February 2012 Archives

My Nature verses My Nurture Experience

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During the Discussion class this past week I spent quite a bit of time focused on my own family's situation. We are nothing like the Bogle family and yet we are like them. I raised my four children by myself, under some very difficult circumstances. How can I measure the effects of such poverty and was that the cause for my children, all of them, to suffer from some type of mental illness?
When my eldest son was born, he uttered a terrible cry and he continued to cry for the first thirteen months of his life. Was his tiny but sensitive complex human system already aware of his parents continuous struggles and arguments? My husband suffered from Bipolar and Adhd, and sooner then we could believe my son had an identical diagnosis. Whether or not the diagnosing physician was biased in his decision we will never know.
I left my husband and kept my children. We lived in a rat infested apartment, with bloody broken glass windows and no phone which might have correlated with two of my children developing severe anxiety. I'd like to add here that even though the economic conditions were austere, they had a mother who did every and anything to make life better and had well established rules and regulations. Family time was a necessity. Love flourished among us and we supported each other. I sought my own personal help and supports.The anxiety is still so severe that one child is unable to work today. My last child came along as things were getting better. He never lived under the stressful circumstances the others did, but he also developed horrible anxiety as well as an eating disorder and Adhd.
We still sit together as a family and try to scientifically sort this out. Could we use the Twins and Adoption studies method? Is that anxiety component a result of nature or nurture?

Living with Half of a Brain

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During this past week while studying chapter three, the most shocking thing that struck me was learning that some people live with only half a brain. Prior to this psychology course, I knew the brain was responsible for many of our bodily functions, which I learned in my high school biology class. However, we have learned about brain plasticity, and this definitely applies to those who only live with half a brain.

I researched more about this topic to learn more about it, because I was so fascinated by the power of our brains to adapt to such circumstances. Here is an article about a woman who was born with a lesion in her left hemisphere, essentially leaving it useless.

In her case, brain plasticity isn't perfect, since she still has some trouble with visual-spatial processing. It makes me wonder what inhibited her brain from fully acquiring the functions, and why the functions usually present in the left hemisphere overtook some functions in her right hemisphere.

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I also found it interesting that being "left- or right-brained" is a misconception. I have a few friends who are left-handed, and we would always joke about our "psychological traits" according to this misconception. It'll be nice to tell them that these "traits" are not true. (;

Squid Brains and Biological Psychology

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I'd like to thank Dr. Gewirtz for the great overview of the brain and neural anatomy and physiology. This topic, because of its complexity, often draws from and influences many disciplines of science including my own research with dynamical systems of differential equations. From these discoveries, the biological basis of epilepsy, memory, hysteresis, and other phenomena of interest to psychologists are given a mathematical descriptions.

We owe our contemporary understanding of the brain and its vast complex network of neurons to a few beautifully simple experiments and discoveries. Famed British biologist Jonathan Zachary Young, while studying the nervous system of cephalopods, discovered that some squid have rather large neurons and axons to control their water jets. You can watch a video of him dissecting a squid here.

Fellow British biologists and mathematicians Sir Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley (Aldous Huxley's half brother for those fans of dystopian fiction) began working on a theory of action potential propagation via ion channels. Specifically they developed a system of 4 nonlinear differential equations, solved it numerically (in 4 dimensions by hand! A daunting task before the popularization of scientific computing), and verified it empirically using the squid's giant axon hooked up to a voltage clamp. They found that the voltage required to spike the neuron was a function of the current across the sodium and potassium channels, current leakage, the input current, and membrane capacitance. Their discovery was made possible because J.Z. Young had found an axon large enough to stand up to the rather crude methodology of the time.

In 1961, while using analogue computers to simulate and study the Hodgkin-Huxley model, Richard FitzHugh did something rather counter intuitive. He simplified the model down to its mathematical essentials which made it much easier to study the qualitative nature of action potential. Furthermore, in a scientific one-two punch, Japanese scientists Jin-ichi Nagumo et.al. created an equivalent circuit for FitzHugh's equations. This allowed them to run all sorts of tests and experiments on the nature of neuronal spiking.
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The consequences and the power of simple chaotic dynamical systems to predict complex natural phenomenon in neurons reach far across the many fields of science. Nature had inspired abstract mathematical discoveries which feedback into the discoveries about the natural world. This comic becomes disingenuous:
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and the world becomes more complex like this [click for link]:
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Can your name affect your future?

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A first name is an incredibly important part of someone's life. It is a characteristic that every culture has. It is, hopefully, a unique device for distinguishing yourself from the sea of people that inhabit this earth. The internet is riddled with baby-naming websites and articles. You are not born with a name engraved on your forehead.

So one question thrown around many times is how much does your first name affect your life? Since a name has nothing to do with genetics, it can be very decisively categorized into Nurture. Some people would argue that you are who you are no matter what the name ("What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"). Others would say that because you have that name, you have that life.

I personally believe that in most cases, your first name does not change your personality and life choices. If that was true, then all the Sarah's would be high school counselor and all the Katie's would be incredibly environmentally conscious. Do you see where I'm going with this?

There are some exceptions as to how your first name can affect your future:
Bad names and their outcome
I believe that if you have a ridiculous enough name, you either accept it to run your life or you overcome it. By overcome it, I when you curse your parents and "show them" by exceeding what the invisible standard is.

Still, it is interesting how much importance a name has, especially in your early years. I remember wanting to change my name to Nicole when I was in grade school. I remember not wanting to tell my middle name. Did those years change my life and personality in an irrevocable way? I don't think so, but maybe you think otherwise?

Does the Apple fall far from the tree?

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For the past year and a half I have worked at a single women's shelter that houses 16 Hennepin County women and their children. By working at a women's shelter I have gotten the opportunity to see a lot of psychological terms we have learned thus far applied in real life. One that I constantly see applied is the "Nature vs. Nurture" debate. On any given day at work I often see the personalities of the mothers reflected onto their children. womens-shelter.jpg
One resident that sticks out to me the most is a resident that had a traumatic life and she suffered from depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. In addition to her mental health issues, she was a victim of sexual assault. Her mother had pretty much the same life story; she suffered from depression and was a victim of sexual abuse as well. My resident grew up in an environment where no one talked about the things they were facing and they often internalized the difficulties they faced. Consequently this led her to confide and find comfort within men, those men used and abused her causing much of the pain she suffered from. This pattern was developed from her mother, because as a child the only time she would see her mom happy and sane was when she was with a man and many of those men used and abused her mother as well. domestic-violence.jpg
This resident left me often questioning is it our nature or nurture that makes us subjected to living a lifestyle similar to those around us? I also wondered how does ones environment (nurture) play a role in the development of mental illness? For instance if my resident grew up in a different environment would her outcome in life be different? Would she still suffer from depression?
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Understanding Metaphors: Is it Really Just Talk?

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We speak in metaphors all the time. Yes, I mean "we" as in everyone, not just the poets and creative writers out there. In fact, much of what we understand about the world is understood in metaphorical terms. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson explain in their work "Metaphors We Live By" that "...metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action". If we take the time to think about it, they're right - metaphors certainly are. the foundation to our house of knowledge (see what I did there?).
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Until recently, it was assumed that metaphors were interpreted in the part of our brain that deals with language comprehension. The textbook calls this "Wernicke's Area", located in the superior temporal gyrus, usually in the left cerebral hemisphere.wern.jpeg However, MD, PhD Krish Sathian of Emory University, has just released the results of several studies that show that metaphors can activate the sensory portions of our brains as well. So, when someone says they've had a "rough day", do you feel sandpaper beneath your fingers? Perhaps not, though the same parts of your brain are working in response to both these stimuli. parasagittal-view-of-cerebral-cortex-primary-motor-sensory-association-multimodal-functional-areas.jpeg
I was able to experience this concept firsthand: a friend of mine was recently involved in a longboarding accident, in which his Wernicke's Area was put at high risk. However, he is now able to tell me that, while in the hospital, doctors asked him questions concerning sense-related language (like metaphors), and that he was able to understand the concepts behind these messages. This highlights the role of neural networks in our brains, and can help scientists better understand the importance of these neural networks. So, truthfully, this newfound information may simply be the "tip of the iceberg", the "knock at the door of opportunity", the "window to the truth" behind the complex structure we call the human brain. Exciting, right? I think so too.

Article and information: Quinn Eastwood, "Hearing Metaphors Activates Brain Regions Involved in Sensory Experience" 3 Feb 2012. Medical Xpress; medicalxpress.com

Elleni Paulson; 4256521

Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle

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Many people have asked if whether someone who exercises regularly is more likely to live longer. The correct answer is YES! For those who exercise regularly, 30-60 minutes daily, they will live longer than someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle (ACEfitness.org). What also contributes to this is having a healthy diet. Reducing the intake of sugars, animal fats (such as butter) will help reduce the risk of clogged arteries, heart disease, etc. According to the Mayo Clinic website, there are seven specific benefits of exercising, one- exercising daily controls weight, helps maintain weight, or contributes to weight loss. When you go for a run, dance, participate in yoga, it all burns calories. Even if it's difficult to add 30 minutes or so of activity into your day, it's easy to burn calories during a regular day. For example, take the stairs or walk/ride a bike to work. Two- exercising can reduce the level of bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol. Being active daily can also reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression (exercising releases endorphins, the "happy" hormone), and some types of cancer. Three- as stated before, exercise suppresses depression, and this is due to an increase in endorphins. This overall increases mood; makes you feel happier throughout the day or from the point of exercise throughout the day. Four- Exercise increases energy levels. Physical activity daily can increase muscle mass which in turn means you can do more work throughout the day using less energy. Five- You'll sleep better! exercising on a daily basis can help you sleep and stay asleep during the night. However, exercising too close to the time you go to bed can make you feel to energized to fall asleep. Six- Regular physical activity can make you feel better about your self-image and give you more energy to engage in intimacy. For women, exercise leads to increased arousal and for men, it leads to a reduced risk for erectile dysfunction. Last but not least, seven- exercising can definitely be fun! There are many ways of exercising, one kind that is increasing today is Cardio dancing. Zumba Fitness is a great way to burn hundreds of calories without even knowing it because the dancing is so exciting. Another way would be to go hiking. This way you can view the beauty of nature and get a workout at the same time.

A Pain in the...

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The school desk-chairs are one-size fits all desks, in which both the petite 5' and tall 6'8" students must both fit, despite the obvious discomfort. The entire unit is welded in place, so there is no space for students to adjust to their size. Some student's feet hardly touch the ground, whiles others knees are jammed into the bottom of the desk. It decreases the circulation to the legs and positions the back in a constant slouch, making the chair very uncomfortable. The somatosensory cortex senses this discomfort and cues fidgeting to overcome postural strain, which is then distracting from the subject's work.
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In blinding contrast, there is a chair that is so well designed, it has earned a place in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection. This chair, the Aeron chair, pays particular attention to the ergonomic needs of a desk chair, as well as the environmental. With nine different points of adjustment in the chair, it is capable of fitting each and every body type, while positioning the spine and pelvis in the anatomically correct position for maximum comfort and support.

The chair's main website demonstrates the versatility of the chair according to your specific needs. The Aeron chair ensures the customer has a comfortable seating position and alleviates back pain. The absence of fidgeting and discomfort allows one to focus and complete their work without pain. That is, if you want to pay over $600 for a chair.

Icarus's Illusions

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Art always uses different tools of perception to create illusions.This painting is Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel. This painting represents the myth about how Icarus went against his father's warnings about flying too high or too low with his homemade wings. As a result, he drowned in the sea that was named after him, the Icarian Sea.

Bruegel uses different tools of perception within the painting to create illusions. He uses the monocular cues of relative size, texture gradient, interposition, linear position, and height in plane. The relative size cue can be seen with the two characters in the center of the painting, the farmer and shepherd. We can tell the farmer is closer to us because he is bigger than the shepherd. The texture gradient cue can be seen with the grass in the field that the farmer is sowing and with Icarus splashing around in the water. We see the waves and ripples Icarus makes because he is closer to us than the boat that is further away; we can't see the ripples the boat makes. The linear perspective cue can be seen with the vanishing point being the sun coming up in the upper right side of the painting. The height in plane cue can be seen with the city on the water's edge in the distant being higher up in comparison to the farmer which is lower and closer to us.

Icarus may not have perceived how high he flew or how low he flew because of the adrenaline rush he felt while flying. This is the same as when we put ourselves in situations that could have a negative result. We may not realize we're flying right into a dangerous trap because we perceive the situation as an adventure.

The Designed Beauty of iPhones

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The iPhone is a very well designed gadget. Its features have been based off of models of iPods, and then perfected. IPhones have a very simple design: just one button, then a touch screen. It is well known that humans are easily confused. Many times my mother has looked at a keyboard and been mind-blown at all the things that it appears to be able to do. We love the simplicity of just one button; otherwise, many of us might say "it might not just be worth our time." And another excellent feature that many of us admire, but may not realize, is that the phone will actually vibrate when we touch part of the screen during texting, giving us the perception that we are pressing on actual buttons, like old style phones. But being a touchscreen, it eliminates the chances of pressing those buttons while in a pocket. We enjoy this extra comfort, this feeling of safety that we don't have to worry about explaining some text to a random person. Another key feature of the iPhone is the actual set up of the screen when we are using it. For being a phone, the aps you could click on were large, easy to see. There wasn't a lot of background "noise" that would distract us from what we were doing, and simplicity was kept.
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Did that really just happen? Seriously?

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Moon walking gorilla? For those of us that remember this experiment from class, it's amazing how our perception can make us miss things that are right in plain sight. This concept has left me to think about what other beautiful and/or important things we are missing out on. Do we miss important information in our studies because our mind is "elsewhere"? If we can fail to see an object as blatant as a moon walking gorilla, we could fail to perceive almost anything. My friend showed me a post on facebook. This post has a violinist playing in a subway station for 45 minutes during rush hour. Few stop there busy day and listen to a man playing "some song" on his violin. The ones who stop, do so shortly, and go about their busy day. He plays 6 Bach pieces during this time, and gets around $32 for his 45 minutes of work. Not bad for a homeless man on the street, right? Due to these peoples hectic day and there inattentional blindness they fail to realize that this man is actually Joshua Bell, named one of the best musician in the word. Joshua Bell was playing on his prized Violin worth $3,500,000. That's right, 3.5 million dollars. Joshua Bell, days earlier, sold out a theater in Boston where the average ticket sold for $100. I would love to think that I would have stopped and listened, but I didn't see the gorilla either. This still leaves me wondering of all the things that are truly being missed.

6th Generation ipod Nano: Form Over Function For Runners

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When my 2006 5th generation ipod encountered a problem last year, I eagerly handed it over to Apple in exchange for the brand new 6th generation ipod nano project [RED] edition. In the store the purchaser focuses on price and appearance and prestige value. At home, the same person will pay more attention to functionality and usability. Our attention is selective in the store.


Every day that I run on the treadmill with my ipod I notice that auditory cues, feedback and some other sensitivities were overlooked in the design, making for a frustrating integration of using the object--specifically changing tracks and returning to which group of songs is currently playing. The new touch interface requires you to look away from what you're doing in order to operate the device, while the traditional click wheel allowed you to feel for the buttons and advance songs mid run. Apple advertises the nano as being great for in the car and fitness, both times when you don't want to look away from what you're doing. With the nano, touch icons for advancing songs are very small and requires a precise area of screen be touched. I have small hands and have trouble, so I imagine it difficult for someone with bulkier fingers.

Second, there is no sound feedback like the click to let you know the action was received. You may accidentally advance further than desired. Then, if you don't use the top button to put the touch screen to sleep and go to clip the ipod back onto your shirt, something might bump the screen. I could go on about how there is no direct way back to the song you are playing in the subgroup from which you selected it (artist, album, playlist, genre). For these reasons the efficiency of the ipod for me was reduced by its advancement.

In his book The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman discusses the psychopathology of everyday things from microwaves to stoves and doors, as well as human error associated with bad design. People associate error as their own fault when it's a simple mistake in the design, which leads to that error never being addressed.

The Extreme Consequences of Sleeping Pills

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As chapter five in the book told us, sleepwalking is a relatively common occurrence in children. Most of the time they just make funny stories to joke about in the future, and I actually thought it was kind of cool when I was a kid (although it never actually happened to me). However, as the book demonstrated to us by giving some examples, sleepwalking can actually become quite dangerous in some adults. This reminded me of the time two years ago my friend's 16-year-old brother ended up a half-mile away from his house in only his underwear in freezing temperatures.

According to some sources though, the widely-distributed sleeping pill Ambien may actually cause an even more dangerous occurrence--sleep driving (and we thought we had a problem with texting and driving). According to the article, blood samples were taken in the state of Wisconsin for 2,300 impaired drivers, and 53 of those had Ambien in their blood. These 53 cases also accounted for some of the most bizarre incidents on the road, such as driving on the wrong side of the road instead of just simply weaving into other lanes.

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The scientists do want to make it clear, though, that taking Ambien as directed should not cause these erratic behaviors. The pill is designed to be completely out of the blood stream within eight hours of taking the pill, but taking more than one or taking a pill too late in the night can actually cause it to stick with the patient for their morning commute. It's clear that taking this drug incorrectly can cause some very undesirable side effects, such as the case of Sean Joyce, who ripped of his shirt on an airplane and threatened everyone on board. Joyce had no recollection of the events when he woke up in a cell the next morning.

Sleepwalking will always be a very peculiar behavior in humans. However, we must also realize that more extreme cases of the behavior can actually cause harm to many people, and there is sufficient evidence to show that common sleeping medication can actually bring out extreme cases of this behavior in many of us.

Where is our Consciousness Located?

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I watched the section of the BBC video that discussed where in our brain our conscious resides. Our consciousness comes from an area at the bottom of the brain near the brain stem called the reticular activating system. The reticular activating system sends projections up to the thalamus which then sends projections to the rest of the cortex, the outside of the brain that allows us to be self aware. The projections give constant activation to the cortex, which is essentially what being conscious is. I found this interesting because it's weird for me to think that I don't have be concentrating on keeping my brain active because projections are constantly and actively being sent throughout my brain. I also found this interesting because I thought that our consciousness involved all areas of our brain, as opposed to it just being pinpointed to the cortex.

This is a picture of where the reticular activation system is located
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The Yellow Wallpaper: Looking Beyond the Boundaries

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In 1892, author Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote a short story that changed American society. Gilman wrote a literary critique of the social structures of America during the Gilded Age, especially with regard to women. Many authors have approached the same subject; however, what made Gilman's short story so impactful was the plot in which she introduced (and addressed) the societal issue.
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Gilman wrote her story, titled "The Yellow Wallpaper", about a woman who feels so trapped in her role as the "perfect American wife" that she goes insane. The plot begins with the housewife stuck in the bedroom of a summer home. She has lately been feeling some mental unrest due to her inability to express herself creatively. As a result, the woman's husband prescribes to her the "resting treatment": during a specified period of time, the woman is not to express her creativity in any form at all, and is encouraged not to use her imagination for any reason. The woman becomes so restless in her room that she allows her imagination to take over her conscious mind, and she begins to hallucinate that there is a woman trapped behind the walls of her bedroom, waiting to get out. The woman actually tears the wallpaper off the walls of her room in an attempt to free this woman, and as a result, she becomes so enraptured with her story that she ends up trapping herself in her own insanity. 58WPyellow.jpeg
This story has a couple interesting psychological levels. One of these is the plot itself, which says a lot about the effect of repression on individuals, and the strength of our own imaginative and creative powers. Furthermore, it is widely known that the author was prescribed this "resting treatment" by her own psychologist as a way to combat her creative frustration (This treatment was abandoned shortly after Gilman's short story was published). Perhaps, this short story is a comment on her own psychological experience in addition to women's position in society.

After reading this short story myself, I found it really interesting to consider that there have been many stages to psychological treatment throughout history - many treatments that have been strengthened, and many others that have been abandoned over time. Furthermore, Gilman's comment on women and their role in society during the 1890s has a psychological component to it as well. Her story appealed to the emotions of countless individuals at the time, and continues to do so today, helping to change the way we treat each other and how we value each other.

This certainly was no ordinary short story. Through psychology and psychological analysis, Gilman changed American society (arguably, for the better) during the Gilded Age, and helped to bring about a new era of equality and higher moral standards.

Here's a link to a website you may find useful in analyzing the short story, especially if you have read it:


The best parrot I have ever seen!!!

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZBH8E5FKQU

This is the best parrot I have ever seen. It is abvious fact that parrot can speak or mimic some sounds. However, I have never seen before the parrot that mimics body emotion - dancing or being boring. If you watch the video, you might notice what I mean about being boring.

At first, I thought this video might be tedious because, we can see parrot show at a zoo that parrot says hello, I love you or good bye. However, this parrot is different. He/she acts!
I think the trainer trained a parrot according to a scenario that she made. I mean that the reason why the parrot can do those things is that he/she learned them in an order. He/She can mimic or answering to the trainer not because he/she understood what the trainer said, but that was the order that the trainer taught.

At the end of the show, the trainer gave nuts-like food to the parrot. I think that is the reinforcement. To get some delicious nuts, the parrot keep mimicking and answering to the trainer. He/She learned that if she follow the trainer's direction, he/she can get some delicious foods. This reinforcement seems positive reinforcemnent because the trainer gave prizes to parrot everytime he did good job.

Smoking Kills... Hamsters?

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Usually it's pretty easy to figure out what approach an advertiser is trying to use in an ad. It's very common to see and easy to identify strategies like sex appeal, celebrity endorsements, bandwagon approach, catchy tunes, repetitive message from a company icon, etc. This ad isn't like that:

This ad is completely bogus. How many people are ever going to kill a hamster because they smoke? Can the hamster's death even be blamed on the fact that the man smoked? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that the hamster died because the man was too lazy to re-do the carpet or because the girl bought a bad cage for her hamster? Those were all thoughts running through my head after the first time I watched that ad a while back. I couldn't figure out what the heck the people who made that ad were thinking. Now that we've gone over Pavlov's classical conditioning I can kind of see what they were trying to do. They were trying to get us to associate smoking with the feelings of remorse we felt when the hamster was killed and therefore make us want to avoid smoking. While my mind stills rebels at the logic they tried to use, there is no denying that the ad was extremely memorable for me. Do you think this ad is effective even though it is so absurd?

Are you really making your own decisions?

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In the BBC video "The Secret You", one of the topics explored is whether or not you are truly responsible for making conscious decisions. (This was an experiment Dr. Peterson described in class). Marcus de Sautoy's brain was hooked up to an fMRI machine, and he was told to randomly tap either his right or his left finger. To us, this seems like a very simple decision we'd have no trouble making, an easy although conscious decision. Yet the neuroscientist was able to predict which finger Marcus was going to choose six seconds before he made the decision. This begs the question: are we really choosing to make decisions, or are we just a product of neural activity?
The possibility that we might not be choosing to do the things we do is very disturbing. Yet our brains are extremely complicated, and we know that there are so many things our brain does to keep us alive that we are not consciously aware of. So, what if our "conscious thought" really is nothing more than neural activity? Does that make you any less of a person? The free will debate has been going on for centuries--before, people were wondering if we had free will or if God or something else had predetermined fate. Now that we have access to scientific technology, we can question if free will is truly free will or just a product of biology. Either way, since your brain is what's responsible for you consciously thinking, I think you can still say that YOU are behind the decisions you make, and this is why thinking about this doesn't bother me.
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Google search: modern day fairy tale

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The Super Bowl is prime time for companies to show off their best in advertising. But what elements of this 0:53 second advertisement in 2010 earned it over 6 million views on YouTube?

The look of the commercial itself is unmistakable: a Google search. Anyone who has performed one will instantly recognize it, reinforcing the brand of the popular search engine. But instead of pulling the usual silly stunts like most Super Bowl ads, Google aimed for the heart of its viewers. The commercial aims to tell a story. It's not directly selling a product: it's selling a series of emotions that make up this modern day fairy tale. There's the peasant boy (presumably American, male college student) courting the princess (presumably French, female beauty), celebrating their wedding (self-explanatory), and living happily ever after (with their baby). All of this is told through a simple set of Google searches.

Of course, if this were a silent commercial, it wouldn't be half as successful. Sound clips aside, an observant ear notices the subtle but brilliant effect of the music. It starts from one quiet, repeated note on the piano, then evolves to a series of simple melodic chords that crescendo, pauses for dramatic effect, and concludes on a final chord that reflects the initial quiet note. The music reflects the pursuit of l'amour.
(for more about the neuroscience of music and emotion, click here)

This Google commercial finds success by connecting strong, positive emotions with a universally familiar search engine. It is a cleverly designed advertisement, the story of the peasant boy as he sweeps the princess off her feet, and we are swept into their 0:53 second tale of love.


This is a video clip from the Rat Basketball Tournament at the Science of Museum of Virginia, Richmond, Virgina. Rat Basketball Tournament is held every year before NCAA Final Four Basketball Tournaments. See what happened in 2010:

Aren't you curious how these rats were trained to perform as basketball players? Here's a hint. If you watch this video, you will soon come up with the idea of 'shaping and chaining' by means of 'clicker training.' Whenever it turns toward the hoop, the rat hears the clicker sound, followed by tasty rewards. The rat's behavior at this moment is not even close to basketball, but it still gets reward. However, the trainer gradually leads the rat to the desired behavior, which is to pass through the hoop.

Skinner's principle of operant conditioning is well applied to animal training. Not only laboratory animals but also real life animals such as home pets, service animals, and even circus animals are being trained on the basis of it. The rats playing basketball were taught to go through the rim with the ball. When one of them succeeds in making points, it immediately gets food. What is the result? A cool animal sports game!

However, I personally think Skinner's pigeon table tennis looks nicer. His pigeons actually 'competed' for food. The rats don't seem to compete with each other because they don't defense like pigeons do. How can we improve it to be seen like a real basketball match?

Hot stars in Liquor ad

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I know in U.S. there are so many liquor ad posters with hot women. But especially in South Korea, famous Korean actresses actively appear in so many kinds of liquor advertisements as pictures above. Every time when new brand of liquor comes up, the advertisement poster comes up with the new hot female stars. So, many people say that 'if you want to know who is a popular female star recently, then look at liquor ad posters.' Also, we can notice that the concept of the stars is 'sexy' or 'attractive,' which is enough to grab an attention of the public especially of men.

The purpose of the poster can be just grabbing attention. However, I think this is a classic example of 'classical conditioning'. There's a clue for it. In the posters, actually the size of the liquor is much smaller than the picture of women even though the object for advertising is liquor. Also, the body posture of the women, the facial expression of the women, or cloth of the women is very tempting (tempting men). In terms of the principle of classical conditioning, tempting body posture and the facial expression of the women make men to feel excited or feel good. So when the men have a chance to drink, they can recall the picture of female stars and their feeling of the time then they choose the certain kind of liquor. So easy to say, model of the product makes public to choose the liquor rather than merely the characteristics of the product.

Perfect Hair

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In the ads above one can clearly see the women's perfect hair, that have no fly aways, are shiny, and volumized, pretty much the way most girls want their hair to look like. However, a lot of them know that the style that is seen on the ads for shampoo bottles rarely works. Although, the companies of many shampoo producers have tricked people into believing that if they use their product then their hair will also look like this. By putting beautiful girls on their posters who have amazing hair/ styling the models hair to look like that they are catching the consumers eyes. Which is exactly what they want, however, the size of the models takes up more space on the poster than the product itself. It seems like they producers are banking more on what they put on the poster to work better than just showing off their products. Showing off what could happen if they used their products.
This is an example of classical conditioning because the consumers are tricking the producers into believing that by using our products your hair could look like this too. And people believe it, and thus buy the products in hope of getting their hair to look like that too. Thus they have fallen prone to the aspect of a conditioning stimulus. The consumers and glad that by using this process they can have people buy their products.


All About Alzheimer's

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I chose to write about Alzheimer's disease because it affects millions of people everyday. Although, I don't personally know anyone who has this disease, I know several who are touched by it in their lives. After doing some research, I've learned a lot about this progressive disease. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and it affects your ability to memorize, think, and complete simple tasks. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, meaning that it gets worse over time. In the early forms of the disease, one loses some ability in cognitive thinking, such as word-finding and vision/spatial issues. The mild form consists of worsening in memory and cognitive processes. In the severe stages of Alzheimer's, some people can no longer recognize their own family members or understand language. Most symptoms of Alzheimer's appear near the age of 60. However, early-onset of Alzheimer's can appear between your 30s and 50s. Researchers are still trying to pin point the exact cause of the disease. I read that scientists have found a build-up of proteins in the brain through autopsy examinations. There are still many theories that haven't been proven true about why the proteins are related to the disease. It is difficult to develop a way to treat Alzheimer's if the cause hasn't been discovered. But, scientists have developed drug and non-drug treatments that can help with the behavioral and cognitive symptoms. To help reduce your risk of Alzheimer's, you should exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, use methods of mental stimulation, get quality sleep, manage your stress, and have a healthy social life. Although scientists know lots about the disease, it is still up in the air about what causes it and in the meantime, millions of lives are lost due to this disease. Hopefully, in the near future, researchers can pin point the cause and develop a cure.
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