October 2011 Archives

Imagination Inflation

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When I read the story of Neadean Cool, I wondered how a nonexistent memory became real for her. The psychotherapist used techniques to re-imagine past events as if they really happened. The therapist put more focus on the extraneous events that made a somewhat believable story and eventually convince Cool that she had a plethora of conditions effecting her current mental state.
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This graph shows that people were polled first if they did a memorable event . Then they were told to imagine what events they did not do. Later they were polled again, and the researchers found that more people thought that they actually did many of these events.

In recent years an increasing amount of "smart pills" have become available, claiming to enhance the memory of the consumer, or even help prevent the oncoming of Alzheimer's disease. However, there has been very little evidence to support the claims made by manufacturers, this prompted me to do a little research of my own. I came across this article < http://web.mit.edu/murj/www/v13/v13-Features/v13-f1.pdf >.

The article pointed out the same ethical issue as the book from class, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements or herbal remedies created for memory enhancement. I had already pondered this issue, but the article also shed light on another issue. The article suggested these "smart pills" may be a form of cheating. Would these pills allow for people who could afford them to rise above the rest of society? What other issues could occur if these drugs actually worked?

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As the weeks have gone by and the weather has been changing, I have begun to think about how the environment we are in can be considered a conditioned stimulus in the realm of classical conditioning. The distinctive smell of fall air for example, has brought back memories of attending high school football games, playing in the pep band, and in general having a lot of fun. From what I have learned in the book about classical conditioning, I can explain how this works.


Focusing just on the football game example, the high school football game would be the unconditioned stimulus. These games elicited a unconditioned response from me, which can be generalized as excitement or happiness. Now, since most football games occur during the fall, the smell of the fall air, among other environmental stimuli become the conditioned stimuli. These are previously neutral stimuli that became associated with the football games. So now, when I am exposed to the conditioned stimulus, the fall air, I exhibit a conditioned response, which is a general feeling of happiness.


Does anyone else have similar responses to the change in seasons?

While reading the textbook on learning, I found the section connecting violence in the media and in real life very interesting. The hypothesis behind this is that people see violence in such things as films, movies, and video games, and through observational learning, they might go out and mimic those acts of violence on other people around them. What interests me the most is how studies show a correlation between real-life violence and media violence, yet it isn't something I have noticed from personal experience. For instance, since I have been a child have viewed hundreds of movies, yet I would consider myself a pretty calm and in control person.
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But if this does turn out to be true, then this information could definitely be very useful to our society. For instance, we could make it harder for those of us who tend to be more violent to get a hold of violent media. That way, we might be able to help ensure that inmates coming back into society aren't going to go straight back to jail. This information might also be used to help make sure children who are growing up don't become super aggressive towards each other to.

Of course in reality, there are probably a lot of other reasons why people become violent. They might have grown up in poverty or maybe they were beaten as a child. That poses a great question: how can we change society to a more mild and reasonable one?

      On the topic of memory this week I was particularly stirred, and not only in my capacity as an amateur psychologist, but very much as a product of my personal experience addressing false memories. After suffering significant confabulations of recall, it was by the levelheadedness of my friend that I escaped a life-capsizing situation without having my life too severely affected, although long after the event I remain wowed by the seeming veracity of the remembrance. More than a few moons ago I was attacked in a public bathroom. One of a group of belligerents forced his way into the stall and set upon me from behind, his intention unknown but certainly presumable and therefor exigent, and I believed he was going to kill me. While turning to face my attacker I handled the weapon which I carried about my appendix and presented it fully enough for efficacy, this in the span of surely no more than two seconds (and with myself protruding from my open fly, mind you).

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     I barked at him fucking stop before striking him half a dozen times, and knew that I had hit him once at least because he stopped immediately, the tremendous force impelling him back out of the stall. And then he was gone from the space, along with his cohort whom I did not see but otherwise sensed, and I knew that I had almost certainly killed him, having struck him so many times. My friend who had been answering nature in another stall found me and carefully recognized my state of acute stress, the adrenaline rush, and he coolly composed my person well enough to steer me out of there, though I was reluctant throughout the hasty-but-comported egress. Despite severe tunnel vision, I had noticed clearly blood on the wall and what had fallen to the floor, confirming my suspicion. I protested, arguing that I'd just killed a kid--a Black kid, he, and a White guy, I, in a city where the contrast would matter--and we had to call it in. When I had recovered to the point of reasoning he explained what had happened: some dudes had busted into my locked stall and fled when I squared off with the point man. He had only heard the commotion from his own stall, and had completed the rest of the picture from what he observed after the fracas, which did not include any blood. A careful examination later proved not only that no gore had stained the bathroom after the upset, but also that I had not hit my attacker even once, due to a snafu in dexterity.

     I was so convinced of having greatly harmed the guy that my brain invented the addendum of blood stains, which evidence would reasonably corroborate a belief in his injuries. Furthermore, whereas I remember shouting at my attacker--I distinctly recall the sound of my voice articulating the words--my witness reports that I did naught but roar incomprehensibly. Since the event I had accepted the broad truism that severe stressors can do goofy things to the mind. However, this week's lecture series piqued my specific interest and spurred me toward some Googling as well as to actually perusing the course text. Through my reading I've become a lay expert in the study of psychological shock and its effect on memory and perception, and specifically the topic of combat stress. In this way the memory unit connected with me more than any other thus far in the semester.

Dreams do have importance.

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Just a short mini documentary clip from discovery on dreaming.

Dreaming is a universal experience, and occurs not only during REM sleep(although most does) but also during non-REM sleep. Lots of theories and ideas have tried to understand why we dream and its usefulness. Most of our dreams, are mundane and have little cohesion. However many have claimed that from dreaming, they have had significant breakthroughs. Salvador Dali, himself, based a lot of his work on his dreams. Personally a remember a lot of emotional dreams, and they tend to be vivid, usually they tend to make me re-examine my beliefs and thought process, but never have I solved anything in a dream. Has anyone here had a breakthrough because of a dream?

Memory... How Does it Work?

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One of the most interesting parts of psychology to me is how we are able to retain information. As most people know, we have long term memory and short term memory. However, there is a lot more involved in the process of determining which information we store and hold on to in our minds.

When an event first occurs, chemicals in our brains creates the knowledge of an event happening. These chemicals create what we refer to as "Short Term Memory". (http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2006/10/29/how-do-we-remember-a-neuroscience-explanation/) Once we have the initial snapshot of the event that we are remembering, many reactions need to take place between chemicals in our brain. If this does not happen, we will forget the event. If the reactions take place, a permanent memory is created and that is what we refer to as "Long Term Memory".


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No matter which part of the memory an event goes into, there is an incredibly complicated process which leads to the simple action of remembering. That is one of the main reasons why I find the human memory process so fascinating. If scientists can figure out a way to manipulate whether our long term memory is used in any situation, we will be able to freely control our memories. Do you think that would be a useful discovery in the near future?

Sleep Is the Key

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After reading about the stages of sleep in chapter 5 I realized how important sleep is to the human body. Sleep deprivation can cause major factors like weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart problems. I found it interesting the college students are recommended to get nine hours of sleep. Most student only get around six hours of sleep so we lose out on necessary REM sleep. After examining my sleep pattern I found that I only get about five to seven hours of sleep a night and I should try to get more. The REM sleep must be essential because the body puts you through a REM rebound if you lose out on a couple nights of rest. REM is a very important, if not the most important part of the sleep cycle. The stage where your brain is the most active, is where you are most at rest.
I also found the section in the book about Narcolepsy very interesting because I have a friend that suffers from this sleeping disorder. I remember instances where he would fall asleep multiple times in the same class on a regular basis. Luckily he does not show any signs of cataplexy and with new medications like Provigil he can continue to fight of the drowsiness..

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Most smokers want to break their bad habit or eventually stop but it is very difficult to do so. Most smokers try nicotine patches to try and break their tobacco dependence. When people generally hear the word "hypnosis" they often associate it with the fake clueless zombie like states often portrayed in many Hollywood films. In reality, people under hypnosis are in a state of heightened suggestibility where their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and most importantly behaviors can be altered.

A recent study conducted by the VA Medical Center and the University of California-San Francisco found that hypnosis may aid smokers who are combating their addiction. Patients are induced into the relaxed hypnotic state and then provided with a series of skills for coping with nicotine withdrawal symptoms and the urges to smoke they may face. Patients are also given audiotapes to reinforces these messages when at home. Researchers found hypnotherapy when used in conjunction with nicotine patches could result and help smokers stop for up to 1 year!

One crazy, but very real phenomenon that I deal with daily is called the Tip-Of-The-Tongue Phenomenon. This occurs when someone knows the answer to a question, but can't come up with it. It is probably one of the most frustrating memory issues that everyone has dealt with at least once in their life. The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that investigators have proven that usually when people believe an answer is at the tip of their tongue, they are correct! Scientists believe that these situations are due not to information not getting stored in our memory, but having trouble retrieving the information that is in there somewhere! Research has shown that if we are given the first letter of a word that we are trying to muster up, we can typically come up with the answer.
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So, the next time you believe you know an answer but, for the life of you, cannot seem to come up with it, know that you are not the only one who suffers from this painfully irritating occurrence. Even butchers have trouble once in a while!

Lucid dreaming and Inception

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Lucid dreaming is when one is dreaming and knows that they are dreaming. This topic interests me because it reminds me of a couple of my dreams. What was interesting was that most of the time when I have lucid dreams, I was able to control my dreams. From the readings I would fall into the 72% who can control what is happening in their dreams.

This topic also reminds me of the movie Inception. I don't want to give away too much of the story but, the characters in this story can control their dreams and doing so, they can also live in their dreams. The catch is that it wouldn't become real in the real world, and one can possibly die from going into too many dreams. I would be fascinating if we were to be able to do such thing. How would science describe that in the real world? If everyone were to have such powers to control and even live in their dreams would they take the risks knowing the consequences?

But I am sure everyone has at least experienced one lucid dream before have they?

Lucid dreaming

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Lucid dreaming is when one is dreaming and knows that they are dreaming. This topic interests me because it reminds me of a couple of my dreams. What was interesting was that most of the time when I have lucid dreams, I was able to control my dreams. From the readings I would fall into the 72% who can control what is happening in their dreams.

This topic also reminds me of the movie Inception. I don't want to give away too much of the story but, the characters in this story can control their dreams and doing so, they can also live in their dreams. The catch is that it wouldn't become real in the real world, and one can possibly die from going into too many dreams. I would be fascinating if we were to be able to do such thing. How would science describe that in the real world? If everyone were to have such powers to control and even live in their dreams would they take the risks knowing the consequences?

But I am sure everyone has at least experienced one lucid dream before have they?

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Most everyone has experienced a moment of what is known as déjà vu. These moments of familiarity are sometimes so intense that we are positive we have seen or been somewhere before; even considering it a psychic episode where we can actually predict the future. These claims may be a bit premature, with psychologists studying the phenomenon more and more there are better scientific explanations. These hypotheses can be tested unlike the psychic claims, which are not falsifiable. One study, by Tero Taiminen and Satu Jaaskelainen, shines some light on the possible causes of déjà vu. They studied a case of a 39 year old healthy male physician "who developed intense and recurrent déjà vu experiences within 24h of initiating concomitant amantadine-phenylpropanolamine treatment against influenza." Taiminen and Jaaskelainen suggest that the drug's effects on dopaminergic activity was the reason for the increase in cases déjà vu. This study further suggests that "déjà vu experiences may be provoked by increased dopamine activity in mesial temporal structures in the brain."

How to improve our memory

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In chapter 7, Memory, we learned 'The three process of memory'. This chapter gave us some tips or methods that how to memorize new information, such as by using pegword method, method of loci, and keyword method. Those three methods are part of mnemonics, which is that helping us remembers information by using a visual image, or a word.
Besides of those kind methods as the book mentioned, I researched other tips or methods that how to improve our memory. I especially searched what kind of foods can help to improve it. In the website said that fruits and vegetables improve memory because those foods contained antioxidants, which protect our brain cells from damage, and it mentioned about 'Omega-3s', which is fatty acids and has beneficial for brain health. There are plenty of omega-3s in fish, such as salmon, tuna, halibut, trout, and herring, and also non fish sources, such as walnuts, flaxseed oil, and soybeans. The most interesting food that I searched was drinking alcohol. I have known that drinking alcohol might kill our brain cells. However, it said that drinking alcohol in 'moderation' (around 1 glass a day for women; 2 for men) would improve memory and cognition, especially drinking red wine.
I wonder that would it is better if we study for test after drink a glass or two glasses of red wine?
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Limitless!... Or Not...

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We all would love to believe that are minds have a limitless capacity for information that can be processed and stored; however, this is far from the truth. In reality we can only store about 7 plus or minus 2 items of information in our short term memory - this phenomenon is known as "The Magical Number". The capacity of our short term memories has always been a hot topic, but especially lately with movies like "Limitless" making headlines -
These types of movies and stories play with the idea that humans are not using their brains to their full capacity. Movies such as this raise interesting questions, is it possible for our brains to go much further than "The Magical Number" and hold much more information? And if so, would we ever be able to access this full capacity like in the movie "Limitless"?

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Every year, Americans spend several hundred million dollars on smart pill like "Ginkgo". Yet, controlled studies comparing Ginkgo with a placebo show that its treatment effects on memory for normal individuals are minimal if not nonexistent. Taking pills may not help memory, but scientific methods do. For example, method of loci is a good method for improving memory. In imaginary routes that we are familiar with, we think of the things that we encounter, and place the terms that we need to memorize along the route. In this way, we keep the terms ordered and easy to memorize.

Who is the rat?

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Sleep is a common topic of discussion in my house. The common theme: how can we get our 9 month old son to sleep through the night? As I was reading about operant conditioning and Skinner's ideas on reinforcement I couldn't help but think we were going about this all wrong. When we cut back the number of bottles he ate at night, hoping he'd sleep for longer periods since eating was no longer a positive reinforcement to continue waking, it should have been an all or nothing decision. However, like many parents, we felt that was a bit harsh and decided to let him keep one about half way through the night. According to Skinner, this varied schedule is going to yield more consistent waking and I have to say I have the lack of sleep to (unofficially) support it his claim. I think parenting is one conditioning experiment after another, but I have to question who really is the rat, the child or the parent?
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First Love Retrospect

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Every teenager would show great interest in TWILIGHT, cause what it decribes about "love" in the scenario is quite beautiful and appealing.Anoher example, every time I ask my parants aout their most impressive dating they had, no wonder the answer is the frst one.
For more famous examples, first love scenario in the movie are always quite tempting. So did i think previousl. But after reading chapter 7, I started to queston myself. Does it reall have elegant background music echoing when two lovers first meet each other? Or it was just their memory reconstructive these scenes under belief and expectation? More is the latter one.
When we retrospect our first meeting with someone we love, we are usually in a god mood,
also influenced by a set of things like confirmation biase. Thus, bad things gone, good things left.
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Cramming... Best Study Plan!!

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Before college I used to do a good job at studying for school gradually, but the older I got, the more work I received which resulted in a dramatic change in my study habits. The majority of college students cram for tests the night before. Pulling all nighters are no longer a rare occurrence but biweekly events. This form of studying is significantly less effective and efficient than the gradual learning process, and once a student starts, they can get caught is a vicious cycle because while a student crams for one subject, the other subjects get put a side. The best advise to avoid this problem is to not procrastinate, start projects and readings as soon as they are assigned!

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The Gift of Endless Memory

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Last year around this time 60 minutes did a special on the phenomenon of a superior autobiographical memory. The part 1 and part 2 of the entire 60 minutes segment look into the minds and memories of a few extraordinary individuals. 121910EndlessMemory_640x480_244x183.jpg

As seen in the picture, 5 of the 6 identified individuals that are suggested to have a superior autobiographical memory were interviewed and ask questions about the immense amount of information within their brains.

These individuals, such as Bob Petrella and Marilu Henner, are able to answer question regarding dates and memories from the past. The amount of detail and rapid recollection of these memories is incredible, and the information they were able to recall was truly amazing to me.

caudate-nucleus.gifThrough MRI scans researchers identified a significant increase in the size of the temporal lobe, associated with storing memories, and a second region deep inside the brain called the caudate nucleus, which is believed to play a role in habit and skill learning.

A great deal of further research must be conducted to determine what is actually occurring inside the brains of these individuals.

The phenomenon of superior autobiographical memory is an intriguing idea that I will follow as more research and information appears in the news.

Memory and Reality

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memory1.jpegWe often use metaphors to describe human memory and a common comparison for memory is the computer hard drive. While we can think about the similarities in how information is encoded, stored and retrieved with computer and brain, the analogy can also be misleading. memory.png We expect the information we store on our hard drive to be just as we left it when retrieving it from storage, but our own memories are not exact copies of the original experience. In fact they often change and as old information interacts with new information, we actively reconstruct our memories each time we recall them.

Much of what happens in the court of law relies on witnesses recalling past events. In your activity today you will be discussing how this can go horribly wrong. We owe much of our understanding of the limits of eyewitness testimony to the work of Elizabeth Loftus. Here is an interesting Scientific American article summarizing her work.

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And if you still are not convinced, check out this video showing how easy it is to misremember the details of a crime.

Some of you will have difficulty understanding exactly how Paul Ingram came to believe that he committed the crimes his daughter accused him of. Some recent brain imaging research provides a clue.
Researcher Show How False Memories Are Formed _ Northwestern University Newscenter.pdf

What role then does attention play in memory formation and what are some of the conditions necessary for false memories to occur?

Finally, as students, at one time or another you likely wondered how much easier school would be for someone with a photographic memory. You might change your mind after reading about a woman who can't forget anything.

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Well, not really, unless this looks familiar:

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       Take this test. How did you do? I scored a 0, indicating no issues in my color differentiation abilities. Given the greater genetic predisposition to color blindness in men, it would seem logical to assume that the average man would score higher than the average woman, although a median analysis may show the differences to be chunky rather than smooth. (if I get enough comments I'll do graph and post that in the comments). However, it seems that not all of the differences in differentiation flow from genotype. Watch this video to see what I mean:



       Clearly, language influences not only how we linguistically categorize colors but our visual perception and therefore mental categorization of them as well. Since the stimulus is the same but the perception is different, something biological would seem to be going on inside the brain. If this difference is not genotypical but imprinted by language differences, does this support the hypothesis that developmental plasticity is the cause? Or is it priming like the example on page 253 of our text book in that once we have learned the category and see the color, the differentiation differences are caused by this presupposition? What about subtle inherited differences in the genome apart from color blindness? What else could it be and how would we test these hypotheses?

See here for a peer reviewed article on the subject from the university in England that was doing the research in the video. The bibliography lists Dr. Franklin's work as well.

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I was definitely intrigued by Paul Tough's article "Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?" The use of dramatic play with preschoolers as a way of promoting self-control seems to me to be a really solid idea. At one point the article mentioned experiments that were done to gauge what good could potentially come of role-playing for little kids, stating; "In one experiment, 4-year-old children were first asked to stand still for as long as they could. They typically did not make it past a minute. But when the kids played a make-believe game in which they were guards at a factory, they were able to stand at attention for more than four minutes. In another experiment, prekindergarten-age children were asked to memorize a list of unrelated words. Then they played "grocery store" and were asked to memorize a similar list of words -- this time, though, as a shopping list. In the play situation, on average, the children were able to remember twice as many words." I found this to be really interesting, and definitely telling about the possible benefits of programs like Tools of the Mind, where young kids are immersed in this kind of play every day at school.
Another part of the article that I found really interesting was when it pointed out some flaws in the traditional method of using behaviorism to teach kids self-control, when it states, "The message to kids was that terrible things would happen if they didn't control their impulses, and the role of adults, whether parents or preschool teachers, was to train children by praising them for their positive self-control ("Look at how well Cindy is sitting!") and criticizing them for their lapses... But Bodrova and Leong say that those "external reinforcement systems" create "other-directed regulation" -- good behavior done not from some internal sense of control but for the approval of others, to avoid punishment and win praise and treats. And that, they say, is a kind of regulation that is not particularly valuable or lasting. Children learn only how to be obedient, how to follow orders, not how to understand and regulate their own impulses." I completely agree with this point. I have always thought that type of teaching was flawed, because if you teach a kid that they shouldn't do this or that because they'll get in trouble if they do it, then if they figure out a way to do it without getting caught or are not afraid to face the consequences, there's nothing to stop them. As opposed to instilling a sense of responsibility for controlling their own actions just for themselves.
All-in-all, I thought the article was pretty brilliant, and hope that the methods described in it prove fruitful in the years to come.

How to Teach Our Children?

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The article Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control? discusses the idea and rationale behind constructive play and how increasing a child's executive thinking it more critical than academic learning in pre-k & kindergarten aged children. Research is being done to support the idea that a child's self-regulation skills, control over their emotions and cognitive impulses, can be a better predictor of academic achievement and success than IQ scores. These executive skills can be taught through structured play; an example from the article is students pretending to go to the grocery store and having to remember what's on their list. The studies are showing strong support, but it's difficult to determine if the correlation is in fact causation since it's difficult to single out one single approach.
As a mother of a 10 month old, it wasn't long ago that my husband and I were touring daycare centers for our son. Of course, we were looking for somewhere safe & clean but it was also important that we find somewhere that had an established curriculum, incorporated learning into the children's play time and would introduce some structure into the daily routine. school of fish.png
Much like the article we felt these characteristics would foster a nurturing environment for our son; for us it was about the environment that would entice, encourage and support his learning rather than specific exercises or lesson plans. Is this a new concept? I would argue no; I think it's going back to the basics. In my opinion, parents today put too many pressures & set unrealistic expectation on their children hoping to raise the next professional athlete or award winning scholar. We all have dreams for our children, but is teaching a child to read at 10 months or starting them in a training program before they can walk the strategy to success?

Nature vs. Nuture

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In nature and nurture part, I want to know more about adoption studies. Here, what I want to know about is that are adoptee changed their traits by environments where they are in, or biological parents because of the genes inherit from.
So, I searched about it and found a research article on the internet, and it gave us some experimental examples to determine what factors have the most effect to them. The first example was that if the biological parent has shyness genetic, then the adoptee would be also shy. This strengthens the possibility of a genetic link overshadowing family environment (Daniels & Plomin, 1985). Another example is Steve Jobs who was CEO of Apple Inc. The reason that I mention him is he was adopted by the family of Paul Jobs and Clara Jobs. At this point, if Steve Jobs was be brought by his biological parent, would he have a successful life? So, I think this example gave us that environmental factor had more influence than biological factor. So, which factors do you think have more impact to adoptee between biological and environmental, or, even both factors?
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http://blogs.babble.com/famecrawler/2011/02/17/national-enquirer-steve-jobs-six-weeks-to-live/

The Paranormal Industry

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After reading about the extraordinary claims Scientific thinking principle, I realize that even this theory proven false takes people by storm. Movies like; The 4th Kind, Paranormal Activity, and Signs have made big sales for their movies and helped create the belief that they are based off true stories. Even the facts that state for example that the crop circles were made by college students doesn't push people away from the theaters. I believe that this scientific principle connects with the term confirmation bias because we are sticking to the belief that extra terrestrials exist. Give credit to the movie industry though for making a catchy trailer that catches your eye and ignites your brain.... The movie must trigger something in our sympathetic nervous system that makes us scared and start to sweat. Then the rest of the night we rely on the parasympathetic nervous system to calm us down. Google Image Result for.webarchive

Even though these extraordinary claims do not have the extraordinary evidence to go with, people are not budging on their own views. The psychologists must just be frustrated at watching the paranormal theory make money at the box office..

The nature vs. nurture has been a popular topic debated for years. Which is right or wrong? I would say neither. And I can show this to the world is through the example of me and my sister.

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Throughout the years my sister and I have fought because we were different in so many ways. I was more girl-like, and she dressed like a boy. Literally, she shopped in the boys department of stores. My automatic sense of girl-like tendencies and her love for acting like a "dude" could not be explained, because throughout our whole lives we grew up in the same home with the same parents. This difference could only be due to our genetic makeup and the differences in it that makes us unique and different from each other.

We did share one thing in common: our sarcastic sense of humor. Growing up together and living with a mother who we loved to make of together enabled us to develop the same sarcasm that we now share. It's one of the qualities that we have that other relatives do not because they did not grow up with me and my sister. This trait must have been developed through our experiences growing up while influencing each other. In other words, it was a nurture-influenced characteristic.

Both nature and nurture are right because our genes and our environments have influenced me to be who I am today and my sister to be her lovable self as well.

I am curious to know, if there are any situations where it is obvious that nature is the root cause for a behavior or if nurture is, and are there any examples out there?

Typically when we think about hypnosis, we picture a hypnotist waiving a pocket watch back and forth telling us we are getting sleepy and somehow convincing people that they are getting sleepy.
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This image is depicted in the media and the wonders that occur within the mind during hypnotism is greater than the swinging pocket watch and the hypnotist.

Our conscious mind allows us to interpret and make decisions with regard to the world around us. The subconscious mind on the other hand deals with daily functions, such as breathing, that we do not have to think about.
Hypnosis allows hypnotists to "access" the subconscious part of the mind. The reason that hypnotists tell their audience that they are getting sleepy is to instill a sense of relaxation to allow the conscious mind to shut down and the subconscious mind to begin to take over.

When the subconscious mind takes over our bodily functions, emotions, and memories are now accessible by the hypnotist. While a good portion of the reasoning behind hypnosis is due logical reasoning, there have been EEG tests that have shown an decrease in brain activity within the left hemisphere and increase in the right.
While hypnosis is largely used for amusement purposes, it can also be used to heal patients. Bad habits can be controlled through hypnosis treatment. While some of these techniques are successful, the idea of accessing memories does not prove to be valid. Memories that are recalled through hypnosis can be true memories while others can be false that have been created the subconscious.
The following video attempts to place viewers under hypnosis.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUFYJ2NppfgIt does this by relaxing the viewer and bringing their attention to the video and their breathing so that he can access the subconscious and tell the viewer what to think and feel. He also alludes to accessing memories.

The question that I pose is how do we tell whether hypnosis actually cures bad habits, such as smoking, or if this can be explained by the placebo effect? Does the fact that patients now associate smoking with bad taste in their mouth ("induced by hypnosis") result directly from the hypnotist accessing the subconscious mind or does the fact that the patient is now aware that he/she should feel this way affect their overall outlook on cigarettes? What tests could be done to tell?

The section on neural plasticity in Chapter 3 and the subsequent sections on the functions of different areas of the brain have captured my imagination more than any other part of the book in the past few weeks. At the same time we went through these sections in lecture, I have been witnessing it firsthand. A close friend of mine suffered a hemorrhagic stroke while in surgery for the replacement of a shunt. The doctors are unsure of why it happened, and were not aware that it had happened until about 5 hours after the surgery. They used similar knowledge about the brain structures we learned about, as well as a CT scan to figure out what had happened.


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After surgery, my friend showed a few red flags for a stroke: she had little to no use of her right side, and her speech and short term memory were severely impaired. The doctors were aware something had gone wrong almost immediately after she woke up, and she was rushed to get a CT, where they discovered what had happened. If they didn't have the use of a brain-imaging system, they could have easily determined the location of the stroke; it would've been on the left side of her brain, which controls the right side's movement, it would be centralized around the motor cortex, which controls body movement in general, and it would have also effected other parts of her frontal lobe, which accounts for the loss in short term memory. The recovery process for her has been equally fascinating; in two short weeks she has gone from not being able to use her right side whatsoever, to regaining almost full use (she is still in recovery, and improving every day). For me, her recovery prompts many questions about processes involved in neural plasticity, especially regarding the role of stem cells.

The Adrenaline Effect 2

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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.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbjJBZIONUc
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.
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I have always wondered how big an effect adrenaline has on one who is experiencing it. The most recent memory in which there was plenty of adrenaline released in my body is when I got into a fight with my brother about three months ago. Adrenaline certainly adds to your strength. But I still don't know if I can believe some of those amazing stories, so does anyone know how much adrenaline increases strength?

In religious studies, the feeling of finding yourself in a divine presence is called experiencing the numen. Monte Python would explain this feeling as one's apprehension of the vastness of the universe and our small place within it:

Humanities and British humor aside, what does neuroscience say about the numen? Studies confirm several observations:

1) There is no single god spot in the brain.

2) The feeling of the numen can be induced through manipulation of one's brain ... (skip to 1:20).

3) The induction of the numen through manipulation shows only the locus of the feeling, not level of religiosity.

Given this locus of numenous perception, however, would it not be more parsimonious to attribute such a feeling in your life to a triggering of this locus rather than actual contact with the divine?

I was playing on an Xbox 360 game with some friends from my dorm and I noticed a strange phenomenon. I was with two people who were new to the game we were playing and one of them caught on right away and the other had a very difficult time figuring it out.This made me wonder why this could be.
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I found an article online that showed that researchers could determine video game aptitude by measuring activity in the basil ganglia. Someone with a lot of activity in this region of their brain would be able to pick up video games faster than others. This could be an explanation to why one of my friends could barely figure out the controls while the other learned quickly.
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I was playing on an Xbox 360 game with some friends from my dorm and I noticed a strange phenomenon. I was with two people who were new to the game we were playing and one of them caught on right away and the other had a very difficult time figuring it out.This made me wonder why this could be.
kids-playing-video-games.jpg
I found an article online that showed that researchers could determine video game aptitude by measuring activity in the basil ganglia. Someone with a lot of activity in this region of their brain would be able to pick up video games faster than others. This could be an explanation to why one of my friends could barely figure out the controls while the other learned quickly.
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Nature vs. Nurture is a psychological debate pertaining to how someone's life is developed, relating to genetics, or their environment. Many people believe that there has to be one definitive answer to the question, "Which of the two accounts for how we are once we are grown up?" However, there are so many examples supporting both sides, that I think nature and nurture can play a part in our development. tumblr_lexhbqedxY1qg7abxo1_400.png

The nurture theory believes that a child's development has nothing to do with their genetics, and is entirely based on how they are raised. An example of the Nurture theory is when John Watson raised an orphan who was afraid of loud noise, and banged a hammer every time he saw a rat. [http://parenting.families.com/blog/the-nurture-theory#] Soon enough, the orphan was terrified every time that he saw a rat. The nature theory believes that a child's development is entirely based on our genetics. An example of the nature theory is Identical Twin studies. Often times, twins separated at birth end up leading incredibly similar lives, and sometimes even getting each other the same present upon reuniting. Which side of the debate are you on?

The most common sleep disorder that impacts people everywhere is Insomnia. Nearly all of us at one time or another have had trouble falling asleep or remaining asleep. However when it becomes reoccurring this is known as Insomnia. At first glance Insomnia, like most disorders is a personal problem that seems to only impact people at the individual level. However this is false. When people have reoccurring troubles with sleep this has great impacts on their physical health which negatively effects their functionality at work.

A recent research study conducted by the Harvard Medical School and the University of Michigan found staggering results. Researchers conducted a questionnaire on the sleeping habits of over 7000 working adults. Their findings were as followed.

The average U.S. worker with insomnia causes his/her employer 11.3 days and about $2,280 in lost productivity.
Insomnia costs the U.S. workforce $63 billion in total.
23.2 of employees suffer from insomnia, according to the findings, and the problem is more common among women than men and less common among those over 65. Tired employees equals less productively which is a loss for both businesses and individual employees. LESS work MORE sleep is the key!!

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I came across the movie 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 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.


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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmXG0dDrNQc&feature=related

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. Doctors in the Soviet Union stated that it was "contrary to the principles of humanity" and it made "an insane person into an idiot" so it was banned in some areas.

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?

I came across the movie 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 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.


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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmXG0dDrNQc&feature=related

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. Doctors in the Soviet Union stated that it was "contrary to the principles of humanity" and it made "an insane person into an idiot" so it was banned in some areas.

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?

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Enter the useful innocent. That's Peter King, another well-meaning and hopelessly befuddled Republican who can't help assuming good faith on the other side of the aisle. His song lately: due process is no longer useful to society, and we should therefore dispose of it by legislating that persons included in the government's so-called "Terrorist Watch List" be stripped of civil rights. In his column for ScrippsNews, Cliff May posits that the proposed measures will save the American people from terroristic violence like the attack in Mumbai in 2008, and that such reasonable regulation in India would have prevented those events from occurring. Additionally, he expertly anticipates the public outcry concerning human rights and due process, and pretends to calm it, writing: "if someone gets on a terrorist watch list by mistake, his right to bear arms will only be delayed, not denied."
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Both May and the politicians whose reasoning he champions are clearly affected by several cognitive biases, too many to deal with entirely in this post. I'll list those most debilitating to their conclusions, which include: illusory correlation; and embarrassing entrapment by the just-world fallacy. For one thing, the official investigation revealed that the weapons used by the foreign insurgents in the Mumbai attack were illegally smuggled--being unavailable for purchase in India--and defeats May's supposition of a correlation between a civilian firearms market and the likelihood of domestic terrorism committed by American citizens; forget about causality. Furthermore, official statistics report that between 2006 and 2010 firearm sales in the United States increased by 30% (and that's only among licensed retailers), while during the same period firearm-affected homicides declined by 14%, casting doubt upon the suggestion that access to firearms endangers public health, and in fact demonstrating a negative relationship between firearm-affected homicides and gun sales. May and King have made the common antiempirical blunder of leaning on a perceived philosophical alignment of the universe (superstition) to validate their reasoning.

Can dogs really tell us something about nature vs. nurture? The researchers on the Nova documentary believe they can, so they pay particular attention to two studies. 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 it is very difficult for people to perform nature and nurture studies on humans these animal studies provide great insights into the debate.

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The nature-nurture concept is important since it tells us how effective environment changes can alter the development of human behaviors and skills. 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:blog jpg

One can easily identify me from this picture if he/she knows that I am very active and talkative and my sister is generally quiet. Also, my curiosity is very strong, whereas my sister prefers knowing the results rather than the process. Of course, we share a lot of common things. We can easily pick the same clothes to wear, the same gifts for friends, and even the same guy to fall in love with. We share the same genes and had shared the same environment for many years. Yes, we are similar and we are different! Should that be the results for nature or nurture?

Is your brain full?

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Neural plasticity is the nervous system's ability to change. These changes can be genetic or as result of our education, upbringing or because of injury or illness. Our nervous system is continuously evolving; the brain of a child develops exponentially until they reach adolescence. Following illness or injury the brain adapts. As adults this plasticity decreases but we're still capable of creating stronger connections making our neurons more efficient.

The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) is an assessment tool used to identify your learning and thinking preferences. The idea is that a person's brain is divided into four quadrants, each specializing in certain skills, with some areas stronger than others where we develop preferences. The HBDI is the foundation of a million dollar business where they identify your preferences and then use them to help individuals make career choices, help businesses improve communication among employees, help parents connect with their children & help people learn to use their "whole brain". Are they capitalizing on the plasticity of our brains or have they built their company on pseudoscience?
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For hundreds of years, the debate between nature and nurture has embedded itself into our everyday lives. Numerous experts on opposite ends of the debate vigorously support their views with hard hitting evidence and explanations. The strong cases for both sides forces us all to think about how our traits and qualities have come into existence. Is it because of nature or nurture?

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Perhaps it is a bit of both.

Graph A: Nature

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Graph B: Nurture
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Graph A shows a strong correlation between the IQ's of identical twins reared together as well as identical twins reared apart, while the unrelated persons reared together did not have a strong correlation of IQ's. This strongly supports the argument that personality traits, intelligence in this case, are genetically influenced. However, Graph B shows an increase in IQ's since WW2 that experimenter William Flynn claims is due to 21 environmental factors. Factors such as parental ambition, book reading, criminality, and a plethora of others prove that nurture as well plays a big role in creating our identities.

So it is important to keep in mind that neither nature nor nurture is the sole determinate of our behavioral traits, rather it is the tightly woven web they weave together that creates the complexities of our being.

The All-Important Amygdala

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The amygdala is such an intriguing part of the brain; how can something so small have such a large impact on the daily lives of human beings. The amygdala is used for fear response, and without it, human beings behave fearlessly and unknowingly put themselves in dangerous situations. I think it is safe to say that humans are fortunate to possess this important brain structure...

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On a less precarious note, another function of the amygdala, as stated in the second article, is guiding humans' response to animals. Animals play such an important role in our everyday lives and many people feel they have close connections with their pets, and are often considered "animal lovers". In our culture today, a dog is often referred to as "man's best friend" and there are even websites devoted to pictures of cute and cuddly animals for users to view. I have never quite thought about humans' particular connection with animals and it makes me wonder; if one would call themselves an "animal lover", could this be seen in increased activity of the amygdala?

Adrenaline and the Hulk

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When I was reading the section about adrenaline in chapter 3, I was really intrigued thinking about the fantastic feats people are supposedly able to perform because of adrenaline in a moment of crisis. This got me thinking about superheroes. In particular, the Hulk. In one of the Hulk's origin stories, he starts out as a regular scientist, David Banner, and one day he and his family are in a car accident. David manages to escape the crash unharmed, but his wife and child are trapped under the car. Being a scientist, he's heard of the amazing feats people are sometimes able to perform during an adrenaline rush, and he rushes to their aid and tries to pull the car off them. Sadly, he is unable to help and his family is killed. He is so upset with himself for not being able to save them, that he becomes obsessed with trying to recreate the kind of super-strength that adrenaline rushes sometimes produce. He tests his experiments on himself, and accidentally makes it so that any time he gets even mildly startled or excited, he gets an adrenaline rush so powerful that he can't control himself, thus becoming the Hulk.
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Of course, something like this would never actually be possible, because while an adrenaline rush may allow a person to do amazing things, it does so merely by making their body work in the most efficient way possible. It wouldn't cause a person's muscles to increase in size, and I don't see any reason for it to turn a person green. Nevertheless, it's interesting to think about this story with the actual science in mind.

What is Consciousness?

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One of the most perplexing and fascinating questions that psychologists face is understanding the nature of consciousness.

Many students think of consciousness as being alert, aware, and able to process information on a "deep" level. In other words, to be aware that you are thinking. Others define it as the level of attention and focus (mindfulness) we exert in our waking lives.

Sometimes, in order to critically analyze a mysterious and complex phenomenon, it helps to define its opposite.

We might gain traction if we think about what it means to be unconscious or have our conscious minds altered in some way by hypnosis, meditation or drugs.

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Many believe that being asleep is equivalent to being unconscious. Today in class we are going to gather data and write about sleep habits. But consider these distinctions between being awake and asleep.

• The brain processes sensory information while you are sleeping.
o Important information, e.g., a baby's cries will serve to awaken someone, whereas moderately loud snoring, or the sound of a train in the distance will not.
o Noises are often incorporated into dreams.

• The brain processes internal bodily signals while you sleep.
o When a person is too warm/cold while sleeping, generally he or she will make compensatory adjustments to be more comfortable.
o A full bladder will awaken a sleeping person.
o Mental activity related to a person's experience is often incorporated into dreams.

For more about consciousness check out the following:

Sizing Up Consciousness by Its Bits.docx

A Dream Interpretation- Tuneups for the Brain .docx

Music, memory, and mistakes- Top neuroscientists explain how the mind copes in a chaotic world .pdf

iSad

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Must pay tribute to Steve Jobs today. I won't repeat all the accolades here. You will read and hear about his legacy from many others often in the next several weeks. To say his impact on everyday life was huge is an understatement. His vision created so many of the cool things you now take for granted and all accomplished a decade before retirement age.

So to honor Steve's vision of simplicity, elegance, fun and ease of use I want to describe your mission for writing assignment 2

Been reading your blogs and am pleased overall by the effort and thought you have been putting into them. Now I want to challenge you. Make your posts shorter.

For writing 2 you will not create a new blog but you will improve upon writing 1 and repost in the writing 2 category. The number 1 goal is to make the blog no more than 2 short paragraphs (4-5 sentences each). Any writing 2 blog longer will receive at best 3 points, perhaps less.

Also you will fix problems with first, (e.g. ugly html links in the body of the text, add a helpful visual or link to other media). You may want to revisit my guidelines for excellent blogging (and full points) at this earlier blog post.

Finally, you will work with a classmate to do this. Help each other edit and problem solve. Comment on each other's post. Come up with a catchier title that draws more people in. I am noting who comments on other people's blogs and whose get the most attention week to week.

Be sure to tag your partner by including their name in the tag box in dashboard.

I'll go over this more in class today.

Enter the useful innocent.  That's Peter King, another well-meaning and hopelessly befuddled Republican who can't help assuming good faith on the other side of the aisle.  His song this year: due process is no longer useful to society, and we should therefore dispose of it by legislating that persons included in the government's so-called "Terrorist Watch List" be stripped of civil rights.  This is business as usual for his Democrat counterpart, but I've never understood how anyone can entertain Frank Lautenberg's jazz.  Cliff May, however, applauds their effort, and writing for ScrippsNews asks why can't we keep guns from terrorists?


In his article he exasperatedly explains that denying property to citizens whom the government dislikes--but against whom it cannot find evidence of criminal activity, or even conspiracy--will save the American people from terroristic violence like the attack in Mumbai in 2008.  He posits that such reasonable regulation in India would have prevented those events from occurring.  Additionally, he expertly anticipates the public outcry concerning human rights and due process, and calms it, writing: "if someone gets on a terrorist watch list by mistake, his right to bear arms will only be delayed, not denied."  Poor little Pollyanna.


The whole of his claims hang on the premise that the lack of regulation initiated the events in Mumbai, yet does not allow for consideration of other hypotheses.  Furthermore, he has observed the correlation between the possession of weapons by the terrorists who attacked Mumbai in 2008 and the murder of Indians in that attack; but he's mistaken it as evidence of causality, and has as well confused himself with his reification of the prophesied Mumbai: Part Deux (coming soon to an American place near you).  Both Mr. May and the politicians whose reasoning he champions in his article clearly suffer multiple cognitive biases, too to many deal with entirely in this article.  I'll list those most debilitating to their argument, which include: irrational escalation; unfortunate wishful thinking; availability heuristic; illusory correlation; embarrassing entrapment by the just-world fallacy; and an overall premise supported by an appeal to (hypothetical) consequences.


Although it is the most egregious error in reasoning, the lattermost can be most easily summated: the author's assertion that because the imaginary outcome of its dismissal is emotionally moving, the proposed legislation is therefor not illegal.  Interestingly, this also invokes Liefschultz's 1st Principle of Conservative Logic--ignore public policy suggestions historically imposed upon population groups that were shortly thereafter the victims of genocide--but that is a discussion for another post. Onward.


If a U.S. citizen is suspected of a crime, then that's interesting (and nothing more).  If he's been indicted and arraigned, then some birthrights he might see reasonably suspended.  However, the current bid to change history doesn't withstand reason (nor case law), but before rejoicing in the obvious, consider the facts in evidence, if only for fun, and as if the proposal had the potential its sponsors imagine.


There are more than one million entries on the "Terrorist Watch List" according to FBI. There is no judicial review, no appeal for removal from the list.  There is no judicial process by which one's identity is added to the list.  In fact there is no official avenue for data either on or off; names are added and removed at the whims of unknown bureaucrats within the Department of Justice. Even if there was an official map, a codified appeals process would be of little use because the contents of the list are classified variously from Confidential to Top Secret, and therefore blacklisted persons are statutorily disallowed to understand their predicament.  The only reason why the Constitution hasn't already kicked Frank Lautenberg's teeth out, and bent the rest of the government over a table, is that presently inclusion on the blacklist doesn't officially limit any person's rights--humans aren't entitled at birth to travel by commercial airlines--and so the matter hasn't received the attention of the courts.

As far as "Mumbai in 2008" is concerned, does the fact that there has never been a documented use of licensed, legally possessed firearms in a terror attack in India (not ever) support Lautenberg's adorable reasoning, or does it make us scratch our heads and ask, "then why, Frank?"

Is it of interest that the weapons used in the attack in Mumbai are imports, unavailable to the small market of Indian civilians able to finesse their way into receipt of firearms licenses? I'm talking about late model AK-47 rifles, short-barreled automatic military production weapons, and not the semi-automatic Balkan playthings that you and I own.

Does it lend weight to the argument that the U.S. and Indian governments determined that the attacks were too sophisticated to have been executed without the assistance of a foreign government (both fingered Pakistan)? See: "Gunman in Mumbai Siege a Pakistani, Official Says". The New York Times 1/7/2009 by Masood, Oppel

So, in the midst of only-for-special-people gun laws, by which every firearm purchase/license/fond dream is subject to governmental approval on a case-by-case basis, guess who suffered anyway--the folks in Mumbai.

Guess who was served by the reasonable, failsafe firearm prohibitions in India--ten terrorists from Pakistan.

Guess who was slaughtered in a Mumbai-style terror attack despite Lautenberg-style weapon prohibitions--the folks in Mumbai.


Having analyzed the facts in evidence, I do not understand--nor am I willing to entertain any dreamy arguments otherwise--what the 2008 attack in Mumbai has to do with the civil rights of people in the United States.  I do recall two incidents in 2009, in which mentally ill jihadists attacked domestic Army installations with personally owned weapons, at the instruction of foreign terrorist organizations.  It was too bad for the shot-to-death meat (victims), and lucky for the terrorists that U.S. Government-controlled properties, particularly domestic military installations, are the least likely places to find loaded weapons.


Other places well-advertised as free of firearms include K-12 schools and the majority of post-secondary institutions.  Apart from domestic terrorism All-Stars Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad and Nidal Malik Hasan, many people suffering mental illness without help from Islam have noted the allure of statutorily disarmed populations, the raw appeal and guarantee of encountering absolutely no resistance from their targets.  I'm reminiscing about the many school shootings that ended quickly when the perpetrators were put down by their intended victims, but can't bring to mind a single incident.  I only recall a list of violent episodes in which the attackers had their way without interruption for at least twenty minutes.  What's curious is that, just in the last month, I've read four accounts of home- and business owners defeating armed assailants, and what seems a tremendous bonus: the home- and business owners were not savagely murdered.  This of course cultures a startling question, i.e. "how can it be?"


After some fact rechecking via Google, I ascertained from the original news coverage that in each incident the intended victims used weapons to rescue themselves from certain peril, and now I'm conflicted.  The wishful, utopic side of my brain wants to draw upon my abundant emotion and recognize that the news articles are false, and that it's impossible that those armed people fared better than the massacred students, because schools are frequented by smart people who vote the right way, and what the articles suggest would be unfair, improper karma, and cosmically incorrect.


Contrarily, the rational, empirically grounded, conservative side of my brain deduces that attacks in homes and workplaces are frequently recounted by armed survivors, whereas those in schools consistently produce unarmed victims (meat).  How very curious.  While it's good to let the long-estranged halves of my brain bandy data once in a while, it doesn't address the primary fallacy of King and Lautenberg's amusing but ultimately useless rain dance.


The small yet stalwart population still clinging to literacy will notice that, according to the Constitution, the federal government has no rights.  As the Nation's dwindling class of readers knows, this is an immovable fact, and the Constitution only codifies the obvious.  It also describes non-negotiable limits to the government's authority--which may be appropriately amended, but not otherwise weakened by Congress.  It does not stipulate that the United States are prohibited from violating persons' rights unless an executive agency publishes a regulation suspending them.  Nor does it stipulate that Congress may create a governmental agency and insist upon it being empowered to nullify the Constitution.  Nowhere in the Bill of Rights appears the language "except in such times that the President or his designee prefers otherwise".


The gentlemen from New York and New Jersey imagine themselves to be taller than they actually measure.  According to the Constitution and the rulings of the Supreme Court--and assuming that either is of concern--Congress is not empowered so far as their scheme requires. Also of certain moment is the fact that reality does not lend itself to their cause.  Despite numerous federal laws criminalizing acts of terror, it's obvious that by some strange voodoo people have committed and continue to pursue terrorism in the United States.


This is especially curious, considering the attractive typeface and quality ink in which the laws are manifested in the United States Code.  It is not known definitively how this phenomenon works, but it is suggested that it relates to the same mysterious forces which enable persons to rob banks despite numerous protective spells registered by Congress, as well as individual states' legislatures.  How very curious.  It reminds me of an incident last year in which Minneapolis police officer Timothy Edward Carson somehow robbed a bank by threatening the staff with a firearm, even though there was an enchantment posted at the entrance which stated, "Bans Guns in These Premises".


As is tradition, Frank Lautenberg is insisting that Congress double down on the make-believe of its magic, and another imbecile with a heart of gold Republican has followed candy into a stranger's van. According to King, it's "common sense".


Beware of good ideas.

 

© 2011 Liefschultz


The Numinous and the mundane

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Okay, so I am a return to collage student. This is obvious by how readily I raise my hand and unabashedly give my opinion in discussion class. One of my undergraduate majors, oh so many years ago now, was religious studies. In that field you quickly become acquainted with the numen. It's the feeling you may get in a European Gothic cathedral, observing the Hajj, listening to ancient rites chanted before you, or, for me, staring up at a cloudless dark sky, the milky way arcing overhead and understanding that you are a speck of dust in that vast creation. Ah, who are we kidding, Monte Python explained it best:

Anyway, the point is that humanities scholars have been debating this feeling of the mysterium tremendum for centuries and humans have been experiencing it likely since Homo Erectus first walked out of Africa. But what does science say about the numen?

Studies seem to support several observations ripe for transmutation into hypothesis and then further study. These are:

1) There is no single god spot in the brain. Epileptic patients that suffer seizures centered in their temporal lobes (get it, centered in the tempor, uh, forget it) report religious experiences but meditative Buddhists that are able to reach "a higher plane" exhibit more activity in their parietal lobes at those times.

2) The feeling of the numen can be induced through this lovely contraption... (skip to 1:20).

3) The apparent processing of certain (still unknown) stimuli that may lead to a reliable numinous feeling is not about a religion or even religiosity. Nothing about numinous spots in our brains has been shown to either influence what religion you'll be or how religious you'll be.

4) That this area of study is fraught with danger in the form of inferential conclusions that are not based on evidence. Case in point are the evolutionary psychologists' explanations for the adaptation of this perception that seem to me to skirt very close to a just so story.

If it turns out that science one day exposes the root of this perception and the sensations, external and internal, that reliably produce it, would you be more likely to question the powerful, palpable feeling that sweeps over you and leads you to believe that you are just one small part of the immense machine of existence? Or is believing seeing...

Brain Preferences

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I recently was asked to take the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) for work. This is an assessment tool used to identify your learning and thinking preferences. The idea is that a person's brain is divided into four quadrants and each quadrant specializes in certain skills and characteristics. Ideally we use our whole brain to work, communicate and learn but the reality is that some areas are stronger than others and therefore we develop preferences. The HBDI helps to identify these preferences which can then be used in a number of different ways to aid self-development and interpersonal relationships.
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I think the nature vs. nurture debate comes into play when thinking about how these preferences form. The environment clearly plays a large part since individuals can work to change their preferences. However, the following cartoon depicts the profiles of an actual family. How does one child develop such an opposing profile? One argument is that there are several influencers outside of family but is it in part because of their innate qualities?

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Throughout many years, the debate between nature and nurture has been a prevalent force. On one side of the argument, well known philosophers such as John Locke have claimed that our brain is a "blank slate" and that all of our behavioral traits are attributed to our environment. On the other side, experts claim that our traits are inherently due to our genetic makeup. But is it really possible that our traits are attributed solely to our environment or our genetic makeup? Or is it much more plausible that it is a combination of both, not one or the other, that make us who we are?


Clearly, there are strong arguments for both.

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The figure above shows a strong correlation between the IQ's of identical twins reared together as well as identical twins reared apart, while the unrelated persons reared together did not have a strong correlation of IQ's. This strongly supports the argument that personality traits, intelligence in this case, are genetically influenced.

However, there are also studies that argue that environment plays a much bigger role than expected.intelligenceFlynnEffect.jpg

This figure represents a study performed by James Flynn. It shows that IQ levels have been rising in all countries since WW2. His reasoning for this? Environment. Flynn found 21 environmental factors that influence intelligence such as parental ambition, book reading, criminality, and a plethora of other factors. This supports the argument that environmental factors do indeed influence mental ability.

So from the figures above, it is noted that nature and nurture both play roles in our behavioral traits. Its obvious that some traits, such as height, weight and eye color are highly heritable, but other traits are highly malleable and can be easily influenced by environment, or "nurture". So while looking at the grand scheme of things, it is important that neither nurture nor nature is the sole determinate of our traits. Instead, nature and nurture are intertwined in one web that makes up our complex being.

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Nature vs. Nuture

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The Nature vs. Nurture debate is a very interesting topic. On one hand there is a belief that our behaviors are mostly guided by our genetic makeup (Nature side). On the other hand, there is a belief that our behaviors are mostly guided by our upbringing and developmental environment. Today however, most agree that both play a pivotal role in our behavior.

Interestingly enough, I feel as if sometimes that there is a third factor that is actually tied into this debate, and that is the notion of free will. Because I am somewhat crazy, ever since I heard of the debate, I have attempted to analyze myself and see where do my traits come from. Its relatively easy to see how my traits come from my upbringing and environment, so really what does not fit with nurture, I throw it in the Nature(genetic) bin. However i think the third factor, free will, has a relatively influential role too.And if anyone does not believe in free will, watch this video:
I think that even despite of genetics and nurture, some traits are actually chosen. What do you guys think, Is it possible that we can somehow choose our own characteristics, and is this choice(whether conscious or otherwise) based on nature and/or nurture?

The nature vs. nurture has been a popular topic that has been debated for years. However, I think the debate needs to stop. Evidence has been provided that shows both nature and nurture help to determine a person's personality traits and characteristics. The best way I can show this to the world is through the example of me and my sister.

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Throughout the years my sister and I have fought because we were different in so many ways. I was more girl-like, and she dressed like a boy. Literally, she shopped in the boys department of stores. She had a ton of guy friends, and I thought boys had cooties. I grew up to develop a strong interest in fashion and had plenty of boyfriends throughout those days we call puberty. She just got her first boyfriend in her first year in college and has slowly started wearing dresses and more "bling". Clearly, since day 1, she and I were destined to be different people. My automatic sense of girl-like tendencies and her love for acting like a "dude" could not be explained, because in our whole lives we grew up in the same home with the same parents. This difference could only be due to our genetic makeup and the differences in it that makes us unique and different from each other.

Through these years of yelling at each other and pushing one another against walls (again, that is no exaggeration), she and I have grown to be loving sisters that finally realized we shared some things in common. The one trait that stands out to me (and our friends) the most would be our huge sense of sarcasm. Others don't understand our humor, but we sure do! This sense of humor was not born within us, but growing up together and living with a mother who we loved to make of together, enabled us to develop the same sarcasm that we now share. It's one of the qualities that we have that other relatives do not because they did not grow up with me and my sister. This trait must have been developed through our experiences growing up while influencing each other. In other words, it was a nurture-influenced characteristic.

I refuse to take a stance of whether nature dominates over nurture or vise versa. And, I believe years worth of evidence from my own family has made me realize it is not an either/or situation. Our genes and our environments have influenced me to be who I am today and my sister to be her lovable self as well.

I am curious to know, if there are any situations where it is obvious that nature is the root cause for a behavior or if nurture is, and are there any examples out there?

After reading the Biological Psychology chapter in the textbook, I was intrigued when the authors began to discuss the myth that humans only use 10 percent of their brain. This immediately had me thinking of a movie that recently came out called "Limitless" starring Bradley Cooper.
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The following link brings you to the trailer in case you have not heard about it or seen it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THE_hhk1Gzc.

This movie plays of off this myth that more of our brain can be accessed and used to further our brain activity. In the movie it is stated that humans only use 10 percent of our brains; however just by reading our textbook, we know this is not true.

The pill (NZT) that the main character in the movie takes allows him to access the "other 90 percent of his brain), and while this makes for a good plot, we know this is not true. Humans use every part of their brain and as stated in the text, damage to even the smallest part of the brain can take a toll on its overall function.

So we know that humans use every section of our brain but not simultaneously. The real question that I pose, and which I think would make for a more realistic plot, is what if a pill or drug was created that allowed us to access and use every part of our brain simultaneously?

If this was biologically possible, what would be the result?
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What if we were able to turn our subconscious in to conscious thought and action? What if we could consciously control the bodily functions that are currently controlled by our subconscious?

Despite the fact that this is far from achievable, with regard to where scientists currently stand in understanding the brain and the possibilities that come with it, it is still a intriguing idea to toss around in our mind.

Ps: I highly recommend watching this movie. It's pretty mind-blowing despite the fact that it is based on an urban legend.


Before I start let me explain exactly what the 9/11 generation is. The 9/11 generation is a reference to those in the population who were 15 years or younger when the September 11th attacks occurred. I am a part of the 9/11 generation as I was in 5th grade when this tragedy occurred. At this age me and a lot of my peers couldn't really grasp the magnitude of this single event and how it could possibly shape our views of the world as we know it.

Psychologist have come to know humans to seek out comfort, unity and patterns when we feel a loss of control over our surroundings. The terror management theory is an example of this, it states our awareness of our own inevitable death leaves us to adapt comforting views; individuals also heighten the liking of similar others and accentuate their dislike of dissimilar others. In the article it stated that "the terror management theory would predict individuals to respond to the tragedy with fear, racism and increased patriotism". Following the attacks Islam, the Middle East and terrorism was brought to headlines and given full attention from the news media and citizens alike across the US. However it is not all negative as many citizens also became sensitive of the Islamic faith and stereotypes and a sense of unity/patriotism was created by Americans.

The terror management theory also predicted individuals would react with fear. Following the attacks the USA was driven into a justified mass hysteria at the thought of another terrorist attack. Terrorism became a real life threat and the sense of security was lowered for citizens. The article states the 9/11 generation would grow up fearing others and the world itself, basically adopting the "scary world syndrome". However it also states that people would respond with enthusiasm, embracing others and stressing a need for change. These are both pretty valid arguments and I therefore ask what do you believe has happened following the September 11th attacks?

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Recently, someone very close to me suffered what is called a hemorrhagic stroke. It's similar to an ischemic stroke, which is what most of us are familiar with, the main difference between the two being that a hemorrhagic stroke involves the leakage of blood from a vein or artery, while an ischemic stroke involves the blockage inside an vein or an artery. This is a very general analysis of the two, if you want more information about strokes, you can go here. In this case, she suffered the stroke during brain surgery to replace a shunt. I visited almost every day after the stroke, and I had the chance to witness the amazing elasticity of the brain, first hand.

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The first day I visited, her speech was very garbled, and she had lost the use of her entire right side. After reading Chapter 3, I realized that these symptoms were a sign that her frontal lobe had been affected, especially her motor cortex. The fact that her speech was incoherent at first, as well as a noticeable decrease in short term memory led me to believe that it was the frontal lobe that had been affected. The loss of motion in her right side was quite obviously due to the motor cortex, a part of the frontal lobe. Because the doctors were not aware when the stroke occurred, these symptoms helped them to realize what had happened. Once it was identified that it was in fact a stroke (this was done by a CT scan), they were able to stop the bleed.


The brains' ability to recover from such an incident is incredible. Improvements were literally seen by the hour, as the swelling in her brain went down. Her brain had repaired itself so quickly that she was close to normal a week after she suffered the stroke. The speed at which the brain repaired itself in this situation makes me wonder what, if any, role stem cells played in making repairs. It seems to me that the loss of motion in her right side was due more to the pressure caused by a portion of her brain swelling than any sort of actual damage to the nerves. One can still see the effects of the stroke on her, she walks with a slight limp and she still has a bit of trouble with short term memory. Could this be because of actual damage that is being repaired by stem cells at a slower rate? Or does she still have some residual swelling (she only left the hospital last Tuesday, September 27th) that is still decreasing?

For a long time, psychologists have been involved in a debate known as Nature vs. Nurture. This debate looks at how a person develops in relation to their genetics and how they were raised. Many psychologists believe that the way we end up has to be a result of one of the two, either nature or nurture. I, however, believe that it is based on a combination of our genetics and our influences as we are maturing.

On the Nature side of this debate, it is believed that our personality and how we go about our lives is entirely based on our genetic code. Some people believe that sexual orientation is due to genetics, and they point the the Nature side of the debate. Some of the best support for nature are Identical Twin Studies, in which separated twins are reconnected and scientists often find similarities between how their lives have turned out.

On the Nurture side, it is believed that genetics have very little affect on how we turn out, and it is all due to our influences as we grow up. Examples of the Nurture theory include the behavioral experiments of B.F. Skinner. He was able to train pigeons to dance, and play tennis, which should not be possible according to the Nature theory. Another example of the Nurture theory is how an individuals sense of humor is formed by the environment around them, and not their genes.

Conformity in Groups

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Recently I was with one of my friends that always seemed to follow popular fads, and I began to wonder why other people followed these as well. I found the Solomon Asch experiment. http://www.experiment-resources.com/asch-experiment.html
This experiment examines how people react in groups. In this study there was one participant and a group of subjects that would blatantly lie about an easily known fact. One example is this picture. http://www.experiment-resources.com/images/asch-experiment.jpg
This study found that many people would agree with a false fact if the rest of the group went that way too!

All Things Considered 'Identical Strangers' Explore Nature vs. Nurture


The debate over the role of nature vs. nurture has raged between scientists of all fields for close to a century. It was with Gregory Mendel's earliest work in 1866 that first changed the debate, introducing new ideas about what would become genetics. With Mendel's observation of certain "factors," later known as genes, being passed on from parent to offspring in his studies on the heredity of pea plants. With this work the debate over how much of our development should be attributed to our genetics and how much should be attributed to our external environment really began. NPR did a story in 2007 on a set of identical twins that were separated at birth, reuniting 35 years later when they finally found out they had a twin. These twins had been separated at birth as part of an identical twins study in the 1960s and 70s, something that would be looked at as highly unethical now. twinstogether_200.jpgWith the developments in ethical standards in scientific studies, psychology experiments especially, it is now not allowed to separate siblings of any kind. This study, performed by Peter Neubauer, a child psychiatrist, was in his words, "Beautiful. It's practically the perfect study." In many ways it was just that, a study where two individuals with identical genetic code would be raised with different environment factors influencing them would allow us to learn so much about our genetic code. But because of the new ethical developments in the field studies like this can no longer happen and the results of this study are to be held confidential until 2066. Neubauer's lack of remorse, demonstrated by his responses and he still has not apologized, shows just how powerful he thinks an experiment like this can be in developing knowledge around genetics. The important question has to be raised, just how far should scientists be allowed to go? There will always be those looking to advance the field and sometimes the best way to do that is by doing experiments that are unquestionably unethical, this is why it is important to have these codes in place, even though it may slow our research efforts.

Here is a slide show documenting the story of identical twins separated at birth, Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein finally reunited at age 35.
http://www.npr.org/programs/totn/features/2007/10/twins/gallery/index.html

The "Paranormal" Industry

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After reading about the extraordinary claims Scientific thinking principle, I realize that even this theory proven false takes people by storm. Movies like; The 4th Kind, Paranormal Activity, and Signs have made big sales for their movies and helped create the belief that they are based off true stories. Even the facts that state for example that the crop circles were made by college students doesn't push people away from the theaters. I believe that this scientific principle connects with the term confirmation bias because we are sticking to the belief that extra terrestrials exist. Give credit to the movie industry though for making a catchy trailer that catches your eye and ignites your brain.... The movie must trigger something in our sympathetic nervous system that makes us scared and start to sweat. Then the rest of the night we rely on the parasympathetic nervous system to calm us down.

Even though these extraordinary claims do not have the extraordinary evidence to go with, people are not budging on their own views. The psychologists must just be frustrated at watching the paranormal theory make money at the box office..

After learning more about the Bogel families criminal history and reading the two articles discussing the nature vs. nurture topic, I believe that criminal behavior is a result of nurture and the way someone is raised. Although criminal behavior is a result of nurture though, I do believe that human beings are inherently good.

As stated by the second article, helping others is usually other-oriented which reaffirms my belief that human beings, are at the core, good. But although human beings are inherently good, nurture plays a crucial role as a child matures and can contribute to the development of criminal behavior. Children learn a great deal from their parents and can end up mimicking their behaviors. For example, if a child's parent lies and steals, then the child may learn to think that these behaviors are acceptable.

I have also read many studies which ask children who they look up to the most, and the great majority of children said their parents or other family members. This shows just how much children learn from their parents and how criminal behavior can be passed down throughout families, for example in the Bogels. In the case of the Bogels, it looks like crime just runs in the family...

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