haney046: October 2011 Archives

solitary-show.jpgOur short term memory retains information for only short periods of time. In fact, it is probably no longer then 20 seconds. The television show Solitary is a reality show that takes nine participants and challenges them both mentally and physically for a cash reward. In the second episode of the second season, participants are shown a message one word at a time and asked to memorize it and then repeat it back. However, if they want to see the message again, they have to move a stack of bricks across the room.

The first time the participants saw the message, it went too fast for them to read all the words. So, they asked to see it slower the next time. However, the next viewing went so slow that the entire message took around 4 minutes. Many of the participants said that this was actually worse. Why would that be? After all, they could clearly see every word. The problem is that the message took so long that it wasn't in their short term memory anymore. An explanation for this is decay. Decay is when the information from our memory fades over time. Another explanation is interference. Interference is when we lose our short term memory because there is too much competition from other information that we are acquiring.
In order to prolong their short-term memories, many of the participants used rehearsal. Some used both rehearsal and chunking. In the end, the participants finally memorized the message using these popular techniques. Knowing how our short-term memory works is very important because it allows us to use techniques to better our short-term memory. I would like to know, however, what the exact reasons are for why it took some participants longer than others to memorize the message.

In Muslim law it states that the testimony of a man is equal to that of two women. Many people have questioned why this law exists. To explain, a Muslim Cleric described the "scientific" facts behind the law in the YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7x_I7tic_84.
In the video he explains that because women have to undergo menstruation, their endurance and mental capacity is diminished. He then showed a picture of both a male and female brain scan. In the male brain, only one area is lit up. In the female scan, two areas were lit up. He says that the reason only one area of the brain is lit up in the male brain is that men use that inactivated part for memory. So, women are unable to remember events when they speak because they are using the part of their brain used for memory in order to speak.
None of the "scientific facts" are backed up. This absence of connectivity to other research is a warning sign of pseudoscience. Also, when an area of a brain scan is lit up, it shows that it is activated. Therefore, the claim that that the part of a male brain that is not lit up is because it is working is inaccurate. Also, there are multiple places in the mind that are used for memory, not just one area. Lastly, there wasn't a study shown that correlated menstruation with a lack of endurance and mental capacity. Even if there was a study that correlated these two factors, it would not mean that there was causation. In fact, nothing that the Cleric presented could be used to draw a conclusion.
The most useful scientific principle for this claim is that of ruling out rival hypotheses. There could be many different explanations for the areas in the brain scan were lit up. For instance, maybe the man and the women were thinking or speaking about different things. However, if other hypotheses were to be created, more evidence would have to be presented and backed up with factual research. Overall, this entire argument is lacking any evidence.

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