pilke002: October 2011 Archives

Optimism: A Flaw?

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You know how it is said that we should be optimistic or to keep our chin up when we are pursuing a goal? Well according to a new study collaboration between University College London, the Free University in Berlin, and the Humboldt University in Berlin, optimism may actually be a flaw in the human mind.


According to the article provided by PopSci.com, the research establishments carried out a study where volunteers were to rate the likelihood of a list of negative events happening to them. The volunteers would have their brain activity tracked while answering these questions in order to see which parts of the brain were active during optimistic answers (which comprised the majority of answers.)

According to the research, the areas of the brain in charge of estimation (located in the prefrontal cortices) would have a spike of activity directly correlated to how optimistic the given answers were. The main premise of these outcomes can be seen with the saying, "it-can't-happen-to-me."

From looking through this article, it seems that it was a well constructed experiment, with a high sense of internal validity and replicabilty, especially since it was done between three research institutions. However, I do think that other research pursuits could be constructed to test the falsifiability of this particular finding, such as if optimism is only a flaw in certain scenarios and a strength in others. Also, i think that a study on how pessimistic thinking plays into usefulness would be a nice parallel study to see if it too could be considered a flaw or not.


Sleep and Consciousness?

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Curious question: How does brain functioning between being awake and being asleep differ? Or more importantly, how does it differ between being conscious and unconscious? If we can come up with a logical answer, what will the new knowledge tell us about consciousness as a whole? Luckily, the documentary "The Secret You" addresses this question through the use of modern science.

In the documentary, (which primarily talks about different studies about consciousness), the question about brain activity and consciousness arises. The narrator then volunteers for a research study conducted by Professer Marcello Massimini where brain activity is measured through an EEG while both awake and asleep. The data gathered shows a strong network within the brain during consciousness where the stimuli causes communication throughout the brain, whereas there is only activity at the location of stimuli during unconsciousness.

Looking at the data, the findings make sense to me. While conscious, a single stimuli enters the brain and is processed by it's respective sensory brain lobe. While being processed, the information is instantaneously communicated throughout the brain as a whole, giving rise to a thought process. Example would be how a thunderclap can cause somebody to be startled. The auditory stimulation enters the brain, and somehow an emotion of fear arises through the instantaneous communication within the brain! Even more fascinating is the fact that there are many stimuli bombarding a person at a single time, and through the processing power of the brain, we can form our behavior to adapt to all the stimuli through conscious decisions!

Now,while asleep, we can still have many stimuli affecting us, however no conscious adaptation is made. This would make perfect sense since the EEG shows that there is no communication within the brain while asleep. In other words, the brain processes the stimuli, and that's that. Nothing is done about it.

As I said, I'm pretty satisfied with the data from this experiment, however the documentary does propose an unanswered question: How do brain processes truly become consciousness as in electrical communication equal thought? But as quoted from the film "... consciousness is even MORE than the sum of its parts."


Embarrassment: A good thing?

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According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word "Embarrass" means "to become anxiously self-conscious". Doesn't sound like a good feeling, does it? Well according to an article published by "HealthDay News", being easily embarrassed may actually be a good thing.

The article states that research performed at the University of California shows that people who are easily embarrassed are generally more trustworthy and generous. The results of this come from an "experiment" where individual students were rated on how easily embarrassed they were, and then each student played a game that was designed to show how selfless they were perceived to be.

At first, this seems to be a well thought out study, however the article doesn't seem to address anything dealing with correlation vs. causation. So, there is no information regarding whether trustworthiness is the cause of embarrassment or vise versa, or whether there is a different, unmentioned variable that could be affecting this.

There is also nothing telling how the selection process was done, meaning that we, as readers, have no further information regarding whether there was a true system of random selection done, let alone no mention of any form of random assignment or a variable, leading me to think that the title of "experiment" would be false. I'm not sure whether this is the media sources fault, or if this was truly a poor job on the researchers behalf.

I do believe however that this hypotheses could still be looked into by means of replicability where another research institution could perform their own research regarding this particular hypothesis. If another institution were to perform research in this venue, I believe that the problems I mentioned should be addressed to give this hypothesis some more believability in regards of critical thinking.

Who knows, I may just be over-analyzing this article, but then again, that's what critical thinking is for.


Embarrass Dictionary:

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by pilke002 in October 2011.

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