A long time ago, when the world was full of possibilities and I still found writing enjoyable, I took a class my freshman year in college called Introduction to Psychology. Everyone who goes to college should take this class. In the class, the professor required us to write ten journal entries of at least 2 pages each during the semester. The entries were to be about our personal experiences on anything pertaining to psychology. As you'll see, this includes just about everything. A word of warning to nonChristians: This journal was written with the understanding that the reader (my professor) is a Christian so certain ideas are assumed to be true. I would never assume these ideas when talking to a nonChristian ;)
I never took a psychology class in high school so I'm not positive what is and what isn't part of psychology. What interested me the most about psychology is how and why the human brain responds and reacts to events and ideas the way that it does. I enjoy philosophy a great deal and I love reading about the way that different philosophers arrived at certain conclusions and the train of thought that they favor. Of course, I don't always agree with them, but it's interesting non-the-less.
I have thought about the purely physical aspect of psychology; like what causes diseases that effect the nerves and brain. I read in a book about the greatest scientist of this decade, Stephen Hawking. Stephen Hawking has Lou Gehrig's disease, which apparently slowly paralyzes a person over time - not a fun way to die. I would like to find out more about this disease and what its causes are. I'm pretty sure it's not curable at this time. A few months ago I watched a movie called Digging to China. It wasn't very good, but it had the stereotypical retarded person in it. In movies, it seems like the retarded people all act the same. They're always fidgeting around and talking in short, choppy sentences. I wonder if that's how it is in the real world? I'd like to know the different causes of brain damage. I kind of doubt that it makes people act the same way.
I've also wondered about the reason why people's thoughts and actions tend to be so different when they are in a large group versus when they're alone. Take an example such as entertainment. For some reason I can't quite comprehend, movie directors seem to think that the masses are as dumb as grazing cattle. Very rarely do I go to movie that has actually stimulated my mind intellectually-wise. Anything remotely scientific in nature is treated as an incipherable code or, worse, is made to be the enemy. This especially applies to the recent explosion (get it?) of natural disaster movies that Hollywood has churned out. To take a specific example: the movie Armageddon is about a giant comet headed towards earth in the near future. In the movie, the director deemed it necessary to create artificial gravity aboard the Russian space station, fix character conflicts by having one of the characters die in some freak accident, install laser blasters on the space shuttle, and emotionally excite the audience by cranking up the Aerosmith tunes. Anyway, the point is that a book that followed the exact same plot and storyline as that movie wouldn't sell at the Wal-Mart bargain bin. Books are usually meant to be read alone. Why is it that the human brain places so much emphasis on the visual? A book has to have hundreds of realistic facts and plot lines for it to be enjoyable whereas a movie that has big explosions and/or romance-with-humor can make millions. Don't get me wrong. I go to a lot of movies and once in a while I even see one that makes me think, but it's just weird how much importance people place on vision and sound.
I have an active imagination so I love to read all the time. I've found that things like movies, computer games, TV, and other entertainment that is extremely passive can be very satisfying when I'm doing them, but afterwards, my brain feels like it went on standby. When I read books for fun, they stimulate my imagination and force me to grasp complex ideas. If I read a long novel, my memory is also tested. I have to remember all the different names of the characters and identify what their personality is like. After reading a long book, I don't feel like Albert Einstein (or Stephen Hawking), but I do feel like I've progressed forward a little ways in my intellect. I might have learned a couple new words or grasped a new concept. Whatever the case may be, I always feel better in the long run after reading a book.
I just read this really cool book entitled About Time by Paul Davies. I have a few other books by Davies that I really liked so I ordered this one. Davies is a professor of Natural Philosophy who loves to write books about all different areas of science and how they pertain to philosophy. About Time has a chapter that delves into psychology in a very imaginative way.
As you've probably deduced, About Time deals primarily with what time is. Most of the book uses nuclear physics to describe time, but one chapter is devoted almost entirely with the psychological aspects of time. Davies writes about a neurosurgeon named Benjamin Libet who conducted some weird Frankenstein-type experiments on volunteer brain surgery patients. He attached electrodes to exposed portions of their brain and hands. Libet stimulated the left cortex in such a way as to make the patient think that the tingle sensation was coming from their right hand. He then stimulated the left cortex (same place) and the left hand at the same time so the patient would feel both hands tingle. The surprising thing was that the patient felt their left hand (the hand with the electrodes on it) tingle before they felt their right hand tingle.
Most people would think that since the brain is closer to your 'seat of consciousness', the patient would feel their right hand tingle before their left hand. Libet proposed that "when the skin is stimulated, the sensation experienced half a second or so later is referred back in time to when it actually occurred, whereas no such backward referral takes place for cortical stimulations." The conclusion to all this is that we perceive at least some events in this world at least half a second after they actually happen. Our brains apparently have an in-built mechanism that gathers sensory information in half-second 'bursts' and edits those memories before releasing them to our consciousness.
Libet also performed experiments that, in effect, are the reverse of the previously discussed experiments. He attached electrodes to a patient's scalp to monitor their brain activity. He was able to detect burst of brain activity associated with voluntary movements, like flexing a finger. Libet found that brain neurons started firing a full second before the patient moved. It was as if the brain 'knew' what the patient was going to do before they even thought about doing it!
These two experiments tend to indicate that what we perceive as the 'now' time-wise, is about a second late compared to real time. In other words, events that happen in split seconds (car wrecks, falls, and even piano playing) are not controlled by us in the sense that we 'will' them to happen. Our brains have a sort of autopilot that responds to them. Later, our auto-pilot goes back and edits those memories so as to give the illusion that we really did have a conscious part in those actions.
Davies gives other examples to back up his theory about how the human brain perceives time. I tend to agree with most of his hypotheses. After thinking about some of those experiments, I wonder if maybe scientists have uncovered part of the soul of a person. I know it sounds far-fetched, but maybe that 'auto-pilot' in the brain is a person's soul. If it were, that would make it easier for me to swallow. Personally, I find the idea of a mechanism or process that makes decisions for me rather distasteful. If I knew it was my soul making those decisions, I'd feel better about it.
The Bible talks about the soul quite often but I haven't really figured out what a soul does or what it's like. I know a lot of people who just assume that your soul is whatever your mind is thinking; but if my idea is correct, my soul is something all-together separate from my consciousness. Hmmm...interesting.
Today in class we 'discussed' (argued about?) the ethical implications of fetal tissue implants in persons with Parkinson's disease. The class watched a video on the procedure used to implant the tissue and the known benefits of the operation. Since the procedure is relatively new, the long-term benefits aren't known, but 30 to 60% of the patients who under-go this operation improve substantially.
The discussions in class really surprised me. I was under the impression that all abortions, for any reason, are wrong. Because of this, using the tissue from those abortions is also wrong. Some of the people who stated their opinion seemed to think that abortion was sometimes wrong and that since the babies were already dead, it probably wasn't wrong to use that tissue to raise another person's quality of life. I think we, as Christians, need to take our responsibility to God more seriously than that.
First of all, abortion is a sin. It's called killing someone because you don't want them around (not as punishment; I do believe in the death penalty). Incidentally, this is not arguable. People make this mistake all the time (I know this is off the subject of psychology but bear with me). People, especially young students in a free country just can't grasp the concept that some things are wrong and some things are right. Granted, we don't always know which is which, but people need to understand that Jesus expects us to read his Word to find out what is right and wrong.
People rationalize sin a lot of ways but what happened today in psychology has to take the cake as the number one excuse. It's so painfully obvious to me what people are trying to do when they say things like, "I'm not saying I'm for or against abortion, but we need to just support whatever the woman decides to do" or "hey, the tissue is out there, we might as well use it." They will not accept the fact that just maybe, it doesn't matter how much good will come from it, what a person's opinion is, etc... What matters is if Jesus said it is wrong or not.
I hate the way people squirm around when they know something is wrong by saying things like, "who are we to say if that's right or wrong?" People never were, nor will they ever be the judges of right and wrong. Christians need to understand that we're just passing along the characteristics and commandments of Jesus to fellow Christians or the unsaved. Treat right and wrong as concrete objects. They're not hazy, emotional, 'ideas' that can be interpreted a number of different ways.
Getting back to the subject, implanting fetal tissue in the human brain to increase that person's quality of life sounds great if that's all you look at. But of course, life isn't that simple. Women who have a guilty conscience will, no doubt, use that as an excuse (as was mentioned in class) and it gives pro-choicers one more reason to continue their campaign. Since the issue of implanting fetal tissue in a brain isn't discussed in the Bible, Christians have to ask themselves that famous question, What would Jesus do? and apply it accordingly.
Remember also that the world always looks at the statistics: a certain percentage of women are going to have abortions so we might as well make some good out of it. Being a Christian, I realize that each individual is what counts. If my not taking the treatment of implanted fetal tissue means that one girl might decide not to have an abortion, then I won't take it. Yes, I know talk is cheap, but complacency can be even worse.
Well, I read another interesting book called The Logic of Failure by Dietrich Dorner. It was about the way humans think in certain ways that make failure virtually guaranteed. I enjoyed the book but it didn't have anything dramatic or surprising to say. Dorner must be heavily into computer science because he uses a lot of computer programs that imitate the types of complex situations that occur in real life.
Dorner's specialty was groups of people interacting with the environment. He had one program where there was a group of imaginary people in Africa that were nomads who barely survived from one day to the next on what the desert had to provide. Dorner then allowed a group of volunteers to 'play' the program. The volunteer subjects had god-like powers to do anything they wanted to the African people: They could drill water wells, clear land for farming, herd cattle, etc... They could only do these actions in certain time segments. They had to plan what they wanted to do to make the Africans' lives easier, then implement those plans in 5-year increments over a 50-year period.
The point of all this was to show how humans don't usually have foresight or think in terms of the big picture when they deal with real-life situations. Most, if not all, of the volunteers who played Dorner's African village simulation started out pretty good. The average 'player' sunk a bunch of water wells, converted the African nomads to herders and used the wealth from the beef for permanent houses, entertainment, and medical care. This got them in trouble in about the 20th year, however. By that time, the African population had exploded from the new medical practices and the cattle had destroyed most of the land suitable for farming. The water table was also dropping alarmingly from the new, deep wells that had been drilled.
Things really went downhill from there. A famine usually took hold of the population during the 20th or 30th year. This was accompanied by drought from the lowered water table and ecological destruction from the huge cattle population.
Dorner stated that all of this could have been avoided if people would stop thinking linearly and realize the interdependence of the real world. He has a pretty good point. The environmentalists are always griping because of this. They're always saying how we need to stop destroying the rain forests because it might have unforeseen consequences on the human population. I usually dismiss their whining off-hand but after reading The Logic of Failure, I had to admit that Dorner's arguments made some good sense.
I can personally relate to Dorner's computer programs because I play some of them myself. Not Dorner's programs, but games that are a lot like his programs. I have Sim City 3000, StarCraft, and RollerCoaster Tycoon on my computer. Those games all include running a multitude of tasks and building projects to satisfy a large amount of people. Of course, I'm sure they're not as realistic as Dorner's programs but they are challenging. It makes you think quite a bit when you realize that doing one thing will effect something else...which in turn will effect something else...and so on. Like I said, Dorner doesn't say anything earth-shaking in his book, he just wants people to realize that the average person doesn't put enough thought into the interdependency of life when they undertake big projects. Obviously he's talking mainly to high-up people like political leaders, but he does mention how this can affect ordinary people. He went into great detail on the Chernobyl accident. The regular plant workers caused that nuclear meltdown; not someone in high authority like the power plant president.
Today in psychology, we discussed the different senses that the body has, and how they operated. All of this was mostly biology-type stuff but I'm beginning to find out that biology is a lot of what psychology is about. There were six different senses that we discussed; which is one more than I thought there were. The vestibular system is the one sense that I never really learned about in high school.
The vestibular system is the sense that tells you how your body is situated in relation to the earth. Since this system works by using gravity's influence on fluid in the inner ear, it allows people to orient themselves in the right position. I knew people had this particular system, but I never really thought of it as a 'sixth sense.' The vestibular system is important to a person's well being but I know of a lot of times when it gets messed up.
Of course, the most frequent example is carsickness; which the book talked about. This happens because people receive mixed messages from their senses. Their eyes tell them that they're relatively stationary, but their vestibular system is telling them that the car is accelerating or decelerating. Since this is most prevalent on curvy roads, this is when most people get sick.
Personally, I never have gotten very carsick. I have a younger sister who does very easily. She isn't quite as bad now, but she used to start puking from just driving around a large city; anything that involved a lot of starting and stopping. The book also pointed out that motion sickness usually becomes less noticeable as a person gets older. I have become slightly nauseous on very curvy roads, but I've never had to puke.
One thing that the book talked about is something called adaptation. This means that after a continuously large dose of stimuli to a certain sense, that sense starts effectively blocking out the stimulus so as not to fatigue the sensory system. We talked in class about how the main five senses adapt, but we didn't talk much about the adaptation that the vestibular system does. This is probably because the vestibular doesn't normally receive extreme doses of stimuli. That would be like 'receiving' too much gravity or the lack there-of.
However, there is one profession where this occurs. Astronauts experience this every time they go into space. I used to wonder how astronauts could cope with going weeks at a time in space. After all, being on the space shuttle when it's in space is equivalent to jumping out of an airplane and going skydiving without the wind blowing in your face. Most people don't understand that the space shuttle is still under the influence of earth's gravity; the astronauts are weightless because the space shuttle is free falling towards the earth. But its fall is 'matched up' (very non-scientific term) with the curve of the earth so it never falls to the ground.
Anyway, (sorry about that little physics lesson) that means that astronauts initially have a sensation of free falling towards the ground even though their surroundings (the space shuttle) is stationary. No wonder I read sometimes of how the astronauts puke all over the place when they first arrive in space. I consider it a testimony to the wisdom of God that even though He knew that man wouldn't be in space until thousands of years after He created the world, He still built that adaptive ability into the vestibular system of humans.
I couldn't think of anything pertinent to say about psychology today so I decided to go back to that book I have entitled About Time. Paul Davies, the author, has examples of brain experiments that he brings up towards the end of the book. I already wrote about the one where a patient's brain is zapped with electricity in different spots.
You'd have to read the whole book to really understand where Davies is coming from, but basically he wants to know whether time is real or simply something that the human brain makes up. That isn't as ridiculous as it sounds. To understand why, ask yourself what time is. Most people would say something like "It's a collection of events, one right after the other." That may be true but that's not saying anything about time. Why are those events "one right after the other"? How come they don't all happen at once?
Think of it this way; suppose that you had a bow and arrow, and you shot the arrow into the sky. The arrow takes a certain amount of time to arch up into the air and then fall back down, right? Now pretend that you could freeze time at marked intervals - sort of like a high-speed camera. The arrow would stay motionless, then fly a certain distance, and then stop again. Now suppose that you decreased the amount of time between your time-freezing intervals.
As you've probably guessed by now, there doesn't appear to be much difference between time and motion. Are you actually freezing some universal, all encompassing Time when you do the arrow time-freezing trick? Or are you merely freezing the arrow's motion. The matter gets stickier when you realize that when you do freeze the arrow in its flight path, the arrow's forward velocity is zero. So how come, when you 'unfreeze' time, does the arrow continue on its way? If its velocity is zero, it should simply fall to the ground. No, that's not right either. The arrow should remain frozen in place since it can't suddenly change speed and accelerate towards the ground. When you freeze time, that arrow is occupying one particular space and its velocity is zero. How can that arrow somehow 'slither' into a different space and change its speed when time is unfrozen?
Davies said that there are two major divisions among philosophers and physicists who study time. One group thinks that time is strictly a human invention and that for some reason, the human brain somehow 'sorts out' world events (that are actually all happening at once!) and creates the illusion that there is some sort of 'flow of events'. The other group (in which Davies is a part of) believes that there is an actual flow of time in the universe and that all things experience this.
One thing that Davies touches on briefly that I thought was interesting was the question: "Why am I living now?" Now, this isn't something that keeps me awake at night, but it has crossed my mind. Why, exactly, am I experiencing my 'present' right now? In Grade School we always had lessons on the difference between past, present, and future. But those are relative terms. To an Egyptian building the pyramids 2000 years ago, that was the present. Everyone can accept that but because that is true, what makes me so special? Am I really 'ahead' of the Egyptians time-wise or are we all on the same metaphorical plain. Davies calls it a 'timescape' versus the usual landscape.
Psychology isn't the place to get into this, but Einstein's time (most likely the correct one) doesn't have any past, present or future. Everything simply is. The differences in time that crop up between different observers is simply the result of one thing: the fixed, absolute speed of light. Trying my best to stay out of physics, I won't explain why this is, but it's something interesting to think about.
Okay, I've talked about physics way too much and you're probably getting sick, confused, or both. Well, don't relax yet; I think I'll talk about serial killers in this journal entry. I promise I don't think about this at all, but I committed that terrible sin of reading ahead in the textbook, and I saw a section on serial killers that caught my interest.
The psychology textbook had a short description of Jeffrey Dahmer. We all know the sick, disgusting things that the guy did, but I wanted to find out a little more about him (just for this journal entry!!!) so I looked him up on the Internet.
Our class textbook talked about two main causes of abnormal behavior that psychologists debate. The medical model treats mental disorders as biological or neurological problems. This model says that Dahmer's twisted mind was the result of brain physiology or genetics. The other model, the cognitive-behavioral approach, says that Dahmer's actions were the result of strange beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors.
I like the cognitive-behavioral approach better; mainly because it keeps the blame of the crime on the criminal. I know that's being biased, since I don't have any experimental evidence to back that up, but it makes me feel better when I know that criminals can't just blame it all on genetics when they murder people. Getting back to Jeffrey Dahmer, I looked him up on the Internet and found some interesting stuff. No, I didn't find any crime-scene photos. To be honest, that kind of stuff doesn't really gross me out anyway; I've seen too many war movies for that. What I did find, however, was some pretty nasty descriptions of Dahmer's crimes. I was careful to go to reputable web pages. That's not as hard as you might think. Whenever you come across a site that has the blaring title "THE STORY OF THE MILWAUKEE CANNIBAL!!!" you can move on to something less sleazy.
I found out that the reports of cannibalism are greatly exaggerated, Dahmer didn't torture his victims, he didn't cut his victims up with a power-saw, and he really wasn't all that insane. In case you're interested in the macabre; sorry, but the term "necrophiliac" is not a defined psychological term. Dahmer was extremely helpful with the police investigation after he was apprehended. In fact, one of the officers was quoted as saying he "was the most helpful killer I've ever seen." The trial was also quite strange. Dahmer's lawyers pleaded insanity for his case, but I got the feeling that Dahmer didn't really care if he was convicted. He received 15 separate life sentences when he was convicted but he never showed any emotion. It was almost as if he was relieved that he'd finally been caught.
By far, the most interesting thing I found was the testimony of a preacher who witnessed to Dahmer in prison right up to the time that he was beaten and killed in 1994. When I first found this pastor's web page I was thinking the same thing everyone thinks: "Hoo boy, another mass murder finds Jesus and claims to be a changed man. Just what the world needs." After reading the testimony, however, I wasn't so sure. I'll never know for sure if Dahmer's confession was legitimate until I die. I think the average person likes to think about people like Dahmer as the exception to the rule of God's grace; human monsters who don't have much 'humanness' left. The pastor who witnessed to Dahmer described him as a thoughtful individual who was truly interested in the scripture. Dahmer has my respect because of one other thing: He never shifted any of the blame of his crimes away from himself. His quotes during the interview he had in prison shortly before his death are quite interesting.
I don't claim to know whether or not he was saved; but isn't it a weird, if not terrifying thought, that Jeffrey Dahmer might be in heaven? I don't mean that Dahmer doesn't deserve to go to heaven. It just puts the sins that I commit in a different light. It definitely drives home the point that God doesn't 'rate' sins according to how bad they are. Anyway, I've already written more than two pages so I better stop. Everyone is precious in God's sight - even previously demented individuals like Jeffrey Dahmer.
Today in class (Tuesday) we discussed [Chapter] 8 that dealt with drugs and hypnotism. We watched a video in class on different psychological disorders of the mind and the effects of drugs on the brain. It was quite interesting; particularly since I'm the type of person who likes to question the validity of every so-called 'disorder' that psychologists come up with. I am learning, though.
Because I never had any psychology in high school, I always thought disorders and hypnosis were shams schemed up by people with too much time on their hands. I'm not so sure now. The video that we watched focused mainly on Multiple Personality Disorder and hypnosis. They showed people in the video who had the Multiple Personality Disorder (that long name sure helps when you have to write two pages!) and people who were hypnotized.
I still am skeptical of the Multiple Personality Disorder. I don't doubt that people who experience traumatic situations such as child abuse sometimes grow up to have weird personalities. But do their brains really develop whole different personalities? I'm not the type of person to pass judgment on first impressions, however. I like to know everything (or at least as much as is possible) about something before I make a definite decision. What I'm trying to say is that I honestly don't have a right to an opinion on Multiple Personality Disorder because I haven't studied it at all, my major isn't psychology, and I don't have any personal experience dealing with it.
The reason I'm skeptical of this disorder is because I've read so many argumentative books on such diverse topics as UFO's, creation vs. evolution, and hypnotism. A common theme I find throughout controversial arguments is that it is extremely easy for people to become biased without realizing it. I'm talking about professionals. I would venture to guess that the psychologist that evaluate or counsel people with Multiple Personality Disorder don't question the validity of their patient's claims. As I said, though, I don't have the right to an opinion on this topic, but it is fun to ponder!
The other area that we discussed in class, hypnosis, I find quite fascinating. I used to completely dismiss hypnosis off hand as some ridiculous form of self-delusion. As with the Multiple Personality Disorder I discussed above, I'm not sure what to think now. Hypnosis seems to me to be too good to be true. I've read about people who can recall huge strings of data, tolerate pain (discussed in class), and recall events long after the patient has forgotten them. These are all done while under hypnosis supposedly. Forgive me for asking, but doesn't this all seem a little too good to be true? Don't all these things reduce the human brain too little more than a computer?: "You will now feel no pain." or "Tell me exactly what happened on your 3rd birthday."
Pleas don't misunderstand me; hypnosis might be able to do all these things. If it can, then my brain is quite a bit different than I originally thought. "Monkey hear; Monkey do" is what comes to mind. I was always under the impression that my mind was sort of an impenetrable mystery; even to modern medicine. Hypnotism apparently causes the brain to spit out information on command like an adding machine. I know the mind is capable of blocking out strong pain signals without hypnosis - I have personal experience to back that up. As for the 'hidden memories'; the only thing I can say is that things like that have been faked quite convincingly in cases of UFO abductions. Well, I think I'll stop speculating on subjects I don't know anything about.
The psychology class watched a video today over chapter 9 in our books: Classical Conditioning. It was fairly interesting; I doubt it'll be winning any Oscars, though. The famous Pavlov's Dog experiment was shown along with some other animal and human experiments. I'm really going out on a limb here, but how did Pavlov get so famous for that experiment? I mean, I could have told old Mr. Pav what was going to happen before he did it, and save him from having to collect all that slobber. Did nobody have any idea about classical conditioning before Pavlov's experiment? But I guess it had to be done sometime. Makes me wonder if maybe I could think up some really simple principle, do an experiment on it, and become rich and famous.
How about this: Have you ever noticed that there seems to be an inverse correlation (notice the sexy use of mathematical terms) between strength and intelligence? Of course you probably have, but I don't believe anyone has ever done a scientific analysis on this. It's quite pathetic actually. It's almost as if there's a part of the brain set aside for testosterone and whatever hormone controls IQ - lets call it intellegen (work with me here). Because this part holds both testosterone and intellegen, an increase in one hormone forces a decrease in the other. Now, based on first-hand experience, this inverse relationship appears to only kick in when the IQ reaches somewhere around the 140-150 mark. Yes, I have met smart people who had a body that you could chip diamond on, but they were what I'd call keen and witty - not bona-fide geniuses.
Take a look at the exceptional geniuses down through history and I think you'll agree that my hypothesis holds true for every one of them. Albert Einstein, Newton, Lord Kelvin, Hubbell, Maxwell...none of them would have done too well in the Mr. Universe contest. I know what the normal explanation is. Most people just assume that people with gifted IQs either don't have the inclination to increase their muscle mass, or they're too preoccupied with more 'important' matters to be bothered with weight lifting. I disagree: Do people actually believe that every single genius on this planet simply chooses to become weak and flabby of their own free choice? I think not. My aforementioned "inverse principle" is hard at work in their brain.
Of course, I could be way off in my observation but this didn't appear to stop others from gaining fame and fortune. Whenever I come across a theory in my psychology book on how or why something happens the way it does, there's always two or three different proposed theories discussed. Usually, the book just ends up saying that probably the correct view is a combination of the theories. So even if I'm not 100% correct in my observation about intelligence and strength, I can still make my mark in psychology. You think I'm joking...maybe I half am...but you won't be laughing after I pay cash for my Dodge Viper.
Should there ever be a genuine genius come along who can stand his or her own against Arnold Schwarzenegger, I concede that my theory would go the way of the dodo. Incidentally, I consider myself to be somewhat normal. I would say I fall somewhere between the two extremes of testosterone and intellegen. Maybe a tad bit more on the weak, genius side but not so much as to be noticeable. Now all I have to do is get my views published in a reputable magazine and wait for the dough to start rolling in. Should I become rich and famous for my generous contributions to psychology, I might even start my own fan club (motto: Weaker is Smarter)!
Finally, the last journal entry! I never knew I could churn out so many words about...stuff. I just took the test over chapters 7-12. We studied mostly about memory and conditioning. Memory isn't my favorite subject in the world - I'm not too good at it. At least I'm not absent-minded or anything. Names are what I have a tough time remembering. Most any kinds of names (towns, people, products, etc.) I have a really hard time remembering. Simple names I can remember - names like Altec, or Dell or Rick or Norton. But towns with really long names, or product names that include numbers - they always throw me off.
The psychology book has a number of helpful hints in it for improving a person's memory. I don't say that lightly. I've found that most textbooks that try to offer 'self-help' to the students must be written by rich, white-collar guys who have absolutely no hands-on experience, whatsoever. A good example of that is the Precepts for Success book that I had to read for my Precepts for Success class (imagine that). Basically, I think my life would have been better off without having to memorize all that 'helpful' stuff in the Precepts book so I could regurgitate it for the test. I've long since forgotten most of what they suggested and it's only been one week since that class ended.
Anyway, getting back to the psychology textbook, they had some helpful tips for improving one's memory that I used to study for the test. I'm really going out on a limb here, because I haven't gotten my test back - so I don't know if the book's tips improved my study skills or not. The tip I used to the most was the broad one that simply stated: Information is easier to encode and store (see - I remember those terms) when the information is associated with something you're already familiar with. I used to just repeat key facts and figures over and over until I thought I had them down pretty good. The book points out that that is a very inefficient means of storing something into long-term memory. The book is right. I was amazed at how quickly I learned the vocabulary in the psychology book when I associated the words with something I knew well. Plus, I usually didn't spend as much time on the concepts as I normally do.
I probably should do the same thing for my other class tests. For the math classes, I'm not sure that would work too well though. I'm taking calculus and getting decent grades. If I tried to apply that memory stuff to calculus, I don't think it would work. How do you relate high-level mathematics to something you already know? Sometimes I think the calculus professor is teaching us stuff he made up anyway (okay, just kidding). Usually I just try and cram a whole bunch the night before the calculus test even though I'm sure that's not the best way to do it. It usually seems to work pretty well though. I also have to make sure and remember how to enter things on my calculator. Of course, my calculus teacher claims that everything he teaches you can do by hand, but I have neither the inclination nor the time to do that. If I can just remember how to enter it on my graphing calculator, I can get the answer in seconds.
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