Media Production Project

Media Production Project

There has been a lot of discussion recently, especially in light of the recent United States election, about normalization and the definition of what is normal. When most people think of normal, they think of what is typical or what is average, but what if that’s not really how people perceive what is normal?

In a recent study, Adam Bear and Joshua Knobe were able to show that what people see as normal may actually be a combination of what is typical and what is ideal. This study begins by introducing normality and raising the question: how is it that people come to regard certain things as normal and others as abnormal? They believe that normality is more complicated than it may first appear, and that people’s judgements on normality are a middle ground between what they consider to be the actual statistical average, and what they consider to be morally ideal. The study identifies two possible hypotheses: The first says that normality is influenced by both the ideal and the average, and the second states that normality is not just influenced by both, but falls directly in between them.

To better understand the implications, one can consider the number of hours that a person watches TV per day. Most participants said they thought that about 4 hours per day was the average for an average American. Interestingly, when asked what they thought the normal number of hours per day were, the participants did not give the same value as they did to the first question. Here they said that about 3 hours per day were normal for the average American. Finally when they were asked what was ideal, they responded with 2.5. This suggests that people see what is normal as different from what they see as typical or average. Furthermore, they see normal as different in the direction of what they see as morally ideal, or the way they think it should be.

To further test this idea, three tests were performed. The first test was to examine how people’s intuitions about average and ideal amounts relate to what they think are normal amounts. This study includes the example above discussing the hours of television watched per day, where Bear and Knobe set a specific list of domains such as behaviors and activities and asked participants what they saw as average amounts of that behavior or activity. A second group was asked what they thought were ideal amounts of the same thing, and a third group was asked what they saw as the normal amount of that thing. This was done with 20 different domains.

A second test was then done where participants were asked where they thought the average, ideal, and normal amounts fell on a graded scale (larger/smaller). Finally, the third study was done in a similar fashion, and participants were given a random list of examples from a category where they were asked: to what extent they believed this thing to be either an average, good, ideal, prototypical, or paradigmatic example of that thing. Good, prototypical, and paradigmatic here are all representations of normal. In all three studies involving different categories, Bear and Knobe found that the participants’ notions of what was normal fell in between what they thought was average and what they thought was ideal.

What if all the categories and objects within these categories are things that the participants were familiar with, then they would already have developed a notion of what they believe to be normal. If this were in fact the case, it might be true that when given objects they were not familiar with, normal might not fall between average and ideal as it has thus far.To determine how people learn what is normal, Bear and Knobe did two studies each involving a fictional hunting tool they invented called a stagnar. In the first study, they found that 73% of participants said the normal lengths were in between the ideal and the average, which suggests it was not by chance. The final study was done similarly where the participants were to rate the stagnars on degree of largeness or smallness. Again the data showed that the normal stagnar was in between the ideal and the average. This showed that a person’s sense of normal is innately learned as being in between average and ideal, a finding with profound implications in society today. This suggests that it is possible to predict what people will view as normal, and also sheds some light on normalization. If the average amount of racist things said increases, for example, people may begin to think that saying racist things is more normal.



Writing this summary posed more challenges than I initially expected it to for multiple reasons. The first reason was that I thought that my summary should include more of the procedures of how the study was conducted, because, as a reader of the original article, I was wondering about it the most while reading. This ended up being a problem because it was difficult to remain within the word limit while also trying to be explicit enough to answer all the questions that I had while I was reading the pop culture article. The second big challenge I had was to try and write a well-structured and coherent article that I thought was an improvement of the original. I commented in my evaluation of the pop culture article that the author did a very good job with his use of language and his summarization skills, while still explaining in enough detail for the reader to understand the study. This made it difficult for me to improve upon the article in terms of language and summarization skill, so I focused mostly on trying to include more of the procedural detail that seemed like it shouldn’t be left out. Luckily for my word limit the original article was not only a summary of the research paper, but also talked about Trump and normalization in a social context. This leads me to the differences between my summary and the original.

My summary cut out some of the social implications and social examples in order to accommodate the additional procedural information. I still included some possible social implications of the study, as I thought the application was equally as important as being able to understand the study. It seems that my summary is not as well written as the original which can mostly be attributed to the fact that the original was written by the author of the original research study, and the fact that he is just a better writer than I am. I do not profess to be a prodigious writer, nor even notable, however I was appreciative of the struggles that journalists face when attempting to get articles published as my sister is a rather talented writer who publishes articles every once in a while. Upon writing this article I did not gain more or less appreciation for what journalists go through, but gained context with which to appreciate their efforts. It is very difficult to write over something and have to remove yourself from your writing enough to be able to relay studies objectively and in a coherent and logical way. In academia, with either scientific papers or English analysis papers, one can simply write their paper up to their own potential and for the most part not have to worry if the general populous will be able to understand the material. Journalists have to be the link between the world of academia and the general population who may not have enough education to understand the study the way it was initially presented. Further it is the job of the journalist to get the information out to the public, and therefore requires that they fully understand the study in order to accurately represent the findings.

The links to the original research article and the pop culture article are shown below.

First Impressions: Schizophrenia

This week we were asked to watch a video showing a day from the perspective of someone who has schizophrenia and share our reactions. I certainly sympathize with those who go through what is represented in the video, it must be very scary and confusing. It makes me wonder if all people who have schizophrenia experience something similar to that, and if not what they do experience. I also wonder the effect that familiar faces and loved ones would have. The video showed (I assume his wife?) at the end and she seemed to help him but it wasn’t clear whether it was because she was familiar and loved or if it was just because she distracted him from his thoughts. I did not know that those who suffer from schizophrenia can see food as poison like the man in the video did. I appreciate more now how difficult very simple everyday things become for those who have schizophrenia. In all this video was not very different from how I have thought of schizophrenia being based on what I have seen about it in the media. I think the media makes people who have schizophrenia seem more crazy than most with schizophrenia actually are by portraying characters who have schizophrenia as more actively peculiar. By this I simply mean that it seems like they portray schizophrenics as always acting strangely rather than just having things going on in their head like the video showed. Donnie Darko seemed a little more surreal than I would think the majority of schizophrenics would be, however I simply don’t know. It certainly was more so than the video, but still quite similar in some respects. In all it doesn’t seem like my view or knowledge of schizophrenia has changed much after watching that video, as it didn’t seem to differ much from what I have seen in the media with regard to schizophrenia. However I have more appreciation of the difficulties schizophrenia presents in everyday life.

First Impressions: Week 13

For this weeks first impression we were asked to complete an Implicit Association test (IAT). This test consisted of images that were to be paired with words and speed with which those images were paired. I was not very surprised with the first result which indicated that I have an automatic preference to associate positive words like “good looking” to myself than negative words like “ugly”. I was not surprised with this because I do not consider myself an ugly person. I never actively consider myself good looking, but I do actively consider myself not ugly so this result makes sense. The second result was initially surprising to me, but after reflection I was not surprised at all. This result said that I have a preference of black people over white people, and as I am white I was initially a little surprised. After thinking about it, however, I realized that in movies like dances with wolves and twelve years a slave I find myself absolutely hating the collective “white people” in those movies because of the awful things they do. Anyway this is straying off topic and into a much more difficult and personal discussion than I think necessary, so I will address other aspects of this test leaving my previous comments as contextual support. I think that these tests can be helpful in getting to know yourself when dealing with people in everyday life, especially in your job. I say this because with such a large population of people and the growing size of cities, it is likely that lots of people will deal with others whom they have never met before and first impressions are a big deal (especially in this psych course). If you have an innate tendency to associate a group of people with something or prefer a group of people over another, it is useful to know about this so you can try to manage it. With that being said, this test seemed like it was not necessarily very reliable because it relied heavily on concentration ability and on days (like today for me) when you have gotten little sleep and are not focusing very well, the results may differ than times when you are fresh.

First Impressions: Emotions

This week we were asked to watch a Tedx talk and share our reactions as well as commenting on the credibility of the presenter. In this talk by Dan Gilbert, a professor from Harvard university, it is proposed that the way our emotions work and the way in which we perceive our emotions may be different than we think. In particular, this talk focuses on synthesized happiness which refers to a defense mechanism innate in human beings. When humans do not get exactly what they want or are forced to make a choice between two things, we can not only convince ourselves that the choice we made was correct, but there can actually be changes in our opinions of things that are involved in this choice. Gilbert studied this by presenting a person with some prints of some paintings and asked the person to rank the paintings based on which one the person liked the best/was the better painting. Then the researcher told the person that they only had the ones the person ranked third and fourth and asked the person to choose between those two. The vast majority of people chose the third one and then weeks later were asked to rank the paintings again based on which ones they like the best. Almost all the subjects ranked the one that they received higher than 3, and the one that was in the 4 spot lower than 4. But this was just because they convinced themselves that it was better and they just wanted to be consistent right? Gilbert did the exact same test but on the elderly who had Korsakoff’s syndrome, which causes problems forming new memories. The subjects chose the 3rd painting just as the other set of subjects had, but then the researcher said they had to go get the painting. They stepped out for thirty minutes and then returned and asked the person if they wanted their painting. The subject of course did not remember the researcher or the conversation where they made the decision for the 3rd painting on their list. The researcher then asked the person to order the paintings again, and the results showed the same trend as those from the other group even though the person had no memory of the previous interaction. This suggests that “settling” can actually cause changes in our brains that cause us to like the thing that were are forced into having more than we did before. Or in other words, we can synthesize happiness. I thought this talk was incredibly interesting, and Gilbert seems to be very credible as he is a well known professor from Harvard who presented data, and has gathered data that supports his theory.

First Impressions: Orthorexia

This week we were asked to discuss a new mental health disorder called orthorexia, in which eating healthy food has become an obsession. Some of the criteria are presented here: It seems to me that these criteria are a good boundary between normal healthy eating and obsessive healthy eating, because the criteria presented here represent the point at which healthy eating is no longer good for you. In other words, this is the point when eating healthy begins to have adverse effects on your life. According to the criteria here, your perception of yourself is influenced very heavily on how well you adhere to the dietary restrictions you have placed on yourself, and if you deviate it can cause you anxiety, shame, and negative physical sensations. Here are two more sources that discuss orthorexia:, Both of these sources seem credible, however the first seems more credible as it was written by a PHD. That being said, both sources provided very similar information that was consistent with the link provided in the prompt. These two sources enforced my belief that this is a disorder, because some of the information provided made me think of some friends I have who have taken eating healthy to such an extreme that their health seems to be at risk. I actually find this very interesting because I have often thought that this should be a disorder because it seems no different to me than other eating disorders. Compulsive dietary choices that have adverse health effects. Perhaps that has made me biased towards thinking these criteria are a good start to defining this disorder, but maybe not. Hope you enjoyed reading!

First impressions: Personality

We were asked to complete these four personality tests and then give our opinions of their accuracy. Here are the four (free) personality tests:

The first two tests used the same scoring system as the Meyers Briggs test does. The first time I took the Meyers Briggs two years ago I was an INFP, but I have changed quite a bit since then. One of my friends was trying to figure out the personalities of everyone on the tennis team and she predicted mine as INTJ, and was shocked to learn that I had scored INFP previously. Well, she was very excited to learn my score for both of the first two tests was INTJ. The most surprising thing to me was how accurate it was in describing me. The first test seemed the most accurate to me because the questions never left me annoyed that there wasn’t a third option. There was always an obvious path to take for all of the questions, so I believe it worked the best for me. The second test scored the same thing for me, but there were some questions on it where I wanted a third answer choice because neither one seemed to accurately represent what I would do. This only happened about 4 times out of 50 or so questions though, so it did not seem too inaccurate. The third test did not seem very accurate to me because it categorized me as only 40% out of 100 in agreeable ness and said if anyone scored low, they were aggressive and confrontational. I found this amusing as I am very easy to get along with and my friends often comment to me how I am a calming person to be around. While this test did show some results that fit with my own assessment of myself, it was not as accurate as the previous two. Finally the color quiz was interesting to say the least.. I was very skeptical initially and that didn’t improve much. I selected the colors and upon reading the results was surprised to find that the section over existing situation and sources of stress were fairly accurate. It was all down hill from there, and the results began to fit me less and less until it seemed it was describing someone with a totally opposite personality. I am also not sure how the colors had anything to do with who I am, I know people the exact opposite of  me who like the same colors.

The first three test had a solid method of testing, using the questions on the spectrum. (the second one didn’t have a spectrum just one or the other, which explains my wish for another choice). The questions intuitively seem like they would work much better than the colors, and based on the results I would say that is true.

Spotlight post 2: Study tips

For this spotlight post we are asked to evaluate websites that provide study tips to middle school/high school students, college students, and parents of students. We are then asked to compare this information to what we know about memory and how it works. For this post, the article directed towards high schoolers and middle schoolers will be referred to as “website 1”, the article directed toward parents will be referred to as “website 2”, and the article directed at college students will be “website 3”. These numbers correspond to the numbers of the links in the “sources” section.

Website 1 provides ten tips to high school students on how to study more successfully. These tips are:

  1. Study alone
  2. Create your perfect study area
  3. Get it all out (referring to study materials as in “make sure you have all your books”)
  4. Turn your notes into flashcards
  5. Snack healthy while you study
  6. Narrow it down (focus on main ideas and important topics)
  7. Take a break
  8. Put yourself to the test (quiz yourself over the material)
  9. Get some sleep
  10. Study all semester long (don’t cram)

These tips all have their merits, but it is important to note for what reasons they have merits. Tips 1, 2, 3, and 5 have are important for keeping the studier focused, which is the first step towards long term memory. If you lose focus you won’t be able to move the information into short term memory, forget about long term memory. It seems odd that 5 would be categorized this way, but it is included to keep the energy up for the studier so they can focus without growing tired. These four tips are very basic memory tips. Tips 4 and 6 are focused towards organization of information, which is very important in transferring information into long term memory as we learned in Dr. MacFarlane’s mini lecture. It is easier to remember things that have a specific meaning to you, and organizing notes into an order that makes sense to you will aid in their recall later. Tip 7 is both to aid in focus, and to improve transfer of information into long term memory (this will be explained when we discuss the tenth tip). Tip 8 is very useful because it puts you in a similar situation to the exam. It forces recall of material and gets you thinking about possible questions that can be asked, and it makes you do something with the material rather than just hearing or reading the information. Having personal experience with material will improve your ability to store and recall it. Tip 9 is also important because sleeping, especially sleeping just after looking over material, helps to consolidate information and improve recall as is discussed in this article: over learning, memory, and sleep. Finally, tip 10 suggests spacing out of studying over a longer period of time, rather than just cramming the night before. This is one of the most important steps in creating long term memories as was discussed in lecture and the mini lecture. Spacing out practice is necessary for correct organization of material for easier recall.

Similar to website 1, website 2 provides ten tips to improve studying for exams. These ten tips are:

  1. Get organized
  2. Know the expectations
  3. Designate a study area
  4. Develop a study plan
  5. Think positively
  6. Create a study group
  7. Practice active listening
  8. Review test taking strategies
  9. Read actively
  10. Look to the future

Some of these will look very similar to those discussed above for website 1, however all of the tips given here are geared more towards improving the basic focus of those reading these tips, not for improving memory or recall. For that reason, this is very clearly directed at the parents of a younger audience. These tips are okay for a younger student, however for a student in later high school or college these tips will not help the student study as these tips should be automatic at that point. I would also like to point out that tip 6 can only work if the students do not get distracted. Study groups work best when the students understand the material but create questions for the others in the group to practice which simulates a testing situation.

Finally we arrive at website 3 which does not give a certain number of tips, but instead discusses many methods of improving your encoding and recall of the information. This website provides the best advice for studying from a memory standpoint as all of its tips are directly related to what we have learned about memory and how it works. For example it suggests that taking notes properly with no distractions is an important step, which is supported by what we have learned of attention and converting memories from sensory to working memory. It also discusses color coding and spreading out study times which are tips for organization, and as was mentioned above, organization is an important step in providing meaning for the information you are trying to learn. This website also discusses sleep and the importance of getting enough of it for proper memory formation and retrieval. Finally this website also points out that creating a pneumonic device to remember mundane information is very effective. This is because it chunks all the information together in a way that has systematic retrieval cues, which makes recall much easier later.

To conclude, website 2 just had very basic study tips that should be completely automatic for any serious student. Website 1 was one step above that, touching on a couple of memory recall and formation strategies, while website 3 had the best study tips for actual long term memory and command over the material.


  5. Comer, Ronald, and Elizabeth, Gould. Psychology Around Us, 2nd Edition. N.p.: John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Print. Pg273-292

First Impression Week 9: Mozart and Learning

For this first impression I will be discussing the effect listening to music has on child intelligence with regard to the decision by Governor Miller of Georgia to provide new babies with a CD or tape of Mozart and Bach. Miller is a large supporter of the theory that listening to music from artists such as Bach and Mozart will increase the intelligence of babies, and therefore spent one hundred thousand dollars of Georgia’s budget to provide children a tape with music. While this topic has been very controversial, a study by Frances Rauscher shows that there may be a causal connection between some forms of intelligence and listening to Mozart. This paper covers two studies, one that studied the effects of Mozart on spacial reasoning abilities in college students, and another that studied music training in three year olds and their cognitive abilities. In the first study, the data show that after one listen of Mozart, the spacial reasoning abilities of the individual improved significantly, and continued to improve significantly for the majority of the five trials. The individual who was in silence improved once significantly, which may have been due to a learning curve according to Rauscher. The second study showed that infants who had music training showed enhancements in non-verbal cognitive abilities, for example puzzle solving capabilities.

This study does not seem to provide definitive evidence to say that music does indeed boost intelligence, but it does provide valuable data that supports the claim that some forms of intelligence are enhanced when exposed to Mozart. It will be interesting to see what the data from future studies will say on this topic because, at least to me, it does not seem intuitive that listening to music would increase intelligence, even if it were Mozart. In general the evidence here shows only positive effects of music on intelligence so in my opinion Millers decision to send infants home with music is supported by this study.


First Impression: Violence in video games

In the last couple decades, video gaming has advanced rapidly with the development of new technology. With these technological changes, there has also been a shift towards more violent video games. Many are concerned about children playing these violent video games, and it seems to me that this concern is justified in some situations. There is a system of rating video games similar to the ratings on movies, for example M rated video games can only be purchased by those 17 years and up. This means that a parent must be present to buy a violent game for their child, which makes it hard for kids to get video games that are deemed too graphic/violent for them. This obviously doesn’t stop kids from getting these games if their parents are unaware or simply don’t care about the content of the games. In circumstances such as these, it is up to the parents to teach their kids the difference between games and reality. It may be okay to point a gun at someone in a game, but that is not okay in reality. I think for the most part this is not emphasized enough today. When I was growing up in a household full of hunting rifles, I was never allowed to even make my hand into a gun and point it at my friends. My dad always told me that the only time you should point a gun at someone is if you are ready to kill them, a principle that I adamantly believe in. I think this is much more important for young children than for teenagers or adults, for example I am not opposed to playing paintball if you fully understand that it is only okay in the context of the game. I do not think violent video games should be banned, but I do believe there is a responsibility to the parent (as there should be) to instruct their child how to distinguish between a game and reality. It is also important for parents to emphasize the implications of pointing a gun at someone in real life, and how big a deal it really is. This being said, I do not believe that violent video games make children more violent, I think that, when not instructed properly, kids can lose sight of what is acceptable in every day life due to their ventures in virtual reality.

One thing I would like to briefly discuss is the role of online interactions kids can have with people through video games. Every game has some attempt at censorship for online interactions, whether there be a capability to report a user or a censor in the in game chat that doesn’t allow profanity. Even with these methods of censorship, there is no way to completely stop potentially profane or graphic interactions with older users. I bring this up only because I have been disturbed by hearing a child no more than 10 years old playing call of duty who swore more than my south Dakota born father. This is in part because it is over the internet and people are much braver over the internet than they would be if speaking directly to someone, similar to social media. I think again this ties back into the responsibility of the parent to teach the child what is acceptable, because exposure does not in itself cause behavior, it is the lack of understanding of those interactions that causes it. I do not consider myself a violent person, nor do I consider myself vulgar or profane, and yet I played graphic video games in middle school and was around swearing since I was born. It seems that lack of understanding of both the difference between games and reality, and what is acceptable are the factors that will cause violence not the game itself.





First impression: Why do we need sleep?

In this Ted Talk Russel Foster discusses sleep and its importance on human brain development and functioning. To begin Foster discusses what sleep is and how it happens, then he moves on to discuss three theories that attempt to explain why it is that humans need sleep. These theories are, Restoration, Energy Conservation, and Brain Functioning. Out of these three, as mentioned in the talk, it seems fairly obvious that energy conservation is not the reason we sleep. It seems to me that there is probably not one specific reason why sleep is so important, for this reason it is likely both restoration and brain functioning are reasons for humans to sleep. Just based off of personal experience, if I ever spend a day doing nothing physically or mentally taxing it is harder for me to fall asleep and I don’t sleep as well. This suggests to me that restoration is a fairly good place to start in describing the necessity of sleep. It is also true, however, that I can have mentally but not physically taxing days where I do not sleep as soundly because I can’t stop moving around in bed. The best sleep I ever get is after a really physically and mentally taxing day, which suggests to me that both restoration and brain function play a role in sleep necessity. Further, it seems intuitive to me that sleep would help recharge our brains and bodies, and improve the overall functioning of our brains. As this interpretation is based only on personal experience and a single viewing of this talk, there are undoubtedly gaps in my reasoning and chasms in my credibility.

Now it seems appropriate to discuss my own sleep habits with the information from this talk in mind. I try to get 8 hours of sleep each night (and am most often successful), as well as waking up on my own internal clock rather than relying on my alarm clock (which is set every night just in case). I found it very interesting when Foster talked about how waking up without an alarm clock means one got enough sleep because I often feel much better over the course of the day if I beat my alarm clock in the morning. I also try to open the blinds in the morning to get natural light in the room when I wake up which, according to the talk, is a good habit to be in. My habits, however, are not all good. I normally go to sleep with some lights still on in the room because my roommate is normally still awake when I go to bed, and Foster points out that this extra light stimulates the brain rather than helping to shut it down smoothly. I also generally wind down at the end of the day by watching about 30 minutes of netflix or youtube before I go to sleep which is a bad plan according to Foster. Recently I have been reading before bed, but I have not noticed a difference in my daily productivity/alertness. I would say that for a college student, 8 hours of sleep per night is easily reasonable if the student knows how to spend their time during the day (im pre-med, taking 5 classes, 2 labs, have a job, tennis practice every day, and I still get 8 hours) if I can do it, others can too. I should note however that my social life is limited due to the amount I spend doing school work during the day, so for someone more social than I, 8 hours may be more difficult. Overall I feel like I have good habits, however there is room to improve and after this Ted Talk I will definitely by trying some new things!