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The Psychology of Politics

The past few weeks have been a tumultuous time for the United States due to the presidential election. We now know that president-elect Trump will take office on January 20, 2017, but I remain perplexed by the massive amounts of advertising and mixed messages both majority candidates presented to the US population.  Just in my mailbox alone, I received approximately 140 pieces of literature in regard to the upcoming political races. This does not take into account all the other various forms of advertising that we as Americans were subjected to on a daily basis.

political-direct-mail-versaility

In an article by Tsipursky (2016a) the author suggested that the problem with American politics is irrationality, which ultimately leads to incorrect assessments of reality in addition to poor political results.  Emotions, perceptions, and biases cause these thinking and emotional reasoning errors and result in poor decisions and assessments (Tsipursky, 2016a).

In reviewing the Clinton and Trump campaigns one could easily assess the use of the horns effect.  Research by Belludi (2010) suggests biases of the horns effect are a negative perception in one area that is now perceived in every aspect without any further evidence to suggest this assumption.  The Trump campaign made use of this effect by suggesting halo-and-horns-effectterrorism is initiated by Islamic extremists which places all Muslims in the category of terrorists (Tsipursky, 2016a).  Whereas, the Clinton campaign suggested all Trump supporters are “a basket of deplorables” who subscribe to “irredeemable” inequalities of sexism, racism, and homophobia (Tsipursky, 2016a).  In reviewing these two types of biases, we can assess that the information is incorrect and does not stand true for all Muslims and Trump supporters.

The illusory truth effect according to Lexikon Online (2016) suggests one believes information to be correct through repetition.  The Trump campaign may have convinced many millions of people around the world that NAFTA was “the worst deal ever signed” with the repetitive statements (Tsipursky, 2016b).  This statement was just the opinion of the Trump campaign and not the majority of experts.  However, this biased statement has settled with several million supporters.illusion-of-truth

As you can see, the voters of this election have been tainted with psychological warfare that led to many irrational judgments.  Our emotions, perceptions, and biases may have caused us to vote for a candidate that we may not have chosen otherwise.  However, we may not even be aware of these thinking errors until now.  I believe in order to make an informed and rational decision a voter needed to diligently search various types of websites and fact-check statements and other informational sites to make an informed decision in regard to which candidate they felt best matched their personal beliefs and values.  This obviously was a difficult and tedious task to conduct due to the mainstream media’s bias toward the candidate of their liking.

hillary-vs-trump-cartoon-exhibit

Belludi, N. (2010). The Halo and Horns Effects (Rating Errors). Retrieved from

http://www.rightattitudes.com/2010/04/30/rating-errors-halo-effect-horns-effect/

Park, D., Schwarz, N., Skurnik, I., Yoon, C. (2005). How Warning about False Claims becomes Recommendations. Journal of Consumer Research. March 21, 2005. Retrieved from   http://lexikon.stangl.eu/14988/illusion-of-truth-effect/

Tsipursky, G., (2016a) Fact-checking Clinton and Trump is not enough. The Conversation. Retrieved from

https://theconversation.com/fact-checking-clinton-and-trump-is-not-enough-67506

Tsipursky, G., (2016b). The Worst Problem in American Politics? Research-based suggestions for how to deal with the worst problem in US politics. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/intentional-insights/201611/the-worst-problem-in-american-politics

 

 

Oh! I “forgot” about the Memory Palace!

In Lesson 12, we learned a little bit about Visual Imagery, but the one thing that caught my eye would be “Loci”. A long time ago, I realized that my memory isn’t so great and if anything, it might be getting worst. I started researching ways to prolong memory, and discovered Loci. However, somewhere along the line I stopped practicing and forgot about it. So what better time to refresh myself with this method than to write about it now! And so, let’s talk about Loci!

Loci originated from Greece and was discovered by the Greek poet and sophos Simonides (Ancient Imagery Mnemonics, 2014). Basically, he was invited to a banquet and once he stepped outside, the roof caved in and crushed everyone that was present. When it came time to identify the bodies, he found that he was able to recognize each person thanks to visual memory. However, he didn’t only identify them by their visual appearance. Since some of them were disfigured, he recognized people based off of where their bodies were found. Gruesome story, right? This apparently is where the method of loci came from. History at its finest.

So, now that we know how it came about, what is the method of Loci? When I first started to research this, it was for memorizing books I read for pleasure. I found that I would read a long book on finance and investing, and yet once I was on the fifth book I barely remembered anything from the first. That’s when I started researching how to memorize books and came across Loci. From one of the random forums I ran into, they talked about the Memory Palace and how to use it. Usually it starts by that individual visualizing a room. From there you walk around and each location you visit receives a number. Using that same number system, you can make a list of whatever it is you want to memorize. Let’s say you wanted to memorize a list of items. One, which was a door is now labeled as Grocery shopping. Now I picture using that item and incorporating it with whatever your ‘task’ was. So I would picture the door, then me walking through it and there’s the grocery store. My example is a bit rusty, but I think you can get the idea!

I basically decided to do this blog on Loci mainly because while I knew I could use Palace Memory and Loci to memorize important sections of my books, I was curious on the other different ways it can be used. So led to me trying to do a bit of research on various ways to incorporate and use Loci. For anyone that’s interest in using Loci, I found that you can use it for a variety of things including studying for exams! I decided to ask my friends for a few ideas on how it could also be used in other occasions and came up with a miniature list. For example, it can also be used for memorizing a foreign language, books (like what I needed it for years ago), memorizing a speech, grocery list, memorizing people and their positions at a new job, and even recalling what makeup brushes are for what uses (for makeup artists), and so forth.

How about you guys? When was the last time you’ve used Loci and what have you used it for? Any other ideas on what Loci can be used for? It’s an interesting method and I have to admit the background story with Simonides was a shocker.

 

Works Cited

Nigel, Thomas J.T. “Ancient Imagery Mnemonics.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

STM, LTM, and Placing Orders

During Lesson 6 and 7 we discussed Short Term Memory (STM) and Long Term Memory (LTM). Typically, STM is capable of holding about five or nine items in its memory slot. If repeated multiple times, it’s usually stored in our LTM section of the brain. Along with this discussion, we were introduced to a Phonological Similarity test where each individual had to go through memorizing a series of randomly generated letters and try to remember the order in which they were given. STM and LTM play such a large role in our everyday lives. While it wasn’t until I had friends over and offered to buy them Starbucks that I realized my STM is quite shorter than I realized. It also made me recognize, with a simple everyday activity, just how common it is that we utilize both STM and LTM.

So it was a Sunday morning and I had company over. I decided to treat everyone to some coffee at a local Starbucks. Of course, no one wanted to come, but they all wanted coffee so I figured I’d take their orders and drive out on my own. While asking for their order I realized that after the fifth person, the previous orders were already forgotten. I quickly opted for everyone just to text me their orders since the only thing I remembered was my sister’s Grande Soy Mocha (hot) with whipped cream and my Grande Cinnamon Dolche latte with a single shot, hot as well, with whipped cream and no cinnamon on top. That’s when I stopped. I couldn’t remember everyone’s order, not even the simple tall Vanilla Bean Frap, but I surely remembered my complex order or my sister’s order as well.

So let’s talk about STM, short term memory only lasts about 30 seconds or so, and we only remember a few digits at that. The Phonological Test showed us that it’s easier for humans to remember the first and last words/letters in a list, but we easily forget everything in between, unless it’s repeated and then sent to our LTM category. Back to me, standing in my living room with five individuals staring me down all the while calling their orders out; I could only recall the last order I was given. And even with only one order successfully mentally jotted down, I personally knew that by the time I’ve arrived at the location, which was a 20-25 min drive, I would surely forget everything that was requested of me.

So why did I remember my complex order and my sister’s? LTM. Long term memory comes into play when items are repeated. Over the years I change my order up of course, but that’s not to say that my Cinnamon Dolche isn’t a classic favorite. And no matter how many times I get it, it’s always the same in that order I listed earlier (single shot, no cinnamon on top, Grande, whipped cream…yum!). After ordering it many times over the years, it’s no wonder I recalled it so easily compared to the randomized list of coffees my guests were giving me.

And so, in the end, it was interesting to realize how we utilize both types of memory in regular everyday activities. The only time I personally ever really thought about it was when I heard of people suffering from mental disabilities (strokes or accidents where there was brain injury). It never occurred to me how vital these two compartments of our brain are until these last few chapters and then recognizing it with something as simple as placing an order for my guests at a local Starbucks was an interesting experience.

 

Works Cited

Goldstein, E. B. (2015,2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience (4th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

Can memory be restored in Alzheimer’s patients?

brain

I recently read an article about researchers at the University of Minnesota finding a way to reverse memory loss in lab mice.  This piqued my curiosity since we have learned that memory is processed in several areas of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex, temporal and parietal lobes, cerebellum, amygdala, and hippocampus. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a hot topic of conversation with the large population of baby boomers being afflicted with this degenerative memory disease.  There is a plethora of research being conducted on AD, however, none have been as promising as the recently published work of Dr. Karen Ashe.

neuronsKaren Ashe, MD, an Alzheimer’s researcher at the University of Minnesota, has discovered two key components of dementia since 2005.  Her first research discovered a gene, Tau, which caused tangles in the brain associated with AD.  She found that when Tau goes errant it will cause cell death and memory loss.  In this finding they discovered the natural enzyme called Caspase-2 was causing Tau to behave abnormally.  Dr. Ashe’s latest research introduced a drug to cut the Tau enzymes in lab mice.  In doing so, the drug intervention repaired the damaged connections between neurons, which resulted in restored memory in the impaired mice.  Ultimately, the goal of Dr. Ashe’s research is to provide a drug that would block Caspase-2 and prevent the Tau gene from going awry, preventing cell death and memory loss.

 

So, what is Alzheimer’s disease and what effects does it have on the brain and memory? AD is an irreversible, progressive disorder in which neurons deteriorate, resulting in the loss of cognitive functions (alz.org, n.d.).  AD damages the hippocampus, making it difficult to form new memories and learn information.  Semantic memory, stored in the temporal lobe, and language decline along with the ability to recognize familiar faces.  Patients may have difficulty judging distance and three dimensions, recalled from the parietal lobe.  As the disease spreads to the frontal lobes, especially the prefrontal cortex, they may experience difficulty with organizing, planning, and decision making.  Procedural memory from the cerebellum, along with attention, language, movement, and emotional declines persist.  As the portions of the brain begin to atrophy due to degenerative destruction of the cells, the emotional memory from the amygdala is affected.  This destruction has been traced to two separate proteins.

ad-brain

The cells within a patient who was diagnosed with AD typically have tangles and plaques.  The tangles are the Tau proteins discussed earlier.  Plaques are deposits of protein fragments called beta-amyloid that build up in between nerve cells (alz.org, n.d.).  As we age, these plaques and tangles are normal. However, in AD patients they develop an excessive amount.  Eventually, this atrophy seems to cause cell death and disruption, ultimately affecting memory, judgment and reasoning, movement, coordination, and pattern recognition (alz.org, n.d).

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States (alz.org, 2016).  This is why the latest research by Karen Ashe, M.D. is so important for the 5.4 million people who currently suffer from AD (alz.org, 2016.).  Although it may take a decade or more before this type of drug can be given to patients afflicted with this progressive disease, it is a step in a positive direction.

 

Lerner, M. (2016, October 11). Alzheimer’s researchers at University of Minnesota reverse memory loss in mice. Star Tribune, retrieved from http://www.startribune.com/alzheimer-s-researchers-at-university-of-minnesota-reverse-memory-loss-in-mice/396739231/

What is Alzheimer’s. (n.d.) retrieved from http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp#

2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. (2016) retrieved from http://www.alz.org/facts/overview.asp

High Schools Considering Later Start Times

I recently read an article in our local newspaper about the consideration of later start times for our high schools due to sleep deprivation and the negative effects it causes adolescent students (Devlin, 2016). Specifically, this would mean starting high school no earlier than 8:30 a.m., which is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics (CDC, 2016). According to the CDC, the average adolescent is currently getting eight hours of sleep, which is one hour less than the recommended amount. Various scholars have performed studies on later start times, and Minnesota was one of the first states to incorporate this into several of their middle and high school programs. The data and perceptions of later start times do seem encouraging, but are not without a few problems.
Sleep deprivation during adolescence has a number of negative conseqsleeping-kiduences such as decreases in cognitive abilities, positive behaviors, and academic performance. Inattention and poor classroom performance are just two of the cognitive and emotional symptoms resulting from lack of sleep. During high school, I was constantly tired and had problems concentrating on what was being taught. Occasionally, when completing my homework, I could not remember what was taught in the classroom earlier that day. Ultimately, my grades dropped and I struggled to keep them up. Emotional changes are another important symptom of sleep deprivation. Dahl (1996, 1999) suggested inadequate sleep results in irritability and less tolerance for situations that create negative emotions. This was very self-evident to me during adolescence. I was easily upset by insignificant events. I assumed it was due to hormonal changes, based on my parents’ opinion, but reflecting back, I’m sure it could have been a combination of sleep deprivation and hormones. A third symptom of lack of sleep is behavioral disorders such as ADD and ADHD. The behaviors exhibited by those diagnosed with ADHD are similar to those who suffer from sleep deprivation. Daytime behavior was often improved when ADHD patients were treated with sleep disorder medications (Dahl, 1996). Personally, although I was never diagnosed with any type of behavioral problem, I did exhibit several behaviors that could have been indicative of ADHD such as disorganization, lack of focus, forgetfulness, and being easily distracted. I can easily understand how a significant number of children can be misdiagnosed with ADHD.
attentive-students

In reading, “Impact of sleep on learning and behavior in adolescents,” Matekika, Millrood, & Mitru (2002) suggested later start times for schools, ultimately allowing students to go to sleep later at night and sleep longer in the morning. Several local Minnesota high schools and middle schools incorporated these changes. The later start time for the students resulted in a decrease in average sick days and tardiness/lateness, and increased alertness and grades (Wahlstrom, Wrobel, & Kubow, 1998). Additionally, 57% of the teachers perceived students’ improved alertness during the first two classes, and 33% of the teachers perceived an improvement in student behavior (Wahlstrom et al., 1998).
graduation-pic

Since the research suggests students need more quantity and quality of sleep, the later start time for schools seems appropriate. However, the drawbacks of incorporating this type of scenario may prove that this is a difficult task, as demonstrated in the Minneapolis school system when students and teachers missed classes due to extracurricular activities. This type of disruption also caused diminished relations between parents and teachers (Kubow et al., 1999).
In reviewing the data supporting increased sleep time during the adolescent stage, I believe education would be the best indicator of success. Parental control should still be enforced without the disruption of adolescent autonomy. Parents, allowing for adolescent input, should continue to enforce a bedtime, put limits on stimulating activities toward bedtime (i.e. computers, phones, television), and supply a relaxing environment for sleep. Parents and children should be educated about the benefits of proper sleeping patterns and the symptoms of sleep deprivation. This information, coupled with later school start times, could have the potential to create a positive, lasting impact on adolescent behavior, cognition, emotion, and academic performance. I would have to say I was a bit reluctant to even consider later start times. However, the data suggests I may have to reevaluate my views on this matter.

 

 

Devlin, E. (2016). Unionville among school districts considering later start times. Southern Chester County Weeklies. September 4, 2016. http://www.southernchestercountyweeklies.com/general-news/20160704/unionville-among-school-districts-considering-later-start-times
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. August 6, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0806-school-sleep.html
Dahl, R.E. (1996). The regulation of sleep and arousal: Development and psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology. 8, 3-27.
Dahl, R.E. (1999). Consequences of insufficient sleep for adolescents. Links between sleep and emotional regulation. Phi Delta Kappan, 80, 354-359.
Kubow, P.K., Wahlstrom, K.L., & Bemis, A.E. (1999). Starting time and school life. Reflections from educators and students. Phi Delta Kappan, 80, 366-371.
Mateika, J.H., Millrood, D., & Mitru, G (2002). Impact of sleep on learning and behavior in adolescents. Teachers College Record. 104, 704-726.
Wahlstrom, K., Wrobel, G., & Kubow, P. (1998). Executive summary of findings from Minneapolis school district start time study. Retrieved September 7, 2016. http://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/handle/11299/3902/CAREI%20SST-1998ES.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Cirque Du Soleil: Integrating Perspective

  I remember the first time I went to a Cirque du Soleil show down in New York. I’ve seen acrobatic shows before, but nothing quite like it. Instead, Cirque du Soleil combined elements from traditional circus with elements drawn from sophisticated theater (Blue ocean strategy, 2004). After taking our seats, the Cirque du Soleil group managed to captivate us from start to finish. We were seated for Zarkana and the animation lit up the stage pulling you into the action. The acrobats did amazing stunts that were specifically formulated so it would look breath-taking no matter where the audience were seated in the room. The animated screen on the back made everything pop outwards toward the audience and made their stunts even more defined. This leads to my discussion on Chapter 3’s topic of Perception and how it correlated and was used by Cirque du Solei during Zarkana.

Perception is how we view objects in front of us. There are objects all around us and based on where we stand or the angle in which we observe it, it changes the perspective. Our brain processes this by using two pathways, the perception and action pathway. Perceptions first step is to identify (Goldstein, 2011) the action or object in front, followed by action. This process is something that is taken into consideration by performers or artists alike. Artists that wish to sketch an object that consists of any sort of volume or dimensions have to formulate and understand how to place it on a flat piece of paper. Acrobatics is also a form of art, and of course physics are also taken into consideration when formulating stunts. For acrobatics this is done by measuring human sensitivity to distortions in angular momentum and take-off angle (Flipping with physics: motion editing for acrobatics, 2007) when formulating different acrobatic maneuvers.

So how does a show like Cirque du Soleil correlate their performance and the audience’s perception during a show? It’s as simple as moving since movement also helps us perceive objects in the environment more accurately (Goldstein, 2011). The performance is visually enhanced perspective-wise just by having the acrobats hovering above you in midair. but then Cirque du Soleil takes it to another level and adds animation to pull you into the action as well. Visual perception has always been used in various forms of art and acrobatic shows prove to be no different. They understand how to keep an audience engaged with music and different stunts that play with perspectives. For example, during Zarkana there’s a trapeze performance where the background is blue with different hues. This almost sucks you in, but then the acrobats come out with this light green outfit which just pops out toward the audience contrasting with the background. Finally, to play with perspectives and make you feel like they’re really close to you, some acrobats are closer to audience while others are more to the back of the stage. This makes you feel that they’re going to flip outward towards you.

And so, even an acrobatic show like Cirque du Soleil takes into consideration perspectives and uses it to their advantage. By using animation, music, and acrobatic maneuvers that entices their audience, they manage to create a visually stimulating choreography which is even more successful due to its play on perspectives. By understanding these physics they’re able to entice people into the act and expand it towards the audience as well.

 

Works Cited

Goldstein, E. B. (2015,2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience (4th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

 

Majkowska, A., & Faloutsos, P. (2007, August). Flipping with physics: motion editing for acrobatics. In Proceedings of the 2007 ACM SIGGRAPH/Eurographics symposium on Computer animation (pp. 35-44). Eurographics Association.

Kim, W. C., & Mauborgne, R. (2004). Blue ocean strategy. If you read nothing else on strategy, read thesebest-selling articles., 71.

Is Perception Reality?

As human beings we all can perceive the same incident or occurrence differently than each other. So what is reality? Is one person wrong and the other person right? The example I would like to focus on now is something that took the internet by storm a couple of years ago and is still much debated today. Is it a white and gold dress or black and blue dress? Bottom-Up Processing is at play in determining the color of the dress. What we see is light rays that are transformed into a sensory experience via the retina, which travels to the optic nerve and creates an electrical signal, then sends this signal to the processing center in the brain. Once at the processing center in the brain it determines what color we perceive and thus creates our version of reality (Goldstein, 2011, p. 38, 50).

How we perceive the color of the dress depends on if we see it as a bright background light with a shadow cast over the dress or as very bright light making the dress appear lighter when it is actually darker (Corum, 2015). The cornea is responsible for letting light rays into the eye, in fact, 65 percent of the eye’s refractory ability to reflect light from an object comes from the (center of the) cornea (Davidson, 2015). That being said whether or not we perceive the dress as black and blue or white and gold is determined by top-down processing, whether or not we perceive it as a shadow cast over the dress or a bright light reflected onto. Since it is just a picture online, our brains use prior knowledge to determine the color, for example, when a shadow is cast over an object it appears darker or when a bright light is shined on an object it appears lighter (Goldstein, 2011, p. 57).

The color we see an object as is the color that is reflected off the item. For example, if all colors are reflected off an item then we see white, but if all colors are absorbed by an item then we see black (Idaho Public Television, 2016). In the dress example when we see a bright light coming from behind the brighter light makes the dress appear darker (i.e. black and blue). But when we see a shadow cast over the dress the darkness of the shadow makes the dress appear lighter (i.e. white and gold). Color constancy is the ability of color to appear the same in different contexts (i.e. a lot of light or little to no light). Color is subjective, since it can change color in different environments (Brainard, 2004). In Image 3 (link at bottom) the dress is seen as definitely black and blue, with other context clues such as the fair skin color of the woman wearing the dress, the white wedding dress of the bride, and the dark curtains in the background. With all these things to compare the color of the dress too, it makes it obvious its true color (Corum, 2015).

Whether or not the dress is black and blue or white and gold is still a heavily debated topic because everyone believes that the way they see it is real or reality. The fact that they perceive this as reality makes them believe that something is wrong with the other person who sees a different perception. When viewing the photograph, I see it differently because sometimes I see it as white and gold and other times I see it as black and blue. Since my reality changes I understand how different people can see the dress differently. Color constancy is at play and is not something that is 100 percent accurate, since other things can affect the color reflected by light off an object, such as colors reflected off other nearby objects and background light. Top-down processing is also at play as we use clues from things we have previously seen to draw conclusions on the color of the dress, is it a shadow casts over a white and gold dress or a bright background light reflected onto a black and blue dress. So in conclusion, reality is not something that always holds true to everyone, but is rather subjective and determined by the individual.

References

Brainard, B. (2004). “Color constancy: David Brainard Lab” [PDF Document]. Retrieved from
http://color.psych.upenn.edu/brainard/papers/ColorConstancySage.pdf

Corum, J. (2015, Feb. 27). “Is that dress white and gold or blue and black”. New York Times. Retrieved
from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/02/28/science/white-or-blue-dress.html

Davidson, M. W. (2015). Human Vision and Color Perception. Molecular Expressions. Optical Microscopy
Primer : Physics of Light and Color. Retrieved from
https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/lightandcolor/humanvisionintro.html

Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting mind, research and everyday experience
(Vol. 3). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Idaho Public Television. (2016). “Light & color: Facts”. Retrieved from
http://idahoptv.org/sciencetrek/topics/light_and_color/facts.cfm