February 2012 Archives

Animal Talk

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It's clear that animals have their own, simple ways of communicating: pheromones, mating calls, body language, to name a few. But can they communicate using human language? Sure, pets and show animals can be trained using verbal commands, but do they really understand what is being said? One remarkable example of human-animal communication is Alex, an African Gray Parrot.

Alex was able to count and identify colors, shapes, and sizes of objects. He was able to ask for certain foods and even made up a word for apples, "banerry," because they taste like bananas but look like cherries. By the time he died, Alex could speak almost one hundred human words.

What is striking about Alex is not that he was physically capable of forming words or that he had the ability to memorize them, but that he was cognitively capable of using words to communicate desires, solve simple logic problems, and answer questions. This last point is especially extraordinary, because answering a question requires one to actually understand what is being said. Looking at Alex and many other examples, humans may not be the only ones capable of using language as we once thought.

Morell, Virginia. "Animal Minds." National Geographic Mar. 2008. National Geographic. National Geographic Society. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. .

For most students who attend our Psychology class this semester, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center that took place on September 11, 2001 - also referred to as "9-11" - was the most significant and harrowing national event that occurred in our lifetime. It seemed like the entire nation collectively held its breath as the second twin tower was struck on live television, and due to the accessibility of such traumatic imagery, almost every American was swept with emotion. Due to the emotional magnitude of this event, most Americans say they can vividly remember what they were doing and where they were when they heard the terrible news, and believe that the memory has not eroded at all despite the decade that has passed since the event transpired. I remember I had just arrived to my 4th grade classroom at Andover Elementary School when my teacher, Mrs. Berrini, briskly walked into the room and promptly turned on the television to the news, with tears welled up in her eyes as we witnessed the immediate aftermath of the devastating event. I'm sure many of you reading this can recollect at least that much information about what you were doing on that significant day.

But how does the accuracy of these emotional memories compare to what you were actually doing as the event occurred? Despite how vivid and photographic these memories still seem, these "flashbulb memories" - as coined in Chapter 7 of our psychology book - may not be as accurate as we think, and there's ample probability that our memories have changed dramatically! The video attached to this blog tells the story of Matthew Phallinsky who was incredibly close to the towers as they collapsed. A CT Scan (Computed Tomography, as explained in Chapter 3 of the book) was conducted on people similar to Matt - New Yorkers who witnessed the terrorist attacks firsthand - and compared brain activity to participants who were not in close proximity to the twin towers when they were struck. When participants remembered the terrorist attacks (these scans being 3 years after the event occurred), activity in the hippocampus - an important region for contextual memory as discussed in Chapter 3 - was evident. However, participants who were near the towers when they collapsed as well as participants who had a deep emotional collection to the event - an example being the loss of a close family member during the attack - also had activity in their amygdala, the brain structure that deals with excitement, arousal and fear, which is housed in the limbic system, the region dedicated to emotion. As such, the participants whose amygdala lit up during the CT Scans could more accurately recall the event and could give a more emotional and sensational description (that is, they could recollect sensory details more easily). The study concluded that the participants' proximity to the event seemed to affect how accurately they could recall what they were doing when the towers fell. This is why flashbulb memories seem to be more vivid than normal memories, because the emotional memory in the amygdala is reinforcing the contextual memory of the hippocampus.

Despite the vividness of these memories, research suggests that flashbulb memories deteriorate just like any other memory, but the emotional impact of the event seems to relate to how vivid and accurate these memories still are. As a 10 year old who was fortunate enough to not lose anything or anyone close to me from this event when it took place, perhaps my memory of it has faded, however much it seems that it remains as vivid as it was over a decade ago.

Article Source (which complements the video):
Law, Bridget Murray. "Seared in Our Memories". September 2011, Vol. 42, No. 8.

Nomophobia.... a real scare?

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Do you feel anxious if your cellphone isn't nearby?
Does just the thought of losing your phone make your heart pound?
Do you keep an extra phone on hand, just in case your primary phone breaks?
Do you sometimes take it to bed with you?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you may be a nomophobe, and you are not alone. Nomophobia- the fear of being without your cellphone- is on the rise according to a study sponsored by SecurEnvoy according to a LA Times article from February 17, 2012. People aged 18-24 tend to be the most nomophobic (77%), followed by people aged 25-34 (68%). The third most nomophobic group is 55 and older.

According to our psychology book "... People acquire phobias by means of classical conditioning" (Lilienfeld, pg. 22). Once an individual has a phobia they start to avoid their feared stimulus as much as possible. Ironically they are operantly conditioning themselves to make their fears more likely to occur.

The concept of operantly conditioning oneself to fear the phobia even more tends to make sense but how much does society play a role? This phobia would have not existed 100 years... there were no cell phones. What prompts this phobia to start? Is it possible that the media and society can cause this extra, not needed stress? And more importantly can we use information like this to stop these so called "random" phobias. I believe that society itself has a larger impact on us then we can imagine and psychologists can use this to analyze behavior and help find "cures" for things such as nomophobia.


Don't Wake up in a roadside ditch

Throughout the course of the Super Bowl, one thing that both avid football fans and those lesser in tune to America's game look forward to the commercials. In recent years, the Super Bowl has become less about the game itself, and more about the surrounding hoopla, namely the commercials. Indeed, the Super Bowl has become the iconic climactic moment for Corporate America to spread its message far and wide.

One of my favorite commercials from this year's Super Bowl was a certain DirecTV commercial. This commercial features a string of cause-and-effect relationships. The causes and effects at the beginning of the commercial were pretty believable, but rapidly begin to become more and more ridiculous as the commercial progresses. At the end of the commercial, what once was a dissatisfied cable customer has now acquired an eye patch and is shown waking up in a roadside ditch.

While thoroughly outlandish and completely ridiculous, one would be hard-pressed not to appreciate the creativity and ingenuity that went into making this commercial what it is. By producing this commercial, consumers subconsciously associate the feeling that this ad engenders with the brand itself. In addition, although the commercial is obviously hyperbolic, DirecTV nonetheless instills a sense of doubt about their competitors' ability to produce a good product. In psychologist lingo, essenttially DirecTV is trying to create contrasting conditioned responses, both to DirecTV's product as well as its competitors.

Here's the link to the video. Hope y'all enjoy it as much as I did. And remember, don't wake up in a roadside ditch.

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The question of when we become aware of our own selves is surprisingly more complex than what I assumed. I obviously do not remember not knowing about myself, because I wouldn't have thought about it. The most surprising thing to self awareness experiments, is that only great apes and humans are self aware, and humans don't become self aware till around 18-24 months old. Watching the mirror experiment on video was fascinating because the results were very clear. When you are aware of your own being, the child recognized itself in the mirror, and were able to identify a sticker that was placed on their cheek, almost instantaneously. This makes me wonder what the transition is like to become aware of yourself. Is it a one second thing, where you make that realization or is it a gradual shift? Is being self-aware the characteristic that is the difference between intelligence species and non-intelligent species? Is this what makes our brains truly special compared to lesser species? This also leads me to think that it is why we do not remember any events in our early lives; perhaps it is because we did not process information with a sense of self. Could we have just been thinking, "What happened today" instead of "What did I do today"?


We have all seen examples of people acting very stupid on Facebook and other social networking sites. They post and talk about things no seemingly normal person would ever admit. One argument is that these sites just make us act dumber, but there is evidence that seeks to explain this phenomena using basic scientific and psychological theories. Throughout the evolution of species avoiding confrontation has had significant advantages, it can prevent you from getting killed by something that is more fit than you. This evolutionary adaptation continues to effect us in social settings. Someone may have an idea but be afraid of confronting the group or the leader because of a natural adaptation to avoid confrontation. The idea is that social sites remove some of the social stigma of acting stupid and going against the group. When less-intelligent people post ignorant statuses they lack the intuition to realize the social implications of their posts. This phenomena is called the online disinhibition effect and was first discovered by John Suler of . While it is possible that these statuses are going to ruin us, in my opinion all that is really happening is that people are becoming more honest and open about their beliefs which is important for society in the long run.

Have you heard the hype behind the claim that autism can be caused by vaccinations? According to an editorial released by the British Medical Journal, there is no truth to this claim. Turns out that claim was a result of a classic case of confirmation bias.

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Dr.Andrew Wakefield, a former surgeon published research in 1998 which drew a connection between vaccines given to young children and autism. Reports say that Wakefield skewed patients' medical records in order to support his hypothesis that the commonly used measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine was causing autism and irritable bowl syndrome.

Wakefield gained financially from his findings, with most of his compensation coming from lawsuits filed against MMR vaccine manufacturers. He was hired by lawyers trying to sue these companies and according to British news reports he received over $750,000 dollars in compensation.

This false claim can be dangerous. Some people really took his findings seriously and have not given their kids any vaccinations. This puts their children at risk of getting sick with these dangerous diseases that could have been easily preventable with vaccinations. "The damage that occurred over those years as a result of these concerns--outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases and in some cases, deaths-- cannot be reversed," said Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, TX, and author of the "Expecting 411" book series. This kind of scandal is dangerous and detrimental to the integrity of science.

Mischievous Magellan

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Two weeks ago, I noticed my cat, Boris, had a terrible limp. I figured he had gotten his paw stepped on and he would heal soon. Days later, Boris was still limping. Concerned, I took him to see the veterinarian. Much to my dismay, Boris was suffering from a broken hipbone and required a $1,300 operation to fix! Without hesitation (against my mother's advice), I scheduled an appointment for the surgery the following week. My boyfriend and I split the cost, and we fashioned a personal recovery den for Boris in a large closet in our house.
Boris spent much of the next days lying in his cat bed with a lampshade on his head, strung out on kitty narcotics. I noticed something strange. Every time I went to check on him, his food bowl was under the rug in his den. I moved it across the closet and it still ended up under the rug! Replicable, indeed! I decided to do a bit of naturalistic observation. What I discovered was that our other cat, Magellan, was sneaking into the closet and "hiding" the food underneath the rug. When I moved the rug and put the bowl atop a large blanket, she wrapped it up like a taco. I was surprised by this, and a bit disappointed in Magellan. It was obvious to me that she had found poor recovering Boris a threat to her food resources (although she had a bowl downstairs all to herself). Her behavior was very strange. Although this behavior does not truly apply to "preparedness", as it does not involve fear or phobias, Magellan was partaking in a behavior that would increase her chance of survival in her environment. She was not starving; hiding the cat food was a natural urge that could very well have increased the fitness of many of her cat ancestors. Perhaps sick Boris getting the majority of our attention and resources was a stimulus that triggered this bizarre behavior.
What do you think? Was Magellan aware of what she was doing? Was she indeed trying to prevent Boris from consuming the food? Why would she do this when she has never been malnourished or starved?

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This is an image of the procedure Boris had called an FHO.

Little Albert.jpg

In one of the more famous experiments in psychology, J.B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner took a baby to disprove Freud's belief that phobia originated from the unconscious. Using a 9-month baby, they conditioned to fear what he once had little or positive reactions towards.

After a month of Watson's experiment, Little Albert was never unconditioned since his mother pulled him out of the study. No one knew what happened to Little Albert for a long time, and many questions were raised concerning Little Albert's life after the traumatic experiment. Did Little Albert continue to display fear for furry objects or did his response lessen in intensity after time?

However, according to an American Psychological Association article, after years of research, Little Albert has been identified as Douglas Merritte. Unfortunately, Douglas died when he was 6 years old of hydrocephalus, or an accumulation of fluid inside the brain.

But new questions and speculations have risen in light since the finding of even more new information about Watson's controversial experiment. Although Little Albert was said to be healthy in Watson's experiment, new findings may indicate that Little Albert may not have been all that healthy as Watson had written in his report. According to medical records for Douglas Merritte, he was showing signs of "neurological" damage before the experiment. Relatives of Douglas also say that Douglas never learned to walk or to talk.

In conclusion, if these new findings are true, the next step would be to determine if Watson was aware of the baby's medical condition. After reading the articles (links provided at the end of this entry), what are your thoughts about the Little Albert experiment? Was Little Albert a healthy baby, or did his neurological impairments sway the results of the experiment?

Human Meat

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I found this advertisement to be particularly interesting. Instead of the advertiser trying to sell the product, the advertiser is instead trying to make the onlooker not buy the product, meat. By comparing a human to an animal the onlooker gets a sense of disturbance. I know when I first came across this advertisement I felt a little on uneasy about what I was looking at. I understood that it was a protest to reduce the amount of meat that is consumed in our everyday lives but I thought how strange for these advertisers to be using humans to do so. To some people this could almost seem a bit dramatic but nonetheless the point has definitely been proven. The point being, why is it okay to eat innocent animals but not okay to eat innocent people? Seems kind of ridiculous when said out loud but the advertisement is making a strong connection between humans and animals. We both are living organisms so connecting the two to make a bold statement is there. This advertisement instantly grabs the onlooker's attention and instantly makes the onlooker think. Although it is strange, it does an excellent job of getting its point across and making it known how the advertiser feels about this particular subject.

Animal Training- Air Bud

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Let's take a stroll down memory lane shall we? Everyone remembers the good old days, when the hardest part of the day was going to be deciding on which picture to color after dinner, or which cartoon to watch the next morning. As odd as it sounds, I never realized this until this year, but psychology has played a huge role in my younger life than I ever thought imaginable.
Everyone I hope has seen the movie "Air Bud." If so, then you know that the main character, a golden retriever named Buddy, was trained to play basketball in the movie. This goes along with the animal training we've recently learned about in class. The dog's real name is Zack, and he was trained by trainers who taught this dog to play basketball by using a clicker, basketball, and doggie treat. At first the trainers gave Zack a treat after every time they used the clicker. Eventually they introduced a basketball whenever they used the clicker, and whenever Zack nudged the ball with his nose, they would give him a treat and use the clicker. Eventually the trainers dropped the ball on Zack's nose until he finally figured out how to get it to the hoop to receive the treat (this step is painfully difficult and may take hours upon hours because the dog will not know what to do at first).
This example of Zack being trained to play basketball is basically a prime example of Operant Conditioning. The trainers only reinforced the good behavior of Zack every once in a while when he would make a basket. This also falls under B.F. Skinner's principle of partial reinforcement. So as it turns out, child-hood movies had a stronger connection to psychology principles than any of us ever thought, especially one about training a dog to play basketball.

Many individual game developers were used to claim that their perfectly designed graphics would not ever attract as much players as they had expected. For very long time, I was also confused with such an issue until I found the reason inside of it. The causation is actually very simple, those people did not do a good job on the color control.
When breaking down the problem, it is not too hard to find that for most people, the first thing they observe is not the actual content, it is the color. If one interesting design has very bad color mixing, big amount of audiences are very likely to get away.
Chicago Graphic Design Color Wheel.jpg
It is a really interesting problem, because this explains the concepts of sensation and perception; it points out the idea that sensation happens before perception, and it will give people the first impression of what they see.

Smelling Axey

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Have you ever seen an overly exaggerated commercial that caught your attention? There are many commercials that have misled the general people with extra affects that are only meant to attract customers. For example, the commercials of Axe products exaggerates the ability of their deodorants by showing how their products attract the opposite sex. One of their newest commercial advertises their new product, Axe Anarchy for men and women. This commercial tries to manipulate the audience's way of thinking by showing how their product can boost one's sexual attractiveness. In this advertisement, they chose two models with ideal bodies to grab the audience's attention. By doing so, the commercial gives the audience, a sense of thinking that they can feel as attractive as the models in the commercial. By showing how attractive each models is to each other when wearing Axe, it makes the audience believe that they can boost their sex appeal, if they wore Axe too. The commercial also showed the amount of distance, each model ran to find each other. This part of the commercial is also a manipulation technique, used to show how strong the product is and how it can attract another person from that distance. The company manipulate their costumers emotions by exaggerating the affects of their products, and by doing so they attract more customers.

Teaching animals cool tricks is fun and exciting, but can we teach our children just like we teach our dogs? One way to train pets is clicker training. Clicker training is using short clicking noises when an animal does something right and is combined with positive reinforcement. It is effective and doesn't harm animals. Here is a video of some clicker trained animals:

It seems so simple to teach the animals to do cool things when you watch the video, and with the right training, you can even do it too. Karen Pryor is one of the leading figures in clicker training. Here is the link to Pryor's clicker training website with lots of cool information about clicker training.


Clicker training is on the rise, and Karen Pryor most certainly swears by it. Some people even say you can clicker train young athletes, but will parents agree with the new method of teaching their children like they teach their dogs? What's next--clicker training in school, the work place, and with your husband or wife?

I know one thing: If I ever clicker train my children, I need to see positive research results first. Humans are obviously smarter than animals, but clicker training seems hardly any different than when we say "good boy" after a child uses a toilet for the first time. I guess we'll see in the future whether or not clicker training is effective. Until then, I won't be clicker training any of my children.

Needing and Getting

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Ok so the following is not an explicit advertisement, but once you watch it I believe you will be easily able to identify what it is.

This OK Go song and video was featured in a Super Bowl commercial for the Chevy car the band drives. The most of you, like me, were able to quickly identify what the song is from and what they were trying to sell. I found this very interesting. Here I was able to see a thirty second clip of a song from a relatively high profile pop culture icon (OK Go) and instantly associate the car even when watching the full video with even a mention of trying to sell the car. Hopefully as a result of liking OK Go and their crazy music videos a person would associate the happy feeling with the car and thus want to purchase the car. If you're like me this commercial did a very good job of it, judging by the fact that I can still associate the full music video with the commercial and the car. With a little more digging you can find a whole string of commercials produced by Chevy for this car with other icons. My question for you is this: Has there ever been a more successful ad campaign capitalizing on a pop culture icon?

From Rats to Cats

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From rats to cats and chimps to pigs, Michael Boxer has successfully trained over 60 different species of animals for Hollywood Cinema. Appearing in numerous movies, such as Babe 2 and The Jungle Book, these animals have displayed outstanding abilities in the art of "acting". But it makes one wonder, are all these animals smart and easy to train? Boxer states that some of the animals, such as various reptiles, are "not as smart" and in fact are more difficult to train.

I find it extremely intriguing that so many different species of animals can be trained to do such amazing tricks. The monkey in the video is one of my favorites as he plays along with the sarcasm and humor of Boxer, without missing a beat.

But, I wonder exactly how these animals are trained. Boxer states that he begins training with chimps at the age of three and continues on throughout their lives, while only taking 9 months to a year to train a dog. Is this because of the old adage "You can't teach old dogs new tricks"? I personally am not sure that I believe in this, as I have two dogs that I know will be able to learn tricks until the day they die (although I may be a bit biased). But in terms of training I believe it is possible that Boxer made use of Pavlov's classical conditioning in which he provided a conditioned stimulus (such as a hand signal), which in turn caused a conditioned response (the trick). Or is it possible that Boxer made use of Skinner's "clicker training" as described by Professor Peterson in lecture to induce "shaping"? Overall, no matter what method of training Boxer used, the animals show amazing capabilities to perform.

Street Art

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Ever come across a 3-D work of art on the sidewalk?Does it ever take you by surprise? It's because those chalk works mess with one's depth perception. Take the work "The Dungeon" (picture at the bottom of this paragraph) for example; people are crawling from ropes and scaling walls to try and escape this horrid place. This is all done by drawing shadows and creating angles in the picture that would mess with your mind. The art is also "interacting" with the public. A man climbing to safety by rope is drawn on the sidewalk. A man has approached the rope and is "helping" the man climb to safety. Whether the man is the artist of this work or not, we do not know, but we know he is interacting with the art. This messes with the mind of the people who are watching. First, they see it as a 3-D image, which confuses people. We believe it's real and we can interact with such things. With the addition of the man and the rope, we become further confused and actually believe we can physically interact with the art (rather than just stepping on it).


The beauty of this trick is to view it from the right angle. If viewing a 3-D image from the wrong angle, the drawing looks elongated. If viewed through the right angle, though, people can see a whole new image.

Wrong angle:
Right angle:

Hopefully no one approaches a vicious shark from the right angle!

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It can be amusing and perhaps, at times, frustrating how our mind plays tricks on us and causes us to perceive something that isn't exactly reality. An illusion that I find quite fascinating is the moon illusion. The moon illusion is the illusion that the moon appears larger when it's near the horizon than high in the sky. As I'm sure has happened to anyone reading this, there have been many instances where I look just above the horizon at night and stare in awe at an orange moon that appears to be incredibly large compared to others nights when it was higher in the sky. Every time I experience one of these moments I am always amazed at how big the moon can look, but I have never wondered why the moon may appear this way some nights.

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So, why do we perceive the moon to be larger at the horizon? There are a few possible explanations, but one explanation for the illusion is that we humans are not able to judge the very long distance of the moon. The moon is about 240,000 miles away from Earth, so when we see the moon high in the sky, there is not much to compare it to. On the other hand, when the moon is near the horizon we perceive it as larger because of what we compare it to along the horizon, such as trees or buildings. Even though I am aware that this is an illusion, it still fascinates me that the moon appears this way at the horizon.

"Dancing in the Dark"

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There are many disorders of sleep that may happen to a person during the day or night. The disorders are insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, night terrors, and SLEEP WALKING. I will be focusing more on sleepwalking because I find that topic more interesting than the others; although they are all pretty interesting.

Sleepwalking can basically occur whenever and to whomever. The percentage of a child sleepwalking is about 15 to 30 percent while for an adult it is 4 to 5 percent (Lilienfeld 173). It is not as dangerous for a child to sleep walk, but I think it is very dangerous when an adult sleep walks because of the age difference. Sleepwalkers are people who are asleep but act as a person who is fully awake. I think that concept it quite interesting because when a person is sleepwalking they don't realize it and it just happens. The events that the person may go through are to be said relatively similar to what they would do in real life.

A person may sleepwalk because they haven't gotten enough sleep the night before, because of a medical condition, alcohol or other factors. There have been many cases of people who have sleepwalked and caused harmful situations such as driving with others in the car. I have never sleepwalked before, but I bet if I did, I would be going out to the mall and shopping, or more like "shoplifting" because I wouldn't have the senses to be awake enough to pay.

Here is a short clip of an example of sleepwalking that I found interesting:

Or a link for the video is here: http://www.nbc.com/whitney/video/whitney-the-nightwalker/1370988

Sleepwalking is quite dangerous and I wondered if it was safe to wake up a person who was sleepwalking. This means, college students, get your sleep! And do not be sleep deprived anymore so we won't be hearing about sleepwalkers on campus. In some links below, you can find the answer to this and also know a little more about sleepwalking if interested.



As a typical college student, my Sundays consist of recovery and procrastination. Many times my procrastination is aided by the every so great invention of television. Today it consisted of an epic marathon of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, lets just say I was very lucky to have completed this blog. While watch one episode in particular there was a situation where one man had such an influence on others in their so called "group" of religious background that they refused to give information to the police that had the potential to save a life. This episode reminded me of the psychology theory of Group Think (see the link below for information). In short is the idea that a group will stick to their beliefs no matter what, as a group their ideas become more concrete to them and they tend to neglect what others say or try to explain to them. Take the following cartoon for an example.GroupThink.gif
One man in this picture says ONE thing and everyone goes with it. One can see the dangers of group think in the cartoon. I found this topic particularly interesting because it makes me wonder how often group think influences the way we act on a day to day basis. How often are we truly influenced by group think? Now, I understand the that the law in order example was a little extreme, but I am sure everyone is familiar with the beginning of Law and Order......
Seems pretty real to me just saying. That point I was trying to get at with this blog, was to spark a discussion on how often you feel like Group Think affects your life?


Active Sleeping

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Over the last week or so, I've been fascinated learning about sleep, dreaming, and disorders of sleep in chapter five of our textbooks. Perhaps I find this topic so intriguing because I come from what I consider a family of very "active" sleepers. My father has snored with a decibel level comparable to a freight train for as long as I can remember. He would also twitch and snort himself out of a sound sleep, which we found out later is due to sleep apnea. My sister is known to talk and walk in her sleep. She's recited school presentations, pulled all the bedding off of her bed and dragged it downstairs to sleep on the couch, and my personal favorite, "rock climbed" over the footboard of her bed. My mother sort of hits the opposite end of the spectrum; she is a very light sleeper. She even claims she woke up one night because she felt our dog standing by her bed staring at her. My sleeping habits are slightly less exciting in comparison. I'm told I do talk in my sleep quite frequently. I'm not so sure I want to know what I say...
With my family's sleep history in mind, the section of the book about sleepwalking caught my attention. The book states that sleepwalkers have been known to drive cars, turn on computers, or even have sexual intercourse while asleep. Even more than that, a few people have actually used sleepwalking as a legal defense for committing murder. For example, the book mentions a case in which a young man drove almost 20 miles, removed a tire iron from a car, and killed his mother-in-law and seriously injured his father-in-law with a knife. In a controversial decision, the man was declared innocent because he maintained that he slept through the whole event and was not responsible for his behavior.
Although I'm very familiar with strange events happening throughout the night that we maintain no recollection of in the morning, this information was hard for me to wrap my head around. It makes me wonder how it's possible for us to commit horrifying acts that would seemingly require much thought and planning, all while still unconscious. What allows us to completely block out these events? And furthermore, what do these acts say about us as people?

Is This the Right Aim?

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Have you ever held a toy nerf gun and tried to aim through one eye? You shoot the gun and sadly you miss the target. So, a great idea hits you, why not try to aim with the other eye! So you try the same thing but to your surprise your aim is totally off! You then have to adjust and move your arm/aim to a different point. This weird phenomena is known as binocular disparity. This can be explained by the fact that each eye sees the world a big differently, but our brains adaptively use this to judge depth when looking through both eyes. Unfortunately for me I sucked at aiming in general so neither helped me.


Another great example are a pair of binoculars. When we see near, our left and right eye induce the information quite different than that of far objects. Binoculars help put these depths into focus. Without disparity, our judgment of depth would be horrendously poor.

When I watched the BBC Horizon video I came in thinking there was no way the fMRI could tell which decision Marcus was going to make. The part I found most interesting was the very end when Marcus would as randomly as he could pick which hand to squeeze the button. The fMRI could tell six seconds before Marcus squeezed the button which hand he would squeeze. Marcus was just as surprised to find this information out as I was because he seemed very confident he was in charge of his decision making and movements.
I thought about this and was wondering what is really under our control is what we do just effected by stimulus or do we make the decisions before we know we have and is really still freewill? This video was very helpful in explaining what the fMRI exactly can measure. Can the fMRI be used in new ways to help us better understand the brain and how exactly stimulus and action can be related. Also would you be willing to donate your brain after you die to research? In summary the brain is still so unknown to us that we are still figuring out what its capabilities are and how to account for situations that we consider common sense but have no exact link to the brain.
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When I watched the BBC Horizon video I came in thinking there was no way the fMRI could tell which decision Marcus was going to make. The part I found most interesting was the very end when Marcus would as randomly as he could pick which hand to squeeze the button. The fMRI could tell six seconds before Marcus squeezed the button which hand he would squeeze. Marcus was just as surprised to find this information out as I was because he seemed very confident he was in charge of his decision making and movements.
I thought about this and was wondering what is really under our control is what we do just effected by stimulus or do we make the decisions before we know we have and is really still freewill? This video was very helpful in explaining what the fMRI exactly can measure. Can the fMRI be used in new ways to help us better understand the brain and how exactly stimulus and action can be related. Also would you be willing to donate your brain after you die to research? In summary the brain is still so unknown to us that we are still figuring out what its capabilities are and how to account for situations that we consider common sense but have no exact link to the brain.
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Like many other people have most likely experienced, I sometimes feel like I can predict the future through my dreams. Occasionally I will dream about getting an A on a test or getting a small injury, and then I will find that a few days later the dreams will come true. These experiences can begin to raise a lot of thought. Do I really have the ability to predict some instances in my future? Or is this just a figment of my imagination that later becomes true simply because of a coincidence.

As it turns out, the purpose of dreams is still up for debate in the world of psychology. The infamous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud has pegged dreams as a gateway to our unconscious desires. He believes that we dream of things that we desire for that we may not even be aware of. Others believe that dreams are a way for our brain to prepare us for a better reaction in real life scenarios such as being in a car accident. That our brains are simply prepping us to have calmer reactions and not be as panicked. However, most psychologists believe that dreams are simply meaningless images that our brain produces during the REM phase of our sleep cycle. They believe that the dreams we have that some may confuse with having psychic abilities are actually just the brain making use of all of the electrical signals it receives throughout the day and puts them into a relatively meaningless story that sometimes may contain emotions or fears we have on a daily basis.

So as it seems dreams are not ways to channel our inner psychic, and are in fact rather meaningless. As disappointing as it may be that the dream you had about finding $20.00 on the street may not come true, it can be rather comforting to know that your brain is always working hard and trying to make sense of the world, even as you sleep.

Gravity and Relativity

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It's not often we consider gravity in our everyday life, and maybe even less often when looking at a piece of art; in both contexts, heuristics are often used. The picture below provides a contradiction to natural thoughts and experiences, for certain things in the picture are not physically possible, such as the people walking on the upside down staircases.
Because of the way we are accustomed to see, it's likely that a viewer's eyes will follow the staircases in an attempt to find the plane in which the artwork was created. However, the artist did not use a standard single plane, but rather many different planes. Some aspects seem to be upright, others upside down, and some at perplexing angles that can confuse the viewer. The picture seems no more (nor less) rational rotated one quarter turn.
There are many perceptional tricks happening in this picture, but I will only cover one. We don't perceive linear perspective because there isn't a vanishing point in the picture due to the aforementioned multi-plane characteristic. If you rotate your head and view the picture from different angles, the stairs don't appear to converge as distance increases. Rather, there are three rough spots forming a triangle where the main staircases come together. This perception creates the illusion that certain aspects of the picture seem to defy gravitational laws.
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I don't see how I see!!

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This illusion is crazy if you really think about it!! It's called the checkershadow illusion. It looks like all the boxes are different shades of gray. Yet the box A and the box B are actually identical shades of gray. To put it simply, because of the shadowing and the light coming from the image that is making it look 3d, the shades of color look different.

For the shadow part of the illusion, our visual system needs to determine the color of objects in the world. The issue here is to determine the gray shade of the checks on the floor. By only measuring the light coming from a surface is not enough. The cast shadow will dim a surface. A white surface in shadow may be reflecting less light than a black surface in full light. Our visual system uses tricks to determine where the shadows are and how to compensate for them, in order to determine the shade of gray "paint" that belongs to the surface.

Sooooo what now??!! To explain further the checks may look lighter due to the position and color of their neighboring checks. Check B looks way lighter than check A because of the checks surrounding it being so dark. Also, our visual system tends to ignore gradual changes in light level.

This illusion also uses light and shadow cues. This creates a three dimensional form. To detect colors we use the lower visual pathway leading to the temporal lobe. The contrast we see of shades of gray makes us perceive different colors.

There are other images that create this same illusion. For example, the Chubb illuision also uses shades of gray that make us perceive two circles to be different colors, when really they are identical. This really interested me because due to contrast in the world we see things differently than they appear. Shadows also play a role. It's something to really think about!!

Sex, Penis, and Vagina

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The title got your attention didn't it? That was the point. This relates to the cocktail effect. The cocktail effect is when you aren't paying attention but are able to pick out words from a conversation going on around you that will grab your attention. When I was in high school my health teacher would say things like sex, penis, and vagina to get the classes attention. It worked every time. Our whole class would not be paying attention and talking to the people next to us and then we would pick out these words and would perk up to see what the teacher was talking about. While my teacher used these words saying someone's name works too.

It got its name as the cocktail effect because people are able to pick out select words that will grab their attention even while there is a lot of stuff going on. So next time you try grabbing someone's attention try using words that will make the person look to see what's going on.


By looking at the image above, as well as the title of this post, you may assume that the larger the dog's ears, the better their hearing is. This correlation has no relation, I chose this picture solely because it's funny to look at.

Below are some facts on the difference between Human and Dog hearing:

- Humans can hear sounds approximately within the frequencies of 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz.
- Anything below 20 Hz, typically cannot be heard although it can be felt.
(this can be experienced to when you feel the bass of a song)
- Frequency range of dog hearing = approximately 40 Hz to 60,000 Hz.
(of course depending on the breed of dog as well as its age)
- Like humans, dogs can begin to go deaf as they become older.
- When dogs become aware of a sound they've heard their ears will prick up and move around.
- Part of the reason why dogs can hear better than humans is that their ears have more mobility which enable it to maximize its ability to ear.
- The shape of a dog's ear also helps it hear more proficiently.
- As we cup our ears, some dogs ears are already in that position.

My story:

I have a pet dog, named Putter, who is an adorable Yorkshire Terrior. He is in love with my mother and follows her everywhere, watching her every move. He will listen to my mother's voice whenever she may call him to her bedroom or wherever she might be, and he will immediately flee the area to crawl next to her. On the other hand, I have a father, two sisters, and a brother, and Putter rarely listens to any of us. Of course this isn't a display of Putter's hearing, it is more so that my dog has chosen a favorite, which isn't fair! He is completely obsessed with my mom and it's too the point where if my parents leave for vacation, Putter will lay by the back door, mope around the house, sit with his head down, looking adorable as ever, but feeling so sad. He has such a strong emotional attachment to my mother, and I, to say the least, am jealous. You're probably wondering where I am going with this story, but, trust me, I have a point!

This is where the hearing part comes into play...

Let's say my parents had gone to dinner with a few other couples. Putter would be fine in that case because he somehow knows they will be coming back later that night (he doesn't see any luggage, so that is how he knows). In this case, he doesn't lay by the back door or sulk around the house. Instead, he wanders happily, and if I'm lucky he'll come watch TV with me.

A few hours pass, and Putter has fallen asleep. All of the sudden, he jolts up and races downstairs to the back door. At this point I am confused, wondering if there is an intruder in our home. Putter, being 7 pounds, couldn't really hold off an intruder, so I then got up and went downstairs after him. Lo and behold, my parents walk in. Putter had heard the garage door opening as my parents pulled into the driveway. I didn't hear a thing. It's crazy how good of hearing dogs have.

Bistable Images Around Us

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Illusions of all kinds serve to demonstrate how a particular stimulus can trigger multiple perceptions after the stimulus has been transduced and processed in our brains. Examples include Rubin's Vase and the Necker cube. Each of these can be perceived in two different ways, and neither way is the "correct" one. I found that the way bistable images like these represent the difference between sensation and perception was highly interesting. In fact, the idea of two possible perceived realities got me thinking about the world around us and how unintentional bistable imagery might influence the reality that we experience every day. Surely my thoughts are taking this fundamental psychological concept and applying it to the abstract, but since the Gestalt principles are so applicable to our daily lives, doesn't the existence of bistable imagery stand to reason?

The more I think about whether bistable imagery might be present in our daily lives, the more I see that actually discovering it might be a daunting task. I expect that most of us are so heavily adapted to our perceptions of mundane objects that trying to see them in any other light might be futile. A book is a book; a pillow is a pillow. I'm not sure that I or anyone else will be able to break away from what we "know" is there to see something else, but I will try and demonstrate the idea here. I've photographed two different arrangements with the intent of producing a bistable image.

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Is it a shadow from the stack of books, or a face (perhaps with a hat)?

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Is it a shelf attached to the wall, or a wireless keyboard receiver?

Let me know if any of you are able to spot the intended bistable imagery. Is it possible that alternate perceptions of the same stimulus can influence the way we see our world in any meaningful way?

Split brained people

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I thought the lecture that professor Peterson gave on split brained people was very interesting. Separating the two hemispheres by severing the corpus callosum is a treatment often used as a last resort to help people that suffer from severe seizures. This procedure disconnects the two sides of the brain and they can no longer communicate. I think it is really interesting how after the surgery, patients will do things without knowing that they are doing it such as taking an article of clothing off after just putting it on with the other hand. The plasticity of the brain however eventually fixes that and they are able to carry on just as anyone else does with less seizures. Or can they? Since the two hemispheres of their brain can no longer communicate with each other anything that only enters the right side of their brain is rendered unknown by the person. As long as something enters both sides of the brain though the person can recognize it just as anyone else does. I was just curious as to whether or not they have any other side affects from this procedure other than not being able to recognize things that solely enter the right brain.


Split brained people

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I thought the lecture that professor Peterson gave on split brained people was very interesting. Separating the two hemispheres by severing the corpus callosum is a treatment often used as a last resort to help people that suffer from severe seizures. This procedure disconnects the two sides of the brain and they can no longer communicate. I think it is really interesting how after the surgery, patients will do things without knowing that they are doing it such as taking an article of clothing off after just putting it on with the other hand. The plasticity of the brain however eventually fixes that and they are able to carry on just as anyone else does with less seizures. Or can they? Since the two hemispheres of their brain can no longer communicate with each other anything that only enters the right side of their brain is rendered unknown by the person. As long as something enters both sides of the brain though the person can recognize it just as anyone else does. I was just curious as to whether or not they have any other side affects from this procedure other than not being able to recognize things that solely enter the right brain.


This is one question raised by debates.juggle.com, about 67% of users agreed that modern medicine is better than the traditions. Though the results on-line have low reliability because it's the survey that didn't based on random selection, but you can still see generally a large amount of people agreed the better function of modern medicine. In the article posted on Midland Daily News, January 23rd, Kari Atkinson stated the short life of modern medicine which just occurred at least 70 years old to no more than 100 years old, but people usually think it's centuries old. He also mentioned that once you are given a drug you usually end up needing to take additional drugs because of side effects from the previous drug and proved his idea by an experiment on himself.
If we have to evaluate the accuracy of the article, you always analyze in two ways, reliability and validity. The former point about the history of modern medicine have low reliability cause you have to provide evidence like lab experiment or survey results to prove people do think in that way, but the latter one is more reliable than the prior claim cause it proved by self experience. Moreover, I think both claims are valid.
According to the article posted by Kyle Hill in Medicine, pseudo-science of Science Myths. He claimed that people in the past had no idea of illness or of chemistry or biochemistry. They believe every plants came to the earth with certain role. Traditional medicine is people trying to find a way of using the poisons in plants to our advantage. However, you cannot avoid the side effect of herbs either, cause there is no proper long-term check on the side effects.
People have faith on things they want to believe or already believe, so this question don't have the answer at the first place.

Subtle Observations

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During the previous weeks, we have discussed how something as simple as a smile increases the likelihood of us finding something funny or amusing. Unfortunately, women still don't find my jokes funny even after I see them smiling.
Regardless, this research finding has recently had me wondering if there were correlations between other actions I witnessed from people in everyday life. I attended a CA workshop/interview this Saturday and Sunday for fourteen hours total in which seventeen other students and I were asked what we would do in a series of hypothetical situations that were all very different and complex. After hearing the responses given, I found myself questioning if student's future responses and attitude would be altered based on the indirect feedback given following the previous answer they shared (i.e: smiles and nods from others compared to no eye contact, disconnection with speaker, etc.). It seemed to me that something as simple as a nod or a smile increased the likelihood of a previous student who responded to answer yet another question (very confidently I might add), while the students who were simply nodded at, or those who were given no feedback seemed hesitant to answer in the future. Questions that occurred to me and what I am still curious about is if the correlation I made between body language and feedback does in fact have an affect on those who wish to answer future questions.


Are you more inclined to commit a crime if it's pre-hardwired in your genes to do so? A recently released research paper by criminologist, J.C. Barnes (Ph.D) suggests that your genes do in fact play a role in whether you end up committing a crime or not during your lifetime. Barnes and his colleagues from Florida State University studied lifelong criminals, juvenile offenders and those who never committed a crime in their lifetime, a total of about 4,000 people overall to try and pinpoint just what had caused them to act (or not act) out criminally. The people were placed into three different categories: life-course persistent offenders, adolescence-limited offenders or abstainers (no crime). These three groups, otherwise known as the "three pathways found in population," were originally derived from Dr. Terri Moffitt's research in 2007, which is part of the reason for Barnes' interest in testing this theory in the first place. Moffitt's theory from her studies in assessing the psychology of crime suggests that "genetic factors will play a larger role for the life course offender as compared to the adolescent limited offender."

After doing their research and studying the results, Barnes' findings do support Moffitt's theory. The study showed that in life-long offenders, genes do play a more influential role than the environment. For the abstainers, the genetic and environmental factors were equally shared, and for adolescent offenders the environment played a bigger role. They found that although there is no gene that actually causes someone to commit a crime, there are likely hundreds or thousands of genes that incrementally increase your likelihood of committing a crime. Even though that could make up to about one percent, it still has it's affect on the brain.

I found this study highly interesting first off because of the nature-nurture debate that we have been learning about so much and secondly because I myself have always wondered if genes had something to do with people committing criminal acts. I believe that in this case as well as many others it is crucial to take into account the specific subject's background information and use it to delve further into the nature nurture debate. For the future, it will be interesting to see if the scientists can pinpoint exactly what genes are causing these behaviors, so that we can further understand why people act on their deviant thoughts and behaviors as adults and maybe possibly stop some of these vicious acts before they ever happen in the first place.

Article Link:

Football, Worth it or not?

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As an average Midwestern American kid, I grew up around football my whole life. The Super Bowl this past weekend proves its significance in our culture.That being said, I still don't recognize the names Andre Waters, Dave Duersons, or George Visger. The reason is simple, none of them was able to play to their full potential because concussions sidelined them early in their careers and even led to suicide in an extreme cases. With recent advancements in science, doctors are now realizing the lasting, harmful impacts that concussions can leave on their victims.

According to a CNN article published in 2011 www.cnn.com/2011/10/05/opinion/udall-football-concussions/index.html over a million sports related concussions will occur this year alone, and many of them will go undiagnosed. The epidemic continues to leave players like George Visgers in extreme medical conditions. Another article published by CNN articles.cnn.com/2010-02-05/health/concussions.visger.football_1_kevin-guskiewicz-study-of-retired-athletes-brain-damage?_s=PM:HEALTH explains how a hit almost killed Visgers and has forever changed his life. He has no memory and has to write down everything in a notebook to serve as his makeshift memory. Scientists have consistently pointed to the harmful after effects NFL players see after retiring from their many years of violent hits, stating that concussions can even lead to suicide in the case of Andre Waters.

The ultimate question however remains, are these freak examples or is this a true epidemic? Most answers point to the latter as being the truth. Just today, 4 more former NFL players sued the National Football League for failing to address head injuries properly, and they are not the first. According to ESPN, an extensive article published with great research to back it up espn.go.com/espn/page2/story/_/id/7084785/is-year-round-football-putting-boys-girls-line-college comes to the basic conclusion that males are simply being passed up in school by females. Psychology class has taught us that this can't simply be attributed to one cause, Aka football, but it does play a role. A neurosurgery journal article journals.lww.com/neurosurgery/Fulltext/2011/06000/Early_Indicators_of_Enduring_Symptoms_in_High.18.aspx links more competitors in football with declining success of males in secondary schools including high school and college.

Being an avid football fan myself, it was hard to accept all the facts against one of my favorite sports, but the evidence is there. Football related concussions are the cause of many debilitating lifelong consequences to athletes. Ultimately, something must be done. So ask yourself, should our country continue to play this brutal sport at the cost of the minds of our future young men and women?

Nature versus Nurture

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The Nature verse nurture is one of the oldest debates in psychology. It questions whether our personal experiences or characteristics qualities play a bigger role in which we are about our behavioral and physical traits; the nature aspect of our genes, whereas nurture relates to the situations we have. Do we have free will, the power to make our choices, or is it determinism, which are actions and decisions are unavoidable?



A 2010 article I read about nature versus nurture, the debate was if aggressive driving was due to her family chain of aggressive driving. The woman in the article stated that since being in the car with her family members who were all aggressive drivers, she said that it was all she knew. She thought it was normal to make comments to other drivers while passing other vehicles. Her father and Uncle also have aggression when driving, making comment about the slow drivers in the surrounding areas. The women in the article, says her sister is the worst at driving, and will swerve around the car and nearly run him off the road; and she believes that the swearing, gestures, and the aggressive driving habits is due to nature.
My reaction to this article is that it could be nature because she made the point that aggressive driving was all she never knew, which would make sense for her to be an aggressive driver because she thought that was the way she was supposed to drive.

There may be a new theory that solves the debate of nature vs. nurture. On sciencedaily.com, an article called Beyond Nature Vs. Nurture: Parental Guidance Boosts Child's Strengths, Shapes Development describes a new theory that may explain how nature and nurture both influence the development of children. Previously, many researchers debated whether genes or environment are responsible for how a child develops and who they turn out to be. The new theory described in the article explains the importance of parent guidance in the development of children. Every decision parents make has an effect on the development of children. The article states that "effective parents are taking nature into account in their nurturing." According the article, this happens when parents "observe, recognize, and assess their child's individual genetic characteristics, then cultivate their child's strengths." There are four ways that parents can guide the development of their children: 1) by steering their child toward a certain path; 2) by encouraging the child for the current path they are on; 3) help steer the child away from negative paths; and 4) by reacting to paths initiated by the child.

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This article was really interesting to me. I reacted to the article by reflecting on my own development and the role my parents played in it. I think this theory for child development makes a lot of sense because if your parents are encouraging you to follow a certain path in life, I think it is more likely that you will follow that path than if they are discouraging you. However, other factors to consider that may play a role in child development including family environment and other obstacles such as drug abuse.

The link to the article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101202124244.htm

It was a typical Saturday morning, as I was channeling through all the TV specials and ads. I then came upon a commercial for the new show, "Finding Bigfoot" on Animal Planet. The duration of that minute preview left me in awe as I scrunched my face unable to comprehend the "seriousness" of this reality TV show. I truly didn't know what to think, but to question: Is Bigfoot real? There are certainly a handful of researchers and witnesses (Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization) who seem to believe so. But all I was really interested in was actual PROOF that made this claim valid.

Exercise? How Much?

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In order to get their daily exercise, some people may go work out at the gym, get together for a game of basketball, or go outside for a nice long jog. Others might just take a quick stroll around the neighborhood. There are plenty of ways to get out and be active, but how much exercise should we get every day? As college students, a good amount of our day is spent by walking to places such as classes, the library, and the cafeteria. Is this enough for our daily exercise?

In the article, "Getting Exercise in College", it is recommended that we get at least an hour of exercise on most days of the week. I read two more articles, "How Much Should You Exercise?" and "How much should the average adult exercise every day", and both seem to give slightly different insight than the first article. A Mayo Clinic expert suggests a daily goal of 30 minutes of physical activity and a CBS News study proposes 30 minutes to 60 minutes of exercise every day. Why do the three articles differ in their responses?

The recommended amount of physical activity differs because they are speaking as an average. For example, a fit cross country runner might not need as much exercise as someone who is overweight and watches television all day. The first article, "Getting Exercise in College", is centered towards college students which could be the reason more physical activity is suggested than in the other two articles. Since college students have a tendency to gain weight due to the lack of exercise and poor diet, the article stresses the importance of staying active.


Daily exercise is a helpful way to reduce stress, boost confidence, lower blood pressure, lower the risk of diseases, etc. Even just a brisk walk or jog is considered exercise, as long as you get your heart rate moving. So if you have a class on West Bank and walk back and fourth over the Washington Bridge, chances are you already covered your recommended amount of daily activity. All this walking we do in college is beneficial to our health and isn't actually so bad after all.

Here are the links for each of the articles:




This article is an in-depth view of whether a religious belief in an higher power is found in particular genes or not.

It has some useful exerts, in which many psychologist have done studies across the board in the attempts to identify in religion is found in our genes. Particular studies have identified that the deeper people go into meditation or prayer, the frontal lobes and the limbic system become much more active, while the parietal lobe goes dim. For those who don't quite remember the functions of these regions, the frontal lobe is a "seat of concentration and attention"; the limbic system is where one find intensive feelings; the parietal lobe "orients the individual in time space."

These experiences all together create a feeling that is "profoundly religious," because it disconnects a person from their sense self and gives them an out of body experience of sorts.

However, regardless of whether the brain or genes can be connected with spiritual feelings, it's questionable if this is connected with how religious a person actually is.

This article also mentions the U of M twin studies, in which identical twins had very similar levels of spirituality, but not necessarily similar levels or religious participation.

Not only is this all a question of nature vs. nurture, is also hits on the disputes of God. Can one really include the use of God in some sort of psychological study, when clearly it is an extraordinary claim, and isn't necessarily able to be falsifiable?

At any rate, I would encourage all of you to further read the article itself, as it entails much more than a blog post can do it justice.


Daniel Williams, et al. "Is God In Our Genes? (Cover Story)." Time 164.17 (2004): 62-72.

Real life "Parent Trap"

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I must admit, one of my guilty pleasures is the movie "The Parent Trap." I was always fascinated by how two girls could just meet up at summer camp and realize "Oh my gosh! We are twins!" parent-trap_lindsay-lohan.jpg
It seemed nearly impossible for an event like this to happen, but in actuality events like this actually have occurred! What they don't realize in "The Parent Trap" is that this event of "identical strangers" is the perfect opportunity to get a closer look into the nature versus nurture debate. As read in the article linked below, Paula and Elyse were separated at birth until they were reunited at the age of 35.
news-graphics-2007-_649121a.jpg Although they were different in many ways, they had a number of uncanny things in common, such as the same taste in movies. The twin study was not able to make any conclusive evidence about the extent in which nature and nurture influenced these twins, but I find it obvious based of this study that nature absolutely plays a role in our interests and behavior. It seems more than just a coincidence that two people that have never interacted would just so happen to have studied the same thing in college and both been editors of the school paper. At the same time, nurture is also evident in this twins study. I think that nature and nurture are both responsible for influencing a being, but to what extent each one influences someone is something that still remains a mystery.

Written by Emily Palmer

America's Most Powerful

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Nowhere in American history will you find a man as influential as the late J. Edgar Hoover. He was the director, the founder, the entire force behind the Federal Bureau of Investigation from the year 1924until his death in the early seventies, fighting off incoming presidents who had every intention of shutting down the Bureau as soon as they stepped through the White House door, and through his ambition he irrevocably changed the course of criminal profiling and investigating in this country forever. He was a fiercely powerful man, vindictive and secretive, but years later we are surprised to learn that he was rumored by many people, even by some within his extremely tight knit social circle, to be a homosexual.
How could this be?
One of the most powerful men in early twentieth century America, gay?
Back then it would have been shocking and unheard of (indeed, still today, how many gay politicians do you see running for office?), and if the public had ever caught wind of it there is no doubt in my mind it would have cost Hoover his job and the Bureau it's entire reputation. Couldn't he just simply have chosen not to be gay?
The movie J. Edgar starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover paints an interesting picture of nature contrasted with nurture. J. Edgar was bred to be an ambitious man by his mother, whom he lived with until her death. He was raised to be "strong, not to wilt like a little flower," to be successful in politics, and yet through it all there was this terrible little secret he had, threatening to destroy him at every turn. He must have known it; he must have known that his essential nature was in conflict with the way he had been nurtured. The result was a lonely life, lived in the shadows of our great country.
So what do you guys think? How would you feel if you were J. Edgar Hoover?

Paranormal or Paranoia?

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Our culture has developed a deep fascination for the idea of paranormal existence in the past few years. There have been countless movies blowing up the box office about ghosts and demons. I didn't understand this craze because I thought that as technology and knowledge improve, these beliefs would seem juvenile. With so little evidence to support it, why do so many people believe in the paranormal?

After learning about terror management theory though, I am starting to understand. This theory states that the realization that death is inevitable sparks an underlying sense of terror. To cope with this fear, we adopt beliefs to make our lives seem meaningful and purposeful. Many times people find comfort in believing that there is some sort of life after death. This could explain the strange fascination with paranormal activity.

The latest hype has been about evil demons and ghosts, like in the Paranormal Activity movies. A lot of people are genuinely scared after watching these movies and are afraid that a demon will come in their house, bang around some pots and pans, drag them down a hallway, and then possess their body. Sounds crazy, right? But this just shows the intensity of some beliefs in the paranormal.

This makes me wonder if the fear of demons is related to the terror management theory as well. Do people fear demons because it is easier to fear than death? Is it scarier to believe that there is no afterlife than to believe that there is a paranormal existence, even if it is evil?

In the article, "Beyond Nature vs. Nurture: Parental Guidance Boosts Child's Strengths, Shapes Development" published by Science Daily, researchers claim to have uncovered a solution to the nature vs. nurture debate by parents incorporating nature into the way that they nurture their children. After reading and analyzing this article, it is clear that some interesting points are made however; there are many questions to be asked as well. First, the article states that the parents are able to guide their children by nurturing their genetic characteristics and developing them into great strengths. What the article fails to identify is the issue of the genetic characteristics and personality traits being negative ones, such as aggression, that are difficult to nurture into strengths. Another extremely important possibility to consider is the natural behavior of children, and the fact that often, kids stray from what their parents enforce on purpose. With this in mind, parental guidance in one direction could easily backfire and cause the children to try and develop in the opposite direction.
Personally, my initial reaction to the article was that it is a new approach to the timeless debate, and while there are several questions brought up, there is some truth to the claims. I appreciated that instead of trying to push for one side of a debate that is extremely common, these researchers combined evidence from both sides to come up with an intriguing hypothesis.

Our bodies have the ability to quickly recognize events happening around us, such as our rapid fast reactions to a bear attack. The speed at which our brains comprehend and analyze the things we see is astounding.


Whether we know it or not, our peripheral vision is always at work analyzing our visual field. This is called spacial attention. Spacial Attention is the images our brain analyzes even before our eyes move to focus on a specific region. It's why if someone throws a giant rubber ball at our head, we have a split second inclination to move even before we fully see the ball soaring majestically towards us. These rapid responses have probably saved man kind thousands upon thousands of times.


Life motion is another function of our brains to process the things we see. By recognizing specific patterns such as the motion of a human body, or the flow of a liquid, our brain instinctively gives us an immediate idea of what we are seeing. So at night if I see to globes of light moving towards me, I would naturally be inclined to think a vehicle is barreling at me.

I personally experience this when I awake at night because the outline I can see of my backpack looks like a hunched over old man. So I go "Ahhh, there is an old man in my room!", but in actuality its just my perception based on the generic shape. Without detail in an image our brain fills in what we are seeing.


This raises the question of how our minds direct these intuitions and what objects we choose to identify with. Like human motion in a series of dots, demonstrated in lecture. Do we identify something because we see it in a large magnitude, or because its something we saw early on in our lives? So it acts as like a reference point? It would be interesting to see what various people see, within certain random objects, similar to a Rorschach test.

The Placebo Effect

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In a world where medical advancement, research, and attention are increasingly important and always developing, I found the placebo effect to be a surprising pitfall in experimental design. To summarize, the placebo effect is simply when people see improvement in a condition because of the expectation that there will be improvement. A common example of this is when patients are given "dummy pills" or sugar pills to treat an ailment, and they see results solely from the pill being given to them.
I find this concept extremely interesting and relevant, because almost everyone goes in for medical treatment at one time or another in their lives. Being aware of the placebo effect and avoiding it are steps everyone should take. While the placebo effect has shown effectiveness in subjective conditions such as types of depression, it is not always effective in severe cases, and even when it is, the effects are not as long lasting as real medication.

Decisions or Not?

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When I first started reading the article "Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don't," I was convinced that there's no way people's decisions are pre-determined. However a few points were made that led me to at least consider the possibility of determinism. The article reminds readers that we are nothing more than a bunch of particles combined to form things like the cells and organs that make up a human being. If the particles from which we are made act randomly, as all particles of the universe are believed to do, how can we say that we are in control when that is what we are made from?


Another part of the article that I found thought provoking was the results of an experiment that tested brain activity. In the experiment, volunteers were wired up to an electroencephalogram and told to make random movements while the physiologist marked the time on the clock. The results seemed to show that the volunteer's brain activities went from perception of motion to decision because the brain signals associated with making the decisions actually came half of a second before the subject was conscious of making them. Therefore, it's possible that in other situations people may think they're making decisions when actually they aren't aware of what they're doing until they've already begun.

I still don't know if I believe that determinism is completely responsible for people's actions and decisions. It could even be a little of both free will and random determination. Perhaps we are able to make long-term decisions, but other decisions are more random and happen to quickly for us to actually decide. Or, maybe we don't understand how the human brain works and which parts of it perform particular functions well enough to trust the results of the experiment. Whatever the case is, I am open to new information and ideas to evolve my opinion on whether we are driven by free will or determinism, or both.

Below is a link to the article, "Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don't"

Is genius genetic or it is nurtured
Is genius genetic or it is nurtured? We have been controverting this question for a long time. It seems very hard to decide which one effects human to be talented; however, modern psychologists have come to recognize that human behavior is attributable not only to our environment but to our genetic. (Bouchard, 2004; Harris,2002; Pinker, 2002). Although many people think both of them affect us in many fields, like mathematics, art, music, some people still think many historical geniuses were genetic. For example, Mozart was a distinguished musician. When he is a child, he had showed his musical talent. As we know, his father was also a good violinist; therefore, people think Mozart inherited musical genes from his father. mozart.jpg

It looks to be a good thought, but I think environment is also an essential element. When we are birth, we start to touch this world and we also be affected by our environment. Our parents create different kinds of living and educational environment for us. As Mozart, his father had
taught him musical before he found Mozart had a musical talent. So, Mozart also grew up under nurture of his father. In my opinion, whatever genes or environment, neither of them can play an important role alone on being geniuses.

The debate of is nature or nurture determines human behavior never stop.In my opinion, nature affects like the gene play an important role in human behavior. However, as a matter of fact, the nurture element is most crucial.
For example,if twins raised separately,to another words, make the twins live in different family, different environment. Maybe let one grow up in a Asian city the other grow up in a American city. As a result, they will have different features and different behaviors.
Another example is the wolf boy.

This boy who was raised by wolfs at 4 years old was rescued.He has human gene but he behaves like a little wolf. He forgot how to speak English and his real family.When he feels angry, he will try to bite people. His only way to communicate others is howling like a wolf.
So what can we know from those example? I think nurture is the major affect to influence a person. The environments where the children grow up almost determine their whole lives . The way they behave will be changed a lot. Like the wolf boy. Although he was born in a human beings family, he was caught by wolfs and lived with wolfs for the long time. Thus he likes a wolf as well.

It seems like a no-brainer, that we are humans by birth and until death. But perhaps we can turn out to be a whole variety of things. Take the Oxana Malaya for example.

Oxana was abandoned at 3 years old and was raised by wild dogs until she was 8 years old. In the video, she is actually 22 years old, and is showing what she "learned" and how she lived. She is what psychologists call a feral child, "one who, from a very young age, has lived in isolation from human contact, unaware of human social behaviour and unexposed to language," (Grice, 2006). It's easy to see why these feral children are an important part of the nature versus nurture debate. At the time the article cited above was written, Oxana was living in a community living home for the mentally disabled. She had to re-learn how to walk, eat, and speak.

Do you consider Oxana a human being? In my opinion, she isn't completely human. And when she was found, I don't think she could even be considered human. She has been so far removed from the psychological norm for humans, that I don't think she can ever be human like us. While nature is definitely a strong factor in creating us as individuals, the power of nurture should not be underestimated.

If the case of Oxana Malaya interests you, I suggest reading the article I have linked. And if you are interested in other cases of feral children, there is an entire National Geographic special on youtube. Part 1 is found here.

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