Writing 2: October 2011 Archives

Pica Disorder

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Pica is a disorder that is characterized by an appetite for substances that are non-nutritive. An example of what one person might eat would be clay, metal, sand and dirt. It can go to even higher extremes and one might eat batteries, spoons toothbrushes. In my friends roommates case, she eats aluminum can tabs and the white strings that can come from your jeans. Pica can be seen in all ages, but is normally found in women and children. Either way, there are some very serious health hazards such as lead poisoning, bowel problems, intestinal obstruction and dental injury. The reasons for Pica can be linked to a mental disorder, or mineral and iron deficiency. Ways to treat Pica range from a lot of different approaches. If it is a child that keeps putting dirt in their mouth, its just a physical restraint that is needed to keep objects out of the mouth. For older women taking zinc as a supplement will help balance out the chemical imbalances. So todays lesson, don't eat random objects!!!

hypnosis and weight loss

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There's a section in chapter five that describes hypnosis because it's an altered state of consciousness. As Katherine Zeratsky, a nutritionist for the Mayo Clinic, says in a Q and A with an expert found at , "When you're under hypnosis, your attention is highly focused and you're more responsive to suggestions." Some suggestions that could be made are to lose some weight. Although there's no proof that hypnosis alone can cause any weight loss, probably the biggest obstacle for people who want to is just finding the motivation. That can be where hypnosis would be handy, because if you were in a kind of trace that made you more open to suggestions, subconsciously you could take the suggestion to become motivated to lose that weight that you wanted.
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According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the two top leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease and cancer ("Leading Cause of Death"). Lifestyle choices can greatly affect the causes of both diseases, including diet (Boyer 1). "An apple a day can keep the doctors away," is a common saying that everyone is familiar with. Can consuming something as cheap and ordinary as whole apples really keep the doctors away? Research findings show that the consumption of apples could reduce risk of chronic diseases such as various cancers and asthma, which can actually lead to a reduced chance of having to have to meet with doctors.

Based on various case studies, apples were found to have a positive effect on reducing asthma risks and improving lung conditions. In a recent study involving over 13,000 adults in the Netherlands shows that apples might positively affect lung function. Participants who consumed over 5 apples a week showed a much greater forced expiratory volume ("Asthma Facts and Figures"), which means healthier functioning lungs. The Australian and Netherland studies were able to show that apples can positively affect our lung function, as well as decrease asthma risks to help us keep the allergists at bay.

Apple peel in particular is the most beneficial part of an apple because it contains the greatest total antioxidant activity, which contributes to the prevention of cancer cell proliferation (Wolfe 609). Thus, it is most beneficial to consume whole apples where the skin is included. Increase in consumption of apples can lead to lower risk of chronic diseases, which leads to increase in chance of keeping the doctors away. So the phrase, "An apple a day can keep the doctors away." is not all myth after all.

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"Asthma Facts and Figures." Aafa.org. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2010.
Boyer, Jeanelle, and Rui H. Liu. "Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits." Nitrition Journal 3.5 May 2004: 1-15. Print.
Wolfe, Kelly, Xianzhong Wu, and Rui H. Liu. "Antioxidant Activity of Apple Peels." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

sleeping-student.jpg So how much influence does sleep actually have on our performance?
As a college student, I am short on sleep almost all the time. With work, school, student activities, and other events taking most of my time, it's hardly a surprise to live my life mostly on caffiene.
According to an article "College students' performance suffers from lack of sleep" posted on USATODAY.com, poor performance has a lot to do with sleep. In the article it talks about how lack of sleep and pulling an all nighter can cut back on students' performance. Moreover, this article also does a great job providing the readers with scientific evidence. It says A study at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., indicated what may seem obvious to most: All-nighters are not an effective way to succeed in school."
Also the psychology professor who wrote the study says, "You can't do your best work when you're sleep-deprived" She studied the sleeping patterns of 111 students and then looked into see if there was any correlation with their GPA. To sum it up in a brief sentence, the result of this study showed that people who pull all nighter tend to have GPA that is slightly lower than average, and also the study indicated that short-term side effects of sleep deprivation include delayed reactions and tendencies to make mistakes.
I, as an college student, agree with the outcome of this study. When I pull an all nighter, my reaction definitely becomes slower. I once pulled an over nigh right before a midterm. I thought studying all night would help me review and remember a lot of the stuff we covered but it was no help at all. I ended up getting much lower score than I expected. It's the same with any physical challenge as well. At another instance, after pulling an all nighter, I went to play basketball with my friends. Normally, I am very attentive and can play with efficiency if I have gotten enough sleep. But because of my all nighter, my reaction was slow and at times I slipped the ball from my hands.
I understand it's hard to find time to sleep when you got things that are much better to do. But if more college students realized how important sleep is and how much it helps with their performance, I think a lot of people will be much happier with their grade and performance. So next time when you're about to pull an all nighter, think about how it'll affect your next day and your overall performance.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-09-16-sleep-deprivation_N.htm

Placebo: Curing our Mind

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In the article, a man had cancer and thought he could beat it with a cure for cancer drug. The drug called, Krebiozen was thought to cure cancer and the man believed that if he took it, he would be cured from cancer. According to the article after getting a dose of Krebiozen, "Mr. Wright's tumors had shrunk by half, and after 10 more days of treatment he was discharged from the hospital" (Niemi 1). But the downside was the drug that was supposed to cure the cancer didn't work on anyone else in the hospital diagnosed with cancer.
There are many places placebo's can be found. One is at a stoplight. When trying to cross at a stoplight you would hit the cross to walk button. It makes us think that if we press the button the walk man light will come on soon after and the red hand will go away. But in actual truth, the walk man goes away when the light changes due to car traffic. Another placebo is in medicine. There are pills that are placebo's but we believe are the real thing. There are many other places that placebo's can be found and through our mind we believe that they actually affect and or help us.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=placebo-effect-a-cure-in-the-mind

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Sleep Cycles

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Sleep is one of the basic necessities, yet something that many college students are lacking. Most adults require anywhere from 7.5-9 hours of sleep per night. I personally receive an average amount of 6 hours of sleep due to the daily consequences of a busy schedule. I have recently been researching how to get more out of my sleep, to see if there was anything in my control to feel more awake during the day without the use of caffeine. I came across this website, which allows users to enter in the time at which they need to wake up and it will calculate when they should go to sleep according to sleep cycles in order to get the most out of their sleep. Feeling skeptical of this site, I looked for other evidence of the sleep/wake cycle timing and came across this site . It explains that if people wake up between sleep cycles (which usually last approximately 90 minutes) compared to in the middle of one, they may wake up feeling more refreshed because their brain and body is closer to wakefulness when their alarm goes off in the morning at the end of the sleep cycle. Upon going to sleep at the website's recommended time last night, I noticed being more awake this morning and not feeling as groggy as I usually would. That being said, I also got more sleep last night than I would have on a weekday so the wakefulness could be due to another factor. I will be trying this again in hopes that it will make getting out of bed in the morning just a bit less painful.

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BBC Horizon: The Secret You

The experiment conducted in this video was measuring the difference of consciousness between sleeping and awake brains. Researchers hooked the subject up to monitors with a number of electrodes, and monitored their brain activity while they received a series of small electrical shocks. The shocks were administered during periods in which the subject was both awake and asleep. It was found that in the awake brain, activity could be seen throughout the brain, even in parts far away from the stimulated side, while in the sleeping brain, there was still some activity, but only in smaller, localized areas. It was as if certain parts of the brain were shut down during sleep. The experimenters believe that this is the key to consciousness, and therefore it can draw a lot of conclusions as to a person's sense of self. This relationship between consciousness and integrated thought is believed to play a major part in who a person is. This experiment offers the explanation of diversity and unity within the brain. These two aspects play a major role in consciousness and a person's thought process when they are working together. This is because the brain is a network that works together, and these connections are what help our brains to function properly. This experiment helped to answer a lot of questions regarding a person's level of consciousness as it compares to their self-awareness, and also made way for many more questions to be investigated in the future. This experiment has the potential to be modified in order to measure different things such as the degree of complexity within different species, or it may even be transformed to measure machines and whether or not they can overcome consciousness. Overall, this experiment helped researchers to learn a lot about consciousness, and it has paved the way for many studies in the future.

The Placebo Effect

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The placebo effect is a phenomenon in an experiment which occurs when the participant expects a treatment to result in improvement and therefore improvement occurs. To avoid the placebo effect researchers often use a sugar pill referred to as the placebo. Both groups then receive treatments of identical appearance and this then masks whether the participant is on the real or fake treatment. This is a crucial part of an experiment, without the placebo it would be questionable if the results where due to the actual treatment or just the expectations of the participants.

This relates to my life because on the college campus many people often consume alcohol. Without having a lot to drink people often tend to act differently. Shy and reserved people tend to be more outgoing. I often wonder whether this is the effect of alcohol or the placebo effect that acts upon these students. This Article states that 150 students thought they were drinking vodka and tonic with limes, and they showed signs of intoxication, however, there was no alcohol in their drinks. A principle of critical thinking that could be applied to this article is replicability. To ensure that this claim was just not a fluke with this group of people, another experiment could be conducted to further support this article.

http://www.damninteresting.com/social-drinking/


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Sleep Deprivation

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Sleep Deprivation
Jackie Yasgar

Sleep Deprivation is a condition that is caused by lack of sleep. It affects the cognitive functions of the brain and in turn results in body aches, headaches, irritability, depression, hallucinations, hand tremors and many more. WebMD outlines some short term and long term effects of getting lack of sleep. The short term effects listed are decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, stress relationships, poor quality of life, occupational injury and automobile injury. The long term affects include high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, obesity, psychiatric problems, attention deficit disorder, mental impairment, fetal and childhood growth retardation, injury from accidents, disruption of bed partner's sleep quality and poor quality of life. Another huge effect sleep deprivation causes is weight loss or gain. According to our Lilienfeld Psychology book, researchers believe sleep deprivation is the factor that has mainly caused obesity in the last few decades. This is such a significant problem, because sleeping patterns are a very important part in how the body functions. Writing about this topic is extremely interesting for me because, like most college students, I have definitely fallen victim to this problem. College and homework play an enormous role in why college students lose sleep. When we did the sleep inventory test in our psych discussion last week, every student's results that we recorded in our averages reflected a typical college student. They all proved that sleep deprivation was an issue in their lives. Another thing I found interesting was that sleep deprivation was more common in females. We hypothesized that this is because most females stress a lot more about school, relationships, and what people think about them. Also, females need to set a lot more time aside for getting ready in the morning, which might be a reason why they are getting less sleep. A vocab word that our book used when talking about sleep deprivation is insomnia. Insomnia is difficulty falling and staying asleep (Lilienfeld 171). I have really experienced this in my life, and more specifically, in my college career. When I end up staying up late doing homework and studying, I reach a point where when I lay down to go to sleep, I am so over tired that it is actually hard for me to fall asleep. Also, when I worry about school and upcoming tests, I often continue to wake up and fall back asleep throughout the night, which definitely effects how I feel the next day. I always feel fatigued and groggy during the day. The worst feeling is not being able to stay awake during class; I can definitely admit to letting sleep deprivation be a part of my life.

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It has been said that when people ingest turkey, usually on Thanksgiving Day, they get tired due to the chemical compound L- tryptophan. This has been an excuse for thousands of people to take naps and even go to bed early on days that turkey is eaten. The claim that turkey and L- tryptophan makes you tired has been a prevalent belief throughout the United States and Europe, but how truthful is this statement?
Through some of the principles of critical thinking, this statement can be evaluated. The most important principle for this claim is principle #2, which states that correlation does not equal causation. Even though there is a positive correlation between eating turkey and being tired, that does not mean that the consumption of turkey, and L-tryptophan, causes drowsiness. There is also the problem of the third variable. There could be an alternate variable that is causing the correlation between the consumption of turkey and tiredness. The alleged correlation could also come from people with confirmation bias that are unknowingly supporting their views by denying evidence, dismissing evidence, or even distorting it to fit their own theory. However, since this situation has a high replicability, it will be easy to test and uncover the truth. The principle of critical thinking that states that correlation does not equal causation is the most useful way to evaluate this claim.
Recent tests have come to find that L-tryptophan is not uncommon to most meats that are consumed. Turkey contains more than some of the other meats, however the amounts that are traceable are not high enough cause drowsiness. Even though turkey is most often consumed on Thanksgiving Day, where turkey is the main dish, it does not necessarily mean that it is the main cause for people being tired after the meal. The real cause for the correlation was a third variable. The consumption of large portions of food and alcohol is the true culprit for the correlation, and both of these things are common on Thanksgiving Day!

Learn more at http://www.snopes.com/food/ingredient/turkey.asp and http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97449569

Marijuana: A Gateway Drug?

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Unknown.jpegIn the Lilienfeld text it says that many researchers argue that marijuana is a "gateway" drug that influences users to try harder drugs such as heroin. However, it is very hard to test and prove that it actually is a gateway drug. Researchers cannot prove that if someone tries marijuana that they will be more susceptible to trying harder drugs in the future. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that a person who smokes marijuana is more than 104 times more likely to use cocaine than a person who never tries the drug. An article from Time Magazine brings in an argument against this. The article states, "Hell's Angels motorcycle gang members are probably more than 104 times more likely to have ridden a bicycle as a kid than those who do not become Hell's Angles, but that doesn't mean that riding a two-wheeler is a "gateway" to joining a motorcycle gang." This means that people who never ride bikes probably would never join a motorcycle gang. The article is trying to prove the point that people who do not use marijuana will probably not use harder drugs, but just because they do try marijuana does not mean that it serves as a gateway to harder drugs. This is showing that correlation is not causation. The correlation that marijuana users will try harder drugs does not automatically imply that marijuana use was the cause of the use of the harder drugs. The debate still continues today between whether marijuana is a gateway drug or not.

Here is the link to the Time Magazine article:
Marijuana as a Gateway Drug: The Myth That Will Not Die

Racism Breeds Ignorance

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People who are the subjects of constant, negative stereotypes can be greatly hurt. And those who are subjects of negative stereotypes, typically adopt the negative traits that are attributed to them. This is something that is happening to a lot of minorities in today's world, which is not a good thing. This is sometimes the ruin of some minorities. It is very unfortunate that these victims truly do suffer from stereotypes and prejudice.

Richard Petty, Ph.D, and some of his colleagues did a study on what stereotypes and prejudice can actually do to one's cognitive performance. Petty had some students screened using the Modern Racism Scale to test for racist traits. He picked 86 students that scored the highest and lowest on the MRS. He then asked the students to complete an essay on a day in the life of fictitious student named either Tyrone or Erik. After completing those essays, the students were then asked to complete 30 math problems in the time span of 20 minutes. The results were significant! Those who associated Tyrone with being African-American and used stereotypes to describe him in their essay scored lower than those who did not use stereotypes to describe Tyrone.

This just goes to show how stereotypes and prejudice can truly effect one's cognitive performance. Another test was done where people scored lower on a general knowledge test when they had the stereotype of supermodel activated. But when the stereotype of professor was activated, they scored higher on the test. But researchers have found that people who scored low on the MRS performed just as poorly on the math section if they had identified Tyrone as African-American. This is very odd in my opinion. It just goes to show that correlation does not equal causation. It also shows that there isn't a big correlation either. People, have a good image of yourself, it will benefit you in the end.

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Conditioning and Free Will

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Does the principle of conditioning and how it affects our everyday behaviors disprove free will? Free will is the ability to make decisions without any outside influence and act solely through one's own discretion. Then if conditioning shapes how we act and the way our mind works, that would imply that we have no free will. B.F. Skinner argues this as seen in this video on operant conditioning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhvaSEJtOV8

Skinner argues that if free will is doing something in a voluntary way or having the will to act, then if you examine the history of these actions there are external influences. He implies that we can discover the cause of our behaviors, and therefore "dispose of the imagined internal cause" of our actions.

He also asserts that people only have the notion of free will since they know about their behaviors and not their causes. Behaviorism explores these causes and attributes actions to external influences which in turn takes away from the belief of free will. That is the power of conditioning: to act without being aware of the external influences on your behavior.

Overall, this does not disprove free will. It is an ongoing debate (as discussed in chapter 1) that has many schools of thought. After all, how much of our behavior can be attributed to conditioning? Some of it may be attributed to our genetics and our upbringing (which is mostly conditioning by our parents) as seen in the nature/nurture debate. The question that still needs to be answered is if all of our behavior can be accounted for by conditioning, genetics, and all of the external influences. If not, then free will must exist.

Sleep Boosts Our Memory?

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As college students, we tend to stay up late into the night studying for that big test we have the next day, no matter how tired we may be. Personally, I feel like I will never remember to finish anything in the morning or if I don't make sure I know everything now, I will never remember it. According to this article, when we sleep, we start to recall things that we may have forgotten during the day and even have a better retention rate of new information. In the study that was performed, college students were able to recognize more words in a distorted speech after they had slept through the night than they could understand the night before. This relates directly to our discussion of sleep and memory and how they affect each other.

If this is in fact true, that would mean that students shouldn't be staying up late going over the same 10 pages of their textbook over and over again, but going over it once or twice and then going to sleep. This would then have a better effect on our performance on those tests we may have the next day. While this method probably isn't the most effective study method, it appears that it would definitely help those of us that procrastinate for as long as we possibly can, however minimal that effect might be. In my experience, this seems to be true. Studying for a bit and then getting a full nights sleep, rather than cramming and pulling an all-nighter, would certainly give you a better result in recalling things the next day.

Deja Vu

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Have you ever had that strange feeling of I feel like I have "seen this" or "done this" before? Scientist would call this experience déjà vu, which is French for "already seen." Déjà vu is reliving an event that is new to you. It is believed by some other people that Déjà vu is a "flashback" from a previous life before. Which scientifically speaking is very difficult to find any evidence to back up that particular theory. There can be many reason for this phenomenon to occur and we can't correlate it to any specific reason.

In an article from the "Science Daily" a new theory has emerged, from the psychologist Anne M. Cleary, showing similarities between déjà vu and the humans recognition memory. We have not gone over memory much yet in Psychology 1001, but it applies to déjà vu. "Recognition memory is realizing that what we are currently experiencing has already been experienced before" (ScienceDaily). Of recognition memory déjà vu is believed to be an example of familiarity-based recognition memory. Which can be explained as recognizing the event or person, but not sure why your recognize the event or person.

Personally I believe that déjà vu does has a lot to do with our memory. I don't believe in the "paranormal" beliefs or when people say "Oh you must have remember it from a previous life." There is no scientific evidence to back that kind of theory up. You can't make an experiment out of those two theories. Much of that is religious based or just your own personal belief. Belief perseverance is a perfect definition to describe it. It's the tendency to stick to our initial beliefs even when evidence contradicts them. We also learned in psychology that our beliefs creates bias.

Déjà vu is an interesting phenomenon to occur. I cannot describe or begin to understand how it work. Our brain is a very complex organ and I know scientist will be discovering new things about it all the time.

We've all heard of the show, Mythbusters, where two guys, Jamie and Adam take rumors, myths, movies scenes, news stories, etc and use seemingly scientific ways of testing out the validity of the claims. One episode focused on the long time myth that hypnosis can improve memory. There have been stories where crime witnesses recall important details of the scene of the crime under hypnosis that they didn't recall before. In this episode and clip I've attached three people from the show are put under hypnosis and asked questions about an encounter that happened earlier that afternoon.

The results were surprising, all three people claimed to have recalled specific results from the scene that they hadn't remembered earlier. Within 30 seconds of seeing the results the show stamped a confirmed sticker on the myth and moved on. So does this prove it? Does hypnosis really enhance your memory? I for one am not fully convinced. The show showed only one scenario where it actually worked. We don't know if the event could be replicated over and over again. If it worked this time, how many times does it not work? Perhaps this myth can be explained by a much simpler explanation (Occam's Razor). Maybe it worked this time because the three people just needed more time to recall some of the details from the earlier scene and they eventually would have recalled the same memories. And keep in mind, this IS a television show so the results of the experiment could easily have been manipulated to be more exciting for the viewing audience. I mean how much fun would it be if the show shot down myth after myth after myth.

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For this entry I watched the first segment of the BBC Horizon video. The big question was, when do we become aware of being our own individual? My question is, is it possible to remember the first moment when you knew you were of existence? Ever since I was younger, I thought I had known the moment when I knew I existed. I can remember feeling "alive" and like I knew what was going on. After watching the mirror self recognition test, I question if that moment was really the first thing I remember. I was three years old at the time, and according to the video, you knew of yourself by about two years of age. I wonder what types of animals have self recognition. For example, does my dog know she is a dog? Does she know that she is spoiled and does not have to do anything but sit around the house all day? It seems like she would know she is a dog and who she is because of other dogs that she is around, but this is one question the world may never know. I have always wondered if my dog notices my face, or if she gets excited to see any human being. Is there any way of testing if a dog has any self recognition? Lastly, I wonder if humans with Alzheimer's Disease have self-recognition. If death is really the price we pay for self-awareness, maybe Alzheimer's takes the away the anxiety of knowing our consciousness will be gone forever. Alzheimer's always seems scary to me, but maybe it isn't. Maybe Alzheimer's is more natural then we thought, and really isn't a disease. Our first few years of our life we have no self-awareness, and for a lot of people, your last few years you have no self-awareness. In the movie link, it shows how amazing self awareness is, even with apes.


Dogs are color blind?

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Sometimes scientists are really a bit like a magicians, always making startling discoveries, such as that dogs are colorblind. To determine whether a person is color blind, we only need to perform a few test with color pictures, but how can scientists know that the dog is color blind?

First, let us look at the view according to the dog world.
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Dogs have two retina cone cells, so they can identify the short wavelength and long wavelength light, which is blue and red, yellow. Due to a lack of retina cone cells, there are only a few monotonous colors in the world according to dogs, unlike human beings in the colorful world. Humans have three types of cones that allow us to see all the colors in the visible spectrum of light.
Do dogs see the same colors as people who are colorblind? Scientists have adopted the following experimental method to find the result. They used the reflection from an irradiation beam into the dog's eyes for their studies. They compared this image with the image by using the same kind of light reflected from the people's eyes. Scientists came to the conclusion that the view in dog's eyes is similar is similar to the view for someone with colorblindness.
dfield.gifFigure 2 show the field of view of a human and a dog. Due to the placement of the eyes, humans have an overlap of the field of each eye of 140; in dogs, it is about 100.

Another funny thing is that the seeing eye dog can recognize red and green lights by the level of brightness. The seeing eyes dog is sensitive to the difference in gray colors. Relying on this ability, they can distinguish objects based on the differences in brightness, resulting in a three-dimensional visual image they can use to help blind people.

Disney Movies As Pornos

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There might be no one who does not know of the Disney movies. Obviously the movies have young kids as their main viewers. Our children learn that "virtue triumphs over vice" and that "beauty comes from the inside" from the movies. Do the Disney movies teach our children only these ethical lessons?

No, actually most of them are discovered to be the opposite. In the movies there are scenes that possess subliminal messages that people usually do not recognize when watching them because those images only flash for a second or are too vague to be seen. The images are mostly related to sex, which attracts people's emotional attention when they are unconscious. There are also hidden vocal messages as well. Check out the video "Disney's Hidden Messages," which indicates these subliminal messages, on youtube.

There are also sexual messages that are not hidden but obviously shown throughout the movies. If you disagree with this idea, think of the fact that all the female protagonists have slim body and usually wear clothes that almost show their breasts. Also all the male protagonists are masculine and have bigger body size than the female protagonists do.

When children are asked to answer what they think the ideal figures of each female and male are, most of their answers will be the same: women with bigger eyes, bright skin color, slim body, and bigger breasts are more attractive, and men with tall height, muscles, and brave characteristic are more attractive. Where do they learn these preconceptions? Maybe it is not an overstatement to say that a quick flash with sexual image has a great influence on their unconscious mind.


"Learn how to use subliminal messages to influence people"
http://www.subconscious-mind.org/learn-how-to-use-subliminal-messages/

"Disney's Hidden Messages"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I2SJNdt0Xs

Marijuana

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Marijuana has been the main topic of drug debates for years. The conversation surrounding it on whether it should be completely legalized, completely restricted, or used for medicinal use has been a popular subject in the drug world and has sparked a variety of different people to debate on this subject, including pop culture icons.
The article I attached is a discussion between James Gray, a member for the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and David Evans, an author and advisor to the Drug Free America Foundation. Just by reading about the people in the discussion, I can tell that the two discussing are going to be biased against marijuana. In order for this to be a more credible source, there should be someone who is not opposed to marijuana in their conversation. This would create a debate that is more heated and therefore create a more balanced discussion with facts coming from both sides of the debate. It would also decrease the falsifiability of the article by having someone on the opposing side be able to disprove some of the claims that the two in the conversation have brought up.
In the discussion, the two bring up the problem with marijuana in children and adolescents. They say that marijuana decreases adolescent's grades in schools and is a gateway drug to other drugs. The accessibility that marijuana has to the school systems and teenagers is definitely an issue that should be looked at but it is not entirely fair to blame marijuana for student's grades and for them experimenting with other narcotics. There are other explanations for these findings. The students could possibly already be poor students and the people using marijuana could have neurological dependency issues that could be related to cigarettes or just genetics.
The best critical principle to use in this situation is correlation vs causation. It needs to be evaluated that marijuana is causing these problems or that it is some third variable that is causing both marijuana use and the "effects" of using marijuana. The answers to these questions will most likely not be answered in immediate years to come. But it sure is interesting to see the new findings that researchers are developing, especially since it is such a popular topic.

Lucid Dreaming

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A lucid dream is one where the person is aware of the fact that they are dreaming. The person often realizes they are dreaming when an event occurs that is much too unrealistic to occur in reality, basically too good to be true. Lucid dreams occur when the person is still partially sleeping but also somewhat awake, showing us that a mixture of both sleep and wakefulness are possible. Almost everyone experiences this type of dream, and some people dream lucidly often. In these lucid dreams, the person is also thought to be able to choose the path their dream takes, determining the plot and characters involved in the dream. The study of lucid dreams is beneficial in analyzing the different sleep stages as well as how accurately a person can actually manipulate what occurs in their dreams. I experience lucid dreams fairly often, usually when I have had enough sleep to wake up in the morning but continue to toss and turn for a couple of hours. I enjoy being able to control what happens in these dreams and usually wake up feeling happy as a result of my good dream. I would be interested to learn more about which stages of sleep lucid dreams occur in along with the ratio of sleep versus wakefulness needed for a lucid dream to occur. I am also curious as to why we are able to determine what happens in each of these dreams and if certain people are able to manipulate their dreams more efficiently than others based off of something within their genes.
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I watched the first 12:30 minutes of the BBC Horizon: The Secret You video, which had some interesting ideas about consciousness. It got me to think about when I first became aware of myself. According to the video we become aware of ourselves sometime between 18 to 24 months old. They say they know this by the Mirror self recognition test invented in 1970 by Gordon Gallup. I have no recollection of some big moment when I became aware of myself. I am curious if happened over time or if it is possibly still happening to me right now. I think it could be an ongoing process where we keep becoming more and more aware of ourselves overtime. As we get older do we get to know ourselves better?
Gordon Gallup mentioned in the video that chimpanzees, orangutans and humans are the only living things that had the most compelling evidence for being conscious. I have wondered since taking a philosophy class if computers can become conscious. I have looked around the internet a little bit to see what other people think and it sounds like people agree that there could be models of the human brain. It seems like there is still some debate if on what it means for a computer to be conscious and if they ever will be on the same level of awareness that humans are. This article http://science.howstuffworks.com/robot-computer-conscious.htm explains what people think about computers being conscious.

The Sense of Self

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It's an interesting to think that, at one point in time, every human was not aware of his or her own sense of self. Gaining the ability to become self-aware is a vital role in the study of our minds and our existence. In 1970, Professor Gordon Gallup developed the Mirror Self Recognition Test, a study in which orangutans were placed in front of a mirror and tested to see if they noticed themselves. Many animals have been studied using this strategy over the decades, but only a few are included in the exclusive club of self-awareness, whose members are great apes (including humans), elephants and bottlenose dolphins. Recently in the lab of Luis Populin, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of anatomy, the first demonstration of the Rhesus macaque's sense of self-awareness took place. This made we wonder how the species was able to do so now, yet unable to do so in the past. In the BBC special Horizon: The Secret You, Oxford mathematician Marcus de Sautoy joined in on a mirror test experiment of young infants to test when the sense of self becomes apparent in the mind of humans. Many subjects were tested, with the parents placing a small sticker on the cheek of their child prior to being placed in front of the mirror to see if a response to the mark is made. The age of awareness was found out to be between 18 to 24 months old. A 16 month old, Gavin, failed to notice the mark on his fact, yet 22 month old, Beth, found her sticker immediately. This is a pivotal discovery yet it still remains a mystery as to why we suddenly gain this ability to sense our self. Gordon Gallup believes that, "Death awareness is the price we pay for self awareness." Does this mean that once we gain the ability to recognize our selves as individuals, we also gain the awareness of our eventual deaths? All of us were unaware at some preliminary moment in our lives, but the exact moment that we became self-aware will not be known. All we know is that infants become aware early on in development and will continue to be until the consciousness seizes to exist. But where does the sudden sense of self come from and why? We may never know the true origins of the sense of self, but the study of how and why continues.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2006/oct/31/uknews
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100929171739.htm

Is it really true that there are more donkey related deaths than airplane related deaths? According to the principle of extraordinary claims, it does not appear so. The legend is just what the question implies; there are more deaths due to donkeys than airplanes. The claim has been traced back to a 1987 article in the London Times. The article said "one expert has estimated that more people in the world are kicked to death by donkeys than die in a plane crash." The first problem with this statement is that there is not one piece of concrete evidence. It says that "one expert has estimated" which does not tell you what he is an expert in. He could be completely unqualified to estimate the number of donkey related deaths compared to airplane deaths. Secondly, it says that he estimated instead of giving correct statistics. This supposed statistic has been reused multiple times in different places but it has never been verified in any way. These two pieces of information make the legend seem more unlikely than it already did. Another problem with the legend is that others who have gone to look for statistics about donkey related deaths said they could not find any. The last problem is that the article in the London Times, where this legend may have originated from, was an article on how to overcome a fear of flying. This legend is likely just a way for people to reassure themselves that flying a safe mode of transportations. This legend does not have enough evidence to support its claim. http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/donkey.asp
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In the BBC Horizon: The Secret You, Oxford mathematician Marcus De Sautoy delves into the realm of consciousness. He subjects himself to various tests in order to explore this matter thus posing the final question: who is in charge of your decisions- your conscious self or (your unconscious self?) After completing a series of tests, Sautoy discovers that before his decision to click the left or right button, his mind had already made the decision six seconds prior.

This is significant because it drives us to question the origin of our decisions. If the decision has been made six seconds prior to our conscious awareness, are we obliged to cooperate? This could be a revelation in the court of law because people are often looking for justifications for their actions. How can we be held accountable for our actions if we are not always consciously aware of the decisions we have made? This could become problematic because it could be used as an argument much like a plea of insanity. Although both techniques are difficult to prove, they are also difficult to disprove.

Additionally, this test was completed using left and right buttons however, how can we be sure that the concept applies to more complex circumstances that may not involve choosing left or right? Although Sautoy was worried that he was being held hostage to the neural activity in his grey matter, he was reassured that the unconscious decisions were in harmony with his beliefs and desires. However, similar to how chemical unbalances can alter the fitness of the brain as well as be the derivation of a mental illness, is it possible that the same unbalances could alter unconscious choices?

On the other hand, people often view lifestyles as a product of our choices; however is that always the case? Do we exhibit qualities that we have chosen to display or are these choices unconsciously made? For example, is sexuality a conscious choice we have made? Where do we draw the line?
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Sleep

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As a college student, there is so much homework that is needed to do in such short time, in result they stay up to do their homework. The next day would feel very tiring. The student will be so tired and will not be able to concentrate in class. Sleep is needed for these students to be able to go through the day without any trouble. Lack of sleep can trigger fatal accidents. With not having enough sleep, you may be at risk for obesity. From a research I done in high school, I found that sleep deprivation increases the hunger-arousing hormone and increase the stress hormones which makes the body create fats. Sleep is an important thing that all human being should do. We need to relax our body, so that our body can be fully charged with energy for the next day. Psychologists have discovered that sleep strengthens memory, increase concentration, boost moods, moderates hunger and obesity. Researchers commend eight hours of sleep to be able to do all these treatments. With the lack of sleep, it can lead to serious health issues that can affect the immune system, the brain, and the nervous system. A typical college student will not sleep until one or two in the morning doing homework, so what are some preventable ways to reduce the loss of sleep? To sum this up, sleep is important to our health and is needed to make it through the day and the following days. So, YOU be sure to get enough sleep to ace the next big psychology exam!

One of the more unusual and captivating topics that I gleaned from my reading of the chapter involved the phenomena of out of body and near death experiences. I had heard of such happenings in the past, but was never presented with a concrete explanation of their validity or implications. Essentially, out of body experiences consist of one believing that they have left their physical body and are viewing themselves from a higher perspective. NDE's, while similar, tend to occur in situations where the threat of death is imminent. This, at least to me, seems to contradict much of the decisiveness with which we are expected to refute psuedoscience. That's why I found the info in the textbook particularly useful: it provided a explanation that complied with the 6 laws of scientific thinking and exposed the significance of such occurrences.

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As it turns out, studies looking to justify the claims of those who experience OBE and NDE proved to lack the basic standards of replicability and falsifiability. This also leads to the obvious point that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, which has thus far not been presented. It is the reality of the situation that is interesting, however. It refers back to what we learned regarding the brains ability to compile sensory information into a unified experience, and the fact that we can be tricked by discrepancies between different sensory impressions. This implies that such experiences are more similar to illusions than real paranormal activity, and allows this idea to be applied to other situations.

In Near Death Experiences, the situations are similar but they are employed to create a sense of relief and in some cases even interpreted as a religious experience. This harkens back to the idea that we all have a deeply engrained fear of death and that we struggle to compartmentalize and deal with such feelings so as to keep them at a manageable level. The implications that such experiences (such as following the light, or going to heaven through a tunnel) are most likely the result of chemical changes in a dying brain could hold a great level of significance in today's world. The fact that these Near Death and Out of Body experiences can be simulated using electrical currents or drugs cast doubt over the claims that such happenings provide evidence of an afterlife. Though I'm obviously in no position to refute any religious beliefs, I feel as though the results of this data should at least be viewed as a significant backing to the scientific explanation of death and further reinforcement that falsifiability of a claim is crucial.

Regardless of the debate between the scientific and psuedoscientific explanations of such events, one thing remains certain: the unusual nature of out of body experiences shows the complexity of the brain's operations and the delicate nature of our perception of the world.

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Subliminal Messages

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One controversy in psychology has been how much information can we perceive without being consciously aware? Can an image flash on a screen faster than we can detect as humans, but our brain still detect and store as information? And as a result can this affect our behavior? This video shows a subliminal message in a clip from the movie Beauty and the Beast. The clip is self explanatory but as Gaston is falling to his death, his pupils have skulls inside of them.

This flash of the skulls is too fast for us to be consciously aware of their appearance at the speed of the movie, but can our brain sense that information in a way to be aware of it and change our decisions without us knowing? This question, called subliminal persuasion, is controversial and very hard to falsify.

I doubt that subliminal persuasion, that is, subliminal messages changing our behavior, is unlikely. For example: Many, many people have seen the Beauty and the Beast and I am positive that the skulls in the pupils did not create a subliminal persuasion in kids to draw skulls or think dark thoughts. But subliminal perception, whether our brains process the information without our knowing is a much tougher question. For example, have you ever been to a movie and "zoned out" for a minute or two? After the movie your friend could ask you about a certain part and you could not remember. But your friend could then explain to you half of a conversation and suddenly you remember it even though you weren't paying attention. Is this because of subliminal perception? Or were we consciously aware the whole time? It makes you wonder.

I'm pretty happy with my sleeping habits. I can function perfectly on only a couple hours of sleep, and I wake up feeling great. It's quite useful during stressful times in college. Some of my friends, though, are not as fortunate. They spend a lot of time sleeping, and when they do wake up, it really takes them a long time to stop being so groggy. And they also have some trouble managing their anxiety. However, I also have some friends who can't sleep at all when they're under stress.

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This is why I was really interested in this study, which looks at the relationship between mental health and long sleepers versus short sleepers. This article says that people who spend shorter amounts of time asleep are more chipper in the morning and have less emotional issues than people who spend a lot of time sleeping. Dr. Hartmann suggests that people who spend less time asleep sort their emotional issues when they're awake, as opposed to long sleepers, who need the time to sort things through their subconscious.

Now, this sounds really interesting, but as we all know, correlation does not equal causation. Perhaps it's the long time in bed which gives people elevated amounts of anxiety. But according to much more recent studies, people with anxiety can develop sleep disorders, such as sleep anxiety. People with this disorder have trouble falling and staying asleep, opposite to the first study.

So which relationship between sleep and anxiety is right?

Near death experiences, or NDEs, are sensations experienced when an individual is facing danger or possibly after being pronounced clinically deceased. Popularity in studying this field has skyrocketed since the invention of cardiac resuscitation. NDEs are controversial because there is no way to falsify claims of seeing white lights, feelings warmth, or looking at your body from above. Certainly, the claims could be classified as extraordinary due to popular among spiritual mediums. Not all, if any, of reported NDEs occur even when death is not directly probable (Lilienfeld 180). Out of body experiences are also often associated with near death experiences.

As a child I had a variation of a near death experience that remains vivid in my memory. I could not have been older than seven when I traveled to a water park and selected the largest slide on the premises. The steep nature of the slide and improper timing lead to a situation where the last slider was still at the bottom of the slope when I began speeding toward her at what felt like a hundred miles per hour. As I approached her back time slowed to a "thud, thud, thud" pace and when I visualize the memory I see myself closing the gap between us rather than seeing the back of her head. In the end we did crash and I hit my head on the slide hard enough to need help exiting the water. Though the probability of my death was incredibly low, the fear prompted the near death experience, which coincided with my out of body sensation.

As medicinal studies continue to improve I am interested to see what scientific, rather than paranormal, studies of NDE will result in. I have been closer to death than this but didn't have a definitional NDE or out of body experience. Was this because I could not see the danger approaching me (or me approaching the danger)? Will we ever be able to quantify such extraordinary claims? Why are some NDEs peaceful and others terrifying? Does increased awareness of NDEs prompt individuals to be more prone to them? The questions are as endless as the answers.

Below Elizabeth Taylor recounts her own NDE, showing the growing popularity and varying degrees of this phenomenon.

Crickets & Weather ?

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If you were to go back to the 18th century and tell the people of that time that you could calculate the temperature simply by focusing on the amount of chirps a cricket makes they would look at you as a madman. Such preposterous claims seemed wild to me as well. Growing up I heard that this was true, but never really understood how such a phenomenon was possible ? I assumed it was just your everyday folktale.
Just before the beginning of that 20th century a physicist by the name of Amos Dolbear had proposed that you can find the amount of chirps cricket makes by knowing the temperature outside. Although he had the idea backwards, he still detected the correlation.
In 2007, Dr. Peggy LeMone found interest in the correlation between cricket chirps and temperature. She conducted an experiment where she counted the amount of cricket chirps in a 15 second interval then adding by 37 gave a rough approximation of the exact temperature. When she counted the amount of chirps in a 13 second interval and adding by 40 gave a much more accurate calculation of the actual temperature.
So it is true that you can find a close approximation of the temperature through the simple means of counting the number of chirps in a 13 second span then adding by 40. The extraordinary claim of knowing the temperature through a little insects mating call does have some extraordinary evidence, through the data. As they say the proof is in the pudding, and in this case the chirps.

Follow this Link to the source of the article.

"The Secret You" response

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What evidence is there that single neurons are involved in consciousness?

Within the video, "The Secret You," I decided to look at the question that centered around the Professor Christof Koch. He was a professor in Los Angeles, California and did research involving neurons. He did this research which involved showing pictures of celebrities (Jennifer Aniston and Haliey Bery) to test subjects. One particular neuron would respond when shown not only a picture of a celebrity, but their name in text as well. Professor Christof Koch's theory was that a single neuron isn't itself conscious, but consciousness emerges out of a bunch of neurons.
I found it most interesting that not only does a single neuron respond to a picture of an individual, but their name in texts as well. This neuron is so complex that is responds to not only visual appearances of an individual, but it can correspond to the name written as well. I think that the response of a neuron has to do with memory is some shape or form. When you see a name written down, you mentally get a picture or memory of them, as well as seeing their picture.
A few questions I had were are neurons like snowflakes in that each one is different and no two neurons are identical? For every single person that you know, is there a neuron that activates for each person? With everyone having different people in their lives, would someone who is socially introduced to people everyday have more neurons than someone who is not as social?

Are we conscious?

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For this week, I watched "The Secret You" as recommended by our professor. The portion which interested me most was how we know if we are conscious or not. Easily expressed by those who are completely conscious, we can say "Yes, I am conscious" and prove we are. However, the section dove deeper into how those who can not out rightly say they are conscious are able to function. As they demonstrated, when a researcher told a vegetative person to envision playing tennis, certain areas of their brain which are responsible for creating bodily movements lit up. Supporting this, in the experiment with the host, his brain actively showed a difference when he was supposed to rest and times when he was imagining tennis. I think this idea to test bodily mind activity is innovative and gives a chance for those who appear not to be conscious to prove they are. More research should to done on the topic to see if there is a firm way in which we can test consciousness.
However, I see a great dilemma if this was implemented in hospitals as a method to test vegetative patients. The choice for relatives to "pull the plug" would be much more difficult if they saw tests like these where patients were showing signs of response. It would become a very controversial and ethical dilemma.

Sleep Apnea

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Obstructive-Sleep-Apnea.jpgAfter reading chapter five in our book Psychology From Inquiry to Understanding, I learned about sleep apnea. According to the book sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that affects roughly 2-20% of the general population. Sleep apnea is caused by blockage of the airway during sleep. This can lead to weight gain and night sweats, also fatigue because a person with the disorder awakes many times during the night. Doctors recommended weight loss because many people who have sleep apnea are usually over weight. Another treatment to this disorder is the CPAP machine; curious to see what that is and exactly what it does i watched this video which explains the machine more in depth (video). I learned CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. I also learned that the CPAP is the most popular treatment to sleep apnea, although doctors recommend weight lost, patients believe it is a slow process so they prefer the CPAP. Then I became curious to see what the different types of sleep apnea were so I read an article on the American Sleep Apnea Association website, (Article) and found out that there are three different types of sleep apnea; obstructive, central and mixed. Obstructive is the most common form of sleep apnea. In addition I learned the serious consequences of leaving sleep apnea untreated it can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, automobile accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel, diabetes, depression, and other serious problems. So if you ever feel tired all the time and you know you have had a good amount of sleep the problem just might be sleep apnea.

The effects of cosmetics

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As cosmetics are becoming more and more apart of our everyday life, a study has showed that females that apply make up are thought higher of by our perception. Researchers studied the effects of makeup enhancing ones appearance. The study, researched by the Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Procter & Gamble Cosmetics, Boston University, and HMS, studied, two groups, each with over one hundred participants. They were asked to rate photographs of female faces with varying levels of cosmetics applied. Participants in the first group only saw the photographs for 250 milliseconds, while those in the second group had an unlimited amount of time to examine them. The results showed that of the participants surveyed they very heavily favored women with cosmetics applied in not just only attractiveness but competence, likeability, and trustworthiness.

This applies to psychology in many ways one being are we unconscious or conscious about their findings? Are all people drawn to people that wear make up? Our perception dictates these findings, and if cosmetologists can keep enhancing the ability of make up it will greatly effect our perception. There could also be a third variable such as high cheek bones that could be causing the correlation due to the fact there was only around two hundred people studied. This effects everyone's live because due to the amount of makeup one is wearing it will deceive us not only on attractiveness but but competence, likeability, and trustworthiness. Sooner then later cosmetics will become so advanced that it will be harder to look at someone that is naked of makeup without looking away. It dictates the way we unconsciously view a person rather then who they really are and consciously thinking we need makeup. Which is unfair because our perception is judging a book by the cover rather then what is inside.
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http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2011/10/7/study-makeup-cosmetics-participants/

The Secret You

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In the BBC Horizon video "The Secret You", Professor Marcus du Sautoy demonstrates different self-awareness studies to find out when exactly in the time span of life we officially become aware of ourselves as unique individuals. This is a question I have never asked myself before, but found very intriguing. Self-awareness is not only very important, but very bewildering to think about because, like Sautoy stated in the video, "without me, I disappear". There is no equation that explains consciousness or any real, hard evidence to gauge. So, the question is, when do we first become aware of ourselves in life? Sautoy took part in the Mirror Self-Recognition Test to observe children at different ages and determine if the child knows who he is when he looks in the mirror. The parents of the child are to place a dot on the child's cheek, and then when the child looks in the mirror again and tries to remove the dot, or move his hand to touch it, we know he is aware of himself. This study determined that somewhere between 18-22 months is when awareness really happens. Humans are a part of an elite group, along with Chimpanzees and Orangutans, who experience this sense of self-awareness.
I agree with Sautoy when he says that we almost take our self-awareness for granted. It is hard to comprehend the time before 18-22 months when we were completely unaware of ourselves because we are so self-aware now. By being self-aware we can think of ourselves and things that happened in the past, present and even imagine what we can do in the future, which gives humans a huge advantage. For me, death awareness is the hardest thing to grasp and is the price we ultimately pay for being self-aware. Knowing that one day our consciousness will disappear forever is a hard concept to come to terms with and personally, I get jittery just trying to wrap my mind around it. It makes me wonder, are there parts of your brain you can damage to lose your self-awareness? Why isn't every living organism self-aware?

img_161141_ufo-2011-.jpgOn September 30, 2011, many people claimed to see lights that seemed to form a "perfect triangle" hovering near Phoenix, Arizona. In this article, the author argues--using the principles of scientific thinking--that these sightings were not of an extraterrestrial spacecraft.

First the author reviews eyewitness accounts and falsifies their claims that these lights were from a single spacecraft. He first discusses that relative distance of the lights to each other and to the eyewitnesses would mean that the size of the object would be "at least the size of a football field" and would have been picked up by radar at the Phoenix airport, but it didn't. Another eyewitness claims that these lights changed formation. The author argues that this couldn't be possible for a single object to do, and produces his own hypothesis.

After reviewing eyewitness accounts, the author determines a different hypothesis--one that rivals the original one of the lights being a single spacecraft. These lights were not in fact from a single ship, but from separate objects flying through the sky; it could be airplanes flying in formation.

With so many people claiming to see UFO's, it's easy to see why people fall victim to the bandwagon fallacy. These sightings could be nothing more than airplanes flying in formation, or balloons in the sky, and could be the result of the phenomenon of pareidolia--seeing meaningful images in meaningless visual stimuli.

Link!

Night Terrors

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I became interested in night terrors a few years back when I woke up to my nephew screaming and crying at the top of his lungs from the guest room. I panicked when I realized there was nothing I could do to calm him down. I was even more surprised the next morning when he did not remember a thing.

Night terrors are random waking episodes in the middle of deep sleep. Night terrors are characterized by a person waking in the middle of the night, screaming, sweating, panicked, and confused. They are much more common in children than in adults, and the child has no recollection of the episodes at all. There are many misconceptions about night terrors, like night terrors happen when people act out their nightmares. However, nightmares occur during REM sleep, while night terrors happen during stages 3 and 4 of the sleep cycle.

I found night terrors to be interesting mainly because my family always picked out a much deeper meaning for why my nephew was having terrors. They used to say that her old house was haunted because as soon as my sister's family moved, my nephew quit having night terrors. However, the reason his night terrors probably stopped was because he grew out of them (which brings in the principle of Occam's razor!).

I found this clip from Spongebob, that I think is hilarious, showing Patrick Star having a night terror.
http://youtu.be/v2RRnk63ZO4?t=38s

In 1981 Steven Steinberg was accused of murdering his wife with a kitchen knife. Never denying it, he pleaded not guilty because he couldn't actually remember committing a crime. The final ruling in this case is innocent. However, Scott Falater was not so lucky.

Scott Falater managed to murder his wife, try to hide the evidence, and get rid of the body all the while asleep. The complexity of what he had managed to do while asleep was the major difference between the two cases. There was great evidence he could have been sleepwalking, everything from his posture to the nights leading up to the murder in which he'd only gotten about 2-3 hours of sleep per night, there was even a neighbor who witnessed the whole ordeal.

It's not very clear why he was convicted guilty, especially with a history of sleepwalking. Apparently, there was no evidence that Falater's wife had done anything to provoke the murder. In Falater's case, a sleep disorder expert admitted that the actions Falater committed could have very well been done while sleepwalking. When prosecuted he claimed that he couldn't remember murdering his wife either, which is plausible considering that many people don't remember sleep walking because it happens during non-REM sleep. Stages 3 and 4 of the stages of sleep is often times considered the 'sleep like a baby' sleep. It's the very deep sleep stage.

Unfortunately there isn't a way to determine whether or not Falater was actually sleeping while he committed the murder. However, there is a possible explanation for sleep murdering. According to this website, sometimes the brain can get stuck attempting to exit non-REM sleep and go straight into wakefulness. In plain language, you'd be stuck between being awake and asleep. This is a theory of what may have happened to other sleep murder suspects.

So here is one final question to any of those who feel like responding, if somebody committed murder in their sleep should they still go to jail for it?

Here is the original Scott Falater article link.

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Has your mother ever told you no more sugar or you'll be bouncing off the walls? Well, scientists have proven that sugar intake does not cause hyperactivity, which is a prime example that correlation does not equal causation. Just because the two things are positively correlated, does not mean one causes the other. There's usually a third factor that causes the outcome. The classic example is in the setting of a child's birthday party. In this case parents say sugar causes hyperactivity. Birthday parties have many treats, many of them containing large amounts of sugar, and a bunch of hyper children. This leads parents to the conclusion that it was the large quantities of sugary treats their child consumed caused the hyperactivity in their child. What they failed to take into account was that there are many other children there that could have caused their child to become excited and therefore express hyperactivity. The child could have also been told numerous times that by eating sugary foods that they will become hyper. This makes the child act hyper because they believe that that is what should happen when they eat sugar. This is an example of the placebo effect which is improvement resulting from the mere expectation of improvement.
The concerned parents never took these other variables into consideration when they told their child that they could not have another piece of candy or cake, they just assumed that it was the sugar that caused the hyperactivity in their child. Obviously these parents never took psych 1001 and don't know that correlation does not equal causation.
Here is an article that proves that sugar does not cause hyperactivity:

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Has your mother ever told you no more sugar or you'll be bouncing off the walls? Well, scientists have proven that sugar intake does not cause hyperactivity, which is a prime example that correlation does not equal causation. Just because the two things are positively correlated, does not mean one causes the other. There's usually a third factor that causes the outcome. The classic example is in the setting of a child's birthday party. In this case parents say sugar causes hyperactivity. Birthday parties have many treats, many of them containing large amounts of sugar, and a bunch of hyper children. This leads parents to the conclusion that it was the large quantities of sugary treats their child consumed caused the hyperactivity in their child. What they failed to take into account was that there are many other children there that could have caused their child to become excited and therefore express hyperactivity. The child could have also been told numerous times that by eating sugary foods that they will become hyper. This makes the child act hyper because they believe that that is what should happen when they eat sugar. This is an example of the placebo effect which is improvement resulting from the mere expectation of improvement.

The concerned parents never took these other variables into consideration when they told their child that they could not have another piece of candy or cake, they just assumed that it was the sugar that caused the hyperactivity in their child. Obviously these parents never took psych 1001 and don't know that correlation does not equal causation.

Here is an article that proves that sugar does not cause hyperactivity: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=52516

The Theory of E.S.P.

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Humans may sometimes feel like they have extra sensory perception when they had a hunch about something and it ended up being right. Naturally, when this happens we tend to pay more attention to the event because it has more significance to us. We also make a spot in our brains to remember this event. As time goes on we may have more and more occurrences such as the previous and these memories of "predicting" the future build up. After awhile we may start to feel that we have a special power commonly noted as E.S.P.
This misconception all has to do with one thing, the confirmation bias. As I noted earlier, humans tend to pay more attention to the situations that prove E.S.P. true, however we tend not to realize the amount of times when E.S.P. failed us. This number is almost always much greater, we just do not want to focus on it.

Also, we underestimate the probability of the event actually occurring. For example, in the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations there were multiple comparisons that at first glance seem to be incredible. When we look further into what the actual probability is we see things differently. So in conclusion, Extra Sensory Perception is simply a matter of people remembering what they want to happen and forgetting what they do not.

"People who can't handle scary movies are just wimps". This is usually the go to response when someone wants to feel high and mighty for being a horror film addict. Now even though this accusation is somewhat true the "wimps" have a lower health risk than the horror addicts; so even though those who watch scary movies are "braver" they are also being riskier as well. Studies have showed that those who watch scary movies see changes in body health such as drop in body temperatures, increased heart rates, and tension in the muscles. Also watching scary movies can affect the amygdala (the area of our brain that controls fear and emotion) and can leave a scar of fear in our minds. In fact, studies have also shown that children under the age of 14 should not watch scary movies to insure the prevention of this scarring.
These are some pretty interesting effects but there are some good things to take from scary movies. The scary movies might actually help you overcome a fear or maybe help you understand some epiphany about yourself or like most situations scary movies for us guys is just a way for our girls to cuddle up next to us and for us to protect them. Even so, scary movies on occasion are fun but for all those horror junkies out there they are putting themselves at risk.2594048_com_twilightzo.jpg

Have you ever seen people or animals suddenly fall asleep while in the middle of doing something such as eating? If so, then you've most likely witnessed somebody with the disorder narcolepsy. This disorder causes people to unexpectedly fall asleep, usually for a couple minutes or less, but sometimes up to an hour.

Some people who have narcolepsy can also experience cataplexy, a complete loss of muscle strength and function. When somebody has a cataplectic episode, they are temporarily paralyzed, but are fully conscious and alert. This usually happens if somebody experiences excitement, fear, anger, stress, or other strong emotional feelings. In people without the disorder, temporary loss of muscle strength is necessary during REM sleep; otherwise people would act their dreams out, potentially causing injury to themselves or others.

In the video, the dogs get excited when from playing, and then they have a cataplectic episode and as shown all muscle control is lost, but they are still conscious. This disorder can make living regularly a difficult task, being unable to control when your body will suddenly become paralyzed. The hormone Orexin has a big role in inducing bouts of sleepiness, and people with narcolepsy have a lower number of cells producing the hormone. Thankfully there are drugs which mimic the effects of Orexin in the brain which could eventually cure narcolepsy and the secondary effect of cataplexy.

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/narcolepsy/detail_narcolepsy.htm

Lilienfeld, Scott O. Psychology: from Inquiry to Understanding. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2010. Print.

Daytime Stars?

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For hundreds and hundreds of years, humans have had the belief that they could see the stars during the day. How is this possible? Stars are known for being seen only at night when looking up at the sky. According to this old belief, a person could see the stars during the day if they were at the bottom of a well, shaft, or at the base of a tall chimney. It suggests that the chimney, shaft, or well helps block most of the sun's glare, causing a person to be able to see the stars. This can only be, because it's believed that the sun's rays causes the stars to be invisible during the day, and blocking the glare of the sun from your vision can help you see the stars.

However, this claim is easily falsifiable. A simple explanation said by Reverend W.F.A. Ellison in 1916 is that the shaft, chimney, or well would only block the glare a tiny bit, and the perception of stars is actually the glare of the atmosphere by the sun's rays. This simple explanation is known as Occam's Razor. The only reason someone probably thought they saw the stars in this instance was due to emotional reasoning fallacy. The person probably got carried away by the dazzling view of the sky, and then assumed this beautiful view was of the stars. They could've made a connection that the chimney, shaft, or well blocked most of the glare blocking the stars from being visible. The correlation between the glare of the sun's rays and the stars visibility from a shaft, chimney, or well is not a causal connection. Correlation does not equal causation, therefore this old claim is not valid, but false. The only time you can really see the stars is at night.

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Source- http://www.snopes.com/science/well.asp
Picture- http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_8uyoecejM_c/TKbcYCoH_NI/AAAAAAAAABQ/8qdcDO0gZUc/s400/Written_in_the_Stars.jpg

Operant Conditioning

"The Big Bang Theory"

E.L. Thorndike's idea of "law of effect" states that if a response, in the presence of a stimulus, is followed by a satisfying state of affairs, the bond between the stimuli and response will be strengthened. Based on his work another popular scientist in the field of psychology, B.F. Skinner, pioneered the idea of Operant Conditioning. In the show "The Big Bang Theory", one of the main characters Dr. Sheldon E. Cooper uses the idea of positive reinforcement to "correct" his roommates' girlfriend, Penny. Cooper calls this, "Building A Better Girlfriend." By feeding Penny chocolate in response to what Cooper considers proper behavior Penny begins to act in a way that is pleasing to Cooper. Slowly Penny begins to change, almost unaware of what is actually going on. The chocolate however is what grasps her attention, and the idea of positive reinforcement appears to become crucial to her behavior. Cooper's roommate chastises him and says, "You can't train my girlfriend like a lab rat," in which Cooper responds, "Actually, it turns out I can." The idea of positive reinforcement is simply administering a stimulus in response to a particular behavior. However, the positive reinforcement in the episode of "The Big Bang Theory" is subject to the participant's personal bias. If Penny did not like chocolate the experiment may have lacked in support and would have possibly needed some adjustment. The stimuli in any situation could be changed in response to what administers the most effective behavior. Towards the end of the clip Cooper notes that sexual behavior appears to be a very strong form of positive reinforcement leading one to believe that some things might have a higher affect on behavior than others.

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Matthew Walker, an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley divided 39 young adults into two groups. At noon the participants took part in a memory exercises that required them to remember faces and link them with names. Then they took part in another memory exercise at 6 p.m., after 20 had napped for 100 minutes during the break. Their results show that those who remained awake performed about 10% worse on the tests than those who napped.
Additionally, previous research suggested that a person's ability to learn declines about 10% between noon and 6 p.m. normally, but the nappers did not show this decline.
In this Correlational study, the results supported the initial hypothesis that people who took an afternoon nap would keep their brains and minds "refreshed" as opposed to those who did not nap during the afternoon.
This could be reproduced as an experiment if the participants were told to sleep a certain number of minutes and the same memory tests would be taken. In that experiment, the independent variable would be the minutes of naptime and the dependent variable would be the results of the two memory tests.
Although napping and the results of the memory tests they took are correlated, the assumption of causation cannot be supported. More studies like this one would have to be performed and more research is needed in order to say that napping makes a person smarter.
For more information about the article, check out Everyday Health

The most common thing people drink in the morning is a cup of coffee...or two...or three. The normal amount of caffeine consumed a day is 250mg, or an equivalent of 3 cups of coffee. Throughout this article, they say the word "cause" a lot. But does consuming a lot of caffeine "cause" someone to sleep less?

In Psychology class, we have learned that correlation does not necessarily mean causation. But in the case of caffeine consumption and sleep, does the more caffeine you consume cause you to sleep less? There are multiple things to consider; caffeine consumption (or drinking in general) causes frequent urination, which causes you to use the restroom. In this case, you either have a terrible bladder and just have to pee a lot, or because of the amount of caffeinated drinks you consume a day, you may actually find yourself waking up frequently in the middle of the night to use the restroom. In the case of caffeine causing insomnia, that's a different story. Yes, it's true, that caffeine stays in your system for up to six hours, but could there possibly be other reasons for your lack of sleep? Maybe stress? Excitement? There are many other possibilities for why someone stays awake at night; whether it is from caffeine, or some other factor, the amount of caffeine you consume definitely correlates with how much sleep you get at night, but is it the reason why you can't sleep?

To read the full article,

http://www.everydayhealth.com/sleep/101/improve-sleep.aspx

Have you ever heard that people's fingernails and hair grow after his or her death?

Video: http://conditions.healthguru.com/video/do-hair-and-fingernails-grow-after-death

Source: http://conditions.healthguru.com/video/do-hair-and-fingernails-grow-after-death

A lot of people have heard that dead people's fingernails and hair grow. I even believed it at one point. Except last year in my human anatomy class we went over scientific myths like that, and found it to be untrue. There was a description in Death to Dust that was probably the reason that this myth was widely believed.

This situation is definitely an extraordinary claim. They would have to back this up with extraordinary evidence. Instead of looking at the reasons why nails and hair would be getting longer, they just made a claim about it that made people uneasy. Is it really possible for nails and hair to grow after death? That would be very creepy, but our bodies dehydrate after death. That causes the skin around the nails and hair to shrink back away from them giving the appearance that they grew. That's why at funeral homes they put tons of moisturizer on the bodies especially in those areas to fight the shrinking of the skin. When we look at this claim now with that knowledge that it looks ridiculous.

They didn't look deep enough into the process of death and decaying. Death and decaying is a weird process and appears to do strange things that people could conclude supernatural occurrences. In this case, they ruled out rival hypotheses and they need to be more careful. A lot of times people believe anything, especially if it's read in a book. Nails and hair do not grow after death.

What Do Dreams Mean?

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Most people have had dreams which act as a metaphor for what they are actually thinking or feeling. While not all have the same dreams, there are "dream themes" that are common. Dr. Deirder Barrett explains that "[m]ost modern clinicians who work with dreams use the dream to understand what may be metaphoric thought in that person's shorthand." Dream Decoder: The 10 Most Common Dream Themes, by Jordan Lite, dives into popular dream themes that people share and further explains them.
The first is taking a test for which the dreamer is unprepared. Lite estimates that these "usually begin in childhood" and continue throughout life. Barrett says it is a "symbol of someone judging." Later, the theme of falling is discussed. Lite says these dreams "may reflect negative feelings of losing control."
This is interesting because if each dream has a reason for being dreamt, does that mean these themes are one-hundred percent accurate? Since Deirdre Barrett is a psychologist who teaches at Harvard Medical School, her findings are (relatively) valid. She is known for her research involving dreams. Barrett has also worked toward controlling dreams (with Robert Stickgold), showing that if we can consciously control our dreams, that they must reflect some element of our lives happening outside of sleep.
Dreams having hidden meanings comes from Freud's Dream Protection Theory (discussed in Lilienfeld). The dream itself (manifest content) is not always what the dreams means (latent content). However, most "scientists have rejected the dream protection." While they may have "rejected" it as a whole, most of the elements of Freud's theory live today, explaining the hidden meanings behind our metaphoric dreams.

http://www.ivillage.com/dream-decoder-10-most-common-dream-themes/4-b-122045#last
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2000/10/researchers-learn-to-control-dreams/

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Inattentional Blindness

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Our world is constantly full of stimuli. Messages about everything around us go to our brains all the time but we can't possible pay attention to all of those messages at once. The process of selecting one stimulus in our environment and ignoring others is selective attention. A more interesting aspect of attention is inattentinal blindness. Try this activity. Watch the video and pay attention to what they are saying in their conversation.

Did you notice the change? This is an example of inattentional blindness. We are so focused on one thing that we often fail to notice anything else. That was a pretty dramatic change to the scene but I bet most people didn't even see it.

I think this is an important concept of psychology because it can be potentially dangerous. I think of driving when talking about inattentional blindness. There are so many different things to pay attention to while driving it is almost impossible not to miss something. The problem is, that "something" could be another person. Have you ever heard someone talking about an accident and say the other car came out of nowhere? In reality, that car was there the whole time but the driver was focusing their attention elsewhere and had no idea that other car existed.

As you can see, this concept is very interesting but potentially dangerous. Knowing about inattentional blindness will hopefully make people pay more attention to their environments. Now that we know it happens, we can be more conscious while doing potentially dangerous activities.

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Many optical illusions, like The Necker Cube, allow us to perceive a picture or an object in more than one way. More specifically, The Necker Cube allows its audience to see a cube positioned in two ways. This is done by eliminating all binocular and monocular depth cues, creating an ambiguity about the three dimensional geometric shape that usually is easily recognized by most everyone. A monocular cue is a visual stimulus perceived by one eye. One important monocular cue that comes into play with The Necker Cube is interposition, also known as overlap. Interposition is when one object overlaps another object; the object that is partially obscured is seen as being farther away. With this monocular cue, we can see three-dimensional objects like cubes but also be fooled when there is more than one way an overlapped object can be perceived, like The Necker Cube. Binocular cues also have a part in how we perceive The Necker Cube. A binocular cue is a visual cue perceived by both eyes. Without the binocular cue of convergence, which has to do with how we perceive distance and depth, we don't make a distinct decision on whether the misleading corner in The Necker Cube is popping out or in. Even if it doesn't always seem like it, there is a lot going on with our eyes and our brain when we take in a visual stimulus, especially when that visual stimulus is not presented as a distinct object or picture.

~Lucidity in Dreamland~

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dreamflying.jpgFor some(I know myself included), the ability to become lucid in the midst of a dream could be one of the greatest experiences ever. Being able to break past the mundane rules of life and well.. Physics has been a, sorry for this, a Dream of mine for sometime now. Its hard to talk about lucid dreaming when you've most likely never experienced one, but I will be trying to present and explain some popular techniques for Lucid dreaming, and apply critical and scientific thinking to them to determine whether they're claims hold any substance.

novadreamer.jpegThis is the "Novadreamer". At first glance it does look pretty cheesy, Kinda like something from an 80's infomercial. But the idea behind it is rather clever. The device is worn like a blindfold, and will detect when the wearer is in REM sleep. Then, the device will flash LED lights or sound a tone that usually will not wake the sleeper, but hopefully is just enough to penetrate the dream and alert the dreamer. Ex. Some users of the device claim that patterns of bright colors fill their field of vision within the dream. This is a reasonable claim by the producers of the device, but is it truthful? I tried finding evidence from users on the internet and for all the searching I did, I could only find two anecdotes including the one above, there are also some tutorial videos on youtube that present the correct methods of using the Nova Dreamer made by someone that seems to know alot about the technology. I would need more substantial evidence to back up the substantial claims of the device before I invested any time in it.

Another set of techniques for avid dreamers to practice becoming lucid was developed by Stephan LaBerge, a man whose name seems to be almost synonymous with lucid Dreaming. I find his name repeated over and over in the articles that I read and countless links to Interviews of his, Books he has written on the subject, as well as links to The Lucidity Institute; an Organization he apparently founded. Some common Lucidity tips given by LaBerge include:

Dream Recall: Keeping a Dream Journal or spending ten minutes after waking concentrating on the night's dreams has been said to increase the efficiency of recalling dreams as well as make lucid dreaming more likely
Reality Checks: LaBerge recommends performing 10 or more "Reality Checks" during the course of you normal day. These include looking at the time or reading text and then looking again a few seconds later(Time and Texts are said to change during a dream), Rubbing your hands together in an effort to create friction to produce heat, and asking yourself if the laws of physics are still in effect. This technique aims to have the daily routine of reality checks cross over to your dream self, wherein, One will find that they are in the midst of a dream.
Napping: Lucidity is said to occur more frequently when one has quickly switched from a state of wakefulness to a sleep state. Thus, the institute recommends waking an hour early, spending 30 minutes or more reading or thinking about lucid dreaming, and then calmly going back to sleep while focusing on your intent to become lucid.

These all seem like fairly easy measures to take towards having a Lucid dream, but I wonder if they actually increase results as opposed to any other method(Meditation, Hypnosis, etc.) Ideally, an Experiment would be of great use to proving the effectiveness of the preceding techniques. All three methods could be tested along with a control group who would only think about lucid dreaming before bed each night, and hope for the best. Although results would be different from person to person, this might give us a little more info as to how effective these techniques may be.

calea.jpgOne of the Final aids in the pursuit of Lucid Dreaming I came across actually has a substantial History with the goal. The plant shown in the Picture is known as Calea Zacatechichi, or the Dream Herb. The plant has been used by the Chontal Indians of Mexico to receive divine messages within their dreams. A Psychopharmacologic study indeed found the plant to increase the number and/or recollection of Dreams as well as heighten reaction times compared to a Placebo and Diazepam. Now, the plant can actually be used in many ways. The traditional way for Indian divination was to drink a cup of tea made from the leave of the plant as well as smoke a cigarette before bed. I have also found references to chewing on raw leaf, making extract, as well as grinding the herb for use in a pill capsule. The general recommended dosage appears to be one gram per use.

zaca.jpgFrankly, This seems to be one of the most promising methods to induce lucid dreaming that I have come across tonight. The plant/extract/supplement can be bought over the internet relatively cheap and has the backing of a scientific study that confirms the results with traditions of an indigenous people. the Claims have been backed up with evidence and experiment, so it seems this technique has already gone through the process of critical and scientific thought. I believe the best way to find out if the plant has very real effects would be to go the practical route and try it out for myself. As I believe I stated earlier in the post, I very rarely have/recall dreams. I've come across the topic of Lucid Dreaming before and have pursued the goal with great interest for some time before flaking out, Although Lucidity is still a goal of mine. I may just use some of the techniques I've presented here myself and try again, I invite anyone reading this article(If you've gotten this far you must be pretty interested in the topic) to do the same.

Selective attention

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Have you ever experience a moment that you are concentrate on something such as homework in classroom. The surrounding is noisy but you feel like you can't hear the noise and go on thinking silently. What's more, maybe someone sees you and call your name, but you still notice nothing. And when someone beats you, you wake up with a start.
That's my own experience of selective attention, and many of my classmates also learn through this situation. In my own word, selective attention is when we focus on one specific thing, we will ignore other things surrounds us to some degree. Maybe we could not dismiss the irrelevant factor around ourselves, we could at least lighten the level of that.
The selective attention is controlled by reticular activating system and forebrain. The frontal cortex also involves this process. During this process, our brain can pay attention to important stimuli and ignore others.
In additional, selective attention also can influence people's behavior in potential. If one is hungry,
he or she will more likely to focus the message that are consistent with his or her need and go to the shop to buy something to eat than people who is full. When someone is hungry, he tends to pay attention to food and drink that satisfy their needs, so they seek restaurant or shop to get food. Selective attention allows them selective the seeking food channel and turn off other channels.
In my view, selective attention can make me focus on homework without influencing by others, it's a useful function of human beings.

Mirages and skepticism

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When you think of the desert you think of dry, arid weather without water. Driving along on a black road do you see water ahead of you? Do you think it is water? Or do you think of it as a mirage? It is actually a mirage that deceives our senses. The sun heats up the pavement, and then the pavement warms up the pavement directly above the pavement that is 5cm deep. The cooler air above it acts like a glass, and at a certain angle it refracts the light making the mirage of water off into the distance. Sometimes we have to be skeptical and think to ourselves if that is really water off into the distance or is it a mirage? If we critically think we can use our basic knowledge that water should not be in the middle of the road when the sun is beating down on the pavement. Skepticism plays a role into this mirage, if we were skeptical about how people tell us how there is water in the middle of road, we can make an assumption that it is not true. We often make an assumption because many other people believe it to be true too. We should evaluate what we hear and read, because many things we read and hear are not true. Being skeptical makes us critically evaluate claims. Every time we hear something like this, we should critically think about it. This will help many people not be so gullible and make them more skeptical about claims.

Hypnotizing Darko

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Thumbnail image for donnie-darko-directors-cut.jpgOne thing that stood out to me was hypnosis. Not too long ago, I ended up watching the movie Donnie Darko. In one scene of the film he gets hypnotized by his therapist. I think that the way the media has portrayed hypnotism is very much faulted, but without reading the Lilienfeld text I would have never known this. For example in the film Donnie Darko, a number of the myths that the Lilienfeld text mentions appear in the film. When Donnie is hypnotized he becomes unaware of his therapist and acts out in an inappropriate manner (Myth 4: People are Unaware of Their Surroundings), but when his therapist wakes him from his trance, he never has no recollection of what he said or did (Myth 5: Hypnotized People Forget What Happened during Hypnosis).
I feel that the research done in the field of hypnosis provides students such as myself, a way to combat the skewed version of hypnosis in the media - which no doubt we will continually be running into. When reflecting on the research topic that scientist have now provided me with for clarity on the subject of hypnosis, I developed a number of questions. Have the scientists that study hypnotism ever been hypnotized themselves? If they had would they be more likely to be biased in their research? What makes a person "highly suggestible"? How do we not know that the scientists are using people who are least suggestible to hypnosis during their research?

Out-of-Body Experiences

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Out-of-body experiences (also known as OBE) is the sensation of floating outside of one's body. Michael Shermer a historian of science and editor traveled to Laurentian University in Canada to learn more about out-of-body experiences. With the help of neuroscientist Michael Persinger, Shermer was strapped down to the "God Helmet" which enhances out-of-body experiences and other paranormal phenomena. Shermer sat in a dark room for an hour, soon he began to feel a presence in the room. Which is the result of magnitude influences being created in his temporal lobe. As a result, temporal lobe stimulation caused a sense presence and also an out-of-body experience. Shermer stated "It felt like the thing that went by me, I wasn't sure if it was me leaving or somebody or something went by me, it was very strange. In the second round I did have the feeling I was in waves and I wanted to come out of my body but I kept on coming back in." Other volunteers reported meeting the devil and encounters with extraterrestrial life.

Even though Shermer thought he experienced himself wanting to come out of his body, there's no good evidence that people are truly floating above their bodies during an out-of-body experience, although it seems like to them they are. These findings falsify the claim that people emerge from their bodies. Even though scientist like Michael Persinger were able to replicate the state of feeling an out-of-body experience, there is no true evidence to support out-of-body experiences.

Myth: Growth After Death

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fingernails.jpgEver since we were little, we have heard many different statements that sound factual from our peers, parents, and TV. It is safe to say that most of us have heard that our fingernails and hair continue to grow after we die. As disturbing as that is to think about there is no need to fear because this is false. It is actually an illusion.

When we die, our bodies begin to shrivel and dry out due to lack of hydration in our skin. This causes the dried skin to pull away from the nail beds and hair follicles, making the nails and hair appear to have grown. In actuality it is shrinkage, not growth, which occurs after we die.

It is important to be skeptical, when we hear claims such as this. To think clearly and logically, you must pause and evaluate what you are reading and hearing. We have talked about logical fallacies, and this is a perfect example of the band-wagon fallacy. With this example, it is true that most people have probably heard it from more than one source, so we mistakenly believe it to be true. We often assume that something is true because many others believe it to be.

Not only is it important to be skeptical, we also must think critically to evaluate claims. For this particular example, the rival hypothesis was the truth. Instead of immediately accepting the hypothesis that is given to us, we must make sure that there are no other explanations that could account for what happens. We must also make sure that we apply Occam's razor, and find a simple explanation. Instead of assuming our hair and nails grew because of some supernatural force, we can attribute it to a scientific fact that our skin shrinks, giving the illusion of growth.

Every time we hear claims such as this, we need to take a moment to evaluate it, and apply the critical thinking steps. This will prevent more people from being misinformed, and improve our own skills of evaluating what is fact and what is fiction.


Click to read more on this myth

Have you ever had things go completely wrong in your life? Where you would give anything to go back to change it? Well although there is nothing you can do for real life, in the phenomenon of lucid dreaming, one can actually control their dreams. Lucid dreaming is defined as the experience of becoming aware that one is dreaming. ">According to researches, there have been two identified levels of lucid dreaming. The first level of dreaming is called "high-level lucidity," while conversely the other is "low-level lucidity." In the high level scenario, the most desirable form, the dreamer is completely aware that they are in a dream while they are lying in bed. During this level, no physical pain can come to the dreamer. For the lower level of lucid dreaming, the dreamer is not fully aware that it is a dream; however they are still able to control events and the path taken in the dream. As a result, physical pain may still be perceived to the dreamer as they are not fully aware of the dream environment. Not only is lucid dreaming fairly common in the population, so too is what they dream off. The most frequent dreams that people have when controlling them is the sensation of flying followed by the perception of having sexual intercourse. Many people desire to have these controlled dreams as techniques have been known to be studied and trained for, for a number of years. However if one wants to try and pick this skill up, there are numerous easier and less time consuming techniques that can be learned.

I did WHAT last night?!

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night terror 1.jpgnight terror 2.jpgI've grown up with the fact that I talk in my sleep. People sometimes have bizarre conversations with me during the night that I do not remember the next morning. Though these events can be embarrassing, they do not affect my physical self. On a broader scope, we can all relate to the common nightmare. For me, nightmares are harmless. Sure I have woken up terrified or even crying, but I have never injured myself as a result of a nightmare. Because nightmares occur during the REM period of sleep we have much more control of waking up before anything becomes physical. I have even been aware I was dreaming during a nightmare do to lucid dreaming. Nightmares are simply bad dreams. However, night terrors are much different.
Night terrors are not typical dreams. They do not occur during REM and people that suffer from them do not remember the cause of their fright. For more information on night terrors, consult this link. So this seems great right? You get scared, just like in nightmares, but you don't remember. Besides the fact that you will wake up other people in your household, what is the harm? People are often physically injured during night terrors!
Because night terrors often include thrashing, injury is often a result. I've provided some personal stories of people who have been injured due to their night terrors. Injuries include cuts, bruises and even broken bones. Injuring others is often a worry of night terror sufferers. In one of the personal examples, you will read about a woman who hides the bat in her house; afraid of beating her husband or dogs to death.
Though, people cannot remember night terrors, it seems they have fear of injury to themselves or others to deal with every day. The cause of night terrors is unknown and the fact that they do not resemble dreams is extremely interesting. There are many things we do not understand about the subject thus far, but with researchers actively at work I'm sure we will have some answers soon.


Pseudoscience often capitalizes on human gullibility playing on people's readiness to believe a claim that is put forth by so called "experts." A young boy in Idaho took advantage of this and demonstrated it in a science fair after asking 50 people to ban dihydrogen monoxide. The majority of people agreed to ban it. The key to this trick was using one of the corner stones of pseudoscience: psychobabble. He took scientific sounding words and used them to disguise the truth behind his words, thus putting forth a jumble of claims that seemed highly scientific but weren't.

The point of his investigation was to test gullibility, not evaluate pseudoscience, however the prevalence of pseudoscience in our culture played a role in the success of his study. How often do we check our sources, evaluate claims, and question authority? The use of critical thinking skills is so important. Many of the claims he made were extraordinary claims. In this situation one should have asked for more evidence or more details, then perhaps they would have found out sooner that dihydrogen monoxide is simply water.

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iphone.jpgUntil recently, I was unaware that the feelings I have for my iPhone are the same emotions I feel for a loved one. At least that's what branding consultant Martin Lindstrom would have us believe in his September 30, 2011 New York Times op-ed piece.

Lindstrom conducted an "experiment" (his words) with 8 men and 8 women between the ages of 18 and 25. He exposed the subjects to audio and video of a ringing and vibrating iPhone and used functional MRI (fMRI) to map brain activity during these exposures. The results? Lindstrom claims that based on activation in the insular cortex, the brain responds to the iPhone the same way it reacts to the presence of a significant other or family member. In other words, we "love" our iPhone.

I believe it was irresponsible of the Times to publish this article, for many reasons. First, Lindstrom's claim is based on a single study with questionable methodology. He conducted a correlational study, not an "experiment." There was no random assignment of participants to conditions (in fact, there was no control group at all), and no manipulation of an independent variable. Second, 16 is a very small sample size. Additionally, the age range of the participants was not representative of the entire population in terms of generalizing. Furthermore, the brain is a complex system, and Lindstrom failed to consider that its regions are not associated with just one single emotion. Also, he failed to recognize that there might be other explanations for why the insular region showed activity. Moreover, most fMRI scans are produced by subtracting brain activity on a control task (absent from this study) from brain activity on an experimental task. Finally, some of Lindstrom's conclusions are based on inaccurate information (see below).

comicip.jpegNeuroscientists quickly refuted Lindstrom's claim. Russell Poldrack, a professor of psychology and neurobiology at the University of Texas at Austin, blogged that some famous studies of love don't even associate it with activity in the insula. Poldrack also wrote the Times a letter noting that the insular cortex is active in roughly 1/3 of all brain imaging studies. In Psychology Today, Ben Hayden, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, points out that the insular cortex is actually most frequently associated with negative emotion, like disgust, rather than positive feelings.

The takeaway here? Even if an article publishes in a normally reputable source and has the appearance of being scientific, we should still be skeptical. We should be particularly careful in cases where brain images are involved, because according to our text, studies show that undergraduates are more susceptible to any claim that includes brain images, even if the claim is bogus.

Adderall Correlations

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One of the most commonly abused drugs is amphetamine. Its popularity comes from the drug called Adderall, in which amphetamine salts are present. It is used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactive disorder, also known as ADHD. The drug works by increasing the amount of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and aceytlcholine in the brain. While this drug helps people by allowing improved performance throughout the day, it can also contribute to lack of sleep and hunger.

The four neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and aceytlcholine are effective in helping sustain concentration levels, but they also affect other parts of the brain that regulate appetite and sleep. Adderall users commonly report a significant loss of appetite, and also experience sleep disturbances. Dr. Ligia Peralta at the University of Maryland Medical Center states that the three most powerful neurotransmitters associated with anorexia are serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. In addition, Dr. Joel Elmquist from the Center for Hypothalamic Research at the University of Texas found that serotonin works to curb appetite and at the same time, blocks neurons that stimulate appetite. Therefore, the effects that Adderall has on our lack of appetite can be translated as a negative correlation. The more Adderall you take the less of an appetite you have. From this can we draw a causality that people who take Adderall are at a higher risk for an eating disorder? The same can go for the effect that Adderall has on sleep. If people report not being able to go to sleep at night then can we assume that they are likely to develop insomnia? Theses are causations that we would have to prove. To prove these it would need to be done with a well-designed research experiment.

Narcolepsy

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Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by an excessive need to sleep. This urge can strike at any moment, and lasts anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. When a narcoleptic falls asleep they generally experience the REM cycle of sleep immediately, whereas most people do not experience REM sleep for more than an hour after they've fallen asleep. Therefore, narcoleptics can have vivid dreams and hallucinations.

Another one of the many problems narcoleptics face is cataplexy. During cataplexy, people can fall because their muscles become limp. Cataplexy occurs in healthy people during REM sleep. But in narcolepsy, people experiencing cataplexy remain alert the whole time without being able to move.

Genetic abnormalities boost the risk of narcolepsy, and some people develop narcolepsy after an accident that causes brain damage. The hormone orexin plays a key role in triggering sudden attacks of sleepiness. However, people with narcolepsy produce less orexin. So is there a cure to narcolepsy? Well, medications that either replace orexin or mimic its effects in the brain may one day cure narcolepsy.

One of my friends in high school had narcolepsy. He would always fall asleep during class. At first he didn't really know what was wrong with him; he just thought he was extremely sleepy. But he finally went into a specialist, and found out he was narcoleptic. This diagnosis made sense because he always seemed to fall asleep when he was laughing, mad, or feeling any kind of emotional extreme-- a narcoleptic attack is sparked by emotional swings.

I found this video of a narcoleptic dog. As you can see, the dog has urges to sleep during moments of excitement, which can be very problematic.
Here is the LINK.

A new study done by Dawn R Hobbs, who is a psychology professor at the State University of New York, shows that many of the popular songs of 2009 contain some sort of sexual slurs in them. Researchers scanned the top country, pop, R&B, rap, and rock songs for "reproductive messages" and the results may surprise you. Hobbs explains that "Approximately 92% of the 174 songs that made it into the Billboard Top 10 in 2009 contained reproductive messages." The study searched, specifically, for 18 specially chosen, sexual references. The study found that, on average, the songs contained 10.49 phrases that relate to sex. Rihanna, Katy Perry, and LMFAO are highlighted as having the most phrases in their music. Even more specifically, the song S&M by Rihanna has the most phrases in it.

This data really surprised me, and if I were to relate this back to something we are doing in class right now, I would relate in to the idea of unconsciously thinking. I'm sure almost all Americans had no idea that there were this many references to sex in the music they listened to, but their unconscious minds must be drawn to it. I know this, because I, too, listen to a lot of the songs that were researched. I'm sure that when music artists see this data, they must think that they should keep making songs with inappropriate lyrics in them. It's sort of a vicious cycle, I suppose. Americans like songs that talk about sex, so the music becomes even more provocative, so Americans keep liking it, and so on and so forth. This is all due to the brains power to think unconsciously.

Or perhaps artists simply put these lyrics into their catchiest songs, in which case, you can't really blame Americans, and it wouldn't have a lot to do with unconscious thinking, but I'd like to think that this isn't the case.
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