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The classic nature vs. nurture debate will be the most memorable concept that we studied this semester in psychology. This detailed and intricate debate will continue to challenge the origin of our daily behaviors and personalities. In brief, many early philosophers, including John Locke, were convinced that humans were born a clean slate, void of any initial behavioral tendencies. They believed that every behavior was due to the influences and experiences the human is exposed to in their environment, also known as nurture. In contrast, Darwin's evolutionary theory inspired a new branch of evolutionary psychology, in which psychologists suggested that memory, emotion, and personality are adaptive functions for survival and reproduction. Evolutionary psychologists believed that genes were much more important in determining behaviors, rather than environment. So the debate remains, whether our behavior is determined by our experiences in our external environment, or our internal genetic make-up due to evolution.

While today it is generally accepted through substantial research that behavior is influenced by both environmental and genetic factors, there are still many implications when investigating many issues in our society today. For example, on average, wealthy students tend to perform scholastically at a higher level than financially less fortunate students. The nature vs. nurture debate questions whether the wealthier students are predisposed to a healthier learning environment, or if they have acquired a genetic make-up more suitable for higher academic performance. In another example, many debate the origins of homosexuality, and whether it is genetic in nature or caused by nurture. Many U.S. researchers have identified genes that they believe to be related to homosexuality, while many religious leaders believe that homosexuality is an unnatural, learned behavior. These are just a few examples of how the debate between nature vs. nurture will always be present when identifying the causation of behaviors.

This is a video exemplifying the implications of nature vs. nurture theory in studies of homosexuality.

Matthew S. Barg

Personality structure is one of the most complex studies in all of psychology, however mass amounts of research has agreed that openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. While the "Big Five" has a lot of differentiation depending on specific people, but are there any deeper cultural influences in these five characteristics? In Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, research data from Peter Rentfrow, Samuel Gosling, and Jeff Potter (2008) suggested that different states had different levels of extraversion. The correlation was suggested that it is possible that living in relatively isolated states such as: Idaho, Alaska, or Hawaii, contributes to higher levels of extraversion. The opposite correlation was suggested that it is possible that introverts are drawn to living in isolated areas. This is just one example of the intricate study of personality structure.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4e/Extraversion_by_state1.jpg/120px-Extraversion_by_state1.jpg

There are also many cultural influences to neuroticism. Studies have shown that there are higher rates of neuroticism in states such as: New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Mississippi (eastern states), while states such as: Colorado, Utah, South Dakota, Arizona, and Oregon (western states), have much lower rates of neuroticism. It should be noted that these eastern states have higher rates of heart disease and lower life expectancy. This could mean there is a correlation in that, neuroticism increases ones chance of heart disease and an earlier death. While on the contrary, there could be increased anxiety and neuroticism because there is more disease and early deaths.

Geography is only one indicator when examining influences on personality structures. For example, agreeableness is the tendency to be sociable and easy to get along with, and there are many studies that identify the media as a crucial factor in how social one may be. There have been many studies that have seen a change in the behavior of children based on the media they absorb. The correlations drawn from some of theses studies suggest that media may have a beneficial or adverse effect on human agreeableness.

Finally, another major influence in personality structure is the family and friends one is surrounded around. This relates to the nature vs. nurture debate, but it cannot be denied that there is at least some substantial evidence to suggest that the family has influence over the behaviors of their children. Therefore, personality traits such as openness and conscientiousness may be taught or learned towards children. These are just a few of the infinite examples of how psychologists can study the influences of personality structures.

Matthew Barg

In chapter 8 of Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, the development of human communication and nonhuman animal communication are discussed at depth. Over the past few decades, many researchers have attempted to use similarities in human and nonhuman animal communication to teach human language to chimpanzees. Unfortunately, there were many limits. The chimpanzees required thousands of trials to learn, only communicated about food or other pleasures, and never mastered syntactic rules.

While no chimpanzee is going to be giving an eloquent speech anytime soon, we can compare and contrast similarities and differences in the communication of chimpanzees vs. humans. First, humans and chimpanzees handle aggression differently. For example, chimpanzees are known for showing their aggression in a violent manner: slapping the ground and producing harsh vocalizations to convey aggression. In contrast, humans are usually more controlled in their aggression expressions. This difference leads many to believe that humans are less aggressive than chimpanzees, however Darcia Narvaez, writer for Psychology Today, may beg to differ. After studying chimpanzees for over a decade, Narvaez realized that aggression in chimpanzees were never apparent until food supply challenged survival, suggesting that humans and chimpanzees are genetically equal in aggression. Therefore, this evidence refutes the misconception that chimpanzees are genetically prone to exemplify aggression more than humans, rather the natural evolutionary process allows both chimpanzees and humans to react to situations based on our culture, societies, and necessary survival.

Secondly, chimpanzees and humans are know for their differences in mating techniques. While humans subtlety flirt when seeking a mate, chimpanzees simply spread their legs out to expose their instrument to the opposite sex. Once again, this leads many to the misconception that humans and chimpanzees are very different in their mating communication, however there are many similarities. Humans and chimpanzees both view sexuality as a pleasurable event, however the difference lies in the moral context. Humans communicate morality into their sexual society in which multiple partners and same-sex partners are less common, as compared to chimpanzees.

In conclusion, humans and chimpanzees have evolved into very different species. However, when we take a closer look, we can find many communication similarities.

Matthew Barg

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Deja Vu

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The tendency of feeling that you lived past through that moment and going through the same experience is something that I struggle with everyday. Usually, it's a feeling that I get that I said thing before, or I have done this thing before. One day, I had a math exam and the night before I was dreaming that I was taking the exam, so I could remember all the questions very clearly. When I woke up and REALLY went to do my exam I saw some of the questions that was on my dream. I was really freaked out about the Idea that I knew the questions before even seeing them. It is a very interesting phenomena to witness and withhold such an amazing theory and to be the lab rat of that experiment.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3qVqNPDnD8

So far I've seen two posts on Lucid dreaming, or the feeling of knowing you're in a dream, or possibly controlling the dream. Lucid dreaming is a favorite topic of mine, since I have had very vivid dreams frequently since I was young. As Anna Shrifteylik discussed in her post, brain patterns are easily measured, but what your brain is interpreting this activity as is harder to tell. Even harder still is verifying claims of lucidity, as I know I have second-guessed whether or not a dream of mine was lucid - that is, no one has ruled out the possibility that ideas of lucidity can invade the memory of a dream. Once you start questioning that, the whole validity of lucid dreaming can come into question; you have to look at rival hypotheses for the phenomenon.
I've tried for myself to increase the chances of having a lucid dream. The site, Dreamviews, is one I've used as a resource. One of the first steps they mention is the need to improve dream recall; if you cannot remember a dream, how are you supposed to know if you were lucid or not? They strongly suggest you keep a dream journal, and keep it well. Once you have established a dream journal, you can look for so-called dream-signs, or recurring events, objects, people, etc. that only occur in a dream. Once you've narrowed down some dream-signs, you can use your knowledge to try to trigger a lucid dream.
This has yet to work for me.
I've been keeping a dream journal for the past four years, and although I've thought I had something, some dream-sign, they're vague and don't last more than three months. As of today I have not been able to induce a lucid dream. The last lucid dream I had occurred right after I started looking at dreamviews.com for the first time. This leads me to think that lucid dreaming is nothing but a mindset one can be focused on, focused enough that it invades your waking thoughts.

This leads me to wonder whether or not there are better, more effective ways to induce a lucid dream. And again, is lucid dreaming nothing but a mindset one has after you wake? Studies should be done on the phenomenon of lucid dreaming; I'm picturing something where those who claim to dream lucidly at will are compared against themselves dreaming lucidly and not, and against those who claim to be unable to lucid dream, and those who know little to nothing of lucid dreaming. And of course, a study like this would be easily replicable.


-Rob Barbeau
http://www.dreamviews.com/content/introduction-6/

Addiction

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When the topic of drugs is brought up, alcohol is not normally what would first come to mind. However, alcohol is in fact a depressant drug, meaning it decreases effects of the central nervous system. Alcohol is the most abused drug throughout the world. Almost 67 percent of men claimed to have used alcohol in the past month and 39 percent claimed of eighth graders claimed they had tried alcohol. It is believed that this drug has been around for about 10,000 years. Alcohol dependency levels vary from country to country. Egypt has an alcohol dependency rate of only .02 percent, while Poland has an 11.2 percent dependency rate. These numbers are expected to triple in seniors by 2020. The following article gives more information:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/05/drug-addiction-seniors-_n_996390.html

But what makes some people more vulnerable to growing a dependency on alcohol or other types of drugs? Can people have addictive personalities? These are all things that I have questioned before. Researchers now agree that there is no such thing as an addictive personality. However, different characteristics such as hostility, sociability, or impulsivity can prompt different addictions. Drinking to relieve nerves is very common. Alcohol affects the levels of dopamine in the brain, which aides in motor function and reward. Additionally, through twin and adoption studies researchers know that genetics probably are involved in someone's susceptibility to alcoholism. However, what genes cause this is unknown.

Michaela Doud

REM Sleep-Hannah Weiger

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REM sleep is the 5th stage of sleep. In this stage, heart rate and blood pressure increase and people experience rapid, irregular breathing. The eyes also dart around under closed eyelids. On an electroencephalograph we would see high frequency, low amplitude waves when someone enters REM sleep. These waves are similar to the ones we would see when a person is awake. REM sleep usually lasts for about 20 minutes before we return to stage 2 sleep and go through the cycle once again. Although, the time spent in REM sleep increases with every cycle. People tend to dream more in REM sleep. The dreams usually are illogical and confusing with emotional ties and abrupt changes of plot.
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Surprisingly, research has found that REM sleep is biologically important. In 1998, the National Institute on Alcohol Use and Alcoholism found that depriving rats of REM sleep eventually led to their death in a few weeks. If a human is deprived of REM sleep, they will experience REM rebound. This is when REM sleep becomes longer and more intense. I have definitely experienced this. Most weekends in the summer I worked and had cheerleading so I would get home late and have to wake up early everyday of the weekend. When Sunday night finally rolled around, of course I slept like a baby, but my dreams were crazy and I remembered them better than ever. Some believe that REM sleep's key function is tied to memory. Further research will have to be done to prove this. REM sleep is sometimes known as paradoxical sleep because our brains are functioning at full speed and our bodies are paralyzed. Because of this people are not allowed to act on their dreams. However, some people have a rare condition called REM behavior disorder DO act on their dreams. This condition usually occurs in men over 50 years of age and effects about 1 in 200 people.In one particular case, Mahowald and Schenck found that for years a 77 year old minister would act out violent dreams and occasionally injure his wife. I find it fascinating that this disorder exists. In conclusion, REM sleep is the 5th stage of sleep and has importance in our biological function (which is not known). REM sleep is also associated with erratic, confusing and illogical dreams.

Bullying affects countless children across the United States and around the world. Our parents had to deal with it; our grandparents had to deal with it; heck, even our great-grandparents had to deal with the school yard bully. But what is so different now? What about bullying in the current generation causes so many children to become so mentally disturbed by it that they could hurt, or even kill, themselves or others?
This spring I was greatly affected by how strongly bullying and suicide are correlated. Two young girls from a neighboring school committed suicide together on April 16th, 2011. Paige and Haylee were only 14 years old and were both suffering from the effects of bullying on their self esteem. Although the school administration failed to acknowledge that bullying was a part of the suicide, I was, at the time, mentoring other young girls who were close with Paige and Haylee and said that they were bullied insistently and had very low self-worth.
What happened with Paige and Haylee wasn't an isolated incident, either. Jared High committed suicide after being bullied on September 29th, 1998. Eric Mohat also committed suicide after a bout of bullying in his high school.
This is a problem we can fix. Let's prevent bullying to help prevent suicide and not lose any more beautiful children to suicide.
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Sleep Paralysis

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The video above is for a documentary on the lasting effects of sleep paralysis in on every day people. While there are a number of different sleeping disorders but one of the more thought provoking of them all is this idea of sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis a sleep disorder in the sleeper is unable to fall asleep or just before waking up and can often be linked with sleep apnea. It occurs when the sleep cycle is interrupted and in the conscious mind it causes feelings of anxiousness and even overwhelming fear, which can be observed by interviews in the video. People often have the sensation of a large immovable object on their chest, in which they lack the ability to move it off. It is extremely common in college students and one in five people will experience sleep paralysis. Until more modern times sleep paralysis was an unexplainable phenomenon, but in recent years studies have shown some light on understanding it. People of different cultures over the years have associated sleep paralysis with different forms of mythical creatures or evil entities as the phenomenon sometimes is associated with different sensations such as vibrations, or the presence of someone else. Encounters with things such as witches, demons, ghosts and aliens have all been attributed to encounters with sleep paralysis. While sleep paralysis does not usual require cause for concern it can be a very scarring experience and many people become afraid to sleep because they don't want have the experience recur. While there seems to be no "treatment" for sleep paralysis there are several tips that can be used to reduce the risk of it occurring, such as eating healthy, deep breathing or finding things which trigger your sleep paralysis.
--David Murdock

Asleep or Awake?

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Lucid Dream.jpg
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-3MLly8VfGgM/Tj1-hqM0kAI/AAAAAAAABGQ/ilFm-ZCHEWE/s1600/Lucid-Dreaming1.jpg

Lucid Dreaming is "the experience of being aware that one is dreaming" (Lilenfeld).

Some people say that not only are they aware they are dreaming (lucid dreaming), but they can control what they dream as well! This sounds like an interesting idea to explore. If there was a certain thing that reality would not permit you to do, wouldn't you want to find a loophole and dream away?

http://www.wikihow.com/Lucid-Dream
The following link provides a "How To" step by step to lucid dreaming.

When we sleep, our brain functions can be monitored in a laboratory. However, controlling dreams may be a step towards pseudoscience. That is when we need to keep the Scientific Thinking Principals in mind.

Replicability and Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence
-Can the results be duplicated? Is the evidence as strong as the claim?

Asking a group of people to follow a step by step guide to lucid dreaming may be a difficult task. The data collection would be a challenge. If people do not remember all of their dreams, how we be sure that the data is accurate?

Although hard to control, lucid dreaming is a wonderful experience (unless it is a nightmare..literally). It is even possible that it lets our minds reach their full potential on levels that are not possible while we are awake. So next time you find yourself lucid dreaming, enjoy it.



Anna Shrifteylik
Section 12

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