Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Mass Delusions and Hysterias

While reading the mass delusions and hysterias lecture, the aromatherapy section had really stood out to me. Aromatherapy uses natural resources to help promote good health and well-being. The biggest form of aromatherapy is through scents because the smell goes directly into the brain. Plant extracts can have a certain purpose for a person's health based off the scent it gives. For example, a lavender plant's scent helps a person fall asleep and help calm their anxiety. This alternative is natural, rather than having to take pills that could harm one's body. The scent triggers the brain that then helps soothe certain illnesses and health conditions. Aromatherapy does not cure illnesses, they only help soothe them or take the pain away. There are 2 other ways you can use the essential oils, drop it in bath water or rub it directly into the skin.

I believe that aromatheropy is a great alternative to promote good health. Its really interesting that each plant has a different purpose in their scent to help humans with their health. The brainn recognizes these scents and specifically soothes the affected areas. I could also relate to this topic because I use essential oils in my everyday life to help maintain god health. I have a bracelet with lava rocks attatched and I place lavender oil onto them. the purpose of the rocks is so they hold the scent all day. Since the bracelet is on me all day with the lavender scent, I feel relaxed all day without feeling nervous.
Image result for aromatherapy bracelet

The Jersey Devil

Since I have lived in New Jersey for my entire life so far, the topic of The Jersey Devil is one that is very interesting to me. Growing up, I would hear about The Jersey Devil but didnt actually learn about the story. I always thought it was a scary attraction that people would buy tickets to attend.

After viewing the lecture, I have a complete understanding of what the Jersey Devil's actual purpose is in the state. The characteristics of The Jersey Devil is a boney head, has wings like a bat and piercing evil eyes. People have speculated that the devil was spotted numerous times in the pine barrens of southern New Jersey and haunts whoever comes close to that area. From the video in the lecture, Trinka noble says that when hens didnt lay eggs, or a well went dry, it was because of the Jersey Devil. In 1909, due to suspicious footprints in the snow, sepculations of The Jersey Devil had caused schools and other public places to shut down. Everyone was scared. After the 1909 scare, there hasnt been an incident that bad since. The Jersey Devil is still a myth that people tell their kids and think about when they are in southern New Jersey. The myth is now sold on merchandise and used for other things that represent New Jersey like the NHL New Jersey Devils.

Whether The Jersey Devil is real or fake, it is interesting to see how everyone reacts to this type of story. Some are scared, some dont believe it one bit, and others use it to make money. I believe The Jersey Devil is a myth, but I like to believe its somewhat scary when it comes to being near the Pine Barrens. Especially near Halloween, I think its fun to believe The Jersey Devil is real because it adds to the thrill of the spooky season.
Image result for the jersey devil

False Memories

     When you recall a past event, your brain is tasked to reconstruct its occurrences. During this process, you subconsciously fill in the gaps with new information which aligns with present attitudes. The accuracy of this autofill function is questionable at best because of the creative license it has been known to take. So, is what you remember the truth or has it been tainted by time or other influences and become a false memory? 
     I’d argue that anyone with a sibling has seen false memories in action. I myself have witnessed and taken part in quarrels over the truth of a childhood fight, only to find that both parties were far off the mark when a parent interjects. Not just in perspective, but the actual substance of the story: location, people present, time. In this example incorrectness is harmless but imagine the ramifications of false memories in something like a police case. What if a line of questioning presented to a victim or witness is created with a suspect in mind? Even without a third party getting involved, the most confident eyewitness can inaccurately identify a suspect in a lineup due to the malleable nature of memory.
“Research has found that eyewitness-identification testimony can be very unreliable. Law enforcement and the courts should follow the recommendations of social scientists when using and assessing eyewitness techniques, such as lineups, in criminal cases.Rule 3:11 (Rules Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey).

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Post 5: Subliminal Messaging and the Mozart Effect

Subliminal messaging is a concept that I have always been skeptical about. According to the lecture, subliminal messaging has a very small effect on some of its targets, surprisingly. What I expect is more powerful is the placebo effect. Companies put out ads that appeal to one's aspirations such as losing weight, improving social skills, relieving anxiety, and so on. These ads contain "proof" that subliminal messaging has had life changing effects on its users, so people buy. Since these new users expect that it will work, they will feel like it is. For example, one might say that he or she no longer has the urge to eat junk food and will lose weight, when the only reason he or she feels that is be cause of the expectation.

Unlike subliminal messaging, however, I have actually felt inclined to listen to classical music while writing papers or doing other school assignments. Of course, this was simply based on the fact that I heard that listening to Mozart or Beethoven increases your creative ability, and wasn't rooted in any scientific truth. I hadn't felt that my paper was any better or worse for it, but I may have created the illusion for myself that I was more focused in my task. So here again, I think placebo is far more powerful than the Mozart effect.

Post 6: Psychic Crime Detectives and Cold Reading

Ambiguity and vagueness are a psychic's best friends. Crime detectives like Noreen Renier thrive on confirmation bias. When tasked with finding a man who went missing, Noreen described a place that had bricks, railroad tracks and a bridge. This of course was after the man's brother recommended that police check out an abandoned quarry. It conveniently turns out that bricks, railroad tracks, and bridges are all common objects found in a quarry. It's like finding milk in the refrigerator. The missing man's body was recovered there, submerged in a lake. However, in other cases, she was very far from being correct. In a separate case, she made several claims, only one being correct -- that a murdered man would be found in a "wooded area." What constitutes a wooded area? A forest? A thicket? A yard with a few trees in it? Any one of these places could be considered correct, and it becomes easy to say "Look, the psychic was right," because of the appeal of confirmation bias.

Cold reading follows the same principles. Palm readers and the like use phrases like "You will face hardship in life," when every person on this earth experiences something they perceive to be a difficult time, and again, confirmation bias plays a big role in our susceptibility to these farces.

Post 4: The End of the World

The end of the world has been prophesied and predicted for thousands of years by religious and secular figures. Obviously none have been correct so far, but people don't let that keep them from preparing for the worst. Thousands and even millions of dollars in some cases go into doomsday shelters in preparation for the apocalypse, nuclear attack, or foreign invasion. In modern times though, I think man is quite likely to destroy the world (or part of it) with nuclear weapons. It comes down to what the "end" of the world means to those people. Does it mean the end of the human race? The end of civilization in part or all of the world? If it means the latter, than a bunker stocked with food, clothes, and water would be critical in surviving. In the current political climate, mob-rule and ironically fascism are a growing trend among violent groups like AntiFa. It is better to have those things and not need them than to need them and not have them, so I understand their reasons.

One thing I noticed in the lecture slides was that most of the end of the world predictions were derived from someone else's thoughts. Several were made based on bible texts, some on ancient calendars. Others, such as Y2K, were based solely on that fact that we as people didn't know what would happen at the turn of the millennium. These claims have been largely baseless and are not supported by any scientific evidence.

Book Report: Believing in Magic the Psychology of Superstition

          This book written by Stuart Vyse is all about the crazy superstitions that people have from all walks of life and why they are superstitious people. Professional sports players, college students, and gamblers. But also some of the psychology behind those superstitions. Facial features might have a role to play or even the shape of your body. Lots of children also grow up superstitious as well. Is superstition abnormal well turns out it is not. It is not irrational or abnormal when everyone does it.
           The chapter I liked the most was the one about superstitious people. In the beginning how it talks about Nancy Reagan and her using an astrologer to advise her. She made sure the planets were in a favorable alignment. Also how that caused the president to cancel some speeches and press conferences. It just shows that in even the highest position in government superstition still has a role to play. I really found the part about the college students and exams part fascinating. Since I am one myself. How some wore certain pieces of clothing or used a special pen during an exam. I find this interesting  because something that I do when taking an exam is if I am wearing a jacket I always take it off right before I start taking the exam even though if it was just a normal lecture I would still be wearing it. I think subconsciously I think I will do better without the jacket restricting me. Superstition might have something to do with personality but it is hard to tell.
        The chapter about superstitious thinking talks about how we go about superstitions. How lots of times humans are irrational rather than rational. This can tie into the idea of heuristics mentioned in the first lecture. The book mentions that cognitive have discovered these things. A quote from the book " we make erroneous conclusions, show biased judgement, and ignore important information..... superstitious thinking stems from misunderstandings of probability, random processes, errors of logical reasoning, and cognitive shortcuts that sacrifice accuracy."(Vyse 95). How we show biases and how that relates to confirmation bias. How we misunderstand things with the law of small numbers which can cause us to sacrifice accuracy. The conjunction fallacy and how is causes us not think about logical probability. The combination of all these things causes us to believe in some kind of superstition that does not make to much sense.
         While looking for supplemental material about superstitions I found this ted talk video that Stuart Vyse made. In which he tries to explains where some superstitions come from. Like how the number 13 being unlucky comes from the bible and how Jesus last supper was him and 12 other people. Knocking on wood comes from ancient Indo-European who would knock on tree since they believed the tree had a spirit inside and once knocked on would give them protection from the spirit or give them the blessing of the spirit. Italians fear the number 17 because the roman numeral can be rearranged to form the word meaning my life had ended. Most superstitions are based on cultural habit not conscious decisions.

          You could potentially use the science behind superstitions to solve other kinds of things about humans. Maybe you could use the data for a different research idea. Help you solve some other weird behavior that humans do.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Post 3: OBEs

The separation of mind and body is an interesting concept to me. Many people imagine their thoughts to "be" in their heads, in their brains. Some Eastern cultures picture the place for thoughts to be in the heart, and some even in the kidneys. In the US, the Insidious movie series was based on a boy who had the ability to leave his body during sleep - called astral projection. While in this state his body becomes compromised to demons. While I have never had an out of body experience, I have experienced lucid dreaming, which was touched upon during the powerpoint presentation. States like lucid dreaming are what make people believe in the separation of the mind and body, and when taken to the extreme, can result in tragedies like the Heaven's Gate mass suicide. Memory is malleable, which is another factor in convincing people that their soul has left their body temporarily. The lecture slides mentioned OBEs occuring often on operating tables under anesthesia. Reddit, a social media platform, there had been discussion about near-death experiences. Many of the anonymous participants disclosed their experiences. Some were euphoric, others experienced nothing at all; oblivion. But the euphoric experiences were described as floating through space, with cinematics of the person's life.

Post 2: Cryptozoology

Talk of alleged supernatural creatures seems to always take route in a few things: unexplainable behavior, puzzling sightings, and/or hearsay. For example, the chupacabra was a phenomenon in Latin America because these supposed creatures were mysterious and unexplainable. The killing and strange mutilation of farm animals was disturbing -- no animal kills for fun. The chupacabra was a fast thinking and pseudo-scientific method of explaining the phenomenon. In reality, the chupacabras were just diseased Xolo dogs. Historically, supernatural beings have been used to explain entirely natural occurrences. Another good example of such are Sirens. Sirens were mermaid-like creatures who would sing to sailors out at sea and lure them in with their voices. When the sailors would get close, they would become shipwrecked on the rocks the Sirens sang from and die at sea. In reality, shipwrecks occurred because of storms or strong currents or winds.

Post 1: Ways of Thinking

Some pseudo science and types of fast thinking seems to me like a sort of coping mechanism. As humans, we seek answers to the many “whys” we come across. Karma is a good example of such a pseudo science. It is easy to get on board with the rhetoric of “what goes around comes around” because we like that explanation and it appeals to our emotions without being backed by any real science. Humans also like being right, which is why confirmation bias appeals to us so much. Finding that a role model or public figure shares the same beliefs as you makes it easier to adopt those beliefs as truth, whereas independent and critical thinking may lead you to question them. Training oneself to be wary of pseudo science and the faults of fast thinking will help facilitate a higher level of thinking.

Book Report: Flim Flam!

            The novel Flim Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and other Delusions was written by James Randi, whom was once a stage magician and a scientific skeptic. Now that he is retired he is now an author and challenging different and widely popular theories. Throughout his novel, Randi analyzes the mass public's conspiracy theories and in the end he concludes that they are merely hoaxes. When a theory such as the Bermuda Triangle is brought up, everyone has their own perceptions and opinions on it, and the media help to over exaggerate a bizarre occurrence and the media concludes that it is supernatural. Randi’s “job” is to show that these paranormal instances and conspiracy theories are just that, theories. The novel covers many different theories and phenomenon’s. Some of those being ESP, unicorns, fairies, Bermuda Triangle, pyramid power and psychics and their abilities. The novel looks at and dives into what Randi believes and understands to be an “outrageous deception”. The public are easily manipulated and find it easy to believe anything they are told. James Randi debunks popular theories and even is critical over people who have said they have psychic powers, with very valid and in-depth arguments.
            The chapter that I found the most interesting was the “Fairies at the Foot of the Garden” chapter. In the year 1920, in London, England, there were two girls who “stumped the world”.  They were playing in Cottingley Glen, which is a park. The two girls while playing took pictures of what they claimed were real “fairies”. The girls not only took pictures of the fairies but also got photographs of themselves with them. The girls photos were evaluated by experts in that field and the experts had stated the photos couldn’t have been fake. I can see why at this time in society, why people would be keen to believe the girls and think the photos were real. It was the beginning of the roaring 20’s, after World War I. People wanted to believe in something that seemed unreal. This kind of thing happens a lot after a deep tragedy, many use this fantastical idea to cope with how they are feeling. In today’s world, people wouldn’t believe something like this. With the invention of Photoshop, many would immediately assume the girls were lying and the photos were fake. I found this chapter and this case really interesting. As Randi stated in the chapter, “This case features all the classic faults of such investigations. Gullibility, half-truths, hyperbole, outright lies, selective reporting, the need to believe, and generous amounts of plain stupidity are mixed with outrageous logic and false expertise to be found anywhere in the field.” (Randi). I feel like this quote exemplifies what the mass media does in certain instances with these crazy stories. I liked this book because it talked about many different topics and didn’t center around just one main topic. It kept the book interesting and made it really enjoyable to read.
            Many of the chapters talk about things that we talked about in the lectures and that our classmates made posts about on the class website. The chapter about fairies and reminds me and relates to when we as a class learned about the different mythical animals, such as the Jersey Devil and chupacabras. I feel like fairies and unicorns are the “happier” and are not scary compared to the creatures we learned about in this course. They aren’t as believable and are more likely to be less real, then the Jersey Devil, chupacabras and even Bigfoot, but are almost more fun to think about and think about them actually being real. The chapter about UFO’s in the novel is tied into what we learned in this course. We also covered UFO’s and their abductions in a lecture. The topics we discussed in the book and in the class lectures go hand in hand and can help us look deeper into those topics. Being able to read a novel that can provide more information on these topics that we had lectures on, is a part of this course and this assignment that I really enjoy.
            When doing research and looking further in to who James Randi is I found a TED Talk that he did about nine years ago. This talk was about homeopathy, quackery and fraud. To kick off the talk, he took a fatal dose of homeopathic sleeping pills, on stages in front of the audience. This is also where he started to introduce his Million Dollar Challenge, where the world’s psychics can take a James Randi approved test to not only show if what they are saying they can do is true or not but to also debunk and prove that people may not always be saying the truth. On YouTube, there are so many different videos of him debunking theories, psychics and other paranormal topics. I think that this book could be used in different ways outside of class. I feel as though this book can help people to understand that things in life are deeper. Also, to not take things for what they are, to not take things as face value. The different topics discussed in the novel can help you reflect on your life and to look deeper into things. I don’t think this book can solve any serious issues or real-world problems, but it can help people in their individual lives. This book isn’t meant to and wasn’t written to be a book that is going to fix the world’s problems, but I felt that Randi did have a valid purpose for writing this book. I feel that he wanted to debunk and show that not everything we here is true.


Some of aromatherapy’s alleged therapeutic values include improved psychological and physical wellbeing. Purveyors of the essential oils used for aromatherapy vow that they treat depression and anxiety, as well as acne, arthritis pain, and even cerebral palsy. All this and all natural? Sounds great. But where’s the evidence?
I remember as a child being told in an American Girl Doll life tip book of some sort, to rub orange scented lotion on my hands while studying math. Then, when a quiz or test arrived, reapply it right before, and ace said quiz or test, all because the smell of the lotion would remind my brain of the material I had studied amidst the same scent. Though I can’t remember the specifics, there were other recommended lotions which had matching school subjects. It made sense to me at the time, and even today it doesn’t seem too strange.

What is strange is that the essential oils global market is set to be worth 27 billion dollars by 2022 (Global News Wire). All without evidence to support its most profitable assertions.

There are some studies which show promising links between smell and memory, but they are not a healing tool. There is no proof that they can treat illness or cure disease like these selling them claim.
 Infectious disease doctor and science-based medicine blogger, Mark Crislip states: “The immune system, if you are otherwise healthy, cannot be boosted, and doing those things you learned in Kindergarten health (reasonable diet, exercise and sleep), will provide the immune system all the boosting or support it needs … Rather than being weak, it is far more common today that our immune system is overactive.
Kleinman, Alexis. “Inside Essential Oils Marketing - a Billion-Dollar Wellness Business with Plenty of Critics.” Mic, 7 May 2019,
Cho, Mi-Yeon, et al. “Effects of Aromatherapy on the Anxiety, Vital Signs, and Sleep Quality of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Patients in Intensive Care Units.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2013,

Sunday, July 28, 2019


Going into this chapter I expected graphology to be more like forensic document examiners. Maybe maybe broad claims like ”They have a heavy hand, they must have a lot of stressors currently.” I did not expect this examination to go so far as to guess at a parent missing. Further, when the interviewer had his handwriting lead in a positive way, I wish they did not use that to cross check validity with the other two men. Most young men, and accomplished athletes probably like to be told they are the “man of action.” If the producers had Sheila read a more negative analysis, would the men have acted the same way? After all, the only person who said it their reading was spot on, was the only person who hadn’t come in contact with a false reading.

Learning Styles and False Memories

I loved the section on false memories. The idea that changing an adjective or verb can begin to alter perceptions and memories, kind of like a faulty game of whisper down the lane. The learning styles argument slides seem to be more of an arguing theory than a total science. To start, saying that written words is not a way of visually learning is incorrect. Saying that spoken words are not auditory learning is also incorrect. If someone believes that they are capable of teaching someone solely based on visual or audio styles of learning, then perhaps you should spend a day trying to teach Helen Keller. She’s probably do a bit better with visceral learning.

While on the subject of visceral learning, how hard did you have to push on your brakes this morning in your car? In order to tell us you need to utilize some sort of other sensation to compare it to. Further, to get us to replicate this same action in the same way you did (after all, isn’t learning not just absorbing the information, but being able to accurately replicate it?) you’d have to give us some sort of context clue. You could say you stepped on your brake with the same force it takes to stand on your tip-toes. What if one student in your class hasn’t stood on their tip-toes? You might say, “well if you’ve picked up a 75lb weight before, then imagine that amount of force being used under your foot.” So, now you’ve described a visceral value, to a visual numbered value, and back into a visceral value. What if you tell the students you had to hit your horn with the same amount of force you had to hit your brake pedal? All of the students will make the connection straight from visceral to visceral, except that one student who has to think about those 75lbs again. As these context clues shift further and further away from their original connection, a true meaning can get lost. Some students may be 6 degrees from pumping the break, while others are 1 degree. For those students that are 6 degrees away, maybe there is a different visual, auditory, or visceral context clue that is only 2 degrees away. Imagine the student is 126 degrees away from pumping the breaks? Wouldn’t it be easier to switch teaching styles, and have the student actually hit the breaks?

Imagine the teacher isn’t teaching a room of potential drivers, but instead surgeons. You can have a group of surgeons witness a procedure. They can even be told exactly how to do the procedure. So, they’ve learned how to actually perform it. They can tell you everything there is to know about this procedure, just as much as a veteran surgeon can. The students know its 10lbs/square inch. They know how much 10lbs/square inches feels like because they’ve pushed down on a scale. The students have all the value, and meanings behind their actions. However, the veteran surgeon knows these values and has performed them. One would say the veteran has more experience. The veteran surgeon is 1 degree from providing value and meaning to what he has learned, while the students are simply substituting what they’ve seen and referring to context of values they have heard. The students must now learn viscerally what they’ve been, ultimately, only conceptualizing.

Saturday, July 27, 2019


Carl Sagan’s Book; The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, was published in 1994 yet many of Sagan’s comments and concerns are still relevant for today’s audience. It is written in such a way so that people not particularly interested in science or psychology can understand rather complex and confusing subjects. This is accomplished by straight forward logical writing. There are no unnecessary words or large sections of loosely connected hearsay. One of the objectives of this book is to try and close the many gaps that popular media and recurring phenomena has made for UFO sightings/abductions to demonic/angelic visitations. Another objective is to show that real science has topics that are just as interesting as the fake stuff, has the added benefit of being true and therefore more satisfying to learn about. Most importantly though Sagan dose not treat the reader and therefor the public as massive group of illogical morons that need to be told by a superior being what the correct answers are. He knows that there is a larger amount of people who want to know more but are having a hard time finding the real scientific findings among all the mainstream articles that claim to be science.       

My favorite chapter of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark is chapter 10; Theirs a Dagon in my garage. The chapter focuses on the how people will make “logical” excuses for things or ideas that illogical. The example Sagan uses is that of a dragon that has taken residents in his garage, however when someone comes around who want to test out this claim there always some explanation to why a current test wouldn’t work on the dragon. It gets to appoint were this dragon as more out of this world abilities then an average anime protagonist. I like it mostly for the humor. It’s funny visual, gesturing to a pocket of empty air and proudly proclaiming “here; be a dragon!”, then as people ask questions you make things up to negate/ shut down further inquiries, by the end of it your saying “here; be an invisible, perpetual hovering, incorporeal dragon that breaths cold fire!”. It Is a useful pattern for recognizing potential pseudoscientific claims, such as mythical beast, hoaxes, and objects with unheard of properties. Something to keep in mind, if a question about an extraordinary topic are proceeded by statements that reveal even more extraordinary properties the topic itself might not be based the same reality we all live in. As I read I began to rethink my stance on topics like UFOs, Atlantic, mythical animals and other topics that claim to have science behind it.