September 2011 Archives

The Adrenaline Effect

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I was just reading about the adrenal glands, which are the areas in our kidneys that produce adrenaline and cortisol, and I have found claims of people performing extraordinary feats of strength do to the presence of adrenaline. Adrenaline increases strength and focus in the body and it's release typically comes to us when we are in an emergency. One example of this is in a video I came across ( in which this guy rolls a helicopter of his friend who is stuck underneath. As you can see when you watch the video, it makes sense that the release of adrenaline can be very important to us. For instance, it allows us to make quick and focused decisions when we are under a lot of stress.

Although adrenaline clearly makes people stronger, i'm still not convinced that it will increase strength do the degree claimed by the news. I was also wondering how much strength is increased when adrenaline hits the body. Is it like 110% of what a person can normally lift? And does the environment play the most important factor in the amount of adrenaline you receive? For instance, it would seem to me someone who is in the middle of an intense basketball game wouldn't get as much as someone who is trapped under a car. Share your thoughts below, I think this is an important phenomenon.

Sensation And Perception

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Sensation is distinct from perception but most of us use these words interchangeably. After this week you should know the difference. Sensation begins with stimuli from our surroundings. This week you will be learning about the amazing mechanisms like rods and cones in the eye and hair cells in the ear that transform stimuli into neural impulse which the brain can interpret and create meaning.

Perception is what the brain does after your sensory organs have picked up and translated the stimulus.

Many students struggle with some of the underlying concepts that researchers have used to determine the range and limitations of our sensory organs.

Here are a few everyday examples of sensory experience that you can test or are familiar with that describe phenomena discussed in your book. See if you can name the concept and explain why it occurs.

Different portions of the body vary in their sensitivity to touch. Try this 2-point discrimination task with a friend.

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Bend your paperclip to make two points that are relatively parallel to each other

Have your partner shut his or her eyes, and ask them to guess if you are touching their hand with one or two points of the paperclip

Try this on various parts of the hand, arm or other parts of the body and with different distances between the two points

This next scenario represents a different S & P concept. Do you know what it is?



Isabel has prepared three cups of coffee but can't recall how much sugar is in each. The cup with the smallest amount of sugar is easy to identify, but Isabel can't taste any difference between the other two cups even though she knows one has more sugar.

Finally, it may be a case of early onset of dementia but this happens to me more than I would like to admit.

I ask my daughter,"Hey Ruby, have you seen my sunglasses anywhere?"

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Try and identify three concepts from your book or lecture this week that describe what is going on in each case.

And for those who want to know a little more background concerning our in activity in discussion section this week, check out this short article

Would you spot the gorilla?.pdf

Prefrontal Lobotomy

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Prefrontal lobotomy is a surgical procedure in which the fibers that connect the thalamus to the frontal lobes of the brain are removed. Lobotomy procedures were used for those who had mental disorders, obsessive-compulsive states, and schizophrenia. Prefrontal lobotomy was also used to control pain and reduce the emotional tension associated with hallucinations. The USSR officially banned prefrontal lobotomy in 1950. Doctors in the Soviet Union stated that it was "contrary to the principles of humanity" and it made "an insane person into an idiot."

I saw this one movie with my friend called "Sucker Punch". It was actually a very odd movie but there was one part that caught my attention. At the end of the movie they performed a prefrontal lobotomy on one of the characters. I was wondering what they were doing to her and my friend who knows so much about psychology explained to me what it was. It was actually very interesting and I never really thought that people would even think of doing such a thing. I thought it wasn't the right way to do it because what I thought was that they basically killed her because to me its call brain damage. Until now I still wouldn't say it isn't the right way to try "helping" a person relieve their pain and suffering.

you can find the clip here:

So now, would you agree that it is not the way to perform such procedure? I'm sure everyone would say "better to have a bottle in front than a frontal lobotomy," would they?


More information on prefrontal lobotomy on these sites:

Nature or Nurture

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The field of biology and genetics has grown substantially in the past century, so much so that we are not able to explain a great number of human diseases such as Down syndrome. This has lead scientists, especially psychologist, to think that behavior might not always be environmental, but genetics might have some influence on behavior. Since no gene that controls behavior has been discovered, it has been difficult to determine if behavior is genetically or environmentally influenced, however, studies using animals has shown strong support for genetically influenced.
In the Nova documentary Dogs Decoded two studies are done that address the nature vs. nurture question . One study looked the ability of nurture to affect the behavior of wolves. For this study the scientists took wolf cubs home and raised them as we would dogs, but instead of the wolves growing up to be our loyal best friends, they still exhibited aggressive behavior. It got so bad that the wolves had to be removed from the homes and brought to a nearby zoo.
The second study observed the genetics behind behavior. In this study foxes were breed to be tame. To do this the scientists breed foxes, and then after, based observing the foxes, they separated them into two categories, tame and aggressive. The scientists then breed the tame foxes with each other. Eventually, the all the foxes that were born to the tame group were tame and the same was true of the aggressive group, except they were aggressive. Along with tameness, the fox's phenotypes changed. Their tales became shorter, and their coat became lighter.
Since studies similar to this one cannot be performed on humans, these studies give us great insight into the nature vs. nurture debate. In the future, scientists might be able to identify the gene that codes for aggressive behavior, but what could be done with this knowledge will be debated greatly.


I began my search for a blog topic by browsing through some current psychology articles, where I stumbled upon an interesting article about the X chromosome. The article explains how each person has 46 chromosomes, 23 from each of the parents. All of the chromosomes are matched pairs except one, which determines sex.

Females get two X chromosomes, one from each parent, while males get an X chromosome from the mother, and a Y chromosome from the father.

The article also explained how most of the time women are more x-related to their paternal grandmother than their paternal grandfather. Refer to this article containing related information along with a helpful chart to clarify this concept.

After pondering this concept for a while, I began to wonder what other kind of information is contained on this X chromosome, or even the Y chromosome absent in females? What kind of diseases are related to the X chromosome?

My curiosity then led me to an article referring to a study conducted at UCLA suggesting the sexual orientation of a male may be influenced by his mother's inherited X chromosome. Is our sexual orientation possibly inherited from our mother? Or maybe the bigger question the article points out is whether advances in genetics may lead to "baby shopping", where parents can chose their children's sex, physical appearance, and even sexual orientation?


Nature&Nurture and Twin studies

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Nature vs. Nurture

Although some people have declared that Nature-Nurture debate has been over since most people agree that both genes and environments affect the development of human behaviors and characteristics. However, the real nature-nurture issue is far more complicated, and the debate is far from over. The nature-nurture concept is very important, because it tells us how effective environment changes can alter the development of human behaviors and skills. For example, it would be interesting to known whether educational or intervention program can change later criminal behaviors of children in impoverished neighborhoods where crime rates are high. Some research suggests that early education programs can indeed change aggression and later criminal behavior. See the following article:

On the other hand, this topic is of great interest to me because I have a genetically identical twin sister myself. We had lived together for 19 years since we were born. Yet, there are still many things different between us. See below a photo between my twin sister and me:
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One can easily identify me from this picture if he/she knows that I am very active and my sister is generally very quiet. I am more talkative than my sister as well, and my curiosity is much stronger than hers. For example, I am interested know how things work, and why people behave in certain ways, which is precisely the reason that drew me to study psychology. In contrast, my sister would prefer knowing the results rather than the process.

Of course, we share a lot of common things. We can easily pick the same clothes, the gift, and may even fall in love with the same guy. Indeed, we were wearing the same clothes in the above picture. We are always sure that if we pick a gift for each other, the other person would like it. I guess this is a good thing

We share the same genes and had shared the same environment for many years. Yet, we are similar and we are different! Should that be the results or nature or nurture?

complicated nurture-nature

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After reading articles of nature or nurture,I become interested about this complicated issue. This issue is about scientists had done research that show both nature genes from parents and environmental factor could effect a person's characteristic and heritability . The three techniques of doing research on this issue are family study, twin study and adoption study.Which one is more dominant?

The most impressive example in my mind is cartoon Lion King. It is amazing that Mufasa is so strong and kind while the other guy is illlook, evil that he murder his brother.Due to what I have learn in this chapter,What cause the big difference between this twins is probably gene or nuture environment.They may have experienced different issue during their childhood thus form different personality. In this example,Environmental factor affect a lot more than the Genes do.But, are there any techniques to figure out how to control these two variables? Will one day we be able to select the best way for children to grow up and help them form a appropriate personality?Can we find a Balance between them?

Just heard about an interesting study happening here on campus involving how International students adjust to college.

You can earn up to 5 REP points or a $35.00 Target gift card if you choose to participate.

You are eligible if:

*You identify as an international student whose first language is NOT English.
*You have just started your first semester at the University of Minnesota.

Click here for more information about the study

A number of years ago I was introduced to the skeptical movement. The movement describes a skeptic as one that uses critical thinking skills to evaluate truth claims made about observable phenomena. It may be a politician discussing the need for drilling in the arctic, a psychic describing their ESP, or a religious fundamentalist claiming that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. As a skeptical thinker, I am now armed with Carl Sagan's baloney detection kit (he was very polite). I was surprised, and happy to see that the first chapter of our book contained what the author calls the "six principles of scientific thinking." You can find five of the six in the baloney detection kit. Can you find the one principal not referred to in the kit?

The article posted by Ms. Briggs about the hoax correlation between web browser use and IQ prompted me to write because I think it is important to have more than just the six principles in your own kit. The ones I run into most often in the media, speaking with friends, or in my job are:

1) The straw man argument - creates a false and usually indefensible statement that the person creating the straw man has no problem tearing down, such as, "the death panels the President wants through his health care plan are reprehensible."

2) Argument from antiquity - every time I hear someone say, "well acupuncture has been around for thousands of years" I want to reply, "well so was trial by combat, maybe we should bring that back too."

3) Argument from ignorance - an example might be "well, evolution claims that we came from monkeys and that's just impossible." Just because you cannot understand how something works does not mean it does not. Can you find the other fallacy in that sentence?

4) False Dichotomy - it is either A or B. Maybe it could be C? or D? or A - B or whatever. Why is Gould's idea of non-overlapping realms of science and religion on page 10 of our book really a false dichotomy?

Print out the baloney detection kit, read it, think about it, and you will quickly find logical fallacies being spouted all around you with the speaker and listeners (except you) oblivious to the silliness of their proposition, or at least their basis for believing it. As humans, we are predisposed to believing correlation equals causation and the plural of anecdote is data, but predisposed is not is, be critical. What was the first logical fallacy you noticed in your day to day life after reading the baloney detection kit? Comment on this post and let me know.

After reading the two articles about the amygdala, I find it very interesting how important this part of our brain is and how much can be learned about the evolution of human beings by learning more about the functions of the amygdala. The first article explained how important the amygdala is for fear response, and when one is missing the amygdala, they can behave fearlessly and unknowingly put themselves into very dangerous situations. The second article touched on the importance of the amygdala's role in responding to animals, which has not only kept our ancestors safe from predators but continues to keep us safe in precarious situations.

I found the second article particularly interesting because of the fact that human beings actually pay as much attention to animals as they do humans. There are so many associations with the importance of animals in human being's lives; people can be referred to as "animal lovers" and a dog is often called "man's best friend". In pop culture today people there are websites devoted to pictures of cute and cuddly animals. I have never thought about why this is before, but this article helped to explain the importance of the amygdala in the response of humans to animals. Personally, I feel a very deep connection to animals and I am wondering, if one would call themselves an "animal lover" and feels a deep connection to animals, could this be seen in increased activity of the amygdala?

Nature vs. Nurture

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This week in discussion section we will discuss the nature/nurture question as it relates to the story that you read about the Bogel family. Pretty crazy situation for the Bogels. Would make a nice reality TV series on FOX. We should all be grateful we were not born into that clan!


Still, how do we know what drives such criminal behavior? Is it in our basic makeup, the code in our genes? How much is this behavior learned from our parents, siblings and friends?

Here are a couple of article that address both sides of the issue. Some food for thought before Thursday's class.

Altering a Mouse Gene Turns Up Aggression, Study Says.docx

The Pleasure of Giving.docx


More about your blog assignments

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Here is some criteria for what I am looking for in your blog posts.

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There are some general guidelines in the syllabus that you should refer to. The criteria below are more specific instructions that will help you create interesting and comment provoking blog posts.

Blogs are worth 6 points each. You will earn points based on the following. The first two are the most critical.

1. Explain a concept from Psy 1001 lectures or the Lilienfeld text that has interested you over the past two weeks. This should be your first paragraph. Essentially, summarize some new information you have learned in psychology that you think is cool. DO NOT directly copy out some definition from the text book! Summarize in your own words.

2. Provide a real-life example that illustrates the concept you described above. Most likely from your own experience but it could involve someone you know or some current event that is relevant. Show us how you can apply what you just learned in class to your own life. Why does it matter? Why should we care?i-think-therefore-i-blog.jpg

3. Creativity counts! Incorporate other media into your post by using a photo, video, or link to other articles.

4. Connecting. Good blogs should connect to other internet media. You should first look to comment on or refer to other blog posts in your class. Extra credit for blog posts that receive the most comments.

5. Clarity and mechanics. Blog posts should be short, to the point, focused on one topic. Paragraphs should be brief, you are pushing it if they go beyond 4 sentences. Refer to the syllabus for what we mean by what makes a clear and functional blog post.
Here are some additional tips:

The 4 Pillars of Writing Exceptional Blogs

20 Types of Blog Posts - Battling Bloggers Block

6. Finally, end your blog with some kind of question. Based on what you have learned and what you know from your own experience, what questions do you have? Perhaps your fellow students or instructor has some ideas or other places to look for answers.

Hopefully, this will provoke comments from others which might earn you extra credit!

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Week three news

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OK, scores have finally been posted on Webvista. Now that I have gotten through grading this first assignment, I believe I have a solid method for organizing this task and should have future grades up quicker.

To see my comments about your work simply pull up your document and on the upper right hand corner is a comments pull down menu. Select "show comments stream". You can respond to these comments if something doesn't make sense. I also highlighted sections in your doc that I wanted to draw your attention to.

You do not need to make these corrections on this assignment. They are simply suggestions for ways in which you can improve your writing in the future.

Congratulations to team CKJ for doing the best work of the week. They earn an extra point for their excellent effort. You are welcome to check out their work on Google docs to see what it takes to be the best.

Now on to biological psychology and the role of genetics.


I'm just testing to see whether I can post on this blog.

Recently, a number of reputable news agencies--CNN, NPR, the BBC--reported a study that found that that the average IQ of Internet Explorer users was 80 (well below average, about the 10th percentile) whereas the IQ of opera users was 125 points (well above average, around the 95th percentile), but it turns out that the study was a hoax. Reading about it now, it seems clear that the news agencies could have avoided some embarrassment if they had just used the Six Principles of Scientific Thinking. Claiming that something like browser choice reflects such a big differences in IQ is an extraordinary claim; the principle that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" suggests that such a claim deserves more evidence than a single press release from a small, unknown company! If nothing else, maybe the claim deserved Replication?

This case also makes me wonder if maybe a 7th "principle of scientific thinking" should be "evaluate the source of the claim?"

How do Brains Work?

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Well that is a huge question that I don't expect you to answer here but check out this video where Steven Colbert challenges Steven Pinker to explain how the brain works in 5 words or less.

For this blog entry you might want to comment on a very key part of your brain that influences a great deal of your behavior: the amygdala.


Notice how it is directly connected to the hippocampus who's main function deals with memory. In addition researchers have mapped some of the connections the amygdala has with other parts of the brain. Amygdala connections.jpg

From this image you can clearly see that the amygdala is well positioned to widely influence brain function. Much like the hub of a bicycle wheel.

For this writing assignment check out these two articles for ideas about the function of the amygdala. Summarize what you learned from these readings and then describe how this new knowledge might apply to your own life.hs-amygdala.jpg

Humans, Like Animals, Behave Fearlessly Without the Amygdala.docx

Human Brain Responds To Animals, Cute Or Creepy - NPR".pdf

Facial Feedback Hypothesis

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Our in class activity this week involves running a small experiment to test if forcing facial muscles into a smile or a frown changes how humorous cartoons are perceived.

You will be writing about how this experiment was executed and organizing your findings into a document that follows APA style rules for psychological science publication.

Based on the data collected by your group and the class as a whole, did the experiment confirm your hypothesis?

Here are a couple of news articles that explain why laughter feels good and another which describes how a botox injection might dampen other emotions.

Laughter Produces Endorphins, Study Finds -

Botox May Deaden Not Just Nerves.docx

Talking About Minds

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Be creative with your blog posts. Feel free to post pictures, videos, music to help your post rise above pointless barking.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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