February 2012 Archives

Free Will and Determinism

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In our text, we are presented with an age old debate - free will v. determinism. This concept is built upon the discovery of our unconscious choices determining our conscious ones. One simple explanation is if I were to put a vending machine in a room with an "honor" system paying method, there is a good chance people will just steal my drinks. However, if I put a poster with eyes (like a stern male face) on it, overlooking the vending machine, there will be an increase in the amount of money left for me to keep. Why does this happen? We are aware enough to realize this is not a real person, it is merely a picture.

As amazing as the brain is, it does have its drawback when decision making. Our anatomically modern brains are built for a prehistoric era, things like endowment effects, loss aversion, framing effects, or other irrational biases no longer play as big of roles. There is still a lot left to uncover, and the more we delve into the brain the more I think we are going to open windows into the amount of free will we have. In my opinion, the amount of free will in our decisions is based on the requirements of the brain to affect that decision. The reason I chose to interrogate this topic is because I'd like to know what I do or do not have control over in my decisions. What can I actually theorize for myself? What are my conscious or unconscious limitations?


(sorry this is late! I forgot about our deadline, and I didn't see the email until today!)
Rick Perry's "Strong" ad has already been the subject of a lot of blogosphere ridicule. But it's still worth looking into, because of what it demonstrates about how a certain kind of politician connects (or tries to connect) with his or her base. On the surface, Perry's ad might seem like a rather naked appeal to voter nostalgia: Perry's monologue, the fuzzy background and the treacly, dewy-eyed soundtrack seem to harken back to An America That Once Was. Dig one layer deeper, and the ad seems to be trying to incite aggression: its purpose is to identify and highlight a common enemy in order to establish and strengthen the bond between Perry and his supporters.

But I think the analysis of Perry's ad can be taken one step further. "In contemporary societies," writes Slavoj Zizek, "cynical distance, laughter, and irony are, so to speak, part of the game." What he means is that cynicism can actually form the basis of the relationship between a politician and his or her constituents: both politician and supporter are "in on the joke", and this shared cynical understanding solidifies their connection. Perry's ad works not by articulating the voter's deepest fears, but by parroting a set of un-truths that are recognized as un-truths by his audience (the "war against religion", for example, or that, in this country, anyone would expect Mr. Perry to be ashamed of saying he's a Christian). Paradoxically, it's Perry's disingenuousness--his ham-handed insincerity--that he is using to appeal to voters. If the ad looks false and phony, it's because it's supposed to.

Training Animals

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One part of psychology that we've all seen constantly is training animals to make them do amazing tricks. They have become an important circuses and shows as animal training has become a million dollar industry. Animal trainers have been successful at training animals to perform a wide variety of tasks like skateboarding, running through hoops, skateboard, sell car insurance, and do flips. However, many people (maybe even you) don't know how they do it and aren't sure how long it takes to get these animals to do what you want.
The way most trainers change the behaviors of the animals is through operant conditioning as first done by Skinner. When an animal is first trained, the trainers give the animal positive reinforcement to make the animals repeat the desired behavior. One of the most common reinforcers is food. Because animals want to eat as often as possible, food strongly motivates animals to do extraordinary tasks Animals also get through negative reinforcement when they fail to listen to their trainers. Over the course of several months, animals can be trained to perform incredible tasks on demand with few problems.

Animal training

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The use of clicker training on animals is a remarkable presentation of BF Skinners principles of shaping. This method of training through positive reinforcement of the desired behavior starts with the basic steps of the behavior, and turns into an accomplished task.

I chose to use this video of a rabbit that has been fully trained by the use of a clicker, and a reward in the form of food.

Initially the trainer must accustom the animal to the sound of the clicker, by feeding the rabbit every time the she clicked. After this relationship of acoustics and reward has been established, the training could begin.

The trainer must have broken this complex task into a series of simple steps in order for the rabbit to understand. The rabbit was then rewarded for exhibiting the desired behavior. Overall the task breakdown probably looked something like this.

-get the rabbit to move to the bars.
-get the rabbit to weave between the bars
-get the rabbit to go through the loops
-get the rabbit to jump the block.
-get the rabbit to knock down the pins.

This technique is incredibly interesting, and has even been show to work in humans.


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Interesting enough people can be taught to behave or do things in a particular way using a similar method as B.F. Skinner used to train numerous animals with a clicker back in the 1940s. This was done by a gymnastic instructor who used it to train her athletes how to correctly complete moves and did so in an effect non-insulting way. Even though there was some opposition from a concerned parent this seemed to be an effective method of teaching any animal (human or not). I'm curious as to what else this could be applied to and how effective it would be. It is already somewhat popular with dancers and gymnast but is mostly limited because of people closed mindedness on the idea. If people were more open to trying this technique it could speed up and perfect almost any physical movement and could even be applied fields such as mathematics and lab sciences.

Behaviorism and Baby Albert

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Experiments are very important to move forward in the world of Psychology, and many have been conducted. One famous psychological experiment is "Baby Albert," which involved a baby named Albert, as you may have guessed. This experiment was constructed and conducted by J.B. Watson and one of his graduate students in the 1920s on a young, nine month old child. Their research involved engraining the fear of white rabbits and white rats into poor little Baby Albert. They used the means of loud noises whenever Albert made contact with the white creatures, and through this conditioning fear was instilled in the toddler. He would cry whenever a white object was in close proximity to him. At the end of the investigation, Watson broke off all contact with the child, and made no move to ensure the safety of the child or the repercussions of the experiment; the question of how Baby Albert lived the rest of life shrouded in mystery. Unfortunately, news of his passing at the young age of six was revealed. He died by hydrocephalus, a condition where there is an excess of fluid accumulated in the brain. Despite the bad ending for the little boy's story, J. B. Watson's success flourished, with the establishment of the school of behaviorism being his greatest feat. This branch of psychology is still practiced and studied today.

          From the ancient Greek philosophers of Socrates and Plato, the historical European philosophers of Kant and Locke, to modern psychologists of the likes of Marcus de Sautoy, there's always been a fascination with the human condition and identity. While we each conscious think of ourselves, and by transferability others, as autonomous individuals, there's always the presence of doubt; if our bodies and brains are really just a combination of complex cell systems, shouldn't our actions be merely a product of those systems given the outside stimuli we're exposed to?

          This was tested when Sautoy, in the last ten minutes of his video, did a trial in which he was given two buttons, a left and right. It turns out that his brain patterns decided which button to push a full six seconds before he "consciously" pushed them. While this seems to suggest that the consciousness is merely an aftermath of the procedures of the brain, one could also conjecture that these kinds of things are imbedded in the processes of the consciousness, and the fact that one takes a while for that kind of thinking to surface doesn't deny the existence of his free choice. A personal theory is that the consciousness actually exists on a whole other spiritual level, and the fact that it mostly only interprets the speech production and interpretation parts of the brain is because those parts are most easily accessible and understandable.

          However, I don't feel this kind of mystery can ever be solved. Just like most religions, most arguments for or against self-consciousness are based in a mystic, non-concrete realm. 

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Further, all the arguments any human being can make is based on our experience inside our consciousness, which itself falls to the illusion of the self. Whether it exists or not, we don't even have to perspective of to really understand what it really is. The main question in real question, then, may not actually be the definite existence of the free will, but how to refine the perception of us, our will, and our selves.

The Asperger's Controversy

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Asperger's Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder that is characterized by normal language and intelligence skills, but poor social skills. The DSM IV, published in 1994, has Asperger's Syndrome as a separate diagnosis that High Functioning Autism. The controversy surrounding AS comes from the research that has failed to find a difference between Asperger's and High Functioning Autism. This means that in the DSM V, which is to be released in 2013, AS will be added to the Autism Spectrum instead of being a separate diagnosis. Critics of this say that redefining AS would incorrectly label people with AS as having Autism. People with AS are different than people with regular Autism and therefore would be wrongly lumped into the label of Autism. Also, being able to diagnose a patient as having a specific disorder such as AS has been argued to help make more accurate diagnosis.

Since this topic can get a little dry, here's the South Park episode where they satire the Asperger's Syndrome debate:


okq8_washme.jpegThis advertisement I found online is for a European gas station and it features the likes of a man covered in mud from head to toe with a briefcase next to him in much the same condition. On the man's chest are the word "wash me", the same phrase often seen on cars that are very dirty, and he is standing in a parking spot. The ad trys to get people to come to a service station and give their car a wash and service it has probably been lacking by giving the owner a second look at how they should view their car. By putting the owner in the car's place they quickly change their mind about letting that car go without a wash for a few more days because if it was them in that situation they would not be so happy. It is interesting how they use human substitution to give meaning to an object.

Becoming aware of the self

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There must be an explanation for what separates humans from other animals. Trying to figure out why we have such a superior advantage in evolution would be difficult without one. Self awareness may be this advantage.

Self awareness is the ability to acknowledge and understand that we, ourselves, exist. In the video posted by BBC, The Secret You, there is the question of when do we as humans become self aware? Using an experiment known as the mirror experiment, they were able to find a good time frame for when children start developing this sense of self.


The researchers first expose the child to a mirror so they may observe their reflection. After a short period of time, the parent then places a sticker on the child's face secretly. When the child is put back in front of the mirror, there will be one of two reactions. The child may not realize that the reflection is their's, therefore not know about the sticker on their face. However, if the child brings their hand up to inspect the sticker based on their reflection alone, they have a sense of self awareness. Using this mirror experiment, researchers have found that most children develop this sense of self between 18 to 24 months. But what does this mean?

It is theorized that a sense of self awareness comes with benefits greater than knowing the self exists. Once someone realizes they exist as a separate and unique entity, they must also realize that this entity has a timeline. It exists, has existed, and will exist for a period of time. This leads to the development of a kind of "fourth dimension" that self aware creatures can live on. An animal species such as a wolf may only exist in three dimensions striving to survive in the present. With an awareness of time one could realize that by working harder today they may benefit themselves tomorrow. By benefiting someone else today they might create an ally for the future. With this awareness of time comes bundled with things like culture, a sense of family, and property. This could very be the cause of what separated humans from all other species.


The idea that time awareness is what caused human success is still theoretical without the ability to prove or disprove. However it can be seen that self awareness comes with positive effects nonetheless. In the video it was said that most babies develop a sense of self between 18 to 24 months. In developmental stages of babies, the most complex cognitive changes will take place in this same era along with, of course, the awareness of events that took place in the past. Is it coincidence? I think not.

Below is a link to an article on a few cognitive changes that happen for children between a year to two years of age.


Sneaky Ring Tones

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The "Teen Buzz" is a ringtone that can supposedly only be heard by people under 30. The ringtone can also be called the mosquito because it honestly is as annoying as a mosquito. When I first heard about this ringtone I thought it was a joke until I used it on my parents. My poor father was a mess when he realized that he couldn't hear something because of his age! On top of my parents many kids used this ringtone in high school to trick our teachers and whenever it would go off every students would wring out their ear saying "pleaseeeee, make it stop!"
My father is a very big hunter and when he heard about this ringtone, wanted to try it out on a deer. From research I know that deer can hear higher frequencies than humans so although my father never did the test (he is REALLY bad at technology) I think it would have come up with interesting results. My prime example of deer having better hearing than humans was during my first hunting adventure. My father and I were hunkered down in a snow bank when about 150 yards away a deer came out. My initial reaction was to whisper to my father that I saw a deer. The deer immediately looked up and ran. Maybe I was too young and indeed talked a lot longer than I should but I am pretty sure no human would have ever been able to hear what I had said!

Look at those big things! Those better work better than mine...

Tricky Perception!!!

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Emergence, reification, multistability, and Invariance are all factors that contribute to how we see the images we see. In emergence you see the hidden image as a whole. It pops out from the rest of the picture if you focus on the image for a while. There can be descriptions of what is in the image but they can never be explained. It is just a fact that we can see these pictures with the help of our vision. Reificaion is also visual, and can be explained by illusory contours. This is the constructive and generative aspect of perception. In images with reification there are a lot of spatial information. In such images you see the picture as 3D or you might see some shape that really wasn't drawn in but you see it because of small hints and you create that shape in your head. Multistability occur in images that can be viewed as two different things. Depending on how you look at it you might see one image and another if you look at it differently. According to Gestalt Psychology "Invariance is the property of perception whereby simple geometrical objects are recognized independent of rotation, translation, and scale; as well as several other variations such as elastic deformations, different lighting, and different component features."
All of these factors can go hand in hand in a single image to help you see different things.




More Images:
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Works Cited:

Super Sonic Senses

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"Teen Buzz" is a high-pitched frequency that adults cannot hear. I find this very interesting because I never realized that hearing changes drastically as you age. "Teen Buzz" has been used in various different ways against teenagers. For example, in Spain, the police has been having a hard time getting teens not to drink in public and they use the noise to keep them from hanging out for too long in public parks. However, some youngsters have also been using the noise to their advantage. For example, some kids have been setting their text message noise to the "Teen Buzz" so that teachers cannot hear it when their phones go off in class.
Something else that I find very interesting is imagining what it would be like to have the same sense of hearing as dogs. Similar to that of teenagers, dogs have the ability to hear very high-pitched noises. Many sounds that humans cannot hear at all are heard by dogs and can explain why dogs hear certain whistles and humans do not.
In addition to super-sonic hearing, some people also have certain abilities that differ from the range of normal human sensory adaptation. For example, there are some people who are "super-tasters" and are more sensitive to bitter and sweet tastes than the normal person. I think that being a super taster would be unpleasant because you would not be able to enjoy some delicious foods! I am so glad that I am not a super taster.4224.jpg

An example of a common poorly designed object is a remote control. While it would seem that designing a remote control should be a simple task that would be perfected by now, that is not the case. The first image is an example of a poorly designed remote. The design of this remote completely ignores the sensation of vision because it has small buttons that are close to each other, which makes pausing a movie, especially when it is hard to see the buttons, which is usually the case when watching a movie, a very difficult task to quickly accomplish. A way to improve this design would be to either make the buttons bigger, move the buttons around so that finding them is easier, or do both.

bad remote.jpg

The second image is an example of a remote control that is designed in a simple way and corrects the faults of the first remote. This remote is not only much larger, but the buttons have all been moved into different sections, which makes it easier to pause movies. Another way that this remote made using it simpler was by having different shapes for different tasks, which also makes it easy to find the function that you want. The designers of this remote considered both touch and sight when creating it, which makes it very easy to use the remote.

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Here's a video of a dog that doesn't like the complicated universal remote that its owners use...

We have all had that moment in school where a student's phone starts ringing in class. It keeps going for a while but the teacher keeps lecturing. How is that not distracting to the lecturer? Well, it is because the teacher can not even hear it. It is a new ringtone called TeenBuzz. It is so high pitched that people over the age of 30 can not hear it. However, the younger students in the class have no problem hearing the super irritating and high pitched noise.
This is due to presbycusis, a normal loss of acute hearing that occurs with advanced age. Presbycusis is primarily caused by aging but smoking, ototoxic drugs, noise trauma, diabetes, and a few others causes can worsen the effects as well. Due to the consequences of presbycusis, he or she slowly loses the ability to hear very high pitched noises such as the TeenBuzz ringtone. The ringtone takes advantage of presbycusis as teachers are almost always over the age of 30 so they have no idea that someone's phone is ringing while the other students are extremely annoyed. Next time someone has the TeenBuzz ringtone, you will know how it is possible that young students can hear it, while the older professors fail to hear it.

See which level of frequency you can hear here:

Super Human Senses

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Did you know that dogs have much better hearing and smelling senses than humans do?

Dogs have much better hearing than humans do but it is only their second most developed sense that they have behind their hearing ability. There hearing is much sharper than humans and they can hear at much better frequencies than humans. Dogs hear sounds than many humans can never hear because of how much better hearing they have.

Just like humans dogs may become more deaf as they age. The hearing ability differs between the breed of the dog but all dogs have much better hearing than humans. A lot of sounds that may be very loud to humans can be so much louder for dogs that it scares them away.

When dogs hear a sound their ears move in the direction of the sound, in order to hear it much better. In order to control the movement of their ears they are controlled by at least 18 muscles that are located in the ear. The upright and curve of many dogs ears allows to amplify the sound that they are hearing. When in the wild dogs use their superior hearing to find and locate food.


Yoga, the invisible killer?

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For a long time, yoga is my favorite way to keep slim and healthy. However, days ago I saw an article on a Chinese website and claimed that yoga was an invisible killer which would cause invisible harm to our body. I was shocked.
However, was the claim true? Or was yoga evaluated in an unscientific way?
In the article "Yoga can damage your body", the author said that a lot of people, including some yoga teachers, used to get injured while doing yoga. She claims that some yoga positions are actually harmful. Her evidence is the story of Naomi Harris, who used to have a really good time with yoga, yet was harmed by yoga.
In the second article "Is yoga really bad for you? Om, not sure." The author claimed that harm that is caused by yoga is due to bad ways of practicing. "Yoga is a tool", and misuse of any kind of tool will cause damage.
The final article "Is yoga bad for your health?" tells the similar thing. The author claims that people who do yoga should always listen to their body to reach the goal of practice.
Comparing the three articles, the claim of the first article seems pretty invalid. The evidence of Naomi isn't really supportive the claim that yoga is harmful because Naomi came to the conclusion that her harm was due to too much yoga practice. Just as the second article said, the misuse of a tool couldn't prove that the tool was actually bad. On the other hand, Article #1 doesn't put any other valid evidence to support the claim. This contradict the principle that is called replicability because no scientific study have reported the same finding.

Yoga can damage your body

Is yoga really bad for you? Om, not sure:

Is yoga bad for your health?

Did you know that caffeine is the most widely consumed psycho-active substance in the world? As a beverage, the worldwide consumption of tea is surpassed only by water!

Did you know that caffeine is a diuretic? That means it makes you pee more than usual, due to increasing the blood flow through the kidneys.

The pros and cons of the stimulant have been debated for many decades. These days, researchers are throwing out so much information left and right about caffeine, who can keep track of whether it's good or bad for you? On the plus side, caffeine has antioxidants and with regular consumption, it can reduce the chance of developing Parkinson's disease and help protect the body against gallstones. It is also argued that caffeine increases your metabolism, thus promoting weight loss (Dave, 2008). Furthermore, the "drug" improves alertness, enhances mood, improves physical stamina, and relieves headaches. On the flip side, heavy daily caffeine use may disturb your sleep pattern and cause nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, fast heartbeat, and muscle tremors (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). In addition, recent studies have shown that women who drink in excess of one cup of coffee every day are only half as likely to conceive as those who drink less than a cup a day and caffeine consumption during pregnancy is associated with prematurity, poor reflexes, and neuromuscular development (Burchfield, 2001).

In conclusion, caffeine in moderation can have positive effects, while having too much can have serious health effects and can lead to a nasty withdrawal headache.

Here is a "very scientific" example of what can happen to the body when you consume too much caffeine...

Work Cited

Burchfield, Geoffrey. "Caffeine." ABC.net.au. ABC Online, 2001. Web. 05 Feb. 2012. .

Dave, Sejal. "The Caffeine Debate - Yay or Nay?" Nutrition Advice by Registered Dietitians - HealthCastle.com |. HealthCastle Nutrition Inc., June 2008. Web. 05 Feb. 2012. .

Mayo Clinic Staff. "Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much?" Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Mayo Clinic, 9 Mar. 2011. Web. .

Is Free Will an Illusion?

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Imagine a study that asks you to put a curse on your fellow participant by sticking pins into a doll. Your now cursed partner is annoying you, so you stick pins into the doll. You may think that your partner got a headache because of your control over the voodoo doll.
This study is an example of why an article from The New York Times argues that free will is an illusion. The study let you believe that you had ownership of your actions. But your fellow participant had actually been pre-informed of the experiment and told whether to act obnoxious or nice. The article argues that people are easier to fool when they think they are in control of their actions, even if it involves something impossible, like cursing and harming someone with a doll.
The article's central question was whether or not free will is an illusion. Free will refers to a person's act of choosing what to do without any kind of environmental or social influence. The counter theory, determinism, is a philosophical idea that human actions are caused by events that aren't associated with a person's will.
I personally found this article to be very confusing. I always felt that people can decide for themselves how they make their choices. I know that people base their decisions off a variety of factors, but this article made me question whether or not we think that we are in control when we actually aren't.

Overbye, Dennis. "Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don't." The New York Times. 2 Jan. 2007 https://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/02/science/02free.html?pagewanted=all
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There are many nature vs. nurture disputes going on today. One of the biggest disputes revolves around homosexuality and whether it is inherited or if it is a result of your environment. The first article I read is called "What Makes People Gay?". This article talks about a variety of studies done on areas of the brain regarding homosexuality. One of the most ground-breaking studies involves the area of the brain called the 'hypothalamus', and this region is shown to be two times larger in heterosexual men. This is said to be the "nature" side of the argument. There is also several other studies done on the nature-end involving sex hormone distribution in the womb and how if these sex hormones aren't distributed to a male fetus during their fetal stages, then they could continue on the path of the female brain (and with their attraction to men). The "nurture" side of a homosexuality debate is typically more controversial. People assume that if homosexuality isn't embedded into your brain, then you have chosen it in your upbringing. When people assume someone is gay by choice, many think it is unnatural, sinful, and some have even considered it a disease. (Refer to second article) Many claim that if homosexuality is a choice, then people have chosen it to be rebellious, or because someone they know has chosen homosexuality.
My reaction to these two articles is kind of surprised! I really had no knowledge that people had actually found relativity between homosexuality and the brain. Now that I know this, I think it is far more plausible that homosexuality is genetically related. I never thought gay people had chosen to be gay, but this confirms it in a sense for me. As far as environmental factors, I think the most contribution from their environments comes from the environment in the womb (where the sex hormones are distributed). Nature and Nurture both contribute in my opinion. Other factors that could contribute are environmental factors such as how many brothers you have, which is statistically shown (for gay men) to increase their chances of homosexuality. However, I don't think these contributions are statistically significant.article_gay_pride-739745.jpg

Free Will-Determinism

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The free will-determinism debate focuses on the question of whether our behaviors are freely selected or caused by factors beyond our control. The book mentions that some psychologists believe in the idea that we all possess free will, yet others, such as B.F. Skinner; believe that we are unaware of all of the environmental influences that are imposed upon us. I'd have to say that from my own personal experiences I believe more in free will than determinism. Although there are many factors that influence the decisions we make, ultimately the decision is ours to make. I believe that too many people try to put blame on society's influences for the actions that they make and refuse to take responsibility for the fact that they could have acted differently. This isn't to say that in extreme cases, such as mental illnesses, people are influenced greatly by a factor beyond their control. However, I believe that since these extreme cases exist people find it okay to essentially extort them and use determinism as an excuse for making a bad decision. To what extent can we blame society for our own actions? At what point is something that we do out of our hands?



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Although briefly talked about in the text, Autism is an increasing problem in America. One in every one-hundred and ten kids are diagnosed with it. But there continues to be an enormous debate on the causes of it. Some believe vaccines are the cause, others believe in environmental factors, and others believe strongly in a heredity of Autism. My little brother is a non-verbal autistic who is very low functioning. In the text it talks about facilitated communication and the errors behind it. I have personally seen this in my life with my brother when we try to guess what he wants from us and we believe he is asking us for what we want him to ask us. Unknowingly, these biases confuse communication even further between my brother and myself. The hope that my family and I have of knowing exactly what my brother needs overshadows the effectiveness of the communication itself, resulting in mistakes. Personally, I strongly believe vaccines played a large role in my brother's autism. We saw a huge change in his behavior immediately after he received them from a healthy happy baby to one demonstrating autistic characteristics. However, environment and genes play a large role in it, too. To which extent, I am unsure of.
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As we've all (hopefully) read about, the nature vs. nurture debate is not new to the world. In fact I believe most people, myself included, like to believe that the debate is over now-a-days. That events are the cause of both genetics AND environment. While the article I read supports this idea of nature and nurture, there are certain reactions to the article that amazingly point to a multitude of people that believe in one or the other. The article itself, found on morningjournal.com and written by Jason Henry, goes into the safety of pit-bulls and how they could be taken off the "dangerous list". As stated before, Henry does explain how the safety of the breed is determined by both the breed itself and the environment the dog is in, though heavily leaning on the side that owners are at fault. Pit- bulls are in fact a potentially dangerous breed of dog due to the fact that aggression is what they were originally bred for. On the other hand many people believe that they are more dangerous than they really are due to their history and that they "look" mean. One man even went as far as to say "(Pit-bulls) are automatically vicious in the state of Ohio and that has been since 1987, from the day they are born, they are considered vicious." And even now there are severely strict rules for owning pit-bulls. Even the question of the breed coming off the "dangerous list" angers some people. This all seems a little overdone to me. It is my belief that dogs are a product of their owners, if the owners have bad intent, the dogs learn and copy becoming vicious. Now, weather the dog is more likely to become vicious is a question of the breed and its history namely, I think the pit-bull is a more likely breed to become vicious if put under stressful circumstances.
Click here for the article

Chapter 13-Social Psychology

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Chapter 13 focuses on social psychology and how others affect us. Social psychology is defined as the study of how people influence others' behavior, beliefs, and attitudes. The main points of this chapter include humans as social species, factors that influence us to conform or make obedient decisions, and prosocial behavior and aggression. The topic that seemed most intriguing to me as I assessed the chapter was conformity versus individuality. In the 1950's, Solomon Asch conducted a study to discover the psychological reasoning behind conformity. The three main factors shown from the study were unanimity, size, and difference in the wrong answer. More recently the idea that social pressure influences perception was tested by Gregory Berns. Both of the studies showed that when placed together and asked to call out answers to certain questions, participants were more likely to choose the incorrect answer in order to follow the group norm. The chapter also discusses the idea of deindividuation, which makes humans more vulnerable to conformity. The main reasons people experience deindividuation include a feeling of anonymity and a lack of individual responsibility. In certain situations, it is easy for people to lose their typical social identities and create new ones, which causes deindividuation. This can occur when wearing costumes, particularly with masks, hanging out in dark clubs or bars, or joining in a mob.


Born this way?

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People will readily blame nature for sexuality, yet people almost universally want to blame nurture for differences in intelligence. Evidence from the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart would disagree with such an assertion. Twins reared apart show remarkably similar personalities (corr=.5), and even more similar levels of intelligence (corr=.7), suggesting that genetics plays a much larger role in intelligence than many people are willing to accept.

Research shows that genetics matter in IQ

Bouchard-et-al.pngSources of human psychological differences: the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart, Bouchard et al, http://www.psych.umn.edu/courses/spring05/hicksb/psy3135/bouchard_1990.pdf Accessed 2012/02/02

It stems from the very American attitude that "all men are created equal," and for that reason, people want to try their best to ignore the very fact that we are all created very different from one another. While the person of common IQ can become president (Dubya, anyone?) the person of really low IQ is certainly not one we want to be voting for; maybe "You can be whatever you want when you grow up" is not as true as people would like to believe it is. It's a fundamental American belief that people will fight to keep hold of, when science has shown us time and time again that there's only so much a person can do to overcome how smart they were born.

Numerous other studies have shown similar effects of genetics on intelligence, each more controversial than the last (the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study comes to mind).

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