Laura’s Psychology Blog

One Professor’s Observations of the World of Psychology….   

August 31, 2006

If I went back to school….

Filed under: Hobbies,Videogames — Laura Freberg @ 9:58 am

I really do love psychology, but on occasion, I fantasize about being a student again today and what I might choose to study.

Hands down, the most fun major I’ve heard of anywhere is the University of Southern California’s  Interactive Media major. You got it…go to school to learn to design videogames! Now that’s homework that doesn’t seem like work! Actually, I’m sure it’s very difficult. My computer science students are the ones who ask questions about how much sleep deprivation can you have before you become psychotic.

The interactive media people are becoming very sophisticated. In an earlier post, we mentioned Jo Clay’s Strange Analyst software. I’ve had some nice email conversations with Jo about women and gaming. But back to her software….it allows game developers to compare their concept with 18,000 others. I didn’t know there were that many games! You can download a trial copy here. Sounds like this would be a very useful item for USC’s budding game developers.

Am I planning on going back to school…no, not anytime soon. Duty calls.

August 29, 2006

Welcome, Class of 2010!

Filed under: Psychology,Teaching Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 6:15 pm

Every year, the kind people at Beloit College remind us boomer faculty that it’s time to update our classroom examples. When I first taught intro psychology, I could use John F. Kennedy’s assassination as my example of “flashbulb memories.” Then it was the Challenger explosion, then 9/11….

Anyway, you can see the whole list at Beloit, but here is their top 10:

  1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
  2. They have known only two presidents.
  3. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.
  4. Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the U.S.
  5. They have grown up getting lost in “big boxes.”
  6. There has always been only one Germany.
  7. They have never heard anyone actually “ring it up” on a cash register.
  8. They are wireless, yet always connected.
  9. A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents’.
  10. Thanks to pervasive headphones in the back seat, parents have always been able to speak freely in the front.

Four days until college football season….

Filed under: Football,Hobbies — Laura Freberg @ 5:44 pm

There’s only one thing that is potentially worse than the impending debut of the new Legend of Zelda to interfere with my work….USC football!

Yes, the intrepid Trojans travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks. I’ve never been to an Arkansas football game, only NCAA track meets at their campus. Their fans are quite enthusiastic. They actually have a “hog call.” You have to be there.



I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that I don’t think the Razorback has quite the same….well, let’s say, not quite the same “impact” as USC’s beautiful white horse, Traveler.


We don’t want to make the Razorbacks too mad…they probably are thinking about that 70-17 loss last year in the Coliseum, and they’ve sold out their 72,000 seat stadium. Nothing like football in the South.

Okay, enough fun…back to work! Otherwise, no TV for me on Saturday….Good luck to John David Booty and the Trojans!

Closing in on the genetic vulnerability to alcoholism…

Filed under: Biological Psychology,General Psychology,Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 5:34 pm

As a university professor, I must admit that I am astonished by the amount of alcohol current students consume. Most come to us with an already established pattern of heavy drinking from their high school days. Where their parents were at the time is another story….

Not only does the little graphic summarize where many students end up from drinking, but tragically, a certain number of people are just not going to be able to walk away from booze, even when they grow up enough to want to.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know up front whether or not you are likely to become an alcoholic? We’re getting much closer. A recently completed study by a team led by George Uhl of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) identified 51 chromosomal regions associated with alcoholism. Using new techniques of “pooled data genome scanning,” the researchers were able to pinpoint areas associated with alcoholism with the finest resolution to date.

Assuming we someday might be able to scan for disease and vulnerability to substance abuse, imagine giving young children a card saying, “this you absolutely must not do.” My guess is that insurance providers would be right behind as well, saying that if you are warned and drink anyway, you are not covered. Technology changes, but human behavior remains remarkably constant. Some people will heed the warning, others will be in denial.


August 24, 2006

Americans and Evolution….

Filed under: Biological Psychology,Psychology,Teaching Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 9:35 pm

Human beings share 98% of their genes with chimpanzees, 92% of their genes with mice, 44% with fruit flies, 26% with yeast, and 18% with thale cress. I don’t even know what a thale cress is, other than it is a weed and one of the first organisms to have its entire genome catalogued. Here’s a picture of our relative….it’s actually rather pretty.

In an era of unprecedented amounts of information emerging from genetics, Americans continue to dig in their heels and reject evolution. Jon Miller of Michigan State has been studying attitudes towards evolution for 20 years. His most recent figures show that among the countries surveyed, only Turkey shows a lower acceptance of evolution than the United States [1].

Participants were asked, “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals, true or false? And here is how we answered:

Miller notes that the number of people in the United States supporting evolution dropped from 45% in 1985 to 40% in 2005. The good news, though, is that the number of people who completely reject the idea of evolution dropped from 48% to 39% during the same period of time. The biggest change came in those who were unsure about evolution. This group was only 7% in 1985 but grew to 21% in 2005. Of the new 14% in the unsure category, 9 came from the formerly rejecting and 5 from the formerly accepting.

We might put these figures in perspective with 2005 information from the Gallup pollsters [2]. Between 50-75% of American teens believe in angels, astrology and the existence of extra-sensory perception (ESP). Smaller numbers believe in ghosts (20%) and the Loch Ness monster (16%). Scientists have a lot of work to do.

Personally, I have never understood the conflict between evolution and religion, and I consider myself a religious person. Science is based on observation of facts; religion on faith. These are parallel tracks that need not be in conflict. However, I have started including disclaimers on my course syllabi informing students that they are free to believe what they want, but they are expected to understand the principles of evolution.

[1] Miller, J.D., Scott, E.C., & Okamoto, S. (2006). Science communication. Public acceptance of evolution. Science, 313, 765-766.

[2] Winseman, A.L. (2005). Eternal destinations: Americans believe in heaven, hell. Retrieved August 1, 2005 from the Gallup Poll website:



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