Open Discussion: October 2011 Archives

Robert Zajonc (rhymes with science) was one of the most innovative psychologists of the last 50 years and contributed much toward understanding emotions and how our thoughts shape our emotional lives. His experiments revealed the mere exposure effect which shows that repeated exposure to any new object increases our liking of that object. Check out this demonstration of the effect here.

He also proposed that people, often unconsciously, mimic the facial expressions of their spouses and that, over the years, couples who tend to share similar facial expressions will become increasingly similar in appearance.


Based on the assortitative mating activity we did in class you might think that couples are initiatially drawn to each other who are similar in attractiveness and may even share certain facial features but this is not what Zajonc found in his experiments. Here is a NY Times article reporting on the original finding and the methods used to arrive at this conclusion.

Long-Married Couples Do Look Alike, Study Finds.docx

Now conjure an image of the person you are currently dating or interested in. Do you really want to look like that person 25 years from now?!

Another facial expression that signals emotion and often reveals the stirring of the heart for another, or perhaps just plain old embarrassment is the blush. blushing.jpeg

Recent studies have found that blushing can help reduce criticism from others and increase social bonds.

Hold Your Head Up. A Blush Just Shows You Care.docx

Your textbook also describes how knowing someone else is fond of you can increase attraction. This seems rather obvious and yet researchers have found that not knowing whether or not someone likes you at all can be an even more potent factor toward attraction.

Uncertainty Heightens Romantic Attraction.pdf

How many of you already act indifferently toward a potential boy/girl friend when you really are head over heels?

I was intrigued by the theories on what constitutes intelligence in this chapter, and specifically on the story of Christopher Langan. How can someone who has such highly-tested I.Q. end up working in a bar or on a farm (and be satisfied doing it)? And how does he feel about himself and what constitutes "intelligence"?

Here's some video of Langan's thoughts, and some of his thoughts on eugenics may be surprising (3 parts total):

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it"
-Joseph Gobbels (Reich Minister of Propoganda in Natzi Germany).

Toward the end of Ch. 7, Lilienfeld discusses false memories. More specifically, he discusses the different ways in which false memories are brought about. For example, in the seven sins of memory, he addresses how bias and schemas may influence our memory of a particular situation. In Natzi Germany, propoganda was heavily used to sway the public opinion. Victims, particularly Jews and socialists were primarily targeted. These victims were portrayed in a negative light, characterized with over exagerated traits.
Perhaps Gobbels used this sin of memory to his advantage by implacing a negative schema of Jews and socialists, thus distorting peoples memories. He may have additionally used "persistance", by constantly delivering this message. From a biological standpoint, memories are created and stregthened through long term pontitiation in the hippocampus. Acording to Hebbs rule, every time a stimulation occures the nerogical connection is strengthened.

Long-Term-Potentiation1.jpg Thus after hearing a lie so many times, the lie eventually may becaome embedded in the brain, perhaps acounting for flase memories.

If memories are this suseptible, should we really trust historical accounts and more specifically the media?

Make up for October 20, 2011

In the court of law, attorneys often rely on witnesses to help strengthen their arguement/ point of interest. But can a witnesses' statement be used if it isn't 100% correct? The answer is, we don't have a choice. This is because each time a person retrieves information from long-term memory it alters the previous details. As new information interacts with old information the overall memory is changed. Anxiety/stress which increases in most people when they are being interrogated or put on the spot (witness stand) significantly affects memory. Too much cortisol, which is associated with the stress hormone can prevent any new memories as well as accessing existing memories. So law students be sure in the future your witnesses are relaxed and comfortable to increase the accuracy of what actually happened the night Mrs. Robinson died.

Alberta crying on stand.jpg



I Don't Know; Google It

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(make up for October 20th discussion section)


The dynamics and workings of memory storage are endlessly fascinating. Every time I think of it, I always find myself inevitably drawn to the same place: what implications does memory modification--or maybe just the modification of how we remember--hold for evolution?

I was intrigued by the concept of elaborate encoding as introduced by the article on the woman who can't forget. She was so engaged with the particulars--the whats--involved with her memories that the memories themselves were bolstered. A modern and ever-growing concern is the effect of technology on memory. Search engines are of particular interest, and I've run across a number or articles pursuing the same questions. Our memories seem to be shifting from the whats to the wheres of information. What are we to make of this collective external memory of the internet? What does this mean for elaborate encoding?

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.

Creating False Memories.pdf

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.

The Woman Who Can't Forget.docx

Distraction from the Action

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(Makeup for Thursday, October 13 discussion)

The above video is a humorous, but entirely valid warning. It is a reminder that if we aren't constantly aware of our surroundings, that is, if something distracts us from more significant occurrences, we could end up in danger of harming ourselves or others. This concept, known as selective attention, was discussed in the textbook, as well as in our section. While the way we discussed it was silly, it also applied very much to everyday life, and is the reason for many fatal accidents. This video was a reminder to me to always keep an open mind, and to be attentive to my environment. Otherwise:




(I am writing this for a make up 10/13/11),9171,1580394-3,00.html

This is an article I found online from time magazine. The article starts off with a story of a woman who was just in a car accident and is in what they call a "vegetative state". After several tests on the the woman's brain although her body could not function at all on it's own her mind could completely function. They learned this by asking the patient several questions while in a MRI different questions showed different parts of the brain working. For example they asked her questions about locations and her home which showed the parts of the brain light that are used for navigating and location.
In think about this you have to wonder how many people like this that have been in accidents or something has happened to where they have come to be in a "vegetative state" when in reality their body is the only thing that is not working their brain can completely work??


The article goes on to talk about different studies and ways of thinking about consciousness which I think point out a lot of good points that our book doesn't really bring up. Like how hard the study of consciousness actually is.

Chapter 6 discusses classical conditioning- a form of learning in which a neutral stimulus paired with another stimulus elicits an automatic response. This observation was first made by Ivan Pavolov. In his experiment, the dog would only salivate upon exposure to the food. However, after a while, the dog would anticipate the food and would begin salivating anyways. Thus Pavilov, prepared the food behind a curtain. Suprisingly, the dog still salivated upon hearing the bell despite that no food was present. In this case the

unconditioned response: food
unconditioned response: salvation
conditioned stimulus: the bell
conditioned response: salvation

Here is a similar experiment from The Office. Now see if you can identify the responses and stimuli.
(The link to The Office clip is tagged below)

p.s. If you get all the stimuli and responses correct, you get an Altoid!

Imagine playing a game of basketball where a gorilla, seemingly out of nowhere, walks by. Now imagine not noticing the gorilla until someone shows you a video of it later. Inattention blindness is when we are so focused on a task, that we are oblivious to other stimuli--even something as ridiculous as a man in a gorilla suit. In this case, perception is involved and influences what we see, even if we don't see it at all.

A concept related to perception is a Just Noticeable Difference (JND). For example, when tasting different cups of coffee that you know have different amounts of sugar in them, it may be nearly impossible to figure out which one has less because the difference between them is so small. This shows how our perception is not always accurate.

A fun activity to see perception at work is by looking at a perceptual illusion, such as this.


Believe it or not, all of the dots on this image are white! The illusion of gray spots happens because of the inhibitory response, which occurs as a result of the dark surrounding.

It is important to take notice of our sensation and perception so we can be aware of our surroundings, and not be blind to a gorilla walking among us!

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.


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


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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.

This topic is close to my heart, as I placed my son for adoption 5 years ago. I was very eager to learn more about this phenomenon and dove right in to compare any similarities or dissimilarities with my personal situation.

So far I have not noticed anything in particular that Jack (my son) is more affected by his environment or by his genetics. Now that I have learned about this I am excited to see what happens as he grows up.

One side note, he does have a close resemblance to his adoptive parents but that turned out to be chance. But with that already gives a point to the environmental side.

Here is a link to adoptive families' magazine blog post by one of their readers, I find it quite intriguing. The adoptive mother is having behavioral issues with her son and is asking for other reader's advice. This could be a question of is this genetic or environmental???

I am interested in anyone else's feedback since this will be something that I will be dealing with for the rest of my life.

Food for thought. 016.JPG

Hi all! I just read Professor Wlaschin's email regarding blogs and thought that a how-to post with lots of pictures might be useful for people who are completely lost.

I think that the main issue is that people are going directly to then clicking on this button in order to create posts:


This does work, but the user interface isn't particularly inviting and doesn't allow for editing or insertion of images without code. Here's what I'm referring to:


Sooo..instead of going directly to the section blog's URL, go to to sign in. There are at least two "sign in" links on the Uthink homepage - one in the upper right-hand corner and one in the gold box on the left. They look like this:




When you sign in, your dashboard should pop up. It looks like this:


In order to create a new post, click on the "System Overview" button right under the University of Minnesota logo on the top of the page and select "Section 24 PSY 1001pub." Then, either hover over the "Create" button on the toolbar and click on "Entry" when it appears OR click on the orange-ish "Write Entry" button near the top of the screen. Here's a quick screenshot of the process:


You should now see the "Create Entry" screen. You can either type up your post there or copy-and-paste it from a separate word processor. Screenshot:


Don't forget to mark which category you'd like your post to be in - just check the appropriate box on the bottom-right corner of the screen:


You can use the toolbar to add/edit images, change formatting, and so on and so forth. Here's a screenshot of that - notice image button on right and formatting buttons on left.


I know that some people were having issues uploading images and/or had "ugly" links in their posts - in that case, I'd recommend uploading the photos you'd like to use to Photobucket or a similar free image-storing site. Then, grab the URL of the image and use HTML to insert it into your post. Here are a couple of screen-shots of the process:


and the code (sorry it's in image format..easier to display):


For those having issues posting videos, it's SUPER easy to embed video via Youtube (and far more effective than posting a link that very few people will summon the motivation to click on). Just find the video you're looking for on youtube, click on the "share" button under it, then click on the "embed" button. Copy and paste the code into your blog post and you're good to go. For example, this:


will yield this:

If you have any questions about HTML, I'd recommend checking out The blogging platform used here is Movable Type, but I didn't find their site particularly helpful or informative. Here's a link regardless.

Anyways, moving on to editing posts:

To manage your posts, hover over the button on the toolbar which says "Manage" then click on "Entries" when the drop-down menu appears. At this point, your screen should look like this:


You should then be able to click on the title of your post to begin editing. If you're having difficulty finding your post(s) or wish to find a certain person's posts, you can edit your viewing preferences to reflect that:


Last but not least, you can change the name/picture displayed on your blog from the preset values. To do this, simply click on your name/ID in the upper-right-hand corner of the page:


That will bring you to this screen, which should (hopefully) be self-explanatory:


Hopefully that's somewhat helpful. Let me know if anything's unclear and I'll edit/add things as necessary.

I ran into this problem in my last post on differing levels of analysis--the problem of polarizing perspectives and the importance of reciprocity between perspectives to maintain whole understanding.

It's easy to see why this comes to mind immediately when contemplating the nature-nurture debate. I found myself wrestling with extremes, again. It seems that exclusive subscription to either nature or nurture compromises identity. It is certainly to better to find the overlap and the dialogue between the two so that expression is given some depth.

But even then, are nature and nurture not just two variables in an equation that plays out deterministically? I notice others have posed similar questions.

I think of the Bogle family. Such widespread, grave actions may seem to indicate some extent of hard wiring, "on whose nature Nurture can never stick." (Shakespeare) Caliban.jpg

Anomalies become fascinating. Consider the member of the Bogle family who graduated from high school with a GPA of 4.0 and received a full scholarship to Oregon State University. One has to wonder about this Bogle's genetic make up and upbringing.

Is the question of free will a sophomoric one? Spontaneity is a phenomenon I'd love to study.

I've run across the idea of psychodrama, a method of psychotherapy in which clients are encouraged to continue and complete their actions through dramatization, role playing and dramatic self-presentation.

At the core of psychodrama is a powerful premise: that spontaneity and anxiety are inversely related. Typically people think of this as knowing they will be more free to act once their anxiety is lowered, but, like a perfectly balanced see-saw, when one end is up the other is down, and vis-versa. Yes your spontaneity will rise when your anxiety is lowered, but the reverse is true. The more spontaneous you are the lower your anxiety. This is where using psychodrama and role-playing in therapy can have a tremendous asset in helping people overcoming anxiety. (Daniel J. Tomasulo)

It seems relevant to my initial concern of compromised identity and spontaneity. Could it be that the fluid playfulness of shifting, fictive identities is what gives psychodrama the power to restore an individual's well-being? What does this say about the power of all manner of expression?

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Open Discussion category from October 2011.

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