Spotlight Blog 1: Studying

Tests are at the top of the list of stressful things a student deals with. In most classes, they count for a majority of the grade and can be a nightmare to prepare for. Everyone has different methods of preparing, some better than others, for these tests. For those without a set method, there are sources online that suggest the best methods of studying for all types of students and even their parents. Some of these study tips stack up with how memory works while some do not.

In my opinion, exams in high school did not carry the same pressure and weight that the exams in college do. That being said, students still need to prepare for them. While looking for study tips for high school students, I came across an article from LiveAbout appropriately titled “10 High School Study Tips for Students”. As the title says, the article gives the reader 10 tips to help a high school student study. I read them and compared the tips to what we learned about memory. The first suggestion was to study alone. The author, Holly Ashworth, advises the reader to study alone because unless a group is very serious about studying, they will struggle to stay on-topic. Ashworth makes a good point with this tip. Group study sessions can be beneficial but they do tend to get off topic more than someone would while studying alone. I wouldn’t say avoid this all together though. If you can find a good study group, studying can be a lot more efficient. Group-mates can create tests for each other to take. Because of interference, new or old memories that block the ability to retrieve information, students need to study in an environment as close to the test as possible. It is hard to get closer to the test environment than a practice test made and graded by someone else. Tips 2 and 3 tie into each other. Tip 2 says to find the perfect study area and tip 3 says to get all of your materials out. It is important to eliminate all distractions while studying and that all starts with the setup. Tips 4 and 8 both deal with flashcards. Tip 4 tells the reader to make flash cards and tip 8 tells the reader to test themselves with the flash cards. The use of flashcards can be effective but must be used correctly. A lot of students make the mistake of studying flash cards in one particular order. When you do that, you are basically memorizing a list, not the meaning of what you need to learn. When using flashcards to study, make sure they are shuffled before you start using them and before every other time you go through them. Tip 5 says to eat healthy while studying. There was not much evidence as to why this was important in the article but it does make sense. From personal experience, junk food can make me sluggish and studying while sluggish just does not work. Tip 6 says to narrow your studying down to the important parts. Ashworth suggests the use of a study guide provided by the teacher. This goes back to the idea of a practice exam. You should study as much information as you can if there is not enough time, use the study guide as a practice exam. If there is not a study guide, go back to the textbook and turn section headings into questions. Tip 7 says to take a break from studying. This is applying the idea of distributed practice. The brain actually retains more when you study for a little bit and then take a break. Tip 9 says to get enough sleep. Sleeping helps the brain retain what you studied. The less sleep you get means the less you retain. Finally, tip 10 says to study all semester long. The brain will retain more information when studying is spread out. Cramming the night before does not work (MacFarlane).

In college, the tests get harder and consist of even more information. Studying becomes crucial if you want to do well. The Huffington Post put out an article on their website with 9 studying tips for college students. The first tip suggests that students should use multiple study spaces. This tip makes sense because switching environments actually does have an effect on the retrieval of information. If you study in one room the entire time and then take the test in a different room, there could be problems with retrieval because your brain is used to being in the original room. Switching up where you study eliminates that issue. The second tip says to use study and homework groups. Again, as long and the groups are on-topic, they can be successful. Tips 3 and 5 advise a few of the same things as the LiveAbout article. Tip 3 says to make flashcards and 5 says to sleep. Tip 4 goes back to the idea of studying in a situation as similar as possible to the test. They advise readers to make tests for themselves to take. Taking practice tests will prepare the mind for taking an actual test better than any other method. Tip 6 says not to categorize yourself. For example, a student will say they are a visual learner and then only use study habits that work for visual learners. If you box yourself in like that, you could be missing out on other strategies that could really work for you. Tip 7 says go to class. This is a pretty obvious one. Although there are textbooks for most classes, professors could present and explain the information in a way that is easier to process. You will miss out on this opportunity if you do not go to class. Tip 8 says to switch between subjects. Mixing up the order of the things you study is a good habit to get into. Tests questions are not in a specific order so mixing up the order of what you study gets the brain ready to switch from section to section like it has to on a test. Tip 9 says to manage your time. It is important to spread out your studying and not cram (MacFarlane).

As we get older, some of us will become parents and the study habits of our kids might be an issue. An article from written by Kelsey Sheehy says that teens are sacrificing sleep in order to study and gives three tips to help them avoid that. The first tip says to set a schedule and make studying a part of every day instead of cramming. Spreading out the studying will be better for memory than cramming and it will allow the student to get a better night’s sleep before the test. The second tip is to get rid of distractions. This will allow the student to just focus on the material. The final tip is to take breaks. Again, breaking up studying is better for memory than covering all of the information in one session (MacFarlane).

MacFarlane, Ian. “PSY 105: Introduction to Psychology.” Elizabethtown College.           Psychology Department, Elizabethtown College, 2017.

Week 6 First Impression: Psychoactive Drugs

The legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational uses seems to be on the brink of being a popular movement. I think it’s the right time to start legalizing it for both means.  Research shows that marijuana has medical benefits. It reduces pain without the addictive qualities of the painkillers that people usually get prescribed, like Percocet. Over the summer, I watched this series of short videos by Vice Sports on Youtube. They interviewed all of these ex-NFL players about their experiences with painkillers while playing and after their career was over. The responses were the same, football had left them with a destroyed body and an addiction to painkillers. A few of them spoke about how they started using marijuana instead of painkillers to deal with their deteriorating bodies and the stories were impressive. Every single one of them said that their lifestyle had improved significantly once they traded the painkillers for marijuana. Kyle Turley was one of those players interviewed. He has been making efforts to legalize the use of marijuana and has also been encouraging other ex-NFL players to use it in place of painkillers. Obviously, not everyone is an NFL player but there are a lot of people in a lot of pain for one reason or another. Instead of giving them addictive painkillers that may only add to their problems, let them use medical marijuana. There is plenty of evidence that it works.

Recreational use of Marijuana should be legal too. It isn’t as harmful as other drugs. Really, it isn’t harmful at all besides making people kind of lazy while they’re high. You don’t see people advocating for the medical use of cocaine or heroin. I feel that the reason marijuana is not legal yet is because of the stigma it carries among some, mainly older, people. That stigma still puts it in the same class as drugs like cocaine and heroin but in reality it is not. Marijuana is not addictive like those drugs and it is safer to use. Marijuana has a lot of positive uses and should be legalized. It’s just a matter of convincing the public of those positive uses.

First Impression: Memory

Study habits have always been a sort of problem for me. In high school, I never had a problem with studying except for a few math tests. Every class would give us a study guide that outlined everything that was on the test. We would fill it out, review it in class and then the night before the test, I would look at it for an hour and go to bed. Once college came around all of that changed and I am still working on an effective way to study. My studying style varies depending on what class it is. For a math class, I will do problems from the textbook or on a review sheet. So far that strategy has worked well. I run into issues when studying for other classes like psychology or marketing. I usually read my notes from class and read the chapters of the textbook. That can be an issue because it probably is not the most efficient way to study. It’s time consuming and can be a real problem when I have multiple tests to prepare for. This got highlighted last week with the psychology test. To be honest, I barely studied. It was a week when I had 4 tests and a quiz and I did not manage my time well. I waited to study and when studying for some of the other tests took longer than I expected, I found myself with little time to study for psychology. Again, I just read my notes and read chapter 1 and 4. I don’t even think I retained much from studying anyway and I paid the price on the test. For the next test, things are going to have to change. I’m not going to wait until the last day to study. My plan is to review a chapter per day. That will let me read over everything in detail. On top of that. I may try to make flash cards for the important parts of each chapter or even look for a quizlet online. No matter what, I need to put more effort towards studying for the next test.

Can the Damaged Brain Repair Itself?

I chose to watch the TED talk about the brain’s ability to repair itself. The speaker was Siddharthan Chandran, a neurologist. I was drawn to watch this speech because of the reputation brain damage has. It seems like a diagnosis of a disease like Alzheimer’s is basically a sentence to a slow, painful death with no way of curing it. The title of the talk seemed to suggest that there could be a cure so I wanted to watch it and see what the speaker had to say.

Dr. Chandran started off by briefly describing how brain cells work and what can happen if they are damaged. He then showed them examples of damage through brain scans and and interview with a man named John who had Motor Neuron Disease. After apologizing for the doom and gloom he got to the hopeful part of his speech. Dr. Chandran told the audience, “The brain is able to repair itself, it just doesn’t do it well enough”. He showed the audience a brain scan that exemplified what he was talking about and then explained how the brain could be provoked to repair faster with the use of stem cells. That claim was backed up with by a study Dr. Chandran did along with a few other neurologists where stem cells were taken from bone marrow of Multiple Sclerosis patients, grown and place back in the vein. They then measured the optic nerve and saw that the stem cells were protecting the nerve. He finished off with another interview with John.

I found the clinical trial Dr. Chandran did with his colleagues to be the most interesting part of the talk. Even though it was on a small scale, it was good to see that what he was claiming was actually possible. Obviously there is still a long way to go but that is definitely a good place to start.

Dr. Chandran is a trustworthy source. He’s a neurologist so he has been through medical school and studies the brain for a living. Clearly that gives him the background to make the claims he is making. On top of having the right background, he even has a study to back it up. He didn’t just come with some theory that has yet to be tested; there is hard evidence that this could work. Because of that, I don’t have any doubt in Dr. Chandran.

The talk inspired a research idea of my own. It would most likely have to take place further down the road, once more studies are done on the ability of stem cells to repair brain damage. Once neurologists are at a point where they believe they could safely and effectively use stem cells to repair brain damage, they could give patients the option of receiving experimental treatment to cure brain diseases like multiple sclerosis. They could track the damage to a patient’s brain over a certain period of time, say a year, give them the “cure” and track what it does. This can be done by brain scans just like the ones Dr. Chandran used. If the damage is being repaired, then the cure is working. There isn’t much bias in this experiment. I would believe that most brains would react the same way to the stem cells being introduced. On top of that, the experiment is ethical. You can give the patient the option to try the treatment or not.

Introductory Blog

Hi, my name is Ben Thorpe. I’m a sophomore mathematical business major at Elizabethtown College. This is my blog for my Psychology 105 class. I chose to take this class because I needed a gen-ed credit and psychology was something I had a little background in and knew I enjoyed. I took an introductory psychology class during my junior year in high school. It was mostly just basic stuff. We got to design a small experiment with a partner at the end of the year which was pretty fun. When I hear the word psychology, I mostly think of experiments. The three topics that are most interesting to me are Mechanics of Sleep, Obedience and Personality. Getting enough sleep is important to me so I will enjoy learning about that. Also, I’m curious as to why some people act the way that they do and personality and obedience will most likely answer that. The three least interesting topics to me are the scientific method, the brain and observational learning. What I got from the titles of those three topics was that we were just going to be learning parts and procedures and not much more during those periods. They’re probably important but they just seem boring. I don’t really have a specific question that I want this class to answer. My goal is to learn enough to at least hold a conversation with someone about psychology topics. I look forward to this class.