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Multilingualism

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Language.jpgPolyglots are people who are able to speak multiple languages with a high degree of proficiency. Within the category of polyglot are people who are bilingual, trilingual, and multilingual. There even exist hyperpolyglots, people who can speak six or more languages fluently. As far as learning multiple languages, it may be easier to pick up certain languages that are structurally and stylistically similar to others. For example, French, Spanish, and Italian, are all "romance languages" and have common Latin roots. It may also be easier to learn certain languages when they have similar dialects, in the instance of the many Spanish dialects that comprise the tongues of Spain.
I personally am fortunate to be proficient in Spanish (besides being fluent in English). In the language -learning process, I believe it is important to build up gradually to a level of proficiency. To be proficient and later fluent in another language, one must be skilled in listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in that language. I think what helped me learn a second language was a combination of vocabulary/grammar drills, different speaking, reading, writing, and listening exercises, and the gradual build-up of new material.

Not one, but two?

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Language is a system of communication that combines symbols, such as words or gestural signs, in rule-based ways to create meaning. Language serves several crucial functions such as the transmission of information and the ability to express our thoughts about social interactions. It is also one of the few documented cases in which children are more efficient learners than adults. We, as humans, spend much of our conversational time establishing or maintaining our relationships with others, which, in turn, creates a bond between two people
One commonly held belief is that this special "bond" enables twins to invent their own secret language that only they can understand. This phenomenon, known as cryptophasia, is natural to expect when two people have been together from the moment of conception. However, this notion is not as truthful as it may seem. Cases of cryptophasia among twins turn out to be a result of phonological impairment and other types of language delay that are more prevalent among twins. The twins are simply attempting to use their native language, but with poor articulation and significant pronunciation errors. The reason they make it look like they have their own "language" is because twin pairs tend to make similar kinds of phonological errors, making their speech more understandable to each other that to their parents or nonrelated children.

Video of two twins talking in their "own" language.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JmA2ClUvUY

Animal Language

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As we know, we human has our own ways to communicate with each other, and the most important one is language. Human has lot of languages. People from different countries and different races might speak different languages. And those languages only known by themselves. So what about animals? From my point of view, different kind of animals also have different kind of ways to communicate with each other, but do they have languages? As we know, birds sing to each other to communicate with each other, some mammals like bears and lions also can communicate with each other by voice. So I do think animals have their own language. Although their brain were not smart than human beings, they can still create their own language.lion communication .jpg

Do you remember what you were doing the moment you heard that the World Trade Center had been hit on September 11, 2001? Many people do and the memory is usually very easy to remember. What is being described here is a flashbulb memory, which according to the textbook, is an emotional memory that is extremely vivid and detailed. The memories are often related to a traumatic experience as well. Like the awful day of September 11th, people have flashbulb memories of the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion.

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While it was often thought that these memories could last for an extremely long time and sometimes forever, psychologists are now saying that these memories do lose some details and change some of the story as time goes on. Psychology in Action published an article on their website describing an experiment that was conducted at the University of California- San Diego concerning flashbulb memories and the O.J. Simpson verdict. Three days after the verdict, students were asked to remember where they were and how they had heard about the verdict. After this they were selected to come back 15 months or 32 months later. The students then had to describe the same situation again and then the researchers evaluated the distortions in the stories. The stories in the 15-month follow-up had far fewer distortions then those in the 32-month follow-up. Equally interesting is the fact that 80 percent of the peoples' memories were flashbulb memories, but 40 percent of those memories had distortions in them. What this study showed is that flashbulb memories do exist, but they do seem to lose some detail and validity over time.

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Psychology in Action Article:
http://www.psychologyinaction.org/2011/09/16/flashbulb-memories-traumatic-events-and-the-details-we-remember/

Additional Article:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200203/hot-the-trail-flashbulb-memory

Alzheimers disease is made up by a basic build-up of proteins in the brain. The build-up is caused by plagues, deposits of protein that develop in spaces between nerve cells, and tangles, deposits of protein that develop inside these cells. Scientists have yet to find out why some people tend to form this excessive build up of proteins, but have made some basic assumptions on how to help prevent it. Some factors they seem to list include staying away from serious head injury, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet, avoiding tobacco, and being engaged in intellectually stimulating activities.
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I was very interested in how someone who has developed Alzheimer's deals with the disease in an active household? I found a very touching article posted by someone suffering from the disease (http://www.alz.org/living_with_alzheimers_10304.asp). A lady by the name of Eileen abused alcohol and other drugs by age 11. She took over 100 pills a day, and suffered from being an alcoholic. She now has a family in which she cares very much about and loves with her life. But, after noticing small amounts of memory loss she was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer's in her late 40's. Eileen had to retire from her job, as she and her family suffer greatly everyday. There are days where she physically cannot get out of bed, and the others she "fights like hell" to get out even though she felt horrible. She explains how many close friends have become unrecognizable, and her speech is only going downhill. Will we ever find a cure to such a serious disease?

Slowly Losing Your Life

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Once people reach the age of 65, they begin to experience memory problems, most of which is caused by Alzheimer's disease. This is a terrible disease that causes patients to loss memory, starting with recent events and slowly taking away more of their memory from longer ago. This means that AD patients have a hard time remember what they did earlier this week, but they do remember important events from years ago, until the disease progresses and starts taking away those memories.alzheimers_0821.jpg
This disease is caused by senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, which cause a loss of synapses and the death of cells in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex which are important to memory and intellectual ability. Unfortunately there are no treatments or cures that slows down or reverses Alzheirmer's effects, there are only proposed theories as to what can help, yet they have not been proved by research. One of these theories that has been studied showed that being physically fit, with a good diet and a strong social network can help decrease ones chances of Alzheimer's, but it's hard to determine the correlation in the study. Because of the difficulty to treat Alzheimer's, people who have the disease gradually lose their memories until they pass away.

Forgetting Loved Ones

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Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurological disease of the brain leading to the irreversible loss of neurons and the loss of intellectual abilities, including memory and reasoning. The disease is caused by a build-up of proteins in the brain. The buildup occurs in two main ways, Plaques and tangles. Plaques are deposits of the protein beta-amyloid that accumulate in the spaces between nerve cells and tangles are deposits of the protein tau that accumulate inside of nerve cells. Scientists are still studying how plaques and tangles are related to Alzheimer's disease. One theory is that they block nerve cells' ability to communicate with each other, making it difficult for the cells to survive.

A more intricate explanation about how the disease occurs can be seen in this video:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Wv9jrk-gXc


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Treatment for Alzheimer's usually involves the use of Cholinesterase inhibitors. These inhibitors curb the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical in the brain important for memory and learning. These types of medications help increase the levels of acetylcholine in the brain, thus help with memory retention.

People with Alzheimer's experience the disease in 3 main phases. In the first phase of the disease the patient is noticeably slower with brain functions and begins having trouble with memory. The second stage is similar to the first and usually accompanied by a behavioral change. And the final stage is most noticeable as the patients abilities severely decline and a move into a nursing home may be necessary.

Alzheimer's is an unfortunate disease and can be one of the hardest for family members to deal with because their loved one simply cannot remember them.

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Linguistic Relativity

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Initially proposed independently by Benjamin Lee Whorf and Edward Sapir, the idea that language influences thought may initially seem counterintuitive. Clearly language and thought are related, we formulate and communicate thoughts using language, but it may seem that language merely expresses what is already there. While thought may not be wholly dependent on language as some have proposed, there is evidence to show that language does influence it.

One experiment which demonstrates such a connection between language and thought makes use of the grammatical concept of gender present in languages such as German and Spanish. These languages require that speakers refer to objects using the grammatical constructs of a certain gender. A believer of linguistic relativity might infer from this that the grammatical gender of an object influences perception of that object. To test this, speakers of Spanish and German were asked to describe the features of certain objects. When describing a key (which is feminine in Spanish and masculine in German), German speakers more frequently used words with masculine connotations such as jagged, hard, and heavy while Spanish speakers more frequently used words such as intricate, lovely, and shiny.

Linguistic relativity is also apparent in constructed languages such as computer programming languages. One example commonly used to illustrate this is Blub, a hypothetical programming language. Based on the availability of certain functions in programming languages, one might order them in terms of so called power. Blub is considered to be of intermediate power. A Blub programmer looking down the hierarchy at less powerful languages can see the functions missing from them and understands how Blub is more powerful. Looking up the continuum however, the Blub programmer is unable to see that he is looking up. Thinking in Blub much as one would think in a natural language, he would only perceive a language with seemingly bizarre constructs. For this reason, many programmers have advocated learning to use languages such as Lisp to become better programmers by broadening the way people can think about programs.

While these examples do not support the idea that language gives rise to thought, they do show that language influences thought in more subtle ways. The inherent properties of words can influence perception and even the understanding of concepts.

I have been an avid dog lover all my life, but I don't think I've ever met a dog as smart as this one. I viewed a documentary about dogs and did a little more research on one of the dogs they talked about. It was a 6 year old border collie named Chaser, and she new the names of over 1,000 different items! How is this possible?? Well, her owner, John Pilley, used what he calls a "successive technique" to teach Chaser the names of all the toys. He would teach Chaser one toy, and once she was able to learn that object, he would move on to the next, and repeat that process with more and more toys and objects. After teaching Chaser the names of the toys, he would put a pile of toys in another room, and call out what toy he specifically wanted. And by much surprise, Chaser would come back with the correct toy! After successfully grabbing the correct toy, he would let her play with "Blue," a small ball she would chase around. Border collies are one of the smartest breeds of dogs out there, but I had no idea they could reach this level. If you don't believe me, below is a link to a video and an ABC news article about Chaser.

I don't know about you, but I definitely underestimated how smart dogs really are.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPgZ8KHLXag&list=UU2NjUImk-ITC_LhgsNvvADg&index=2&feature=plcp

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/world-smartest-dog-nova-special-shows-border-collie/story?id=12875750

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A failing car manufacturer in a failing city can't produce luxury. When you're selling a luxury good and "failure" is the word most highly associated with your brand, things aren't looking up. The media has linked Chrysler, Detroit, and economic downturn together in the minds of the American public ever since their first bailout in 2008. So in their Super Bowl ad, Chrysler had to find an approach that would manipulate not only peoples' perceptions of their brand, but their perceptions of Detroit.

Eminem has the perfect image to use as a form of higher classical conditioning. Since it would be a stretch to directly associate Detroit with luxury, they can make an association to it indirectly through Eminem. He's a powerful rapper out of Detroit, who represents fame and fortune, but is made edgier and even cooler by his gritty history. When he says "this is the motor city, and this is what we do", both Detroit and Chrysler get to ride on the coattails of his success and status.

Anecdotal reasoning also helps to shape the viewers' perceptions. When the voiceover says "It's the hottest fires that make the hardest steel" over images of steel fists and beaten city, although the phrase itself doesn't make all that much sense, it still provokes feelings of being a tough underdog. Chrysler's new car as a result seems pretty bad-ass.

In the YouTube video BBC Horizon: The Secret You, the idea of when humans become aware of self is explored. Using a mirror test to asses self-awareness, it was determined that people become self aware between the ages of 18 and 24 months. The test involved putting a red spot on the face of a toddler, placing them in front of a mirror, and observing whether or not they removed the spot after seeing their reflection. The thought behind this is that if the child realized that the person in the mirror was himself, he would remove the spot from his face. Likewise, if he did not connect the person in the mirror with himself, he would leave the spot on his face.

This is a classic test that has been used numerous times to analyze self awareness in humans and even animals. However, there is a risk that rival hypotheses have not been ruled out. Perhaps the reason that children under the age of 18 months usually leave the spot on their face is not because they aren't self aware, but because they don't realize that the spot is out of the ordinary and should be removed. To test this, a study was performed in which children were asked to remove a spot on a doll's face before being exposed to their own marked face in the mirror. Indeed, in the original test only 45% of 18-month olds were regarded as "recognizers," but in the revised test it rose to 61%.

Source:

Asendorph, Jens B. "Self-Awareness and Other-Awareness II: Mirror Self-Recognition, Social Contingency Awareness, and Synchronic Imitation." Developmental Psychology 32.2 (1996): 313-21.

As we've been discussing in lecture and in recitation, advertisers are masters at using classical conditioning to sell their product or message. Out of the thousands of advertisements, there is one message that one could argue does the best job of selling their message. That message: Anti-smoking. These messages brilliantly associate smoking with something we're afraid of.

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Here we can see that this lighter clearly looks like a gun pointed at our heads. That's the conditional stimulus. The unconditional stimulus is the fear of death that is associated with the gun. From there, the unconditional response is the fear of death with smoking. Therefore, the conditional response is that smoking kills. This advertisement does a great job of tying in a very strong emotion, that being the fear of death, with the message they are trying to make.

Here is another example:

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Once again, these advertisers do a great job of trying to get their message across. We have the conditional stimulus ("Children of parents who smoke, get to heaven earlier"), the unconditional stimulus (Child with smoke halo over her head), the unconditional response (the fear of killing your child), and the conditional response (the fear of smoking killing your child).

These advertisements could be the most powerful advertisements out there. They capture a very strong emotion and use classical conditioning to try to stop people from smoking. The only question is, is it powerful enough to overpower a nicotine addiction?

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This ad is from Concordia's Child Services, and is clearly using shock to get the viewer to sympathize with the starvation epidemic. The quotation underneath the picture states "If you don't help feed them, who will?" Showing these filthy children trying to get sustenance from a pig is trying to get the viewers to realize how difficult of an issue this is, using an animal to show how feral, but necessary, food is to any animal. The advertiser here is well aware that people are psychological and genetically inclined to feel empathy towards infants and is using that to their advantage. The advertiser implies that if you, and you specifically, don't help this children will absolutely starve to death and it will be entirely your fault. This is, in my opinion, a completely understandable time to play the guilt card but often times advertisers will use that in unrelated ads.
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In this much older ad, a baby is shown drinking Sprite, people are drawn to babies, therefore will associate their feelings of happiness towards babies with Sprite. Although the advertiser isn't exactly using guilt to sell Sprite, they are using the natural instinct that people have with babies to feel maternally or paternally towards the soda drinking infant.
Advertisers don't seem to get the credit they deserve as masters of psychology, using guilt and empathy to get you to buy things as simple as soda.

Classical Conditioning.gifClassical conditioning is a pretty basic principal in psychology. The best way to explain it is with the example from Ivan Pavlov expirament (shown in image above) using a metronome, meat powder, and dogs. Basically classical conditioning is comprised of taking an unconditioned stimuli (meat powder) and pairing it with whatever learned or conditioned stimuli (metronome) you like to get a whats called a conditioned response, in this case from the dogs. At first the dogs show no reaction to the metronome because it has yet to be conditioned, but they still react to the meat powder because naturally when a dog smells meat they begin to salivate. After presenting meat powder to the dogs with the metronome in the background repeatedly the dogs begin to salivate at the sound of the metronome whether or not the meat powder is present. Similarly, the human brain makes connections between stimuli in every day life, just like the dogs did. Which is why food advertisements are so effective at persuading us to eat. If someone enjoys eating dominoes pizza regularly, their mind will pair the sight of a pizza with the sensation of being hungry so when the person sees an ad for dominoes they become hungry and are more likely to order a pizza. Another one of my favorite examples of classical conditioning comes in a clip from The Office (link:http://vimeo.com/5371237) where an employee conditions a coworker to expect an altoid every time a certian noise is played on the computer. Classical conditioning doesn't just happen with food and hunger. It can happen with the most basic stimuli, feelings and emotions. You can be conditioned to fear the smell of laundry soap, be excited by the sight of an apple, or even to become tired at the sound of a bell. People can be conditioned to feel almost anything in response to almost any stimuli and while some of these examples may be obscure, classical conditioning plays a huge part in our everyday lives. - Mason Hurley

M.C Escher-Illusionary Genius!

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For years I have been shown works of art by M.C Escher. We've all seen his image of the never-ending staircase, as well as the images of the intertwining fish. But the image I am going to focus on is his 1958 Belvedere lithograph. If one looks at this picture, the tower looks completely normal, and actually quite beautiful. But then if one looks closely, one would notice that the pillars of the tower do not connect in the right places. Actually, the tower would not be capable to stand correctly if the pillars were connected the way they are in the picture. This illusion is an example of both top-down and bottom-up processing. Our top-down processing convinces us that this tower is just an image of a beautiful tower. The reason for this is that we expect the tower to be put together the right way since it looks like a normal tower. But then we start to look at the actual pieces of this tower, and see that it is not put together correctly. This forming a perception based off of parts is our bottom-up processing. We form a perception based off of the individual parts of the image. And from examining the parts, we then come to perceive the image a certain way. And if one looks at the individual parts of the tower, one realizes that it is a nonsensical tower. And that is why M.C Escher is such an illusionary genius. He is able to create images that look perfectly normal upon first glance. For example, when I examined the image further, I realized it does not make sense. Even after realizing the image does not make sense, for some reason it still looked like a normal tower. M.C Escher was truly one of a kind!

Who Are You?

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Consciousness can be defined as our subjective experience of the world, our bodies, and our mental perspectives. But usually no one puts such an official definition on it. When I thought about consciousness the first thing that came to mind was just the simple fact that I was awake and could think about anything that I wanted. If you really get down to it, consciousness can be thought of as something that makes us who we are. A large number of nerve cells within the brain stem send signals to the thalamus, which in turn sends out signals to the rest of the cortex. If we didn't have a brain sending signals in response to what we see and do in the world around us what would things be like?

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In the BBC video, the researcher becomes very humbled by the fact that he is allowed to hold a human brain in his hands. While holding a brain you are grasping something that once housed the entire consciousness of a human being. Arguably, everything that makes someone who they are is inside the brain. This is a very strange thing to think about, that everything that we are can just be held inside something pretty small relative to our bodies. Do you believe that our consciousness is entirely limited to our brains activities, or are other factors in play that make us who we are?


Picture: http://www.instablogsimages.com/images/2008/06/03/conscious-machine_cp3hb_2263.jpg

drunk-driving.jpgEver since the invention of cars has overlapped with the use of alcohol, the question of how bad drinking and driving really is has loomed over society. The scientific truth is that once your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) is around .08 it's time to lose the keys and settle in for the night because driving is dangerous.

A startling 80% of car accidents are associated with binge drinking (five or more drinks at a time for males, and four or more for females). High doses of alcohol depress brain centers. This slows thinking and impairs concentration, greatly lowering your ability to react to sudden occurrences on the road such as a yellow light or another car cutting you off. Muscular coordination is also inhibited anywhere from 10-12 hours after drinking, meaning that even if you were conscious of a car suddenly braking, your leg may not necessarily be able to respond in time to hit the brake and avoid a crash. The depression of brain centers as a result of intoxication clearly shows that driving while under the influence is extremely dangerous for you and for everyone else on the road.

The fact is that driving while intoxicated impairs all of the abilities that go into operating a vehicle, so once your BAC nears .08 there is no question as to whether or not you are able to drive. Scientific fact is indisputable, so even if someone "feels fine", their brain is not functioning fully and their driving skills are greatly impaired.

The Power of Suggestion

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Hypnosis, people have been fascinated by this topic for generations and have devised many uses for it from on stage entertainment to the recovery of repressed memories. But is it a legitimate form of therapy or should the practice be reserved for traveling showmen?
Answer: Yes and No.
Many people believe that hypnosis can enhance memory, aiding in the recovery of repressed childhood memories or details of crime that someone witnessed. However, the evidence shows that is probably not the case. While it does increase the amount of information we recall, much of this information is woefully inaccurate and it can lead us to have more confidence in the truth of inaccurate memories.
However, some of the other uses for hypnosis show some promise regarding the powers of suggestion. Everyone is influenced by the suggestions of others in our daily lives because we are constantly responding what other people say and do and even their body language even when we don't realize it. Hypnosis seeks to harness the power of suggestion in positive ways. Studies have shown that hypnosis can aid people in their attempts to do things like quit smoking of lose weight. The Journal of Applied Psychology from the University of Iowa claims that hypnosis is three times more effective than the nicotine patch in helping people to quit smoking and fifteen times more effective than will power alone. However, hypnosis doesn't always work on everyone; some people are just more suggestible than others.

Disney's Incorrect Slogan

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As children, we're inundated with Walt Disney's animated movies that usually end happily with the main character's "dreams coming true." However, our unconscious dreams are more likely to make us hope they don't occur than to wish upon a star that they do.

According to G.W. Domhoff's research on dream themes, of the top ten types of dreams, eight result in misfortune. The list includes being chased, late, falling, losing valuable possessions, being naked, and injury or illness. This study coincides greatly with the results of my own dreams, as I often wake up saying, "Well, I'm sure glad that wasn't real," or even worse, I have woken up in tears.

Unfortunately, we can't control our night-time dreams, but we can consciously dream of a Disney Prince- or Princess-like future. Our ambitions to become a doctor or fashion designer should be pursued, as our goals provide us with great motivation to do what we love. What these dreams have in contrast to our undesirable sleep-provoked ones are our state of consciousness. Therefore, Walt Disney, who has taught us many serious lessons such as the importance of inner beauty and following our hearts, may want to readjust his popular slogan to say, "Where Conscious Dreams Come True."

What can a specialized cell do for all of mankind? Scientists are continually finding answers to this question. Stem cells have acquired much attention for their potential to become a wide variety of specialized cells. These replacement cells can be used to treat brain and blood disease, therapy for cell deficiency, general scientific discovery, and perhaps the most important application, regenerate organ and body tissue. With all these life-changing uses stem cell research is exceedingly controversial for ethical reasons.

Debates that surround stem cells are concerns with the methods of extracting embryonic stem cells for research. Stem cells come from two main sources: adult tissue, and embryos formed during embryological development. Embryonic stem cells are derived from a four-day-old human embryo during the blastocyst phase of development. The fertilized eggs are not given the chance to become a fully developed human.

Some say that life begins at conception, when the egg is fertilized arguing that the embryo deserves the same status as any other full grown human. By removing the blastocyst to extract the stem cells is argued comparable to murder. The other side contends there are different points in gestational development (development of certain organs after certain time periods) that mark the beginning of life.

Since science doesn't differentiate whether research is ethical or not, it makes it difficult to answer the question "When does life begin?" Similar to debates about abortion this is the core question of this debate. Are the advancements in medicine made possible by stem cells worth the potential lives that are being killed to replenish broken cells?

Going more in-depth in the political and scientific debate of stem cells, this article from TIME advocates both ends of the spectrum and describes possible alternatives.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,167245,00.html

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