October 2011 Archives

Did That Happen?

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2sybil102711.jpgThe article "Was 'Sybil' a case of mistaken identity?" written by Jess Stricker was in the Star Tribune today about Sybil (Shirley Mason), a Minnesotan woman who claimed to have and was reported to have 16 different personalities. The case involves the dissociative identity disorder (DID), characterized as the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states that take control of a person's behavior (Lilienfeld 614). This article related to what we have learned in class in the fact that Stricker explained that hypnosis and "mind-bending drugs" were used during the therapy sessions studying Sybil. As seen in the Paul Ingram Case, hypnosis can create new thoughts and feelings because it provides people with suggestions for alterations in their perceptions (181). This makes science troubling in that it does rely on humans and credibility is not always easy to test. Sybil's psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, was said to hypnotize Sybil and suggest things that might have happened. Sybil had even said she experienced an incident in which her friend was killed right in front of her. This was later found to be a false memory for Sybil because while her friend did die, it happened 10 years later from the time Sybil stated and she was not there. Was this due to suggestions or because Sybil's different personalities interrupted her memories? Sybil died in 1998 and it is not certain whether or not she experienced these many different personalities but it is interesting on how memory can change so drastically and how misinformation can create fictitious memories.

Star Tribune Newspaper. Print. 27 Oct 2011
Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding

Early Detection May Not Be Beneficial

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Cancer is a prevalent disease in the world that produces devastating effects for any individual inflicted, as well as a huge impact on family and friends of cancer patients. Screening has become more available and less costly for many types and subtypes of this horrible illness. There have also been immense amounts of research done to find other possible causes and easy-to-do preventions. All of these steps taken to increase the chances of survival are amazing, but may have the general population overconfident in the power of some of these tests.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times discussed findings from the National Cancer Institute, as well as studies by doctors at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, that found that cancer found during a mammography screening does not increase the rate of successful treatment compared to finding a lump later on.

The article stated, "More than 75% of women who found out they had breast cancer from a screening mammogram fell into one of these two categories (Finding cancer during a mammogram, or a lump later on), and no more than 25% of them can give the test credit for saving their lives".

This finding clearly shows the power of overconfidence in everyday life. Many people believe that early screening highly increases the rate of survival. This may be true for specific types, and it is a great idea to be aware of any possible problem with your body as early as possible. However, people are overconfident in the mammogram screening. It is often forgotten that here are many other factors that determine the survival rate of a patient. The one mentioned most in this particular article was age.

The University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis VA Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research commented that it is acknowledged that when cancers are discovered at a more advanced stage, the rate for being cured is a long shot. However, that does not mean that finding cancer at the earliest stage always has a better chance of a cure. People need to be aware of overconfidence so that they will not fall prey to false assumptions regarding their health.

Language and Thought

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Do we think in words? We have all had times when we realized we were conversing with ourselves; we may have talked to ourselves before. Therefore, we sometimes think in words. But for the rest of time, do we think in an internal conversation or in a nonlinguistic fashion? There is one early hypothesis proposed by John B. Watson said that thinking is a form of internal speech. John B. Watson is the founder of behaviorism. For Watson, we cannot think without language.
There is a relationship between language and thought. The principle of linguistic relativity said that the structure of a language affects thought processes and the ways in which its speakers are able to conceptualize their world like their world view. Language can affect out thought and influence the way we think, but it is not apply in every case. There might be other factors involved as well.
I heard an example of linguistic relativity from my mother. My mother's friend's mother was sick and stayed in hospital for treatment for a long time. A doctor saw her and, at the end of the visit, told her in parting, "Take it easy." He meant it as an informal way of saying goodbye, nothing more. But this my mother's friend's mother took it as medical advice, promptly took to her bed, and refused to get out for the next two weeks, until the doctor returned from what turned out to be an ill-timed vacation. By that time the little lady was so weak from her self-imposed inactivity that she was unable to walk. I found this video about language and thought.

I am still wondering about other factors influence our thinking.

Autism is Treatable Through Shaping?

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JoeMohs.jpgStudies have suggested that as many as 1 in 150 children are diagnosed with Autism in the United States, more than previously thought. Due to that staggering statistic, many are becoming incredibly concerned for the future generations and there are several questions as to whether or not the prevalence of this disorder will continue to climb. There is also dispute regarding whether or not the number of Autistic children is growing or if the techniques for diagnosing and researching Autism have improved.

The cause of Autism remains unknown, but there are unproven hypotheses that point fingers at diet, digestive tract changes, mercury poisoning, the body's inability to use vitamins and minerals normally, and vaccines, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Also, it seems to have some ties to genetic factors. It is significantly (3 - 4 times) more prominent in boys than girls. Autism is typically diagnosed by age two, when parents notice that their child has difficulty with pretend play, social interactions and communication.

In one of Professor Peterson's lectures he showed a video of a former University of Minnesota student named Joe Mohs. The video told about Joe's childhood diagnosis with Autism and his astounding recovery. This genuinely stunned me, as I was completely unaware that Autism was treatable in any way. Joe recovered after he underwent an intensive, 8-hour-a-day therapy program at age three from Dr. Lovaas at UCLA. The Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) techniques used by Dr. Lovaas involve a modified version of shaping (among other therapy techniques), a version of Operant Conditioning first discovered by B. F. Skinner. Shaping involves rewarding desirable behavior. ABA at one point also used aversives, which involves punishing unwanted behavior. ABA no longer uses adversives and the use of adversives was very controversial. Psychology is constantly evolving and making remarkable breakthroughs that affect the quality of life for countless individuals, a feat not easily accomplished.

More on Joe Mohs:

A Funny Take on Operant Conditioning (a clip from Big Bang Theory)


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A classic hoax that has surfaced in many places around the world is the story of a giant man like creature roaming around the woods of the world. "He" goes by many names, the Yeti, abominable snowman, sasquatch, and Bigfoot. Bigfoot is often described as a "large and hairy bipedal man like ape," and is one the most debated topics in the field of crypto zoology. The theory is that this being exists in woodlands and forests, but is extremely rare and hardly ever seen by man. So I will start this analysis off with the obvious concept, extraordinary claims. To think that a monster biped is roaming around the woodlands of the world is certainly a prime example of and enormous claim which, by definition, requires so equally extraordinary evidence backing up to make the theory plausible. However, the evidence that does exist of bigfoot is in the forms of very blurry photos and a few short equally blurry films, mostly of the noises that "bigfoot" makes in the woods. Far from the evidence that I believe is required to allow theories to hold any truth. The most concrete evidence of bigfoot's existence are a series of plaster molds made of his foot prints. There is no hair found and no DNA of any sort.

This brings me to my next concept, is it more parsimonious to believe that there is a giant ape man wandering through our woods that is extremely elusive despite his size, or that this is simply a hoax. It is pretty simple to create a fake footprint that is larger then life, and the thing in the out of focus picture looks suspiciously like a man in a bad gorilla suit.

Treating Autism

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Operant conditioning uses positive and negative reinforcements along with positive and negative punishment to elicit a specific behavior. In B.F. Skinner's research he used reinforcements to strengthen the probability of a response occurring. A positive reinforcement would be administering a stimulus, such as giving a piece of chocolate to a kid for completing a task. A negative reinforcements occurs when a stimulus is taken away.

One of the uses of operant conditioning is the therapeutic treatment of autism.
In the treatment of autism secondary and primary reinforcers are used in order to reinforce behaviors they hope to make more frequent. A secondary reinforcer is an object that was neutral and then becomes associated with a primary reinforce. An example of a secondary reinforcer would be a token or chip that is given to an autistic patient when a target behavior is performed. A primary reinforcer is an item or an outcome that naturally increases the target behavior, items like a favorite food or drink. These practices have been useful in treating children with autism and people with other mental illnesses and are commonly used in group homes.

A more recent discovery in helping people with autism is the use of an assistance dog. Not much research has gone into the scientific reasoning as to why these dogs help but many children with autism have been shown to benefit from having these companions. The assistance dogs for autism have been shown to increase social interactions, redirect repetitive behaviors, improve independence, and give an overall calming ability. The thing that I found to be the most interesting is how the dog can help improve the child's sense of responsibility. This is done by only allowing the child to feed the dog and walk the dog. Being able to walk with the dog also allows the child to not have to hold onto the hand of a parent or adult at all times. For more information on assistance dogs for autism you can go to the following link http://www.autismassistancedog.com

Treating Autism

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Operant conditioning uses positive and negative reinforcements along with positive and negative punishment to elicit a specific behavior. In B.F. Skinner's research he used reinforcements to strengthen the probability of a response occurring. A positive reinforcement would be administering a stimulus, such as giving a piece of chocolate to a kid for completing a task. A negative reinforcements occurs when a stimulus is taken away.

One of the uses of operant conditioning is the therapeutic treatment of autism.
In the treatment of autism secondary and primary reinforcers are used in order to reinforce behaviors they hope to make more frequent. A secondary reinforcer is an object that was neutral and then becomes associated with a primary reinforce. An example of a secondary reinforcer would be a token or chip that is given to an autistic patient when a target behavior is performed. A primary reinforcer is an item or an outcome that naturally increases the target behavior, items like a favorite food or drink. These practices have been useful in treating children with autism and people with other mental illnesses and are commonly used in group homes.

A more recent discovery in helping people with autism is the use of an assistance dog. Not much research has gone into the scientific reasoning as to why these dogs help but many children with autism have been shown to benefit from having these companions. The assistance dogs for autism have been shown to increase social interactions, redirect repetitive behaviors, improve independence, and give an overall calming ability. The thing that I found to be the most interesting is how the dog can help improve the child's sense of responsibility. This is done by only allowing the child to feed the dog and walk the dog. Being able to walk with the dog also allows the child to not have to hold onto the hand of a parent or adult at all times. For more information on assistance dogs for autism you can go to the following link http://www.autismassistancedog.com


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I know there might be a lot of differences between my country China and the US as a result of culture difference, including when they are trying to educate children.
I have been experienced teachers punish students. Chinese teachers are really strict towards students, and they punish kids when they do something wrong or they don't reach the expectation. I used to have a classmate when I was in middle school. She was just so normal. She never performed outstanding at schoolwork, she was not pretty, and she kind of awkward when she was communicating with others. That's why she never gave brilliant impressions to teachers. Every time she performed badly in exams, our teachers punished her--they spanked her. What happened to her is she never perform well in the middle school, she was always awkward to make friends so she never had one, and our teachers never liked her.
Years later I happened to met her another time. Surprisingly, she was pretty outgoing and had a great sense of humor, and she was one of the best students in her high school class then and about to go to college in Japan. When we talked about middle school, she told me that she also treated herself as an awkward and not smart student as our teachers used to treat her, and she had spent a really long time to rebuild confidence.
Skinner and others talked about the disadvantages of punishment. Punishments don't teach people what to do, and creates serious mental problem such as anxiety. In my classmate's example, punishments killed her confidence and our teacher just told her she was a bad student and never offered any help.
It's a little sad to tell this story because there are still a lot of kids who are suffering such negative things in my country. I believe that it will be better if people stop using punishments and use reinforcement, and really offer help.

Linguistic Determinism

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Linguistic Determinism is the view that all thought is represented verbally and that, as a result, language defines thinking. In other words, without language one has no thought. And the language one speaks defines the way one speaks. This is a compelling view because adults have no clear memories (generally) before the age of three. This leads me to think that, if linguistic determinism was completely supported by the scientific community, it would explain why as children we cannot form memories.
baby talk.jpgChildren are not able to form words until the age of 1 without the ability to form speech, according to linguistic determinism, a child would be unable to form thoughts. Without a thought process or any sense of self, there can be no memories. Linguistic determinism explains the absence of memories before the age of three.
I believe that an interesting topic of research would be a study of the correlation between memory and language.
I find this link compelling based on my own life experiences. I have almost no memories before the age of four. The hazy memories I do have before the age of four are snap shots at best. The understanding behind the events is also non-existent. I find a direct correlation to the vividness of my memories based on the rate of speech production I had. As I aged my memories become more and more understandable.
It occured to me while writing this that perhaps a study has been done related to what I am suggesting. Upon researching this, I have found several studies that support my belief that this needs to be researched in some way.
1.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2676974
2.) http://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/tina-fry.html

Downhill Skiing Interference

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Proactive Interference occurs when someone has old information about how to do things or how to think that interfere with how they learn new tasks or thought processes.

I believe this research finding is important because it explains why some simple tasks can be extra hard for some people. It is one of the factors for why even a professional athlete might struggle to be successful in another similar sport. I have personally experienced this research finding while downhill skiing.

When I was young I was taught how to ski by my grandfather and dad. The way they taught me worked great and I was able to get down the hill like a speed demon. When I was in high school I joined the downhill ski team and was met with a big surprise. Although I was able to ski fast, my form was completely wrong. The way my dad and grandfather had taught me wasn't completely wrong, but it was limiting my potential to be even faster. My coach's main criticism was that I was not leaning forward enough in my boots. I found this to be one of the hardest things to change about my skiing form. It felt so uncomfortable and unnatural. Trying to change caused me to crash a couple times.

Today I am able to easily ski with my weight in the front of my boots and I find it very natural. I can tell that by changing my form I can ski even better, but it was not easy to change my old habits. I had to endure many frustrating practices before I was able to ski confidently with my weight shifted forward.

After learning this concept I have wondered if there are techniques for dismantling your old memories faster. I feel that many people experience proactive interference and the frustrations associated with it. Because so many people have experienced it I wonder if there is a more systematic approach someone can take to learning a new task that helps you forget your old memories.

RE: The Night Terror Strikes back!

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After reading this, I can personally say that I used to have night terrors. When I was younger, my dad would tell me of the many nights that he would wake up I would be standing there, in front of him, looking extremely distraught and making weird noises. He would then have to get up and lead me back into bed, where I would sleep for the rest of the night. When he would tell me what happened the next day, I would have no recollection. Eventually, these have gone away, as you stated, and I have not had one of these episodes in a long time.

That said, this article claims that night terrors are mainly found in boys ages 5-7, which coincides with when I had my episodes. I found it quite unusual that your 17-year-old cousin would suffer from these, even though it was still entirely possible. Looking into the subject, it was interesting to see documented night terrors on film. I found it odd that through all of the apparent distress the subjects are going through, they usually don't remember it, and seem to not even know they do it. In the case of children, it is exponentially more common for the parents seeing it happen to be more scared than the child experiencing it.

It was also interesting to find out the reason behind children suffering from night terrors more than adults. This is due to the fact that children spend more time in non-REM sleep than adults, and the fact that night terrors occur in non-REM sleep. It was also interesting to see that nightmares occur in REM sleep, so there is really no link between nightmares and night terrors.

For the Love of the Game

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fball fans.jpg

Everyone has experienced at one point or another. Whether it's watching the football game on television or a sad movie. I'm talking about the emotional feelings you get when watching someone else, perhaps on television. The moments where you feel like you're actually in the game or you find yourself smiling or crying while watching that heart-wrenching movie. One of the more recent explanations for this is the discovery of the function of "mirror neurons" in the brain. The textbook briefly covered the basic idea of mirror neurons and the affects they may have on human behavior. Mirror neurons may be responsible for feelings such as empathy and may play an interesting role in learning.

These mirror neurons were originally found accidentally in an experiment with monkeys. Scientists at a laboratory in Parma, Italy, where researching a neuron that fired every time the monkey grabbed a peanut. One day the monkey was just sitting there when he observed one of the scientists grab one of the peanuts. When the scientist grabbed the peanut, the same cell that fired when the monkey grabbed the peanut also fired when the scientist grabbed the peanut. This implies that one of the same neurons is used whether watching someone do something or actually doing it yourself.

Similar results were found in humans. In this video a man is shown multiple pictures of people with different facial expressions and asked to imitate each one and his brain is scanned. The activity is then repeated except he simply looks at the pictures and doesn't move. The results of the scan showed that the "mirror area" that is busy in the brain when he made the facial expressions was the same area that was busy when looking at the pictures.

These mirror neurons may explain why we get so excited watching sporting events. Our brains are firing in ways similar to the players in the game so we too feel like we are actually in the game. We feel stressed or sad when our team is losing and shout and scream when our team is winning. It's the same with movies, when we see a sad scene, often times we too feel sad. Our brains our linked to the emotions portrayed by the actors on the scene. Is this why we also wince at the sight of other people experiencing pain? Do we actually feel a little bit of their pain because or brains are acting in similar ways?

One other interesting finding that I found interesting in the above video was the connection between mirror neurons and autism. The video explains that children with autism may not have the same mirror neuron activity as people without it. The video explains that maybe people with autism don't have the additional mirror neuron help to assist in reading others emotions and body language. This finding has not been proven, it is simply a suggestion that would have to be further experimented.

False Memories and "Shutter Island"

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Movies for years have referred to psychological concepts in order to proceed with their stories, often tampering with memory in some way or another. Most recently we've seen "Inception", and even movies like "Sucker Punch" take a crack at at least loosely basing parts of their story on psychological facts, whether it's the mental escape referenced in "Sucker Punch" or the potential implantation of ideas in "Inception". We've all seen the media project these ideas on the screen and it continues to astound us.

jpgAmong these processes we have viewed and adored (or hated, depending) are suggestive memory techniques. These have been demonstrated perhaps most recently in the film "Shutter Island", and for those of you who have yet to see the film and still want to, NOW would be the time to discontinue your reading. In "Shutter Island", a man named Teddy is shown as a U.S. Marshall attempting to solve the case of a missing patient on Shutter Island, which was a facility for treating the criminally insane.

However, in the end you find out that Teddy is in fact himself a patient of the facility, and the U.S. Marshall act has been a construct of his mind which was then further encouraged, so to speak, by the doctors at the facility in an attempt to help him realize that the U.S. Marshall act was an illusion, that he had, in fact, committed a terrible crime and they were simply trying to get him to realize the truth and who he really was. In order to "encourage" the illusion, the entire facility set up a 2-day-long roleplaying act, in which they came up with the patient escapee scenario and let Teddy believe he was a U.S. Marshall and gave him full reign to "solve" the case. In the end they break the truth to him, showing him fact after terrible fact to try to get him to, well, face the facts.

According to our book, however, and the section about implanting false memories, IF this scenario with Teddy had actually happened it could have actually harmed his ability to realize the truth. They were, essentially, encouraging false memories, false realities, which as our book has told us has been proven to cause people to misremember events that had happened.

There are many, many more represented in this movie, particularly the idea of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which we don't learn about until chapter 12, and Delusional Disorder, which we don't study until chapter 15, though if you would like a sneak-peak at how these are portrayed in "Shutter Island" check out THIS article. However, this particular psychological idea I believe is more or less accurately portrayed. After this dramatic roleplay Teddy briefly states that he believes their version of the truth, but ultimately drops back into his U.S. Marshall self, and unwilling to give up that version of his reality. In a way, though no doubt his Delusional Disorder plays a part, it shows that all of this work to promote his version of reality and then shatter it with the truth only promoted his delusion.

All in all, though I question how broadly this concept would be able to be applied. Would it be possible to potentially get someone to believe an entirely different past than what they truly experienced? Possible to replace every previous memory with something different? And what sort of effects would that have on a person? Could it change who they are entirely?

The Circadian Rhythm and Delayed Sleep-phase Syndrome

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Psy blog.jpg
One important concept that I am interested in is circadian rhythm, which is a 24-hour cycle that rules all organism, including human being. There are many types of circadian rhythm sleep disorder, and delayed sleep-phase syndrome (DSPS) is one type of them. As a college student, I have gone through somewhat mild DSPS. People with DSPS generally fall asleep at almost the same time after midnight and have difficulty waking up in the morning.

One of my friends has been in a strong disorder for a long time. She usually goes to bed at 3:00 in the morning and gets up around 5:00 in the afternoon. She tried to go back to the normal life, but she found that it was more difficult than what she expected. Gradually no one invited her to take part in social activities any more; in some extent, she became isolated.

Sometimes people may not pay attention to this common problem, whose prevalence was calculated to be 0.17%, according to a nationwide epidemiological study performed in Norway (1). However, it is an invisible disability. Patients with it have trouble both in their daily social life. It has been referred as "social jet lag" and here is a video about this. Keeping life in a normal cycle is crucial for everyone because abnormal circadian rhythms have been associated with depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder, etc.

After knowing this, I think, in order to keep healthy, I will not delay my sleep any more, even before midterm seasons.

1. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2869.1993.tb00061.x/abstract

Slang and Psychology

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In reading about some of the concepts underlying language, I thought it would be interesting to apply the origins and purposes of language to slang usage. 'Slang' refers to the informal expressions of speech, like cursing or grammatically incorrect statements (e.g. ain't, f'inna). Undoubtedly, we all engage in slang from time to time. Slang can be an outlet for humor, a release of frustration, or for some it is the opportunity to develop a rebellious spirit. Regardless of its expression, slang talk has some interesting psychological backgrounds.

Slang usage serves a key social purpose in that it can help to solidify group identities. To some, slang represents the ability to talk in a way that is distinct from the norm, which may help people identify and become intimate with others who are not accepted, appreciated, or integrated with the "norm". This is a crucial function because finding people to be intimate with is an important innate goal for humans.
Positive reinforcement is the driving force behind the habit of slang talk. If someone's goal in a given social context is to achieve intimacy, they will tend to replicate those behaviors which elicit the best responses from the peers in that social group. So if the members of a given group are prone to rejecting the standard formal language in exchange for more slang-type speech, it becomes more likely that a person attempting to be welcomed into this group will use slang terms in his speech.

My concerns about the use of slang relate to the theory of linguistic relativity, which maintains that some parts of language help to mold our thought processes. If thought processes are related to language, what are the possible effects of habitually talking in slang on the way we think? In my opinion, there would be no distortion because slang talk is highly generative, just like normal speech. Slang talk involves high levels of creativity and complexity, which are the hallmarks of human language.


Living with Narcolepsy.

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I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes unexpected sleep attacks, at the age of 20. I didn't even know what narcolepsy was until I started having uncontrollable sleep attacks during my sophomore year of college. I had failed my first class all because I spent more time in class and my free time sleeping then paying attention in class and reading. It was then that I knew something was wrong with me and i started doing some research. I learned about narcolepsy and the more I read it seemed that all of the symptoms fit perfectly to what I was going through.

Most of my family and friends didn't believe me when I told them I thoughts I had narcolepsy, they thought it was just a good excuse for not having my priorities straight and focusing better in school. After about 8 months of struggling with numerous and intense sleep attacks and consuming large amounts of coffee and energy drinks (which seemed to do nothing but make me shaky) I went in for a sleep study. the next morning I was told I slept peace fully without any physical interruptions but that I could reach REM within 1 minute or less (and stay there for most of my sleeping hours), unlike the average person who takes 10 minutes or more to reach REM and when they do its usually for a short time.

Here is a video that shows a young man who suffers of intense narcolepsy and cataplexy. In this video you can really get a good look of what cataplexy looks like. Hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations, dream like experiences is common for all people, especially people who suffer from narcolepsy. Hypnagogic hallucinations happen during the transition of awake to sleep, where as hypnopompic hallucinations happen during the transition of being asleep to awake. These kinds of hallucinations are usually accompanied by sleep paralysis which causes an inability to move or talk. Sleep paralysis is a very stange experience and has its history of folk tales << this is one common one here in the U.S..

Narcolepsy is a difficult thing to manage as it can strike at any moment. The use of stimulants and a nap and sleep schedule helps decrease the amounts of sleep attacks that occur but regardless people with narcolepsy have to learn to deal with all the side effects of narcolepsy.


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The feeling of love is one that has always fascinated me and puzzled scientists. The book states that according to Elaine Hatfield and Richard Rapson there are two types of love; passionate and companionate. Last semester I took a class called Intimate Relationships and we looked a lot at both of these types of love. Passionate love is the typical "hollywood romance", movie type of love. It is romantic and all-consuming. Companionate love is love as a friendship. It is common for couples to gradually move from passionate to companionate love, but I also believe you can move from companionate love to passionate love. I think it is common and even healthy to start out as great friends and then late develop romantic feelings.

There are several examples of passionate love in the media. One of my favorites is Big and Carrie from Sex and the City. In this clip, one of the final scenes of the series, Big finally tells Carrie she is "The One" and they have a passionate, romantic kiss in Paris after six seasons of a will-they won't-they relationship. While I love Sex and the City and The Notebook and all things romantic, I think that the media definitely makes our expectations of love too high and unrealistic. The chances of the loves of our life telling us were "The One" in Paris under the moon or in a downpour by the lake are highly small. In intimate relationships teacher noted that hollywood has made it so much harder for all the guys out there because women expect "sparks" and grand gestures. I think that while it is fun to watch these shows and fantasize about love, in real life we have to remember to be realistic. A song example of passionate love is Grenade by Bruno Mars.

A good example of companionate love in the media is Monica and Chandler from Friends. They were best friends for years until they finally felt that passion at Ross's wedding, their first kiss is shown in this clip. When going in the friends turned lovers route you do have to be careful though, because you can risk losing a great friendship if the romantic relationship does not work out. A good song example of companionate love is My Best Friend by Tim McGraw.

I think that to have a great relationship you need elements from both passionate and companionate love, but there is no perfect combination and one is not greater than the other. It seems that for now the love-at-first-sight feeling will remain a mystery. And I almost kind of hope that it does, we've got to maintain a little mystery in this scientifically driven world!

The Power of "No"

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Mark Twain left us with these wise words, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. . . . Explore. Dream.''

Every time I hear this quote I can't help but to feel a sense of motivation. But this article caught my attention by posing the idea that failures and other people doubting you may be the driving force behind success as well as motivation. Instead of following our "dreams" maybe we are motivated to prove people wrong. I believe every single one of us relate to this particular sensation.

If anything, we've learned that human beings are complex individuals. It isn't until Chapter 11 that we learn about the theories of emotion and what drives us. Our book talks about defensive pessimism about "looking on the bright side of life" yet even the research suggests that this positive psychology is merely a fad. Moreover, problems of "individual differences" in Chapter 1 remind us to be careful about applying a "one size fits all" approach to human behavior. Also, the broaden and build theory proposes that happiness predisposes us to think more openly. But the article argues that we can derive happiness and success as a result of past failures. There may be a connection between failures and our ability to capitalize and grow from these experiences. Ultimately, this theory contradicts defensive pessimism. Obviously, replicability is not easily achieved because it is difficult to assess a person's life and compare it with another person in terms of how they reacted to failure and doubt.

As for personal insight, I remember my Dad telling me that "there would always be someone faster than me." As an avid running throughout middle and high school, these words haunted me. I set out to prove my dad wrong. Like the article mentions, "many people cherish their motivational insults." It took me a few years, but I managed to start winning races. I placed in the state and regional meets, but I never was the fastest. It seemed my dad was right, there always seemed to be someone better than me. Yet, I'm not mad. If it wasn't for my dad's words, I wouldn't have pushed myself as hard as I did.

Humans are not rational beings, the psychological landscape has debunked this notion. But I ask of you to figure out what motivates you. What "no" do you cling to? Who do you want to prove wrong? I believe Steve Jobs exemplifies these characteristics of adversity - despite dropping out of college and being fired from his own business, he was able to overcome previous failures to create one of the largest companies in the world. I find this element of human behavior to be both inspirational as well as necessary. Imagine if you gave up on something every time if someone doubted you, told you that you couldn't do it or said you weren't smart enough. Don't give up.


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220px-Stomach_colon_rectum_diagram.svg.pngAs a child, i was always told not to jump after a meal because i'd get appendicitis. The appendix is a small tissue pocket that extends from the large intestine. This myth started because jumping after a meal cause lower abdominal pain which is mistaken for appendicitis pains. It is also believed that the myth is still believed because people think that the appendix gets infected when food goes into eat because the person jumped after eating.

The principle of thinking which is used to prove this myth wrong is falsafiability. After much research, it was found that appendicitis has nothing to do with jumping after eating at all. It is actually caused by the infection of the appendix when it gets clogged with faeces or growth.

The claim of food going into the large intestine is also an extraordinary claim because the large intestine is the last step of digestion. By the time the food reaches this part, it would have already been converted to faeces. It would be impossible for the food to enter the appendix from the stomach even if you do jump immediately after you eat. By using the principle of Occam's Razor, we decide on the more logical option of the appendix getting infected by faeces of growths instead.

Treatments for Autism

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I was intrigued by the section in lecture (and the video posted on the course website) about behavior therapy for autism. The idea that some children graduated from these programs completely "normal" seemed, to me, unlikely. I wondered if these "star students" genuinely did not have autism anymore after treatment, or if they still had some subtle autistic qualities despite vastly improved language and social skills. ABA would still be awesome if it succeeded at that, and anyway I'm leery of overemphasizing "normality" (to paraphrase Temple Grandin's mom, "different" is not "less").

Autism-Causes5.jpgI wonder, though, if ABA is really so effective, why do I get the impression that people generally don't see it as the standard of care for autism? It seems like people still try so many things, even wacky and dangerous things, to "help" their autistic kids. Is it because the evidence isn't quite there for ABA after all? Does it just take too much time and money, so most parents of autistic kids can't afford it? Is it inadequately publicized?

I surveyed a few websites I thought ought to be reputable, to get a feel for what the scientific authorities thought of ABA. Here are some of my findings:

National Institutes of Mental Health
"There is no single best treatment package for all children with ASD." The article mentions ABA as being "widely accepted as an effective treatment."

PubMed Health :
Regarding ABA: "This program is for younger children with an autism spectrum disorder. It can be effective in some cases....These programs can be very expensive and have not been widely adopted by school systems. Parents often must seek funding and staffing from other sources, which can be hard to find in many communities."

Mayo Clinic:
This site doesn't mention ABA specifically, but does say of behavioral treatment, "Though children don't always outgrow autism, they may learn to function well with the disorder."

As far as I can see, the consensus is that ABA is highly recommended as a treatment for autism, but it isn't necessarily seen as the best in all cases. Nevertheless, ABA and other intensive early-childhood therapies seem to offer a lot of hope for these kids; if not always for normalcy, then at least for a better life. I guess the question of why the vaccine-blaming movement remains so influential will remain a mystery to me.

Alcohol as a Sleep Aid

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Many people believe that drinking some kind of alcohol before bed will help you fall asleep. They assume that just because many people feel tired or "pass out" after drinking, a drink or two before you plan on going to sleep will help you fall asleep faster. This however, is not true. This Article confirms that not only does alcohol not aid with your sleep, but it could actually be harmful to you. To receive a solid nights sleep you must be able to fall into delta sleep, a very deep sleep. While alcohol assists you in falling asleep sooner, it does not let us fall into that deep stage of sleep we need to feel well rested in the morning. Instead, we end up lying in bed awake longer than normal.
Studies have found that alcohol before bed has a larger impact on woman than men. The article stated above states that women experience more wakefulness during the night after consuming alcohol. This is thought to occur because men tend to have a higher metabolism causing their blood alcohol level to decrease more rapidly than that those of women.

Decision Making

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One of the main points covered in chapter 8 of the textbook dealt with decision-making. This can be summarized as making a selection from a number of possible options. People tend to make their decisions based on the different beneficial factors of each option. It is obvious that one or two decisions can the most influential factor(s) in our lives. For example, choosing to go to college and pursue a degree or attempting to find a well paying job right out of high school.

The best way to make a decision is to contemplate the pros and cons of each option and then make an educated decision based on those factors. Unfortunately, we live in such a fast paced world that many people tend to just make a quick decision rather than take the time to slow down and make sure the right choice is made.

An example of poor decision making in my life was when I went to the casino. I told myself beforehand that my limit would be $90 and I would not play anymore if I lost that. Naturally, I lost that $90 and kept telling myself that if I just had $20 more I could get it all back. I went to the ATM in the casino 4 times to withdraw $20 and each time I did so I lost that $20 within 10 minutes. I also racked up $12 in ATM fees. I ended up losing $192 that night because of my poor decisions. I was making decisions based on emotion rather than logic and it cost me quite a bit of money.

The bottom line is that decisions should be made using logic by measuring out the pros and cons of each option so that the right choice is made.

Decision Making process: http://www.robustdecisions.com/decision-making-tools/decision-making-process-steps.php

Obama's Decision Making Process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3HmwVOMVFo

A Terror in the Night

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A couple a years ago I was sleeping peacefully in my apartment when I was suddenly awoken by the loud yell of my roommate across from me. I sat up and noticed that my roommate was standing on his bed with his eyes wide open and fixated on the ground. I remember him yelling "What is that?" a few times before he finally calmed down and slipped back into bed. I had no idea what just happened it scared the heck out of me. When morning came, I asked him what happened the night before. He said that he had no recollection of what happened, but he told me that he suffered from night terrors. I had never heard of them before, so I immediately went to Wikipedia to find out more about this strange phenomenon.

Night terrors, also known as Pavor nocturnus, are defined in our textbook as "sudden waking episodes characterized by screaming, perspiring, and confusion followed by a return to deep sleep." According to the National Institutes of Health, night terrors are most common in boys ages 5 -7 and happen more seldom to girls. For children who experience night terrors the episodes generally decrease significantly by age 10. In rare cases it can happen into adulthood, with my roommate example as proof. Night terrors are are usually triggered by lack of sleep, sickness, or high stress levels. That being the case, terrors can be reduced by getting more sleep and by reducing stress level. Benzodiazepine medicines are also used for treatment.

I could not find information on the frequency of night terrors in sufferers. The night terrors as extreme as the one I described only happened about once every couple of months to my roommate. But every couple of weeks or so I would hear my friend talking in his sleep, and he usually talked about telling someone to stop doing something or asking for help. I always felt bad for my roommate. I wanted to wake him up during these episodes but I was afraid of how he would react. I am curious about whether or not it's okay to wake up some during a night terror episode. It was strange that my friend was never aware that he had a night terror unless I told him about it. I hope night terrors are researched more to find out what actually happens in the brain during one.

Learning to Face Media

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alcoho5.jpg When a neutral stimulus is paired with a stimulus that educes a reflexive response, overtime the individual will display the same response to the neutral stimulus alone. This was Ivan Pavlov's idea of classical conditioning. Advertising in the media uses the idea of classical conditioning to generate an audience and a consumer population and due to the prevalence of media in society it is important for individuals to understand this learning idea. When an individual knows that neutral stimuli are not related to responses that unconditioned stimuli provoke, he or she will know not to combine the disparate elements like media does. The advertisement for Jose Cuervo uses this idea to attract consumers. Jose Cuervo, the conditioned stimulus, is paired with the image of a happy male and female in contact with one another as well as the words "Pursue Your Daydreams," the unconditioned stimuli. When an individual sees this advertisement, he or she will feel a sense of desire to have what the individuals in the picture have. This feeling will create a conditioned response that leads to believe that the beverage will create this experience for him or her when if fact this is a false claim. I wonder how far advertisements can go in blending unrelated elements while remaining successive.



Psychology and Slang

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Moon Landing Hoax?

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On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to step foot on the moon. Almost immediately conspiracy theorist began to cultivate the idea the mission and the five successive ones were hoaxed in order to give the US a major public relations boost near the height of the Cold War. These theorist point to many supposed inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the NASA footage for the moon landings, and that the technology was simple not available at the time to actually pull off the feat.

Once of the major points of contention that conspiracy theorist like to attack is flag blowing in the wind. They claim that since the moon is a vacuum and there is no atmosphere it should not shift in the way it does when planted. However, these proponents fail to use the Scientific Principle of Replicabity. If you actually place an exact copy of the flag planted on the moon in a vacuum and 'plant it', it will behave in the exact manner shown in the NASA footage.

Link to Myth Busters

Another point of contention in the eyes of conspiracy theorists is the fact that the NASA film of the astronauts appear to be slowed down to produce the desired effect of running in 1/6th moon gravity. Again, these proponents fail to utilize the scientific principle of Replicability. Scientist have replicated the movement of the astronauts using zero gravity plane ride simulations.

RENT: Portrayal of Drug Abuse and Withdrawal

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The movie RENT covers many topics that could be considered controversial, including the concept of substance abuse and dependence. One of the main characters, Mimi, is a regular user of Heroin. Heroin, being a highly addictive narcotic, leads Mimi to experience Heroin withdrawal syndrome, showing symptoms like cramping, sweating, and chills. In the movie, Mimi starts out by occasionally using the drug, which shows how she just was abusing the drug, but due to the fact that Heroin is extremely addictive, the abuse soon turned to dependence. While watching it is very apparent that she craves the drug psychologically and physically, for she cannot stop herself from continuing to abuse the drug.

From 0:47 - 2:05 this clip shows bursts of how Mimi is so dependent on the drug that she is going through withdrawals. The way that the concept of drug abuse, dependence, and withdrawals is very accurate, due to the properties of Heroin. Heroin users can not go very long without the drug before they experience "heroin withdrawal syndrome", as described earlier. Usually, one can only go up to six hours without an additional dose before the negative symptoms start. Due to the fact that at this point in the plot Mimi is trying to get away from the drug all together, her symptoms are very extreme.

Even though the concepts are portrayed very well, I would not necessarily recommend watching the movie for this purpose, or just to see the effects of the heroin, because it is a subplot and does not focus on the drug abuse very much. In the movie, you can see that Mimi is not in a good state. You can tell she is in pain by the way she is shaking and is sweating and is bent over in agony. Although this may seem extreme to those who don't know about the drug, this is accurate to what withdrawal may be like for those dependent on heroin.

The Effects of Insomnia

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It is in the nature of humans that we tend to exaggerate. We exaggerate about stories, events, facts, pretty much anything that needs to be said. This is one of my many flaws; I often tend to exaggerate to emphasize the situation. One of my most common exaggerations is my standard statement: "I am an insomniac." If I have been in bed for two hours, and can't sleep, most of the time I will text one of my friends complaining about my insomnia issues. However, I am not legitimately diagnosed with this condition. Insomnia is defined as the chronic inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for an adequate length of time. One person who attempted to challenge the effects of insomnia, and more broad, sleep deprivation, was Randy Gardner.
When he was 17 years old, Gardner tried to break the Guinness World Record for the longest amount of time without sleep. He survived 264 hours. According to the article, he was basically "cognitively dysfunctional" by the end of the trial. But how exactly did he do it? As Gardner once put it, "It's mind over matter. Your body will shut down. If you don't override it with your mind, you're f***ed. You're going to sleep. You're gone." During the trial he was noted to have serious hallucinations and eventually passed out.
The bottom line is that our bodies aren't meant to survive without sleep. Insomnia is a very serious condition that needs to be treated. According to the Lilienfield textbook, successful ways in treating insomnia include psychotherapy and in some situations, Ambien, a popular sleeping pill. The video below shows the effects of what lack of sleep can have on a person.

Sources Used:


Growing Spaghetti

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The first of April has become notorious for rashes of pranks, accompanied by laughing and the timeless expression "April Fools". Normally these pranks are between, but occasionally the scale of these pranks is drastically heightened. One such occasion was on April 1, 1957 when much of England was fooled by a blatantly false news story from the BBC. The story was about spaghetti, and how the yields from the "spaghetti trees" that year were being threatened by severe cold weather. They went on to explain that each spaghetti strand was able to grow to the exact same length "thanks to years of hard work by generations of growers". The BBC even managed to procure images of farmers laying out their spaghetti crop to dry in the sun. Shortly after the segment concluded, hundreds of calls came into the BBC inquiring about the spaghetti crops and how one could grow their own spaghetti plants. Despite being absurd in itself, there were several other irregularities in the story that with proper applied thinking could have revealed the story for what it was.
In England, spaghetti is considered "exotic" and therefore is eaten only on rare occasion. So in some ways, it would be forgivable for these television viewers to be mistaken on the origin of spaghetti. But other claims made within the story should have given it away. Take for example the claim that farmers were able to grow each strand of spaghetti to the same length. The thought that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence applies here. The only explanation the BBC offered for this extraordinary phenomenon was the hard work of many generation of spaghetti farmers. This explanation simply is not good enough to account for the extraordinary claim. Another way to disprove that claim would be through replicability. Has there ever been a crop in which one could expect uniform growth patterns with every single unit of the yield? The simple answer is no, in fact, it's impossible to have that sort of control over growth patterns. Since there are no crops that are able to achieve that degree of uniform growth, it must not be a crop at all.
The other small detail involved the photo in which the farmers were laying out their "crop" to dry in the sun. It was claimed by the BBC that the crop was harvested in March, a known winter month in the northern hemisphere. How could one expect crops to dry in the sun during the winter? There really is no scientific thinking principle that covers this, but with any sort of common sense it would have been an easily noticed fallacy.
There was a simple way to avoid this mass prank and it lies in not believing the first thing you hear about something you know little about. Or in other words, having a healthy sense of skepticism. The English people knew little about spaghetti at the time and took a reputable news source and their story for their usual reliability. It's easy to see how they could be fooled, for there was a great degree of trust in the BBC. Basically, you have to disregard trust and allow your perception of a SET of data do the judging. Never allow one source's word to be yours.


Functional Fixedness

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Functional Fixedness is when we have difficulty coming up with new uses for an object that typically only has one use. The example of the candle, tacks, and matches is a great example of functional fixedness because a box of tacks is not normally used to mount a candle on a wall, so a person having trouble coming up with this solution would be experiencing functional fixedness. A formal definition of functional fixedness can be found here.

I'm currently taking a design class called Creative Problem Solving. The class's purpose is to improve our creativity and innovation over a semester. Each day we are shown an object and told to brainstorm for 1 minute all of the different uses we can come up with for that object. At the beginning of the semester this proved to be very difficult, and most students experienced functional fixedness, but as the semester progresses we all begin to come up with more ideas. Though many of the ideas people come up with seem strange, we've been taught that the best way to come up with a great idea is to have a lot of ideas.
Here are some examples of new uses for everyday objects:

It's important to understand the concept of functional fixedness so that we can learn to overcome it. When a person becomes fixed on one use for an object, it can be difficult to think of new uses. This can get in the way of problem solving because it doesn't allow us to think outside the box or have an open mind. I've learned that the best way to overcome functional fixedness is to just practice coming up with new ideas for things. Look at an object and brainstorm as many ideas as you can and write them down, and eventually more ideas will come to mind.

Here is a list of 100 uses for a paperclip, how many did you come up with?

"Inception" and Dreaming

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Dreaming is something that has always fascinated people. Are dreams ways for higher beings to communicate to us? Are dreams actions are subconscious wants to act out?
images.jpgScientists have been trying to answer these questions for years. Many studies show different meanings and reasons for dreams. While the importance of dreams is unknown, movie makers have been capitalizing on the mystery of dreams for years.

Movies like Field of Dreams, The Good Night, and most recently Inception all deal with dreaming. Inceptions goes miles beyond any other movie with the fact that one can invade another's dream and plant ideas.

The movie makers combined REM sleep and lucid dreaming in the concept of this movie. The facts that one would be aware they were dreaming and would be able to change the events in the dream are evidence of lucid dreaming being involved.

Inception claims that one day we will have the technology to invade dreams and change them, plant ideas in the subconscious, and interact with the dreamer. Many scientific thinking principles can disprove that this will ever occur. First, extraordinary claims. In order for one to claim that someone ambushed their dream and changed their way of thinking, they would need extreme data to back this up. No type of evidence would ever be extraordinary enough to support the claim. Also, the principle of falsifiability applies to this case. Scientists would never be able to verify the events that occur in the dreams to match up with the claims. Finally, it would be hard to determine correlation vs. causation. Does the dreamer suddenly have the idea because they "incepted" it, or is it coincidence? Is the dreamer swayed by the question to believe that this happened.

While the movie was a hit and blew viewer's minds, due to the scientific thinking principles, we will never have to worry about someone invaded our dreams.

Consciousness: Sleep paralysis

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We spend as much as one-third or more of our lives in one specific state of consciousness- that is sleep.
Although it's clear that sleep is of central importance to our health and daily functioning, psychologists still don't know for sure why we sleep. When we sleep, why we will feel something was on top of us.
It is an interesting and important topic for our daily life, for many people who suffer from this situation. Many people not in the US, but also in China, many of people shared a history of sleep paralysis.
What is sleep paralysis? That is you cannot move after falling asleep pr immediately. Now, we know it is caused by a disruption in the sleep cycle and is often associated with anxiety or even terror, feelings of vibrations, humming noises, and the eerie sense of menacingfigures close to or on top of the immobile person.
Here is an example for sleep paralysis. He went to bed early for he finished his last final exam, he was so tired. He woke up when he heard someone went into his doom. He heard foot steps came across the room, but he can't move. Then he felt someone pressed down. He think it is horrible. After a few seconds, he can move, and find noone in the room. This video tell us about the sleep paralysis. (I tried many times for the link, it still doesn't work)
This phenomenon is surprisingly common, which is I think important to us. We should have a good time management to help us feel better.

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220px-Stomach_colon_rectum_diagram.svg.pngAs a child, i was always told not to jump after a meal because i'd get appendicitis. The appendix is a small tissue pocket that extends from the large intestine. This myth started because jumping after a meal cause lower abdominal pain which is mistaken for appendicitis pains. It is also believed that the myth is still believed because people think that the appendix gets infected when food goes into eat because the person jumped after eating.

The principle of thinking which is used to prove this myth wrong is falsafiability. After much research, it was found that appendicitis has nothing to do with jumping after eating at all. It is actually caused by the infection of the appendix when it gets clogged with faeces or growth.

The claim of food going into the large intestine is also an extraordinary claim because the large intestine is the last step of digestion. By the time the food reaches this part, it would have already been converted to faeces. It would be impossible for the food to enter the appendix from the stomach even if you do jump immediately after you eat. By using the principle of Occam's Razor, we decide on the more logical option of the appendix getting infected by faeces of growths instead.

The Persistence of Trauma

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The case of Paul Ingram as presented in our discussion section was both disturbing and fascinating. The notion that a man could be accused, in the total absence of physical evidence and based only on highly inconsistent testimony from the alleged victims, is both frightening and revealing in terms of the strengths and weaknesses of human memory. The fact that he could be convinced of his own guilt is even more shocking. I wondered about accusations of serious wrongdoing and how they are affected by the passage of time. While the events in the Ingram case were relatively fresh when the accusations were made, in other cases much longer periods of time have passed. How reliable is human memory when the infliction of serious injury is combined with the passage of many decades? Is memory enough to stand on alone?

This brought to mind the cases of individuals accused of war crimes many years after they had occurred, when the passage of time had brought changes in appearance, location, and political situation. One of the most famous of these cases is perhaps that of John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian immigrant to the United States who was accused of being a notorious death camp guard during the Second World War. Demjanjuk was first accused of being "Ivan the Terrible", an infamously cruel guard at the Treblinka camp, in 1977.


In Demjanjuk's case, he was first identified by survivors during the investigation of another accused (and later convicted) war criminal, Feodor Fedorenko. During the course of trials spanning the 1980s until just this past year, Demjanjuk was identified by survivors as the man responsible for mistreating them and killing so many others decades ago. How could they be so sure? What role did suggestibility or so-called "herd mentality" play in his case or in the cases of others similarly accused?

A major difference in the nature of the cases of Paul Ingram and John Demjanjuk, in addition to the type of accusations made and the length of time involved, is the presence of documentary evidence in the case of the latter. The case against Demjanjuk did not just rely on the decades-old testimony of traumatized survivors but was buttressed by an extant (though controversial) "paper trail". It seems that this is a key distinction between wild accusation and measured prosecution. Additionally, Demjanjuk had many accusers; Ingram had only two.

Demjanjuk was ultimately convicted for war crimes in May of 2011. He maintains his innocence, while his accusers maintain his guilt. Even the most skilled psychologists cannot see into the minds of Demjanjuk or those who claim to be his victims, but even if they could, how much of what they could see could be trusted?

The importance of physical or documentary evidence remains as strong as it has ever been.

Why bad boys and girls are attractive?

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Two years ago, I had blind dates and met few boys. I can remember a guy who wanted to date with me again after the first date. Actually I did not dislike him, but after a week having a date with him, I met a man who is now my ex-boyfriend. So the blind date guy was out of my interest. So whenever he called me, I just did not answer or occasionally called him back. I thought he would stop calling and asking me to date soon. However he tried to be hooked up with me more than three months. Even thought I just dated with him only once in a while, about one or two times a week. We did not have date a lot, so it was quite surprising that he tried for that long. Now reading the chapter 6, I am thinking it would be a kind of example of operant conditioning and the importance of the schedule of reinforcement. This could help to understand his behavior.

This video clip contains Skinners' operant conditioning experiment with pigeons. In this video, Skinner himself explains about the experiment and the schedule of reinforcement too. This is a still amazing and interesting set of experiment even after decades. There are lots of experiments which ended with the same or similar results. There are a bunch of studies and experiments but I want to focus on the schedule of reinforcement. In the experiment, pigeons would have a reward (food) by pecking a disk in the Skinner box. However the reward was given to them in a variable ratio schedule. Since the reward was to increase the frequency of the response-or the specific behavior researchers wanted-, this is a kind of positive reinforcement. Using a variable schedule of reinforcement means the reward was provided after a certain number of the behavior which varies randomly. Usually it makes subject response more frequently. Because the subjects do the aimed behavior obsessively in a hope that this time there will be the reward. As Skinner said in the video, this is why gambling is so addictive and many people do not stop gambling. With the hope of striking it rich, people are excited by just simple actions; inserting coins and pulling levers of slot machines.


In my story, the reward was my answer and the behavior -or his response- was calling me or asking me to go out. Reinforcement was not given in a certain cycle, he might have thought that this time or next time I would answer him or call him back. Anyway I lived up to his hope few times, and then his response had become more intensive. At first time he just made phone calls but later he came in front of my home and waited for me. This was quite surprising. I have realized that a variable ratio schedule would make the intensity of a behavior increase in a real world setting. After three month or more, I totally ignored him so that eventually he stopped acting like that. This could be the extinction. Since there was no more reinforcement, he stopped the behavior.

Here comes the reason why the concept of the operant conditioning and scheduling reinforcement is important. Understanding the cause of behavior can allow people act according to their free will rather than being manipulated by others. Of course, human behaviors involve more complex mechanisms and emotions. Besides I know there is something in human behavior and learning which cannot be explained by the classic or operant conditioning. However as many replicated experiments have shown, this is the fact that conditioning has influence on animals or human behaviors.

Amnesia: are Hollywood movies close to reality?

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Amnesia is one of the favorite themes of Hollywood directors. For instance, The Great Dictator, Memento, Mulholland Drive, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or the Bourne Trilogy, talk about memory, and especially about amnesia. Some are close to reality and some are really far from reality, driving myths about memory and amnesia.

jason bourne.jpgIf you have watched the Bourne Trilogy, you know that amnesia is the main theme of these three movies. And these movies are pretty accurate about memory and the effects of a loss of memory. Indeed, even if it deals with retrograde amnesia - the loss of some memories of the past (and here all of the memories of the past, which do not seem very realistic) - which is a really rare kind of amnesia, most part of the movies promote true ideas.

For instance these movies make a distinction between implicit and explicit memory. Implicit memory includes all memories we do not deliberately remember or reflect on consciously. Explicit memory includes all memories we recall intentionally and of which we have conscious awareness. Remember the beginning of the first movie of the trilogy (use your memory!), first scene, when Jason Bourne is able to fight, and have exceptional skills in this field, even if, as we'll see right after, he does not remember anything of his past. This is a perfect example of implicit memory, which is not affected when someone suffers from amnesia.

The Bourne Trilogy is also close to reality about the recovery from amnesia. Recovery occurs gradually during all the three movies, Jason Bourne learning little by little who he is really, a former CIA secret agent, and scientific studies prove that, indeed, memory recovery from amnesia tends to occur gradually, if at all.

On the other hand Hollywood creates movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Everything in this movie is totally crazy. It is obviously impossible to come into someone's brain and erase memories which are linked to a specific person. Indeed, even if it is proved that some drugs like propanolol can hide traumatic memories, until now no one found how to erase painful memories. And as it is shown in this movie, maybe it would be a very bad idea to be able to do it.

The Night Terror Strikes back!

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After read the concepts in the textbook about sleep disorders, I was surprised to learn that what my cousin often does during the night is not planks intended to scare me and my parents: what he does is he would suddenly awake during the sleep and sit straight up on his bed with his arms waving around, and mumbling as if someone is forcing him doing something, few seconds later he would landed heavily on bed again.
The eerie behavior of my cousin has a name called the "Night Terrors", which can happen in about 15% of younger children. Children who is having a night terror is often reported with their eyes wide open, screaming, perspiring and confused, these reports largely describe my cousin's late night actions except the kicking and griping he usually did. There were few times I waked him during his night terror and tried ask him what's going on, but he seems so tired to react to anything that he fell right back to sleep. To be honest, I was too scared to look at him on face, so I couldn't tell whether his eyes were open, but it seems that he can't recognize anyone, and he was not able to recall what happened the next morning.

I learned with relieve that the night terror is not a serious psychological disorder and it is normal among the children, with no need of special treatment but some good, regular sleep. It says that children will outgrow night terrors as they get older, but as I founded out personally, the night terror did not go away as my cousin growing up. I had a chance to share a same bedroom with my 17-year old cousin during a family trip. As the night goes deeper I heard someone talking angryly, then I felt someone is touching my ear. I turned my head around slowly:

Yes, it was my cousin, again...

But thanks to what I had learned about the night terror in psychology 1001, I'm no longer having nightmare about it.

Look Who's Learning

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The Lilienfeld textbook shared that by the fifth month of pregnancy infants' auditory systems are developed enough to hear sounds from the mother. This sound of course is muffled, but nevertheless they are learning the vocal rhythms and patterns they hear. This concept is important because it explains why an infant is pre-disposed to a specifc language - they are already hearing the characteristics of that language before birth. Being one of those people who fall into the category of having a difficult time learning a foreign language, I wish my mom had been bilingual.

What about playing Mozart to an infant before it is born? Studies show that although fetuses do respond to music rhythms, because of the embryonic fluid the melody wouldn't be recognized. This means they aren't able to distinguish between different types of music.

So if you are wondering if infants are learning before they are born, studies show that the answer is yes. But if you think you are going to give them an advantage in life by playing Mozart as opposed to any other music at this early stage, there is no scientific evidence that reflects this. This concept does make me wonder if infants that are exposed to musical rhythms before they are born are more prone to being able to keep a beat.

If you have 3 minutes, watch this short clip that explains why babies can recognize their mothers native language and other interesting facts about babies and learning. main1421648.shtml

Also, here's a Youtube commercial for prenatal music. Can you see how they are attaching scientific findings such as "unborn babies respond to various rhythmic qualities of music" in their ad?


The Fight to Stay Awake

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Narcolepsy is a disorder that causes people to fall asleep instantly for anywhere between a few seconds and an hour. People with this disorder experience a sudden urge to sleep and have no control over staying awake. This urge can happen at any point during the day. A patient with this disorder can experience complete loss of muscle tone (cataplexy) which causes them to fall asleep. Cataplexy occurs most often when the patient is experiencing a strong emotion such as laughter or surprise. Genetic abnormalities cause a higher risk of narcolepsy but other patients develop narcolepsy after experiencing brain damage. Narcolepsy causes its patients to suffer and also poses risks to their lives. For example, if a patient with narcolepsy was driving and suddenly fell asleep, they could easily be killed on the road and potentially harm others. Narcolepsy is a potentially harmful and serious disorder which the general public should view as important.
In this video they show a dog with narcolepsy. You're able to see how severe it can be and how dramatically it can change a life. For humans, and especially for this dog, they're unable to live a normal life because they're constantly battling the urge to fall asleep. If I were able to meet someone with narcolepsy, I would ask him or her how it has effected their life and how they were able to overcome their disorder. What is triggered in their brain that tells them to fall asleep? Will there ever be a stronger and more secure treatment than taking a pill that simply promotes wakefulness?

Ancient Aliens

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A popular theory that has been gaining moment in recent years revolves around the idea that long ago the Earth was visited by Aliens and that these advanced beings are responsible for some of the colossal building project usually attributed to ancient man. Proponents of this theory argue that ancient man simply did not have the technical know-how or the manpower to build such impressive structures as the Great Pyramids of Giza or the Nasca Lines in Peru. These proponents fail to understand the scientific principle of Extraordinary Claims require extraordinary evidence and Occam's Razor.


There is simply no evidence that aliens had anything to do with the building of the Great Pyramids of Egypt and loads of evidence that they were built by ancient man. Proponents of the theory think that just because the secrets of the engineering behind the pyramids was not expressively left behind by the Egyptians that this opens the door for alien construction.

Proponents also fail to realize that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. What is more likely? Aliens came down from the sky and helped ancient man build stone monoliths or that ancient man build them as a crypt for their Pharaohs? What would have the aliens gained by building monument out of rock? Why not teach ancient man about something more interesting like steel construction or concrete? Proponents conveniently fail to answer these questions.

However, the theory does make for some interesting television. Just remember to apply scientific principles.

Truth about Hypnosis

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A boy dances like a chicken; strutting around the stage gingerly while rumbling his throat to produce a farmer's wake-up call. The audience erupts in laughter, convinced what they're seeing is a product of the Hypnotist's genius. With a snap of the hypnotist's fingers, the boy regains himself groggily, and asks the question, "What happened just now?".

Hypnosis, at least the public perception of the psychological phenomenon, is one of the most mainstream psychological concepts in the world. However, hypnosis is defined in our text as, "[a] set of techniques that provides people with suggestions for alterations in their perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors". But the true use of hypnosis is much more important and controversial than a simple stage show to entertain an audience. In fact, the idea of the hypnotized person suffering from amnesia after their ordeal is a total myth. Spontaneous amnesia is "rare and mostly limited to people who expect to be amnesiac following hypnosis"(Lilienfeld). Subjects are also carefully selected before the performance based on their high suggestibility, making them more likely to participate or "believe" they've been hypnotized.

There is still much debate, however, about the effectiveness of hypnosis beyond the stage show. Hypnosis is generally considered to enhance the effectiveness of "psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapies". Most hypnotists utilize an induction method, such as a physical object or suggestions for relaxation and kindness. Hypnosis is often used for treating pain, medical conditions, and habit disorders. Despite the common practice however, there is no evidence that hypnosis is effective by itself, as there is no clear biological distinction between hypnosis and wakefulness; people who are hypnotized do not elicit the same type of brain waves that people do while they're asleep

Occasionally, if there is enough evidence missing to convict a suspect in a crime or bring that suspect in for a trial, law enforcement will attempt hypnosis in some cases to try and get a witness to remember more than they can consciously. But hypnosis does not improve memory. It does increase the amount of information the witness can recall, but much of it is inaccurate and can lead to wrongful persecution or many more issues with the case.

Personally, I've always been the type of skeptic to reject hypnosis as a medical, recollection, or any other kind of tool. Our text provides a good explanation of theories as well as myths though, and it's interesting to note that it does have respect in the psychological world although it's not widely accepted.

Here's a link to a video about Suggestibility Tests, what hypnotists use before shows to select performers:

Writing #2

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The term that will be evaluated is replicability. This is the concept that anything that can be verified in an environment can be repeated. If this outcome cannot be repeated then it is due to form of chance that resulted in the original outcome. Science heavily relies on replication to ensure that the results that are being reached are not a fluke, but true and founded by what they have researched and performed.

This is shown in my life with my walks to class. On the first day, I left for my first class at 7:40 a.m. in hopes that it would work. 7:40 a.m. did work and so I have been going to class at 7:40 a.m. because it consistently works. Had I woken up at 7:40 on the second day and it did not work, then it might have shown that I was lucky with the walk symbols, or other factors of chance, to have made the first timework.

This can also be shown when playing a video game with my buddies. If I can go right on a map at the start and can always get the best guy, then I will always go to the right because it is what works for me. If I cannot replicate my success with going right at the beginning of the map, then I will look for alternative paths like going left or straight. This ability to verify and justify the results of my actions, I can make sure that the best outcome for my actions is replicated by repeating the steps.

Are The Parents Responsible?

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Children who have one or more parents who smoke are more than twice as likely to start smoking between the ages of 12 and 21 then children who do not have this negative influence in their life. According to Karl Hill, director of the University of Washington's Seattle Social Development Project, elements that influenced whether or not adolescents began daily smoking were consistent family monitoring and rules, family bonding or a strong emotional attachment inside the family, and parents not involving children in their own smoking behavior.

There are many reasons for children wanting to smoke in their teenage years however and can we make a positive accusation that family is the sole cause for this behavior? We must rule out other hypothesis. I agree that family influence has an impact on the behavior of children and I believe the nature and nurture concept applies in both ways to the accusation. The lack of nurture parents impose without being aware of it sometimes may cause the child to act from what he sees from his role models (parents). Children learn through observational learning and may develop similar habits their parents have at a vulnerable age. Maybe they purposely act out to try and receive the attention he/she is craving. Addictive personalities may also run in the family causing the child to naturally want to begin and continue smoking. Maybe the child has confidence issues or social disabilities and cannot say no to pier pressure.


Hysterical Pregnancies

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I first heard about hysterical pregnancies while watching an episode of Glee. Hysterical pregnancies happen in both humans and other mammals. A hysterical pregnancy in humans, also known as pseudocyesis, is when a person experiences symptoms of pregnancy while they aren't pregnant. Hysterical pregnancies seem to be mainly psychological.

The causes behind false pregnancies aren't known but it is generally thought that they are cause by changes in the endocrine system. The endocrine system secretes hormones, and the changes in the endocrine system causes secretion of hormones which lead to changes in the body similar to those during pregnancy.

pregnancy-test1.jpgThe changes in the endocrine system may be because the person desires to be pregnant but can not get pregnant. The disappointment of not being able to get pregnant may lead to effects on the body, causing a false pregnancy. Hysterical pregnancies also frequently happen in people who have been through a traumatic miscarriage.

False pregnancies may also be caused by tumors in the uterus. The tumors affect the menstrual cycle, causing menstruation to be absent. This change in the menstrual cycle may also lead to malfunction in the endocrine system, causing the effects explained above.

The symptoms experienced by the woman during a hysterical pregnancy are extremely similar to those experienced by a woman who is actually pregnant. Some of these symptoms are enlargement of the abdomen, nausea, feelings that something is moving in the stomach, and irregular menstrual cycles. This makes it difficult to diagnose whether a person is experiencing a false pregnancy or not. One way to be sure is to get an ultrasound done. If the person is not really pregnant, there will be no baby.


Prompts for Blog Entries 3 and 4

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psychology-joke-pavlov.pngBlog entry 3 is due by 11:59 pm on Sunday, October 23 (right before the second exam), while Blog entry 4 is due by 11:59 pm on Sunday, November 6. In addition to the three prompts listed in the syllabus (also listed below), as announced in discussion section on the 12th, I've added a new fourth prompt for blogs 3 and 4. Please no longer use the fourth prompt that was given for blogs 1 and 2. If you have any questions about the blogs or prompts, please let me know! Happy writing! (Note: the cartoon has nothing to do with this post; it amused me and goes along with what you've been learning recently...)


Pick one of the following topics and write ~250 words about it. Feel free to add images, videos or links (include at least 2 of these 3!).

1) Identify one important concept, research finding, theory or idea from Psy 1001 lectures or the Lilienfeld text from the past two weeks. Summarize the concept in your own words and explain why you believe this concept research finding, theory or idea is important. Apply this to some aspect of your life (real life example are an excellent way to learn. Photos, You-tube videos, etc. are encouraged.) As you reflect on this concept, research finding, theory or other idea, what other questions occur to you? What are you still wondering about?

2) Provide a link to an article, hoax or claim that has been made in the media and evaluate the claim using one or more of the six principles of critical thinking. (You can find a rich source of urban legends at Snopes.com.)

Apply a concept, research finding, theory or idea that you have learned about in Psychology to provide an alternative explanation. Which principle is most useful for evaluating this particular claim? Remember to cite your sources.

3) If you can think of a different explanation or want to support something one of your classmates has posted, you can respond to a classmates post with a post of your own. Be sure to provide evidence to support your response.

4) Write about a psychological concept covered in lecture or the text that has been shown in a movie or TV show/episode (include video, pictures, link). Was the concept correctly portrayed? What could have been done to make the presentation of the concept more accurate? Would you recommend this movie or TV show/episode to a fellow psychology student interested in an accurate portrayal of the concept? What questions do you have about the concept, given how it was shown?

War of the Worlds: Hoax of the Century

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A hoax can be defined as "to trick into believing or accepting as genuine something false and often preposterous." Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" hoax is an inadvertent manifestation of this phenomenon. On October 30, 1938, hundreds of thousands of people listened in terror as Welles conveyed the scene of a martian landing. According to Welles, a large meteorite had hit the earth on a New Jersey farm. With further news bulletin "updates", Welles told of how aliens were emerging from the smoldering meteorite. Police phone lines became encumbered with the calls of terrified citizens wondering about the aliens wreaking havoc in New Jersey. This is one of few hoaxes which wasn't created to be a hoax. The havoc was created by listeners who had changed radio channels after the conclusion of a rival radio program. They missed the beginning of the broadcast, which had plainly told people that it was a characterization of the novel "War of the Worlds". What really made it so convincing to these ignorant listeners was the delivery of the news. Welles and his radio affiliates had created the broadcast in an update-style delivery. They would periodically interrupt a musical ensemble in order to deliver the urgent news. This style mimicked the update style of war time news delivery, therefore giving the broadcast an element of authenticity which was believable from the standpoint of Americans who had become accustomed to the combat updates of WWII. The beliefs of the day also played a large role in the inadvertent success of the hoax. At this point, science fiction was a widely popular genre among Americans. Also, space had become the last unexplored frontier and thus was the subject of great curiosity among the public. In many ways, this was a "perfect storm" for the creation of hoax.

When looking at this hoax in the perspective of critical thinking, one must remember how people received their news in that time period. All forms of media were encompassed in print and radio. These forms of media had no real time mechanism in which the media and their "listeners" could interact and thus people had to put their trust in what they were being told. However, if they had known of the six scientific thinking principles, they perhaps would have been much more skeptical of Welles extraordinary claims. The principle which seems to fit that situation perfectly is "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." The only evidence they had of this phenomenon was the word of Welles, which was hurriedly conveying the scene alien destruction. These people were taken for a ride due to their lack of skepticism, accepting claims which held only the evidence of "eye witnesses" on the scene. The other applicable scientific thinking principle is Occam's Razor, which is the reason of this hoax in the first place. Either the broadcast was fake (which it had been declared to be) or they were conveying the first contact with aliens. Had the people heard the beginning of the broadcast, there would have been no doubt as to what was really happening. The two sides of the claim would have been present and there would have been virtually no one who would have chosen to believe the characterization of humanities destruction by the hands of aliens.

It is safe to say that the magnitude of this hoax will never be seen again. With changes in delivery of news, skepticism accumulating over decades, and a generally better educated population, it would be hard to fool this amount of people (especially if you had made it clear that it was fake in the first place). This one-of-a-kind occurance is not only a great example of a hoax, but it is a great part of American history.

Work Cited:

""War of the Worlds": Behind the 1938 Radio Show Panic." Daily Nature and Science News and Headlines | National Geographic News. Web. 12 Oct. 2011. .

"Hoax - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary." Dictionary and Thesaurus - Merriam-Webster Online. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.


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For some people, letter A always appears red even though it is printed in black; color red can has a smooth, milky "taste", and their favorite music "looks" like a big firework show... These people (perhaps 1 out of 2000 of us) who process a cross-sensory view of world are characterized as having the synesthesia

Some might think that synesthesia is an mental disorder, but in fact, most people with synesthesia are living normal lives. Because most kinds of synesthesia do not interfere with normal daily functioning, it is not classified as a form of mental diseases. In stead, synesthesia can sometimes introduce rather pleasant or "inspiring" experiences. Here is a picture demonstrating what a synaesthete sees when hearing the word "Saturday" hearings_sat.jpg

Synesthesia may become a source for inspirations. There are accounts from many musicians and artists which stated that their intermingled senses had help them greatly in producing creative ideas and artworks. And the statement of Nobel prize winner Richard Feynman reflects his synesthesia experience: "When I see equations, I see the letters in colours -- I don't know why. As I'm talking, I see vague pictures of Bessel functions from Jahnke and Emde's book, with light-tan j's, slightly violet-bluish n's, and dark brown x's flying around. And I wonder what the hell it must look like to the students." But whether and how the synesthesia experience might have affected Richard Feynman's achievement is not clear, other factors such as diligent work may have played more important roles in his achievements.

I am particularly interesting in the question of whether people with synesthesia can utilize their cross-sensory ability to enhance their cognitive and memory abilities. Synesthesia may give people extra "hooks" in minds on which to hang new information: for the grapheme-color synaesthetes, they can easily spot particular objects from their surroundings, such as number 2s mixed with a host of 5s because the 2s have different color than 5s. And as a grapheme synesthete says, "When I read, about five words around the exact one I'm reading are in color. It's also the only way I can spell. In elementary school I remember knowing how to spell the word 'priority' [with an "i" rather than an "e"] because ... an 'e' was out of place in that word because 'e's were yellow and didn't fit." By remembering particular letters in word have certain colors, grapheme-color synesthetes may have found a short-cut to master spelling tasks.
In much the same way, people with other kinds of synesthesia may have the potentials to become efficient learners under proper guidance and training.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/hearingcolours.shtml 12/2/2011
http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/2/21/144256/437 12/2/2011

Can the Blind See?

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In a well known story from the year 1945, a girl claimed to have seen the explosion of the first atomic bomb. The bomb was being tested in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, when Georgia Green, being driven to the University of New Mexico, claimed to have "seen" the explosion that occurred. This may not being astonishing if that was the end of the story, but Georgia was blind. Although she could not see anything else, she somehow seemed to respond to a visual cue when the bomb went off.
Although it seems highly unlikely, this story has never actually scientifically been proven wrong. However, there are two aspects of critical thinking that can help us understand to greater detail what Ms Green may have experienced that night. The first is Outrageous Claims. This is a big claim to make seeing as there is no proof at all that Georgia actually "saw" the flash, all we know is that she reacted to the explosion, we are never given any evidence that it was from a visual cue. This evidence is not nearly substantial enough to verify that she actually saw the explosion that night.
The Second that can be used if Occam's Razor. Occam's Razor says, of course, that the simplest explanation is often times that true one. So is it really logical to believe that Ms Green, a blind woman who has been blind for most of her life and years before this incident occurred, saw a flash of light from the atomic bomb? Light is not the only effect of an atomic explosion. There is also a shockwave, a noise, and a tremendous amount of heat all given off as well. And although she was blind, Georgia could still hear and feel just as well as anyone. So Occam's Razor would beg the question; wouldn't it be more likely for Ms Green, a blind woman, to have felt the shockwave or heard the sound of the explosion rather then seen the light?
Falsifiability also plays heavily into this because how can anyone really know what Ms Green saw on that fateful night in the desert.

Extra-Curricular Overload

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Chapter 6 in our psychology book seeks to answer how we learn new information. Like most aspects of psychology, there isn't any simple answer. The article I chose tries to see if there is a connection between children's activities and their later successes/developments in life.

The article states that in today's day and age, parents have a belief that their child has a "hidden talent." Therefore, they deem it is necessary to introduce the child to a variety of activities such as tae kwon do, swimming, piano lessons, etc. While at the same time, both economists and psychologists argue that this type of behavior shows no signs of future success or development. In fact, they argue that constant exposure to lessons, practices, meetings etc., can be detrimental to a kid's early development. William Doherty, a professor here at the U, stated "The experiences we thought kids had to have before high school has moved down to junior high and now elementary. Soon, we'll be talking about leadership opportunities for toddlers." The article further states that parents have an obsession to offer every opportunity for their child - even if it means depleting their own financial resources. Furthermore, chapter 6 tells us that children often mimic the actions of their parents and other adults - or in another words the phenomenon known as observational learning.

If parents are constantly rushing their children from activity to activity, isn't it reasonable to assume the child would burn out? Given that we are all cognitive misers, I would assume more activities and events piled on top of childhood development would not be beneficial. Learning is a complex psychological system, but I believe this articles sheds light on some of the misconceptions of childhood development. Especially in wake of the recession, more parents are strapped for cash, yet feel the need to provide the most for their child. In closing, Doherty states that some stimulating activities outside are important, but so is a nurturing family. Nevertheless, this study is fraught with many variables -- including childhood itself. Consequently, this type of experiment requires a long-term case study that is not easily replicated.


Sociology vs. Psychology

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Throughout history people have held a morbid interest in serial killers. The thing people were most interested in, the psychology of a serial killer. How could a person kill so many others? This article informs readers of several claims about serial killers made by Kevin Haggerty, a sociologist and criminologist.
The first red flag that went up while reading this article was, who is this Kevin Haggerty? What are his credentials, what kind of research has he done to make these claims, or is it simply a theory that is untested?
My next thought, he claims that Psychology cannot answer the age old question of, what causes a person to become a serial killer? However, though sociology/ criminology and psychology are different fields, sociology and criminology use Psychology to explain many phenomenons that occur also. These fields are intertwined. The claim that Psychology cannot explain what creates a serial killer is founded, but the claim that sociology and crimonology can is unfounded. Psychology uses sociology in its research models. Society/ environmental/ nurture plays a huge role in Psychology.
While reading this article I also questioned the mentioned study. The journalist mentions that he published his study in Crime, Media, Culture. What kind of publication is this? Did this journal check his research tactics?
My next question, is Kevin Haggerty's claims falsifiable? How can one falsify the theory: Psychology cannot answer the quesiton: How do people become serial killers?... But Sociology and Crimonology can? Isn't Psychology the study of the human mind and Sociology the study of how society works, and criminology a branch of Psychology that studies the way that criminals think and act? In what way can Sociology and Criminology better answer the question than Psychology? Unlike Sociology, Pyschology takes into account the effects of society on an individual. Sociology doesn't study how the human mind actually works. It studies how society works. Perhaps, Society can answer how society may help to create serial killers, but they cannot make any theories that tell us how serial killers think, that lies completely in the realm of Psychology.
Without a proper study with supported research this claim is unfounded. This article, however, was well written. The journalist did a good job of remaining outside the argument. Setting up the claims of Kevin Haggerty, but then mentioning a rival opinion within the same field by Erik Hickey.
My analysis of this article finds the journalist reporting truthfully quesitons being raised. The journalist makes no claims of truth and tries to reveal the whole argument. My qualms and questions lie in Kevin Haggerty's claims and his research methods, that weren't delved into.

serial killer.jpg

3D Movies

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3D movies seem to be all of the rage in the media lately. It has been popularized with the introduction of 3D television for people to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes, and 3D movie production is rising as well. 3D images, however, are not a new concept. When the human eye looks at a still image or any TV show or movie, we can imagine what the image looks like in 3D. Our brain uses information called depth cues in order to interpret an image. These cues include occlusion, shadow, perspective, relative size, and relative height. With these cues, our brain can tell us what object is in front of another, what things are farther away, and the relative size of objects in order to create a "3D" mental image. These however, are monocular cues meaning they are viewed the same with one eyes as they are with both eyes. 3D movies and TV differ because they use binocular disparity. The new 3D movies are filmed with two cameras about eyes' length away. The cameras move in way to mimic eye movement. When the images are projected on to a screen and viewed through the 3D polarized glasses your visual system uses the perspective cues created by the cameras to give the sensation of depth.3D TV.jpg

Is The Pain Really There?

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Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have an amputated limb? Many war heroes from Afghanistan, Vietnam, etc. have suffered life-altering injuries that most of us could not even begin to fathom. The Lilienfield text discusses the "Phantom Limb Illusion", a psychological phenomenon of a feeling pain in the missing limb. According to the text, "the missing limb often feels as if it's in an uncomfortably distorted position."

I think this theory is important because it shows how much our mind messes with us. Most of us hallucinate a lot, feel things that aren't really there, and make up things in our mind. This has a lot to do with perception, and how many times our brain fills in missing information that makes sense during the stages of transmission and processing. The majority of the people in the world don't know what it is like to have an amputated limb, therefore when the situation actually occurs, they don't know how to feel.

An old friend from my school had an amputated leg. As I saw him attach his plastic leg everyday, a sense of shock and discomfort overwhelmed me. How would I feel if I were in his position? Why did this happen to him? Wouldn't that just be awful to be missing a leg? Wouldn't it feel weird? I think all of these questions have to do with why our brain fills in missing information. We hear things, see things, and all of these are tied into how we eventually feel as if we are supposed to feel. I just wish I could talk to someone and get more research on the phantom limb illusion so I could get more in depth as to what actually happens.

Pictures: (computer wouldn't let me attach them)



How can a blind man play basketball?

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As many of us are coming to realize, the brain is extremely complex and interesting. One of the many amazing tricks of the brain that I found to be of particular interest is plasticity. Plasticity is a phenomenon that allows the brain to change and "re-wire" itself.

benfrontpagesm.jpgOne example of plasticity that I found to be astounding was the case of Ben Underwood. Ben Underwood (1992 - 2009) was no less than a prodigy. Ben suffered from an aggressive form of cancer at a very young age. He was forced to undergo surgery to remove his eyes at age two. However, unlike the typical blind person, Ben uses no cane or seeing-eye dog. He doesn't need to walk with his arms outstretched to find his way. Ben was able to develop the ability to echo-locate in order to "see". Ben echo-locates by clicking his tongue. He is then able to intercept the sound waves as they are reflected off of nearby objects. In this way, Ben is able to sense objects in his environment. He is able to run, bike, roller blade and even play basketball by echolocation. How amazing! What a feat of the human brain.

Though no formal studies were conducted on the brain of Ben Underwood, it is likely that the part of his brain responsible for echolocation is the same part that would typically be responsible for vision. Since this part of the brain is largely inactive in blind individuals, it can be "re-purposed" to accommodate other skills, typically the ability to read braille.

More on Ben Underwood:

--Ben's Official Website

Sleeping Pills: Doing More Harm Than Good?

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Sleeping pills have become very popular in the last decade. People are becoming very dependent on them, and overusing them. Recently however, people are beginning to believe that these pills can be very harmful, and in the long run its better to fall asleep naturally. While most of these medications do help you fall asleep and stay asleep, it is said that those who take sleeping pills are at higher risk for death. This article states many ways in which sleeping pills are said to be harmful and sometimes cause death.
However, there is no real evidence that sleeping pills can cause things like higher death rates, more car crashes, etc. while there may be a correlation between taking sleeping pills and, for example, car crashes, we dont know that this is the main cause of that. it could be that the person taking these pills is addicted to them and uses them abusively, meaning that they are not taking them appropriately which may have caused them to get into that car crash. This is an example of causation v. correlation. Overall, sleeping pills are very useful to some people but those who do not use them correctly may hurt themselves.

Classical Conditioning

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One of the most interesting ways of learning I have read about is classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is a form of learning in which animals come to respond to a previously learned neutral stimulus that head been paired with another stimulus that elicits an automatic response. Pavlov was the first to discover this with his studies with dogs. The unconditioned stimulus, which is the stimulus that elicits an automatic response is the meat powder. The unconditioned response is the salivation. As the dogs heard the footsteps of the researchers coming closer, they began to salivate because they thought food was coming. This type of learning is a product of nurture, not nature. One way that I realized I had been classically conditioned was in swimming. I was a competitive swimmer for 12 years, and for the first 8 years I practiced in a 25 yard swimming pool. I was taught to do a flip turn at every wall, which was every 25 yards. When I got promoted to the Nationals team, we practiced in a 50 meter pool. The first few times I swam there, I found myself trying to do a flip turn while I was only about half way through the pool! This is because my body had been conditioned to turn every 25 yards, but now that the pool was 50 meters I had to adjust. There have been some funny examples of classical conditioning in the media such as on the TV show The Office.


I also found a student experiment that is pretty funny too.


I think classical conditioning is so interesting and is definitely something that can be done on anybody.

In a simple sense, an illusion is when something isn't what it seems. Our brain likes to play tricks on us and tell us that things we are seeing that are not physically real are real. What is happening in this situation is our brain are perceiving an alternate reality to what is physically real. These illusions occur because our sensory system is not perfect. There are gaps in its accuracy that lead to our brain filling in these holes and making some things appear real. Most of the time our sensory system is right and does a great job of filling in the gaps accurately, but sometimes it doesn't. Our brain's interpretation of what is physically present can be faulty.

The photo included in this posting is a great example of an illusion. The photo is either a girl or a man playing a saxophone. Our brain tries to piece together what we are seeing and either determines that it is a women or the saxophone player. If you look hard enough you will eventually see both images. There are images like these that we have all interacted with at least once in our life, but there are also illusions we can barely detect. A simple one would be a mirage. As a kid I always saw these on the streets and I was fascinated by them. As a child I always thought they could be real until we would drive by them and I would find out that it really was an illusion.

It is important to be aware of illusions because if we are not careful and let our brains deceive us we could get hurt or in trouble. In the rare chance that you were stuck in a desert and did not know about illusions you might actually try and run after a mirage.

After reading about this concept I wondered about how a researcher can detect what is an illusion. Some illusions are obvious, but I feel that if all humans are prone to experiencing illusions there might be some that are hard to detect. I understand that there are strict scientific studies to identify illusions, but I still feel skeptical that we have discovered all the illusions in our world.


Where Am I Really?

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Professor Sautoy's journey into the reality of our consciousness brought him to consider the relationship between our biological situation and the apparently separate notion of 'self'. This led him to the work of Professor Ehrsson. According to Ehrsson, the idea of an 'I' is an illusion produced by the brain; consciousness is merely the outcome of the brain's procedures for determining where and what it is. To show how this is the case, he gave Sautoy a special piece of headgear which put his field of vision directly behind him, so that his eyes relayed different information for his bodily location than his other senses. Ehrsson then held two different colored pens, thrusting one at the camera (which was now Sautoy's field of vision) and the other at Sautoy's chest. This confused Sautoy and he had trouble identifying which color pen was actually hitting him on the chest. When Ehrsson swung a hammer at the camera, Sautoy actually flinched back in his seat. What Ehrsson did was effectively separate Sautoy's sense of 'I' from his body, only because Sautoy's displaced field of vision conveyed to him an incorrect sense of bodily location. This seems to show that consciousness can be manipulated by physical stimuli, thus disproving that the body and mind are distinct. I am not sure how valid we can consider this demonstration, simply because Sautoy was aware of Ehrsson's work before he came to him, and his behavior could have been influenced accordingly. Nonetheless, the idea that a sense of self is inseparable from brain and bodily functions is convincing. When our sensory data is cleverly configured, our sense of self can become hugely inaccurate. Ehrsson's demonstration, if valid, shows that our idea or sense of ourselves fundamentally comes from the brain's processing of sensory information, not from an intangible entity. However, I am perplexed when I try to fit a sense of self that involves complex emotion or abstract thought into the context of Ehrsson's work.

Sorry I could not load a picture because of technical difficulties.

The Source of Earth's Oceans

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Science vs. religion has always been a controversial topic. Religion are what some people choose to believe in, while others choose to listen to scientific evidence and theories. This article explains the scientific ideas of one controversy that has been studied for years, the source of Earth's oceans.

Previously, isotopic dating and comparison of radioactive decay in natural elements showed that asteroids contained similar water than that found on Earth. Comets were only thought to contribute about 10 percent of water on Earth. However, this information was determined by studying and testing 6 different comets, prior to new findings. In November of 2010, a new comet was found and researched, the Comet Hartley 2. Using the same isotope comparison methods, along with other tests, researchers have now determined that its water is very similar to Earth's.


This finding demonstrates more than one psychological idea that we have talked about. The first is ruling out rival hypothesis. Previous ideas and evidence provided different ideas about Earth's water source. These hypotheses were ruled out by the more likely and more supported ideas of asteroid and comet contributions. Now, because of new evidence, the previous idea that asteroids were the largest contributor to Earth's oceans is being challenged.

The second psychology idea that relates to this article is that extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. If scientists are making this claim going against previous evidence, they need an immense amount of research to back it up. Although this idea is very possible, no substantial evidence has been found/proven yet. Extraordinary evidence will be needed for this claim to be accepted and for it to be worth repeating by others.

Where Am I?

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oops.jpgMy favorite area in psychology is social psychology. Social psychology is a discipline that uses scientific methods "to understand and explain how the thought, feeling and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of other human beings" (Gordon Allport, 1985). It helps us how to keep relations with others, which is extremely important in our daily social networking.

One concept enlightened me in the Lilienfeld text is belief perseverance. The belief perseverance is a trap that even when evidences deny the belief we hold before, we will still prone to keep it. We are reluctant to admit our error, especially in front of the public. Sometimes we even spend time on it just because we don't want to be proved wrong; it makes us feel embarrassed. Perhaps every one has fallen prey onto it.

Let's put ourselves in others' shoes. A person's reflection and behavior will be influenced by social environment and group interaction, both in positive and negative ways. If we point out others' mistake publicly, it may lead to an endless debate, and obviously, it will also hurt others' self-esteem. In this situation, our opinions will be difficult to be accepted. What's more, we will look unfriendly and impolite. Therefore, keep in mind, next time if you want to indicate someone else's mistake, pointing it out publicly will never be wise.

I think the process of studying psychology is the one to do self-analysis and self-reflection. I can look through myself deeper than before by using scientific thinking method. Only when I understand my weakness can I improve myself in proper way.

Linguistic genius of babies

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During our first lecture, we mentioned about John Watson's famous "Baby Alber study." Here is the video of this experiment.Albert was a nine months baby. He did not show any distress or fear of a white rat when it was placed around him. Then, Waston made a loud noise when Alber touched the rat and Albert did show fear when he heard it. After several time of this combination, when Albert was presented only with the rat, he still showed fear and tried to turn away. It provided an example of stimulus generation.

This experiment revoked me another baby experiment I watched several years ago. It was based upon foundation of "stimulus generation" indicated by "Baby Albert Study". In the experiment, baby was given two different sounds. At the same time of sound changed, a black box would light up and a panda pounded a drum. As a result, baby turned over to the panda. After several times of paring these two stimuli, scientists presented the baby two different words, whose pronunciations were so similar that most adult non-native speakers could not differentiated them. The baby did turned over his head. With post experiments, scientist concluded that babies are linguistic genius and they can learn no matter what kind of language if they are in that environment.

Why I cannot be linguistic genius as babies are. I found a video concerning this. The video shows that it is all about our brain. Our brain changed with our growth and it goes to be specific. During the critical period of learning language, our brains absorb statistics and form the "memory" about these.

Unfortunately, as a non-native speaker who has learned English for several years, I still have trouble with it. As we known, one goal of science is to improve our life. How to manipulate the critical period of learning language will be a significant topic. Hopefully one day we can figure it out someday and it can help me to master English better.


Is there anyone in there??

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Can we know whether someone still has conscious awareness? Can we know if someone can understand and if they can receive messages? In this BBC documentary mathematician Marcus de Sautoy explores for evidence to answer this question. His first encounter is with Professor Adrian Owen who is researching the idea of mental imagery to test the conscious mind. In the test, Owen asks the participants who include people in a vegetative state and those not in a vegetative state to imagine themselves playing tennis. The results show that both participants in the vegetative state and those not in the vegetative state have the same activity in the same region of the brain that prepares the body for movement.

Marcus then seeks the research which Doctor Anthony Absalom is conducting. He decides to be a participant in the study that is testing the effects of anesthesia on the brain. However, Marcus wants to see what parts of the brain need to be active in order to be conscious. At the end of the test, the results show that Marcus became less effective imagining himself playing tennis as the anesthesia turned off parts of his brain.

So can we really tell whether some still has conscious awareness? I do not believe that there is enough research shown in the segment to the answer question. The researchers in the segment tested conscious awareness by showing the participants ability to follow directions. My question is if there are any other ways to test conscious awareness? Can involuntary movements or the presents of emotion within a vegetative participant test conscious awareness? The research provided in the documentary gives a platform for more research to be carried out.


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When we taste delicious food, are we experiencing a sensation or a perception? The terms "sensation" and "perception" are often used interchangeably in most of our language. However, from the psychology textbook, I found these two terms are very different. Sensation is determined as the passive process of gathering information from the outside world into the body and to the brain. Sensation is including what we see, what we hear, what we smell, what we taste, and what we feel about our bodies. Perception is determined as the active process of picking up the signals in our environment and interpreting the information brought to our brain into something meaningful. Our senses allow us to experience the world we live in, and sensation is related to our five senses. If our world is without our senses, the world we live in would be very different and we cannot experience the variety of things in the world. The learning would become impossible if we cannot experience the whole world. We must first experience variety of things and then learn something. So that is why I believe the term "sensation" is important. h_large_trIr_2ace00007c8d2f74.jpg
When I was in elementary school, one of my classmates was a deaf-mute person. Even she had hearing aid at that time, she had great difficulties in listening what instructors said and talking with instructors and us. She could not hear us clearly. She usually used sign language to communicate with instructors and us. Sometimes we could understand her, but sometimes not. As a deaf-mute person, she could not learn knowledge in class very well. Deafness and muteness not only influence her life in learning in school, but also influence her life in other aspects. I found this video about how deafness and muteness influence people's lives. I am still wondering about can certain blind people still feel their surroundings using other four senses.



Synesthesia is a condition in which stimulation of one sense triggers another. For example, hearing something may cause you to experience specific visual images or tastes, or seeing something may cause you to taste something or physically feel something. This may seem like a common thing that all of us experience from time to time, but it's estimated that no more than 1 in 2,500 people actually experience synesthesia, as it is a neurological condition.

This video briefly describes the condition:

There are several different types of synesthesia. The most common type of synesthesia is called Grapheme - Color synesthesia. This is where a person would see individual letters or numbers as a specific shade or color.


The type of synesthesia I'm most interested is Color - Sound Synesthesia, where noises or music trigger colors or firework-like sensations. I've always found the idea of this very interesting because it is a condition that my boyfriend has. He describes it to me as, "Seeing different colors or shades dependent on music." His synesthesia determines which kinds of music he listens to. Music that causes him to visualize gray or rusty colors is extremely unappealing to him, where music that causes pleasant colors is very appealing to him. He told me that for most of his life he thought it was something that everyone experienced, until he tried talking about it with a friend. He then realized that it is something that not many people experience. I must admit that I've always been somewhat jealous of his condition, because I can't imagine what it must be like to have music cause me to see colors, and so the thought is somewhat appealing.

No one is really sure where synesthesia comes from, but some studies propose that it's possible that it may be genetic. Though this article talks about the possibility of a genetic factor, there hasn't been any proof as to where exactly the condition comes from.


We've learned in psychology class that Behaviorism assumes that learning occurs through interactions with the environment. Two ways of learning that are described include: Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning. Being a gymnast, I will describe these two forms of learning as it could relate to gymnastics.

First, in Classical conditioning the subject learns to respond in a desired manner to a stimulus that at first they are neutral to, but after repeated exposure to this neutral stimulus along with another unconditioned stimulus that automatically causes the desired response, the neutral stimulus will at some point cause the desired response without the unconditioned stimulus present. Here is the Classical conditioning example:

It is common for a gymnast's heart rate to increase just prior to beginning their routine in a competition. (The unconditioned stimulus would be the competition and the unconditioned response would be an increase in heart rate). When a gymnast is ready to compete, he/she waits for the judge to signal them to proceed with an arm gesture also called a salute. (The salute is a neutral stimulus because on its own, this simple lifting of the arm causes no reflexive action).

However, every time a gymnast sees this salute at a competition their heart rate increases as they step on the floor to begin their routine. When the increased heart rate is paired with the salute often enough, these become associated so that even if this gymnast isn't competing and sees a judge give the salute to someone else, the first gymnast's heart rate increases. (The salute has now become the conditioned stimulus and the increased heart rate has become the conditioned response to this stimulus).

Operant Conditioning is a little easier to explain using gymnastics. Operant Conditioning is a way of learning that has to do with consequences such as rewards or punishments for a specific behavior. If a gymnast is training for an event, their coach provides verbal praise (or positive reinforcement) when they do the skill correctly. This triggers the gymnast to do the skill in that same way to receive the verbal praise again. (So the consequence of doing the skill correctly was verbal praise). In contrast, if the gymnast performs the skill incorrectly and falls, that teaches them not to do the skill that way. (The consequence of doing the skill incorrectly was the fall which was positive punishment).


Note that classical conditioning involves your autonomic nervous system or a reflex such as the increased heart rate in the first example and operant conditioning involves voluntary skeletal muscles such as controlling how we executed the skill in the second example.

It is important to understand these two types of learning because it allows us to achieve a desired result. If we want our dog to ring a bell when it needs to go outside, somehow we need the dog to associate ringing the bell with going outside - it doesn't happen instinctively. If we want our students to receive all A's, sometimes money :) is a positive reinforcement. The important thing is you need to understand what you are trying to achieve and what motivates the subject.

As I am typing this blog, the question that comes to mind for further exploration is why does it take some subjects less time to catch on to a desired behavior than other subjects? Is it a matter of intelligence? What experiments/analysis can be done to answer this?

Is there something in my body?

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It was a nightmare. I had to have a flight for 16 hours to get here from Korea. That was two month ago, and there was a new stage of nightmare. I suffered a lot from the flight. After arriving here, I cannot sleep at night but in daytime I cannot resist to desire to fell into sleep literally everywhere even at a mall. The peak time was from 12pm to 2pm. That was 2am to 4am in Korea when I used to go to bed. Meal time was also totally different from here. It seemed like my biological clock was following Korean time. It took almost a week to get used to the new time zone.


This is a quite interesting subject, the circadian clock. There is a clock in our body, also too animals and plants, what makes us sleep and eat regularly. This is called the circadian clock, the biological clock, the biological cycle and so on. Because this moves in a cycle, usually 24 hours, like a clock goes. This clock regulates our eating, sleeping time, and hormones according to our body's time table. If the circular system breaks down, there would be lots of troubles starting from sleep deviation, gaining weight or losing weight. It has a great influence on our lives. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that many people including me have a great interest in it. However what I am particularly interested in is how the biological clock is set up following 24 hours.

Even though still there is somewhat controversy, this is largely accepted that the exposure to light affects our biological rhythm. To be exactly, there is an event in the level of cells and protein for the bio-clock. This article contains information about it detailed mentioning a scientific experiment of Amita Sehgal and colleagues. Actually this article conveys the experiment in an appropriate way. This explains the hypothesis, experimental procedures, and the conclusion. According to this article, there is a kind of protein named 'timeless' which plays an important role in bio-clock. At first, affected by sunlight, cells are broken down into timeless protein. Then the level of timeless affects out bio-rhythm. Actually there are lots of studies based on the molecular level for decades.

Moreover there are many issues and controversies over the circadian clock. To be specific some scientists believe that temperature regulates the bio-clock and there are some studies about it. This link has one of them. There would be more controversies over the issue so that it will be more interesting and fascinating.

Lights Across the Arizona Sky

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On a cool summer night in 1997, a strange array of lights appeared in the dark Arizona sky. The lights were in a V-shape and witnesses claim that it was about a football field large. Sightings of the lights were reported along a 300 mile stretch. The mysterious lights caused a lot of confusion because nobody knew what they were. In fact, the event created such a stir that an extensive article about it was written in the USA Today the following morning. The source of these mysterious beams remains a mystery to this day, but the most common explanation for the phenomena is that they were UFOs from another world. The UFO theory also received some new found credibility when a few years ago in 2007, former Arizona governor Fife Symington claimed to have seen the lights in 1997 and firmly believes that they came from an extraterrestrial source.

Now if there's anything we should have learned by now in PSY 1001 it's that we should not always trust our senses. We may think that we are seeing a UFO fly across the sky when it may just be an illusion. Our eyes see some lights move in sync overhead and our brain interprets that to be some sort of extraterrestrial space craft, when it could literally be just a bunch of lights. Although the lights are still a mystery to this day, while we try to figure out what it was, just remember the scientific principle of Occum's Razor. It is possible that some aliens stopped by Earth for a quick tour of the Arizona dessert. Or it could just be an elaborate prank. We may never really know, but the simplest solution is probably the correct one.

Why We Can't Always Trust Our Common sense

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Common sense which is defined by as, "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts." But for me, common sense is what we get for normal lives or from the old.
Why we can't not trust our common sense? Let me as a example for this theory. As I was a high school student, when we took physics class, when we talked about the refraction in the water. A simple example of this would be the fact that when we put a stick part way into the water, we perceive it as bent because of the way the light interacts with water. When we see it , it looks like break into two parts. Actually, we know it is still a whole stick. Adopting the perspective of Naive Realism might incline us to accept the information of our eyes as accurate, but that would be a mistake. The stick isn't really bent. Other optical illusions can be more complicated, and that doesn't even begin to touch upon the fact that our perception of the world isn't always unmediated -- it isn't as if information goes directly into storage in the brain. Our expectations, assumptions, and past experiences all combine to affect what we perceive.
As a conclusion, seeing is not believing. So sometimes we cannot trust our coommon sense.
I typed the site address here, I tried many times, the link doesn't work. http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/619685

Subliminal Messaging and Popcorn!

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Subliminal Messaging has been a fascination to all for many years. According to http://www.snopes.com/business/hidden/popcorn.asp, the first experiment with subliminal messaging was done by James Vicary. He was testing the effects of subliminal messaging on movie goers. While the movie was playing he would show images promoting Coca-Cola and popcorn for about 1/1300th of a second. After doing so he reported an increase of 18.1% in Coke sales and a 57.8% increase in popcorn sales! popcorn.jpgHis results effected advertising for over 40 years! However, as it turns out. His findings were proven wrong. The scientific thinking principle of replicability aided in disproving this. When he was asked to redo his experiment and yield the same results, his data showed no significant increase in coca-cola or popcorn sales.

The fact that people still believe in subliminal messaging even though his findings were found to be false is an example of confirmation bias. People refuse to accept the evidence that proves it wrong and continue to believe in subliminal messaging. Radio and television companies started to put subliminal messages in their ads and it became so much of a problem that it lead to two congressional bills being drafted to ban the practice of it. A lot of time and effort was put into stopping subliminal messaging when it was only a problem because of confirmation bias. If people would have used the scientific thinking principle of replicability this would never have been an issue.

This photo is an example of subliminal messaging. gin.jpgThe word "sex" is written the ice cubes. Ads like this were found everywhere when subliminal messaging first appeared.

Sources: http://www.snopes.com/business/hidden/popcorn.asp
(I was not able to make the link process work)

Who is That in the Mirror?

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When do we become self aware and how do we become self aware? When do we begin to realize who we are? In a BBC documentary Oxford mathematician Marcus de Sautoy became a guinea pig to answer questions like this. The first question he wanted to answer when do we become aware of ourselves? He visited a specialist, that conducts a mirror self recognition test. The mirror test looks at the ability of a baby to recognize itself in the mirror. It is a fascinating test in which a baby looks at itself in the mirror and then the parent will pretend to wipe the child's nose and a sticker is placed on its check. The theory is that if the baby knows who he/she is, they will immediately move to touch the sticker on its cheek. What they have found in conducting this test is that the development of self recognition occurs between the age of 18-24 months. The mirror recognition test is a very interesting test and it would be interesting to look at the accuracy of this test. Does the baby touch the sticker on his/her face because they can feel it or because they actually notice that there is something different about their face. How the development of self-consciousness occurs is still unknown.

Another question that Marcus had was whether or not animals are aware of themselves. The mirror self recognition test was originally developed for the purpose of answering this question, with the main animal of interest being chimpanzees. What was found in testing hundreds of species is that the only species to past the test are chimpanzees, orangutans, and humans. This is a fascinating discovery because though we know that our brains are different than animals it also shows that we are more aware of ourselves than other animals. The Documentary "The Secret You" addresses other questions such as where does consciousness reside and whether someone still has conscious awareness.

Hypnotic Inebriation

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Using hypnosis to re-create "drunken" state; theories of hypnosis

derren-brown.jpgA few years ago, I went through a phase of watching Derren Brown videos on YouTube, so I was pleasantly surprised that we got to see one of his videos in class (the one where he started asking someone for directions and had someone else switch places with him, and many people amusingly failed to notice).

Anyway, a lot of his videos are cool; he fakes psychic abilities and hypnotizes people and stuff, and you all should look him up if you want to see that kind of thing. I thought it would be fun to blog about this video, where he uses hypnosis to make a guy feel & act like he's drunk:

(The actual segment is 0:00-5:27 and 7:12-end; there's a brief digression in the middle).

Unfortunately, YouTube won't let me embed the video.

This video, others like it, and a stage hypnosis show I once saw in high school led me to gravitate toward the "sociocognitive theory" of hypnosis long before I knew it was called that. That is, I thought hypnosis wasn't really a special or spooky psychological phenomenon, but that it still had an interesting effect on people. I think it's sort of like normal human social behavior, but taken to an extreme.

hypnosis.jpgThe video above exemplifies the sociocognitive theory well, I think. The subject isn't truly a mind-controlled "zombie," but he is easily hypnotized thanks to a mixture of desires and social pressures: he'd like to feel pleasantly tipsy without any adverse effects, he wants to have fun and entertain his friends, and if the hypnosis thing works, he gets to be on TV! Being tipsy seems to be a familiar sensation for him, so it is easy for him to imagine himself into that state, and he seems to enjoy himself. He claims not to trust the hypnotist, but he doesn't seem to question his "powers" (he expects the hypnosis to work), and he seems not to mind performing for an audience. All these factors make him more likely to respond to hypnosis, according to sociocognitive theory.

I like how they did the "walk in a straight line" test to show how "drunk" the subject is, but it would be interesting to see how he would do on some less well-known tests of inebriation. I would predict he would perform the same as a sober person as long as he didn't know drunk people were expected to perform in a certain way!

The video doesn't test the "hidden observer" hypothesis, but from the way this hypothesis is explained in our text, "hidden observer" looks like just a hypnosis trick within a hypnosis trick, not that different from those moments when Derren Brown gets his "drunk" subject to quickly snap out of it.

His Life Deleted

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51ywGQIVZiL.jpgIn lecture we learned about the Case of H.M, Henry Gustav Molaison. H.M. was in a biking accident at the age of seven that resulted in intractable epilepsy, a brain disorder in which a person experiences repeated seizures. In surgery succeeding the accident, H.M. lost about two-thirds of his hippocampus and later suffered from anterograde amnesia, amnesia in which one cannot store new events to his long-term memory. H.M. was studied for his memory disorder beginning in the late 1950s and his case played a significant role in the theories explaining the connection between memory and brain function and in the advances in cognitive neuropsychology.

The story "Couple Discusses Husband's Permanent Amnesia" was played on ABC's Good Morning America this past Thursday. The interview I watched was based on a man named Scott who in 2008, slipped and hit his head and lost all of his life memories caused by stopped blood flow to the right temporal lobe, where memory is stored. His diagnosis was retrograde amnesia, which is the loss of pre-existing memories to conscious recollection. The man now tries to remember his life through photos and with the help of his wife and daughter. While he states that he felt like his life was "deleted" and recalled feeling like a "blank slate" he has been able to reconnect with his wife and is trying to go about life normally. Following the accident he wrote the book "My Life, Deleted."

After watching the interview on Scott and his wife I was left questioning the extent to which Scott was affected. Even though he does not remember any of his life memories he was still able to go about the world normally in the sense that he knew how to walk, talk, get dressed and perform procedural tasks. His type of amnesia is very rare and I think studying his brain is beneficial in deepening our understanding about the different regions of our brain involving memory, the temporal lobe and maybe the hippocampus and learn more about why individuals are able to remember some things, such as procedural tasks, and not others.


The Blood-Brain Barrier and OCD

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The blood-brain barrier is a term used for the separation of the fluids of the central nervous system from the bloodstream. As such, it acts as a filter between the two systems, for example allowing the transport of some substances on the molecular level but generally blocking larger objects, such as bacteria, from crossing (in this case, from the blood into the central nervous system).

blood brain barrier.jpg While generally the blood-brain barrier protects our brains from the nastier things that might infiltrate from our blood, it seems that in some cases it fails to do this.

In 2006, researchers at the National Institutes of Mental Health, along with collaborators at the University of Oklahoma and California State University found that some children exhibited an unusual response to strep throat infections. A press release from 2006 details how strep infections led an antibody (or related enzyme) to cross the blood-brain barrier and apparently attack the functioning of the the brain itself, causing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the affected children. This condition, called PANDAS, led to the onset of obsessive-compulsive symptoms in children who had previously shown none. Additionally, lab tests showed that the blood of PANDAS patients had high levels of strep antibodies in about three-quarters of the cases studied and the cerebrospinal fluid of the same patients revealed a corresponding enzyme. Patients without PANDAS showed fewer antibodies and little or none of the related enzyme.

It would seem that, in this case, there is strong evidence that a mental health condition can be caused not only by biological factors, but that the onset of symptoms can be frighteningly quick. While we know that congenital defects and injuries can alter behavior, so apparently can the aftermath of a common childhood infection. In this case, it would seem the vital task of the blood-brain barrier to keep separate the resources (and contaminants) in our bloodstream and nervous system fluids does not work properly. Researchers at NIMH add that while there is evidence that the barrier is being crossed, they (at least as of 2006) have no real idea HOW this is happening and why in only some of the many children who suffer strep infections.

Clearly more research needs to be done in this area. It raises questions not only as to the nature of the blood-brain barrier and its function and integrity, but also problems of what other mental health disorders may be related to infections and conditions that previously seemed unrelated. A greater understanding of this interaction might lead to more numerous treatment options and possible prevention.

chickenparentingstyle.jpgSeveral of you agreed in class that nature and nurture together are the root causes for psychological behavior. However, is it possible that a genetic variation might make you more sensitive to environmental factors, such as parenting style? This might, indeed, be the case. This study indicates that children with a particular variant in a gene are more sensitive to the effects of parenting. This variant occurs in roughly 20% of people, leaving 80% without the variant somewhat indifferent to the effects of parenting style.

Basically, if the children with the variant had neglectful, insensitive, or abusive parents, they were more likely to turn out "bad." But, if the children with the variant had warm and supportive parents, they were more likely than predicted to turn out happy and well-adjusted. Perhaps the Bogle family had the variant?!? That would be interesting to examine, wouldn't it?

However, keep in mind that behavior is complex and most likely is not due to one particular gene variation. Also, this study could not be a true experiment (why not?), so we must not jump to causal conclusions. However, I find the idea of the effects of nurture being amplified according to genetic expression fascinating, but keep reminding myself that the overall picture is much bigger. Human beings are very complex and should not (cannot?) be reduced down to the bits and pieces to explain our behaviors. Instead we all seem to be cases of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts...

Invisible Pain

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Phantom pain is a sensation that is based of a perception of pain coming from a limb or part of the body that is no longer physically attached. Phantom pain is most common in war veterans because they can feel the "pain" from the amputated limb. For many of the amputees, the sensation feels as if their missing limbs are in an awkward and uncomfortable position. I find it important for others to realize and take note of what these amputees are going through because that feeling of discomfort is something that they have to live with everyday and they have no permanent escape from this absent pain. Since the feeling is mostly an illusion of pain, there is not a abundance of treatments available.
This article is about a man who suffered from phantom pain because he had lost a limb in combat. He explained that the pain was similar to a shock that would last up to a minute, occurring multiple times in an hour. He was able to use mirror therapy to ease the pain. In mirror therapy, the illusion of the extra limb is used to trick your nerves into avoiding the pain from incorrect signals. Many patients have been able to find comfort from mirror therapy because they're able to stretch the limb that they do have and the reflection in the mirror offers the idea that they're stretching the limb that they don't have. The image relieves the uncomfortable feeling that amputee's experience.

Before starting to answer our question, we should describe the dream protection theory Freud developed in his book The Interpretation of Dreams (1900). His point of view is that our ego cannot repress our sexual or aggressive instincts when we sleep. And our dreams reveal us these instincts with symbols. So we have to decipher these symbols in order to know the latent content of our dreams, which represents how we wish things could be. For instance if we dream about a flat tire, it might signify that we are afraid to lose our job (example taken from our textbook).

Freud's iceberg.gif

J. Allan Hobson, professor of psychiatry at Harvard medical school, tried to
prove that, in fact, this theory was not built on scientific evidences. First
he said that Freud worked principally with his own oneiric material. He did not
really try to reproduce his experiments on some random subjects, so he did not
respect the scientific thinking principle number 4: replicability. Second he spoke about Karl Popper's assertion that all Freud's work was untestable. Indeed we cannot either prove nor disprove what the Austrian psychoanalyst thought about the interpretation of dreams. And this is not compatible with the third scientific principle: falsifiability. A claim that cannot be disprove by a study cannot be considered as a scientific theory.

Allan Hobson also criticized Freud's claim which said that our unconscious is
mainly composed of our unexorcised infantile wishes, because there is no
evidence than children before age 3 have a declarative memory. And we also now
know that the unconscious is cognitive, which may prove that the unconscious is
not mainly repressed, as Freud said.

Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley proposed an alternative theory in the 1970s:
the activation-synthesis theory. For them dreams reflect brain activation in
sleep, and not unconscious repressed wishes. And they think that the
incoherence and illogicality we can experience during dreams are due to the
chaotic informations received by the forebrain, and not to a symbolic latent
content we should decrypt.

As we saw the Freud's dream protection theory is not supported by scientific
studies, contrary to the Hobson and McCarley's activation-synthesis theory. And
we can conclude that Freud was more a philosopher than a real scientist. But
the beginning of the 20th century was an other era for the field of psychology.


Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, Scott Lilienfield (2011)

Distractions While Driving

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When I was thinking of what topic to blog about, I thought that inattentional blindness would be a great topic to relate to everyday life. According to a 2000 survey, there are 6,100,000 auto drivers daily to the Twin Cities area. That is an enormous number of people on their way to work, school, or whatever other engagement they are partaking in. It also allows for an incredible number of distractions on the road. Talking on the phone, stopping children from fighting in the back seat, listening to the radio, putting on make-up, and other strange tasks cause immense amounts of diversion from driving properly and safely. This is a prime example of inattentional blindness. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, other things cause a perceptual blindness from reading the signs, taking the proper exits, and taking caution with other drivers and cars on the road. When other activities are taking up a driver's attention, there is a much higher likelihood of an accident occurring.

Say for instance this act of perceptual blindness carried over into a professional setting. A doctor may not pick up on warning signs of a problem with their patient. A scientist may not properly follow procedures, resulting in possible chemical or bacterial issues with their products. Professional athletes would miss a large play and cost their team the game, as well as a massive amount of money. Inattentional blindness is nothing that should be taken lightly in a professional setting, and therefore should not be taken lightly in cases that people's safety is at risk.

Psychology and National Socialism

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Our text by Lilienfeld deals only briefly with the history of psychology, and appropriately so, as it is not a book specifically about psychology's past but rather its foundational principles and present state of knowledge. As a student of European history, I find myself quite interested in how psychology, a discipline with important German roots, including the work of such figures as Wilhelm Wundt, Oswald Külpe, Hermann Ebbinghaus, and the (German-speaking) Austrian Sigmund Freud, developed in the German-speaking world in the tumultuous first half of the twentieth century. Specifically, how did the Nazi regime view psychology in terms of ideology and policy?

I'd known that Freud was treated harshly by the Nazis: his books were burned; his property was confiscated; he was more or less expelled from Vienna, his longtime home; his four sisters were all killed in the death camps. It seemed to me that this treatment might very well extend to other prominent psychologists as well. In fact, according to Sprung & Sprung at the International Union of Psychological Science, with the ascent of the Nazis, nearly a third of Germany's full professor's of psychology were forced out of their positions. Among these was Max Wertheimer, one of the founders of Gestalt psychology. By the end of 1933, 14% of the members of the German Psychological Association had left the country. They were followed later by others such as Wolfgang Köhler, also a founder of Gestalt. Yet both the Sprungs and Ulfried Geuter, author of The Professionalization of Psychology in Nazi Germany, argue that these trends were indicative not of a general antipathy towards psychology on the part of the Nazis, but rather persecution of individual psychologists on racial or political grounds. Interestingly and contrary to what one might expect, the number of psychological dissertations produced in an average year in Germany reached its highest point during the Nazi years (Geuter citing Treuheit 1973). Additionally, the Nazis were keen to exploit the potential of psychology in the training and selection of military personnel. With the increasing militarization of Germany in the later 1930s, the number of psychologists employed by the government increased substantially as officer candidates were subjected to psychological testing. This developed a sub-field of psychology unique to Nazi Germany: so-called Wehrmacht psychology, which applied psychology to increasing the effectiveness of the armed forces. Geuter, echoed by Sprung & Sprung argue that this large-scale employment of psychologists by the government actually led to the professionalization of psychology in Germany - an effect which presumably survived the Nazis and the war.


I suspect that these findings would surprise many (including myself) and that they might even cause some controversy, but Geuter seems to build his case on substantial evidence. To finish, I think this suggests numerous research questions that could be tackled by historians of psychology, including:

- To what extent (if any) did the prevailing Nazi ideology affect the types of research conducted in Germany? Were ideologically "incorrect" results suppressed?

- What do post-war developments in psychology in either of the two Germanies owe to experience gained during the war years and Wehrmacht psychology?

- How did psychology fare as a discipline under the other great dictatorship of the era - Stalin's Soviet Union?

Psuedoscience Scares Me

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The first chapter of our book basically made me realize how stupid people are. I found the chapter slightly disturbing because it presented all of the fallacies that we live our lives by day to day. I really think that psuedo science poses serious dangers to society and everyone is a victim to it in some way. Think about when we watch t.v., how many ads come up trying to convince us that if we don't do this or that we won't be happy? How is the media misrepresenting millions of products? What has psuedo science done to us? I can count at least 50 I know that believe in psuedo scientific things. A friend of mine believes in ghosts and paranormal activity. She believes her aunt can talk to spirits. She governs parts of her life based on what her aunt says. She doesn't even question. The most disturbing thing I found in my book was the story of the little girl whose therapist/ psuedo psychologist decided to cover her in a blanket and simulate the birthing process to create a closer connection with her parents. What happened to her? She died. That can be the result of psuedo science. I think it is very important for our generation to realize the effects of psuedo science and make a real endeavor to make the general populace aware of it too.

Adolescent Violence and Video Games


The supposed claim in today's recent research suggests video games, in particular video games with promoting negative themes such as violence, killing of people or animals, abuse of drugs, illegal activity, sexual expolitation ect., causes aggressive behaviors in the adolescents of the new generation because of their skewed perception of their morals. The correlation causation principle of scientific thinking helps us to conclude the real reason for the correlation to adolescents with behavioral issues who like to play video games. Video games definitely do promote the issues listed above and children become disillusioned with reality and what is normal civilized behavior due to the exposure of the violence in the game therefore impacting the child's mental perception and increasing his or her chances of accepting violence as a normal behavior. Indiana University School of Medicine say that brain scans of kids who played a violent video game showed an increase in emotional arousal - and a corresponding decrease of activity in brain areas involved in self-control, inhibition and attention. The study took two groups of adolescents and randomly assigned half to a violent video game and half to a racing game and discovered video games inhibit the function of the brain but it is unclear whether the brain results from the MRI's indicated worse or permanent damage, therefore making this study no falsifiable. And have we considered the other possibility? We must be skeptical scientists and realize there are no true experiments to test the falsifiability of this claim because there is no way to know if the dependent patient playing a violent video game already was prone to aggressiveness from inhibiting factors such as depression. We must also question the replicability of the experiment, would the same children prove to have same brain malfunction every game play, or does their mood before game play actually drive them to want to play more to stimulate their underlying feelings towards violence. Theories are sometimes generated in society because of confirmation bias. People want to believe what they want. No parent wants their child to be aggressive, addicted to substance abuse, or have disrespect for authority. Society derives their conclusion claiming that video games causes these behaviors when we have not ruled out the other hypothesis that children with aggressive behaviors are drawn to more violent video games, and what is the parental role in that child's life. Often times children have pre-existing behavioral issues stemming from their lack of parental guidance, social skills, and moral construction which may explain their lack of respect for authority, social disclosure and devotion to the T.V., and their perception that violence and obscenity is acceptable in the real world. There could be many outside or inside factors that may cause the correlation between aggression in adolescents and violent video games and before accepting one conclusion over the other, we need to use the principles of falsifiability and replicability to rule out other hypothesis to derive at a conclusion that proves the true correlation of the cause of adolescent violent behavior and video games.


Can Psychology Be Used To Harm?

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Biology and confirmation Bias

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I am a biologist. I have been trained to think like a biologist and to explore every possible option in research as well as to observe every thing within an experiment. When learning about confirmation Bias in the book and lectures it got me considering how well I have or anyone has actually done this. In research we always think that we take everything into account and we account for everything but are we really or are we just thinking about the things that will help our research reach the outcome we so desire. For me psychology and how the brain functions is impressive and exciting as well as foreign so the thought that I might be subconsciously directing my research toward the outcome that would prove my hypothesis correct is to an extent mind blowing. For many researchers I can see how after so much time has gone by working on one project it means so much more to them that the data come out to support their hypothesis or theory but I worry if that desire over rides their scientific thought and directs them to only collect or account for the things that support their work and not absolutely everything. It makes you second guess a lot of the big scientific finds because who knows if they are really real or if the desire of the scientist to get an outcome guided the results of the study.
For me this is the biggest concept that has me concerned as a biologist but many other aspects discussed have my thinking. Metaphysical claims also have me thinking because again as a scientist we don't like the unexplainable and they are talking that there are just things that can't be tested or investigated. How do people then know anything about that subject if it can't be tested? More importantly to me is how do other people just let it set with the idea that there is a subject that simply can't be tested or explored and it is what it is and we might not know exactly what it is. I don't know if that has to do strictly with me or my experience as a biologist that has me being uncomfortable with not knowing. I look forward to exploring things like this more as the semester goes on in order to get a firmer grasp on the whole subject.

Often times the media incorrectly uses statistics to jump to conclusions about causation. These situations pop up constantly in newspaper headlines, news reports, and magazines. My example of causation vs correlation is about a newspaper headline claiming that parents who smoke cause their teenage children to be delinquents. While there may indeed be a strong correlation between parents who smoke and delinquency there may be another cause. The article fails to acknowledge the possibility of a third variable to be the cause of the correlation. It is possible the correlation is caused by social classes. Lower social classes are usually more likely to smoke and may also lead to a higher number of teenage delinquents. The cause may also be the opposite of the headline. Maybe parents with teenage delinquents are more likely to smoke in order to deal with the stress.

Why Psychology?

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At age sixteen, I watched my uncle develop schizophrenia. He had a college degree, he was therapy successful, and married. Then at age 29, he started to hear voices and have hallucinations. My uncle was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia by age 30. He is currently on medication and attends therapy regularly. Although sad, watching my uncle go through the different stages, gave me a desire to want to know more. I wanted to understand how such an event could occur so quickly, what where the preceptors, and if proper treatment could ever cure the illness. These questions then evolved into wanting to understand human behavior. Why do people act the way they act and can behaviors ever be changed? I was excited to get these questions answered going into my first day of class. Now at week four, I am fascinated in how much psychology is a science! I did not except to discover the significance of research and the biology in the world of psychology. I was surprised to learn how detailed research has to be and how much evidence has to be presented. I was also surprised to examine the different human parts of biology that are essential in learning human behavior. Thus far, class has made me realize that psychology has a diverse set of components, with each engaging in its own set of rules. I now realize that it will take a while before my questions coming into class will be answered but I'm eager to learn.

How to Blog

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Apparently, many of you had questions and/or problems trying to post the first writing assignment to the blog. To those of you who figured it out: congrats! But for those of you who haven't posted blog 1 yet (roughly half of you) or ran into some issues, here is a refresher.

First, you should post your entry to our section's site (Section 23 PSY1001 Fall 2011). You do not have to create your own blog, but if you did, I commend you on your effort! To be able to post entries, you have to log into the library's UThink web site. Once you are logged in, you will come to a screen called "Dashboard." At the top of this page, there is a "System Overview" pull-down menu. From that menu, you should choose our section's site. That will take you to a new page; on that page, you should go to the "Create" pull-down menu and select "Entry." Then, start writing!

A few helpful tips...

  • In order to post a picture, you need to have the picture saved in some way first. Then, go to the spot in your entry where you roughly would like the picture. Click on the "Insert Image Icon" (the one that sort of looks like a house with a sun over it; second from the right on the toolbar). Follow the directions from there...

  • To insert a link as text, copy the link location. (I find it easiest to have the link open in another tab or window to do this.) Highlight the text that you would like to use as the link. Then, click on the link icon on the toolbar (looks like a chain), paste your link in the box and go from there.

  • To embed video, you have two options. (1) Insert the video as a link, using the above directions for inserting a link as text. (2) Actually embed the video (you'll see a still of the video in your finished entry). To do this, whatever system you use (e.g., YouTube), should have a "share" option. Click on this and you should be able to either get the HTML code for linking to the video or a button that says "Embed." If you click on "Embed," you will get the HTML code that you need to cut and paste into your entry to embed the video.

NOTE: for links, pictures, and video, you will NOT see the images in the "Create Entry" box. To make sure you've done things correctly, you should preview your entry before publishing it. Once you've saved, your entry will be published, unless you have "Draft" selected in the Published window to the left of the Create Entry box. If you write in draft mode, be sure that you eventually publish your entry so that you can received credit!

To those of you who have not published yet, get those posts up ASAP. Be sure to categorize your entry as "Writing 1." Writing 2 is due next Sunday night (10/9)! The prompts are the same as Writing 1, but you have not had much new material since the last writing was due. Therefore, you may include sensation and perception concepts, as well as consciousness, if you choose the first option (see syllabus for prompt or my earlier post about writing 1). Good luck and please let me know if you run into any problems or have any questions!

Update: A student from another section posted this very nice explanation on how to blog. If you are a visual learner, this has step-by-step pictures to guide you through the process. (Keep in mind that you need to post to our section's blog and not to Section 24's!)

Occam Assesses Aliens

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A mystery that has been troubling our societies for some 50 years now is whether or not there are other beings outside our galaxy. Many have claimed to see or interact with these beings and there are many pictures available of strange craft that no one can conveniently confirm or deny the fact of whether or not these pictures are fake. Those that want the existence of other life forms in space even show a great deal of confirmation bias when it is presented to them that there is no actual hard evidence proving that extraterrestrials actually exist. They have convinced themselves that there must be no evidence proving their existence because the government has come in and wiped all evidence away.
Here is a link that shows CIA files that have been recently released "dealing" with accounts of extraterrestrials. The point of the article is to show that the government has in fact been meddling with evidence of the existence of other worldly beings, however the article itself even states that although extraterrestrials are mentioned in the files, there "is no specific mention of extraterrestrials, or crashed alien spaceships." All the accounts are of something someone saw that may have been a UFO, which is a very big claim, but it might have burned up before it hit the ground, or it occurred in an isolated location so only one person bore witness to it. So, for all the amazing claims that these witnesses have, there appears to be no hard evidence whatsoever to back any of it up.
Besides the outrageous claims made by these people, there are much simpler explanations for almost all of these sightings. The article mentions that the majority of these cases occurred during the time of the cold war, when our technology was advancing very rapidly. Is it not possible that these aliens could actually be a new form of flight developed by the military for the military? This was a time when our government was trying to beat out the USSR's military in a race of arms, so these alien sightings may just have been someone mistaking a new form of airborne craft for something other worldly.
As far as the matter of UFO's goes, the claims themselves are much larger then the amount of evidence backing them up, and there is usually a much simpler explanation for what someone might have seen.

Violence and Video Games: Correlation vs. Causation

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Original article http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/children_and_video_games_playing_with_violence

One claim that has been made in today's society is that video games, especially violent ones, are detrimental to children's mental capacity, saying that they become immune to the effects of aggressive behavior and criminal activity, therefore morphing their morals at a young age. With this claim, there is no real way to test that the violence in adolescents in modern times derives from any form of violent video game. There are other factors that come into play in the equation; this claim falls into the scientific thinking principle number two which states that correlation isn't causation, and illusory correlation. Also, there is no way to prove that violence in adolescents derives from video games, therefore the theory is not falsifiable. This theory could possibly be developed from simple heuristics, or shortcuts that the mind takes to make sense of things. To explain, adults in general would like to find an explanation for the increase in violence in today's youth, therefore they found something to blame it upon: video games. There could be many reasons why there is an abundance of violence and aggression in today's adolescents, therefore to evaluate this particular claim one should use the principle of replicability, and prove without a doubt that the correlation between violence and video games is definitely caused by the other.

Nature and Nuture

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In my opinion, Psychology is an abstract subject. As psychologist, they do a lot on the mind and behavior for human beings. The most interesting thing for me is that they can figure out what you you are thinking about through your behavior. Is it interesting? They can guess what you are thinking about, what you will do next almost correct. That is why I inspect them so much.
In this class, I want to learn more about the human behavior. Like nature and nurture. Which has a bigger influence on human behivor? That really makes me excited. The link I showed is talking about the homosexuality. The twins one is homo and the other is not, and they have same DNA. The psychologist said it is not complete genic problem but environmental problem. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Osw05HGe5I) From the beginning of the video, we can see the rooms the twins have. One is like general boy, and the other makes himself like a girl. This maybe influence them a lot.
And the last class- the visual system. Which is also interested, what you see maybe not true. And the apple pie Penny gave us is another example. It surprised me a lot. This pie is not made by apple!!!
I am interested in this class. I think I will learn more funny thing in future class.

Emotion and Motivation

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The area of psychology that interests me most is emotion and motivation. There are so many ways to influence people's emotion and motivation. And there is a connection between them. My cousin had a baby girl last year. I went to my cousin's home and visited her and her families this summer vacation in Ningbo. When I first went into their home, the baby girl was very happy to welcome me coming to their home. She put all her attention on her mother, her father and me. After talking with my cousin and her husband for a while, the baby girl felt unhappy and tried to stand up on her bed to see what we were doing. My cousin felt that her baby girl was unhappy and went to check out, but it was seem like no problem with baby girl. We continued talking and then we heard my cousin's baby girl crying. She could not put all her attention on her mother, her father, and me anymore. My cousin guessed her baby was hungry, so she prepared something for her. When my cousin's baby girl saw the food that her mother prepared for her and ate it, she began stop crying and put all her attention on us again. I found this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bm19EYKJFNE about baby stop crying when giving them food. From this experience, I found there is a connection between emotion and motivation. Emotion can influence people's motivation and hunger is one of determinants for motivation.

baby girl

I am looking forward to learning more about emotion and motivation. I also want to learn more about other determinants of motivation and what other factors can influence people's emotion. I am thinking about is there any connection between happiness and self-esteem. What causes people's feelings and emotion?

Memories or Megabytes?

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A fairly recent study put on by researchers at Columbia, Harvard and the University of Wisconsin sought to test the effects of internet/computer use to see if it is changing the way people remember information. For one part of the experiment, participants were asked type 40 different bits of trivia into a computer. One example of such trivia was "an ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain." Half of these participants were told the computer would save what they typed in, while the other half were told their items would be erased.memory-capacity.jpg The study found that the participants who were told their items would not be saved were better able to recall what they typed as opposed to the participants who thought their items would be saved. In essence, the people who thought they could simply check the computer later did not make as much as an effort to remember what they typed. The experiment toys with the notion of transactive memory and our growing reliance on computers and internet. The idea behind transactive memory is that we rely on other people and materials in our lives to help recall information. The advent of computers and internet has increased our reliance on accessing information transactively. In this day and age we don't need to remember everything anymore. Google has become a household term, with the click of a mouse we can pretty much find anything we want. The validity of this experiment seems legitimate, except we aren't told how these participants were selected - some people may be better at remembering information. If you tell people something won't be saved, of course they are going to pay closer attention to the details. While people argue that the "Google Effect" is making us dumber, I have to disagree. Aren't we taking advantage of our resources? Isn't it making us more productive? Why spend three hours looking for a formula in a dusty book when I could find it instantly on Google? I argue that with the "Google Effect" we have more time to work rather than waste valuable time recalling information. There is in fact successful replicability of this experiment. All in all, there is still a lot to explore, but is this phenomenon good or bad?

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/15/health/15memory.html?ref=memory

UFOs Fact or Fiction?

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Since the late 1940's sightings of strange lights in the sky and unidentified flying objects have been seen from the deserts of the American Southwest to Siberia. For decades researchers and scientist alike were baffled as to the true origins of the craft. Many believed these craft were visitors from the planet Tralfamadore. Others began to examine the problem from a scientific perspective and, over the years, have been able to account for well over 99 percent of these sightings.

There are several underlying scientific principles at work. Chief among these are Occam's Razor and Extraordinary Claims. What is a more likely explanation for strange lights in the nighttime sky: A Boeing 737 illuminated by the setting sun or an alien space craft? A classified experimental military airplane or little-green-men on spring break from Mars? A sauce pan on a string or superman visiting from Krypton?

UFO proponents also fail to show any real evidence. They make extraordinary claims, yet cannot provide extraordinary evidence to support these claims. The diehard proponents will point to a worldwide governmental cover-up. However, if they were really being honest with themselves they would realize that the government is leakier then the Titanic. Surely a Wikileak cable or former conspirator would have surfaced by now with a little-green-man in a jar or a piece of a flying saucer.


In the end a vast majority of UFO sightings can be explained away as hoax, natural phenomenon, or earth constructed aircraft. No real evidence exist to the contrary.

Below is a great link to a video about UFOs and likely explanations:

Crop Circles: A Sign from Above?

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Beginning in the late 1970's, strange circular shapes began appearing in fields across the globe. Known as crop circles, people began to speculate about how these mysterious crop circles were created. Because no one had confessed to creating them, many people started to believe that the crop circles were created by aliens. With all the mystery surrounding these creations, the idea that aliens could have made them seemed like a plausible theory. But that theory took a huge hit when in 1991 two British men confessed that they had made many circles themselves. Since then many groups have claimed to create crop circles, and many demonstrate how to make them. But despite this, many still believe that aliens are responsible for some creations. Proponents of the alien theory argue that many crop circle designs are far too complex to have been created by humans. They even think that they have video proof of crop circles being made. The video clams that two orbs of light created circles out of thin air.


When evaluating the claims made by the alien theory proponents, we mush keep in mind a couple of scientific thinking principles. First of all, we need to remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Alien believers think that they have conclusive evidence with the video. But it is crude, probably doctored, and far from convincing. They must produce much more extraordinary evidence to better support their claims. We must also recall Occam's razor principle when thinking about crop circles. Maybe the simplest solution is the correct one. Doesn't it make more sense for crop circles to have been made by skilled artists rather than superiour beings from above? I'll let you decide which theory is more plausible.

wonders for your feet.jpgOne of the nurses I work with is concerned about her cousin, who's on a "human growth hormone diet." Apparently people are taking mail-order growth hormone to lose weight, which sounds pretty sketchy on several levels. Human growth hormone (HGH) is a serious drug; you have to inject it, and it can have serious side effects (see: acromegaly).

It's FDA-approved to treat growth hormone deficiency and a few other conditions in children and adults. I did a web search on HGH, and apparently this is a seriously big "health" fad.

It's illegal to sell real HGH without a prescription, so none of the "supplements" that turn up in a casual web search actually claim to contain any HGH, they only claim to induce your body to produce more of its own HGH. Oh, and they can be taken orally. But apparently these products, by tricking your body into producing extra growth hormone, are supposed to help you build muscle, lose weight, boost your energy...all these things to make your body all young and strong.

Sounds like a wonder drug...so how does it measure up scientifically?

Many of these advertisements are, interestingly enough, written from the perspective of a "skeptic" (example: http://hghlook.com/), so they do pay lip service to a few principles of scientific thinking. I found one page that summarized a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine; it claimed that this study controlled for other variables that could account for the subjects' weight loss and renewed energy (exercise, diet, etc.). This page did not link to the study, nor did it provide its title or the full name of its primary author, but who has time to look that stuff up, anyway? Numerous pages "helpfully" guide you through the morass of hoaxes and unacceptable options out there, guiding you to the supposedly safe and effective products they advertise.

Several of these products invoke a correlation between aging and a decline in growth hormone levels, implying (or, in most cases, stating) that a deficiency of growth hormone actually causes aging, and that restoring growth hormone will restore your youthful vigor. The advertisers are relying on us to forget that graying hair is also a symptom of aging, and that dyeing it back to its youthful hue won't actually make you younger.

hgh old people.jpg
Source: http://www.genf20.com/
Many of the pages dismiss real growth hormone as an unacceptable option because it is "synthetic," whereas their own products are proprietary blends of herbs and amino acids, and, in at least one case (http://xtreme-hgh.com/), GABA and L-Dopa...holy crap. They attribute the side effects of real HGH to its being "synthetic." bottle.jpgThe public should know that if these products really do raise your HGH, they would have the same side effects as the "synthetic" stuff (and probably a few more besides).

The "evidence" given for these products amounts to a large number of anecdotes; it's likely that individuals reporting positive results have experienced the placebo effect, or have misattributed the beneficial effects of other lifestyle changes to the supplement.

The funny thing is, there is a grain of truth in all of this growth-hormone replacement business. Though growth hormone deficiency gets more attention when it occurs in childhood, the condition can also develop in adulthood and cause some of the symptoms these products purport to treat: reduced muscle mass, low bone density, hair loss, reduced energy, high cholesterol. Of course, not everyone who has these symptoms has an actual growth hormone deficiency, and those who do will be better off getting real medical attention.

New Casino, better chance of winning the jackpot!

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Throughout all of time, people have tried to justify random occurrences with reasoning they make up on their own. Many times these claims are outrageous and make no sense. One claim I came across while researching on snopes.com was that slot machines in newer casinos are guaranteed to give a jackpot winning. Reasons behind this thinking are the machines haven't been played before or the new casino is lucky. People also believe that the casino owners pay the companies that provide the machines to insure a jackpot in order to increase popularity in the new casino. Sadly, chances do not improve at new casinos.slot-machine-tips.jpg
This theory can be proven wrong by using the scientific thinking principle of ruling out rival hypothesis. People assume there is a conspiracy going on. They do not stop to think of other reasons for the giant wins. Since the slot machines are based on chance, if the newer casino has a higher rate of attendance, there is a better chance of someone winning the jackpot. More people are playing resulting in more wins. Similar principles of scientific thinking that prove this theory wrong are extraordinary claims and Occam's razor. People do not have outstanding evidence to back-up the extraordinary claims of conspiracy. Also, the simplest reason for the jackpot winnings is more games played and increased chances, not newer casinos have better or rigged machines. Using all the principles together we can conclude that slot machines at newer casinos produce more jackpots.

New Casino, better chance of winning the jackpot!

| 1 Comment

Throughout all of time, people have tried to justify random occurrences with reasoning they make up on their own. Many times these claims are outrageous and make no sense. One claim I came across while researching on snopes.com was that slot machines in newer casinos are guaranteed to give a jackpot winning. Reasons behind this thinking are the machines haven't been played before or the new casino is lucky. People also believe that the casino owners pay the companies that provide the machines to insure a jackpot in order to increase popularity in the new casino. Sadly, chances do not improve at new casinos.slot-machine-tips.jpg
This theory can be proven wrong by using the scientific thinking principle of ruling out rival hypothesis. People assume there is a conspiracy going on. They do not stop to think of other reasons for the giant wins. Since the slot machines are based on chance, if the newer casino has a higher rate of attendance, there is a better chance of someone winning the jackpot. More people are playing resulting in more wins. Similar principles of scientific thinking that prove this theory wrong are extraordinary claims and Occam's razor. People do not have outstanding evidence to back-up the extraordinary claims of conspiracy. Also, the simplest reason for the jackpot winnings is more games played and increased chances, not newer casinos have better or rigged machines. Using all the principles together we can conclude that slot machines at newer casinos produce more jackpots.

Can a mother's stress affect her offspring?

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Could there be a relationship between stress and behavior of offspring? A study conducted by professors from the University of Haifa and Georgetown University addressed this question by testing rats and the effects among generations by an early exposure to stress. After the study was completed, it was concluded that the offspring's behavior was indeed impacted by the stress. The results were a decrease of social interaction, but an improvement in the rats' ability to learn to avoid distress. However, when therapeutic sessions occurred on the mothers, some of the effects in the offspring were weakened and less severe.
Our Psychology textbook, written by Scott Lilienfield, Steven Lynn, Laura Namy, and Nancy Woolf, puts a heavy amount of emphasis on the ruling out rival hypothesis, which states that whenever we evaluate a psychological claim, we should ask ourselves whether we've excluded all plausible explanations for it. In the case of the stressed rats, what else could be causing the effects on the offspring? The environment in which these rats are living, their relationship with their parents, and their health situation are all possible explanations for the effects. Although the scientific evidence from the article supports the claim, we have to remember that there may be other causes that aren't being mentioned. Also, this claim is subject to the Bandwagon Fallacy, which states that some people assume a claim is correct just because many other people do. However, I believe that the rule out hypotheses theory is more plausible in this scenario. The rats could be experiencing these disorders for an insurmountable amount of other reasons, not just because their mothers experienced stress.



Is Google Making Us Stupid? - Replicability

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Link to Original Article: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/6868/


This article is about the Internet and how all of our exposure to it has actually reprogrammed, in a way, our brain's ability to think deeply and really take in all that we read. As the author of the article described how he was no longer able to concentrate on long pieces of literature, he also found himself skimming over most of the words, looking to get the gist of the entire piece rather than taking it all in and really thinking about it. What he was experiencing has actually been documented and studied before, so it is replicable.

As a result of using the Internet for all of our information, the modern-day human has become less of a "deep thinker" and more a information skimmer. Even I have experienced this change in thinking over the past couple years, as I have spent more and more time online instead of reading books and articles. In essence, the entire advent of the Internet is reprogramming our minds to simply look for answers and concrete evidence instead of opening up doors for deliberation and deep thought. It has reduced our ability to stay focused on one thing by bombarding us with multiple types of unrelated information on one web page, one of the studies in the article says.

This "new way" of thinking has been unknowingly adopted by many people over the last 10 or so years with the advent of Google. Instead of pouring over books and articles to find information we need, we have become accustomed to putting in a few key words and finding the answers to our questions almost immediately.

The change in our brain's capacity to interpret data is also seen in how people write articles and distribute information online. Instead of having lengthy articles that take 20 minutes or so to read, we have now become accustomed to reading 1-4 paragraphs and having all of the information. Some great examples of this are Twitter and pretty much any other blog out there.


In conclusion, Google and the Internet as a whole have been slowly but surely reprogramming the way we think and interpret information. This has been found to be true through many studies that monitor online patterns in people who are browsing the internet. Thus, the findings have been replicable.

Ruling Out Rival Hypothesis - Creation vs. Evolution

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One of the six principles of scientific thinking is "Ruling out rival hypothesis". This means when evaluating a claim, we need to make sure we have considered other possible explanations for the claim. I think this principle is important because it helps avoid jumping to erroneous conclusions. I would like to address this principle using the theory of evolution. Often evolution is presented as fact; even in a recent psychology lecture, a professor stated the visual systems of different animals were not designed by God but were evolved. However, he failed to ask himself and present other possible explanations. Creation is absolutely another plausible explanation.

Anyone who wants to deny the existence of God has to provide an answer to the question: Where did the universe come from? Evolutionists claim it came from a speck of matter. When they are asked where the speck of dust came from, they talk about the universe exploding into existence and the spontaneous generation of matter and any other psychobabble that they can think of. Scientists have been unable to dispute the simple truth that nothing comes from nothing.

I'd like to list the many evidences of God as the creator of the universe, but the lists are much too long to include in a simple blog. I will start however with two paragraphs from the book Evidence and Truth written by Robert J. Morgan.

The universe is a cosmos, not a chaos. It has order and design, and I would like to explore this theme further. Perhaps you are reading this book in the glow of an electric light. That electricity is produced in enormous generators, harnessed at a power plant, and transmitted through a complex system of public utility wires that flash it into your room. Would anyone suggest that the utility systems of your city happened by blind accident or by random chance?

Yet in the muddy waters of the Amazon lives an olive-brown eel that grows eight feet long and has six built-in electric generators composed of thousands of modified muscle cells called electroplaques. It can produce enough electricity to stun and even kill those it touches, its electrical circuitry being far more complex and intricate than the wiring of my house or yours. Is it chance or design?

If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to watch the video link attached. The video talks about how science confirms the Bible is true. It is presented by Dr. Jason Lisle who has a Ph.D. in astrophysics. Just copy and paste this link onto your browser: http://youtu.be/SxdjV1ATJ-Y.

I'm curious why, if you aren't able to rule out a rival hypothesis, why is it that only one view is can be emphasized without equal explanations of both views?

Please leave your comments.

Ancient Aliens - Could it be true?

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Have you ever heard of the TV show Ancient Aliens? The show airs on the History Channel and claims that the reason for many of the feats of the ancient world (the pyramids of Egypt, the advanced culture of the Mayans, the Roman Empire, the Great Wall of China and much more) are the result of the visitation by super-intelligent extraterrestrial beings. At certain times in the show, there will be some claims that make logical sense, however absolutely nothing is tested scientifically and the majority of the show is based on hunches and far-fetched logical connections. Once the principles for scientific thinking are applied, it is very difficult to believe any of the claims made on the show. First, it is impossible to disprove the visitation of extraterrestrials thousands of years ago. Additionally, there are numerous other hypotheses that could account for the advanced technologies that existed in ancient times. Moreover, the claim that ancient aliens were running rampant in the early years of civilization is a very, very extraordinary claim, yet there is no solid evidence presented to back it up. And don't forget to apply Occam's razor; the simplest explanation would most likely not include stories of intergalactic space travel. I find these shows interesting and their attempts to connect ancient marvels to aliens are sometimes shockingly convincing, however, as stated above, there is simply no credibility when thinking scientifically.

Check out this link to read all about the "evidence" supporting Ancient Aliens:


Pat Pulles, Subliminal Messaging and Its Effects


The influence of subliminal messaging on human behavior is a debated topic in both popular and scientific psychology. The advocates of "subliminal persuasion" argue that our brains perceive images on a level below our conscious perceptional threshold; these images in turn influence our behavior in ways we are unaware. For instance, if I get the sudden urge to drink a Coke after seeing a Coke advertisement, this may be because I subconsciously noticed the figure of a female on the Coke bottle. Consequently, my subconscious observation inclined me to want to have a Coke--this contradicts my conscious reason for buying the Coke, that I'm thirsty and Coke tastes good. The implications of subliminal persuasion are difficult to understand. Certainly the world would become more complex; if our decisions result from a combination of influences of which we are unaware, then the sovereignty of our conscious experience would be undermined. According to the work of Dr. Bahrami from the University College of London, there is evidence showing our brain is at least responding to subliminal stimuli: "We show that there is a brain response in the primary visual cortex to subliminal images that attract our attention -- without us having the impression of having seen anything". I think his findings are encouraging for the wider debate on subconscious experience. Nonetheless, from his research alone, there is no reason to suppose that this brain response in turn subconsciously influences behavior, and several questions are still unanswered. If we perceive objects at a level below conscious experience, are we also subconsciously interpreting meaning in these objects? These interpretations would be the source of possible influence. In my opinion, the door is still open that subliminal messages can influence our behavior. In the same way that our brain "fills-in" parts of visual experience in order to make practical sense of the world, the brain may have to reduce our consciousness to a small set of known influences in order that we can build a necessary identity of ourselves.

Check this video out:

Here is my main article:

Ethics a Grey Area in Research

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In the past and still occurring today, there have been medical trials done on humans that are considered to be ethical catastrophes. It is important to protect people that sign up for medical trials but where to draw the line sometimes is a little grey. It is difficult because we, as humans, want answers about a disease or illnesses that may not be easily studied in human. Many experiments that were done years ago would not be allowed today because of ethical considerations. Ethics are something that needs to be taken into consideration with every experiment to ensure that nobody is harmed in participating in the trial. It is interesting to think about when research gets to the human level, especially when it comes to drug trials. Many cutting edge drugs are offered to a sector of people that are desperate for a cure, such is the case with HIV research, treatments are offered to people in a different country where poverty levels are low and people are extremely desperate for help. They have made headway with HIV research but it has been at a cost for humans and for animals. Where to draw the line is a very difficult decision when we are in a world where people want results and they want them fast. world-aids-day-ribbon.jpg

What makes you keep focused on it.

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Today I was in the Moose library, screening the text book of PSY1001 for this writing assignment. I was so concentrated on it not to notice that a friend was quite nearby me. According to her, she was there about a minute expecting me to find her. So when she whispered my name, I almost fall of my chair. She laughed at me. This was not an exact experiment, you can find many observations like my situation or just experiment it easily.

He is focusing on his studying so much even he may not know events around him.
The selective attention enables us to stay focused on few stimuli in which we are interested among many stimuli and sensations. That is why I was able to keep reading. Even some students were discussing their project today. Nevertheless I barely heard them. There is a gap between sensation and perception, but in a good way. If out brain was not able to get selective attention, we would get a mental breakdown from the flood of sensational information.

This article talks about the selective attention and some disorders briefly. This has some links about studies and theories on this subject. There were two things in which I was interested. First, the process of paying attention does not need to be aware of, and the second is about the level of concentration. Depending on the degrees of concentration, or attention, someone might have a disorder like autism or ADHD. I want to know more about those disorders, and the process of subliminal selection of attention. But it lacks a cognitive and also a material resource, I mean time, for me to study deeply about it because of the exam. It would be better for now to change my selective attention into the upcoming exam. In this case, my altering the selective attention from one to another is fully perceived. Anyway, it class will give me to study more about the subject.

Swimming After Eating: Will You Drown?


I'm sure many of you were told as children to wait at least an hour after eating before swimming. This however has been proved to not be true. I found on snopes.com that you can actually eat as much food as you want and go swimming immediately after, without drowning.

Although you may get cramps, this is not from eating and will not cause you to drown. There are a certain type of cramps called "oxygen deprivation stomach cramps", which is caused by lack of blood to your diaphragm due to pressure form the lungs and abdomen. However, there is no real link to this, eating and drowning. This is an example of correlation vs. causation. Correlation isn't causation, variable A does not necessarily cause variable B, meaning that eating before swimming does not cause a person to get cramps and drown. Although they may be correlated in someway, you may develop cramps while swimming after having eaten, but this does not mean that you are going to drown. There have been no recorded deaths of drowning from eating too much before swimming. It is vey likely that this myth was made up from some over protective parent that was paranoid about their child drowning and it somehow became very well known.

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