Author Archives: annatorres

Guns Don’t Make Us Safer

In recent years, the topic of gun control has become a frontrunner in American politics. There have been a variety of reasons why American citizens have started talking about the issue of gun control. Offhandedly, I can name several recent mass shootings that occurred in less than ten years.

The Parkland, Florida shooting, February 14, 2018. Nikolas Cruz brutally murdered seventeen people and wounded seventeen more. The police received an alarming amount of tips regarding Cruz’s threats and his behavior. The shooter was dropped off at the school around the time of dismissal by an Uber carrying a duffle bag and a backpack. He was armed with an AR-15, triggered the fire alarm, and then shot randomly at the hoards of students and faculty. The shooting lasted six minutes and twenty seconds, leaving the hallways littered with bloodied bodies. He was taken into custody without incident. Image result for parkland shooting

The Las Vegas shooting, October 1, 2017. Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada sprayed gunfire on 22,000 concertgoers of the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. He killed fifty-eight people and injured almost five hundred. The terror of gunshots and bullets lasted between ten and fifteen minutes. He had an alarming arsenal of twenty-three weapons and accessories. This included semiautomatic rifles, scopes, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. He was found dead in his hotel room.Image result for las vegas shooting

The Pulse shooting, June 12, 2016. Omar Mateen opened fire inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. At least forty-nine people were murdered and more than fifty were injured. After he terrorized the nightclub, he was killed by police after a three hour standoff. He was armed with a SIG Sauer MCX semiautomatic rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 semiautomatic pistol.Image result for pulse shooting

The Charleston church massacre, June 17, 2015. Dylann Roof murdered nine African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. He opened fire with a Glock 41 .45-caliber handgun. The white supremacist and domestic terrorist admitted his hope of starting a race war. He expressed his racial hatred on a website and in his own personal journal written from jail. Photographs have documented him posing with emblems associated with white supremacy and the Confederate flag. The was convicted of thirty-three federal hate crimes and murder charges, sentenced to death.Image result for dylann roof

The Texas church shooting, November 5, 2017. Devin Kelley was dressed in all black, wearing a bulletproof vest when he entered Sutherland Springs’ church in the late morning on Sunday. He welded a Ruger AR-556 and sprayed the church, killing twenty-six (including a pregnant woman), and wounding twenty.

Image result for texas shooting 2017The Sandy Hook shooting, December 14, 2012. Adam Lanza gunned down twenty children, all between the ages of six and seven, and six adults. He carried three guns, one being an AR-15, wearing black fatigues and a military vest. Image result for sandy hook shooting

It has taken me less than ten minutes to list out six mass shootings, all of which total to one hundred and eight-five people who have lost their lives to a gun. By this point, I’m sure you’re asking yourself why I have gone on a tangent about the various, horrifying school shootings that have occurred in America. It is not as much the shootings themselves that I am focusing on. I am focusing on the incorrect facts surrounding the issues of guns and gun control. Cognitive dissonance seems to be the leading cause of discrepancies and conflicting facts. Cognitive dissonance, by definition, is what occurs when your beliefs, ideas, or behaviors contradict each other. This is relevant because of how difficult it is to find any accurate information revolving around gun violence in America. Our elected representatives have and are preventing American citizens from accessing statistics and the truth about gun violence. It is no secret that guns kill people. It is no secret that gun fatalities and injuries are at an all time high in America. So, why are so many people denying the truth that stares them directly in the face? Cognitive dissonance. The psychological stress that comes from cognitive dissonance is linked to the medial frontal cortex, which is known to play a role in avoiding aversive outcomes. A built-in survival instinct. Instead of trying to fix the problem of gun violence, a vast majority of citizens are settling for believing in “fake news.”

How many people actually know the statistics regarding gun violence? To put it all in perspective, here are a few quick facts. On average, ninety-six Americans are killed everyday and one hundred and two are wounded. Seven children/teens are killed with guns everyday. As an overview, annually, 33,580 people in America are murdered, and 37,230 are injured. 3,155 are teenagers. More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on the battlefields of all the American wars.  Americans are ten times more likely to be killed by guns than other people in other developed countries.

Cognitive dissonance is preventing the problem from having a solution. With people avoiding the discussion of gun control and gun violence to reduce their own discomfort, more Americans everyday are being killed by guns.

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Eyewitness Testimony

Eyewitnesses have been a controversial form of legal testimony for several years, and scientists have not been able to come to a conclusive answer — are they reliable? This question has interested me for a long time, between being an avid watcher of Criminal Minds and discussing it briefly in class, I wanted to be knowledgeable in both sides of the argument.

An eyewitness testimony is when a person witnesses a crime and recalls the details for the court at a later date. During their testimony, it is possible that various law enforcement members and attorneys may question them, ask them to describe or identify the perpetrator, and so on. In the beginning of the semester, eyewitness testimonies were mentioned in class, but only because they were claimed to be inaccurate. What are some factors that deem this legal proceeding as unreliable?

The misinformation effect, a memory error caused by exposure to incorrect information between the original event and later memory test, is a common confound in eyewitness testimony. These lapses in memory can range from minuscule details to finite observations that are crucial to the outcome of a prosecution. For example, if a crime occurs and two people witness it, it is likely that they will communicate what they saw to each other while they wait for the authorities to arrive on scene. By doing this, the witnesses reinforce their similar memories for the event, but also force false ones into each other’s memories. False memory also plays a role in why eyewitness testimonies can be considered unreliable. False memories are memories that never actually occurred, but a person can recall them like they really did. Memory biases contribute to the inaccuracy of the testimonies, because it is possible for people to forget events, or mix up important details. Obviously, eyewitness’ testimony can be altered by a variety of different things, even by leading questions, which is why they have been deemed inaccurate and unreliable for the most part.

I find this topic to be interesting because in most legal proceedings, eyewitness testimonies are used. Wrongful convictions are a common consequence of faulty eyewitnesses; they account for at least 75% of DNA exoneration cases — more than any other cause. With so much evidence suggesting that the human memory cannot be trusted to accurately recall events, then why do we continue to use witness testimonies?


Tide Pod Challenge

There were several notable times throughout my twenty-one years of life that I truly wondered how stupid the human species could be. A few immediately come to mind, such as “the Cinnamon Challenge,” “Snort a Condom Challenge,” and “the Kylie Jenner Challenge,” all of which were idiotic and could pose a threat to a person’s health. I never thought that there would be a challenge that could legitimately make me question the intelligence of humans.

For those who do not know what the “Tide Pod Challenge” is, it is when people (mostly teenagers and young adults) videotape themselves eating a Tide Pod. That’s right, a literal laundry detergent pod. Some innovators even sauté their choice of Tide Pod in a frying pan before they enjoy the snack.

The American Association of Poison Control has been forced to make several statements warning people of the dangers that can (and will) occur after consuming a Tide Pod. Eating a laundry detergent pod can cause seizures, respiratory arrest, and even death. There have been over eighty-six cases of teenagers being exposed to the high concentrations of Tide Pods (in the first three weeks of 2018 alone), and children hospitalized suffered from vomiting, loss of consciousness, and difficulty breathing.

So, why, do you ask? Why would anyone wake up and decide they wanted to videotape themselves eating a Tide Pod?

The non-scientific answer would be for attention. Many of these children, teenagers, and young adults post their videos on social media platforms, such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook with the hopes that millions of people will witness their stupidity and maybe laugh at their suffering. However, in a cognitive psychology perspective, one could argue that the participants have a developing frontal lobe.

Emerging adolescence is a very important stage of life, between childhood and adulthood, in which our brains are developing connections that make the brain work efficiently and effectively. In this case, the frontal lobe is crucial. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that controls a variety of functions, such as emotional expression, memory, language, and sexual behaviors, but most importantly, insight and judgement. Insight and judgement control risk-taking behavior.

Basically, teenagers behave without much thought involved. They quickly learn without the brain processes to tell them that their behavior could possibly be fatal, because their conscience is clouded with the possibility of positive reinforcement from the internet. Of course, not every emerging adolescent has the urge to swallow a Tide Pod. Not every young adult lacks insight or judgement. The most logical explanation for those that have participated in the Tide Pod Challenge is an underdeveloped frontal lobe, which then causes them to behave in risky behavior. However, they might just be stupid.

Between a developing frontal lobe and the positive reinforcement that the participants anticipate receiving, I believe that observational learning is a massive contender in the “Tide Pod Challenge.” Observational learning is a theory developed by Albert Bandura. In his theory, he claims that when a person observes someone else engaging in a certain behavior, it can produce new behaviors and either increase or decrease the frequency of that behavior. Had the “Tide Pod Challenge” not gone viral and reached millions of people, there is a very slim chance that so many people would have participated.

Sources: Harvard Health Blog / Dangers of Eating Tide Pods