Media Production Project

Summary of the Research Article:

The journal article “Happier People Live More Active Lives: Using Smartphones to Link Happiness and Physical Activity” by Neal Lathia, Gillian M. Sandstrom, Cecilia Mascolo, and Peter J. Rentfrow attempted to find if physical activity throughout the day is tied to happiness.

The study used ecological momentary assessment (EMA) in smartphones to collect self-report data and smart-phone technology that measured movement to gather data on physical activity. Participants in the study were anyone who downloaded the app onto their android phones and continued to interact with the app throughout the study. There were over 10,000 participants in the study. The app sent two surveys to the participants between 8 AM and 10 PM, at least two hours apart, to measure emotion and physical activity. Participants’ happiness was measured by having them plot their mood on a graph relating to stress, excitement, depression, and relaxation. Participants also answered questions asking how much an adjective described their mood from 1 to 7, with 1 being the lowest and 7 the highest. Physical activity was measured both through self-report and data recorded by the phone itself. The app would ask what kind of physical activity a user had done in the past 15 minutes a long of what kind of emotions the participants felt.

The study found a positive correlation between physical activity and happiness. This correlation continued both on weekdays and weekends. Happier people tended to start their days earlier and end their days later and participate in physical activity during the entire day. The study also found a correlation between a lack of physical activity and lower levels of happiness. The physical activity measured wasn’t vigorous activity but a more everyday physical activity such as walking, running, or cycling. The researchers say this association between physical activity and happiness is “modest but reliable”, meaning that the correlation was small but consistent. The researchers caution against making extreme conclusions from this study, as it showed a small correlation between physical activity and happiness.

It is important to make the distinction between correlation and causation. The study did not show that physical movement caused happiness or that movement caused happiness. The only study that can show causation is an experiment. This study only showed that there seems to be a relationship between physical activity and happiness, and the researchers actually suggest that an experiment should be done to demonstrate causation.

The researchers assert that their use of phones to collect data may be a great way to collect data in future research studies, but they also caution against some problems arising from cell phone data. Participants are unlikely to have carried their phones and especially during vigorous exercise. It also drains the battery of the phone to continuously collect data. The researchers finally identify that it is hard to know how feedback from an act influences mood or behavior.

Ultimately, the researchers conclude that the study shows that the amount people move during the day is correlated with happiness.

 

Reflection:

As I was summarizing the article, I felt some sympathy for the journalist who wrote the original news article. It is difficult to relay scientific information while still keeping the article interesting for the general public. It is also difficult to relay scientific information using common words and phrases so the average person can understand it. I couldn’t include how the data from the android on physical activity correlated with the self-report data on physical activity, which showed that the data from the phone was a reliable measure to use for physical activity. I also would have liked to include some more information on how the researchers collected data and what type of questions they asked participants to answer. I decided that these two pieces of information could be sacrificed without severely altering the understanding of the study. I aslo felt that omitting a different section, such as the section on limitations of the study, would have been more damaging to someone’s understanding of the study than the details of how the study was carried out.

My perspective of journalists has definitely changed over the course of these projects. At first, I felt like journalists wrote articles to get views and not really to inform the general public. After reading this news article and trying to summarize the study myself, I have realized that a journalist’s job is a lot more difficult than I originally realized. Journalists have to make an article interesting in order to inform people, and I now think that journalists have a more noble intent in writing than I did at the beginning of this project.

Links:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/well/move/get-up-and-move-it-may-make-you-happier.html?_r=0

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5213770/


Stress

          Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist who discusses stress in her TED talk. She says that she used to see stress as an enemy, but she has changed her perspective. She cites a study that tracked 30,000 people throughout a year. In the study, people who had a high level a stress and also believed stress was bad for your health were 43% more likely to die, but people who had high levels of stress and did not consider stress to be bad for you did not have a higher rate of death. The study estimated that over the eight years they tracked deaths, 182,000 people died prematurely from believing stress is bad for you. She also discusses the social stress test which involves a speech and a math test while people are giving negative feedback. People who viewed their body’s responses as helpful were less stressed out and their physical stress response changed. Normally, people’s blood vessels constrict when under stress which is bad for the person’s health, but if a person saw their stress as helpful, their blood vessels did not constrict.

          She then discusses oxytocin which is a stress hormone that promotes social contact. In the stress response, it directs you to find support. It is an anti-inflammatory hormone, and it helps heart cells to regenerate and heal from damage from stress. The benefits of this hormone are increased from social support. She then discusses another study that tracked 1,000 individuals. They found that every major stressful experience increased the rate of dying by 30%, but the people who spent time with others found no stress-related increase in dying. She concludes that choosing the way we view stress and act can change our lives for the better.

          I really enjoyed this TED talk. I thought the speaker was credible since she is a health psychologist and backed her claims up with scientific studies. I think for me to fully believe her claim that your perception of stress can change your physiological reaction to it, I would need to see more studies done, but she points out something really interesting that I had never considered before. I found the message to be reasonable, and I want to believe her claim. It seems evolutionarily beneficial for the stress response to help, rather than to hurt you, and I thought the studies she cited helped her claim to seem reasonable. She did not discuss how these findings may differ for people with anxiety or depression, and I would imagine that having a mental disorder would make it much more difficult to simply change the way you view stress.

          I definitely want to try having this more positive outlook on stress! I find myself being so stressed out that I become stressed about having stress, which is a cycle I would like to break out of. There is no harm in viewing stress from a more positive angle, and I hope this helps me to use stress to my advantage.

 


Motivation

I definitely have higher levels of motivation for school at different times in the school year. At the beginning of the year, I have very high motivation and want to get good grades to have a high gpa, and at this point in the school year, I have an all time low in motivation. Right before finals and when the weather is getting warmer, I find it really easy to slack off. I came to this school because I wanted to have a good education with a high focus on academics and also be able to play volleyball.

          The incentive theory of motivation explains my motives to come to Austin College pretty well. According to the incentive theory, we are motivated to do things by external incentives. In other words, we are externally motivated. This means that external stimuli or outside events influence how we behave. I think I came to Austin College because I wanted to get a good degree and then eventually earn enough money to support myself. This is an example of a secondary incentive, as money is rewarding because I have associated it with other rewarding things, such as food. Food itself is a primary incentive, since no one needs to be taught that food is rewarding and is a biological need.

          Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can also be used to explain my desire to attend AC. Maslow places basic human needs in the order they need to be fulfilled. First are physiological needs, followed by safety needs, belonging and love needs, esteem needs, and finally, self-actualization needs. Since my physiological needs, safety needs, and belonging and love needs were taken care of by my family, going to school may be a way to secure these needs by myself. By having a college degree, I will (hopefully) be able to secure my basic needs and work towards self-actualization.

          Since I am planning an intervention to help keep myself motivated until graduation, I will use incentive theory and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to help stay focused on why I came to AC in the first place. Whenever I feel unmotivated, I will focus on my law school application and eventual career. This will help me motivate using external incentives. I will also bribe myself to complete assignments using incentives, such as breaks or snacks. I will also use the hierarchy of needs to remind myself that if my physiological and safety needs are not met if I don’t get a degree, I will never be able to focus on higher needs such as esteem and self-actualization needs. If I can associate eventual happiness with success in school, I should be able to motivate myself enough to reach graduation!


Personality

          I took the four personality tests, and I found the first three to be pretty accurate, but the last one based on colors assessed me quite differently than I think of myself. I got INTJ on the first and second test, but I liked the first test better because it showed the degree of each of the traits (moderate on I, N, and J and slight on T). I find this to be a pretty accurate description of myself as I am confident, a perfectionist, value knowledge, and do struggle to cultivate personal relationships. I do think that some of my decisions are based on feeling rather than thought, and I have taken this test before and received INFJ, so I do fluctuate in that area. I think it is always a little questionable to rank yourself and see where you are, and since I have taken this test in the past, I felt like I knew what kind of answers I would need to give to get the same response. I do think these tests are somewhat reliable, but I don’t think that anyone should base their perception of themselves on a quiz like this.

          On the third quiz, I had an 11% on extroversion, 16% on emotional stability, 62% on agreeableness, 62% on conscientiousness, and 95% on intellect/ imagination. I think this test kind of exaggerated my results, and I do not think that I am that low in extroversion or emotional stability or am that high in intellect/ imagination. Since there were not that many questions, I think it is difficult to completely assess and rank aspects of people’s personality. I found this test to be less reliable than the first two, but more reliable than the last one. The last test, based on colors, definitely assessed me as being much more extroverted than I consider myself, and said that my main issue was that I could be manipulative, which I do not consider myself to be. I did find this test to be fun to take, but I don’t think that it has any basis in accurately predicting my character traits. I did not find this test to be very credible.


Spotlight Blog- Memory

          In Campus Explorer’s tips for studying by college students, they recommend:

1.    Taking good notes

2.    Staying organized

3.    Unplugging from devices

4.    Not cramming at the last moment

5.    Do not over-study

6.    Finding the best environment to study

7.    Take breaks every once and a while

Taking good notes helps to focus attention on something important, which can help move the information from working memory to long term memory though encoding. Staying organized may also help to pay attention and encode as well as keep track of due dates. This tip mostly helps to ensure someone is studying over a longer period of time, rather than cramming at the very end. Someone is more likely to remember something if they use distributed or spaced practice by rehearsing the information multiple times over a long period of time. Tip number four, not cramming, goes along with this point. Unplugging from devices helps to focus attention on material rather than something else, and since the amount of attention someone pays something determines if they can later recall it, this would help transfer information to long term memory. Tip number five, which advises against over-studying, is not consistent with the principles of memory since understanding and remembering more than you need to can actually help recall information. According to elaboration, the more someone can elaborate or expand on the meaning of information or make it personally relevant, the easier it is for the person to remember it. Finding the best environment to study is by personal preference since people need different amounts of stimulation to focus and give attention to the information. Taking breaks does help studying because it allows someone to fully devote themselves and focus on the information while studying rather than only half focusing since you are also watching TV or looking at social media.

          In WISE study tips, they recommend the following to high school students:

1.    Have time management

2.    Have good study habits

3.    Set reasonable goals

4.    Concentrate

5.    Take good notes

6.    Compete assignments

7.    Review notes daily

8.    Stay organized

9.    Motivate

10.  Concentrate

Having good time management, good study habits, and reviewing notes daily is similar to what was previously discussed about spreading studying out to use distributed practice to your advantage. Setting reasonable goals and concentration both cause increased attention on information which helps to transfer information to long term memory. Taking good notes and completing assignments helps to reinforce information to make successful recall more likely. Staying organized increases the amount of distributed practice. Motivation and concentration both help increase the amount of attention given to information while studying and can increase the amount of study attempts.

          The Child Development Institute recommends to parents the following:

1.    Turn off the TV, but allow music if it works for the child

2.    Set rules during study time

3.    Designate areas of the home for studying or homework

4.    Keep a regular schedule

5.    Set time for homework and for breaks

6.    Stay organized

7.    Teach that you have to study and do homework, not just do homework

8.    Develop note-taking skills

9.    Have a dictionary available

10.  Help the child to have confidence for tests

11.  Watch for signs of frustration during homework

12.  Help with homework if it is productive

13.  Handle report cards by having reasonable expectations

Turing off the TV helps focus the child on studying, and music is okay if it is needed for the child to be stimulated. Setting rules, designating areas of the home for studying, keeping a regular schedule, and staying organized all help to make studying a part of a daily schedule to increase distributed practice. Setting time for homework and breaks helps to focus attention while studying and provide a reward for successful studying. Teaching that studying is critical to success and not just completing assignments helps to increase the amount of rehearsal of information, which helps encode the information into long term memory. Development of note-taking skills helps to give attention to the important points which helps to ease memory. Having a dictionary available is a helpful study tip that helps children stay engaged even if they don’t completely understand a word and have to help themselves learn to continue the task. Watching for frustration, helping with homework, and handling report cards properly are all great things for parents to do to help their kids succeed in school. These things all contribute to the Pygmalion effect, which stated that the more individual and positive attention a child receives, the more successful they will be on tests.

Recourses:

http://www.campusexplorer.com/college-advice-tips/2DF9E34D/7-Best-Study-Tips-for-College-Students/

https://cws.auburn.edu/shared/content/files/50/WISE_Study_Tips.pdf

https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/learning/tips-for-helping-kids-and-teens-with-homework-and-study-habits/#.WOFRZYWcE2w


Intelligence

 

In Jane Elliott’s classic blue eyes/brown eyes experiment, Elliot assigned students in her class to “superior” and “inferior” groups based on their eye color. Having blue eyes placed the student in the superior group and having brown eyes placed the student in the inferior group. Elliot was trying to explain to her all white classroom what racism feels like after Martin Luther King’s assassination. The blue-eyed students even had the opportunity to place a collar on the brown eyed students, so the students could tell what color eyes the students had from far away. Two students got in a fight after a student called another student “brown eyes”. I thought this was the saddest part of the video because in the short time of the experiment, the students could recognize a part of their physical complexion as negative. Elliot remarked that she learned more from the cruelty of the blue-eyed children as soon as they were told they were superior than from the brown-eyed children. Zimbardo noted that minimal cues can become the basis of discrimination when an authority imposes a negative attribute with the trait, that when brown-eyed students were placed in superior, they treated the blue-eyed students with the same cruelty, and that when in the inferior group, the math and spelling scores of the students went down. I think its incredibly sad that these students could foster discrimination so quickly and that the students were willing to turn on their friends for something like eye color. I think it is incredibly telling that students performed worse on tests after being told that they were more likely to perform poorly than other students.

 

The video of Claude Steele explaining stereotype threat asserts that the anxiety of possibly being seen as fitting a negative stereotype when taking a performance test. In a test of that was labeled as testing “athletic ability”, African American athletes performed better than white athletes, but in a test labeled as testing “sports strategy”, the white athletes performed better than the African American athletes. This shows how stereotypes impact performance based tests. It makes sense to me that stereotypes influence these tests, and I think it is upsetting that people underperform because of societal pressure. The Rosenthal & Jacobson’s discovery of the Pygmalion effect video showed how students can be transformed by a teacher’s positive perception of them. Rosenthal and Jacobson told teachers that randomly chosen students were going to increase their intelligence levels, and the kids who were chosen actually did show intellectual gains. The four factors that lead to this were climate, input, response opportunity, and feedback. I think it is very clear that teachers have favorites or students that they perceive as better, and it makes sense that these students would perform better. Personally, I have always done better in classes where I like the teacher and feel that the teacher likes me, so this form of self-fulfilling prophecy is very accurate.

 

I definitely was treated as a “gifted student” in elementary and middle school, and I completely believe that this expectation positively influenced me throughout my education. I think the way a teacher treats a student highly influences a student’s performance. In regard to changing the school system because of these videos, I would suggest a very strong anti-discrimination stance and an emphasis on teachers using positive encouragement to all students on a more equalized basis. If there was a way to decrease class sizes, it would help teachers give each student positive and individual attention. At the moment, I think the school system does have systemic issues that lead to discrimination influencing performance.

 


Study Habits

For this blog, I am going to discuss and critique my study habits. Coming into college, I thought my study habits were pretty good because I had consistently taken AP and honors classes in high school and also keep up with a lot of extracurricular activities, mostly volleyball and volunteering. Unfortunately, I quickly found I would have to adapt my study techniques last semester when I was taking four classes and in volleyball season. My techniques that I developed last semester worked for me, and I plan to keep using them this semester. First, I read whatever material is given for the exam and highlight what I think is important. I then go back and read the material again and make flashcards for basic definitions and concepts. I do this chapter by chapter or section by section. Once I have read and made flashcards for all relevant material, I go back to the first section and take a blank sheet of paper and do concept mapping. I usually use a lot of arrows and group things according to what makes sense to me. I try to find connections between the different chapters covered, the lectures given in class, any outside material that has been given, and any background information or outside ideas I can bring to the table. Drawing connections between the chapters helps me remember everything a lot easier and really know the information.

For the first psychology exam, I studied by reading the chapters in the book before class and the quizzes and highlighting what I considered to be important. Starting four days before the exam, I went back and made flashcards for the chapters. I then studied the flashcards. My main issue for this exam was I severely underestimated how long it would take me to make the flashcards, and I should have been making flashcards as we went through information in class instead of doing them the week of the exam. I did not have time to concept map, and I instead focused on making connections between the cards that I had made. This strategy did work for this exam, and I was happy with how I did, but for exam two, I am going to make sure to start studying earlier and making flashcards throughout the unit instead of waiting until the end of the unit.

My other major strategy is that I try to never sacrifice too much sleep. I have found that I perform better when I have studied less and slept more than studied more and slept less. Obviously, I need to study a lot, but it is better to get sleep than to pretend I am learning something at one in the morning when really I am just reading without absorbing anything.

Happy studying!

 


Serial Killers

 

I chose to watch Jim Fallon: Exploring the mind of a killer because I have a guilty pleasure of watching shows like Criminal Minds and CSI where they investigate serial killers. Serial killers are kind of a cultural fascination, and I think all of us wonder how someone gets to the point of killing multiple people. Jim Fallon is a neuroscientist from the University of California who studied the brains of psychopathic killers. He studies both normal brains and the brains of psychopaths and does not know if the brain belonged to a psychopath or a normal person in order to develop a blind experiment. Fallon notes that a combination of genes, biological-epigenetic brain damage, and environment along with timing can lead to the creation of a psychopath. The people who were murderers or serial killers all had damage to their orbital lobes and anterior temporal cortex. Fallon says the MAOA, which he refers to as a violence gene, can impact whether someone is a psychopath. The gene is sex linked, meaning it is found on the X chromosome. Fallon postulates that this is why serial killers may be more commonly male than female. Since the gene is on the X chromosome, a female has two which could balance one another out while a male only has one from his mother so the gene is more likely to be expressed. I thought it was very interesting that normal people can have this gene too without having any negative effect, but combined with other factors, the person could become a killer. I also thought that the attempt to explain why there are more male serial killers than female serial killers biologically was very interesting and deserves more thought. Fallon also links the MAOA gene to serotonin. He explains that an excess of serotonin during development in utero leads to the brain becoming insensitive to it, so the calming effects of serotonin can’t be felt later in life. He believes that this could lead to a person becoming a murderer.

 

I found this research very interesting and rooted in the scientific method until Fallon hypothesized about why areas of violence developed through the concentration of the MAOA gene. It may be an interesting idea, but I think the claim would need to be backed up with more evidence for the scientific community to believe it. Fallon then went into his own family tree which was more of an anecdotal case study. He talked about how he is related to Lizzie Borden and other murders and how he felt the need to use PET scans, EEGs, and genetic analysis on members of his family to see if there are any patterns that may show risk signs for psychopathy. It seems that they are all in the clear for now. I found this story interesting and kind of funny, but it does not lead to any conclusions about the MAOA gene or how murderous traits may be passed through generations.

 

I immediately found Fallon to be trustworthy because of his credentials as a professor. The fact that the scientific community trusted him with the brains of serial killers and normal people also spoke to his credibility. I found him most reputable in the first part of his lecture when he was talking about his lecture, but he began to lose a bit of credibility when he began postulating without scientific evidence and trying to use what he had found to explain a phenomena in violent areas. I think that this was a bit more of guess work and was very interesting a s an idea, but I did not find it to be reputable or held up by scientific data.

 

If I was going to continue along this kind of research, I would look at the brains of people who commit violent crimes other than murder such as rape, robbery, or assault to see if the brains of these kind of offenders are also different from the average brain. It would be interesting to note the difference between the brains of rapists and serial killers. I would use the same kind of experimental model as Fallon because by creating a blind experiment in which the researcher does not know who a  brain comes from eliminates some bias. The researcher would note the size of the structures of the brain and anything else that they find interesting about the brain. This data could then be used to see any kind of correlation in type of crime and brain shape and could be used to compare the brains of different types of offenders.

 

Over all, I found this TED talk very interesting, and I think more research should be done on this subject to be able to develop larger conclusions about the genetic seeds of violence.

 


Parenting Styles

I think the best way to parent kids is to let them know that they are loved unconditionally while making sure that boundaries and rules are set. I think that engaging with a child about what is right and wrong and why certain rules are important and need to be followed is critical to long term development. For example, when bedtime is or why you need to be nice to others should be rules that should be set and explained. For my parents, whenever I questioned a rule I was always given a reason as to why the rule was important and needed to be followed such as it is important to get sleep or brushing your teeth is good for you.

I also never felt the need to conform to a certain standard which I think is important. A parent should not force their version of what activities a person should be involved in onto their child, such as sports, debate, or choir. If a child wants to play sports, that should be encouraged, but if they don’t, it shouldn’t be forced upon them. I think it is important for a child to express their own interests, and parents should support their dreams and ambitions. That is not to say that parents shouldn’t sign their kids up for soccer or dancing lessons; I believe that parents should help their children find lots of different activities, but if a child doesn’t like something, it shouldn’t be forced upon them.

This principle does have its limits though. There are certain things that I believe are important to instill from a young age like exercise and academic pursuit, but I believe these goals can be achieved while keeping the child’s interests in mind. Encouraging playing outside on a playground, hopscotch, or dancing with friends are all great ways to have social and physical activities in everyday life. In regards to academics, I personally believe reading to children is critical. I think stories can garner important lessons about morality and how we should treat one another as well as instill curiosity and hopefully helps to foster a love of reading. No matter what profession a child will eventually grow up to have, reading in my opinion is critical to academic growth as well as being important to everyday life. Personally, some of my favorite memories from when I was younger are from when my mom was reading to me.

I also think that parents shouldn’t place an excessive amount of pressure on children’s grades or extracurricular achievements. Achievements should always be celebrated, but they are not the most important thing in life, especially when a child is young. As a child, I placed more pressure on myself for grades than my parents did, and while success was always celebrated, it was always made clear that school and grades are an important part of life but they are not the most important.

My parents always treated me with respect, and I believe that that is why I have such a great relationship with them. I tell my parents everything in my life, and I hope to one day parent children as well as my parents parented me. I always felt that my parents would love me no matter what and I think that is the basis that allowed me to grow into the person I am today. Every child is different, but overall, I think parents should teach children how to be individuals by allowing them to make their own decisions with thorough guidance and support while always designating clear and consistent boundaries and rules.


Mythbusters Experiment Critique

 

The Mythbusters considered the question of Are Women Better Than Men at Reading Emotions?, and concluded that although men and women seemed to recognize emotions equally, women were faster in coming to conclusions and did so with more certainty. The experimenter team put pictures of themselves on a projector, and only showed the portion of the picture with their eyes and asked the subject to say what emotion the picture was expressing. After the answer was given, the experimenters showed the subjects the full picture and commented on if the subject was correct.

 

            The strengths in the experiment were that there seemed to be racial diversity in the test subjects, the experimenters used a series of 17 pictures with a variety of emotions, and that the experimenters were willing to consider alternate conclusions other than their original hypothesis, which although not expressly stated, I assumed to be that women are better than men at reading emotions.

 

            However, there were many weaknesses to the experiment. The first is that the hypothesis was not expressly stated, as discussed earlier. The hypothesis should be fully stated in accordance with the scientific method. The Mythbusters’ conclusion that a women’s response time was quicker was not supported by empirical data, and I would recommend that they time the difference between when the picture was shown and the response rather than relying on anecdotal evidence. The pictures that the experimenters used seemed to be staged, and an actual facial emotion may be different to what the experimenters thought their faces should look like when they feel an emotion. It would be beneficial to use more authentic photos to see if an actual emotion makes it easier for subjects to tell the emotion expressed. The photos that were used in the experiment, as they were pictures of the experimenters themselves, did not represent many ethnicities and cultures, and should be expanded to include more people. The experimenters also gave feedback on what the emotion actually was to the subject, which may have influenced how the subjects answered the later questions. Instead, the subjects should receive no feedback so they are only making decisions based on past experience and knowledge.

 

            Overall, the Mythbusters looked at an interesting question, but their methods could be improved.