Monthly Archives: September 2015


Humans are always using the perception in our everyday life. Perception is an experience which, result from stimulation of the senses. When we walk, listen, talk, see, and touch an object we use perceive things.

Movement also facilitates perception. The starting of perception is with Bottom-up processing which receptors are involved. Also building blocks called Geons are responsible for us being able to recognize objects. This is backed up by the Recognition-by-Components theory.

When I was about 9 year old, back home in the Caribbean I used to run around like a wild animal. Climbing trees, eating fruits, and touching anything I could reach.  One day, I was looking for something on the ground which was covered with leafs. On the corner of my eye I saw what I thought it was a black (dark colored) stick. I went to grab it, and then I gave notice it was a short, black snake.  I perceive and acted by reaching to grab the “stick”. Then I recognize the object not to be a stick, but it was a snake.   We take into account, physical regulatory and semantic regulatory when we perceive.

In conclusion, we all use our perception in our everyday life.  We perceive stimuli and then take action towards these stimuli. My story is similar to that of Crystal but at the same time we have different stories. Both perceptions involved a process. The only thing is that her perception of the objects kept changing as she got closer. My perception of the object was different from the corner of my eyes, which it changed once I looked at it directly. Two processing streams in my brain were responsible for the depth and object perception which I used in what I described above.

Work Cited:

Cognitive Psychology Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Goldstein, E. Bruce. 2011. Third Edition. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

The Tree With the Lights In It

Thinking about how we perceive the world is endlessly fascinating because there are so many things that feel so concrete and obvious to us in our daily lives that often we take for granted how open for interpretation the same perceptual experiences may be for others. While reading this weeks assignments, a essay that I read years ago in a collection by one of my favorite writers, Annie Dillard, illustrates perfectly how it is not only physiology that shapes the world for us, but our experiences in the world. In the essay Ms. Dillard talks about the experience of people who are blind from birth learning to see after undergoing corrective surgery.

In the essay, Seeing, from the collection Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Dillard talks about her walks in the woods and how she tries to “interpret” the environment through the eyes of people who have influenced or inspired her (Dillard, pp 20-24). She tries “seeing the wind” by the motion of the plant life as described by Stewart Edward White, she observes a “green” tree frog pointed out to her by a guide which is actually the color of “hickory bark” and looks to be part of the tree, she notes that you don’t actually see fog, but the clear spaces between the fog (pp 20-24). These experiences get the author, and the reader, thinking about perception, which leads to her the exploration of people learning to see for the first time.

Seeing explains that for those of us born with sight, we don’t begin life with seeing eyes, but with the ability to perceive visually and we learn to see by our experiences. We don’t remember the experience of learning to see because it begins almost as soon as we are born and by the time we are old enough to articulate it, the experience of seeing is simply natural to us. Adults who are learning to see however are in a position to describe the experience and we can note how perception changes with our experience. For example Dillard discusses how the blind with no history of sight have little to no concept of space. Size, distance, and form are “meaningless symbols” to someone who can’t experience them visually (p 27). They cannot conceptualize what is meant by the phrase “behind you” for example. To illustrate, Dillard cites Space and Sight by Dr. Maruis Von Senden in his work with the blind pre-surgery as being able to identify a variety objects by touching, but post surgery they confuse things like “depth” for “roundness” (pp 27-28). Post-surgery patients often have difficulty gauging distance as well – reaching to grab for objects with more than a foot between the object and their hand.

In another instance, a newly sighted girl looks at family photos and asks why someone put dark marks all over them. The dark marks are shadows that with practice and experience she will be able to identify, but with brand new sight it looks as though someone has placed the dark marks on top of the picture underneath (p. 28). The human hand to another subject’s eye appears to be “something bright and then holes” (p. 31). This difficulty in identifying objects reflects the way we use Physical and Semantic Regularities in order to help us perceive what is around us (Goldstein, pp 63-65). What I found most interesting was the fact that colors are easily perceived and learned, but focusing them into the shapes that sighted people are so familiar with can be difficult and overwhelming. Dillard reports that for a long time many newly sighted people view the world as “color patches” and gradations of light (p. 31). This is best illustrated by the description of one newly sighted person experiencing a tree for the first time and describing it as the most beautiful thing in the world- ethereal, glowing, and colorful, but without knowing it to be a tree until touching it. She referred to it there after as the “tree with lights in it” because of the way the sun shown through the branches appearing to light it from within. You can read a bit of this experience from the essay in the link below:

In it’s vivid description of these experiences of the newly sighted, Annie Dillard captures the complexity of how we perceive the world and the many different ways that it can be perceived. For a girl who has never seen a tree or a man to discover with astonishment that they are really nothing alike visually illustrates the way in which out physiology and experiences influence our perception and why perception can be hugely varied based on the experiences and physiology of the observer. For me reading about the initial observations of the newly sighted lends a sense of wonder and beauty to this complexity. Who wouldn’t want to witness a tree with lights in it?




Dillard, A. (2007). Seeing. In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (pp. 16-36). New York, NY: HarperPerennial.

Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Wadsworth, Inc. Pg.63-65



Prosopagnosia is a neurological disorder that is described as, “an inability to recognize faces”(Goldstein, 2011.) It is also known as face blindness or facial agnosia. There are various degrees of impairment, that range mildly from an inability to recognize a familiar face to more severe by not being able to distinguish the difference between a face and an object(, 2007.) Brad Pitt believes he might have some form of this disorder, but is undiagnosed at this time.

Prosopagnosia is thought to be the result of people who have abnormalities, damage, or impairment to their temporal lobe on the lower right side of the brain in a fold called the fusiform gyrus. The fusiform gyrus coordinates with neural systems that control facial perception and memory. This disorder is thought to be the result of stroke, traumatic brain injury, or a neurodegenerative disease. At times this can be congenital, present without brain damage since birth. Congenital prosopagnosia appears to run in families. Children with Autism often have some degree of prosopagnosia, which may explain their impaired social development(, 2007.)

Unless prosopagnosia is causing a person to not recognize themselves in the mirror, many people go undiagnosed into adulthood without realizing there is a real disorder present. A woman named Ronna Benjamin didn’t think much of it until she ran into situations, such as previously having a woman over for dinner with her husband and not recognizing her at a later date in the grocery store. Her name sounded familiar, but she couldn’t match the face. Other times, she would meet people multiple times, yet still didn’t recognize them. Brad Pitt also lacks the ability to recognition people he has previously met and believes he could suffer from this disease as well, although, he is undiagnosed(Benjamin, 2014.)

Prosopagnosia can be socially detrimental. It can cause individuals to have difficulty remembering family and close friends. To treat this disorder, individuals must develop compensatory strategies, such as through others voices, clothing, or unique physical attributes. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts research to learn more about prosopagnosia. Most of the research is focused on finding better ways to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure this disorder. Prosopagnosia Research Centers at Dartmouth College, Harvard University and University College London are conducting research to learn more about the causes and treatment of prosopagnosia. They also provide a facial recognition test through, 2014.)

Children with congenital prosopagnosia are born with this disability and have never had a time in their lives they could recognize faces.  With greater awareness of autism, and the autism spectrum disorders, which involve communication impairments such as prosopagnosia, it’s likely to make the disorder less overlooked in the future. With greater overall awareness, the Ronna Benjamin’s and Brad Pitt’s of the world may learn earlier on how to more effectively live their lives(, 2007.)

Cognitive Psychology Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Goldstein, E. Bruce. 2011. Third Edition. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. NONDS Prosopagnosis Information Page. 2007. Ronna Benjamin. 2014.

Does Genetics Play a Role in Shaping our Perception?

There are different ideas of how perception is established.  One is bottom up processing in which we start with information from the environment.  This converts into action potentials that are sent to the brain in which we react. The other is top-down processing in which we use our past experiences to guide and interpret the information coming through our senses.  These along with Gestalt’s Laws explains how our perception occurs and carves our personality.  None of these, however, explain the biological concepts of genetics.  I feel there should be another piece to perception, heredity.  How does this come to play in making who we are?  When I look at my own kids, it makes me wonder.

We knew when my daughter was very young that she was a born gymnast.  Since she was three years old, she has been at the gym working hard and competing since she was about eight.  She’s 14 now and spends 30 hours a week in the gym and aspires to be an Olympian.  Although I never did gymnastics, I was always athletic, and people tend to call her mini Kristi.  On the other hand, my older daughter plays softball, which is what I played for 20 years.  Although she is quite a good player now, she has really had to work for it.  She spent years practicing harder than most just to be able to compete.  So of course genetics has something to do with who we are, but how do we know just how much?  How do I know that my younger daughter takes after me at all, and isn’t who she is because of how we labeled her at such a young age?

Unfortunately there is no real way to know.  There is no way to make predictions in Psychology, and let’s think about the impact it would have if Psychologists did.  Currently there are some DNA tests that can be performed to find out if certain diseases are eminent.  But let’s keep in mind that since this is just a prediction, it is no way 100% accurate.  For instance, according to an article in the “Psycho-Oncology” Journal, there are DNA tests that can be performed to tell someone if they have the cancer gene.  (Psycho-Oncology )

Studies showed that people took extreme measures when they were told they had the gene, and most of the time, they never ended up with the disease.  This sometimes caused psychological issues.  Studying perception and how our perceptions shape who we are is important in helping us understand the human mind.  Genetics does aid in shaping who we are, but since we have no way of predicting which ones each person has, we should not assume a particular personality trait is inherited.  We should view our perception as information processing and reaction.  A combination of bottom-up processing, top-down processing and Gestalt’s Laws of Perception do this.


Works Cited

Vos, J., Gómez-García, E., Oosterwijk, J. C., Menko, F. H., Stoel, R. D., van Asperen, C. J., Jansen, A. M., Stiggelbout, A. M. and Tibben, A. (2012), Opening the psychological black box in genetic counseling. The psychological impact of DNA testing is predicted by the counselees’ perception, the medical impact by the pathogenic or uninformative BRCA1/2-result. Psycho-Oncology, 21: 29–42. doi: 10.1002/pon.1864

Advances in fMRI Technology and Ethical Concerns

In 2007, Time warned us that advances in brain-imaging technology were raising serious ethical concerns (Russo, 2007). The article mentions how advances in our understanding about the mind have led many people to question what limits should be placed on this technology. It gives the example of CEPHOS, a company claiming to perfect a lie detection test using brain scans with a 90% accuracy rate. Two years later, a psychologist hired CEPHOS to conduct this test as part of his defense (Lowenberg, 2010). Although many researchers have expressed serious doubts about the accuracy and the ethics of these kinds of brain-imaging applications, we are living in a world where our thoughts are quickly not remaining our own. We must be careful of the impact of brain-imaging technology on our daily lives.

Research suggests that our thoughts correspond to specific patterns of brain activity, but there is a lot about the human thought that we still don’t understand (Goldstein, 2011). Scientists capture images of brain activity with an fMRI scanner and then they use a computer program to make sense of images they collect. Scientists can now recognize the pattern of brain activity of a person thinking or seeing an object. One study has even demonstrated how similar the patterns of brain activity are between different people. However, human thought involves more complicated patterns of activity than the perception of a simple object.

Despite the limitations of the fMRI, CEPHOS tried to use brain scans to provide expert testimony in a federal court case (Lowenberg, 2010). In 2009, psychologist Dr. Lorne Semrau was charged with defrauding Medicare, a federal crime. To prove he was telling the truth, he underwent a lie detection test conducted by CEPHOS. CEPHOS used an fMRI scanner to compare the activity in the doctor’s brain when he claimed to be lying with the activity when he claimed to be telling the truth. In order to be considered expert testimony, the scans had to be scientifically valid. However, the presiding judge concluded that the fMRI lie detection test did not satisfy all of the necessary criteria for scientific. The judge also cited an article, authored by researchers affiliated with CEPHOS, explaining that the fMRI “is currently not ready to be used in real-world lie detection (Lowenberg, 2010).” Even CEPHOS researchers could not prevent their company from attempting to use brain-imaging technology for applications it has not been proven capable of performing.

This is just one example of the concerns that fMRI scans raise. The case of Dr. Semau involves a defendant who asked for a scan. Time warns of the potential for criminal suspects to be forced to undergo brain scans “like a search warrant for the brain (Russo, 2007).” After all, criminal law allows police to draw blood after a suspected drunk driving accident. Of course, there is no reason to assume that all applications of fMRI scans are designed to encroach on our freedom, but this technology does raise questions that require answers—and soon.

We must encourage the skepticism of the CEPHOS researchers cited by the judge in Dr. Semrau’s case. Otherwise, we risk putting too much trust in technologies that already have an increasingly large impact on our lives, including how we serve justice and protect individual liberty.


Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive Neuroscience. In Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed., pp. 39-43). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Lowenberg, K. (2010, June 10). FMRI Lie Detection Fails Its First Hearing on Reliability [Web log post]. Retrieved September 15, 2015, from

Russo, F. (2007, January 29). The Brain: Who Should Read Your Mind? Retrieved September 15, 2015, from,9171,1580378-2,00.html

Do You Eat Breakfast?

Courtney Sadler
Psych 256
Blog Post 1

Throughout my childhood my parents, teachers, and even social media have always been there nagging us and making sure we eat a good breakfast before going on about our days. There are many areas of the brain involved with appetite and hunger although our eating habits could also have had an association with those habits of our ancestors. Food in general is a necessity to live therefore I can imagine that getting enough food is very important to staying as healthy as possible. What would cause us to eat as soon as we wake up whether we are hungry or not. Although there is no single area of the brain responsible for sensing and responding to food, the areas of the brain associated with the desire and regulation of hunger were the hypothalamus, the orbitofrontal cortex, and the amygdala (Freberg, 2010).     Although there is no single area of the brain responsible for sensing and responding to food, the areas of the brain associated with the desire and regulation of hunger were the hypothalamus, the orbitofrontal cortex, and the amygdala. The area I found to be most closely related to hunger was the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a major regulatory center for hunger, thirst, sexual behavior and aggression (Freberg, 2010). There are two areas in the hypothalamus that control hunger. The part of the hypothalamus that causes you to feel hungry when stimulated is the lateral hypothalamus. If you were to lesion the lateral hypothalamus, you would have a lack of hunger if any at all. The second part, the ventromedial hypothalamus gives you that full feeling when stimulated. Unlike the lateral hypothalamus, a lesion to the ventromedial hypothalamus would give the patient a complete lack of the fullness sensation (Valenstein, et al., 1970). Recent research has also shown us that the orbitofrontal cortex is involved with detection of how pleasant or good food tastes to us and the amygdala controls the wanting and desire for food (Felsted, et al., 2010). This observation may play an important role in understanding the decision making involved in our choice to eat breakfast and what we include in that meal.  (Green & Nachtigal, 2010).
There are also three types of receptors on the tongue with sensory connections in the cortex. They are the thermoreceptors (sense temperature), mechanoreceptors (touch or texture), and nociceptors, (sense pain). These receptors are responsible for detecting qualities or characteristics of food (taste, smell, temperature, texture, and spicy/sweet).  The flavor of the food is then compounded by the cortex where the brain fuses together the senses from these receptors. Research has shown that connected areas of the brain then determine the intensity of the desire for that flavor and the degrees of hunger (Green & Nachtigal, 2010).
The primary method used to determine the interconnectivity of the brain areas that also show the components of flavor when eating is by the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) Shown by a study conducted by D. M. Small world and K. Rudenga (2010). In this study liquids containing a potentially nutritious substance (sugar) as well as a potential “toxin”, capsaicin were fed to (16) subjects. Capsaicin is a compound that once in contact with any tissue will cause a burning sensation. The reason they chose to use the capsaicin is because it has been shown to activate the thermoreceptors and nocireceptors that I noted earlier in this blog post, detect temperature and pain. Studies have shown that the same part of the cortex responds to other basic tastes as well. These researchers have discovered that there are “different” connections based on the significance of the taste. Good foods activate one set of connections, while what is perceived as a toxic food activates another part of the brain (Rudenga & Small, 2010) Taste alone however can’t determine whether a person chooses to continue or stop eating. The results of this study showed that those who had eaten the potentially nutritious stimulus had greater connectivity than that of the capsaicin between the anterior ventral insula and the hypothalamus therefore showing a connection with eating certain foods over others. For example choosing sugary cereal over bitter fruits in the morning. (Rudenga & small, 2010)
Overall, the decision making process involved with whether or not we eat in the morning and what we eat can be attributed to certain areas of the brain. I do however believe the decision to eat breakfast in the morning before worrying about the rest of our day could be a survival instinct, and could help influence what foods we eat based on what types of foods kept those in prehistoric times alive long enough to reproduce and carry on such traits or “tastes”. It’s possible that they consumed meats from animals they hunted to survive so it could impact our decision to have steak or sausage for breakfast but then again maybe those eggs you had for breakfast last week gave you gas so you chose to avoid them and went with the cereal instead which in turn has sugars that your body perceives as “good”.

Freberg, L.A. (2010). Discovering Biological Psychology (2nd edition). New York, NY: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Valenstein, Elliot S.; Cox, Verne C.; Kakolewski, Jan W., (1970) Reexamination of the Role of the Hypothalamus in Motivation. Psychological Review, Vol 77

K. Rudenga, B. Green, D. Nachtigal, D. M. Small (2010) “Evidence for an Integrated Oral Sensory Module in the Human Anterior Ventral Insula.” Chemical Senses.

J. Felsted, F. Chouinard-Decorte, X Ren, D. M. Small (2010) “Genetically Determined Brain Response to a Primary Food Reward.” Journal of Neuroscience


Naturalistic Observation

Naturalistic Observation is something that is common to everyone with or without conducting an experiment. When you do use naturalistic observation in an experiment, you are watching people and seeing the way they act, react, and interact with a certain situation or with other people. This way, you are able to see them in a setting where they typically are unaware they are being observed. I have had to conduct an experiment involving naturalistic observation when observing students purchasing soda in the student union. Naturalistic observation as many advantages when you are trying to get the most accurate results. At the same time, naturalistic observation comes with a few disadvantages.

My experiment that I had to conduct was at the Penn State: Greater Allegheny branch campus in the student cafeteria. Since it is a branch of Penn State, there was a good diverse group of nationalities. With a “total of 150 participants were involved in which 68 were women and 82 were men” Hoch (2012) asserted that previous literature on the Comparison of the Purchasing of Soda Between Genders (p. 1). I watched student who were ringing out at the cafeteria to see the ration of soda buyers in comparison to other type of drink buyers. I would have to sit in the café and watch people go threw the line and then I would record my results to look over them later and compare.

There are many advantages to naturalistic observations such as that you are in a setting in which no one really knows you are watching them. When I conducted my experiment, no one knew that I was watching him or her choose what kind of drink he or she chose for that day. This can lead to more accurate results due to the fact that they aren’t influenced to choose a certain beverage when knowing someone was watching. This would be a good method to use when you want to find out a certain result in a setting that the participant would better act themselves rather than them knowing.

The disadvantages of naturalistic observation are because they do not know they are being watched, they may not respond or react in favor to the experiment. They may not have purchased a soda, and since I did not record when a person did not purchase a drink, the experiment it probably flawed. If a person knew, you would be allowing them to decide whether they want a drink or not what kind of drink they would choose. You would also be able to communicate with them and even when your not watching them ask what kind of drink they had bought from the cafeteria.

In this paper, we have talked about a few topics dealing with naturalistic observation. My experiment done in the past was a perfect example of naturalistic observation. We have also learned the advantages to using this method in research in good situations, meant to be watched in a neutral setting. We have also looked at how there may be a disadvantage to conducting an naturalistic observation experiment. Even with learning all the disadvantages and advantages, one can believe this is a good and accurate way of conducting an experiment as I have learned while I was conducting mine.




Hoch, Z. (2012). A Comparison for Purchasing Soda Between Genders. Unpublished manuscript, Pennsylvania State University.


Is our perception colored by our emotions?

New research on the association between color and emotion is aiming to broaden the notion of “top-down” cognitive processing. Goldstein (2011) describes top-down processing as information processing that begins with a person’s “prior knowledge or expectations” (p. 52). This knowledge combines with information gained from the “stimulation of receptors by stimuli from the environment” (“bottom-up processing”) and forms our perception of any given situation (p. 50). A study from the University of Rochester in New York led by Christopher Thornstenson appears to show that feeling sad can inhibit our ability to perceive the color blue (Kaplan, 2015). Conversely, researchers from North Dakota State University report that individuals with hostile personalities show a preference for the color red over blue (Dobson, 2014). Both studies conclude that our moods and emotions can literally “color” our perception of our environment.

Intrigued by the frequency with which colors or color-based phrases (“feeling blue” or “seeing red”) are used to express one’s mood, Thorstenson and team decided to explore whether these metaphors reflected an actual connection between our moods and perceptions of color. Participants in their study were exposed to stimuli intended to induce feelings of sadness, cheerfulness, or impartiality. The “impartial” group was shown a neutral screensaver while the “cheerful” group watched a stand-up comedy routine. Participants in the “sad” group were shown the scene from Disney’s The Lion King in which Mufasa is killed and Simba tearfully tries to wake him. The scene has been scientifically proven in numerous psychological studies to induce feelings of sadness (Kaplan, 2015).

After viewing their respective clips each group was shown color swatches that were so washed out, they appeared nearly grey. Neither the “neutral” nor “cheerful” groups had any issues discerning different colors in the swatches. The “sad” group, however, had difficulty distinguishing colors on the blue-yellow axis. (The eye’s color encoding matrix has two axes: red-green and blue-yellow. The eye ranks light and sorts it into what we perceive as colors.) The significance, according to Kaplan, is that “only blue-yellow perception was affected, and only among the sad group”(2015). Thornstenson cites the belief of many psychologists that the blue-yellow axis is linked to dopamine, “a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers” (Psychology Today, n.d.). Thus, findings of his study suggest that sadness affects dopamine’s ability to transmit visual information about blue and yellow light (Kaplan, 2015).

Participants in North Dakota State University’s study were given personality tests to determine where they ranked for hostility. They were then given a test similar to Thornstenson’s where they needed to identify colors on washed-out swatches or images that were neither fully blue nor red. Those with hostile personalities were much more likely to see the color red and, of those who saw red, were more likely to inflict harm on others when presented with imaginary situations. Researchers for the study attribute the connection to an evolutionary need to identify danger – an association they say is shared across all cultures. From facial flushing to wounds and blood, the color red signals hostility and potential danger. Scientists in the study conclude that, “colour can convey psychological meaning and, therefore, is not merely a matter of aesthetics” (Dobson, 2014).

The idea of top-down processing is still under debate. In a recent study from Yale, authors Firestone and Scholl (2015) assert that, “none of these hundreds of studies – either individually or collectively – provide compelling evidence for true top-down effects on perception”. Thornstenson, however, remains convinced, saying, “Our results show that mood and emotion can affect how we see the world around us” (Kaplan, 2015). In any case, these studies showcase the complex and perhaps subjective ways in which we experience our world.





Dobson, R. (2014, March 16). Seeing red: It’s not just an expression for angry people, but also scientific fact. The Independent. Retrieved from         expression-for-angry-people-but-also-scientific-fact-9194815.html

Firestone, C., & Scholl, B. J. (accepted target article for peer commentary). Cognition does not affect perception: Evaluating the evidence for ‘top-down’ effects. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Yale University. Retrieved from

Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Kaplan, S. (2015, September 12). Blue moods may be connected to our perception of the colour. The Guardian. Retrieved from      blue-perception

Psychology Today. (n.d.) What is Dopamine? Retrieved from



Operant Conditioning and How it to Applies to Parenting

Many parents struggle with disciplining their children. Some have the hardest time just trying to toilet train them. The thought alone of teaching a child how to act or perform is an everyday struggle. Especially when it comes to dealing with behaviors. However, there are several techniques that derive from psychological experiments, which can help parents with disciplining. For instance, behaviorists B.F. Skinner came up with Operant Conditioning. Operant Conditioning is when behavior is strengthened or weakened by positive or negative reinforcements (Goldstein p. 10). As a parent I deal with my children’s bad behaviors, as well as their good behaviors. Operant Conditioning shows how behavior is influenced by three different types of responses or operant that affects behavior—positive, negative reinforcements, and punishment (McLeod 2007).

While chastising my children I never knew that I was practicing what Skinner referred to as Operant Conditioning. For example, when my daughter gets a bad report from school stating she was very disruptive during class, once she gets home the daily routine of hanging out with friends is taken away–she has to stay in the house without television, phone, computer or tablet. Say the next day she has a good report about her behavior in class, once she comes home I allow her to play outside, I return all electronics, and take her to McDonalds as a reward. This here is an example of how my child’s behavior was weakened from the punishment but when she no longer displayed this form of behavior she knew that she would be rewarded each time.

Another example, of how Operant Conditioning can be applied to my everyday life is when I had to toilet train my 2 year old. Every time she would go pee in the toilet I would give her a piece of candy. Each time she knew that if she had to go pee in the toilet she would be rewarded with a piece of candy. My 7 year old doesn’t like reading, I told her for each book she reads at night I would make her an ice cream cone for desert and each night she faithfully read a book to go with her homework. Both my kids continued to repeat the same behaviors because the positive reinforcement (reward) strengthened there behaviors to read and go to the toilet.

An example of a negative reinforcement of Operant Conditioning as applied to my everyday life as a parent would be when my daughter has tantrums each time she falls out and rolls around on the floor she has to get up and stand in the corner on one leg, for each time she decides that she is going to act up and have a tantrum she knows to go stand in the corner on one leg. From her having to perform this act she no longer displays the same behavior of the tantrums, the negative reinforcement of having to be in the corner on one leg strengthened her behavior by stopping the tantrums.

In conclusion, Operant Conditioning is a method that people use on a daily basis to help change to outcome of ones behaviors. Parents are key components for utilizing this method for trying to strengthen their child or children’s behavior or weaken there behaviors depending on the circumstances. But I can say as a parent I utilize Operant Conditioning in my parenting skills to discipline my children.


Goldstein, E. B. (2011, 2008). Cognitive Psychology Connecting Mind, Research, And Everyday Experience. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning .

McLeod, S. (2007). Skinner-Operant Conditioning . Retrieved from Simply Psyhology:




Every cloud has a top down lining

Alaska movie

The above link is to a short video clip I took during my stay in Alaska. To me this is the perfect example of bottom up and top down processing. Why you ask? I will begin with the story of the event that took place.

Over the summer I went on a beautiful cruise to Alaska where I was able to see magnificent sights. Some of these sights were specifically amazing because I had only ever seen them on tv or in the movies. One evening during dinner with my friend, we noticed a strange white mist approaching the ship. We stopped in our tracks because for a minute it looked like a large white form was penetrating a mountain. We knew that what we thought we were seeing was impossible so we left the dining hall and took to the top of the ship for a closer look. To our amazement the approaching white mass began to take several different shapes and even seemed to be floating and changing color. We began to go crazy because we thought we were witnessing some kind of extraordinary phenomena. We then took turns exchanging different ideas of what we thought the strange mass could be, but all of our conclusions were illogical or just plain crazy. About an hour later we were INSIDE of the strange white floating material, it was until then that we realized it was just a very thick layer of fog floating over a landmass. Even upon figuring out the puzzle we still were amazed by the sight and the works of mother nature.

Bottom up processing starts with information received by the receptors, but what if the information you see is new and hence unidentifiable? Thats when top down processing can come into play since it relies on knowledge or the expectations of the individual. In our case our knowledge of floating white masses was very limited, of course fog and mist came into play but it was like no fog we have ever seen. Maybe someone who studied in meteorology or hydrology would of had a much easier time deciphering the approaching mass but that just goes to show that perception is different for everyone. Imagine how different that white mass would look to 100 different people who carried their own array of knowledge and expectations. Each individual would probably witness something entirely different.

Thats the beauty of perception, I suppose that Helmholtz  had the same idea as I, when he introduced his theory of unconscious inference. Our ability to create perceptions from stimulus information that can be seen in more then one way is a wonder but it makes sense. Take for example the infamous blue/black dress that was floating around the internet, how is it possible that something as constant as color is perceived differently by people around the world? The best thing I believe we can do is refer to the Gestalt laws of organization. Though they are heuristics, they help explain why our perception changes and varies depending on our culture, knowledge, and background. A study that shows how the Gestalt laws influence our perception was “the hollow face experiment” done by Gregory (2007). The participants reconstructed a face on the hollow back of a mask. The subjects perceived that there was a protruding nose even though there was not, because of our assumptions. That is just one of the many studies done throughout history that supports just how much our perception is based on more than what meets the eye.



Gregory (2007)

Gregory R L, 1997 “Knowledge in perception and illusion” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B 352 1121 ^ 1128

“Cognitive Psychology” Goldstein (2011)