February 2012 Archives


Alzheimer's is a form of dementia meaning that it changes the memory, behavior, and thinking of its infected. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is actually quite common, especially in older females. Other risks can include high blood pressure, and being related to someone who has AD. Being that AD can run in the family it is concluded that the disease has a genetic connection. The APOE epsilon 4 allele is a gene that it linked to AD. However, both genetics and environment have been shown to play a role in the expression of the disease, both nature and nurture. AD affects a person's memory, language, perception, emotions, personality, and cognitive skills like thinking and judgment. One can even have hallucinations because of the disease. However, Alzheimer's actually is the degeneration of the brain. When an autopsy is done, there is identification of plaque and tangles. The degeneration mainly attacks the nerve cells which can be seen in the first picture. The effected brain contains less neurons than the normal brain. The next picture contain comparisons between a normal brain and brain affected by AD.

alzheimers-disease.jpg untitled.png

A CT scan or MRI will usually be taken to identify if a patient has AD. The only way to know for sure if someone did have AD is to look at their brain tissue after they are dead for plaque and tangles (in the third picture).


Sadly, there is no cure for AD but much effort has went into slowing the progression of the disease and managing the symptoms as they come by pharmaceutical treatments. There also is no way to prevent AD but by staying healthy, one can decrease the likelihood that AD will affect them by this cause. The bottom pictures show some facts about AD that most people do not know. Do these figures surprise you like they did me? I had no idea it was this common. Have you known someone with Alzheimer's disease? What was their experience with the loss of memory?

imagesCA6PWZ7R.jpg imagesCADKYE30.jpg imagesCAFCRB7U.jpg


Autism and Vaccinations

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Autism is a disorder of neural development, which impacts the communication, behavior mood and and social skills. There is one person who will be diagnosed of autism in every twenty in the world, and in the U.S., the percent of autism is 1/1000 to 1/1500. The factor of causing autism is unsure, some researches claim the genetic factor is the primary reason that causes autism, and they even find 7 groups of gene which could possibly cause it. Also, researchers suspect vaccinations are quite important for autism, which MMR is the first suspect.

The follow video could give you more information of autism:

The theory of MMR causing autism was mentioned by Andrew Wakefield in 1988, but after the researches and experiment, some people believe the morbidity of autism and MMR are not related. However, later Kennedy implied that Thimerosal (a vaccine preservative with organic mercury) may causes autism, because he found that the mercury poison is very similar to autism. The controversy of vaccinations theory is never stopped, but the CDC still required medicine companies to stop using Thimerosal as vaccine preservative. There are a lots of researches showed the MMR vaccine has no connection with autism, and even after stopping use Thimerosal, the rate of autism did not drop.

In chapter 9, the main concept is intelligence and IQ test. Intelligence test is a kind of sensory capacity, and IQ test is going to test the overall thinking ability. However, intelligence is not only about the ability of logical and mathematical skills, and more specific intelligence are about such as linguistic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. Also, textbook mentions that biological bases will influence intelligence, such as brain structure and memory. IQ test are not perfect and it is still debatable in psychological field, but people could get some reference from IQ test. In the last part of this chapter, it mentions emotional intelligence, as we know EQ.

EQ is a popular topic currently, and that is a ability of understand emotions and apply them. I used to think EQ is only about how to deal with relationship with others, which means EQ is about how to communicate and how to make individuals to adapt the environment and society. However, the deeper ability should be identify and understand the emotions, and try to make those emotional information useful for our help. For example, when I saw a friend had a sad face and heard upset voice, I understand he must be in something bad. in this moment, I knew he is in bad mood, and then I did not make myself much happy because I wanted to avoid my happiness to make him lonelier. Also, I should show kind and careful face to him to comfort him. This story is about EQ, because I get person's emotions and show the appropriated emotions to the person, and then make both of us comfortable. For noticing people's emotions, I believe I emotional intelligence is about finding microexpression, which the main point of LIE TO ME. Thus, microexpression (micro-facial expression) is a brand new field of psychology, and this intelligence is very useful in realationship.


Reading minds... commercially

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The classic image of someone who has gone classically and irrevocably paranoid in modern popular culture usually involves a secret home hidden from civilization and a tinfoil hat to protect them from powerful well-funded organizations who are working diligently to read and manipulate their thoughts using electromagnetic radiation.


Well it turns out that they might be closer to the money (pun discovered upon review) than we think. Many firms and business schools employ professional psychologists for the express purpose of understanding consumer behavior and appealing to the deeper - more action-inducing - parts of the human brain. According to this study, some are even going so far as to coax out the hidden connections between different senses. And, of course, we all know that advertisers have been broadcasting over radio and television waves for many years - and now as wi-fi and bluetooth increasingly personalize the reception of these radio waves, one is tempted to wonder how long before they come after our thoughts directly, say pass me that box that says Reynold's on it would ya?

ad for psych.JPG

But seriously, advertisers are interested in our emotions and and our thoughts for very lucrative reasons. They know that the right appeal can make all the difference between a flop and a hit. That's why in this Asics ad the marketing team makes use of a few basic rules:

1. Don't hit the nail too hard on the head - when people know you are trying to sell them something they use a little more caution about what they take away from it. Asics hides their brand identity by putting the logo at the bottom, for the viewer to discover after the punchline.

2. Get some action going - this ad almost physically draws the observer in with boldly shaped text bounding into the distance and mirroring the active mid-air stride of both dog and runner.

3. Use an animal - people pay attention to animals and children

4. Be funny - This ad purposely takes the standard motivation for running - self-improvement, personal ambition, and inward-facing experience - and inverts it in a dichotomy that is striking --- don't run for you, run for your dog.

The problem with analyzing a final product is that there's no easy way to tell how much of it was intentional. Perhaps it was just a couple of designers playing around with photos and lettering in Adobe who came up with a cool mix of message and visual (something that just "clicked" for them, perhaps). But at the same time maybe there really was a phalanx of lab-coat-wearing evil scientists using EEGs and fMRIs to tweak the ad into just the right message. There's just no way to know for sure.

So what do you think? Post your response in the comments - I'll be under the Washington Avenue bridge wearing this cool new hat I made.

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

Who makes your decisions?

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I have always been a firm believer that everyone has free will, and that they can choose what they would like on their own accord. Marcus de Sautoy has led me to question this. He underwent a fMRI in a BBC video called "The Secret You" which showed him that they were able to predict his actions up to 6 seconds before he did them. To me, this seems to derail the idea of freewill. If someone else can tell him what he was going to do before he knew (consciously) what he was going to do himself, what could this lead to?
I wonder if someday they will be able to predict things more complex than pushing buttons, and further ahead of time. What do you think? Also, what are the implications of being able to tell someones actions before they even occur? When it comes to being able to predict a button that will be pushed based on brain activity prior to the push of the button (activity image is shown below), it doesn't seem as eerie, but knowing this could someday lead to something more is a scary thought in my opinion. If our minds our made before we even "know" they are, does this mean we don't have free will, but rather a mass of neurons and connections decides what we are going to do for us?


This Oxford Mathematician, Marcus, has really made me think if every action we do is already decided by our brain before we do it, why, then am I so indecisive? I can never pick what to by at the store, what to order on a menu, or what to have for a meal. Regardless, the technology we have today is amazing, and its hard to "determine" what technology we may have in the future, and what more we can find out about consciousness and decision making!

The other world

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Dreaming is an extremely complex and interesting topic that is extremely unique, and is hard to believe that it happens every night even though some may not ever recall their dreams. Yes, dreaming happens every night and during dreaming we slip out of consciousness and into the our other world. Dreams can be about anything, but are usually about things that happened that day, things you maybe thought about a lot, issues, and or fantasies. When we think about our dreams, are they a reflection of what we really feel?

Lucid dreaming is when we realize we are dreaming in our dream. This is usually pretty rare among the general population however some people do it nightly through either training or just chance. There are ways to train yourself to lucid dream and there are people who are professionals at being able to lucid dream. Can humans actually control their dreams though? Do they ever gain complete control? Do animals dream like we do? Could future events be predicted through our dreams? Does anybody ever have reoccurring dreams? I don't.


When was the last time that you saw a really good ad? Do you remember how it made you feel? Well this ad does a great job at pulling forth the emotions that people experience through communication. When I saw this ad I thought that the advertisers chose a very creative way of displaying the categories of people that the narrator announce.
The key emotions that the commercial capture are happiness and inclusion. The advertisers allow the viewers to be able to create a personal connection to the commercial so that the chances of the potential customer purchases the product. The overall idea of the commercial is to announce a category then to associate that with an image. The really interesting thing is that the images are created with people! I think that by doing that the advertisers are about to bring the commercial to a personal level even though it is aimed at everyone.
In the ad I wouldn't say that emotions are manipulated in the commercial but they are brought forth so the viewers feel included in the categories that the narrator announces. On that note I would like to leave this post with one question.
Has anyone seen a really great/creative ad that they really enjoyed, and what emotions did the ad target to accomplish a successful ad/commercial?

Breaking a Mirror Means What?

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An apple a day keeps the doctor away. If you walk under a ladder, you will have bad luck. To break a mirror will bring you seven years of bad luck.


These are all common superstitions that many have heard growing up in the United States. The question is how did these superstitions originate and remain so well known throughout the years? Is operant conditioning the main indication behind the popularity? Or are most superstitions spread through history predominantly by the word of mouth?

The famous B.F. Skinner tested operant conditioning through many pigeon experiments to determine whether superstitions actually exist. Skinner's experimental results with pigeons and other animals showed: "Actions linked to reinforcement by sheer coincidence" (Morse & Skinner, 1957). This is summarized by saying there is no correlation between superstitious behaviors and consistent results.

B.F. Skinner, Behaviorism and Your Superstitious Beliefs

But do most people actually believe that at superstitions are indeed only sheer coincidence? Even if they did would they stop following their superstitious beliefs? Most likely not because of belief perseverance, but superstitious people cannot deny the origins of many of these superstitions. The superstition of a broken mirror is derived from ancient times. People in these times looked at their reflections and thought they were seeing into their souls. So if a mirror is shattered, supposedly a soul is shattered as well. Walking under a ladder is from Asia when criminals used to be hung from the seventh rung of a leaning ladder.

So do you think more superstitions are due to operant conditioning or spread from generation to generation through word of mouth?

While reading chapter five in the Lilienfeld text on sleeping disorders, I noticed an excerpt about narcolepsy effecting dogs. My first though was, I must look this up! So there I was, searching YouTube looking up dogs with sleeping disorders. I was amazed to find that the symptom that they had were almost identical to how humans go through with such disorders. Continuing on with my research I had also found an online journal article that explained why these disorders occur.

The journal article explained that only domesticated animals are prone to sleeping disorders, due to fitness in the wild. The most common sleep disorders that these domesticated animals experience can range from; Enuresis "Wetting the bed", Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy, & Sleepwalking, some of these disorders are more serious than others. I found that Sleepwalking & Narcolepsy hold more interest to the research community.

It has already been discovered that animals dream just as humans do. Evidence of this can be seen by the; "Twitching of limbs, facial muscles and vocalizations, which periodically interrupts the animal's peaceful sleep, suggesting that it is actually dreaming." [Dr. Hedricks & Dr. Morrison] A more extreme example of dreaming can be seen in the sleeping disorder sleepwalking. Dogs have been found to bark at non-existent things, simulate running while still laying down, and walking around as if they were awake.

An example of Sleepwalking:

Narcolepsy can also affect a domestic animal's way of life. Symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness, sudden sleep attacks, & sudden paralysis don't necessarily cause harm to the animal or is particularly unpleasant, but this disorder hinder the ways in which they live their daily lives. One example in particular that I found is a miniature poodle named Skeeter, who becomes paralyzed if he's experience any type of stress, namely from excitement. This type of disorder isn't quite understood yet, but it is currently being study to find out what causes this disorder.

An example of Narcolepsy:


"Do Animals Have Sleep Disorders?" Sleep & Health Journal. Sleep and Behaviour Medicine Institute, 04 May 2009. Web. 26 Feb. 2012. .

Emotion In ADs

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Were surrounded by them everyday all the time. Advertisements are apart of our life regardless of where we are. TV, billboards, on the internet and in magazines everywhere- advertisers strive to get our attention and seek our responses. They want us to feel something so that we will remember whatever it is they are trying to sell. Some ads do a great job at this while others seem to fail. One way that advertisers get our attention is by associating their product with something we desire- which could be an attractive female or male or a distinct memory that makes us feel happy or sad. They want our ATTENTION, and they will do whatever they can to get it.

Check out this Chevy ad

It is a great example of how advertisement strives to get your attention emotionally, using their product (the conditioned stimulus) to get you to remember their product and the emotions you associate it with.

Autism is a developmental disease that is caused by problems in the bio-neurogical deveolpment of a child. No one is really sure the exact cause of Autism though. Autism affects many parts of the brain including hindering ones ability to develop communication skills, social interaction skills, and cognitive functioning skills. Having Autism not only affects those skills, it also can cause asthma, allergies, epilepsy, digestive disorders, and many more physical issues. Children with Autism tend to have an ability to remember things such as numbers to an insane extent. For instance, a boy from my high school that has Autism was able to memorize every person's name and address in the whole address book. A video here shows how kids with Autism act.


There are 2 vaccines for Autism, which are Thimerosal and MMR.There are also many treatments people use such as different types of therapy, behavior modification, and relationship intervention modification. A treatment known as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has caused many controversial debates due to the ethical challenges it brings. ABA teaches people with Autism to act like people without Autism but does not actually change anything in their brain; they are just taught to mimic the so-called "normal" people. They are supposed to suppress their natural feelings, which some people consider to be unethical because they are trying to hide who they really are. There is also a debate whether vaccines such as Thimerosal work because there is no concrete evidence that they do. There are some cases where the vaccines work and some where they have no effect neurologically. Do you think that the vaccines and treatments are ethical? Is it possible to treat these Autistic patients in a more ethical and standard way?


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While reading chapter 5, I came across a section on hypnosis. According to the chapter 5, hypnosis is defined that a set of techniques that provides people with suggestions for alterations in their perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The use of hypnotic techniques has increased continuously because it is considered a safe, reliable, effective and comfortable alternative to other traditional clinical methods. Many professions recognize the potential benefits of using hypnosis for stress management and the hypnosis method is used to stop smoking, eliminate phobias or lose weight.
I have no experience with hypnosis, but I have done meditation through one of physical education classes. At that time, when I was deep in meditation, I was in the stage of comfortable relaxation by the instructor's direction. Even though there are differences between hypnosis and meditation, I believe similarity of that both methods can be used to eliminate physical discomfort. In addition, I truly felt that my whole body was extremely being relaxed and sometimes, I had fallen asleep with a consciousness dream.


There are a number of benefits you could achieve through hypnosis. The article from New York Hypnotherapy NYC Life Coach demonstrates the benefits of hypnosis. (http://www.ericzeislerhypnotherapy.com/benefits.html)

Here is the summary of the benefits.
• Hypnosis for stress
• Hypnosis for fears
• Hypnosis for motivation
• Hypnosis for smoking

Here is the video to make you do self-hypnosis. Let's try this.

Can you be Hypnotized? Self Hypnosis Video

After the video, my arms became weak and I almost fell asleep. Did you feel the same way I did? Did you get the self hypnosis?

Sleep-Assisted Learning

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This blog is in response to Jhon's entry "What is Consciousness?". I did this blog as replacement points for missing the discussion CON.

In the blog, it is suggested that when a person is alert, aware, and able to process information they are conscious. However, a person may also be conscious when they are sleeping because it has been shown that their brain is actively processing sensory information. While asleep, a person is conscious of their surroundings and of how comfortable they are.

learn_sleep_0.jpgIn order to learn, people must be able to process information AKA be conscious. If a person can learn while awake and conscious, why can't a person learn while asleep and conscious? In chapter 6, there is a section on sleep-assisted learning. Sleep-assisted learning is learning new material while asleep, i.e. playing an informational CD while you sleep. But, sleep-assisted learning is too good to be true. Early findings were encouraging, however they failed to rule out rival hypotheses.

Based on the reasoning stated above, a person should be able to learn while sleeping because they are "conscious". However, research has shown that that is not the case. Sleep-assisted learning does not work.

If a person is truly conscious while they sleep, why doesn't sleep-assisted learning work? Does that mean that a person isn't really conscious while asleep? Or is there different levels of consciousness?


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The portrayal of operant conditioning in the popular sitcom "Big Bang Theory" quite accurately depicts the simplicity of said phenomenon in psychology. One of the characters simply offers another character a piece of chocolate each time she does something acceptable... she is un-knowingly being trained during this process. This may seem like a very bare-bones, simplistic example of how operant conditioning can be utilized, but it is also very accurate. Today the world of animal training completely revolves around this concept of positive reinforcement to shape an animals behaviors. dolphin.jpgDolphin trainers at Sea World live by this theory and their efforts pay off each time they perform a show. I find it very interesting that such an elementary concept is so effective. Something that takes five minute for a sitcom to introduce, humorously, can be directly applied to real life situations. As long as the specimens: the character or dolphins, are presented with a stimulus that ignites the response of pleasure/enjoyment: chocolate or a rub on the belly, the training is almost inevitable. These dolphins perform amazing feats and obey their trainers unbelievably well. I find enjoyment in discovering psychological ideas being implemented in the world around me.

You sleepwalked where?!

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I did this blog in response to Jhon's blog "What is consciousness?" I did this blog as replacement point for missing the CON discussion during week 5!

While reading chapter 5, I came across a section on sleepwalking. Sleepwalking is defined as walking while fully asleep. I was surprised to find out that sleepwalking is relatively common in children, up to 30% have sleepwalked at least once.

sleeping.jpgI, myself, was included in that 30% and glad to find out I was not alone. When I was a young child, I sleepwalked frequently. My parents have numerous embarrassing stories of things that I did while sleepwalking, whether it be sitting in a dry bathtub pretending to take a bath or unknowingly getting ready for school, even though it was the middle of the night. I would have no recollection in the morning of my midnight escapades.

Even though those stories are quite funny, sleepwalking can be very dangerous. One weekend, my family was staying in a hotel. I sleepwalked out of the hotel room without anyone noticing. Luckily, nothing happened to me and I eventually found my way back to the room. However, this is not the case for some other children. There are horror stories of children who sleepwalk out of their houses and are found miles away with out proper clothing attire, etc. and still sleeping. Children who sleepwalk and engage in such dangerous activities can risk loosing their lives!

There are some safety precautions that parents can put in place, such as alarms that wake them if their child leaves their room. But other than that, there is not much a parent can do. Most children grow out of sleepwalking, like I did.

What determines if a child has a tendency to sleepwalk? Where you included in that 30%? Have you heard any funny stories about your sleepwalking adventures? Have you had any encounters with a person who is sleepwalking?

In the first portion of the BBC Horizon documentary, The Secret You, Oxford mathematician Marcus de Sautoy discusses the time when we become self aware. He spoke with a specialist conducting a mirror test on when, roughly, the human being knows visually who they are. She conducted a test that required a parent to distract a young child while they put a spot on their cheek. When the children look in the mirror, they should notice the spot and realize that it is not a part of them, that is, if they are self-aware. If they are not self-aware, they will look at themselves in the mirror and not realize that they are staring at themselves. The children that are self-aware will attempt to take the spot off, and the children that are not will not try to take the spot off. According to the video, self awareness is developed somewhere between 18 and 24 months of age.


This is interesting to think about. We often take for granted our appearance and us knowing that it is us, but what in our brains causes us to realize that who we are inside and what we feel is the same person that we see in the mirror? This seems like it is something we take for granted, but there could be some kind of rare brain defect that never makes this connection. Does anyone know of such a disease? It would be eerie to look in the mirror everyday and not recognize yourself. It was also interesting that another person in the video said that with self awareness comes the realization that we will die one day. Do you agree with this? Does knowing our visual self really matter in knowing of our eventual end?

After being un-expectantly graced with my twins presence last weekend when she made the trek home from college, the Nature vs Nurture debate entered my mind. Being raised together doesn't exactly add much fact to either side, especially because of the differing genders, but it intrigued me to a point where I began comparing and contrasting different components of our personalities and behavioral habits.

The nature vs Nurture debate is an argument about whether biological factors or environmental factors are more influential in our human development and the resulting behaviors. Is who we are determined by our genetics or shaped by the environment in which we developed? In regards to my sister and I, we are completely different in most aspects, which is not exactly shocking to me. However, my older brother and I are completely similar, if not almost the same, in our personality, behavior, and physical appearance and often get asked if we are twins. From this I came across an article in USA today, http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-02-05-siblings_N.htm, about how nurture seemed to play a big role.

The siblings said that they were never pressured, pushed or compared to each other, but nurtured in a supporting environment that allowed them to develop on their own. Their own competitiveness against each other was enough motivation to do their best which I think is compatible to most siblings.

Point Break

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A very close cousin of mine recently committed suicide, he was 19 years old. This unexpected event in my life prompted me to take action and to learn more about teen suicide in the United States. I wanted to know why such things happen and if their are signs that would prompt others to help the victim in need? A life is a very delicate thing and matters like this should be taken very seriously.

Every year in the United States, thousands of people ages 15-24 commit suicide. It is the third leading cause of death for that age group. Growing up can be very stressful at times, it can be confusing, doubtful, and scary. Parents divorce and many times kids are forced to live in new communities that they are not accustomed with. Kids sometimes feel that suicide is the only way to solve these problems. Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable mental disorders if they are caught before it is too late. Some warning signs of suicide are:

change in eating and sleeping habits
withdrawal from friends and family
drug and alcohol abuse
noticeable personality change
decline in quality of school work
complaints of being a bad or rotten person
vebal hints such as: "I won't be a problem much longer or it's no use"
giving away personal possessions
having signs of psychosis

Suicide is a preventable occurrence. Treatment often involves a combination of drug based treatment such as taking imipramine or fluoxetine which are antidepressants and "talking based" therapy like cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy involves modifying self destructive and irrational thought processes. It helps consider alternative actions when thoughts of self harm arise.

Suicide is a very serious but preventable action. If you know someone who has thought about it or has shown signs of suicide, please get them help immediately. Because you only have one life and when it's gone, it's gone.

School sucks. Is it worth it?

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So why do we go through more schooling after high school? Does college actually make you smarter or is it just a credential to make you look employable? According to sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, 36 percent of students had no gains in reasoning or writing skills after four years of college. I find it interesting that it's possible to cruise through four years of higher level education and walk away with just some good memories. We're all paying a substantial amount of money for college, but if nearly 40 percent of students today aren't learning anything, why are they doing it?


Now on the contrary, chapter 9 goes over how people who attend school have more synapses which are neural connections and are also more likely to have a higher IQ. I'm sure this is true for the majority of students. Another question having to do with correlation vs. causation that was raised in my head was are students getting higher IQ's from attending college or are students who have high IQ's just more likely to attend college? To answer this, according to the book, students who drop out of school end up with lower IQ's than students who don't even if they both start with the same IQ.

So is it worth it? I would say for most people yes. It gives you certain problem solving experiences you can't get anywhere else.

Baby Geniuses?

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After watching the BBC video about the search for consciousness I was interested most in the part about the age at which we gain consciousness. As stated, it's estimated to be around 18-24 months.
What I find most interesting is the idea that adult people cannot recall memories before an estimated age, usually 3 years old, also called Childhood (or Infantile) Amnesia.

However, other research may suggest that this threshold of early memory may be closer to 2 years, or 24 months of age. This made me question if there might be a relationship between this "gaining consciousness" or becoming self-aware and the ability to learn things that can be remembered years later.


This is supposedly caused by the underdevelopment of the limbic system in the brain, including the hippocampus and amygdala. However, have you ever heard of someone claiming to remember something from before they were 2-3 years old? I know I have.

So, I tried finding research into the idea, and found some call Infantile Amnesia a myth, after some research has apparently found 3-day-old infants able to distinguish a passage from Dr. Seuss' "A Cat in the Hat," after it had been read to them while in the womb! This seems to suggest that it would be very unlikely that this "Infantile Amnesia" could be explained solely by the immaturity of some cognitive systems.

This makes me wonder quite a few things:
When are first able to remember things?
How are we able to recall early memories?
Why are some people able to remember events from their infant years while others can't remember before age 3?


This made me remember a movie, Baby Geniuses (which I probably watched when I was around 8, but remember quite vividly), in which a group of babies were able to not only communicate effectively but accomplish extraordinary things until they hit an age, (around 24 months?) at which they simply "cross-over," as if to another world, no longer able to connect with the other babies.

Is there a connection between childhood amnesia and becoming self-aware?

What is your earliest memory? How old were you?

People are faced with some crazy stuff everyday. If it wasn't for our super intelligent thing in our heads (well more for some than others) we would not be able to survive half as well as we do today. Well known artists such as M.C. Escher have been using illusions for a long time to mess with our brains. Their abilities allow them to perceive us when viewing certain pieces of art. This heightens our illusions and messes with our perception.


Perception is when our senses meet our brain. But this doesn't come first! Sensation does and this is how we can first come to all of these amazing things. They are transducers for our central nervous system. In this illusion the artists use the perception topic of perceptual hypothesis: perceptual sets. In a perceptual set our expectations influence our perception. What do you see in the picture? How many horses do you actually see? There should actually be 7! These hypotheses come from just guessing what's out there. Our brains rely so much on our knowledge and experiences that we can sometimes get away with what we are actually taking in from our senses. But not this time. When do you think artists started to use illusions in their artwork and why? Also, can you think of any other perception topics in this illusion or in others that you've seen in your daily life?

Perceive What I Mean?

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"What are all these hands doing here!?"

Is this something you thought when you first saw this piece?

Probably not... Most people can easily see that the hands are forming a face. But how? The piece is just a bunch of hands drawn at different sizes, positions, and angles.

Confusing, Right? Wrong... The artist utilizes a little something called the Principles of Perception to turn a bunch of disorderly hands into a splendid piece of art that conveys human features to whoever glances upon this masterpiece.

The Magic behind the Paintbrush... A particular branch of principles of perception called the Gestalt Principles come into play here. These Principles include:

1.Proximity 2.Similarity 3.Continuity 4.Closure 5.Symmetry 6.Figure-Ground

I'm only going to talk about two of them, but if you're hungry for more, check out this website to dive in deeper.

Proximity, in a whiff... is when objects are so close to each other, that we see them as one. In the piece of art from above, the hands are so close that they are overlapping, leaving virtually no space between them. This causes us to view them as one. Below is another example, the dots on this sign are close enough so that we perceive the hand, telling us to stop (which is sort of important).


Similarity, in a jiff... is when objects are similar in some fashion, that we see them as one. This can be similarity in size, shape, color, etc. In the piece of art from above, the hands are similar in both color and basic shape which help us view the figure as a whole and perceive the face. This can also be used to draw more attention to a particular object. In the example below, the black raspberries blend together while the one red raspberry pops out.


To sum it up... Principles of perception are your brain's way of taking information and translating it into something meaningful and the Gestalt Principles deal with the visual side of this translation. Researching more into this made me curious and so I leave you with a few questions:

Have you ever been fooled by your misperception of something?

Can you imagine what it would be like if our brains didn't make sense of things?

Would we then have to examine and learn/ re-learn every new object we see?

Did You Hear That?

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Teens everywhere are setting their cell phones on the "mosquito ringtone." The mosquito ringtone is a high pitched sound that many adults over 25 can not hear. Dog whistles have the same idea behind the ringtone. The ringtone, also nicknamed Teen Buzz, is gathering a lot of attention even from CBS News.


Teens use the ringtone so parents and teachers can not hear the phone going off. Teen Buzz has become the new vibrate, yet the whole class can hear it, minus the teacher. This leads us to question why adults can not hear the sound? A phenomenon called presbycusis is the culprit. Adults ability to hear high frequencies deteriorates with age. Perhaps this information will allow us to study ways to prevent or reverse the process. On the other hand a few adults can hear the ringtone. They might be the ones to look to for finding out how and why they can still hear the high frequency. All in all I don't think anyone will feel sorry for the kid whose teacher can hear the teen buzz.

selective awareness

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During our last small group discussion i have watched a few selective awareness videos and i see what happens but that because i already know that it is a test for that. Yet ill be honest the first time i watched it in class i completely missed everything because i was so focused on doing what the video told me to do. the sad thing was i had even seen it before a few years ago and still i didn't notice the moonwalking bear in the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahg6qcgoay4
This just proves that humans in general can easily miss what is right before their eyes because they weren't previously told that it is there or they weren't told to concentrate on finding it. The funny thing is even though i was doing what they told me which is to watch the passes and count how many were made it was gratifying to know i got that right only to be put down that i didn't notice everything that was going on. Another selective awareness test that we watched was http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBPG_OBgTWg which had one guy asking for directions only to swap places with someone else. It was funny to see how people didn't even notice the switch which means their minds were to preoccupied by trying to know the directions. To make it much more interesting they even switched it up from older to younger guy or white guy to black guy and even better man to woman. I thought this was a very entertaining way off learning how we can have a very selective awareness.

People become aware of themselves between the ages of 18-24 months, but what changes for this to happen? We don't just wake up one morning and all of the sudden know that we are ourselves. What part of the brain activates our consciousness? According to the video "BBC Horizon-The Secret You" there is no one part of the brain that holds our consciousness. In fact it is actually a complex process that does this.conscious.jpg According to "The Secret You" it all starts in the Reticular Activating System, which is a group of diffused nerve cells in the brain stem. This sends projections to the relay system known as the Thalamus, which then sends these projections throughout the Cortex. Consciousness is constant activation of the Cortex. So when do we consider someone to be out of consciousness? Do we consider someone to be out of consciousness when they are in a vegetative state? A researcher from "The Secret You" video is finding evidence on the contrary. When people that are in vegetative states were asked to imagine themselves playing a tennis match the same part of their brain was activated as the healthy volunteers who were asked the same question. In a sense they were acknowledging that they were being asked a question and reacting to that question. Does this mean they still have consciousness? Is it wrong then to take someone off life support who can still process in their mind thier surroundings? When should people be considered brain dead or out of consciousness? I am interested in what people have to say on this topic.

Coming across this link to an article and comments regarding the findings of ESP, and more specifically the teachings of ESP, my mind jumped back to a spot in our textbook regarding the thoughts centered around ESP. Our textbook shows scholarly information regarding ESP, does this article contradict it or simply state that the information is a waste of space? The article as well as the books state, ESP is an extraordinary claim and there is still yet to be extraordinary evidence to prove the theory. So do we have enough information to allow us to believe? According to surveys from Haraldsson and Houtkooper in 1991 and Greely in 1987, American adults seem to have some belief. These findings of the belief of ESP, as brought up in one of the comments on the article, may be due to pop culture through the media. Films, books, and stories are filled with super-natural findings. dcr0153l.jpgHas this had a major impact on the belief of the unknown? If we do believe the teachings are relevant that may lead us down a different path, but ESP being featured in our book is not there to let us know the truth behind it but further more the reasoning of the crazy phenomenons people seem to have. Illusory correlation, recalling striking evidence as coincidences and ignore the other events that may harm this thought, may be an explanation to this extraordinary claim of being able to "predict" the future. Is this an intensive enough explanation? Have you ever had ESP feelings whether they be through a dream or a feeling of an event that occurred? And back to the article, does this topic have the solid evidence to be printed in scholarly text books and given to students as useful information? Those may be questions for us to answer ourselves depending on the extent in which we believe in ESP.

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. For the discussion section project we will gather data from each other 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

Sensation And Perception

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

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

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

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

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

Picture 10.png

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

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

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

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



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

Finally, it may be a case of early onset of dementia but this happens to me more than I would like to admit. I ask my daughter,"Hey Ruby, have you seen my sunglasses anywhere?"

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

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

Would you spot the gorilla?.pdf

Nature Vs. Nurture

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After reading the blog based off of nautre/nuture a strong question arised. How much blame do a childs parents really deserve, are their parents to blame? Where does the line stop? And what do we constitue it as, nature or nurture? This is always a conversation that will bring debate into full swing within a group of people. Whether its through nature or nuture your parents have had influence throughout your life. When reviewing this concept my thoughts constantly went to a story of nuture, or possibly nature, from my sisters childhood. We were sitting in the line at target and my sister around 5 at the time, Madison, continued to ask my mom if she could get this candy and that lipgloss and that pack of gum, my mom tended to be a push over in my younger years and let her continue to dish stuff on the belt which eventually led to the cashier and into the bag. The young boy behind us, approximately my sister's age, saw her greedy intentions and proceeded to ask his mom the same questions, of course replacing lipgloss with matchbox cars, but his mom being more strong willed than mine did not let him put a single item into their cart explaining that he already had gotten enough treats and toys for the day.parents discipline.jpg Growing up, in my family, the word no was never very strong and has led me to reality shocks throughout my high school and short college career. I would imagine that the young boy who was told no about 10 years ago, has had less of a culture shock during his years of maturity. I found an article reviewing the possibilities of spending habits being passed down from their parents to their kids. It brings up essential points in the argument of nature vs/ nurture showing the impact of a parents habits on their children. So this leads us back to the question, is my childhood of push-over, unconscious money spending parents to blame for my culture shock in my years of maturity or was this simply always bound to happen because of the nature of my mind?

The Command Center!

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As I was reading Chapter 3 it hit me! The brain really is a complicated area of our body! If it was not for our brain we would never be able to do anything! I knew before our brain was outstanding but until reading this chapter I had no idea how complex it actually was. Each part of our brain is used to control different emotions and actions we do on a daily basis. For example our temporal lobe is what helps me understand the difference between speaking Ukrainian or English and helping me remember all the wonderful memories i had as a kid in the Ukrainian culture. When I was younger I knew that there were so many fascinating things that happen in your brain but I never thought that our brain is the main thing that makes us who we are. Bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance in one's brain and this is another thing I find very interesting. How can our brains malfunction to cause mental disorders in some but not in others? But then thinking about it more and more I realized it was not about our brains malfunctioning it has to do with our family backgrounds. If our parents have issues with some part of their brain there is a very strong possibility that it could happen to their children. For example with bipolar, my dad is bipolar and so am I this is just something that i got from my dad that is through some research seen to be genetic but my sister on the other hand is not bipolar. The brain is something that is fascinating to me and I am now I want to learn so much more! Like why is bipolar considered genetic? Why does each part of your brain do something different? These are just a couple questions I have.

The psychology of psychology

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Psychology is perhaps one discipline that one cannot study without getting somewhat personally involved in. If I were to ask some psychology related questions, they would have to do with the psychological response people have to thinking about psychology itself. For example, what are the psychological effects of believing that your psychological disposition, your actions and personality, are the result of your genes and upbringing, as opposed to believing that you make your own "choices"?

I would assume that people would have some opinion on their own "free will", as it's called, and I wonder if perhaps there are some powerful psychological effects due to taking one's own "choices" and "actions" as either seriously being "real" choices in the metaphysical and/or religious sense, versus seriously being physically determined events, as in, not choices that "they" actually made. Most likely in daily life one does not think too much on this topic, but just goes about daily life. However, in extreme circumstances the mind's ability to understand itself could become more crucial to sustaining sanity.


What is the mind's reaction to its being a mind, and a mind in a body at that? Do you find the question of free will to be relevant to your understanding of yourself and your actions? How do you understand your own mentality in light of the fact that human psychology can be greatly influenced and/or determined by genes and the environment? Does this issue bother you? Why or why not?

Nature, Nurture, or...

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Sitting on my coffee table four piercing blue eyes caught my attention. An issue of National Geographic with Twins written in bold letters and a pair of darling girls, nose and cheeks sprinkled with freckles was on the cover. I eagerly read the article, titled A Thing or Two About Twins. Within the first few paragraphs the article mentioned that within the nature vs. nurture debate, scientists have recently discovered a third factor that plays in: epigenetics. The article talks about sets of twins that are so alike, even while being raised apart, it's astonishing. Coincidences like marrying women of the same name, having the same job, naming their children the same name, smoking the same brand of cigarettes, are things one set of twins, the famous "Jim Twins" share. twins2.jpg
"Twins." Jodi Cobb. National Geographic Jan. 2012. Print.
However, other sets of twins, like one pair of boys in Maryland, are very different while still sharing the same DNA and being raised by the same parents. Epigenetics seeks to explain this, the twins have the same nature, and nurture, shouldn't they be identical? Both these twins have autism, but if affects one of them much more severely, while his brother seems to be flourishing. The study of epigenetics looks into how environmental factors, like access to nutrients from the placenta during fetal development, affects the expression of genes. This can lead to twins being born at unequal birth weights, or one with a heart condition while the other is fine, as in the case of Maryland twins mentioned above. The twin who struggles more with his autism today was the one born with the heart condition, needed surgery, and was put on powerful drugs following the surgery. How those drugs affected his gene expression in his first year of life seems to have been crucial in his later development in life. Danielle Reed, a pioneering geneticist helping develop the study of epigenetics explains it like this: "What I like to say is that Mother Nature writes some things in pencil and some things in pen. Things written in pen you can't change. That's DNA. But things written in pencil you can. That's epigenetics." Miller, Peter. "Twins." National Geographic Jan. 2012. Print.


Nelzon Cruz, Bengie Molina, Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers wearing Phiten necklaces. Source: Wired.com

If you catch baseball games from time to time, perhaps you've noticed players walking around wearing trendy-looking braided necklaces. They are called Phiten necklaces, and like holographic bracelets, they are often associated with fitness and elevated performance levels. I'm a firm believer in skepticism and because these 'performance enhancers' tend to be bunk, I checked out Phiten's official website to explore whether their marketing campaign uses any logical fallacies.

On Phiten's website, I quickly noticed the incredible vagueness with which they describe their products. Phiten's claim to fame is coating their fabric apparel with a titanium-water solution, as their Technology section describes. There's also a physical fitness aspect to Phiten's products, clear from the section dedicated to famous athletes, and Phiten's own claims to support "principles of health and well-being." But noticeably absent is a specific claim as to how the coated fabrics help people perform physical activities.

Phiten helps "everyone, from hardcore athletes to weekend warriors, to get them through the daily grind and to support a healthy and active lifestyle." But what exactly does this mean? This claim is so unspecific that it is impossible to disprove, meaning Phiten is committing the falsifiability fallacy. What surprised me is that Phiten actually doesn't seem to commit the extraordinary claims fallacy - there is no evidence because there is no actual claim. This renders Occam's razor and replicability irrelevant, as well.


But Phiten's logic also reveals an unwillingness to explore rival hypotheses. If their products really do help people "get through the daily grind," there are many potential explanations as to why - including the placebo effect, which has been shown to influence study subjects time and time again. (The placebo effect may have a bigger influence in sports than we realize, according to a Journal of Sports Science and Medicine study - click 'find it' to access.)

I think this is evidence of why we as consumers should be skeptical of strange, magical-sounding products on the market. I personally find the marketing of such things pretty reprehensible. Though Phiten certainly has the legal right to sell things, playing off of consumers' weaknesses like this can promote ideas that we as a science-embracing society should collectively try not to support.

Have you had experiences with products or services that had similar claims to Phiten's? What happened? Do you like them, dislike them, or feel somewhere in the middle about them?

Genetics vs. Enviroment

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After Wednesday's discussion I was very curious about whether or not our genes really do influence people's criminal behavior. It is weird to think that criminal behaviors are being blamed more and more on a persons background especially genes. I found this article from Medical News Today about a test that was done to help decide if genes do influence criminal behavior. The debate about it being nature or nurture is still out there. The research was based off of 3 pathways of crime in a twin methodology. The results ended up being equal between influences from environment and genetics. But researchers are still determined that the bringing up of a human being influences the crimes that humans commit. --what do you think: is it nature or nurture?


My first instinct was that all actions taken by people are environmental but after reading the article I have mixed feelings. All the points that were made for why its genetic or why it was the environment all make perfect sense. The thing is we all grow up from different backgrounds, criminals come from good and bad backgrounds, don't they? Do you think there is a specific gene for crime? If not, then why do these studies continue?

Who Switched off Your Brain?

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In this week's text, I found the idea of neural plasticity invigorating. Recently, I have found myself hooked on the same thought when reflected on my latest leisure reading, Who Switched off Your Brain?, by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Leaf states, "The way we think influences the way we talk and behave - every action or word first begins as a thought. Thoughts grow into words and actions that affect our relationships and can physically change the structures of our brains."

Neuroplasticity is the ability to alter those nature made structures through nurture. Leaf further asserts that a process called epigenetics exists that surpasses the realms of nature and nurture. "In essence, [it is] the process by which... thought impulses select, modify and regulate gene activity," says Leaf. More basically, this means we can change our own brains by how we think. She asserts, "thinking and choosing activates reactions, which in turn activates genetic expression, meaning proteins are made... so, there is an actual physical change in brain structures as we think." This in turn shapes our biology, which means we can change the way we perceive events by consciously making an effort to grow "positive thought trees."

In reflecting on the claims by Leaf and your own personal experience, do you think you can alter your actions and impulses by conscious thought? Furthermore, if you believe the latter question to be true, do you think these changes alter your biology and the genes passed to your children?

While browsing the internet in search of a good topic for my blog entry, I came across this article. The article talks about the research done on 50 pairs of brothers and sisters of which one was a drug addict and other was not. It was a surprise to me that the article only talked about genetic causes for drug addiction - abnormality in the fronto-striatal systems of the brain related to self-control, and nothing about environmental causes. Apart from personality traits, various social situations could also lead to drug addiction: bad friends, bad breakup, medical conditions, etc. How can those factors be missed in a study about drug addiction?


There was another article, not too long ago, stating that mental illness and drug addiction may co-occur. In that, researchers attribute the dual diagnosis to come from a common cause due to developmental changes in the amygdala. This led me to think, that the lack of self control may not be the only cause of drug addiction. Since self control or the lack of it is contagious, it is more likely that drug addiction can be behavioral than inheritable. Do you agree?


Many of us have some things that we cant control ourselves, like the inability to put down a good book, the urge to eat a dessert or snack after a good meal, the tendency to watch a game even before exam day, the need to hit the gym everyday - Does that mean that we have a brain abnormality related to controlling behavior?

Those crazy Brits

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In full disclosure, I will not be confirming or denying that citizens of Britain are in fact crazy.

Rather I'll be discussing this article I came across on BBC.com.

Great headline, right?
"Patients 'MORE LIKELY TO DIE' if admitted at weekends"!!!

It caught my attention to say the least and it wasn't soon after that my new-found psychological criticism cried foul. Aren't they jumping the gun a bit? Perhaps there are a few Scientific Principles that missed the boat on this decision destination.

thought bubble.jpg
My first thought was, there HAS to be a 3rd variable! Simply being admitted to a hospital from Friday night thru Sunday night cannot give you a one-up on dying.
Hello Scientific Principle # 2, 'Correlation vs. Causation,' glad you could show up.

I should mention that the article did list two explanations for the higher death rate with admissions over the weekend: 1- less staff, lab techs, experts working on the weekend and 2- people with less serious injuries will generally wait until after the weekend to go to the doctor if symptoms persist.

While their claim that it's more likely for more serious cases to go to the hospital seems valid, I thought there could be more behind that rationale. Is there an increase of more serious accidents over the weekend? What causes these accidents?

To test this, I wanted to find out what day(s) of the week and what time of day proved to have the highest amount of car accidents. It turns out nights and weekends are the worst.
Et voila, my 3rd factor: more serious/fatal car accidents take place over the weekend.

Can you think of other factors that occur over the weekend that could influence why more people die if they're admitted to a hospital over the weekend?

"Left-handed people are the only people in their right mind"
I love this quote! I'm a lefty, a southpaw, i write with the wrong hand, take your pick.


In Chapter three there is a excerpt that discusses the misconception that there are left-brained and right-brained people in the world.In reality, we use each side of our brain. They complement each other. People have claimed that left-brained people are more scholarly and analytical, where as right-brained people are more artistic and emotional. I do agree with this observation because my sister and dad are both right handed and they are much more analytical than either my mom or I, who are both left handed and love arts and crafts.

There are many activities online that will determine if you are right-brained or left-brained.

Which Way is the Woman Spinning?

Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz

When I watched the "Which Way is the Woman Spinning?" video I was able to see her spinning both ways. I believe that everyone is capable of looking at it both ways if you take your time. Being able to see the image in each light shows how each side of your brain complements the other.

When I took the quiz, I got the same score for both the left and right brain. This is another example of how our right and left hemispheres are complementary.

5 Challenges of Psychology

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The first challenge of psychology, talked about how human behavior is difficult to predict because most human actions are caused by multiple factors. The second challenge describes how psychological influences rarely are independent of each other. Individual differences make it hard to compare all people on a common plane. Reciprocal determinism or the fact that we influences others behaviors is another challenge of psychology. The last challenge of psychology talks about how we are all from different cultures and have different cultural backgrounds which often shape who we are and how we act.

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