Media Production – Music as a Reward

For most, music is enjoyable. We turn on the radio on our way to work, we listen to music as we do homework, and play it at parties. However, there is a small percentage of the population that finds almost no pleasure in music. This condition is known as specific musical anhedonia.

In a recent study published in September, 2016, a team of researchers addressed the neurological differences that exist between those with music anhedonia and those without the condition. In order to investigate this, three group of 15 volunteers with different sensitivities to music were recruited for the study. A series of tests were run while the participants were listening to music to measure their response. These tests included skin conductance measurements and fMRI scans.

After completing these tests, the researchers found that participants with musical anhedonia rated the excerpts of music as less pleasurable and less emotionally arousing than the other participants. The fMRI scans were completed to measure the interactions in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). After these, the researchers found that participants with specific musical anhedonia showed less activity in the nucleus accumbens and corpus striatum (which plays a role in motivation and reward) than those with average music sensitivity. When presented with monetary rewards, however, the participants with musical anhedonia and participants without showed equal level of activity in the nucleus accumbens.

These finding have lead researchers to believe that multiple reward pathways are present in the brain. The activation of the pathways differs according to the reward presented. The researchers have also concluded that the level of connectivity between cortical regions of the brain determines the effects experienced by the body both physically and emotionally. These findings have allowed researchers to understand the variability that exists in neural pathways. It has also allowed for a better understanding of the cause and mechanism behind musical anhedonia. This could potentially be useful in developing a treatment for this condition now that the neural pathway is better understood.

After writing a new news article on the original research article, my perspective on journalists has definitely changed. Sometimes, journalists are blamed for twisting words to make research articles support the attention-grabbing claims they want to make. While this may be true for some, I think this is due to the fact that journalists are trying to summarize the words of a scientists to make their findings more accessible to the general public. Since the audience is mostly uninformed, the journalist cannot use any of the technical terms or go too deep into the science behind the conclusions. As I was trying to simplify the findings being discussed in the scientific article, the real scientific findings started to get lost or blurred in my efforts to simplify.

I did chose to leave some of the information out of the article. I mostly left out a lot of the information regarding the methods of the experiment. Many different tests and brain scans were performed. The terminology, procedures, and the statistical explanation of the results seemed too complex to include in an article for the general public. Although it may be useful to further understanding the study, information on methods is not necessarily critical to understanding the conclusions being made.

I have come to realize that journalists have very tough jobs since they are the mediators between scientists, experts, anyone that has something to say, and the audience. They make the information accessible to the public. Their job becomes tougher when they must “translate” information into everyday language while also making the article entertaining, attention grabbing, and worth reading without losing sight of the actual data being presented. Through the course of this project, I have learned that is important to look at the scientific information behind claims presented in the media. I have also learned that conveying research findings is important and must be done so in a form that the audience can easily understand the ideas, finding, discoveries, and claims being made.

 


Week 12 First Impression- Stress & Emotion

Kelly McGonigal’s Ted talk on stress was extremely interesting and made me think about stress in a whole new way. McGonigal is a health psychologist that had be teaching about the negative impacts of stress for many years. Like her, I had always heard that longterm stress can be very harmful. I have always feared becoming permanently affected by the large amounts of prolonged stress I have experienced as a pre-med student. This fear of stress is precisely what McGonigal discussed. She explained that if we change the way we think about stress, we can change the way our body responds to stress. She based this theory on a study that tracked 30,000 adults for 9 years. The participants were asked how much stress they were experiencing and how harmful they believed this was. The results showed that there was a 43% increased chance of dying in only those who believed stress was harmful. The result of this study was astonishing to me.  Can how we perceive stress really save our lives? This is a hefty claim and I think I would have to look into the study itself to make a decision on how valid the results really are or if they are due to chance. Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist so I would assume that she is a credible source and that she did look at the study in depth and its methods before making any claims from its results.

Some of these claims, however, do seem logical if we stop to think about it. From my own personal experience, I know that when I let stress and anxiety get to me, I eventually breakdown. However, if I take a moment to organize by thoughts and step back for a moment, I can deal with the stress by planning things out and taking them on set by step. Therefore, not letting stress get the best of me can really increase my performance. McGonigal also discussed the neurohormone oxytocin. She explained that it is released when we experience stress and it motivates us to seek support and comfort in others. This seems very true. When I am super stressed, I’ll usually talk, or more often vent, to my parents about everything that is going on. I would have never imagined that this behavior is actually promoted by a hormone. As McGonigal said, its like our body has a mechanism built within the stress mechanism that aims to protect us from any harmful effects.

I think the most important take-away from this is that the way we think about our situation determines how we will react to it. We can view each challenge in a more positive light by finding our innate qualities, including biological responses, that can be used as strengths. Having a more positive mindset in each situation can definitely help us have better control over it.


Week 11 First Impression- Motivation

When the time came to begin searching for colleges, I had a few basic criteria. The school had to have a great pre-med track/program, it had to be reasonably close to home, they had to offer me a good financial aid package, and it had to be a place where I felt truly welcomed.

I am actually from Sherman so I never really considered Austin College since I had always thought about moving away to a bigger city. Therefore, I visited multiple schools always taking note of the distance from home and the environment I encountered when I got there. By the middle of my senior year, I still had not found a school that I loved so I gave Austin College a shot. I visited the school (since I had never been on campus) and completely fell in love. What I liked the most was the warm environment. Everyone was very welcoming and since it is such a small school, I felt like I could make it my home. The other schools I had visited felt so huge and I just knew I was going to get lost on campus and in the crowd and it would be much harder for me to make friends and feel at home in such a large and overwhelming place.

Therefore, I think the psychological motivation of affiliation played a very big role. I wanted to find a place where I could easily find new friends and a place where I could feel secure. I also wanted to stay close to home since I felt the need to stay connected to them. I also think my motivation is part of the Incentive Theory. Pursuing a medical career is something that is intrinsically motivating. It is something that I am passionate about and it is also something that I feel I have to do in order to meet the self-actualization and self-worth needs discussed in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I wanted to attend a school with a good pre-med program that would allow me to pursue my goal and meet these needs.

When motivation for schools starts to get lower, one of the things that could help would be to create incentives for myself. Establishing some incentives would create an additional extrinsic motivation to reach my goals. For example, I make daily to-do lists but sometimes I don’t accomplish everything on them simply because I’m feeling lazy. However, if I say that I will take a trip to the frozen yogurt shop if I finish all of my work, then I will be more likely to accomplish everything. Another idea that may be helpful would be to refocus on why I am in school and what I am working so hard for. I am passionate about becoming a doctor and serving others through my career. This purpose, however, can easily get lost in the midst of stressful Organic Chemistry exams and upcoming deadlines. By refocusing on this self-actualization need and the bigger purpose, I can regain my motivation to continue pushing through and make it to the end.


Spotlight 1- Memory

As college students, our lives revolve around learning and memory. I am always on the lookout for new study tips and the most effective ways to study for certain courses. Study tips are never in short supply either. They can be found all over the internet, blog pages, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. Just like most other things, not everything we read about study tips on the internet is true.

A few years ago, The Huffington Post published an article called “9 Awesome Study Tips For College Students”. Many good tips were included in the article such as the use of flashcards. Flashcards are a great tool since they allow you to practice retrieving information. They also make it very easy to interleave content. By shuffling the flashcards, the material can be studied out of order. This allows the student to practice recalling the material with fewer retrieval cues such as the word right before it or its location within the chapter. Another good tip was to take multiple tests. This is great since it allows the student to learn and practice in a method similar to the real exam. This is part of the context effect which explains that we can better remember things in an environment similar to where we learned the material. This then leads to another tip that was given. The article stated that it is best to “alternate study spaces”. This may not be the best idea because of the context effect. If possible, it is best to study in the place where the exam will be taken or in a space similar to the classroom.

A second article I read was targeted towards high school students. This article also contained useful advice. One of the tips was concentration. It talked about staying focused in class and paying close attention to what is being taught. I though tis was very interesting because this is a very true and helpful tip that is not usually discussed. Our sensory memory allows us to take in information about our surroundings. This information, however, only lasts about a second if it is not used. Therefore, attention will determine what comes out of our sensory memory and into our working memory. If the student is paying attention to his or her phone and only faintly listening to the teacher, then he or she will most likely not retain the material. Another slightly unusual tip was given which was making flashcards using colored index cards. I’m not sure exactly how much this would help. The colors may stimulate the brain but the studies regarding this would have to be looked at since no evidence was provided in the article.

The third article I read was targeted towards parents. Since it is best that the students do their own work without their parents doing it for them, most of the tips revolved around creating a good study environment for the student and helping them get organized. One of the tips was to help the child create a plan to split up large projects or multiple homework assignments. This is a good tip since distributed practice is a great method for effortful encoding. By studying material in smaller chunks the material can be properly organized. Studying a small amount daily will also strengthen the connections in the brain. Another tip was to set up a “homework-friendly area” where the child can complete their work without any distractions around them. This goes back to attention discussed in the previous article and how attention determines what makes it into our working memory.

Overall, all of the articles I read had a lot very good tips, many of which I saw in all three articles. I think it is important to check the credibility of a source when investigating study tips. Also, each person has different preferences and organizes things differently so study methods should be tested since a method that works for one person may not work for all. It is best to test what works best for you personally and as long as study habits are established and proper time management skills are exercised, the student will be very likely to succeed.

Articles:

9 Awesome Study Tips For College Students. (2011, May 25). Retrieved April 2, 2017, from The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/08/study-tips-for-college-_n_709096.html

Gabor, E. J. (2015, January). Top 10 Homework Tips. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from KidsHealth: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/homework.html

WISE Study Tips Top 10 Skills for High-School Students. (n.d.). Retrieved April 2, 2017, from Auburn University: https://cws.auburn.edu/shared/content/files/50/WISE_Study_Tips.pdf

 


Week 10 First Impression- Personality

I have always found personality to be a very intriguing topic and I have always enjoyed taking personality tests to learn more about myself. For this blog post, I took four online tests. The first was the Jung Typology Test. My result was ISFJ, Introverted Sensing Feeling Judging. I thought this result did describe me. It stated that ISFJs are “characterized by their desire to serve others”. This is very true for me and is, for the most part, the reason I want to be a pediatrician. It also described ISFJs as methodical and accurate workers. This is also true for me and is also the reason it is difficult for me to delegate. It also stated that ISFJs are also very loyal to a few close friends and are always willing to provide support which completely describes me. This test is based off of Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ typology so it did have a basis to make its scoring methods and results more credible.

On the second test, “Personality Test Center” I also got ISFJ and received a similar description to the previous test. However, this source seemed a little less credible since the scoring method was not discussed. Also, there were only 2 answer options making the results extreme and leaving no room for intermediate.

The third test was the IPIP Big Five Factor Markers. My highest score was in Agreeableness followed by Conscientiousness. I think these results described me very well since I do consider myself as optimistic, careful, friendly, and diligent. I also think the results are credible since the scoring process and procedures were explained and references were provided.

The fourth was the Color Test. The results of this test were not accurate at all for me and any results that did apply were very vague and could have applied to anyone. I do not think this test is credible at all since it relies simply on color preferences. Although there was some explanation given about the basis of the test, the research would have to be looked at to ensure that no conclusions were being made on simple correlations.

Personality can be very difficult to clearly define with just a few questions so most personality will most likely not provide extremely accurate results. To ensure better results, however, I think it is important to look at the research and studies the test is based on and how the results are calculated.


Week 9 First Impression- Intelligence

The classroom is meant to be a comfortable, safe, and encouraging environment for learning. I think the conditions of this environment are increasingly important for younger children in elementary school. Younger children have not completely established their sense of self/worth and can be influenced very easily.

Watching the three videos about stereotypes, discrimination, and expectations really made me reflect on my own experiences in school.  I do remember two specific teachers that seemed to believe in the potential I had. I remember I hated reading because I thought I was an extremely slow reader and struggled to put words together. In the first grade, during reading time, the teacher would occasionally stop by my corner of the carpet and would ask me to read to her. If I struggled with something, she would help me through the word and remind me of all the little rules. I remember feeling  so embarrassed at the fact that I could not read a word and she would patiently sit there, smile, and help me sound out the letters. She most likely had an expectation for me and wanted me to succeed. As Dr. Philip Zimbardo discussed, the input factor was present. My teacher spent more time with me teaching me how to read so that I could do better. The factor of feedback was also present since my teacher corrected my reading and did not allow me to continue misreading words on my own. This ultimately encouraged me to grow fond of reading and improve my abilities.

The stereotype threat is another very real factor in the school system. I’m hispanic and frequently encounter people that have already made a judgement on my abilities because of my race. Most people believe that hispanics only have certain jobs and are not able to pursue other careers such as medicine. I have met many hispanics that are not planning on going to college simply because they believe “college is not for them” and they would not be able to do well. If anything, these stereotypes have only pushed me to excel and do the best that I can.

It is difficult to provide a solution that will remedy these issues in the school system. There are steps, however, that can be taken to increase the likelihood of a child excelling in school. Since feedback and input have a large effect on learning, classroom sizes could be reduced. This is obviously difficult since it would require more faculty and possibly larger buildings. By having a smaller number of students, the teacher can interact with each student individually giving them the input they need and also sensing where they need more help. As I went through middle school, bullying prevention programs began to grow. This is also very useful since it can help a child who is experiencing discrimination in the classroom. Having faculty who are willing to actively prevent discrimination and negative stereotyping could also improve education. Ultimately, if a teacher demonstrates that she cares for the child and believes in their own unique ability, it can make a world of difference.


Week 8 First Impression- Learning

Violent video games have been a hot topic for many years. They have also been blamed for a lot of the violence that occurs in our neighborhoods and society. While I do not believe they are the sole reason for violent behavior in children, I do believe they have an effect. Some kids will spend hours upon hours playing violent video games and even though they are pulling a virtual trigger, they are still pulling a trigger and killing. I think the big idea behind this is that after killing people for “fun”, even if it is fake, it may desensitize the child to violence. Since they have done it on a game it doesn’t seem like a much of a big deal if they were to do it in real life. Of course, this certainly does not apply to all children. I think this also leads to the reason why video games are rated. When games are rated “mature” they are intended for people over the age of 17. I think this is because older teenagers are more likely to understand what is wrong and what is right. They know that the violence in the game is fictional and should not be done in real life. However, younger kids may not be able to fully make this distinction.

Video games are obviously not the only possible reason for why a child is acting violently. Violent behavior has a lot to do with the child’s life and experiences at home. If a child is educated on what is wrong and what is right and on the fictional nature of the game, they may be less  likely to be violent in their daily lives. Parents should also limit the child’s playing time so they expend their energy in other forms. There is a large variety of healthy ways a child can expend their energy besides playing video games.

While the effects of violent video games may be exaggerated at times, I do believe the prolonged exposure to violence can certainly have an effect on a child’s behavior.


Week 7 First Impression- Sensation & Perception

In his Ted Talk titled “Different Ways of Knowing”, Daniel Tammet, explains how he perceives the world. He explains that in his mind, numbers and words have colors and shapes.

I think he made a very interesting statement at the beginning of his talk where he said, “our personal perceptions are at the heart of how we acquire knowledge”. I think this is very true. I think this could be connected to why certain things are encoded without effort or conscious awareness. Some things just naturally stand out to us and have a deeper meaning in our minds than others do. This could be due to the connections we make when we hear/see them. Tammet thinks of colors when he hears a word and while we may not see a color when we hear a word, we most likely think of something else that influences how we perceive that word.

Tammet also stated that poets play with our intuitive understanding of words and sounds. This also seems very true. This is why in English classes, we are asked to interpret literature. While the author may have been feeling and portraying their specific beliefs or emotions, each person can interpret a poem differently due to the unique way they perceive words.

In regards to his daily life, Tammet did express that he was a little annoyed by people asking him all kinds of bizarre questions. He did state, however, that life is much richer when experienced in colors and shapes. I think that someone with Synesthesia, may have a deeper appreciation for language and also mathematics. We do make connection when we hear words but our experience may not be as vivid. A drawback could be that a person with synthesia may be easily distracted. They may get caught up thinking about the visual experience when they heard a word or number and stop paying attention to the rest of the sentence. This may not be a big problem, however, and those with this condition most likely live a normal life filled with vivid colors, shapes, smells, and sounds.


Week 6 First Impression – Consciousness

Russell Foster’s Ted Talk on sleep was very interesting. He discussed three theories about why we sleep. I was convinced by two of the theories. The first was the theory of restoration. Foster stated that certain genes, dealing with restoration and metabolic pathways, are turned on only during sleep. This seems very logical to me since we typically feel rested and energized after sleeping.

The second theory was that the theory of brain processing and memory consolidation. I had previously heard that sleep helps you remember what you study the night before but I had simply believed that it was just a random idea. Foster, however, stated that a study found that the ability to come up with novel solutions is enhanced (three fold) after a proper night of sleep. He also stated that emerging studies have shown that there could be a possible connection between mental illness and sleep disruptions. I believe this theory is valid because I have noticed that when I get less than 4 hours of sleep I begin to misspell words very often and it is harder for me to keep up while note-taking. This could be due to a decrease in brain processing as discussed by Foster.

Over the years we have studied and gained a better understanding of the importance of sleep yet people seem to be getting less and less of it. I personally know that sleep is essential yet as a college student, I sometimes feel like I have to choose between sleep or a decent GPA. As college students, we have to constantly be reading, studying, writing papers, taking exams, running clubs, attending meetings, and so many other activities. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night becomes simply impossible. On average, I sleep about 3-5 hours every night depending on how close I am to certain deadlines or exams. Even though I am very organized throughout the week and always try to manage my time properly, the large amount of work always piles up. I would say that this 3-5 hour range is fairly common among college students but I am aware that some may get much more or none at all.

I look forward to learning much more about sleep this week and about the possible support for each of the theories discussed by Foster.


Week 3 First Impression – Development

What is the “best” way to parent? The answer varies depending on who you ask. I think one of the greatest way to raise a child is to lead by example. A child is born observing. We always see children trying to be like mommy or daddy by wearing their shoes or copying their behavior. Mommy and daddy are almost like superheroes when kids are younger and the kids want to be just like them. Children are learning how to behave from the way their parents behave. Parents can tell their kids to be kind to others, not to lie, not to curse, but if the kids see their parents doing all of these things, they will be more likely to follow their example rather than their empty words.

One of the best things a parent can do, especially as a child gets older, is to listen. Children are in need of a guardian and model. They need to know that they can place their trust in someone that truly cares for them. If a parent is always there to listen to their child and make them feel loved, the child will not go searching for this affection and sense of belonging elsewhere in a person or group that could harm or corrupt them.

I also think that encouragement is a huge part of parenting. If a parent only criticizes, the child will most likely become self -conscious and will have very little faith in their own abilities. If a parent encourages their child when they achieve something or encourages their child to achieve something, the child will be much more confident in their ability and potential. They can then become a much more developed, productive, and happy member of society.

I believe that being the person you want your child to be, listening to your child, and encouraging them to reach their potential is a great beginning to being the “best” parent you can be.