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Writing #2

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

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

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

Hysterical Pregnancies

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

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

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

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

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

Extra-Curricular Overload

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

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

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


Classical Conditioning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Linguistic genius of babies

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

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

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

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


Is there anyone in there??

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

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

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


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



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

This video briefly describes the condition:

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Why We Can't Always Trust Our Common sense

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

Hypnotic Inebriation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Life Deleted

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

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

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


The Blood-Brain Barrier and OCD

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freud's iceberg.gif

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

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

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

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

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

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