About Me Recap

I first started using this blog for my psychology class assignments in February. I ended my first post with the question: “Does the knowledge of psychology change the way that individuals view the world?” Well I never got a straight forward answer but it’s not really a straight forward question so I had to interpret the results by my own experience from the class. I believe the answer is yes, knowledge of psychology definitely changes a persons’ perspective. I learned it first hand. Learning about mental disorders was the most beneficial to my life because many of my friends have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety and sometimes both. I have always been there for them to listen, but I never really understood what was really going on in their heads. Now, I’m one step closer and I’m learning how to acknowledge what they are going through.

A lot of things have changed since my first “About Me” post, so let me catch you up. I am now a junior at Austin College. I switched my major over the course of the spring semester from biology to english and my two minors are now biology and music. I plan on pursuing a career in biology-based journalism in the future, hopefully with a job that travels. I experienced new things in my life that have given me a different perspective. I’ve developed bonds with new friends that I never imagined would happen. I’ve met new people and reconnected with old friends. I’ve dealt with drama here and there, some of it being of my own doing, though unintentionally. I’ve done some soul searching and realized that I don’t know myself that well. I guess I have more progress to make in that department. Overall, I’ve done a lot of learning and emotional growing over that past 4 months.

I plan on using this blog site as a place for me to practice journalism but also get some of my ideas for creative writing out there as well. I will be reviewing movies, posting some of my poetry and short story ideas, and relaying my ideas on a few Ted Talks that I watch.  This is mostly for me, but if you are reading this I hope that you enjoy what I write and please feel free to comment your opinions!:)


Defying Prognosis

Elyn Saks is an incredibly accomplished woman with a resume that absolutely astounds me. In addition to receiving her law degree from Yale, she is a professor of multiple subjects, is associate dean of research at USC, an honorary Doctor of Law, and received the “Genius Grant” which she used to create the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics. Elyn also happens to suffer from chronic schizophrenia, a mental illness characterized by its hallmarks of delusions and hallucinations. The stereotype associated with the illness is one of an unaccomplished individual, institutionalized or otherwise unaccomplished, and—indeed—this is the prognosis doctors gave her when she was first diagnosed.

It’s then fitting her proudest accomplishments is staying out of psychiatric hospitals for thirty years; however, this isn’t to say her life was a walk in the park. For instance, the way she describes her experiences throughout law school are recounted in a horribly visceral way. I felt like I was experiencing her delusions of having murdered millions of people or her hallucinations of men with knives right alongside her. All of this while getting a law degree, too. (I can barely make it by with depression—I can’t even fathom something of schizophrenia’s scale.)

Graphic too were her descriptions of her various hospitalizations. On one occasion, she was forced onto a metal table and strapped to it until she was completely immobilized. Later, she was involuntarily hospitalized. On another occasion, Elyn was left up to twenty hours in restraints despite posing no harm—which she rightfully deems a form of dehumanizing torture since you are disregarding a human being’s volition. As a result, she naturally wanted to be rid of her illness and began quitting her medication because “the less medicine, the less defective,” but this only led to a direr psychotic episode, after which she acknowledged the illness was not something she could continue to hide from. This is a critical moment in any mentally ill person’s life since I think it the choice to tackle the problem head on instead of dance around its edges.. From personal experience, the mind responds better to a good slap and challenge than hesitance. Commitment is needed.

Elyn asserts her success is due to three factors.

First, she’s the recipient of excellent treatment, going to psychotherapy four to five times a week for the past few decades.

Second, she’s been blessed with an extensive network of close, supportive friends and family members who are aware of her illness. This reportedly gives her a depth to life and aides her through the rough patches.

Third, she cites a supportive workplace which embraces her needs and offers intellectual stimulation. Again, from personal experience, having a workplace be responsive to your concerns is incredibly validating, releasing a huge amount of pressure.

Despite this, Elyn didn’t disclose her diagnosis to the public until fairly recently due to the fear of the illness’ extremely negative stigma. Rightfully so since schizophrenia is one of those very, very misunderstood mental conditions. Many people automatically go to slasher-films or psychological thrillers which feature (misrepresented) characters with disorders alluding to schizophrenia. Indeed, my idea of the typical person with schizophrenia’s life comes from two sources: my grandma’s adult daycare business and the 2009 movie, The Soloist. In The Soloist, for instance, a man with schizophrenia drops out of Julliard after a series of psychotic episodes and is left to roam the streets until a journalist discovers his talent and tries—rather unsuccessfully—to get him back on track. This paints people with schizophrenia in a very helpless light, as if they had little willpower or choice to do much of anything and were instead completely consumed by their psychosis. My concept of this certainly wasn’t aided by spending part of my childhood around my grandma’s daycare business. The idea behind it is families send their mentally incapacitated adult sons or daughters there whenever they need a break for the day. It’s a beneficial thing for both parties, but it unfortunately means my perception of those with chronic schizophrenia was skewed since we typically only received those with severe, untreatable psychosis. This TED Talk really helped open my eyes. What an incredible woman.

 

Sources:

Elyn Saks. (2016, January 29). Retrieved May 12, 2016, from http://gould.usc.edu/about/contact/faculty/contactinfo.cfm?detailid=300

Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness – from the inside [Video file]. (2012, June). Retrieved May 12, 2016, from https://www.ted.com/talks/elyn_saks_seeing_mental_illness?language=en

 


Intelligence’s Influences in the Classroom

Although we often think of intelligence as an inherited characteristic only nurtured by schooling, evidence supports the idea of societal and environmental expectations play a larger role than most believe.

The first video we watched was footage of the classic blue-eyes vs. brown-eyes study conducted by Jane Elliott in her third grade classroom, a lesson invented to teach a homogenous group of children about discrimination.  In it, she segregated the students based on their eye color and gave the blue eyed groups a higher value. The brown eyed students protested, of course, and continued to as Elliott set more rules such as “brown eyed students and blue eyed students cannot play together.” At recess, the blue eyed students began to assert their perceived dominance, taunting the other group with undue aggression. This resulted in a fight between two or three of the boys after which the blue eyed boy guessed calling the other a “brown eye” equated to when you call a black man a “n*****”. I found this extremely poignant because it meant Elliott’s lesson had been successful in its aim.

The most interesting point to me, however, was when the rules were reversed to favor the brown eyed students. Rather than treat the blue eyed students with compassion because they’d just been in the same position and judged it unfair, the brown eyed children abused their power just as much. To social psychologists, this is alarming because it says something about our human nature whenever it is left unrestrained. It actually reminds me of recent events regarding the Black Lives Matter movement which began as a peaceful protest group but now has gained errant followers who use physical violence (racism) in response to the very thing they fight against (racism). This sort of irony is ingrained in us, apparently.

The second video death with the phenomena where a person feels threatened by an imposed stereotype and (even unconsciously) fulfills it in order to resist going against the norm. Despite the example in the video being a comparison of the words “athletic” and “strategic” as applied to black and white athletes’ rankings, I think I’ve been affected by stereotype threat myself. In elementary school, for instance, it’s very common to think boys are good at math and girls are good at English. In my class, this proved true. Most of the math whizzes were boys while girls dominated the reading competitions. I wonder if unconsciously one of the reasons I didn’t feel a need to practice my math skills at a young age was because of this self-fuffilled stereotype.

The last video centered around the Pygmalion effect. In Rosenthal and Jacobson’s study they randomly labeled a few kids in a class “late bloomers” after administering a standardized test. This caused the teachers to hold the “late bloomers” to a higher standard due to their future prospects. As a result, these kids made incredible academic progress in comparison to the rest of their class. The researchers determined four factors contributing to this effect:

  1. a warmer climate between student and teacher
  2. a higher information input on the teachers part
  3. an increased opportunities for response
  4. an increased standard for that feedback

I relate all too well to the Pygmalion effect.

In elementary and middle school, standardized testing proved I was “intelligent,” so throughout my education I received special attention. I was always called on in class; I was always praised for my correct answers and constructively critiqued for my wrong ones; I was always greeted with a warm smile and chipper voice; I even received additional resources when I asked a question. In hindsight, it’s very strange to consider maybe I’m not all that more naturally intelligent than anyone else as I had thought in grade school. Maybe I was just provided more environmental stimuli which facilitated a higher knowledge base than my peers.

Due to these videos, I’d say some reforms should probably be considered in the educational system. For one, stereotypes held by students (and teachers) should be neutralized to eliminate stereotype fear. Second, all students should be given the same base level of enrichment and equal opportunities to be encouraged and critiqued. Students should have to take initiative and ask for the additional information to foster an individualized thirst for knowledge.

 

Sources:

Jane Elliott Brown Eyes vs Blue Eyes [Video file]. (2012, November 20). Retrieved May 12, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8c6IWIAFUI

Stereotype Threat – social psychology in action [Video file]. (2009, September 28). Retrieved May 12, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGEUVM6QuMg

The Pygmalion Effect and the Power of Positive Expectations [Video file]. (2011, September 25). Retrieved May 12, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTghEXKNj7g


To Stress or Not to Stress

If you surveyed a room full of Americans, basically no one would say stress is good. Quite the contrary, ever piece of literature aimed at the population promising a better quality of life says to avoid stress at all costs because of its association with a host of physical ailments like migraines, acid reflux, high blood pressure, and often fatal heart attacks. (Not to mention it’s just a pain to deal with on an emotional level.) The U.S.’s ironic hatred of stress is so ingrained in our society it even infiltrates our idioms. For example:

“Don’t stress it.”

“Don’t stress. Just do your best!”

So what if new research said it’s not stress which is unhealthy but the belief of stress being unhealthy is what’s… well, unhealthy? In fact, what if stress turned out to actually be healthy? Kelly McGonigal speaks about this in her TED Talk, citing several studies claiming just so.

She first discusses statistics from a study which surveyed a population on two questions. First, how much stress the individual had been under in the past year. Second, whether or not he or she believed stress was a bad thing. After a few years, the researchers returned and tallied which categories had the most premature deaths. As expected by most, 43% of those who reported having a high amount of stress died; however, the none of the 43% said they thought stress was good. On the same tangent, this means approximately 182 000 people each year die from not stress itself but from the belief that stress is bad.

These conclusions are supported by another study McGonigal brings up in which two groups were formed. One group was briefed about the biological benefits of stress–for instance, the increased blood flow and oxygen make responding to stimuli easier–and the other was not. Those left in the dark about stress’ function did worse on stress tests than those who were informed, displaying some psychological component is in play. Additionally, those who were not informed had inflated blood vessels. Over time, these blood vessels pose a danger for heart problems. The blood vessels of the informed group, however, showed the same characteristics as when a person is happy or feeling particularly courageous. Again, this ties the biological component back into the psychological one.

The last point McGonigal brings up is how our body stress response not only produce adrenaline and cortisol but also releases oxytocin. Oxytocin is a neurohormone (so glad I discovered it’s a word!) which increases our social instincts. It causes you to get cozy with others, both emotionally and physically, which should hypothetically result in an exchange of feelings. It’s when you vent to a good friend, for instance.

Oxytocin also results in increased empathy, or compassion. On the same note, those who reported more altruistic activity, meaning more oxytocin, were less likely to suffer premature death or other stress induced illnesses than those who didn’t. This could be because oxytocin also has anti-inflammatory properties which negate the parts of the stress reflex which damage the cardiovascular system. From an evolutionary perspective, I could see this being a beneficial attribute since altruism is key in maintaining a healthy social order. It’s also maybe responsible for why people who suffer through rough situations like natural disaster or war emerge with a close-knit sense of solidarity.

I see all of this as being reasonable because of the above; however, I haven’t actually read any of the research, so I suppose there’s always room for misinterpretation.

As for trusting the speaker, McGonical is a renowned life psychologist who has penned many books on mindful living, received her Ph.D. from Stanford, and is a reference for a large percent of the nation’s news media. I’d trust her to give an accurate presentation.

All this being said, I can take some tips from her since–I’ll be the first to say it–I’m awful at mindful living. For one, whenever I encounter a stressful situation, I should remind myself of this video. Knowing stress has a purpose is comforting to some degree psychologically and physically.  \

Honestly, this was one of my favorite assignments!

Sources:

Griffin, R. M., & Goldberg, J., MD. (n.d.). 10 Problems Related to Stress That You Can Fix. Retrieved May 12, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/10-fixable-stress-related-health-problems

Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend [Video file]. (2013, June). Retrieved May 12, 2016, from http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend?language=en#t-793559


You Are Not Special

“You are not special,” David McCullough Jr. said in a commencement speak given for Wellesey High School’s 2012 graduation. He continues to counter the modern culture of commending children and adolescents for accomplishing what he considers to be goals dwarfed by the earth’s population and overarching span of our lives. To some, this may seem a caustic speech to give graduating seniors about to go off to college and challenge the world; however, to me, this is a striking image which I whole heartedly enjoy. His thesis, once you get down to it, is how we should always seize our opportunities as they present themselves because the “pursuit” in “pursuit of happiness” means action, and no one became remarkable for lazing about.

Still, one might question how this plays in the minds of the young adults he’s speaking to. Is it too harsh? I would say no. For one, adolescents enter a phenomena called adolescent egocentrism, defined as the state of believing the world is centered on their actions and how they go about their actions.  It is also called the personal fable, which gives it a sort of mythologic feel in the sense that these adolescents are making themselves out to be a Hercules. McCullough seeks to pull this out from under the feet of the graduate and instead urges them to seek their identity in the world, mirroring Erikson’s Stages of Psychological Development.


How to Teach Myself

The first test I took was the Felder & Solomon Learning Styles Scale. It placed you on a number line, and the more polarized you are, the stronger your leaning towards the learning style is. I scored pretty evenly throughout, only showing a mild/moderate preference on a few occasions.

For instance, when it comes to reflective or active learning, I am ambivalent. If you tell me to solve a problem, I am apt to talk out loud about it for a while and then rush to solving it. I am not a quiet thinker as reflective learners tend to be. I also rarely go into situations prematurely; if anything, I’ll be late in the game because I took too much time planning. I’m okay with group work, however. To cater to this learning style, the website suggests write summaries while I study and teach other students the lesson afterwards. From personal experience, these both work pretty well.

I scored slightly higher on sensing. This one’s fairly accurate. I do dislike complications in problem solving and prefer to have a tried and true method of producing an answer. I’m pretty decent at lab work, and I prefer learning things which are applicable to the real world. Sensing doesn’t fit me, however, since I’m a messy worker despite my outlining. The website suggests I study more efficiently by connecting and applying the materialI have gone over.

Similarly, I am slightly more visual. Generally speaking, I agree. As an artist, it does help me if I stimulate myself with pictures and illustrations, but charts do little in the ways of assisting me. I would rather read the results of data. It suggests I use concept maps (I do), color coding (I do), and seek out additional illustrations to aide in explaining. Sometimes I’ll make a comic out my study material, which helps tons whenever I find the time.

In the last category, I scored as a global learner. This means I should understand the big picture before the specifics, but it is usually the opposite for me. Hm. I do have trouble processing how I arrived at the end of a problem though. The study tips do seem to apply to me because it suggests  my tried and true methods of skimming a chapter before lecture and asking an instructor to provide connections.

I liked the simplicity of this test. It offered two different choices without narrowing the situationally applicable options.

The next test was the Learning Style Inventory. It labeled be a tactile learner. I like this term better than the other one, kinetic, because I’m a feeler not a builder. I consider it pretty accurate because I’m always fighting in some way or another. The website suggested I try tracing words with my finger, an interesting concept, but it seems pretty elementary school. I do rewrite my notes sometimes, however, and it helps me heaps. Keeping a piece of scratch paper with me is an old habit I’ve abandoned, but maybe I should start it back up.

This test seems less comprehensive than the last despite there being more options. Additionally, there’s less room for error if you’re only sticking a label on one attribute of a person rather than four.

As for how Austin College caters to my learning style, I’d say it fits the bill fairly well. A lot of these learning habits are better applied solo, I think. If I had any complaints, it’d be pictures since visual accompaniments in power points are not only aesthetically pleasing but help some of us remember the words around it.


Reaping What You Sow

There’s a commonly held belief of yawning being contagious. This served as the observation for a MythBusters MiniMyth , in which the team seeks out the answer to this old wive’s tale through scientific research; however, is it credible?

First off, they failed to develop a hypothesis–an essential component to any experiment because it offers the foundation for the actual gathering of data. After all, how are you supposed to test something you have no guess to? I get they were going forward with an open mind (probably because of the show’s formatting), but it would have been much better to simply say “We think this will happen.” Hence, there would be something to confirm or deny.

The actual body of the experiment, on the other hand, was well done. An independent variable (the yawn stimulus or “seeded yawn” planted by Kari) and a dependent variable (the number of yawns resulting) were established. After, a trailer with three waiting rooms was built, offering a sterile environment to rule out any outside influences. This worked towards isolating the variables so the team could more confidently discount any other possible reasons for a yawn or lack of. Rooms 1 and 2 served as the experimental group and were exposed to the yawn stimulus before entering the room whereas Room 3 was unseeded and served as the control group. An experimental group is the participant population in which the independent variable is introduced. By contrast, the control group is the participant population where the independent variable is excluded. A hidden video camera was set up in each room with Tori monitoring and keeping count of each person’s yawn. This was recorded alongside their room number and later analyzed to find the percentage of individuals who yawned without the stimulus introduced and with the stimulus introduced. The findings tallied up to be 25% yawned without the seeding yawn, and 29% with the seeded yawn, revealing a 4% difference. Conclusively, it was decided this percentage meant yawning is contagious, and the myth was labeled “Confirmed.”

This provides me with two additional issues to discuss.

For starters, the selection of participants was not random because the participants all were found from an online add calling for extras. Although they did not state the purpose of their work, it narrows the potential data pool to actors only, threatening the integrity of the experiment due to a potential sampling bias. Sampling biases can lead to skewed data, hindering the accuracy of the results.

Second, the MythBusters were too quick to confirm yawns being contagious. Experiments cannot confirm anything, only provide additional information to support or deny a hypothesis. The closest one comes to a fact in science is a law, which still leaves room for error, and includes things as omnipresent as gravity. Additionally, their experiment would have to be tested repeatedly and garner the same results at a significant level. Assumptions in science can lead to assumptions in the general population because, if this experiment and its researchers say it’s true, then it must be. While yawning being contagious isn’t necessarily dangerous, the idea still comes across: as a precaution, ever experiment’s results should be issued with a limitations section. Just in case.


Divorce: good or bad?

Divorce today to many is a tragic situation; families and children are split up and generally the word divorce comes with negative connotations. There are many articles out there that say that divorce has a bad effect on children, but there are just as many articles out there that say the exact opposite. To me, the media has always portrayed divorce as a awful thing. When I started researching over both sides of the topic, I was surprised to find the amount of articles saying that divorce has positive impacts on children.

An article written by Lauren Hansen called “9 negative effects divorce reportedly has on children,” talks about 9 different ways that children are affected with divorce. The 9 effects are: increased smoking habits, ritalin use, poor math and social skills, increased chance of sickness, increased chance of dropping out of school, more likely to commit a crime, higher risk of a stroke, greater chance of getting a divorce and lastly a possible early death. This evidence is definitely possible and can happen but now a days there are so many divorces that these effects, since they are on the extreme side of things, might not be as likely anymore. Children now a days are surrounded more and more with divorces, unfortunately in our society today it is almost a norm. Though these effects are all possible, how much it may affect each different child are all going to be different.

Another article called “Divorce and Kids: 5 ways divorce benefits kids,” written by Dr. Shoshana talks about different ways that divorce can be good for children. The first reason they talk about is, when a child see that each individual parent is happier this in turn will make the child happer. If the parents are always fighting that might lead to the child being unhappy as well. Secondly, when the tension in the house is gone that will make the environment less crazy and the kids will be able to function better. Third, kids need to know that every parent needs a supporting partner so the fact that the parent is showing them that they need a good partner is good. Fourth, having a shared custody the kids would be able to experience both sides of the parents without them fighting. Lastly, since the parents are not together anymore there is potential for the kids to witness happiness for the parent either being on their own or finding a new partner to be with.

All in all, these are the ways that kids can both benefit and not benefit from a divorce. In today’s society the norm for a divorce is that it is always such a bad thing but in reality it doesn’t really  have to be that way at all, there are many things that kids see that end up being a positive thing and end up being worth while in the end.

Work cited:

http://theweek.com/articles/466107/9-negative-effects-divorce-reportedly-children

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/18/divorce-and-kids-5-ways-d_n_1519485.html

 

 


Media Production

 

Social media use amongst humans can have a great effect on the amount of sleep a person gets every night although its not the main reason for the sleep deprivation. Despite all the variables including certain mental illnesses that can cause insomnia the issue here is that social media is NOT the only problem, it’s the convulsions of people constantly wanting to check their phone.  People with higher frequencies and volume reported from the study had significantly greater odds of sleep disturbances. The online article is misleading because it does not specify the point they are trying to prove by implying that the amount of time people spend on their cell phones or electronic devices is excessive and can be unhealthy to the body. media thats the problem, it is the obsessive behavior that is constantly making people pick up and check their phone.(The online article The research provided by the University of Pittsburgh shows that its the frequency per week in the amount of usage from your phone that is causing the potential sleep deprivation. In my opinion, the research article and the scholarly article are very misleading. In my opinion, the actual reason for sleep deprivation is not social media, but in the two articles the reason is not specific. its not just social media specifically its the overuse addicting behavior . The online post is merely blaming social media. This misleading idea can misinform people to believe that social media is something that is not healthy for us, hinder the ideas from creative electronic engineers, our own innovative desires to always be wanting to discover create and share new ideas. Simply by saying that social media is the problem can mislead people into thinking that social media can have negative effects on your life. Social media is great for communication amongst families, friends, it’s not addressing the matter of fact which is basically that excessive electronic device use is not beneficial to ones sleep. Although i’ve stated the main facts and ideas, everybody is different and some people might be affected way differently than others by the amount of time spent using your phone. But in this case, “social media” since both articles were not clear.

 

 

 

I didnt find this very challenging to summarize because the facts are very clear and to the point. I know this because i am an experienced teenager and a lot of the times the lack of sleep comes from the person i could be texting or a different reason such as anxiety could be causing me to be using my phone. Its not difficult to find the mistakes in the reading when Social media is clearly not the issue here. Journalism is an interesting thing to focus on and I have enjoyed analyzing both of these papers to gain better knowledge of how to properly write an article. Its important to be specific and not vague and use the proper words when talking about research.


Finals Week Blog Prompt: Reflections

Hand writing on a notebook

This is the prompt for finals week. You must post by noon Friday, 5/13 to receive credit. This prompt will either replace a non-zero post from earlier in the semester or give you 2 extra credit points (I will apply whatever helps your grade more). Comments will be accepted until noon on Saturday, 5/14  and  will either replace a non-zero comment from earlier in the semester or give you 1 extra credit point (I will apply whatever helps your grade more). Use the tag “Finals” on your post.

Return to your introductory blog post where you described the 3 topics you were most and least excited about for this course, and the one question you wanted to be able to answer when it was over. Reflect on whether your predictions came true in terms of your favorite and least favorite topics, and try to answer the question you posed.

I look forward to seeing what you write!

Header image: CC by Flickr user Caitlinator

 

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