Is the Choice Really Ours?

--Original published at The Core Techs

B.F. Skinner was a psychologist who strongly believed in operant conditioning (learning through a rewards and punishment system). He furthered his studies by using pigeons and having them do certain tasks to receive food (it’s literally food for thought). Skinner ultimately determined that operant conditioning had such a strong influence, humans could basically be manipulated to do whatever others wanted. Free will was simply an illusion.

Are you familiar with “The choice is yours” phrase? This can more commonly be related to a loose definition of free will. Free will basically states that people have the freedom to choose how they act and what they say. We are in control of our own behavior. But are we really?

In Skinner’s experiment, he slightly starved the birds, forcing them to see food as a reward. What would have happened if Skinner did not starve the pigeons? Would they still have done the tricks to receive food? Think of it in the terms of a human experiment; do we choose to eat, or are we forced to eat? We seemingly choose to eat at our own will. What we eat, when we eat, or who we eat with may all seem like things that we determine on our own. But, we also need food to survive. Do we eat because we want to or because we need to? Did we choose to eat what mom made for dinner, or did she force us? Do we eat when we want to, or do we have an underlying schedule to eat? What about our friends? When we eat can sometimes revolve around their schedule. This is a pure example of a rewards and punishment system. If we eat on our own desired time, we might not get to eat with our friends. If we change what time we want to eat based on others, we get the reward of eating with company. It may seem like we chose when we wanted to eat, but really we did not; our friends did. Another example of where free will can be seen as false is in children who grow up to be violent. People often say that we can “choose” our destinies. We can establish the difference between good and evil. We choose whether or not to commit a crime. Although some people believe this, eventually, everything comes back to biology. According psychologists, people who grow up to commit crimes often times have a biological disorder, they grew up watching their parents commit violent acts, or actions that are the cause of observations. It seems as though nearly everything has an underlying cause, and nothing is truly “free will.” Often times, people fail to realize the difference between free will and underlying causes because environmental factors go by unnoticed. According to Skinner, one would choose not to participate in illegal activities because of personal values and history, and other environmental contexts (punishment). Even still, it is also true that one would not choose to participate in a crime because of the rewarding aspects: having a clean record, not getting fined, etc. One last example is one that college students may be able to relate to; Why did you choose your career in college? Did you choose your career because you enjoyed it? Did you choose it because you wanted to follow in your family’s footsteps? What about money? In choosing your college, did you choose it because of location? Price? If free will was true, humans would be able to do whatever they wanted in this life, however, there seems to be an underlying factor to nearly all of our decisions.

Without thought, there is no purpose. Purpose requires determination. Determination requires questioning. Questioning is the result of many possible outcomes. Free will has, is, and always will be influenced.

What do you think, Core Techs? Is free will real or just an illusion?



What Does the Mind Say?

--Original published at The Core Techs

Suicide rates in today’s world are so high that one self-inflected death happens every fifteen minutes. It is also said to have nearly doubled compared to the rates of homicide. Crazy? I think yes…

Over the years, I have encountered many interesting experiences in life that shape me into who I am today. Although many of those experiences have been wonderful, there are always cons to every pro. In high school, I was in the ages where suicide peaked in the area. There had been three suicides of former students I knew, and three students whose fathers had killed themselves. These six lives were ones that I was personally affected by, but were they the only ones? No. It is very sad to say that many of these deaths were caused by brain disorders only over the time of just four shocking years. Keep in mind that these suicides were only within my school district. This does not include other suicides that had happened in neighboring schools. My school district is a very unique one; although so many tragic events have happened, each student and faculty member manages to come together to create a special type of bond that is similar to that of a family. In this sense, many of us were able to recover over time, and many students who suffered from depression or suicidal tendencies have been helped. It does not stop there, though. People must continue to speak out about suicide and other mental disorders; Early detection is key.

One TED Talk really helps define what a “mental disorder” is, and how it is actually being labeled as a “brain disorder” now. In the beginning of the talk called “Toward A New Understanding Of Mental Illness,” Thomas Insel explains all the improvements that humankind has made over time due to new technology and information. Despite this, as previously said, with every pro there must almost always be a con. He then speaks of how although rates such as leukemia, heart disease, AIDS, and strokes have lowered in the sense of deaths, suicide still remains at the same consistency. Why is this? Well, just as mentioned before, these other diseases have been halted because of early prevention. If people do not understand very much about suicide and other bad mental health tendencies, how can they prevent them? As time goes on, technology and more research is allowing the human race to gain more knowledge about mental health. For example, Insel shows pictures of the brain in three different patients. One who has depression, another who has OCD, and the third with PTSD. Each picture labels how the brain is structurally different in the sense of how thought processes occur. It is abnormal compared to the average brain. Different parts of the brain are used more than others and perhaps in the wrong order as well. The speaker also goes on to show scans of a schizophrenic’s brain in the before and after stages. In the before stages, we can see where the thought processes are taking place, and which parts of the brain are working the hardest. Decline has not necessarily taken place yet; even if it was, it was not noticeable. Over the years however, the brain has shown massive decline in gray matter. Deficits in the brain are obviously present. Insel talks about ways that we should now be able to tell if the brain is functioning differently from the rest of us (that is, of course, if you had the fancy technology to perform these functions). He speaks of how the brain is wired; Sometimes, people who have these brain disorders can have variations in the wiring. Despite this, risk factors may become present, giving us clues as to who may be in danger of these disorders. Parkinson’s diseases, on one hand, has a section of the brain that is completely “blown out”, but in these cases (OCD, depression, PTSD, etc.), there are “road blocks” – things that prevent the brain from functioning in the way it should. It is not so much a physical problem, but rather a communication problem, similar to arrhythmia. Early declines are often shown, but ignored because they are not considered “full on” factors to a specific disease. Detecting decline in a brain disorder is essential because often times, the disorder is not obvious until behaviors have changed, and behavior change is the last step in brain alteration. “There are changes in the brain a decade or more before you see the first signs of a behavioral change.” Early intervention involved early detection, and this is not just the “detection” of behavior change. Insel speaks about how people in today’s world do not currently have the technology to detect specific changes in individual diseases, but inferences can be made based on other. Because of this, we should be given ideas of where to go from here.

This talk was very interesting because it showed the audience why “mental disorders” should be labeled “brain disorders,” and not just because of the typical brain imbalance. It is all about structure, communication, and reasoning inside the brain. There is much more to it than meets the eye. I find it quite incredible how everyday lives can change simply because of a lack of communication (both literally and metaphorically).

Overall, Insel seemed pretty trustworthy. Not only do they make fair an logical points, but they provide evidence with it as well. Some of the information in his speech is given through data and other types of research, and his speech is also supported by pictures, graphs, and diagrams coming from specific scientific studies with credible sources. The presenter also seems very confident his information being supplied. He provides reasonable evidence to inform and capture his audience.

In order to perform a research experiment based on the information Insel provides, I think it would be most interesting to design a study revolving around schizophrenia patients. Schizophrenia is one among many of the diseases that obvious symptoms are not detected until the very last stages. I would conduct the experiment by having many patients with diagnosed schizophrenia, and many younger patients who are at risk for schizophrenia volunteer to have brain scans done. In these brain scans, it would show which parts of the brain are being used most heavily in certain situations, and if there are communication errors or other abnormalities taking place between the parts of the brain. Then, once brain scan results come back, we can relate the scans to behaviors and be able to come up with a possible theory to detect early brain deficits and symptoms for schizophrenics.

If we advocate for more technology and studies to be brought about for the right of solving brain disorders early on, things such as suicides could be prevented.

We will never forget you, Gabriel. Hope you’re catching the biggest fish up in God’s rivers. ❤🎣



Photo courtesy of Camie

Meditation Makes the Mind Mutter

--Original published at The Core Techs

I decided to attend the Meditation Program with Dr. Jeffery Long on Wednesday, January 31st, at 7pm. This event took place in the High Library, in a room on the fourth floor which I had actually never discovered beforehand. It was very calming, and I think I will go back there to study sometime! Anywho, I attended this meditation event because I am very fond of meditating. I try to do it daily; it really calms the mind and helps people unwind. It also allows people to control their minds or recognize their thoughts more easily. At the time, I had been a bit overwhelmed with school and some other work, and my friends and I determined that we could use something to relax for a bit. Going in a group, we decided to try something new.

The people who attended this event were primarily college students, however, some adults were present as well. For example, an older woman who had been working on campus explained that her husband meditates while she watches the kids and she wanted to try it. When Dr. Long asked where her husband was at the moment, she ironically explained that it was his turn to watch the kids! Some of the other students at the Meditation Program had been there before, and others, like me, were brand new to this event. Although this is true, the professor gave each attendee an equal amount of confidence, even for the newcomers. He explained that although practicing meditation is helpful, there is not a harmfully incorrect way to do it (he did eventually give examples of what is not meditation, but I will get into that later).

I learned many things during this experience. For example, Dr. Long started out by guiding us in what meditation would be like, especially for some of the people that had never tried it before. He mentioned that meditation was all about relaxing and quieting the mind. It was explained that many thoughts would begin to enter our heads and pester us. Our first reaction would typically be to try and force the thoughts out. Although this is true, the professor said that this was not healthy and it actually gave one of his students a headache once. Instead of trying to push the thoughts out, he emphasized to recognize the thought, but let it lightly pass. Recognize its presence, but do not be angry that it has intruded. He also recommended things we could say to ourselves during the meditation to bring our focus back. After lots of discussion, the class began the actual meditation process. We started out by breathing deeply, pausing, and exhaling slowly. Our ears listened to Dr. Long’s voice, and we slowly drifted away from the world around us. As I peacefully lied on the floor, I was quickly startled by someone’s snoring! This person had actually mentioned to fall asleep! After some time, everyone came back out of their meditative state, signalled by the professor, and began to rustle around. Dr. Long allowed us to open up discussion at the end, letting people describe how they felt and what happened. The snoring was brought up, and Dr. Long explained that falling asleep, although it is not hard to do if one is in an exhausted state before beginning meditation, is not a true form of meditation. This is because the mind is not being controlled, but rather freely wandering. After learning many things and feeling accomplished and relaxed, my friends and I left the event.

In psychology class, we had a lot of discussions about mental processes (aka psychology…) and cognitive thinking. Meditation strongly relates to the topic as it has much to do with thought processes. For example, in mediating, we were asked to try to control our thoughts by noticing them and simply letting them pass. Many people, in an average day and setting, have many thoughts that pass in and out of their heads. Our minds are like busy highways; things that can seemingly never be silenced. It was discussed in the book that when our minds get cluttered with things or we face troubling times, therapy can be seen as a benefit. Meditation is considered a therapy due to its many “healing” properties. The calming aspects allow us to focus and ultimately learn more about ourselves and be more reflective in the long run. It was also interesting to be able to recognize some of my thought processes. Perhaps it is possible to recognize them and control them if I continue to meditate.

If I would have been in charge of this event, I think I would have had a follow-up with each of the students. Although Dr. Long does have meditation programs each week, it would be interesting to have students keep a journal and record what thoughts they notice within their meditations if they continue to do it throughout the week up until the next event. Improvements could be discussed and depending on outcomes, suggestions could be provided. Not only does this help the teacher keep in contact with the students, but it also helps everyone in realizing the benefits of meditation and how it can improve aspects of daily life. The more people come, the more results possible, and ultimately, a research experiment has begun. Evidence is always crucial in an experiment, but whether one chooses to accept or reject the responses in this case all depends on belief.

Have you meditated before, Core Techs? What do you think?



What Does It Take?

--Original published at The Core Techs

What does it take to become the best parent you can be? What does it take to raise a child or multiple children who grow up to live happy, healthy lives?

They say that in order to be a parent, you must first be a child. What does this mean? The answer is actually pretty simple – just put yourself in your child’s shoes! I am no parent, so I really don’t have much room to talk, but coming from a young adult’s perspective may provide an advantage.

I grew up as an adopted child. The nature vs. nurture debate seems to be a rather popular study among my life. Growing up, there are many things I appreciated that my adoptive parents did. One of the most important things they did for me was treat me like I belonged. I was adopted – I was not the same blood as my family. Sometimes, this can be devastating to find out for some children. Although this may be true, my parents always told me growing up about how special I was, and that it didn’t matter where I was from because I belonged here. Another important thing to consider is to not try to hide the fact that your child is adopted. My parents told me that I was adopted right from the beginning, and they probably started telling me before I even understood what it meant. Holding the truth back for a longer amount of time is going to hurt worse in the long run. It’s like pulling back the arrow farther and farther, and the more you pull it back, the more powerful and harmful the release is. As a parent, you must always be careful what you say; monkey-see, monkey-do. Children really are monkeys, and that is no doubt. If you curse frequently, your child will pick up on this. Kids are very quick and eager learners. Sometimes, they learn things a little too young and a little too fast. Often times, they do not realize the weight of the things they say or what they even mean for that matter. Setting a good example is one of the most important parts of being a parent. Being healthy is a crucial example to set. Teach your kids to eat and exercise properly. Teach them to be responsible, say please and thank you, and sleep well (bathing and brushing teeth is important too, unless, of course, you like the smell of a stinky breath and bad B.O.). All of the regular, everyday activities are essential to learn, but one of the most everyday activities is often far over-looked; to love.

Love is one of the biggest components. In order for children to grow up to reproduce, we must teach them not to be afraid of love. One of the first things a baby picks up on is the idea of a “mommy” and “daddy.” Automatically, children associate these two terms together. Right from the start, it seems obvious that mommy and daddy are in a little thing called love. As they grow up, they will watch everything you do, including how you treat your significant other. There is a great story about the love of a mother and her beliefs on teaching her child about what love should be;

A young couple gets married, being passionate, fiery, and adventurous. Their love was a bond that was impossible to separate. Every morning, the husband would carry his wife out of the bedroom in his arms. She giggled wildly as he dropped her off in the kitchen. Eventually, this couple had a baby. As the baby grew up, times got tougher. The couple would often find themselves arguing and picking little fights. The child was growing up fast, and soon he would notice that mom and dad were not as in love as they once were. The mother says to her husband, “Do you remember when you used to carry me out of the room in your arms each morning?” He replies, “Yeah, when we were actually in love.” The mother replies, “I need you to start doing that again. For our little boy. He needs to know what true love looks like.” It took some convincing, but eventually the father agreed. The boy laughed with joy every morning the father carried the mother out from the bedroom to the kitchen. One night, the husband told the wife that he would like a divorce, and although she did not want one, she agreed… Under one condition; “Up until the moment of our divorce, you must continue to carry me out of the bedroom smiling for our little boy,” she said. The man was hesitant, but caved in. As the days went by, the husband continued to pick up the wife and haul her to the kitchen. Memories flooded his brain, and a part deep inside of him grew sad that this had to end. As he picked her up, he began to notice her features more; She looked tired… Much more tired than her usual energetic self. He also noticed that she was loosing weight, almost to the point where he could feel her rib cage. How much had he missed? What had happened? The days passed, and the more he could feel himself falling in love again, watching as their little boy giggled hysterically. Why would he ever even think about giving this up? He marched upstairs to tell his wife that he would no longer like a divorce, but when he got upstairs, he walked in only to find her pale body lying lifelessly in bed with a note beside her. In the letter, she explained that she was diagnosed with cancer a while ago. They told her she only had a few more weeks to live, and she did not want anyone to grieve for her while she was still alive. She only wished for their little boy to know what true love was…

This story makes a very good point in saying “Don’t take life for granted,” but it also shows the true love of a mother with a young, growing child. So, although all the essential things, such as setting examples for your child on how they should eat, exercise, work, say please and thank you, and more, showing them how to love is what I believe is the most important. Hopefully, their future is filled with success, and he or she will grow up to have a beautiful spouse with beautiful children who also know what love is. May the tradition continue through the generations. Maybe someday the world will know peace.

What do you think is the correct way to approach parenting, Core Techs?



Life Through Theoretical Lenses

--Original published at The Core Techs

Miguel has been struggling with his coursework lately. He has felt very tired in recent weeks and has found it difficult to focus on his studies. Even though he is always tired, he has trouble falling asleep at night, is irritable during the day, and picks fights with his roommates. He is a bit of a perfectionist and gets mad at himself when he makes even tiny mistakes. It’s gotten to the point where he doubts his ability to do anything right.

What’s wrong with Miguel? Well, according to psychology and its different theories for explaining behavior and mental processes, we may be able to help diagnosis him, and form a solution from there.

There are many different theoretical perspectives in psychology, but we are going to use these six to diagnose Miguel: the psychodynamic, behavioral, humanistic, cognitive, neuroscience, and cultural perspectives.

Life through the theoretical lenses of psychodynamic perspectives explain that human behavior is the result of underlying wants and conflicts. A lot of underlying desires, according to Freud, often relate to sex. In Miguel’s case, it is very possible that he cannot concentrate on his studies or sleep at night although he is tired, because his brain is engaged in unconscious sexual activity. It is also possible that he is irritable and picking arguments with people because perhaps those that he is angered by are friends with the one he is thinking of. Although this is a possibility, there could also be the chance that besides sexual activity, Miguel could be struggling with jealousy. He could be angry that he is not more similar to the people that he unconsciously wishes to be like. If he does not do things exactly as those other people do, this could frustrate him even more. There could be many other potential underlying or unconscious drives that are causing Miguel to act in such ways.

If we are seeing life through the lens of behavioral perspectives, everything tends to be influenced by genetics and who we are as human beings. For example, if Miguel’s parents were easily irritable or had problems falling asleep, there is the chance that the disorder could be passed down to their offspring. There is also the possibility that OCD or other perfectionist-like genes have been passed down through Miguel’s ancestors.

If you look through the lens of the humanistic theory, you might as well just be looking at yourself through the mirror. This theory is largely focused on how people perceive themselves. Miguel could have been struggling with his coursework because he did not have faith in himself to do it. He also may not have been getting sleep at night although he was tired because he was up, thinking about what he did in a previous situation, and what he wishes he could have done. Because he does not have faith in himself, he could dislike his own image, and see his reflection as someone nasty. Perhaps this is why he acts rudely towards others. He may also want to view himself as perfect, but simply discovers flaws in his work and nearly everything else he does, causing him to lose hope in almost every aspect of life.

The cognitive theory is all about how we process and analyze things mentally. If Miguel sees someone’s face and views it as a threat (such as the typical snarl or glare), he could begin to pick fights with them or automatically dislike them every time they pass. Cognitive theories also have a lot to do with reasoning. It is possible that Miguel has previous facts or rumors about these people that lead him to believe they are bullies. Maybe he remembers something negative they did to him in the past…

Looking at the neuroscience perspective, everything has to do with enabling emotions, memories, and other sensory experiences. In Miguel’s case, he may have been doing so poorly with his coursework because of having a negative outlook on life. His thoughts could have been something along the lines of “I hate school,” or “This is the worst subject in the world!” Because of having such a pessimistic attitude, it makes him quick to jump to short-tempered responses. He could be very emotional and sensitive to certain stimuli. It’s possible that these stimuli bring up bad memories or give him bad feelings. The neuroscience theory really has to do with how a person feels specifically about life.

Last, but not least, the cultural perspective could be heavily influencing Miguel. Many teens and other students (especially here in America) tend to have very negative thoughts about school. If you like school, you’re seen as a nerd. Culturally, this term is not necessarily a positive one either. Because of this, Miguel has been influenced to dislike education automatically due to stereotypes in his culture. Sometimes, putting other people down and being mean is a way to make yourself seem bigger and better than others. Perhaps this is why Miguel would always be frustrated and short-tempered. Going to bed early also makes teens seem like “losers.” Staying up until the early hours of the morning can determine whether a student is “cool” or not. Culture influences are huge, especially with Miguel being a current student.

After diagnosing Miguel from many different theories and perspectives, it is now easier to combine information and come up with a recovery or assistance plan. Each of these perspectives combined give more possibilities, and therefore, more widespread ideas for nourishing one back to health. Because of having more options, it allows Miguel to be more flexible, and have more chances to recover. Without one of these theories, certain ideas may not have been developed. Clearly, each theory of psychology, no matter which lens one is looking through, must come together to form the best outcomes.

Which theory do you think is the most accurate and heavily used in today’s world, Core Techs?



To Weave Or Not To Weave

--Original published at The Core Techs

MythBusters, a popular television show from Discovery Channel, has plenty of mini-myths which help debunk many wives’ tales and other rumors. Although each mini-myth is highly captivating, people should know that Hollywood cannot always be trusted. Here, we are going to be critiquing one of the MythBusters episodes, “Does Weaving Through Traffic Actually Get You to Your Destination Faster?”

The episode starts out by explaining the old tale: Weaving through heavy traffic will not make a difference in getting you to your destination faster compared to if you stay in one lane. In this case, the Busters begin their experiment with two different cars: the weaver, and the non-weaver. Both cars must travel the same route at the same time, and the goal is to see who will make it to their destination first. After making many lane changes, stressful decisions, and frustrating other drivers, the weaver and non-weaver end up at their destination at nearly the same time. So there it is; Myth proven true! Or has it been? There are many strengths and weaknesses to this experiment.

Their strengths come from many different aspects. For example, setting both trials under the same conditions was a smart idea. Both cars were to take the same route at the same time. Driving conditions were identical. If they had taken different routes at different times, this may not have been appropriate as driving conditions could have changed, giving advantage to one and not the other.

Although this is true, there are many weaknesses that could have been improved throughout this experiment. For example, MythBusters only conducted one trial. In order to get a solid conclusion, they could have conducted the same exact experiment a few more times to compare, or they could have changed the drivers. The car make and model should have also been the same. Different cars have different functions. Locations matter too; Perhaps they should have performed more than one trial on different roads. It is better to provide multiple scenarios and trials when making a conclusion on hypotheses such as these. Getting more information from more widespread places is beneficial because perhaps the myth proves to be true in one place, but not in another.

What do you think, Core Techs? Does weaving in and out of heavy traffic get you to your destination faster or not?

Stay safe on the roads!




--Original published at The Core Techs

Hello, Core Techs!

Since this is my very first blog post, I’m going to be talking a bit about myself and my General Psychology course for college! Let’s start off with some Q&A:

Q: Why did you choose to take this class?

A: As an Occupational Therapist, understanding how the brain works with others, itself, and the environment is essential. In other words, it is crucial to understand why people do the things they do, scientifically. Understanding what is happening mentally can be a big factor to understand what is happening physically. The processes people take can sometime lead to very interesting questions and conclusions. Besides needing this course for credits, I am also very interested in psychology. I took the course in high school and loved it. It made me think a lot more about why we do the things we do as humans, and how we are even capable of doing such things.

Q: What background, if any, do you have in psychology?

A: As previously mentioned, I took psych in high school. I have also done some research here and there on my own time just out of plain curiosity! OT and Biology classes also touch lightly on subjects in a psychological manner from time to time.

Q: What do you think of when you hear the word “psychology”?

A: BRAINS. I really do! Not that I’m a zombie or anything… But everything about psychology involves the study of the human mind and how it interacts with everything. Incredible, isn’t it?

Q: On the course syllabus, which three subjects look most interesting, and which three look the least interesting? Why?

A: Many subjects on the syllabus interest me! To list a few, I am highly interested in learning about sleep, mental illnesses and other disorders, and emotion! I feel that these are all very relative to my life. Teens and other young adults, especially those in school, often have inquires about sleep, emotions, stress, depression, anxiety, and more. Perhaps if I learn more about these subjects, I will be able to assist my colleagues in understanding more about the psychological reasoning and effects of these things, and perhaps it will benefit me as well. As for the subjects I am least interested in, it is probably the units about classical conditioning, operational conditioning, and observational learning. Not that these aren’t interesting subjects, but I have already learned about them in high school and did not take great interest in them. However, I’m sure there’s always more than meets the eye!

Q: What question about psychology do you want to answer by the end of the class?

A: How intelligent can people truly be? I understand that the human mind is capable of many things, but I want to learn about all the things it can do. Can we really do astral projections? Is lucid dreaming real? Is it possible for people to see the future? Can we read minds? Will we be living somewhere other than Earth someday? Just how smart was Einstein?

To understand more about me, this blog, its purpose, and why I created it, go visit the “About Me” page!

Best wishes, Core Techs!