January 2012 Archives

Is Our Belief in Free Will Just for Comfort?

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Like many of us, an article published by a Yale University professor is not keen to take a firm stance on whether our actions are the result of free will or external influences. He makes the point that the concept of free makes sense to an extent because we feel that we make many decisions by our own volition. He contradicts this point, however, with the reasoning that we are born with many characteristics that are entirely out of our control, yet may influence our choices and preferences in the future (ex: name, hometown, fiscal situation).
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Instead of taking a definitive stance on the issue itself, the author examines how our views of free will adapt to situational circumstances. We may take credit for achievements and attribute them to our decision to work hard (free will), but later blame a car accident on weather conditions (uncontrollable circumstances) when maybe we could have just driven a little slower. This suggests that perhaps the notion of free will is simply something that is comforting for us to believe in because it gives us a sense of purpose and a sense of control over what happens to us. Regardless of whether there is evidence for or against free will, we may always choose to believe in it because it gives us motivation.
What I found most interesting in the article was the implication that we alter our views of free will and determinism simply to explain and rationalize every event in our lives, regardless of our intellectual view of the subject.

Puedes aprender un leguaje en diez dias?

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Think you can learn a language in just ten days? According to a program I found off Yahoo.com, over 25 million people claimed to have learned a new language in just ten days using the advice of a UCLA professor. The program is promised to work without the use of repetition, grammar, and for a very affordable price! Though this may sound like a dream-come-true solution to the difficulty of learning a new language, I found several holes in the validity of this program's advertisement.
The first thing that stood out to me was the extraordinary claim that the program can teach a language in ten days, and that over 25 million people have attested to the success of the program. Although the advertisement was adamant about the ten day learning process, the advertisement gave no insight as to how the program works. Also, the claim that over 25 million people said the program worked is not a reliable fact because this is a number that was self-reported. There could have been just as many, or even more people that did not find the program successful and did not report their results. Or, the advertisers many have ignored the failed results of the program.
Another fault I found in the advertisement for this program was the background about program's foundation. The program stressed how children are able to learn languages and claimed that in order to effectively learn a language one must anticipate the answers to questions in another language. However, once we have grown and matured, our brains are different than a child's. We cannot simply "undevelop" our brains to learn a language more effectively. Finally, the ability to anticipate the answer to a question is not a reliable way to learn a language because one cannot possibly predict what a person will ask them, regardless of language. The ability to anticipate a question is not a falsifiable claim; we cannot design a study to see whether one can predict questions.
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Ch. 3 Preview: Biological Psychology

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obesity_4.jpgWhen it comes to behavioral genetics, is heritability (percentage of the variability in a trait across individuals that is due to genes) something that tells us whether or not traits can be changed? Is the number it displays permanent or fixed? Does it just apply to one individual? All of these questions are raised and answered in the section on Behavioral Genetics in Chapter 3. The chapter answers these questions using three misconceptions about what heritability truly is. These misconceptions have existed for a long time and continue to exist, because there is so much confusion on the subject, even among psychologists. (115)

The first misconception mentioned in the text is that "Heritability applies to a single individual rather than to differences among individuals." This is false, because heritability, in fact, only applies to groups of people. It gives us information about the causes of differences among groups of people. (115) The second misconception is concerned with the fact that many people tend to believe that traits with high heritability cannot be changed. Heritability does not say anything about alterable a trait is. Rather, according to Behavioral Geneticists, it is the "reaction range" that specifies how much a trait can change as a result of new environments. Lastly, the third misconception is that "Heritability is a fixed number." Heritability can change drastically across different time periods and populations. For example, if environmental influence is increased within a population, heritability will decrease, because there is less difference due to genetic factors. (116)

Overall, heritability is not a simple concept or one that everyone agrees on. However, it is one that is extremely important in the study genetics and behavior among humans. Hopefully, over time, misconceptions will be eliminated enough so that the definition of what heritability is and what its characteristics are is universally agreed upon.


Chapter 13: Personality

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Personality is a vast topic that has always attracted attention. Personality tests may help us feel unique and maybe aid in the struggle of finding ourselves. But what is personality? What shapes personality? Can we change our personality?
This chapter addresses these important topics in a fair amount of detail. Personality - people's typical ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Typical is an important piece of that definition. A personality is determined and defined based on what is most prevalent.
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What shapes our personality? (Nature vs. Nurture) Both. There are three influences on our personality; genetics, shared environmental factors, and nonshared environmental factors. Genetics falls under the category of nature while the other two fall under nurture. Shared environmental factors are experiences that make people within a family more alike, and nonshared factors are the ones that make them different.
Can I change it? Yes, our personality traits grow and change. But it is not an easy task...
An article about Lauren who changed
Personality traits do not change much after age 30 and change even less after 50. Studies have shown that "openness extraversion and neuroticism tend to decline from the late teens to early thirties, whereas conscientiousness and agreeableness tend to increase a bit" (564).

Chapter 5: Sleep

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Chapter five talked all about sleep and what happens in our unconsciousness. The most interesting part of the chapter to me was the part about dreams, because scientists still do not know why we dream. I personally never remember my dreams, so the topic is interesting. The chapter listed many reasons why we dream, such as processing emotions, going over memories, and learning how to do something, but I want to know how it is the process works. Freud's Theory of Dreams said that dreams change our feelings into symbols that we need to interpret. There are five stages of sleep that involve the body "powering down", to settling into a deeper sleep, to when the brain is the most active. Déjà vu was mentioned in the chapter, another topic I find interesting. Déjà vu is the feeling that something has happened before, though you know the experience is new. Jamais vu was also mentioned, which is the opposite. There are many sleep issues, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, sleepwalking, and night terrors. Drugs and substance abuse was a large part of the chapter. There are depressants, stimulants, narcotics, and psychedelics (or hallucinogenic). I think the whole topic of what happens in our unconscious state is something interesting to learn about and I hope there will be more research in the future about dreams.

Chapter 16- What really is a "therapist"

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There is a very gray region when it comes to the term "therapist". Most of the time people think of a therapist as a professional who has a great deal of education in order to deal with peoples problems. Problems originating from mental disorders to physical disorders. Truth is though, many people don't know exactly what it takes to be a therapist.

Therapist don't need professional education to be considered a "therapist". Actually, in many states around the United States, therapist isn't legally protected. So many people could practice therapy without much education. Contrary to most professions, the professionalism of a therapist isn't measured in amount of education, not at all. In therapy, studies have shown few or no differences in effectiveness between more or less experienced therapists.

A paraprofessional is an individual that helps a therapist with practice. Paraprofessionals have no formal professional training, but often perform psychological services along with the therapist.

Contrary to what some sources claim, some other sources claim that therapist need to have a high degree of education in order to be successful. To look deeper into this claim, here is a quick link explaining the practice of therapy and the suggested requirement for education.

Here is a quick read on therapist:
http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos078.htm

Chapter 10 Preview - Human Development

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Is human development affected by genetic factors, environmental factors, or a combination of both? One study that sheds some light on this question, and that I found very interesting, was at the beginning of this chapter about the Genain sisters. These quadruplets all have schizophrenia, yet the timing and severity of this disorder differed for each girl. This study is a prime example of how genetic and environmental factors both play a role in human development.

Human development is a complex process that depends on a gene-environment interaction. One part of human development is the body which includes physical and motor development. This section starts out with the formation of a baby at the prenatal stage of development and then follows with the physical and motor development of infants, children, adolescence, adulthood, and old age.

The next section talks about cognitive development (or development of the mind) which is how we acquire the ability to learn, think, communicate, and remember over time. Two famous theories are offered that are aimed to show the cognitive development process: Piaget's Stages of Development and Vygotsky's idea of scaffolding.

Finally this chapter talks about social and moral development (development of the personality). This part deals with how we learn between what is right and wrong and how we learn to interact and form relationships with others. Each stage of social and moral development, from baby to adulthood, has its own challenges along the way.

In the end, each part of development in humans (physical and motor, cognitive, social and moral) is affected by a mixture of both genetic and environmental factors, however the degree to which these factors play a role in this development is different for each person.

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Chapter 15-Psychological Disorders

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The perception of psychological disorders in our society today is misjudged. Mental disorders have been labeled as simply conditions that do not fit with what society likes. My mother used to always scold me for chastising the fact that depression is a mental disorder, because she is a nurse and learned of many mental disorders that her patients deal with daily. There are several forms of mental disorders. They include but are not limited to: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, several phobias, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Bipolar Disorder, Personality Disorders and more. Some can even lead to serious threats to the lives of the people with these disorders such as suicide. From what I have observed and what I perceive is that most every human being has some characteristics of these diseases listed and should take them seriously because we can't necessarily claim that our traits and personalities are not partially associated with characteristics of these disorders. What society can do as a whole is be conscientious of others to make sure that serious pain does not occur to people with these disorders and will prevent them from depression and thoughts of suicide.

Chapter 10!

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Have any of you wondered why our body's change the way we do throughout our teen years and adolescence? Throughout chapter ten, it explains some theories that help shape each individuals growth and development while growing older. I found this chapter extremely interesting because it explained many factors of why children do the things they do at such a young age. Essentially, how their brain develops from their surroundings. One thing I found intriguing was the Role of the Father to a child while growing up (389). It explained how the father isn't as close to the children in their younger years as the mother, but the children will most likely choose their fathers to play with over their mothers, and that there is a special relationship between children and fathers. Another part of chapter ten that stuck out to me is the passage on Biological Influences on Gender. Throughout this part it explains how as early as age 3 boys rather hang out with boys, and girls with girls. This can suggest that children understand that their is a difference between gender awareness and they fit with their same gender over the other (392). This appealed to me because I always thought that kids (at that age) had no idea how to differentiate things, so it is weird for me to think that they are able to tell that there is something that much different about the opposite sex.

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Have you ever wondered exactly how many emotions humans are capable of feeling? After skimming chapter 11 I found that there are seven identified "primary" emotions and which presumably are the base from which other emotions arise. These emotions are happiness, sadness, surprise, anger, disgust, fear, and contempt and I am almost certain everyone is this class has experienced each of these at one point in their lives, but what happens when we experience two or more of these emotions at once and how do we tell when someone else is experiencing this? I find that one of the easiest ways to observe this is through facebook. Often times when someone is overwhelmed by emotion they construct a status like this -(see picture below). They are simply unable to express exactly how they feel. My observation that I have explained in this blog isn't an exact science but I am sure we will learn more precise ways of classifying and identifying emotions later in the semester.

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Personality expressed through ancestors and... Handwriting?

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In a nutshell, Chapter 14 described the various theories that psychologists such as Freud, Adler, and Horney founded about human personality. Although these three psychologists have interesting theories, the most intriguing in this chapter was Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Jung argued that although there is a personal unconscious, there is also a collective unconscious. This means that our ancestors have memories that have been passed to us across the generations. This is what accounts for cultural similarities in myths and legends.
Another interesting concept in this chapter was graphology. This is the psychological interpretation of handwriting. I thought this was interesting because I would have never thought that handwriting could help show some personality traits of the writer. I found it interesting that many firms in the United States use graphology to detect potential employees who are prone to dishonest behavior. To be even more extreme, proponents of "graphotherapeutics" even claim to cure psychological disorders by altering people's handwriting. Before reading this chapter, I would have never thought that my memories were passed down to me unconsciously and handwriting can show traits of people's personality.

Here is a video that give a glimpse into handwriting analysis. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGFFq9CsaXM

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Pseudoscience

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Pseudoscience is the set of claims that seem scientific but aren't. Pseudoscience is growing in popularity and has led to the misinformation explosion. Though not all pseudoscience is bad it can be misleading and many Americans are prone to believing that claims are true even though their is virtually no evidence. A survey was done in the US that showed 41% believe in extrasensory perception (ESP), 30% believe in haunted houses and ghost, and 25% in astrology. What amazes me is not the statistics shown but that some people believe it all, such as the stars are able to predict what is going to happen or how your going to feel that day. In the book it states "Our brains are predisposed to make order out of disorder and find sense in nonsense" I agree with that statement, there are greater questions doesn't mean we have to make up an answer. Pseudoscience is seen everywhere ranging from ads to diet pills that make you skinny and are the best. tobacco ad Although pseudoscience can seem over whelming as there are no bounds to the science there are ways to to avoid traps and to determine what is pseudoscience and what is science that has evidence behind it. The emotional reasoning fallacy, bandwagon fallacy, and the not me fallacy are just a scratch of the surface of ways pseudoscience can charm and seduce people. Our emotions getting in the way and determining whether or not we'll believe a claim. The idea that since many people believe in the claim that we ourselves must believe it to be true as to not feel left out. And the ideology that we cannot be harmed with mental issues that other people get affected by such as schizophrenia. Pseudoscience can be fun and entertaining if you take what you read as what it is and not as the almighty truth.

Ch 12 Stress, Coping and Health

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Chapter 12 covered many things about stress like the causes and how it relates to our health. I thought it was very interesting how they tied physiology and neurology together with psychology when it came to stress. The author explained the affects of stress on the body. I understood how the body responds to stress by the alarm reaction, resistance and then exhaustion. One of the most interesting things in the chapter was how stress can significantly effect your immune system. For example, you are a lot more likely to get a cold when you're stressed out. Also, if you're more stressed out you're at a higher risk of Coronary Heart Disease. The chapter addressed how to promote good health to reduce stress. It stressed the importance of keeping a healthy weight to reduce stress. It also provided other tips like to quit smoking, curb alcohol consumption and exercising. The article I found backs up these tips and provides more information on living a healthy lifestyle and reducing stress.

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/StressManagement/FightStressWithHealthyHabits/Fight-Stress-with-Healthy-Habits_UCM_307992_Article.jsp#.Tx-MlJh_crI

Personality- Theories of Causation and Measure

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Chapter 14 spends time explaining methods of personality assessment . These can range from scientific evaluation in the MMPI and MMPI-2, or projective tests that judge ones personality based on their responses to ambiguous stimuli such as ink blots or incomplete sentences. This chapter also centers around the theories of personality, including Freud's Psychoanalytic theory, behaviorist theories, and humanistic theories. A question of rather it is genetic or environmental factors which influence personality most heavily is also considered. Studies of fraternal and identical twins who were either reared separately or apart provided some of the most interesting information of the section regarding this controversy.
In this study, correlations of similarities in personality traits such as aggression, traditionalism and emotional well-being were observed for these four situations. The level of genetic similarity between the twins is determined by whether they are fraternal or identical twins. The effect of environmental factors can be judged by twins of the same variety being raised either together or separately. Generally, identical twins. For most traits, the correlation between identical twins was significantly higher than that of fraternal twins. Personality similarity correlations of twins of any sort raised together were almost always comparatively close to twins who were raised apart. Taking this data into consideration, this study's results point towards genetics as a more influential force on one's personality than the environment they were raised in.
Apart from this scientifically methodical research, anecdotes telling stories of separated identical twins also point towards the influence of genetics. For instance, two identical twins raised apart from eachother in New Jersey and New York both became firefighters. Another pair of separated twins both named their dogs the same name and constructed similar looking treehouses in their backyards. Though these stories don't necessarily provide evidence, they still show an interesting window of insight into the subject.
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Chapter 7 - Memory

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Chapter 7 explains the many functions on how the brain's memory works. Memory is retention of information collected throughout the life. By the paradox of memory, there are situations when we can remember those memories vividly and other situations where our brain fails to remember what it is we want to remember. The memory is fascinating when it comes to memory tendency in trying to remember what the individual can truly recall what happened in their life. Is it real or false memories perceived to them?
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A flashbulb memory is due to emotional memory that is extraordinary vivid and so detailed that it would assume the person experiencing it remembers what happened that very day. But the same person who retells of a past event that happened to them can turn out to be falsely told from the time the event actually happened. As time goes by, the story would change overtime. That is why you cannot judge the memory as storage of data of events that happened in life but also functions of many ways how it can deceive us of what we thought took place in life.

Chapter 2: Research Methods

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This chapter generally deals with the means by which psychologists conduct their research. Several key controversial topics regarding the research process are discussed throughout the section. It begins by covering the reasons for biases in amongst researchers and participants and ways to avoid them. Also important is the attempt made by psychologists to ensure that their experiments emulate real-life circumstances in order to gather data that is as accurate as possible. Finally, the chapter discusses ethical difficulties involved in conducting meaningful experiments.

I think the most interesting aspect of this chapter will be learning about the measures taken by researchers to maintain a real-life feel in their experiments when they deem it is important to observe subjects in a natural setting. Obviously it is difficult to observe someone without their knowledge and similarly it is difficult for someone to act as though they normally would in a situation where they know they are being studied.

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Chapter 7 -How can you remember what you forgot?

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Do you remember what you did for your sixteenth birthday? What was the name of your first pet? How well can you recall the lyrics of the song 'Friday' by Rebecca Black? Or how about something a little more difficult: what day of the week was New Years Eve in 2001? These examples show us that while our memories can often work surprisingly well for some tasks, such as recalling song lyrics, it can be challenging to remember other facts.

Our memories overall are very accurate. Everyday you remember which toothbrush is yours, how to get to your classes, and which cupboard your mac&cheese is in. There are also times when your memory fails you. Try to remember events from before the age of two, such as your first steps or first words. The mystery of why we cannot recall our earliest years is called infantile amnesia. Many scientists believe that this can be attributed to the hippocampus, which does not fully develop until after the age of two or three.

It is not only at our youngest age that our memory fails us, but also at our oldest age. Dementia and other memory-deteriorating diseases are growing more prevalent in the elderly every day. Recent studies have shown that people who include high levels of mental activities in their lives are likely to have stronger memory capabilities at older ages (Sumowski, 2007). This study was done on those with MS, but has been shown to hold true for Alzheimers patients as well. So study well and continue to exercise your brain as you age, so that you can tell your great grandchildren about your college days.

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Mirror Neurons

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Chapter 6 is largely about the ways in which humans and animals learn. One way in which people and animals learn is by watching and then repeating what they see. I found it interesting that neuroscientists recently have started to locate the foundations of this skill. They have found in monkeys, groups of neurons in the prefrontal cortex that become active when one monkey watches another perform a skill. Neuroscientists call these cells mirror neurons because they are the same cells that would have activated if the monkey had done the skill. The mirror neurons seem to become active only when an action is witnessed, and they seem to be set to react to precise behaviors.
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Scientists have found a similar system in humans but are not yet able to identify individual mirror neurons. No one knows exactly what these neurons do or why we have them, but some neuroscientists have guessed that the neurons play a key role in empathy, including experiencing someone else's emotional state as well as emulating their movements. The discovery of mirror neurons may provide important insights into how humans and animals learn from others.

Intelligence and IQ Testing

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Chapter 9 defines intelligence and IQ testing. The chapter mostly discusses how to calculate IQ, the reliability of it, and the influences on IQ (such as genetics and sex). The most interesting thing that stood out to me was how there is no strong evidence to show that coaching on college admission tests gives students greater results. There is a positive correlation, however it may not be because of the teaching, but because of the "practice effect" (frequency improve on tests as a result of practice). There are countless programs that offer coaching on college admission tests, and many students at the university most likely had some sort of training before they took the ACT/SAT. The teaching/training for these tests can be very costly. There is a lot of pressure to well on these exams since they may make or break ones college admission; however, I had hoped that there would be more evidence that these programs are helping students more than they are. bellcurve.gif

Stereotypes

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A stereotype is a belief, positive or negative, about the characteristics of members of a group that is applied generally to most members of the group. People tend to put a group of people together into a stereotype based on nationality, skin color, religion, or numerous other categories. Stereotypes, though they can help to put people into groupings, can be very bad because people can react negatively towards a certain group. Here is a picture of many different stereotypes, some okay and some extremely harmful. stereotypes.gif
It is hard to say exactly how I feel on stereotypes, whether they are good or bad for people in this society. They are bad because they can tend to lead people to misjudge and overreact when they see a person of the negative stereotype. Just because a few select individuals of the core group have done something bad, does not mean that every single member of the stereotype is a bad person as well. Stereotypes can lead to prejudice, which we all know is bad all around. But at the same time, stereotypes can be good because it can possible help people to get into similar groups as themselves, for many good reasons. This article shows another person's similar views on stereotypes.
All in all, whether stereotypes are bad or good for people in this society they will always be around leading to prejudice and negative or positive beliefs on people's lives.

Chapter 11: Emotion and Motivation

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Chapter 11 talks about how our emotions affect our decisions and behaviors. It also mentions that we typically tend to feel the same way that our faces express. (415) In other words, if we have a sad expression on our face, we will generally feel sad. This applies for all of our other emotions as well.

There is also mention of how emotions are important, both the verbal and nonverbal ones. These expressions of emotions make it a little easier to tell if another person is lying to them.

Finally, the chapter also mentions how our emotions affect our motivation to do things. The happier a person is, the more motivated the person will be to do something that is enjoyable and vice versa.

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Nature versus Nurture

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The Nature versus Nurture debate has been going on ever since scientists have known about genes and heredity. The debate is about how human psychological traits and how they are developed. The Nature side believes that humans are born with certain genes that determine their psychological traits. The Nurture side believes that humans are products of their environments and that their upbringing determines their psychological traits.

This debate is very important for many reasons. For example, the legal system has had many issues trying to decide whether or not they should treat criminals differently if they display psychopathic tendencies.

http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/21/kids-brains-may-hold-clues-to-future-criminals/

In the above article, scientists are looking at genetic traits in children that may help them predict future criminals. By understanding more about how these traits are passed down through genes scientists hope to find an answer.

Although scientist know much about behavioral genetics and heredity, there is still not right answer to the question. My opinion is that human behavior is determined by a combination of both genetics and the environment in which one was raised.

Chapter 1: What is Psychology?

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A main part in the first chapter was about answering the question, "what is psychology?" Psychology to some people is using their intuition and doing what is natural to them, but to others, it is a science. William James, regarded as the founder of American psychology, noted that psychology is difficult to study, and that simple explanations are few and far between. What we will learn throughout this course is knowing how to use your natural psychological state, along with the science behind it. Thinking about psychology in a scientific way can help you become more effective with people and problems you may have. It helps you think more clearly, and helps you avoid making simple mistakes. If you use what you learn in psychology the right way, it can give you a major advantage moving forward with your life.

Chapter 16: What Makes a Good Therapist

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It takes more than a cardboard stand and the charge of a nickel to give out good psychotherapuetic help. Many therapists are intelligent, but what is more important than knowledge of psychotherapy is the ability to successfully treat and determine how to do it. Every patient needs different approaches and tactics, for not two patients are alike. It is important to remember this when actively searching for a psychotherapist that best fits you and your needs.
The chapter has a good section (page 635) on how to choose your psychotherapist. The yellow chart gives a very black and white description of a good and bad therapist. It fails to address how personal a therapist should be. Should your therapist ask the tough and personal questions if he or she deems it necessary? Or find other avenues to achieve success?

Chapter 8: Language, Thinking, and Reasoning

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Chapter 8 really sums up language and the ways in which it is formed. The book brings up the terms phonemes, morphemes, syntax, and extralinguistic information. These are the levels that make up language. Without coordinating these levels, we would be left with a jumbled mess of words and letters, and we would not be able to communicate effectively.words.jpg Language is very complex and takes a lot of time and brain power to learn. We, as unborn babies, can begin learning language by the fifth month of pregnancy by hearing our mothers' voice, but we are continually learning our language throughout our lives. Trying to teach human language to animals has been attempted, but very unsuccessful. Thought and reasoning are also a part of this chapter. We see a link between language and the way we think. For example, "two researchers examined the memories of Russians who moved to the United States and achieved fluency in Russian and English. These participants recalled events that happened in Russia more accurately when speaking Russian, and recalled events that happened in the United States more accurately when speaking English even though they recalled both events while in the United States (Marian & Neisser, 2000)." When discussing the formation of words, I found it interesting that related words sometimes have similar consonant clusters. An example of this would be the sn sound is associated with nose-related activities: sneeze, sniff, snore, snooze, snicker, snoop, and snot. Human cognitive processing is flexible and creative. It allows us to use our experiences, our thoughts, and our imagination to quickly and efficiently solve problems.

The Mysteries of the Human Consciousness

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Consciousness, is defined as our subjunctive experience of the world and ourselves. According to Time Magazine, "It shouldn't be surprising that research on consciousness is alternately exhilarating and disturbing. No other topic is like it." As discussed in Chapter 5 of the Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, consciousness is a complex part of the human mind. Chapter 5 focuses on topics from the biology of sleep, dreams, and other alterations of consciousness and unusual experiences. Consciousness holds a wide range of functions in the human body like awareness of thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, events and actions. This chapter goes into great depth showing how consciousness is sensitively attuned to changes in our brain chemistry, expectations and memories, and culture.

The biology of sleep is something that has scientists examining consciousness to great detail. The circadian rhythm is a major factor in the cycle of everyday biological processes in the human body. Each individual has their own "built-in" clock which is linked with the circadian rhythm. Sleep and wakefulness occur specifically due to the circadian rhythm's regulations. The five different stages of sleep are described and how each affects the sleep cycle. A common sleep disorder, insomnia, is explained as well as others, and what affect that has on an individual. According to Christof Koch in Dream States, "Dreams are vivid, sensorimotor hallucinations with a narrative structure. We experience them consciously--seeing, hearing and touching within environments that appear completely real." Different theories are also showed like Frued's theory, the activation-synthesis theory, and more, which show interpretations of dreams in the sleep cycle.

Alterations of consciousness is a large portion of chapter 5. Reports of "mystical" alterations in consciousness as well as hallucinations are examined and how they are linked with specific aspects of life based on one's culture. Examples are fasting, sensory deprivation, hallucinogenic drugs, prayer, and more. Along with these alterations in consciousness, out of body experiences are discussed. A scientific discovery on that topic, was that the individual's consciousness during an out of body experience does not actually exit their body. These concepts are linked along with drugs and how the affect a person's consciousness. Different drugs like nicotine, cocaine, and alcohol are examined based on their effects on the human body and the consciousness. Hypnosis is later discussed based on how it is linked with drug use and other clinical applications.

The Five Stages of Sleep
This image displays the five stages of sleep that an individual experiences in a typical night.

How do I measure up? Chapter 13 Social Psychology

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As people, we are always concerned with how we are perceived by others and how we measure up to their abilities. Is he stronger than me? I bet I can take him in a fight? Did she get a better test score than me? People especially adolescents and young adults (which means us college students) are always trying to gain acceptance and reassurance that we are successful in life. As Leon Festinger's theory on social comparison states, "We evaluate our abilities and beliefs by comparing them with those of others." It struck me how often we are doing this in our everyday life. In physics class, we hope we did better than the rest of the class to get a better grade. At parties, we try to be the coolest person there by fitting the image of a good looking person who is confident and outgoing. We all try to outperform other people to the best of our abilities.
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However, the greatest minds who impact our world don't necessarily achieve this by following the rest of the pack. Martin Luther King fought for what he thought was right and ignored the rest of his critics. Warren Buffet was probably teased for spending countless hours reading at the library in Nebraska instead of playing outside like a normal boy. I'm not saying you shouldn't try to compare yourself to others, because it is natural human behavior. But don't be afraid if you don't follow these social comparisons exactly like everyone else; your success maybe even greater than the rest.

The never-ending flight of stairs.

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One of the main focuses of Chapter 1 was that we cannot always trust our common sense. Although this point is probably very obvious, I believe that it is often overlooked. One example of how we often mistakenly rely on our common sense is the idea of naive realism, which is defined as the belief that we see the world precisely as it is. Yes, it is true that we use this naive realism in our everyday lives. For example, if we were to approach a green stoplight while driving, we would unconsciously trust that that stoplight was indeed green, and proceed to drive through the intersection. However, there are moments where our eyes and our brains can perceive us.
One example that I found online was this picture of a building with several levels and several flights of stairs. When you first glance at the picture, you probably do not notice anything wrong with the structure and design of the building. However, if you were to look more closely, you would find that the staircase at the top of the building is in fact never-ending. There is no entrance or exit, and it appears that the people are continually walking the same flight of stairs. Even after making this observation, it may be hard to wrap your brain around this concept of a never-ending staircase. Through this example, we can more easily recognize that what we notice initially, and what we believe we are looking at, can be deceiving.


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Blog Entry 1: Preview of Chapter 4

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Chapter four of Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding is about how human senses are relayed to the brain, and how the brain perceives information. After a sensation occurs, the brain perceives the sensory impulses. The brain interprets the impulses with different processing methods, such as simultaneously or in a selective or consistent manner. Paying selective attention to certain sensory channels, sometimes our brain even misses obvious stimuli. This is called inattentional blindness. I believe the most interesting part of chapter four was the description of extrasensory perception (ESP). ESP can be divided into three categories, precognition (predicting evens), telepathy (reading minds), or clairvoyance (detecting the presence of objects or people). Not all people believe in ESP, but those that do will make claims that make ESP hard to falsify. I think ESP is fascinating because it is like a "sixth sense", and it is a mystery that scientists and psychologists are still studying.
A great deal of chapter four was spent describing the senses. The composition of the eye was given, along with how the brain interprets light, depth, color, and motion. Chapter four also described the ear, as well as odors, flavors, touch, body position, and balance. It is easy to see how much "hard science" is linked to psychology in chapter four.
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Medication Used to Enhance Your Personality ?

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Cosmetic psychopharmacology was a term introduced by Peter Kramer in the 1990's, and written about in his well-known book Listening to Prozac. Cosmetic psychopharmacology "describe[s] the use of medications to produce long-term alterations in personality" (Lilienfeld 564). In essence, medications such as Rozax, Paxil, and Zoloft can be prescribed by a doctor and given to a normal, healthy patient to alter their mood. Paxil, specifically, has been tested to "produce calmness and decrease shyness, even among people without mental illnesses" (Lilienfeld 564).

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It may not be surprising to readers that anti-depressants and anxiety medications are being used for cosmetic purposes, and although it may sound harmless at first glance, as a result, I think there exist negative repercussions with taking any unnecessary medications for recreational purposes. For example, a patient could become easily addicted to these medications and have to take these drugs in order to feel normal. Opponents of this research finding feel that such "a drug is unethical and a manifestation of naïve consumerism" (Chatterjee, 2004).

This article gives multiple viewpoints on this topic.

Many controversial thoughts arise from Mr. Kramer's findings, such as the perceived belief that one's personality was linked to genes and shared/nonshared environmental factors. Thus, if one's personality can be altered to be more socially inclined or aggressive and decrease assumed undesired personality traits such as anxiety, or hostility, might science be messing with personality traits that can be deemed useful in certain situations? Could this lead to cloning the personality of a child while in the mother's womb? Might future employers rather hire medicated workers? These are all questions to thoughtfully consider.

Chatterjee, Anjan. (2004). Cosmetic neurology: The Controversy over Enhancing Movement, Mentation, and Mood. Neurology, 63, 968-974.

Psychology from Inquiry to Understanding by: Scott Lilienfeld

3.5-Point Post: Meth

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Why is meth so bad? The devil made it. And because it messes with your dopamine and makes you a fiend. When you take Methamphetamine your brain releases large amounts of dopamine. The dopamine is then taken by receptors but there is excess dopamine in the synaptic gap. When the dopamine is being collected back up, the meth molecules are brought back along with excess dopamine. Meth works as an antagonist and takes up areas that dopamine should be picked up. When the excess dopamine is left in the synaptic cleft, your levels of dopamine drop sharply, rendering the user an addict for life in exaggerated terms.

5-Point Example

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Procrastination. This term is familiar to most college students. Dictionary.com defines procrastination as "the act or habit of procrastinating, or putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention." Many students experience procrastination with studying for tests, writing papers, or even writing the Psy1001 blogs. There always seems to be someone procrastinating on something. It seems to be a universal, or at least, national problem for students.

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However, could this problem be less universal, and more a personality problem?

This article says yes.

This blog post on the Psychology Today website by Timothy A. Pychyl describes the personality traits seen in the Big 5 test that relate to procrastination. Neuroticism is the main trait that correlates positively with procrastination, and surprisingly, Openness to Experience is also positive. According to the research, the more fantasy the person possesses, the more they will procrastinate.

However, many college students may disagree with these statistics, since nearly everyone experiences procrastination on occasion, especially with the new freedom they are experiencing. In my opinion, it wastes time to conclude the reasons for procrastination, instead of just trying to help people with different personalities overcome their procrastination habits. At least the article gives some suggestions to getting the task done at the end.

Posting Help

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As there were many concerns about posting last semester, I'm posting a link to a post that another student created with step by step instructions on how to post.

Please check out this great resource if you are having any difficulty posting

Notice that I have embedded this link so that it can be clicked on. This really helps navigation and I greatly appreciate it, and so will your classmates. Instructions on how to do things like this are in the link and it's super helpful so check it out.

Also, this is a good time to introduce you to categories, again shown in the above post. This post and others on posting and general FAQ section type stuff will be under the category help. You are REQUIRED to place your posts correctly in the Post #1-4 bin so that I can give you grades for them. This site is too big to not have it organized a bit. Hope this helps and feel free to post questions you have as comments here. Then there will be a record of responses so other people who have similar problems can find answers here too!

Welcome!

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Hello Section 9, and welcome to your Blog! The work you do here will account for 25 points for the semester, which is half of a regular test. Just as I'm sure none of you would leave half a test blank, I'm hoping you'll all get all the points you can from the blog by completing your assignments here. Also, if the whole class participates correctly, this can actually be one of the more interesting sites you can venture over to. If you catch yourself reading your friends status updates for the second or third time, hopefully you'll think of venturing over here for some knowledge, debate, and general scholarly fun. That being said I'll have a few more posts getting you acquainted with the blog shortly so you can use it to its potential.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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