November 2011 Archives

Beard Shaving As a Cultural Hate Crime

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Starting in the 17th century, European immigrants started arriving to the United States, some by choice and others as servants. Starting in the middle of the 19th century and still continuing today, immigrants from many parts of Europe came to start a new life in America. With this large mix of traditions and beliefs, the US was nick-named a "Cultural Melting Pot". With these travelers came their cultural and religious beliefs and helped to mold the American society we have today.

The Amish religion is a branch of the Christianity that I find to be extremely interesting. The Amish church started in Switzerland in 1693, but during the early 18th century, many of these families immigrated to the United States (particularly residing in Pennsylvania). The Ordnung, or rules of the church, are followed by all members of the religion and include the limitations on use of electricity, telephones, cars, and regulations on what clothing is acceptable. There is a heavy emphasis on participating regularly within the church as well as keeping strong family relationships. They also value manual labor and rural life, compared to the expanding ideas of technology and city-based lifestyles shared by many other individuals in our growing country.


It is a common tradition within the Amish community for men to not shave their beards and women to not cut their hair once they are married. According to this article, on November 23, 2011 seven men of an Amish sect were charged for harassing, restraining, and cutting off multiple Amish men's beards as well as injuring those who tried to stop them. The victims belonged to a different religious sect.

Bishop Mullet, the previous head of the Bergholz clan sect of the church had previous complications with eight families due to his controlling behaviors and was shunned from the Amish community. He was charged with orchestrating the beard-cuttings as an act of revenge for his excommunication, and involved six other men (friends and family members) to help him with these hate crimes. The seven men are being charged with violation of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and may serve up to life in prison if they are convicted.


This act of hate is not only being taken seriously because of the injury and restraining of innocent men, but also because it violates their freedom of religion and cultural beliefs. Part of being a United States Citizen is the ability to choose and participate in whatever beliefs and legal customs you prefer.

There is no doubt that Bishop Mullet should be prosecuted for designing and implementing such a horrific crime. According to the Theory of Mind (Premack and Woodruff, 1978), as early as a child's first or second birthday they are able to reason about what other people know or believe. This shows that the suspects' actions are not due to a cognitive or developmental issue. Even if Mullet was unable to make proper and ethical decisions on how to deal with his excommunication, the other six men should have stood up and realized it was wrong. They had the ability to stop him and choose not to participate, but instead joined him in harassing and embarrassing four innocent Amish men. I believe that their punishment should reflect accordingly to their actions, or in this case lack of action.

Improved Thinking

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In 5 years from now the main things I will remember are the six scientific thinking principles. All of these have been drilled into my mind by their presence on the chapter quizzes and the exams. Throughout this course, I knew if I could just get those questions right I could pass the test. Probably. Other than the academic help these principles have provided they have helped in other areas of life. They have aided my critical thinking Whenever I am confronted with a new idea or way of thinking, I think of the different ways to disprove it. Is this actually caused by that or is there an outside influence? Would these results happen consistently over time? Can I prove this wrong? get rich quick.jpgThe principles of correlation vs. causation, replicability and falsifiability, help one to make correct educated choices in life. The other principles of extraordinary claims, Occam's razor and ruling out rival hypotheses will help me get to the simplest explanation possible in the future.

Thanks to these six thinking principles I will never forget I know that I can effectively evaluate situations in the future. I will not be swindled by a "get rich quick" scheme due to replicability. I will not follow others in mass hysteria due to my knowledge of extraordinary claims and Occam's Razor.
In conclusion, thanks Psych 1001 profs for forcing me to memorize these concepts. They will aid in many ways in the future.

Encode It

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MPj04227060000[1]1.jpg Five years from now the concept in psychology I think I will remember is encoding. Encoding is the process used to get information into our memory banks (Lilienfeld 255).

As individuals we have the opportunity to learn and remember what seems like an infinite amount of information however, a lot of what I seemed to have learned in the past has been forgotten. This is because I failed in encode much of the information I thought I was learning.

Instead, I tried to memorize ideas as an alternative to spending time to understand the reasons and ideas behind the information; I did not put my full attention into what I was being taught. In addition, I have not made full use of mnemonics, learning aids, strategies and devices that enhance information recall (255).

Since learning more on the process of memory, I have began, and will continue, to attend to information fully when it is something I want to remember, even after the date my professors test my knowledge on the information. I can already see improvement in classes I take time to really grasp the information. And, the more I practice, the better I get.

I regret not taking the time to make up more mnemonics because I often fail to remember a lot of historic events when alternatively I can remember all the countries in Africa because in sixth grade my teacher taught my class a song using them.
If I remember encoding, and make use of the tools that improve it, I will find myself recalling much more in the future.


Remembering the Post-hoc Fallacy

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Five years from now, when I'm decaying and decrepit, I think the concept of psychology I'll remember the most will be the post hoc fallacy. The post hoc fallacy is defined in our textbook as a "false assumption that because one event occurred before another event, it must have caused that event". The fallacy goes along with the tried and true claim that correlation does not equal causation, and many events that appear to be related are played upon my multiple factors, and may also be simply coincidental.

I imagine a future situation where it just so happens that a small group of people die from cardiac arrest very closely to each other. Upon further inspection, it is revealed that each of these people shot arrows at archery ranges several times a year until their death. An impulsive mind might suggest that repeated trips to archery ranges can cause cardiac arrest later in life. But, thanks to the post hoc fallacy, I can say that it's highly unlikely that the first event caused the cardiac arrest, and that there must have been several other factors contributing to the coincidence.

Quick use of the post hoc fallacy in pop culture

The Lemonade Pitcher

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What is intelligence? This theoretical and extremely open-ended question has brought way to many great discussions over the years, with a lack of a clear cut and defined answer. When reading the Lilienfield textbook, one thing stuck out to me in particular, maybe because I had heard it before. Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences addresses the idea that there are many different kinds of intelligences in the world, eight to be more specific. The eight types of intelligence in the world, according to Howard Gardner are linguistic, logico-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. More about these are expressed in the following video. This theory is something very similar that my Calculus BC teacher talked about in class. His name was Brad Kohl, and he was known as one of the more strange teachers at my high school. Most thought it was just because he was weird, but if you were to be in one of his classes, you would have learned that it was because he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, which is a form of autism. Although he didn't teach me much about Calculus, he definitely changed the way in which I view intelligence. One day in class, he was talking about something irrelevant to calculus, as normal, and he began talking about how he was actually a really good cook. No one in our class believed him; we thought he was just messing with us and telling one of his many lies. He expanded on his love for cooking by sharing with us other things at which he believed to be good. Some of these included math, drawing cartoons, and mowing the lawn. After he shared his list, my friend raised her hand and said, "what the heck are you talking about?!" Mr. Kohl then told us his theory about the lemonade pitcher: that when we are born, God gives us each a lemonade pitcher full of intelligence. Throughout our lives, we pour a little bit of the lemonade into different cups, and this represents the distribution of our intelligence. For example, some of President Obama's intelligence is in politics, some is in public speaking, etc. We all have different things in which we are "intelligent", and it is just a matter of finding it.
This theory of multiple intelligences is also often implemented in the classroom. The
article discusses the way in which different educators use Gardner's theory to effectively connect with their students. I really enjoyed this article because this is something in which Mr. Kohl focused. He was really good about understanding that all of his students were different and that they excelled in different things.

The picture I wanted to put in is not attaching, so here it is!

A Tale of the Minnesota Twins

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No, I am not about to tell you about the baseball team. That story is much too sad to be told. What I am going to talk about, though, is a study performed at the University of Minnesota researching twins who had been reared apart, both fraternal and identical, and these twins who participated in the study are referred to in the psychology world as the "Minnesota Twins."

Before the study conducted, many scientists believed that there would be almost no resemblance in sets of twins raised apart. Turns out that the skeptics were wrong. The study found that many personality traits of reared apart twins were just as highly correlated as personality traits of twins who were reared together. Out of the 130 sets of twins studied, this article looks at some striking similarities between a pair of reared apart twins. Each person in this pair, James Arthur Springer and James Edward Lewis, divorced a woman named Linda and remarried another woman named Betty. They also both had similar drinking and smoking habits. The video (posted below) of reared apart twins, who were not part of the Minnesota study, shows that the twins have similar tastes, including the exact same favorite movie. These two examples describe identical twins. The Minnesota study found that personality traits of identical twins are more correlated than those of fraternal twins. This provides much evidence to the idea personality traits have genetic influences.

Being that I have a twin brother (a franternal twin bother), I find studies of twins to be rather interesting. I have sometimes wondered how similar we would be if we were raised by different families. What the Minnesota study showed is that, at least in terms of personality traits, it would not have mattered if we had been raised apart, our personalities would have the same likelihood to be similar.

The Mythic Personality

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The history of the twentieth century is filled with so-called "cults of personality" - mass personal and political followings of charismatic leaders whose virtues and seemingly superhuman capabilities have been extolled by propagandists. From Adolf Hitler to Stalin to the Kims of North Korea, leaders have been publicly adorned with traits that seem to surpass the possibilities of any mere human. While "cult of personality" applies to both the fields of political science and psychology, the question can be asked: to what extent does the "personality" displayed in these political cults bear any relation to our textbook definition of personality?


To begin with, if personality is indeed made up of a complex interaction of traits, then the official versions of cultic personalities are indeed FULL of personality in the psychological sense. From extreme intelligence to wisdom to inventiveness to kindness and sheer toughness, the foci of personality cults have been filled with inflated traits that surpass the realm of what most would, in all honesty, consider possible. Adolf Hitler was depicted as a military genius, despite his relative lack of military experience and, as his war efforts increasingly failed, his tendencies to micromanage to the detriment of his professional soldiers. Both Hitler and Stalin were depicted as loving, fatherly figures whose concern for their people reached far beyond the halls of power into the humblest home. Yet each was responsible for the deaths of millions of those very citizens their love and concern was supposed to extend to - sometimes in the most direct and brutal ways. While both men were publicly depicted as tough and resilient, the facts show that Hitler descended into near-madness and ultimately took his own life as his fortunes ebbed and Stalin, according to several close to him, retreated in despair to his rural home after the German invasion. Such are not the actions of superheroic personalities. In a similar vein, the military prowess of Kim Il-Sung, the vaunted "Great Leader" and "Eternal President" of North Korea, included a hasty retreat into the Soviet Union to avoid a defeat at Japanese hands in the 1940s.

How would these men rate if the propaganda were discarded and they were subjected to REAL assessments of personality? One could assume that both Hitler and Stalin would rate high in aggressiveness, which may be an admirable trait in a public figure in dangerous times. Given their tendencies to blame others and see vast conspiracies at work against them, both would also likely rate high in neuroticism - something that would be much less appreciated by followers. In terms of agreeableness, neither is likely to win an award; their persecution of close associates and tendencies to berate underlings and colleagues would likely leave them wanting in this area. As far as conscientiousness goes, the blundering into a world war and the brutal deaths of millions, including their own citizens, would also make for poor publicity. In terms of the "Big Five" traits, perhaps such men would only score moderately or well in the area of "openness"; both Stalin and Hitler are well-documented to have been intellectually curious and possessed radical, if violent, revolutionary visions of the future.

While it is of course impossible to subject dead men to personality inventories, it is clear that the cults of personality were indeed lies and resulted from a desire to grab and maintain power and the inexorable droning of totalitarian bureaucracies. A question just as interesting as assessing the propaganda and real-life versions of dictators' personalities is what psychological mechanisms were at work in the people who actually believed in their heroic, cultic traits?

Online Dating: Does it Really Work?

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Based on a nation Harris survey this accounted for about 2 percent of marriages in 2007 and has been on the rise ever since. It claims to make dating more efficient and you can find "the one" you've been waiting for with the click of a button.
Online Dating.jpg
What is this seemingly effortless middleman in the dating world? It's online dating sites such as eHarmony and Sites like these have become more common in the lives of people today. These sites allow a person to create their own profile and browse through other prospective mate's profiles with ease. Online dating may be inviting to people with busy lives or to people who are sick of dating people they don't want to marry. In an effort to better match potential mates, sites have added algorithms to help make compatible matches. This article in the New York Times helps to explain the science behind online dating sites.
Eharmony is one of the most popular online dating sites that uses the algorithmic approach. It was founded by Dr. Neil Clark Warren, a psychologist and author of popular relationship advice books. Each person who creates a profile on eHarmony is required to answer a 258 question personality test which is then used to pick out potential matches. The algorithm was developed by psychologist Galen Buckwalter. Going of the idea that similar personalities predicted happiness in relationships, he gave personality questions to 5,000 married couples and used the results to make a correlation with the happiness couples felt in their marriage. The resulting algorithm was based on 29 core traits. Among these traits were social style, emotional temperament, and relationship skills.
With the studies available at this time it's hard to say whether or not the personality based approach actually works. There is some evidence, however, that the algorithm method works better than allowing people to pick and choose matches on their own. Researchers of online dating found that among these people who were allowed to pick dates on their own, they only went on dates with one percent of the people's profiles they looked at and these dates were often described as huge letdowns.
So while some people may be huge advocates for online dating, others are skeptical and find it to be an absurd way to find a significant other. This video describes how some may view the online dating world, but as time goes on maybe this "dating middleman" will become the social norm.

We all do it.

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We all do it. And our psychology textbook suggests that the average college student does it about twice a day! What am I referring to? Lying of course! Another surprising fact about lying provided by our lovely textbook is that the average person is only able to tell if another person is lying about half of the time. Only a few specific groups such as psychologists who have studied deception and some law enforcement officials are especially good at detecting lies.

Lie detectors (polygraph machines) are thought of by some as a sure way to tell if someone is lying or not. However, these tests are very often found to be unreliable. Polygraph machines are more accurate than chance at detecting lies, but the machine is biased against the innocent! A large portion of innocent people are shown as guilty when tested with a polygraph machine. The number of innocent individuals falsely convicted as guilty by the machine could be upwards of 40 percent! That is far from reliable in my book.


Lie detectors work by measuring the physiological responses that reflect anxiety such as blood pressure, respiration, skin conductance and palm sweating. Then three types of questions are administered. Relevant questions bear the crime in mind and relate directly to it. Irrelevant questions are used to gauge responses to a question that expects an honest answer and are unrelated to the crime. Control questions inquire about probable lies and are used to gauge how the test subject responds when lying. But again, the machines are shown to be flawed. They measure arousal, not lies.

Another interesting way to detect lies is in the existence of microexpressions. Microexpressions are the tiny true expression that we have before the body is able to conceal it in an attempt to lie. David Matsumoto, a doctor in psychology explains the discreet art of mircoexpression detection in this video. Microexpressions last less than a half a second and can sometimes be as quick as 1/16th of a second! They are based on the seven primary emotions. To learn more about microexpression recognition, take a look at this website.

Practice [doesn't always] make perfect.

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The optimist in me would like to believe the man (or woman) who puts in the hard work will ultimately achieve success. But in this New York Times article, one thing is clear - sometimes practice isn't a perfect predictor of future mastery of a subject or activity. As the article bluntly states, "Sometimes the story that science tells us isn't the story we want to hear." Which is more valuable practice or pure talent?


The inevitable confirmation bias presents itself again. As I mentioned before, I would like to believe that the person who works the hardest should perform the best. Therefore, if I were a scientist, I would have a hard time accepting this very fact. From my own personal observations, I've witnessed students who put in a tremendous amount of hours studying for a test only to receive lower scores than the brainiac who always gets the highest score without studying. How can this be? There is something inherently unfair about the individual who works harder, yet doesn't find the same success as someone naturally talented. I realize this is life, but for some reason it irks me.

Recently, we have been discussing intelligence in human world. And as we know, intelligence is just as difficult to define as it is to measure. Nevertheless, this articles touches on the unfortunate truth that some people are just smarter than others...and those that are "smarter" by today's standards, naturally tend to "earn a doctorate, secure a patent, publish an article in a scientific journal or publish a literary work." And frankly, the article tells us, there really isn't much we can do to change it.

Yet on the other hand, recall that our book mentions Chris Langan. Even as the smartest man in the world, Langan still chooses to work as a bouncer at a bar rather than pursue something higher or more scholarly. Therefore, while a high level of intellectual ability gives you an enormous real-world advantage, it doesn't necessarily imply that you will win the Nobel Peace Prize.

This doesn't mean that we should just stop practicing and give up all hope - just that talent or genes may play a larger role than most people anticipated. I believe the original author sums it up best with: "Nor is it to say that it's impossible for a person with an average I.Q. to, say, earn a Ph.D. in physics. It's just unlikely, relatively speaking."

Here is an intriguing video that discusses the role of parenting with this dilemma:

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Practice [doesn't always] make perfect.

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The optimist in me would like to believe the man (or woman) who puts in the hard work will ultimately achieve success. But in this New York Times article, one thing is clear - sometimes practice isn't a perfect predictor of future mastery of a subject or activity. As the article bluntly states, "Sometimes the story that science tells us isn't the story we want to hear." Which is more valuable practice or pure talent?


The inevitable confirmation bias presents itself again. As I mentioned before, I would like to believe that the person who works the hardest should perform the best. Therefore, if I were a scientist, I would have a hard time accepting this very fact. From my own personal observations, I've witnessed students who put in a tremendous amount of hours studying for a test only to receive lower scores than the brainiac who always gets the highest score without studying. How can this be? There is something inherently unfair about the individual who works harder, yet doesn't find the same success as someone naturally talented. I realize this is life, but for some reason it irks me.

Recently, we have been discussing intelligence in human world. And as we know, intelligence is just as difficult to define as it is to measure. Nevertheless, this articles touches on the unfortunate truth that some people are just smarter than others...and those that are "smarter" by today's standards, naturally tend to "earn a doctorate, secure a patent, publish an article in a scientific journal or publish a literary work." And frankly, the article tells us, there really isn't much we can do to change it.

Yet on the other hand, recall that our book mentions Chris Langan. Even as the smartest man in the world, Langan still chooses to work as a bouncer at a bar rather than pursue something higher or more scholarly. Therefore, while a high level of intellectual ability gives you an enormous real-world advantage, it doesn't necessarily imply that you will win the Nobel Peace Prize.

This doesn't mean that we should just stop practicing and give up all hope - just that talent or genes may play a larger role than most people anticipated. I believe the original author sums it up best with: "Nor is it to say that it's impossible for a person with an average I.Q. to, say, earn a Ph.D. in physics. It's just unlikely, relatively speaking."

Here is an intriguing video that discusses the role of parenting with this dilemma:

allowscriptaccess="always" allownetworking="all" allowfullscreen="true"

Attachment theory and Rhesus Monkeys

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harlow-monkey.jpgAttachment theory can be defined by almost any lasting psychological relationship with another human being. The first attachment made in life is often to a care giver figure or parent. This bond is formed when another human responds and socially engages with the infant for long periods of time to the point where the infant forms a bond with them. This first bond is crucial to the infant as a basis for other relationships formed throughout their lives. The initial bond has been observed to be of many uses to a young infant, such as when they become mobile for the first times, they use these attachment figures as a safety net for them, always beginning and ending on them.
In this article, there is a brief analysis of a series of experiments done by a man named Harlow on rhesus monkeys and separation anxiety. New born monkeys were tested to see the effects that early attachments had on monkeys. Some were given no form of any attachment figure, while some were given "mothers" made of cloth and wire. The monkeys became attached to these mothers because the mothers were provided to them with food, so they began to associate them with food and therefore attached themselves to them. The experiment had some interesting results. The monkeys that were deprived of any attachment figures either died soon into the experiment or grew up without frightened did not interact with other monkeys even when they were older. Monkeys with the mothers did attach themselves somewhat readily, although the cloth mothers seemed to be preferred as monkeys only went to the wire mothers when they were hungry and explored more when the cloth mother was present and fled to the cloth mother when a frightening stimuli was presented. These are interesting finds and provide a new light into development of infants.

As I read this it made me wonder what was so different about the cloth that made it that much more conducive to attachment?

To Test or Not to Test? That is the Question...

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Take a second and go back to high school, sometime probably middle-to-late in your junior year, possibly even early senior year. Right about when you're trying to figure out what to do with your life after the year or so you have left of sheltering under this comfortable wing that you've built your entire life.


At this point in your life, my guess is you were probably thinking about the ACT or SAT, freaking out about having to pass it at a certain level to get into the college of your dreams. I wasn't any different when I was at that level either. What's interesting about these tests, to me, is something that was pointed out in chapter nine of the Lilienfeld book, about whether or not these tests actually predict grades (or, as I interpreted it, vice versa). These tests, as stated by the book, are "either to test overall competence in a specific domain or to predict academic success". So, ideally, these tests that we all stress about, and ultimately that little number we receive at the end of it all, is supposed to be an ultimate indicator of how good a student we are and can be. The problem with that is this: While these numbers may somewhat relate to our overall abilities as a student, they are not very accurate.

Here's a real-life example from my own experience taking the ACTs. In my high school, I with a 3.7 GPA and mostly As. I rarely did any hard studying, mostly getting by pretty easily with just doing the homework and accepting a few wrong answers here and there. When I took the ACT I came out with a 32 (out of a potential 36), which is a pretty high score for this particular test. One of my best friends, however, who was top of our class with a 4.2 GPA, studied hard every night, talked with teachers on her own time if she needed help with something, you know the drill. However, her ACT score topped at a 28.

Now, arguably if the ACTs, or conceivably any other admission test, was going to work as it's supposed to then my friend, through all her hard work, should have received, if not a 36, at the very least a higher score than I did. I would say that she could have arguably received a 36, with her GPA and grades up as high as they were. Clearly this isn't happening. Even in the graphs presented in our textbook, while there is an upward correlation between GPA and the SAT score, in this case, it is very general and can only be seen when looking a large range of SAT scores (700 to 2300 vs. cutting that in half to a 1500 to 2300 range).

What does this say? Well, that in a very, very generalized way the standardized tests can predict grades, but only in that if you have a significantly higher test grade than someone else that your GPA is likely higher as well. Not a really huge correlation, I would say. Better tests are being formed, as seen here, and some more interesting facts about it all here. But in the meantime, don't judge your IQ, or your ability to get a good grade, just by your test scores.

What does a sheet mean?

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In the spring 2007, I entered A University in Korea as a psychology major student. Then a year later, something bad happened and I had a trouble with that. I felt depressed seriously than ever and my life was totally out of control so that I decided to get some help from the A University Counseling Center. Before sessions started, a counselor had requested me to take the MMPI-2 test which was available in the psychology department in the school. So, I took more than 500 questions and the test bored me. Moreover some of questions were bizarre so I was wondering what those were for. Anyway few days later I had got my scores. That was quite interesting. By chance, one of my classes was covering the MMPI test, so it was easy to understand the test scores. Back then, I didn't know that I would go to the college where the test was developed.

The MMPI is shortening for the Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory. As the name suggests, the test was developed in the University of Minnesota by Hathaway and McKindel. It was revised and the new one was named the MMPI-2. Now, the MMPI02 is one of the most widely utilized personality tests. It is one of structured personality tests which refer paper-and-pencil test with questions from empirical data and fixed multiple choices. The Likert Scale is used for the test to quantify respondents' attitudes to questions. In the test, respondents have options to choose true or false to each question with numbers; 1 being "always true" and 5 being "always false".


It would be great that I have my profile sheet. But people in the center did not allow me to do so. Here is someone's MMPI-2 profile. But I can remember some of mine. It has 10 scales related to mental disorders and apart of them, the first three scores are about validity. The L means Lie scale. The F is for frequency and a high core on F usually mean malingering. The K is correction which is about how much you can hide your real response. One of my professors told me that students in college are smart enough so they usually get high scores on K. But I had got a little low score on K, about 50 or less. Speaking of scores, the average is between 50 and 65 on each scale. It is problem to get scores higher than 65, but also to get too much low scores. Anyway the score said I was naïve. In most cases, the K and the L score are positively correlated. So I can assume that my L was also low.

Then most of scales were like a high flying. Most of them were over at least 70 points. In retrospect, that was almost like a cry for help. You can see this website to know more about what high scores on scales mean. But what really surprised me was that the profile said me I may have schizophrenia and need to take medication. No way. I completely denied. However it turned out that I did not have such a big problem like schizophrenia. That was because a computer made my diagnosis, the counselor said. Also she informed me that even though computers could do somewhat for diagnoses, those are still needed to be confirmed by professionals. That was a just happening but I learned a lot from it and other sessions.Even though sometimes there are mistakes in diagnoses, the MMPI-2 test is widely used from clinical field to court. You can see that in our school's website. There are mutiple types of MMPI tests which are researched a lot and used for many purposes.

Cultural Differences in Raising Children

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The main goal of most parents is to raise their children with the right virtues and set of skills that will ensue that they will succeed in society. Have you ever taken a moment to think about how those virtues differ across cultures? The virtues that are instilled in youth are influenced by the culture that they grow up in and the period in time that they are raised. The nature vs. nurture debate has been going on for centuries and there is a lot of evidence to support both sides of the debate but recently it is becoming evident that both play a role in the development of children. The nature debate states that genetics plays the main role in development and will determine how a person will turn out. Whereas the nurture debate states that environment plays a main role in the development of a child. The significance of how environment can affect the development of a child is looking at how culture influences the values that child is raised with.

In China and Israel the main virtues that are instilled in youth are lawfulness, cooperativeness, studiousness, dedication, and studiousness to the specific principles of the nation. Children in these cultures also have a higher sense of respect for their elders and extended family plays a large part in the decisions that are made. These ideals are different than those of mainstream American culture which holds individualization and independence as major goals. In the movie Babies the life of four babies from Mongolia, Nambia, San Francisco, and Tokyo are taped for one year. This show really highlights the differences in the upbringing of the four babies in their first year of life. From early days the baby from Nambia is allowed to play in the dirt and entertain itself. The baby from Mongolia is also left by itself for hours while the parents work and its older sibling watches over it. These two simple examples show how the environment that a baby is raised in will affect its development in the years to come. Babies.jpg

Pavlov, Siegel & Four Loko

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4loko.jpgI first heard of Four Loko through a TV news story about young people drinking it and ending up in the hospital. Four Loko is a sugary, caffeinated beverage containing 12% alcohol; basically, it's a big alcoholic Red Bull. Below is a sample news story that came out when the drink was popular (it has since been banned in several U.S. states, prompting the manufacturers to remove it from the market and replace it with a no-caffeine version).

The newscasters and interviewees attribute Four Loko's dangers to its high alcohol content (well-disguised by its sweetness and flavoring), the stimulating effects of sugar and caffeine, the sheer size of the cans it comes in, and the irresponsible way it is often consumed.

In a recent issue of Scientific American, there's a short essay about Four Loko (actually taken from a Scientific American blog and available here). The author suggests that the drink's dangers have little to do with its caffeine content, and more to do with classical conditioning. dog.jpg

I'm skeptical that this explanation fully accounts for Four Loko's purportedly extreme potential for intoxication; I think the main reason it has caused so many problems is that people who drink it simply ingest more alcohol than they realize, and that Four Loko drinkers tend to be on the young side--beginner drinkers, with little tolerance for the stuff. But the essay does point out another interesting dimension to the issue.

The author discusses Shepard Siegel's 1976 paper, which attributes drug tolerance effects to classical conditioning (this is the same theory we learned about in our fourth behavior/learning lecture). His idea was that once you've taken a drug a few times, your body begins to respond not only to the drug itself, but to the environmental cues that normally precede your drug-taking (like a loud party if you're accustomed to drinking in such settings). These body responses pre-compensate for the effects of the drug, and ultimately reduce the effects the drug has on you.

The Scientific American blogger argues that since Four Loko doesn't taste like alcohol, it may fail to trigger this compensatory response, so that even seasoned drinkers can react to it as if they have no alcohol tolerance at all. It's an interesting thought; I wonder if there are any published studies that might shed light on this idea.

Personality is people's typical ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. One research, which is based on Big Five traits model, has shown that personality is not distributed even across the US; the Big Five traits differ across geographical regions. Here is a video to show the results. The Lilienfeld textbook says that culture has influence on the Big Five, which may be one explanation to this phenomenon. The article also says that research data has shown that culture do shape both individual behavior and collective personality traits in a region. However, Personality similarities among people in close geographical proximity may have different explanations.

On one hand, the arrow may reverse. It's possible that birds of a feather flock together. People go and live in places that meet their needs. For example, people who concern safety may prefer to live in small towns, while people who desire extravagant life prefer to live in big cities. Besides, there's also empirical evidence that attitudes, opinions, and emotions are contagious. Perhaps we all have experience of catching negative emotions which are hold by someone around us and becoming depression without specific reasoning.

On the other hand, People from a specific region are more likely to share a single gene pool; geographically proximate cultures often have common ancestor. Therefore, it's possible that not the culture, but the genetic factors lead to personality similarities. Obviously, we go back to the question of nature and nurture--the big topic in psychology.

Imprinting: Fly Away Home

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One of my favorite films growing up was a movie called, "Fly Away Home." In the story, a young girl moves to Canada to live with her father, and there she finds a group of abandoned goose eggs. She takes it upon herself to care for these eggs and make sure they hatch accordingly. As the goslings hatch, she comes to find that they have taken her to be their "mother." This is a standard psychological concept come to be known as "imprinting." The young geese become largely fixated on the first large, moving object they see after hatching. In this case, the little girl was this object; therefore the little geese followed her everywhere. In the movie, the geese must migrate south or they will not survive the winter, but they do not have a real goose mother to follow south. The little girl takes advantage of the imprinting and builds a flying device that the geese follow, and they make it successfully south for the winter.

In this clip, at :58 seconds imprinting is described, and it is shown throughout the clip how the goslings attached themselves to her. In this film however, it seems as though the girl attached herself to the geese in a manner similar to how they attached themselves to her; she became there mother as much as they thought she was.

Although it is hard to say whether imprinting will lead to a flock of geese following a flying contraption shaped like a goose, the concept of imprinting in the movie is accurately portrayed. When the goslings hatch, they immediately attach themselves to the young girl, making her the "mother goose." I would like to see if imprinting would go so far in real life as to see if baby geese would follow a plane if they did in fact imprint on it.


Its interesting to see that geese will not only imprint upon their mother, but that they will imprint on anything that they see in the first few hours of their lives. It goes to show that interpersonal relationships are very important if not essential to most creatures, even if they are not as abrupt or strong as geese.

Are you avoiding anxiety?

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According to Frued, the ego interacts with defense mechanisms in order for out unconscious to avoid anxiety. Repression is known as the most critical defense mechanism. Repression is defined by forced forgetting of emotional events that occurred. This defense mechanism is intentional because we are trying to forget something that we don't want to remember. Repression becomes important for people who had an emotional childhood, such as myself. For me, its important to recognize that we are forcing these memories away from reality because we want to ignore the pain but I think that it should be noted that the events still occurred. This particular defense mechanism may be a way for people to avoid the truth and suffrage of their past.

Great Repression Human Brain in Cage.jpg

In my personal situation, I can hardly remember my childhood because I have done everything to forget. I strongly repressed those images of my parent's divorce because that caused anxiety that I didn't want to encounter regularly. Repression occurs much more often than I realized in our everyday lives.

In this article, there is a description of repression as a defense mechanism and also examples that are similar to my real life experience.

In this video, all of the other defense mechanisms are explained. Each mechanism is driven by an unconscious effort to decrease anxiety. This article points out an interesting fact. They suggest that people can have various levels of repression. One could force forgetting a single event in their past and others could force the forgetting at such a high level that it would result in amnesia.

I'm curious if there is any way that we can avoid these defense mechanisms and face our fears and memories without instant anxiety? Is it possible to avoid the unconscious efforts of forgetting?

Stereotype Threat Good and Bad?

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One of the topics covered in chapter 9 is stereotype threat. The textbook defines stereotype threat as "the fear that we may confirm a negative group stereotype." In other words, if a person stereotypes another or a group of people then he or she is more likely to find evidence that supports that initial stereotype.

I believe that stereotyping can be both good and bad. I know we have all heard the saying that states that we should always follow our initial instinct. For most people our initial instincts are stereotypes. For example, in downtown Milwaukee most of the population is African American. African Americans cause most of the crimes in Milwaukee. Therefore, it would be safe for me to assume that a specific African American is more likely to commit a crime than a Caucasian person in Milwaukee. Also, I was walking down an alley with one of my friends on UW-Milwaukee's campus when it was starting to get dark out and wouldn't you know it, we got jumped by 3 African Americans. All that did was support my stereotype about African Americans in Milwaukee. So now this just leads me to believe that African Americans are likely to jump me when we're alone in an alley so I won't be doing that anytime soon again.

An example of a stereotype being good is in the case of Packer's Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson. A recent article pointed out that most African American cornerbacks in the NFL do not respect Jordy Nelson's athleticism or speed. Many of them assume that he is slow and cannot play as well as the African American receivers. This allows Nelson to make big plays because he is not respected as much and the corners do not play him as tough as they would for other receivers.

What I am trying to say is that stereotyping might not always be fair, but I believe it is essential. I do not think stereotyping should be taught to children other than the actual definition of what stereotyping is. Everyone should be allowed to form his or her own stereotypes.

The last aspect of stereotyping that I think would be interesting to learn about is how stereotypes of people vary in different demographics It could be from populations living in an urban area vs. people living in the suburbs or people from different countries. If we were able to a bunch of different case studies on these various stereotypes we would actually be able to determine which stereotypes are closest to the truth.

Here is the article about Jordy Nelson.

Savants - An Anomaly of Intelligence - Replicability

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Savants are people who lack many attributes across the spectrum of how humans view mental capacity, however they are extremely skilled in one or two areas. Savant syndrome can be congenital or brought on by injury/disease, and is often compounded with autism. Prodigious savants normally lack in emotional intelligence, but excel in crystallized intelligence in specific areas. One skill that shows up most often in savants is exceptional musical ability. Rex Lewis-Clack is one such example. He shows exceptional skills with the piano, while also being blind, autistic, and relatively unsociable. These skills are replicable in other savants, although areas of interest differ from person to person.

According to this article, around 100 prodigious savants have been recorded in the last 100 years. The qualities in many of them are replicable in other savants as well. They all show enormous talent in some specific area and are, in many cases, more talented than average people in the savant's area of expertise. Take for instance Daniel Tammet, who is a mathematical savant. He is capable of doing huge calculations in his head and can out-calculate calculators and computers. His exceptional skills in one area of his intelligence does not transfer over to other areas.

Although it is possible that supposed savant syndrome sufferers achieved their exceptional skills through years of hard work, it is extremely unlikely. The skills that savants have develop quickly and it is almost impossible to replicate through training. It is truly like their brains are able to tap into something most humans can't.


Savants - An Anomaly of Intelligence - Replicability

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Savants are people who lack many attributes across the spectrum of how humans view mental capacity, however they are extremely skilled in one or two areas. Savant syndrome can be congenital or brought on by injury/disease, and is often compounded with autism. Prodigious savants normally lack in emotional intelligence, but excel in crystallized intelligence in specific areas. One skill that shows up most often in savants is exceptional musical ability. Rex Lewis-Clack is one such example. He shows exceptional skills with the piano, while also being blind, autistic, and relatively unsociable. These skills are replicable in other savants, although areas of interest differ from person to person.

According to this article, around 100 prodigious savants have been recorded in the last 100 years. The qualities in many of them are replicable in other savants as well. They all show enormous talent in some specific area and are, in many cases, more talented than average people in the savant's area of expertise. Take for instance Daniel Tammet, who is a mathematical savant. He is capable of doing huge calculations in his head and can out-calculate calculators and computers. His exceptional skills in one area of his intelligence does not transfer over to other areas.

Although it is possible that supposed savant syndrome sufferers achieved their exceptional skills through years of hard work, it is extremely unlikely. The skills that savants have develop quickly and it is almost impossible to replicate through training. It is truly like their brains are able to tap into something most humans can't.


The tip of the Iceberg!

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Sigmund Freud believed that everyone had three different identities, Id, Ego and Superego. Freud felt that each served a specific purpose in our lives and decision making. Freud believed all the driving forces came together to shape our personalities. And that they resembled an iceberg. Our consciousness was the part of the iceberg that is visible above the water. Under the water is the unconscious part of our identity including the ID, ego, and Superego. He felt that a majority of our lives were determined by our subconscious decisions. iceberg.gif

The first piece, ID, is one we are born with. The ID drives to meet our basic needs like eating and drinking. It is our desire to acquire what we want with no thought relating to the consequences of the action. The Ego is developed next. The ego takes other people's needs and desires into consideration when helping the ID make decisions. It knows that some decisions are selfish and thoughtless. The final personality to develop is the Superego. The superego is similar to a conscience that determines our moral beliefs. It deals mostly with ethics.

I believe that this idea of a structural model to personality is very effective. Freud understood that human personalities are very complex and difficult to describe. He knew all people have internal struggles to obtain their needs and desires. Also, Freud knew that people's subconscious decisions are a driving force in our everyday lives.

Obesity: Biological or Psychological?

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In America, almost 2/3 of the population is overweight. You can't walk anywhere without seeing someone that is obese or overweight. With the oversized portions we serve in the US it is all to easy to eat more calories than what our body really needs.


Genetics can be to blame when it comes to being overweight. According to our book, our bodies have a natural set point. This means that once we reach a certain range of body fat and muscle mass our body works to maintain it. If you eat too little your metabolism will decrease. This means that an obese person has a higher set point than a thin person. This could mean they were born with more fat cells, lower metabolic rates, or less leptin sensitivity. It can be hard for people who are genetically linked to obesity to know when it is time to stop eating. Many popular TV shows have been made from obese people wanting to lose weight, such as The Biggest Loser and I Used to be Fat.

In my opinion, I think that genetics can play a role in obesity and being overweight, but in the end it is up to each individual to control their weight. I think that the psychological need they feel to eat far overrides any genetic reasons. Obesity is one of the main causes of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and so many other things that could be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and taking control over your eating habits. Luckily for those of us in the Twin Cities, there are plenty of places for us to get outside and be active. Forbes actually just recently named Minneapolis the #1 healthiest city in America! I truly believe that if you lead a healthy lifestyle, obesity will not be a problem. you can blame genetics all you want, but it's a decision to eat McDonalds and not work out. It is up to the person to change their habits.

Facebook and Attachment Theory

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Attachment theory states that our behavior in the intimate aspect of our relationships is influenced by our previous relationship experiences. Our different behaviors towards intimacy are categorized under the three "attachment styles": secure, avoidant, and anxious/ambivalent. I thought an interesting application of attachment theory could be found in the emerging world of online social networks.

The most predominant online social network is undoubtedly Facebook. Facebook offers a unique platform for social interaction that favors the avoidant attachment-style individual. In the article "Attachment Styles and Facebook Use", Eloise Zappos outlines the distinguishing characteristics of online social platforms like Facebook: "...greater anonymity, the reduction of the importance of physical cues, greater control over the time and place of the interaction, and the ease of finding similar others" (p. 5). Facebook introduces a social environment that is free from the noise, speed, and craziness of ordinary social life; this means that people who are not very comfortable in the usual social setting can still maintain a social life through Facebook. These people are given the control to create a virtual world that is tailored to their own personality. This type of virtual control also favors people who are not very trusting of others; these people usually require more time and control in creating and maintaining relationships. Avoidant-style individuals fit the profile of people who are both uncomfortable in the face-to-face social environment and generally untrusting of others. Consequently, avoidant-style individuals are very likely to become heavy Facebook users. Indeed, according to Eloise Zappos' analysis, this is the case; avoidant attachment-style individuals are more likely than secure and anxious/ambivalent-style individuals to become heavy users of Facebook.

I think a serious implication for online social networks comes from what Zoppos called "reduced anonymity". While interacting on these online networks, individuals typically are not in a face-to-face engagement; this fact may make people prone to thinking their actions are inconsequential. On the contrary, however, as more people begin to use Facebook, everybody's lives and personal information will become more public and monitored.

pysch blog 4.jpg

Is Your Destiny Under Your Control?

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Locus.jpgI often find myself looking for someone else to blame when things go wrong, but more often than not I conclude that I had at least some control of the outcome. This is the idea of "Locus of Control." If you believe the outcome of an event is because of your own decisions, then you have an internal locus of control. If you believe the outcome of an event is due to luck, fate, or someone else, then that is external locus of control ("Locus of Control & Attributional Style Test").

Take this quick test to see if you have an internal or external locus of control:
Click Here ("Locus of Control").

Understanding the idea of locus of control is important because it says a lot about how you view the world and your role in determining what happens throughout your life. People with an internal locus of control tend to work harder and longer in order to get what they want. This often contributes to people with an internal locus of control being more successful than people with an external locus of control. However, if you have an external locus of control it is not all bad. People with an external locus of control can be easier to get along with because they don't feel the need to control every situation. (Neill)

The video below provides a more detailed explanation of locus of control: (Aidanrbf).

Research shows that people with internal locus of control are more successful, but that doesn't mean that if you have an external locus of control you can't be successful (Neill). Recognizing this is actually an important step to taking control, it can allow you to consciously adapt to a situation. Remember choosing not to do anything, is actually making a choice; so anyway you look at it, your destiny is under your control.

Being a Christian, I wonder if internal locus of control conflicts with Christianity. I do believe in turning to God in times of trouble (an external locus of control) but from a psychological perspective an internal locus of control is linked to greater success. I'm sure if I research this further I could make sense of the apparent conflict.

Works Cited:

Aidanrbf. "Locus of Control Video." YouTube. 27 Apr. 2009. Web. 20 Nov 2011.

"Locus of Control." Psych.uncc. n.d. Web. 20 Nov 2011.

"Locus of Control & Attributional Style Test." Psychology Today. n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2011.

Neill, James. "What is Locus of Control?" Wilderdom. 06 Dec. 2006. Web. 20 Nov. 2011.

Facebook and Attachment Theory

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Attachment theory states that our behavior in the intimate aspect of our relationships is influenced by our previous relationship experiences. Our different behaviors towards intimacy are categorized under the three "attachment styles": secure, avoidant, and anxious/ambivalent. I thought an interesting application of attachment theory could be found in the emerging world of online social networks.

The most predominant online social network is undoubtedly Facebook. Facebook offers a unique platform for social interaction that favors the avoidant attachment-style individual. In the article "Attachment Styles and Facebook Use", Eloise Zappos outlines the distinguishing characteristics of online social platforms like Facebook: "...greater anonymity, the reduction of the importance of physical cues, greater control over the time and place of the interaction, and the ease of finding similar others" (p. 5). Facebook introduces a social environment that is free from the noise, speed, and craziness of ordinary social life; this means that people who are not very comfortable in the usual social setting can still maintain a social life through Facebook. These people are given the control to create a virtual world that is tailored to their own personality. This type of virtual control also favors people who are not very trusting of others; these people usually require more time and control in creating and maintaining relationships. Avoidant-style individuals fit the profile of people who are both uncomfortable in the face-to-face social environment and generally untrusting of others. Consequently, avoidant-style individuals are very likely to become heavy Facebook users. Indeed, according to Eloise Zappos' analysis, this is the case; avoidant attachment-style individuals are more likely than secure and anxious/ambivalent-style individuals to become heavy users of Facebook.

I think a serious implication for online social networks comes from what Zoppos called "reduced anonymity". While interacting on these online networks, individuals typically are not in a face-to-face engagement; this fact may make people prone to thinking their actions are inconsequential. On the contrary, however, as more people begin to use Facebook, everybody's lives and personal information will become more public and monitored.


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The concept that find important from the Lilienfeld text was the concept of imprinting. As a child, I owned a book written by Philip D. Eastman called "Are You My Mother?". The book is about a newly hatched bird who enters the world to find that he's in the absence of a mother. He then falls out of his nest and asks anything that moves the question "Are you my mother?".


Before reading the text, I dismissed the book as being ridiculous because a bird would never mistake a tractor for it's mother! However, i now realize that there's more truth to this story than i thought. The concept of imprinting from the Lilienfeld text refers to the bonding of a newborn, usually birds that leave their nest shortly after hatching, to the first moving thing it sees. After imprinting occurs, the newborn becomes extremely attached and fixated on the object or animal that it has imprinted on.

The example given was the imprinting of goslings on the mother goose. Goslings that imprint on the mother goose will then follow it around. However, in the absence of a mother goose, the goslings would imprint on the first thing they see that moves, even bouncing balls or dogs! However, the period for imprinting on lasts for a critical period of about 36 hours after hatching. After that, the goslings would no longer imprint on anything. It is also true that imprinting does not happen as strongly in intelligent animals such as cats, dogs and humans.

However, it is shown that most mammalian infants do form a strong bond with those that tend to them shortly after they are born. It is also thought that infants who lack physical attention up to 6 months after birth develop serious emotional problems later in life. These findings may, however, be caused by other unknown factors. As I reflect on this research finding, I wonder how one can prove whether having infants that lack physical attention up to 6 months after birth will develop serious emotional problems. I also wonder, if it is true, whether these emotional problems can be overcome by getting to the root of the problem when the infant becomes a young adult.

Birth Order and Personality

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Cindy-Marcia-Jan-in-You-re-Never-Too-Old-the-brady-bunch-10689387-798-580.jpg Many people believe that your birth order will affect your personality, that is, being born first, in the middle, or last will cause you to have a certain personality. One common claim that is mentioned in the textbook is that those who are born first strive for achievement, those who are born in the middle for diplomacy, and the last borns for taking risks.

This claim is explained more thoroughly in this video:

I am the first born of three girls. Me and one of my sisters, the middle born, have both taken the Myers Briggs personality assessment, and so I'm going to look at our personality types to see if they support the claim about birth order.

I am an ENFP. All of the characteristics of ENFPs can be found here, but I'm only going to talk about the ones that support the claim that first borns are ambitious, energetic, logical, enterprising, and scholarly.

ENFPs are project oriented, and tend to take on many new projects throughout their lifetimes; this supports the claim that I would be enterprising and ambitious as a first born.
The 'projects' I take on could be considered very scholarly, but this may be different for every ENFP depending on what they're interested in. ENFPs are also very enthusiastic, and their enthusiasm often motivates others. I think having much enthusiasm for everything in life would probably be seen as being energetic, and so I believe this quality also supports the claim. I believe myself to be a very logical person, but this quality is not mentioned in the description of ENFPs, so I don't think it's my personality type that supports the last claim.

My sister, the middle born, is an ISFJ. All of the characteristics of ISFJs can be found here, but again, I'm only going to talk about the characteristics that support the claim that middle borns are flexible, diplomatic, rebellious, attention-seeking, and competitive.

ISFJs are very sensitive to others' feelings and find harmony and cooperation to be very important. They're kind hearted and believe the best in everyone. This supports the claim that my sister is diplomatic. ISFJs respect laws and traditions, and, though my sister is quite rebellious, this characteristic of her personality type does not support the claim that she would be rebellious. This characteristic also does not support the claim that she would be flexible, because ISFJs value tradition and it is very hard to convince an ISFJ to do something a new way. ISFJs need positive feedback from others. When they don't receive it, they become depressed and feel badly about themselves. I believe that needing positive feedback would support that my sister is attention-seeking, because she would strive to get positive feedback from others, or, positive attention. Finally, no characteristics of ISFJs support the claim that my sister would be competitive. I believe that competition is normal between siblings, and so this would probably be true no matter what her personality type.

Overall, I believe that mine and my sister's personality types do support the claims of birth order and personality, to an extent. I think that our personality types support the claims enough to where a generalization could be made, however, it is only a generalization and may not be entirely true for every person. I believe that different parenting styles are what causes people to not fit the generalization of the personality for their birth order.

Lie detection: myths and reality

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TV shows and movies drive some false ideas about lie detection. Shows like Lie to me or movies like Harry Potter use lying detection methods without strong scientific supports in their plots.

In Lie to me Dr Cal Lightman is able to detect lying by observing people's nonverbal behaviors. And he is almost always right. Yet as some researches suggest, even groups of people we expect to be the most accurate in detecting lies, like psychiatrists, do not have a better rate than the rest of us at this exercise. They do not detect lies at better than chance rates. So Dr Lightman should not be as confident as he is in his ability to find who lie and who do not. Some researches say that verbal cues stay better indicators of lying than nonverbal cues. For instance it is more useful to try to detect if a suspect gives few and inconsistent details, which would prove that he is lying, than to observe his behavior when he gives these details.

Another kind of lie detection largely used in TV shows and movies is the polygraph test. In movies suspects who lie about crimes they have committed cannot resist to the "lie detector" test. The lie detector test is even used in the TV show Exposed in order to see if your date is lying to you. The polygraph test is based on the Pinocchio response: it detects physiological changes (like an increase in heartbeating), which would prove that you are lying. Yet this test is not really accurate. Indeed it is more an arousal detector than a lie detector. So it is possible to pass the test even if you are lying. For instance people with psychopathic personalities can be labeled as "saying the truth" because their low levels of guilt and fear make them able to show low levels of arousal when they reply to incriminating questions.

The last myth about lie detection drives by movies is the "truth serum". Used in Harry Potter movies or in Wonder Woman comics (Wonder Woman's lasso forces criminals to say the truth), truth serums have been used in reality. Indeed, some US government organizations like the CIA used drugs called barbiturates to extract confessions from terrorists. But scientists discover that such drugs do not enhance memory, so they are not a good way to obtain true information.

As we saw, in contrary to what we can see in TV shows, it is not possible to distinguish with certainty true information to lies. So lying is still a domain in which we can improve our knowledge.

Psychology: from Inquiry to Understanding, Second edition, Scott Lilienfield, 2011

Stereotype Threat

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Stereotype threat, according to the description in text book, is the "fear that we may confirm a negative group stereotype." And the book uses stereotype threat as an environment factor to explain that the African American students tend to perform poorer than Caucasians on IQ tests because African Americans tend to hold the view that they belong to a group with reputations for doing poorly on IQ tests. And this concern in turn, actually impeded their performance on tests.Stereotype_threat_bw.jpg

To add to the description about this topic in textbook, I think the stereotype threat can also works in an opposite way: sometimes is the fear that we may not be able to confirm a positive group stereotype that hindering us to do our best. And I shall call it the "Positive stereotype threat".

Personally I have been victim of this "positive stereotype threat". One time I was taking a Chinese test (which I always good at) with other students who I believe to be weaker in this subject, I feel confident at first however interestingly, as the questions became more complicate, the thought that "I must do well on this test or I would failed my reputation" became stronger and I found it becoming increasingly distracting as I trying to focus on the questions. And later on I found out I could scored higher in other similar tests if I did not emphasize the difference between me and my classmates.By forming a stereotype and overly emphasize it when the situation seems relevant, I had fell prey to stereotype threat and it had exert a negative effect on my performance.

Just as the fear of confirming the negative group stereotype may increase anxiety and effect people's performance; the pressure of trying to maintain a positive figure of ourselves is also strong enough to go backfire and to distract us in our tasks.

After doing some background readings, I have also found out that the stereotype threat has a much boarder area of impact on our daily life than just on tests scores, it can cause many negative long-term consequences such as leading individuals blame themselves for the failures, drop in self-confidence level and withdraw from the environments in which they perceive the threats.

To intervene the stereotype threat from effecting people, psychologists have developed ways to help foster the integrity of the self by self-affirmation process. But a more direct and maybe more effective way to intervene this threat is to teach people what the stereotype threat is, and the fact that intelligence is malleable and can be improve through exercises. People would become better against this lurking yet ubiquitous threat by raising their awareness and knowledge of it.

Graph created by Futurebird, based on data from The Effects of Stereotype Threat on the Standardized Test Performance of College Students, J Aronson, CM Steele, MF Salinas, MJ Lustina - Readings About the Social Animal, 8th edition, E. Aronson, quoted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 11/18/2011

Rorschach Inkblot Test

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The Rorschach Inkblot Test is one of the most common projective tests in psychology. It is also one of the most controversial. Projective Tests in general are typically administered by a psychologist with the purpose of discerning something about the subject's personality. They work by asking the subject to "make sense" of ambiguous stimuli such as incomplete sentences, drawings of social situations or in the case of the Rorschach Test, inkblots. How the subject "makes sense" of each stimuli is suppose to say something about their personality. However, recently the test has come under increased scrutiny as its validity has been challenged.

Take a moment to watch the video below:

Online Rorschach Test

From the above video, you can see how conclusions are drawn about someones personality based on interpretations that one gives to the different blots. It is a little scary to think that because you saw a "mouthman" in the first blot or "bat creature" in the fifth blot you might be labeled as crazy by the examiner.

Scientific studies have also looked into the validity of the Rorschach Inkblot Test. What most have found is that the test provides limited validity and no advantages over the much easier to administer and less time consuming MMPI test.

This link will take you to an article in the scientific journal Psychology that concluded the Rorschach Test was no better at predicting the interpersonal skills of popular versus unpopular elementary and middle-school students compared to the MMPI. You must be signed into your x500 account to view the article.

Possibility to Prevent PTSD in Soldiers

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It is not unknown that many veterans of war experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after their training and services in many branches of the armed forces. This article discussed a recent study at Walter Reed Army Medical Center has found an association with sleep apnea and PTSD, as well as with head injuries. This study examined 135 soldiers with PTSD, 116 soldiers with traumatic brain injury, and 66 soldiers who suffered from both conditions. After sleep testing was performed on each individual, 56 % were found to have obstructive sleep apnea and 49% suffered from insomnia.

These are extremely high percentages and continued research was done to find more correlation between the sleep disorders and traumatic life experiences. Not only were 87% of these soldiers considered to be "hypersomniacs" (sleepy and fatigued during waking hours), but the type of injury also determined which sleep disorder they may encounter.

Dr. Jacob Collen of the American College of Chest Physicians in Honolulu, Hawaii stated that "blast injuries appeared to be associated with insomnia and anxiety and blunt head trauma was more closely linked to sleep apnea".

Findings from his research found that 63% of blast injury victims suffered from insomnia, while only 40% of blunt trauma victims did. Only 26% of blast injury victims suffered from sleep apnea, compared to those of blast trauma which were found to be 54%.

This research further enlightened the world of correlations between sleep disorders and stress levels of soldiers, but it also raised question to what could be done to prevent PTSD. It is possible that individuals suffering from undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea before deployment could add to the risk of developing PTSD. Although there is no support from data or research to elaborate on this question, it allows the possibility for future research to be done. If factors can be determined ahead of time, perhaps the rate of soldiers returning home from war with PTSD can be reduced.

Creative Thinking

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Divergent Thinking: The ability to come up with multiple solutions to a problem. Creativity. It is important to note that being creative does not make you intelligent. The correlation between the two is fairly low. Someone can be extremely intelligent but heavily lack creative thinking.

I believe this concept is important because it describes how we make decisions on a daily basis. In real life when we are faced with a problem we must come up with a solution. Sometimes we find that our solution to the problem is not correct and so we need to come up with a second solution. We typically call this problem solving and it is how we work through multiple solutions to solve a problem.
Divergent thinking has also been described as "thinking out of the box". It is the creative ability to provide a solution different than the common solution. In my everyday life I have to use divergent thinking when confronted with a problem. This happens most often at my job where I am part of a marketing team. I have to constantly think outside of the box to solve market problems or figure out a unique way to reach our customers.

Here is an article that talks about creativity in business. It notes that creativity is not just fonts and colors, but coming up with unique solutions to real world business problems.

For The Kids

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Development begins long before an individual is born. Throughout pregnancy an unborn baby starts to perform movements, learn, and make preferences. The rate and extent of these abilities depend on many factors, one of which is the mother. The mother makes the decision whether or not the child will be exposed to drugs, cigarettes, and X-rays, a few examples of teratogens, environmental factors that can have a negative impact on prenatal development (Lilienfeld 366). The mother can avoid many harmful environmental factors, however, not all can or are as easy to control. One example is the mother's psychological state. Research has shown that the mother's mental state affects her unborn baby's development.
Researchers at the University of California-Irvine performed a study in which pregnant women were tested for depression before and after birth and their babies' development was checked after birth (Science Daily). Results showed that the consistency of the environment was most important for the babies. Babies performed best if the mother was healthy before and after birth or depressed before and after birth. To my surprise, it was better for the baby to be in a depressed environment before and after birth than in a depressed environment before birth and a healthy after.
I believe it would be beneficial to perform this study again using different tests on the babies after birth. Would this finding be consistent for all areas of development? If so, I think more studies should follow that study whether or not there is a certain point during pregnancy in which a change in environment can safely occur. This research could improve the development in children growing in a negative environment for that, as stated in the article, neurological problems and psychiatric disorders can arise in the long term if a mother is depressed. The mental state of a pregnant woman is a complex factor that impacts a baby's development and further research can increase its beneficial affects.

Association for Psychological Science. "Can fetus sense mother's psychological state? Study suggests yes." ScienceDaily, 10 Nov. 2011. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding. Lilienfield, Lynn, Namy, Woolf.

The Lie Detection Lie

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Since it's beginnings in the early 1900's, the Lie Detector has been a staple of TV courtroom dramas and Films. The devices work on the idea that the body elicits a "Pinocchio Response" when lying and that this physiological response can be measured.

"Pinocchio Response"

The problem with this thinking is that many people give off the same physiological response that the test has come to associate with lying (blood pressure, respiration, sweaty palms) when they are anxious or simply thinking about lying.

Another major fault with the modern polygraph test is in the assumption of a baseline for lying. The tests are administered by measuring a response to three types of questions: Relevant Questions about the crime, Irrelevant Questions, and Control Questions that elicit probable lying responses. The idea is to take the "baseline" lying response exhibited during the Control Questions and judge any response that meets or exceeds this response to the Relevant Questions to be a lie. However, studies have shown that given 30 minuets of coaching prior to a test, almost everyone is capable of beating the lie detector simply by biting their tongue or curling their toes during the Control Questions.

After looking at these findings, it is no wonder lie detector are no longer admissible in most courts. In the future, maybe a full proof lie detector will be developed. Until then, it would be best to leave them out of the courtrooms and off of the TV screens.

Mythbuster's Polygraph Exposed

Parenting Styles Seen as Cruel

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According to this article, Sweden was the fist country to ban physical punishment of children back in 1979.. In a public, educational situation I completely agree that this was a necessary measure. However, this law also bans corporal punishment at home.


According to the three main parenting styles (not including uninvolved/neglectful), the authoritarian style is the strictest, punishing way to raise a child, showing little emotion. A Permissive approach would show a large amount of leniency and discipline sparingly. An Authoritative parenting style combines the too in a supportive, but punishing way.

Outcomes of each of these parenting styles differ, but also need to be labeled as effects of the style used, not causes of the child's behavior. However, it is still a large part to how a child develops and matures. The Authoritative approach encourages maturity and independence of their children, but also sets limits and control over their child's actions. If a punishment is put into place, an explanation is given for why the consequences are happening. It is not considered cruel because there is a reason for the punishment.

According to a research study on patterns of competence and adjustment among adolescents from families of the four different style types, consistent evidence was found that associates positive developmental outcomes in children with parental warmth, inductive discipline, and non-punitive (non-extreme) punishment. Using spankings and minor disciplinary measures can be done in a fair, and understanding way to produce healthy, and happy young adults.

The law in Sweden that eliminates a parent's choice of how to raise their child does not seem like a good idea, when some disciplinary measures may be physical. Spankings should not be seen as an act of cruelty. It is true that some parents may take physical punishment too far, but in general this is not the case. Looking at previous generations also shows that people can grow up and develop well with discipline.

Dancing: A Cure for Dementia?

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Alzheimer's Disease has been a controversial topic studied in many science fields. It has been thought of to be the best known and most feared form of dementia and can affect personal relationships with family and friends, cause extreme amounts of stress, and interrupt daily activities as if progresses. Sadly, many individuals who experience this disease end up forgetting large portions of their lives, including losing recognition of their significant others, sons and daughters, siblings, and life-long friends.

As sad as this disease is, it also has sparked interest and research that has the potential to change the way people live. According to this article, studies have shown that dementia can still be maintained/reversed, even at an older age. The earlier positive lifestyle changes are made, the more successful in keeping the brain healthy and young people will be.

Dr. Gary Small from the UCLA Longevity Center says that "lifestyle may play a bigger role than genetics when it comes to who will fall into what he calls the "mental fog" of dementia".

Older generations (age 80-90) inflicted with Alzheimer's can prevent or delay genetic components related to the disease by implementing lifestyle changes, especially if these changes are put into place during the early and middle stages of life. Three particular lifestyle changes have been researched and contribute to a healthy and younger hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for forming memories. The most important to keeping a younger brain is to stay physically fit, combined with social interaction and mental challenges. Dr. Majid Fotuhi, a neurology professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, recommends dancing as a great physical activity that ties all three elements.


Using MRI scans, it has been shown that the size of the hippocampus does increase with a moderate amount of exercise. After age 50, the hippocampus starts to lose volume at a rate of approximately 1% of its volume every two years. During a study mentioned in this article, an experiment was done to compare the "age" of the hippocampi of a group of adults that walked three times per week and a group that participated in a stretching routine. After a year, those who exercised showed an average volume increase of 2%, which equivalates to a year or two younger. It also showed an increase in memory from the start of the experiment.

"This is cutting edge. We can reverse the atrophy that happens to the brain with aging, particularly the hippocampus", says Faotuhi. Alzheimer's was thought of as an irreversible, incurable disease and with these findings, there is potential to eliminate its devastation altogether.

Eating Disorders

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How much do we really know about eating disorders? An eating disorder is entirely dependent on mental health. These disorders can either lead someone to gorge themselves or barely allow any nutrients to enter their body. On the street we see both sides of the story, an emaciated girl and an obese girl can walk right by each other. Has this always been as prevalent in society as it is now? What about our culture/ psyche/ society drives so many people to develop eating disorders?
Eating disorders include annorexia nervosa, over-eating, binge eating, and bulimia. When at the extreme these disorders can cause serious health risks by putting far too much strain on the body's organs and for many, leads to death. Many think solving an eating disorder would be a simple thing, but when it is all preconditioned and has also become a way of coping for an individual it is hard to stop.
Generally, individuals with eating disorders have extremely low self esteem. Many do not see themselves as they are. In the case of annorexia, an individual can be 110 pounds at 5'6'' and believe themselves to still be considered overweight. On the other hand, an obese individual has usually dealt with weight and food related issues all of their life. Instead of food being merely for fueling the body, it has become a coping system. Many call these people, " emotional eaters."
Is society to blame? Many argue that annorexia and bulimia are symptoms of our society's spotlight on thin girls in the media. Models today are tiny, where in the past they were healthy. In Greek times full bodied women were painted nude. Then, a healthy sized woman was considered beautiful. Were there eating disorders then? Did women still have the urge to be as skinny as they possibly could be?
We also blame our culture for obese individuals. Our culture thrives on the easy, cheap option. McDonalds, Buger King, Americanized Chinese food, Applebees, practically every sit down restaurant is sure to have half of its menu at over 1000 calories a serving. There is such easy access to food today that many believe over eating and obesity is caused by our culture. The United States has more obese individuals than anywhere else in the world. Is it the easy access to food that allows individuals to become obese? Were there many obese individuals in the past?
The questions I must ask are: Are eating disorders a symptom of our culture/ society or have humans always had such problems with food? Is our society more aware than in the past of eating disorders? In the past 10 years has the rate of eating disorders increased or decreased after society began to talk about them? How many people (really) have eating disorders in the world? anorexia.jpg

Parenting Styles

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Parenting styles differ from each and every parent. Some use the styles they themselves experienced growing up while others use information they obtain from reading books or talking to friends. Popular magazines like "Parenthood" and "Parents" offer insight to the best and most effective styles of parenting. The findings and methods in these magazines and books aren't necessarily valid.
Even though each parent acquires his or her own unique parenting method, three major styles have been defined by observations, made by Diana Baumrind, of Caucasian middle-class families. The three parenting styles include authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative. This article also helps define the general outcome of development for each style.

Authoritarian parents show the least amount of affection towards their children. These parents typically have strict rules. They tell their children exactly what they want them to do and don't typically give any other choices. From my personal experience, I would consider these to be the parents of my friends who were constantly grounded. If they were told they needed to clean their room and it wasn't done in the fashion the parent expected, the child was punished in the form of "grounding" which had a different meaning among different parents. Authoritarian parents may give the dreaded "because I said so response" when a child asks why they have to do something. Because this style often doesn't allow children to think for themselves, it has been suggested that authoritarian parenting may delay a child's development of critical thinking skills and emotional interaction skills. Both of these contribute to success in the modern world

Permissive parents allow the children to be more in control. They are more lenient and give children more freedom. These types of parents tend to take on a more loving and caring parenting style and do not rely nearly as heavily on punishment as authoritarian parents. Children are given many more choices even if they are unable to make what are considered to be good choices. The "winner" in this style of parenting is the child; they are given whatever they want. A lack of responsibility and relationship problems may be a developmental result of permissive parenting

The authoritative approach finds a happy medium between permissive and authoritarian styles. They show the love and warmth of a permissive parent but also set clear limits and boundaries as in the authoritarian styles. This "best of both worlds" style is considered to be the most effective in child development. Children with authoritative parents are given a limit of choices and learn the positive and negative consequences of their decisions and choices. Of the three styles, it shows the best social and emotional adjustment and a low level of behavior problems.


Growing up without a gender?!

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An unconventional couple in Canada has recently announced that they are keeping the gender of their child a secret. The couple says that they don't want their baby, Storm Stocker, to be limited by the gender expectations placed on him/her by society. They want Storm to be free to play with whatever toys he/she wants to and wear whatever outfits that he/she wants to. Even the grandparents are unaware of the gender of Storm. Storm's siblings are sworn to secrecy and the parents have also stated that they are in no hurry to inform the child itself of which gender it is. They hope Storm will come to his/her own conclusions about which gender he/her best identifies with. Storm also has 2 older brothers, five and two years-old. Storm's parents have tried to also raise them in an environment uninhibited by gender stereotypes. Jazz likes to wear his hear in long pigtail braids.

Storm's story is taking the media by storm. Many reports have been done, and the case has been mentioned on multiple news networks. It was even discussed on The View. A recent poll of 52,000 people conducted by the Today Show revealed that 11% of viewers found it to be a great idea, while 89% thought it was a terrible idea. The couple has been bombarded with criticism, but stands beside their decision. Storm's mother, Kathy Witterick is quoted as saying, "The idea that the whole world must know our baby's sex strikes me as unhealthy and voyeuristic."

The first sentence in our Psychology textbook about gender identity is as follows: "Gender concepts are crucial to children's understanding of themselves as social beings." Therefore, I think that these parents are in fact creating a world of confusion for their child, rather than the safe and gender-neutral world they are trying to create. The baby is too young to make any decisions for himself, he is too young to stand up to all of the criticism by himself. Identifying with a gender can be essential in building an identity and a sense of self. Therefore the fact that Storm's parents don't acknowledge any gender will leave poor Storm worse off in the long run then if they had provided a clear picture of identity for Storm.

Here's a Little Love Story

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Here's a little love story, in honor of the recent Fifth of November and the movie commemorating its ideas, "V for Vendetta". Now, in this post I'm not going to talk about the radically political actions of the ideas represented in the movie. Rather, I intend to write on the relationship between the figure "V" and Evey Hammond. Following will be a brief iteration of a few of the ways these two seemingly opposite characters ended up falling in love throughout the movie - yes, it's not ALL cool knife-throwing and enticing plot advancements! (SPOILER for those of you who haven't seen the movie!)


In the beginning, there was V, the "terrorist", and Evey, the upstanding citizen who would like nothing less than to live a normal drama-free life. However, these two seemingly opposite characters right off the bat hit up the proximity issue for relationships when Even is forced to live with V in his home, since V was reluctant to leave Evey alone after she saved his life (I'm skipping over some major plot points here for the sake of sticking to what's relevant to the blog post, so bear with me here). They lived together for several months, and over this time a noticeable change between at the very least extreme distaste became a semblance of a friendship. In essence, after spending so much time together they realized that their tear-rivers were little more than some squishy mud that didn't require so much fuss and they weren't so different after all.

Which brings me to my next point, in that these characters weren't really as different as they seemed, and also breaches another relationship issue in that Like attracts Like. Though at first different, you later discover that both have strong bad memories about the government haunting their pasts, though Evey seems to have buried hers deeply only to be drawn out by V himself. Through these experiences the two characters bonded giving them both a strong want, possibly a need, to help change their country and fix the issues it has. Though this incredibly strong need, and therefore a strong similarity, their friendship grew into love.

These are just two examples the demonstrate the ideas about relationship mentioned in the Lilienfeld text. I could go on, but the post would get exceedingly long. Now if only everyone's relationship could start out with the cannon BANG of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture

The impact of divorce on children

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The impact of divorce on children is as it sounds, the psychological impact that the separation of parents has on the children they are raising. This is a very important concept with regards to parenting as there are certain things parents of such children can do to lessen the effects of a separation on their children.
Naturally, divorce is not beneficial to the development of children, and this long term study found that of children whose parents divorce each other, 25% of them end up having serious psychological, social and academic problems in their lives. This particular study is based on families years and even decades after the parents separated. It focuses mostly on what parents can do to prevent permanent psychological damage to their children. A family often recovers best from this type of event when there is joint custody of the children and the parents try not to be hostile or confrontational. Most of the 25% of children are in a family where the parents not only want nothing to do with each other, but also are very hostile with each other. Parents who ignore each and have separate parenting styles and parents who are still trying to be a family together are much better environments for children. Other finds include that the less stress from the relationship that is put on the children the better, for example when parents try to "parentify" their children by disregarding their own responsibilities to their children or when they turn their children into confidants.
The effects of divorces in the family other the obvious psychological issues vary a surprising amount. Boys tend fight with each other more which is associated with competing for their sole parents attention. Girls have a much higher rate of early onset puberty, 25% in divorced families and 35% in remarried families compared to 18% in married families. This is associated with how it might have been evolutionarily advantageous to be able to reproduce earlier in a hostile environment. Both boys and girls of divorced parents have issues maintaining their own marriages later in their lives.
As I read this article a few more things came to mind:
This article mentioned that Boys become more aggressive with each other after a divorce, but it never gives a definitive reason why.
Are their any specific psychological conditions associated with divorced parents?

The Many Elements of Interpersonal Attraction

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Attraction between people is an odd thing; it can spark many emotions that may lead to different kind of relationships. There are many different factors that come into play when determining if someone is attractive. These factors include how close someone is in terms of distance, the amount of similarities are present, if one is willing to reciprocate feelings of attraction, and simply how one's physical appearance appeals to another.


This video shows how physical attraction plays more of a role than we know, and that there are certain features that one may find more attractive. For example, for a man, a larger jawbone portrays a more attractive man, for the correlation between testosterone and other hormones specific to males are more present with this feature. Even though humans do not specifically note the fact of hormones and "manliness," the fact that our brains recognize this important correlation proves the idea that physical attraction in first impressions plays a great role in how attractive one appears to another.

These concepts are important in real life because it shows how inclined people are to finding a mate. People worry about these things every day; there are dating sites, advice columns, and many other forms of media to try and help people find a mate. The bottom line is that no one factor will determine if someone is attractive to another; there is no simple formula for determining who will be right for whom in the game of finding someone to spend a lifetime with.

The Mozart Effect in Infants

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Mozart effect.jpg

The "Mozart Effect" is a classic example of extraordinary claims as well as confirmation bias, It's described as the playing of Mozart's classical music during a child playing, or before a test, etc. that increases IQ of the subject who's listening to it. The findings were first made popular by Alfred A. Tomatis who used the music while attempting to cure various illnesses. The approach was then popularized in a book by Don Campbell that is based on research done in 1993, although Campbell's book makes wild claims that weren't found in the research by Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky (1993).

In popular culture, then governor of Georgia Zell Miller in 1998 adapted a proposed state budget that called for $105,000 to be spent every year giving each child born in Georgia a Mozart CD or tape. He claimed that "we could feel smarter already" immediately after listening to classical music for extended periods of time.

However, Rauscher et. al.'s findings in 1993 were far from convincing. In studies that gave researchers standardized tests that tested spacial reasoning, the subjects only performed somewhat better, and for only a very short period of time. There was also no evidence to conclude that Mozart increased mental development or the IQ of the person listening, yet these claims ballooned and appeared in several books that supported that theory, albeit with false claims.

Try for yourself!

Homosexuality: nature or nurture

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Gender identity is individuals' sense of being male or female. Childhood gender nonconformity is one type of gender identity disorder, meaning a child is more willing to behave as the opposite sex. Research has shown that child who is extremely childhood gender non-conformity usually grow up to be homo. The department of psychology of Northwest University held an experiment years ago. Psychologist recruited homosexual and heterosexual men and women--targets--to judge the gender nonconformity of the targets. The finding showed that on average, prehomosexual children were judged more gender nonconforming than preheterosexual children, and this can apply to both men and women.

Then suddenly, one question concerning to the topic comes to my mind: is homosexuality natural or nurtural?

One experiment gives an evidence to support that it is more biological related. In the experiment, twins pairs, which were at least one twin was homosexual, were asked through announcements in the gay press and personal referrals from 1980 to the present. (1) One or both twins were asked to answer an 18-page questionnaire which was related to "sexuality of twins". The answer showed that about 40 monozygotic twins, which included 34 male pairs and 4 female pairs, were found to have a same rate of 65% for homosexual orientation, while there were about 20 dizygotic twins who have about 30% for homosexual orientation.

Others have opposite opinions. The video tells that homosexuality may not be affected by gene because Identical twins can have different sexual orientation.

Obviously there is long way to go to solve the puzzle and it is really interesting.


Millionaire Matchmaker

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patti.jpgPatti Stanger has been matching couples together for years. She opened "The Millionaire's Club" in January 2000 and has filmed her fifth season of "Millionaire Matchmaker." What is about the science of dating that draws people to watch her show each week? How does Patty continue to have a 98% success rate? Well as she says, "with patience, and an eye for the right chemistry. [She'll] make the match." Patti has successfully understood the concepts of dating we covered during discussion and in our text. Proximity, similarity and reciprocity.

The first concept, proximity, always comes into effect immediately. Patti holds mixers for the clients to interact with their possible matches. She puts them together in a large and allows them to mingle and get to know each other. While watching how they interact, Patti determines whether there is chemistry or not. The second concept, similarity, is how Patti determines who to invite to the mixers. She matches couples on many different factors: religion, personality, interests and activities. Many other issues come into play depending on the client. She asks the clients for non-negotiables, items the future match must have. Knowing how important certain traits are permits Patti to increase the chances of the matches being a success. The final concept, reciprocity, is also involved in the screening process. Patti asks (usually) the girls what they want in a mate. She makes sure that both pieces of the puzzle match perfectly. Also, she insures that the girls are not taking advantage of the fact that they are being matched with millionaires. They must be able to contribute to the relationship, intellectually and financially.

By combining all these concepts and lots of practice, Patti is able to make a happy ever after ending happen for hundreds of people and teach those viewers at home how to be successful in their own dating life. Patti claims to have a special ability with matching people but really any one could as long as they follow the 3 parts of science and dating.

In Which I Go Negative on Positivity

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The idea behind positive psychology is basically this: traditionally, psychology has been overly focused on understanding and treating mental problems, and not enough research has been done on mentally-well people; by focusing on the latter group, we may come to understand the causes of happiness and resilience, and help those who aren't mentally ill to become "better than well." In my mind, this trend is a case-in point for how the underlying assumptions of our culture can be taken for granted by many scientists; a lot of studies, especially correlational ones, exist in easy symbiosis with motivational speakerdom and the self-help industry. I suppose there's a silver lining to the scientific focus on positivity, though; it will be good to have actual research on this subject and not just the usual self-help scams. ss_sk_bheld.jpg

I appreciate the way our textbook authors always scrupulously hearken back to the principles of scientific thinking, and remind us to be cautious even about claims made by scientific authorities. Right now, positive psychology has been getting a lot of attention, and not only in the media; it's the official centerpiece of Martin Seligman's APA presidency, for example. I don't want to unfairly malign the entire field, but as a mildly negative person, I can't help but resent all the encouragement this gives to the popular faith in Positive Thinking, and the stigmatization of unhappy people that seems to be associated with it. I've heard a lot of buzz about studies that show that happier people are healthier, have longer life expectancies, etc. People generally seem to assume this means that being happy makes you healthy, a common mistake with correlational studies: it could also be true that good health makes people more likely to be happy, or that some other variable causes both. I'm inclined to think it's more likely that the causal arrow usually runs more from health to happiness than the reverse.

I found a blog post (from our primary textbook author, no less!) about some of the interesting, possibly useful things the new positive psychology researchers have discovered, though he overall seems to see the trend as a "fad" and cautions that positivity may work well for some people but not others.

Does Money Equal Happiness?

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According to psychological research the answer is no, money does not make us happy. The reasoning behind this is, sure money will make us happy for a short period of time but it doesn't buy us long-term happiness. At the same time the research goes on to tell us that when we are running short on money it can affect our happiness. The main piece of information that this research provides us with is that above the $50,000 mark, additional money doesn't make us much happier. Below the $50,000 though, money affects our happiness. That research was collected in 2008 by Kesebir and Diener.

Since the collection of that research many thing have happened in with the American economy and the economy in other countries. The worth of the American dollar has decreased; a job recession and prices of everyday objects have increased, causing money to be harder to come by. An article published in September 2010 in Time magazine has now increased that amount to $75,000. One of the interesting things that Deaton and Kahneman, who conducted the research, found was that, "High incomes don't bring you happiness, but they do bring you a life you think is better.",9171,2019628,00.html

This brings up the question, are we headed for a culture where money is driving happiness. I think that in hard times people believe if they have more money it will make their lives easier and thus making them happier but I think that it also forces people to see what is really important to them. Usually people that are earning higher incomes, well over $75,000, work longer hours and have high stress jobs. In turn high incomes sometimes mean less free time and lead to less happiness. Money may make you happier in the short term but in the long term there are other factors such as marriage, friendship, giving and gratitude that bring real genuine happiness.

How accurate are the ACTs?

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In my opinion, college admissions tests are highly inaccurate. I do not think that a standardized test efficiently shows how intelligent a person is. There are many factors that can go into someone receiving a higher or lower score on the ACT or SATs. Some people receive excellent grades but do not score as high as their peers on the ACTs. Some people are just not good at taking tests. Test anxiety is very common and regurgitating random information does accurately depict the persons intelligence.

In this article they point out all the different ways that ACTs are not an accurate test for students. These include the tests not being precise, not predicting college performance, and being biased towards white, affluent, male test takers.

I know for me personally I scored average on the ACTs but had above average grades and continue to get good grades in college. I do not feel that the ACTs accurately reflected my education, intelligence, and competency.

This is just a Simpsons spoof on standardized testing. My favorite part is when they have the National Testing Center slogan as "controlling your destiny since 1925." I truly think that ACT and SATs should be eliminated all together and the focus should be put on grades, grade improvement, and extra curricular activities.

Flow: The psychology of complete experiences.

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In my former college I joined a climbing club and participated in it for four years. So I used to go to rock climbing with my college friends. The first time I climbed mountains, I felt terrified to death. I yelled out and cried for help. I'm not proud of that. Anyway even though other guys who joined the club with me quitted the club because those were too tough, I did not kept going to rock climbing. Actually I became to love that. Here is why. When I started my very first summer training, I had really great experience. During climbing, there was only me and rocks. I was concentrated on my movements, textures of rocks and sweat running through my forehead. For a while, I thought I was in a totally different world. Now I know that was flow.

In a state of flow, people are unaware of the time passing and everything around them. They are in a zone in where there are only with themselves and the sense of what they are doing. In such moments, their consciousnesses are full of experiences and all of what they feel, what we wish, and what we think are in harmony with each other. Even though what people are doing is quite different from each other, in the flow, what they feel is similar. It is like ecstasy.

These exceptional moments was named the flow experiences, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, at the first time. Even though the flow experiences themselves do not give people a feeling of happiness, fulfillments and achievements from the experiences are closely related to one's happiness. That is why flow is important notion for modern people. According to Csikszentmihalyi, we spend 24% to 60% of our time on working, for students like me, studying. If you can only find flow in your work, you can have much better life.


There are common factors in activities in which you can experience flow. First, there are clear goals for now, challenges which have similar levels with your skills and proper feedbacks. Among them, the levels of challenge and skills are really important to produce flow. You can see feelings people will experience depending on changes of two variables above. If those two factors are high enough and well balanced, you can experience flow. Thinking of my climbing episode, at the time, I already had some experience in climbing and the route I climbed had an appropriate level for me. That is why I felt flow. Having this kind of experience is so great. However if we can apply this to our works, that will be more great. On the video, you can see how we can apply this to our work for happiness.

There are three rules. First is finding hidden challenge and then perfecting your skills and the last was focusing on what you are doing. I think it can be applied to my studying for psychology 1001 class. Of course, there are challenges, because our textbook covers too many and broad subjects in psychology. Let's think about my skills. Even though I'm international student and this is my first semester in any foreign colleges. However I have studied psychology for two years in Korea, my skill would be fine. The last concern is what I should focus on. I think the first thing is reading the textbook and taking quizzes. Actually that is great. Online quizzes will give me immediate feedbacks. If I concentrate on it enough, I can get flow through it and eventually it will give me good grades which are closely related to my happiness. That is a theory of mine.

Can We Tell if Someone is Lying?

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We all lie. Trying to say that we didn't would actually be a lie itself. Chapter 11 of our Lilienfield textbook addresses our different emotions, and more specifically, lying. One thing the book discusses is the polygraph test and other lie detection techniques. Most of these rely on the Pinocchio response, which is defined as a perfect physiological or behavior indicator of lying. The general idea is that people's bodily reactions supposedly give them away whenever they lie.
Imagine someone is lying to you. Most likely he or she won't look you in the eye, or will start twitching and wiggling different parts of their body. We have all experienced it, and will experience it again in the future. The most obvious movie example of this is the Disney movie Pinocchio. Every time this wooden puppet lies, his nose grows bigger and bigger. Adventures-of-Pinocchio.jpg
However, for a more recent example, there is now a show on ABC family called "The Lying Game." It's about a girl who has an identical twin sister, and they switch places in order to find their birth mom. This show does a good job illustrating the Pinocchio response, because often times the viewers can tell one of the characters is lying because of lack of eye contact or awkward movements. However, I wouldn't say that it is the best example of the Pinocchio response, because the whole idea of the show is that no one is supposed to figure out that they have switched places. In order for the concept to be more correctly portrayed, more physical movement would have to exist, and eventually the characters would have to be caught.
After thinking about real-life examples of the Pinocchio response, I thought of how often our physical movements give ourselves away. How often does someone catch you when you're lying? More often than not, it is because of what you do, not because of what you say. In the card game, BS, players can tell when someone is lying, not because they say "2 eights," but because maybe he or she is hesitant to put in their cards, or maybe their voice gets quieter. Lying is all around us, but often times we catch it in the act.

I Got them IQs like Mozart

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mozart2.jpgIn 1791, upon receiving the news that Mozart had died, the famous Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn was quoted saying "Posterity will not see such a talent again in a hundred years!" Companies now convince parents to believe that their baby can achieve this once-in-a-century genius. Known as the Mozart effect, they say that listening to Mozart, or classical music in general, can increase the intelligence of their child and they sell classical music products specifically marketed towards babies. Now how could anybody believe this crazy claim? It must be supported by a vast amount of scientific evidence...well, not really.

In all started in 1993 when an article was published in the journal Nature. The article claimed that listening to a Mozart sonata temporarily enhanced spatial temporal reasoning. Their finding were misinterpreted and people believed that the study claimed that intelligence in general could be improved. This belief was popularized in a 1997 book, The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit, by Don Campbell. It stated that the listening to Mozart can increase one's IQ and produce many beneficial effects to brain function. The book's most popular claim was playing classical music to infants can benefit their mental development. Since then, classical music targeted towards infants has become a multi-million dollar industry.

Despite its popularity, little evidence supports the Mozart effect. Many studies have attempted to find the Mozart effect, yet most found that it only boosted intelligence by a minimal insignificant amount for a short period of time. The best explanation for the effect is that it creates a short term arousal. When aroused this increases alertness which might help one perform a mentally demanding task for the short term. But this does not necessarily make one more intelligent in the long run. The moral of the story is: if you want to introduce your infants to the wonderful world of classical music, that's great, but just don't expect them to get smarter.

Significance of Emotional Intelligence


Emotional Intelligence can be summarized as possessing the skills or ability to detect, identify, learn from, and respond to various emotions in yourself and those around you.


Having this ability is essential for most of the aspects of our lives. We need this ability for jobs, family, social lives, and just the general public surrounding us. For example, a salesman would need to recognize what kind of emotion his possible buyer is feeling so that he can say the right thing in order to turn that person into a satisfied customer.

I firmly believe that having this skill fine tuned can drastically change someones life. It could be anything from performing well at work and climbing up the ranks to reading an opponent in a high stakes poker hand. However, recognizing certain emotions in yourself is just as important. We need to know when we are angry or depressed so that we do not do something regrettable out of pure emotion.

As of right now, emotional intelligence was needed the most in my life during my days playing high school football. It seemed like my football coach had 10 very different personalities. Some days he would make jokes with us and let us watch TV in his office and then other days he would make other players do push-ups for not calling him "sir." I tended to steer clear of him if I saw him do something like kicking over a chair that indicated he was not in a good mood.

The Mere Exposure Effect related to fashion trends

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6200441.jpgThe mere exposure effect is a theory that suggests that the more we are exposed to something, the more that we will grow to like it. According to the theory, the more familiar we are with something, whatever it may be, the more we will like it. This is explained here.

Because this theory is fairly easy to understand, I'm going to explain it in terms of a real world example.


In my Retail Merchandising class, my professor talked about the mere exposure effect and how it contributes to the growth of trends in fashion. The trend in the photo above is called color blocking. Color blocking is when different colors are combined in an outfit in a way that they compliment each other. Colors are usually bold, but they don't necessarily have to be. An explanation of the color blocking trend is here. A trend is usually introduced by a designer, but sometimes trends start on the streets by people bold enough to start them. At first, hardly anyone embraces the trend because they haven't been exposed to it yet.

Next, the trend becomes more widely recognized as it's seen in runway shows, magazines, and by people who have started wearing the trend. This is where the mere exposure effect comes in to play. The first time we see something in a magazine we may or may not like it, but the more the trend is advertised, the more we get used to it. As we get used to a trend, we begin to accept it and like it. This is the life cycle of a trend.

I find the mere exposure effect very interesting because there aren't any logical explanations for it. If a person finds a particular trend to be unappealing, one would guess that that person would find it more unappealing after repeated exposure to it. The trend doesn't change at all during this process, the person's attitude does, but there really isn't any logical reason that it should. However, trends in fashion are a good example to support the theory, because if it were not true then trends would not be able to grow.

"Opposites Attract" - Is it True?

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The age-old saying says that "opposites attract", but is that really true? According to a study done in Ithaca, N.Y., humans don't necessarily look for opposites to balance themselves out. Instead, we look for mates that we perceive as being a good compliment to our own being. According to this article "we try to find someone who is complementary to us and can help us learn, heal, and grow."

Opposites Attract Sometimes
Sometimes opposites DO attract, or so it seems. Although these two look very different physically, their complementary personalities may be what really links them.

For a long time, scientists didn't know if this could be proven wrong, raising up the issue of falsifiability. It has only been in recent years that studies have been conducted that were controlled enough to provide results from which conclusions could be drawn, such as the one in Ithaca that is referenced in the article above. Even then, there are many cases where people are completely different yet still have very happy relationships. Both the statement of "opposites attract" and "likes attract" can be proven wrong, so it is falsifiable.

When it comes to the question of stability of relationships, research shows overwhelmingly that the couples where "likes attract" are more stable, but that doesn't exactly translate to being happy. It makes sense, but stability can become monotonous and boring, leading to an unhappy relationship. This would not be the case in a relationship where opposites attract. Every day could be full of surprise and excitement.

When it comes to pop culture, the questionable claim is a very popular subject. It even has an entire song dedicated to idea, courtesy of Paula Abdul!

The "Science" behind Shoplifting

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In lieu of gender roles, it is pretty common for us to associate shoplifting with women rather than men. Yet, this gender stereotype is completely inaccurate. In 2008, the American Journal of Psychiatry published a report that proved men shoplifted more than women. So if we know that both sexes are just as guilty as the other, the next logical question to ask ourselves is why are we stealing in the first place. Yet, like most things in psychology, there isn't any sort of concrete theory...

I discovered a fairly recent New York Times article that delved deeper into explaining the causes behind shoplifting. From what I gathered, the article tells us that not everyone who shoplifts does so because they can't afford it. In fact, the author claims that through his research, both men and women steal goods that reflect "embarrassing insights into their deepest wounds and desires." The article cites examples of a successful women in the I.T. field with a disordered family. This particular woman had a tendency to steal household goods like "hand towels, sage, lavender, etc." The other example in the article was a divorced flight attendant who allegedly stole a heavy doorstop in hopes that it would "anchor" her in place.


To make things even more interesting, some shoplifters used their stolen goods as a way to develop a more altruistic persona by giving (stolen) gifts. In a way, these ironic altruism sheds light on the plethora of emotions at play. Secondly, men and women stole different goods. It seems obvious but men stole power tools, TVs, appliances, etc. Whereas women stole perfumes, clothes, groceries and similar products. Here we see a trend of genders buying somewhat gender specific products.

In the end, the author says that the men saw the act of stealing as a thrill -- like being the hero in the movie. Also, men were often to see shoplifting as a crime that could transition into larger, more profitable crimes. Inversely, women tended to only shoplift and not move onto bigger crimes. That is, until they became married.

To tie things together, in Chapter 11, we learned about motivation - the psychological drive that propels us in a specific direction. As our book explains, incentive theories say that we're motivated by positive goals. So in the case of shoplifting even though the act itself is considered negative, the reward may be more positive than the risk.

Yet, it seems as if there is a lot we still don't understand why people shoplift. Perhaps it is to become more generous, maybe to find something we are longing for, or maybe it is simply the thrill of the chase. The author ends on a note by saying "I believe that it may be more poetic than scientific, that behind a seemingly simple, petty crime, lurks a mysterious world of hidden desires and obscure longings." But I'd like to think the urge to steal can be explained scientifically. Regardless, I believe a more scientific study could be conducted where convicted shoplifters were asked why they stole the things they did. But given the ambiguity of the question, formulating a solid scientific theory may be difficult.

Should we all listen to Mozart music?

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In 1993 Gordon Shaw and Frances Rauscher, from the University of California, thought that they had made a spectacular discovery: they made a study and discovered that college students who listened to ten minutes of a Mozart Sonata showed a temporary enhancement of spatial-temporal skills. Yet nobody was able to replicate these findings.

But Shaw and Rauscher were not discouraged by the results of their colleagues. They made another study in 1997, an experiment which permits to infer cause-and-effect relations. They created three groups of prescholars: one received private piano lessons, the second one received private computer lessons, and the last one did not receive any lessons. They discovered that the first group performed 34% higher on a spatial abilities test. They concluded that music enhanced spatial-temporal skills, which are located in the hippocampus. However, once again, other studies, like the one realised by Kenneth Steele and John Bruer (who followed exactly the same protocol than Shaw and Rauscher), found that listening to music improves only a little bit, or even not at all, intelligence.

Yet these latest studies did not stop the growing industry of tapes and books about the Mozart effect. Shaw himself sells a CD and a book called Keep Mozart in mind. And another opportunist, Don Campbell, even created a website where he sells his products. So the Mozart effect still has a future.

To conclude I would like to say that the Mozart effect is the perfect example of an overhyped psychology finding. We should always be very prudent with extraordinary claims, that require strong evidences before being accepted.

Obviously I wrote this blog post listening to a Mozart Sonata.


The Simplicity Behind Bonding

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Have you ever wondered why you feel more comfortable to hug the people you love? Contact comfort is a term that can explain this feeling. Contact comfort relates to the idea that we link positive emotions with touching. Harlow was able to study this concept through monkeys. There was a wire monkey posing as a mother who was able to nurture the monkey though milk and another terry cloth monkey who was only there for comforting purposes. Harlow discovered that the monkeys would spend most of their time with the terry cloth monkey despite that they could only offer a soft touch.
This video shows contact comfort in Harlow's monkeys.

Humans act similar to the monkeys. We choose to engage in physical contact, such as a hug or holding hands, to find security and reassurance. It is important to understand that the contact comfort phenomenon comes from the relationships that are superior to us because those are the relationships that we find safety in from a simple touch. It is also important to note that gentle touches/massages during the upbringing of a premature infant can promote the recovery process and the bond between the parent and child.


I'm curious if we build relationships faster thru touch or if touch increases the relationship after the relationship has already been built. What would be the effects of not having as much physical contact with a premature infant compared to a premature infant who had been massaged as suggested?

Evolutionary Psychology: "Life-History Theory"

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I find evolutionary psychology to be a fascinating framework for understanding human behaviors. One example of this evolutionary perspective, Life-History Theory, connects evolutionary psychology to the pattern of human development. The average human's "life-story" can be broadly characterized by the functions of growth, reproduction, and parenting. These processes require "investments" of time and energy which force organisms to make "trade-offs" in how they allocate their time and energy.
LHT explains that, over the course of history, humans as a race have invested relatively high quantities of energy and time towards the growth and parenting functions (parenting is another form of growth). These allocations reflect the superior survival value of the human organism. Firstly, I say "reflect" and not "cause" because a problem within evolutionary psychology is that it is especially difficult to separate causation from correlation in data; consequently some of its statements are very difficult to prove. Nonetheless, I think LHT's explanation is interesting because it implies that certain sophisticated human characteristics have been developed because humans as a race have put such stress on growing and adapting to the external environment (rather than on reproducing). In my opinion, this emphasis on growth may contribute to the psychological quality of individualism in humans; some species focus more on reproduction than growth, which means they are more concentrated on the volume of offspring rather than the quality. In contrast, human reproduction focuses more on quality, which increases the individual worth of humans in respect to their environment; this added worth may contribute to humans' acute sense of individual identity (which is another way to say they have ego).
The bottom line, however, is that models of human development--such as Piaget's four stages model--show that large amounts of time and energy are spent on child development. LHT fits in well with these models because it says that the most advanced species--where human beings are the apex--allocate relatively high amounts of time and energy to the functions of growth and parenting.


Eating Disorders

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One concept that i find very fascinating from the textbook is eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is a condition in which a person starves themselves to get thinner. Individuals with anorexia nervosa tend to view themselves as fat even when their bones are showing through their skin. They also have an excessive fear of gaining weight and refuse to maintain a normal body weight for their age and height.

Anorexia is more common in girls than boys and usually begins in adolescence. It is also shown that people who are anorexic and have continued low weight experience a loss of menstrual periods, loss of hair, heart problems, fragile bones, and electrolyte imbalance. Continuous starvation may also lead to death.

Anorexia-Nervosa.jpgResearch shows that anorexia is caused by body image dissatisfaction. This may be because of societal pressures to be thin as modern society portrays beauty to be slender females. Women who frequently view television programs which feature extremely thin women tend to have higher levels of body image dissatisfaction. Stressful life events such as the onset of puberty, a breakup, or going away to school can also trigger anorexia.

Research also suggests that anorexia may be caused by genetic factors. A girl who has a sibling with anorexia is 10 to 20 times more likely to develop anorexia herself. People with anorexia also have higher levels of cortisol, a brain hormone related to stress. They also have lower levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, hormones related to feelings of well-being.

I think these research findings are important in combating anorexia nervosa. I have a cousin who is currently in a battle against anorexia and i find that understanding where she's coming from and trying to get to the root of the problem is a more effective way to get through to her. However, i still wonder if a person with anorexia can ever be fully recovered. I've heard of people who struggle for years and years with anorexia. Will they always have this eating disorder hanging over their heads?

Emotional Intelligence In Everyday Life

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Emotional Intelligence: Being able to understand your own emotions as well as those who around you (friends, family, significant others).

I believe this concept is important because it explains one of the biggest human interactions we experience on a daily basis. No matter who you are or what you do, at some point you will have to interact with people around you. People have to ask for help, work as a team, and lead other people. These tasks can't be done without understanding human emotions.
I have to interact with this concept on a regular basis when I interact with friends, family, and colleagues. I think the best way for me to relate to this concept is comparing how I talked to people when I was in elementary school to today. When I was younger I found it very hard to communicate with older people because I wasn't sure how to read them. Now days I can approach anyone I want to talk to and figure out what tone I need to have to gain their respect.

A current example of this concept that I deal with today is talking with my manager. Sometimes I can walk into his office and kid around and make jokes, but other times I need to stay quiet and just listen. If I did not have emotional intelligence it would make my job very difficult.

Smile, It Will Make You Feel Better

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Smile.jpgWhen I was down about something, my mom would always say "Smile, it will make you feel better." Of course, I being a wise teenager said "yeah right." But guess what, there are studies that suggest that my mom was right.

To experience the emotion of happiness, there is usually a trigger such as getting an A on your psychology exam. When you see this A, you experience physiological changes including a faster heart rate and an increase in blood flow. These changes in the body are sending a signal to your brain to create the emotion of happiness (Galan)

Now evaluate the situation of wanting to feel happy, even though you didn't get that elusive A on the Psych Exam. You tell yourself you are going to be happy anyway, but the physiological changes just aren't there to trigger this state of happiness. However, what if you smiled instead of just telling yourself to be happy? We learned about the Duchenne smile in our text book: "An upward tuning of the corners of the mouth, along with a drooping of the eyelids and crinkling of the corners of the eyes" (Lilienfeld, Lynn, Namy, and Woolf 410). The article entitled "Backwards Smiling: The Physiology of Happy" (Galan) describes that people who were trained to replicate the Duchenne smile could prompt the emotion of happiness without the initial outside trigger (i.e. receiving an A on your psych test). This Duchenne smile became the signal to the brain to create the feeling of happiness. Our text book addresses this with the facial feedback hypothesis, stating that Robert Zajonc theorizes that smiling changes the blood vessels in the face sending temperature feedback to the brain ((Lilienfeld, Lynn, Namy, and Woolf 415).

I really hope to feel the emotion of happiness by seeing an A on my next exam, but I'm going to smile even if I don't receive that A - in the hope of feeling some happiness. But, this makes me wonder if prompting the feeling of happiness with a Duchenne smile is as long lived as the feeling obtained from earning an A on the psych test.

Works Cited:
Lilienfeld, Scott, Steven Lynn, Laura Namy, and Nancy Woolf. Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding. Second Edition. Boston: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2010. 410 - 415. Print.

Galan, Tommy. "Backwards Smiling: The Physiology of Happy." Pick the Brain. 2009. Web. 5 Nov. 2011.

Color, Hierarchy, and Linguistic Relativity

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Thinking about linguistic relativity, the notion that our language characteristics affect our thought processes, led me to consider my experiences with the Japanese language. I spent two semesters starting in my sophomore year studying in Akita, a relatively sparsely populated and rural area of Japan. Upon reflection, I can see aspects of the structure of the Japanese language that may indeed shape thought processes among its speakers, particularly those for whom it is a native tongue.


Firstly there is the issue of color. While Japanese has nearly as many basic color terms as English, it traditionally lacked a distinction between what English-speakers would consider blue and green. In fact, both fell into the realm of a single color, romanized as aoi (and shown in kanji to the left). Only with the advent of Westernization in the 19th century did Japanese speakers, in a rush to conform with European notions in many areas, develop another word (midori) for "green", leaving aoi to simply mean "blue". To this day, aoi can be seen in place names and words (for example the northern prefecture of Aomori would classically be translated as "green forest" but now ends up sounding more like "blue forest"). Indeed, it was in a desire to modernize and accommodate Western norms that the Japanese altered their language, and in doing so, likely changed their thinking as well, though perhaps only in a relatively minor way.

An additional aspect of Japanese that I believe affects the thinking of speakers is the presence of multiple levels of speech based on hierarchy and corresponding levels of politeness. While in English we may use terms like "sir" or "ma'am" or "mister" or "miss/us" (followed by the more recent "mizz"), we generally use much the same basic language in terms of structure and conjugation with everyone. Yet in Japanese, there is a high degree of sensitivity to hierarchical relationships and one is expected to use different forms of verbs (and sometimes different grammar entirely) when addressing a teacher as opposed to a close friend. Additionally, there are levels of formality above these that are expected to be used when addressing a superior or a person of public importance. While one may use informal, even rough language forms with social equals, polite language (teineigo) must be used with strangers and in certain settings, while humble language (kenjōgo ) is used to refer to oneself. When dealing with those who clearly hold social rank above oneself, various forms of respectful language (keigo) must be used, altering verb forms and nouns and in effect producing what sounds much like a very different dialect of the standard from.

How do these built-in differences affect thinking? That is a matter for consideration, surely, but I would suggest that it leads Japanese speakers to be even more aware of hierarchical relationships than speakers of a language like English tend to be. While we may sometimes struggle with forms of address, having to choose between "mister so-and-so" or "Bob", the Japanese have to alter their grammar and word choice to an extensive degree. Were I to meet the President of the United States, I would certainly address him as "sir" but would otherwise use much the same language I would use in say, the workplace. A Japanese meeting his or her prime minister, or more significantly, emperor, would need to recalculate most the the elements of his or her speech in order to avoid offense. Perhaps one effect of this need is the presence of greater nuance within Japanese and the ability to distinguish or mock using language forms. Conversely, our English tendencies may contribute to egalitarian notions of democracy and classlessness.

The full extent of these differences and their effects would be interesting to study in greater depth. One thing that is clear to me, however, is that my Japanese friends place far more emphasis on formal politeness and hierarchical relationships than do my English speaking friends and family.

Two-factor theory of emotion: How we generate emotions?

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I'm very interest in the two-factor theory of emotion developed by Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer that explain how human emotions are provoked. This theory argue that emotion doesn't come with the stimuli we experience naturally, it's the product of our reasoning after we have been aroused by stimuli. Emotions are "labels" we tag to the arousal we experienced, and they are generate from the interpretations of what the event means to us.

Like the James-Lange theory, the two-factor theory also suggest that physical arousal plays an important role in emotions, but the arousals are "undifferentiated", that is, they are the same across all emotions, therefore physical arousal alone could not account for the emotional responses.

According to the two-factor theory, another key ingredient in generating emotions is our mind's interpretation on the physical arousal. As our mind trying to explain the source of the arousal from our past experiences and what else is happening at the time of the arousal, we will find out what makes us aroused, then a emotion "label" was attach to the arousal, which is follow immediately by conscious experience of the emotion. That is, In other words, the formation of emotion "requires both physical arousal and an attribution of that arousal to an emotion-inducing event."

One interesting finding about the relationship between physical arousal and emotion is that the intensity of physical arousal influence the intensity of emotions markedly. In a cleverly designed study, An attractive female confederate approached and chat with a group of male undergraduates on a swing suspension bridge and left her phone numbers, then she did the same to another group on a sturdy bridge that doesn't move. The research indicates that the group met the attractive female on the swinging bridge showed a stronger interest in contacting with her later than the group on the sturdy bridge. This study shows that stronger physical arousal can intensify emotions, in this case, the romantic feeling toward the attractive female.

This known influence of arousal on emotion has been adopted by many business to invent various ways to get money out of customers' pockets. Common in many amusement parks, the excited, adrenaline-rush customers who just got off a roller-coaster ride will find pictures of their twisted faces during the ride ready for purchase at the exit. Under influence of strong physical arousal, their high emotional state make them easier to pay for these pictures, although often at a unreasonable high price.

Source of information:
Psychology-From Inquiry to Understanding, Scott lilienfeld, Steven Lynn, Laura Namy, Nancy Woolf. Page 412~413
"Two-Factor Theory of Emotion", by unknown author,

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