psychology of science

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The world’s most detailed scan of the brain’s internal wiring has been produced by scientists at Cardiff University.

Not only does the scan show the direction of the messaging, but also the density of the brain’s wiring. Conventional scans clearly show lesions - areas of damage - in the brain of MS patients.But this advanced scan, showing axonal density, can help explain how the lesions affect motor and cognitive pathways - which can trigger movement problems and extreme fatigue.

Prof Derek Jones, CUBRIC’s director, said it was like getting hold of the Hubble telescope when you’ve been using binoculars. “The promise for researchers is that we can start to look at structure and function together for the first time,” he said.

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In some cultures, it’s traditional for elders to smoke weed, a practice said to help them pass on knowledge. A study done by Andreas Zimmer at the university of Bonn, Germany seems to add truth to this tradtion. The investigators are studying the endocannabinoid system, which helps balance out our bodies’ response to stress. Mice whose endocannabinoid system don’t work properly age faster, leading Zimmer to investigate if stimulating the system may have the opposite effect. Zimmer’s team is now planning trials to see if these observations can be replicated in humans.

Your mind and body are already connected to everything. You need only to recognize it. 

Your atoms come from the guts of exploded stars. 

Your energy comes from the sun and earth. 

Your DNA comes from an unfathomable biological lineage.

You think in words you never invented but that were uploaded into your brain, along with cultural and somatosensory perceptual constructs.

You breathe the same air and drink the same water shared by dinosaurs and pharaohs.

Your bodily senses interface and internalize photons, molecules, vibrations, and other external stimuli to create a scape for your physical reality. 

You are touched by the gravity of every celestial body in the universe.

To believe yourself an isolated, discrete individual is to live in ignorance of these facts and many others.

Connecting is simply a matter of forgiving the imaginary lines of separation you have drawn between yourself and all of This.

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Crystals of the hormone oxytocin

In women, this hormone is secreted naturally by the pituitary gland. Oxytocin has a variety of roles. This includes causing contractions of the uterus during labour, and the stimulation of the flow of milk in women who are breast-feeding. In men, oxytocin causes contraction of the reproductive tract during ejaculation to aid sperm release (lol). It is also thought to be involved in bonding and the formation of long-lasting relationships.

Proprioception’ is the sense of your own body; the understanding of the position of your limbs relative to each other. You can investigate, and fiddle with, this sense with these simple illusions. 

1 - Rubber hand illusion

This is a classic experiment to trick your sense of self. Sit someone down with a stuffed rubber glove in front of them, and their actual hand hidden from view. Stroke both the rubber hand and real hand for about a minute, and they should start to feel like the rubber hand is theirs! Test if it’s worked by slamming down on the fake hand.

2 - Working in a mirror

Have you ever tried this? Looking only in a mirror (block your direct view of your hand), try writing your name. Pretty disorientating when your sight doesn’t match what you feel, right?

3 - Extra finger

Try this to give someone the sensation of having six fingers! Set up the participant in front of a mirror like this, and ask them to look at their hand in the mirror. Stroke their fingers, one by one, from the knuckle to the fingernail, on matching digits of each hand, counting each finger as you go. Repeat it again, but this time, on the concealed hand stroke the inside of the little finger on ‘5’, and then add a sixth stroke, stroking top of the concealed hand’s little finger and thin air next to the visible hand. They should feel like they have a sixth digit!

4 - Double nose

This is a simple one, showing the confusion that can be caused when different parts of our bodies feel different things. Cross your fingers like this, and stroke them across your nose. Because the outside edge of your fingers are touching the nose, it might feel like you have two noses!

5 - Confused fingers

Have your participant stick their arms out, cross them over, interlink and pull them towards themselevs, like this. Then, point at a particular finger - they’ll find it hard to move the finger you pointed at because of the tangle.

6 - Cutaneous rabbit

Test how closely we can feel sensations. Get someone to stick their arm out, then tap them like this: four times at the wrist, 3 times at the elbow, and twice higher up. If you do it consistently, they might feel like the taps were all equally spaced up the arm, not in three distinct spots!

7 - Through the floor

This will give the impression that your arms are sinking through the floor. Get your participant to lie down on the floor with their arms straight out and eyes closed. Pull their arms by the wrists and hold them up for about a minute, then very slowly lower them back to the floor. As you slowly drop them, ask what they feel.

8 - Heavy boxes

Get two boxes that weigh about the same, but are different sizes, and put the same weight in each one. Ask people which is the heavier box. They’ll tend to guess the smaller one, although they actually weigh the same, because their expectation is that the small one should be lighter, so their perception of it’s surprising weight is exaggerated.

Combined, these make a brilliant psychology activity to try with your kids (or, well, anyone!). Get full instructions here.

6 Ways to Improve Your Study Habits That Are Backed by Science

Study in the same format that your test will be.

The research: In a study done by Morris & Coworkers, participants’ retrieval performance, which was a rhyming task, depended on whether or not their encoding task was that of processing for meaning or for rhyming.  In other words, participants who had an encoding task that required processing for rhyming had a better retrieval performance than did participants who had an encoding task that required processing for meaning. This is known as transfer-appropriate processing.

How it applies to your studying: If you know your exam is going to be exclusively short answers, then study by answering short answers and not by completing practice multiple choice tests. If you know a set of terms will be tested in a matching format, then create a study guide that involves you having to match terms to definitions or examples.

Match the context.

The research: Godden and Baddely really worked hard to prove their point about encoding specificity.  They had half of their participants study, or encode, underwater while diving and half study on land.  Recall for all participants was underwater and those from the diving condition had a higher recall than those who studied in land.

How it applies to your studying: Study in the same room that your exam will be in.  If your exam is in the same room as your class, it’s even more beneficial.

Match your internal state.

The research: Eich and Metcalfe measured the impact of state-dependent learning by having subjects listen to happy or sad music and think thoughts that matched the mood of the music.  They rated their mood and once it reached “very pleasant” or “very unpleasant”, the encoding aspect of the study began and they studied lists of words.  The participants returned two days later, followed the same procedure to put them in happy or sad moods, and were then given a memory test.  Those whose mood at retrieval matched their mood at encoding had higher rates of recall. 

How it applies to your studying: Try to match your moods when studying with your mood during your exam.  This does not mean stress yourself out at all times, but if you’re relaxed and content when studying and during the exam, that is better than being sad while studying but content during the exam. 

Relate the material to yourself.

The research: Rogers and coworkers presented participants with a question for 3 seconds and then a word who then had to answer if the word answered the question or not.  Questions included “Printed in small case? Rhymes with happy? Means the same as happy? Describes you?”  During recall tests, subjects remembered 25% more words that they had rated as describing themselves, as compared to only 5% recall for size, 8% for rhyme, and 14% for meaning. This is known as the self-reference effect.

How it applies to your studying: Try to find things in your material to remind them of you.  For instance, I had an exam on the endocrine system recently and my dog has an endocrine disorder so I related the flow of hormones to my dog. By writing this article, I’m relating long term memory to myself in preparation for my Cognition exam. 

Use visual images.

The research: Bower and Winzenz used paired-associate learning (a list of word pairs is presented) and later presented only the first word.  Participants were tasked with recalling the word it was paired with.  One group was instructed to silently repeat the pairs while the other group was told to make a mental image of the word pairs interacting.  Subjects who created visual mental images remembered twice as many word pairs than those who silently repeated words.

How it applies to your studying: Assign different concepts to different things in the room.  This works whether you are studying in the exam room or if you’re studying in your dorm.  If I were doing this for my bio exam, I’d “hang up” the idea of the systemic and pulmonary circuits of the heart in my closet, put the idea of homeotherms and poikilotherms on my key hook, and microwave the concept of action potentials, etc.

Consolidate. 

The research: Muller and Pilzecker had two groups of participants; one group learned one list of words and immediately learned a second list while the other group learned one list of words, waited six minutes, and then learned the second list.  When asked to recall the first list of words, the six minute delay group were able to recall 48% more than the immediate group.  By having a delay, it allowed for the formation of a stable memory of the first list, otherwise known as consolidation.

How it applies to your studying: Study in chunks of time.  Don’t stay up all night studying! Not only is it bad for your health, but it also disrupts the consolidation of memories.  Instead, study for smaller amounts of time and take short breaks.  Take a 15 minute walk, stretch, read a book, watch a Youtube video, etc.  But don’t study all in one shot.  A 48% increase in recall could do wonders for your grade!

The Schizo’s

Schizophrenia is a familiar term within the mental health community. While the diagnosis itself is relatively rare when compared to the general community, schizophrenia has become a misconceived and blanket term for a variety of different diagnoses.

In reality there is: schizophrenia, schizoid, schizotypal, schizophreniform, and schizoaffective disorder. Sadly, and all too often, these disorders and their distinct differences are not recognized. So without further ado, here is a <brief> breakdown of the different disorders and their specific diagnoses/symptoms:


Schizophrenia: Easily the most recognized and commonly-used term, schizophrenia is diagnosed when a client has at least 2 of the following symptoms:

  1. Delusions
  2. Hallucinations
  3. Disorganized Speech
  4. Disorganized of catatonic behavior
  5. Negative Symptoms

At least one of the symptoms has to be delusions, hallucinations or disorganized speech. Additonally, schizophrenia is only diagnosed if symptoms have been present for at least six months.

Schizophreniform: Literally the exact same as schizophrenia, however symptoms have been present for less than six months but at least one month.

Schizoaffective: Again, all the same criteria of schizophrenia, except there must also be evidence of an intermittent (it’s not always present) mood disorder. A mood disorder may consist of a major depressive episode, a manic episode, or a mixed episode - in which both depressive and manic symptoms present. The most common example I have seen/used is somebody with symptoms of Bipolar and Schizophrenia (it’s quite a fun combination, as you can imagine).

Schizotypal: This is actually a chronic personality disorder first and foremost. Therefore most of the symptoms affect - you guessed it- the individual’s personality.  The official diagnosis criteria include:

  1. Significant impairments in personality functioning as shown by:
    1. Impairments in self functioning:
      1. Identity: Confused boundaries between self and others; distorted self-concept; emotional expression often not congruent with context or internal experience.
      2. Self-direction: Unrealistic or incoherent goals; no clear set of internal standards.
      3. Impairments in interpersonal functioning: i.e. empathy, romantic interest
    2. Pathological personality traits in the following domains:
      1. Psychoticism - eccentric behaviors, cognitive dysregulation, and unusual beliefs or experiences
      2. Detachment - i.e. withdrawal
      3. Negative Affectivity - i.e.anhedonia, “void of emotions”

Schizoid: Once again, a personality disorder. The criteria for this disorder, according the DSM-5 are:

  1. Significant impairments (i.e., mild impairment or greater) in self (identity or self-direction) and interpersonal (empathy or intimacy) functioning.
  2. One or more pathological personality trait domains OR specific trait facets within domains, considering ALL of the following domains.
    1. Negative Affectivity
    2. Detachment - few, if many personal/close relationships
    3. Antagonism
    4. Disinhibition vs. Compulsivity
    5. Psychoticism (explained above)


And of course with just about any and every disorder in the DSM - these symptoms can not be the result of drugs/alcohol/medications, and they must have some sort of impairment on the individual’s social or occupational functioning in order to be a qualifying diagnosis.


Sources: THE DSM-5.

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