On my previous post I wrote about some of the basics of Decision Making from a Cognitive Psychology perspective. This post will be about the Expected Utility Model which offers a guide on how we make rational decisions.

Decision Making ( Cognitive Psychology)

psychpost | 11/17/2011 12:12:00 PM | 9 Comments
Decisions, decisions.
Another very important cognitive function that is studied in Cognitive Psychology is Decision Making. We make decisions every day and a lot of the time we don't even realize that there is a decision being made.

Decision: A choice among possibilities. It involves the assessment of the courses of action available.

Any situation that we would consider to be decision consists of alternatives, beliefs, and consequences.

The Downside of Having a Psychology Degree

psychpost | 11/08/2011 05:18:00 AM | 12 Comments
 This is an interesting post I read on a fellow Psychology blogger website. Source: youshouldreadmyblog

The dark side of having a psychology degree may surprise you, perhaps because psychology is used in everyday life by more than just the people professionally trained in that field. We use psychology to communicate with others, to make smarter decisions, and to see beneath the surface of things. But it comes with its downsides. 

 The purpose of this post will be to describe 3 different aspects of encoding that will help you with improving your encoding efficiency. 

Encoding includes the various processes in which information is transformed into a memory representation which can then be stored. 




Encoding is an automatic process that occurs as a by-product of giving attention to and processing a stimulus. Although Encoding is automatic there are many factors that can influence Encoding efficiency.

One way to improve the encoding process is to use Focused Attention rather than divided attention. For example, if you are presented with information that you may need to recall at a later time it's best if you try to minimize distractions.

Generation Effect: You are more likely to remember information that you retrieve or generate than information the you passively receive and try to memorize. This idea is the basis of the phrase: "You learn best by doing." This is why teachers assign problems and homework, the information is more likely to be remembered.

Spacing Effect: Encoding is more likely to be effective if there are rest periods in between processing a stimulus. For example, it is much more effective to go through an entire stack of flash cards many times rather than focus on memorizing one at a time. The reason this works is because when a stimulus is presented multiple times, it allows us to process it in different ways.
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I hope this post helps you guys get some insight on improving your encoding of memory. My next post will likely be on the topic of Working Memory. I'll be able to get that one out as soon as I get a break from University classes, work, and studying.

Information adapted from source: "Cognitive Psychology" Smith, Kosslyn 2007
PHOTO CREDIT:  Scragz (Flickr)
Long-Term Memory, It's Like our brain's hard drive.
Memory in important in Cognitive Psychology because it is the way we access our knowledge. Without memory we would not be able to learn from our experiences, we would have no idea of who we are, we would not be able to set goals, and we would not be able to acquire language skills.


Memory: The pool of stored information. Memory relies on many different processes to encode information, to consolidate information, and to retrieve information.

Encoding is the process that transforms information into a memory representation. Consolidation is the process in which memory representations are 'strengthened' and made relatively permanent. Retrieval is the process in which information is taken from Memory and is 'remembered'. 

The forms of Long-Term Memory

Declarative Memory (Explicit Memory): Form of Long-Term Memory that can consciously be recollected and 'declared' and described to other individuals. Declarative Memory includes: Episodic Memory, which is about events in our personal past and Semantic Memory, which is knowledge about things in the world and their meanings.

Nondeclarative Memory (Implicit Memory): Form of Long-Term Memory that is nonconscious and are expressed as a change in behavior without any conscious recollection. ____________________________________________________
I have not been able to make a post in the past couple weeks due to studying and exams at the University. I will make up for the lack of posts by doing a double post on Long-Term Memory.

Information adapted from source: "Cognitive Psychology" Smith, Kosslyn 2007

Knowledge (Cognitive Psychology)

psychpost | 10/09/2011 04:20:00 AM | 20 Comments
Knowledge affects our perception.
Knowledge: In Cognitive Psychology knowledge is commonly defined as information about the world that is stored in memory. Information can range from everyday experience to formal skills. Information in our knowledge is likely to be true, is coherent, and must have some justification.

Knowledge makes everyday life possible by: 

-Allowing most other mental processes to function competently. For example, knowledge allows us to focus our attention to objects or people that are important. 

-Allowing us to categorize things. Using these categories we are able to draw an inference about objects, namely that they have many similar features.

 -Allows us to perform appropriate actions. Knowledge allows us to perform actions that are not biological reflexes.


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When studying Cognitive Psychology it is important to have an understanding of the basic cognitive functions. I will be writing posts outlining the most important aspects of each cognitive process.

[IMAGE LINK]

Attention is among the most important of our cognitive functions. Although it is not as heavily researched as perception is, attention affects almost all of the other cognitive functions.

Attention can be defined as "selecting some information for further processing and inhibiting other information from receiving further processing."

Failures of Selection:  We can fail to attend to information when there is a lot of information present and you are simply not capable of noticing at all at once. Failure can also occur when information arrives rapidly. 

These two upcoming videos demonstrate a failure of selection known as Change Blindness, failure to detect changes in the physical aspects of a scene. Enjoy!

 


Perception (Cognitive Psychology)

psychpost | 9/29/2011 09:02:00 AM | 24 Comments
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of our environment be organizing and interpreting sensory information.

Perceptions are not simply the passive receipt of sensory signals, but can be influenced by our knowledge, beliefs, expectations, goals, and past experiences. 

Necker Cube, Which way does the cube appear to face?


There are two types of processes that occur during perception of sensory information.

Bottom-Up Processes: Driven by the sensory information about the physical world. In the example of the cube above, bottom-up processes allow us to see that there are many connected lines on the computer screen.
Top-Down Processes: Actively seeks and extracts sensory information and are driven by our knowledge, beliefs, expectations, and goals. In the example of the cube, there is a top-down process occurring when we recognize the lines represent a cube.

See the 9 dolphins? Took me a while lol.
This image is a great example of top-down processing. It appears to be an image of a man passionately embracing a woman. If you were to show this image to younger children, they would say there are many dolphins swimming in the picture. This shows how our past experiences and knowledge affect how we perceive sensory information.
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I'm almost done with my first week of university classes. I expect to be writing new cognitive psychology posts at least once a week or even bi-weekly.

Cognitive Psychology

psychpost | 9/24/2011 12:52:00 AM | 12 Comments
Simple enough, right?
Today I begin a new school year and I begin my study of Cognitive Psychology. This looks like an enjoyable course and I am looking forward to it.

Cognitive Psychology is the study of mental processes.  Mental processes studied include (but are not limited to):  memory, decision making, perception, emotions, reasoning,  and problem solving.

Cognition in all these forms involves the interpretation or transformation of stored information, acquired through the senses, retained in memory whose implications and associations are derived and applied advantageously in the activities of daily living. 

Multi-colored brain, this is where your mind come from.
The need to study Cognitive Psychology comes from the need to answer a famous philosophical question: "How does the brain give rise to the mind?" and "Is the sum (the mind) greater than its parts (different regions of the brain)? "
Kelly's Covariation Model
While studying Psychology it is important to decide whether a person's behavior is caused by Internal or External factors.

Overview of Internal vs. External Attributions

Internal Attribution: The inference that a person is behaving a certain way because of something about that person.
External Attribution: the inference that a person is behaving a certain way because of something about the situation they are in.

But how do we know if a behavior is Externally or Internally cuased?

Kelly's Covariation Model: A theory that states that to form an accurate attribution about a behavior requires additional information. By systematically noting pattern of behavior when possible causal factors are present or absent we can make an accurate attribution. This will make much more sense when I define these possible patterns.

Components of Kelly's Covariation Model

Consensus information:  Information about how other people would behave if they were in the same situation. High in consensus means that others would behave the same way. Low in consensus means that other people would behave differently.  

Distinctiveness information:  Information about how the individual behaves the same way in different situations. Low in distinctiveness means the individual behaves the same way to different stimuli. High in distinctiveness means that the individual behaves a certain way towards a certain stimuli.

Consistency information:  Information about how the individual behaves towards a certain stimuli across time and circumstances.  High in consistency means that the individual behaves the same way almost every time they are presented with a certain stimulus. 

Possible outcomes of Covariation Model.
Internal Attribution is likely if: Consensus is Low, Distinctiveness is Low, and Consistency is High
External Attribution is likely if: Consensus is High, Distinctiveness is High, and Consistency is High
London, after Riots

Deindividuation: The loosening of normal constraints on behavior when people can't be identified (such as when they are in a crowd), leading to an increase in impulsive and deviant acts









What is it about deindividuation that leads people into impulsive acts? Deindividuation makes people feel less accountable for their actions because it is unlikely  an individual will be singled out or blamed. Deindividuation also causes individuals to adhere more closely to the social norms of that group, which is especially bad if the group is a violent one.

Recent examples of deindividuation causing deviant behavior is the riots that occurred in Canada, London, and the UK. In this following video there is a student who has been beaten and is injured on the side of the road. He is helped up and mugged by another stranger. This type of action would not happen if the mugger knew he could be identified.


Deindividuation on the internet. The anonymity provided by the internet allows individuals to say (or do) things that they would not otherwise do if they could be identified.
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I'm finally done with my University classes for the summer! Expect more posts coming up soon.

PHOTO CREDIT: BRG2 FLICKR
Process loss, common in politics.
It is common belief to think that a group of individuals are able to make better decisions than a single individual because there advantage in numbers. This is not always the case, groups can make worse decisions because of their size. 

Process Loss: Any aspect of group interactions that inhibits good problem solving.  The most common way for process loss to occur is when a competent member finds it difficult to disagree with the other members of the group (similar to the Asch experiment). 

Groups have a tendency to focus on information that it's members have in common, failing to share unique information.  

An social psychology experiment that illustrates the failure to share unique information is by Stasser and Titus. A group of 4 individuals were asked to make a decision about a student body candidate based on information given by the experimenter. In one condition each member was given 8 positive facts and 4 negative facts.  83% of groups in this condition favored the candidate because they believe the positives outweigh the negatives. In the other condition each member was  given 2 positive facts and 4 negative facts.  In total they had 8 positive facts but they chose to discuss the information they had in common. Groups under this condition only preferred the candidate 24% of the time. 

Group polarization is the tendency to make decisions that are more extreme than the initial inclinations of its members.  If the decision is one in which people make conservative decisions, a group would make an extremely conservative decision.  If the decision is one where people would likely take a risk, a group would make an extremely risky decision.

When making a decision a group may not consider the facts in a realistic matter if they are trying to maintain group cohesiveness. This will occur within groups that are highly cohesive, isolated from other opinions, and have leaders who are directive and make their wishes known.  This is known as groupthink, and is an extreme case of 'not rocking the boat'.  
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I was not able to post as often as i would have liked to because I have been busy with summer school work at the university. This week I'll be taking my final exam for my summer class. After this week I'll have more free time and be able to post more often. 

PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassynewdelhi/

Conformity in Groups (Social Psychology)

psychpost | 8/19/2011 12:42:00 AM | 32 Comments

Conformity: Behaving according to the to real or imagined expectations of other, even against one's own wishes.

When does it happen? Confusion due to lack of information

Informational Social Influence: Phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect the correct behavior for a given situation.This can lead to Private Acceptance (You believe it) and/or Public Acceptance (You comply to the group).
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A famous Social Psychology experiment where we see the effect of Conformity in groups is known as the Asch Line Study.

In this experiment the participant is placed with a group of 6 other "participants" who are actually confederates (planted by the experimenter). The participant was told that (s)he would be participating in a "vision test". The participants would be given a line and choose the line that is the same as the given line.

Obviously it's C right?
Obviously it is extremely easy to pick out the correct line. The actual aim of the experiment is to see how the real participant would react to the confederate's behavior. After a couple of normal responses the confederates all gave an incorrect answer, to the shock of the actual participant.

Would the participant give the correct answer or conform to the group's obviously incorrect answer? 76% of the participants succumbed to the pressure of the group and also answered incorrectly.

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This experiment shows us something very important about group dynamics, that people are afraid to "rock the boat" even when the correct answer is obvious. Social Psychology study also reveals that there are many other ways that a group can produce behavior that is not logical. I will get to those in another post but they are known as "Process Loss" if you would like to do some research on it. 

I will most likely be writing more posts following this on how groups affect decision making but I am currently busy with university school work and studying at the moment.
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PHOTO CREDIT: Kheel Center (Flickr)
Homelessness, Internally or Externally caused?
I have just finished my Social Psychology course at the University last week and will be writing a post based on the of the most important aspects of Social Psychology.

Attribution Theory
: A description of the way in which people explain the causes of their own and other people's behavior.

There are two different types of attributions:
Internal Attributions: The inference that a person is behaving a certain way because something about the person. (Attitudes, character, or personality).

External Attributions: The inference that a person is behaving a certain way
because of something about the situation they are in. (Assuming that most people would respond the same way in the situation).



When we make attributions about people's actions, we (usually) automatically make Internal Attributions. Through a conscious effort we can think about possible situational reasons for their actions. If we believe that the situation played a large role in their actions, we will make an External Attribution. The problem is that we often stop after we make an Internal Attribution. Thinking about the situation requires us to use energy and time, which we may not be willing to use.

Fundamental Attribution Error: The tendency to infer that people's behavior corresponds to (matches) their disposition (personality).

This idea leads us into the Actor/Observer Difference, the tendency to see other people's behavior as Internally caused and to focus on External Attribution when
explaining our own behavior. For example, if you were driving on a busy road and you suddenly get cut off by another car, it is likely that you will believe they are an asshole or a jerk. On the other hand if you were on a busy road trying to make an appointment and you cut off another driver, you will probably blame the traffic and your need to make the appointment on time.

Does anyone have any examples of Internal/External Attributions? It would be fun to hear about them. I wish I could write some more, but I need to study for my calculus exam coming up soon. University courses are pretty tough.
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PHOTO CREDIT: Stevie Withers (Flickr)

Power of The Situation

psychpost | 7/24/2011 11:40:00 PM | 24 Comments
Link to video.

In Phillip Zimbardo's famous Stanford Prison Study he converted a basement of the Psychology department at Stanford University into a mock prison. Participants were randomly assigned to play either a "guard" or a "prisoner". Zimbardo tells the guards "You can create in the prisoners feelings of boredom, a sense of fear to some degree, you can create a notion of arbitrariness that their life is totally controlled by us, by the system, you, me, and they'll have no privacy... We're going to take away their individuality in various ways. In general what all this leads to is a sense of powerlessness. That is, in this situation we'll have all the power and they'll have none."

He wanted to discover the key to abusive prison situations. Either there was something inherently "bad" about guards that caused them to abuse prisoners or there was something about the situation they were in that causes them to abuse prisoners. Pretty soon into the experiment, the guards are seen demoralizing and treating the prisoners poorly.

"The results of the experiment are said to support situational attribution of behavior rather than dispositional attribution. In other words, it seemed the situation caused the participants' behavior, rather than anything inherent in their individual personalities." Source.

Table Image (Poker)

psychpost | 7/07/2011 01:10:00 PM | 12 Comments



Table image is the perception other players may form about another player. The most common table image labels are: loose, aggressive, passive, or tight. Other, more specific labels include: places too much value in hands, calling stations, weak, likeliness of 3bet or shove, plays only nuts.

A mistake people often make when "forming" a table image is that they begin "playing into" their image too quickly. Complaints of "I was playing so tight the whole night, how do you fucking call me?" often arise.

Also, when you have "formed" a table image, some players use their image and incorrectly target players. The more novice an opponent is, the less likely they are to notice your "image". The table image you perceive of yourself may not match the other player's image of you.

Once you have established you table image make sure that your plays still make sense. For example if you have a very tight/aggressive table image and you decide to mix up your gameplay with low suited-connectors, you should play the hand consistent with your image.
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Written for: Busto to Robusto
PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/

I just started my summer classes at the university today and wanted to share a bit of information with you guys. I am taking a social psychology class and I find it very interesting.

Construal
: Term used to describe how an individual perceives, comprehends, and interprets their environment.

Naive Realism: In the context of construals, Naive realism is the belief that one's own construal is the correct perception.
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These terms can be seen in the following example:

An individual who is a heavy drug user is told by their family that they need to seek drug rehab in order to quit their drug use.

The individual may perceive their family's suggestion as either:

1. Genuine concern, and be willing to undergo drug rehabilitation.

2. An attempt to control their life, and refuse to undergo drug rehab.
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The true nature of the family member's request is not in question. All of the attention is focused on the individual who is perceiving the event.
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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nipocrite/

Substance-Related Disorders, Drug Rehab

psychpost | 6/18/2011 02:30:00 AM | 17 Comments

Nearly half of the U.S population admits to having tried an illegal substance at sometime in their lives, and approximately 15% have used one in the past year (SAMHSA, 2005).

More recently, approximately 8% have used illegal substances in the past month.
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There are four substance-related conditions describes in the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The following definitions are from the DSM-IV-TR. Bold notes added by me.

Substance Intoxication: Experience of significant maladaptive behavioral and psychological symptoms due to the effect of a substance on the central nervous system. In other words, when the use of a substance causes negative behavior or harmful psychological symptoms.

Substance Withdrawal: Experience of clinically significant distress in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning due to the cessation or reduction of substance use. Meaning that an individual experiences withdrawal symptoms that impairs everyday funcioning.

Substance Abuse: Diagnosis given when recurrent substance use leads to significant harmful consequences. Meaning that an individual is harmed by use of a substance. Examples include: not doing ones obligations, putting one's self in physical harm, or repeated legal problems.

Substance Dependence: Diagnosis given when substance use leads to physiological dependence or significant impairment or distress. Experiencing tolerance of withdrawal.
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Drug Rehabilitation (Drug Rehab)

Anti anxiety drugs, Antidepressants, and antagonists: These types of drugs help prevent withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting a substance. These allow an individual undergoing drug rehab to have a better chance of being successful.

Behavioral and Cognitive Treatments: The goal of these treatments is to motivate an individual to stop taking the substance. Another goal of these treatments is to teach the individual new coping skills.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lemoneatingmachine/

Mental Health and the Law

psychpost | 6/14/2011 12:16:00 AM | 20 Comments




























How does the court system treat individuals who are afflicted with a Psychological disorder and commit crimes?

Mental health professionals are asked to determine whether the accused were competent to stand trial and whether they were sane at the time the crimes were committed (Nolen-Hoeksema). Whatever is determined by these specialists in not the final judgment but they are taken into consideration by the court.

Competence to Stand Trial

Individuals who are not able to comprehend what is going on in a court room or participate in their own defense.

Insanity Defense

The idea that an individual cannot be held responsible for their actions if they were mentally incapacitated during the time the crime was committed. Insanity Defense is used for about 1% of felony indictments.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/21804434@N02/

The Walking Dead (Comic Series) Review

psychpost | 6/10/2011 12:41:00 AM | 16 Comments

The Walking Dead (Comic Series)


What do all zombie-apocalypse films, shows, and comics all have in common? Action, suspense, gore, and drama are usual key components.

What sets The Walking Dead series apart from other zombie film/comics/shows is the psychology-heavy plot. Rather than focusing on the action and suspense of a zombie apocalypse, this series focuses on the interactions between zombie apocalypse survivors. This series outlines the changes in society that occur during a zombie apocalypse. Also the individual personalities of each survivor is a point of interest.

Social Aspects

Each different group in the series views the zombie apocalypse in a different light. The adults of the main group (normal middle class adults) view the zombie outbreak as the end of civilization. The children are not able to grow up in a normal environment and lose out on enjoying their "childhood". Meanwhile, prisoners view the zombie outbreak as freedom and they see their prison as a safe sanctuary.
Abnormal Aspects

Under the high amount of stress associated with the zombie outbreak many characters experience psychological disorders. I will not get into the details but these disorders range from Dissociative identity disorders to post traumatic stress disorders, and even to anti-social behavior.
Sociology/Ethics

Many times there is a discussion of Ethics and whether they still apply to a post-apocalyptic world. This aspect of the comic really questions the reader's beliefs.

Developmental Aspects

One of the main characters is a young boy going through the adolescent years of his life. Normally stories write about the transition from childhood into adulthood, but there are many complications due to living in a zombie infested world. The development if this character follows the expected Psychological growth of a child living in such a hostile environment.

Final Remarks

I highly recommend this comic series to any fan of the zombie genre. Even though I mainly outlined the most serious aspects of the series, there is a lot of action and gore for those who like that. The suspense of the story arcs draws me into the story and makes me want to keep reading. It is a light read and has a profound effect on how I view the zombie genre.


Other good Psychology-related media to check out:
-Fight Club (Dissociative identity disorder)
-American History X (prejudice, discrimination)
-Girl, Interrupted (Institutions, Abnormal Psychology)
-A Clockwork Orange (Aversion Therapy, Treatment)

Facebook Games. Press lever, recieve food.

psychpost | 6/07/2011 10:25:00 PM | 20 Comments


























This post will be about facebook games and other simple time consuming low-end games. I will be relating them to the idea of a Skinner's Box. For those who do not know what is Skinner's box is, it is a cage where a small animal is kept and is rewarded (by food or water) for completing a task (lever pressing or switch pressing).





















Popular facebook games like Farmville, Cityville, Mafia Wars, and other Zynga-like games seem to be based upon the idea of the Skinner's Box. for example in Farmville the user is taught how to plant crops by clicking on squares and picking their crops. After a certain amount of time they are allowed to click on their crop to harvest them. Upon harvesting they receive a reward such as in-game currency and experience points.

While this may just seem to be a farming simulator, there is more behind it. These games make it seem that the users are free to do whatever they please. But if crops are not harvested in a certain amount of time they will wither and you will not receive any rewards for planting them (effectivley punishing the user). Also once the user reaches higher levels, they are required to do much more crop planting in order to receive experience points that matter.

In a way the game forces users to "play" more or they will not receive any noticeable rewards or they will be punished.

Internet Addiction

psychpost | 6/06/2011 03:33:00 AM | 25 Comments























"1 in 25 teens addicted to internet, study finds"


SOURCE: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43098981/ns/health-addictions/

Earlier today, I was browsing through some psychology-related articles and i found this interesting article. It also makes the claim that teens exhibit withdrawal-like behavior similar to drug-withdrawals : "when they weren't online were more likely to be depressed and aggressive and to use drugs than their peers."

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Personally, I do not find this statistic shocking at all. Children are growing up in a world surrounded by electronics and access to the internet is possible from almost anywhere. Using the internet is an everyday occurrence for the younger generation and they do not know what life is like without it. I believe this will continue to become worse as the incentive to be online grows (social networking, online gaming, etc).

But I also believe there is also a benefit to being overexposed to technology. Children that grow up with so many technological innovations seem to be more tech-savvy. They have a much better understanding of utilizing their available resources than I did when I was their age (dial-up AOL modems).

What is your view on teen and pre-teen use of the internet?

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/razor512/

Effect of Caffeine on Memory

psychpost | 6/02/2011 04:26:00 PM | 41 Comments



















"In humans, caffeine acts as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness."


This sounds really good especially since we live in a fast paced world in which we must perform many tasks and have little time to rest. But what effect does caffeine have on our formation of short term and long term memories?

Short term Memory

One of the effects of caffeine is the increase in attention and energy. For some individuals, these effects cause them to perform better in tasks that require short term memory.

However, research consensus indicates an "inhibitory effect, reducing the capacity of our short-term memory and working memory".

Subjects who are not regular caffeine consumers are more likely to experience negative memory effects. While regular caffeine drinkers are more likely to only experience memory benefits from caffeine.

Long Term Memory


Caffeine seems to have a positive effect on long term memory regarding tasks that require a quick recall. Caffeine seems to have more more negative effects on tasks requiring patience and waiting.

Withdrawal

An individual who is undergoing a caffeine withdrawal may experience negative effects on short term and long term memory. Caffeine withdrawal may cause lower attention, headaches, and fatigues. Acquisition of new memory would be very difficult under these conditions.
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So as we have seen, caffeine seems to have different effects depending on the task at hand. To take full advantage of this powerful substance we must first learn how our bodies react to it.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/puuikibeach/















This little molecule above is known as Dopmaine.

It is found in our brains and is associated with feeling of well-being, happiness, euphoria, pain relief. Higher amounts are release during certain activities such as eating, sex, and drug use.

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How drug addiction occurs

Dopamine is naturally occurring and is made by our bodies. When a (dopamine increasing) drug is taken, dopamine levels greatly rise, giving a feeling of euphoria. Because there is such a high abundance of dopamine, our bodies produce much less of it. We begin to be unable to produce our own dopamine and turn to the drug to feel good.

This is why addicts simply cannot stop using drugs, they are no longer able to experience joy without it.

Drugs that may cause dopamine-related addictions: Adderal, Dexedrine, Ritalin, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, oxycontin, alcohol, nicotine, and any morphine derivatives. basically anything that can release a high level of dopamine. Also high fat/calorie foods such as cheesecake or bacon can cause a milder response.

Noticeable side effects from a dopamine withdrawal include: anxiety, panic attacks, depression, sweating, nausea, generalized pain, fatigue, dizziness and drug cravings.

Depression Diagnosis / Drug Treatments

psychpost | 5/26/2011 11:03:00 AM | 35 Comments
























According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders depression is defined by these symptoms:

Emotional Symptoms
-Sadness
-Depressed Mood
-Anhedonia (no longer experiencing enjoyment)
-Irritability

Physiological and Behavioral Symptoms
-Sleep Disturbances (hypersomnia or insomnia)
-Appetite Disturbances
-Psychomotor retardation or Agitation
-Catatonia
-Fatigue and loss of energy

Cognitive Symptoms
-Poor concentration and attention
-Indecisiveness
-Sense of Worthlessness or guilt
-Poor self esteem
-Hopelessness
-Suicidal thoughts
-Delusions and hallucinations with depressing themes


Two different categories:

Major Depression: Experience depressed mood or anhedonia and at least four (4) other symptoms included above.

Dysthymic Disorder (chronic depression): Experience depressed mood and at least two (2) of the above symptoms for at least two years.

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I will be listing several types of Drug Treatments. I will devote an entire post to non-drug treatments of depression which include: Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy.

"Norepinephrine may be related to alertness and energy as well as anxiety, attention, and interest in life; [lack of] serotonin to anxiety, obsessions, and compulsions; and dopamine to attention, motivation, pleasure, and reward, as well as interest in life."

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs):
-Experience faster relief from depression than other medications.
-Less severe side effects than other antidepressants. But may cause agitation or nervousness.
-Tend to not be fatal in overdose
-Helpful in treating a wider range of depression.
-Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Duloxetine (Cymbalta), Milnacipran (Ixel, Savella), Venlafaxine (Effexor), citalopram (Celexa), fluvoxamine (Luvox), Paxil, sertraline (Zoloft)

Tricyclic Antidepressants:
-Prevent the reuptake of Norephinephrine and Serotonin in synapses.
-Effective in relieving acute symptoms of depression.
-Common side effects: dry mouth, excessive perspiration, blurred vision, urinary retention, constipation, and sexual dysfunction.
-Amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep), Clomipramine (Anafranil), Desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane), trimipramine (Surmontil),

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs):
-As effective as the Tricyclic Antidepressants
-Can have interactions (high blood pressure) with diet: cheese, beer, wine, chocolate.
-Amoxapine (Asendin), Maprotiline (Ludiomil),Mianserin (Bolvidon, Norval, Tolvon), Mirtazapine (Remeron)

Sertraline (Zoloft), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Buproprion (Wellbutrin), Adderall, Citalopram (Celexa), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Milnacipran (Savella), Mirtazapine (Remeron), Venlafaxine (Effexor), Paxil, Duloxetine (Cymbalta), Fluvoxamine (Luvox), Reboxetine (Vestra), xanax, phentermine prescription drugs

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/e-strategycom/ (hosted on)

Summer School Plans

psychpost | 5/24/2011 10:57:00 AM | 35 Comments




















Gonna be taking two classes at the University this summer.

MATH 20B. Calculus for Science and Engineering (4)
Integral calculus of one variable and its applications, with exponential, logarithmic, hyperbolic, and trigonometric functions. Methods of integration. Infinite series. Polar coordinates in the plane and complex exponentials.


PSYC 104. Introduction to Social Psychology (4)

An intensive introduction and survey of current knowledge in social psychology.

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I'm looking forward to taking my Social Psychology course and I can't wait to write some posts about it. Social Psychology offers a bridge between two social sciences: psychology and sociology.

I'm a bit nervous about my math course because i'm a bit rusty on integral calculus. Wish me luck!

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/genebarroga/

Spring '11 Finished

psychpost | 5/19/2011 12:12:00 PM | 50 Comments






















Today I slept in until 12PM. I just finished my final exams yesterday and I am now on break. Time to just relax, play video games, exercise, and be lazy. I'll be having more free time to write blog posts so look forward to those.

>Also, loving the internet here at the university:










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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spigoo/

Working Memory

psychpost | 5/14/2011 08:58:00 PM | 49 Comments






















Working memory is a form of short term memory that is concerned with immediate processes. Psychologist George Miller argues that the capacity of working memory is 5-9 items (seven plus/minus two).

By tending to items that are in our working memory we can develop long term memories that can be recalled later.

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Tips to improve memory

Lifestyle Changes
-Regular memory exercises
-Healthy eating
-Regular exercise
-Reducing Stress

Chunking Memory:
Although we can only hold about 5-9 items in our working memory, we can increase efficiency by storing larger (more info) items. For example: Take a (xxx)xxx-xxxx format phone number. By memorizing the area code as one item, the three digit portion as one item, and the four digit portion as one item we only use 3 items total.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scubasteveo/

Observational Learning of Aggression

psychpost | 5/08/2011 10:19:00 AM | 38 Comments


VIDEO: Bandura's Bobo Doll Experiment (A Study of Aggression)

What I found to be most interesting about this video is the fact that the children came up with their own ways of displaying aggression towards the doll. At first they began by imitating the model's behavior and over time their aggression became a thing of their own. What was also interesting is the fact that the children who were not exposed to aggressive models did not harm the doll at all. These old experiments are always great to look at because they are very insightful by revealing a lot about ourselves.

In classical conditioning an operant learning we have seen that behaviors are a function of stimuli. We have learned to do certain behaviors by the way we are rewarded or punished. In this experiment with the bobo doll there does not seem to be any rewards or punishments. What drives us learn behaviors that do not involve rewards or punishments?

I believe that modeling of aggression may be closely related with spanking children. One way is that children may learn through observation to physically punish another child if they are 'misbehaving'. Another way is that a child who sees another child getting spanked for misbehavior may learn through observation to not misbehave and avoid getting spanked.

One positive behavior I have learned through observation is driving and traffic laws. Although I have not actually driven a car for the first 16 years of my life I already had a good sense of what I was doing my first time. If we have never seen anyone driving a car before I guarantee you it would be difficult and confusing trying to drive one at first try.

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PHOTO CREDITL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scragz/
Angry face

Superstition can be defined as: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation. An example of superstitious behavior is to blow on dice before rolling them to increase chance of winning (the probability of the dice roll is not affected).

I chose to discuss the formation and reinforcement of superstitious behavior because it is something I notice a lot. Examples of superstitious behaviors can be seen in gambling, sports, and virtually any activity with chance involved. For example there are many baseball players who have a routine ritual they follow each time they are at bat.2 Also sports fans are likely to wear special clothing or preform pre-game rituals on game days because they believe it will bring luck to their team.

Article for discussion: http://www.psychologyinspain.com/content/reprints/2000/3.pdf (Psychology article, Superstition in Gambling)

In this article, experimenters were looking for superstitious behaviors in gambling. The participants were given a small amount of money (about 5USD) and were presented with a game in which they would be able to win a maximum of about 35USD. The game was a dice game (rolling a winning number) and winning was determined only by chance. After a few rolls, participants were given the option to either roll again, or let an experimenter roll for them. Participants who were winning were highly likely to continue rolling themselves, while those who have been losing were likely to let the experimenters roll for them.

Another experiment in which participants (playing a dice game again) were given magnetic bracelets. Although the bracelets do not affect the outcome of the games, participants considered it to be a "lucky charm" or felt less confident while wearing it.

These experiments show that individuals are more likely to repeat behaviors that are accompanied by a positive reinforcer (ie. they are positivley reinforced). Meaning, that when a participant wins, they are likely to repeat the course of actions prior to their win. Although the behaviors do not actually effect the outcome, they tie in closely. The opposite is true for those who experienced more losses.

It is clear to see that the formation development of superstitious behaviors can be attributed to operant conditioning.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/missturner/

Tips for Self Control

psychpost | 4/29/2011 11:44:00 AM | 81 Comments


The term self control usually refers to the tendency to act in our own best interests. Self control involves a choice and the outcomes should be reinforcing. For example: a smoker choosing to going through withdrawal now or having major illness later. Although it is clear that quitting now and going through withdrawal is the better option, it is very difficult for a smoker
to quit smoking. I will be using this example throughout the entire discussion.

The purpose of this post is to inform you of ways to improve your Self Control and how to help yourself make better decisions.

Techniques & Practices to Improving Self Control:

-Physical Restraint:

To do something that physically prevents the behavior. An example would be for a smoker to not carry lighters around or to leave their cigarettes at home or to toss them in the trash. These things are very easy to do and can be very effective. Often times physical restraint is only temporary.

-Distancing:
To avoid undesirable behaviors by distancing ourselves for situations in which that behavior will occur. An example would be for a smoker to visit more non-smoking areas or to avoid smoking friends. A combination of physical restraint and distancing can be a great way to lower the occurrence of an undesirable behavior.

Inform others of your goal:
The people around us will often behave in ways that will help or hinder our goals. By informing others of our goals we can affect their behavior in ways that affect our behavior. For example after a smoker informs
others that (s)he wants to stop smoking, the nonsmoking friends begin to spend more time with them and the smoking friends will often admire/praise their efforts.


Distraction:
When facing temptation an individual can engage in an activity that will distract themselves. Recommended distractions would include: exercising or watching a film. Make sure that the activity is very engaging, enough so you don't think about your undesirable behavior. This is a technique that I often turn to when I am trying to control my behaviors.

Monitoring Behavior
Keeping track of the frequency and magnitude of our undesired behaviors will often lower their occurrence. When we see a low frequency we are positively reinforced and when we see a high frequency we are also being positively reinforced.

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Using a combination of these techniques will surely help you to exercise your Self Control. A tip not mentioned above for smokers is: purchase a pack of cigarettes that you find disgusting/repulsive. This will cause a slight punishment whenever you choose to smoke.

Also if you are having a difficult time getting rid of an undesirable behavior, it's okay, it takes time to fully extinguish a behavior.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/10604632@N02/



"You can observe a lot by watching"
-Yogi Berra

I am feeling a bit swamped right now with working so I am lazy to write an actual full length post. Vicarious learning can be defined as a change in behavior due to the experience of observing a model (Paul Chance).

I pose this question to you: How much of our learning is based upon what we observe in others? What do you believe to be a more effective teacher: actual experience or watching others' experiences? Which is more practical?

There are no right or wring answers, I simply would love to see your insights and beliefs. I will try to reply to your responses as best I can!

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/genebarroga/

Isolation and Loneliness in Modern Society

psychpost | 4/22/2011 08:40:00 PM | 50 Comments



As the famous saying goes, "Humans are social beings" we humans can't help but to spend our time with others.


Human need for socialization is often attributed to prehistoric times. Humans needed to form groups in order to survive or they will become victims of harsh environment, predators, lack of shelter, lack of food. Those individuals who did not join groups would probably die. Membership in a group also allowed the individuals to procreate and pass on genes to the next generation.

In our modern society these threats to life no longer exist. We live in a relatively peaceful society and we are no longer victims of our environment(literally!). People can live in their homes and have no contact with other individuals for weeks and months on end. The actual need for developing strong social networks is continuing to decrease as time goes on.

Living in cities with a high population way cause an individual to experience a higher number of social interactions. But these increased amounts often do not contain any quality contact.

A possible outcome of modern society might be trouble forming a strong social network. Individuals may have difficulty relating with others. Isolation and loneliness may become more prevalent.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/plastanka/

Familiarize With Stress

psychpost | 4/21/2011 03:18:00 AM | 35 Comments



To have a discussion about stress we must first define it. To experience stress normally means experiencing events that are perceived as harmful.

Physiologically speaking, stress initiates the flight-or-fight response. This response is the cause for most of the symptoms of stress (increased heart rate, blood pressure, upset stomach, etc). An individual who is constantly stressed may develop heart problems, sleeping disorders, and suppressed immune system.

Being able to identify these symptoms of stress will better allow us to handle stress. Once we feel the onset of stress we should try to follow a relaxation technique. Common techniques are: deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation. If you don't know how to calm yourself down learn one of these methods! Although you may not be able to calm down when using these methods, keep trying! Also if you have supportive people close by, you could go to them for help.

Understanding stress can be a great benefit to us psychologically. While an individual is under the effects of stress they are more prone to have poor psychological health. We need to understand that it is normal to feel stressed.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pictureperfectpose/