Author Archives: mdeasis

Cell Phone Apocalypse?

Imagine yourself bench sitting on a beautiful day out and you look up and you see student after student mindlessly walking on campus walk with their heads bowed down- bumping into poles, falling down stairs, and even running into other people. BUT the weird thing is that after they run into things whether it be a pole, a tree, or other people, they go right back to putting their heads down and walking mindlessly.

Are you in the middle of a zombie apocalypse? No you’re witnessing a different kind- the 21st century cell phone apocalypse. 

If you are like the majority of the people today, you are constantly on your phone. This is extremely distracting and most especially with finals week coming up, it is much harder to resist the temptation to waste countless hours on twitter, instagram, facebook, etc.

According to a study done by researchers Przybylski and Weinstein, the mere presence of a cell phone during a social interaction in which individuals are having a casual conversation led people to have lower trust and an overall lower quality of relationship. So, due to this, cell phones have been found to impede human social interaction.

But despite this, according to the Student Science website, the average college student still uses their cell phone fore about NINE hours each day. This article also puts into perspective that If you think about it, the average college student spends more time on their cell phones than they do sleeping!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwPHRn7JcEU

James Roberts, a marketing professor at Baylor University associates cell phone use with addiction. Yes, a behavioral addiction! People panic when their batteries die or when there’s no service. Roberts ties this in with symptoms of withdrawal that is seen in many if not all addiction problems. A newly coined term called ringxiety has also made its way to popular culture which is when you think that your phone is ringing or vibrating when in reality is isn’t.

So, the big question is- how can we rely less on our cell phones? Again, especially with finals week coming up and us college students need to stay focused

Webmd offers three basic tips that people could follow in order to better manage their time better with their cell phone use- they can do this by being conscious, strong, and disciplined. 

1.) Being conscious– of all situations and emotions that you feel whenever you feel as if you have to check your phone, such as boredom, loneliness, or procrastination, you can find something else that would fill your time that is much more productive.
2.) Being strong- whenever your phone beeps or rings. This allows you to manage your time better and not losing track of time when you do check it. Try turning of the sound and the vibration so you aren’t tempted to check your phone every single time it goes off.
3.) Being disciplined- in certain situations where you should not be using your cell phone such as in class, when you are driving, and especially right before you go to bed.

Yes, it seems to be easier said than done. However, although it’s hard- trust me I have tried to follow these 3 steps. You can always start small. I started putting my phone away for 5, then 10, then 15 minutes when I’m studying and I have personally seen the increase in my productivity with my work. So next time you’re itching to grab that phone, try silencing it for a couple minutes and resisting the urge to go on social media. According to the article, you will not only be able to concentrate better but you will also feel less stressed and more relaxed.

*Even if it’s only for 5 minutes a day 🙂

How Powerful are Placebo Effects?

 

Let’s say that you were diagnosed with social anxiety. Your psychiatrist prescribes you some pills that you can take right before or during social situations in order to reduce the negative effects that anxiety brings to you. It’s your go-to magic pill that does wonders in those dreadful situations where you have to be around numerous people. Every single time you have to meet up with extended family, or work in a group project, and god forbid- speak in front of the whole class for a presentation—your pills never fail to make you feel a little bit better.

What if those pills were nothing more than sugar pills? Sugar pills that have no chemical and active ingredients that are supposedly there to decrease your social anxiety symptoms. It’s simply an “empty” pill to get you to believe that by taking it, it would make you feel better. However, in reality, it does absolutely nothing to you physically. You realize it’s all in your head. Would you react positively or be completely furious? No matter your reaction, one thing could not be denied- the fact that placebo effects are powerful.

In an article I came across on the Psychology Today website, it highlights a study done by researchers Baba Shiv, Ziv Carmon, and Dan Ariely to see how placebo effects are manipulated depending on people’s knowledge about it. In their study, which was done in 2005, they used an energy drink that they either told people enhances mental ability largely or enhances it just slightly. The participants were then asked to unscramble a number of words given to them by the researchers. After the task, the participants were then asked to rate the effectiveness of the drink on their completion of the given cognitive task. The results? They found that the more people believed in the effectiveness of the drink, the more likely they were to unscramble more words.

This study supports the idea that placebo effects are extremely influential and affects us more than we think. This article leads me to think of a crazy yet logical theory– What if doctors alongside with pharmaceutical companies are merely prescribing and distributing sugar pills to make more profit? Maybe it’s actually just us, the consumers, who believe that taking those pills will make us feel better when it’s really all in our heads. Mind blowing? I sure believe so.

Although, sure enough, this is not true with every pill that people all over the world take. Majority, if not all, of the pills that are prescribed to the human population really do have a chemical effect on our bodies. But with this phenomenon of the placebo effect- I sure can’t help but wonder- what if?

 

Yoga and the Brain

I have always been a huge fan of yoga ever since I can remember. However, I fell more in love with it when I came to college and was immediately bombarded by stress and endless nights with no sleep. After three years of constant deadlines, never-ending readings, papers, back to back exams, and extracurricular activities- yoga became my comfort.

Every time I step into the yoga studio I practice at, I found that I was able to leave all the stress and worry at the door (something that is extremely difficult to do) and just allowed myself to be filled with silence, calmness, and peace that I was not able to find anywhere else. There has not been one day that I have left that studio without feeling at least a little bit better and recharged.

There has been numerous research done that supports yoga in decreasing stress. You’ve probably heard and read about it before. Yes, it helps lowers blood pressure. Yes, it helps increase flexibility. Yes, it helps improve muscle tone. However, does it do any good for the brain?

A research study done in Harvard which was published in the Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging claims that meditation actually changes the structure of our brains.

Neuroscientist Sara Lazar mentioned that this study demonstrates the idea that people who practice meditation are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing but because changes in brain structure are actually occurring.

In this study, the brains of 16 participants who took part in an 8-week “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program” at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness were measured by taking magnetic resonance images of their brains two weeks before they took part in the meditation program and again two weeks after they have completed the program.

After analyzing the images of the brains, Lazar and her research team found that there was actually an increase in grey matter density in the hippocampus of the brain, which is known to be correlated to learning and memory. Along with this, they found a decrease in grey matter density in the amygdala of the brain, which is known to be correlated to stress and anxiety, or the “fight or flight” part of the brain.

This TED talk by Sara Lazar herself highlights her experiences with yoga and meditation and talks about the study she did at Harvard:

After reading about and researching more about yoga and meditation, I have come to one conclusion: “I am not about to stop practicing yoga for a very long time.”

The practice of yoga and meditation has numerous benefits and now, with further research, we have found that it actually changes the structure of our brains for the better.

So the next time you have that huge test/paper coming up, take just 20 minutes, turn the lights off, and meditate. Guaranteed, you will feel better rested and more likely to be productive with your work.

 

Artificial Intelligence: Positive or Negative change?

The human brain is undeniably something extraordinary. Weighing at just an average of 3 pounds, the brain is the mastermind behind everything that humans do. Cognitive Psychology is the study of knowledge, its creation, and its uses. Understandably enough, the brain, which is the source of all knowledge, is the most essential part of this study. Now imagine an artificially man made brain that allows non-human, non-living things, to think and feel like just like humans.

Perhaps you have wondered and wanted to know more about the information behind popular Hollywood movies such as “iRobot” starring Will Smith or “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” starring Haley Joel Osment. These types of movies feature entities or beings that were artificially created by man to possess human-like qualities such as intelligence, emotions, and feelings. Could those actually translate into and happen in real life?

Artificial intelligence is defined as the attempt to artificially create cognitive beings that can think and feel very much like humans. As technology continues to advance more and more each day, it is undeniable that the idea of creating artificial intelligence has most likely crossed the minds of scientists and the general public at least once.

As one would predict, our knowledge of artificial intelligence and the questions that will arise as we acquire more knowledge about it are highly positively correlated. That is, as our knowledge of artificial intelligence increases so will the questions we have that are left unanswered. Is it possible, or even more, is it even a good idea in the first place to create such beings that possess such subjective qualities, which are universally known to differentiate humans from other living things? What happens in instances, such as in the movie “iRobot”, when these beings start to possess more and more intelligence, which then threatens the existence of humans? Do we, as the general public, have an incorrect perceived notion of what the effects of artificial intelligence could potentially bring to us because of Hollywood movies such as “iRobot” and “Terminator”? Yes and no.

This video clip highlights the opinion of Stephen Hawking, a well-known physicist, on the exponential development of artificial intelligence.

He mentions that although very useful, “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it would take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete.” This statement from a highly influential and respected physicist may confirm our fears of such movies. It IS possible for artificial intelligence to develop faster than the human brain ever could and for it to threaten the mere existence of the human population.

However, on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, one could not deny the advantages that artificial intelligence has contributed to the human race to help us live much more convenient lives. This TED talk given by Andre LeBlanc mentions some fears associated with artificial intelligence but highlights more all the advantages that the advancement of artificial intelligence has contributed to the human race, as well as where it is headed in the future.

 

As part of the general public who is affected by technology everyday, personally, I don’t think it would end on the most drastic side of each spectrum. It is not something as simple as good or bad. Technology continues to advance everyday- yes. However, unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure whether artificial intelligence is headed in a positive or negative direction. Only time can tell.