Author Archives: Rachel Waite

Cheerleading, It Dangerous

When someone hears the word cheerleading I’m sure the mental image that follows is one of a preppy girl with pom-pom on the side of a football game yelling for her team.  While this is all cheerleading is to most people, today I am going to be talking about the dangerous side of the sport that is not mentioned nearly enough.  I have been a competitive cheerleader for more than ten years of my life. While I enjoyed the sideline chants and football games my true passion was in competitive cheerleading.  This means that inside of cheering for another team, the sole purpose of the squad is to perform at competitions throughout a competitive season.  No pom-poms just a lot of blood, sweat and hard work.  cheerleading

If I were to ask you to name the sport that causes the largest number of catastrophic injuries among girls and young women what would your answer be? For the majority of the population they answer soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics, etc, but in fact the answer is competitive cheerleading.

Some of you may be thinking to yourself that cheerleading is not actually classified as a sport and there in fact lies one of the main problems.  Without the official recognition from the NCAA and most states, almost every aspect including coaches, squads, competitions, training, safety, etc are not held to the same standard as most sports.  The lack of governement regulation within the cheerleading world creates a threat for the greatest risk of catastrophic injuries to female athletes.  According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, this “non-sport” was responsible for more than 65% of female athletes’ direct catastrphic injuries competing at the high school level, while that number increased to 70.8% for the college level.

While poor regulation may be one of the possible causal variables relating to the disproportional amount of severe injuries a more direct and likely variable that could be causing these results are the components that make up the sport.  Unlike other sports cheerleaders where no padding or protection from hits or injuries while practicing, other than the occasiona78b6e4ca4e5519d5ee507802f6a1196al ankle or wrist brace for those who have been injured in the past.  For those of you that do not know two of the main components that make up cheerleading are stunting and tumbling. Stunting is the act of lifting another person called a flyer into the air with usually three people underneath holding her up.  As you progress in difficulty the flyer and bases are put in positions that could lead to greater injury.  For example a basket toss is when the bases throw the flyer as hard as they can in the air and catch her as she comes back down.  When first trying these dangerous stunts the probability of something going wrong is great, so as a precaution we place other teammates around the stunt in attempt to catch the flyer is she goes in a the wrong direction.  Speaking from experience I have gotten black eyes,  countless bruises and many more injuries just from this one aspect of cheerleading alone.  Next we have tumbling.  This is when athletes run ftumbleull force at the ground to flip their bodies through the air in an attempt to land with both feet on the ground.  Some of the worst injuries I have seen have been a result of this due to the strain is put on one’s body as they tumble.  Repeated stress and trauma caused by throwing our bodies in the air can lead to long term spine, wrist, elbow, knee and ankle pain.  Some of which if not properly healed will stick with you your entire life.

While some may refuse to acknowledge cheerleading as a sport it has been my life for the past ten years.  There are many variables that could be the cause of the increased amount of long-term injuries that accompany the sport such as the lack of regulation, the continuous stress put on our bodies and the danger of the elements we preform.  Cheerleading deserves to be recognized for the dangerous and outstanding sport it is.

When Intuition Fails

In class we have proven time and time again that as humans our intuition is generally very lousy.  Take the Monty Hall problem for example.  When first confronted with the situation of the three doors and a car behind one of those two doors while goats stood on the other side your automatic instinct is to want to keep which door you have picked afteintuitionr the host opens one of the doors.  In our minds we think that the likelihood of the car being behind the two remaining doors is even so why what harm could sticking to your original decision do?  However, due to our intuition clouding ourjudgement we are unable to see the fact that probability of the car being behind the one remaining door that we did not originally select is in fact double the probability of it being behind the door we initially picked.  The same mentality is applied to gambling.  There is a belief that the harder you throw dice the larger the number you will get.  No scientific evidence has ever proven that but in our minds we think the harder the throw the higher the reward must be.  Our brains are programmed to make these assumptions with no data to support them, and in most cases these conclusions are in fact not accurate.  The real question is that if it has been scientifically proven that we have lousy intuition, why do we still follow it?

The American Psychology Association believes that while very flawed in its reasoning and conclusion drawing skills, intuition is in fact integral in our everyday thinking.  We look to make connections too eagerly and in most cases some are created when in fact no connection exists.  One theory is that our intuition is there to help one make sense of the chaos in the world, in a sense find patterns to help us interpret the chaotic world. Our brain is not able to accept that fact that the majority of what happens in our world is in fact random.  Logic within one’s decision making is often overshadowed by our intuition.  An experimenter by the name of Seymour Epstein from the University of Massachusetts Amherst testing this theory with a simple jelly bean experiment.  elephants-011They asked participants to draw a jelly bean out of a pile with the goal of grabbing a red one.  Each was given the option of two different piles.  One contained 100 total jelly beans with 7 red ones and the other contained 10 total jelly beans with 1 red one.  Despite the probability of picking a red jelly bean was higher in the pile of ten, more people choose to select from the pile of 100 jelly beans.  In this case their gut intuition overpowered their most basic ability to solve a probability problem.  When confronted about their decisions made during the experiment after they had run through it, participants were aware of the higher probability, but their gut intuition was making them believe that just because they saw more jelly beans in the larger pile the probability of selecting one was higher despite the actual lower ratio.  It is as if the brain is in a constant battle within itself.

Despite all of this talk of poor intuition, there are a couple circumstances in which listening to your gut decision is in fact beneficial.  The sensation of something feeling wrong in your body is one of the situations when it will do good to listen to those subtle signals.  Your body is its own line of defense and when something is not right, the first thing is attempts to do is communicate that with the rest of the body.  Another key situation is when you feel that you are in danger.  A process known as thin-slicingtrusting_your_intuitionallows a person to make decisions about someone within the first ten seconds of interaction.  Now however while most of the time this can prove to be helpful, it may also go wrong in the case of inaccurate snap judgments.  When in doubt however it will always provide benefits to compare one’s gut feelings in those situations with rational thought.

Not Until I Have Had My Coffee

I am sure all of you have heard someone say something along the lines of “I need coffee to wake up” or “I do not function until I have had coffee”.  The caffeine phenomenon is sweeping the country and more and more people are relying on this drink a part in their every day routine.  According to an article written in USA Today by Karen Fernau, 83% of adults in the U.S. drink coffee.  That represents the largest consumer market for the beverage in the world.  On average one person has about three cups a day, which amounts to roughly 587 million cups a day.  This just covers the adult market.  The coffee industry has become a $30 billion-a-year power-house that has become a pivotal part in a lot of people’s lives.  Now as someone who is not a coffee drinker I have always been fascinated with the obsession of this drink.  One of the main ingredients in coffee as most of you probably know is caffeine.  This works as a stimulant in the body which alerts the senses which is the case as to why some many people use it as a wake up technique to start their day.

Now as a college student I am sure that many you have been met with the situation of an all-nighter.  You have too much on your plate to afford a couple hours of sleep so instead you most likely brew up a pot of coffee and get to work.  While coffee does work to alert the senses it cannot replace sleep. explains that while we may temporarily feel rejuvenated and awake after consumption, the results are just temporary.  The caffeine works to block chemicals within the brain that induce sleep and is also works to increase the sleep-coffee-e1406551050476production of adrenaline.  The effects of this drink can begin in as quickly as 15 short minutes.  After it kicks in, the effects are not completely eliminated from the body until roughly six and a half hours later.  This means that those attempting to pull late nights working on assignments and then attempt to go to bed within that time frame are still experiencing the after effects of the drink.  A ripple affect may begin where uses the drink to stay awake, but than is later not able to fall asleep and then to combat the daytime sleepiness they consume more coffee to begin the cycle all over again.  Now there very well may be some confounding variables that contribute to one’s inability to sleep after coffee consumption such as sleep environment and an individual’s biological processes.  However better to be careful than to be trapped in an never ending cycle of tiredness and coffee.

For those of you that are frequented with those late night study sessions a test prepping company named Kaplan has formed at list of six healthy drinks that one can consume to help one study that are better than coffee.  Now this may come as a surprise to some of you but number one on the list is in fact water.  One of the main symptoms that lead to feelings of fatigue is in fact dehydration.  So the more hydrated you are the less fatifree-starbucks-ccugue one will feel along with the absence of the caffeine crash that accompanies coffee consumption.  The next drink on the list came as a surprise to me: Milk.  One does not usually think of milk as a study aid, but in fact it contains neurotransmitters that help to improve memory along with providing carbohydrates to supply you with energy.  If you wish to learn more about the other four drinks click on the link I have embedded into this paragraph.  For future reference there are in fact better and healthier ways to stay awake studying than to give into the caffeine cycle.

Scientific Fraud, Why Does It Happen?

After learning of the possibly devastating affects of scientific fraud in Tuesday’s class I was faced with a question.  Why does scientific fraud happen?  An article written by Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky in the New York Times digs into the background of some of the largest scientific frauds of the century.  On average a scientific publication is retractfocus_on_frauded every day due to misconduct.  A whole two percent of scientists admit to manipulating their data to reflect the results that they wanted.  Now that two percent may not seem like a lot, but just remember that millions of scientific publications are posted by researchers a year.  If you still are not concerned with those numbers, just know that these publications are not just in some smaller local publications, articles have been pulled from the world’s best journals including The Lancet, Science and Nature.

Unfortunately, as the stakes reliant on this publication get higher, so do the problems with misconduct.  A paper was published in December of 2015 with the claim that one’s opinion on the topic of same-sex marriage could be changed after having a conversation with a gay person for 20 minutes.  When the article was published skeptics believed that the results appeared too good to be true and in fact they were right.  The retraction was requested by Donald P. Green, a Columbia political scientist, after his co-author Micheal J. LaCour failed to produce raw data.  In this case, the topic was bursting with the opportunity for a lot of press with an relevant and popular topic, and attention-grabbing research, not to mention being published in a top news journal.  It was the perfect formula for a success, if the science was done properly, however in this case and in many others, it was not.

Now while one may be forced to jump to the conclusion these so-called distinguished scholars are all in the blame there is another factor that is attributing to this pattern of dishonestly and misconduct.  Some believe that the subject of Science and the non-stop pressure to have the news-worthy breakthrough is what causes trained professionals to venture down this road of fraud.  The entire scientific community thrives off of “the next great idea” and one of the most daunting things that scientists face in publication is their impact factor.  This is referred to how likely the studies conducted in a specific study are likely to be referenced in future publications.  Citations are the few measuring factor in this equation so the more that one article gets the more impactful it is.

One of the most shocking facts I discovered  while researching scientific fraud is that the top journals that I mentioned earlier in my post like Nature and Science actually retract more papers despite having higher impact factors than other journals.  A possible theory to explain this attempts to correlate the prominent-like factors that these journals exhibit with the more precise examination of the articles due to the assumed increased awareness in its readers.  So in short, they believe that the typical reader for these types of journals are reading the articles more thoroughly than a leisurely reader therefore increasing the likelihood of identifying mistakes.  Another hypothesis is that due to the desire for journals to stay on top of hot/relevant stories the turn around for publications is under a much larger time crunch. As they want to publish the pieces while they are still relevant shortcuts in editing and proofreading may be taken.  nature_magazine_cover sciene

From whichever few you look at it from, fraud and misconduct is a huge problem in the scientific community.  Articles, journals, even scientists are being corrupted by the overbearing incentives to publish the next best thing.  Unless there is a change in that process it seems as if journals will continue to retract papers for a long time.

Mob Mentality and Clown Hunting

Mob mentality, it is a saying that I am sure many of you have heard before and for anyone that was awake during the late hours of October 3rd during the clown hunt hysteria you experienced this phenomenon first hand.  For those of you that were already asleep at the time and have yet to been informed of the details of that night this article link will inform you of the events that unfolded that night.  clown-hunt

This phrase is thrown around a lot in today’s society but few actually know the science and reasoning behind this behavior.  According to Ben Wolford of the Medical Daily mob mentality relates to the loss of standards, whether they be societal or moral, by individuals when in a group setting.  This can lead to abnormal behavior such as rioting, mobbing the streets chanting inappropriate things and in the more violent cases smashing shop windows, flipping cars, and even confronting police.  Now you may be asking yourself, what leads up to to act the way that we do in group settings? Wouldn’t my own moral standards kick in? According to Mina Cikara, a Carnegie Mellon sociologist, in many contexts in which an individual is faced with situations, they prefer the morally “right” approach, but all of that is changed when they become a part of something bigger.  It is no longer “what I would do” it turns into “what we will do”.  Her, along with her co-author Rebecca Saxe,  a MIT professor of cognitive neuroscience, puplished a paper on the subject stating the the actions that are taken in group settings often conflict with one’s own moral standards.  Cikara and her colleagues are researching the claim that the main culprit behind this unruly behavior may in fact be the brain.

One of the main causal theories behind mob mentality is anonymity.  This refers to one’s ability to disappear into the crowd and not be picked out individually.  For those in the clown riot, they were not thinking about the possible individual consequences of running rampage through the streets of state college, they were only considered with being a face in the crowd and joining in on the fun.  The likelihood of the same behavior being exhibited from a crowd of two people is forum-class-1

A sold-out and white-out Beaver Stadium crowd celebrated the Nittany Lions victory over Michigan on Oct. 12. Penn State tied the game with 00:27 remaining in the fourth quarter and then went on to defeat Michigan 43-40 in a four overtime classic.

a lot less because you can be easily identified.  This same mentality can be applied to being in a large lecture hall like the Forum or being in the student section at a football game.  It is a lot easier to hide being on your phone or avoid getting called on when in those large lecture halls and it is a lot easier to get away with yelling profane things at the opposing team when you have thousands of students chanting with you.

However, Cikara and her colleagues wanted to delve deeper into the causes behind this mentality and see if one’s sense of self is in fact lost when in a group setting.  Their null hypothesis was that group settings have no influence on one’s sense of self while their alternative hypothesis was when acting in a group one losing their moral compass and diminishes their sense of self.  To study this effect they hooked participants up to fMRI machines which allow you examine activity within specific parts of the brain.  The part of the brain responsible for thoughts about oneself is called the medial prefrontal cortex and fMRI’s have the ability to monitor its activity to determine when someone is thinking about themselves.  Throughout the study the participant’s moral judgement was tested through the asking of questions as individuals and then again when in a group setting.  They were then shown pictures and asked to select some to be their teammates and others to be the opposing team.  The results showed that the lower the activity in that region, meaning a lower sense of self, the more attractive images were selected for their team and the opposite affect for the opposing team.  Now this studying does not truly provide any substantial evidence of a diminished sense of self in a group setting, but it is a step in the right direction of attempting to research a behavior phenomenon that has been hard to explain. So the next time you think about jumping into a mob of people just think about your own morals and values and if what you are doing is align with them.


Yes We Are Twins, Yes I Know We Do Not Look Alike

From the moment I was born, I was never alone.  About three months into my mom’s pregnancy she discovered that she was having twins.  Now when people hear the term “twins” most automatically jump to mental image of two identical looking people with the same features and personality.  However if you have ever met a pair of twins, you know that img_3512in most cases that could not be more wrong.  Take my twin sister and I.  If you were to look at the two of us you would see my sister with long straight blonde hair and narrower features like my mom and me who has long curly red hair with rounded features just like my dad.  Now people can usually conclude that we are sister’s due to some shared features, but most are shocked to learn the fact that she is a mere 60 seconds older than me.

As most of you probably already know, twins are categorized as either fraternal or identical.  This relates to the way in which the egg either splits, creating two identical halves or two eggs are fertilized at the same time.  As you can probably conclude from my earlier description of my sister and I, we are fraternal twins.  As described in an article on Very Well fraternal twins  share about 50% of the same genetic makeup, which happens to be the same amount as any other pair of siblings.  This means that fraternal twins are no more similar than other siblings. So while we may share the same birthday, that is truly the only thing distinguishing my sister and I  from any other set of siblings.

The occurrence of fraternal twins can actually run in the families due to the hereditary influence.  Hyperovulation relates to the condition in which a woman releases more than one egg every cycle.  As I said earlier, fraternal twins occur due to the fertilization of more than one egg, so with hyperovulation, the probability of more than one egg being fertilized is greater.  This gene can in fact be passed down to a daughter, which therefore increases her likely hood of having fraternal twins.  Since the trait is carried on the X chromosome men also have the ability to pass the trait on to their daughters.  However the chances of fathering a set of fraternal twins are not increased if a man is a carrier of the gene, only if the mother possess it.  This phenomenon is the reason behind the assumption that twins tend to skip a generation.

Two twin facts that may come as a surprise is that fraternal twins can actually be conceived at different times and  fathered by two different men.  Now you may be asking yourself “How is that possible?”.  As I previously disclosed earlier in my blog post, fraternal twins result from the fertilizing of two separate eggs so there is a possibility that after one is fertilized another one is as well days later from other sexual relations.  This incredible phenomenon of twins being conceived days apart from each other is referred to as superfetation.  Also relating to that discussion if the eggs were fertilized by two different men than the eggs would have different fathers.  Superfecundation is the name behind this phenomenon.  Twins are not as simple as one may believe.

The Text Neck Phenomenon

You are walking to class and you look down the street to cross the road, and all you see in front of you is a mob of students with their heads down, glued to their screens, unaware of the environment around them. Now I am sure this scenario is all to familiar for just about everyone in this class and as an avid texter I am 100% guilty of this.  You look down to change what song you are listening to and then you see that you have notifications from Snapchat or that someone has texted you.  What was originally supposed to be about a ten second task has turned into you with your head down, looking at your phone for five minutes straight.  We have all gotten the technology is ruining our generation’s ability to communicate speech, but I am here to talk to you about the physical affect of looking down at your screen for long periods of time.

The medical field has deemed this phenomenon to be called “Text Neck”.  Now this term is used to describe the pain in one’s neck that is a result from holding your head in the downward angle in which you do while texting.  Maintaining that stance for long periods of time can lead to neck pain and even long term spinal damage.  jan-6-text-neck-figures-with-weights-etc-cropped-and-sized

While some of you may be questioning this rising phenomenon,stating that other activities such a reading cause our necks to be held at the same downward angle, texting just adds to the list of already potentially harmful activities when conducted for long spans of time.  In a recent study it was discovered that 79% of the population that fall in the age range of 18-44 years old have their cellphones with them almost always, with only a two-hour window spent throughout their day awake without it on hand.  Not only is the technology more prominent in today’s society, the pressure your are putting on your neck only increases with the sharper angle your neck is in as demonstrated in this picture.  This phenomenon is going to continue to grow at its already steady rate unless people are aware of the potential harms and proactive in fighting them.

For those of you slightly freaked out by the above information, do not worry there are preventive measures one can take in order to avoid the extremes.  The Spine Health Institute provides three tips for beating “text neck”.  The first being causal neck stretches that one can do while sitting on the floor, to relax the built up tension on your upper back and in your neck.  Another tip they disclose is that when you are performing activities such as reading or responding to a text or looking at a computer screen, try to keep the material you are focused on at eye level.  It will provide the correct spinal support and prevent injury in the long-run.  Last, but not least, one of the best ways to beat this phenomenon is to put your devices down and get moving.  No high score, or twitter notification is worth placing your well-being in harms way.  fall

Target Knew Before Her Father Did

Imagine this, you are a father of a high school-aged daughter.  One day when checking through the mail you find a Target promotional flyer, addressed to your daughter congratulating her on her first child.  However, she has not mentioned anything about a pregnancy to you.  This is exactly how a man was feeling as he barged into a local Target in the Minneapolis area demanding an explanation.  He was appalled that they would be sending such coupons to his household as almost to encourage his daughter to get pregnant while still in high school.  After the initial shock and anger had diminished he contacted his daughter and it turns out there are somethings that she had in fact been hiding from him.  So how is it that Target knew his daughter was pregnant before he did?


In this article posted by the New York Times, they explain that Target is a very fond user of big data.   Employer Andrew Pool was brought into Target for the purpose of analyzing consumer behavior including shopping cycles and figure out how the company can exploit them.  The initial target was promoting featured toys to families with children around Christmas time through the use of promotional catalogs or coupons.  However this project was overshadowed by his new task of identifying the impacts that important milestones in consumers’ lives such as college graduation, relocating, and pregnancy have on consumer purchasing patterns.  It turns out that with the occurrence of a momentous event actually creates a newfound flexibility in purchase behavior leading to the experimentation of buying new brands.

One of the largest milestones in life is the addition of a baby to the family.  However, the article states the identifying pregnant consumers solely from the shopping patterns proved more difficult than they anticipated.  Pole began by analyzing the effects that their approaching due date had on their purchasing habits by looking at their shower registry’s.  Patterns began to emerge.  For example while in the first 5 months of the pregnancy women typically stock up on supplements such as calcium, zinc, etc.  After countless tests Pole was able to identify a total of 25 products that when compiled together could predict the probability of that consumer being pregnant.  Here is the scary part.  With that data Target could even predict how far along in the pregnancy the customer was, therefore being able to correctly predict the baby’s due date with a small margin of error.


Now while this may fascinate some, most people feel this is an invasion of privacy.  There has to be a balance of pulling data from their customers and discovering life-changing news before they even know themselves.  This lesson was brought to the forefront on that fateful day when Target discovered a man’s daughter was pregnant before he even knew himself.  Moving forward, they wished not to scare aware their customers with their high precise and invasive data. So while they can still utilize the patterns they discover Target is now doing a better job of disguising them.  So if that man’s daughter were to receive a promotion flyer now it would still posses coupons for pregnancy related items while also containing promotions for non-related items such as grill accessories.  I found this article to be fascinating that companies have the ability to pull mass amounts of information to go as far as be able to predict a women’s due date.

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Theories Over Equations

Hi everyone, my name is Rachel Waite and I am a sophomore supply chain management major also pursuing a minor in psychology.  Throughout my academic career my interests in school have always been math and social science related.  To me there is nothing more satisfying than finally cracking a calculus problem I have been struggling over or learning about the psychology of why people are the way they are.  However, whenever I was met with balancing chemical equations or memorizing the process of cellular respiration I always struggled.  The key to academic success for me has always relied on my interest in the subject, which is proven time and time again through my poorer performances in classes I am not mentally intrigued in.  What I look for in a class is knowledge that is applicable to my everyday life, and my disinterest in previous science classes I have taken is the emphasis placed on memorizing countless facts for no discernible purpose other than that information was going to be on the exam.

My passion for psychology is rooted in my appreciation of theories that attempt to help us understand the world around us.  I feel that this class will truly play into that same mindset and will force us all to think outside of our comfort zone, but in the end provide us with a stronger appreciation for the world we live in.  At the end of the day science in the real world is not memorizing formulas or processes, it is the living, breathing interactions of everyday life that are constantly being questioned by new theories and research.  Another reason that lead to me choosing this course is my uncle Garrett.  He was born with an extremely rare medical condition called firbodysplasia ossificans progressiva which you can learn more about here.  The rarity of his condition and the controversy that the disease brings is something I was never able to discuss in a high school classroom, but this class provides me with that opportunity.  He is someone who’s positive outlook on life I aspire for because despite the physical struggles he had to put up with every day, he always kept smiling.  I feel that this class will allow me to honor him for something other than just his disease.