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Social Psychology

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While skimming chapter 13, I found many interesting aspects of social psychology. One aspect that I found particularly intriguing is how social influence can influence a person's behavior. Conformity, described as the tendency of people to change their behavior as a result of group pressure, is a major topic discussed in chapter 13. Asch's Conformity Study is mentioned and it involved four confederates (undercover agents of the researcher) who purposely choose the same wrong answer to see if the participant would give identical answers. The participant was completely unaware that the other four people were undercover agents. Even though the answer was obvious, the participant answered wrong because the four people previous to him had answered 3. I think it is shocking how easily others are influenced from other people even when the answer is seemingly obvious. Another part of conformity that I find interesting is deindividuation. When an individual is stripped of their identity, they are more prone to social influences. This is demonstrated in a study given to children who were asked to wear masks. In this study, the children with the masks were more likely to help themselves to forbidden Halloween candy than children who weren't masked. From skimming over the chapter, I can already see that social psychology is an intriguing subject. I am excited to learn more about social psychology in depth.

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Psychological and Biological Treatments

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As a follow up of "Psychological Disorders" covered in Chapter 15, Chapter 16 discusses the many outlets in which one who has such a disorder can seek help. Initiating treatments requires that patients be psychoanalyzed. According to Sigmund Freud, there are six steps/stages a patient must experience during treatment. These approaches are: free association, interpretation, dream analysis, resistance, transference, and working through. From skimming, it is apparent that there are many categories of treatment that can be further broken down. Broad classifications include humanistic therapies, group therapies, family therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapies. I'm certainly interested in learning more about some of the processes these therapies require, such as desensitizing and virtual therapies. Aside from the types of treatment, the chapter discusses the effectiveness of psychotherapy and how people with certain characteristics respond to specific treatments.

Sensation and Perception

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In Chapter 4, the book defines sensation and perception and how our five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) help us to perceive and understand our world. The chapter demonstrates how the visual and auditory system work in addition to our sensual and body senses.

While glancing through this chapter, I found the visual system was quite interesting. The book explains blindness, or the inability to see, and how our brain demonstrates brain plasticity. Because the blind cannot rely on their sense of sight, we believe their other senses become stronger. However, in brain plasticity, brain regions that aren't used slowly take over functions of other parts of the brain. For example, the somatosensory and visual cortex can be devoted to sensing touch, resulting in being more sensitive to touch, allowing them to read Braille.

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I also learned about motion blindness, which is when one can't process still images together as an ongoing motion. The book gives an example which I can relate to: One second a car may seem to be 100 feet away while crossing the street, but the next second the car may be one foot away. Some still images in between are lost because of motion blindness.

Chapter four goes in-depth with the other senses also, so it will be interesting to learn how all of our senses work together to form perceptions of the world we are in.

Psychological Disorders

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Chapter 15 gave a brief overview of psychological disorders, including anxiety disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders and schizophrenia. It listed several of the more common disorders within these categories and their symptoms and different potential causes.
Several of the disorders were caused by many different factors, including both environmental and biological influences, and specific symptoms can vary from person to person. Take, for instance, Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder, a disease which causes those suffering from it to have persistent compulsions that they cannot stop thinking about. This in turn can cause many different symptoms in different people, such as repeatedly checking door locks, touching and tapping objects, or always performing a task in the same way each time. Many different causes were listed for anxiety disorders such as OCD: anxiety sensativity, biological factors and acquired habits. The varied symptoms and causes imply that, although we have come a long way from the times when patients with mental disorders were thrown into snake pits in order to "frighten" their diseases out of them, there is still much research to be done on the subject.

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The book also mentioned that some mental disorders are culture-specific: they exist almost exclusively in one area of the world. Certain eating disorders are almost exclusively found in the United States and Europe, where the high prevalence of images of thin models may increase feelings of self-consciousness in women who are already prone to those feelings. Area specific disorders show that while disorders can result from biological factors, culture can play a major role in triggering their symptoms.
Mental disorders are an interesting topic, and certainly prevalent to the study of psychology. I look forward to learning more about the different disorders and their treatments.

Dealing With Confirmation Bias

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Everyone tries to protect their own ideas and prove themselves to be correct. Some people do this in a vocal way and some people do this subconciously. This is referred to as confirmation bias. The second method, subconscious proof of one's beliefs is what is most commonly seen in the testing of psychological theory testing. A good researcher will try to take steps to avoid such negative behavior.
Confirmation bias is with us in all of our daily activities. We function on our current beliefs and understandings and we make choices that make those biases seem accurate. We close our minds to what might disprove them and go with the flow. These are especially common as this year we select a new president. Why do you like Obama? Do his good looks confirm his ablity to handle the presidency? How about Gingrich? Take a look underneath these biases. Now what do you see?

Intelligence and IQ Testing: a brief review of Ch. 9

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Like with many concepts in psychology, it's difficult to declare a single, clear cut definition for intelligence. In Chapter 9, one of things we'll discuss is the various types of intelligence.

The widely used terms "book-smart" and "street-smart" aren't enough to describe the
types of intelligence that psychologists have termed over the years. Do you know anyone who gives stellar speeches? They probably have a high level of linguistic intelligence. That person whose dance videos have over a million hits and thousands of thumbs-up on YouTube? They are said to have bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

IQ tests were and continue to be controversial tools in psychology. Intelligence is a difficult concept to measure, especially given the many types that exist. This is why there are so many IQ tests but only a few that yield valid results, or at least as valid as we can get. But even those few tests don't tell the whole story about a person's mental capacity. As Howard Gardner, an American developmental psychologist, said in this article about a child's intelligence and learning development, "It is not how smart you are, it is how you are smart."

Mirror Neurons

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Learning is a peculiar task that everyone participates in whether they realize it or not. Chapter six goes into detail about the different ways one learns and the factors that affect learning. Mirror neurons are a phenomenon that only recently has been discovered, and they contribute to learning by observing. Mirror neurons are located in the prefrontal cortex of the brain; they activate when we see someone do a behavior, and they activate when we ourselves are replicating the behavior. Researchers originally discovered them in monkey's brains, but recently mirror neurons have been discovered in humans too.

These neurons contribute to empathy within sports watching and movie watching, and they contribute to learning by observation. In a sense, mirror neurons are crucial to survival.

Every freshman at the U this year used their mirror neurons. They used them when it was their first time using their U card at the dining hall or residence hall. They also used them for their first time approaching a professor. We used them when we first came to college by watching what other college students did and how they survived. The next time you are in an unfamiliar setting or situation, take note of how you act and what you do. Are you watching other people? Do you notice other people watching you?


Chapter 14- Personality

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After reviewing this chapter, we will learn about personalities and how psychologists attempt to study it. Many of the studies in this area of psychology were performed on twins and how their upbringing affected their personalities. After comparing one individuals personality to another, the chapter breaks down into Freud's theory of personality, the ego, superego and the id. It then goes into more detail about our unconscious defense mechanisms. After learning about personalities it goes through the psychosexual development stages. Then it goes to describe the behavioral and social learning theories of personality, ending the section by scientifically evaluating them. The chapter then goes to explain the humanistic models of personality and consistencies in our behavior, then again explaining them scientifically. Finally it gives the Big Five Model or Personality and explains different assesments that can be completed to help determine your personality.The thing I found most interesting about this chapter is how complex your personality is and all of the parts that is consists of.

Chapter Eleven: Self-Esteem

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This chapter illustrates several theories for why we feel emotion and motivation, explores the concepts of happiness and self-esteem, and discusses these things in relation to each other. What stood out to me was the reality of self-esteem's importance to happiness and well-being. Indeed, popular psychology today places a huge emphasis on having high self-esteem in order to be happy and successful. What particularly struck me was that while having high self-esteem is positively correlated with happiness and negatively correlated with loneliness, there actually is no evidence that low self-esteem is the root of unhappiness (Lilienfeld, p. 427). The truth is, people with high self-esteem are just as likely as those with low self-esteem to be unsuccessful, depressed, or aggressive. Low self-esteem might play some role in these problems, but it probably isn't the main cause. Moreover, high self-esteem is actually related with being narcissistic, being aggressive when self-worth is challenged, and having "positive illusions": tendencies to perceive yourself more favorably than others do (Lilienfeld, p. 428). What this tells me is that having high self-esteem can be beneficial, as perceiving yourself positively can mean you're happier with yourself and your circumstances, but there is a fine line between being happy with yourself and being self-centered and narcissistic.
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Language, Thinking, and Reasonong...

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The Ch. 8 overview talked a lot about language and how it helps up learn. There are many types of language or communication, and it all affects our minds and lives. Even if we have been deprived language, we find a way to communicate. This section talked about the importance of language early on in childhood, and how kids learn. One thing I found particularly interesting, was that language learning begins by month 5 of the women's pregnancy. The child's auditory systems have developed enough where they can make out voices, and the infant has begun their learning of their own language.

Ch. 8 talks about the importance of language in human and animals. Whiles humans have a more complex communication system, animals also have to communicate. Some animals use facial expressions to express their mood, like anger. Others, like bees, use their body to communicate. Some use smells, like urine; others use sounds. The Vervet Monkey has different alarm calls for different predators. Same page goes on to talk about teaching language to animals, like chimps. While chimps don't have the vocal complexity that humans do, few have found that sign language worked, or just pointing to a picture board; turns out, most just wanted a treat.

Human development ch.10- influence of early experience

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Most people, like me, might be surprised when they saw human development part in the psychology textbook. After reading chapter 11, I realized that human development is essential to learn about why and how our psychological state is changed throughout our lives. It is important to notice that the word 'development' used in 'human development' actually means not only 'improved' but also 'degraded' which means that the word 'development' is used more likely to the word 'change'. In this chapter the influence of early experience was intriguing because what I have known as a truth was myth that we should try to avoid. It is true that early experiences have great impact on human's brain development and their behavior. There are two myths that we should not believe it: infant determinism and childhood fragility.

Generally, people tend to exaggerate the influence of experience in early ages called infant determinism. People tried to provide anything they could to early age children in order to give great amount of positive experience. According to textbook, it's overreacting. Even though the early age experience is important, it doesn't mean that later experience is worthless. Experience in infant stage does not determine one's future.

Moreover, many people including me often think that children are not able to handle any kind of stresses which is also a myth called childhood fragility. Children are normally stronger than commonly thought so that they can handle even traumatic situation such as kidnapping or sexual abuse. Of course, some of them end up with long term negative influences. I realized that in order to go through tough society well, encountering only affirmative situation is not the answer.
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Learning: Classical Conditioning

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Classical, or Pavlovian, conditioning is defined as a "form of learning in which animals come to respond to previous neutral stimulus that has been paired with another stimulus that elicits an automatic response" (204). A maintstream example of this can be seen in an episode of The Office, in which Jim "trains" Dwight to want mints when his computer restarts.

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The sound of the Windows reboot is the conditioned stimulus which elicits a response, Dwight's conditioned response is to therefore analyze his breath and want a mint. This powerful conditioning in the brain is used throughout mainstream media more than one might realize. Advertisements associate attractive women with liquor, a cold drink with a hot day, and many more. It seems that we are being manipulated by our own minds. But perhaps classical conditioning can be a good thing; it assists one in associating danger with a particular location, or a green valley with abundant water I do not think the attempts to reinforce behavior cannot be terribly detrimental. While every time I watch a Hulu TV show, the Reece's commercial comes on, I do not find myself craving mini Reece's.

Nature Via Nurture

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Nature via nurture. This term reminds most of us of the other similar term "nature versus nurture" almost automatically. We have learned about the nature-nurture debate in our textbooks on many different subjects, such as Readings, Biology, Child Education, Sociology, and, of course, Psychology. We have tried to conclude which one (nature or nurture) affects human development the most. However, reaching a conclusion has been very difficult, though the topic itself is common. That is because we cannot say one is more important than the other in human development.

Matt Ridley, a zoologist and biologist, wrote in his book, Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, & What Makes Us Human (2003), that it is the nature that turns on the nurture. He daringly broke the tradition of established scholars such as Freud, Boas, Darwin, and Galton, who tried to explain the origin of human development in terms of either nature or nurture.
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Chapter 10 shows us many "intersections" between nature and nurture including "nature via nurture," "gene expression," and "gene-environment interactions." After reading this, I was surprised that a part of life could be explained by both nature and nurture, when previously it was an either-or dilemma. This taught me to keep an open mind about what I learn because there are many viewpoints of life that I can utilize.

Chapter 3: Biological Psychology

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This chapter is about how the brain, nerves and different systems within our bodies work together to help us function on a daily basis. This chapter also examines how the brain interprets prescribed drugs and pain. I found the psychomythology of the "right-brained" versus "left-brained" person to be very interesting. I found this to be interesting because I have done an assignment before where you answer a series of questions and they take your answers to determine which side of the brain you are likely to use. That study was very interesting.

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Chapter 2: Ethical Guidelines for Human Research

This chapter provides a quick outline of scientific and research methods, the pitfalls we as humans have when conducting experiments and interpreting results, and the tools to correct for those shortcomings so that we may draw meaningful conclusions from our studies and data. The facile discussion on ethics and informed consent left me with some questions.

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What exactly is informed consent?
Informed consent on its surface is a simple enough concept. A researcher communicates with the participant about the experiment and what to expect. The participant then can decide to take part in the study and give his consent or decline. I found a rigorous treatment and discussion of the latest thinking about the nature of consent at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Perhaps the most important feature of informed consent is voluntarism. That is to say, participants should not be coerced or bribed into giving consent via force, trickery, or given compensation well above a person's income.

The authors claim that the Tuskegee study "could never be performed today, at least not in the United States." The Participants in research trials are protected by an Institutional Review Board, which insists that researchers acquire informed consent from the participant. What does it mean for research subjects if the study is not in the United States?

So, can a Tuskegee or, if you pay attention to the news, a Guatemala happen again today in other parts of the world? I would argue that yes, given the trend of globalization in research trials and the lack of oversight, abundance of corruption, and vulnerability of the participant pool to coercion and inducement in developing economies greatly increases the likelihood of more horrific and shameful human trials. It takes more than just informed consent to conduct and ensure others are conducting ethical human experiments.

Ch. 13: Social Psychology

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Social psychology is the study of how people influence others' behavior, beliefs, and attitudes. This chapter explored different experiments, stories, and studies that tested how and why humans reacted to situations. A concept that struck me the most is the bystander effect: when one is a part of a group in a situation where someone needs assistance, one is less likely to help because of the presence of other people. An example of this is the violent murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964. She repeatedly screamed out for help for an hour in New York City while being raped, stabbed, and beaten to death, while her neighbors failed to come to her aid. Others assumed that someone else would try to intervene and call 911; this is called a diffusion of responsibility: the reduction in feelings of personal responsibility in the presence of others. The picture below shows how everyone assumes that the person in need doesn't need help or someone else will handle the situation.bystander effect.jpg

Chapter 11: Emotion and Motivation

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This chapter was all about emotions and what causes those emotions and what motivates us to do what we do everyday. It was very interesting to see where each emotion comes from and how it can be different for every person. Also, how the way you stand or make your eyes gives away much more than saying something. I guess the saying about how your body language can be more hurtful than words is actually true. So you may think that its a good idea for you not to say something but then you also gotta keep your body language in check. That is because people can pick up what you want to say from your body and even more. They could think things that you weren't even thinking. Another thing that was brought up a couple of times in this chapter was love. The different stages of love, and how your behavior and attitude changes with each different stage. Lastly, that everyone goes through different hardships but then eventually find a reason to live and be happy. Everyone is different and the reason that makes you happy may not make the other person happy. For example, Christopher Reeve was paralyzed from the neck down, this you would think would make him angry and upset. Instead he made the most of his life and decided to be happy, which definetley was a surprise. That is because he could not do much, he could just sit there and observe everything that happened around him. However, this made him happy.

One thing that stood out to me in this chapter was how different body languages mean different thing in other countries. For example, thumbs up is in insult in the Muslim religion, and nodding yes actually means no in Yugoslavia and Iran. This shows that even though we may be used to all of these thing it means something totally different to other parts of the world. Each culture has it own body gestures which them who they are. This makes each culture different and unique from all the other ones.

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Drugs, and the effects on you

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Chapter five talked about many of the drugs Americans have heard about: alcohol, cocaine, LSD...etc. the first concept discussed was alcohol, and the real effects of it. it talked about the fact that expectancies have a big impact on whether it will be enjoyable. Professor Kirsch performed an experiment where he told half the subjects they were administered alcohol, but only gave alcoholic drinks to half of them, yet the other half still exhibited the social signs of drunkenness, but not the physical aspects. tests like this allowed scientists to come to the conclusion that drinking only gives people the feeling that they are now able to "engage in actions socially prohibited." As a result of experiments like this, Hull&Bond were able to theorize that alcohol has more of a physical effect on the body, whereas the apparent mental change is due mostly to the user, not the drink.
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Many of the friends I have made here drink in the hopes it will help them have "a really great Saturday night!" when all of this could have been achieved without the drinking. However when they sober up, they lose this "great feeling" and begin to feel depressed because "life doesn't seem as good" without it. Throughout the semester, I have noticed my friends get more and more depressing as their sober selves. And with my estimation, when they get drunk now, they receive enlightened feelings to the level of mine on a normal day. This makes me very sad.

Psychotherapy: More Than Just a Big Bang (Chapter 16)

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Psychotherapy is a field that specializes in psychological intervention, which is meant to improve the lives of patients dealing with psychological problems. While many people generally think of therapy as a one-on-one conversation with a therapist, as humorously portrayed in this clip from the popular television show The Big Bang Theory, there are many types of therapy that people undergo to obtain help. These treatments can range from simple treatments like aversion therapies, which focus on punishments for undesirable behaviors, to the more complex like Electroconvulsive therapy, which uses electricity to change the brain.

With so many different types of psychotherapy researchers have had to find a way to differentiate between effective and ineffective treatments. Over the past fifteen years researchers have developed a list of empirically supported treatments, which means that they have been tested and are backed up by scientific evidence (Lilienfeld et al.; 2010, p. 653). This list is created by the American Psychological Association, but survey results show that only a minority of therapists use this list (Lilienfeld et al.; 2010, p. 654). Also seemingly ineffective therapies can produce effective results, through spontaneous remission, reasons that have nothing to do with the treatment, or the placebo effect, which is the instilling of hope to make people rise to life's challenges. So why even have the list at all? With every psychological problem being different there is much more to learn before we can standardize treatment options for patients.

Chapter 7: Memory

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Chapter seven discusses the different types of memory and how memory works. The three types of memory are sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. The chapter describes how all three work together as a "factory assembly line" to the function of our memory. It also discusses the differences between the memories, such as the amount of time a memory lasts, 20 seconds for short-term and years or even decades for long-term. One thing I found interesting in this chapter is how sometimes our memory can cause us to have illusions of memories that have happened or sometimes even make up false memories. There are three steps of retaining memories and three steps for measuring our memories. The three steps to retaining memories are encoding, the process of sending memories to our memory bank, storing our memories, and retrieval, getting memories from our memory banks. The three steps of measuring our memories are recalling, remembering our memories on our own, recognition, choosing previously remembered information from other various memories, and relearning, how quickly we learn information after previously learning it.

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