September 2011 Archives

Clairvoyance

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Clairvoyance is a type of extrasensory perception in which one (usually claiming to be a psychic or mind-reader) can detect the presence of an object or person hidden from view. Often times, clairvoyance is referred to as a "sixth sense," something that is beyond our usual five senses. From the very beginning, science has been highly skeptical of those who claim to be clairvoyant and receive messages from "beyond the grave," or know where a hidden object is located. Joseph B. Rhine conducted the first experiment on ESP in the 1930's using Zener cards to determine if people's claims of ESP abilities were true. Although the claims seemed to hold true after the experiment, other scientists could not replicate Rhine's findings later on. Many scientists have reproduced experiments in order to find out if ESP exists, but no evidence seems to be promising for the proof of ESP. Nowadays, it is estimated that 41% of people still believe in ESP (Haraldsson & Houtkooper, 1991). With shows like Medium, Ghost Hunters, and Psychic Kids, American television, and even American life, is surrounded with the idea of clairvoyance and ESP. In every town there seems to be a psychic to go to, and in every magazine there are horoscope readings. I have to admit, although science seems to disprove all of this, I always believed in things like ghosts and ESP. I was always sucked in by ghost shows on television and scary movies in the theater, just because it seemed so fascinating to me. After reading through the chapter in the book, however, I realized I was not critically thinking these things through. It always struck me as odd how clairvoyants could know things about people's pasts and futures; they seemed to be right on point. It makes sense, now though, that they use techniques like multiple end points and cold readings, so that they have little to no chance of being incorrect. This is important for the public to understand, so that we do not get so easily sucked into spending money on psychic readings or horoscopes. Here are a few clips on clairvoyance:

http://youtu.be/KpL7n4YOlkE (A clip from Medium, where the clairvoyant main character sees a ghost that her husband does not see)

http://youtu.be/Qx0Jt2jnLOQ (A clip of clairvoyant John Edward)

Every Seven Seconds: Extraordinary Claims

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In 1948, The Kinsey Institute published a report called Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, a study that looked into how often the average male thinks about sex or sexual activity. Their findings concluded that "54% of men think about sex every day or several times a day, 43% a few times per month or a few times per week, and 4% less than once a month" (Kinsey, 1948). These findings have evolved into urban legends that claim that men think about sex anywhere between every 15 minutes to every 7 seconds.

This is a perfect example of using extraordinary claims. There is no way to prove that the subjects of the experiment weren't lying about how horny they actually are (or aren't). There are also no other conclusive experiments to provide findings that either support or refute Kinsey, so we should be very skeptical about these figures.

Link: http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/thinksex.asp

Nature vs. Nurture Debate:Twin Studies

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In the nature vs. nurture debate, people try to decide if personality traits and ideas are passed genetically, or are acquired by the child because of the environment they were raised in. I believe that both sides play a part in development, but here are some cool studies I found that support genetics being passed down.

link:
http://www.illiteratewithdrawal.com/2008/02/nature-vs-nurture-twin-studies/

This link leads to an article with extraordinary claims about a few sets of identical twins. In all of the examples, the twins would do very similar things even though they are separate and had never met each other in their lives. I think this is very incredible and shows evidence that a lot of personality traits and ideas might be genetic.

An ad hoc immunizing hypothesis is "an escape hatch or loophole that defenders of a theory use to protect their theory from falsification" (Lillenfield, 2010c), in accordance with our textbook. An online article similarly states that this type of hypothesis "is one created to explain away facts that seem to refute one's belief or theory" (Carroll, 1994-2010c). A link to this article is available to you here:

No matter how one phrases the definition of an ad hoc immunizing hypothesis, we can agree that this hypothesis explains how scientists may defend a theory of theirs. When one creates a theory backed up by experimental data, one defends their theory using peer review. What I wonder about is whether the peer review fraction of an experiment is truly valid or not; when one receives peer review, the public needs to consider how that was done. How do we know as outsiders that the peer review was done by people who were not biased; do we know that the peers reviewing the experiment were not closely involved with the scientist(s) conducting the experiment? Perhaps the peer reviewers were already effected by the ad hoc immunizing hypothesis themselves prior to reviewing this experiment? Maybe the reviewers were already supporters of the theory being evaluated before reviewing an experiment; perhaps they are biased themselves!

In one fictional example, perhaps a pseudoscientific book is released regarding a new method of self-medication using natural herbs. The book claims that two other scientists have backed up the claim by conducting experiments on patients that used the medication to heal themselves. Here is where we must question the peer review: who were the two "other scientists"? What type(s) of experiment(s) did they perform, and how many subjects did they use in their experiment? One must factor in these questions when reviewing the validity of a claim. Thus, I wonder how little information one can accept in order to believe a hypothesis as valid, while also considering the ad hoc immunizing hypothesis.

Placebo Effects

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placebo2.jpg

One important experimental design in psychology is the placebo effect. Placebos are not real treatment, they are simply sugar pills that are given to patients in new drug trials to test how the real drugs work, or to see if the patients get better based solely on the fact that they are taking some kind of medication. The term placebo effect means improvement form the mere expectations of improvement. The fact that some patients get better while taking a placebo is due to some kind of confidence or calming influence, just because they think that they are being treated.

One of the most important factors in dealing with an experiment with a placebo is to make sure that the patients remain blind throughout the study. If the patients are not bling in the study, it will potentially mess up the results, as the different study groups will differ in their expectations of improvement. Two specific things can happen to ruin a study. First, the patients in the experimental group may improve faster than the patients in the control group receiving the placebo, because they are aware that they are receiving real treatment. Second, the control group may be disgruntled that they received the placebo, and they will then do everything they can to improve faster than those in the experimental group.

Overall, placebo effects can be very effective, and many show the same characteristics of actual drugs. Placebo effects are most useful in cases of depression and pain. However, they do not usually work well against illnesses such as cancer or heart disease. One other down side to placebo effects is that they do not last as long as actual medications.

Personally, I know that I always feel better after taking medication if I am sick, even though I'm not sure how much it really helps. To most people, placebo effects are hard to fathom. It brings up the question, how could it all be in my head? Most pains and sicknesses seem so real that we feel the need to take medication for it, when in reality medication may not always be the best answer.

Works Cited
Lilienfeld Text

Crop Circles: Aliens or hoax?

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This article that I have found claims that aliens are the creators of crop circles that have been found on earth. It stresses that the precise lines and radius' of these designs have no other explanation but that of the outside world. Although this article may seem to be somewhat convincing to those who are intrigued and amazed by these findings, we must not be convinced by these extravagant claims and try and make sense of them. The first principle that I feel best suits this claim is Occam's Razor. I feel as though this fits because although the claims about aliens coming to earth and placing these designs on our planet is interesting, we must look at the claims when people have admitted to themselves creating these designs in the middle of the night to show nonbelievers that aliens are real. Logically we should look at these two contrasting hypothesis and see what one is the more simple, and practical explanation and chose that. In this case it would be the hypothesis with the explanation that other people may be creating these designs as some sort joke or prank. The second principle that I feel goes with this is Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence. Although the claims that aliens are coming to our earth and creating these designs in fields around the world may be possible, we must realize that for such an extravagant event to be accepted over our previous hypothesis' there needs to be solid, real evidence to back it up. Without this extraordinary evidence, we should assume that the claim is not true.

Article: http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/cutting/cropcirc.htm

Image: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=crop+circles&hl=en&sa=X&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&rlz=1I7TSNA_en&tbm=isch&prmd=imvnsr&tbnid=elC0qOWNk5O55M:&imgrefurl=http://www.crystalinks.com/croptheories.html&docid=-8Kgz2UhmCinBM&w=396&h=375&ei=uUuFTuzNHtDSgQeBmrkH&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=475&vpy=120&dur=515&hovh=218&hovw=231&tx=108&ty=224&page=2&tbnh=99&tbnw=105&start=13&ndsp=12&ved=1t:429,r:9,s:13&biw=1058&bih=441

Long-Term Potentiation

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In my opinion, one of the most interesting and applicable topics in lecture thus far has been Prof. Gewirtz's discussion of long term-potentiation (LTP). This is a cellular phenomenon described by the increase in the ability of one cell, through repeated stimulation, to activate another cell. There are two stages to this phenomenon; induction and maintenance. Induction is the repeated initiation of the stimuli on a nerve cell. Initially, the nerve cell elicits a response of a specific magnitude, but after repeated stimulation, this electrical response increases, often greatly. The second stage of LTP, maintenance, occurs when the response to the stimuli remains increased for long periods of time. Below is a simplified drawing of how LTP works:

ltp.jpg

Much research is still being done on the subject of long-term potentiation, and it is not entirely clear what changes in the brain take place to cause the increase in response. It has been shown that the dendritic spines of the nerve cells can change shape, or more can form as a result of this. Stimulation may also result in an increase in the number of excitatory receptors in the synapses.

I find this topic especially interesting because of its potential uses in the future. Through lab tests on animals, neuroscientists have been able to increase the effects of LTP in nerve cells, which has resulted in the enhancement of the formation of new memories. As you may imagine, this prospect has been very attractive to the scientific community in that it has the potential to aid in our understanding and treatment of Alzheimer's and chemical dependencies. This website outlines some of the practical implications LTP research may have for the future. I am hopeful that advances in this area of study may eventually lead to the curing of such diseases, and possibly even increasing the ability of our brains to form new memories. It would sure make studying easier!

Pupil Dilation

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I found it interesting in the Lilienfeld book a study about how the pupils dilate when a person finds another person attractive. I had heard this message before but always thought it was a myth. This is an important concept because I think more can come from this besides just believing the pupils get bigger when we see a person we find attractive. Has anyone ever wondered if the pupils dilate when any object/feeling we see is appealing like our favorite foods, a good personality, family, our bed, etc.? Or is there ever a pupillary reflex when we see someone we find ugly or a gross food? And lastly, can pupils dilate when we get ready and look at ourselves in the mirror? Can dilation mean we think of ourselves as a confident high self-esteemed person or shrink when we are depressed?
With the many questions I had, I decided to try and test them on my own. When I saw one of my best friends I right away asked her the size of my pupils. She said they were big. Does that mean I was attracted to her personality and missed her so they dilated? Or are mine naturally larger? Then later while eating a vegetable that I hate I asked my brother the size of my pupils and he said he wasn't sure, maybe normal. These tests are definitely not reliable, but they do make me want to know if any if it is true considering the data wasn't proven wrong and it is interesting.
Here is a link I found that talked more about the pupils. I think this article is a beginning to what I believe the pupils can dilate for. Maybe the norepinephrine activity that responds with arousal happens when we encounter anything that pleases us. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/you-illuminated/201007/beauty-is-in-the-eye I think the principle of repeating and being replicated is best for evaluating this claim.

Diet Pills: Guaranteed to Lose Weight!... (or Your Life)

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As one of the incoming freshman, I know many others, including myself, are concerned about gaining the "Freshman Fifteen", but with classes, work, and studying we don't all have time to make it to the gym. Could it be true then that these diet pills really make you look like one of those celebrities they advertise, or is this miracle pill just a sham? ronnie.jpg

In Stephanie Watson's, How Diet Pills Work, http://health.howstuffworks.com/medicine/medication/diet-pill3.htm , she states that the majority of diet pill ads you see on TV or the Internet, "are for products that are unregulated, untested and unproven." However, some have been shown to help one lose weight, but should not be taken for more than six months as the body builds up a resistance to the pill and no longer works. On another extreme note, these pills have very dangerous side effects; some of them include death, so are they even worth it?diet pills.jpg

We have all seen the multiple ads on TV showing us how all the celebrities are burning off pounds of fat by just taking these diet pills and not having to exercise or eat right. Now follow this link, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luWuGzwpU-g, to a new advertisement I found that is similar to all the other ones we see each day. Now you may have noticed right away that the video title is Fake Weight-Loss Pill Video, but for any that didn't, none of the claims in this ad were true. However, it how these ads seem desirable to anyone not wanting to put forth an effort in losing weight. default.jpg

In examining the claim that diet pills cause weight loss, I took a greater look at the correlation versus causation principle. These two variables may be connected, but they may also be connected by a third variable; people are exercising and eating right. With the possibility that people who are taking these pills are also dieting and working out maybe the sole reason they are losing weight is based on a third variable. With Occam's Razor we should conclude that the main reason for weight loss is due to exercise and dieting rather than the pills. Although certain pills have been proven to work, as stated in Watson's article, they are prescription medications not like the ones advertised on television.

Cites:
1. http://www.eatingdisordertreatment.com/blog/what2019s-there-to-love-about-eating-disorder-awareness
2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luWuGzwpU-g,
3. http://health.howstuffworks.com/medicine/medication/diet-pill3.htm
4. http://www.flickr.com/photos/57890847@N06/5330214721/
5. http://www.rippfitness.com/are-diet-pills-right-for-you/

Hindsight Bias

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Hindsight bias, also called the I-knew-it-all-along effect, is when people have the tendency to view events as more obvious or predictable than they truly were. In other words, people believe they knew what the result would be, before the event actually happened.

A common misconception is that after learning something new, people remember their original thoughts and realize they were wrong. The truth is that people often look back at what they have learned and assume they knew it all along. Some examples of phrases people use to express their hindsight bias include: "I had a feeling you might say that" or "I knew they were going to lose". People sometimes claim the outcome of an event was obvious, even though there was no way to predict it. This is especially common after sporting events. People believe they knew who was going to win the game.

I even have the tendency to be hindsight bias myself. I was on a badminton team in high school and after we won a match I said to my doubles partner, "I knew we were going to win!" Truly, there was no way I could have predicted that. Thinking back to before the game started, I was hesitant about if we could win against the other team. I couldn't have foreseen who was going to win that match. But in my mind I edited out that memory, and believed that I knew we were going to win the match before we even played. Why do we fall prey to hindsight bias? Do we just feel the need to be right?

This cartoon I found is an example of hindsight bias.

Hindsight Bias

http://chartsgonewild.com/2010/08/18/hindsight-bias-i-told-you-so/

Extraordinary Claims

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http://www.umich.edu/~onebook/pages/frames/usesSet.html
The Lilienfield text describes an extraordinary claim as a claim that refers to whether the evidence against a claim is as strong as the claim itself. Extraordinary claims is one of the 6 principles of critical thinking. In the article above, subliminal perception is seen as something that exists. Subliminal perception is defined as the processing of sensory information that occurs below the the level of conscious awareness (Lilienfield text 130). They call it backmasking, which is the process of recording hidden messages in music that can only be revealed when the song is played backwards. Artists have bee accused of lacing their music with efforts to convert their listeners to worship Satan, kill themselves, and smoke marijuana. This is considered to be an extraordinary claim. Is the evidence as strong as the claim?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9JtYaCrRag
The video above is a slideshow of supposed subliminal messages through advertising. Through subliminal advertising, it is suggested that people will be convinced to do something (i.e. buy a cheeseburger) without them even knowing it. The claim for subliminal perception may seem extraordinary, but the evidence for it is compelling.
Absolut_Subliminal_1994.jpg
kfc.jpg

Above are a couple pictures of subliminal advertising. The lower one being an advertisement for KFC. As you can clearly see, there appears to be a dollar sign imprinted in the lettuce. Will a viewer watching that commercial see that dollar bill? Probably not, but under their stream of consciousness, the viewer might suddenly crave KFC and is willing to spend money to do so. Subliminal perception is most definitely an extraordinary claim, and some studies have shown evidence that backs up their claim. But on the other hand subliminal perception has been viewed as a myth. In the late1950's, advertisers subliminally flashed the words "drink coke" during films in New Jersey. And supposedly coca-cola consumption in those theaters skyrocketed. But this claim proved to be false for which an advertising expert named James Vicary later admitted that it was a hoax cooked up to generate publicity for his failing business. Extraordinary claims is the most useful principle when evaluating this claim.

Work Cited
Lilienfield Text

Extraordinary Claims

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egg white.jpg

http://www.snopes.com/medical/homecure/eggwhite.asp

In the book extraordinary claims is a referred to as a claim that questions the evidence associated with the claim, to see if it is strong enough to support it. The claim I found was 'Egg Whites Treat Burns' and there were two entries entered by e-mail, which raises the first read flag. These entries were not even published anywhere giving it a false look. I will talk about each article briefly and explain why the evidence does not support the claim.

In article one a young man recieves a serious burn to much of his face from pesticides that he lit on fire, as he was screaming his neighbor came out with a dozen eggs and made sure to split the egg yolk from the egg white. She spread the eggs all over the mans face before the EMT's arrived. When the EMT's finally arrived they told the women that she had 'saved the man's face' and at the end of summer he had skin as soft as a babies. While I read this article there were a few things that caught my eye; the first was that the first thing the mans neighbor thought to bring over was a dozen eggs right away before even calling the ambulance which is what should have been done first and who thinks to grab eggs for a burning man? The second was that the women made sure to seperate the egg whites from the egg yolk which in my mind would also take a long time to do and the burn probably would have been getting worse. The third and final claim was that the man's face ended up to be as soft as a babies by the end of the summer, I do not know much about burned skin but I would think that it would be very different in texture at different points and not be like a babies skin.

In article two the first point made is, "Treating Burns. Egg Whites. One Hopes Never To Be Needing It, But Just In Case..." reading that at the beginning raised a red flag for me although it could have two meanins behind it, one is that to me it seemed to say that this does not work, and the second meaning could have been I hope no one has to be burnt. In the next few sentences it says to no matter what degree of burn to put it under water which is very wrong because on a serious burn it could make matters worse. The burn victim in article two had burnt her hand badly and still had time to crack an egg, split up the egg white from the egg yolk, and slightly beat it before putting her hand in it. I do not think anyone would want to do that if your hand is burnt severely, you would want to call or go to a hospital. Once again the egg whites left the victim with flawless skin which is hard to believe because burns never leave flawless skin.

These articles are very hard to believe because of all the claims they make in them, but to be able to understand if it actually would work I think that correlation vs. causation would be the best thing to use. It could prove that A (egg whites) really do/or do not cause B (burn relief and flawless skin). Doing a study on it would also give it a better background than stories coming from e-mails. The variability could also be a problem though because eggs do carry disease like salmonella, and putting that on an open wound could cause an effect of C. This designed experiment would bring an answer to the idea of if egg whites really cure burns.

The Halo Effect (Defect?)

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I was a member of DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), a business club for high school students, for four years and one of the primary lessons I learned was to always look presentable, because when you look good, you feel good, right? But is that the only reason we were told to put extra effort into 'looking good' for interviews? The truth of the matter is that we make ourselves look better because there is a good chance that this characteristic about ourselves will influence other maybe not so positive characteristics about ourselves. After reading and learning more about the 'halo effect' I realized just how much the aspect of looks influences other parts of our lives. . The world perceives attractive people as being ideal, and this depiction spills over into the judgement of the person as a whole. I've seen this countless times in life. The best example I can think of is a job interview. While in DECA, students learned about self image and how to manipulate your image to show you are the best applicant for the job.
interviewattireposterc12554513.jpg
This poster was displayed in my high school, depicting to students what they should and should not look like and how their image may alter a future employers opinion about you. Funny isn't it that we are brought up in a world where we are told to never judge a book by it's cover? When in fact, it's a process that a majority of the world follows.

The theory of the halo effect was founded in the 1920's when army officials were asked to rate their soldiers in a variety of areas and Edward Thorndike (creator of the halo effect) discovered through research of these records, that there was a high cross-correlation between physical appearance and other characteristics.

So what does this mean for us? It's obvious that we live in a materialistic society but does that mean that our looks determine how we are viewed as a person? I certainly hope not, but the halo effect does actually effect a majority of our lives and until you stop to think about it, you may not even notice.

Ruling Out Rival Hypotheses: The Loch Ness Monster

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Ruling our rival hypotheses is one of the six Principles of Scientific Thinking. It basically means that when a person/the media reports that a certain thing is the explanation for another thing, they need to consider that there could be multiple explanations. An example of a myth that involves rival hypotheses is the Loch Ness Monster.

Sightings of a Loch Ness Monster in Scotland have been in the media countless times; however it is extremely unlikely that the creature actually exists. The monsters is said to live in the Great Glen, located in the Highlands of Scotland. Sightings have been recorded all the way back to the 6th century by a Saint who was swimming. According to the legend, Nessie swam up to him. However, he was frightened off by the Saint's furious yelling. Not surprisingly, most sightings are not as interactive as the one with the Saint. A list has been compiled to include all of the various viewings over the years:

http://www.nessie.co.uk/htm/searching_for_nessie/search3.html

Various videos have also surfaced claiming to be the monster. They seem more convincing that just sightings, which makes people even more likely to believe in Nessie.

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

Clearly there are an overwhelming number of people claiming to have seen the creature, yet very few claiming that the sightings are fake. Fortunately, there are various theories out there that let us explore other hypotheses. One scientist believes that is actually volcanic activities that cause mysterious shapes in the water and strange waves. Others claim that it was some sort of submarine. And many other people believe that it is just our imagination, and that more likely it was simply a fish or other aquatic animal.

The most important things about the Loch Ness Monster is not whether it's possible that it exists, its whether it's likely given the evidence. Until we can definitively say that it was not volcanic activity, a submarine or another aquatic animal, we cannot claim that the Loch Ness Monster is real.


Bibliography:
http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/Scotland-History/Nessie.htm
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=98449&page=1
http://www.unmuseum.org/nesshoax.htm

Correlation Vs. Causation

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Correlation Vs. Causation is one of the most common errors people make when trying to discover a theory or reasoning. Correlation by definition is when (a) causes (b) such as smoking causes lung cancer. In theory, a lot of these are obvious, but in other cases it is incorrect. Correlation meaning a mutual relationship between two or more things and causation meaning a casual relationship between conduct and result. Just because two things correlate between each other does not mean that they are related or come hand in hand.
A lot of the time our intuition leaves us to believing correlation vs. causation. In general, it is extremely difficult to establish causality between two correlated events or observances. Many of the times situations are correlated because it may seem obvious that one may cause the other, but in theory, this may not be so clear. In the example that smoking causes lung cancer, some people get lung cancer with not being affiliated with smoking or smoke at all. This shows that the theory of correlation vs. causation is indeed valid. We can not always determine that A causes B. In general, it is difficult to determine the similarities of correlation or causation. When steaks are high, people usually just jump to conclusions and do not consider the other possible outcomes. Correlations are crucial for research and still need to be looked at and studied, especially in some areas of research like addiction.

I found a few great articles that show examples of correlation vs. causation and the reasoning behind why correlation does not always work or in situations when it does work.
-http://www.statistics-help-online.com/node50.html
-http://stats.org/faq_vs.htm
-http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-addiction/201003/correlation-causation-and-association-what-does-it-all-mean

A video about do vaccines cause autism?-correlation vs causation

Occam's Razor

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Occam's Razor is one of the six principles of scientific thinking. It is the principle of parsimony (logical simplicity). In other words, it means that the simplest explanation is typically the right one. Experimenters and scientists look for the simplest answer to explain something in their hypotheses. While this is only a guideline, it is usually right.

ockham's-razor.gif

Occam's Razor was named after a British philosopher and monk Sir William of Occam. He is also known as the father of parsimony.
The idea of parsimony and Occam's Razor is important since it can be related to not only psychology or scientific thinking, but many other aspects of life. Usually, women will discuss their love lives with a close friend, overanalyzing everything her boyfriend/interest/husband has said, only to be putting in too much energy than necessary. Humans like to simplify things inside their mind, and break down what they learn into different sections, then make connections. When writing papers, students will sometimes overanalyze, or write sentences that eventually turn into run-ons. English teachers often teach students about learning to be clear and concise with their writing techniques, how to say something the simplest way possible. This not only makes it easier for the students, but it also makes it easier for the teacher or another reader to understand. During one of my Spanish writing prompts, my teacher advised us to "KISS it" (Keep It Super Simple).

Here's an interesting article relating KISS to technology today.
http://techcrunch.com/2009/04/28/keep-it-simple-stupid/

This article shows that internet users are more inclined to use technology that is simpler and easier to use. The author connects to how Facebook was once very simple, but has gotten more complex over the years. Current students can relate to the new "live feed" that pops up in the right hand corner of Facebook that arrived with the new features. Many Facebook-users has said this is unnecessary and clutters up the Facebook homepage.

The idea of "KISS" can be seen in books (Judge Judy's "Keep It Simple, Stupid"), movies, and a popular television show "The Office." In Season 3, the episode entitled 'Initiation,' Dwight Schrute quotes,
"Michael always says, 'K-I-S-S, keep it simple, stupid.' Great advice, hurts my feelings every time."

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Memory: "Place Cells"

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In Lecture on 9/23, Prof. Gewirtz discussed how memory works, short and long term. In essence, if one cell has the tendency to fire another, the 'chemistry' between the two cells rapidly becomes more efficient, thereby making it easier to fire. Specifically looking at the memory of a place, I found it intriguing that certain cells fire with high frequency if the body senses (sight and touch primarily) send the right signals to the brain. So my understanding of this is that when an image is sent to the brain, the cell records that image. Repeatedly sending that image, along with using spatial sense to orient oneself, allows the brain to connect the image with a location in space. Thus, when the image is presented to the brain, the brain uses the image and spatial sense to identify its location in space. This means that spatial sense and a repeatedly-sent image is all that is necessary for the brain to recognize that it is in a familiar area. This is very important in daily life, as it's quite necessary to know where you are on your way to work or class, and very handy to have when you're lost. For example; I was lost driving, because I attempted to take a shortcut. I came out in an unfamiliar-looking intersection, and paused. I looked left and it hit me where I was, I knew the area quite well. What happened was this: I had never seen the intersection from that direction, so the image my brain received was a new one, one that never had been trained. So my place cells didn't help me out. But looking left, I had seen an image that passed through my mind many times, because the cross road was one of my regular routes. The image looking left was a familiar one, and my spatial sense immediately said, "Hey. I know where we are, we're (blah blah blah)." And I then knew where I was, because I saw an image that fired a place cell. Hence, place cells are good to have. Oh, and for those that have no sight, I think that place cells still are used. Blind people still have spatial sense, and they use touch to determine location. Or, more like a series of sequenced touches. An image we procure through our eyes has many points, they're just taken in all at once. Touch enables blind people to feel their way along, slowly collecting data, and putting it together. These sequences also would trigger a place cell. For instance, if a certain hallway had unique characteristics to the touch, and walking down the hall, one could detect it, the mind would recognize it and spatial sense would kick in, and let the person know that it's in the certain hallway. This video about a rat's spatial sense shows through the different colored dots that, when viewing an image very similar to another, the place cell for those fire. Notice that the dots shift in color, meaning that as it goes along, the firing place cells shift along with it, because the images gradually shift from one type to another. It's really kinda cool.

Correlation VS Causation

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As it is known to all , that the scientific thinking is a crucial method for people to analyse a series of phenomena to get the essence , finally conclude the theory . There are 6 principles of scientific thinking : Ruling out rival hypothesis, correlation VS. Causation , falsifiability , replicability , extraordinary claims, and Occurs' Razor. Today , I would like to pick "Correlation VS. Causation" to analyse.

A correlational study is one that utilizes the correlation coefficient to show a relationship between two variables . A correlation exists when two variables are related to each other , and the range of possible correlations is from +1.0 to -1.0 , the greater the correlation coefficient is from zero, the stronger the relationship.

As far as I am concerned , the so-called "correlation" is kind of method to reflect the intensity of relationship between these two variables , this method effectively concrete nonfigurative relationship into actual number , as a result , it is more obvious for experimenter to identify . According to the range of correlation , we can divide " correlation " into two part : positive correlation and negative correlation . The difference between these two are the quality of the result brought by one variable to the other one . The good result refer to "positive" correlation , and bad result refer to "negative" correlation. For example , if the government decide to plant more trees on the side of the road , then our living environment will be better , this is " positive correlation" . What's more , if a student did not do his homework on time , then his parents are really mad at him , this is an example of "negative correlation".

There is another concept really similar to "correlation", that is "causation" . From the literal meaning we can see the "cause" inside , which elaborate the meaning of this word : there are two variables , and on variable is a reason of the other , in another word, one variable is a result of the other.

People are easily confused by these two things because some of them can not identify if there is really exist causation relationship between two things or only have ordinary relationship.

There are some link of websites which can explain it more specifically:
http://stats.org/in_depth/faq/causation_correlation.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEksYS9ZNU4

Balloon Boy Hoax

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This video shows the news story in 2009 of a six-year-old the boy, Falcon, whose parents called the police and claimed that he had taken off in their homemade balloon. They informed police that he was flying in the air over Northern Colorado. Falcon's older brother claimed that he videotaped Falcon getting into the balloon and then untied the ropes so the balloon floated away. The police were then called and they chased the balloon for ninety minutes before the balloon landed, revealing that Falcon was not inside. Authorities, fearing the worst, prompted the Colorado Air National Guard to deploy a UH 60 Black Hawk helicopter to search for the boy who may have fallen out of the balloon before it landed.

Not long later, Falcon was found in the attic of his house.

This story acts as a perfect example for the scientific thinking principle of Occam's Razor. Occam's razor states that the simplest explanation for an event is usually the correct one. In Falcon's case, it was far more likely that he was hiding inside the house then the story his parents told that he took off in an inflatable balloon and was then floating 7000 plus feet over Northern Colorado. If authorities would have taken five minutes to search Falcon's house calling for him, they would have found him safe and sound and this hoax would not have made national news.

Falcon Heene Balloon Boy Blog #1 jpg

This story also acts as an example of the Extraordinary claims theory. The extraordinary claims principle asks us to take a step back and look at how plausible the situation is. In balloon boy's case, what is the possibility that a family could build a balloon that could deploy a six-year-old boy 7000 feet in the air for over ninety minutes? This does not seem very plausible. In conclusion, whenever we evaluate a claim we need to ask ourselves whether the claim seems possible. If the claim does not seem possible, we also need to ask ourselves if there is extraordinary evidence to back up the claim.

Generic Topics for Writing Assignment #1

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For some basic topics to get you up and going, consider one of these:

http://blog.lib.umn.edu/khbriggs/myblogforpsy1001/2011/09/writing-assignment-1-generic-topics.html

This is from Kate's blog for all of Psy 1001, so it would probably be an interesting jumping off point/reference materiel resource. Feel free to check out her posts on prosopagnosia, visual illusions, and also tips on how to post images and videos along with your writing.

Blog Assignment Requirements/Recommendations

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http://blog.lib.umn.edu/wlas0006/1001/2011/09/more-about-your-blog-assignments.html

Check out these great tips from the other sections blogs requirements!

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