Laura’s Psychology Blog

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

February 20, 2014

readings in psychology for 20 february 2014 #PsychScience

ronnie and dad

Here is what we are reading today:

“”The voice is an amazingly flexible tool that we use to construct our identity,” says lead author Molly Babel, a professor in the Department of Linguistics. “Very few things in our voices are immutable, so we felt that our preferences had to be about more than a person’s shape and size.””

“Our junk mail is stamped with messages saying “open immediately, do not discard.” We are targeted by advertising telling us to “buy now.” None of the sources of these messages has any authority whatsoever over us, yet being social creatures, we often comply anyway. Compliance occurs when a person goes along with a request made by someone who has no authority.”

“here’s a new piece of work for The Dali Museum in Florida, with an app that lets you “compete” against Dali himself in an old ‘staring contest’… You can challenge some other people too, including the likes of Andy Warhol. It’s a little bit quirky. And there is a 2 hour demo if you really want to take the challenge! (slightly weird…)”

“When you’re tired, these neurons in the brain shout loud and they send you to sleep,’ says Professor Gero Miesenböck of Oxford University, in whose laboratory the new research was performed.”

“Dr. Richard Kramer of the University of California, Berkeley and his colleagues have invented “photoswitch” chemicals that confer light sensitivity on these normally light-insensitive ganglion cells, restoring light perception in blind mice. An earlier photoswitch required very bright ultraviolet light, making it unsuitable for medical use. However, a new chemical, named DENAQ, responds to ordinary daylight. Just one injection of DENAQ into the eye confers light sensitivity for several days.”

“”In the immediacy of what we’re doing we have this small working memory capacity where we can hang on to a few things that are going to be useful in a few moments, and that’s where output gating is crucial,” said study senior author David Badre, professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences at Brown.

From the perspective of cognition, said lead author and postdoctoral scholar Christopher Chatham, input gating—choosing what goes into working memory—and output gating allow people to maintain a course of action (e.g., finish that Bluetooth call) while being flexible enough to account for context in planning what’s next.”

“Prions, the protein family notorious for causing “mad cow” and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, can play an important role in healthy cells. “Do you think God created prions just to kill?” mused Nobel laureate Eric Kandel. “These things must have evolved initially to have a physiological function.” His work on memory helped reveal that animals make and use prions in their nervous systems as part of an essential function: stabilizing the synapses that constitute long-term memories.”

“The study led by Dr Nicholas Walsh, lecturer in developmental psychology at the University of East Anglia, used brain imaging technology to scan teenagers aged 17-19. It found that those who experienced mild to moderate family difficulties between birth and 11 years of age had developed a smaller cerebellum, an area of the brain associated with skill learning, stress regulation and sensory-motor control. The researchers also suggest that a smaller cerebellum may be a risk indicator of psychiatric disease later in life, as it is consistently found to be smaller in virtually all psychiatric illnesses.”

“Human beings are extremely social animals. We are highly motivated to stay on the “good side” of our social groups.

Groups typically make rules for conduct, which we refer to as social norms. Social norms provide rules for many different types of behavior, from dressing appropriately for the workplace to elevator “etiquette” in which we move to the back and avoid eye contact with other passengers.”

 

26 Responses to “readings in psychology for 20 february 2014 #PsychScience”

  1. mackenzierowe Says:

    In response to “What Is Conformity??”

    Ever since we covered Asch’s classic conformity experiment in Social Psych, I’ve been intrigued by why we latch onto the thoughts/ideas/actions of our in-group. From an evolutionary psych standpoint, conforming to avoid social rejection as stated in the article certainly makes sense; we see our fellow cave people running away from a predator and we immediately imitate that action. Additionally, conforming to some social norms helps us get through our day without lots of drama or controversy. But it’s a pretty terrifying to think of the negative consequences of conformity. I have to be careful not to overlap conformity with obedience, but often the two seem to go hand-in hand. Even in individualist cultures like our own, once we conform to our in-group it is very difficult for us to break the status quo. Once conformity has been establish, and no outlier attempts to stand up and challenge anything, it is all too easy to control that group and make them obey. History has shown us the power of being able to control large groups of similar thinking/acting people.

  2. Luke Simon Says:

    It is amazing how we have a whole set of neurons devoted to the initiation and termination of sleep. The neurons activate when we get tired and deactivate when we are fully rested, but how do the neurons know when we are tired or not? The body maybe releases hormones, or maybe the darkness is a stimulus that these neurons recognize as “time to go to bed.” Regardless, it is awesome how these neurons help maintain our biological clock.

  3. Luke Simon Says:

    The voice is obviously a very powerful social tool. After reading the article “I Love My Voice,” I realized that a lot of my friends in my fraternity do talk and sound very similar. You can definitely tell apart the people who have unique sounding voices, which can either be a good or bad thing, depending on how your voice sounds to those around you. However,it is these unique voices that are so fun to imitate!

  4. Silvano J. Gonzalez Says:

    While reading about “the switch that sends us to sleep” I was reminded that I’ve always wondered why we have to sleep. We spend such a substantial amount of our lives asleep that I almost took it for granted that it was necessary for us to sleep to restore ourselves in order to be able to function when we are awake. Some time ago I learned in a class that some people thought the purpose of sleep might be simply to keep people out of trouble; the idea was that evolutionarily it made sense for people to go to bed at nighttime because that way they would keep out of trouble and stay away from the many things in the night that could kill them. This view was opposed by the view that sleep is necessary and restorative. Our bodies clearly need sleep as they are in the present, but I want to find out how they came to be this way and what forces led us to evolve in this way.

  5. Silvano J. Gonzalez Says:

    “When Are We Most Likely to Comply” mentioned several of the concepts I studied in my Social Psychology class. In that class I learned about the work of Robert Cialdini, and was assigned to read Cialdini’s book Influence: Science and Practice. This book applied the social psychology concepts discussed in the article in the context of “compliance professionals,” or people who use this technique in the workplace to get what they want from other people, which usually means getting people to spend more money. Salespeople, and especially car salespeople, can most of the time be looked at as “compliance professionals.” This book discussed some of the techniques discussed in the article such as the foot-in-the-door and low-balling techniques, but I also learned about things such as salespeople copying a customer’s mannerisms or pointing out similarities between themselves and the customer in order to get the customer to like them more. This technique leads to the customer liking the salesperson more because people have a tendency to use similarity as a cue of liking. The salesperson might say “You’re from Ohio? I was born and raised there!” with the intention of appearing similar to the customer and presumably on their side. Ultimately, the salesperson hopes to get a more favorable outcome to the financial transaction. It’s intriguing how something as simple as pointing out a commonality or mimicking another person’s mannerisms can sway someone’s decisions making ability.

  6. kdouglas Says:

    The article on vocal characteristics surprised me. It is a little shocking that breathiness is considered attractive in a voice. I did not know that breathiness is a result of thin vocal cords which is a sign of youth. In speaking and singing, breathiness is not an asset, as it points to a lack of diaphragmatic support. The other fact that intrigued me was the statement that voices that sound like they come from smaller women and bigger men are considered most attractive. I wonder if that preference has anything to do with estrogen, testosterone, or reward pathways in the brain. That would be informative research.

  7. kdouglas Says:

    The concept that struck me the most with regards to the article pertaining to teens and family problems was the impact of nurture. Small cerebellums are correlated with psychological disorders, and they were also present in these adolescents. This led me to wonder if the sample for this research had naturally smaller cerebellums or if they were shaped by experience. It also made me think about the impacts of family dynamics on adolescents. It is much more effective (though definitely more difficult in some cases) for families to calmly discuss their problems than it is for them to scream at each other. This is common sense, but when it pertains to brain abnormalities and potential psychological disorders, it is especially important advice to heed.

  8. wesleychoy Says:

    The article “What is Conformity” was quite interesting to me as it applied to many aspects of my life. Before I had never actually examined the differences between conforming, complying, and obeying. Seeing the real life situations helped make clear the distinctions between these methods as well as help me realize the different way I have been conforming in life. There are really subtle ways like when I am answering a clicker question and have a hunch its one of the answers but end up choosing a different answer when I hear everyone choosing a different letter. Then their are other things in life that I also wish to change like conforming to others too often for fear of rejection which goes along with the nature of the collectivist culture my parents were raised in.

  9. wesleychoy Says:

    After reading the article on conformity and learning the differences between conformity, complying, and obeying, I became interested in conformity so I read the article “When Are We Most Likely to Comply?” I thought the low-balling technique by car dealers was particularly funny but it also brought to memory times when I was entrenched. It was nowhere near as big a purchase as a car, but I remember often times shopping and I would be unsure of the price of a article of clothing and go up and pay for all of my clothes. As the cashier rings up my clothes I see that the shirt or pants that I was unsure of is actually still the inexplicable “MSRP” but still buy it anyways. Consistency seems to play a role in these situations for me as I would look cheap or inconsiderate telling the cashier I no longer want the item. This dilemma might seem odd to some but I have also seen this happen to my cousin who saw a video game deal in the newspaper only to find out by the cashier that there was no such deal. The result? She ended up gaming all night to her new toy.

  10. jnlui Says:

    The conformity article was very interesting. It highlighted the reasons we as humans do certain things when placed into the confinements of society. Ironically we as a society are always advocating the sense of being “you” or being unique. As history shows, it is those that are different who stay and stand out. People who do not conform are many times the standout, and the ones who make change. But like the article states the average person will likely conform, because that is the natural thing to do. It also gives further reason to why surveys or polls like to have the annonmity aspect, so people will not feel pressured to conform and can answer honestly.

  11. jnlui Says:

    The article on sleep was related to what we learned in class this past week. It was interesting to see the parallel between the sleep deprived fruit flies and humans. Like fruit flies I realize that when sleep deprived I am more likely to nod off, and that my attention is very unfocused and scattered. It also makes me curious to how much effect this switch has, because I notice thst when I am extremely tired I can fall asleep at anytime of the day, whereas when I am extremely awake no matter how late I cannot seem to fall asleep at all.

  12. eilamarinero Says:

    In response to the article about family problems and brain development:
    This article is very interesting. However, I think it would be impossible to find a person who has never endured in conflict in their life to acurately compare brains with. Due to the fact that no one knows everything a person has gone through and how a person perceives negative events, i think jumping to such conclusions is a bit far stretched. There are many factors that contribute to metal disorders and brain development. The roles of heredity and the environment play big roles in addition to inheriting mental health issues.

  13. BonnieBurns Says:

    I found the article, “The Switch that sends us to Sleep,” to be very interesting. The discovery of a certain switch in the brain that causes sleep promoting nerves to fire, to make us go to sleep, seems like a relatively large discovery. Although, I wonder if a multitude of factors contribute to the firing of the neurons, rather than just a single “switch” as the promoting factor? I think that the discovery of this switch really could be revolutionary in helping people sleep. Now that we know a trigger to cause sleep, it seems only a matter of time before we discover some sort of drug which can manipulate the switch and induce sleep. As stated in the article this could be extremely beneficial to those people with sleep problems. I felt a little bit alarmed when I read the problems associated with sleep loss–learning and memory deficits. With the less than normal amount of sleep college students get, it seems that the very reason of staying up late to study, is actually detrimental.

  14. BonnieBurns Says:

    The article, “family problems and brain development” seemed to me like it would be relevant in many people’s lives. In the article it discusses that those children who have problems with their family under the age of 11, end up having smaller than normal cerebellums, which is a risk of psychiatric disease later in life. It seems that in today’s culture there are often time families with ill relationships–not due to severe problems like abuse, but smaller ones such as problems communicating or lack of affection. Having seen people who grew up through these family problems, it seems that a rather large population of the public would have smaller than normal cerebellums. I also found it very interesting that almost all psychiatric illnesses display patients with smaller cerebellums. I wonder though if we currently have enough information to correlate family problems before age 11, with the later development of psychiatric illness, it seems that this is too big of a generalization?

  15. jgabovich Says:

    In the past when I heard about students who did not do very well in school and also had a difficult life at home, I thought that the reason for this was simply because they chose not to focus their attention on furthering their education. It seemed to me that the problems back at home were so much more important than worrying about school so they did not have any attention left to focus on education. While this may be a contributor to why most troubled teens do not do well in school, the fact that the cerebellum develops into a smaller size is also an explanation. This creates a cycle of maltreatment and poor academic intelligence because when the abused person has children they pass on the genes of a smaller cerebellum and so on. This makes it an even more urgent issue to combat as the mental illnesses become more common and prisons become overcrowded. With mental illness being one of the biggest reasons for incarceration it is important to take action.

  16. agarrett127 Says:

    I found the article “I love my voice” to be especially appealing due to the fact that growing up, my mother always made comments about my voice always sounded so similar to my closest friends. Whenever we were playing upstairs, she couldn’t tell who was speaking to whom. The start of this article suggests that this could be because we tend to have friends with similar voices to our own because it is soothing and familiar, which is something I never would have realized or thought of. The study discussed in the middle of the article also stuck out in my mind. I personally do not like breathy voices similar to that of Marilyn Monroe, and actually find Ellen Page’s voice much less annoying. It is crazy to think that people like such a youthful sounding voice possibly because our society has such an obsession with staying youthful. I feel like I like Ellen’s voice because it sounds dominant and independent, rather than week and flighty. I agree with the last section in the article. I love when I hear exotic accents and could see why others find them so attractive as well. Perhaps this could have some biological basis? I know that women tend to prefer the smells of men who are genetically dissimilar to themselves, and perhaps hearing a foreign accent could contribute to this in someway in that these men are coming from a foreign area and are more likely to have different genetic backgrounds compared to the women that find their voices appealing.

  17. agarrett127 Says:

    The “Family problems and brain development” article was very interesting and I’m not surprised that they found these results, however I did find it difficult to completely agree with the studies conducted. I’m sure that yes, having a negative upbringing definitely could have a major impact on brain development and possibly be the cause of mental health issues later in life. However, I find that the study done in the article was not conducted in the most scientific way. Of course every person is going to have some type of argument with their parents or family members growing up. Perhaps the study could improve by having some type of scale or survey where the teenagers would check off how often they had a negative experience with their families and the severity of each of these events. I also find it hard to believe that just having negative arguments or fights with family members would be the only thing contributing to the smaller cerebellum sizes of the teenagers. Perhaps there were other genetic factors that were not taken into account or other types of environmental factors affecting the brain development of the teenagers. Yet, I do think that this study does have a lot of potential and could be a very useful tool in trying to reduce the likelihood of people developing mental illnesses.

  18. jgabovich Says:

    The subject of conformity is an interesting one because although people believe that they are being non-conformists by not conforming, they are actually conforming to the idea of not conforming. It is also interesting how many people choose to conform to a decision that is so obviously wrong. Tragic events in history have occurred because of the idea of conformity. For example segregation existed in our country because although many people saw it to be wrong it continued to happen because the majority of people expressed strong feelings that it was essential to continue. This is an unfortunate part of human nature that exists because most people are concerned with how they appear to other people, most of which they do not know personally.

  19. tabithaahearn Says:

    I was interested in the article, “study finds nothing so sweet as a voice like your own” worth reading, because I found the title quite ironic. The reason being, is that upon hearing my own voice on a voicemail, video or other recording, I do not actually like the way my voice sounds. Similarly, when hearing about experiences my peers have in a similar situation, they too agree that they think their voice sounds odd. However, the article made some interesting points, one of which I am excited to test: the assumption of friends having similar voices. Finally, I thought it was true that foreign accents are preferred, as there is something appealing about them. Both of my parents have pretty thick British accents, and I find that people are drawn to them in any social situation because they enjoy the way in which my parents talk.

  20. anacabrera Says:

    I had already heard about the hormone, oxytocin as the love hormone that triggers romanticism and somehow I correlated romanticism and desire. When I read the article “Can We Distinguish Between Love and Desire?” I became intrigued about how there is a substantial difference between both. Obviosuly lust and love are different, however, oxytocin does not include sexual desire as explained in the article. My question is, what would happen to a person with a damaged anterior insula who found “the one?” Romanticism isn’t the same as liking, after liking so much, can that person be able to love “the one.” Can the brain change according to environmental changes? Love can is a method of heal, it would be interesting if it could heal the anterior insula.

  21. jclary Says:

    I read the article regarding the newly developed chemical DENAQ that restores light perception to blind mice. Its amazing to me to think that we have made such stepping stones in medical technology. I also found it interesting that the chemicals confer light sensitive activity to the ganglion cells and not the actual photoreceptors. This would be necessary though for people that have lost their cones or rods with degenerative diseases. The next step would be to see the long term side effects of the injectable and how we good regenerate cones or rods for patients that have completely lost them.

  22. jclary Says:

    After reading the ”I love my voice” article I though a lot about my close friends and realized that we do all speak similarly. I think it makes sense that you would like voices closest to your own because it feels more like home and secure. It would be interesting to try the same experiment in other countries and see of the same trends come across. Would an American speaking a different language with an accent have the same appeal to a foreigner? Its also curious to wonder if we would still find certain accents more attractive than others if their were no stereotypes associated with them. This could also be looked at in different countries with different stereotypes.

  23. lesliewong Says:

    In response to the conformity article, I feel that people conform in order to be accepted by society. It’s difficult to be liked among your peers if you’re the outlier. For example, if everyone at work decides that wearing business casual is the thing to do, then most people will follow along with that. If one person decided that it was a sweats type of day, no doubt about it, that person will be stared at and talked about among his or her co-workers. It’s sad to think that many of us conform to the habits of our friends but that’s reality. We adapt to each others’ habits, beliefs, and sometimes even morals, but the most important thing, I believe, is even with all of the conformity, always be yourself.

  24. tabithaahearn Says:

    I found the article, “scientists identify the switch that says it’s time to sleep,” really interesting. It amazes me to think that research on fruit flies, a species so different that humans can be applied to and related to human sleep. I also think it noteworthy that despite all of the research done, we are still learning new things. It is still unsure what certain sleep-promoting cells do while we are awake, or what happens during waking that permits the brain to reset. With that being said, I think realizing how much we have learned but how much is unknown is incredible.

  25. eilamarinero Says:

    Can We Distinguish Between Desire and Love?
    This is an awesome article! Especially because you wrote it. I loved learned about this is class and find it fascinating that brain images can decipher between the two feelings of desire and romantic love. Brain imaging is really going above and beyond

  26. eilamarinero Says:

    When Are We Most Likely to Comply?
    I think this article is extremely beneficial to those who are unaware of tricks sales people play. I have been involved in many situations like these but my mother is a lawyer and she always catches on to these sneaky tactics. I have learned how to identify when I am being played for the most part. My boyfriend gets uncomfortable when I speak out but we have been together for 5 years and he is just going to have to get used to it :)

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