Blog 2: February 2012 Archives

Who decides who I love?

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In the BCC's video The Secret You, the question is explored, who is in charge of your decisions, you or your neurons, and is there a distinction between the two? This question , and the rather grey answer that was presented at the end, makes me think about our decisions in lovers. While it's clear that there very much is a subjective, conscious decision making process when determining a "mate", it's undeniable that biology and a subconscious decision making process influence our decision. In the article, The Biology of Attraction by Helen E. Fisher, Fisher writes about "Odor Lures" and "Love maps". Women are muchflirting-blog 2 pic.jpg more sensitive to odor than men, such that we can smell a mild sweat from three feet away. Generally speaking, men are drawn to good-looking, spunky women while women are drawn to men with money and/or property. Biologically, it makes perfect sense. Men want women who will produce viable offspring, and women want men that can support their children. I've been taught that I should not choose a partner based off of income, but I cannot help but find someone more appealing if I know that they are successful. So if I consciously know that I should not find interest in someone based off of money, but am attracted to success, then is my conscious part of my brain choosing my lover, or is my neurons making the final decisions for me?

After our dialog about advertising in psychology discussion section, I began wondering if many of the principles used in advertising today have roots dating back many years. Themes such as emotional transfer, sex, stereotypes, and nostalgia are common in ads today, but what about say 50 years earlier? Surprisingly, I found many of the same themes in the ads from the 1960s era that I looked at. I wanted to comment on one particular ad that I found interesting.

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Many things about this ad popped-out right away for me, however I probably noticed the phrase "Keep her where she belongs..." first. This phrase says a lot about how women were viewed in society at the time, it phrase suggests that women are below men in social stature, similar to a pet. Advertisers included this line in order to play on the stereotypical gender role of men being above women. The ad is for a feminine product marketed towards men, which suggests that men were the primary purchaser of shoes in the 1960s. This could be due to a number of reasons though I would guess it is because men were in the workforce proportionately more than women at the time. Another aspect of the ad is that it features an attractive, presumably nude woman fixated on a shoe. Sex is being used hear in order to sell the product to male consumers. Another interesting possibility is that the ad suggests that beautiful women are one dimensional and only care about material goods, shoes in this case. This could be another part of gender stereotypes that I mentioned earlier.


After analyzing this ad and others like it, I noticed many similarities between vintage and modern advertisements. The key link that they all share is that advertisers try to sell products emotionally rather than logically. Rather than listing all of the reasons that you should purchase their product, advertisers instead use powerful visual elements such as sex and gender roles to sell their product. If you would like more information about the influence of advertising, visit here.


Thanks for reading and if you have any questions/comments be sure to leave them below!

Why am I Hungry Again?

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richdiesslin_pavlovs_dog.png Ivan Pavlov, a famous psychologist and physiologist, lived from 1849 to 1936 in Russia. Pavlov theorized that he could make a dog drool by simply ringing a bell. He was able to do this by employing the technique of classical conditioning. Pavlov repeatedly rang a bell before he would feed his dogs. By doing this Pavlov's dogs were conditioned to drool every time they heard the bell.

Though this discovery may seem quite simple it is one of the most important discoveries in the field of psychology. In fact, this discovery formed the basis of what we now know as behavioral psychology. Without this discovery we wouldn't have ways treat various psychological disorders such as anxiety and panic attacks. We also would have a much tougher time training our animals.

There are countless cases of people using classical conditioning to train their animals. An example of this is that when fish hear footsteps on a dock they come to the surface and wait for food. The reason they do this is that they are so accustomed to getting food when they hear footsteps that they automatically surface even if there isn't any food.

If this topic interests you there is a great article on Pavlov's dog here and another great article about classical conditioning here.

Autism: What are the Chances?

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When thinking about growing up and having children, many of us are afraid of having a child with a disability, like autism. Many people believe that they can't take care of a child with autism; the truth is: it doesn't matter; they are just like anyone else.

The number of individuals diagnosed with autism is growing, but the number of individuals affected is unknown. However, professionals are sure if this is due to an increasing growth of illness or if it is due to the ability to diagnose illness.
Professionals aren't entirely sure of the cause autism; yet, they know that lifestyle, family income, nor education affect the chances. Boys are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. Genetics is a major player in the chances of autism. In fact, identical twins are more likely to both have autism than fraternal twins or siblings. Other possible causes include diet, digestive tract changes, body's inability to properly use vitamins and minerals, and also mercury poisoning. The debate over vaccines has a lot to do with the mercury that is in some of the vaccines that take multiple doses.

I know that genetics plays a large part in autism; however, I have always wondered if it is by simple mutation during meiosis or a mutation that is genetically passed down.

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For more information about Autism click here: , you can also use this site to find out more about Asperger Syndrome

The Smart Dog, Jesse

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I hate the situation when my puppy, Happy, pees and poops everywhere on the floor. The task of cleaning the floor belongs to me because I promised my parents, who are not the big fans of animals, that I would take full responsibility of raising my naughty pet. To be honest, I have been lazy to train my animal to behave herself, but how can I train my pet??


With the help of shaping, conditioning a target behavior by progressively reinforcing behaviors that come closer and closer to the target, animals can perform amazing tricks that many people marvel at. Here is Jesse, the World's smartest dog, which is trained using exclusively positive reinforcement and clicker training. To employ the 'positive reinforcement' technique on animals, a trainer should prepare a reward, which is generally their favorite food. For Jesse, however, the 'reward', is the clicker (of course food is another types of reward she receives). The Clicker is a small plastic box with a metal strip that makes a sharp, clicking sound when pushed and released, allowing the trainer to mark with great precision the behavior for which the dog is being reinforced. As Jesse hears more clicker sounds in the process of training, she is approaching to the goals, such as walking back or jumping rope. see more information

Now, I know the technique to train my puppy. I only wish that she is able to defecate on the right spot. Alas, I feel lazy again!

Jason McElwain's life changed on February 15, 2006. After being the Greece Athena High School basketball team manager throughout his high school career, he was finally given the chance to suit up and play in a game his senior year. During the last four minutes of the game, Jason McElwain managed to score 20 points, with six of those shots being three pointers. On top of that, Jason won an ESPY award for his feat and became a hero to many, but not for the sole reason that he had scored so many points in such little time. Jason McElwain also has high-functioning autism. Jason does not let autism control his life. He was able to prove that autism does not have to noticeably hinder any part of his life. And for that, he became a hero and role model to many autistic children.

According to Autism Society, autism can be described as a developmental disability that affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others. It affects each individual differently, but some popular symptoms of this disorder include: little or no eye contact, lack or delay of language skills, and lack of peer relationships. In addition, autism affects about 1 in 110 children and it is about four times more common for males to be diagnosed with the disorder than females. Unfortunately, this year autism will affect more children than AIDS, cancer and diabetes combined do. Yet according to Autism Speaks, autism still only receives about 5% of the research funding in relation to these other disorders and diseases. Fortunately though, there are many ways that we can personally help this cause. To help people like Jason McElwain, we can donate money, participate in autism events, or fundraise. To find out more information about these programs or to learn more about autism in general, click here.

autism.pngAutism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both disorders that affect millions of American kids. In fact 1 in every 110 children are placed on the autism spectrum. But boys are three to four times more likely to have autism than girls. It affects more children than cancer, juvenile diabetes, and AIDS combined.
There is not one cause of autism, but many scientists believe that it mostly has to deal with a mutation or abnormality found in a gene the child receives. In addition to a random genetic mutation, factors during pregnancy also play a huge role in whether a child will be diagnosed with autism or not--the parent's age and if the mother gets sick while she is pregnant that causes oxygen deprivation to the brain. These factors alone do not cause autism, but play a role in addition to genes gained from both parents. The processing of information in their brains also affects autism, as in how nerve cells connect and organize information.Autistic-Boy.jpg
Being on the autism spectrum is just that, a spectrum. It comes in a wide variety and each case is unique. 40 percent of people on the spectrum have average to above average learning capabilities. Autism is widely publicized, but not may average Americans fully understand the disorder. Although it is a learning and social disability, there are many who are able to fully function in society. People who have autism only demand respect and acceptance.

To find out more information about autism, click here.

stock-photo-inside-the-brain-concept-of-neurons-and-nervous-system-34328518.jpgAs we look at every person or object, specific neurons in our brain fire for each separate memory we store. It's hard to believe that billions of different neurons fire for each individual memory, but a professor at California Institute of Technology found ways to prove the theory of concept neurons. The professor, Christof Koch, argues that everyone has these so called "concept neurons", which help us remember things, especially people. He used new advances in brain surgery to perform his experiment. While two different subjects were under open brain surgery and still conscious, Koch placed images of actresses in front of the subjects. For one subject, a single neuron fired when images of Jennifer Aniston were placed in front of their face, but didn't fire when images of Jennifer and Brad Pitt were shown to them. The other subject's single neuron fired when pictures of Halle Berry were flashed in front of them. Another interesting aspect of the second subject was that the neuron also fired when the word "Halle Berry" was shown to them. This experiment at least brings into light how our brain stores specific memories with single neurons. I think with improved methods of research, we will continue to find out how our brain stores memories and recalls them. You can read more about concept neurons here.

Advertising these days became so manipulative that people are convinced to purchase even harmful products. The article by Arnold Anderson present four types of manipulative advertising: Expert opinion, Attractiveness, Lifestyle, and Fear.
smoking.jpgThe first one uses the "Expert" opinion which manipulates the trust people have on the experts who present the products. This particular advertising uses doctors as the experts and manipulates smokers to choose Camel cigarette over other cigarette brands.

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The second uses attractiveness. As men have the desire for women, presenting an attractive woman and convincing that smoking appeals to women manipulate to purchase Tipalet. When men see Tipalet, they would feel the same desire that they feel for attractive women.

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This advertising is an example of Lifestyle manipulation, which tries to associate the product with a particular lifestyle to target a specific audience. In this case, smoking is represented as coolness and popularity, which many people have desires for.

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The last advertising uses fear as featuring the image of a burning cigarette with a gun to emphasize that smoking is the same as pointing the gun to yourself.

As shown here, these cigarette advertisings are so manipulative that promotes people to smoke although we all know that smoking cigarettes are bad for the health. Should we allow these advertisements on certain products such as cigarettes that can harm people? Or do we all know we are manipulated to avoid ourselves from purchasing?

Advertisements are ubiquitous. They're everywhere and there's nowhere to hide from them. They can be seen on virtually everything, such as TVs, magazines, newspapers, buses, billboards, etc. Advertisements are a prime example of classical conditioning, especially higher-order conditioning. By repeatedly pairing their products with certain images and sounds, advertisers are trying to establish classically conditioned connections between their brands and certain emotions.

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An example of this is the famous ASPCA ad with Sarah McLachlan, which can be seen here. The commercial displays heartbreaking images of animals in distress while McLachlan's ballad "Angel" plays in the background. The images of the abused animals evoke emotions of sympathy and compassion. The ad is trying to pull at your heartstrings and also your wallet. In the commercial, McLachlan asks viewers to join the ASPCA and to subsequently donate a monthly gift of $18. By using the devastating images of the animals, the ASPCA is trying to "guilt" viewers into donating money to the organization. The commercial portrays the ASPCA as a solution to fighting animal cruelty and the "humane" thing to do is to support their organization.

However, the commercial just seems morally wrong. In a desperate attempt to raise funds, they're exploiting the very animals they're trying to help. They're compelling people to donate, out of a sense of guilt, and I believe that it's a cheap methodology.

Why Cats Rule

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It has long been my opinion that cats are better pets than dogs. They don't have to be let outside to relieve themselves, you can leave them alone for a few days with ample food and water, and they don't bark at or try to hump every person that walks through the door. I love dogs as well, but when it comes to a pet a cat is more self sufficient and calm.

And now, more proof as to why cats are the ultimate pet. Cats can be trained! I found numerous videos illustrating cats doing the normal dog tricks such as high five, shake, play dead, etc. Then I came across this - a cat using a toilet, and flushing!

We are currently learning about, well learning. One area that caught my attention was how shaping principles are used in animal training. Shaping is done by conditioning a target behavior by progressively reinforcing behaviors that come closer and closer to the target. Where animal training is usually associated with dogs, I found ample examples of cat training, parrot training, even fish training! Yes, fish. Don't underestimate their awareness or intelligence. (I have included a fish trick example for your viewing enjoyment. In this example I'm sure training was done through chaining in conjunction with shaping. Chaining is when a number of interrelated behaviors are linked to form a longer series.)

These examples prove that more than just dogs are 'smart enough' to be trained. In the cat verses dog debate, the greatest dog lover objection is usually that cats are not as smart, and that litter boxes are gross. Well, not anymore.

My next cat will definitely be trained! Thanks PSY 1001!

Just for fun.....

The Chipotle Manipulation

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Watch the ad here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMfSGt6rHos

The use of advertisement servers as the foundation for modern television. Clearly, without advertisement, television would be a much different arena. Of the many types of advertisement, some of the most impactful ads center around themes of cultural identity, pride, and integrity.

Chipotle released a stop-motion ad based that centered around the values that Chipotle has as a brand. Titled "Back to the STart", Chipotle aimed to establish itself as an honorable brand by showing a pig farmer giving way to industrialization only to return back to good ole' fashioned farming. See below:

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Chipotle drew in quite a large audience with their "Back to the Start". Using classical conditioning, the ad uses stimulus such as Willie Nelson, Coldplay, modern cinematography, and work ethic as it establishes an emotionally invoking sentiment in an unrelated brand. As the commercial nears the end, the pig farmer realizes the dangers of abandoning ethic, and exhibits pride in his work.

However, Chipotle orchestrates this entire ad without presenting an evidence. They don't say their products are chemical-free or American-grown. In fact, when you consider Chipotle as a subsidiary of the McDonalds corporation, the evidence would seemingly show Chipotle to the contrary seeing as McDonalds is known for their additives and mass production. Furthermore, Chipotle was created in response to trending local restaurants. This means that the local businesses that bought homegrown, healthy ingredients were put out of business by franchise operations underselling the local businesses.

What do you think of a Chipotle misrepresenting itself? Should deliberately vague ads such as this one be allowed to run without some truth to their advertisement?

Most people have fond memories of learning to ride a bike. They also probably remember their parents reminding them to wear a helmet. And that seems like good advice. Riding your bike can be dangerous, especially in traffic, and if you fall a helmet can protect you from serious head injury. But there is a debate going on about how necessary bike helmets really are.
To a lot of people this may be a surprise. How could someone argue against the benefits of helmets. One article shows that of 653 bike related deaths in 2008, only 8% were wearing helmets. This would suggest that a lot of deaths could be prevented by wearing helmets and they should be mandatory.
But the opposing side has a strong argument as well. Another article shows that less than 1% of head injury deaths each year in the US are bike related. Driving and even walking are more dangerous in this respect and no one is suggesting mandatory helmet laws for those activities.220px-Bicyclehelmet_da_060713.jpg
There is also the argument that mandatory helmet laws decrease the likelihood that a person will choose to ride their bike. This is of course a bad thing as cycling is both great exercise and good for the environment. An article looking at mandatory helmet laws in Australia showed almost a 30% drop in the number of cyclists after the law was passed.
Clearly it's a complicated issue and it will likely be some time before it's decided. For now the best thing to do, whether you're wearing a helmet or not, is to follow traffic laws and pay vigilant attention

In "Out-of-body" experiences, an individual has a sense of our consciousness leaving our body. Often related to drug use and associated with a "paranormal" experience, out-of-body experiences provide us with an obstacle in thinking; they are a mystery to comprehend how perception can take us away from our own body.

It has been a common judgement to label people who claim to have an "out-of-body" experience as dramatic and exaggerating, or even crazy. How can one actually find themselves looking at their own body? This cannot be a possible perception of reality even in people whose vision is altered in some way. Unless someone is tricked by mirrors, how can one actually have such an experience?

In a New York times article from 2006, studies illustrate the science and explanation showing the brain's role in perceiving out-of-body experiences.

Neuroscientists have found evidence that these seemingly mystical experiences are actually induced by electrical currents traveling through the brain. By stimulating specific patches of brain tissues, scientists have been able to initiate these experiences in subjects.
By tricking our senses, our brain has the power not only to alter what we view around us.. but where our consciousness stands in relation to our own body.

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Prohibition! on sugar?

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Why are we so addicted to sugar? In the 1700, the average person consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per year. Today, however, more than 50% of all Americans consume one-half pound of sugar PER DAY (that equates to some 180 pounds of sugar per year). Obviously this is detrimental to the health of the population, seeing as 74.6% of all Americans are either overweight or obese. But why the sudden spike? And is sugar the only thing to blame?
We all know that sugar has become a constant presence in most of our foods. Has our addiction to it, however, gotten so severe that certain experts are proposing treating sugar as a controlled substance?
The first article I found takes a relatively reasonable stance on the subject and outlines the facts of our addiction to sugar. It is well known that sugar is an addictive substance, and according to this article, the same neurotransmitters in our brain are released when we consume sugar as when a person consumes certain drugs. This leads to a video outlining the dangers of sugar and how the substance should be more strictly controlled.
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Lastly, an article that takes a strong stance against the control of sugar uses some degree of an emotional reasoning fallacy. Do you think that the article loses some of its validity because it includes emotional reasoning even though the author of this article provides several great reasons for his case?

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It's incredibly fascinating that scientists still do not understand the true purpose of something as important as sleep. Instead we have a variety of explanations claiming it may help memory consolidation, neural development and connectivity, and the immune system among many others. Lilienfeld et al. mentions studies done on rats showing that they die after about two weeks of sleep deprivation, although they fail to mention how this form of chronic sleep deprivation affects humans. There is in fact a human disease where this happens.

In the prion disease fatal familial insomnia, patients possess a mutation that manifests in middle age as the inability to fall asleep. People who possess this mutation only live for about nine months before going into a coma and dying. Here is a link to a 20/20 episode on the disease: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIeTVVAEFn8. While this disease is rare, the symptoms experienced by patients can certainly be used to help further our understanding of sleep as well as prion diseases and other neural wasting diseases like Huntington's and Alzheimer's.

As stated in the video, patients who have died of the disease have donated their brains to research, and I find it somewhat baffling that we are still in the dark (pun intended) when it comes to why we sleep. About one third of our lives is spent sleeping, and we don't even have a firm grasp on what is a healthy amount of sleep to get per night let alone why it's necessary for life.

The Art of Deception

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Street Artists are known for their ability to create works of art that defy logic by playing with our perception. For many of these sidewalk street art pieces, the artists take advantage of monocular depth cues to create a sense of distance and relative size in their art, thereby adding an illusion of a deep chasm in the picture displayed above.

The artist behind the chasm image played with relative size of the objects in the image to create a sense of depth. By drawing the stalagmites smaller than the stalactites, the artist created the illusion that there is a steep drop down to the base of the chasm.

The artist also used lighting and shadow to add to the illusion. The darker shadows on the water cause the viewer to perceive that the water is far below them, and that the lighter colored stalactites are closer to the viewer.

While we know that this piece of art is really a 2-Dimensional representation of a 3-Dimensional occurrence, the use of monocular cues skews with the viewer's relative perception of the objects within the image to create depth. Street artists take advantage of the monocular depth cues to change their art from a flat drawing to a piece that messes with the perception and minds of the audience.
More examples of street art are available here

264_x.pngI have a stereotype that left handed people are geniuses. However, it turn out that they are just thinking differently. According to new research reviewed in the December issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, one of important factors would be our own bodies. Cognitive scientist Daniel Casasanto has shown that quirks of our bodies affect our thinking in predictable ways, across many different areas of life, from language to mental imagery to emotion. People come in all different shapes and sizes, and people with different kinds of bodies think differently. He defined this hypothesis as the 'body-specificity hypothesis.' Handedness influenced to our decision making and his colleagues explored whether being right-handed or left-handed influence our judgments about abstract ideas like value, intelligence, and honesty. Through many experiments, they proved that most people prefer the things that they encounter on the same side as their dominant hand. When participants were asked which of two products to buy, which of two job applicants to hire, or which of two alien creatures looked more trustworthy, People who are left-handed preferred the product, person, or creature they saw on the left side of the page while right-handed people preferred the one on the right. These kinds of preferences have been found in children as young as 5 years old. Casasanto explained that people like things better when they are easier to perceive and interact with. Right-handers interact with their environment more easily on the right than on the left. We could apply it to the real world. 90 percent of the population is right-handed, so people who need attract from others should consider that the right side of a page or a computer screen might be the 'right' place to be.
Click here to read the article.

Many of us go through life taking sight and vision for granted. But what about those people that do not have eyes with which they can see? Perhaps there is another way in which these people can "see" the world around them. This is the case for a boy named Ben Underwood. ben underwood.jpgDue to cancer, Ben lost both of his eyes at the age of two. By the age of six, Ben started using "clicks" that he would produce with his mouth in order to "see" objects around him. Ben uses these clicks to bounce off of objects and then listen for the returning sound waves. By doing this, Ben is able to produce a mental picture in his head of the relative sizes, shapes, and locations of what is around him. Echolocation, as this phenomenon is called, is also used by animals such as bats and dolphins.

Ben's ability to use echolocation is just one of the many examples of how humans are able to concentrate more on one sense to compensate for the loss of another. I do not want to give the false impression that Ben has a superhuman sense of hearing. In fact, Ben's hearing is very similar to the range of an average human's. Rather, Ben has been able to concentrate more attention to his hearing capabilities to compensate for his loss of vision. This phenomenal ability allows Ben to participate in many activities he might otherwise not be able to enjoy such as karate and rollerblading.

If you are interested, you can watch a clip and read about Ben's amazing story if you click here.

What can we learn from animals

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In terms of science, humans themselves are considered animals too. An animal with efficient language, high intelligence by comparison, complex social networking and specialized tasks for each individual within the network. Because of the complexity of human social networks, it is really hard to develop a model that explains human behavior. In psychology, we've learned that we can use animals to conduct experiments to get simpler model of human behavior. Furthermore, we should use animal behaviors to reflect our own behaviors, and question ourselves: are we logical?

When we look at the evolution process in nature. We can see that though natural selection, some species become stronger by fight over the right to mate, and some become more colorful by picking the most colorful male/female to mate.bird.jpg I think many people will agree, that the selection where the stronger traits get selected is more useful than the selection towards colorful in terms of which trait will be more likely to survive in nature. colored_pencil_lion.jpg
If there were a traits of lions that pick the most colorful mate instead of the strong ones, it would not win the competition to the traits that picks strong ones.


Now when we look at our own evolution, how do we pick our own mates? Should we pick the smart ones? Or the rich ones? Is richness determined by genes at all? What about our muscle size? Are those mainly the result of working out or genetic factors played a major role in that? Are picking the ones that have pretty face to be our mate really benefit our species? Should Love be the main factor of picking our mate instead of genetics? Because of our complexity, the evolution in human is quite messy in comparison to other species. The future of humanity, still an uncertain.

In a recent experiment, Marcus de Sautoy traveled to Wisconsin to find an answer to the question, "What does the difference in consciousness between waking and sleeping tell us about our sense of self?" In the experiment, scientists were able to use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in brains that were either asleep or awake in order to develop the key to consciousness. TMS is a discharge of a series of electrical shocks in a particular region of the brain. The results of the studies show that the difference between a conscious brain and an unconscious one is the location of different activity, or integration, in the brain. In a brain that is awake, a single shock initiates a series of responses in different areas of the brain including the stimulated area as well as non-stimulated. This communication allows the cerebral cortex to communicate with the rest of the brain, resulting in consciousness. However, in a brain that is asleep, activity in the brain is located only at the point of stimulation and not moving around the brain like it does when awake. tms.jpg

The information presented in this video provides a major find in the way our brain works. However, this test almost seems to be too simple to base a theory on. Although these scientists have created a reliable test of consciousness, is there a more valid test to come in the future? Would this test show the same results in people who sleepwalk?

Art Illusions

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The pieces of art done by this artist are perfect examples of how artists use some perception principles to enhance their work. In both pieces, there is an element of bottom-up processing. In bottom-up processing the entirety of the image--or in this case, art--is processed or constructed by the parts that make it up. In the first piece of art, the individual flowers stems, buds, leaves, and butterfly are essentially meaningless individually. But when seen together they portray a scene. In the second piece the tree and three flying birds do the same thing. Working with this bottom-up processing is the figure ground concept, which is one of the six Gestalt principles. As seen in the first artwork, the viewer can either draw their attention to the garden scene (the figure), or to the face of a woman created by these things (the background). Once again this concept is evident in the second image as well - the viewer can focus on the nature seen (figures) or the background that creates the image of a woman's face. As is evident in these pieces of art the perception principles of psychology are used by us everyday, whether we realize it or not. art_illusions_6.jpg art_illusions2.jpg

supertaster.jpgIf you're ever prompted with the word "supertaster," I'm willing to assume that you'd immediately respond expressing your jealous since they enjoy food on a whole new level. Just because the word super- is attached to the beginning is quite deceiving! According to the article Being a Supertaster is no Piece of Cake, Diane Mapes says it is a terrible thing. According to research done on supertasters the usual food they cannot stomach to consume is green vegetables. The surprising foods Mapes mentioned was that she could not stand eating cake or beer; in fact, she said her favorite meals are plain turkey sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. If you ask a supertaster what they enjoy eating they will probably respond by saying "the blander the better" because of their sensitive taste buds. Supertasters will stay as far away as possible from anything with large amounts of sugar, salt or spice. If they are not careful with spicy foods they could get the burning mouth syndrome and according to Dr. Hirsch, it's horribly disabling, you can't eat food, you can only drink water and it can be extremely painful--it feels like your mouth is literally on fire. supertaster2.jpgSo the next time you're consuming your favorite treat, take a minute to really appreciate the fact that you can eat that piece of cake and enjoy every single bite of it without hurting your tongue!

We've all been asked this question once, whether it was during an awkward ice breaker during or a personal questionnaire: If you could have one superpower what would it be? While most people answer, super speed or mind reading or telepathy, hardly anyone wants super taste. Maybe it is because super testing is not all it's cracked up to be! Before you can understand the problems associated with super tasting, you need to understand what a super taster is. A super taster is a person who can taste saltiness and bitterness more intensely than a regular person due to an increased density of taste buds. About 25% of the population is believed to have super tasting abilities, and women are more likely to be super tasters than men. Because of this they have different perceptions about food, and spicy foods are spicier.
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There are several problems that actually occur for people are super tasters. For example, they aren't able to enjoy certain foods as much. For example one super taster is unable to taste cake and they think that beer tastes like urine. The major health risk that rises with super tasters is that they require more salt to taste saltiness which means that the level of sodium they intake is far above the daily recommendation.
For More Information CNN and MSNBC Have Great Articles about supertasting.

Cornell University also created a quick 5-minute test to see if you're a super taster!

What truly happens when we fall to sleep? Does the brain ever render unconscious? The answer is essentially yes. In the BBC Horizon video, consciousness is tested through a transcranial magnetic stimulation test. The subject wears electrodes on their head, and those then act as microphones that record the "voices" moving through the brain. Interestingly enough, the results show that our brains network is extremely diverse, as well as integrated. While awake, the brain takes in the stimulus (an electrical shock) and sends it to different parts of the brain at different times. However, while sleeping the shock enters the brain, but the signal remains localized. So what does this really mean?
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It means that while we are sleeping our brain in sense disconnects itself from the other functioning lobes. The part of the brain that receives the signal, keeps it within itself and does not transfer the message to other portions. It seems as though our brain shuts down completely almost, but in reality it's just regenerating itself. I find this completely fascinating because it shows us just how intelligent our brain is. It's a global network that communicates with itself so intricately. Imagine what our lives would be like without our network. Our degree of awareness would be completely off-kilter and each part of the brain would need to be individually stimulated. We'd be the walking dead!

Here are some links on unconciousness and TMS

Most everyone knows that the canine's most powerful sense is its smell, but they don't realize that a dog is reliant on their hearing as well. Despite being cute and furry, a dog's large open ears contain at least 18 muscles which cause them to hear frequencies between 40 Hz and 60,000 Hz; whereas an average human can only hear between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz. Because of their hearing ability, canines are prone to loud sounds which hurt their ears, which contrasts many people who think "the louder, the better," due of our limited auditory capabilities.
big ears.jpg When annoyed by those around us, most humans try to unsuccessfully block out the incessant noise. Dogs on the other hand have exceptional selective hearing and have the ability to ignore the obnoxious noises humans make and can focus on the sound and exact location of something up to four times farther away than their master. So when you order your dog to 'sit' or 'stay' and it seems like they can't hear you- the truth is, they are probably just ignoring you. So next time your canine seems to be barking at nothing up a tree, chances are they can hear something you can't. For more details, Sarah can give you more information!

Vegetarianism, a very simple idea yet so hard for people in America to grasp. Vegetarianism first originated in India. The primary reason for vegetarianism in India was to promote Ahimsa. Ahimsa simply means non-violence. Later on, vegetarianism spread across the world, particularly to America. It became well known in America because it followed the whole "going green" initiative. Recently, The Telegraph came out with an article which stated that adopting a vegetarian diet based around meat substitutes such as tofu can actually cause more harm to the environment. Reading this your probably wondering why would anyone be a vegetarian? On the contrary, athletes, especially runners love the idea of vegetarianism. In a recent article by Clint Chepra, he states that in the sport of ultra-running, a plant based nutrition has more benefits compared to a carnivorous diet. Another argument that many times comes up is meat is the primary source of protein. In a study done by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, they concluded that the vegetarian diet did not have adverse effects on bone loss.

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Overall all these articles have valid claims and are mostly accurate. What makes them accurate is the research and studies which have gone on behind the scenes. For example, in the bone loss study, they did research on 200 females over the course of 2 years to ensure that they got unbiased data. For the ultra-running claim, Mr. Chepra went through many different exercises to come up with his findings

In conclusion, research shows that the pros outweigh the cons for vegetarianism. Though tofu may harm the environment there is more than just tofu to vegetarianism. In fact there are more than vegetables to vegetarianism! Of course you don't have to take my word for it. Let the research speak for itself!

Hail Seitan

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By John Corrigan
Question : Is it possible for humans to get all essential nutrients from plants alone, and to maintain health on a diet of entirely plants?

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As mammals, we are what we eat. Right? Food and water go in, we take the molecules we have evolved to need for our essential body processes, then we expel what we don't want into various places usually involving some form of hole in the ground. As college students and adults, I expect that you are completely aware of this and probably think I'm talking about it to use up required word space on my blog entry. I deny this.

The question is if our species (humans, you and me!) can get all the essential nutrients we need not just to survive, but to be healthy, from plants and plants alone. There are of course many reasons someone might be head over heels to try this, but for the purposes of this blog, I am willing to focus on health. Food science has come a LONG way in recent years. Even the existence of it at all is microscopic on the time scale of human history just a few million years long. We seem to be unlocking new secrets every week about the vast and wonderful complex machines that compose the bodies of living organisms such as ourselves. But through observation and experimentation, we have a fairly good understanding of what substances we need to put inside ourselves to stay healthy and happy.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that eating a plant based diet is inherently unhealthy. Slightly more effective thinking might suggest that humans need to eat other animals because we have historically done it and it is an integral part of our evolutionary process. But the real question in my mind is "Can we isolate the essential nutrients that humans have traditionally received from animal flesh, find them all in plants, and then effectively consume them?" Milk (and other dairy products) can likely be left out of the discussion as they are a recent development in our evolutionary history, and of course are meant for growing calves whose nutritional needs are much different from a full grown adult human, and even a growing human child.

Many people disagree, often quite fervently. Here is an article titled "How Our Vegan Diet Made us Ill," written by a mother who claims that after three years of a raw vegan diet, her family's health had deteriorated to the point that serious damage was being done to the family's long term health. There are a few strange claims I'd like to point out (and of course criticize) including -
- One morning at breakfast, when her daughter smiled Paige (the mother) "suddenly noticed" that her daughters teeth were "pitted with holes." (She wasn't paying enough attention to her children for three years to notice any change in their teeth until one morning when she was suddenly shocked? Did her children not smile in the previous years?

- Paige goes on to describe a trip to the grocery - "I remember going to the supermarket and buying butter for my older children. Lizzie, who had never had butter in her life, would grab the packet and gnaw into it," says Paige. "It was really disconcerting. I would be thinking, 'What is going on? Here is this purely fed child - why would she need to do this?' I was so brainwashed into thinking dairy products are bad for you." (Your young 3 year old, who had never learned to eat butter, never been taught to eat butter, and never tasted butter, instinctively recognized PACKAGED BUTTER by eyesight it in a grocery store and instinctively knew not only what it was and what was in it but that it contained nutrients that her body was deficient in, proceeding to grab it and start gnawing on it like a squirrel starving in winter? Since she was also deficient in Vitamin D, did she also rip open boxes of Vitamin D fortified Lucky Charms and slice holes in cartons of soy milk, chugging it in aisle 9 while struggling to lap up every last drop because of the precious nutrients her body badly needed? Because, DNA is just so amazing, it is teaching kids about a packaged dairy product label which has, in all likelihood, changed its logos at least once since this child's genetic makeup was determined. Stunning developments.

NOTE : If there is a place in our psych textbook or elsewhere that mentions a study that proves that 3 year olds can analyze recently invented packaged foods from afar without prior learned experience, and posts the link in the comments or brings it to me in class, I will drop out of college and became a hermit, living in a cave of shame.)

- And last, my personal favorite 'Finally, Paige stumbled across the answer in an old vitamin book. Although she has no medical confirmation, she believes the family had symptoms of vitamin D- and protein-deficiency. "I felt like such an idiot. I got the information from a book I'd had sitting around on my shelf for 20 years."' (Really?! A "Vitamin book? A vitamin book?" What kind of person suddenly decides to enact a radical change in diet shortly before giving birth and without so much as spending 20 minutes finding out about something so basic and easy as Vitamin D or where to get protein? In my mind, I'm picturing this woman in labor screaming "WOW, MORE CONTRACTIONS! THIS HURTS SO BAD! FROM NOW ON OUR FAMILY WILL EAT NOTHING BUT RAW FRUITS, NUTS AND UNCOOKED VEGETABLES!" Maybe she was too busy not taking her kids to the doctor to spend seconds reading food labels and doing any sort of basic math. And of course "without medical confirmation?!!" Her children had holes in their teeth and symptoms of serious malnutrition and she didn't even consult a medical professional (in an industrialized nation that has free at the point of use public healthcare - as far as I know she lives in the UK I didn't see a location in the article-) after this incredible revelation?

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Seriously, the star character of this article is either a liar, suffering from severe memory loss (maybe from the lack of protein of which you could have been getting from dozens of common plants if you had the ability or will to do any sort of minimal research) or completely crazy. She also claimed to have regular "butter binges" in the final year of the diet, which I think would disqualify her from said diet on the technicality that she was regularly eating large amounts of butter. The author takes her at her word, and fails to elaborate on where essential nutrients (calcium especially) can be found in a wide variety of plants. I hope you don't think I came out searching to write a hit piece. In truth, it's just that this was absolutely the VERY FIRST RESULT when I Google searched "vegan diet is unhealthy," and it's not exactly coming from a source like Glenn Beck or Alex Jones. In truth, I expected to find a somewhat cogent scientific or logical argument (which I would then lambaste mercilessly) invoking the limits of what we know about nutrition, amino acids and blah blah blah, or on the historical human diet. This just appalled me, and I wrote perhaps too many words about it because the sheer idiocy and likely inaccuracy of these claims drove me into a temporary state of insane rage. I apologize.

The thing that really bothers me the most is how this one example of a poorly planned, misinformed, poorly executed, and in all likely hood somewhat fabricated (because of the teeth, and grocery store bits among other things) RAW vegan diet is used to sweep the vegan diet away from consideration, as it is woefully unhealthy. First of all, a raw vegan diet is COMPLETELY different than a vegan diet in many ways, in nutrient intake and for the reasons for doing so. I am not in any way personally advocating a strict raw vegan diet, as I think they are stupid, pointless and often unhealthy, not to mention lacking in variety and sometimes deliciousness (although, eating fruit every day isn't so bad for the taste buds). Beans and soymilk alone could have fixed the deficiencies mentioned in this story, among countless other foods. That's what makes me really angry, is how that important obvious truth is lost in the seas of ignorance and false association. I could go on and on.

Back to the original question -The simple fact is that yes, as far as we (or maybe just me?) know, all the nutrients essential for humans can be found in relatively common farmed plants. There are many examples of healthy people who eat a completely plant based diet and are extremely healthy. In the age of science, the internet, and food label laws (Huzzah for food label laws!) it's not that hard. Chipotle burritos come with free guac, there is 50% more calcium in Silk soy milk than in cow milk (as well as a crapload of B12), and Asian/Indian food is freaking delicious. But I risk rambling and sounding biased...

More importantly to the focus of my blog post here is this list of plant based foods in which essential nutrients and info can be found. This shows that it is possible to get all of the various nutrients that humans need from plants if we learn about them and pay attention to what we eat. While there are differences, health is theoretically possible, and from personal experience, not incredibly difficult, and as a bonus, usually less expensive than a standard American diet. That being said, someone who lives in a food desert and only has KFC, BK and McDonalds within walking distance won't find it healthy or even possible. Obviously, everyone is in a different situation from everyone else, and while it is possible to get all essential nutrients on a plant based diet, it does not guarantee health. There are even fat vegans (yes, I wouldn't have believed it myself had I not met them.)

My third reference is from the book "Thrive Fitness : The Vegan Based Training Program" by Brendan Brazier, and while I have not cited an article, this is his page. I thought that he is a perfect example for the fact that a well planned 100% plant based diet initiated during adolescent growth (age 15 in his case) can be healthy enough to produce a professional Ironman athlete, 2 time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion and eCornell guest lecturer. However, in the book he also makes the outrageous claim that proper nutrition and exercise as a preventative treatment for skyrocketing obesity and diabetes, especially among children would save us from having to treat symptoms of chronic diseases and suffer in the future. What a radical idea... Eat right and exercise. Ensure intake of sufficient nutrients and use your muscles or lose them! Or I suppose you could chomp sticks of fatty goo in the aisles of your local neighborhood supermarket like a rabid raccoon because in the last few thousand years you've evolved nutrient telekinesis. In fact, you could join the X-Men, but you would be competing with Longneck for the honor of All Time Lamest Character.

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In conclusion, it is possible to get all human essential ingredients from nothing but plants.
Haters gonna hate!

For my second blog post I opened the book to a random chapter and started looking around. The chapter I picked happened to be number 9, "Intelligence and IQ Testing." One of the sections talked about different intelligence types which each had different characteristics. So in other words, someone might have a high Musical intelligence while having a low Spatial intelligence. Reading this reminded me of a time when someone was discussing President Bush. They said that even though he often comes off as stupid he actually has a genius I.Q. level. After reading part of this chapter I decided to go do a little bit of research myself.

bush-iq.pngWhat I found out is that, while the person was exaggerating about his "genius" I.Q. level, their statement was generally true. There actually is no recorded I.Q. score for Bush, but based off of his 1206 on the SAT it can be guessed that his I.Q. score is somewhere around 120-- definitely not the score of dimwit. Based solely off of his SAT score he was in the top 16% of prospective college students. So while President Bush was no genius it is obvious that he would not be the only person to get an "F" on an I.Q. test. What Bush lacked is the intelligence type Linguistic, the ability to speak and write well. While he generally a smart person he would come off as stupid. I thought this was an interesting reminder to not judge a book by its' cover. More on intelligence types here


Sources: http://www1.csbsju.edu/uspp/election/bush011401.htm

The Screen Adds Ten Pounds

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Recently, people have been looking for an answer to the obesity "crisis". Television viewing and computer use are both scrutinized as leading factors of obesity, especially in teens. They are activities that leave people sedentary, looking at a screen for a long period of time. There are different thoughts about how the increased reliance on computers over the years has correlated to people becoming overweight. One article claims they are strongly associated based on a study from the 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey; it found that men and women who have more "screen time" are more likely to be obese. The way the author presented the data was unbiased compared to others, making it more believable. Another article took a different approach to the topic, focusing more on the brain. It states, "Studies show that when the pre-frontal cortex is damaged, making it less active, people take more risks and become more reckless. And the fatter people are, the less active the brain region." This argument, in my opinion, is farfetched. The two don't really seem to relate to each other. The last article is more reliable because it makes it clear that there may be other causes at work regarding obesity. It's hard to say that computers and television are definitely at fault here. Childhood_Obesity_2004_Linda_Braucht_20th_C_1574R-018998.jpg

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There is a new diet fad called the HCG diet. It consists of taking an injection or drop of HCG and eating only 500 calories per day. It claims to give you more energy, burn your fat, and decrease your craving for sweets. This helps you lose weight very quickly. I read three articles about it and they all had conflicting claims about the diet.



It is pretty easy to identify how good the information is in each of the articles. The first 2 seem pretty bias about the information and even have a place to click to purchase the diet supplement. They claim that there is no better way for you to shed unwanted pounds. It claims that it is a very fast and very safe way to lose weight. The last article showed the harmful effects of the HCG diet. It tells the reader that you should look somewhere else for weight loss because of all the negative aspects of using it. It shows how there is no scientific evidence supporting the diet. It even quotes the FDA in saying that no evidence has been presented to substantiate the claims made for HCG as a weight-loss aid. This was the only fact with information to back up its claim. This is why I think that this article is more accurate than the others. I'm curious to see what other people think about this new debated diet.

After many, many years, the Nature versus Nurture debate still continues. It is applicable to nearly all psychological topics; including face recognition. ScienceDaily recognizes a study that attempts to show that nurture, not nature has a significant role in a person's ability to recognize faces. Click here to read the article.

The article's findings are highly interesting because the study compared the fixation bases, or where people look, in order to determine whose face is whose. They specifically compared Western Caucasians with East Asians. Westerners tend to look at specific facial features, such as the eyes and the mouth. On the other hand, East Asians focus on the nose and the center of the face. The following picture helps to depict the findings. The Western Caucasian (WC) results are in red and the East Asian (EA) results are in blue.
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Though these results are intriguing, they are not the only explanation for facial recognition. The lower part of our temporal lobe responds to faces; nature plays a role in facial recognition. Without our genes (nature), we would not have developed a working temporal lobe to recognize faces.

Both the environment and our genetics play a role in our ability to recognize faces. Both of these need to be considered when looking at facial recognition because nature and nurture, together, affect our abilities.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Blog 2 category from February 2012.

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