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Assignment 1

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So far, the concept that has interested me most is the sensation and perception section. I like learning about how our brain perceives the outside world. It is weird thinking about the brain broken up into parts and each part interpreting a different part of our reality. I'm looking forward to learning more about how the human brain works, especially how it stores memory. I am excited about psychology because it relates directly to physiology, which is my intended major. It also relates directly to me as a human being.

Assignment 1

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The thing that I've found most interesting this semester is that there is very little that we can be absolutely sure about in psychology. I was amazed at the difficulty to perform an experiment that will allow the psychologist to obtain reliable data. After thinking about it, I think I may fall into some of the traps of many study participants if I ever chose to be in one. First, I think the Hawthorne Effect would be something I'd exhibit. Knowing I was in an experiment would make me think about why the experiment was being performed, and I feel as though I would try and work to achieve a certain outcome as opposed to acting as I would naturally. Second, I think I may fall into the placebo or nocebo effects in an experiment. If given a pill, I can see myself constantly trying to feel some sort of after effect of it, even if it wasn't there. Overall, not only do I think I'd be a confounding test subject, but I can also see why it's tough to gather truthful data in an experiment.

I hope to become more aware of the way I function as a person by taking this course. I want to learn about why we feel the sensations and emotions that we do, and what are the natural ways for us to react to certain events in our lives. I am very excited and inspired by what I have read in the first few chapters of the book and heard from professors at the lectures. It is my hope that the class shares this enthusiasm too, and that my teacher can be someone I can go to as a resource for help as well as to talk and learn a bit extra about some of the concepts discussed in class.

Assignment 1

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I believe one of the most important concepts or debates ever to surface throughout the history of psychology is the nature-nurture debate. The debate is about whether a person's behavior and mental state are influenced by society or their family, the way they are nurtured, or if they are a direct result of their genetics, their nature.

Although recently many scientists in the social sciences field have reached an agreement that both nature and nurture are together relevant and important in shaping a person's psyche, there are still debates out there that one is more relevant than the other, or for some aspects of the psyche, one is completely irrelevant compared to the other.

For example, I found an article while surfing the internet one day about homosexuality and how, at one point, it was thought by the American Psychological Association to be a mental disorder. There were various experiments done by various scientists to figure out if homosexuality was influenced by nature or by nurture. It was clear that scientists believed that homosexuality was either nature or nurture; not both. That article can be found here: http://allpsych.com/journal/homosexuality.html

The nature-nurture debate is directly relevant to me because my younger sister is adopted. I have always been interested to see in which ways she has grown up different from me, and in which ways she is the same. She is of the same ethnic background, and was adopted when she was three, but she is still different from me in various ways such as height, body type, metabolism, and interests. She is the same in ways such as speech style and, to some extent, decision-making.

I guess what I still want to know is why the nature-nurture debate still exists to the extent that it does when it has been proven that both nature and nurture affect everything that shapes the human psyche.

The Amazing Plasticity in the Brain

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The most interesting part of Psychology so far has been the chapter on Biological Psychology. To think that a small, three pound organ in our head can be so advanced and is able to change and adapt as we develop is truly fascinating. The brain's ability to change and grow as we develop is called plasticity. According to the Lilienfeld textbook, there are four different kinds of plasticity that the brain can undergo. The first is the growth of dendrites and axons. Dendrites and axons both help a neuron function as dendrites receive signals and axons send signals to other neurons. The brain can also form new synapses, which are spaces that allow neurotransmitters to travel between neurons. Thirdly, the brain can get rid of neurons that it no longer needs, a process called pruning. Finally, the brain is able to insulate axons using myelin sheaths, which protect axon's signals.
So plasticity is extremely important because it allows our brains to be sharp and to function at its best. But what fascinates me the most is the brain's ability to change shape and create new connections. I found a video that is a perfect example of plasticity in the brain (found below). Jodi's hemispherectomy was performed in order to remove her entire right hemisphere in the hopes of limiting her seizures. Miraculously, Jodi was able to function with one hemisphere. Because of plasticity, her left hemisphere began making connections to the fluid that had taken the place of her right hemisphere when it was removed. The fact that the brain has the power to repair itself to such a degree at a young age is amazing. However, plasticity is not magical, so it cannot cure diseases such as Alzheimers or Parkinsons. The brain is also not able to heal itself completely after experiencing major head trauma. I can't help but wonder how far plasticity can actually go, and what its boundaries are. Also, if Jodi were an adult at the time of her surgery, how much would the results differ?
Through this class, I hope to gain knowledge that I can apply to my future career in Nursing. Understanding psychology will allow me to assess my patient's needs better, allowing me to be more successful. By the end of this course, I expect to obtain a greater appreciation for psychology, and its effects on human life.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSu9HGnlMV0

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