What exactly causes obesity?

Obesity is on the rise in today’s society, especially in our very own country. Whether it be in children or the older generations, there is a mutual agreement that the quality of life of a person is dramatically changed if he/she suffers from obesity.

Various measures are taken to overcome this situation every day. Individuals may go through vigorous sessions of exercise, long durations of dieting, or even extensive methods such as gastric bypass. Even after going through all that, why do so many still suffer from obesity? It may be hard to stick to a long-term plan of diet and exercise in a time when salads are more expensive than a burger and gym memberships cost a lot more money than sitting on the couch. Whatever the reason may be, it is time that we understand that there are internal factors beyond the capabilities of an individual that could potentially affect the risk for obesity.

According to a study conducted at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, internal factors within an individual could be related to the likelihood of obesity. The authors, agreed, that if these factors were identified in children earlier on, there could be a higher chance of preventing obesity later on in their lifetime. Identifying the relationship between resting state functional connectivity and eating behaviors was the primary goal of the study. In order to do so, data was collected from 38 children in the Rockland Sample of Enhanced Nathan Kline Institute, ages 8-13, who were randomly selected. The fact that the Rockland Sample was representative of the U.S. population according to the 2010 census made it possible for the results of the study to be generalized to the whole U.S. population. Child Eating Behavior Questionnaire and MRI scans which assessed the inferior parietal lobe, frontal lobe, and nucleus accumbens were obtained from each child. The results showed that decreased inhibition and increased impulsivity were related to childhood obesity. Therefore, the researchers concluded that an increase in response inhibition and a decrease in impulsivity could lead to a decrease in adiposity, decrease in food approach behaviors, and an increase in food avoidance behaviors.

Dr. Cowan, from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine stated, “We think mindfulness could recalibrate the imbalance in the brain connections associated with childhood obesity.” One way of preventing obesity from childhood is mindfulness, or being in a state of mind in which the individual can assess personal thoughts or motivations, that lead to actions, from afar. Mindfulness can be a way of increasing response inhibition and decreasing impulsivity which could lead to prevention of childhood obesity. As the saying goes, “nipping it in the bud” will prevent a whole lot of havoc later on.


Elsevier. “Brain study reveals mindfulness could help prevent obesity in children: Research links imbalance in brain connections to childhood obesity.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 January 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160121092312.htm>.



Summarizing the entire research article to fit under 540 words was pretty difficult. My lack of knowledge in statistics and the vocabulary used in the research made it challenging to accurately portray everything the study wanted to support. In the original news article, I noticed there were many inconsistencies when compared to the study, and thus I wanted to incorporate details from the actual research which made the study a reliable source for the information given.

Compared to the news article, my summary emphasized the random sampling, as well as the ability to generalize the results to the population of the U.S. Also, in the original article, the information tried to explain how mindfulness does lead to lack of obesity. The research study, however, explicitly shows that no causality can be predicted from the results of the study. Therefore, it was my job to summarize that functional connectivity in the brain is related, to some extent, to eating behaviors, but they are not directly connected, which means it is not a direct cause.

After completing this assignment, I truly do appreciate journalists for the time and effort they invest into summarizing research studies. It is clear that they have spent hours trying to decipher the true purpose behind the research studies, but their job is to also attract readers. In order to balance the portrayal true information from the study while also engaging readers within a limited character limit is definitely not an easy job. I also believe that the readers have a responsibility to be mindful when reading such articles to know what to believe and what not to believe. It is crucial, especially in this day and age, to always have a reason why you believe the provided information, and if that means doing some research behind it, then that is what it takes to be an informed reader.



Dr. Gilbert’s TED talk on synthetic happiness changed my perspective on many topics, but also strengthened my opinions about certain issues. All my life, happiness is one thing that I have always given most importance. From simple things like “does wearing this shirt make me happy?” to life-changing decisions such as “will this college ultimately make me happy?”, I’ve based most of my decisions on how happy I would be if I were to pursue the action. Like Dr.Gilbert mentioned in his talk, however, “natural” happiness is not always reached, and it does lead to disappointment.Although I’ve always believed that time brings happiness, I have come across this idea of synthesized happiness. Even the simple statistic about how the happiness of a letter winner and a paraplegic is the same after a year simply blows my mind. If I ponder on that, however, it actually makes sense. Life is not always about chasing things which could possibly bring you happiness, it is about finding happiness in the things which are already present in your life. I am a strong believer that every thing in life has a purpose. Sometimes it may take time to realize what the purpose was, but it does not mean that the purpose was missing. Synthesized happiness, to me, seems like a form of how people accept the purpose behind events that occurred in their lives. For example, Dr. Gilbert talked about a man named Moreese Bickham who was imprisoned for no fault of his own, but upon release, described it as a “glorious experience.” I’m sure no one has high hopes and dreams to one day be imprisoned for no reason, but somehow this man has learned to accept the purpose behind this incident in his life. I believe synthetic happiness can also be described as being grateful. In the video, Dr. Gilbert talks about the fact that a freedom to choose is the greatest enemy of synthetic happiness. Freedom to choose will always result in a constant deliberation of what could’ve happened if I were to chose the other option, whereas only one option results in gratitude, even if time is required to reach that stage.

Dr. Gilbert certainly did seem credible as he used many resources and experiments to back up his results and findings. By doing so, his word was backed up with clear evidence which gives him credibility to be a reliable resource.


Jung Typology Test:

For this test, my score was “INFJ”, slightly leaning towards introversion over extraversion, intuition over sensing, feeling over thinking, and judging over perceiving. I believe that in some ways, I seem more extraverted than introverted in some settings, but overall I do believe I am introverted. The rest of the scoring seems pretty accurate with exceptions at various parts of life. The test seems credible because there is no way that I could change my answers to fit a “normal, well-perceived” personality in society. Moreover, the questions are asking the same few questions over and over again with different wording to clearly assess what kind of personality you acquire.

Personality Test (2):

My Jungian personality was “INTJ”. I still believe that the test is credible because I was on the border with all four factors in the previous test. I know that I tend to think clearly about situations as well as follow my heart on some things, which is a clear indicator of why it was slightly leaning towards thinking in this test.

Big Five Personality:

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I believe this test was very accurate on my overall personality. One thing I would slightly disagree with is that I am very open to new experiences, so I’m a little confused why I only got a 40 in the Intellect/Imagination. Other than that, all the other factors are pretty accurate of myself. I believe my extroversion was clearly conveyed in this test, because I have always believed that I am both an introvert, and extrovert. Overall, this test is credible in assessing various parts of personality.

Color Quiz:

The color quiz seemed very unreliable because it is solely based on the order you select colors. I also do not believe that I make “make irrational demands on others and refuse to compromise”. If anything, I’m the absolute opposite of that. The only accurate aspect of the test was my desired objective which stated that “Looking for affectionate, fulfilling, and friendly relationships.” I do not know, however, of anyone who would want a hateful friendship with anyone. All in all, I believe the color quiz was the least reliable of all the personality tests, and the big 5 personality test was the most reliable.


Jane Elliot’s Experiment: The study about brown eyed students vs. blue eyes students opened my eyes up to a lot of what is present in the schools these days. At first, the blue eyes students were considered superior to the brown-eyed students according to an authority figure(the teacher), which prompted the blue-eyed students to become more aggressive towards the brown-eyed students. The study portrayed the power of negative expectations placed on the brown-eyed students, causing their scores to significantly lower than the blue-eyed students, along with a diminished outlook of themselves due to the persecution and discrimination.

Claude Steele’s Experiment:  The study displayed the threats that stereotypes have on individuals even when it’s unintentional. If the stereotype is true, it could possibly diminish the individual’s results. When students in a health class were tested for athletic ability with their knowing, the African American students had better results compared to the Caucasian students. When tested for athletic strategy and reasoning capabilities, however, Caucasian students had better results.

Rosenthal & Jacobson’s Experiment: When compared to the experiment that Jane Elliot performed, this study is assessing the power of positive expectations. The study was testing the Pygmalion Effect which is the extent that teachers’ expectations influence kids’ intelligence. The researchers drew some names from a hat of kids who were in the class and made the teachers believe that those kids were “late-bloomers” even when no studies were done to prove that. Based on this fact, the teachers began to treat those students differently, having more expectations for them to excel in the class. The increased teachers’ expectations on them caused the “late bloomers” to think more positively about themselves and show more intelligence gain than others. There were changes in climate(teachers were more nicer), input(teachers taught more to those kids), response(teachers expected those kids to participate more in class), and feedback(teachers gave more praise to those kids) when this experiment was followed through.

Throughout my years of education, I have encountered many teachers and situations. It is very true according to the above experiments the influence that teachers’ expectations have on the performance of the students. When I first came to America, I was put in third grade with little to no knowledge about the American culture, language, or customs. Even though there were teachers who got tired of explaining things to me, a few teachers believed in me enough to stay after school for me to understand concepts or give me more chances to participate in class. I truly believe that it is because of those teachers who put effort into me in my younger days that I am where I am today. More than just a gain in intelligence, I was able to experience a boost in my self-esteem and I believed more in myself to achieve goals that people said I couldn’t.

If there are any improvements I would suggest for the school systems in this current time, it would be to have a more accepting outlook on different types of intelligence. Intelligence is not just based on an individual’s science/math capabilities. It is based on a passion that an individual has on a certain topic, regardless of what it may be, and the portrayal of that passion. If a student lacks academic intelligence, a teacher shouldn’t just focus on the other students in the class. Instead, give an equal opportunity for each student to excel in academic intelligence as well their own passions.



After watching the TED talk about the reasons why we sleep and the consequences of bad sleeping habits, I’m wondering if I’ll ever be good at the “art” of sleeping. There are so many reasons why sleep is important to individuals of all ages including the restoration of the body, energy conservation, and enhancement of brain function. I believe that the restoration of the processes in the body along with renewing your body for the next day is vital to sustain the optimum functioning of the individual. A good, undisturbed sleep each night is one of the best things we can do for our health, recovery and complete regeneration of the brain and central nervous system according to an article written by Tracy Kaye Holly for Fresh magazine. I believe that in order to get the best results in every aspect of life, an individual needs to be well-rested. For example, before an exam, it should not be very surprising that students who get a good night’s rest tend to score higher than those who pulled an all-nighter. If you allow your body to rest after a whole day’s worth of constant struggle, you’re giving your body a chance to be rejuvenated and ready to take on the next day. The supporting information was taken from a magazine article which stated the importance of rest and sleep on the human body. According to the article, because of sleep, the nervous system is nourished, our muscles are relaxed, and our minds are well-rested. Although there were no additional research to back up the claims the author made, and there were no credible sources for the information provided, most of the detail in the article seemed to correlate fairly well with the TED talk, and thus I find it reliable in a sense that it is not giving out false information to the general public. In a more scientific way, however, I would not recommend the article to back up any specific details about the topic of the importance of sleep.

Link: http://www.freshvancouver.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=193:rest-and-sleep-restore-the-power-of-your-body&catid=49:health&Itemid=108


Free will can be defined as the ability of an individual to make decisions based on his/her discretion. In psychology, however, it is difficult to find a commonplace between free will and the workings of the human mind.Skinner’s approach to radical behaviorism makes it clear that he did not believe in the idea of an individual obtaining free will. Skinner believed that an individual’s actions and behavior are based on the sequences of prior physical events, which is a direct contradiction to the definition of free will which states that the past, present, and future are distinct aspects of life, and the individual has the ability to make a decision based on current feelings despite of what happened in the past.

According to Psychology Today, no matter who you study in Psychology, free will is always considered a false theory. Freud discussed about unconscious conflicts which caused behavior, while Skinner discussed about the environment and prior sequences of events which caused behavior. Despite which view was chosen, the answer never proved that an individual could use free will to produce a behavior. Moreover, geneticists have been discovering that the works of the brain are not “free”, and that our behavior is linked to neurobiology, biology, our environment, or both.

Based on the scientific studies that have been conducted behind this topic, and the results many of these studies show, it is very useful in understanding how the human brain works and how it impacts the decisions we make. Many believe that the brain is able to any decision that it wants to without being affected by anything, but according to the research, that is far from the truth. Both the article, and the article by Psychology Today on free will/radical behaviorism can be used as credible sources for the understanding of how free will cannot be supported because of extensive research done behind the study of the brain, and how the environment shapes our behaviors.They also support their arguments by backing them up with external credible sources, which allows the reader to truly understand whether the research was reliable.



Schwartz, S. (2013, November 19). Do We Have Free Will? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/proceed-your-own-risk/201311/do-we-have-free-will



As I was looking through the list of TED talks, one in particular caught my attention. Its title read “Sarah Jayne Blakemore: The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain.” In most cases, adolescence is thought to be a dreadful period of time that is uncomfortable to the individual and the people surrounding the individual. When I read the title, however, I sensed a more positive outlook on why adolescents behave the way they do.

I have always teased my brother about going through puberty, but after watching the video, I realized that I am also still going through adolescence. Adolescence was defined as the period of life that starts with physical, biological, and hormonal changes of puberty and ends when that individual attains an independent role in society. The talk summarized what occurs in the brain when an individual is going through adolescence, and how being informed of this phenomenon can allow us to educate and shape adolescents, in a way that is beneficial to the individual and society, all around the world. The main areas of the brain the speaker focused on were the pre-frontal cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, and the limbic system. The pre-frontal cortex is used for planning, inhibiting inappropriate behavior, social interaction, and self-awareness. A study showed that there was a significant decline in grey matter in the brain during adolescence, which is often thought as a negative affect. The decline, however, is due to synaptic pruning which strengthens the synapses that are used. This fine tuning of synapses allow individuals going through adolescence to become more efficient at decision making, self control, and engaging in social interactions. The speaker also talked about the medial frontal cortex and how its use decreases in adolescents when they make social decisions.

The main purpose of the talk was to inform the listeners on what exactly happens in the brain when an individual is going through adolescence. The speaker used distinct parts of the brain to explain actions and behaviors that many adolescents acquire. The speaker was very informative, speaking solely from a scientific point of view comparing it to traditional stereotypes of adolescents.

A research idea to test the differences in behavior of adolescents vs. adults in different situations could be to set up different staged scenarios and analyze how each group of individuals react to the various circumstances. One way to test this would be to create a questionnaire with different situations, and allow both populations to answer. The answers in the questionnaire will be written in a way that can tell the difference between the part of the brain they have to use and whether they used the part or not.

Are Women Better Than Men at Reading Emotions?

The Mythbuster’s mini-myth called “Bedroom Eyes” tried to answer the question of whether women were better than men at reading emotions. In this study, they used the same set of pictures for every participant with only the eyes showing. The study began by keeping score of how many pictures were accurately paired with the right emotion by each gender. As the study progressed, however, the scores were spread out among both genders, making it difficult to find a correlation between accuracy of reading emotions and gender.

There were multiple strengths to this study which enabled the participants to have an unbiased experience during the study. There were multiple participants, with equal numbers of males and females, allowing for the study to have enough data to actually form a correlation. Moreover, the same set of pictures were used for all the participants to keep variables constant throughout the study.

There were also many weaknesses to the study, which made it invalid, and without a true answer. To begin with, the study started out by measuring how well a person read emotions by the number of pictures and emotions the individual was able to pair up accurately. As the study went on, the accurate guesses were spread out, and not consistent in both genders. The people in charge of the study did however start to notice that women were quicker to judge and give an answer than men. The operational definition of reading emotions was changed from the number of accurate guesses of emotions in the pictures to the time it took to make a guess in the duration of the study, and thus invalidates the results. An additional study with the second operational definition will have to be carried out in order to determine the results of the question. In addition, the study does not specify how the participants in the sample were selected, and whether it was random or not, which could also be a factor in the absence of a correlation between gender and reading emotions.

All in all, with the limited time and money that was available, I believe the Mythbusters did a decent job in answering the question. With a little more precision in selecting variables and operational definitions, they will be able to carry out a more accurate study.



About Me

Hi everyone!

My name is Liya, and I’m currently a freshman here at Austin College. I moved from India to New Jersey when I was 9 years old, and I’ve been living in Texas for the past 6 years. My home is in Allen, TX even though I spend the majority of my weeks in Sherman. Transitioning from having a graduating class of 1,400 kids in high school to around 300 kids in college has been a major change in my life, but I’ve come to enjoy how a small college provides a the family-like atmosphere.

To start off my very first blog post, there are many reasons why psychology has always been very interesting to me. There was always something intriguing about the human mind, how it functions, and how human beings deals with situations in the way that they do. The reason I chose to take General Psychology was to learn the complex processes of the brain, and how those processes affect the actions of an individual.

The topics I’m very eager to learn about are Personality & Culture, Social Roles & Conformity, and Coping with Stress. These are all topics that are relevant to today’s society & time. I’m hoping to learn about how someone’s personality affects the role they play in his/her respective culture, and how those roles are suppressed due to conformity. Stress is also a major component of everyday life in individuals of all ages. Therefore, being knowledgeable about how to cope with stress will definitely help me, as well as enable me to help others who are dealing with stress. Although I’m eager to learn about the processes of the brain, I’m not as interested in learning about Psychology Then & Now, the Scientific Method, and Research Methods, because I have never been a fan of research or history. After my first day in class, however, I’ve learned that research is a crucial part of this course, and I’m hoping that I start to enjoy it as the class progresses.

By the end of the course, I wish to be able to answer the question “Why is mental health equally important, if not more important, as physical health in an individual?” As I’m working towards my goal of one day being in the medical field, I strive to not only learn about the physical body, but also to take a holistic approach and assess all the aspects of individuals that affect the way they think, make decisions, and act.