Writing Assignment 1: October 2011 Archives

Mirror Therapy

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Phantom limb is a term for an amputated limb, a limb which a person has lost. People with an amputated limb often experience phantom pain, which is pain in the missing limb. This pain can be very excruciating but, fortunately, Vilayanur Ramachandran and colleagues have developed a treatment for it called mirror therapy. Patients positition the limb that they still have, in the mirror so it is reflected to the other side, appearing as though the amputated limb is still there.


This video is about a man who lost his right leg while serving in the war in Iraq. He says that the pains he experiences in his amputated limb are like he is getting stabbed between his toes with a knife, in the arch of his foot or heel, when your big toe is crossed over your second toe, or when you cut your toe nail too short and your sock pulls on it. For this man, sitting with a mirror in between his legs, reflecting his intact leg and foot, is his mirror therapy. As he moves his foot and looks in the mirror at the reflection, he says that it feels like he is really moving the amputated limb.

Adrenal Glands

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Adrenal Glands. What are they and why are they important? Adrenal glands are often referred to as giving you the "fight or flight" response. There are two that are situated right above each kidney. They produce adrenaline and cortisol hormones that boost energy production in muscle cells. You might have heard the story of a woman lifting a vehicle off of her baby. This feat is obviously impossible without the help of some adrenaline. How crazy is it that two little parts of our bodies can give you the strength to do something seemingly impossible? This topic stood out to me because my younger brother had major problems with his adrenal glands shutting down. It got to the point where he could not get out of bed. Most doctors thought he was faking it. Is it true since they are greatly affected by what's going on in our head? How do we decipher the difference between a mental illness and physical illness when they can be so closely related? If this part of our body is so important, why don't we know more about it? Naturalnews.com states that modern day living is very stressful which often puts the adrenal glands under constant stress that should be counteracted. I think more people need to learn about this part of our bodies in order to live a healthier lifestyle. Adrenal glands also affect the salt content of the body, which in turn affects the measure of one's blood pressure. They affect many aspects of our lives. Right now, I'm sure mine are pumping out stress hormones about this psych exam tomorrow..


Left Brain Vs. Right Brain

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Right Hemisphere vs. Left Hemisphere?

Is there such a thing as being "left-brained" or "right brained?" In class and through the Lilenfeld text, it has come up several times that the left and right hemisphere of our brain each controls different ways in which we think. The left hemisphere of our brain is known for its fine tune language skills, while the right hemisphere is better known for coarse language skills. Being known as "left brained" means that you are logical, objective, scholarly, and you look at the pieces before the whole picture. On the other hand, a "right brained" person is more random, artistic, emotional, and tends to look at the whole picture first. Even though being "left brained" and "right brained" is only a myth, many people revolve their life around it. It helps them understand what kind of person they are and how they learn best. For example, many schools focus on teaching in a "left brained" manor. They concentrate on the reasoning behind the basics and fundamentals rather than the roundabout ways to answer a question.
I took a quiz online to see whether I was "left brained" or "right brained," and my results showed me that I was 51% "left brained" and 49% "right brained!" My results were very similar. I'm not surprised to see this though because I already knew that I don't fall into just one category. Feel free to take this (short) quiz and find out whether you are "left brained" like me or "left brained!"
-Sarah Duever

To many, not feeling pain would be ideal; However, to individuals with pain insensitivity, the inability to feel pain threatens their safety as well as their life. Normally, the somatosensory system (the body's system that senses touch, temperature, and pain) would react to dangerous stimuli applied to the skin by producing the sensation of pain in order to warn the individual of the harm being done to their body. In contrast, a person who suffers from pain insensitivity does not have a normal somatosensory system to protect them from damaging their body.skinandnerves.png
In the figure above, you can see that the skin contains both specialized and free nerve endings that detect pressure, temperature, and pain. For example, the Pacinian corpuscle is specialized for sensing deep pressure and the Meissner's corpuscle is specialized for lighter touch. Sensing pain and temperature is done by the free nerve endings. Normally, if the free nerve endings detected pain, they would send a message to the brain that travels through the spinal cord. This activates spinal reflexes that pull body parts away from the object causing the pain to prevent further damage to the body. Unfortunately, as you will soon see in a video, the somatosensory system of people with pain insensitivity does not work properly and everyday activities may become life threatening.

The video talks of Gabby, a young girl who suffers from hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathy, which inhibits sensation. Her condition puts her in extreme danger of hurting herself. As a baby, she chewed her fingers and tongue until they bled and her parents were encouraged to have her baby teeth removed to prevent her from biting them off completely, as some children with this condition do. She must wear goggles at all times because she has problems with scratching her eyes, which caused blindness in one of them. Without a functioning somatosensory system, your life is a constant struggle for safety.


The video gives a visual of how serious pain insensitivity is. Without pain, your appendix could burst and kill you without giving any signs that something may be wrong. In reality, the ideal life without pain would be a life-long curse of severely damaging your body and possibly death. Pain insensitivity could cause premature death by something treatable in people with functioning sensory nerves. Though nobody enjoys the sensation of pain, it is incredibly important and keeps us both safe and healthy.

Salt water= free soda!?

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In psychology there are six scientific thinking principles that we can use to help us overcome our own biases. For this claim, I will first be using the first scientific principle, ruling out hypothesis. With this principle, we can ask ourselves is this the only good explanation for this finding? We need to think about other explanations and not rule them out right away. Do we really believe that pouring salt water into a vending machine will give us free product? Wouldn't we see a lot more people walking around with free soda and goodies if that were a true statement? With this claim, we can also use the fourth principle, replicability. Someone may get lucky if they try and pour in salt water and miraculously get free food, but could someone somewhere else have the same luck with this test? We can use replicability to see if the experiment can be duplicated, if it can't, then it increases the odds that the claim is false. The last principle that I will use for this claim is the sixth one, occam's razor. This principle state that with claims, we should generally pick the simpler one. In this case the two claims you can choose from are that salt water will give you free product, or it will not. If we would apply occam's razor, the simpler or more logical claim would be that salt water would not do this for us. We use these claims to help us generate the real claims vs. the false ones. In psychology this is a very useful tool to have because we are faced with these claims on a day to day basis. If we apply these principles, we may be able to decipher scientific claims and also ones from everyday life.

Selective Attention - Cocktail Party Effect
by Anna Kasinski

Selective attention allows individuals to select or focus on one process while tuning out others. Donald Broadbent's "filter theory of attention" explains this phenomenon by stating that attention is a "bottleneck through which information passes", which then allows individuals to focus on the important. Related to these phenomena's is the "cocktail party effect". This refers to one's ability to hear something significant or important to them in a conversation that they are not directly involved in. I believe these theories are important because they are evident in our everyday life, and are a good example of how psychology affects people. Most of society would not realize why or how they heard their hometown come up in a conversation across the room. Most of society does not realize why we actually do have selective hearing. But psychology opens up our brains and makes sense of things that we encounter daily. I think that this is one of the most relatable to me, and would be to others as well.

Just the other day, I was eating lunch and I overheard someone talking about an organization I had been involved with in high school, it turns out we had mutual friends and experiences! The lunchroom was a noisy place, and this person was a table away, but because the filter in my brain thought that organization was an important term to me, it recognized this out of the distant conversation. To me, this is fascinating!

The book goes into some details about Selective Attention and the Cocktail Party Effect, but I would like to know more. I would like to see more studies, and how this effect and theory can be applied in areas like business.

Below I have linked to several articles and images for further reading and entertainment! Enjoy!





Our Mind is the Medicine

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Before reading this blog, I suggest that you watch this video as a precursor.


This video really astounded me ever since the first time I saw it, as it really brings up some interesting points about the placebo effect. As the video states, a placebo pill can work half as effective as aspirin, while the same pill can work half as effective as morphine. One might ask, "how can this be possible?"

Our brain is a very powerful thing. It can trick us in many different ways, and a placebo effect is one of the many ways it can trick us. The placebo effect is a very interesting topic to me. Let's take for example someone who has depression. The doctor prescribes them a placebo drug, ie. a sugar pill. As long as the patient believes that the drug he is receiving is good at managing depression, chances are that he will actually feel a lot better, even though it is just a sugar pill. That is why I named this blog "our Mind is the Medicine." Our mind and mindset plays a huge role in the well being of ourselves.

One thing that can affect how powerful a placebo is, is how real the placebo looks. If a pill is larger, it will have a stronger effect. However if a pill is blue, it will have significantly different effects than a pill that was red. All of these go back to tricking our brains into thinking a placebo is real; the more real it looks, the more effective the pill will be.

One more thing that really intrigues me about this video is also mentioning that placebos could be addictive. It is crazy to me how that is really possible. It just goes to show how powerful they actually are, that our brain can get addicted to something as simple as a sugar pill, in order to treat many different disorders.

Placebo Effect

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The placebo effect is defined as any substance that is not known to have any pharmacological effects, meaning it produces no meaningful changes in an organism, either chemically, or biologically, and is made to look like an active drug. The placebo effect coincides with the phrase "mind over matter." In a test done at Oxford University, it was found that patients, who had positive expectations of the treatments they were receiving, therefore had positive outcomes of the treatments. Where as, patients that had negative expectations of the treatments, therefore showed no improvement or had negative outcomes from the treatment. Placebos may work for mental obstacles, such as pain or even depression, but is it possible that placebos could contribute to a cure for cancer in the future? Pharmaceutical companies are now distributing placebos, as one such company is distributing a placebo to treat depression, as the actual, active drug is still in clinical trials. The brain is very complex, but if it is able to be tricked by placebos, then there would be a minimum need for active drugs, therefore lowering the risks of side effects. The downfall to placebos, is that some patients may have negative thoughts about the treatment before starting it, therefore turning the placebo effect into the nocebo effect.

The Anatomy of a Male Brain

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Male Brain

Hoax/Claim: "On average, men think about sex every seven seconds"

For decades, there has been a misconception that men think about sex every seven seconds. As in the movie "Mars Needs Moms" men are viewed as overly physically emotional animal that care nothing more than physical interactions. This belief became prevalent because it was widely believed that men are more sexually motivated than women, which can be concluded from years of marriage. This claim is false supported scientific evidence. According to Kinsey Institute's FAQ, "54% of men think about sex several times a day, 43% a few times per week/month, and 4% less than once a month." Research like these hold very little reliability since it asked participants to backtrack and see how many times they remember they thought about sex.
Terri Fisher, Ohio State University, Mayfield psychologist conducted a study composed of both men and women, using clickers to track the number of sexual thoughts experienced. After conducting the experiment the results ranged from 1 to 388 sexual thoughts per day for men. Although 388 seems a lot, but applying the arithmetic 388/day is much less than sexual thought per 7 seconds (12342 times a day). This study is more reliable than Kinsey Institute's report like many others who relied backtracking and remembering the amount of sexual thoughts experienced by the participant.
Men do not think about sex every seven seconds, as proven by many research studies like the one conducted by fisher and Kinsey Institute. Although men are sexually motivated than women it cannot be correlated to the amount of sexual thoughts experienced by men or women. There are many factors/variable that influence the amount of experiences by the participant such as emotional and environmental factors. In these studies, it has shown women are influenced more by the social acceptability which may cause them to admit having sexual thoughts less.

The thought of being sexually aroused by the smell of a rodent is out of the question. The smell of most mammals, play a huge part in their sexual attraction towards each other. As humans, does our sense of smell plays a strong role in our sexual behavior?

For most mammals, pheromones play a huge role in their sexual behavior towards each other. They've developed a special sense called the vomeronasal organ, to help detect pheromones. Humans are able to detect pheromones differently through a nerve that is able to sense and trigger the arousal regions of the brain. This feature is unique to humans, for most other mammals the vemeronasal organ does this same job.

If you are one to purchase perfumes or colognes in order to satisfy others, don't you wonder why those other people are satisfied by your scent? Why are humans so satisfied by these fragrances?

Many companies producing perfumes and colognes believe that smell is the main trigger to sexual behaviors in humans. In fact, it is not the fragrance of products that triggers arousal, but it is the pheromones, an odorless chemical that sends social signals to one's species. Thus, the pheromones of monkeys will not sexually attract rats due to the distinct type of pheromone for each species.

The website,www.pheromonesattract.net, sells pheromone induced cologne and perfume products. They claim that the addition of pheromones will help seduce, attract and drive others irresistibly crazy for you! Their extraordinary claims mean they need extraordinary evidence!
The evidence is shown through testimonials from consumers who say that it actually works!
"I went out last night and used pheromones and I couldn't believe the attention I was getting from women... Truly Phenomenal! " - T.C-California
"I have always wondered how it felt to become more attractive with a scent of seduction. Pheromones really do work, Thanks!" -Michael- New York

*How is this company's testing of their product proving that it works? Since they rely on the statements made by those using their product. The fact is that in some cases people get what they are looking for simply by looking, so what if the product is simply a placebo?
There could be a confounding variable with the other factors that may have attracted the opposite sex such as physical attraction or the way they approached each other. The product is not an exact cause to "increase in sexually attraction...attention...arousal, affection, confidence" There is way more to sexual attraction than the release of pheromones.

Are you attracted by someone distinctly because of their smell? Next time you purchase a bottle of perfume or cologne, think about I how much it will truly help you meet the girl of your dreams. Don't rely on a bottle of pheromones to get you that sexy person from across the room. They could quite possibly help, but the reality is that smell only goes so far. Appearance, likability, and personality will go much further than smelling good.
"A smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks." ~Charles Gordy

Check out www.pheromonesattract.net for an example of a company selling pheromone fragrances.

The nature vs. nurture assessment has always been a peculiar one and has deeply interested me. One way of studying the effects of these two factors is through the use of adoption studies. Adoption studies are a helpful to discover the impact that genetics (Nature) or environment (Nurture) have on a child. Through adoption studies researchers can study children who have been adopted, while carefully monitoring selective placement, and determine the degree to which each of these two factors have on a child. I have an adopted sister from China, and obviously she is living a completely different life now, than she would have at this time in China. When we got her at a year old she couldn't even sit up, and after two weeks with her she could stand with only little assistance. My theory is that genetics gives the potential of a characteristic physical or mental, then nurture provides the rest. Through my personal observations I have daunting bias and belief that it is primarily nurture that has created the person that she is. This though can never be proven, for we will never know who her parents were. In China it is illegal to give your child up for adoption and if we found out who her parents were we would have to return her and they would be severely punished. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15629096) Studies like the one in this link can bring insight into this pressing topic. The psychologist way of thought in this nature vs. nurture debate is that it is 50/50, while the sociologist way of thought is that it is 75/25 in favor of Nurture. My bias leans the sociologist way of thought, because I have an extreme interest in behavior and no interest in science. My overall theory is that nature gives us a potential bar in each of our characteristics that how far we reach up the potential ladder depends on the environment in which we are raise. Nature gives us possibilities and Nurture has us reach certain levels of these possibilities.

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:

Subliminal perception

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Subliminal perception is when a person receives information without them consciously knowing it. This is a extremely important concept because it is possible that using subliminal perception people could be helped mentally or be forced to think or do things because they had ideas unconsciously put in them. There was this article http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070308121938.htm that said that some researchers proved that subliminal messages, and advertising do effect people in some way. It also said that some attention is needed for the message to have some lasting effect on the brain. This last part is rather interesting for advertising because it forces advertisers to gain the attention of the consumers, put in their subliminal advertising, all while making sure that the consumer is not so focused on the advertising that the subliminal message will be completely ignored. It is remarkable that the UK bans subliminal advertising and that the U.S. does not, because although it has not been proven that subliminal advertising can make someone think something up out of the blue it is likely that it can push ones thought towards a certain end. For example when I am hungry and get the urge to eat some chicken nuggets and the first place that comes to mind is the burger king that is right by my house, its unlikely that subliminal advertising made me think to go to Burger King but it is entirely possible that a subliminal message pushed me to have a craving for chicken nuggets which in turn made me think of the place I always go to eat chicken nuggets. This could have a huge impact on the way we live our lives.

We live in a day and age of technology. We constantly use our cellphones, laptops, etc. Is being linked like we all are today a good thing or a bad thing? Neuroscientists say that it's a good change but we are acting oblivious to the harms that it is causing according to this news article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-565207/Modern-technology-changing-way-brains-work-says-neuroscientist.html.

Picture yourself living three decades ago. There were no cellphones, laptops, or lightning fast communication speeds. People survived just fine if not better than we do today. I see people addicted to their PCD's (personal communication devices). These people could not go one day without the conveniences they are accustomed to.

But what do we lose by relying too heavily on technology? We lose the skills that we are supposed to gain through interpersonal communication. Therefore social skills have been on the decline since then. This affect business relations, relationships and friendships. We rely more on what a message body contains than expressions in conversation through words.

Technology is beneficial to society because we lose less time transferring information, finding information and interpreting information. We are living in an age where we are swamped with distractions. We lose sight of what's important such as world issues and instead focus our interests and attention on video games, television shows, and other trivial pursuits.

It would help if people were not always connected to information or if people would reorganize their priorities. I believe technology can better us as a society, but only if we use it properly and do not allow it to become a major distraction.

Synesthesia can be defined simply as the mixing of senses within a individual. By mixing, I mean interchanging, or you can think of it as replacing. It's when people experience crossing sensations such as having the ability to taste colors, or being able to see colors when they hear sounds. This can vary depending on the condition and severity of Synesthesia within a person. For example, if a person looks at this picture with synesthesia, they will see colors for the numbers, and can easily differentiate the 5 and the 2.


This condition is very important, because it can explain many different theories and concepts, such as the process of Sensation and Perception. To simplify things, Sensation picks up what we receive from our environments, and Perception is how our brain processes that information. But what about Synesthesia? Why do we feel cold when we see something so irrelevant such as a table? Why do we see the number 5 and think of a color? There's a neurological explanation, "When you were born, you had far more brain cells than you needed. A period of pruning happens where only the connections and brains cells you need and use survive. This is a normal and vital part of all mammals' early development. " This is important to understand, because we can use this information to help solve this kind of problem, and it could possibly be a link to other neurological problems. As we see in this link, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veoN1mh7RME , this young adult interchanges color with shapes and different words, letters, and even numbers! He states that it is a "feeling thing". This impacts his daily life because everything he does such as play music, it reminds him of color. This could help him remember things more clearly, or simply play better music with more feeling. But should this be cured? Is there a way to cure this? This is a good example of an article explaining synesthesia that can be disproved http://synaesthesia.com/en/information/syn-bewusstsein/, If you look at the video, it's promoting inattentional blindness, it's not a test showing that you have synesthesia. If that was the case, then most people would have synesthesia, and the ratio for people who have synesthesia wouldn't be 1/2500, it would be higher... This promotes the principle Occam's Razor, and Ruling out Rival Hypothesis, because there's a simpler explanation, and the claim was ruled out by scientific evidence ( the ratio of synesthetic people). In this case, ruling out rival hypothesis is the most important rule of principle to follow.


t032.jpgIs it founded in architectonic?I find it in a Chinese PSY club website and it created by Swiss artist Sandro Del Prete. Observer picture top half then without bottom-half, you can find something interesting! This is a kind of Optical illusion cuz there are lots of external factors mislead us like color,shape and light when we look at the picture . And i also think that we are also influence by cultural background ,memories,and the others(but i haven't find proof yet).
Actually,there are many Optical illusion around us such as Ames room illusion 、Ames Trapezoid Window illusion、Vertical-horizontal illusions 、Necker Cube 、Hermann grid illusion and so on.All of them are used Extensively and usefully.The best evidence is now very popular in the subway to create Enigma illusion based on the 3 d picture .illusion.jpg
Actually ,I am trying to apply these principles.l hang a mirror on the wall last week, and it make it really let me house looks bigger!
Optical illusion is my first use of psychology knowledge. It let me know that i can I can in the life applied psychology and not only can only take it write a paper (as irrational Numbers: p)

The Placebo Effect

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The Placebo Effect is one of many ideas expressed in the Lilienfeld text. The placebo effect falls under the category of "pitfalls in experimental design". This effect can be defined by your own thoughts "tricking you" into feeling better, when in actuality, there are no physical changes being done. This mainly involves medications but can be applied to other scenarios. The placebo effect obviously cannot work if the patient or whoever is receiving the treatment is aware of it. An example of the placebo effect could be as simple as a sugar pill prescribed by a doctor. In this case, if a individual told his/her doctor that they are beginning to suffer from depression, their doctor could prescribe them to a "placebo" pill. They would do this by telling the patient they are being prescribed a specific medication to treat depression. This causes the patient to get a sense that they will soon be cured due to the simple expectation of wellness from the new medication. When in reality, the prescribed medication is a "fake" pill and does nothing to help the depression. This will eventually "trick" the patient into thinking their symptoms are being cured and the new medication is doing its job.

Here is a link to a video that will hopefully further you understanding of the placebo effect and how it works.

I think this is an important concept because it can allow for doctors to prescribe placebo's to patients without using more expensive drugs that may and can have harmful side effects instead. Although I cannot directly relate to this phenomena, I do believe it is a breakthrough in psychological concepts.

There is a claim that there was a connection between the influenza outbreaks and the Chinese Zodiac calendar. In 2007 it was the year of the chicken, also the year of the bird flu outbreak in parts of Asia. In 2008 it was the year of the horse and there was an outbreak of equine flu in Australia. During 2009 there was an outbreak of swine flu, and quite coincidentally it was the year of the pig for the Chinese Zodiac calendar. If you think these claims are quite ridiculous than you would be right. The first mistake made by the creators of this myth is that they assumed that correlation was causation.. Another principle of critical thinking that can help to prove this claim wrong is that extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. There is no real evidence that shows that there is a correlation between the Chinese Zodiac calendar and the outbreaks of influenza in the last few years.

Believers in this myth are making an illusionary correlation between the two events. Like most other pseudoscientific claims they also overlooked the fact that breakouts of these types of influenza happened at times when it did not correlate to the Chinese Zodiac calendar. The creators had confirmation bias when making the claim and ignored a lot of evidence supporting an alternative cause. In my eyes this is purely a coincidence and no real correlation exists between the two variables.


Placebo Effect?

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The Placebo Effect is defined as improvement resulting from the mere expectation of improvement. In psychology, it is seen mostly has a participant or patient receiving a placebo and because they expect to get better, they do. The only way this works is that the patients must remain blind to the condition to which they have been assigned, experimental or control. Most people associate placebos with a little sugar pill, but the most effective placebos are actually injected. A patient sees something injected into them and they believe since its being put directly into the blood stream it will have the biggest effect. Placebos, however, work better on things like depression and pain, but not as good on other things like cancer or heart disease. the effects of placebos may be more short-lived than those of actual medications. Placebos are not only used at institutions but also in everyday life. It doesn't even have to be a pill, the power balance bracelets that are supposed to improve balance. A piece of rubber and a shinny piece of plastic isn't going to change anyone's balance, but just fact that is supposed to, makes a person believe they have better balance, so they might show signs of better balance. The human mind has the biggest impact on a single person. As a personal example, whenever I start feeling sick I take medicine just so I think that I should be healthy and not sick. It is incredible how a person's thoughts control their life. This brings up questions about the human brain. What allows just simple thoughts to control pain, disease, and other physical aspects of one's life? Why do placebos work for some people but not others? Placebos can make even the largest of things diminish, or even go away.

Rubber Check

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It has been a common misconception that the rubber in our cars tires protects us from lightening strikes. Although we all may think that this statement is true, we have no evidence or knowledge about the subject to have reason to believe it. When analyzing the claim we can easily see that it breaks many principles of scientific thinking. The first principle that the claim breaks is ruling out rival hypotheses. When hearing that we are safer in the car than outside during a storm, we automatically believe it is because of the rubber in our tires. But have we ever considered other possibilities of why we are safe in our cars? It turns out that we are safer in our cars, but not because of our tires. We are safe because of the closed metallic composition of the car. This allows the electricity to be channeled into the ground.
Other principles of scientific thinking that are broken through this claim are both replicability and falsifiability. Because lightening is an occurrence of nature we cannot just set up an experiment inside a laboratory to test this hypothesis. Although we could send electrical shocks into the car, we could not fully replicate a lightening strike. The only way to test this would to be luckily (or unluckily) struck by lightening while in your car. If this were to happen it would lead us to another broken principle of scientific thinking; correlation isn't causation. If you were to be struck by lightening while in your car and survived, you could not prove that it was the tires that saved you. A lot of other possibilities could be the reason for survival, such as: the strength of the lightening, the position at which you were hit, and other materials in the car that could have saved you. We are to eager to accept anything that we hear in the news, without considering it using scientific thinking. If we all were to analyze this situation before believing it, everyone would know it is a misconception, not the truth.


For Lightning Strikes.jpg

More on Reality TV...

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I was spurred to write this post in response to blog posts by smit6600 and dingm052 both pertaining to reality television and its effects on viewers. Currently I am enrolled in a Cultural Studies class called "On TV" in which we investigate how television influences society and vice-versa as well as how meaning is created by shows, etc. One of the first things we've discussed is how, in fact, very little about TV is "real" anymore.
Smit6600 says that they don't believe their behaviors are affected by these shows because they don't 'idolize the characters or anything' they're just interested in the drama. This may be true for them but I'd argue that reality TV's impact on society is possibly more powerful (and perhaps more subliminal) than we first perceive. For example, think of all the Jersey Shore Parties you've been invited to, the slang (DTF, smush, guido) that has become so popular from the show. Clearly we know The Jersey Shore cast is wild and out-there and most of us would say we watch purely to enjoy their crazy antics but, I mean, there must be something in us that does actually admire something about them. Another extreme example comes from the influence of MTV's 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, shows that have unintentionally glamorized teen pregnancy when I'm sure their intention was to do just the opposite. Personally, I don't see the appeal but these shows combined with movies like Juno may have been part of the encouragement for many "pregnancy pacts" throughout the nation.
Basically, I agree with dingm052 that reality TV isn't going to necessarily make you less intelligent, it's just likely to influence behaviors and possibly relate to some bad decisions made by college students and confused teens. Frankly, I believe that all television is pretty constructed- even news shows. Like on The Today Show when the reporter wanted to make some flood look worse than it was but gets busted by two guys just casually walking in front of her canoe (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgm3_jzcNm4&feature=related).
One last thought on the subject- I know that the prevalence of some of my friends smoking is due to our love of the show Mad Men in which there is hardly a scene where someone isn't lighting up. As stated by my friend Tyler, "Don Draper just makes smoking look so cool." Although Jon Hamm (the actor who plays Draper) has responded in an interview when asked if the cast smokes real cigarettes, "Some people do, but not to the extent that we smoke the fake ones or else we'd all be dead." Anyway, people just need to be mindful of what they're taking in when they watch TV but I'm not into any conspiracy theory like it will significantly change your life.

Ear Candling!

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The process of ear candling claims to combine the sciences of pressure and thermodynamics to relieve your ears of unwanted wax. The process basically involves creating a seal on the ear with a wax coated cloth cone, referred to as a candle, which you light on fire. Supposedly the air in the tube is heated and rises, creating a vacuum that pulls toxins and earwax from your inner ear.



This is quite an extraordinary claim, but is there any proof? A proponent of the treatment will say that the proof is that there is a buildup at the base of the cone right next to the ear canal. Unfortunately the process does not work as advertised. In this case it was easy to prove the claim that earwax and toxins are removed from the ear was false. The simpler answer is that the buildup is just candle wax. The experiment, as told in link 1, was to simply burn a candle over an empty cup and see if anything collects at the base of the cone. The same buildup was there with or without an ear. This result is quite easily replicated. A rival hypothesis was that the burning cone could not heat the air enough to create a vacuum with the strength to remove anything from the ear. Another experiment, see link 2, was devised to take the temperature at different spots in the cone while it is burning. The maximum temperature reached was 22 degrees Celsius. This is lower than the core temperature of the human body; therefore a vacuum is not created. The only way a person could feel better would have to be the placebo effect, where they think they are getting better simply because they are receiving treatment. Otherwise the only possible results are no changes or getting candle wax in your inner ear!



For many of us who have siblings, there is no doubt that our parent favors one child over the other. Although, they may deny it, is there some logical explanation as to why they have a favorite? One of the reasons mentioned in the article pins favoritism on nature, stating that parent has a survival need to "replicate themselves through succeeding generations" so, they favor the child who "will be more reproductively successful and get more of the family's gene into the next generation." This explanation is similar to that of a functionalist perspective. Whether is biological or psychological, we have to sometimes take a step back and analyze what we read and compile our own thought so we don't have a belief that is skewed to one side.

There are many different types of theoretical perspectives that have developed over the decades that try to explain human behaviors and actions. These perspectives not only help us make sense of other people, but it also helps us understand ourselves. The five perspectives, structuralism, functionalism, behaviorism, cognitivism, and psychoanalysis, although different in their own way, give us insight into why we do the things we do. However, we must be careful to not accept only one perspective, as it will lead us to have a bias opinion. The article involving a question why parents has a favorite child, contained many explanations that were similar in thinking to one or more of the perspectives. Although, we may not agree with certain explanation, these perspectives are important because they help us keep an open mind to possible explanations, but it's up to us to think critically and whether we should decide to accept it.


When we talked about Twin Studies, we want to debate between the Natures vs. Nurture, I agreed with the blog from goodw140 but I would like to point out a few things that I run across and also happen in real life. I knew this couple since 1997 and they have Twins son. Right now theirs Twin Son is about 14 years old. They look exactly alike but they have a totally differences Personality, they live in the same house, have the same Parents and also eat the same food and grow up in the same environment. One is really girly, love to go to school, always take his time like a girl, and the other one is totally opposite, always dress like a "cowboy", hate to study and always naughty. They both were raised and taught the same ways by the Parents but they still turn out differences. With this Twins it is highly a Nature aspect. Could we determine whether differences in genes or differences in the environment really matter, and which one play an important roles in Twin Studies. In reality, I think with this family as Mass Ridley has put it "Genes, by themselves can't determine anything." And also environment plays only a small role in creating personality differences since they were born. Their Parent did matter, just in a way different than originally assumed. Genes matter to the extent that they support parenting in this scenario according to the blog created by Judith Rich.

Blog about Twin Studies, Genes, and Parenting


Many of you may have followed the infamous Casey Anthony trial or most likely have heard of it at some point. Among the charges filed against Casey Anthony, homicide of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, was the most serious. I personally followed the case and although as a viewer it seemed obvious that Casey was guilty, the principle of correlation versus causation has become relevant in the final analysis. The textbook, Psychology From Inquiry to Understanding, states that, "Although a correlation sometimes results from a causal relationship, we can't tell from a correlational study alone whether the relationship is causal."

The prosecution would have had you believe that there was evidence of causation with the finding of the victim's body less than half a mile from the accused's home and the questionable Google searches of harmful materials and methods of murder found on her home computer. The District Attorney introduced additional evidence that she also exhibited unusual behavior, pathologically lying while being interrogated or questioned by her parents. She reported her daughter missing weeks after the disappearance and evidence of decomposition was also found in the trunk of her car. Despite all this mounting evidence as presented by the State, the jury found that though there may have been a strong correlation between Casey Anthony's behavior and Caylee's disappearance, causation could not be found.

Another concept that could possibly come into play is confirmation bias, the tendency to seek out evidence that supports our hypotheses and deny, dismiss, or distort evidence that contradicts them. When I first heard about the case and became aware that Casey did not report her daughter, Caylee, missing for four weeks, I was almost immediately convinced that she was guilty. This initial belief could have caused me to experience confirmation bias, dismissing any ideas that supported her innocence, including the possibility that someone else made the Google searches since she had been living with her parents and that although her behavior was questionable it did not necessarily make her a murderer.

Casey Anthony was found not guilty of first degree murder, second degree murder, and aggravated manslaughter of a child and found guilty of giving false information to a law enforcement officer on four accounts. Despite the verdict, the majority of the public continues to believe that Casey is guilty for the death of Caylee. However, factoring in the idea of correlation does not imply causation, there is no direct link between the evidence and Casey.

To read more about the case, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/17/48hours/main5393142.shtml


This hoax dates back to 1999 when an email chain was started, asking recipients to donate 7 cents to the Make A Wish Foundation to help a 7 year old girl, named Amy Bruce, pay for medical bills. The email states that she has lung cancer from second hand smoke and a brain tumor from being beaten. As recently as this past month, the chain gained momentum again, but in the form of Facebook statuses, rather than emails.
The photo on the right has been associated with the fictitious girl named Amy Bruce. This photo was taken from the UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) website as a means to give more credibility to the hoax.
The following links are to the Make A Wish Foundations' websites in both the United States and the United Kingdom and reiterate the falsehood of the story.
The new method of Facebook statuses as a means of spreading Amy Bruce's story is a prime example of confirmation bias. When people read the post, they assume it to be true rather than thinking about the facts. The articles clearly state that the Make A Wish Foundation does NOT participate in any type of chain letter and discourages people who receive such an email, or see the status on Facebook, from forwarding the message.

For me, when the organization that is supposedly helping Amy Bruce denies her existence, clearly something is wrong. I still can't help but wonder why people continue to pass on these stories that have been continually disproved for over a decade. When people make the extraordinary claim that reposting the status will somehow get the girl $7, there must be extraordinary evidence. Knowing that the Make A Wish foundation doesn't participate in chain messages is assuredly enough evidence to refute this claim.


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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:

I can see your halo

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The halo effect: is the tendency of rating of one positive characteristic to spill over to influence the ratings of other positive characteristics. To put this is simple terms; you're basically blinded by one's beauty or your love for them, to notice anything wrong. A classic example of the halo effect we've more than likely all have seen is from the TV show Friends, with Gunther and Rachel. Gunther is in love with Rachel. He thinks she is the prettiest woman ever, and he loves her. By him having these feelings, he does not see what a horrible waitress she actually is. She never gets people their right drink, sits down on the clock, and gives her friends free coffee. Gunther never fires her though, because he is under the halo effect. The halo effect does not let him see all the things she is doing wrong. Therefore, she gets to keep her job no matter how bad she messes up.
I think it is safe to say the halo effect, affects all of us at least once at a point in our lives. It is most commonly found in love. My time, in life, when the halo effect occurred was when I was with an ex-boyfriend of mine. I was in love with him, which caused me not to see he did not treat me right. He was constantly putting me down, ditching me last minute for no reason, and just being super cruel. I was in love with though so I stayed with him, because I thought he was perfect. It wasn't until I took a chance to step back and look at the relationship from an outside view, that I realized he was no good. So, I broke up with him and had no regrets about it. This just shows us that we all can be affected by the halo effect, but we can overcome it.

A study conducted in the mid 1980's determined that a woman over the age of 40 has a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married. It showed that women over 40 have a 2.6% chance of getting married, and a higher chance of being killed by a terrorist. This study has since been proven false, because it violates many of the six principles of critical thinking. One of the major problems found was in the group of women surveyed. Instead of using a random sampling of women over 40, the survey asked only women over 40 with a university education. This much smaller group cannot accurately represent the entire population of women over 40.
This study was also proven to be non-replicable. During the same time period, the U.S. Census Bureau conducted a survey of all women over 40 and found that they had a 23% chance of getting married, instead of the 2.6% chance that the original study had suggested. The U.S. Census Bureau used a sample size of about 70,000 households, compared to the 1,500 surveyed in the original study. With both a smaller and less representative sample size, the 2.6% chance of a woman over the age of 40 getting married can be completely disregarded.


Feng Shui

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Feng Shui is a Chinese system of aesthetics used in interior design and architecture to optimize flow of chi. Feng Shui literally translates to "wind-water." Chi translates to "energy flow" and practitioners of Feng Shui believe that chi flows through everything, and people who use it will benefit from it in all kinds of ways. Such as physical and emotional well being and wealth. It makes sense when you think about it that people's lives can be affected by their emotional and physical environments. For example, would you rather be living in a jail cell or a suite in a super nice resort? For most, I would say they would prefer the resort suite. But Feng Shui is pseudoscience, meaning it has a sense of scientific claims, but it actually isn't. There is no evidence that can supports the existence of chi, and there is no evidence that a certain design to someone's home, office, any room, is greater to any other (not paying attention to taste). So when it comes time to decorate you rearrange your room, my advice would not be to research Feng Shui or hire a practitioner to come and redecorate for you. Instead, design what is most comfortable to you. If you are happy with the way your space looks, faces, or makes your energy flow, then you have created your own "Feng Shui," because in the end its up to you to like the energy and environment in which you live, not an old system of aesthetics that has no proof behind.

The Nature vs Nurture debate has long raged on in psychology. As we know, heritability is the percentage of the variability in a trait across individuals that is due to genes, and many studies, including twin studies, show that many personality traits are due to genetics and the environment. But many twin studies have shown that despite being separated for the majority of their lives, identical twins often have similar tastes, similar interests and similar personalities. These facts cause us to examine just how heritable a trait is due to genes and how much it is related to differences in the environment. Do twins have a higher chance of having genetic related similarities because of their developmental process? Even despite being separated for the majority of their lives?
In the book "Someone else's Twin" the author shows that more often than not, identical twins who have been separated often share many deep similarities even though their environments (nurture aspect) were different. http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/09/15/review-someone-elses-twin/
Another study shows that identical twins that share the same environment are more likely to have similar interests and personalities than fraternal twins who are also raised in the same environment.

more people die from...

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Statistics can be misleading. People will often use them to make a point, but you can't infer anything more from a statistic than what it explicitly says. You've probably heard a statement like, "more people die each year from swallowing ball point pens than from shark attacks." Some one could try to use this "extraordinary evidence" to back up a extraordinary claim like sharks aren't that dangerous, and it might seem convincing. But really this statistic doesn't mean anything at all.



Looking at the two images, which seems more deadly? Obviously the shark. If you've ever seen Shark Week, you'll know that sharks are nothing less than underwater killing machines. So how can this statistic be true? The claim falls prey to the base rate fallacy. A base rate is how common a behavior or characteristic is within the general population. Most people have a lot more contact with pens than sharks. I have held countless numbers of pens in my life, but have I ever been swimming anywhere near a shark? No I haven't. Of course more people die a year from choking on ball point pens than from shark attacks, but that doesn't mean that sharks are less dangerous than pens. Simply, a lot more people use pens than swim with sharks, so a lot more people are killed by pens than by sharks. Next time I have the option of jumping in a pool with a Great White, or putting a pen in my mouth, I'll choose the pen.

We encounter stressors in our life almost every day. Some days it's that project that is due in two days and others it is the twig that snaps behind us when we are walking outside in the dark. Our bodies have a developed a systematic reaction to when we encounter a stressful situation however it was meant to only be used once in a while. Back when humans were all hunter and gatherers, the main stressor would only be when in a fight or when hunting. The body reacts with a heightened blood pressure, paused digestion and a quickened heart rate among other things. The body would have time to recover itself from the momentary panic and would have time to flush out Corticotrophin Releasing Factor, a hormone which is released in the case of panic. The flight/fight response is only supposed to be used occasionally however modern life is filled with a sustainably higher amount of stressors then when humans first inhabited the earth. This causes it to be overactive and cause more stress related health problems. Just to name a few stress can increase emotional, psychological, and even physical problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pains, or irregular heartbeats. So the question becomes, have humans evolved at all to compensate for the overuse of the autonomic system. With 75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month, as of a study done in 2009, it doesn't appear so. Here is a video also illuminating the issue in a stressful work situation:


Last year in my high school psychology class, we were discussing the extent of Nature vs. Nurture. After much discussion, my teacher introduced us to a man who was greatly involved in the debate; however, he wasn't a scientist and he didn't choose to be apart of the experiments. After some difficulties at a young age, Bruce Reimer and his twin brother were brought into the hospital to undergo circumcision. Unfortunately, doctors used a different method involving lasers and Bruce's penis was burned beyond surgical repair.
reimer2.jpgA renown doctor had been studying the extent of Nature vs. Nurture and suggested that the Reimer family raise the boy as a little girl. The family had come to terms that "he was a beautiful little girl" (CBS News). They changed his name to Brenda and gave him the life of a little girl. But once Brenda reached puberty, she became rebellious and stopped taking her hormone pills and they were unable to hide the truth any longer. After being told by his father, Brenda changed his name to David and underwent surgeries to fully become a man.1783_fs.jpg
I have always found the nature vs. nurture debate really interesting and after reading this story, I never realized how much not being able to be who you are affects you. The Reimer Family is a perfect example of how much our genes and environments factor into who we are to become. At the time of the accident, technology was not advanced enough to correct the incident immediately. Today, hormonal treatments are much more effective and doctors are more aware of the effects of our genes and environment. Another reason that David's initial sex change may have failed is the affect of having a twin brother to look to, and also having a mother who was not involved in wearing makeup, and dressing nicely.
The Reimer brothers' lives were a lie. After going public on Oprah about their story, both brothers committed suicide in their late thirties.


soap_under_the_sheets_for_rls_leg_cramps.jpg This article discusses the claims that a "reliable" cure for leg cramps is putting a bar of soap between the sheets of one's bed as they sleep. According to many who have tried this remedy, it works. The problems that arise when viewing this "cure" scientifically, however, are numerous. Not to mention, this "study" commits multiple logical fallacies.

As far as I can tell from the few minutes of research I did, no one seems to agree on precisely what brand of soap to use. The aforementioned article states that Dove and Dial are the two most commonly suggested, but this video claims Dove is the only soap that can't be used.

Personally, I think the whole buzz surrounding this "cure" has more to do with the placebo effect than anything else. These people are desperate, looking for some way to ease their pain, and when they hear that putting a bar of soap in their bed worked for other people, it sounds so crazy that it just might work. My opinion in this area was cemented by the comment section of this article, where after scrolling through multiple "It really works!" messages, one can come across several "It didn't work for me" posts. Perhaps those who didn't experience any improvement with the soap were simply of a more skeptical mindset, or maybe the people who were "cured" were so desperate for relief that they were willing to try just about anything, and their mindset made this one extremely unlikely cure work. Who knows?

Lastly, this claim is guilty of more than one logical fallacy, the biggest one being its over-reliance on anecdotal evidence. No scientific data exists stating a bar of soap is a legitimate cure for leg cramps; everything I've learned is from others' personal experiences. And on that same note, they've managed to combine anecdotal evidence with appeal to authority. This video shows a (supposed) pharmacologist outright endorsing dubious home remedies for leg cramps:

Overall, putting a bar of soap in your bed to cure leg cramps seems like a rather extraordinary claim, and so far I haven't seen any extraordinary scientific evidence that suggests it works. There doesn't seem any way to falsify these claims either. But hey, if you have leg cramps, feel free to try it out.


This article states that drinking cold water after a meal causes cancer, stating the cold water will solidify the oily stuff you have just consumed leading to slowing of the digestion. In the next sentence it states once the "sludge" reacted with the acid will break down and be absorbed by the intestine faster then the solid food, thus lining the intestine. Its last statement is that the sludge lining your intestine will very soon to fat leading to cancer. It also states drinking hot water or soup after a meal is best. Replicability to me, means that a study's findings (in this case drinking cold water after a meal=cancer) can be replicated exactly to show the exact results consistently. This claim can not be repeated consistently due to the fact that every person is different. Possibly one person could have had this happen to them but it wouldn't have been possible to repeatedly duplicate the results mainly because different experimenters have entirely different bodily figures all together. This claim is truly an extraordinary claim. Stating drinking cold water after a meal equals cancer; under how many circumstances have you drank a glass of cold water after breakfast, lunch, and or dinner throughout your life? Probably for most of us reading this number is in the 1,000's, in how many of those circumstances have you been diagnosed with cancer due to specifically drinking cold water after a meal? I am hoping you answered zero. Though this claim is extraordinary the evidence provided is no where near extraordinary due to the fact that is has no scientific basis backing it up. Overall, I find myself in one hundred percent disbelief with this claim due to the scientific thinking principles #4 and #5 used to tear this claim apart.

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