Author Archives: Sarah M Hammond

Studying Anxiety

Different types of anxiety disorders exist in all cultures. What they are depends on the culture seeing as certain types of societies view habits as natural or unnatural and this can lead to different views on what is a disorder.  The symptoms of anxiety disorders are broadly defined as “persistent and uncontrollable tenseness and apprehension” which are experienced for long periods of time and an inability to remove and place the source of the anxiety.

One of the studies I am currently participating in through the psychology department is focused on how feeling change throughout a week long period and how they change based on time of day. The study also measures sleep patterns to determine the quality of rest and how that relates to tenseness and mood the following day.  Before starting the study the participants, myself included, had to fill out a demographic survey mentioning which type situations we would feel uncomfortable in. Personally I have slight social anxiety, not nearly enough to be classified as a disorder, but still enough to make me uncomfortable in large groups of people. The survey went through many types of situations including; parties, meetings, writing in front of people, and even eating in front of people, just to clarify what the participants viewed as a stressful situation.

Every hour a new survey is prompted and it asks how you are feeling and whether you have experienced a negative or positive event since the last survey.  To which you respond and it proceeds to ask how much you had to do with the event and whether you felt in control of it.

This study helps you manage the things that are happening in your life and if someone had a more severe disorder this study could be very beneficial to help them cope with the challenges of managing their anxiety.  If you can place the source of your anxiety then you are more in control of how it affects you.

Apples and Piaget

Piaget established the theory that our minds develop in stages and create different schemas for recognizing things as we grow older. While he was not entirely accurate, his theories are completely valid. Piaget’s stages of cognitive development are not exactly steps, but a gradual change in the growth and expansion of the child’s mental processes. I have a niece who is almost three years old, and I have watched her create all kinds of schemas for many objects as she grows. For example, she has a schema for beach balls, and everything that is round is automatically a ball. She has insisted several times that the rocks in our driveway are okay to play with and bring in the house because to her, they are very obviously beach balls. She also frequently associates the word ‘apple’ with any and every kind of fruit offered to her. Even when it is a different color and shape, it is still an apple. The only thing that can be done is to correct her mistakes and help to accommodate her existing schemas to account for her new knowledge and experiences.

How can we be sure that they remember the difference, and that they don’t forget what we’ve taught them? Reinforcement is the answer, if we keep emphasizing the differences between the two objects they will eventually develop a new schema for the new object. My niece says that oranges are the same as apples, so we need to reinforce the fact that oranges are different. Their unique colors, textures, and vastly dissimilar flavors are all characteristics that we can use to help her create new schemas for types of fruits, and organize new information. These are skills that she will be able to use for the rest of her life, if applied properly the way that certain schemas fit together can work for other objects as well.

Do our children learn bad habits

The old debate, Nature vs Nurture is known to almost everybody. Do we act the way we do because we were raised this way, or because our genes tell us to? That is the question that has been bugging people for ages, since the time of Socrates and Aristotle we have been arguing about it. Both sides have equal merit and there is research to back up both sides. It is the application of such things that makes one wonder about the way things really are.

My sister has a two and a half year old daughter who is starting to vocalize and be very independent. Observing her has made me wonder if the things she does are learned from watching the people around her, which would prove nurture, or whether she just inherently knows to do those things as in nature. Sort of like instincts in animals, are the actions we perform really something we are born knowing? The problem is figuring out how we learn, is it simply reinforcing our instinctual knowledge, or is it learning from scratch. From watching her develop and grow, I am very much convinced that she is learning these things from us. I have seen her watching my sister as she interacts with people and then, at a later time, do similar things while she plays with the other kids in her Sunday school group. Being a role model to a two year old may seem like an easy job, but when every move you make is scrutinized by a child, you might think twice. To me this is very good evidence of nurture over nature, but in the end who can tell?  Just because someone is raised a certain way, doesn’t guarantee that they will act that way. I’m sure most families that produce serial killers don’t intentionally raise them to be go out and kill people. The scientist might argue that there isn’t a gene that controls that kind of behavior either. We are left with our own experiences to make sense of the world around us.