Author Archives: las6099

Nature vs Nurture

The debate between nature and nurture and the effects they have on early development is an ongoing question. Some believe that a child’s development is based solely on their “nature,” or the traits and behaviors they are born with. Others, however, pose the argument that “nurture,” or the atmosphere, influences, and way of being raised is the main factor in shaping who the child becomes. Both sides of the argument present compelling evidence, making it difficult to come to a clear conclusion.   

Everyone knows that physical traits are hereditary. You certainly cannot change the color of your eyes or the shape of your nose simply by the way you are raised, so who is to say that the same does not go for behavioral traits? This is one of the most profound and factually solid arguments posed by those who believe that nature trumps nurture in the most influential part of a child’s development. An example of this is that if two parents whoScreen Shot 2015-12-04 at 3.09.26 AM both have a learning disability have a child, that child will also most likely have a learning disability as well. This child will have this trait regardless of how they are raised, simply because that is how they were born. Today, we do not have the technology needed to be able to test if behavioral traits are hereditary. This does not mean, however, that we never will be able to. Based on the rapid technological advances in today’s age, it would not be a far stretch to say that performing these types of tests may be possible in the near future.

On the other hand, nurture certainly has a significant role in a child’s development, especially in the early stages. This is apparent immediately if a newborn baby is not cared for and shown that they are loved in the first few days of life, they will not survive even if their body seems perfectly healthy. In this case, nurture completely trumps nature because the only thing failing was the way the baby was treated. There are cases where parents do not care whatsoever for their child, and in extreme cases these children are classified as “feral children.” A feral child is a child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age. They have no experience of human care, nurture, or social contact. In severe cases, these children’s behaviors can resemble those of wild animals because they are the only contact they have ever had. It seems like a valid conclusion that if a child whose only contact was with animals begins acting like animal, then nurture must trump nature. Certainly there was nothing in the DNA of the child that could have resulted in animalistic behavior, so it must have been the effects of nurture because what other explanation is there? There are endless possibilities of ways that a parent could raise their child. Parents could nurture and love their child, they could absolutely spoil them rotten, they could coddle them so they are forever dependent, they could neglect them leaving the child with trust and self esteem issues, and certainly hundreds of thousands of other environments and situations. Each environment a child is raised in will produce a different type of child based on how they are treated while young, which means that nature will fall second to nurture.

After researching the opposing sides of the nature vs nurture argument, I learned many facts and points that were continuously swaying my opinion between which factor I believed to be most important. After coming to a conclusion, I decided that both nature and nurture are tremendously important in the early development of a child. I believe that as a parent or any influential figure in a child’s life, you have a huge amount of influence over who that child becomes. If you nurture and care for them, hopefully they will be more successful in going through the normal stages of development. If you raise your child in a negative light or neglect them in any way, they will be unsuccessful in following these standard stages of development. I believe, however, that despite the influence you and the environment can have on a child’s development, this influence can only go so far. I believe that each person is born an individual, with different morals and different paths laid out for them. At the end of the day, you cannot change who you are. Nevertheless, here are still many factors that tie into the argument over nature versus nurture. If one or the other affects the developmental traits of a child, what explanation is there for twins who have different personalities? Twins have the same DNA, and most likely were raised in the same environment, and certainly sets of twins do not act the same. Even siblings in general, who have the same parents and more or less were nurtured in the same environment and raised in a similar way, why can siblings be absolute opposites of one another when it comes to behavior and development? This argument has been ongoing for hundreds of years, with even major philosophers and psychoanalysts such as Locke and Galton not even being able to come to a solid conclusion. Odds are that the debate will continue on as it has an infinite amount of factors and is for a large portion based off of personal beliefs and philosophies. 

Does listening to Eminem make you a better athlete?

If you are an athlete or someone who likes to work out, I’m sure that many of you prefer to work out while listening to music. Is this because you like something to entertain yourself, because you want to listen to that new album you downloaded, or because you just like listening to music? Recent research has shown that the music you listen to while training or working out may actually have an effect on your athletic performance.

There was one study done by scientists from the UK on swimmer Ben Hooper, testing the effects on his performance in response to listening to various types of music while training. Researchers were able to compile a set of about one hundred songs of different paces, artists, genres, and moods to test on Hooper during practices. Based on Hooper’s reactions to different songs, the scientists were able to put together a list of “The top ten songs for optimal athletic performance” and also a list of the songs to avoid while training. It is not surprising to see three of Eminem’s songs in the top ten best songs, two of which are ranked as #1 and #2. Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 12.49.31 PM Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 12.49.41 PM

The researchers found that when Hooper listened to Eminem‘s songs while training, his performance was boosted by 10%. The tracks were shown to significantly improve the swimmers endurance for long swims and increase his speed, leading to a better race time. Hooper also told the researchers that he felt less exhausted after his swims listening to Eminem’s music than he did while swimming to other artist’s music.

When researchers played Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” during Hooper’s swim training, there was no improvement in speed or performance whatsoever. He even appeared to be exhausting more effort into the same laps he swam in the other studies.

After analyzing the results of the study, the researchers debated over exactly what about Eminem’s music improved athletic performance. Some scientists believe that rhythm and a slightly faster-than-average pace is important to distract athletes and motivate them through the pain, while others believe that listening to fast paced music at a high volume is the most effective.

Although exactly what about Eminem’s tracks makes athletes preform better is unclear, the researchers agreed that slower paced and non-intense tracks causes a slightly negative effect, giving the athlete the impression that he strained himself more to achieve the same (and even slightly worse) results.

Certainly, correlation does not equal causation. Just because Hooper preformed better in his swimming practice while listening to Eminem and similar artists music, does not necessarily mean that the music is the cause. There may be confounding variables in this study. Something that should have been considered is what type of music Ben Hooper likes to listen to. If his favorite artist of all time is Eminem, that may be a reason why his performance was better while listening to his music. He also should have been asked by researchers whether or not he likes music by Bob Marley. If he hates Reggae music, that would explain why his performance was less than extraordinary while listening to those tracks.

Although I do think this study is worth looking at, I think the researchers would have benefitted from doing more extensive research. They could have also done a study about how athletes respond from listening to their favorite artist while working out. I think that is an important factor because if an athlete hates Eminem’s music, maybe their results would be completely different than what they found in this study.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 2.38.36 PMWhen looking at Muscle & Fitness’s “25 Greatest Power Songs of all Time
Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” is ranked #13 because “The bass line pulsates, the lyrics mesmerize and the message is Ali-esque: Don’t let anyone – even the doubting Thomas within – talk you out of grabbing exactly what you want.” It’s hard to argue with that statement.

Personally, I am not surprised that Eminem’s music relates to a better athletic performance. His songs have angry and motivating lyrics, fast paces, and loud choruses. Almost my entire playlist for when I run is composed of his music. For me, listening to loud and intense music detracts from how exhausted you are or how much pain you might be in, and motivates you to push forward. I am curious about what other


Your Dog Knows You Better Than You Think

For any of you who have grown up with a dog, you know how attached not only you get to them, but also how attached they get to you. Having a dog is like having a friend that you can always depend on to greet you like you are the best thing they’ve ever seen, to jump all over you when you come home from college, and to cuddle with you every time you sit down on the couch. Here is a picture of my dog, Belle. She is a 5 year old Newfoundland, and also basically a giant teddy-bear of a dog.

I’ve always thought it was incredible how she seemed to know when me orIMG_4617 someone in my family was excited, upset, or angry, even if we weren’t outright expressing these feelings. Belle would always seem to sense and react to our moods. When someone is upset, she lays her head on their lap and seems to be looking into their eyes, and if someone cries she whimpers and licks their face. It is like she is a person showing empathy and trying to cheer you up. When someone is afraid, she is immediately on guard-dog duty. My younger sister used to be afraid of thunderstorms, and Belle would sit up tall right between my sister and the nearest window, as if she wanted her to know she was protecting her. When someone is happy, Belle runs to find the nearest toy that she can find, whether it is one of her chew toys or a stuffed animal from mine or my sister’s rooms, and she brings it to you like a present. She doesn’t even like to play fetch, she just is excited to go run and find something to give to you and show that she is excited too. After going home for Thanksgiving break and remembering how excited Belle was when I got home and how upset she seemed when I said bye to my family and to her, it got me wondering about how dogs can sense what is going on with the people around them.

When I began my research, I came across an article that posed a very good point. The article pointed out that dogs are meant to belong to a close knit family, just like humans do. Dogs, like humans, have a language of facial expressions, body language, and vocalization. If a dog grows up as part of a human family, doesn’t it make sense that the dog would adapt to their family’s languages?

One study that was done focuses on how humans read each others faces, and compared it to how dogs read humans faces. The study showed that humans and dogs both read the faces on humans the same way, first looking slightly on the left half of the face and then the right. What was remarkable, though, was what happened when the scientists showed a dog a picture of another dog. Instead of looking left to right like they did when observing a picture of a human, they first looked to the right and then to the left. The study concluded by saying that dogs have evolved to learn how to read human faces, and they do it in the same fashion that we do, enabling them to understand facial expressions extremely well. Certainly, correlation does not equal causation. There may have been a confounding variable, such as the way the scientists acted when each photo was pulled up. Although I think the study may have been more effective if there were no other scientists in the room with the dog and the photos, the results of this study are still worth looking at.

Many pets sit home for most of the day, just sleeping and lounging around when their owner is not paying attention to them. During all of the time your dog lays in the living room while you watch TV, or sits in the kitchen while you cook, it makes a lot of sense that he or she is also observing what you are doing. Since nearly every aspect of their life depends on their owner, a dog pays more attention to what their owner is doing than they may think. This is how a dog understands your habits or routines and, can see when you are happy or sad. They say that human communication is 90% nonverbal through body language and facial expressions, and only 10% verbal, so your beloved dog may understand you better than you think.

One thing we need to remember about dogs is that they have much more powerful senses than we do, so even if we cannot communicate verbally with our pets, they have other means of understanding. According to this article, dogs most important sense is smell, and their nose is anywhere from one thousand to one million times better than a human, and their sense of hearing is four times as strong. This is how our dogs can sense our mood other than obverting our body and facial expressions. When you are nervous or upset, your body naturally perspires,
and even if you don’t notice it your dog can. When you are afraid, your dog can smell adrenaline and will most likely react in your defense. Although dogs cannot understand your verbal Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 2.59.05 AMcommunications, they do understand your tone of voice. Your dog will easily be able to tell if you are speaking in an affectionate tone or an angry one.

After learning so much about how much time our dogs spend thinking about what we are feeling, I can’t wait to go home and play with my dog. It is important to remember how every little thing we do around our dogs directly affects them!

Why You Should go out Tonight Instead of Studying

I’m sure that if my title grabbed you and if now you’re reading this blog post, there is a solid chance that you are looking for some type of reassurance that you should go out tonight instead of staying in and starting to study for finals, or write that final paper that has been lingering over your head since the beginning of the semester. By no means am I saying that you should ignore all of your academic obligations just to go have fun with your friends, however, people often forget the importance of reliving stress. When you find that you have had a stressful week, it is important to find time to let yourself relax and relieve the build up tension. Depending on the person, you might choose to do this by curling up in bed with a cup of tea and a good book, by going for a run, or by going out to a party with your friends, really just whatever you enjoy doing.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.49.12 PMAs I discussed in my previous blog, “Keep Calm and Don’t Stress,” chronic stress can be harmful to both your mind and your body. Aside from the obvious short term mental effects stress has on you, extreme stress can have long term effects on your health such as a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, joint and back pains, and many others. That is why it is very important to make sure that you don’t let stress take a toll on your body or your mind. As young adults at a university with rigourous and demanding course loads and time consuming extracurriculars, we can not afford to be preforming at any less than 100%.

Nearly everyone experiences stress at some point. It is difficult, however, to say exactly what the best way to relieve built up stress is because everyone handles things in very different ways. According to a poll done by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 14% of people make use of regular exercise to cope with stress, 18% reported talking to friends or family; 17% said sleeping; 14% said watching movies or TV, 14% said eating and 13% said listening to music. Although what you choose to do to help release stress is primarily based on preference, many of these methods are proven to have a positive effect on both your mood and on your body.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.44.12 PMOne popular method that many people turn to in order to reduce their stress levels is exercise. Aside from having overall benefits for your health, it also has some results that help melt away your stress. According to an article from the Mayo Clinic, there are a few reasons why exercise relates to decreases in stress levels. One reason is that physical activity makes your brain produce more endorphins, which are the body’s feel-good chemicals. Another reason why exercise is good for someone who has high stress levels is to simply take your mind off what you were stressing about. You may find that a few miles on the treadmill or a fun game of tennis will clear your mind by refocusing on the task at hand. A third reason why exercise has proven to be one of the most effective methods of relieving stress is that it improves your overall mood through encouraging self-confidence, relaxation, and helping you to get a better nights sleep.

Like I said, everyone handles things in different ways. Maybe you aren’t someone who enjoys working out, so back to what I said earlier; maybe you should go out instead of studying! One article that outlines various ways to de-stress says that one way is to make time for fun and relaxation. In order to prevent yourself from a stress overload, it is important to give your mind a break even when you have a lot on your plate. If you never stop worrying about all of the things that you need to get done or all of the responsibilities that you have, you are bound to snap at some point. So, if you go out one night instead of pulling an all-nighter maybe it isn’t the end of the world. You may also choose to curl up on the couch and watch your favorite movie, or to spend time with your friends. What is important is that you make time for yourself to unwind.


Keep Calm and Don’t Stress

As a student here at Penn State, I believe that I can speak Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 11.59.00 PMfor all of us when I say that we have all felt overwhelmed at some point in our lives due to built up stress. This stress may come from a social situation, an issue with family, or extreme stress from schoolwork. I’m sure many of us have felt the mental strain that stress has on us, some may have even gotten to the point where it feels like our head is about to explode. Certainly, if you have reached that level on the stress meter, you have also experienced the effects that extreme stress has on your mood. What many people don’t consider, though, is what a strong negative impact extreme stress will have on your body.

According to this article from WebMD, your body is wired to acknowledge stress and react to it. This can be a positive thing, helping you to become aware of danger and helping you to feel urgency toward things like deadlines and assignments. However, it can become harmful to your body if it is constantly dealing with stress, with no break to recover from the challenges you were facing.

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 11.52.43 PMEven if you do not realize it, the stress you experience plays a toll on your body in an alarming number of ways. Some of the most common results are to get a stomachache, to get a headache, and to experience aches and pains especially in your neck and back. So many people immediately think these symptoms are from sitting in one spot for too long, from skipping a meal, or having nervous pre-test jitters. However, these effects are direct results of putting your body under too much stress, not just from sitting in an uncomfortable library chair for too long. It is also common for someone under a lot of stress to have trouble sleeping, only worsening the toll your body has to endure.

Aside from negative effects that can affect your day-to-day life, chronic stress can have a major negative impact on your long-term health. Extreme stress can have a serious impact on the following:

  • Immune System- First and foremost, people who undergo chronic stress have weaker immune systems, and therefore are more susceptible to infectious diseases like the flu and the common cold. Because of your damaged immune system, it will take your body longer than the average person to fight off a common infection.
  • Respiratory and Cardiovascular Systems- The hormones released during periods of extreme stress directly affect both your respiratory and cardiovascular system. Your body’s response to stress will cause you to breathe faster and therefore cause your heart to pump faster. If this happens for too long or too frequently, you may be raising your risk for a stroke or heart attack.
  • Muscular System- When your body is under stress, its natural response is to tense up. When your muscles are constantly tight with no chance to relax, it can cause extreme back and shoulder pains, headaches, and body aches that need to be relieved using medication.
  • Digestive System- When you are breathing more rapidly, have more hormones, and a faster heart rate your digestive system will be effected.  Those under extreme stress are likely to experience nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and acid reflux. 
  • Sexuality and Reproductive Systems- Although men and women have very different bodies, extreme stress will affect both genders in this aspect. For women, chronic stress may alter the menstrual cycle, worsening and causing irregularity in the symptoms. For men, extreme stress will cause a decrease in testosterone, and also increasing the risk for infections in the prostate, urethra, or testes.
  • Nervous and Endocrine Systems- Chronic stress can often result in irritability, depression, and anxiety. As a result, some people then suffer from alcoholism, eating disorders, or social withdrawal.

As a grade school and high school student, I never felt that I was under a tremendous amount of stress. Upon beginning my studies here at Penn State, I learned what real stress felt like. My grades are always and have always been my priority, however it is also important to fin time for yourself and remember to have fun, because sadly we are only here for four short years. It has certainly been a battle dealing with the extreme stress levels associated with getting good grades, choosing a major program, adjusting to living on my own, and so many other factors that I’m sure we all face. As my sophomore year rolled around, I realized that you really can worry yourself sick. When you let your mind wander and stress too much, especially about things that you cannot control, you are only hurting yourself. What I learned is that nobody is perfect, and your priority always should be to take care of yourself. When your mom calls you on the phone nagging about if you’ve been getting enough sleep and if you’ve been eating real food besides Raman and coffee, she isn’t just bugging you for the heck of it. Many of us forget that in order to be successful, you need to be healthy and up to your full potential. Being that we are all students here, I know that we all strive to be successful. It is important to always take care of yourself, and not to beat yourself up too much if you don’t succeed.
If you’re interested in how to relieve stress and maintain a healthy balance, check out my follow-up blog!

Look Good, Feel Good

I’m sure that most of us have heard this phrase at least once before. We all know the type of people who can roll out of bed, grab the first pair of pants and sweatshirt that they see and run out the door (and surely some of us are that person.) On the other hand, there are the people who always look impressively put together. Whether they are dressed in nice clothes, or have perfect hair and seem to have escaped from having those seemingly inevitable bags under their eyes, they always seem to manage to look good. What I’m wondering then, is how these two groups of people compare when it comes to how they feel during their day?

I, for one, am certainly not someone who can just wake up ten minutes before I need to be somewhere. On a normal day, I like to wake up, shower and look presentable, and have a leisurely morning where I can get my day started off on a good note. There are mornings, however, if I had been up too late or if I slept through my alarms where I am forced to get ready in 5 minutes, and have to grab all of my stuff and run out the door to make it to class on time. I know for a fact that I do not feel as good on days where I was rushed. By no means am I claiming that if you look good you will automatically feel great that day, but I would say that there is a correlation (not causation) between taking the time to get ready in the morning and feeling more confident that day.

I began my studies with researching what ways taking a shower when you wake up in the morning impacts your day. I came across an article called “8 Ways to Relax and Boost Your Mood in the Mornings.” I was not surprised to find that the first tip on the list was to take a hot shower, proven even more effective in starting off your day right than even eating breakfast of getting a full nights sleep. Showering is proven to have calming effects, and it washes away your grogginess leaving you feeling awake and ready to start your day! Most importantly, showering in the morning leaves you feeling clean and fresh, more than you can say for those who rolled out of bed without leaving enough time to shower.

I found this discussion on The Todays Show very interesting, the hosts debated whether showering at night was better or showering in the morning was better. The Todays Show started an online poll through social media to find out how many people shower in the morning and how many shower at night. The poll found that an overwhelming 62% of Americans shower in the morning, while the other 38% shower at night. So, there has to be some reason why so many people prefer to shower in the morning. One talk show host even asks another, “how do you wake up in the morning without taking a shower?”

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 8.21.53 PM

Once I learned more about how your morning routine affects the rest of your day, I was still curious as to why the way you actually look affects the way you feel. One interesting article that I found focused on how the way you are dressed will affect your confidence. The article discussed how wearing clothes that you are uncomfortable in (whether it is the way the clothes fit or the type of clothes you are wearing in the particular situation) means you will be spending more time thinking about and being self-conscious than you will be spending engaged in what is going on around you. No matter what your day entails, it is important to present yourself in a way that will allow you to be at ease. I’m sure that it is extremely difficult to feel confidant when your hair is greasy from being slept on, or if you accidentally threw on a sweatshirt that has stains all over it.

Despite the evidence and reasoning behind why being more put together can lead to you feel good, this is a situation in which we cannot rule out reverse causation. Although it is possible that looking good causes one to feel good, it is also possible that people who have a better attitude to begin with like to look more presentable.

Given that each individual has very different habits and routines that work the best for them, I am curious as to what other opinions people have on this matter!

First post!

Hey everyone!

I’m Lauren and I’m from Westchester New York, about forty minutes north of the city. My major is going to be Supply Chain (I think) with minors in Spanish and International Business. I ended up in this class because I’m honestly trying to get my science credits out of the way before my hard classes for my major start.

You know how people say they are either a science and math person, or an english and history person? I’m definitely an english and history person. I like the freedom that comes along with writing, and I love how history is one long story. One reason I decided to take this class was because of how heavily blog posts are weighted. I would rather write a million papers this semester than study for a few exams that count as your entire grade. I like the way this course is set up, clearly you are not expected to be a perfect student- I’m assuming that’s why we have the chance to build our skills as both a writer and a thinker. I think that is what our college education should be about. Sure, having a photographic memory or perfect recall will get you far, but what will really make you stand out in your career and in life is the ability to think outside the box, or propose new ideas, or analyze a situation in a way that other people might not. I look forward to learning thing that other classes would never address, and also to seeing how many other students in this class view different topics.

Anyways here is how my first week is going. Hope some of you love The Office as much as I do!

In conclusion, here’s a photo of one of the best things that has ever happened to planet earth.