Monthly Archives: April 2014

Extra Credit – Conformity

Everyone wants to fit in. They will even sometimes break personal rules or morals in order to do that. Conformity is the definition of trying to fit in.

When I was in middle school, I had a group of friends just like everyone else. They were cool guys and I enjoyed hanging out with them on the weekends and at the lunch tables. These were the kids I would cause shenanigans with and just have a good time. However, towards the end of middle school, they started to hang out with their high friends. I didn’t care, a friend of theirs was a friend of mine.

One day I went with my friends to another friend’s house. When I got there, I realized many things: the high schoolers were there and the parents weren’t. I didn’t care about that, I actually felt kind of cool breaking the rules, being a rebel. However, it all got serious when the high schoolers started doing drugs in front of us. Apparently I forgot the memo that said we were doing this. The key word in that was ‘us’.

My friends were hesitant to try drugs but were convinced by the high schoolers to try it. I was scared to do that so I made up some stupid excuse that made me leave. My friends just wanted to fit in and conform to the imaginary standards of their friends. I’m sure if they chose not to do drugs they would still be good friends but unconsciously they felt obligated to partake in them as well. Conformity has helped me by following the pack but sometimes it is quite the opposite.

Questioning Reinforcement (Extra Credit)

Positive reinforcement strengthens a behavior, negative reinforcement removing a negative stimulus after doing a certain behavior. Positive punishment is when a stimulus is added after a certain behavior and negative punishment is when something is taken away after a bad behavior.

I think as children we all deal with some types of reinforcement/ punishment at least once in our lives. Reading the previous comments, everyone said at least one kind of reinforcement and/ or punishment that they remember as a child. In my opinion, this isn’t a coincidence. I would say that reinforcement and punishment are the most common and most effective ways to motivate children to do what is right and to learn. I think reinforcement is an interesting topic and was definitely used in my childhood. When I was younger my grandparents would always give me a dollar if I set the table and helped clean the table after dinner. This always encouraged me to help. Now I question, how do you stop the child from expecting reinforcement after doing something good?

In third grade, my teacher had a big bucket of prizes. At the beginning of the year she would let you pick a prize if you did something good but then towards the middle of the year when she started running out of prizes she would randomly choose when you do something good for you to get a prize, so you wouldn’t get one too often even if you did something good every day. In the last month or two of the school year she “ran out of prizes” but most of the students continued to do good things just like the beginning of the year even though she made it clear and we knew there were no prizes left.

I always questioned how people stopped expecting prizes and still continued to do things but then I thought of the third grade year and how our teacher slowly weaned us off of getting prizes for doing good things. I also think that third grade is around the time where a child starts to look at the world and start conforming to everyone around them and it makes them realize what they actually need to act like and do to fit in with the human population. That and slowly weaning the reinforcement away plays a huge role into doing good things without expecting anything in return.

Compliance techniques (Extra Credit)

Its no secret why the informercial/ direct- response advertising industry is so big. The multi- billion dollar industry gained its notoriety from infomercial moguls such as Billy Mays, Anthony Sullivan, and many others. These salespeople figured out ways to make the average consumer buy plenty of objects that they may have not needed before, i.e- the slap chop, and OxiClean to name a couple. These concepts that they include in their sales pitches come from consumer psychology and the concept of compliance. Compliance is defined as changing behavior as a result of being asked to change. Some of the techniques largely used by salespeople are the foot-in-the-door, door-in-the-face, lowball and thats-not-all techniques. If you flip the tv to any channel and watch it long enough, you’ll inevitably see a infomercial and hear the ‘Thats-not-all’ technique- this is when the person makes an offer, such as selling a product for a certain price, and then he or she adds something to the offer such as a different item, without changing the overall price. This makes people believe that they are getting a good deal, when in reality, they’ve been tricked into buying it.

These consumer psychology techniques can work at home too. The other week, I went home to see my family, and observed my brother using the Door-in-the-face technique on my mom. He needed some money so he asked her for $50, (which was a lot). When she said no, he asked for $5 (a lot less) and she gave it to him. This techniques, as exemplified by my brother, is just asking for a large request, then asking for a smaller request.
In conclusion, the methods that salespeople use to get you to buy their stuff all comes from the psychological techniques attributed to compliance. Consumer psychology techniques really can change your behavior.

Conformity (Extra Credit)

Humans have a natural need to feel like they are a part of a group. We need to feel like we belong to something bigger than ourselves. Conformity is such a large part of our society. The definition of conformity is changing your behavior to match someone else. People conform so much more than they even realize. I truly believe in the saying that, “you are a reflection of the people you spend time with”. This means if you hang out with a certain group of people, you will share some of the same traits as them.

In college fraternities are a huge source of conformity, but not all of it is bad. When I first came to Penn State I didn’t even know what a fraternity was. I went out and rushed with my roommate and I met a lot of people that I really liked. I decided to pledge and finally became a brother after my spring semester of my freshman year. Once I was in the fraternity, I began to notice the groupthink environment. Groupthink is a mode of thinking that occurs when the desire for harmony in a group overrides realistic appraisal of alternatives.  In fraternities excessive drinking occurs, some of the most preppy styles of dressing that I have ever seen, and just outrageous actions by people. I also was a part of this lifestyle. I began to wear sperrys and I learned what polo and brooks brothers was. I did conform, but I am so happy that I did. My fraternity made this huge campus seem smaller to me and I loved being a part of a group. I can’t even begin to describe how much fun I had and how much I have learned from this kind of culture.

I think conformity has a bad reputation but it isn’t the worst thing as long as you always have a sense of your own personal core values. Being a part of a larger group gives you the opportunity to learn things that you would never learn if you just remained to be by yourself. Everyone conforms in some way, but once you understand why it is happening, you can appreciate the benefits of it.

Sleep Deprivation (Extra Credit)

In class, we touched on sleep deprivation, which pretty much explains my spring semester of this freshman year. Without sleep one can experience fatigue, impaired concentration, emotional irritability, a depressed immune system, and feelings of vulnerability. This semester I have gotten an average of 4-5 hours of sleep every night. I have dance until midnight, and I try to stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning to catch up on work, and then I wake up at 8 am for class. Last semester my classes started at 12:20, so this was never a problem for me. However, this semester sleep has been my biggest enemy. I am extremely awake in the middle of the night, but super tired during the day. I feel like I have experienced many of these symptoms, but I never would have connected it to sleep. I get very emotional now, and get frustrated and irritated very easily even when I know that I have no right to. I just assumed that school was getting harder, and that I just was not mentally there. I never really knew why.  I have experienced many injuries this semester, and have been really sick numerous times. It is a scary thought to think that an average student, my age should be getting nine hours of sleep. That seems so unrealistic in college! I feel guilty for sleeping eight hours some nights! I also pull many all nighters from exams, but I now realize how ineffective that can be. Sleep is very necessary for the body specifically because it helps restore brain tissue and we release growth hormones, which is essential to people my age. The importance of sleep definitely needs to be emphasized more to college students because I know most students, especially freshman experience what I did this semester!

Extra Credit Blog Post: The Power of Obedience

Since we have started talking about the topic of obedience and conformity in lecture, I have been amazed at the power of the presence others around us. I never realized how contagious behavior can be. It makes sense now to see how family members and friends have similar mannerisms and personas, and act the same. Today, there has been so much emphasis on being “original” and “unique,” but now I know that it is only natural for us to conform to those around us. There is not much to say for those who criticize our society for conforming to our culture since I know now that we conform almost unconsciously, it is a part of how we think and our natural lives. The Chameleon Effect, described as unconsciously mimicking other expressions, postures or voice tones really caught my attention. After learning about this, I realized that since I moved in with my roommate last semester, I have picked up some of the mannerisms that she has and that she has also done the same with me. Before then, I had never even noticed how similar we act and behave. Who would of thought that just having others around you, just their simple presence, would affect how you yourself behave. It makes sense when you think that no one wants to “rock the boat.” I know that I myself never want to be the odd man out, and why would anyone else? The concept of groupthink, the mode of thinking that occurs when the desire for harmony in a group overrides realistic appraisal of alternatives, also scared me. So many accidents and traumatic events in history could have been avoided if that one person decided to speak up out of the crowd. It really shows the power behind it all. Instead of speaking against the others, these people let the attack on Pearl Harbor happen, they let the Challenger explode. It is truly eye-opening to see how our brains, conformity and obedience all work.

Social Influence and Pledging – Extra Credit

Pledging my fraternity was probably one of the most psychologically stressful times in my life. Leaving out the details of the process, the gist is that we, the pledges, are essentially at the beck and call of the brothers. Whatever and whenever they need things done, it is our duty to carry out their demands without question. In summation, the established brothers of the fraternity are the authority figures to whom we, the pledges, respond to. The pledges conform to this behavior due to their low place at the social totem pole of the fraternity. Although we are not actually forced to perform such tasks, we do anyway because they are the figures of authority of which we are expected to conform. We know that once completing our pledge program, we will be rewarded with our initiation, the ultimate end goal. Therefore, with the incentive of initiation, we accept this compliance towards the intimidating authority figures. A specific example of this surrender to power is when we, the pledges, were sitting in the library and an unidentified man claimed to be a brother (whom turned out to be a brother) came into the library and began ordering us to do things. We had no idea who he was but, because he said he was a brother, we instinctively caved to his demands. We could of simply answered back and questioned who he was, but we were respected and carried out his demands simply because he identified himself as a figure of authority in our fraternity. Later, we learned that the brother was in fact on a co-op program therefore, a member we had never met before. Our compliance to the initially unrecognized member’s demands,  proved that both intimidation and ideas of authority can be enough to push people into actions they’d rather not participate in.


Sleep Apps for the iPhone

Julie Kittka

Psych 100

Spring 2014


Before we began our lectures regarding Sleep and Dreams I downloaded an app from the iTunes store called Sleep101.  The app remained opened throughout the night and tracked my movement as I slept throughout the night while it rested on my bed.  It even had a very cool feature called a “smart alarm” where you set a time that you wanted to wake up and the alarm went off at the most “optimal time” of your sleep cycle.  I thought this was an interesting concept because the app never kept track of my brain waves and eye movement while I slept; it just kept track of my tossing and turning.  I decided to give the app a try and see what it was like.

I hated it.  I found myself concentrating so much on the app and the movement I was making that I could not even fall asleep.  I tossed and turned all night anxiously awaiting to see the results of my sleep movement.  I got less sleep when using the app than I would on a normal night.  It also had limitations – you could not put your phone/iPod under your pillow because that would interfere with the accuracy of the recording, and the app did not work if you had a memory foam mattress or mattress pad.  I typically put my phone under my pillow so it is close by and I can hit snooze easily, and I have a memory foam mattress pad.  After going through all of the trouble to make the app work, I was extremely disappointed when the recordings showed I moved only three times.  Finally, when I did fall asleep, the smart alarm woke me up an hour after I wanted to be awake.

In theory, the app seems extremely smart and is a great new, innovative idea.  However, its accuracy and measurement of movement is flawed.  Though sleep is a total body experience, we learned in class that the type of sleep you get and how the body reacts to that sleep is directly determined by the brain.  No iPhone app (as far as I know) can measure the brainwaves of any individual and if there were such an app, I doubt that it would be accurate.  Sleep and dreams are some of the most interesting topics in psychology in my opinion.  However, I do believe that there is a long way to go in terms of what we know about how our brain operates during sleep and how we dream.

Dissociative Identity Disorder: Extra Credit

Psychological thrillers are some of my favorite movies. I love the way they continuously keep me on edge and throw unexpected twists and turns. One of my favorite movies is called “Identity”. The movie focuses on a criminal who murdered 6 women, and his psychologist who tries to convince the judge that he has dissociative identity disorder. Dissociative identity disorder is a disorder that occurs when a person seems to have two or more distinct personalities within one body. The criminal doesn’t have any recollection of murdering the women; he refuses to believe that he did it. This is considered the “core” personality because he experiences blackouts when he performs actions. The movie tells the story of 10 people all with different backgrounds that somehow end up at the same motel. One by one, they start getting murdered by an unknown killer.

It turns out that these people getting “murdered” are the different identities of the criminal. The criminal’s multiple identities are being forced to confront each other to find the identity that murdered the 6 women. As the motel story is occurring inside the criminal’s mind, he changes how he talks and acts in front of the judge, jury, and psychologist. A journal is presented to the judge that has 10 different handwritings within the pages. Eventually one identity remains and the psychologist convinces the judge that this identity is the innocent one and that the murderer identity has been diminished.

Whenever dissociative identity disorder is talked about, I automatically think of this movie. I have never met anyone who has more than one personality but I think that this movie did an accurate portrayal of someone who does. I think 10 identities are a little extreme, but some personalities stood out more than others. Although the movie never explained how he developed this disorder, multiple reasons could be behind it. The psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, or biological approach could all attempt to explain the cause of this disorder.

Panic Disorder

One of my best friends, Caitlin, has always had severe panic attacks, starting at a young age. When I was younger, I never really knew what to think about it and after learning about Panic Disorder, I now understand. Panic disorder is defined as a disorder in which panic attacks occur frequently enough to cause the person difficulty in adjusting to daily life. Caitlin often has to avoid situations that could cause stress to her, like large cities, amusement parks, but it also can occur from a simple stressful situation at school. A panic attack is a sudden onset of intense panic in which multiple physical symptoms of stress occur, often with feelings that one is dying. I know that Caitlin would always tell me it felt as if she was having a heart attack or a stroke and I would laugh and call her a drama queen, but now I realize that it may in fact feel as if she is. I never really took her symptoms seriously enough until one day, when she had the worst of all panic attacks. It was graduation day. Everyone was so happy to be moving on after four years of torture. I saw Caitlin right before the ceremony and she looked totally fine. Finally, I took my turn and walked on stage, received my diploma from my principal, shook some hands, and returned to my seat with no sweat. When it was Caitlin’s turn, I realized that nobody was walking up. I looked over to the side where the students stood in line and prepared to walk on stage and I saw something that broke my heart. Caitlin was moving very slowly, holding onto a nearby teacher. She was shaking throughout her whole body as if she was having a seizure, hardly breathing, and could hardly move. Everyone around me stared at me, knowing I was her best friend, and I eventually ran up to her after she finally made her way to get her diploma. She told me it was her worst panic attack yet and that she thought she was going to die. Everything ended up being okay, it was merely I very scary situation and extremely embarrassing for my friend. After this situation, Caitlin’s panic attacks have seemed to also gotten worse. She has told me of one she had while in the car near Temple University, where she actually ended up having to go to the emergency room, and also of one in her public speaking class in college. I can’t imagine to have to worry about having a panic attack everywhere I went. At this point, I think Caitlin has even developed panic disorder with agoraphobia, which is the fear of leaving one’s familiar surroundings because one might have a panic attack. Caitlin’s fear of having panic attacks has risen, and it has affected her life in many ways. She feels as if she can’t do normal things that she used to do in every day life.