Recently in Writing #3 Category

James-Lange Theory of Emotion: Reacting to Bodily Reactions

The James-Lange theory of emotion, in laymen's terms, theorizes that our emotions are a result of our interpretations of our bodily reactions to a stimulating event. A wonderful example to illustrate such an event would be stumbling upon a bear while hiking through the woods; your body freezes, your palms begin to sweat, and your knees are buckling. When your mind realizes all of these bodily reactions are taking place, you now know you are in a state of fear.

The James-Lange Theory of Emotion is not only important because of how it explains the formation of emotions, but it explains the chain of events in situations such as a "fight or flight" scenario as described above. Understanding that emotion stems from bodily reactions to stimulating events which then leads to a justified response--such as running away from the scenario above--makes you fully understand the chain of events that take place within emotion.

In order to turn this situation into a more relatable one for the students of Psychology 1001 here at the University of Minnesota, we can relate this theory to those pre-test anxieties. Students pile into Humphrey 50 and sit down at the computer, their heart begins to pound faster and faster, their palms begin to sweat, and the sick feeling in their stomach begins to arise. It is at this point when every student says quietly to themselves, "Damn, I am really nervous for this test". Their conscious awareness of emotion stems from their mental awareness of their bodily reaction to the stimulating event of taking a Psychology 1001 test.

Can Honey Make You Smarter?

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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

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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. and 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?

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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.


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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

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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

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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

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"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 (, "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 a language is positively correlated with the size of its speaker population (1) in such a way that small populations have fewer phonemes" ( 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

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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.

Memory loss in pop culture

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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:

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