Blog 2 Group D: March 2012 Archives

For as long as I can recall, one of the distinctions of being fluent in Chinese was that relatively few people in my environment were able to understand it. Of course, that's not to say that there weren't some great advantages accompanying the relative obscurity of a language--whenever, for example, I didn't want people listening in on phone conversations, I would simply switch to Chinese to fend off eavesdroppers. But imagine my surprise, then, especially in recent years to discover that increasing numbers of people of non-Chinese descent were capable of basic Mandarin. Many of these speakers were not simply educated through college courses, but were the products of years of assimilation in Chinese culture and language tutoring.


These speakers represent the growing population in the US that realizes the importance being multilingual. This trend certainly has its advantages; scientific research has indicated that children who learn multiple languages from an early age have an increased sense of creativity and improved critical thinking skills. Although bilingual children can sometimes confuse the varying grammar rules across languages, overall, polyglots have improved communication skills.

From a personal perspective, I've always believed in the importance of being multilingual because of the immense benefits that accompany language-learning. As a kid, I remember spending my summers in Shanghai and learning to speak nothing but Chinese for months at a time. Chinese was difficult to master but ultimately, provided me with greater memorization and reasoning abilities.

Overall, being a polyglot has major advantages in terms of gaining critical skills from language learning that are only now beginning to be recognized in society today. To end with a fun fact, the Broca's area, an area of the brain responsible for language, of polyglots is organized differently than those of monolinguists.

Animal language

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Do animals has their own language? This problem is seemingly innocent, naive, but it relates to our discussion about the "language". Some studies have shown that animals have language like human, and they also have emotions. From my point of view, laughter and joy is not the unique human ability. Maybe long before humans can laugh, the other animals already have the original form of laughter.
Animals of course have their own language, but may not necessarily with a voice to express. Different animals have different ways to expression themselves, for example, ants exchange message with antennae dancing, bees exchange message with different flying route, squirrels exchange message with their tail waving.
I own a cat at home. I really think sometimes we can understand each other. In order to built a good relationship with her, I find some ways to understand cats emotion on internet. That's petty useful.
Another example of animal language is dolphins. Nowadays, people also began to understand the language of the dolphins, rather than just think that as a discordant percussion, beat or whistle. The new study suggests that when dolphins encounter each other in the sea, they use whistles which they both familiar with to introduce themselves and greet to each other. Here is one video I found on which talk about language of dolphins.

In the end, a picture of my cat.:)


Would you fall in love with the same person after erasing all your memories? The movie, "External Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", shows you:" Yes, you will." It tells a story of a pair of couple--Joule and Clementine. Actually, due to the flashback starting, I had felt confused and misunderstood the whole story. Fortunately, I found a clear clue after reading some useful comments on the Internet. So, here is the whole story. Joule and Clementine fell in love at first sight in a party on the beach. The boy, Joule, is kind of shy; but the girl, Clementine, has her own understand of this world. We can realize it from her changing and colorful hair. She has passion for almost everything in her life. However, the difference between their characteristics made them break up. Clementine impulsively decided to delete all her memory with Joule to begin her new life. After knowing this truth, Joule was so angry and disappointed that he also determined to give up their memory through an operation. The doctor collected all things related to his memory with Clementine and all stories behind these things. It turned to some points in his brain. This operation would give him a dream of all experience that they were together. The therapists would erase every point of his memory; and Joule would forget everything contained Clementine in the next morning. During the operation, Joule was forced to face all fragments of their memory and he regretted this decision. He tried to escape from the operation, but failed. The only thing he remembered in the next morning was the last sentence that Clementine told him in last night's dream: meet her in Montauk. So, he ditched work and took a train out to Montauk even though he didn't know why he wanted to do that. And then they fell in love again until both of them received a tape which recorded their complaint about each other. However, they still chose to be together at last. There is another example in this movie is that the young nurse in the hospital fell in love with the old doctor who had wife and children again after erasing their memory. On the contrary, she chose to leave after the doctor's wife told her the truth. So, even though you will always love the same person after all memory that you experienced together disappeared, the reaction after you knew your past from other person or the record may be totally different just like these two examples.External.jpg
This movie shows us a chance that maybe we can erasing a painful memory. However, the consequence of this chance is hard to say. "Is erasing all traces of pain in life always a good thing? Or is emotional suffering instead an essential part of being human?" (Psychology From Inquiry to Understanding P267) From the textbook, we can understand that it is still a problem in psychological study. Until now, people already created the drug that inhibited people's adrenaline to block people from the disappointed period. At least, this drug could prevent people from remembering their traumatic experiences in a short term. Yet "this pill only dampened the effects of traumatic memories; it didn't erase them." (Psychology From Inquiry to Understanding P267)

smart-money-saving.jpgLanguage (through speech) is by far one of the most effective and quickest way for humans to communicate to each other. It is faster than communicating through writing or body language. Yet we take language for granted, because we have grown up speaking at least one language from as young as age one and recognizing language by the fifth month of pregnancy. Language consists of about four levels (phonemes, morphemes, syntax, extralinguistic information) for it to be communicated effectively.

Being bilingual has both its pro and con. The con is that bilingual children have shown to have languages delayment in the syntax (grammatical order) area when compared with monolingual children. The pro is that bilingual children can communicate in two languages and are also aware of language structures and usages.

I grew up as a bilingual child, learning English in school and Hmong at home. Growing up I always struggled with grammatical errors in the English language. Eventually though I finally got the hang of it. Then at the age of twelve I started learning Thai by myself, by watching Thai dramas and music that had English subtitles. It took a few years before I could finally watch the dramas without and subtitles, but what really made learning Thai effective was its similarity with the Hmong language. The first step I took to learning Thai was just getting use to the sound of the language. Then paying close attention to the subtitles and looking for any one word or phrase I heard such as, "No, Where, What is your name?" etc. I would Imitate these words and phrases, until I could recite it from memory. Then I would look up each individual English word (from subtitle) in the Thai-English dictionary. If the English word yield a Thai word, and that Thai word sounded similar to what I heard, then I just learned a new vocab in Thai (I would also be on the look out of encountering these new words again in other Thai movies). Next I would listen to the phrase multiple times again (till it's no longer strange), now knowing all if not most of the words and trying figuring out exactly were that one word was placed in the sentence, at beginning, end, middle, etc and refer back to its English subtitle. This made learning the sentence patterns easier which made learning Thai easier and more effective more me. For example, in English we say, "What is your name?", in Hmong we say (word for word), "Your name is called how?", and in Thai, "You name what?" Both Hmong and Thai have the question particle "how" and "what" at the end whereas English has it at the beginning.

50 First Dates Though?

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Can you imagine, being unable to remember meeting someone, and continuously seeing that same person over and over again? Personally, that seems so depressing. Our memory is a constant source of entertainment and pleasure and a dysfunctional one makes life a lot more challenging.

In the movie 50 First Dates, Adam Sandler stars alongside Drew Barrymore in a great example of the impact of memory loss. In the plot, Barrymore's character was impacted heavily by a devastating car crash and had no short-term memory capabilities. Sandler's character attempts to woo Barrymore's throughout the movie and in the process, he gets closer to the rest of her family while realizing how much they do for her to try and keep peace in their lives. At the end of the movie, Adam came up with the idea of a video tape to remind his new "wife" what she has missed and this enables the happy couple to live peacefully in love.

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Berrymore's character suffered from short term memory loss and anterograde amnesia. She loses all recollection of each day's events and believes that each day is the day of her accident. Her memory problems are due to an extreme amount of damage to her amygdala and hippocampus.


When animal speaks

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Well, if you identified the six foreign languages without looking them up, that is great. However, if you speak all those languages fluently, a similar number of languages or more then you are a polyglot.
Therefore a polyglot is a person who is able to speak multiple languages. I personally, can identify the French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian easily. However, I only speak English, French, Arabic and Darija fluently. So hopefully one day, my Spanish will get above the intermediate level, and then maybe I will call myself a polyglot. I was lucky since bilingual parents raised me, and at a young age I was introduced to multiple languages. It was always hard for me to get interested in languages in school. I felt that the instructors were just overwhelming me with homework and therefore I did not learn anything from them. It is travelling to other countries, meeting new people who did not share the same language that forced me to put the effort to learn new languages. For me you cannot learn a culture without learning the language. It does not only help you get people 's joke but it helps you understand them and their culture. I will encourage all of you to learn a new language. Even if scientists claim that learning new languages has to do with the structure of your Wenicke and broca's area; I will try to persuade you that you do not have to be a genius to learn a new language. And the best way to learn a new language is to go to a country of your interest, make a new friend who speaks the language.

A Loss of Memory

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Alzheimer's is a disorder that affects so many people across the United States and the world. I have personal experience with this dealing with my grandpa. He has it mildly but it is very noticeable. At times, I get a good little laugh when he asks me or my family members the same questions over and over. But most of the time, it makes me sad seeing him how he is. He sometimes forgets or calls me by my cousins name and he also never can remember what I am doing for college. He also always asks me if I am still playing football and it hurts that football is such a huge part of my life here at the University of Minnesota and it is something he can't remember. Even with the stuff he forgets, he remembers a lot of other things and it makes me happy to see him remembering things about me when I was younger and the experiences we have had together.

Dealing with the disorder Alzheimer's,it is the most common form of Dementia. Dementia is the decline in mental ability sever enough to interfere with daily life and activities, such as memory loss. Alzheimer's is caused by damage to brain cells. The damage affects the brains ability to communicate between cells. The damage to different parts of the brains determines how the damage affects the individual since different regions of the brain are "in charge" of different functions.

Treating Alzheimer's is possible although there are no cures for the disorder at this time. Treatments include medication for different effects of the disorder. Effects of Alzheimer's can change behavior, memory, or sleep changes and medication is used accordingly.

Prevention of Alzheimer's is difficult and there are no clear cut ways to prevent it. Some ways include eating right, exercising, and keeping your brain healthy (head trauma can cause Alzheimer's),


What if one day you wake up and you forget the conversation that you had during dinner the night before? What if you suddenly keep losing in a game that you mastered? What if you take longer time to perform a daily task? These might be some early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia that affects humans' memory, language, and behavior over time. The cause of AD is not very clear. Individuals are more likely to get the disease when they are in their old age and if they have relatives with the disease. The disease can also be caused by genes. Other factors that might also increase the risk are gender (a woman is usually more prone to the disease than a man) and previous exposure to head trauma. Many research have been done on the disease, but until today, there is still no cure for the disease. There are medicines available to slow the rate of they symptoms become worse, such as Doneprezil and Memantine. However, patients who take the drug will not get much benefit as they will not see a lot of difference. Beside the difficulty in its treatment, it is also hard to prevent AD. A health journal suggests to eat less fatty diet, increase antioxidants consumption, and maintain a normal blood pressure to prevent AD. To learn more about the disease, Alzheimer's Association has a wonderful website that provides many information about AD.2397.jpg


Heuristic is an adjective for experience-based techniques that help in problem solving, learning and discovery. A heuristic method is particularly used to rapidly come to a solution that is hoped to be close to the best possible answer, or 'optimal solution'. Heuristics are "rules of thumb", educated guesses, intuitive judgments or simply common sense. Heuristics as a noun is another name for heuristic methods.

Heuristics are a type of mental shortcut that people use to simplify information harvested from our surroundings. Scientists have identified several kinds of heuristics including (but not limited to) Representativeness Heuristics and Availability Heuristics. This concept can be found in chapter 2 of the Lilienfeld text book. The reason why our brains use heuristics is because it will conserve mental energy (which our body does naturally) if we simplify the information that we intake from the world.

Ever since watching the "Witch Village" video from the movie Monty Python in the lecture, it has really stuck with me. It just baffled me that people could be so ignorant. Even though it was just a movie, the idea behind this scene can be applied to our world.

Monty Python's "Witch Village" scene:

I believe that the concept of Heuristics is important because our society keeps telling us to not "judge a book by its cover." But after learning about heuristics, it seems that our brain does this naturally. So to what extent is it alright for us to "judge a book by its cover", especially if we have mentally evolved (stance is one is a functionalist) to do so naturally.

Going back to the "Witch Village" video, the mob firmly believes that the woman they wish to burn is a witch! Their justification for this is that she fits their heuristics for what a witch should look like, or in their words "She looks like one." They classify her as such because she dresses like one, she has a long pointed nose, wears a pointed hat, possesses magical powers, and weighs as much as a duck. This makes me ask myself more question, how would we know when our heuristics are wrong? Are they more wrong than right? Should we live our lives vigilantly trying to protect ourselves from our heuristics (because society tells us to).

The principle that I believe to be the most useful for the evaluation of this claim would be Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This is because although the theory that the woman is a witch is one that goes against what society would consider normal, and thus the proof required to determine that the woman is a witch should be much more thorough and have extraordinary evidence instead of simply weighing the woman.

How great would it be to have an unlimited amount of first dates? Sounds ideal, huh? Watch the movie 50 First Dates and you'll soon realize that this isn't quite as hyped up as it sounds.

In this movie, Drew Barrymore plays a girl who suffers from anterograde amnesia after getting into a car crash. When I say suffer in this sense, it's not an understatement. Throughout this movie, there are cute scenes where she falls in love, but there are the parts where you see the pain and suffering she goes through every time she finds out that she has no recollection of what happened after the accident.

Although this film does not necessarily portray every aspect of what it would be like to suffer from this condition, it gets the point across. Each day, her family makes sure that she doesn't have to go through the shock everyday. In this film, Barrymore's condition works in a way where she remembers a sequence of 24 hours.

This clips embodies what Barrymore is going through as well as a short clip at the end of a patient who has been suffering from a more severe condition of anterograde amnesia, Ten-Second-Tom.

So, as appealing as it may seem to have an unlimited amount of chances to make a first impression to someone, helping them through the realization of their condition does not seem like a price worth paying.

Photograph Man

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Momento See preview here.

Hollywood loves to take real life to the extreme. In the movie Momento, a man named Lenny has "short term memory loss". Although this works beautifully in the movie to make a interesting plot it is hardly a model of real life. In the movie his short term memory last for minutes, if only we were all so lucky. The average person's short term memory last for only a couple of seconds. How do you think life would be if human's short term memories lasted that long?

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Blog 2 Group D category from March 2012.

Blog 2 Group D: February 2012 is the previous archive.

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