My College Class Notes

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Posts Tagged ‘Tharney

Past, Present, and Promise (Video 1)

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Past, Present, and Promise is the first program in the DISCOVERING PSYCHOLOGY series. It provides an introduction to and overview of psychology, from its origins in the nineteenth century to current study of the brain’s biochemistry. You’ll explore the development of psychology in general and some of the paths scientists take to determine relationships among the mind, the brain, and behavior.

Psychology is defined as the scientific study of the behavior of individuals and their mental processes. Like many sciences, psychology has evolved with technology, giving doctors and researchers new tools to measure human behavior and analyze its causes.

In this program, Dr. Mahzarin Banaji from Yale University uses the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to measure how quickly positive or negative values are associated with white or black faces. Her subjects are shown a series of words and pictures and instructed to respond immediately by pushing a button to indicate their most automatic, reflex-like reactions. For example, they may be told to press a button in their right hand if the automatic association is good and to press a button in their left hand if the association is bad. The speed with which the subjects respond is an important element of the experiment because these quick, unconscious connections can reveal biases that differ from conscious beliefs.

The IAT results are matched against functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) data to track activity in the amygdala, the region of the brain that responds to fearful or negative images. By correlating data on the buttons subjects pushed with fMRI information about activity in the amygdala, Dr. Banaji and her colleagues have found some interesting results. The majority of the white American respondents showed an unconscious association of white with good and black with bad, while the African American respondents showed mixed results. Half more quickly associated black with good, and the other half associated white with good.

Tracking brain activity in controlled experiments reveals not only the region of the brain at work, but also the power of images and messages in our culture on the subconscious human psyche, bringing psychologists one step closer to understanding human behavior. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joseph Eulo

June 8, 2008 at 2:55 am

Understanding Research (Video 2)

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Understanding Research is the second program in the DISCOVERING PSYCHOLOGY series. This program examines how we know what we know. You’ll explore the scientific method, the distinction between fact and theory, and the different ways in which data are collected and applied, both in labs and in real-world settings.

Research often begins with a question. Traditionally, answers have been found in lab experiments, surveys, test groups, and interviews.

This program provides an example of research in a field setting. Psychologist Dr. Christina Maslach of the University of California at Berkeley studies job burnout, what causes it, and what can be done to prevent it. Instead of using traditional lab settings, Dr. Maslach conducts her research where the burnout is happening, in the workplace, using a real-world setting as a lab.

By taking this “fly-on-the-wall” approach, Dr. Maslach studies stress as it occurs, relying on subjects’ live experiences rather than just their memories or perceptions of past experiences. In this case, she has developed a scale to measure job burnout and a scale to measure the health of the workplace environment. Scientific methods to ensure accuracy are part of her approach. She collects data from carefully controlled measurements and observations, and the research process is methodical. The experiment can then be reproduced and the data tested by other researchers. By sharing data through publishing results, psychologists provide new understandings and new tools, as well as fodder for new questions and debates.

Through this consistent, long-term work, Dr. Maslach’s research has shed light not only on individual employees’ behavior, but also on the behavior of an entire organization. The application of this research helps individuals develop mechanisms for coping with stress, and assists organizations in evaluating the health and effectiveness of the workplace.

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Written by Joseph Eulo

June 8, 2008 at 2:22 am

The Behaving Brain (Video 3)

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The Behaving Brain is the third program in the DISCOVERING PSYCHOLOGY series. This program looks at the structure and composition of the human brain: how neurons function, how information is collected and transmitted, and how chemical reactions relate to thought and behavior.

The human brain is an extraordinarily complex organ made up of different regions and parts, each with its own function. Chemical molecules and electrical impulses constantly flow between regions of the brain, sending signals and messages to other parts of the brain and body. Much like an orchestra, brain functioning depends on many individual parts working together.

One example highlighted in this program is the brain’s role in our ability to remember. Psychologist Dr. Mieke Verfaellie studies the causes and effects of amnesia at the Memory Disorders Research Center in Boston. Her research draws on evidence of damage to the hippocampal region of the brain, the area responsible for laying down new memories.

Contrary to popular opinion, amnesia doesn’t result in the loss of all memory or identity. Amnesia affects our short-term, or anteograde memory, and our ability to learn and retain new information. What’s interesting and often surprising in amnesia cases is that other regions of the brain continue to function normally, such as long-term memory. But damage to even one area, such as short-term memory, can dramatically affect our ability to navigate through daily life.

Neuroscientists are learning from abnormal brain functioning, such as amnesia, to identify normal brain patterns. For instance, the interplay of brain regions and their role in thoughts, understanding, and behavior are now better understood.

For a more detailed breakdown of the human brain, go to the Brain Exploration feature of this site.

Dr. Verfaellie contributed to an article about memory distortions in amnesic patients, published in MIT’s Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, “When True Recognition Suppresses False Recognition: Evidence from Amnesic Patients.” http://mitpress.mit.edu/journals/JOCN/jcn10602.pdf.

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Written by Joseph Eulo

June 8, 2008 at 1:30 am

The Responsive Brain (Video 4)

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he Responsive Brain is the fourth program in the DISCOVERING PSYCHOLOGY series. This program explores how the brain alters its structure and functioning in response to social situations. You’ll learn about the impact of different stimuli on human and animal brains, from the effect of human touch on premature babies to the effect of social status on the health of baboons.

Dr. Russell Fernald is a neuroethologist at Stanford University. Neuroethology integrates brain science with the study of behavior in natural habitats. The goal is to illustrate the interaction among brain, behavior, and environment. Dr. Fernald’s long-term work focuses on the African cichlid fish and how its social system regulates not only brain structures, but also bodily functions.

When a male cichlid fish recognizes an opportunity to become the dominant male, his body turns bright colors. The male fish then chases and attacks other male cichlid fish in an attempt to dominate and defend his territory. The physiological color change results from a response in the hypothalamus in the brain. In the cichlid fish, the signaling peptide cells grow eight times larger, sending the brain eight times the signal. The result is an enlargement of the fish gonads, physiologically preparing the fish to spawn with females.

When the cichlid fish loses control of the territory, he loses his bright coloring. Some fish, however, will then go into hiding, turn on the color signals of dominance, and pretend that they are still dominant for a period lasting up to three weeks.

The human brain also contains the hypothalamus. Neuroethologists hypothesize that behavioral responses parallel to those cichlid fish take place in humans, beginning at puberty. Dr. Fernald’s research illustrates one example of how animal and human brains receive and translate signals from the social environment, resulting in physiological change.

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Written by Joseph Eulo

June 8, 2008 at 1:29 am

Cognitive Processess (Video 10)

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Cognitive Processess is the tenth program in the DISCOVERING PSYCHOLOGY series. This program explores the evolution of cognitive psychology and how we take in information. Cognitive psychology spans a vast range of study, from the parts of the brain used in reading to the computer’s impact on the study of how humans think.

Researcher Dr. Robert Glaser explains how the process of organizing knowledge in sophisticated patterns enables people to become experts.

One of the studies we’ve conducted on cognitive processes involves trying to understand what it means for people to be an expert. First, we want to understand the performance differences between experts in a field and relative novices in the same field. This contrast gives us some very interesting information and establishes the goals of learning and teaching in acquiring expert cognitive skill.

A consistent finding about people who are very competent in various areas of knowledge like mathematics or science, chess playing, or reading x-rays, is that they develop a particular organization in their knowledge. In other words, their knowledge is highly structured so that when they look at problems, they recognize particular patterns that are meaningful to them. When young children look at a page, they see words that have meaning to them. When older children or adults look at a page, they see much larger patterns of meaning.

For a long time, an accepted theory was that people who were very good at what they do just had better memory. But studies of chess players, for example, revealed not that they remember entire games in their heads, but that when they look at a chess board, they see a whole configuration of pieces that would be meaningless to a novice.

One thing that experts see, then, is a highly patterned organization in the problems they’re presented with. A novice sees surface features of a problem. A novice’s knowledge is much more fragmented, less integrated. Experts also use their knowledge to solve problems, a practice that assesses and strengthens what they know.

These characteristics of competence are the hallmark of instruction. Now that we know some of the patterns in learning and excelling, we can design learning institutions to maximize performance and assessment.


A list of Dr. Glaser’s publications as well as information on the University of Pittsburgh Learning Research and Development Center is available at the following Web site. http://www.lrdc.pitt.edu/page/glaserPage.htm.

Written by Joseph Eulo

June 8, 2008 at 1:19 am