost any noise or image to long-term memory. Our iconic memory has an incredibly short duration (about half a second), so it is quite unbelievable that Reid is able to encode so many images into his long-term memory without much rehearsal. Reid also says he can read 20,000 words a minute. Our textbook states that the average college student reads 200-300 words a minute, so obviously Reid's capabilities are beyond the level of extreme. Studies have also determined that reading at 400 words a minute or more results in comprehension rates of less than 50 percent. However, it is obvious that Reid does not suffer from a decreased comprehension rate. In fact, his impressive iconic memory allows him to read huge amounts of text and spit back everything he has read.

It is clear that Reid does not have an exclusively eidetic memory as he so often states. Instead, it would appear as though he has an extremely strong iconic and echoic memory. In fact, it appears as though Reid's true gift is his incredible proficiency at encoding information into his long term memory. Reid's intelligence is obviously quite unbelievable, especially his ability to speed read, but it does make for good television and unfortunately, that's all that really matters.

Sleep and Memory

| No Comments

Sleep May Be Linked With Memory, Study Suggests

Sleep is a very important part of our everyday lives, but it might be even more important than we previously thought. According to researchers at Michigan State University sleep might improve the memories of some people (1). This possible finding was uncovered with a study of 250 people but has some very odd things about it. First, they do not know for sure how the sleep would help memory. Second, the memory might not be able to be proven with any intelligence or aptitude test. However, they believe that it is a different sort of memory that has to do with the brain processing information without awareness.
As we have learned in class memory has been a very puzzling thing for psychologists. It is generally said that the memory is composed of three different kinds of memory: the sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. There are also different sub groups within the main three memories. This is where I get a little confused. I see the three main memory groupings as standing very firm with the sub-groups as being much more iffy with some wiggle room for improvement. Is this new type of memory that they believe they have found a sub-group or a totally different kind of memory?
If this information is true its application to students would be incredible. Sleep is often lacking, especially with college students. This would mean that schedules and the general way of life would be altered to give more time to sleeping. If sleep can really bust the memory of people this would be a very important study to look into. That is why I feel as if there are still many holes in this study. The article did not say what areas of memory were enhanced along with how this information was measured. There have been many different studies about sleep and memory before and many of these studies have faltered to further research so I am quite skeptical at the moment.

(1) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/28/sleep-memory-linked_n_983902.html

Ruling out the Language Relativity Hypothesis?

| No Comments

Language Relativity is an interesting topic, but I think it may have a few holes. The idea that language has influence over the way we think is partly true, but it may be over estimated.

In my Multicultural Literature in the United States course that I am taking right now, we are studying Native American Literature briefly. Translated into Ojibwe, mother is "Mindimooye." When mindimooye is directly translated back into english, it means "the one who holds things together." This seems to be a supporter for Language Relativity, right? In my opinion, there are many questions left unanswered even still.

There is no doubt that Ojibwe culture is very different from standard American middle-class culture. In the same way, the languages are different. Yet how can we say that the language difference is the sole reason behind the difference between mother and "the one who holds all things together." Wouldn't it be simpler to say that culture shapes our thoughts even more than language? Can language be simplified to how we describe our culture or what is around us? It may for the difference between mother and "the one who holds all things together." Language, by the book definition, is an arbitrary system. Arbitrary means random, which makes it difficult to say that the way we think is completely random. When rather culture is a stronger substitute for how we make our thoughts.

Common Mistakes with Short Term Memory

| No Comments

Short term memory is what I use when I think about what I ate for breakfast this morning, who called me last night, and which pajamas I wore to bed. Short term memory is just all of my collected thoughts that occurred recently, right? Wrong.

Short term memory actually has a duration that lasts no longer than twenty seconds! It only retains information for a very limited time.

I don't think I'm the only one who has made this mistake. In fact, I asked 12 people to tell me what comes to their mind when they think of their short term memory - 4 of them mentioned their breakfasts and 2 others described events that took place hours prior to the present time! They were completely inaccurate, just like I initially was. All of them were pretty astounded with my explanation of their mistakes.

I told them all that short term memory is the second system for retaining information in our memories for brief periods of time. It represents our ability to hold onto information we're currently thinking about and processing through the first system of memory, iconic memory. I told them the duration of short term memory is only 5 to 20 seconds! It took a while for them to wrap their heads around that conclusion.

If, and only if we process our short term memories thoroughly, they make it to the third and final system of memory - long term memory. So when I think about it, what I ate for breakfast this morning, who called me last night, and which pajamas I wore to bed were more important events that I realized! Each one of these seemingly minute details in my day was actually encoded, processed, and stored in my memory.

Thinking about this made me realize how large our brain's capacities really are. Scientifically, there is no way to know how vast our memory storage is. The memory process in itself is pretty amazing to me.

Science of Sleep: Get more ZZZ... for a Better Grade?

| No Comments

Although there has not been a compromise on the reason why we need sleep, prior research believes that sleep help our body replenishes energy, balances our mood, and aids us in dealing with emotional stress, yet no research has found the direct correlation between sleep and better learning--until now. While spending some time searching about dream and the important of sleep, I came across an interesting article on Science Daily shows that maybe catching some ZZZs is a proactive way to enhancing learning ability. From what the article has explained, the researcher from the UC Berkeley has found evidence linking sleep spindles in non-REM sleep and regions of brain that focused on learning.

Unlike REM sleep which accounts most of the dreams we have experienced, the non-REM sleep are also important as well by making up more than half of our sleeping hours. The sleep spindles in non-REM sleep are low amplitude and high frequency waves and they can occur up to 1,000 times a night and happen most "frequently during the second half of the night"(ScienceDaily). Through electroencephalogram testes that measured the electrical activity of the brain, it shows that during NREM sleep, these sleep spindles travel back and forth from the areas of the hippocampus to the working memory of prefrontal cortex. What it means is that the electrical signals transfer the short-term memory from the hippocampus to the "hard-drive" of prefrontal cortex. If this is true, these sleep spindles can help one enhance their ability to learn by freeing up all the temporary data that is stored in the hippocampus. They also did a real-life experiment by taken 44 young adults and subjected them through variety of memorization tasks. In the end, the group that gets more sleep do better at memorization than the other group that awake throughout the experiment.

Because spindle-rich sleep happen during the second half of sleep, researchers believe that a well-rounded sleep is more important in learning. This study shows a new perspective on sleep and student's academic life. While we know that to do well on an exam we need to get some sleep to release the stress, this research shows that sleep also helps clear the path of our learning, refresh our memory capacity, as well as to consolidate our prior learning experiences.

work cited:
University of California - Berkeley (2011, March 8). As we sleep, speedy brain waves boost ou ability to learn. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110308124748.htm

The Critical Period

| No Comments

When does a person acquire a language? Are they genetically predisposed to speaking a certain language? For a long time, there were many people who thought that the language a person acquired was dependent upon their genetics. This theory has been replaced by the Critical Period Hypothesis. The idea of this hypothesis is that there is a critical period for developing a language. Children develop their understanding of syntax when they are at a very young age. Studies have shown that the critical period ends around seventeen years of age.
If a person tries to learn a language after the Critical Period, they become a second language learner. Some people believe that this stems from an imitation account. This account states that children merely imitate the sounds and syntax of a language in order to learn it. Another account states that children come into the world with some basic knowledge of how language works. Another account states that social pragmatics, or a persons social surroundings effect language learning.
I think that all three of these accounts have a great impact; the imitation account, the social pragmatics account, and the nativism account all account for a big portion of how a child develops their language as a native speaker. Children are around native speakers of certain languages all the time. When kids are acquiring their language, and babbling they are probably imitating those around them. The social surroundings effect they type of language a child learns a great deal, whether they are learning standard english, african american vernacular english, chinese, or clingon is all dictated by their surroundings. I don't think that any one of these accounts account for all of the factors that go into a childs language learning, but when they are combined, they do a very good job explaining the ways in which a child acquires a language.

Sleep Paralysis

| No Comments

I was intrigued by the paragraph about sleep paralysis which describes a phenomenon where a person will not be able to move when they just fell asleep or when they wake up suddenly. However, we now know that sleep paralysis is actually caused by our REM sleep which pretty much shuts down all muscle function while your brain remains very active so that you won't be able to act out the scenarios conjuring in your brain. The mechanism that actually momentarily stops all muscle functions is called REM atonia (aka REM sleep paralysis). Many have claimed to have hallucinations during sleep paralysis. There are two names for these hallucinations: hypnagogic hallucinations happens when you are sleeping and hypnopompic hallucinations happens when you have just awakened. Both are associated with supernatural claims.

Link: http://www.end-your-sleep-deprivation.com/sleep-paralysis.html

Sleep paralysis has earned itself a pretty infamous name in history. People have associated such paralysis to be the work of a demon, ghost, incubi and etc. In fact, this is a big part in my Vietnamese culture. We call it ma đè, which literally translates into "ghost" and "pushed down" or bóng đè which translates to "shadow" and "pushed down". I actually grew up thinking this was a fact for a very long time.

This hit pretty close to home since I actually suffered from sleep paralysis a lot when I was a child. I remember just lying awake in my room with the lights on and just being too afraid to close my eyes because I didn't want to see...something. I still remember pretty vividly my hallucinations. There was always something really dark on top of me, and I felt like I couldn't breathe or scream. I never saw an actual figure; it was just a big blob of blackness all around me and suffocating me. I know this sounds really creepy, and I'm actually really creeped out just writing about it, but that's what I remember. And of course, when you are six years old and just experienced something like that, it sticks with you for a very long time. My mother's explanation was that there was a ghost and a demon haunting my dreams and trying to kill me...which didn't really help. She said it probably had something to do with me doing something very bad in my past life and that a vengeful demon was trying to kill me...which again, didn't really help. I didn't want to sleep for a very long time. And even now, I still sleep with a nightlight on.

I don't really remember when I stopped being scared of going to sleep. Probably in my high school years when I really needed it. But, reading this just brought me back to that experience when I was young and the explanation that I was given. Of course, I don't blame my mom. I think my culture in general is VERY superstitious when it comes to these things so I'm not saying that it was my mother's fault. However, it did cement my thoughts about science and its uses.

When I read about sleep paralysis in Chapter Five, it really struck me how science is very much needed in our world to explain seemingly "unnatural" events that happen in our lives. Without science, we would just give in to our heuristics and biases to lead our lives without any real factual evidence to support it. I feel it is very important for us to gain new knowledge in our world so that we don't go down such a path. Honestly, science would have helped me by explaining why this was happening rather than just believing that I was being killed by a demon. I think when you explain something that "seems" supernatural and basically contradict it with hard evidence that science and research provides, we would not live our lives by such beliefs. And it is because of this that I think science is truly meant to confirm and reject our biases in order for us to understand our world.

Short & Long-term Memory

| No Comments

Noucheng Yang

This website does a very good job on summarizing how short and long-term memory functions. (HowStuffWorks, If link is not shown for any reason here it is again:http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/human-biology/human-memory2.htm)

This photo does a very good job in illustrating that memory cannot be stored anywhere specifically in the brain and cannot be erased specifically under any circumstances. The storage of memory is simply nowhere to be found.

How is memory stored? There are two types of memories in the complex human brain: short term memory and long term memory, The two types of memories are just processes of how memory is stored. In comparison you could compare the two to a computer and its two types of memory. The short term memory is the random access memory (RAM) in the computer in which it takes in occurring processes and executes then the data is not saved then it's forever forgotten if not saved. The long term memory can is basically the hard drive memory, and within the HDD it forever holds memory that is saved with an almost unlimited storage space (in GB,TB, etc.). Brain damages that affect how memory is stored and remembered also relates to how the memory is stored in the HDD, for instance if you damage the hard drive it can have a spasm in which files are lost or corrupted. Corrupted files may relate to how memory in the human brain is remembered and which parts are remembered, for example, someone may remember cues (included in the 5 human senses) of a scene but forget what the actual scene was. Vice versa the subject may remember the actual scene but nothing that led up to the scene emotionally. This phenomenon of how memory is cognitive based in my opinion, as all the sensory receptors send messages to the brain and it processes all the information. I think that the way memory is stored is quite amazing as there are techniques and multiple ways of remember, some are unintentional and many are intentional which are like specific files that we store in our memory bank (not yet defined where this bank is).
Psychologists can further the processes of memory in the brain by making connections to Computer science engineers and how they should build computer memory so that unnecessary memory is erased permanently. Although memory isn't erasable in the human brain we can use the advantages of technology to elaborate on how memory is stored and compare it to how it's stored in the brain to have different perspectives on how complex the brain really is.


Just Keep Swimming

| No Comments

In the movie, Finding Nemo, Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), a timid clownfish who lives on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, sets off in search of his son, Nemo. He's accompanied by Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), a blue tang fish who suffers from "short-term memory loss."
As Marlin and Dory go in search of Nemo, Dory encounters multiple sets of information that she cannot seem to remember.

In this clip, Dory has just met Marlin and quickly forgets meeting him or what that she was leading him to find a boat. While she does experience some memory loss, this is not a completely accurate movie because as the movie continues Dory begins to remember information such as who Marlin is or the fact that they are on a mission to find Marlin's son. In a patient with complete short term memory loss, they would not be able to learn new information like Dory.
While she does begin to remember some things, there are at least two instances where Dory shows that she has implicit, if not explicit, long-term memory. At one point on their journey, Dory is cautioned to go through a trench, not over it. Dory forgets this information, of course, but when they finally get to the trench she has the intuitive feeling that they should go through, not over. Marlin overrules her, and they encounter a school of jellyfish. The incident is reminiscent of Claparede's patient (http://www.fearexhibit.org/brain/memory/claparedes_pinprick_experiment), who forgets the experience but retained the knowledge that "Sometimes people hide pins in their hands". (Claparede pictured below)

Later in the movie, when Dory finally encounters Nemo, she has of course forgotten all about him. When she asks his name, he replies "Nemo", and she comments that "That's a nice name". When she asks his name, he replies "Nemo", and she comments that "That's a nice name". The incident is reminiscent of demonstrations by Johnson, Damasio, and others, that amnesic patients can acquire preferences through what Zajonc has called the mere exposure effect (http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/mere_exposure.htm), even though they don't remember the exposures.
All things considered, Dory is portrayed in an only somewhat accurate light. Although the research of Clarapede, Zajonc and others does show that memory in the form of intuitions can be gained by patients with memory loss, Dory shows conscious changes in memory and learns much too quickly for a real memory loss patient. Although at times she behaves much like H.M. (who we learned about in class) at others she picks up information quickly and is able to use it later on. This is especially prevalent in the latter half of the movie.

Twin and Bilingual?

| No Comments


While reading Psychology From Inquiry to Understanding, students are probably skimming the text and agreeing with everything that Scott Lilienfeld writes, but what happens when you hit upon a passage that you disagree with? For instance, Scott Lilienfeld states that bilingual children experience delay in each of their language relative to their monolingual counterparts, and he also states that twins render their speech largely incomprehensible to everyone else. So what if you are bilingual and a twin? Does that mean that you will suffer a massive delay in language comprehension?
The way that Scott Lilienfeld used his word choice to describe bilingualism such as "experience delay," "syntax is more affected," and "popular claims that children are slowed down in cognitive development" seemed like he was hinting that being bilingual will harm a child rather than help him or her at a young age. Yet, one of my friends was taught Russian by her parents and taught English outside of her house; thus, she didn't have any hindrance or delay but instead was more active and developed in language than her monolingual peers. Furthermore, Scott Lilienfeld explains that the dominate language is usually the first language that the child heard most often. Personally, I never heard the English language until I was seven years old; yet, English is my dominate language. I believe that language is not something that can have a direct explanation, because there are always other rival hypotheses that play a role in the development.
To continue, I'm a twin and I've learned my second language at age seven; yet, my language capability was never worse than the language of my peers who were neither a twin nor bilingual. Also, Scott Lilienfeld states that twins develop a secret language to simply attempt to use their native language, but don't all kids develop their language? Is a secret language considered as a twin pointing at an object that they want for the other twin to get it for them? All kids interact with each other with their own language; thus, twins should not be characterized as the only once that possess their own language. This makes me wonder how research on twins and language was completed. Is the research on twins as accurate as Scott Lilienfeld directs it to be?

Implanting False Memories

| No Comments

Something we discussed this past week is how our memory doesn't always serve us correctly, and how consciously we aren't even aware this. Our brain is capable of remembering things that maybe didn't happen and we rarely notice this glitch in the system. Most people would assume that false memories would not assist science in any way of research, but it turns out using suggestive memory techniques are used more often then we think.
Suggestive memory techniques are procedures that encourage people to recall things that never happened. For example, as we discussed in class just by changing a word from hit to smashed in a story of a car accident, the people who heard smashed claimed they saw broken glass in the picture when there wasn't any. Now is this considered lying? Or how does one determine if it was intended as a lie or just "miss-remembered." The article here http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/Articles/sciam.htm demonstrates examples of how this suggestive memory technique is used and how false memories occur.
I personally wonder how in certain court instances one is able to decipher lies form these incorrect memories. And also if a lawyer is trained well enough, could they convince someone innocent into pleading themselves guilty just by manipulating memories? That is a scary thought, since there is no exact way to protect a person from this happening to them. For reasons listed above it is undeniable the power of our mind and memories. However, if this technique can be used for the negative couldn't it also be applicable for the positive. Potentially helping a patient suffering from childhood abuse or something related, could implanting other memories help heal those wounds? Looking at all the wonders our memories serve I couldn't put it past science to find a way. I only hope the positive is more prevalent than the negative in this situation. Elizabeth Loftus in the video below explains the process of implanting these memories.

Mnemonic Devices

| No Comments

A mnemonic device is a learning aid that enhances memory. These devices are often verbal. The most often seen mnemonic devices include alliteration, acronym, rhymes, groups, numbers, pictures, poems and jingles.These are common because many of these methods have a rhyme scheme or name attached that helps a person memorize things easily. An example of one of the most common mnemonic devices is one for remembering the colors of the rainbow in order. It's remembered by the saying ROY G BIV. Mnemonic devices are commonly taught in classrooms and developed by students as ways to remember things for tests.

I think that these techniques are very important for people to use and to know about because they can have a big impact on whether or not one will remember the subject. I also think that students that use this technique would perform much better on tests and quizzes where they need to memorize steps to a problem or a certain set of data.

So why do mnemonics work? I think it's because they are able to provide structure, but they still require the need to study and practice. I use mnemonics for a lot of my tests that I take because I feel that in many cases I am able to take things that when memorizing them as they are shown is rather chaotic, but when I can make a sentence with the first letter of each word being the same as the things I need to memorize, or make a rhyme to remember a sequence of words, it's much easier for me to remember them all. Other reasons I think that this is able to work is because it goes along with the Method of Loci. The Method of Loci is where things are matched with a visual picture that gives it more meaning. When memories are needed to be recalled, the visual memory is brought up, and it's easier to remember whatever it had been associated with.


The 10% Myth

| No Comments


The 10% myth is a widely heard of myth that we only use about 10% of our brain. This makes sense to us because what else explains all of our short comings? Why can't all of us recite pi to a couple thousand places? According to Robynne Boyd in his article "Do People Really Only Use 10 Percent Of Their Brains?" (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=people-only-use-10-percent-of-brain) this myth can best be traced back to the well-known psychologist William James. James claimed that, "We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources," in his work The Energies Of Men.
While this may be true evidence shows that we use all of our brains over about a 24 hour time period (John Henley, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN). While we're not using all of our brain at the same time, each part in our brain has to do with a specific function.
However, every once in a while television gets it right like in the show Kyle XY. In the pilot episode of Kyle XY Kyle, the main character who shows signs of being a sort of super genius, gets taken in for an MRI scan. The scanner shows about 70% of Kyle's brain flaring in electric activity and the doctors think that the machine must be in need of calibration. They explain that an average person will use about 7% of his or brain at any given time and that if someone were to use 70% they would be prone to a multitude of risks such as seizures, strokes, and tumors.
Ultimately, we cannot blame our mental short comings on only being able to use a small portion of our brain at any given time. We have to remember that this is a defense mechanism that keeps us safe from medical injuries.

Andrew Otto

Mary Kate and Ashely Olson say what?

| No Comments

Cryptophasia, the phenomenon of twins having their own language or is it a psychology myth? From the moment of conception twins are together, relying on each other in ways that are not noticeable to others. Twins understand each other in different ways and communicate in diverse ways leading people to believe that twins do have their own language.
As amazing as creating a new language is, from what I learned in my psychology book, languages have different morphemes and phonemes that make it unique. That would be pretty hard to conquer for young children to achieve that. They may understand it, but others do not.
Instead of twins creating a whole new language, I believe it comes down to the bond they have developed and how well they read one another. Being together for their whole life, an everlasting bond is something that cannot be broken. When you are with someone for that long, a new type of language is created, it is called body language. It is a language that is more discrete and different for many people. Body language is observing peoples movements to help understand them.
In the Youtube video, "talking twin babies" the two babies are repeatedly making the same noise, but watch their bodies. They use body movements with hands and feet to communicate. As a watcher of this video, translating their conversation is difficult next to impossible to understand, but to the twins they are having a lovely conversation next to the fridge.

Speed Dating

| No Comments


Ever laughed at the idea of speed dating, and thought there is no way it could work. Well research provides some evidence that people are fairly good at making personality judgments based off of a quick interaction. Although cognitive economy doesn't always steer us in the right direction, the idea of "thin slicing" has shown to be fairly accurate. Researchers Nialini Ambady and Robery Rosenthal put together the term "thin slicing", after conducting a few studies, to define people's ability to make judgments based off of small glimpses of behavior.

Also in the article, 'Thin Slices' of Life, by Lea Winerman other researchers replicated the results of Ambady and Rosenthal. One example is research from psychologist Dave Kenny, a PhD at the University of Connecticut. He examined the accuracy of first impressions and how they compared to actual personality of an individual. In his study he surprisingly found that peoples first impressions of strangers was strongly correlated with individuals' personalities. People were able to accurately decide whether someone was an extrovert or an introvert as well as other traits like intellect and calmness.

Although most of us don't participate in speed dating, every freshman at the U of M is required to partake in welcome week. Yes, its clearly different from speed dating, but people still use the idea of "thin slicing" to make friends. We use our intuition and first impressions everyday of our lives to make personality judgments of those around us. Most of the time we are right, however don't become imprisoned by your first impressions, you may be surprised about someone.

'Thin Slices' of Life.pdf

Language, Justified(?) Rascism, and Bilinguals

| No Comments

In lecture, one concept we covered was the relationship between language and how individuals perceive the world. Basically, despite the fact that all our brains in theory have similar layouts where each structure carries out a specific task (unless injury and plasticity create an exception), the efficiently with which we use our mental resources is essentially defined by the language in which we encode our thoughts.

Initially this reminded me of this article I read that claimed the stereotype that "Asians are good at math" is scientifically justified because mathematical language is more straightforward in Asian languages. There is an initial learning curve for counting, but even after that it takes less time to learn new concepts because they explain themselves. For example, For fractions, we say three-fifths. The Chinese is literally 'out of five parts, take three.'

I found another article asserting that people who think in languages that have not yet established a system of communicating location have trouble relocating hidden objects.

I have to wonder if this makes the education system here inherently racist. Sure you can in theory learn everything if you study more, but how does that work if you're learning in one language and thinking in a fundamentally different language? I'd like to see a person who speaks Nicaraguan Sign Language take PSY 1001 (online with subtitles) and see if any amount of extra studying can make up for the underdeveloped mental language. Also, I wonder how the U selects international students. What test do they take? My choices were the ACT and the SAT, but I believe those are designed with English speakers in mind. Maybe the IB program or someone similar set up a test to be "internationally equal" that the U could use, but I have to wonder if its possiblt to do that fairly.

Finally, I have to wonder how true bilinguals work. Not people who know 2 languages, but people who are actually fluent enough to think in both. Do they think in the one they learned first because that's how their brain is wired? More likely they switch between the two based on what language they're working in at the moment, but what if they're learning a third language? Or what if they're working in one language, but the other is inherently more efficient for the current task?

Memento and Amnesia

| No Comments

In the 2000 movie Memento, many psychological arguments are presented. One of which is the comparison between Lenny and Sammy Jenkins, who both have been diagnosed with anterograde amnesia. Anterograde amnesia is the condition of being unable to form new memories. Both men can remember life before their accidents; Sammy can even allegedly remember how to give his wife insulin, something that would be impossible for him to learn after his accident. To test whether or not Sammy's problem was physical, he was subjected to a series of tests in which he had to pick up objects, and each time, the same object would shock him. (Sammy's story is summed up in the video) In theory, Sammy should have learned through classical conditioning, instinctually, to no longer pick up that object. Anterograde amnesia affects explicit memory; its sufferers are unable to make memories about events in their own lives or about the world around them. However, their ability to make implicit memories, that is, things we don't have to try and remember; instincts, should still be intact. In theory, Sammy should have learned through classical conditioning not to pick up the object that shocked him, but each time he received a shock he appeared as surprised and, well, shocked as he had the first time. In the movie, the investigators determined that Sammy's problem was due to psychological problems, not merely to the damage to his hippocampus. This depiction seems very accurate when cross-referenced with what we "know" in psychology. Sammy was unable to encode information into his long-term memory; therefore he preferred commercials to TV shows because he could follow along. Yet on a psychological level of analysis, he should have been able to demonstrate classical conditioning, as his implicit memory would have still been intact. The only potential flaw I can seem to find in the psychology of the movie is Lenny's "false memories." He remembers pinching his wife's thigh, but someone else plants the memory that he was giving her a shot. My question is, how would that implanted memory stay with him if he was no longer able to form new memories? According to the psychological analysis of the rest of the movie, shouldn't have he been unable to hold onto any new memories? Food for thought, people.

Rapid Eye Movement Behavior Disorder

| No Comments

REM Behavior Disorder

In the chapters that we recently read, we learned about rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). We learned that NREM is divided into four stages and vivid dreams occur during REM. During REM stage, breathing is irregular, blood pressure rise, and there is a loss of muscle tone.

Rapid eye movement behavior disorder (RBD) is a disorder that occurs during REM stage. Paralysis that usually occurs during REM sleep is incomplete or absent, allowing people to "act out" their dreams. The characteristic of dreams that qualified for being REM Behavior disorder are action that may be intense, vivid, and violent. Talking, yelling, punching, kicking, sitting, jumping from bed, arm flailing, and grabbing are some of dream-enacting behaviors.

RBD is a type of parasomnia, which is a condition that occurs during sleep and creates a disruptive event. It is similar to other sleep disorders that involve motor activity, such as sleepwalking and periodic limb movement disorder.

The cause of RBD is unknown, although it may occur in association with various degenerative neurological conditions such as Parkinson Disease and multisystem atrophy.

The fact that a person who do have RBD act out violent and intense behavior, it will be safe for their partner to move dangerous objects out of reach. Also people that have RBD do injured themselves without knowing so it would be helpful to move furniture in the bedroom out of the way so they have least chance of running into them and getting hurt.

There are medications that are available for people with RBD. Clonazepam is known to be highly effective in the treatment of RBD. It is known to work in the first night that the mediations are taken or most likely show progress in a week. Other medications such as antidepressant can be effective of RBD, depending on the person.

Here is a video clip of how people with REM behavior disorder act during their sleep.


Retrograde amnesia

| No Comments

Imagine not being able to remember specific memories of your childhood, graduating from high school, your first day at the U of M, or even yesterdays events. For many individuals who suffer from retrograde amnesia this is their reality. Retrograde amnesia is one of the most common types of amnesia second to anterograde amnesia. Retrograde amnesia is a result of damaged brain regions such as the hippocampus and the temporal lobes, which are mostly associated with episodic and declarative memory. Episodic memory is the recollection of events in our lives, and that is why people who suffer from retrograde amnesia loose some of these memories. A common misconception is that memory recovery is sudden and instantaneous, however, recovery from retrograde amnesia is often very gradual, if at all. Retrograde amnesia is important because it is a known effect of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's, as of right now is an incurable disease that last anywhere from three to twenty years. Personally, Alzheimer's disease is important because it was something my family had to deal with. My great grandma was a victim of this terrible disease; we would visit her periodically but as time progressed and by the end of our visits she didn't even know who we were. The worst part was towards the end of her life she no longer recognized my grandpa, her own son. It was saddening to see the memory of her life slowly fade, hopefully when day we will be able to reduce the memory lose from this disease. This video describes how Alzheimer's works and how it effects the hippocampus and memory. After researching retrograde amnesia I am still left wondering what determines which memories are going to be forgotten even if memories are spread throughout many cells and synapses?

Critical Periods for Learning

| No Comments

The textbook, in chapter 8, described what they called critical periods for learning language. A study was conducted in which adults who had immigrated to the United States were tested on their English grammar skills. The test subjects who were tested immigrated at various ages, so as to test whether being exposed to English at certain ages has an effect on proficiency and retention. The results showed that for the subjects who were exposed to the language between the ages of 1 and 7 had skills similar to someone who was born in the United States. After 7 years of age, the English skills steadily drop with age increase. This shows evidence for a critical period for learning a language between ages 1 and 7. Another application presented in the book was that of deaf children who received cochlear implants. Studies showed that younger children were able to develop better language skills than were older children. Yet another study was the study of the young girl Genie, who was locked in a dark room with no human interaction or language development whatsoever. This horrible abuse was not discovered until she was an adolescent, and by then it was tough for her to develop any language skills. I think that these studies are fairly good evidence that a critical period for learning language does exist, but like the book states, it is unclear that the period is strictly between ages 1 and 7, but that those ages have tested very well. The text talks about sensitive periods, which are periods where the human mind could be considered more malleable, or able to acquire language easier, which I think is also a good argument.

out of body experience

| No Comments

A psychological phenomenon that is often talked about but not always fully understood is an out of body experience, which is characterized by the sense of consciousness leaving our body. Many movies and television shows have embraced this phenomenon and incorporated it into the plot. One example of a television show doing this is Hannah Montana. The episode is about Miley getting into an accident and ending up in the hospital. Her out of body experience consists of her feeling as if she was in the room where she can see everything and hear what everyone is saying. Even though her body is truly on the hospital bed, she perceived herself as near her friends. This can be categorized as an out of body experience, because she really was not truly in the room. In this case Miley was not hovering over her body, but she was standing right next to it examining what everyone was doing in the room. The writers in this case had a good basic understanding of the out of body experience. Because this is a children's show they may not have been able to show parts of the experiences that include hallucinations and vivid fantasies. Honestly the writers couldn't make it too eerie or scary, however they could have incorporated lucid dreaming into the episode to make it more real and believable.

The Circadian Rhythm and Sleep in Psychology

| No Comments

The circadian rhythm is the daily cycle of being awake and asleep. It refers to the changes of biological processes in the body on a 24- hour basis. These biological processes include body temperature, release of hormones, and brain waves. When most people hear circadian rhythm, they generally think it applies to biology. They are not wrong in thinking this, but they overlook the importance the circadian rhythm has from a psychological standpoint.
During the sleep cycle of the circadian rhythm, the body resets itself. Sleep is a way for the body to recharge and get energy needed to perform the daily activities the next day. Many psychologists have suggested that sleep plays an important role in the consolidation of memory. I think that this is an important theory. The neurons in the brain are always conducting electrical impulses and are constantly sending information to the brain. While we are awake, there is much going on in the brain. The brain is constantly sending impulses and receiving impulses everywhere from our internal and external world. When we sleep, are body, for the most part, is inactive. The brain is not taking in nearly as many impulses as it did while being awake. This means that the brain is relatively quiet, and can focus on converting short- term memory into long- term memory. The brain is not taking in a lot of information, which means that the brain can focus on memory consolidation. In an article by Lisa Marshall, a professor at the University of Lübeck, Germany, she reviews evidence that suggests sleep enhances the encoding and consolidation of memories that occurs in the hippocampus.
There is only evidence that sleep plays a key role in memory consolidation. Because of this, the above ideas are in theory and further testing of what goes on from a neurological standpoint is needed. One possible way of testing this would be to measure the electrical activity in the brain while someone is asleep. However, with this testing idea it would still be difficult to tell if memory consolidation is effected by sleep.

Real Life Inception

| No Comments

Nearly everyone has seen Inception. When the movie came out in 2010, it was the talk of the entertainment world. It held such an original idea of using dreams within dreams within dreams to plant an idea in someone's head. What most people don't realize is that this idea isn't as futuristic as we expected. Obviously we aren't using hacking into each others' dreams, but inception in its truest form could be among us soon. In the article, "Product Placements on Social Media Sites Will 'Hack' into Your Memory" (2010) by Stuart Fox of TechNewsDaily.com, he explains how social networking sites like Facebook plan to start "Photoshopping product placement into personal pictures" of users. These ads will in turn implant commercials into your mind, affecting things such as brand loyalty.

Work has already been done by Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California, Irvine. She actually been able to make people willing to pay 20% less for a Disney toy by planting the idea in their brain that they had a bad experience with Pluto the dog as a child.

So how does this work? With the photo-inception, the subjects see a picture of themselves or friends. That photo subsequently contains the ad for whatever product. By relating a photo of yourself to that product, your mind will create false memories that you used that product and enjoyed it. And in the case of Loftus' work, she used text and spoken word to plant these memories. Often, this is accomplished by techniques like suggesting the opposite. David Schneider's "White Bear" study planted the idea of a white bear in participants' thoughts by telling them specifically not to think about a white bear. Loftus' work was more subtle, but applied similar techniques.

So it seems that inception is mainly used for negative reasons. My question is: Why not use it for something positive? At the end of the article, they briefly mention that it could be used for weight loss. By placing a person's face on a picture of a thinner person, and relating that thinness to a better diet, it could potentially make the person eat better and lose weight. I believe this should be used for educational purposes. Many children today simply don't want to study because they don't think it's cool or worth their time, and they would rather do something fun. So why not find a way to get kids to see the rewards of being smart and trying in school? Even college students could benefit from a little positive reinforcement to study every now and then.




The Complexity of Animal Communication

| No Comments

Humans communicate in multiple ways, how do animals differ? Well the obvious differences are that animals don't talk like we do, but do they have a language of vocal sounds? Do animals communicate through visual cues such as eye contact? Touch? Smell? It turns out that animals communicate through all of these systems, just as humans do.

The Lilienfeld text briefly describes nonhuman communication in that animals mostly communicate for two reasons: sex and aggression. Chimpanzees make many vocal and visual actions to convey their anger. To mate, they literally expose their genitals to invite a mate over. The text also describes that animals will create very interesting and complex communication to inform of location of food sources or signal near predators.


Upon reading about these few types of communication, I wondered what other kinds of communication different animals used because each species is so different. I wondered if different species could communicate with each other, if there were universal consistencies between species. As I "Googled" how do animals communicate, I found this NatureWorks website where I found a plethora of animal communication info as well as examples. Visually, animals communicate 2 ways; badges and displays. A badge is a structural adaption such as the antlers of a white-tailed deer. The bigger the antlers, the more powerful the deer appears to be. Examples of a display is when a wolf shows its teeth, stare, and raise their fur, they are showing their dominance. The website goes on to thoroughly describe auditory communications, such as echolocation in dolphins, tactile communication, and chemical communication.


Can the power of love cure amnesia?

| No Comments


The humorous and heart-wrenching film 50 First Dates proposes the thought-provoking question: Can love cure amnesia? After the main character, Lucy Whitmore, (Drew Barrymore) got into a car crash, she could not remember anything that happened after the car crash. She woke up every morning thinking it was the Sunday of her accident. Adam Sandler's character, Henry Roth, made Lucy fall in love with him everyday and soon became convinced that the love that they shared for each was going to cure her amnesia.

Doctors told Lucy that she suffered from Goldfield's Syndrome. Although this type of disease doesn't exist, Barrymore's character showed signs of anterograde amnesia, in which someone loses the ability to form new memories. Despite the wrong name of the disease, the film didn't depict the disease wrongfully. In many films, characters with amnesia suddenly remember past experiences or have "aha-moments." Barrymore's character never had an epiphany moment and continued to wake up thinking nothing had happened. (Sorry for spoiling the ending if you've never seen it!) Those that suffer from amnesia have an extremely gradual recovery, if they have any recovery at all.

Without previous knowledge about amnesia, I, too, believed the myths about amnesia. Especially after seeing movies that improperly demonstrate amnesia, I thought that one suffering from amnesia could recover, not necessarily suddenly, though. How would one go about recovering? Perhaps revisiting memories like looking at pictures or watching home videos. If a person suffering from retrograde amnesia sees pictures from past experiences what does he or she think? Does he or she have simply no recollection whatsoever? Does it spark any remembrance of the event? It's so hard to believe that someone could see himself or herself participating in some sort of event and still not have any memory of it. When a part of the brain is damaged, it seems like it would be equivalent to breaking a bone in the body. Major damaging would take longer to recover, but does have the ability to recover, while a minor damage would be able to "bounce back" quicker. It seems like this may be why there are many myths about amnesia, at least in my mind.

The power of reinforcements

| No Comments

Known as a prevalent training method in psychology lab, operant conditioning also serves as an effective technique to shape behaviors in the real world. Compared with the punishment, which will make people feel disappointed and stressful, reinforcement is a better choice for people for three reasons. First, reinforcements can let people know what the correct way to behave is. Punishments only make people realize that they have made mistakes but not provide them the correct methods. In contrast, reinforcements encourage people to repeat the previous right actions and finally, people are able to achieve their goals. Just like the process of teaching the parrots to play ping-pong. They got food as a reward when the ball fell from the competitor's side. In this case, both of the parrots prevented the ball from falling. As time increased, they learned how to play ping-pong. Second, reinforcements can not only increase the incident of the right actions that people have already made, but also stimulate people to come up with new correct methods by themselves. Take the video as an example, Sheldon used the chocolate as a positive reinforcement to encourage Penny to behave in the way that he thought was right. Influenced by the previous consequences, Penny unconsciously pushed herself to adapt to Sheldon's way. Penny went outside to answer the phone when she found Sheldon was unhappy about that without being taught to do it. Instead of being forced to learn, people tend to change themselves to get closer to the goal spontaneously. What's more, because people have the initial eager of complements, they would correct themselves as soon as possible to get rewards, which will also make the learning process much shorter. Life abounds examples. If children have accomplished a work successfully and been praised by someone, they would be eager to show their work to others to earn more complements. All in all, reinforcement is a useful tool to improve the efficiency and result of the training process.


| No Comments

The reading in Lilenfield chapter 9 identified many examples, myths, and misconceptions that I was able to connect to some of my thoughts about hypnosis. Hypnosis has been around for over two centuries and is labeled as a method performed by hypnotists that alter one's perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I think that there is a large range of suggestibility of those who are hypnotized, different than the following statistic presented "... a person who responds to six out of 12 suggestions without being hypnotized might respond to seven or eight after hypnosis."

I have had one actual experience with hypnosis as a spectator at my high school. It was a stage performance in which the hypnotist used a quick induction method to determine who was most suggestible to be hypnotized. The things that my classmates performed and said were crazy, most of which they would have thought twice of in real life. One of the most drastic changes was in one of our star football players, who acted like a nerd and became completely vulnerable in front of everyone. The results of this hypnosis seem to contradict my reading and research, because many of the things that my classmates did, they would have never done in real life.

One's suggestibility to hypnosis is the way in which they respond to hypnotizing process. The reason that some of my classmates acted so wildly, was because they had a high suggestibility to hypnosis whereas when the hypnotist was performing her induction method, I felt nothing at all, therefore I must have a lower suggestibility. A lower suggestibility results in fewer responds to hypnosis than a high suggestibility. I'm not sure for the reasoning behind this, but I believe that it has a lot to do with one's beliefs, and in order to be hypnotized, they must believe that hypnosis is real and they are able to be affected by it. I think that hypnosis is real for the most part, but I don't believe myself to be susceptible to the practice- which is could be why I didn't respond to the hypnotist.


"An Early Bedtime Might Keep Teens Fit" by Meredith Melnick points out how teens with an earlier bedtime and who awoke earlier spent more time in their day staying active and performing non-sedentary acts. The study in Australia involved 2,200 teens. It measured their sleeping habits, weight, and use of free time.
One factor brought up within the article is the amount of time overweight teens spend in front of the television and at what times. The overweight children were watching television late at night before attempting to go to bed. In our textbook, it is recommended for those who suffer from insomnia, or any sleep condition, to not watch television or surf the Internet before bed.
Using the critical thinking step of ruling out rival hypothesis, I think that the lurking variable (that was addresses within the article) of how they are spending the time before they are going to bed is effecting the amount of good, uninterrupted sleep they are getting throughout the night.
While a solution to the problem of daily habits may be going to bed at an earlier time, I also feel that the time is less important then what the teenager has done in those minutes before bed. Overweight and obese teens are more likely to plop in front of the couch before bed and watch for a few hours. Encourage teens to go on a walk instead, let them calm their minds and then go to bed, hopefully waking up rested, no matter what time it is at.

Time Magazine- 2011: http://healthland.time.com/2011/10/05/study-an-early-bedtime-may-help-keep-teens-fit/

Is Dr. Dolittle Valid?

| No Comments

Dr. Dolittle may have been able to communicate with animals in the series of movies, but unfortunately, reality and science states that humans are far from being able to communicate with animals with literal conversations. Even though there have been attempts at communication between animals and humans, animals have less brain capacity and have their own communication styles between their species. However, it is possible to communicate in different styles between certain animals and humans.
In the Lilienfeld text, the paragraph about "how animals communicate" and "teaching human language to nonhuman animals" are interesting and factual; the book states that animals mainly communicate for mating and aggression. This may be true for animals in the wild, but from my experience and the experiences of humans and their pets, they have communicated in some way with their pet. No, this was not like Dr. Dolittle and his daughter that had full conversations with animals, but through affection and playfulness, animals (pets especially) can communicate with their owners. For example, in a video about animal communication (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEK1cWVjaRE), Marta Williams, a previous scientist and current author of animal communication, states that animals and humans can communicate intuitively, which is based on what one feels or thinks without conscious reasoning. She claims that animals can communicate with their environments and they then can convey that to their owners or other humans with their body language. Since animals communicate with others in their own species through body language, this makes sense. Based on humans' ability to translate body language in their own minds, we can then understand what out pet is saying; if our pet snuggles close to us, they may be feeling insecure of their surroundings or affectionate; if the animal goes towards the door of the house, they may need to go to the bathroom. These are the simple, but effective ways that animals communicate with humans.
In an article (http://pandora.cii.wwu.edu/vajda/ling201/test1materials/animal_communication.htm) from Edward Vajda from Western Washington University, he states "animal systems are set responses to stimuli. Animal communication ... is used to express something immediately present... The signs of animal communication are used as indexes... Animal communication systems are not unlike the repertoire of sounds of a twelve-month-old infant, who has a way of conveying interest in something immediately present, or conveying emotional responses. " This article included many examples of the simplicity of the animal brain and how the human brain differs, thus making it near impossible for humans to have direct verbal communication with animals. However, from peoples' experiences and from Marta Williams evidence, it is possible to communicate with animals and pets through body language.
Even though animal communication is not complex, humans can understand the animals' needs and wishes. Even though humans may not be able to speak directly and verbally with animals, animals still understand humans' actions and humans understand animals' body language.

Memory Erasure

| No Comments

Wouldn't it be great if we could simply forget certain things, if we could just wipe them right out of our memories? A bad breakup perhaps, or just an incredibly embarrassing moment that we all wish we didn't remember. I know I certainly have a few things I wouldn't mind forgetting, which is why the concept of memory erasure is pretty intriguing. It also relates to one of my favorite movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

In this movie, a disasterous couple decides that they want to have their memory completely erased of each other, using the services of an organization called Laguna, Inc. In the movie, getting parts of one's memory erased is no more serious than getting a nose job. While technology today is not able to selectively erase memories, Eternal Sunshine gives a pretty accurate portrayal of how the brain and memories work. There's no real scientific babble, but it is very knowledgeable of how memories are formed, particularly ones stemming from an emotional event. As we know, two major areas of the brain are active in memory: the hippocampus and the amygdala. The amygdala is used especially in intensely emotional memories, and if it is left intact even if the hippocampus is damaged, people are able to subconsciously form memories. This is explored in Eternal Sunshine as Clementine, played by Kate Winslet, seems to have a sliver of an emotional memory from an event that was removed from her brain.

The process of having memories erased in the movie follows the reconsolidation theory, in which specific memories of whatever one is trying to forget are brought to mind, and attempted to be put into one's long term memory. Although it is not discussed in the movie, what is probably happening to cause this memory erasure is that the protein synthesis is being blocked by some drug as the memories are being recalled, effectively erasing them.

Although this is not yet possible in today's world, there are some similar experiments that attempt to mirror the effects. In our psychology book, it discusses a drug called propranolol, which blocks the effects of adrenaline on beta-adrenergic receptors. This drug dulled the recall of traumatic events in the subjects who received it. So people recalling a horrific car accident would show no more emotion than if they were describing the weather outside. This pill only blunted the effects of the memories; it did not erase them entirely.

All of these studies bring a certain ethical awareness with them. Should we be able to erase our memories? Most believe that they learn from their mistakes, and if we took our recollection of ever making mistakes away, where would we end up?

More on the reconsolidation theory: http://learnmem.cshlp.org/content/13/5/536.full

Here's an article of a Harvard Study that attempted to make their own memory erasing drug: http://www.livescience.com/7315-drug-deletes-bad-memories.html

And, of course, a commercial for the fictional Laguna, Inc: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Meam4ixHR3s

Plagiarism and Inception

| No Comments

Day-to-day, our memories can retain astonishing amounts of information. However, our memories can completely fail us in several ways. For instance, have you ever told someone a clever joke you came up with but only to realize you learned the joke from them? Besides being a pretty awkward moment, this is an example of a phenomenon called cryptomnesia. It happens when we don't realize one of our ideas was from another source. Just like the movie Inception, it's truly possible to plant an idea in a person's mind when they're completely oblivious to the fact.

Ranging from college papers to newly released songs, plagiarism might result because of cryptomnesia. Let's take Beyonce as an example. In her recently released video of "Countdown", she has been accused of stealing some dance moves from a Belgian choreography named Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Queen B responded by saying, "My makeup artist showed me the performance of Lorella Cuccarini a year ago, and it inspired me so much". Inspiration or not, it's a possibility that Beyonce and her team blocked out the fact that their choreography was exactly like the original. Perhaps their memory of the performance became fuzzy and distorted because they were bombarded with numerous ideas throughout the year.

As one of the most famous singers of our generation, you would expect Beyonce to check her sources before releasing anything to the press. Yet, it seems like anyone can fall victim to unintended plagiarism. Maybe unintended plagiarism is an adaptive behavior resulting from our addiction to constant progress in our society. In a way, plagiarism caused by our faulty memories could be a coping mechanism to deal with the pressure of coming up with the next best thing. From another perspective, it could be driven by our unconscious desire for instant gratification. Yet as we all know, any kind of plagiarism comes with a hefty cost. As we go through the year, just promise that you won't use cryptomnesia as an excuse for plagiarizing. Someone planting an idea in your mind probably won't fly with any of your professors.

Just for funsies, you can judge for yourself:

Bilingual Educational Programs For Children

| No Comments

Research shows that children who learn two languages in their early stages of life are better off in the real world when having to communicate with others. Learning a second language exposes a child to a culture other than their own which improves a child's understanding of others. Not only can they communicate with two different language communities but it also increases their metalinguistic insight. They are able to understand how two different languages are structured and used and have shown to perform better on language tasks.
More and more schools are adopting bilingual educational programs to expand on their students learning. One such school is the London Town Elementary School in Centerville, Virginia. Half of the school day is taught all in Spanish and the other half is taught all in English. They call this learning technique dual emerging. Half the students are native English speakers and the other half are native Spanish speakers. This coming together of two different backgrounds really teaches the children how to communicate and develop relationships with people of other cultures.
Not everyone is a fan of this learning technique though. Members of the advocacy group, Pro English, feel that this style of learning makes it easier for Hispanics not to become fully fluent in the English language. Putting this aside, parents and teachers feel that the overall learning experience is a lot more fulfilled and really prepares the children for the real world. America has become more of a diverse country over the years with more Spanish speaking people and being able to speak the Spanish language is becoming more and more important as the years pass by.

The following youtube link shows the video of the London Town Elementary School:


Overboard with Amnesia

| No Comments

In the 1987 movie Overboard featuring Golide Hawn and Kurt Russell a snobby, rich woman Joanna (Golide Hawn) falls off of her yacht and hits her head causing her to have amnesia. Dean (Kurt Russell) an angry ex-employee claims her as his wife to spite her. Joanna has to believe everything Dean tells her because she can't remember anything from her past. The family soon accepts her, but in a twist of events the truth of Joanna's real identity comes out when Joanna's real husband shows up. Joanna's memories flood back in one big rush and she leaves Deans family.

In chapter seven we learned about two types of amnesia, retrograde and anterograde amnesia. In the movie Overboard Joanna has a serious form of retrograde amnesia. The chapter said that retrograde amnesia is the most rare form, but if Joanna didn't have retrograde amnesia she wouldn't have believed every word Dean told her so there wouldn't have been a plot for the movie.

Also in Overboard when Joanna sees her real husband for the first time after the accident all of her memories suddenly come rushing back to her. This as we learned is one of the popular myths of amnesia. Memory recovery from amnesia is gradual sometime it doesn't even happen at all. If the directors of the movie knew their psychology facts they could have incorporated the real truths into their movie. But if Joanna really had anterograde amnesia then she wouldn't have gone back to Dean in the end and the moving wouldn't have ended happily.

Is Punishment Healthy

| No Comments

In Chapter 6, about learning, in Lilienfeld it talked about reinforcement and punishment. One Psychologist to work with these concepts was B.F. Skinner, he did experiments to see what ways worked well in shaping an organisms behavior. The concepts he used include positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. He found that reinforcement was the best way to teach the organism what to do.

In the article "Should you punish your child" four different psychologists talk about the effects that punishment can have on a child. While punishment may stop the behavior at hand it may lead to other unwanted behaviors, such as aggression or avoidance. A healthy way to raise your child is to use a lot of positive reinforcement, along with healthy punishment such as time outs.

If were trying to teach our children to be kind and caring people then we shouldn't use negative ways to enforce good behavior. Aggression and anger can lead to more problems. Humans have mirror neurons that pick up on how to do something simply by observing that behavior. As a young mind children are very observant and pick up on adult's behavior, copying them. So when they are being spanked they see this as okay and in turn use violence. Children may also just learn to hide things better in order to avoid the punishment. So next time you're going to punish someone think about the consequences it may have. Think; is there a better way?

Link for the article: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200109/should-you-punish-your-child

airplane a.png One of the greatest, most vivid memories of my childhood is my first airplane ride. My family has long been fascinated by the ideals of flight, but me, I was always fearful of heights. I was, that is, until the day of my first airplane ride, which my dad gave me.
As a child, I would constantly watch my cousins eagerly board my grandpa's airplane and take flight. I watched from a distance, determined not to go. My dad always told me to g o, he would fly the plane, but I was adamant and scared. But one day my dad was stubborn and told me I had to go fly with him and my little sister, and before I knew it we were preparing to take flight. It was majestical in the air. After our flight, my dad told me, "See, there was nothing to be afraid of. Fear only holds you back from living your life."
Although this is one of my most vivid and favorite memories from my childhood, every time I tell this story, certain things are less clear in my mind than others. Looking at multiple writings I have done in the past of this story, I was able to observe that certain things stayed consistent throughout each story, and others did not. I can remember clearly being lifted into the plane, the sound of the propeller starting, and closing my eyes as we prepared for take-off. I remember clearly my sister and I talking on the co-pilot headset, "Roger, we're heading north towards Mille Lacs Lake". Other things are uncertain about this memory, and, sometimes, I realized I tend to fill in the parts that are uncertain with what I believe is true, but don't actually know for sure if it is. One thing is for sure, I will always remember the feelings I had that day; fear, relief, and excitement.

Foreign Language Learning in Adopted Children

| No Comments

My question is concerning adopted children and learning a second language. Do adopted children from a foreign country have an easier time learning the language from that country than American children do? Would genetics/ethnicity have an effect on the ability of a child to learn a language that is foreign to them?
My hypothesis is that there would not be a correlation between children adopted from a foreign country and their ability to learn the language of their birthplace if they have been raised in an American home. This is a question of nature versus nature in terms of language. I believe that the nurture of these adopted children would cause them to be no different in their ability to learn a foreign language than an American born child trying to learn the same language.
To conduct this study one would first have to gather an experimental group of children who are adopted from foreign countries (ie China, Russia etc.) and to gather a control group or children born in America. Both of these groups would have to lack any exposure to the second language that they would learn in this scenario. All participants would then be taught a foreign language at the same rate, same rigor, and with the same methods, and would be tested at the same time with the same test. From the results we would be able to speculate if the children who were learning the language of their biological parents were better at learning this specific language than children who were born in America. In theory this could also prove nature versus nurture.
If the results showed higher scores by foreign adopted children on a test of the language of their biological parents, nurture plays a role in language learning. If the opposite results occur or an immeasurable difference occurred between the two groups, my hypothesis would be correct.

Links and pictures are great!

| No Comments

To add a picture:
1. Find an image on your computer or online that you want to post.
2. If you found your image online, save the image to your computer-- make sure you know where it's saved to so you can find it!
3. On the "Create Entry" page, click the "Insert Image" button (looks like a photo).
4. Click "Upload new image."
5. Click "Choose image." Find the file you want to upload and select it.
6. Add a description or tags for your image if you like, otherwise just hit finish.
7. A line of html code will come up in your post. If you hit preview, this code will be replaced by your image!


To embed a link (like this one: ):
1. Find a link you want to include.
2. For most websites, copy the web address from the bar at the top of your browser; for Youtube videos, click "Share" and it will give you a address specifically for embedding.
3. On the Create Entry page, click the "Link" button (looks like links in a chain).
4. Copy and paste your web address into the box that comes up.
5. The html code created when you do this causes a clickable link to come up in your post.
6. The link may disappear if it's the last thing in your entry, so make sure you include at least a line of text below it.

Classical Conditioning

| No Comments

The subject of classical conditioning is something that sparked my attention from the start of the reading. It is also the subject of the discussion session that I was forced to miss haha. At first I was overwhelmed with all of the new vocab that applied to classical conditioning but as I continued the reading, the pieces sort of formed into a puzzle that began to make sense. What stuck out to me was the tale of baby Albert. It was a study about the acquisition of classical conditioning. Nine-month-old baby Albert was given a rat to play with then the psychologist would sneak up behind him and make a very loud noise, which scared baby Albert. After repeating this process baby Albert developed a conditioned response so that even after time had gone by when presented with the rat baby Albert would cry. Baby Albert even showed evidence of stimulus generalization meaning he would also cry when he saw a rabbit, dog, even a furry coat. This entire study seems so crazy to me. How could a mother put her baby through this and how could experimenters think this study was okay? I'm glad that experimental ethics have improved since then because some serious issues could have happened especially in situations like that. And who knows maybe something serious did happen to baby Albert from this study, we don't know because little is known about what happened after his mother drew him from the study. However, through this study we did gain new knowledge on conditioned responses and we discovered how we can treat defferent phobias. This is a link to a good video showing more about the "Little Albert Study" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt0ucxOrPQE

Split Brain Surgery!?

| No Comments


Split brain surgery is a technique severing the corpus callosum splitting the right and left hemispheres in half (Split). This is usually a last resort for people with epileptic seizures and has no bad effect on the person. People who go through this surgery suffer the effects of the brain not being able to analyze an object with both sides of the hemispheres which is quite interesting in studies. The left side of the brain is associated with speech-control and the right hemisphere is the understanding hemisphere of the brain. When these two are in unison they work together and help analyze, interpret, and express perception of the outside world. A way to show how this works is through experimentation which is the main source in figuring out why the brain acts the way it does when split (without the corpus callosum converging them together). For example, when a person with split-brain surgery is presented with an object on the left visual field the person will not be able to vocally (left side of the brain) understand what has happened, but can recall it through feeling/analyzing (right-side of the brain) the object. This is vice-versa when presented on the right visual field, the person will be able to speak of what they saw but will not be able to physically recall what the object was.
This surgery is quite fascinating as it is actually a cure for epilepsy seizures with minimal after-effects to the brain. I think this actually helped psychologists greatly through understanding the cognitive functions of the brain and is only a start into understanding the complexity of it.
To really think about it the brain itself really has two personalities which are brought together by the corpus callosum, but can be split through this surgery. The brain is quite an amazing complex organ in which can be defined by nothing due to the many functions it serves. This amazing surgery has saved lives of many people and can do much more, but it's up to the studies to really find out what's going on after this surgery.


Dissociation Theory

| No Comments

Dissociation theory is a theory of hypnosis. Hilgard defined dissociation as a division of consciousness, in which attention, effort, and planning are carried out without awareness. Dissociation is important because hypnosis is used around the work. Some people even choose to have a profession of hypnotizing other people. I have witnessed hypnotism many times throughout my life. During the end of my senior year of high school, our school hired a hypnotist for our senior night party. During his act he called up around fifteen kids and put all of them into a sleep. He then made them do whatever he wanted. I was shocked to see hypnotism work, since I thought it was all fake. Watching my friends and classmates being hypnotized opened up a lot of questions to me. I wanted to know how a man can put a group of people to sleep just by saying a word. I also wanted to know if the people being hypnotized had any memory of what happened when they were asleep. Till this day, I still wonder how hypnotism really works and why only some people are able to become hypnotized.

The Effect of Psilocybin on Human Behavior and Emotions

| No Comments

Researchers at Johns Hopkins recently completed a study on the effects of magic mushrooms, which contains the hallucinogen psilocybin, which affects the nervous system in a method similar to that of LSD. Psychedelic mushrooms have been used for thousands of years by humans as part of religious ceremonies. The researchers conducted a study on 18 people, all of which were considered to be healthy individuals from a mental health standpoint, in order to determine if there was a dosage of the drug that would be "capable of yielding positive, life-changing experiences, while minimizing the chance of transient negative reactions." One year after the study 89% of those who participated said that they had noticed positive changes in their behavior. The experiment was conducted over the course of 5 sessions, with 4 doses of the drug and 1 placebo. The positive effects were most present in the participants who started with the smallest dose and finished with the highest. Many of the participants also rated their experiences as some of the most spiritually important ones in their lives.

I found this article to be very interesting because this research shows that some psychoactive drugs can have a long lasting effect beyond the short period of time where the effect on the conscious is noticeable. I also found it interesting that even though higher doses of psychedelics can cause many negative reactions, such as panic attacks and depression, several smaller doses that gradually increase in size are capable of causing long term improvement of an individual's behavior and emotions. This seems to be the opposite of the long lasting psychotic reactions that can result when people who are predisposed to, or have already suffered from, psychological issues take hallucinogens. This suggests that the neurotransmitters in people who have or could experience psychological issues function differently from those in normal people.


Subliminal Messaging and the Subconscious

| No Comments

Middle school was the first time I was exposed to subliminal messaging; it was a concept that blew the underdeveloped minds of my class and me. The fact our minds could process information and create new ideas without our conscious mind is a scary thing. Could this eliminate the concept of free will altogether? A study was done to test just this.

In this study, subjects were subliminally flashed a letter. Their conscious mind had no idea that the letter had even been stimulated in their subconscious mind. Next, a set of different letters were set in front of the subject and they were asked to choose a letter at random. In this case, the letter that was flashed was almost exclusively chosen from the random set, proving the subconscious holds weight in executing simple tasks. What the experimenters found next was the interesting part. They repeated the experiment but made it more mentally taxing for the subjects. The increased level of concentration hindered the minds ability to receive subliminal messages. For example, the subjects were distracted while a colored letter was flashed subliminally on a screen in front of them. The fMRI scans revealed no neurological activity in the brain during the subliminal stimulus which led the scientists to conclude, "the brain does not pick up on subliminal stimuli if it is too busily occupied with other things... some degree of attention is needed for even the subconscious to pick up on subliminal images" (Science Daily).

This finding made me curious about subliminal messaging in the commercial media. Is brand recognition too much for the subconscious to process? Especially when our whole attention isn't focused on the commercial? It would be a scary thing if corporations could take away our free will in terms of purchasing their product. If they found a way to simplify the message enough to target our subconscious, our conscious ability to choose could be eliminated altogether. I don't know about you, but this idea scares me a lot.

Works Cited:
University College London (2007, March 9). Subliminal Advertising Leaves Its Mark On The Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 9, 2011

Lucid Dreaming

| No Comments

Lucid dreaming is the experience of becoming aware that one is dreaming. Most people have these types of dreams at least once in their lifetime, but 1/5 of Americans report having lucid dreams monthly, and many of them are able to control their dreams. According to the text, researchers are not sure if lucid dreamers are asleep when they're aware of the fact that they are dreaming or if dreams have lucid qualities upon awakening. Here's what I think, lucid dreaming can happen, I know because it happens to me quite a lot. There are times though when upon awakening i realize the lucid qualities of my dream. I don't know if it's because I can't remember if I knew I was dreaming or if it's because in some of my "lucid dreams" I can control my dreams, and in some of them I can't. In my dreams where I know I'm dreaming and I can control them, it is very clear to me while I'm sleeping that I'm dreaming, and that's why I can control my dreams. Some things that I have noticed about my lucid dreams and my normal dreams is that I tend to lucid dream if I am sleep deprived, and my dreams are always more vivid and slightly less bizarre when I can control them. Perhaps there is a correlation between sleep deprivation and the ability to lucid dream?

I would like more research to be done about lucid dreaming. I would like to know if there are personality traits that contribuite to the ability to lucid dream, or environmental factors.

Trouble Sleeping?

| No Comments

By: Lizzy Forbes

We teenagers tend to associate the fact that we are exhausted for much of the week due to the plethora amount of homework and studying we have to endure. We are busy right? This heavy work load might play into our sleepiness, but sometimes it may be out of our control. I know that I suffer from sleep deprivation. It became apparent to me after the survey we completed in Discussion last week. One major (the most common) sleep disorder that leads to sleep deprivation is known as insomnia.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that involves difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night with trouble falling back asleep, or waking up too early in the morning. Insomnia can be a short term disorder or a long term/ chronic disorder. There are many known causes that lead to this sleep disorder. Depression, stress, pain /illness, and drinking too much caffeine can lead to insomnia. People can treat insomnia with sleeping pills. They help the majority of the population in the 9-15% of people that suffer from insomnia.

I read an article (see below) recently about another way to deal with insomnia. Researchers call this the "cooling effect" in a sense. Some researchers took a sample of 24 people to achieve, "frontal cerebral thermal transfer," which is known as the cooling, half of them were tested. 13 of the people wore plastic caps with water at different temperatures that circulated through them. The other 13 people didn't wear the caps. They were monitored as they slept. Researchers compared the time needed to fall asleep between the people with and without the caps and also between the changes in temperature in the caps. The result of the study showed that the people that wore the caps that had the highest "cooling intensity" temperature fell asleep within 13 minutes which was significantly faster than all other people. This proves that the slow-down in metabolism in the frontal cortex leads to better sleeping and inversely, insomnia is connected to an increased metabolism in the frontal cortex.

(http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/13/news/la-heb-sleep-insomnia-cool-brain-20110613) Insomnia article

Four Loko: Depressant and Stimulant

| No Comments

The drink Four Loko has been a very controversial item available because of the opposing effects it has on the body when consumed. Each can, being 16 oz. and 12% alcohol, also contains a large amount of caffeine in the form of taurine and guarana. The exact amount of caffeine is unknown, but the company that produces Four Loko was quoted saying the drink is equivalent to having "three beers, a can of Red Bull, and a large espresso." The drink has been banned in several areas, requiring that the caffeine be removed before it is allowed to be available again in stores.
The alcohol acts as a depressant on the nervous system, slowing reaction time and basic thought processes, while the caffeine does the opposite, acting as a stimulant. The result of mixing both has been deadly, especially on college campuses. When consumed in large amounts, the sensations of depression and stimulation clash which then overwhelms the nervous system and circulatory system. It has often been described as 'the awake drunk' because of the sense of alertness felt, despite impairment.
One article posted by the Association for Psychological Science discussed Four Loko and its cause of a phenomenon called situational specificity of tolerance. It concerns where an individual consumes alcohol - if it is somewhere they are both familiar and comfortable with, the effects of alcohol are felt less. On the other hand, if it is an unknown place, the effects appear to be stronger. The same occurs with taste. For example, we pair the flavor of beer with its alcohol content. However, when Four Loko is consumed (which has a variety of fruity flavors) the alcohol content isn't associated with the taste of fruit, usually leading to a larger intake of alcohol.
Because of Four Loko's safety issues, it is recommended not to be taken. The conflict between depressant and stimulant is too hard on the body.

The Activation-Synthesis Theory

| No Comments

The activation-synthesis theory proposes that dreams reflect brain activation in sleep, rather than a repressed unconscious wish. Alan Hobson and Robert McCarley developed this theory, which is completely different from Sigmund Freud's claims. The REM stage of sleep (when dreams occur) is activated by surges of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine while serotonin and norepinephrine are shut down. When the latter are shut down, reflective thought, reasoning, action and memory decrease. The acetylcholine activates nerve cells in the pons which send incomplete signals to the thalamus. The thalamus sends sensory information to the language and visual parts of the forebrain. The amygdala also gets involved; adding in fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, and elation to the story the forebrain puts together from the sensory information. The activation-synthesis theory says that this, not our experiences and deep thoughts, is what makes up what we know as a dream.
Why, then, do we experience nightmares after we see a scary movie, or have dreams about that special someone who we've been crushing on? That's something I'd like to know as well. How could it be that the dreams we have are just the result of a neurotransmitter running around our brain when we dream of things relevant to our lives? I feel like the activation-synthesis theory is not completely correct in saying that dreams are just a result of our brain activation, but I also do not agree completely with Freud. I think that dreams are probably a mixture of our experiences/worries and brain activity, and I'd like to see a study investigate further into that.

Assignment 2 - Sleep and awake consiousness

| No Comments

I was at first slightly skeptical of the video. It seemed to go against a rule I learned early on in my psychology book. Be wary of long words that try to sound scientific but come off as too wordy. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is one of these words that comes off as trying to attack my intelligence. After a little bit of research I realized that TMS is actually a real thing so this may not have been a valid reaction, but it was my initial reaction.
I found the video really interesting. It basically says that when I'm awake and conscious my brain is making connections, but when I am asleep these connections are shut down. This is interesting because it basically says that what I see and react too is actually specific cells doing specific pieces to give me a view of the world. It's not just one act; it just goes so quickly that it goes unnoticed. Kind of made me think that the more I know about these kinds of things I could consciously know what part of my brain is firing to give me the view I have. This is what consciousness is and this is why I am the way I am.
I don't know if the information in the video is factual or not, but it is something worth considering. If it is all true then I am going to have trouble sleeping without thinking about all these things. It seems like things like personality disorders and depression could be interesting to study with these studies.

Writing 2 Narcolepsy

| No Comments

Almost everyone, it seems, has seen the youtube videos about the narcoleptic goats. They run around, and then midstride collapse as if they died, only to wake up just before or after they get a mouth full of dirt from the ground. It's so sad to watch, as you feel so helpless standing by and watching.
One of the scariest realizations is that this also happens to humans. During anytime of the day, people that suffer from narcolepsy may fall asleep instantly. The illness in and of itself is not deadly, however, the things that come with involuntarily falling asleep can be. For example, if somebody were to have an attack while driving or operating machinery the risk of death increases dramatically.
But what causes people to suddenly fall into a deep snooze? As it seems with many things, scientist still aren't sure what the cause of narcolepsy is, however scientist have taken steps to finding genes linked to the illness. Some also believe that the disease is caused by a deficiency in a protein called hypocretin. This protein is critical in the dream process, as it helps regulate the REM cycle. There is also evidence to believe that it is passed down genetically.
The symptoms of narcolepsy usually start to show between the ages of 15 and 25, and can include daytime drowsiness, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. During the day some people experience excessive sleepiness. And after waking up from a sleep attack, people may hallucinate or even experience a loss of speech and movement and motor control for a short period of time.
Narcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder that if left untreated can lead to potentially dangerous and fatal situations. There is currently no cure for the disease but there are steps that people can take to reduce the frequency of the attacks. At first glance a goat that trips over nothing and falls only to awake startled may be funny to some people, but the reality is that it's a harsh condition for anyone goat or human, and this is why we must continue researching this sleep disorder.

"What Is Narcolepsy, Symptoms & Causes - WebMD." WebMD - Better Information. Better Health. WebMD. Web. 10 Oct. 2011. .

When Do We Become Aware of Self?

| No Comments

The study in the video The Secret You shows that we begin to be aware of ourselves between 18 and 22 months. To find this, researchers conducted a study where they brought in different aged infants and had them play in front of a mirror. After the child had seen his or her reflection in the mirror, the parent was asked to place a dot on the child's cheek. After the dot was placed, the child was sent back to play in front of the mirror. If the child was not able to distinguish that the dot was on his or her face, the researcher determined that that meant the child was not aware of his or her self. If the child was able to make a connection between their reflection in the mirror with the dot, and they reached to touch the dot on their face and then pointed to it in the mirror, the researchers concluded that the child was aware of his or her sense of self. Marcus, the narrator of the story, decides that after sitting through the study with the children, he wants to know if other things have a sense of self as well. This includes if animals and even single cells are conscious. Professor Gordon Gallop developed the mirror test originally not to use on children, but on animals. He decided to try it on chimps. After finding that chimps were able to identify themselves, Gallop decided to try the test on orangutans, humans and other animals. At the time of the video, the only groups tested that had any positive evidence were chimps, humans and orangutans. This is one thing that researchers believe separates us from other animals. Being aware of our existence can help us remember and see things in the past, present and future. The downside of having this quality though, is that we are also aware of death. We know that some day, we will cease to exist. I think this is extremely interesting. I would have thought that many other animals would have the sense of self. I feel like their should be a more complex task in finding out whether or not one has a sense of self. I also am curious to know what the reactions were of the other animals, and if they were able to test them in the same way. If they did test them in the same way, how could they conclude that the animal didn't know that was their reflection in the mirror? Maybe they realize that is who they are, they just can verbalize it or show as much of a reaction to it like humans, who can point to their face. Some animals are not capable of being able to point to things. I think overall the evidence in this is very interesting and I hope they continue researching this topic and finding out if we truly are the only species along with chimps and orangutans that are able to have a sense of self.

Writing #2: Battle of the Bulge

| No Comments

A few days ago, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article titled, "Americans are beating out the new battle of the bulge, they say". Surveys in the gallup poll stated that 36.6% of Americans are in the regular weight range, as opposed to 35.8% who could be considered overweight. The positive that comes from this survey is that the "normal weight" category is the plurality. However, 61% of Americans are overweight or obese, this means that (according to this survey) 25.8% are obese. If my arithmetic is correct, only 1.6% are underweight. The pro that the plurality is "normal," the vast majority is at unhealthy weight status.
Now, moving on to how the data was collected. The survey was "a random sample of 90,070 adults, and a similar number in previous quarters." This would fall under the category of replicability. As the survey becomes larger, typically, the results are more valid. The problem is; it is a survey. Surveys are notorious for false responses, there are simply too many participants to verify truth in each case. Gallup poll is fairly reliable, they always are sure to publish surveys that have good results. One can identify a good survey by gathering a large random sample size that covers all demographics (both social and ethnic). Gallup was able to identify that the American Middle Class was the group making the most progress ($36000-$89000 annual salary), had a whole one percent drop from the previous year from the same poll in 2008. In the ethnic category, Asians made the most progress, with over three percent dropping from the overweight category to the "normal weight group." The Star Tribune reported that Gallup stated that with a survey of over 90 thousand adults, the margin for error is less than one percent, with 3.5 percent in the ethic and social groups. That is a reliable statistic. Since the sample size was so large, and the margin of error was acceptable, the survey is clear able to be replicated. Hence, the claim is valid.

Writing #2

| No Comments

A few days ago, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article titled, "Americans are beating out the new battle of the bulge, they say". Surveys in the gallup poll stated that 36.6% of Americans are in the regular weight range, as opposed to 35.8% who could be considered overweight. The positive that comes from this survey is that the "normal weight" category is the plurality. However, 61% of Americans are overweight or obese, this means that (according to this survey) 25.8% are obese. If my arithmetic is correct, only 1.6% are underweight. The pro that the plurality is "normal," the vast majority is at unhealthy weight status.
Now, moving on to how the data was collected. The survey was "a random sample of 90,070 adults, and a similar number in previous quarters." This would fall under the category of replicability. As the survey becomes larger, typically, the results are more valid. The problem is; it is a survey. Surveys are notorious for false responses, there are simply too many participants to verify truth in each case. Gallup poll is fairly reliable, they always are sure to publish surveys that have good results.

Amphetamines: How They Work To Treat ADHD

| No Comments

Chapter 5 of Lilienfeld includes a section about amphetamines. I have ADHD and know that one of the forms of treatments is medications that act as stimulants, so this section drew my attention.

Firstly, ADHD is formally called attention deficit hyperactive disorder. It is mainly characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. A lack of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain is believed to cause these symptoms of ADHD. These chemicals serve in focus, memory, and impulse control.

Next, Amphetamines are a class of stimulant (a drug that increases the activity in the CNS). Amphetamines increase the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine that is released. This means that more neurotransmitters are released from storage sites into the synapses.

For a person without ADHD, this results in a "rush".

It is rumored that militaries have used amphetamines to increase energy levels and motivation in troops. An example of the controversy surrounding this long time rumor is: in 2003 there was an incident where two American pilots bombed Canadian forces in Afghanistan. The pilots had been using amphetamines issued to them, and this factor sparked a mad debate.

For a person with ADHD, this results in increased focus, memory, and impulse control. This can be explained by the increased activity and communication in the parts of the brain that involve the two chemicals. In studies, the parts of the brain involved in executive functions, including the prefrontal cortex, specific subcortical regions, and the cerebellum, were shown to be more active with the use of amphetamines.

One quote I have liked since I was first learning about treatments for my ADHD is: "Taking stimulants is not like taking doses of an antibiotic to wipe out an infections; it is more like wearing eyeglasses that correct one's vision while the glasses are being worn, but do nothing to fix one's impaired eyes." This means that there is no cure for ADHD, but the symptoms can be alleviated. This factor is interesting because it allows us to look at the duration of the effects of certain chemicals/hormones/etc. in the brain.

The Longterm Consequences of Ecstacy

| No Comments

In today's always moving world lack of sleep is problematic. But what exactly are these ramifications? According to a study in Journal of Sleep Research & Sleep Medicine the cumulative effects of continued sleep deprivation can eventually lead to sleep debt. Sleep debt is when the body is behind on sleep, which ends up building up and eventually causes a lack of attentiveness and focus. This is extremely problematic, because lack of focus and time management causes there to be less time to sleep, creating a circle that just keeps building on itself.
There is more bad news about sleep debt as well. Just like it takes more than a night to build up to a level that effects people, it also takes a while for sleep debt to go away. So the strategy of staying up during the week and just catching up on the weekends sadly is not entirely effective. The effects are also different at different times of the day.
There is some good news about sleep debt though. While you might not be able to make up sleep quickly, once you do there do not appear to be any long term lasting effects once the sleep has been made up.
To avoid getting into sleep debt a person should attempt to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night, but more is better. Occasional 6 hour nights aren't going to effect a person too heavily, but a week of only sleeping 5 hours a night will quickly add up.


| No Comments

I have always questioned the concept of stereotypes, whether or not they are good, bad, and why we seem to be unable to avoid them. So I did a little bit of research and found an article that goes a bit deeper into detail in explaining the advantages and disadvantages of this action.
People make a big deal about the negative effects of stereotyping. Yes, it has it's downfalls, and it would be great if we could let everyone we meet start with a blank slate, and get to know each and every person for who they are as an individual. But, after going through the chapter on sensations and perceptions I better understand our tendency, or even necessity, to do this.

This idea is represented in the Gestalt principles, some that would be used more often in the social world would be similarity, color similarity, or even closure. We see the circle that is broken into fragments, and though it is not truly defined as a circle we still would call it a circle. We tend to take what we know generally about certain objects, people, or circumstances and group new, unidentified objects into a category.

One study that I would be interested in, but was unable to find any prior research of, is how confidant, and then accurate, someone might be in their ability to look at a group of people and group them based on friendships, income, lifestyle, or interests based only on a picture.
The concept of "survival of the fittest" comes into play here as well, and may explain one of the benefits of our tendency to categorize. In order to stay safe and alive we need to be capable of looking at a situation, or even person, and determine, based on our previous knowledge and experiences, whether or not it is safe.

But Did You See the...?

| No Comments

I love mind games and optical illusions, so the chapter on sensation and perception really piqued my interest. The idea that our minds can so blatantly fool us just baffles me! Out of all the various mind games and tricks, however, change blindness was by far my favorite. Change blindness is the mind's ability to essentially block out peripheral things in favor of a more central task. The brain doesn't have the capacity to focus on all aspects of a situation at all times, so instead, it focuses on one key component and assumes the rest stay the same. There are countless examples of this on the internet, from our textbook, and in real life, a few of which I'll share below.

My first example is one that came straight out of the textbook. From the cards below, pick a card, any card. Then say it's name aloud 5 times. After you're sure you have the card cemented in your head, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and I will have removed the card you chose. Did I read your mind? Look upside down at the bottom of page 133 in the Lilienfeld text to find out!

pick a card.jpg

There are also plenty of examples of change blindness on YouTube. I've attached four videos below that all illustrate this concept if you'd like to give them a try.

Phone Joke Test

Awareness Test
Person Swap (from Discussion)

Change blindness is more than just an amusing phenomenon, however; it has some pretty devastating real-world applications. Think of it this way: if you couldn't see the gorilla in the previous video, do you think you could see a jaywalking pedestrian? What about a motorcyclist that just came out of your blind spot? We all think we see the important aspects of a situation, and more often than not, that's the problem. One day, it's just a moonwalking bear that we miss, but tomorrow it could be that guy who "just came out of nowhere." So even though the videos and card tricks above are good for a chuckle, don't forget that change blindness isn't always a laughing matter.

we read your mind.jpg


| No Comments

The question I'm answering is where does the consciousness reside in the brain. The conscious is something that is somewhat hard to locate in the brain. So far, we have been able to figure out a few things about it. For example, constant activation of the cortex is where scientists believe the conscious mainly resides, but it is also argued that it is all over the brain. From watching the part of the video about where the conscious resides I think that it is all over the brain. Since the our conscious is made up of all of our thoughts and feelings it has to be coming from all parts of the brain. The conscious my centralize at the cortex but is being fed by the entire brain.

The article above talks about the complexities of our minds as well. It goes into detail about how hard it is to explain something like our conscious.

Writing #2 Andrew Otto

| No Comments

Our beliefs can cause us to do just about anything imaginable. It has been demonstrated throughout time, through people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., that strong beliefs in something can change the world in tremendous ways. However, while these people mentioned have changed the world, beliefs also have the power to change only the world you see. These beliefs come from Top-Down Processing.
Top-Down Processing is defined on page 127 of our textbook as a type of mental processing that, "starts with our beliefs and expectations, which we then impose on the raw stimuli we perceive." This means that the images we see or the sounds that we hear can be a result of our beliefs and expectations. Top-Down Processing can be seen inside of every scared child as they look at the shadows from normal things like doors or trees and see shadows of monsters.
Top-Down Processing is a very important concept for people to understand because it's easy to put great amounts of faith into our perceptions. Often times we even rely on our perceptions for the truth with such notions as, "I'll believe it when I see it." However easy it is to believe in something that we've seen or heard we have to remember how easy it is for our perceptions to fail us due to Top-Down Processing. Multiple times this year I've been sitting in my room listening to my headphones when my roommate has walked in. A few times I heard him say my name so I took my headphones out and asked what he needed but he hadn't said anything. I had just expected him to need something so I thought I had heard him say my name.
As long as we can understand that something like Top-Down Processing exists, we can understand that our perceptions are not based solely on the world around us.

Flipping in Fear

| No Comments

Gymnastics is an incredibly demanding sport, not only physically, but mentally as well. Fear is involved in almost all aspects of it. I was told growing up the fear keeps us safe; it lets you know your comfort zone. But where does fear come from? What is it that causes a mind block in gymnastics?

Fear is divided into two stages, biochemical and emotional. The biochemical response is universal while the emotional is specific to an individual. The biochemical response deals with the fight or flight response, which consists of sweating, increased heart rate, and high adrenaline levels. The emotional response could either be positive or negative. When the emotional response is positive it gives a person pleasure, like thrill junkies and sky divers. However when the response is negative, like in this specific situation of gymnastics, it can result in a phobia. In gymnastics a phobia is referred to as a mind block because it overwhelms you makes certain skills almost impossible mentally. A phobia is directed towards an object or situation that does not present real danger, and is a twisting of the normal fear response. This makes sense in the context of this situation. The stunt itself is not that dangerous to a gymnast, because they have trained for it and are perfectly capable, however fear holds them back.

The mind block, or phobias, in gymnastics centers in the amygdala and the hippocampus, however the process is a little more complicated. There are 5 specific parts of the brain that deal with the development and interpretation of fear. It starts in the thalamus. The thalamus decides where to send the incoming data, and then the sensory cortex interprets the sensory data. The hippocampus stores and receives conscious memories and also processes sets of stimuli to establish context. The next step is in the amygdala, it decodes emotions and stores fear memories. Finally the hypothalamus activates the fight flight response.

In gymnastics the only way to really solve your problem of a mind block or phobia, is repetition and practice. Increasing your confidence makes all the difference!



| No Comments

I have always been very interested in the concept of dreaming. When I was little, I used to keep a Dream book next to my bed, and every morning when I remembered a dream, I would look to my book for interpretation. Whenever I dream vividly, I like to think back to what could have provoked the thoughts that occurred to me during sleep. Usually, I never have a complete answer.

By definition, a dream is a series of thoughts, images, or emotions that occur to us during sleep. We experience dreams during the second stage in the sleep cycle, called REM sleep. During REM sleep, your body causes paralysis of the skeletal muscles. This is what keeps us from acting out our dreams in real life! Before REM sleep, an area of our brain called the Pons sends a signal to the spinal cord to immobilize our bodies. If the pons don't shut down the signals, it can be very dangerous. The longest stage of REM sleep throughout the night lasts up to thirty minutes. I found that interesting, because most of the time it seems as if our vivid dreams take up the entire night!

Researchers have been trying to understand dreams for years. Some say that our dreams are composed of fears and desires; others say they're simply a combination of thoughts gathered from the previous day. Everyone has their own opinions on whether or not they mean something more than we can comprehend. In my opinion, dreams are simply a grouping of random thoughts, emotions, and senses.

Sleep Disorders: Insomnia, it can make you go gaga

| No Comments

I suffer from insomnia, so naturally this topic caught my attention extra when I was reading Lilienfeld chapter 5. While I do know a considerable amount about the disorder from my doctors, there are questions that I had as I dug into the reading then searched for another source or study to include.

My main questions are: Do the different causes of insomnia create different classifications of insomnia? I have heard that after a certain number of days without sleep, a person can be declared insane; is there truth to this or is it entirely false?

To begin, insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by having trouble falling asleep, waking up too early, or waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble falling asleep again.

Thinking back to the circadian rhythm (regular changes in biological processes), the biological clock (suprachiasmatic nucleus makes us feel sleepy at different times), and the stages of sleep (light to deep, waves vary), it is easy to see that not only biological, but also psychological aspects of a person's health will suffer when they experience insomnia (short or long term). A severely sleep deprived person is susceptible to symptoms and conditions such as depression, learning difficulties, attention difficulties, slow reaction times, hallucinations, weight gain, larger risk of high blood pressure, larger risk of diabetes, larger risk of heart problems, and a weakened immune system.

Some of the most common causes of insomnia are depression, pain, stress, medications, illnesses, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, excessive worrying, and change in sleep schedule. Upon looking through a few sources, I found that the answer to my first question: there are different classifications of insomnia. The main classifications are primary insomnia (trouble sleeping is not caused by other medical conditions) and secondary insomnia (trouble sleeping is caused by a medical condition that disturbs the process of sleeping).

To find out other classifications of insomnia, such as one based on duration, look at this source:

Addressing my second question, there is truth to it. If we consider the relationship between the brain and behavior as direct because certain areas of the brain being active/inactive contributes to certain behavioral aspects, then as the brain suffers from sleep deprivation, behavior will also suffer. When the brain is extremely sleep deprived, it will "shut down" for a few seconds, leaving a gap in the cognitive functions of the person, therefore behavior is affected. One of the ways this is tested is by monitoring EEG readings.

The UC Berkley's director of the sleep and neuroimaging lab concluded, "the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for the "fight or flight" response, becomes hyperactive without sleep-and logical reasoning goes out the window."

Berkley Study Summary:

Jet Lag: What, Why, and How to Cope

| No Comments


If you've ever traveled through multiple times zones, especially when travelling east, you have probably experienced jet lag. According to Lilienfeld, jet lag is "the result of a disruption of our body's circadian rhythms" (168). This is why people tend to feel fatigued after a plane ride. Medicine.net defines jet lag as "desynchronosis... a temporary disorder that causes fatigue, insomnia, and other symptoms as a result of air travel across time zones" (http://www.medicinenet.com/jet_lag/article.htm). The author, John Cunha, lists the following symptoms of jet lag: anxiety, constipation, diarrhea, confusion, dehydration, headache, irritability, nausea, sweating, coordination problems, and even memory loss, as well as the potential for heartbeat irregularities and increased susceptibility to illness. While jet lag typically does not cause any serious reactions, it makes one wonder why jet lag actually occurs. Regularly, "A tiny part of the brain called the hypothalamus acts like an alarm clock to activate various body functions such as hunger, thirst, and sleep... To help the body tell the time of day, fibers in the optic nerve of the eye transmit perceptions of light and darkness to a timekeeping center within the hypothalamus. Thus, when the eye of an air traveler perceives dawn or dusk many hours earlier or later than usual, the hypothalamus may trigger activities that the rest of the body is not ready for, and jet lag occurs" (Cunha).

Many sources have their tips for coping with jet lag. Medicine.net prescribes the following: (1) Stay in shape (2) Get medical advice (3) Change your schedule (4) Avoid alcohol (5) Avoid caffeine (6) Drink water (7) Move around on the plane (8) Break up your trip (Wear comfortable shoes and clothes (10) Check your accommodations (11) Adapt to the local schedule (12) Use sleeping medications wisely - or not at all. Another source by Dr. Caroline West gives these tips, as listed in her YouTube video: (1)Reset your watch to the time at your destination (2) Pack eye shades and ear plugs (3) Try and stay up until night time to adjust your body clock to local time (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sucs7LKCETU).

Writing #2-Pseudoscience at its Finest

| No Comments

Almost all pseudoscientific "evidence" is marked by an exorbitant amount of anecdotal evidence. In the case of Nutrisystem, this is no different. Nutrisystem solicits a pre-made meal plan where they ship you all of your meals and snacks for each day. Nutrisystem says that eating their meals, coupled with a steady exercise plan, will ultimately help you lose all of those unwanted pounds. Nutrisystem's main way in which they communicate how their program "really works" is through the use of anecdotal evidence. Nutrisystem has even gone as far as to put a link on their website titled "Success Stories", where dozens of people, who are arranged by the amount of weight they lost, have written articles describing their stories. Although anecdotes seem to prove Nutrisystem works as a weight loss plan, they have no scientific studies to prove that their plan works better than what is suggested by every physician in America. Portion control and a steady exercise regiment are two recommendations made by every doctor I have ever had. Nutrisystem has failed to scientifically prove that their meals allow for better weight loss than regular diet and exercise. This all can best be summed up by Occam's Razor; sometimes the true answer to weight loss isn't fancy meal plans and Hollywood diets. The true secret to weight loss is the less glamorous answer of simply maintaining a steady exercise routine, watching portion size, and eating healthy foods. If you put your mind to it, weight loss can be achieved by simply doing it yourself.

-Rob Grosskopf


The Secret You: When do we become aware of self?

| No Comments

In the video "The Secret You," the study of becoming self-aware was presented. In the video, babies were placed in front a mirror for a period of time where they could observe their reflection and absorb their appearance. They were then taken away and the mothers would place a dot on their face and position the babies back in front of the mirror. During this study, researchers were looking to see if the babies would react to this new image, and notice that there was something on the face of the baby that wasn't there moments ago. For babies that were 18 months and younger, no reaction to the dot on the baby's face occurred. Over many trials, it was determined that the first signs of self recognition- realizing that the person in the mirror was who the child feels and remembers themselves to be-occurred between 18 and 24 months. These babies were the ones who realized that something was incorrect about their new appearance.

The same methods in only a couple other animals; Chimpanzees, and Orangutans have proved self-awareness. What makes our minds so different though? How do we know for sure that other animals and species aren't self-aware as well? What are some ways that this theory of self-awareness has been tested in other animals? In the video, one of the researches stated, "death-awareness is the price we pay for self-awareness." Other animals and organisms present death-awareness by 'survival of the fittest.' Animals flee from predators when they recognize that a different species doesn't present the same appearance as their own, or when they sense danger, or harm. So how do we know that other animals aren't self aware if they can clearly sense death-awareness, harm, and danger? If they can clearly tell the difference between predators and prey? How does self-awareness even represent death-awareness?

Insomnia or Not?

| No Comments

Do you find it difficult to get up in the morning? Are you often sad, moody, or depressed? Do you find it is difficult to concentrate and pay attention? I read these questions while looking for articles relating to insomnia. Insomnia, according to our text, is difficulty falling and staying asleep. However, the definition does not describe all the possibilities that one may be suffering from insomnia. After reading and answering 'yes' to these questions above myself, I began to think and research insomnia even more and learned that this sleep disorder may be more common than I thought.
Insomnia or not? Unless diagnosed by a doctor, one cannot really know for sure if they suffer from this sleep disorder. Other factors including caffeine, electronic use, sports, among other activities may contribute from the inability to sleep. A video from WebMD shows the daily routine of a normal teenage girl who suffers from insomnia; she never expected to be diagnosed with this sleep disorder, but once she changed her routine, even just a little bit, she was able to sleep more soundly and concentrate more, which in turn benefitted her daily life performance immensely. According to an online Psychology Today article, experts say that the best way to improve sleep is to maintain good hygiene and health and to get at least eight to nine hours of sleep. But the reason insomnia is so common in teens is because they have so many activities and it is difficult to manage time. School and homework, socialization, work, family time: all these things take up time and it is difficult to balance. Thus, what gives? Should teens concentrate on school and the activities they need to balance to keep good grades and a good mental balance or should they prioritize more? The question answers itself; teens should prioritize sleep to be able to concentrate on school and extra activities and to succeed in them. If teens do this, the insomnia rate will decrease and once teens get on a regular sleep cycle, the potential for sleeping disorders will decrease.



Collective conscious, MPD, and ants

| No Comments

On Wednesday, Professor Peterson introduced the concept that our main "conscious" is composed of at least two separate ones. When we got to the example where the subjects' left hand acted on its own, I thought to myself, "How can his hand do things without him realizing it?" and realized the question sounded exactly the same as one I'd asked only about 2 weeks prior: "How could Mr. B-2 have done things for two years without Mr. A realizing it?"

Mr. A is a friend of mine who has something like MPD, and he has alters I shall refer to as B-1 and B-2. Mr. A's MPD differs from the book's description in that while his alters can take over his body, they prefer not to and typically stay within a mental world. Mr. A locked his alters away for a few years, and during those years Mr. B-2 was still actively building things within the mental world while Mr. B-1 was "watching" Mr. A and trying to contact him.

I had assumed that the moment the alters were ignored, they went into a sort of stasis. To hear that they acted on their own seemed impossible to me; just as impossible as the rouge left hand, albeit without any physical evidence. After Wednesday, I can believe that our perceived "conscious" may be composed of multiple ones in a collective.

Perhaps as a result of trauma, parts of the brain start overreacting to everything out of fear, and the rest of the mind habituates itself and starts ignoring the overreactions (a natural attempt of isolating a seizure by cutting the corpus callosum, if you will). Due to the temporary, one-way nature of habituation, this would explain how Mr. B-1 was able to see Mr. A while Mr. A was not able to perceive him until years later

On a sidenote, I don't have space to ponder the following, but I found it interesting and relevant to the concept of a collective conscious: Ants get smarter in groups (#2). I have to wonder if this is the same idea, but with the conscious distributed among millions of bodies.

Night Terrors

| No Comments

When learning about consciousness, sleep is a topic that first comes to mind. One of the serious sleep disorders that our Psychology book discusses is that of night terrors. The book clarifies what a night terror is the "sudden waking episodes characterized by screaming, perspiring, and confusion followed by a return to a deep sleep." In more common language a night terror is a a feeling of death or terror that usually occurs in the first couple stages of sleep. A night terror is not the same thing as a nightmare.

This disorder is most common in children ages 2 to 6, but night terrors "occasionally occur in adults, especially when they're under intense stress"(Lilienfeld). I think that this concept is very important because it is common in many people. I have also experienced night terrors in my pet dog as well. These terrors are so severe that we often have to pull furniture away from the space around my dog and we struggle to even wake her up. In cases such as this, I cannot even imagine the damage that this severe night terror would do to a human. This link to a Youtube Video is an example of a dog with a similar problem.


Similarly, as in humans where night terrors are more common in younger children, the breeder of our dog commented that the night terrors would happen more in the first couple years of her life. This prediction was not correct and my dog may be a special case. These special cases are also common in humans and drawing connections between the two situations may be helpful to find answers as to why night terrors occur and how to prevent them in harmful situations.

Correlation Vs. Causation

| No Comments

Something that has always been mind boggling to me is correlation versus causation and grasping the concept of it. The fact of the matter is that correlation does not imply causation. I've learned about this in math (probability and statistics) as well as in this class now and it still is a hard concept for me to grasp. What this phrase emphasizes is that two variables do not automatically imply that one cause the other. Often times we see this in news and in printed press, but a lot of the time news broadcasters and writers are wrong in doing so.

While I was reading an Enquirer recently, I stumbled upon an article that reminded me of this phenomenon. The title of it was"Eating Chocolate Protects The Heart". In the article, it talked about how consuming more chocolate can cut the risk of developing heart disease and stroke by about one third. This information was derived from the Cambridge University researchers who analyzed more than 100,000 people. They discovered that those who consumed the most chocolate were at an astonishing 37% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 29% lower risk of suffering a stroke. What the researchers forgot to analyze were the confounding variables- an extraneous variable in a model that correlates with both the dependent and independent variable. When researchers account for these variables,they avoid a false positive error. These researchers never did therefore this study throws off the facts.

Moral of the story is that Psychologists and other researchers are very careful when drawing conclusions of certain research and case studies. They have to be in order to deliver the correct information to the public. A lot of the time, news and media ignore these tactics and don't always properly inform the public. This information is hard to grasp, but hopefully I will come to better understand it.


Lucid Dreaming

| No Comments

If you have ever been dreaming, and suddenly realized that you are dreaming, you have had a lucid dream. The fact is, many individuals have experienced this phenomena one time or another in their lives, whether you know it or not. There are actually people that claim they are lucid dreamers, stating they understand when they are performing a lucid dream and comprehend it. These dreamers will acknowledge they are having such dreams by small cues such as looking at a watch in their dream and having it say a word or something completely bizarre. Once the dreamer understands that they are having a "special dream" they can bend their dream and turn it into nearly whatever they desire. I decided to choose this topic due to the fact I have actually had a lucid dream and comprehended it. It was a very weird occurrence and I hardly understood what happened until I awoke. To my understanding this tends to happen to beginner lucid dreamers. I realize that not every individual has the opportunity to comprehend a dream like this and for me to even realize I have had the occurrence is outstanding to me. Leading me to hope for the best in the future and hopefully one day be able to bend a dream to my desire. I hope we discus this topic more thoroughly in class so other classmates who have had similar instances can also comprehend such a phenomena. All in all, lucid dreaming is rare, but even one chance at this bizarre occurrence is enough to get me hooked on the subject.

This video is an example of someone who has "become" a lucid dreamer and has tips on how to become a better dreamer.

Teen Pregnancy: Who Is Really At Fault?

| No Comments

Several years ago, at Gloucester High School in Massachusetts, there was a wave of teen pregnancies. There were seventeen girls who were pregnant by the start of the summer, over four times the number from the previous year. Outraged parents claimed that it was due to the fact that the school offered free daycare to students who were parents. They also claimed that movies such as Juno and Knocked Up made pregnancy seem glamorous. The girls say that they made a pact to get pregnant and raise their children together, but parents still blame the school and media.
The parent's claim does not seem accurate or plausible, even disregarding the girls' remarks. There is absolutely no way to prove that the girls wouldn't have done this if the school had no daycare and if the media had not focused on that particular topic of unwed pregnancy. There is also no way to prove that they were caused by these things. How can anyone prove that these teenagers' pregnancies were at all related to the school or media? It could be purely coincidental.
If teenagers react this way to free daycare and social media, why haven't other schools had such large waves of teen pregnancy? Surely if these are the causes, they would be seen in more schools than just Gloucester High.
Also, these teenagers could have done this simply because they wanted to. Parents claim that their children are not to blame for this outbreak, that there are more logical reasons. Their claim seems a little hard to believe. There are many other reasons that could account for these unfortunate events. How can you prove that the school and media really are to blame? Why have other schools throughout the country not had similar effects?

Information found in an article from Time Magazine; found at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1816486,00.html

A Life of Instinct

| No Comments

On Friday, Professor Peterson talked about the idea of conscious versus unconscious behavior. He expressed the idea that most actions are actually unconscious however we have been conditioned to rationalize our behavior. Since we have the ability to communicate with others, we have been asked "Why did you do that?" But, what if we don't actually know because we do not consciously decide to act.

This question has been explored by investigating the behaviors and justifications made by people who have had their corpus callosum severed in their brains. This procedure is often done to remedy seizure issues or other localized brain damage but is always a last resort. After this procedure has been completed, most tasks are carried out naturally however, if stimuli only reach one side of the brain, considerable side-effects are noticed. Someone who is shown a picture of a bird and an orange may be unaware of seeing the orange because it could not reach the left side of the brain where the ability to recognize objects is located. This same person when asked to draw what they had seen may still draw an orange if asked to do so with their left hand which only communicates with the right side of the brain.

If conscious action is not what dictates one's life, than what is free will? Does this mean humanity is reduced to a series of rationalized instincts? I believe that actions become unconscious due to learned behaviors. Much like Pavlovian conditioning, as a task is completed repeatedly, we no longer need to consciously think about our actions because we've done it so many times before. Under this mindset, conscious action is still very real but the human brain simply becomes more efficient over time much like long-term potentiation. Once the brain has learned a task it no longer requires conscious attention to execute it. As the concept is investigated further, more answers will be uncovered, but I, for one, will always believe that I am in conscious control of my own life. Otherwise what's the point?

Sleepwalking and I

| No Comments

The subject of sleepwalking interests me very much because I am a frequent sleepwalker (about once a month or more) It started in middle school and has continued with me today. I have no memory of ever sleep walking but my parents are light sleepers and wake up because they can hear me walking around and talking. From what I have noticed about myself is that I sleepwalk most often when I am under high amounts of stress, however, the reading suggests that it is most common when people are sleep deprived. Could there be a correlation? Another thing the reading said was that sleepwalkers aren't acting out their dreams and that sleepwalking usually doesn't involve much activity. This is difficult for me to accept because the stories that I have heard from my parents about me sleepwalking mostly always involve me acting out a dream or talking to someone who isn't there but in my dream. Now I'm worried what I'm doing isn't sleepwalking and is something even more strange! But what surprised me most about the reading on sleepwalking was how a person murdered people in his sleep then was proven innocent because he wasn't responsible for his behavior. How can you kill someone and seriously injure another and get away with it?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpIKX8VIaT8 <--- This is a great example of one of the biggest misconceptions about sleepwalking. Sleepwalking is mostly harmless and it is safe to wake up or direct a sleepwalker away from potential danger if they are unaware.

The hearing section of Chapter 5 in Lilienfeld mentioned that as we age our ability to hear higher pitches decreases. According to an article in the New York Times, a group of British store owners used this idea to prevent teenagers from loitering by playing a screeching sound only the teens could hear.  However, the teens took this idea and turned it around to create a ringtone that students couldn't hear but parents and teachers could not. 


The article had an mp3 attachment of the sound for readers to test their own hearing.   After learning that I could hear what sounded like a screeching microphone or nails on a chalkboard, I decided to test this idea on the rest of my family.  I turned out my sister could hear it, but our parents could not.  My sister and I are both in our 20s and our parents in their 50s. The article mentioned a cutoff age of around 30 years.  Because 4 people is a very small sample size, I found a downloadable file of the sound and sent it out to my entire contact list for my personal email, as well as Professor Briggs, explaining that I was doing a study for my Psychology class and just to let me know if they heard this sound.  In order to prevent demand characteristics or possible lying, I asked them to also tell me what they heard.


Including the 4 people in my family, there were a total of 25 responses.  It turned out that everyone under 45 could hear the noise.  Additionally, my 63 year old aunt could hear the noise.  The results showed a negative correlation (r = - .7896) between age and ability to hear at that high of a frequency.  This means that as a person gets older their ability to hear higher frequencies worsens.  However, this is a correlational study, so we cannot determine a cause and effect relationship.  Furthermore, a sample size of 25 may not be large enough to prevent outliers from skewing the results. 


Here is a link to the article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/12/technology/12ring.html

How do we make decisions?

| No Comments

How do we make our decisions? Are we always aware of why we choose to do something? Before I watched the BBC clip I always thought that I was in control of what I choose to do. Now that I have seen it I'm starting to think that I'm not totally in control of my choices. In the clip we learn that our brain has decided what we are going to do 6 seconds before we physically know. Since this is true am I really choosing whether to do my homework right now or is it my brain that knows I need to get it done to succeed so it makes the unconscious decision for me? If that is true our bodies are like puppets being controlled by gray matter in our brains. To compare it to something it's like a parasite in a host body because the parasite needs the host to function. Our brain in this case would be the parasite and our bodies would be the host. The whole time we think that we are in control of our thoughts when in actuality our decisions have been pre chosen for us by our brains.
What if our whole life was already planned out for us and our brains remember what we were supposed to do 6 seconds before? This would be similar to being a robot from the start. This claim would need extraordinary evidence to prove. It may be possible to prove this claim but we will not achieve it in my lifetime at least.
We may never truly understand how we make our decisions in everyday life but one thing is for sure it's not as easy as saying that "I make my own decisions."


| No Comments

Narcolepsy is an unfortunate disorder in which people suffer from sudden occurrences of sleep. This sudden sleep usually lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. In rare occasions these narcoleptic episodes have been known to last upwards of one hour. During these narcoleptic episodes the persons falls right into REM sleep. However, for most individuals REM sleep is not reached until well after an hour into a normal sleep cycle. Another effect that comes with narcolepsy is cataplexy, or the complete loss of muscle tone. This is an extremely dangerous aspect of narcolepsy because at any moment these individuals could loose total muscle tone and collapse. Narcolepsy is important to understand because the more we know about this disorder the more help we can be to those who suffer from it. For many narcoleptics everyday activities such as driving and walking down stairs become dangerous tasks. The reality of the disorder is that these individuals live in the constant fear of not knowing when these attacks of sudden sleep will occur. This video clip from Rat Race shows how random these sudden attacks of sleepiness can be. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MJX6XQUYA4
As someone who loves to be active and partake in a variety of athletics narcolepsy would be an unfortunate burden. Activities such as skiing and soccer would still be possible, but with activities such as driving would become too dangerous. Narcolepsy would effectively alter some of my everyday choices. After researching this disorder I am still interested in how other aspects of life are affected by narcolepsy and how people with this disorder deal with and adapted to these alterations in there lifestyles.


| No Comments

Something that I found interesting from the textbook is the concept of synesthesia. As you probably know already, synesthesia is when people combine two senses into one, such as tasting and seeing at the same time. In the first Youtube video attached, Dr. Jeff Gardere explains that synesthesia is "when one sense involuntarily causes a sensation in another." He even goes on to say that this strange trait is hereditary. Also, in most cases, the synesthesia only goes one way. For example, if someone sees a color which triggers a taste for them, they won't see that certain color when they have that taste in a separate instance. I can't say that I've ever had first-hand experience with this phenomenon, but I find it extremely intriguing so I went in search of a different video that showed a person with this attribute more in depth.
In the second Youtube video that I have attached, the girl has a form of synesthesia where she sees numbers in colors. Each color has its own color. I find this to be very interesting yet unbelievable. I mean, I believe it, but I can't imagine what these blending sensations would feel like.
Synesthesia is psychologically important because it probably helps psychologists to understand what sort of things can go wrong in the sensory pathways. Obviously, if someone can taste colors, there is something neurologically wrong with them that psychologists can uncover or explain.
I'm not quite sure how to relate this phenomenon to my life other than trying to picture what my life would be like with synesthesia. If I could choose what form of synesthesia to have, I would want to see letters in color. With this, I could be excellent at spelling and probably make my school papers sound very fluent.


Stimulation Dependences

| No Comments

There are the famous stimulant drugs everyone can name with ease: tobacco, cocaine, and the amphetamines. Yet there are some other drugs that many people can become addicted too.

A friend of mine back in high school was unofficially addicted to Dayquil. He would explain that he takes one dayquil every morning to wake up. The stimulant in the non-drowsy dayquil would keep him awake during the morning. The stimulant is sudefedren, which can be used to make methamphetamine. Unofficially, this addiction became a physical dependence and a small psychological dependence. He complained of exhaustion in the morning and headaches when he would skip a day. When he took the dayquil, he never had any symptoms. This fits in fairly well with a physical dependence. He would also complain of a craving to take some if he woke up early to take a test first hour.

This student had a high tolerance for dayquil that ramped up early in the addiction. He started by taking only one in the morning. Then it became two in the morning to get ride of the tired eyelids and body. Very soon he was taking two in the morning, one at lunch, and two before a physical activity such as intramural basketball.

This student did not go to rehab or the doctor to diagnose this addiction. Because of this, everything I have said above is what the student told me and some of my own speculation. It does bring up an interesting topic when we realize that there can be many other addictions and dependences to the less infamous drugs in our lives.

Consciousness and our brain

| No Comments

One of the greatest topics that scientists and psychologists alike have struggled with is the idea of consciousness, and how it affects us while awake and asleep. In a documentary produced by BBC, "The Secret You", it is revealed that a lab in Madison, Wisconsin, has come very close to defining what consciousness is and how it is changed during awake and asleep states. The experiment done by this lab involves administering a series of electric shocks to a patient while he/she is awake and asleep, and then taking images of the brain to see how it reacts to these shocks.
While the patient is awake, the stimulus to the brain causes the activation of a several different areas of the brain, including areas that are not close in proximity to the area where the stimulus took place. The brain is active at different times in complex patterns. However, there is a great change in the response of the brain while the patient is asleep. When the shock is administered to a sleeping patient, the activity of the brain stays localized to the area where the stimulus is. In other words, while we are asleep, the communication channels between different areas of the brain are shut down, and remain isolated from each other.
As a result of this experiment, the researchers define consciousness as an integration of the different areas of our brain. I think it's interesting that while we are asleep, the areas of our brain stop communicating with each other. It's as though consciousness is dependent on the fact that we are complex individuals that require multiple processes to take place simultaneously. Our brain can only "shut down" and operate in a simple, individualized way when we are unconscious and don't have several kinds of stimuli, whether visual, olfactory, or even internal, acting on us at the same time.

Hindsight Bias: I Knew It All Along

| No Comments

Have you ever looked back on something and thought, "I saw that coming all along!"? We often think we could have predicted outcomes of events after they have occurred, but chances are we never had a single clue. That is because we tend to become victims of hindsight bias: our tendency to overestimate how well we could have successfully forecasted known outcomes.
In 1986, Professor Karl Teigen, now at University of Oslo, conducted a study where he asked students to evaluate proverbs. The results showed that the students tended to agree with every proverb the professor presented them, even when the proverbs contradicted each other. For example, if you were presented with the proverb, "love is stronger than fear," you would probably think it makes sense. On the other hand, if you were presented with "fear is stronger than love," you would most likely agree with that too, right? Professor Teigen is using this point to show how what we think is just common sense usually is not; hindsight bias can often affect our judgment.
Hindsight bias is one of the main reasons why people think they are right and stand their grounds in debates or conflicts. Our minds sometimes alter our memories to favor the way we think. So if we think that we learned about something in the past when we did not, hindsight bias causes us to think that we did. It is important to keep in mind that it is easier for us to "predict" events that are already available and in the past than events that have not occurred. So, always keep a skeptical mindset before you boast your psychic abilities.

What Are We Thinking?

| No Comments

People often try to make correlations between very odd things. In this experiment the goal was to be able to make theoretical arguments about why people vote the way they do. Basically what the researcher did was compile a ton of data about people's lives. In this way he believes that he can "mirror" up what these people do, believe, and feel to important things that happen in our lives such as, in this specific case, voting towards a specific political party.
The connections that were being drawn from this data were obscured in my mind. In class we learned that correlation does not mean causation. There are many things that can look as if they are linked together but actually have no causation between each other. A lot of times there is a lurking variable causing the change. There can also be some other variable that is responsible for both of the things that are correlated.
As noted early, many of the correlations made by the researcher do not seem to make sense. One example would be using a man's facial hair to determine which party he would most likely vote for. There was also data about how someone eats jelly babies linked to party affiliation and income. Another odd piece of data said that people who are more likely to be anti-refuge by three times that of a person that is not easily disgusted.
Although I did find many of these pieces of data to be a little strange when using comparison there was one thing that I liked about this report. The researcher said that ten percent of people told fibs while completing the survey. The researcher then said that they used specific questions to detect such things so that the scores could be tweaked to make it more realistic.
Many of these pieces of data with there correlation do not seem to add up to causation in my opinion. There appears to be too much of a distance between subjects being compared to be able to fairly say that they are causation which is what I believe this researcher wants to do. There is much more that is needed to convince me that there is internal validity in this research.


The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

| No Comments

"The United States government did something that was wrong--deeply, profoundly, morally wrong. It was an outrage to our commitment to integrity and equality for all our citizens. . . . clearly racist." This is an excerpt from former President Clinton's speech and apology to the remaining eight survivors of the Tuskegee Experiment on May 16, 1997, almost 70 years after the "experiment" began in 1932.

Link to Clinton's Speech: http://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/clintonp.htm

I think this is the perfect example of a bad experiment. No, bad isn't the word. Horrendous. Unfair. Racist. Reading this from the textbook, I felt anger and disappointment toward the U.S. Public Health Service. Honestly, I don't think this study should have even been CREATED in the first place. The complete lack of morals and human compassion will forever be associated with this racially exclusive experiment.

It started off as just a simple experiment; they just wanted to find out how syphilis would affect white men versus black men (since it was noted that white men were more subject to neurological damage in comparison to the cardiovascular complications in black men). The plan was to take these men and observe the affects of syphilis from six to nine months, and then treat them afterwards with the appropriate medicine. It metastasized into something else completely. After these six to nine months, the researchers wanted to extend it and eventually used deceptive means to accomplish this. It should be noted that Dr. Taliaferro Clark, the founder of this experiment, disagreed with the methods and eventually quit the study after a year.

After the study was found out by the press, Dr. Heller, a researcher in the study still asserted that, "The men's status did not warrant ethical debate. They were subjects, not patients; clinical material, not sick people."

Link to this quote in the book, Bad Blood, written by James Howard Jones about the Tuskegee Experiment (p. 179):

The 600 "clinical material" patients were poor, trusting African-American men, women, and children who believed that they were receiving free healthcare by the US government. It's hard for me to understand why they were treated so unfairly. Most of them had never even seen a doctor. They were surprised and ecstatic for the "healthcare" that they were to receive. Instead, they were greeted with years of non-consensual study and full-on deception that plagued the entire experiment.

My main problem with this experiment is that it was racially exclusive to poor, African-American sharecroppers. And the fact that, at the end of the experiment, HUNDREDS had died from syphilis or syphilis-related causes, and NINETEEN children were infected with congenital syphilis. I just wonder if ANY of the researchers ever looked at the "subjects" and realized, after watching human beings DIE one by one, that they had the medicine to stop all of this (penicillin) but they DIDN'T. All for the sake of "science". It honestly amazes me that it lasted ONE year nevertheless FORTY years.

Science is supposed to help people. We want to become doctors and researchers to IMPROVE the human condition. Not warrant the right to treat HUMAN life as a clinical trial. There is a limit to what science SHOULD do. There is a limit on how you treat other human beings. The ends DO NOT outweigh the means. This is unacceptable. It is an outrage to the medical science community.

Memory Loss in the Movies

| No Comments

Hollywood has a long history of using the loss of memory in cinema. At least 80 movies since the early 1900's have contained major or minor plot lines dealing with a memory disorder. Some of the most notable include the Bourne Trilogy (2002-2007) and 50 First Dates (2000), which display amnesia in two different lights. But how accurately are these disorders being portrayed? I went back and did some research on memory disorders, primarily one used in one of my favorite movies, Memento(2000).

Memento chronicles the life of a man named Leonard Shelby. Leonard suffered a brutal attack, which now prevents him from being able to make new memories. His wife was also murdered in the attack, and while Leonard wants to seek vengeance, he wakes up every morning with no memory of what has happened in the days after the initial attack. As it turns out, Leonard was suffering from a very accurate case of anterograde amnesia. As we learned in class, memory disorders generally come from damage to the hippocampus and the surrounding tissue, more specifically in this case, the medial temporal lobe, basal forebrain, and fornix. Aside from brain injury, this type of amnesia can also be caused by shock, emotional disorders, or severe illness. Patients of this suffer from the loss of declarative memory, which is the recollection of facts, but commonly retain procedural memory, which allows us to remember how to do things, like tying our shoes or driving a car. In class, we learned about the patient H.M. who also suffered from anterograde amnesia. He was able to learn new skills, but not remember that he learned them.

Extra Knowledge: One of the most notable examples of anterograde amnesia is due to alcohol intoxication, or as it is more commonly known on a college campus, a "blackout." If alcohol is consumed too rapidly, a severe rise in blood alcohol concentration can impair or possibly even completely block the brain's ability to transfer short term memories created while intoxicated to long-term memories for retrieval and storage. And while this may lead to some confusion/embarrassment the day after, just remember that slower consumption will generally prevent any memory loss. This might actually lead to more embarrassment the next morning, but hey, at least your hippocampus will be nice and healthy!
And who could forget this famous example of anterograde amnesia??
© Copyright Dan Reynolds: Licensed Cartoon

Whoa!!! Déjà Vu!!!

| No Comments


Have you ever had the "been there, done that" feeling after an experience? If you answered yes, you have had a déjà vu experience. Déjà vu is French and means already seen. In a déjà vu experience, a person has one or more strange visions of familiarity. About two thirds of people experience déjà vu moments. These experiences are largely reported by people who travel frequently, who have liberal political and religious beliefs, and who remember their dreams.
Some scientists say an excess of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, in the temporal lobes may play a part in déjà vu experiences. Also, the right temporal lobe is greatly responsible for feelings of familiarity. Individuals who suffer a minor seizure in the right temporal lobe may occasionally experience a déjà vu moment before the seizure. Déjà vu moments may also be caused from a present experience being similar to a past experience.
People who support the idea of the déjà vu experience say it is a memory from a past life. This claim violates the falsifiability scientific research principle. As a result, this claim lies outside of the limits of science and cannot be proven or tested.
The déjà vu experience makes me think a lot about the topic. Since there is no way to scientifically test the déjà vu experience, it is impossible to know if it is a phenomenon a person actually experiences, or if it is just a hoax.
There have been times in my life when I get the déjà vu feeling that I have been somewhere or done something before exactly like it is playing out. This extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence, but since the déjà vu experience lies outside the limits of science, no extraordinary evidence can be provided to validate this claim.

Can you tell which color is different?

Screen Shot 2011-10-09 at 9.21.56 PM.png

Through out this blog post I will frequently be referencing this video.

What is being discussed in BBC Horizon: Do you see what I see?, is a persons perception of color and how it is affected during development. When comparing the brains of children pre and post language, a startling discovery was made. In the infant, the right side of the brain processes the color categories, categorizing them even though he doesn't yet have words for the categories. When the 3 year old does the same experiment, his category effect is detected stronger in the left hemisphere. The left hemisphere is dominate for language because in contains both broca's and wernicke's area, responsible for speech production and comprehension respectively; as discussed in lecture. As soon as language begins to develop, color categorizing information jumps across the corpus callasom to the language area of the brain. This demonstrates a relationship between the primary visual cortex and an association cortex. It suggests that the learning of language effects the development of the dorsal and ventral pathways. If this were correct then would it be possible for one's language to effect how they perceive color? This is what the researchers in BBC Horizon: Do you see what I see? attempted to find out.
The experiments preformed with The Himba tribe yield mind blowing results that indicate that the language one is taught shapes their perception of color and their entire process of color categorization. This is an extraordinary claim and it requires much more evidence before it can be accepted as true. There is also a possible rival hypothesis that the Himba tribe underwent an extreme population bottleneck, resulting in some form of genetic mutation spread nearly universally throughout the population, such as the absence of the cones necessary to see certain colors.
So in short, I don't know if we see the same "blue"; based on our cultures, we could perceive "blue" entirely differently.



Where Did That Car Come From?

| No Comments

I was walking around campus a few days ago and I was in a bit of a hurry. I was eagerly anticipating the red hand to change to a white pedestrian so I could cross the street. The change occurred and I began to walk across. Then a loud "honk" made me jump. I walked right into a car that was about to turn right. The car was in the crosswalk, but I still ran right into it. After I finished crossing the street, I asked myself, "where did that car come from?" The answer is inattentional blindness. Inattentional blindness is defined in our textbook as the "failure to detect stimuli that are in plain sight when our attention is focused elsewhere." (pg. 130) This phenomenon is closely related to and often confused with change blindness. Change blindness is the failure to detect obvious changes in our environment. For example, the book uses the example of airline pilots and whether airborne pilots notice another plane on the runway while they are about to land. The difference between the phenomena is that nothing changes in a person's environment with inattentional blindness. Rather, we perceive that our environment changed. However, our eyes never focused on the obvious object because we were focused elsewhere. Inattentional blindness can be very dangerous if it isn't managed properly. A perfect example of this would be driving a car. Many car accidents are due to a driver's inattentional blindness to other cars. A driver can become too focused on their side and rear-view mirrors and pay no attention to what is going on in front of them. So next time you are driving, make sure to keep an eye out for the obvious, because even the best of us miss it from time to time.


Vulnerability to Superstition

| No Comments


Ever knock on wood, cross your fingers, or carry around a lucky charm? If you have done one of these it's likely that you are superstitious, other wise you probably know someone who believes in superstition. As it turns out though, humans aren't the only ones prone to superstition; psychologist B.F Skinner performed a study where food deprived pigeons showed superstitious behavior.

In his study the pigeons were put in a Skinner box where food was delivered as reinforcement every 15 seconds no matter what the pigeons did. As the study continued Skinner observed the pigeons having strange behavior. Some birds did a couple of turns between reinforcements; others would thrust their head into the upper corners of the cage. The pigeons acted this way because they thought that there was a connection between their behavior and the reinforcements. However there was absolutely no connection since the reinforcements would come regardless of what the pigeons were doing. Since the pigeons didn't know this though, the reinforcements strengthened each time it worked.

This became known as superstitious conditioning, even though it is actually accidental operant conditioning. I find this idea about superstition extremely interesting, especially since I am a big believer in knocking on wood and many other superstitions. I always knew that knocking on wood probably would do absolutely nothing, yet I still always did it. I think that superstition falls in the same realm as ESP, apophenia, and pareidolia. As humans we sometimes need a little extra assurance or ways to explain why things are the way they are.


Writing #2

| No Comments

When first given two seemingly unrelated occurrences such as a metronome and salvation, it seems silly for one to cause the other. But as Ivan Pavlov's Classical Conditioning proves, the clicks of the metronome (conditioned stimulus) occurring before the food is presented (unconditioned stimulus) condition the dog to salivate (unconditioned response) eventually without the food (conditioned response). At first, this flow chart seemed quite confusing. But after realizing how frequent classical conditioning happens, the relationship between two apparently random occurrences seems logical. Classical conditioning happens right here in my dorm! When someone flushes a toilet while the shower is going, the shower stutters for a couple seconds and then becomes scathingly hot. Soon after realizing that the shower became hot after a flush, I moved out of the water when the shower would stutter to avoid the hot water.
In the youtube video, a college student tests Pavlov's conditioning on his roommate. The student presses a button before shooting his roommate with an airsoft gun. Soon, the roommate realizes that after hearing the button get pressed, he's going to get shot by the gun.
I find the idea of classical conditioning extremely interesting. The suggestion of the ability to associate and almost allow predictions to be made between two occurrences makes me think deeper into the human (and animal) mind. How long does it take for the brain to make connections between two things? It seems like a more complex relationship would take longer to develop. Does classical conditioning work on all animals? When animals adapt to different foods or styles of eating is that considered classical conditioning? Does it work on all ages of humans? Can just an infant create relationships between two things? With the case of baby Albert, how long would the baby react to a rat in a negative way? Would baby Albert forever fear rats?


Your Brain Can Sees What You Can't

| No Comments


One of the most interesting phenomena that we discussed briefly about in Psy 1001 lecture is blindsight. Basically, it is when a "visually blinded" person can still detect an object and succeed in variety of discrimination tasks through guesswork but unaware that he can see it. Through some research, I discovered that people with blindsight are not only able to subconsciously use visual information to navigate, but they are also able to detect emotion and even gender of others. This rare phenomenon occurs when the patient's primary visual cortex, the region that considered essential to sight has been damaged due to injury or stroke. However, their visual system is still functioning fine: the visual information is going to the retina's visual receptors (rods and cones), and activating the higher visual cortex of the brain for visual processing. Researchers believe it is this disconnection of the primary visual pathway that disrupted the communication part of the visual processing that is causing the problem.
The first intensive case study on blindsight is DB, who is blind because of the surgical removal of a non-malignant tumor in his right visual cortex (V1) at the age of 33 years old. He is reported to be aware of basic shape and line in the discrimination task, although for him it is more of a guessing game throughout the procedure. When presented him with more complex images, DB was able to distinguish the image with one word syllable though many responses are not correct they clearly in similar category with the image. One theory for DB's phenomenon is that in the absence of V1, his visual processing skips through V1 and the visual input is then transfer to the dorsal pathway (the Where pathway) that identifying what things are without projecting the image in his brain through V1. There is a video clip on blindsight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuNDkcbq8PY (it is the same documentary that we watched about Phantom Limb)

Evil Tongues Make Evil Eyes

| No Comments

In this study, researches of Northeastern University in Boston concluded that when one person gossips about another person, the listener will literally see that person as more evil. When they hear about bad things someone else has done (true or not), they associate that person's face with what they hear. So the next time they see the person's face, their mind contorts it into appearing more evil. The researchers believe humans developed this because of the need to avoid a person that could possibly put our lives in danger. Most likely, it isn't necessary, but in the past it probably was. They concluded that it is very important that people don't gossip just for the sake of it, because it then effects how people see that person, and in turn, act towards them.
So since humans aren't consciously aware that they do this, and they even do it without trying or even wanting to do it, it has to be hardwired somewhere in the brain.
So I can't help but think what all the celebrity gossip does to our society. Not that everyday people have to talk with celebrities often, but in cases like politics, how people see and act towards them does matter. So has our society become numb to gossip? Or does it still effect us as strongly as the researchers believe? I believe we are still effected by the gossip, and it does make us see people in a negative light. But I don't think it's all that strong of an effect. And gossip almost seems natural. The majority of people I know gossip all the time, and it doesn't seem to ruin their opinions of those people. Personally, I don't even pay attention to a lot of it. So, I think their study does have some merit. But I also think that it isn't as serious of an effect as they say.


Alien-hand syndrome, no it isn't a disease you catch from close encounters of the third kind. It's actually is a rare condition that affects patients of epilepsy causing them to have little or no control over a particular limb(s). This condition occurs because the two hemispheres of the brain are not communicating properly. The left and right hemispheres usually share information simultaneously but when the line of communication of severed, each side will think completely independent of each other in certain situations. For example, a women will choose her outfit for the evening and all of sudden her alien limb will put away the outfit.

Surprisingly Alien-hand syndrome is from deliberate damage to the brain. Epileptic patients undergo an intensive surgery as a last resort effort to relieve painful, uncontrollable seizures. The thick fibers called the corpus callosum connecting the left and right side of the brain are cut thus, breaking off communication between left in right hemispheres. The result is a body controlled by almost two different brains. Alien -hand syndrome usually subsides when the brain finally adapts to its new physiology but in some cases one side will never submit to the dominating hemisphere.

Below: Karen Byrne of New Jersey has suffered with Alien-hand syndrome for over 18 years. She is one of the rare cases where her right side refuses to be dominated by her left side. She is now receiving drug treatment that slightly relieves her condition. In this video she is fresh out of surgery already afflicted with syndrome of her left hand uncontrollably slapping her face. (skip to 1:10 for actual footage of Karen)


Who is in charge of your conciousness?

| No Comments

The final segment of Marcus de Sautoy's video was incredibly interesting. In this section of the video he focused on answering the question " Who is in charge of our decisions; our consciousness, or our neurons?"
In order to answer this question, Sautoy participated in an experiment where he had to randomly pick a right or left button, and there was a brain scanner that recorded his bran activity leading up to the choice that he made.
Although the experiment itself was not incredibly interesting, the results were shocking. Through examining the data that the brain scanner collected, neuroscientists were able to see what button Sautoy was going to press six seconds before he consciously made the decision to click the button on the remote.
When returning to the original question that was presented, "Who is in charge of our decisions; our consciousness, or our neurons?" The answer appears to be the neurons. This is incredible surprising. When we, as humans, make decisions, we tend to believe that we are making them ourselves, but this evidence seems to show a cause effect relationship between the subconscious and conscious mind. It is impossible to differentiate between consciousness and brain activity, because they are one in the same.
When I first saw this, I was kind of confused- if my subconscious mind is making all my decisions, what role does my conscious decision really make? but when the mind starts to wander like that, it is important to remember that the subconscious and the conscious mind are not at a duel, rather, they work together. They hold the same core values and goals. This area of research is really interesting to me, and I can not wait to learn more about the advancements that are being made.

Consequences of Sleepwalking

| No Comments


If you google "sleep walking" right now, all the images that you would come across would be of people or characters with their arms outstretched, little "zzzz's" coming out of their mouths, and walking like a zombie. Surprisingly, sleep walking has nothing to do with what we see in movies and what we imagine when we think about a person sleepwalking. In reality, people that sleep walk act as if they are fully awake and sometimes involve themselves in little activities. Yet, some sleep walkers are known to drive cars, turn on computers, or even have sexual intercourse. I think this is an important theory, because this unconscious event leads everlasting results. This theory makes me wonder, should we consider sleep walking as a disorder? I remember I watched a Law and Order SVU episode, where a guy was found not guilty for raping a girl, because he was sleep walking. Is being a sleepwalker the new alibi for unlawful actions? Aside from an SVU episode, sleep walking may lead to bad consequences in the real world. For example, in the Telegraph article, "Drama student claims he raped while sleepwalking," the guy stated that the girl consented to sexual activity; whereas, the girl said she woke up in the horror of being raped. So what can the jury say in the case like this in which the psychological research on sleepwalking support the idea of the girl consenting to sexual activity? The sleep walking theory is really interesting, because outside the book the theory connects to the legal system and will impact many individuals.

When do we first become aware of ourselves?

| No Comments


In a video published by BBC fascinating, a man named Marcus de Sautoy volunteers to subject himself to research in hopes of discovering more information on consciousness and self awareness. In the first section of this video, he asks the question "when do we first become aware of ourselves?"
In order to research this question, he observes an experiment. In this experiment, children are placed in front of a mirror with a sticker on their cheek. The observers wait to see whether or not the child notices the sticker or not, if they do, they hypothesis is that the child is self aware.
The results of the experiment showed that time and time again, a human seems to become self aware between the period of 18-24 months. Before this period, although the children would make eye contact with the mirror, they did not seem to recognize the figure they were looking at as themselves.
This experiment has been done on many different species, and the only ones that have passed are chimpanzees, orangutangs, and humans.
I find this experiment to be incredibly interesting. In the future, I wonder if scientists will be able to develop an experiment that shows how the human body becomes self aware, and what brain functions are necessary in order for a person to understand who they actually are. The video explained that being self aware gives us the ability to remember the past, be conscious of whats going on in the present, and even imagine the future. I would be very interested to find out where in the brain this takes place, and what exactly the thought processes look like.

Hypnosis: What is it really?

| No Comments

For most people, when they think of someone who has been hypnotized they think of someone who is in an unconscious state and does strange things they wouldn't normally do in a conscious state of awareness. According to scientific research, when a person is in the state of hypnosis, they are actually awake and usually aware of their surroundings. There are many myths and misconceptions associated with hypnosis that people aren't usually fully aware of.
One myth that surprises many and surprised me as well is that the person being hypnotized is actually aware of their surroundings. Most people believe that the person has no idea of what's going on and is in an unconscious state of mind. In actuality, people are fully aware of their immediate surroundings.
Another common misconception is that people usually do odd, strange things when they are under hypnosis. Usually the person being hypnotized feels pressure to do out-of-the-ordinary things and that's why they behave the way they do. Also, many stage hypnotists sometimes whisper commands into the volunteers' ear to do certain things. People can actually resist hypnotic suggestions at their own will that's how conscious of a state they're in.
A hypnotist came to my high school for our senior party and brought about 20 volunteers up onto the stage. Within a few minutes, all the volunteers already seemed to be hypnotized. They were all doing things they wouldn't normally do and it almost seemed like they weren't in a state of hypnosis. I find it kind of funny how everyone seemed like they were in an unconscious state of mind but in reality they were really conscious and aware of their surroundings. Next time you go see a hypnotist show, you'll hopefully better understand what is really going on in the volunteers head.


Top-Down Processing and Bottom-Up Processing

| No Comments

Top-down and bottom-up processing are important to learn about and understand because they are the ways in which we process objects. In top-down processing our brain is conceptually driven and therefore projects our expectations or beliefs on the object. Whereas in bottom-up processing the object is constructed in our brain using the parts. These two processes work together in order to help us perceive objects. I think it is important in order to understand how these processes work together in order to understand how people perceive things because we may not always perceive objects in the same way as other people do. Such as in the example here:


If you were to be told the object was a rat then your top-down processing would then perceive it as a rat and then your bottom-up processing would place the details in order to construct the object as a rat. However, if you were told it was a man wearing glasses a similar process would occur but you would perceive a man. This is just one example of how these two ways of processing work together in order to form our perceptions of objects. After looking at these concepts I wonder how often I perceive something different from someone else simply because of our expectations of what the object should be. However, I think that this does not occur to often because as humans our processing is similar, so our perceptions of these ambiguous objects will be rather similar when first looking at the object.

Split Brain Syndrome

| No Comments

Split Brain Syndrome

Spilt brain syndrome, as define by Health Guide, is the brain actually divided into two separate halves with the corpus collosum connecting the two halves together. I found spilt brain syndrome very fascinating. I am so amazed by how the brain works.

Many people think that the left brain works for the left side of the body and the right side of the brain works for the right side of the body but that isn't true. The left side of the brain controls the functions in the right side of the body and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. Some people get it get confused when thinking about it.

As I was reading the Health Guide, they gave a scenario about a woman who have split brain syndrome. The woman was given a deck of card to hold in her left hand and the doctor asked her what she was holding and she couldn't tell what she was holding. She could see exactly what she is holding but couldn't speak out the word of what it actually is. Then the doctor moved the deck of cards to hold in her right hand and she immediately knew that it was a deck of card. From this experiment, this woman left brain hemisphere is better than her right brain hemisphere.

Health Guide also indicates that split brain has an impact on a person's personality. With the brain being spilt, it can some time, possible to develop two different personalities.

Split brain syndrome can be a strange thing, but it's fascinating!

true or false waking a sleepwalker can be dangerous!

| No Comments

Sleepwalking is the phenomenon of walking around, and doing other activities such as driving a car, going on the computer or even having sexual intercourse, while fully asleep. There is a myth that you should never wake a sleepwalker for they may become dangerous and harm others or themselves. This myth may originate from the probability of a sleepwalker moving large sharp objects or performing dangerous tasks while sleepwalking. It may be hard to wake a sleepwalker in general for sleepwalking occurs in the deepest state of sleep. Many doctors have conducted research to test this theory. Because they are in the deepest state of sleep they have no real control over their bodies, and if they are operating machinery or performing dangerous activities while sleep aggression and violence. Using any combination of the six principles of scientific thinking you can analyze the information and research. One of the principles that can be used to analyze this myth is to apply repeatability. By repeating this study more than once, with different test subjects you can be assured that you have the most accurate data. The data that was collected in this particular study done by Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Minnesota Medical School found that a sleepwalker may become dangerous but it is not always a constant result. There are not as many other explanations that can use in these situations. The only other explanation that could be used for this particular situation would be that a sleepwalker becomes dangerous because they are so startled that they were awoken from their deep sleep. Since sleepwalkers are unaware of their actions suddenly waking them up may put them in a sense of shock and a feeling of being out of place. Waking a sleepwalker can cause them to become violent, but does not always end in that manner.

Boyd, Robynne. Fact or Fiction?: Waking a Sleepwalker May Kill Them. N.p., 5 Apr. 2007. Web. 8 Oct. 2011. .

Insight into Sight

| No Comments

In our psychology class, we learned how miraculous and complex our sight is in our daily lives. Contrary to popular beliefs, we don't see a direct representation of reality but rather an interpretation formed by our biological systems in the eyes and the brain. We highly depend on this interpretation in order to maneuver through the world around us. In addition, our sight is a significant function because it allows us to recognize the color, shape, and the texture of objects so that we can conceptualize our surroundings.
sight.jpgHowever, a staggering 40 million people have had their sight taken away from them because of blindness. According to the World Health Organization, cataracts and glaucoma are a few of the leading causes of blindness. With the increase of diabetes in the United States, it's important to note that diabetic retinopathy is another cause of vision loss. As a type 1 diabetic, the thought of losing my vision when I'm older is always in the back of my mind. Since diabetic retinopathy is currently incurable, I can't help but wonder what life would be like without the joy of seeing the awe inspiring sights of the world and simply the faces of my loved ones. Nonetheless, I usually snap out of that mind-set and remember that each day is a new beginning.

Yet as I sit here and ponder about the future, I wonder if there are any new medical strives to help cure blindness caused by the damage of the retina. Luckily, there's still hope out there. I recently came across a nifty article that announces the first human embryonic stem cell trial in Europe for patients with a progressive form of blindness called Stargardt's Macular Dystrophy. A United States firm has gained the approval from regulators in Europe, which will allow British surgeons to inject embryonic stem cells into patients' retinas. There is a potential that a whole range of disorders of the retina will benefit from the replacement of retinal cells. On the other hand, the trial remains highly controversial because the cells are derived from human embryonic stem cells. As a society, it all boils down to whether or not we are willing to make those sacrifices.

Conscious awareness

| No Comments


This week in class, we discussed consciousness and the difference between what goes on in the left and right hemispheres of the brain. We also discussed the consequences of severing the corpus callosum in split-brain surgery. Instantly at the mention of consciousness, I thought of this video that I watched on wimp.com recently. This woman, Doctor Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a stroke in 1996 and was able to study her brain from the inside out. She discusses what her experiences were, and what roles the right and left hemispheres played in those experiences.

One thing that I do wonder about after class this week and watching this video is why in split-brain surgery, patients only suffer to disconnection with voicing what they see on their left side (that which goes to the right hemisphere). From what Doctor Jill Bolte Taylor shared in the video, the right hemisphere is much more abstract and carefree than the left, which is where all the business and reasoning takes place. I feel like with the severing of the corpus callosum, there would be a disconnection of these two brain personalities. As she says, "the right hemisphere sees the big pictures and the left hemispheres picks out details, and more details of those details."

I wonder if the way the brain interprets what it sees visually is altered depending on which side of the brain it is sent to. If these two sides of the brain really do have "different personalities," then wouldn't they think about what they see in different ways as well? This makes me think that although reasoning takes place in the frontal lobe, once split-brain surgery is performed, if the patient sees something happen quickly on the left side of their body, would they react in a more carefree way than if they saw it on their right? Or would it be the other way around because the left hemisphere pays attention to details and the right hemisphere sees the whole picture?

I think it would be extremely interesting to study something like this. If only doctors could turn off one side of your brain to study the differences between turning a hemisphere off and keeping them both on, but connected.


Have you ever tried to make sense of why your dad was having dinner with your teacher while you were flying on a place to another country? There is a theory called activation - synthesis theory which helps to explain the way we dream and what we dream about. The activation- synthesis theory was started in the 1960's and 1970's and was founded by Alan Hobson and Robert McCarley. This theory explained that during REM sleep the circuits in our brains were being activated. By the brain activating circuits , the brain was bringing in random thoughts from different parts of the brain like the limbic system and hippocampus and amygdala. This results in us dreaming about different emotions and memories. Our brain then attempts to make sense of these random thoughts and this results in dreaming.

When I had read this it made me wonder why in some of my dreams I have dreamt about people I would never normally talk to or I have only seen this person for a brief second? It also makes me think about why my brain can store an unfamiliar face I've seen for only a second but cant store all of the information I am listening to in a lecture?
It would be nice if everything we heard and saw was automatically stored into our brains!

There have been many times when I was dreaming and the next morning I wake up and can not make sense of my dream. This can be frustrating at times because I want to know what my dreams mean but I cant necessarily figure it out.

The implication of inattentional blindness in tricks

| No Comments

3. How could people watch without "see"? Students might ask themselves this question after watched the famous inattentional blindness experiment in the discussion group last week. Although the moon-walking bear was outstanding, most of students still ignored it when they focused on the people in the white shirts. This phenomenon showed that not all the objects that got into people's vision system could cause attentions, and thus might not have the opportunity to enter the consciousness to be aware of. Due to this fact, performers often use the inattentional blindness to their advantages. Now, please watch this "This That card trick" video. In this trick, the performer asked audiences to concentrate on the "That" card. At this time, he did a good job to move the audience's attentions to a certain point by saying that "Keep your eye on the 'That' card." Under this situation, the audiences would only stare at the "That" card through the whole process. This trick seemed to be so magical that audiences might think the performer must cheat. In fact, the performer did nothing special to these three cards. He just put the cards forward and backward in a different order very quickly in his hand. What's more, when he showed the cards to the camera, audiences would be more interested in the words on the cards but not the way the performer held and turned the cards. As a result, audiences put all their attentions to the certain point and were not able to see the performer's moves clearly. People thought that they were fooled by the performers but actually they were fooled by their inattentional blindness unconsciously. When they were told how the trick worked and watched the trick again, they would transform their attentions to the performer's movements. Thus, the inattentional blindness disappeared and this trick was not mystical any more.

Gateway Drug or Fun Filled Night of Giggling?

| No Comments

Pot, Mary Jane, grass, weed, 420; these are known nicknames of the most used illegal drug in the United States, marijuana. It has been a prominent drug throughout the history of our country and different ages have all tried the drug. Marijuana has been a prominent subject in Hollywood movies and in songs; it is no surprise that the youth of today has been persuaded to experiment the use of the drug to feel the "high." Many people state that marijuana is the gateway drug to other more harmful drugs, like heroine or cocaine.
The use of marijuana is solely the choice of the user. They may use the drug to feel the effects of being high and to feel the need to experiment while still being young. A person who uses marijuana for this purpose has no intentions to try harder drugs. It is well known that the effect of marijuana comes from the main ingredient THC and that using marijuana has no serious physical health consequences. If a user is aware of this, an incentive to use it is more prominent compared to using other drugs that are more dangerous.
In the textbook, "Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding" the authors mentioned the use of twin studies to research the gateway drug theory. They are two different persons who have made different decisions about their lifestyle. What if one was more daring to try new things? Using twins to research is an ineffective way.
Others could say that being under the influence of marijuana effects the decision to try another drug while being high. Yes, a person is more vulnerable but it circles back around to morals and values. If a person has strong values of not using dangerous drugs they will not. All the people I know who consume marijuana all agree with this. It is a personal decision.
The choice to use marijuana or any drug at that point is strictly the choice of the user. There is no way to prove that marijuana is a gateway drug or it influences to consume others in any way. If the user decides to consume harsher drugs it's the users decision.



Out-of-Body Experience

| No Comments

As I was reading a story about Carlos Alvarado, I found his account of an out-of-body experience to be very interesting. An out-of-body experience is one in which someone feels their consciousness outside of their body, as if it is floating above them, and in some cases, they may be watching themselves from above. I found this to not only be a very interesting experience, but also a somewhat important finding. Being that it was experienced by a police officer in her first night on patrol reflects the fact that it is a prominent finding, and it can be experienced in a variety of situations. Personally, I have never experienced or known someone to have experienced an OBE. As I understand, people that are the most perceptible to experiencing this phenomenon are those who have experienced other unusual sensations, are on medication or using drugs, or are on the extremities of being either very relaxed or very stressed out- which may be one of the reasons that 25 percent of college students claim to have had an account of an OBE.

Relating an OBE to myself, although I have never experienced it in an everyday situation, I can recall that many of the dreams that I have I am not in my body or playing the part of myself, but actually watching myself perform the tasks or whatever I may be doing in my dream from above. This leads me to believe that what I see in my dreams is comparable to what those who experience OBE's see in real life. The following picture is an example of what an OBE might appear to be like to someone who is experiencing it:


Ultimately, the fact that the consciousness of the person experiencing it is not within them (aka out-of-body) is somewhat confusing to me. I do not understand how, going back to the example of the police officer, that her body could perform something while she watched it? I also question if this experience is actually real or rather a mere hallucination? The reasoning behind my misunderstanding of this topic is most likely due to the fact that I have never experienced it myself, and I am hoping that further research and assessment of OBE's will better help me understand the experience and what it is like to the person who is affected by them.

Out-of-Body Experience

| No Comments

As I was reading a story about Carlos Alvarado, I found his account of an out-of-body experience to be very interesting. An out-of-body experience is one in which someone feels their consciousness outside of their body, as if it is floating above them, and in some cases, they may be watching themselves from above. I found this to not only be a very interesting experience, but also a somewhat important finding. Being that it was experienced by a police officer in her first night on patrol reflects the fact that it is a prominent finding, and it can be experienced in a variety of situations. Personally, I have never experienced or known someone to have experienced an OBE. As I understand, people that are the most perceptible to experiencing this phenomenon are those who have experienced other unusual sensations, are on medication or using drugs, or are on the extremities of being either very relaxed or very stressed out- which may be one of the reasons that 25 percent of college students claim to have had an account of an OBE.

Relating an OBE to myself, although I have never experienced it in an everyday situation, I can recall that many of the dreams that I have I am not in my body or playing the part of myself, but actually watching myself perform the tasks or whatever I may be doing in my dream from above. This leads me to believe that what I see in my dreams is comparable to what those who experience OBE's see in real life. The following picture is an example of what an OBE might appear to be like to someone who is experiencing it:


Ultimately, the fact that the consciousness of the person experiencing it is not within them (aka out-of-body) is somewhat confusing to me. I do not understand how, going back to the example of the police officer, that her body could perform something while she watched it? I also question if this experience is actually real or rather a mere hallucination? The reasoning behind my misunderstanding of this topic is most likely due to the fact that I have never experienced it myself, and I am hoping that further research and assessment of OBE's will better help me understand the experience and what it is like to the person who is affected by them.

The Life of a Narcoleptic Victim

| No Comments


Did you know that in the United States 1 in 2000 people suffer with narcolepsy? To read this statistic I was shocked at how prevalent this sleep disorder really is. Most people have seen and laughed at the YouTube video of narcoleptic dogs... but what about the people that deal with narcolepsy on a daily basis? I began to wonder what like is really like for them.

The Lillienfeld text describes narcolepsy as "a dramatic sleep disorder that people experience episodes of sudden sleep." The main symptoms of narcolepsy include excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy. Cataplexy is the loss of muscle control and can be triggered by emotions such as laughing or crying. The HelpGuide website page on narcolepsy describes that other symptoms might include hallucinations, sleep paralysis, microsleep (brief sleep episode as you are performing daily tasks), nighttime wakefulness and rapid entry of REM sleep. The causes are not set in stone, but scientists do know that narcolepsy is related to the lack of a hormone, hypocretin, in the brain.

The symptoms listed above may make daily activites more difficult for a narcoleptic victim. I found this website called the Narcoleptic Network, which is a blog for narcoleptic victims to share their stories about their diagnoses and how narcolepsy affects their lives. I was reading a story about Tesa, who was diagnosed with narcolepsy when she was just 15 years old. A completely normal girl who was involved in several extracurricular activities and occasionally fell asleep in class. She started falling asleep uncontrollably and visited her sleep doctor who then realized she was losing muscle tone every time she fell asleep. Tesa continues her story saying that she had to drop a class in order to take naps during the school day so that she could stay awake for the remainder of the school day. Tesa's life then started to revolve around her narcolepsy. It is something she will take medication for the remainder of her life, describe on every job application and affect virtually every decision she will make. Narcolepsy is truly a hard disease to live with.

Inattentional Blindness

| No Comments

Inattentional blindness is a topic that we discussed previously in chapter four, sensation and perception. However, we didn't talk too much about it, and I found it rather interesting. By definition inattentional blindness is our failure to detect stimuli that are in plain sight simply because our attention and focus is elsewhere. Meaning we're looking but not really looking.
A few experiments were done in particular that fascinated me. In our discussions we watched a video where a man stopped random people on the street and asked for directions. However mid-way through he switched places with someone else and the other person never noticed. They did this experiment with different races, age and even gender. While watching it I couldn't believe that these people couldn't notice the change in a person, it seemed so obvious. So I became more curious whether I would be able to detect something so obvious.
In one of my other classes we looked at several pictures that would flash and something would change every time. Surprisingly I could only detect the change in one of the photos, so evidently I can't detect the obvious. While reading up some more about this crazy blip in our perception, it was said that humans are actually really poor at detecting stimuli even in our plain sight because we focus too much on one area. To me this seems like a dangerous thing because how many times is danger headed our way, but because we aren't looking for it we are missing it completely.
The thought of inattentional blindness and also change blindness makes me curious if there is any way psychologists can test an individual's blindness. Also, are there varying degrees of this blindness? Do we ever have hope in the future that with some psychotherapy, we can improve ourselves to be less "blind"?

Visual Agnosia

| No Comments

Even though we have completed our first psychology test I'm sure most of us remember when Professor Gewirtz mentioned the crazy book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat in his lecture. However, you may or may not remember that Oliver Sacks wrote the book and that it was about a man with visual agnosia.

Visual agnosia is a temporal lobe disorder in which a person has difficulty perceiving different objects. The term Agnosia is greek for "not knowing" and someone with this disorder can easily see the shape and color of an object but have an extremely hard time remembering the name of it [1]. For example, a person with visual agnosia would be able to understand, "please hand me the skinny, silver thing with a small, flat top and a fat, wooden handle" but they wouldn't be able to understand the simple asking of "please hand me the screwdriver". Visual agnosia is the most common form of agnosia and very similar to Prosopagnosia, a disease that makes it difficult for a person to recognize faces [2]. It is mainly associated with lesions in the occipital and temporal lobes [3].

Understanding diseases such as visual agnosia help in the complete comprehension of our central nervous system and the consequences the can come with brain damage. I choose to write about this topic because I find it extremely interesting. Its hard to imagine what life would be like if you were faced with the difficulties that come with this visual agnosia. Learning about this disease also makes me realize how we take the ability to perform simple actions, such as being able to give an object a name, for granted.

The video posted below is a perfect example of the difficulties a person with visual agnosia experiences.


[1] http://www.thefreedictionary.com/agnosia
[2] http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/agnosia
[3] http://www.psychnet-uk.com/x_new_site/DSM_IV/agnosia.html

Split Brain Experiment

| No Comments


Split Brain.jpg

The Split-brain procedure is very interesting. When we watched the video in class of the man who had his corpus callous split in order to lessen his severe epilepsy it was amazing. When an image flashed on the screen to his right side he was able to tell the researcher what picture was flashed on the right side of the screen. This is because the information from the right eye is conveyed to the left hemisphere of the brain. The left hemisphere is responsible for speaking and language.
But when images where flashed on the left side of the screen to his left eye the man was not able to name the picture that was flashed. But he was able to draw a picture of the picture shown him. This is because the information from the left eye is conveyed to the right hemisphere and the right hemisphere is responsible for visual activities and plays a role in putting words and pictures together but this side cannot communicate like the left side.
I find this very interesting because every day we walk around and place names and picture of faces in our heads and we can look at something and place a name with it or hear a name and place a face with it. It does not take us more than a few seconds to remember the objects presented us. But the split-brain patients take longer, especially when it is a picture presented to their left side. They can't say the name of the picture shown them. It is very sad to think that we take for granted the way our brains find information for us.

I found a very interesting game that shows the effects of the split-brain procedure.http://www.nobelprize.org/educational/medicine/split-brain/about.html

Activation-synthesis theory

| No Comments


Activation-synthesis theory

This theory basically attempts to explain the haphazard imagery and noises that create our dreams. It debunks the Freudian view on dreams and claims that random firing of neural signals causes dreams. The hallucinations we perceive while dreaming are an attempt of the forebrain to piece together these stimuli into an intelligible message for us to interpret. These random signals originate from cells in the pons (brain stem). This is a very important concept because it is a reminder of the vulnerability of us humans to seek out significance or paranormal existence in scientifically explainable things. Dreams are a fantastic real world example of apophenia, believing in connections between unrelated phenomena. Many books and websites are dedicated to dream interpretation. These pseudoscientific references claim that they can deduce what the brain is trying to say from these random firings. My favorite from the above website is that if a crab appears in your dream you are apparently too clingy. Personally I have fallen victim to this with my own personal dreams. On more than one occasion I believed that my flying in a dream represented feeling elated by a recent success. It's very easy to make connections between our dreams and our waking lives. The questions that remain in my head even after reading chapter five's possible explanations for dreams are abundant. I wonder if an explanation for clairvoyant dreams is that our memory of our dreams fades with time so when we see something that reminds us of something from our dream we associate them as one and the same. I am also curious; how would humans react to similar experiments of Jouvet with cats. Cat's minds are much simpler therefore we assume their dreams are as well. So how would a human mind's dreams play out?

Do I know you?

| No Comments

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to not recognize anyone around you? Well this is a very real problem for those with prosopagnosia. This happens when damage to the fusiform gyrus takes place which causes the person to no longer recognize faces. The person cannot even recognize their own family or friends; this would create a very sad and lonely life.


So why does this happen? Each part of the brain has a specific duty. Although things such as memory can occur throughout the brain in different places each lobe or part has a certain "job" to do. For example the parietal lobe is in charge of the bodies "topographical map" where each part of the lobe represents a different part of the body.

Facial recognition is done in the temporal lobe so when the temporal lobe is injured it is no longer able to perform this task. The temporal lobe is located on the sides of our brain and has other functions besides face recognition. This part of the brain also plays a role in our ability to hear and understand language, as well as memory, which accounts for why we are no longer able to recognize someone if damage is done. The brain has many functions and needs to be protected, so now we know why we must wear a helmet because without our brain we'd be lost.

Picture: http://bodygeeks.com/2011/03/wtf-wednesdays-prosopagnosia/

Christine Myers
Psych section 014
Blog #2 October 6, 2011

People often turn to the news immediately when an event happens, a crime is committed near then, or a tragic incident is heard of. The news is a great resource for all things current and interesting, but there is a downside. The news wants ratings, and while hopeful cancer survivors and cute puppies that were just adopted bank a few thousand viewers, violence and sex sell.

Millions of people turn to local news stations each night to hear the new scandal or tragedy that has occurred in their community. They hear about abuse, robbery, murder and prostitution. How can the viewer not think that the world is extremely violent? How can the viewer not infer that this is the most violent the human race has been? Watching segment after segment on the latest crime has a lasting effect of watchers, leading people to think that the crime rate is going up, and will continue to do so.

Steve Pinker, a Harvard psychology professor, and the subject of A Harvard Crimson article, believes completely different. His statistics and research show that violence is on the decline in the world and that as a human population, we are the least violent that any other group of generations of humans.

"Pinker argues that while the fundamentals of human nature have remained unchanged, institutional forces such as democracy, effective policing, a fair judicial system, and free commerce have gradually succeeded in suppressing our inner demons" (Lowe, 2011).

Pinker is thinking in a psychological way to come up with these statistics and models that prove the world has become less violent as a whole, no matter how dreary times may seem. He uses the critical thinking process of ruling our rival hypotheses by looking at all those institutional forces, what they have done for society and how they have affected the violence level, to rule out lurking variables and establish causation for the decline in violence.

"Twentieth century homicide rates in Europe, for example, show a 10- to 50-fold decrease in homicide rates during the late Middle Ages. Within the last decade, the rate of documented deaths from war, terrorism, genocide, and other political violence has been a fraction of a percentage point" (Lowe, 2011).

Pinker also thinks critically by giving others the information they need to replicate his findings in a any manner by saying how he came about such answers. He shows that he dug into twentieth century Europe, as well as looking at areas of violence now and compared them, setting a basis for others to be able to replicate or falsify his results.
Pinker is working as a psychologist and using each critical thinking method to further his beliefs in an ethical and psychologically sound way, giving more and more proof that he is correct, and that the amount of violence in the world has decreased, even though the local news may tell us differently.

Harvard University Paper, The Crimson:

What do you think of when you think of a hypnotist? Probably some weird guy on stage convincing people to bark like a dog or act like a baby or something, right? I was surprised to find out that hypnosis is actually studied in psychology and has made its way into mainstream science. Hypnosis even has clinical applications. Are these treatments effective, though? And how does hypnosis work? (I found an article from the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis that explains some of this.) Hypnosis has been being studied for decades, but there is no generally accepted definition of how it works. Hypnosis may work due to a patient's beliefs or expectations about hypnosis. For example, people convinced of the effectiveness of hypnosis are more likely to respond to it. It may also be result of a separation of functions that usually work together. Meaning, during hypnosis, a person has a "hypnotized" and an "unhypnotized" part of them that act, feel or perceive separately from each other. Clinical hypnosis has been around for over 200 years and was once used in place of anesthesia. Clinical hypnosis is used by psychologists, psychotherapists, physicians and even dentists. It may be used to break addictions, relieve pain or reduce anxiety in therapy, or, from a more medical standpoint, to reduce pain and discomfort in situations where anesthesia cannot be used. However, in most states, hypnosis isn't regulated, so watch out for phonies. The success of clinical hypnosis allegedly varies on the hypnotist and your level of comfort with them (according to sites that endorse clinical hypnosis- which makes a clear cut answer hard to find.) So, the next time you're at that festival or county fair, keep in mind that the stage hypnotist that performs every hour is probably full of it. But also know the facts; know that hypnosis is actually studied scientifically and used clinically, and, who knows, it may actually be helpful to you one day.

Heres a link to that article:

Oh, I can't figure out how to add a picture (mock me later), so heres a link to a creepy hypnotist man. seriously, just look at it, you wont regret it.


Feng Shui: Pseudoscience at it's Best

| No Comments

Feng Shui began 3000 years ago in China and is still used today. It is an ancient art that deals with balancing energies in a space to promote good health to those people inhabiting it. The word Feng translates to "wind" while the word Shui translates into " water." In the Chinese culture wind and water symbolize good health, and good Feng Shui is supposed to give you good luck and prosperity, while bad Feng Shui does the opposite. The idea is that all land is alive and filled with Chi, a type of energy ,that if used correctly can lead to good fortune and prosperity in life. This claim however is Pseudoscience. Pseudoscience is defined by a set of claims that seem scientific but aren't. There are no studies to support the idea of Fung Shui and no way to measure if the effects are realistic. Who decides what good Feng Shui is? There is no specific grid or outline to follow, thus proving that the myth has no substance. Some people claim that the effects of Feng Shui can be measured and that a scientific study can be done. The idea is that the effects of Feng Shui can be seen in your everyday life. For example someone with good Feng Shui would have economic prosperity and emotional well-being. But once again, how would one measure that? Who determines what emotional well-being is? The claim of Feng Shui is pseudoscience, an unscientific claim. If you're looking for economic prosperity and emotional well-being in life, I would stick to getting a good education and making good life choices.

Blogging tips

| No Comments

Hi everyone,
Good job with your entries last time! I had a lot of fun reading them, and saw some good analysis and extension of the concepts you've covered so far. I've grouped some of the very best posts under the "Sample entry" category, take a look at those to see some good examples of what I'm looking for. In addition, here are some tips of things to do and avoid in your next posts:

*Make sure to categorize your posts. When you create a post, select the appropriate category (i.e., Writing ##) to label your post. This will make my job a lot easier!

*Go above and beyond what is discussed in class. Don't just introduce a theory/phenomenon and say "I think this is cool/weird!" or "This happened to me once!" Think about what your experiences or the theory leads you to wonder-- what are the next steps research should take?

*Make sure your post is about psychology. In Psych 1001, we mostly talk about human psychology, and your posts should reflect that. However, psychologists do use animal models frequently to understand human thought, behavior, and processing. If you include an article about animals, make sure you relate the research back to humans-- how might this parallel what happens in humans? What does it mean for the quality of human life?

*Answer your own questions. When you ask a question, explain why you think it's an important question or suggest some possible answers.

*When you include a link, make sure to mention what it's about (or include it as a reference in your post) and integrate it into your post. Don't let links hang out at the bottom as if to say, "Hey! Look at this semi-related thing I found on Google!"

Happy blogging!

The Cochlear Implant: A Modern Miracle

| No Comments

Do you ever stop and listen to the simple noises around you like the rustling of the leaves, the steady breeze, and distant cars? I am going to assume that many of us do not stop to listen to these kind of simple, every day noises. Many of us do not have the time or we do not pay attention to these noises, but for many people theses simple noises are being newly discovered.
Deafness occurs in many individuals because of damage to the cochlea (part of the inner ear responsible for transmitting sound waves tot he auditory nerve). Many people are born deaf and others can become deaf or have severe hearing loss due to other events. A cochlear implant is a biomedical device that is designed to navigate around the cochlea and transmit its own sound signals to the auditory nerve. A person that has a cochlear implant would wear a sound transmitter on their scalp (magnetically attached) that takes in the sound waves around them and transmits them to the auditory nerve.
To someone who has been deaf their entire lives the impact of this device is unimaginable. Just imagine not being able to hear all the sounds that we hear every day like the rustling of leaves and distant cars. It is something that is hard for us to imagine for those of us who have had the ability to hear our entire lives. Those every day sounds that we often take for granted, are sounds that are reveled in by those that receive the ability to hear because of this device. There was a case in which a babyCochlear Implant.jpg received the cochlear implant and was able to hear his mother's voice for the first time. Can you fathom what it would be like to not ever have heard your mother's voice? It is very difficult.
The Cochlear implant is a true miracle for many people. Many of the sounds we hear every day can now be heard by those who have never been able to hear them before in their lives. To me, seeing the reaction that someone has to hearing theses sounds for the first time is a special sight, and one that reminds me never to take the simple noises for granted.

Doogie Vanquishes Dementia

| No Comments

Not long ago in Professor Gewirtz's final lecture, Psychology 1001 students learned about Doogie the "smart mouse." Intrigued, I decided to find out more. In an article published by Princeton University (http://www.princeton.edu/pr/news/99/q3/0902-smart.htm) I found plenty of interesting information.

Doogie was "created" (let the Frankenstein flashbacks ensue) by neurobiologist Joe Tsien. By adding a single gene called NR2B, he was able to increase the animal's ability to solve, reason, and learn from his environment. During lecture, we saw how Doogie had a significantly faster learning curve than his unmodified peers did. Beyond this original extraordinary learning, modified mice retained certain features of juvenile mice into adulthood that allow them to remain better learners.


This is an extremely important finding for humanity as well as scientists. With such a simple modification, memory and learning problems could be wiped from the face of the Earth. My grandma and aunt have been diagnosed with memory loss problems and past research has shown that the difficulties they face are genetic. Someday I could be the one forgetting where I put things or not remembering my friends' names. This procedure has not been used on humans yet, but with Doogie's help it is only a matter of time before it could be. Looking to avoid gene modification, pharmaceutical companies could look into making drugs to enhance current NR2B effects in our bodies.

While these findings seem promising, there are questions left. Tsien's modified mice experienced chronic pain and had shorter life spans as a side effect of accelerated learning and retention abilities. Would these problems carry into a human application and if so how severe would they be? It is also unknown how effective NR2B treatment would be on humans and if there are other side effects that remain undetected in the mice. With such uncertainties, the NR2B discovery has much left to be discovered but offers hope to the millions who suffer from previously incurable diseases.

Opponent Process Theory

| No Comments

The Opponent Process Theory is easily explained that we perceive colors in terms of three different pairs of colors. These pairs are red or green, blue or yellow, or black or white. This theory is important because, it explains how we see things. It lets us understand how illusions work and confuses the eye. I have experienced illusions where you stare at a picture for a certain amount of time and when you look away you see the same picture with a different color. It can be explained by the Opponent Process Theory. Here is another example of an illusion that uses the Opponent Process Theory (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8xo2y3N-_c). There are a few questions I still have about the Opponent Process Theory. I would like to know more details on why our eyes work like that. Also I would like to know how this theory affects people are are color blind. Overall, the Opponent Process Theory is very interesting and explains how illusions are seen through our eyes.

In class we covered the topic of illusions. Even though we only really covered optical illusions in class, there are plenty of other types of illusions that exist in our lives. One example of this is the illusions that we have regarding procrastination, which is a problem that all of us face. Timothy A. Pychyl compiled a list of 10 of these illusions as well as the related truths behind each one. This list can be found at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-delay/201110/unnecessary-illusions-and-the-truth-about-procrastination. He also provides a link to another article of his where he writes about processes in the brain that lead us to procrastinate. The 5 "quirks," as he calls them, are related to how the brain functions and how the brain has evolved to function. The first is that the brain prioritizes minimizing danger over maximizing reward, which causes procrastination because we prefer to do things that provide us with immediate reward, because we choose to do things that we don't believe will harm us. The second is that our brain is set to avoid uncertainty because of the potential for harm. This relates directly to procrastination because many tasks are ambiguous to some extent, so we subconsciously try to avoid them. The third quirk is that we have a limited capacity to process information, which limits our ability to predict the way that our current actions will affect our future emotions, which also affects our ability to understand how doing tasks, such as studying or doing homework, will affect our lives in the future. The fourth is that we are not very good at controlling our emotions, which severely damages our ability to regulate our actions, which stops us from being able to regulate our own behavior. The final quirk that is discussed is that our plans and goals influence what our brains pay attention to. This is very similar to the concept of facial feedback, where a person's facial expression is capable of affecting their emotions. Like many perception based illusions, the illusions that cause us to procrastinate are a result of processes in our brain.


Is Twitter Able to Determine Your Mood?

| No Comments


I was casually reading the newspaper a few days ago, and I came across a very interesting article in the Pioneer Press (posted above). The article is based on a study that tries to connect a person's mood and how it changes over the course of a day, week, or season. How they planned to do this you ask? The answer was Twitter. The study conducted by Scott Golder and Michael Macy, sociologists at Cornell University, seems to repeat what we may already think is common sense. According to the article, some previous studies have tried to measure the average person's mood on social media sites and "elsewhere on the internet, but (these studies) looked at collective moods over time, in different time zones or during holidays." However, this study was different because it went across cultures, using over 2 million tweets from people in 84 different countries. The results of the study showed that positive posts crested during the times of 6-9 a.m. and gradually fell throughout the day until 3-4 p.m. After that, it slowly went up again, with a sharper increase after dinner. This follows the previous studies in that people's moods were lowest on Monday and Tuesday, and rose as the week went on with peaks on Saturday and Sunday. What makes these results interesting is that the same trends were found on the weekends, only shifted a few hours later. This is making the researchers to believe that our mood could be biologically influenced due to the time of day.
However, there are plenty of possible confounds in this study. The first one is that the article never said if the tweets were randomly selected. That could affect the validity of these results in a negative way if random selection was not used. Also, this study doesn't have the characteristics of an experiment. Those characteristics are random assignment of participants to conditions and manipulating an independent variable. That is important because we can only draw correlations from this evidence and can't rush to assuming causation without further tests. Another possible shortcoming of this study is how they measured positive and negative moods. Sarcasm can't be easily found in text, so it is hard to truly determine if a person feels good or not through a tweet. Something that the article mentioned, which I completely agree with, is that the tweeter's motives for posting the tweet could be clouded. They could be posting the tweet expressing their true emotions at the given time, or they could post a tweet to tell their followers what they want to hear. This type of tweet could mislead the scientists from knowing what mood the tweeter was in. Overall, some confounds are present here, and the study seems to have been conducted in a very meticulous manner, but we have to make sure that we don't fall victim to mistaking correlation with causation.

Phantom limb-writing 1

| No Comments

Phantom limb syndrome is where someone feels pain or a feeling in a limb that does not exist. I find It interesting and hard to picture how someone would have a feeling from a part of them that no longer exists. Researchers have found that when a limb is removed, the part of the brain that controls a different part of the body fills in the void of the lost limb. This means that someone who has lost their arm could feel like they feel something in their arm when a researcher strokes their cheek, just as the video that we watched in lecture presented. It is amazing to me that this phenomenon is even a plausible occurrence. I, for one, cannot imagine feeling something that is just, plain and simple, not there.
There is a method that exists which involves mirror therapy. In the linked video, they show an example of a man who has lost part of his leg. With mirror therapy the doctors and therapists use the man's existing leg to make it feel like he has the other one. In the mirror, he sees his left leg which makes it seem like his right leg that is not there. With this therapy, doctors hope to make patients feel a bit more normal and help to uncover the strangeness and uncertainty pertaining to phantom limb syndrome.


Assignment 1 - Blondes going extinct

| No Comments


This article states that blonde people are going extinct. As a blonde person I found this to be a quite interesting claim, but one that would be unlikely. The website states that it is completely false and that no study was ever done, it is a complete hoax. Many factors lead it to look believable. Firstly, the blonde gene is a recessive allele and thus it is easy to make the connection that eventually the dominant trait would be unanimous. This however does not hold true in terms of hair color, mostly because there are many alleles that go into it. The article also shares many other articles from the past that make the same claim. However every single article that they share has no evidence and no real study, it is all simply a hoax or scam. Also the wording such as stating that men prefer blondes to brunettes and that they prefer natural blondes to bottle blondes leads me to question the target audience and scientific reasoning.

The Principle of Critical thinking that is most appalling in this article is replicability. No study was ever even done and when the organizations that make the claims are questioned they say they have never even heard of the study. If something has never even been done how can it be replicated? This is appalling because they are quoting scientific research companies such as the WHO and the WHO states they have never heard of or made any studies or claims. Overall I would completely disregard any statement that blondes are going extinct.

Scaring America

| No Comments

Too often the American populous is conned into believing ridiculous claims made by tabloids or chain e-mails. The claims are often created to scare people, especially about their health, articles such as "Mayonnaise in fast food restaurant is actually pus from a tumor." Obviously this is an absurd idea but these clever writers use opinions from "experts" and phony studies. Anything seems plausible when coming from an expert.
People need to use critical thinking. An article in Women's weekly is not always a good source for health tips. We need to practice ideas in critical thinking such as further research. What type of studies were conducted? Were studies even performed? Sometime studies are conducted only in order to get results that they want. Thus corrupting the correct method of scientific research. As long as we use common sense and a little bit of research on our own, crazy claims meant to scare will not be a problem.


| No Comments

Birds and insects are tetrachromats, which means they have four cones that allow them to detect color. According to Lilienfeld, "There's preliminary evidence that a small portion of women are tetrachromats, meaning their eyes contain four types of cones: the three cones types most of us possess plus an additional cone for a color between red and green" (144). In an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette titled, "Some women may see 100 million colors, thanks to their genes," Mark Roth agrees that it is possible for some women to be tetrachromats (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06256/721190-114.stm). The pigments of green and red cones are on the X chromosomes, so it would be possible for women to be able to obtain four cones (Roth). Jay Neitz, a renowned color vision researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin, "estimated that 2 percent to 3 percent of the world's women may have the kind of fourth cone that lies smack between the standard red and green cones, which could give them a colossal range" (Roth). The average person's range includes the ability to see one million hues. Tetrachromats, conversely, could potentially be able to see 100 million different colors (Roth). The possibility that some women could potentially be able to distinguish 100 million shades is truly interesting.

This concept is, additionally, intriguing because women tend to identify many different shades of colors, calling them magenta or espresso, whereas men typically would refer to those colors as pink and brown. An article in TrèsSugar ™ titled "Color, Gender, and the Truth About Pink and Girls" discusses this same idea (http://www.tressugar.com/Do-Men-Women-See-Colors-Differently-14394573). A picture from the article clearly summarizes the idea:


Is the reason men and women describe colors differently because many woman are tetrachromats? Or is that claim to extraordinary for the current evidence?


| No Comments

I believe that of the fields we covered, the one that will make the greatest strides in the coming years is that of biological psychology; I also find it the most interesting. The process that neurotransmitters undergo is specifically fascinating.
Neurotransmitters are contained in synaptic vesicles with in the axxon terminal. They stay there un till an action potential triggers the synaptic vessels to release certain neurotransmitters into the synapse. Once in the synapse each neurotransmitter either bonds with its specific receptor site on another cells dendrite or they undergo reuptake and return to the axxon terminal. When each neurotransmitter bonds with its receptor site it sends a specific message based on what type of neurotransmitter it is.
The study of neurotransmitters in important because it allows us to understand the chemicals in our brains and our process of thinking. On a more advanced level it allows us to manipulate the chemicals in our head through the use of psychoactive pharmaceuticals. This can bring us closer to cures for depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, Parkinson's, etc., than ever before.
Without even realizing it, I, currently, am exhibiting the benefits of biological psychology. I'm am drinking coffee, which contains caffeine, the most widely used psychoactive drug on the planet [3]. Right now, I've been awake for quite some time, and should be tired but I'm not, thanks to caffeine. Caffeine binds to the adenosine receptor; adenosine being an inhibiting neurotransmitter that "causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity". Since adenosine receptor sites are occupied by the caffeine, I feel wide awake. So now I have "increased neuronal firing" in my brain, my pituitary gland senses this and releases a hormone causing the release of epinephrine having a number of effects on my functioning [2], all of which make me feel alert. Finally, caffeine releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter related to reward and pleasure [4].
The caffeine leaves me alert, functioning at a higher level and feeling good [2], the perfect condition to write a psychology blog post.

[1] http://iospress.metapress.com/content/m1584043445mx427/fulltext.pdf

Can You Pray Away The Gay?

| No Comments

Recently, there have been multiple claims that people have been they can become straight by just praying, also known as reparative therapy, or as the media calls it "pray the gay away." Patients are told that when they have homosexual urges, they should pray and that they may be "cured" this way.
This claim does not seem to be meaningful because there is no way to prove that the individuals who supposedly became straight, became straight because they prayed. There is no way to prove that it was caused be praying and it could have been purely coincidental. There is also no way to test this claim. How do we know that those claiming to now be straight are actually straight? It is not falsifiable. Furthermore, very few individuals have claimed to be changed by this method. If this method actually works, why has it not worked for more people.
Also, these people could have consciously decided not to be homosexual. There is no way to prove that this occurred, without their decision. Freud's theory of psychoanalysis mentions that primary influences on things such as sexuality are unconscious drives, meaning we have no control over them. It states that they are not caused by forces outside the organism.
If this is the case, then how can people become straight, by just praying? How do we know if they are straight because they prayed? Is it correlation or causation? How can anybody even prove that they have become straight, or that they were ever gay?

Behavioral Adaptation

| No Comments

Charles Darwin was the first scientist to popularize the idea of natural selection and survival of the fittest. This idea was that the species that has the traits best suited for survival will tend survive to reproduce and pass on their genes and traits for survival. This not only applies to physical characteristics such as camouflage, but it also applies to psychological patterns and tendencies in a species. This is important, because it shows how our species adapted to survive, not just through our physicality, but through our brainpower and habits. An example is anxiety, people feel it one time or another in their lives, but it is usually not in a survival situation; however, back for survival anxiety probably developed to assist humans in avoiding predators and dangerous situations. Our book also raises the question of why religion developed, and theorizes that it helped to build social ties and stronger communities, thus increasing the likelihood of our survival in a larger group. These examples still hold true today; anxiety for example actually helps us in the sense that you feel anxious when a test is coming up so you are encouraged to actually do better on said test. Also, say what you will about religion, but the communities that they build are some of the strongest in the world. Behavioral adaptation has shown that not just physical characteristics evolve to aid the survival of species, and I'm am curious to see what will happen to future generations in terms of behavioral adaptation. Mainly, since religion is becoming less and less prevalent in developed society, I'm wonder how this will affect the development of future generations of human beings. Also, I am curious about the in between steps of behavioral evolution, like how did we get from being not anxious to being anxious in the first place?

The Science of Romance: Why We Love

| No Comments

My boyfriend and I recently broke up, so I'm stuck in this pathetic, broken stage and wondered, "Why does this happen?" I decided to do a little research, since I'm in college now, and I needed something to write about in my blog. I googled love article and this was the first one to come up. I couldn't stop reading!

This article (a must read, by the way), answered a plethora of questions, but then again left me with a million more. The most interesting answered question however was why, first of all do we feel the need to stay with a partner when we were literally built to mate randomly and competitively, and secondly, why does it hurt so much when they are gone. Also, if you doubted the whole, "psychology is science" thing, this sets everything straight.

In this article, I learned that scientists do these things called fMRI scans of people. These scans measure the different chemical levels in the brain. This includes dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Oxytocin is the one to note here. It was my understanding from reading the article that oxytocin is the chemical that is more closely related to addictions. When you're in early stages of relationships with a boyfriend, girlfriend, new child, etc., large amounts of this chemical are produced, in turn creating a chemical bond.

My second question: "why does it hurt so much when they're gone?" The simplest, scientific answer: when you are with a person for a long period of time, there is activity in the caudate nucleus. This is the place that is adjacent to the part of the brain that is related to addiction. So, when you're first going through your break up and you feel like you're experiencing withdrawals, it may actually be true. This has not yet been scientifically proven, but many scientists have hypothesized and theorized about this.

All in all, I'm sure my "addiction" to my ex-boyfriend will pass, and I will find another man with opposite MHC levels. I will continue to believe that there is more than just this, though. For example, why does a man with a better personality suddenly become more attractive to me?

Plasticity, Synesthesia, and Extremes

| No Comments

The Phantom Limb Syndrome fascinated me because it was an example of one sensation triggering a seemingly irrelevant perception. This was specifically caused by the brain's plasticity, which is the brain's way of efficiently allocating its resources. Regularly plasticity occurs as the brain learns and grows, but it may occur from damage too. This explains how individuals function when a genetic variation introduces a new appendage to the genome. In the case of the phantom limb, the brain saw wasted resources that were previously allocated to the lost limb, and reallocated them to the cheek. This lead to perceptional confusion as the brain was already conditioned for a "normal" human being.

I'm specifically curious about plasticity mid-life that deals with entire senses. While I have no doubt that a deaf person will reallocate the part of their brain that processes sound to do something else, I'm not sure that the extra resources will go to another sense. Does plasticity cause people who go deaf to hear Mozart when they taste salt? I've heard of cross-sense relationships before, but never in an educational or real-world setting. The first time, it was in a game called "The Color Tuesday" where the protagonist could "see" the colors of words. The next was in an article on Cracked that mentioned "Synesthesia". I don't consider either source to be reputable, but at the very least, synesthesia does exist on Wikipedia.

The article did not explain how synesthesia works, so I cannot be sure that it is in any way relevant to plasticity. If it is relevant, what causes people with undamaged senses to remap their brain in early development, and if it is not then what happens when an entire sense is lost? There is a world of difference between having the part of the brain that dealt with touch in the hand get taken over by touch the cheek and having the part of the brain that dealt with sight get taken over by smell. Due to the lesser degree of similarity between different senses, will plasticity work differently at such an extreme, and if so what are the likely results?

Common Cents

| No Comments

When to trust and when not to trust, that is the question. A human's common sense can be very misconceiving and the "definition" varies between each individual. The book best described the term as naive realism. Meaning the belief that we see the world precisely as it is. (Lilienfeld, Lohr, & Olatanji, 2008; Ross & Ward, 1996). No questions asked, just live their lives seeing and believing everything. Does this make them gullible? Anyways, how we actually go about our common sense is greatly dependent on the individual and his/her actions.

Common sense varies so greatly from human to human, and does so in multiple ways. I would like to narrow it down to how the person acts/reacts in pressured situations and how they solve the problem. Many people in the world are terrible with high pressure real life situations, but when it comes to the books, they are calm, cool, and collect. On the other hand, there's the street smart group that won't hesitate to make a fast decision, but struggle in the class room. Everyone knows people that fit perfectly under each category, but what about the individuals in between? I would like to learn more about common sense and how the human brain reacts to such instances. Since we have been learning about this concept, I have been thinking deeper and deeper into it, trying to understand when we are supposed to take the risk and trust my instinct, or, take a step back and wait to understand the situation. Since I feel like I could place myself somewhere in between the two, I would like to understand when to do the right thing in certain circumstances. Because just because you can, doesn't always mean you should. All in all, common sense is very intriguing concept and I would like to learn more about it.


Causes of Criminal Acts

| No Comments

The discussion about the Bogle family led me to wonder about what the greatest cause of criminal acts is. While there are so many things that people could look at, in my opinion the two biggest factors stem from the humanistic and biological lenses of psychology.
Humanists believe that people are good. It can be said that they believe that humans will naturally grow out and reach their full potential. Its fundamental beliefs are around the idea of free will. Free will means all of us make the choices that we want, and that we're not controlled by anything outside of ourselves, and therefore can reach however far we want to in life. Now obviously when people grow up with things such as stealing and abuse they become desensitized to such things. Ultimately however, no one forces people to lie, cheat, or steal; it's a decision that we all must make. When they people elect to steal things they do it on their own. People can say no to something just as easily as they can say yes, and that is why I believe a humanistic way of evaluating causes of criminal acts is important.
There are always exceptions to the rule, and in this case people can't rule out the biology of the brain. Things that might seem insignificant such as a slight change in the levels of a chemical in the brain can have drastic changes to the way people operate. Some people are born more prone to commit acts of violence than others due to the way that their brain is "wired". Different combinations of chemicals can make people more aggressive, easily agitated, and hot-tempered than what they would normally be like.
To me, some factors can't be ruled out like brain chemistry, but we can always choose whether or not to do something. While there are definitely some people more prone to committing such acts than others, in the end we all must make a decision on whether or not to do something.

Salem Witch Trials

| No Comments

Salem Witch Trials was one of the biggest hoaxes in American history. Three girls would tell their parents and other elders of older ladies putting curses on them that were making them sick. The three girls also claimed that the elder ladies had magical powers and could fly on brooms. We can disprove these claims fairly easy with a couple of principles of scientific thinking. The first rule that we could use to disclaim this hoax is if you have outrageous claims you need extraordinary evidence to back up your findings so that your claim isn't dismissed right away. We could also apply the causation vs. correlation rule here because the girls said that women with large noses, pointy hats, and pointy shoes to be where witches. They jumped the gun and committed the causation vs. correlation fallacy and didn't take into account a third variable. The last rule that really applies to the witch trials is falsifiability. When the people of the town tried to disprove the theory of there being witches they used irrational methods that would never help them to see if they were actually witches or not. They tried to use falsifiability but they just used it in an incorrect form.
This city could have avoided all of the executions if they would have applied the Occam's razor rule to the witch theory. They would have found out that the simplest answer to why women were being called witches was that the girls were desperate for the attention. If the girls didn't keep accusing people of being witches then they would have lost all of the attention so instead a lot of innocent people ended up dying instead.


| No Comments


Within the pages of 91-93 in our textbook, the idea of neural plasticity is briefly mentioned. It is defined simply as the ability of the nervous system to change. The textbook mentions that it is a process that occurs over the course of development but slows greatly as one ages. Especially when it comes to injury, more specifically brain injury.
We talked about this in another one of my classes and did a case study about the subject in this video. Barach y Rita was one of the great leaders concept. It started when his father suffered a paralyzing stroke but with the dedication of his brother, and many repetitive exercises, was eventually able to function normally again. His brother, a neuroscientist, took this idea skeptically at first, but from this concept he was able to eventually create the thesis that we see with our brain, not our eyes and create a product that allowed that to be possible. With his research a tool was developed that would capture and image with a camera and send it's shape to a chip on the user's tongue allowing them to make out the shapes around them, for some, for the first times in their lives.
I realize this is an extraordinary claim, but in this research there is extraordinary evidence. It has also been replicated. There could also be a study done to disprove this claim, for example checking to see what parts of the brain is active while using this device, and that has been done and proved that stimulus that was being felt on the tongue was being sent into the visual cortex.

Hippocampus and Memory

| No Comments

Memory is a strange thing. It's a conglomeration of senses and emotions that combine to create a mental duplicate of a situation. But how do we create memories? Where do we store them? Why does seemingly random stimuli evoke all-but forgotten memories? These questions have no easy answer, but the hippocampus memory theory from chapter 3 of the Lilienfeld text seems to paint the most complete picture.

The hippocampus memory theory states that memories are sent to the hippocampus, where they are stored before being transferred elsewhere long-term. This helps to explain why something that happened 5 minutes ago surfaces quickly, while an incident from 5 years ago doesn't. After all, localizing our short term memories in one place makes them easier to conjure up. Incidentally, it also backs up a leading theory behind the bizarre phenomenon of déjà vu: the brain sends a short-term memory to the hippocampus twice instead of once, resulting in that unnerving feeling that you've done something before even if you haven't (Clark & Bryant, 2009).

Another theory, the multiple trace theory, is also quite interesting, but it doesn't hold up quite as well. Basically, it asserts that memories are initially stored in multiple areas of the brain. These memories either "take root" or "wither away" over time, leaving multiple traces behind (hence its name). It makes sense that memories would originate where the sense originated (visual recollections in the visual cortex, for example); however, if that information isn't then sent to a central location to be "packaged" so to speak, it seems our memories would be very disjointed. It also doesn't explain why someone with damage to his hippocampus has trouble making new memories, but not remembering older ones (Lilienfeld, 2011).

All in all, the hippocampus theory makes the most sense. When I cram for a test an hour or so beforehand, I almost always remember the information by visualizing what I wrote in my notes or read in my textbook. This is consistent with the hippocampus' role in spatial memory (Lilienfeld, 2011). Come the final, however, I usually have to relearn information that didn't become long-term memory. This distinction between short-term and long-term memory validates the hippocampus theory, but it also leaves unanswered questions. How long does short-term memory last? Is the transfer of memory from hippocampus to cortex gradual, or like the flip of a switch? These questions continue to pique my interest, and thanks to my hippocampus, I'll be sure to remember the answers to them once I find them!

If you're interested, here's a link to a podcast on déjà vu:

(And if that doesn't work, it's the Stuff You Should Know episode from March 24th, 2009. You can find it on iTunes.)

Chapter 3 of the Lilienfeld text
Clark, J., & Bryant, C. (Writer). (2009, March 24). How déjà vu works [Audio podcast]. Stuff You Should Know.


| No Comments

The thing that I wanted to know more about was the theory that 'people only use 10% of their brain.' As the book revealed on day one, that is a myth. It has been proven false, since in 1999, brain scans have shown that every part of our brains have at least some function, and are active, some, if not all the time. The obvious question then arises, how much of our brain potential do we use? Every piece of the brain has a function, and if that part breaks down, small behavioral shifts (if not larger) will be present. I believe that this concept is important because it is a common misconception, as well as a mystery. Nobody can quite pin down a tangible number or percentage of how much of our capacity we use. In addition to that, going into this class, just a month ago, I would have believed that myth as well. The consensus seems to be that we use all parts, just not to their full capacity.
The link above provides information on the origin of the myth. In the words of William James "the average person rarely achieves but a small portion of his or her potential." In addition recent studies have concluded that we use even more than 10% while sleeping. In fact, authors and ESP enthusiasts have made extraordinary claims (without extraordinary evidence) that the mind has untapped functions that allow us to see the future, or read minds. Many books have been published regarding what the dormant 90% does that we don't even know about. The world needs to be set straight.

Nature vs. Nurture: Impulsive Violence

| No Comments

For me the nature versus nurture argument debates the reasoning behind our actions. By this I mean that we are trying to find a way to determine whether our actions are based on the environment we are raised in or the genes that we inherit. The reason why I find this concept to be so important is because if we are able to determine the causation of our actions then we may be able to alter certain actions, particularly harmful ones of people. An example of this is we might be able to lower crime rates or at least understand why people commit crimes. For example, in one study researchers looked at the presence of MAOA-L in subjects which is believed to be related to impulsive violence. In these studies they tested patients with clean medical records in order to determine their proneness to impulsive violence. From their finding they were able to determine that particularly in males, the presence MAOA-L led to an increase in the likelihood that the person would be impulsively violent. This is because that the MAOA-L gene leads individuals to have increased amygdala activity and reduced regulating amygdala activity. This is significant because the amygdala is responsible for fear and anger which means that individuals with the MAOA-L gene are indeed more prone to impulsive violence. This leads me to question as to whether or not nature is truly the primary cause behind violence rather than nurture.


Nature Vs. Nurture Controversy

| No Comments

I always thought that nurture had a bigger impact than nature. I don't quite believe that someone is really born evil or born to do bad things; it just doesn't seem...right (for lack of a better word). I guess what I'm trying to say is that I would prefer to believe that "nature" has no affect on our lives. It seems so unfair to have one's life and prospects so defined by one's biology. I mean, it's not like we CHOSE who we are (who our parents are); we had no choice over anything. Limiting yourself just because of your birthright or your DNA, it just makes human life seem so predictable.

If we go with the "nature" theory, it seems that everything in your life from birth to adolescence to adulthood could be determined by your family history and etc. Abstract traits such as intelligence, personality, aggression, and sexual orientation are encoded in your DNA? By using this, it could be predicted that you will have a history of violence (because you inherited it from your parents) before you are even born. Scary, isn't it? Talk about the worst horoscope ever.

However, there is hope. Just because you have a particular gene that makes you vulnerable against a certain trait DOES NOT mean you will be subject to that trait. It's not like cause and effect. A tendency towards a characteristic does not MAKE you behave that way. I think genes DO have a part of your behavior, yet I don't think that it's set in stone.

This analogy best explains my thoughts:
"One comparison of how much the environment affects a child's development was done on tomatoes. Tomato seeds have certain genes in them, but what they grow into will be the same no matter what, and because of those genes in each seed, one may be destined to grow better than others. But if random seeds with different genes were split up into two groups, with different environments, it is likely that the quality of the tomato would differ. One group would have all the benefits to help them grow better, such as water, sunlight, good soil, and extra care. Whereas group two would be given bad soil, not enough sunlight and water, and no extra care. These differences in their environment would definitely change the outcome of the tomatoes because group one would turn out a lot better than those in group two. It's a matter of what kind of influence they receive to turn out a certain way. "Bad soil" can alter how something may develop, such as humans."
Link: http://www.nuc.berkeley.edu/courses/classes/NE-24%20Olander/Equalitarinism_vs_Hereditarinism.htm

When the six principles of critical thinking were introduced in class it really opened my eyes to how often I fall victim to pretty much all of them on a daily basis! The most common principle I fall victim to is correlation verse causation. Everyday there are multiple times when ill be faced with claims telling me of how video games are making teenagers murderers or listen to my mom tell me that the T.V I watch can lead to bad things. For a while I actually believed most of the claims.

Once I began reading about correlation verse causation in class and realized how correlation isn't causation. What this means is that even if two things appear to be the cause of each other it doesn't mean they truly are, there could be a 3rd variable involved. So many people are fooled everyday with the ridiculous claims such as "Eating apples leads to longer lives" that we don't even think that a third factor could be involved we just assume what we hear is correct.

I now know to look past the so-called evidence that is shown and open my mind up and consider the other possibilities. I'll also be sure to explain to my mother how watching "16 and pregnant" does not increase the chance of me becoming 16 and pregnant. It is very difficult to establish casualty between the two variables, however, there are scientific studies that can define something as being statistically significant meaning that it is unlikely to have occurred by chance alone.

Here is a good example sort of making fun of how people mistake correlation for causation!

JND and its Applications Today

| No Comments

Just noticeable difference is an element of psychophysics that is described as being the tiniest change in the intensity of a stimulus that we can discern. Examples of these stimuli include brightness of light, weight, or loudness of sound. For example, when comparing something such as the weight between two objects, the absolute minimum weight difference between the two objects so that it is noticeable is the JND. Another component of JND is Weber's Law, which states that the original stimulus intensity and the JND are directly related. For example, if it were hot outside, we wouldn't notice if the temperature changed degree or two, but we would probably notice if it suddenly got 10 degrees colder. In basic terms, Weber's law means that if there is a strong original stimulus, you'll need a much bigger change for the difference in intensity to be noticeable.

Now-a-days, many companies and professions use the concept of JND to their advantage. People such as magicians use stimuli that fall below the JND to seamlessly make something disappear. Businesses use marketing techniques such using a high JND to make their product stand out. Hey, maybe this is even the secret behind Lady Gaga's success. There have been oddball performers before her, but when she arrived she was so sufficiently different that she got instantly noticed.

One personal experience I had with the concept of JND was when I went to a restaurant called the "Safe House" in Milwaukee. It is a very cool place; you need a password to get in, and once you're inside the walls and pictures move like you're in a spy movie. When I was there, I was sitting at a table with barstools. Little did I know that every few minutes the barstool was sinking a few inches or so. Before I knew it, I was practically sitting on the floor. The rate at which the barstool dropped was below my JND range, so I didn't even detect it.

Check out an example of an artist using the principles of JND for a new interactive experience: http://mediartchina.org/exhibitions/sensorium-of-the-extraordinary/just-noticeable-difference-jnd-ca-usa
And some common JND examples in the media: http://www.psfk.com/2009/03/media-arts-mondays-just-noticeable-difference.html

Behavioral Genetics is a subconcept in the nature and nurture section of the Lilienfeld text. Scientists look at the roles of genes and environment in behavior to investigate how influential nature and nurture are on psychological traits. The idea of behavioral genetic designs is important because many different types exist and they are used to estimate heritability of traits and diseases. The heritability of traits and especially the heritability of diseases is not only extremely intriguing to me, but has a great deal of importance in my life. My maternal grandmother, is the mother of 13 children, and the grandmother of over 50 grandchildren and great grandchildren. She is also a victim of Alzheimer's Disease. At family gatherings a hot topic is whether or not my grandma should be put into a nursing home. Everyone agrees it is going to become necessary, the only problem is dear old grandma would hate us all if we did that to her. My mother always says to me "Cecely, when I get Alzheimer's put me in a nursing home as soon as things start to get bad," and I always tell her that it is not inevitable that she will develop the disease. My mom obviously has some misconceptions about heritability, she is probably under the impression that heritability tells us whether a trait can be changed and that heritability is a fixed number. Not saying I know for sure that she will not develop Alzheimer's disease, but it would definitely be interesting to examine the heritability of the trait in my family.

When I think about what would happen if scientists were to examine the trait for Alzheimer's disease in my family, I wonder what type of study would be used, and how environmental factors play into something that is definitely genetic. I've heard about a lot of research about things that could prevent or promote the onset of the disease, but how exactly are those things measured and incorporated into behavioral genetic designs?

Nature vs Nurture - Twin Study

| No Comments

The "Nature vs. Nurture" debate is one that will likely never end, but I think that some of the most powerful evidence for this debate comes from twin studies. I think this because in studying identical twins the majority of genetic, or "nature", can be taken from the equation. This allows a person to instead focus more on nurture aspects. From an example of twins that I know I think that different aspects of a person's personality are more affected by nature or nurture. Obviously generalizations I make based off of one set of twins I know doesn't provide quite enough data for conclusions about all people, but some of the observations that I made seemed to line up with research done by other people. For example, I think intelligence is something that relies heavily on nature. While being in an environment that promotes studying and learning can certainly make a person smarter, certain people have specific abilities they are naturally better at. This is backed up by a study by Robert Nicols that concluded identical twins having intelligence and abilities more tightly correlated then that of fraternal twins. This was consistent with what I had observed with the twins that I knew, they very rarely were more than a letter grade apart in any class that they took. In contrast with the close levels of intelligence, they had somewhat different personalities. One was much more of an introvert, while the other was an extrovert. This had somewhat mixed results with studies that I looked up. Some said that depending on the personality trait, some things were more heavily dependent on nature while others were more heavily dependent on nurture. But nearly everything I read agreed that all traits are based at least partially on both nature and nurture.
Study of Personalities -
Intelligence and Abilities study -

Adoption studies: Nature vs Nurture

| No Comments
A study that I found appealing was the adoption studies. Adoption studies focuses mainly on the characteristics and traits carried by an adoptive child in comparison to his/her adoptive parents. This study allows researchers to explore the role that genetics and environment play on a child's personality. I believe this concept is important because it helps researchers understand how a person develops their characteristics and gives them a view into the mind instead of looking at a person's genes to determine resemblance.

Throughout the past year, I have gotten to know a family with an adoptive child; Matt, who is a boy from Guatemala. Spending countless hours with this family was really an eye opener in the sense that I was able to learn about each one of them and their personalities. Matt resembles his adoptive parents, Tim and Betsy, in many certain ways.

Matt is 17 and has many personality traits the same as Tim. They both are very hardworking. Matt is involved in many sports and has worked really hard to get where he's at by doing summer training sessions. Tim on the other hand is a very successful in marketing for the company Toro. Tim is often gone on business trips and always has events he attends for his job to show that he is hardworking and dedicated to the company. This goes hand in hand in the sense that the two of them are outgoing people. Both of them have big personalities and are extremely easy to talk to.

Matt and his adoptive mom, Betsy, also have similarities. Betsy is a nurse in Methodist hospital and therefore has a very caring, nurturing personality. She is a little on the quieter side when compared to Matt and Tim, but also is very easy to talk to. Matt picks up on her nurturing personality in the way he cares about his loved ones. He makes sure everyone is okay in the house and if not, he listens to the conflict and cheers his loved ones up.

Although Matt resembles his parents in various ways, there also are many differences. Matt is the kind of guy who seeks adventure and thrill. He's a little mischievous and definitely is a goofy, good-humored guy. Both of his adoptive parents are more reserved in these ways. Although they are both nice, neither of them have the humor that Matt has. This makes Matt the entertainer of the family. Also, the two parents don't necessarily take risks outside of the comfort zone in terms of 'thrill factor.'

Being around this family has allowed me to see that environment has a huge effect on one's personality. The video attached, 'Twins Separated at Birth,' gives another example about the effects of environment versus genetics. Adoptive studies are a great way to research what shapes someone's personality.


Expanding the Cocktail Effect

| No Comments

All of us have heard of the Cocktail party effect (Lillenfield 2011), but what if we expanded the bounds of the theory? In my personal experience, we can recognize just more than our names in a crowded room. We can recognize our friends voices, commands, and other vocal stimuli.

For example, lets use my dog "Koda" as an example. I can be sitting in the other room, say "ball," "ring," or "toy" and Koda will run in happy as can be with her squeaking ball, ring-toy, or a squeaking toy. The tv, radio, or any other noises could be going on yet my dog can hear my request to play with her!

On another hand, many people can remember a time where they were walking alone down a hallway or sidewalk and hear someone's voice they know among the crowd. I remember walking in Willey after class let out and hearing a friend talking to another friend 35 feet away among the commotion of walking feet and talking people.

Lastly, what about phone ringtones? I have many times experienced the embarrassment of pulling out my phone and answering it when I hear the same ringtone in a group of people. I looked up and two other people had done the same thing! The ringtone came from someone with the same phone standing 15 feet away!

The Cocktail Party Effect is a commonplace in today's world. In my opinion it should be expanded to more than just one's name, but to many different ranging auditory stimuli.

We all remember times where we heard something, and a friend asked us, "How in the world did you hear that!?" Those who are learning about Psychology can now answer intelligently, "Oh, its something called the Cocktail Party Effect!"

Nature vs. Nurture

| No Comments

Nature vs. Nurture

For a very long time there has been talk about how video games, especially violent one, effect the way children act. The question is whether being brought up in a world where video games are very popular (nurture) are changing the way that children act, normally in a more aggressive and violent manner. The nature side of this topic would be genetic make-up and other things like that. Personality traits could also be considered nature because many consider personality traits as something that can be passed down. In this study they found that the violent content was not the change in behavior but rather the competition. The researchers believe that the high level of competition in games cause higher levels of aggression. However, there is still much debate going on about the subject. When defining nature versus nurture we try to figure out is the way people act comes from genes, which is nature, or from the environment, which is nurture. Almost everything can be argued to come from both sides, so we tend to say that they are almost equally influential. To go back to the findings of the study, it looks like nurture definitely plays a role in the aggressiveness of children who play video games. It is quite easy for people also to assume that nature also contributes to aggressiveness. An example of this would be something like a chemical imbalance in the brain that or something like that. So when it comes to the aggressiveness to video gamers, I would say that both nature and nurture affect the gamer.


Jenny McCarthy- Thimerosal Causes Autism

| No Comments


These two articles explain the claim the Jenny McCarthy made about Thimerosal in vaccines being the cause of childhood autism. In 2006 Jenny began referring to her son as a "Crystal Child," a child of the earth. By 2007, she wasn't calling him that anymore. Her son, Evan, had been diagnosed with autism. Immediately Jenny believed that the disease was because of her son's vaccines as a child. She started to speak out about how children shouldn't be getting vaccinated because the compound Thimerosal was causing children, like her son, to develop autism. She went public with her belief and many other people began believe her claim. Because of that, many illnesses that would be otherwise preventable by vaccines have developed in children, and 738 people have died. This could be evaluated using all of the principles of scientific thinking. First, ruling out rival hypotheses. Could there be any other explanations for why children are being diagnosed with autism? Yes. Jenny should have looked in to other areas of research as well. The main reason we know her son couldn't have been affected by his vaccine is because the medical companies stopped using mercury and Thimerosal altogether in vaccines in 1999 (http://jennymccarthybodycount.com/Jenny_McCarthy_Body_Count/Home.html). People should not have believed her just because of her status. Secondly, correlation isn't causation. This would be a time where correlation does not equal causation. There is no scientific evidence linking Thimerosal to autism. There is, however evidence that says that Thimerosal is not in any way related to autism. Falsifiability could also be used because the claim could be disproved. When the claim that autism and Thimerosal were originally linked came out, many researches began testing it. Since the testing began under JFK's presidency, there have been no results showing a link to the two (http://www.wellsphere.com/general-medicine-article/jenny-mccarthy-and-autism/458092). Has autism declined since Thimerosal has been removed as a preservative for vaccines? No. Autism has not declined at all. People should have looked to other sources and tests before agreeing to a claim made by a celebrity. Replicability is when results can be duplicated in other studies. Many different studies have been done on this theory and all have come to the same conclusion. They are in no way related. Recently a court ruling proved that the scientific evidence has been tested multiple times. Autism has nothing to do with Thimerosal. Lastly, Occam's razor; while saying that Thimerosal was the cause could have been the simplest explanation for why children were being diagnosed with autism, that doesn't necessarily mean that that was right. Occam's razor is typically only viewed as a guideline.


| No Comments

Precognition is a type of Extrasensory Perception (ESP) and is the sensation of prediction events, that cannot be known with present information, before the happen. ESP and precognition specifically has been tested in a number of different experiments, including a study directed by Joseph B. Rhine using a set of Zener cards as stimuli. This experiment was never able to be replicated, and so therefore the concept ESP has not been successfully proven . However, the concept seems to be important because, "41 percent of American adults believe in ESP"(Lilienfeld: 134).

Precognition has been the center to a number of successful Hollywood films including, Premonition and Déjà Vu. The plot of Premonition is centered around the unfolding of the event of the main character's husband's death in a car crash and her eerie feeling that main character had known the event was going to take place and could have prevented it. Déjà Vu has very similar plot however, the main character unexpectedly experiences the sensation of already witnessing or experiencing an event that he has traveled back in time to prevent. The plot of both films is rather complicated and mind boggling even after the film has finished.

This extreme interest that the American population has with ESP and precognition, is perhaps based on the fact that it is virtually unexplainable. People are intrigued by the things that they do not understand and with something as complicated as the concept of precognition this may be the case. Because this concept cannot be fully proven with experimental evidence the intrigue that people have with ESP will probably continue to shadow daily lives and many Hollywood films in the future.

Correct Evaluation

| No Comments

It has been widely agreed upon that it is nearly impossible to distinguish the affects of nature and nurture on an individual. For case studies to be considered valid, it is essential that researchers focus on the affects of both these aspects while analyzing the results of their data. However, it is even more important that when others analyze these studies, they also take into effect how nature and nurture play a role in the study and then report the results of studies correctly. A few weeks ago, a professor in a class that I am currently enrolled in discussed the Hart and Risley study with us. This study focuses on the effects that communication and socio-economic status have on the language abilities and IQ of a child. The Hart and Risley study was very thorough and placed an emphasis on both the nature and the nurture of the children that they observed. However, when discussing this study, my professor completely ignored the nature side of the analysis. In fact, she made it sound as though this study didn't even take nature into consideration. She implied that the study reported that the language abilities of children were based entirely in how they were raised and treated by their parents. This is, of course, a completely inaccurate summary of this study. In the first weeks of class, we discussed how there are a high number of misconceptions about psychology because of reporters misinterpreting the results of studies just like this. It is evident that it is quite easy to fall prey to this, and it further illustrates why we should not believe everything we hear and make sure that we are receiving all of the information necessary when evaluating the results of psychological studies.

The Nocebo Effect

| No Comments

A commonly known psychological idea is the placebo effect, where there is an improvement results from the mere expectation of an improvement, but what happens when there is an expectation of harm? That's where the nocebo effect comes in; if you expect the worst, you get the worst. If someone goes into a test completely believing they're going to fail it, chances are they will because of the nocebo effect.

This image shows another way the nocebo effect can work, if someone sees all the side effects of a medication they're taking, they will start to feel those effects taking place even if they don't actually have them. The nocebo effect is important because it helps to explain why things like voodoo work. In 2002, a study by Ried had people who were allergic to roses were presented with fake ones and they started sneezing.

The nocebo effect is a very interesting concept, and I would love to know more about why it happens. Heuristics may be involved in why the human brain does this, but I want to know more about what's going on in the brain to make both the placebo and nocebo effects happen.

Why Psychology Need Reseach Designs

| No Comments

Why Psychology Need Research Designs

"Without research designs, even intelligent people can be fooled" (Lilienfeld: 45). When people in general think about Psychology, they don't think about researching ideas. Psychology is just known to be the study of behavior in humans and animal. But what didn't cross their mind is if there was no research method, how can data be obtained to describe and support information about how psychology came to be.

For decades ago, the health technique of prefrontal lobotomy was known to be effective for mental disorder. Many people around the world believe that scientist has finally found the cure for mental disorder. It is true that after undergoing prefrontal lobotomy, behavior of patient did change and progress but was it really prefrontal lobotomy that cured it?

Although neurosurgeon did convinced people around the word that it does work, there were never any experiments that prove that it does work. Just because neurosurgeon practice the surgery on patient with mental disorder and their behavior changes doesn't mean that their mental disorder was cured. Behavior changes may be visible after prefrontal lobotomy but after scientists performed controlled studies on effectiveness of prefrontal lobotomy, the result of the surgery was useless. Prefrontal lobotomy certainly changes behavior but it didn't cure the specific mental disorder that patient have.

Just because some experiments concluded in positive results, it certainly doesn't mean that it cured the problem. Psychology need research design because we need to prove that experiment concluded in positive result does helped cured the problems too.

Nature vs. Nurture: Singing Mice

| No Comments

Nature or nurture? That is the question. The debate whether the behavior in humans and animals is attributed to inherited genes (nature) or the environment in which one is raised (nurture) has been deliberated for many years. It has been made evident by geneticists that both nature and nurture have an effect on the behavior in humans and animals.

I read an article recently about 'singing mice.' (link below). Researchers discovered that in a variation of social contexts mice emit ultrasonic calls resembling a song. They carry out tunes that change throughout the duration of their life. Studies were conducted to determine if the songs are learned or if they are born with the songs genetically programmed.

One study conducted in Ohio concluded that all mice changed their song as they matured. The complexity of the songs emitted by the mice expanded as the mice grew older. Hoping that this could show the capability of verbal-learning, researchers had to keep in mind that a change in neuromuscular development could be a factor as well.

The second study was done in Arizona at Azabu University. Cross-fostering experimentation was applied to mice. It examined if environmental factors had a stronger effect on the change in song. Two male mice from two different strains were raised in the opposite strain. In conclusion, this experiment showed that neither the parents nor kids from both strains changed their unique song to adapt to the unique individual entering their environment.

Overall, this article shows strong connections to genetics in mice. However, further studying verbal-learning will be examined in the future to see if environmental roles play into the 'singing mice'. I wonder if the change in song over a mouse's lifetime is innate or learned. Now the question is, "How are nature and nurture related?" I wonder if by continuing studies with twins and adoption and animal studies we can continue to expand our knowledge about the Nature vs. Nurture debate, and decipher which behavior traits are linked specifically to genetics or to environmental factors.

(http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-mice-ongoing-debate-nature.html) "Singing Mice Article"

Cocktail Party Effect

| No Comments


We have all been in the situation where we have heard our name from across the room, and immediately tried to decipher the context in which it was used. The human brain's abilities are magnificent. What gives us this ability? Scientists say that this ability comes from binaural processing. Because there is a time difference in which the sound makes it to both ears, the brain has the ability to differentiate where the sound is coming from. An experiment was done on ferrets to see the differences in the way the sounds that they heard were perceived. Although they can not be used as an exact replica for the way human brains work, the studies on the animal give us a small idea as to how the human brain develops these abilities over time. The difference between what the infant ferrets heard and what the adults heard was due to the sizes, and lengths between their ears. This though, could also be attributed to the maturity of the brain, or the complexity of the interaction between the cells that process sounds, as they may still be underdeveloped. There is no doubt though, that humans have the ability to binaurally process information. Scientists refer to this ability as the cocktail party effect. Using our brains to decide which conversations we are interested in tuning into, while ignoring others. The effect was first defined Colin Cherry in 1953. He suggested that there was a filter that prevents overloading memory. This hypothesis may not be entirely correct because humans do have the ability to hear their names from across the room, and focus in on what is being said. As defined in an article by science daily, the cocktail party effect is "how our brains develop the ability to pinpoint and focus on particular sounds among a background of noise." The human brain is amazingly complex thing, and many of it's abilities can often be taken for granted.

"Shrunken" Boas

| No Comments

National Geographic's Article titled, " "Shrunken" Boas Pose Question: Nature or Nurture?" follows Auburn University herpetology graduate student Scott Boback and his research on boa constrictors and their size differences between the mainland and islands off the coast of Belize. His work resembles that of Charles Darwin and his studies of differing traits in birds on seperate islands. It raises the question of the effects of nature vs nurture.

Relating it to Boback's study of the boas, Darwin wanted to see how the environments on different islands affected the evolutionary development to better their ability to find food. In the case of the birds, it was their beak size that changed depending on the type of seeds that were most commonly found on the islands. For the snakes, it is a similar situation. On the mainland, there are bigger snakes due to the fact that they hunt mostly mammals and other reptiles of a bigger size. But on the islands, they hunt mostly small birds, so they are smaller in size - either because they don't get as many nutrients to grow, or because it is advantageous for them to be smaller (speed, hiding, etc).

This article was written at the beginning of his research (in 2003), and it left a lot of questions to be asked. Boback also stated that in some cases, the snakes would be even larger on certain islands. So it makes me wonder if there are other factors that can sometimes weigh more heavily? Like, would the snakes grow larger if there were simply fewer snakes on the island, and therefore more food available? And would that lead to more and more snakes, eventually making them smaller due to lack of food? And what about physical living situations? Or weather/climates?

So, in my opinion, it is a very interesting study that I'd like to read more about once more extensive research has been done.

Boback_Boas _50.jpg

Boback with his snakes (2010)


Pareidolia: Seeing Faces

| No Comments

We have a tendency to find patterns out of normal and meaningless things. One example of this phenomenon is pareidolia: seeing meaningful images in meaningless visual stimuli. If you have looked at a cloud in the sky and perceived a shape of an animal or a face, you have experienced pareidolia. Pareidolia may seem like a harmless and interesting aspect of how the mind works, but it has more influence on society than one would think.

In 2004, it was revealed that a woman has preserved a grilled cheese sandwich for over 10 years, with her reason being that the burnt pattern of the toast resembled the face of Virgin Mary. Certainly, she believes that it was a sign from God, and the sandwich was sacred. Word of this sandwich spread throughout the media, and the woman eventually sold the sandwich on Ebay.com for $28000 to Golden Palace Casino. This shows how pareidolia can make an ordinary item into a valuable sensation.

As silly as the sandwich story sounds, it actually shows us the power of pareidolia. The human brain is hard-wired to recognize faces. When a person sees a face, it only takes milliseconds for the brain to recognize it as a face; when a person sees normal images or objects that look like faces, the brain recognizes it at almost the same speed. This shows that it is not so uncommon for people to perceive extraordinary images out of meaningless visual stimuli. It is important for us to keep in mind that we underestimate the probability of coincidence. So next time you see Lady Gaga's face on your pancake, think twice before you tell everyone about the manifestation of the pop icon in your living room.



Other pareidolia examples:http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/category/pareidolia/

Law of Effect

| No Comments

Can A Person Change Someone Else's Behavior?

In the blog, "Are You Teaching People to Treat You Badly?" the author emphases on how people are accustomed to the Law of Effect. The Law of Effect states that the events that fallow an action will weaken or strengthen the likelihood that it will happen again, because behavior comes from the function of consequences. The article gives an example of an abused wife who tries to make her husband happy, for example cook him his favorite dinner after he mistreats her. The author explains how the abused wife is rewarding her husband's behavior, and her husband will only change if she shows him that she will only be kind and helpful as long as he is. Using a critical thinking skill, correlation isn't causation, many can argue that the way the wife treats her husband is not related to the way her husband treats her. Also there is not enough evidence to prove the author's claim. The author does not describe how he found this theory, how he tested it, and what the results were. The author did not conclude anything about having an experimental group and a control group; therefore, the reader thinks that this experiment was only tested on a few people. The author cannot prove that his theory is true with the small amount of experiments that he concluded. An alternative explanation for the husband abusive behavior is that it's due to his nature. The husband's parents might have also been abusive, therefore, it is in the husbands genes to be abusive and his wife cannot change that. Overall, the Law of Effect may not apply to the cases of abusive behavior.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2011 is the previous archive.

November 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.31-en