xiong862: October 2011 Archives

Memory and Justice

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Professor Randy Fletcher discussed the wide field of memory during lecture. He mentioned that memory can be changed or influenced by many factors such as people or events. One example that we looked at during discussion section was that of Paul Ingram. One important outcome of this case was his confession to a crime that he did not commit. Dr. Richard Ofshe, a social scientist, had designed an experiment that would help prove his innocence, but ironically, this experiment solidified Paul Ingram's belief in committing the crimes alleged by his daughters.
A specific aspect that I was interested in was the fact that the authorities were convinced that Paul was guilty. This is significant to other real-world situations because authorities should be on the side of justice. Innocent suspects should not have to go to jail or prison. I thought the saying was "innocent until proven guilty." In this case, the authorities seemed sure that Paul had committed the crime. I thought about the many TV shows about crime that I watch occasionally, and I wondered if instances like Paul's could apply in this context. Could it be possible that some of the people that are put are actually innocent? It's important to realize that not all people convicted of a crime are guilty, and that corrupt parts of the justice system do not actually serve justice in the sense that we as a society hold in such high regard.

I watched the video "The Secret You" from BBC Horizon on YouTube. The specific section that I focused on was on where consciousness resides. Humans want to know more about this aspect of consciousness because consciousness does not arise out of nowhere. Scientists want to know more about where exactly such a seemingly surreal construct can originate from in the brain.
Dr. Stephen Gentleman from Imperial College in London shows where consciousness comes from. He explains to us that the cortex is where consciousness resides. The reticula activatum system in the brain stem, made up of nerve cells, sends projections up to the thalamus, a relay station. The thalamus then sends projections to all areas of the cortex. Constant activation of the cortex seems to create consciousness or self-awareness.
This knowledge about consciousness is extremely important to our understanding of life as well as that of our world. Increased knowledge in this area allows us to expand our knowledge base in fields of science such as psychology. We can learn to understand about how self-awareness sets humans apart from other animals. Analysis of various animal brains can help humans learn about behavior and other aspects.
However, I still have other questions after watching this section of the video. If other animals have similar brains to humans, then why do humans have the unique characteristic of consciousness? Are other animals also "conscious" but in a different way? How can we be sure that consciousness is real and not just made up? These are only a few of the many questions that float around in my mind as I consciously type this blog.


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Inattentional blindness is discussed in the Lilienfeld text of this course. We can define this idea as the failure to detect something obvious around us because our focus is directed elsewhere. Inattentional blindness is an important idea since it can be used to help explain everyday life situations such as accidents.
In the blink of an eye, an accident can occur. One relevant type of accident includes car accidents. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, at least 10.8 million motor vehicle accidents occurred in 2009. Keep in mind that this statistic only includes accidents that occurred on the road and that it is an estimate. In at least one of these accidents, inattentional blindness may have played a factor that led to it.
Inattentional blindess can be described by phrases such as "spacing out" or in this case "tunnel vision." Drivers can be so focused on driving that they fail to see dangers. These dangers include pedestrians and other motorists. Inattentional blindness can even be more dangerous in the cities where there are high populations and large amounts of traffic.
For example, I may be so focused on staying in my lane of traffic that I fail to see a mother and child crossing the road. I might have been looking at whatever was in front of me, but I was not looking for people or objects that could collide with my vehicle. My attention was on the lines and my lane. This is just a hypothetical example of course.
However, I was almost a victim of a similar circumstance. I was walking in the crosswalk in front of Appleby Hall, and I was almost hit by car. It stopped only five feet away from me. This personal experience shows that inattentional blindness can be hazardous especially on the road. Drivers need to pay attention when driving.
I wonder what other psychological terms or ideas can apply to driving. Another issue I know about is texting while driving. Can we apply inattentional blindness to texting while driving? We need to think about these kinds of problems.

Data taken from the U.S. Census Bureau:

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