Monday, July 31, 2017

Mysteries In The Woods

My little sister enjoyed watching television series like 'Mountain Men' and 'Finding Bigfoot'. She was relatively young watching it, so I'm sure it was more of a fascination of there being "real life" monsters out in the woods. I personally never thought much of their being a creature like the Bigfoot to be existing. I thought that if one did exist, there would be better evidence then just video tapes by now. There was no possible way that a creature like that could be living in the woods without a body being found.

It wasn’t until I spent the night with a friend that lived deep in the woods in southern Jersey I considered Bigfoot being real. We decided to go out to a field near by and lay out to gaze at the stars. After laying in silence for a few seconds, we began to hear howling. We froze in fear and listened as the howling became to get closer and sound from different directions. My friend told me that they were coyotes. Before that moment I never knew their were any coyotes in New Jersey because I have never seen any trace of them for as long as I lived in the state. That made me wonder, if I never seen a coyote or any evidence of them during my life living in the woods than what else is out there that I don't know about.

Cold reading and vague phrasing (Post #3)

For a laugh my friends and I visited a psychic on the AC boardwalk. We were told that as a group that we were close together but in danger of coming apart. That we have a good relationship with each other, but sometimes can be at odds. And finally, that you’ve known each other longer than you’ve known most people. All of these were correct, but at the same time, they could have applied to anyone at all. Literally anybody who walked in could have been told this.

The above clip by Darren Brown highlights this phenomenon perfectly, where he explains “cold reading” and how people become manipulated into confirming what the “psychic” is saying. It all goes back to that axiom where mankind looks for meaning in everything. A psychic saying that “you’ve got extroverted qualities but sometimes you’re introverted,” basically isn’t saying anything at all. It’s up to the person being told this to apply it to themselves and either confirm or deny, which makes it hard to do when the phrasing is so vague.

Advertisers use vague language as well on packaging and commercials in order to trick gullible consumers. They use “guaranteed” by itself, when not specifying what’s guaranteed at all. The label of “nutritious” can be applied to any food as long as it has some percentage of necessary vitamins. For instance Vitamin Water has been notorious in its advertising by being purposefully misleading in its product. It’s mostly sugar water but solely by its name, consumers are tricked into thinking it’s a healthy drink alternative.

-Joon Lee-

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Children and the Mozart effect (Post #2)

 I recently came back from a weekend with my sister and nephew and lo and behold, she had some of the Baby Einstein music playing in the background of her nursery. My sister is not dumb, far from it, I consider her to be one of the smartest people I know. However, after the lecture about the Mozart Effect and how there’s no proof or evidence behind it, I have to admit that the companies making this stuff really know how to push a product.

I’m not against playing Mozart for young children. Even now, after reading about the Mozart effect and its lack of evidence, I will still advocate playing Mozart for children, if only to let them experience wonderful music. However, I won’t play it for children thinking it will make them smarter.

Baby yoga is now a thing as well among hip New York parents. Yoga for adults has proven to have benefits as a stress relief, but for infants I’m rather skeptical of its benefits. 

Baby Yoga and Baby Einstein are just 2 activities that my sister is subjecting to my nephew and at most I’m ambivalent towards it. I can’t really be mad at Baby Einstein Mozart because while there isn’t evidence that it’s effective for infants and cognition, Mozart and classical music in general can be soothing for new parents. Likewise for baby yoga, new parents want to involve their children in many activities and this is a fun way to play with their child.

-Joon Lee-

Cryptozoology and SCP (Post #1)

I love cryptozoology because of the possibility of strange and fantastic beasts. From the orcs, goblins, and trolls in Lord of the Rings to the dragons and funny creatures in Harry Potter, if it’s strange and fantastical I love it. I would love for these creatures to exist and be part of the natural world, but due to the reality of things, it pains me to say that these things aren’t real. Wouldn’t it be fantastic and completely amazing for dragons to be real?!

There’s a fun little site called SCP, Secure Contain and Protect, where users submit essentially cryptozoology fan-fiction. They submit entries about things from hostile mannequins to a rock that make you procrastinate. The site has grown tremendously with users submitting different tales and stories about creatures of the unknown. It really highlights mankind’s love affair with the strange and unknown. 

-Joon Lee-

Heuristic #3: Coherent Stories (Associative Coherence)

We were given a packet full of heuristics that fast thinkers often fall subject to. People often make up explanations to events that was not previously planned called Coherent Stories (Associative Coherence). The explanations involve:

  1. Assuming intention
  2. Causality
  3. Interpreting Providence

  1. I see this happen all the time. Especially having religious family members. When something unexpected happens the usual saying I will hear is “God meant for it to be this way” or "God is sending me a sign"
  2. This gets used a lot with stereotypes. For example, “She gets good grades in math because she's Asian.” There is a quick assumption that result B happens because of factor A. A critical thinker would factor A, B, C, etc. before a judgement is made.
  3. Nothing is done by coincidence. Everything has a strict purpose and role.

People are so quick to assigning a reasoning for things in order to make sense of them. There are just things that happen throughout our lifetime that we will not have an answer or know the origin to.


The Flat Earth Movement

One movement that has been growing quite rapidly is that of the Flat Earth Society. Their claim is that all great mathematicians and scientists before them are wrong and that the earth is not round, but instead one flat land mass. They assume the belief that the earth resembles a disk and the sun revolves around the outside of this disk which is why the center, the Arctic Ocean, is so cold because it is the furthest point from the sun. Deservedly so, many scientists have been up in arms over this movement because it completely disregards the proven claims of calculus and physics and essential spreads false lies into the minds of adults and vulnerable children who aren't sure what to believe. Neil deGrasse Tyson went as far as to make the statement that this movement is "Some of the best evidence for the failure of the of our educational system". While I don't necessarily agree with that statement, I think Tyson is more so trying to show that in the age of social media, spreading fallacies such as the earth being flat can be quite dangerous if people with strong influence begin preaching about the movement. Two notable people of strong influence who believe this are rapper B.o.B and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the former even made a diss track about Neil deGrasse Tyson entitled "Flatline". Despite many articles and videos further proving that the earth is indeed round, people still adopt this belief and cause a headache for scientists and mathematicians.

A good video disproving the claims of the Flat Earth Society

A comical approach to the subject by Neil deGrasse Tyson

A funny response to B.o.B's diss track (a little explicit)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Book Report

I am very pleased to have chosen Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition, written by Stuart A. Vyse. This book brought to the surface the root of superstitious beliefs, why people become attached to them and the art of coincidence. Vyse uses proven psychological tactics such as Operant Conditioning that he paired with “superstitious experiments” to portray the power role of temporal contiguity in the development of superstitious behavior. An interesting and my favorite phenomenon came out of his experiment with Guthrie and Horton’s cats. They were conditioned to believe that a certain motion of pushing a pole would allow them to escape a puzzle box. Any push they made would open the box, however the cats were not trained to believe that. This brought about conditioning by coincidence. 

Vyse viewed conditioning by coincidence through human eyes after that. Rituals, obsessions, compulsions, phobias and cures were brought up to be analyzed by researchers because couldn’t these things be considered superstitions? Vyse analyzed multiple experiments by different psychologists to strengthen his arguments and points.  Superstition is something I have taken a great interest in since my early childhood. We often hear the phrase “knock on wood” or “don’t jinx it” when speaking of a scenario.

Aren’t we all conditioned by coincidence?  Vyse gives the example of Bjorn Borg at the French Open championship. His grandfather was listening to the game on the radio, and randomly spat in the water where he was fishing. At the same time, Borg scored a point. His grandfather continued to spit and Borg continued to score points, and won all four sets. Similarly, growing up playing softball I wore the same headband every single game because I believed it was good luck. I had teammates that wore the same socks, belts, and ribbons. Superstition is all around us, and conditions our brain in a certain way, similarly to the styles of learning lecture. We are conditioned in a certain manner based on how we grow up and our experience, and we learn in that way too. We learn by what we do daily. I believe mental disorders such as OCD can coincide with superstition. I also believe that superstitions may hinder or help the way we learn, by stopping us from doing something that may help us grow because of fear. Overall, I am glad I chose to read this book and take this class because these are the things I have wondered about from a very young age.

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