Author Archives: Grace Cuffel

Does Dog Saliva Have Healing Powers?

I remember freshman year after breaking my leg, I had to get a surgery that left me with a pretty big scar on my knee. I never had a dog growing up, but my friend Brianna did, and every time I went over to her house her dog would lick my scar. Brianna’s mom would tell me that it was a good thing because a dog’s saliva can actually help heal wounds more quickly. Well, 3 years later I’ve decided to look a bit more into this claim.


Where Did This Start?

The belief that dog saliva can heal human wounds dates all the way back to ancient Egyptian times, when dogs were used in healing practices. “The Egyptians believed that being licked by a dog, especially on an open wound, would aid in recovery or even cure the disease causing the illness.” This concept was carried into the ancient Greek beliefs, where they would have dogs that were trained to lick wounds in many temples dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing. According to Psychology Today, “The value of being licked by a dog is still believed by many cultures to have curative powers. There is even a contemporary French saying, “Langue de chien, langue de médecin” which translates to “A dog’s tongue is a doctor’s tongue.””

How Does It Work?

There are a couple ideas that doctors have as to why dogs saliva can possibly help heal wounds. First off, simply the physical action of the dogs tongue on a wound can be helpful by loosening any debris that may be on the surface of the wound. Although this is true, the focus of most scientific research has been on specific antibiotic compounds found in dog’s saliva.  “Menno Oudhoff of the University of Amsterdam found simple proteins called histatins in saliva. These are well known for their ability to ward off infections. Some histatins also prompt cells from the skin’s surface (called the epithelium) to close over a wound more quickly.” Another set of researchers at the University of Florida at Gainesville discovered a protein called Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the saliva of dogs. Their study research showed that “Wounds doused with NGF healed twice as fast as untreated (that is unlicked) wounds.” In theory, the presence of these helpful proteins in dog’s saliva should be successful in healing human wounds.

Negative Effects

Yes, dog’s saliva may have some potential benefits, but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t risks involved. For example, it is known that dog’s mouths contain a bacterium called Pasteurella, which could cause a skin infection called cellulitis in humans if transmitted into a wound. “There are a number of reports of this happening, and sometimes the results have been extremely negative, causing infections that have resulted in amputations, and sometimes the resulting infections have been life threatening.” Two women, a 32 year old from Georgia and a 48 year old from Texas were both infected by their dogs, resulting in both women having their legs amputated after infection spread. One factor that needs to be noticed is the fact that these infections were caused by dog bite, not dog licking. That being said, just because dog’s have bacterium in their mouths, doesn’t necessarily mean it could infect a wound through licking. In these cases, the bacteria was deeply injected through bite, not saliva on the surface.

I wasn’t able to find any experiments on this study, but I did read through some anecdotes. However, the anecdotes were all negative, speaking about different people got infected due to dog’s licking their wounds. I think that it would be difficult to conduct an experiment to prove this concept true or not. It would require wounded people to be wiling to risk infection in order to let dogs lick their wounds. In reality, these wounds wouldn’t just heal over night. For the scientists to see if dog saliva really does have a significant effect, they would have to make sure the subject’s wound is licked everyday. Then they would have to compare it to the healing process of a wound that is healing naturally. When you think about it, if dog’s saliva was a risk free method of healing, it would already be bottled and sold to the public.




Last summer, my friends introduced me to what is now my favorite animal, the pangolin. As soon as I saw a picture of a baby pangolin, I fell in love. I’ve decided to dedicate this blog post to the pangolin, a not very well known mammal that has a bigger impact on our ecosystem than we think.


Key Facts

The Pangolin is a mammal from Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. These creatures roam around during the day in search of ants and termites to eat. There are multiple key features that set the pangolin apart from other mammals. First of all, the pangolin is the only mammal with scales (they remind me of walking pine cones). These scales are important armory from the ants. Ants and termites have yet to develop a useful technique to keep predators like the pangolin away; their only tactic is biting which doesn’t penetrate the pangolin’s thick scales. The pangolin also has extremely think eyelids and ear valves that open and close. These adaptations allow them to be completely immune to ants. These mammals have extremely large claws, which make it easy to rip open anthills and flip over rocks. They use their tongue (which when extended is longer than its entire body) to slide through the crevices of anthills. The tongue is continually lubricated by an overactive salivary gland, which makes it sticky enough to capture ants. Because of their extremely useful tongues, pangolins adapted without teeth because they have no use for them. Pangolins only have 2 considerable disabilities. The first is their extremely poor eyesight, which is compensated by their heightened sense of smell. Secondly, they are very slow creatures, walking on their two hind legs ad using their long tails for balance. Their lack of speed isn’t too much of an issue though. Similar to an armadillo, these animals can roll up and are protected with their scales from any looming prey. The name pangolin actually comes from the Malay word “pengulling” which means “something that rolls up”. These animals used to be considered close relatives of the anteaters and armadillos. Their striking resemblance to armadillos made it even more plausible. Scientists then saw that “pangolins lack certain highly distinctive skeletal features seen in armadillos and anteaters.” Their relationship to other animals is currently unclear, but Texas A&M University’s biology department explains that “they are actually thought to be most closely related to true Carnivores (Order Carnivora).” There are 8 different species of pangolins: 4 in Asia and 4 in Africa. The only things that set them apart are slight physical differences and habitat differences. The 4 Asian pangolin species have bristles that emerge from between the scales that set them apart from the African pangolins. The Asian pangolins reside in thick forests, and are threatened by habitat loss due to expanding agriculture and human development, unlike the African pangolins who reside in Savannah grasslands.


Pangolin Importance

These animals play a more important role in our ecosystem than we think. Firstly, they provide pest control. reports that “a single pangolin consumes 70 million insects a year… That’s about 191,780 insects per day!” These pangolins help to control the ant and termite populations, and “certainly help to control their insect prey’s numbers, contributing to the delicate balance of the ecosystems they inhabit.” Secondly, they are natural soil caretakers. As they dig up anthills with their massive claws, they are churning the soil, which improves the nutrient quality and aids the decomposition cycle. In return, this allows more foliage to grow in the enriched soil.

So What’s The Problem

Pangolins are currently the most trafficked animal on earth. According to this article, “some estimates claim that sales now account for up to 20 per cent of the entire wildlife black market.” They are hunted for food and used for traditional medicine in China. In Asia, bags of pangolin scales are sold because people believe that they can cure anything and everything from cancer to acne. “Inadequate public and governmental awareness of the trade itself are among the factors that make the trade difficult to combat, as well as insufficient political will and financial resources.” The government and people involved in this illegal black market trade need to see just how detrimental it can be to wipe out a species, even if you don’t think they do much for our ecosystem. Ecosystems are maintained when both biotic and abiotic factors are working together and doing their equal parts. “The extinction of pangolins may seem like a minimal loss, but the more parts you remove from a system, the closer it becomes to collapse.” Without the pangolin, there would be an over abundance of pesky insects in Asia and Africa. Plant life would also have a more difficult time thriving without the help of the pangolin to churn up nutrients from deep in the soil. This seemingly insignificant animal is the perfect example of the intricate balances within our world’s diverse and complex ecosystems.

Other helpful sources:

The Juice Cleanse: Helpful or Hurtful?

Living in Los Angeles, California, I constantly see people going through the newest and craziest dieting fads. Recently, the most popular weight loss technique has been the juice cleanse. This is when you obtain all of your nutrients by drinking 3 to 5 vegetable/fruit juices per day. There should be no solid food consumed during these cleanses, only the approved juices. These cleanses can last anywhere from 3 days to a few weeks depending on what results you want from it. The question I want answered is whether or not juice cleanses do more help or harm to your body.

Purpose Starting a Juice Cleanse:

In theory, the juice cleanse is a great concept. Its purpose is to eliminate the toxins we put into our bodies daily, such as colorants and preservatives in our food. Susan Blum, M.D., the founder and director of the Blum Center for Health explains that “Toxins can build up in the body, causing inflammation and a weakened immune system. This may make us more susceptible to chronic illness, such as headaches, arthritis, and asthma, not to mention heart disease and cancer.” Although the juice cleanse isn’t a permanent solution for all of the toxins in our body, it is meant to relieve our bodies for an extended amount of time. “The idea is that when our bodies are freed from the burden of digesting solid food, they can more efficiently release the toxins swimming in our system.” The point of the juice cleanse is to become toxin free, but most people just look forward to the weight loss aspect of it. Of course you are bound to lose some weight when you just stop eating solid foods. However, most dietitians believe you only lose water weight.

Potential Faults of the Juice Cleanse:

One of the most commonly skipped over juice cleanse faults is the failure of long term weight loss. Because the weight lost is merely water weight, you are likely to gain it back as soon as you start eating solid food again. “When you eat whole foods, especially carbohydrates such as breads and grains, your body needs to hold on to water to digest them properly. Take away the food and the water disappears, too, which can translate to a drop on the scale. The problem: When you begin eating solids again, the water may come right back, leaving you where you started.” went on to list some potential dangers of these cleanses. Firstly, juice cleanses are usually low in protein, which is necessary to maintain a healthy immune system and to build muscle after working out. The point of the juice cleanse is supposed to be to help your body be healthy and stronger, not to weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to illness. Secondly, people might not feel so great while they’re doing it. In most records that people keep of their juice cleanse experiences, such as Steve Cox’s, they report experiencing a multitude of symptoms such as lack of energy, nausea, anxiety, head aches, and grumpiness. After concluding a three day juice cleanse, Steve realized that the misery was not worth losing only 3.6 pounds. Rather, he decided to commit to other healthy habits such as less snacking and finishing meals by 7p.m.

Here is a video in which Buzzfeed employees did their own juice cleanse experiment. It turns out that different subjects had very different experiences. The people that looked to be more healthy and in shape seemed to have a better time with it. They concluded that although they didn’t like waking up every day and knowing they were only going to drink juice, they never necessarily felt ill. The subjects that were a little more on the over-weight side had a more difficult time with this process. They said that they felt more fatigue, more tired, and had a more difficult time focusing at work. This made me realize that there are a lot of third variables that could effect how the juice cleanse works on your body such as prior food routines, metabolism, gender, exercise routine, and many more. The bottom line is that juice cleanses seem to be a good way to kick start a healthier life style, but not a break through weight loss solution.


Ouija Board Mystery

I’ve always been a fan of all things paranormal. I’ve seen basically every decent scary movie, and as a kid I grew up watching the old show Ghost Hunters. I’ve never really answered the question of “do you think ghosts are real?” in the fear of sounding ignorant. I usually just say “I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not…” In my sophomore year of high school, my friends and I decided to mess around with an Ouija board. The board is pretty easy to maneuver: two or more people place their fingers lightly on the planchette in the middle of the board. Then you ask a question and let the spirits guide the planchette around the board, spelling out words and answering yes or no questions. There are other precautions you can take that can supposedly make the spirits “more active” such as sitting in a circle, lighting candles, and taking the entire thing seriously (no giggling and joking around with your friends). And of course, the most important rule: don’t take your fingers off of the planchette before you move it to the “goodbye” spot on the board; otherwise you can potentially release spirits into the room.


            I remember my Ouija experience very vividly. We sat in a dark room with a circle of lit candles around us – we took the process very seriously. My friend Brianna and I were the two brave souls to put our fingers on the board, and that was a moment I will never forget. When we asked a question our hands began to slide. We both freaked out: “IS THAT YOU MOVING IT” “NO I SWEAR IS IT YOU” “NO SHUT UP ITS TOTALLY YOU”. I knew for a fact that I wasn’t the one moving it, and seeing Brianna’s reaction, I was pretty sure she wasn’t moving it either. It genuinely felt as if an outside force was pulling and pushing on my hands. 3 years later, I decided to look into the science behind this creepy game.

            As it turns out, there is perfectly reasonable explanation to this supposedly paranormal action. The movement of the planchette is due to a phenomenon called the ideomotor effect. The nerdist explains that “The ideomotor effect says that people can move or move something without their conscious mind realizing it.” So it’s not a ghost guiding our hands. We are making movements so subtly and unconsciously that our brain genuinely doesn’t believe it is us physically doing it. In fact, there’s a way to test the ideomotor effect yourself. describes a little at home experiment: “you can witness the phenomenon yourself if you hang a small weight like a button or a ring from a string (ideally more than a foot long). Hold the end of the string with your arm out in front of you, so the weight hangs down freely. Try to hold your arm completely still. The weight will start to swing clockwise or anticlockwise in small circles. Do not start this motion yourself. Instead, just ask yourself a question – any question – and say that the weight will swing clockwise to answer “Yes” and anticlockwise for “No”. Hold this thought in mind, and soon, even though you are trying not to make any motion, the weight will start to swing in answer to your question.” And this is true! I remember one day my sister came home with what she called “a magic pendulum” which was a crystal attached to a string. I hung it from my hand as she told me to ask it yes or no questions that I knew the answer to. If the crystal swung clockwise it meant “yes” and vice versa. Lo and behold, that crystal got every answer right and I was freaked out, when in actuality, I was the one answering my own questions all along. While I thought I was holding the pendulum completely still, I was actually making small, unconscious movements in order to get the right answers. You may wonder, “how can you actually believe you’re moving?” Well I challenge you all to try this some day because it does actually work.

            Dr. Sid Fels and Dr. Ron Rensink conducted an experiment with the Ouija board to demonstrate just how clever the idemotor effect it. “In one experiment people were asked a number of yes or no, fact based questions, with and without the Ouija Board. Participants sat down to the Ouija Board with a confederate and then were blindfolded. The confederate quickly removed their hands from the planchette. Once again, the responses in the Ouija Board condition, when particpants did not think they were in conscious control, were much better. Answering the questions verbally people got about 50% of the questions right, but with a Ouija Board they got 65% of the questions right.” As you can see, our unconscious actions play a much stronger roll in life than we expect.

            This site also explains how the ideomotor effect has harmed us in the past. “This effect also underlies the sad case of “facilitated communication”, a fad whereby carers believed they could help severely disabled children communicate by guiding their fingers around a keyboard. Research showed that the carers – completely innocently – were typing the messages themselves, rather than interpreting movements from their charges.” What these studies show about the human mind’s capability is absolutely amazing. So next time you and your friends bust out the Ouija board, let them think the ghost is in control, when in reality, your unconscious mind is playing for you.

Are All Blondes Actually Dumb?

The “dumb blonde” stereotype is one that has been the base for endless jokes and television/movie characters, but is also a stereotype that is taken quite seriously in every day life. I’m a natural brunette, but in middle school I thought it would be a good idea to dye my hair blonde. I was the butt of so many dumb blonde jokes, which I never took to heart because I’m not genetically blonde. Many of my close friends are blonde, and they’re all intelligent if not smarter than I am. I wanted this question answered: are blondes actually less intelligent than people with other hair colors.


Somehow in today’s society, having blonde hair is associated with being incompetent. People make quick judgments just by looking at someone blonde and assuming they’re dumb. In one study, researchers “asked 120 people – 60 males and 60 females – to look at pictures of a female model wearing four different colored wigs, platinum blonde, natural blonde, brown, and red.” The subjects were asked to rate this model on traits such as shyness, intelligence, aggressiveness, temperament, popularity. The model was rated as more approachable as blonde, but less intelligent than brunette. This survey tested people’s association with blonde hair, but in no way did it prove that blondes are truly less intelligent.

In 2009, Erin Vistnes, a USC student, decided to conduct an experiment of her own to answer the question of blonde’s intelligence. A randomly assigned group of 50 adults were chosen to participate and were rated based on hair color from 1-5 (1 being dark hair and 5 being very blonde). They were then asked to answer 5 questions from the MENSA website, which is the largest and oldest IQ society in the world. In conclusion, “the average numbers correct for each hair color group were: 1: 2.6; 2: 2.4; 3: 2.5; 4: 2.7; 5: 3.0.” According to this experiment, the blonde’s were shown to be more intelligent than people with darker hair. Because this experiment was such a small sample, nothing can be 100% proven from this.

It was also thought that blondes could be genetically disposed to be less intelligent then people with other hair colors. Forbes covers a study created by a team at Stanford University that figured out which genetic variants leads to blonde hair. The study finds “that a switch of a single letter of the genetic code is responsible for lighter hair: An A (adenine) is changed to a G (guanine) on a region of human chromosome 12. The team says that because this specific genetic change only affects the hair follicle, other cell types — especially, say, brain cells — are not affected. This means that blond hair really is “only skin deep.”” This study successfully proves that there is no obvious difference in brains of blonde people, and nothing inhibits blonde’s mental capability whatsoever.

What I took from all of these studies is that there is no sufficient evidence to prove that people with blonde hair are any less intelligent that people with other hair colors. Although there is no proof that blondes are unintelligent, I’m sure this stereotype will remain relevant in society for years to come.

High Place Phenomenon

Acrophobia, or the fear of heights, is one of the most common fears people have. In fact, 3-5% of the population suffers from this phobia. But have you ever had a different kind of reaction while being high up? Rather than fear, have you ever though about what it would be like to leap off the edge? Or even what would happen if you pushed the person next to you. Honestly, it’s not weird if you have. As a matter of fact, it’s a lot more common than expected.


 When you’re standing on cliff and enjoying the view and you have these abnormal thoughts, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re suicidal or crazy. You could be experiencing cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.” Our brain starts to think this way once we are faced with an ambiguous situation. Standing on the edge of a cliff gets you thinking about the different outcomes of a possible situation. states that “When you look over the edge of a cliff, this cognitive dissonance is caused by the fact that you tend to feel dizzy and to get a sense of vertigo. You feel slightly off balance and your body seeks to ‘right itself’ and yet your brain gets confused as there’s no immediate danger or apparent threat. You aren’t falling and in fact you’re probably not close enough to the edge in order to be likely to fall… so why is your body correcting itself and sending all those signals? Your brain makes the only possible conclusion that it can: you must want to jump. What you feel is simply the result of miscommunication in your brain and is actually, confusingly, triggered initially by the desire not to fall.”

A study conducted by Jennifer Hames, a student as Florida State University, coined this reaction as the High Place Phenomenon. According to NBC, “Hames and her colleagues surveyed 431 college students, asking them about urges to jump from high places and thoughts of suicide. They also assessed the students’ levels of depression, and their sensitivity to anxiety. About a third of the sample said they’d felt the urge to jump at least once. People who had thought of suicide were more likely to say yes, but over 50 percent of those who said they’d never considered suicide experienced the phenomenon, too.” Hames proves here that these thoughts of jumping are not necessarily correlated with depression in any way.

Because this study is observational, there is no way to prove that everyone experiences this same cognitive dissonance when approaching a ledge. This was not experiment because there were no variables manipulated. If this were to be an experiment, scientists could have had subjects stand at different heights, testing to see if the manipulated elevation has different effects on the subject’s thoughts. One of the best ways to analyze a person’s thoughts, like in Hame’s study, is through survey. Although this method is cost-effective, it could have also led to discrepancies in the data due to human error.

When approaching a ledge and a dangerous drop your survival instinct kicks in and you pull yourself away, but your balance and motor systems don’t get it, because nothing is pushing you and you don’t normally fall or leap randomly. The part of your brain that processes intention might resolve this by determining something must be pushing you or that you might actually want to jump or push your friend even if none of that is true. Our thoughts of falling off cliffs isn’t anything suicidal, it’s our brain’s mixed signals and our will to survive.


Ever wonder why our eyes turn red after we swim in a pool? I always assumed it was the chlorine; I think its safe to say that’s what most people think. The assumption is, the more chlorinated the pool water, the more irritated our eyes become. This is actually far from the vile truth.Most-Effective-Way-to-Get-Served-at-One-of-the-Busy-Vegas-Pool-Parties announced that “the Center for Disease Conrol (CDC) has released its annual healthy swimming report.” What was discovered is sure to leave everyone shocked, and very disgusted. “”When we go swimming and we complain that our eyes are red, it’s because swimmers have peed in the water,” says Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s healthy swimming program. “The nitrogen in the urine combines with the chlorine and it forms what’s known as chloramine and it’s actually chloramine that causes the red eyes. It’s not the chlorine itself. It’s chlorine mixed with poop and sweat and a lot of other things we bring into the water with us.”” So as it turns out, the redder our eyes are, the filthier the water is.

We all have child hood memories of going swimming with friends and leaving feeling satisfied and smelling like chlorine. Well, that smell isn’t really chlorine. In fact, the Huffington Post declares that chlorine doesn’t even have a smell. “A good healthy pool does not smell, despite what most of us would like to believe.” That beloved pool smell is caused by chloramines, which like previously stated, is the mixture of chlorine with substances like urine, body oils, makeup, and fecal matter.

But why is this happening? Shouldn’t it be the chlorine’s job to clean all of these impurities out of the water? This article states that it’s simply too much for chlorine to take care of. “Anyone thinking chlorine’s job is to clean their personal pee from a swimming pool, should know that chlorine can’t even begin to deal with your pee. Its plate is full with E. coli and other germs. Once people start adding pee, poop, sweat, and dirt to the equation, it starts to try to tackle those instead, leaving it with little energy for anything else”. The chemical simply wasn’t made to filter feces from the water, because no one should be peeing in the pool in the first place. It seems to be that the more public the pool, and the more people mixing their germs in the same area, the more irritated your eyes get. I got the idea from one of my favorite YouTubers who mentioned her Vegas pool party trip. She drunkenly dunked her head in the nasty pool water and she claims that her eyes were bright red and they hurt for 2 days. Pretty nasty. Hopefully we can keep these disturbing facts in mind next time we go swimming. Now I know I’m never putting pool water in my mouth again.

Long Distance Relationships

As I mentioned in my initial blog post, I’m from California, which is where I left my lovely boyfriend of 5 months. After a summer of being practically attached at the hip, this distance has been pretty excruciating. It’s 2,719 miles between his college and mine, and to be quite honest, it’s taking a toll on me. Considering the fact that I find it extremely difficult to get him off my mind, I thought I would pick a topic relating to the frustration of a long distance relationships.   IMG_8153 copyWhat I want to talk about is how important it really is to be physical in a relationship; and no, I’m not talking about sex. Just the simple, enjoyable things that we take for granted everyday. Being able to hold your partners hand whenever you please. Being able to reach out and rub their back if they’re upset. Cuddling while watching a movie, feeling safe and happy. When you’re so used to having these things in your daily life, it’s quite the shock to go without them. Scientifically speaking, the touch of a loved one has a ton of health benefits. Firstly, it makes us happier. According to this article, “when a person is physically close to someone, his or her body releases oxytocin, another “happy chemical” that contributes to us cultivating and maintaining intimate, healthy relationships. A hand hold, a snuggle, a hug — all of these actions supposedly increase levels of oxytocin.” They state that several studies have pointed out oxytocin’s ability to promote “feelings of devotion, trust, and bonding” between people. The release of this chemical in the body obviously doesn’t happen through a phone call, text message, or video chat. This is a factor of relationships what long distance couples are lacking and often longing for.

Secondly, skin-to-skin contact has also been shown to lower levels of stress and anxiety. This article states that “skin-on-skin contact signals your adrenal glands to cease excessive amounts of cortisol production, the aforementioned stress hormone.” A very interesting study created by professor James Coan was held at the University of Virginia proving this statement to be correct. “While administering MRIs, he warned 16 married women that they might “experience shock.” Each woman’s state of anxiety was instantly illuminated in the MRI scans. When their husbands held their hands, the ladies grew even more relaxed.” The workload of college is extremely stressful, and although in a long distance relationship you can still talk to your partner, it doesn’t have the same calming psychological effects as skin-to-skin contact does.

So what are the pro’s, if any, of being in a long distance relationship? As reported by, “as many as half of U.S college students are in long distance relationships.” So it can’t be all that bad, right? The article goes on to explain that “Scientific studies show that couples in long-distance relationships can be equally, if not more, satisfied as geographically-close couples. Not only that, long-distance couples are more likely to share meaningful thoughts and feelings, and therefore, experience a deeper sense of emotional intimacy.” Although it is kind of sad, it may be easier to express 100% honest feelings and opinions over texts than speaking face to face, which can lead to better communication skills between long distance couples. concludes that “individuals in a long distance relationship would have a higher level of something called “romantic idealization” – thinking about their partners more often, having stronger romantic feelings than a typical couple.” I know in my case, I’m thinking about my boyfriend far more often than when I was home. You don’t really think about someone when you’re with them in person, but when you’re away from them, they don’t leave your mind. Although I’m only 2 weeks into the school year, this is definitely one of the hardest experiences of my life. In saying that, I’m not worried about our relationship whatsoever. When you’re with the right person, all of the struggles and hardships you face for each other are undoubtedly worth it.

The Science Behind Fangirling

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always fallen for the “latest and greatest” in boy band music. From my elementary/middle school years crushing on the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber, to my present day obsessions with One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer. It had always occurred to me that something set me apart from the other girls I knew. We all listened to the same music, but it would affect me differently. I got noticeably more excited: my heart would race, my hands would shake, sometimes tears and squeals of joy followed. It was so overwhelming. I seemed to be much more invested in these musical artists than anyone else was. I’ve always wondered, is my brain wired differently? Why do these bands evoke more emotions from me than the average person? That’s what I decided to research.

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Firstly, let me give a clear definition to the term “fangirling”. On my favorite satirical dictionary site, Urban Dictionary, one of the many definitions of fangirling is “going totally insane over a famous person. Usually happens when you find out something about your idol, which makes you freak out.” (You can read many more of the amusing definitions here) To sum it up, fangirling makes a girl look completely crazy – except to another fangirl who will 100% understand you. Many others and myself would agree that we use fangirling as a sort of escape from reality, or as this article explains, “an act of displacement or temporary relief from psychological distress.”

So what is going on in my brain? In’s article, Stephanie Booth states “The brain’s mesolimbic system functions as a reinforcement circuit between the opiodergic system (which controls liking) and the dopaminergic system (which governs wanting)… These mechanics evolved to steer us toward things like food, but other factors can trip the circuit.” Basically, these bands and their music make me feel good, and in response my brain is telling me to keep going back for more and more. Thus, the obsession forms. Later in the article, Stephanie Booth explains that “Actively listening to a beloved tune stokes the brain’s pleasure center and feels extremely arousing. “It’s like a temporary roller coaster of emotions, with no severe consequences,” says Valorie Salimpoor, a researcher at McGill University. “The intensity of the feelings the music evokes is highly reinforcing.”” Looking at this from the socialcultural psychological perspective, I grew up in an affluent area where kids were always able to afford whatever concert tickets they wanted. Seeing how much fun other kids were having definitely had an affect on my decisions and what I was interested in.

So now that we understand how the brain processes things we extremely like, why are some people more obsessed with certain things than other people? Why are boy bands so appealing to some girls and not at all to others? Unfortunately, this is where I came up empty handed, which is extremely disappointing considering how badly I wanted to write about this subject. Its completely understandable considering this is a slightly new phenomenon being heightened by today’s excessive use of social media, basically allowing fans to keep track of their idol’s every move. I look forward to future studies on this interesting topic.

My First Post

Hey everyone!

My name is Grace Cuffel and I’m a freshman planning on majoring in PR here at Penn State. I’m from Palos Verdes, California which is along the coast about 40 minutes outside of Los Angeles. Here is a picture of the Point Vicente lighthouse, a well known landmark in my city:


The question I get most often is “Why would you ever go to school here if you’re from California?!?” followed by some very confused looks. My answer is simple: Firstly, Penn State has an AMAZING communications department and I know I’ll be able to land my dream job with their guidance. Secondly, I know for a fact that I’m going to live in California when I’m older, so why not try experience something new while I can? (And no, I’ve never been in the snow, so I would really appreciate some comments suggesting what winter gear to buy 🙂 )

Why did I decide to take this course? I’m sure many of you will agree with me: it was highly recommended and I needed the credits. I was told that most students that took this course absolutely loved it, and that was good enough for me. I’m so thrilled with the fact that a lot of this course revolves around blogging assignments. The more chances to improve my writing skills, the better.

Why aren’t I majoring in science? Unlike what many students have said in their blog posts, I’ve never actually disliked science. I managed to get good grades and I was even determined on being a Marine Biologist for a few years. As I got older and got more into social media and the internet, I realized what I was truly passionate about. Pop culture has always been a huge part of my life and my ultimate goal is to do PR work for one of the top leading social media companies (Google, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, ect.). One of my favorite platforms is Twitter so feel free to follow me here where I’ll attempt to charm you with my dumb tweets. Looking forward to the rest of this semester!