Blog 1 Group B: January 2012 Archives

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After reading about the endocrine system in chapter 3, I found myself very interested in this hormone releasing structure. In search of an intriguing story, I googled "endocrine system." To my pleasant surprise I found numerous articles on the topic, but one jumped out at me immediately--"Are We Programmed to Be Fat?"
In the article, reporter Nancy J. White writes on a documentary by CBC titled "Programmed to Be Fat?" This film explains that while in the womb a fetus is exposed to many man-made chemicals via the mother, chemicals that may lead to obesity. The documentary follows three different scientists who used chemicals on animals in their research and noted unusual obesity in these animals. After digging deeper the scientists discovered that the chemicals used were in fact endocrine-interfering chemicals, which then caused negative developmental affects. The chemicals can be found in everyday items such as plastics, metal cans, flame-retardants, cosmetics, and pesticides.
Of course as our textbook teaches us, we must remain skeptical of all new studies; however, I found the article to be very interesting and thought provoking.

doctorhugo.org.jpgOur memories are our best friends and our worst enemy. This paradox doesn't even tell us which level of functionality our memory is operating at when when we experience these personifications. It can be absent when we want to get our closest friend's attention or it can show up when we think back to an embarrassing moment we with we could forget.
Even though our brains seem almost laissez-faire about how it records and regurgitates information there is a system. It reduces most things into 3 categories; sensory, sort term and long term memory. With these three memory types we catalog our sensory stimulus into discernible thoughts that we can use later to our wants. Then, as the situation demands, it calls upon those sensations to solve whatever problem you have presented it. We do this by reconstructing things based upon what can be recalled. In this way it depends on the "power" of the memory. Say you really want to remember a fact, for a test as an example, you will go over the information several times to make it "stick". The memory also might be powerful enough to stick on its own. say for example your favorite birthday party. You didn't have to have the birthday more than once, but the experience was so strong that it sticks with you so you can enjoy it later. These two examples are taking stimulus, sensory input of your eyes and ears, putting it into short term memory so you can react to it in the moment then transferring it to your long term memory so it can be accessed should the need arise.
So where does all this take place in the brain. Well that isn't easy to say. There is evidence that our hippo-campus is the action center where memory takes place, but the truth lies more in the way a smell permeates a room, to take an example straight from
Lilienfield, it is a little everywhere. The true mechanism however is Long Term Potentiation (LTP) or the increasing strength of connections between neurons of the brain.
Memory is a complicated thing that we have to work at, it doesn't happen all by itself and will therefore always have a variable amount of reliability. The take home is that it is as perfect as we are and that is good enough for me

Dangerous and Exciting

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What really caught my eye in Chapter 3 was the section about Adrenaline and the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are found right above the kidneys, and release adrenaline into the body during what one may consider dangerous or exciting. Why I thought this was interesting is because I love adrenaline, although I am not a reckless person. Adrenaline can cause people to do crazy things; in one case, a mother was able to lift an automobile in order to save her trapped baby. Now that's insane! But adrenaline is great for people like me that aren't reckless, because after reading this chapter I learned it can be released doing fun things too, like riding a roller coaster!

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Have you ever travelled somewhere you've never previously been and suddenly become overwhelmed by a strange feeling that you'd been there before? Or have you been out with friends having a conversation about something current and felt as though you'd already had that same conversation, in the same place, with the same friends? If you have, you're not alone. More than two thirds of the population have experienced this. It's called Deja Vu. In chapter five, Deja Vu and alterations of consciousness and unusual experiences are discussed. It's that feeling that you're in a situation you've been before even though you actually haven't. Although some parapsychologists think that Deja Vu happens because you actually have experienced that situation, only in a different life, the more widely accepted explanation has to do with an "excess of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the temporal lobes." It happens because we have been in a similar situation before and just not fully remembered it, therefore our brain feels as though it has been there when in reality, it's just been in a similar situation. Weirdly, it is most commonly reported in people who travel often, remember their dreams, have liberal political and religious beliefs, are young (between the ages of 15-25), have a college education and a high income. deja_vu_sign_510595.jpg

Cocktail Party

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I would never have thought a cocktail party could be related to psychology in any way. It turns out in chapter 4 that they do just this.
Chapter 4 consists of an explanation on "how we sense and conceptualize the world." It goes into detail on how the brain reacts to different things and how our senses generally control what we end up seeing and how we react to it.
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In this chapter, the authors explain something called the "cocktail party effect" and connect it to our senses by describing how it is a form of selective attention. This effect is when an individual is able to pick up on an important message in a conversation that they are not part of. This is when it is related back to a cocktail party because most people will not notice other conversations going on around them until it is applicable to them. I found this interesting because I honestly experience this phenomenon almost every day. Selective attention occurs almost constantly because there is always more than one thing occurring. It's crazy to think about how people are able to simply turn their attention to something so suddenly.

Stress

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Chapter 12 focused on Stress, Coping, and Health. The chapter starts off by going over the different ways to define and approach stress, as well as different ways by which it can be measured. I think one of the most interesting parts of the chapter is on page 459 where there is a diagram listing many different stressful events that can occur in one's life, in order from most stressful to lease stressful, each with a precise point value. My total point value gave me a "moderate" ranking. I find it interesting how this source was able to assign such a precise numerical number to each of the events.
The chapter ends with some helpful insight into things we do in our daily lives that impact our stress levels. Things such as smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, common activities in the lives of college students, can contribute immensely to stress levels. Also, staying within the right weight range can contribute to stress levels as well. My BMI is 26.8, which is in the overweight range, so that's definitely something I could consider to decrease stress, even though I'm sure BMI isn't completely accurate or representative of proper weight.

Surgery to Treat Disorders

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psych blog 1.jpg The image to the left is usually what comes to most peoples mind when thinking about psychiatrists and the treatment of their patients. Chapter 16 focuses on psychological and biological treatments including ones like the picture. But is that the only way to cure people of their psychological ailments?
Through my glimpse of chapter 16 I've seen that their are a variety of ways to approach the issue such as: group therapy, human therapy, family therapy, learning therapy, watching therapy, brain chemistry work, and even psycho surgery. Different disorders cause for different types of therapy, as well as different personality types respond better to different treatments. A lot of these treatments are actually well known to us, for example group therapy. Alcoholism is a reality some people have to face, to get over this they go to AA meetings, which in fact is a type of group therapy.
What really struck me most about this chapter though is the fact that through the growth of psychology psychosurgery is still used, even if it is used just as a last resort. It was more widely practiced until the 1950 but will still be used in some extreme cases. Personally, I would be very hesitant to put myself under the knife for people to play with the tissues in my brain. Could you imagine doing that? It feels almost Frankenstein like to me, but every person has their own will.
Throughout this chapter you will be sure to learn a lot about ways to improve disorders through the help of treatments.

The first thing that caught my eye in Chapter 14 was a paragraph on a pair of identical twins separated at birth. Both twins were named "Jim" by their adoptive parents, constructed similar looking tree-houses as children, named their dogs "Toy," and married twice, both to women named Betty and Linda. After reading this story, I was interested in learning more about twins. Chapter 14 focuses on personalities, and the first part of the chapter is centered on twins. In this section I found it remarkable that the correlation of many personality traits between both identical and fraternal twins remains the same regardless if they are raised together or apart.

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Twin NFL football players, Tiki and Ronde Barber

Towards the end of the chapter, common pitfalls of personality tests are discussed. Many people claim to be able to determine an individual's personality with various tests. Graphology (handwriting interpretation), criminal profiling, and color tests are all said to be able to assess someone's personality, yet they are not very accurate in doing so. The FBI hires criminal profilers to catch criminals, but they can only do so much. One former FBI profiler was in charge of profiling the famed D.C. Sniper, and he only could predict that he was "self-centered" and "angry" at others. These are both fairly obvious guesses that "non-experts" could have made. As cool as these profilers can be made out to be in TV shows like Criminal Minds, criminal profiling is more of an art than a science.


disorder copy.jpg Society usually calls people who suffer from psychological disorders "crazy" because they sometimes behave and think in ways that are not normal or accepted. This statement is true. One of the five criterion listed in chapter 15 for defining a mental disorder is social disapproval, along with statistical rarity, subjective distress, impairment, and biological dysfunction. There is a wide spectrum of variety and severity in mental illness. Some disorders can present themselves in very mild ways, like slight twitches. Others can be more extreme like generalized anxiety disorder. These patients spend 60% of each day worrying. Something that I found interesting was that some conditions are more common in specific cultures. For example, in Asian countries, there is a condition called koro, where the mostly male victims believe that their penis and testicles are disappearing into their abdomen. Government officials went so far as to measure the victims' penises with rulers to prove that they were not receding. However, a plethora of disorders exist in nearly all cultures, and they can begin at random parts during a person's life, even early childhood and old age. No matter how mild or extreme they are, they require constant treatment and attention from medical professionals. Unfortunately, many of the people who suffer from mental disorders also suffer from a stigma that they are "crazy" or "psycho", when in reality, they are normal people who we interact with every day.

Social psychology is the study how people influence others' behavior, beliefs, and attitudes. It suggests reasons for why humans gravitate to each other and have a desire for relationships, why we compare ourselves to others, why we follow others' irrational beliefs, why we conform to others, why we obey or disobey authority, why we help or harm others, why we slack off, and many other social influences. discrimination-against-women-essay.png

Social psychology also study's the reasons behind prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice is to prejudge something negatively, and discrimination is negative behavior toward members of other groups. Some have argued that prejudice is deeply rooted inthe human species, with the belief that this may have developed through natural selection, where humans benefitted from close alliances, and mistrusted outsiders. This mistrusting of others has led to discrimination.


~irish.gifWhereas prejudice refers to negative attitudes toward others, discrimination refers to negative behaviors towards others. Discrimination can easily arise in any situation where there are two different groups, and one group feels a sense of superiority over the other.antilatino.jpg

Our Ever-Evolving Mind

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Even though we as college students are not that old, we sometimes think back on an event in our life and ask, "what was I thinking". If only I knew what I know now. That is what Chapter 10 is basically about, how and why we develop. Both Erickson's Eight Stages of Development and Piaget's Four Stages of Cognitive Development, as seen above, are included in this chapter to help explain how our way of thinking and looking at things evolved. As infants we can only think about what is happening at that given moment. As we age we can start to think into the future, but we may not be able to fully rationalize things. Piaget proved this through his water conservation tasks where he poured one glass of water into a taller glass and asked the child if there was more, less or the same amount of water. Because the water was now in a taller glass, the child thought there was magically more water. Then, as we continue to grow older our perspective changes and we begin to reason and think of things hypothetically. By the time we are in Erickson's final stage of "Aging" we look back at our life hoping to see a good person with a satisfaction about what we did with our lives. With any luck, whenever we look back at our "what was I thinking" moments we will laugh at how little we knew then.

blog post 1.JPGCollege admission tests are designed to test and predict academic success. But could the outcome of these tests also speak for your intelligence? The SAT has been shown to correlate highly with standard measure of intelligence, specifically the Raven's Progressive Matrices, which are "non-verbal multiple choice measures of the reasoning component of g, or general intelligence". This term "general intelligence", however, is hard to fully understand.
Chris Langan, an ex-bar bouncer, has one of the highest IQs in the United States. He scored perfectly on his SAT, but he had trouble in college and easily offended his professors. Although he has a very high general intelligence, he lacks interpersonal skill that some believe to be part of a person's intelligence as well. The idea of multiple intelligences would explain why Chris Langan is extremely smart yet dropped out of college multiple times and never earned a degree. Although one might take an IQ test and score relatively low, they may have musical, spatial, linguistic, or naturalistic intelligence which might not be measured by reasoning alone.
General intelligence is only one type of intelligence that individuals may possess. It is not always a key to success, as in Chris Langan's case. The many other types of intelligence that people have are not tested by the Raven's Progressive Matrices, and therefore the SAT, while it may be a way to measure g, cannot predict overall intelligence and only shows one piece of a much larger puzzle.
(From Chapter 9: Intelligence and IQ Testing)

Can Our Face Cheat Us?!

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What I am assigned is chapter 11. This chapter is mainly talking about the emotion and motivation that people have in their mind. What attracts me most in this chapter is the emotional expression. According to the textbook, people have seven primary emotions. facial_expressions1.jpgThat is happiness, sadness, surprise, anger, disgust, fear and contempt. These emotion expressions are presented by our face. However, sometimes, our faces "cheat" us--the fake emotion as talked in Lilienfeld's book. When someone is not happy and does not want others to know that, he or she will probably make a happy facial expression which others cannot easily distinguish it. In psychologists' eye, this facial expression can be known as a fake emotion. This part makes me recall a TV series called Lie To Me. Dr. Lightman, the hero in this TV series, has an organization that works to help the police expose people who have fake facial expressions. In this way, the police can know who are not honest to them. Here is a video clip of the TV series' intro:

Why do dogs drool?

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Chapter six focused on the idea of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning was discovered by Ivan Pavlov. He was researching digestion in dogs when he discovered that dogs can become conditioned with food. Basically, the dog pairs a neutral stimulus with another stimulus and it elicits an automatic response. This video explains it a little better:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo7jcI8fAuI

Classical conditioning is often seen in advertising. One common example is a company showing a famous celebrity using their product and hoping that people will buy their product because people think that the famous celebrity is using it also. Extensive research has shown that this works very well and is a very successful marketing technique. Finally, this chapter talks a little bit about different kinds of reinforcement. Different types of reinforcement such as positive and negative reinforcement have had a huge impact on the type of people that we have become. Often times we don't even realize that types of reinforcement are being used on us. This chapter goes on to explain why we act in certain ways and why people do certain things. Have you witnessed any examples of classical conditioning recently?
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Does Cosmo lie to us?

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Yes, it is the beloved magazine many young women can't wait to read once a month for stories and advice on life, love, health, and beauty. Each edition of the magazine is filled with surveys and polls that often yield interesting and shocking answers that often give its readers insight into their own lives. But can we truly believe in this data? And does it hold up to real life scenarios?
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Chapter 2 warns us of false scientific studies and encourages us to stay skeptical of perhaps untrue results. Valid scientific research methods must have random selection, where the population tested is equally representative of the population as a whole. It was at this point that I questioned Cosmo's conclusions.
The magazine tells us up front that many of the survey results were simply from Cosmo readers who answered them in an online questionnaire, but of course that doesn't let them off the hook. Cosmo readers are clearly not an accurate representation of the general population nor are the participants who go online to answer their polls. The number of respondents are often unknown to the readers as well. All of these points against them suggests that we cannot blindly believe in their claims that "Men are 3 times more likely to say 'I love you' first." Or that the fact that "40% of women surveyed have wardrobes full of brand-new, unworn clothes" is an accurate representation of all women. However, just because these polls lack random selection does not mean there isn't at least some truth to them, a larger set of representational participants will tell.

Kathleen Dennis

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Blog 1 Group B category from January 2012.

Blog 1 Group B: February 2012 is the next archive.

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