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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 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.

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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.

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 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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