Thursday, April 30, 2020

Book Report: Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot

With optimism bias people tend to overestimate the good things that will happen to them and underestimate the bad. They will be optimistic about themselves and the people they surround themselves with, like friends and family—while also being more pessimistic about the world in general. The author, Tali Sharot argues that people who are optimistic about themselves set themselves up to be successful and gives them confidence. Optimistic people are happier and interpret things differently – they see their success is something because of them, and failures due to bad luck or something that does not have to do with them. Anticipation also makes people happy and gives them something to look forward to—getting it right away is not as gratifying as the suspenseful wait that builds excitement. It also acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy, making you try harder to achieve your goals. The author thinks optimism can be beneficial while remaining realistic about risk. We just must better understand the bias and know it is there. Knowing about the bias does not necessarily prevent optimism in general life, but it does make people aware when risky decisions are made.

Regarding the topic about anticipation, a chapter I found particularly interesting was chapter 7 “Why is Friday Better Than Sunday?” And it is because Friday gives us that hope and anticipation of the weekend, despite it being a workday; Sunday gives the dread of having to go back to work, where the day is tainted. Which is why Friday seems to be more liked than Sunday, and Saturday being more liked than both since that is the “relax” day. Ever since I was little, I have preferred Fridays to Sundays as well, and even being in a better mood sometimes because I knew the weekend was coming. Once I was home from school on a Friday, I felt content and relaxed, happy—relieved, even. Dread is a very unpleasant emotion that we do not like to experience and causes great anxiety. We like getting dreaded events out of the way as soon as possible or to avoid it all together. Rather than spending our time stewing in worry and fear, most of us want to face it immediately so it can be over and done with.

There is also a key idea in this book that says optimism shapes the way we view reality—we tend to look at our futures optimistically rather than realistically. This outlook on things make people overestimate the good things that they think will happen to them and underestimate the bad. And there is also the fact, like I stated before, that people only have such optimism when it comes to their own lives. For example, in the Western world the divorce rate is about 40 percent. Yet, newlywed couples are asked if they think they will get divorced, they will usually say it is totally unlikely.

Another idea that was discussed was that we are bad at dealing with bad news. With most brains, we ignore the bad news and think it does not pertain to us. Normally, we re-evaluate our judgments of a situation in the same way that we learn from our mistakes. However, our brain is only good at this, reevaluating the differences between expectations and reality, is when we encounter new positive information—not negative. In the book, the author explained how when participants were asked to estimate their likelihood of getting something like cancer, they gave their answer, and were then given the actual results percentage wise. When asked to reevaluate their decision, most either lowered their response or did not change it at all, feeling non-impacted by the new information. The fMRI scans showed that these signals produced by the frontal lobe was much less powerful if the news was bad, and if they had underestimated their risk of getting cancer. Despite their new knowledge about this, they regarded the statistics irrelevant to them.

I would recommend The Optimism Bias to someone else and found it a very interesting read. The author had some intriguing insights and I found myself immersed in the reading, and rarely ever bored. I also liked the stories and examples that were provided in each chapter, which made the book easier to get invested in. Tali Sharot’s experiments, research, and findings contributed to more of an understanding of optimism. She goes in-depth to look at and explain how the brain creates hope and what happens when it fails, how the brains of optimists and pessimists differ, how emotions strengthen our ability to recollect, how anticipation and dread affect us, and more.

Journal #3 - Chapter 18

Chapter 18 goes into detail about how propaganda was used and how it connects to psychology. In the beginning of scientific psychology, it was then possible for educated people to use certain findings of this new science. They used it to influence the minds and feelings of others by methods not usually recognized as persuasive. This can be well intended but can also be harmful—it can even go as far to go against someone’s freedom of choice, as the author says. He goes on to even say that the people persuaded can become “mindless creatures” who just go along with what anyone says, like a sheep following the herd.

Apparently, this type of psychology or “abuse” of it started in the early 90's, “The Age of Propaganda”. It was not just political topics either, propaganda was any kind of communication with a point of view to sway someone’s opinion and have them think it is their own. The use of psychological knowledge to persuade covertly is quite common in advertising, and people are being manipulated and influenced more than they realize, usually.

Ernest Dichter was the key figure in motivational research and used the psychoanalytic theory to form hypotheses that he would go on to test later in interviews, questionnaires and sample ads. He then stated that successful advertising agencies manipulate human motivations and desires, making them then desire something they never even thought about before.

In an experiment based off of classical conditioning theory, there were subjects who saw a certain color of pen paired with either pleasant music or not so pleasant music—when they had to choose between the two they normally went with the color that was paired with the pleasant music.

Despite all of this, the author explained that there is actually “nothing to fear”, almost cancelling out what he said earlier and calling it all “utter nonsense”. In the Age of Propaganda, Pratkanis and Aronson reported on their examination of more than two hundred academic papers on subliminal messages. In most of them they found no evidence that showed these kinds of things influence behavior and went as far to say that the ones that did were either “fatally flawed” or cannot be reproduced. 

There was an article in Advertising Age that came out in 1984 that stated James Vicary (a market researcher) admitted to the fact that his original experiments were fake to increase customers in his failed marketing business. He announced that he put out certain messages flash quickly throughout the movie in regard to buying coca cola or popcorn, without the audience even realizing it. Then he said within 6 weeks coca cola sales had gone up 18.1%, along with popcorn by 57.7%-- all of this was a lie. 

The author of this book is very good about not showing bias or his true opinion on matters, since in the beginning of the chapter I thought he felt one way about this topic—on how we can easily be influenced and manipulated—to then saying how it is all actually “nonsense.” So, it does show both viewpoints and developing more of an understanding of the two sides.

Journal #2 - Chapter 11

In chapter 11 it is discussed how behaviorist theory sees personality as learned responses to stimuli—while other theories see them as qualities of the person that determine behavior, behaviorists dismiss it as “mysticism”. From the 1950's and onward they further developed the social learning theory, and the main idea was that human personality and behavior are shaped based off of rewarded actions, the individuals expectations based on what they have observed and that certain ways of behaving will result in rewards or consequences. It sees experiences and external influences as main influences and determinants of personality and behavior.

Social learning theory and locus-of-control research resulted in interesting developments in personality theory and clinical psychology—there was a growing recognition that conscious attitudes and ideas are a good portion of the person’s traits and actions. George Kelly called them “personal constructs”: sets of ideas about their own abilities and character, the behavior other people expect of them, how others might behave in response to them, what they mean by the things they say, etc. are important aspects and influences on personality and behavior.

There were some feminists who were saying that all personality and intellectual differences between men and women were because of how they were treated differently, different pressures, and conditioning. But as more research went on, it came to light that certain cognitive and personality differences were biological. In social life women continue to be less aggressive than men are, where men are more likely to commit the violent crimes—and the aggressiveness in men tend to appear early in life before most social influences can take place. Findings seem to firmly indicate that social learning plays off and magnifies biological differences that are already built in and there.

There was also research conducted that has shown that the closer someone is genetically related to someone, the more alike they are mental-health wise and usually share the same mental illnesses—the same has been said with intelligence and certain mental abilities. So, I’d say this definitely shows the flaws in the behaviorist’s theory; while external factors do play a large role, they definitely act off of biological components as well that lie under the surface.

Journal #1 -- Chapter 14

For chapter 14, “The Perception Psychologists”, I’m going to focus on the concept of seeing movement. In the book it argues that vision without perception of movement is “valueless”, almost as if saying you may as well be blind. Perception of our own movement guides us in making our way through our environment—perception of objects coming towards us enables us to escape harm. Along with the perception of our hands and our bodies in general gives us information to control with whether its balancing or reaching out for an object to grab.

A case example in the book was a patient who experienced this loss of movement vision—her brain scans along with other tests showed that she suffered damage to a part of the cerebral cortex outside the primary visual receiving area that is known to be essential to awareness of movement.

When she would pour liquid into a cup it would appear frozen, as well as not knowing when to stop pouring since she could not see the rising of the liquid in the cup. People would also appear in rooms suddenly as she could not see them move or come in, and she couldn’t cross the street due to not being able to properly sense the speed of a car and if one was even coming towards her or not. This does show the value of movement perception and our ability to use it for different things—where something as simple as pouring water into a cup or crossing the street would be nearly impossible since movement cannot be detected. You would not know when to stop pouring, or when to cross the street safely.

The author even goes on to say that even without evidence, it is obvious how there is much importance to movement perception—and that we can judge from our own experiences. A lot of the research on movement perception deals with external variables and objective data, but not much about our internal processes. With how people experience things internally is just as, if not even more important than the external elements, due to it being called perception—it’s how we interpret and understand the information we receive through the senses; so it’s more than just the external factors.

Journal 3: Chapter 18 on Users and Misusers of Psych

The main purpose of chapter 18 is, similar to the title, to explain the ways in which psychology is used and misused among individuals. A large portion of this chapter discusses how some people take information found from the beginnings of or from incomplete studies and exaggerate the results for their financial or other personal gain. The chapter discusses how psychology when applied ethically, with good intentions is supposed to better human interactions and quality of life. However, the information given in the lectures and chapter show that it is often used as a strategy to increase marketing or advertising for companies. 
The Pseudo-Psychology Behind Monetary Policy | Mises Wire

60 Second Diet Plan for Fast Weight Loss - Health and Happy HourThey will claim with loosely based evidence that their product will solve some sort of general problem that most of the population faces in order to take advantage of this insecurity to make a profit. In this chapter Hunt also elaborates on the areas in our society in which it is applied to better the performance of careers. Teachers utilize learning styles in the classroom to convey their lessons to the different types of learners in their class.While this is not always going to work it is an area in which psychology is utilized for the better of society. In an unconventional way, seeing as this is a book about philosophers and psychologists, Hunt picks out the ways in which psychology really can be detrimental when misused. Other concepts explored in this chapter are that although there are psychologists in specific areas that are out to do good the ways in which people are tested to procure results from are often not the best way to determine a valid conclusion. He specifically uses the example of IQ tests. Despite this test being repeatedly seen as not providing any substantial information on ones intelligence, it is still widely used for testing. This chapter does well in explaining the easily misunderstood and complex areas in which psychology is exploited in our current society. 

Journal 2: Chapter 11 on Measuring Personality

Chapter 11's purpose was to explain how early psychologists deconstructed and analyzed individual's personalities. This came about after soldiers came back from war and higher ups wanted to ensure they were mentally capable of working. In order to measure someone's personalities there were a variety of methods invented to do so. Many of these are self-report surveys which may be unreliable in honesty when reporting. Woodworth had a personality data sheet. Then Herman Rorschach came up with an inkblot test in which one was supposedly projecting what they felt when describing what they saw in the ink. Evaluators would interpret their answers. After this Murray and Morgan used a similar principle but instead of inkblots used pictures and had individuals tell them the story of the picture, like what happened before the scene, during and after. 

Thematic Apperception Test TAT 1 - improvisation by guitarist ...

Reality is only a rorschach inkblot | Healing Penn
The problem with these tests is that they are very subjective. While there were structured tests that became more replicable afterwords they too had their limitations. Understanding the researchers point of view is vital for interpretation. These tests are generalized and not going to include the entire population. When tryin g to become more inclusive it is not possible to fit everyone in a neat box as being labeled as one thing or another. Researchers do their best to broaden their tests while still making them applicable to majority of people accessing them.
The limitations of the personality tests implies that everyone's personality falls between these 4-16 traits in Eysenck and Cattell's test. This is more inclusive in widening the range of people to observe. However it does not account for cultural, demographic differences. It limits capacity for accuracy. In some cultures people are more quiet or reserved, does that make the stoic or passive in our culture? It is when evaluating the results that experts have to keep in mind that a quiet person does not necessarily mean introverted, especially when in a testing situation, personalities often alter depending on one's environment and company.
Trait Theorists | Introduction to Psychology

Chapter 14

The purpose of this chapter was to go over the psychology of the different senses, sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Our senses are triggered by the brain. When it comes to eyesight, there are many steps for us to see an image. To us, it seems like it just happens right away. There are many steps with all of our senses that the brain goes through. Think of all the steps it takes to have a conversation. Again, to us, it just seems like it happens but there is so much behind it.

Elements of though
Purpose: the purpose of this chapter was to discuss how psychology plays a role in how our senses work.
Point of View: the point of view varies because everyone has a different way of perceiving the stimuli
Question: a key question is how does psychology work with our senses?

Book Report : This Explains Everything

This Explains Everything is a book that in my eyes, I can see being an info junkies dream book. Written by John Brockman, known as the creator of the world’s smartest website, the, this book covers a little bit of everything ranging from complicated scientific theories to little known facts and curiosities that you may encounter in your daily life. Brockman did this by reaching out to countless experts of their respective field asking them to write a brief description about a specific topic that they would be knowledgeable on. He then compiled all of the answers of these questions into one book which covers topics ranging from astrophysics, psychology, philosophy and religion. Thus, the book lives up to its namesake of explaining everything, as there feels to be no topic that was left unturned.

One particular chapter I found very interesting was titled “Epigenetics-The Missing Link” by Helen Fisher. At a very basic level, epigenetics is the biological version of explaining the way the environment can influence an individual. But upon diving deeper into this chapter, it’s so much more than that. While epigenetics does work in a similar way a person from a psychology background thinks about environmental influence, it goes further to explain that the environment has the ability to alter our genes by either activating certain genes or suppressing them from activating. At times, things we may have previously attributed to a learned behavior based on past experiences can actually be attributed to epigenetics altering our gene expression, making certain behaviors more common or less common. I particularly liked this chapter, because coming from a psychology background myself, seeing something from the field of biology that actually made sense to me really caught my attention. The idea of epigenetics complements the ideas that things like how a child is parented, where they grew up, their socioeconomic status, and their education can all affect how that child grows up and what type of person they become.

Another chapter I enjoyed was “Group Polarization” by David Myers. I was previously familiar with some of Myers’ other work, so when I saw his name it caught my eye. This chapter dives into the idea behind how being surrounded by like minded peers can amplify one’s initial feelings towards a specific topic. In group discussions, being in a group of like minded peers tended to individuals to feel less fear and take more risks. This is because when surrounded by those who think alike, the fear of rejection disappears, allowing for one to be more brazen or express their true feelings. This phenomenon exists in almost every aspect of our lives, in politics, the military, the workplace, and in classrooms. Myers also presents the very extreme idea of how terrorism is just group polarization. Very rarely, if ever do we see terrorists act alone and on their own beliefs. Often, it is the work of a group with feelings very extreme, feeling outcast from society or harboring a large amount of resentment as a group, to the point where they just snap and commit the acts they do. In the case of “organized” terrorism, we can look at some groups as organized extremists who all harbor similar feelings, whether they be religious, hatred, shame, etc. and they act on these feelings as a group committing an organized act of terrorism. However, if you were to separate these individuals from their group, it can almost be guaranteed that they would not act in the extreme ways they do. The group mind allows them to express their truest feelings without any fear because they know they are surrounded by like-minded individuals.

I was also very interested in the chapter titled “The Limits of Intuition” by Brian Eno. When many people tend to think about what intuition is, we may often think of it as being more reliable than reason or logic, because it’s our instinctual gut feeling and we should follow it. While this idea of intuition is not entirely untrue, it’s also not entirely true. Intuition lies somewhere between our instinctual gut feelings and our own logic and reasoning, combing the two unconsciously to give us the best prediction based on what we know and what we feel. An example presented in the chapter of how intuition is used is to imagine tying a ribbon around the entirety of the earth on its axis. The ribbon ends up tied a bit too loose, so there is an extra meter of ribbon. The question asked is if you could evenly distribute this extra meter of ribbon back around the globe, so now the ribbon was hovering just slightly over the surface of the planet instead of hugging it tightly, how high would the ribbon be floating. Most people’s intuitions would tell them that a meter spread out across the entire globe could only mean this ribbon is hovering fractions of a fraction of a millimeter off the surface, yet in reality the answer is around 16 centimeters. The only people who tend to think this way and get close to the answer are mathematicians and dressmakers. When you think about it, this makes sense, two people who in their professions are working with similar scenarios. In the case of the mathematician, this is just another equation to figure out and solve, so their knowledge of the subject of math allows them to make a far more educated guess than most people. For the dressmaker, they work with ribbons and cloths regularly, so they understand how having extra slack on a material may work and how to best distribute it in order to create a finished product that still looks presentable and functions. Both these people don't actually solve the problem, but they have prior experience in their lives which gives them an edge when asked an almost impossible question, allowing them to come up with a better answer. Is this intuition, yes, but it’s also these people applying reasoning and logic to their intuition. I found this chapter to be intriguing how it combined things seemingly thought to be opposites, and showed how they each benefit off of one another.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and would recommend it to anyone just looking to learn something about anything. While there were some topics in the book that just didn’t click with me, I can say with confidence that the number of topics that did far outnumbered them. Another part about this book I liked is how each topic isn’t connected. So in the event there was a topic I just had to skip, I didn’t have to worry that I wouldn’t have some prior knowledge because I skipped ahead. I can faithfully say that after finishing this book, there were some lessons that stuck with me, and knowledge that I will be implementing into my daily life.

Journal 1: Chapter 14 on Perception

Within Chapter 14 the main purpose was to try to explain how we take in and process the external stimulus around us. The book and lecture discusses how we take information in through our 5 senses but then gets into how it is processed from there. It is explained through two approaches, the neural and cognitive approach. The neural approach focuses on how we take information and turn it into an image or what we see in our minds. While the cognitive approach is more concerned with the processes we go through in our brains in order to identify large and small changes within stimulus as well as how the approaches work together. A key concept within this chapter has to do with recognition of objects. There are many steps in which our brain has to go through to say that yes a thing with four legs and a flat surface on top to recognizing it as a table. Without this concept we would not have common words to communicate with each other and would be describing things in excess.  A large assumption that can be confusing is that everyone perceives external stimuli the same way. Everyone's reality would be identical and the viral white and gold or blue and black dress scandal would not be a great debate. This assumption is largely disproved by psychologists today but also discovered in patients with processing and cognitive disorders. One of those conditions being face blindness or prosopagnosia. 

Nashville Opera presents 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat ...

Prosopagnosia, or face blindness is the inability to see faces. Oliver Sacks's was a neurologist interested in studying this condition. He wrote a book called "The man who mistook his wife for a hat". In this book he describes how many people do not even realize they have this, they just adapt because it is how they have always perceived their surroundings. The concept of perception and neural processing has so many aspects that it can become overwhelming. Although there are many diagnosis now for different processing and recognition errors I am sure there are rare circumstances that are still unknown for how some individuals process their external surroundings. 

Testosterone Rex Book Report

Alexa Madoff
Psychology: History & Systems
Professor Mark Berg
Testosterone Rex Book Report Post

Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society by Cordelia Fine

Testosterone Rex is a novel written by Cordelia Fine. Cordelia Fine is a psychologist who questions sex hormones and the male and female brains. Throughout the novel, she provides evidence that the inequality of sexes in society stems from an ancestral past and different natures. Cordelia Fine uses her research to take on the myths of sex, science, and society that may be misinterpreted or assumed by individuals. This paper will go over a few chapters in this novel that shows Cordelia Fine's perspective through her own evidence that a more equal society is based on both sexes' full human potential. 

In chapter 1, the topic of biological sex and sexual selection is discussed. A British biologist Angus Bateman carried out a series of experiments with fruit flies. Bateman's research with fruit flies was inspired by Darwin's theory of sexual selection, which was debated by his theory of natural selection too. Natural selection is known as the process where the frequency of different versions of a heritable trait change over time, due to other traits having greater reproductive success than others. Sexual selection theory can be compared to the peacock tail, proving that many males of several species display characteristics that are showier. Darwin's explanations of these theories put an emphasis on animals and their mating habits. Bateman ran a series of experiments where male and female fruit flies were trapped together in glass containers for three to four days. After a few days passed, Bateman tried to figure out how many offspring were produced, and how many from different mates. He found that each fly had a dominant and recessive gene. This outcome of his fruit fly experiment concluded that there is a greater male variation in reproductive success in comparison to female reproductive success. The theory of sexual selection is interesting in the way that Fine explains it. She concludes that females should be choosy and should mate with the best male so that there will be a greater reproductive success. She says this because often women allow men to take advantage of their "expensive eggs", while men just have "cheap sperm". 
Classic study of animal sexuality challenges our traditional ...

Chromosome theory of inheritance | Biology 1510 Biological Principles

In chapter 2, a topic I found interesting that Cordelia Fine brought up was the contrast between the sexual natures of women and men. This intrigued me because the sexual double standard is still an issue today. If a woman accepts an offer of casual sex, she risks being seen by herself and others as a "slut". The question arises of "how come women are seen as a "slut" or "easy" if they go around having sex, but males get applauded for it?" Throughout the chapter, there are several scenarios and studies shown, specifically with males and females on college campuses. One of the studies was done with college students who were male and female who were both attractive. Both of these college students approached other students around the campus asking them questions hoping to get that student to their apartment. Overall, men had a higher rate of "yes" answers to going back to their apartment in contrast to the women. This goes back to chapter 1 where men are "cheap" compared to women. 
Sexual selection
Study Done At College Campus
The Question Of Double Standards For Sex – The Naked Convos
Double Standard
In chapter 4, sex differences in behavior between men and women are discussed. This relates back to the theory of sexual selection. Patricia Casey, a psychiatrist, and journalist asks why "a woman can't be more like a man?". Casey believes that sex most prominently in the form of testosterone and the Y chromosome has a fundamental effect on the brain and behavior. Males and females are expected to have many predispositions and behaviors. Some of these behaviors are portrayed with characteristics like competitiveness, promiscuity, choosiness, and parental care. Personally, I find this true because males and females do tend to act and say different things, but I do not think it is because of their reproductive parts. This is mainly due to sexual differentiation of the brain, in which factors - genetic, hormonal, environmental, and epigenetic that all interact to affect how sex shapes the brain. This chapter, although has factual evidence about sexual differences, does not mean individuals should be defined by what sex they are. 
What drives us? Are there gender differences in motivation and values?

In conclusion, Testosterone Rex was an interesting novel. I say this because I have never read a book that had the main focus on biological sex and how it relates to human development. Also, Cordelia Fine has a specific writing language and uses a lot of sarcasm. Throughout the novel, she uses her research and other evidence to portray that men and women are not seen as equal, although she supports women fully and shows some feministic opinions. The novel did get a little repetitive at times because of her build upon sexual and natural selection. She found a way to keep it interesting though with different studies and researchers proving their theories and experiments. Overall, I enjoyed Cordelia Fine's book a lot and it opened my eyes to look at different points of view.
Cordelia Fine quote: Biology can be said to define possibilities ...

Journal Post #3

Chapter 11
History & Systems

Chapter 11's focuses are the ways of measuring personality.  Personality was studied during the WW1 era to test soldiers' aptitude for serving.  One of the first used was the Woodworth Personal datasheet.  This test was a series of yes or no questions, however, it made the mistake of assuming that answers could be accepted at face value.  The second type of test used was projective tests, also known as the inkblot test.  In this test, the subject would look at a series of inkblots and tell the examiner what they saw.  There also was a thematic apperception test used which was similar to the inkblot test, but used more structure images, and asked the participants to create a story of the events leading up to the image, and the events following it.  The chapter also explains how personality traits are usually internally based and very specific to each individual, and that they exist dimensionally on a spectrum that ranges from two extremes. 

Book Report: Enlightenment Now

Carly Ruppert
Psychology: History & Systems
Professor Berg 
Enlightenment Now
          Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker discussed various topics of public fears or opinions regarding the condition of the world. Pinker urges readers to acknowledge the facts that are often ignored in result of the overwhelming pessimism that is presented in today’s news, which suggest that life and the world as a whole are actually a lot more well off than we may belief. By discussing topics such as life, health, terrorism, and so on, Pinker introduces figures and data sets that show how the world has progressed over the last few decades in an attempt to battle the negativity that is accepted by society today. 
Chapter 5: Life
          In this chapter, Pinker discusses the astonishing progress that has taken place within life expectancy. When you compare life expectancy in the 18th century to now, the progress is undeniable. The following graph that Pinker introduced shows the incline in life expectancy from 1760 to today.
Even in the areas of Asia and Africa that are struggling with relatively slow life expectancies compared to Europe and the Americas, the growth of life expectancy rate has shot up twice the rate of Europe for Asia and one and a half times as much for Africa. This stretch in average life span is mainly the result of the decrease in infant and child mortality rates. 
Pinker also discusses how long with living further into old age, people are becoming more able to avoid the risks of disease, injury, and wear in their later years. Scientists predict that the rate of life expectancy will only continue to rise as more medical advancements are discovered; however, Pinker acknowledges that this does not support the belief that humans will one day life to resist mortality. He explains that evolution and natural selection favor genes that make us vigorous in our youth over genes that make us live for as long as possible. In order for immortality to be a possibility, Pinker explains that biologists would have to reprogram thousands and thousands of genes and their respective molecular pathways, which even in itself has a small and uncertain effect on our longevity. Pinker sums up the chapter with the powerful quote from Davies’s Corollary: “things that can’t go on forever can go on much longer than you think.”
          This chapter instilled a great sense of hopefulness in me for the years to come. A major fear of mine is death, and as we grow up year by year, we are reminded that life goes fast; however, this chapter reminded me that life is actually very long, much longer than the lives that have previously been lived. In fact, the lives of people my age today will most likely be longer than the people who have been warning about how life passes in the blink of an eye. It is very reassuring to know that as time goes on, the chance of living longer is increasing, providing great support for Pinker’s argument on the incredible progress humans have made today. 
Chapter 6: Health
          In this chapter, Steven Pinker discusses the topic of health within the U.S. and throughout the rest of the world. He introduces the chapter by discussing the historically largest cause of death, which was infectious disease. It would be interesting if Pinker would revise and republish this article in the future to include the current pandemic that will definitely make its mark in history and without a doubt affect this information to some extent, but regardless this chapter was very informative and effectively argued that the world is in a far better state of health than it is believed to be. In the past, Pinker explained, people used to treat disease with “prayer, sacrifice, bloodletting, cupping, toxin metals, homeopathy, and squeezing a hen to death against an infected body part.” With the invention of vaccination in the 18th century and the enforcement of the germ theory of diseases in the 19th century, the view on health began to increase in importance. Included in this chapter is a table of the different discoveries that have saved the largest amount of people worldwide. 
Majority of these discoveries are unknown to the general public but are astonishing in the amount of lives that have been saved. The most significant, and also probably the most overlooked, was the chlorination of water, which has saved over 177 million lives. Pinker also discusses the diseases who have not yet been eradicated, including Malaria, showing that this disease that in the past has killed around half of the people who have ever lived has fell in the number of cases by 60%. Related to health, Pinker ends the chapter by discussing aspects of science that have played a role in the improvement of global health, including the introduction of boiling and filtering water, washing hands, giving supplements to women during pregnancy, defecating in latrines rather than in streets or waterways, and so on. 
          This chapter was very personally eye-opening. The first time that I read this chapter was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it allowed me to realize how better off we as humans are today health-wise compared to our ancestors form less than a hundred years ago. The most surprising piece of information that stuck with me would be that chlorination of water has saved more lives than any vaccine or cure that has yet been discovered. Something that the common person most often overlooks has saved millions of people and this is often taken for granted. Pinker’s discussion of how humans have progressed into better health overall was very interesting and allowed me to become more grateful for the seemly small yet incredibly important discoveries over the last few decades. 
Chapter 13: Terrorism
          In chapter thirteen, Pinker begins his discussion by acknowledging that the highly publicized terrorist attacks and rampage killings have caused the public to be on constant edge claiming that we live in “newly dangerous times.” He noted a study that found that in 2016, terrorism was named the most important issue facing America as a country. As a response to this, Pinker states that the fear and threat of terrorism is simply an illusion that serves as a distraction in our assessment of progress. A table is included of the number of deaths from terrorism, war, homicide, and accidents in the year 2015.
This table shows that in the United States terrorism resulted in only 44 deaths within the year, while car accidents caused 35,398. This means that as an American you were around 800 times more likely to die from a car crash than you were to die from an act of terrorism. Pinker enforces that the reason why terrorism causes such panic and hysteria regardless of the minuscule danger that it is compared to other risks is because that is what it is designed to do. Terrorism is used to gain the world’s attention by the killing of innocent people, whether it be for themselves to be known or for the recognition of a certain cause or group. Pinker ends the chapter by coming to the conclusion that fear of terrorism in our country is a not a sign of how dangerous our society has become, but instead of how safe because of the gained knowledge and analysis of how to keep numbers small with the correct systems that are now in place.
          Pinker’s use of facts and data tables was what caused this chapter to be one of the most powerful and informative chapters in the entire book. Since living through the terrorist attack of 9/11, a general fear of possible forms of terrorism occurring again has been instilled in almost everyone in the country today. By pointing out the little threat that it holds compared to everyday things such as car accidents, Pinker is able to calm readers into believing that terrorism is not a sign of a lack of progress, and people today are still becoming more better off than those in the past.
         After finishing this book, I have become aware of the tremendous progress that our world has made as well as the reasons why this progress has taken place. The most enjoyable part about this book for me would have to be the strength behind all of Pinker’s arguments. I really appreciated how Pinker acknowledged both sides to every argument, making sure to discuss first why people may think that the world isn’t showing progress in all aspects that were discussed. The use of tables and graphs also played a huge role in enforcing the argument that the world as a whole has and will continue to progress. The only form of criticism I would have for the book as a whole would be Pinker’s lack of explanation on certain topics. While Pinker did thoroughly explain all of his own arguments, he did not always explain what the arguments of others that he included meant or referred to. This did not make the book any more difficult to read or any less enjoyable, but with a bit more explanation the added arguments could’ve been a slightly stronger asset for his writing. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is turned off by the negativity of the news and needs a piece of information to show why everything isn’t as bad as it seems. Especially now as we live through a pandemic that will go down in history, Pinker’s informative yet still entertaining writing was the perfect escape that still made me fell informed about what was occurring within the world. 

Chapter 11

This chapter is all about personality and how it relates to psychology. The different ways that personality was studied was with test. These were created during World War 1 to see if solider were fit for duty. There is the Woodworth personal data sheet which are yes or no question. The ink blot test is when a picture is show with an ink blot splatter and you say the first think you think it looks like. Thematic apperception test was similar. People were shown a picture and then they had to create a story based on the picture. More structured test were created in the early 1940’s. The test analysis use clusters of test items to measure the traits. Learned helplessness is something that was focused on in the slides. This is a belief that one is incapable of accomplishing tasks and has little or no control of the environment. An example of this would be when a child doesn’t do well on math test and assignments, they begin to feel like nothing will help their math skills.

Elements of thought:
The purpose: The purpose of this chapter was to discuss the different ways personality is measured. It also discussed why personality is such a big part of psychology
Concept: The concepts that are used are the ways that personality is measured.
Question: The question is what makes someones personality different?

Journal Entry 3 Chapter 18: Users and Misusers of Psychology

The  purpose of Chapter 18 was to discuss those who have used psychology in a non-scientific way for some other type of gain or to improve the lives of others, even though in most situations this was not the case. The author introduced different fields within psychology that have been used in an attempt to better the lives of humans or improve their success rates in certain aspects of life. The different branches that were discussed were health psychology, educational psychology, human engineering, environmental psychology, and performance psychology. The chapter also presented information on how psychology is used in advertising and propaganda, where people realized that it was possible to use psychology to influence the minds and feelings of others in ways that wouldn’t be invertly recognized and persuasive techniques. The author provided information on both the positive and negative reasoning on how these techniques are used. The positive reasoning that the author provided involved the techniques that are used by teachers and psychotherapists that encourage and motivate children or patients to lean and change. The negative reasoning that the author provided involved the other belief that these techniques could be used to induce behavior that is harmful while also possibly depriving their freedom of choice and rationality. One of the most well-known use of psychology in covert persuasion was done by James Vicary, who had messages such as “DRINK COCA-COLA” and “HUNGRY? EAT POPCORN” flask on the movie theater screen for 1/3000 of a second every five seconds while a movie was shown. 
While no viewer acknowledged these messages being seen, within 6 weeks sales of Coca-Cola went up by 18.1% and sales of popcorn went up by 57.7%. This caused the FCC to ban “subliminal advertising” on TV and radio, but Vicary later admitted that this original study was actually fake and was just intended to increase his own rate of customers. The author also comes to the conclusion that the recent popularity in using psychology in order to help or better the self stems from people in troubled times who are desperate for any form of salvation. Some examples that the author provided would be aromatherapy, channeling, Scientology, and many more relatively unscientific topics. The author also concludes that this use of psychology can almost all be considered “unproven, unevaluated, unscientific, and, in some cases, potentially harmful in a number of ways,” (741). The author is justified in presenting this conclusion, as research done within these topics have shown that they are examples of the misuse of science and psychology.  

Testosterone Rex: Book Report

Samantha Rodriguez
History & Systems
Professor Berg
Testosterone Rex
Throughout this novel, author Cordelia Fine debunks many myths about the differences between males and females that people have interpreted as evolutionary facts about sex. She has broken down the meaning of sex, the difference/lack of difference between the biological makeup of each sex, and the social construct created about sex. She gives great examples to help depict the way society has socially constructed the difference between a male and a female to be more distinct than it actually is. Cordelia uses analogies, scientific research, and other resources to help debunk myths, highlight the problems within society about the value/view of sex, and support her theories on the non-existent difference between males and females. Testosterone Rex calls to question how society defines sex and forces people to question how they define sex. This book also helps people to understand that there should be more equality between humans as a whole and that sex should not weigh so heavily on equality. 
Chapter 1: Flies of Fancy
The one topic from this chapter that I am going to focus on is Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. Sexual selection is one’s sexual preference having specific characteristics/physical traits that draw them in/attract them. Cordelia Fine uses one example that males have maseratis the same way male peacocks grow ornamental tails. This is to help them entice the female counterpart they are trying to mate with. I believe this affects heavily on the way people view themselves and how people strive to perfect their appearance. From botox, to facial reconstruction, to diets, clothing brand, car manufacturer, hair length, makeup style and so on, people are constantly trying to “improve” their appearance. 
One of my really good friends used to put makeup on and do her hair every time she would get up. Even if she was not going anywhere or only going to the supermarket, she would always do what she called “beating her face”. I asked her one time why she insisted on putting on makeup when we were just going to get food to make dinner and she replied with “you never know who you are going to see at the supermarket”. She proceeded to tell me that “she could meet her future husband and wants to look presentable”. She was so invested in making sure she looked presentable to make sure she was always viewed as attractive in the eyes of society. She never believed that natural beauty would get her anywhere with the male species. I always wondered where she got that idea from until I slept over her house and saw her mother doing the same thing. She learned that behavior/belief from her mother and never strayed from it. After years of therapy, she was finally able to see that things like makeup or looking pristine did not make or break your beauty/worth. 
This is the problem that many males and females struggle with today in society. Everyone is so determined to have the “best life”, most likes on instagram, being well known in the world, and owning name brand items. The world has become extremely materialistic in a sense where they have to show off the things they have in order to prove their worth. Disclaimer I am not stating that everyone in the world has this belief but many do due to the fact that this is what society has glorified.
Chapter 2: One Hundred Babies?
The section from this chapter that I will be focusing on is the decoy study done by Russel Clark and Elaine Hatfeild on a college campus to compare/contrast the sexual nature between males and females. In this study, an attractive young male and an attractive young female (the decoys) were sent out and instructed to approach the oppositie sex and initiate conversations. The decoys would ask their chosen counterpart, “I’ve been noticing you around campus. I find you attractive”, “would you go out with me tonight”, “would you come over to my apartment tonight”, and “would you go to bed with me tonight” (Fine pg.85). The study found the males and females were equally likely to agree to going on a date. They also found that none of the females in the study expressed interest in going back to the male decoys apartment or bed. The males in this study however, over 50% agreed to go back to the female decoys apartment and even more agreed to go to bed with her. Male were more likely to agree to the invitation of casual sex while females were not likely to agree at all. In a later paper form of this study, males were more likely to turn down the offer of casual sex. Yet, women are “slut shamed” if they do have one or more sexual partners while males are not. Males are called a “manwhore” but not as often/easily as females are called “sluts”. If a female gets pregnant and is not married shes called a “slut”,  if a female has sex a person they are not dating?, “slut”, if a female wears something that shows stomach or cleavage?, “slut”, I could go on and on. Males are not easily criticized for their actions. If a male gets a girl pregnant he is not shamed for it, if a male leaves his pregnant partner he is not shamed for it because “it’s normal”, if a man gets with two or more girls in one night he is praised for his ability to do that.
 Females and Males are not treated the same when it comes to having intercourse. Females are supposed to hold their virtue for the right man but he is not expected to do the same? Parents praise their sons for losing their virginity and shame their daughters for it. Sex should not be a crime for one sex but not for the other. Sex is a normal, human activity and should be normalized. One sex should not be disgraced more for engaging in a normal human response. 
Chapter 4:  Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Cordelia Fine explains that when Patricia Casey asks the questions “what can’t a woman be more like a man?” she is not referring as to why women cannot have a penis. Casey is referring to the belief that the Y chromosome brings more to the body than the X chromosome. That having the Y chromosome directly affects the brain and its behavior. Cordelia makes an excellent point when she states that “sex categories are the way we carve up the social world”. Sex is the first thing we use to identify a person. When you look at a person across the room, their sex is the first thing your brain procsess, then maybe their hair color, clothes, height, weight, and type of shoe. People are obsessed with the idea that there is a “male brain” and a “female brain”. Male and female bodies are different in comparison to their genitals, menstruation, ability to conceive, and hormones. Having testosterone does not make you masculine and having estrogen does not make you femine. Males and females both have testosterone along with estrogen just at different levels. 
Being male or female does not affect an individual's intelligence, likes/dislikes, personality, emotional strength, pain tolerance, or ability to do things. The “male brain” and “female brain” is a social construct created to help people categorize things to feel more comfortable. People fear the unknown, things that are not labeled or clearly defined. Due to this social construct about “male brains” and “female brains” it causes children to be raised differently based on their sex. 
When I was younger my mom told me to never stray far from her, do not talk to strangers, make sure you are always aware of your surroundings, go in a group and not by yourself, but my brother did not grow up with these same warnings. In the media, books, movies, articles women are taught to be careful, pretty, kind, helpful, cautious, and giving. All children, regardless of sex, should be raised with the same morals and confidence.
 I once watched a mom tell her daughter not to touch a rock on the floor that she thought was cool because “girls don’t play in the dirt”. Meanwhile, her mother praised her brother for finding insects in the dirt. The mother held the daughter to a different standard based on her biological sex. Based on the idea that girls do not play in the mud, only boys do. In that moment, that mother showed her daughter that girls and boys cannot do the same thing.This is not the first or the last time I've seen this type of behavior. These are not the type of things we should be teaching our children. As they are growing they depend on us to teach them, guide them, and help them become the best version of themselves. We should focus on bringing children but and not resigning them based off their biologically sex.

I would recommend this book in a heartbeat to anyone. Personally I dislike stereotypes and social constructs created by people to help them feel better about themselves. I cannot stand the fact that people believe being a male or female is the reason why one sex can do one thing and the other cannot. Judging a person based off their biological sex is not something we should be doing as a society. I will raise my children, regardless of sex, to be strong, open minded, kind, creative, and themselves. Cordelia Fine is an excellent author who deserves more praise for this novel. It was outstanding and easy to relate to. She provided examples that were easily accessible and relatable to both males and females. There needs to be more equality in the world all around and these social constructs created need to be removed.

Journal Entry 2 Chapter 11: Personality

The  purpose of Chapter 11 was to discuss different theories and beliefs of the personality psychologists on how human personality is formed and how it can be analyzed and/or measured. The early contributions to this branch of psychology were from psychoanalysts. For example, Freud believed that adult personality was the outcome of the ego’s effort to control instinctual drives by channeling them into acceptable forms of behavior. Because traits are not visible objects or technically specific actions, researchers found it difficult to measure personality. This chapter provided certain information on different ways personality was measured, including with personal documents, interviews, ratings by observers, and questionnaires. Questionnaires are the most common tool in measuring personality that is still used today. A famous questionnaire is known as the Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory (MMPI) which was developed in the 1930’s by Starke Hathaway and J. C. McKinley and contained 500 statements that participants would have to respond with either “yes,” “no,” or “?” (uncertain). As a result, the participants responses would be used to interpret where a person fell on different scales of what they believed were personality-based mental illnesses. 
The conclusion that the author makes is that personality is truly a complex concept and cannot be merely explained by hereditary and environmental influences but acknowledges that the different interactions of the two do seem to produce subsequent experiences related to personality. Because of this, personality can be seen and measured from many different viewpoints and with many different theories. 

Journal Entry 1 Chapter 14: Perception

The purpose of Chapter 14 was to discuss the different senses, which would be vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Most philosophers and psychologists considered perception as a fundamentally psychological function as the minds link to external reality. They also believed that everything we know comes from what our senses present to us. The eyes and sight were commonly compared to a camera, but because of the eyes constant jiggling back and forth without producing a blurred image, this metaphor isn’t as fitting. Edwin Boring described what he called the “first mystery of vision,” which asks why we have two eyes yet do not see in double vision. This chapter also provided many optical illusions to show how our vision and our brain can sometimes perceive things incorrectly or in a weird way. An example of an optical illusion that was used would be the image of the woman that was created by Edwin Boring, where it could either appear as a young woman or and old hag, and sometimes even switch back and forth between the two. 
This shows how our perception can change, and the implications of this would be that our perception is not always certain; it depends on the cues that it decides to interpret at that moment, where the next it may decide to interpret different cues. A key concept that was discussed in this chapter was the Neural Approach to visual perception, which explained how the brain is able to turn sensory information into vision. They stated that from the rods and the cones, nerve impulses are able to travel along parallel pathways before being sent to different areas of the brain where they will be sorted by things like color, shape, movement, and depth before being sent to specialized receptive areas. This explanation allows us to learn about the workings of visual perception at a micro-level. 

Chapter 10

            Max Werthimer is known as a Gestalt visionary and Wolfgang Kolhler was the spokesperson for Gestalt psychology who traveled to the Unites states to promote it. There is not an exact translation of Gestalt but a close one would be configuration, holistic and pattern. It incorporates a broad field of ideas. It is basically the psychology of thinking. Werthimer main focal point was the difference between productive thinking, and reproductive thinking. It really focused on perspectives. The perspectives of the scientific method reflect their acceptance of field physics as a model for physics. The perspectives of the mind and brain reject reductionist and linear models of the brain. The influence Gestalt psychology had was great. It created approaches to other topics and was put into textbooks and mainstream psychology. Kurt Lewin used Gestalt concepts to study individual and social behavior. He wanted to see how people interacted with the environment. There was a second generation of Gestalt psychologist, Karl Dunker, Hewig Von Restorff, Solomon Asch and Mutzafer Sherif. They furthered the research of the founders.

Elements of though
The purpose- The purpose of this chapter was introducing the topic of Gestalt psychology. It explained what it is and the significant people involved in Gestalt psychology.
Information- There was a lot of information in this chapter, but the main point was the different perspectives of Gestalt psychology.
Point of view- The point of view for this chapter is very important because it is all about how people perceive information.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Journal #2

Chapter 14
History & Systems

Chapter 14 is about the psychology behind our perception, which is the study of our senses.  While at a first glance our senses seem very basic, there are a number of steps our brains go through to provide us with the information we need on a daily basis to function.  For example for sight, it is a multi-step process just to determine if we recognize an image, while to us it feels almost instantaneous.  First, we have to receive the stimulus, then the image is reflected and transformed to enable us to see it, next the image is processed by the receptors in our eyes, then the image gets processed by our brain, which leads us to determine if this is a new stimulus or a recognized one, which determines the action we take.  Our brains are doing these processes countless times every day, and we barely notice or think about it.  It also goes even deeper when you take into account something like speaking with another person.  You're not only just seeing the person, but you're also reading their body language while speaking to pick up on any nonverbal cues, or your eyes are reading lips to help if you mishear any words said. 

Elements of Thought
An important concept is the interpretation of sensory information, and how widely it can vary from person to person.  As we grow and learn, we determine what things are appealing to us, and what things we dislike.  But these things vary from person to person, where it's rare that someone will interpret something the same way you do.  Everyone's perception is different, what seems like gibberish to one person may make perfect sense to another.
Point of View is very important when it comes to discussing perception and our sense.  Because everyone has a different point of view in life, everyone has different interpretations of various stimuli in life. 
Information is a key thing when it comes to perception.  Information is what we use to perceive stimuli.  We receive information in the form of stimuli that reach one of our 5 senses, and then we interpret and transform that information into sensory information to determine our actions.  There are such things as too little information, where we do not have enough to be able to form solid conclusions or plans of actions, and there are also forms of too much information where too intensive or being bombarded by too many stimuli can cause our senses to feel overloaded.  This explains how at times we may not be able to see things that are actually right in front of us, because we are using most of our resources to see the big picture, it becomes harder to focus in on something specific.