Monthly Archives: September 2014

Perception

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Perception

“Victor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who spent three years during World War II living under unspeakable circumstances in several of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps. While imprisoned, Frankl realized he had one single freedom left: He had the power to determine his response to the horror unfolding around him.” (Enayati, CNN ) Frankl controlled his perception of his horrible environment to survive the atrocities surrounding him and those he endured during the holocaust.

Goldstein, our textbook’s author, defines perception as experiences resulting from stimulation of the senses. Our lesson plunges a bit deeper and describes perception as the recognition, organization, and, interpretation of information from our sensory experiences. Stimulus of our senses happens in all that we do on a daily basis. For example, Frankl probably experienced the stimuli thru all senses. Murder and abuse were common in concentration camps. I would assume he experienced the sight and smell of a dead and decaying body. He could have lived through the sounds of others being tortured, the feel of cold nights, and the taste of rotten scraps of food. All of these stimuli flowed to his brain for processing. Instead of allowing his current environment influence his reaction to the stimuli, he made the insightful determination that he had the power to control his mind and thoughts.  He controlled his reactions to safeguard his own sanity.

In conclusion, a person’s perception is the processing of the stimulus received from via their senses. Perception also involves the processing of the stimuli and follows with a reaction to the provocations. Victor Frankl mentally rose above his horrific circumstances. He focused on past experiences and some possible future experiences to put himself in a healthier mental place. He was determined to survive. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”(Victory Frankl, brainy quote)

 

Enayati, Amanda. “The Power of Perceptions: Imagining the Reality You Want.” CNN. CNN, 14 Apr. 2012. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/11/health/enayati-power-perceptions-imagination/>.

Frankl, Victor. Brainy Quote. Xplore, Inc., 1 Jan. 2001. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <www.brainyquote.com>.

Perception Starts At The Receptors: Top-Down Processing

Perception Starts At The Receptors: Top-Down Processing

When I think of perception, I think of someone’s personal opinion about another’s character or a situation. What we see and what we make of it based on our knowledge or experiences – from a visual sense or personal interaction. Having that understanding, “Top-Down processing,” which is the “processing that depends on a person’s prior knowledge or expectations” (Cognitive Psychology -page 57), makes sense. However, understanding the role of top-down processing to speech and how we perceive speech and how it can change or alter how one processes it and understands language, is fascinating to me.

Working in an environment where it was crucial to make sense of dialogs and gather information from conversations that vary from thirty seconds to over an hour, depended highly on how much I knew about the individuals and their background. Knowing where they were from, where they were at the time, and their personal way of dialog, made a huge difference. Having this knowledge allowed me to try to characterize an individual, find patterns and recognize changes.

But what fascinated me the most was when it was difficult to understand speech, what was being said, either due to audio quality, the environment or a person’s emotions or circumstances and how different people listen to the same, let’s say, thirty seconds of speech, yet everyone would hear something different. People who shared the same knowledge of the individuals in the conversations were close in agreement, others hear something completely off the wall, and others couldn’t really make anything out, would all of the sudden understand what was being said after someone else would say it.

From that experience, I learned first-hand how easy it was to mold your understanding of sound and speech. How experience and knowledge influenced what one hears and how you process information.

 

References:

Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Classical Conditioning and Phobias

Classical conditioning  is a theory of pairing one stimulus with another neutral stimulus that causes changes in the response to the neutral stimulus (Goldstein). This type of theory was first developed around John Watson and his outlook on behaviorism where he argued that a person’s behavior can be studied without any reference to the mind. With saying this, Watson conducted an experiment with a little boy, Albert, and a rat. Every time the rat would go near Albert, someone made a loud noise which later on, made Albert crawl away from the rat every time it came near him. This reaction became a learned behavior for Albert and in turn, also made him scared of rats.

I was subjected to witnessing a horrific movie as a child, which now results in why I am deathly afraid of clowns. When I was four, my father made me sit down and watch the movie based off the book by Stephen King called “IT” which was about a clown that took the lives of children. Now being four years old, that isn’t something you expect out of a clown. Ever since then, I have been traumatized by anything related to clowns whether it be a picture, the big shoes, the make up, everything. I am 22 years old and still run and hide when I see one.

With saying this I feel like I can relate to the “Little Albert” experiment. When subjected to the movie, I now suffer from a phobia. When the rat used to crawl toward Albert after a couple trials of loud noises, Albert learned to crawl away because he knew that the noise was coming. To me it seems like in a way phobias can be learned through classical conditioning.

In conclusion, classical condition seems to be a good theory to use when to test for learning behavior, like Watson did. It also has its downfalls for example with the little Albert experiment I remember reading what happened to him later on in life and this experiment actually made him not only scared of little white rats, but other soft, cuddly animals that were also white. Classical conditioning is a very interesting theory used in the world of Psychology and I would love to focus more on this particular subject as the class goes.

Works Cited

Goldstein, Bruce. “Introduction to Cognitive Psychology.” Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience. Third Edition. Belmont, CA 94002-3098: Woodsworth, Cengage Learning, 2011. Page 10. Print.

Conditioning children

The thing that I love most about children is watching them learn. Watching how one day they might be having a hard time with a task, and the very next day- they can master it. Other times, its necessary to help them along the way, by conditioning them to have certain behaviors. Cognitive psychology has many topics, but the one I chose to focus on is B.F Skinner’s operant conditioning.

B.F Skinner used rats to show how behavior can be strengthened by the use of positive reinforcement. I, however, used something along the lines of this method, to help my son with his social skills. I noticed when he was around one year old, that he was already a loner. He loved to play by himself and never interacted with the children around him, except his brother. I didn’t become concerned until the behavior was still happening when he was two years old. At that point, I decided to see if there was anything that I could do to help him develop his social skills a bit.

He always responded very well to positive reinforcement when it came to correcting BAD behavior. I would tell him “no” and when he finally stopped doing the undesirable behavior- we would give each other hugs and high fives and I would tell him how proud I was of him. Even though he was not presenting any BAD behavior, it was still something that I thought needed a little work. So, at home with his brother, I started positively reinforcing him each time he played nicely with his brother. Then, at the park, or anywhere there were other children to play with, anytime I noticed him interacting with someone- even if it was just a few words spoken- I gave him high fives and told him I was proud of how nice he was playing with the other children. After a few months, I started to notice that each time we went to the park, he was playing more and more with the other children. I encouraged both his independent play and his social play, because both are very important.

He is three and a half now, and I love listening to him and his brother tell stories to their friends and giggle together. And I love, just as much, watching him go off and be completely comfortable being on his own and being independent. The method I used can be classified as operant conditioning because it perfectly demonstrated the relationship between the positive reinforcement and the desired behavior. Although, I never did introduce negative reinforcements the way that Skinner did to his rats. It was a fascinating process to experience!

 

Goldstein, E. (2011). Introduction to Cognitive Psychology. In Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

The trials and tribulations of being blind as a bat

When I was in elementary I would complain to my other that I couldn’t see the board at school and was the reason that my test scores were so low that year. My best friend had just gotten glasses so she assumed that it was just me trying to be like my peers and at first, ignored my protests. It wasn’t until we went to see the play “Grease” at a local theater that she started to believe me. We were sitting fairly close to the stage but I still couldn’t see much of what was going on. I had slipped through the cracks for the standard eye tests that my doctor and school has completed for me, so I have been able to sharpen my perception skills.

Top-down processing is how I have learned to navigate through the world not only during my elementary school days but also as my vision has decreased throughout my adult years. Top-down processing is when a person uses their prior knowledge or expectations to be able to recognize objects based on just a few geons. Top-down processing also contains the theory “multiple personalities of a blob” (Olivia & Torralba, 2007) which is in regards to what we expect to see in different contexts influences our interpretations of the picture (Goldstein, 2011). When read this portion of top-down processing I automatically resonated with it when I saw the 4 blurry pictures. Often, throughout my life if I misplaced my glasses, had to remove my glasses, or felt like I could to without some optical assistance that day, this is how I view my surroundings. My world is a blurry picture and I often use this multiple personalities of a blob method to make sense of the things around me.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk at work when I was my manager carrying a box full of odd shaped items. The items looked like a stick with long snake-like strings hanging out. I could feel my mind reaching for some out there explanation like he was holding some obscure animal in that cardboard box. “These look like something from a reptile! It’s a lizard tail! Maybe it IS a snake!” my mind was shouting out in the brief second it took for me question my own thoughts. “Why would he be bringing a box of lizards into the office?” I questioned. That’s just it. There was absolutely no reason to bring anything like that into the office so it had to be something pertaining to the setting we were in. BAM! Just a quickly as the thought of the box of lizard tails entered my head it was out and I knew what the box was filled with. My manager was holding a new shipping box filled with new phones pieces and headsets for our desks. The tail like pieces were the phone cords used to connect to our phones, not an animal appendage. I used the orientation and context which I was perceiving the blob to have the pieces fit together. I was able to rule out items that were not office related and focus only on a list that would be found in that setting. I used my prior knowledge in this situation, like that we may have once spoken about getting new headsets at some point, and knowing what my current headset looks like, to come to the conclusion that I did.

In this same situation I was able to also perceive the size of the items in the box, even though the distance between us was a good bit. I took into consideration the size of the object compared to other objects around it. I knew the items within the box were relatively small because I could see how big the box was compared to my manager’s body. My manager who has a fairly small frame was not struggling to carry the box in her hands so I assumed that it wasn’t that heavy and it was just little bigger than the width of her shoulders. Even a few yards away I was able to know that the items in that box were more than likely pretty small so that they could fit in the box. By perceiving size and taking distance into account I could tell that the items were not truly as small as they looked from afar and that their size would actually be bigger close up. The image of my retina becomes smaller as my manager is far away but the perception is that she and the items she is holding remain to be the same size.

If we only used bottom-up processing our perception would still be off and misconstrued. Of course, all different types of processing is important to perceive the world around us but as someone whose vision is deteriorating, top-bottom processing is pretty helpful. As I sit here writing this blog my 11 year old sister asked me to explain what I was completing my homework assignment on so I had to think for a second before giving her the most basic and easy to understand explanation that I could think of in that moment. I told her, “Top-down processing is when all you see is a blur of objects, shapes, and colors, much like is you put a dab of Vaseline on your glasses. You use the information of what you know about the world to make sense of all the shapes without being able to see it clear enough”. Thankfully, our minds continue to expand our knowledge to help us perceive everything around us every day.

 

References:

Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

A, O., & A, T. (2007). The Role of Context in Object Recognition. Trends in Cognitive Science, 11, 520-527.

Courtney’s Blog Post #1

“The class of response upon which a reinforcer is contingent is called an operant, to suggest the action on the environment followed by reinforcement. We construct an operant by making a reinforce contingent on a response, but the important fact about the resulting unit is not its topography but its probability of occurrence, observed as rate of emission.” – Skinner, B. F. (1969). Contingencies of Reinforcement: A Theoretical Analysis, 7.

For my first blog post I decided to write about operant conditioning. Over the course of the first three weeks I enjoyed the topic of operant conditioning the most. Because our book didn’t give too many examples of operant conditioning I decided to look for an article on operant conditioning that I can relate back to what we briefly discussed in class. The Article that I researched is titled “The Modification of Delinquent Behavior through Operant Conditioning”.

In the article we are introduced to a 9 year old boy named Danny who struggles with disruptive antisocial behavior. Danny’s mother put him in an institution because his behavior was out of control to the point where she could no longer care for him. Danny remained in the institution for 4 years. Out of the first 2 years the professionals tried an unsuccessful regressive therapy however; in the last 2 years Danny’s treatment was modified with operant conditioning which proved to be successful. “Operant conditioning focuses on how behavior is strengthened by the presentation of positive reinforcers, such as food or social approval (or withdrawal of negative reinforcers, such as shock or social rejection). (Goldstein, 10).  In this paper I will discuss how the use of punishment reinforcers along with positive rewarding reinforcers helped to decrease disruptive antisocial behavior.

Proper punishment reinforcers such as isolation, radio use, and extended isolation time can decrease disruptive antisocial behavior. For example, when Danny started displaying disruptive behavior as consequence he was immediately put into an isolation room. Danny would be told by staff why he was put into the isolation room and that if his disruptive behavior persist it would result in an increase in the amount of time that he would stay there. In order for the isolation to be more effective a radio was placed in the isolation room to create a communication barrier between Danny, the other patients and the staff. Consequently, the punishment reinforcers decreased Danny’s disruptive antisocial behavior. Throughout this experience Danny realized that by displaying acceptable behavior he was then able to be released from the isolation room and back into the cottage along with everyone else.

Operant conditioning/positive reinforcers such as a token system can decrease disruptive antisocial behavior as well. For example, the staff at the institution developed a token system that was used to reward Danny for displaying acceptable behavior. For every hour that Danny was able to stay out of the isolation room he was given tokens that could be used in the future towards rewards such as candy, soda, movies, recreation, etc. With the positive reinforcers Danny now had an incentive to put greater effort into having acceptable behavior. For this reason, the positive reinforcers decreased Danny’s disruptive antisocial behavior.

In Conclusion, as a result of both proper punishment reinforcers along with operant conditioning through positive reinforcers, Danny’s disruptive antisocial behavior decreased a total of 33%. Results show that Danny was able to decrease his disruptive antisocial behavior from a starting point of 40 occurrences within the first month with a regressive treatment to 12 occurrences in his last and final 5th month with operant conditioning treatment. Overall I am a fan of operant conditioning. I feel like operant conditioning is very successful an should be used more in psychological practices by therapist.

Works Cited

Goldstein, Bruce. “Introduction to Cognitive Psychology.” Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Thrid Edition ed. Belmont, CA 94002-3098: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2011. Page 10. Print.

 

Burchard, J., & Tyler Jr., V. (2002). The Modification of Delinquent Behaviour Through Operant Conditioning. Behaviour Research and Therapy, Volume 2(Issues 2-4 (1964)), Pages 245-250. (2002, May 28). Retrieved September 14, 2014, from PSU Libary Database.

 

Intelligence and Machine

In lesson 1 Alan Turing discussed a relationship between machines and intelligence. He wrote a paper on it in 1950 and now 64 years later what he believed to have happen, has. When introduced to this topic the first thing I thought of was Siri. To those who aren’t aware of what Siri is, it’s the intelligent personal assistant for iPhone users. In the video we watched for class the computer was having a conversation with the user, which is one of the things Siri does. She also researches or identifies information online for her user. Machines and intelligence have created a strong relationship that can now be used in hand held technology.

 

As an iPhone user I have experienced Siri and have even entertained myself by having a conversation with her. I was intrigued after watching a video on YouTube Funniest Siri Questions and Answers, Top 10 where a man asked Siri 10 funny questions. Her responses are vast and seem to change depending on the owner. My Siri was able to identify my name once programed and can research and respond to all my random questions efficiently. Also, when I’m unsure of what I am looking for Siri can help or correct me to accurately find what I am searching for.

 

Computers and humans both retain information and Siri retorts her response accurately to whatever is said to her. Apple has established a way to have Siri respond as a person. She is even able to tell half jokes as well as identify inappropriate language. She is updated constantly and adapts to well to her environment.

 

The gap between machines and intelligence have become smaller and smaller. They are helping our country flourish. Outside of the iPhone, computer intelligence can be found in other phones, computers as well as robots. Machines and intelligence will continue to progress in the future and express much more than ever anticipated. I look forward to the future and how intelligence and machine get stronger, I just hope it doesn’t end up like the movie iRobot.

Every Piece of the Puzzle

The world is vast, stretching nearly 24,902 miles (Sharp, 2012), incredibly diverse, and complicated. It’s a miracle that every day the human body is able to perceive all the information gathered from stimuli through sensory organs and convert them into thoughts and images we can use to understand the world. It’s still not completely understood yet how exactly the brain is able to do this. What has been proven is that the brain creates this reality by processing different stimuli in specific parts of the brain, a phenomena called localization of function (Goldstein, 2011), because of which, we can lose specific abilities and even distort our perception of reality by damaging or injuring specific parts of the brain.

In high school, I was fortunate enough to take part in an internship at a local rehabilitation facility where our patients often came to us having recently experienced a stroke. Patients spent weeks in the facility trying to gain movement back in their extremities and relearning how to perform the most basic tasks. A stroke is when the flow of blood is cut off completely or greatly diminished to specific regions of the brain. Often times, when blood is restricted to the left side of the brain, the person is unable to move parts on the right side of the body and possibly, according to Allina Patient Education (2011), “control the ability to pay attention, recognize things you see, hear or touch, and be aware of your own body.” Similarly, when a stroke occurs to the right side of the brain, movement is restricted on the left side of the body and the person is also likely to have complications with communication (Allina Patient Education, 2011).

Selective functions of processing language can be altered by effecting even more specific parts of the brain. House M.D. is one of my Netflix favorites, a drama focused around a renowned diagnostics team, loosely based on real life medical conditions. In season two, episode ten a man falls and hits head on a desk, briefly unconscious, he wakes only for those around him to realize he cannot put the correct words into sentences. This and other complications with processing language, reading, writing, and speech are called aphasias. We also learned about both Broca and Wernicke’s aphasias in lesson 2. Both of these aphasias would be caused by damage to incredibly specific and small smarts of the brain seen on page 33 of Cognitive Psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday, Wernicke’s area being a small section in the temporal lobe and Broca’s area, an even smaller section, in the frontal lobe.

Many parts of the brain must work together to interpret and organize information into useful thoughts and accurate perceptions, without every piece of the puzzle, there can be major issues. We’ve looked at just a few of the thousands of disorders that can occur when one part of the brain is cut off from the rest. The consequences can be devastating and life altering. Thankfully, many of these conditions are becoming more and more manageable, if not treatable through modern science.

 

References

Allina Patient Education (2011). Effects of left-sided stroke: Aphasia and language apraxia. Retrieved September 13, 2014, from http://www.allinahealth.org/ac/strokemanual.nsf/page/left_sided_stroke.

Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed.). California: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Sharp, T. (2012). How big is earth. Retrieved September 14, 2014, from http://www.space.com/17638-how-big-is-earth.html.

 

Decision Making in Children

According to the lesson commentary, cognitive psychology is “the scientific study of the mind”. Furthermore, the mind includes all facets of our “neurological experience”. For instance, cognition involves neuroscience, perception, attention, memory, knowledge, imagery language, problem solving, and reasoning. Cognition also involves decision making, which for children, is one of the most important skills needed to develop to become healthy and mature adults according to Dr. Jim Taylor, professor at the University of San Francisco in Psychology Today (Taylor, 2009).

Taylor asserts that decision making is essential because the decisions a child makes determine the path that their lives take. He maintains that parents can teach their children to make their own decisions which have numerous benefits. When children make good, positive decisions “they gain the greatest amount of satisfaction and fulfillment because they chose it,” he says (Taylor, 2009). However, if children make bad or negative decisions, although they may hurt from it, Taylor states that they can “learn from the experience and make better decisions in the future” (Taylor, 2009).

In the article, Taylor discusses the process of good decision making. He states that educating children about the decision-making process is part of helping them to gain experience with making decisions. According to Taylor, “good decision making is complex and takes ears of experience to master” (Taylor, 2009). And since children do not have an abundance of experience and perspective, they are inclined to make decisions that are “impulsive and focused on immediate gratification” (Taylor, 2009). Therefore, Taylor asserts that that initial step in the process of teaching good decision making is to teach them to “stop before they leap” (Taylor, 2009). Essentially, it’s about teaching children to think before acting. One way of accomplishing this is to teach children to ask themselves questions such as “Why do I want to do this?” By asking children to ask themselves these types of questions, it helps them better understand what motivates their decisions.

Since making bad decisions is inevitable in children since it is a part of their “road to maturity” as Taylor puts it, it’s essential for parents to hold their children responsible for their poor decisions, because if they don’t, the bad decision is bound to happen again (Taylor, 2009). Other than holding children responsible for their bad decisions parents should ask their children why they make bad decisions. Taylor states that responses such as “I didn’t stop to think,” “I was bored,” and “Peer pressure” are very common (Taylor, 2009). However, if children are held responsible, they are less likely to make bad decisions and more likely to make good ones.

Taylor explains that “part of children learning to make good decisions is allowing them to make poor ones” (Taylor, 2009). He asserts that “if handles properly” poor decisions can play a significant part in children becoming good decision makers (Taylor, 2009). Finally, Taylor states that children should be required to “explore their decisions”, understand why they made a poor decision, and confirm that they realize what they did so they won’t make the same bad decision (Taylor, 2009).

Reference:

Taylor, Jim. “Parenting: Decision Making.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. Psychology Today, 19 Oct. 2009. Web. 14 Sept. 2014. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/200910/parenting-decision-making>.

My Perception Almost Gave Me a Heart Attack

As I walked from the hallway into the living room to get my charger I saw, in my peripheral vision, a person sitting on the couch. Normally this wouldn’t frighten me since I do have a family of 4 but I was supposed to be home alone! I stopped in my tracks and when I turned to  my left to get a good look at this intruder, I realized it was a Nike workout bag that I had placed on the armrest of the couch earlier that had stayed “standing” up vertically. Needless to say, I was relieved! After I relaxed and my heart stopped pounding out of my chest and having read the chapter on perception from our book already, I thought to myself, “What happened in my mind that made me think it was a person even though I knew I was the only one home?”

One thing that affected my thought process for sure was my brains recognition of my environment and the regularities often seen within it. My brain and I are used to seeing people sit on couches in my home, its the norm. Because I had done something irregular (placed the bag on the arm chair instead of the closet), my brain automatically assumed it was a human form due to top-down processing. My previous knowledge of my environment affected my brains reasoning and result.

The size and distance of the bag also played an important role. It was not a large bag nor an extremely small one such as a clutch or wallet, so being that it was of average size and the bag was near me and on top of the arm of the couch rather than on the seat cushion, I perceived the bag as being similar to the human’s torso and head size.

Once my fear forced me to turn and confront the “intruder” and see who it was, my bottom-up processing came into play. Instead of my brain getting the information from the “blob” seen in my peripheral vision, I now focused clearly on the object and my brain was able to process that it was not a human but indeed a bag. Certain neurons were “fired” when the rods and cones in my eyes were able to distinguish the bag’s parts and categorize the “geons” (Goldstein) into the area of my mind that said “It’s a bag!”

Of course I felt silly after my brain helped me realize that I was scared of what turned out to be a bag but, if  not for the chapters I have read already, I do not think I would have taken into account all the different processes and steps that it takes to do, what I believe, is the simple task of seeing and interpreting. Everything our mind can do at one time is astonishing and I learned I take my mind and body for granted very much. Just waking up and getting dressed is an amazing feat in itself and it is amazing what our mind can do every second of every day of our lives.

Goldstein, E B. Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.