Author Archives: eparker2

Do Tattoos Make Us Feel Better About Ourselves?

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For my last blog post I wanted to write about something I was really interested in. I thought about our current generation and our love for body art, mainly tattoos. It is very rare to meet someone that does not have at least one tattoo these days. It has become pretty normal, but still taboo if excessive. I have a tattoo myself and plan to get more the future. It was something I enjoyed getting, and I like the look it has given my body. I decided to research and see if this want for tattooing had something to do with the brain. If only some of us had this trigger in the brain that made us want to continue modifying our bodies.

I found and article in Psychology Today titled If Tattoos Could Talk. This article discussed how this is something humans have been doing since the beginning of time. This article said tattoos may have been done in the past to ease pain, and could also be done to conform to society or to show when someone is an adult. Tattoos make you look like a more interesting person. People also get tattoos to show certain religious or magical symbols which help strengthen that person. This is article also talked about tattoos and self-esteem, and that stood out to me. When people get a new tattoo they tend to feel better about themselves, maybe even more attractive. Could this be a real self-esteem issue?

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I could not find any articles that talked about tattoos and self-esteem and the cognitive level, but I still wanted to explain the brain and self- esteem. An article in the Huffington Post titled, This is Where Self-Esteem Lives in the Brain, gives a little information about the topic. A recent study has shown the self-esteem is in the frontostriatal pathway of the brain. This pathway connects the medial prefrontal cortex, and the ventral striatum. These have to do with self-knowledge and our feelings of reward. This makes sense for some people that gets tattoos to boost self-esteem. If someone has self-knowledge that is low, which can mean a low mental health state or a low thoughts of one self, that same person may get the tattoo as a reward.

This blog post is not to say that everyone that gets a tattoo has low self-esteem. I think people have many reasons for getting inked and low self-esteem is one of many. The self-esteem option was just the one I was most interested in. Since tattoos are gaining popularity I hope more research will be done to see why people decided on this particular option. I someone is getting a tattoo for self-esteem reasons will they ever have enough?

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Regardless or your reasoning for any body modification. If it’s not harmful to yourself or anyone else I say tattoo on!

What Can Make You a Wolf on Wall Street?


In class today we talked a lot about addiction, but mainly addictions in gambling. This was described as a gamblers fallacy. We discussed how people like to feel some control when they gamble. All of this made complete since to me, but it also got me thinking how this could apply to other aspects in life. How could this same theory apply to some other activity in life? For unknown reasons to me the movie The Wolf of Wall street came to mind

The movie The Wolf of Wall Street is about a stockbroker’s career in New York City. In this film the stockbroker, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, has a firm that is deep in corruption and fraud on Wall Street. This will bring the entire firm down by the end of the film. What stood out to me was how he got people to invest with his company. These people came from different walks of life. Some were rich and some were more middle class. I wondered what would make these people invest in sketchy deals or even invest money they did not have. I then remember the since of control people like to feel when gambling. In the movie Leonardo gave his costumers a since of control when he asked them to invest thousands of dollars. In class we call this competency, the idea that people prefer to gamble when they feel in control, even when it is a complete illusion.  He made them believe they were gaining something by doing this deed. He painted them a picture of all the great things that could happen. They were told of all the people that invested and are constantly gaining money. They were told they could have more. I think of this as being an example of availability. In class we discussed how casinos did this by showing the public all of the winners. There was also a great deal of representatives.  The investors probably ran the numbers in their head a dozen times, but Leonardo gave these people possibilities and that is what sold them every time.

n the movie all I could think about is how everyone was taking shortcuts to get what they wanted. As were learned in class, these shortcuts, or heuristics are okay some of the time, but are not always the most accurate choice. The opposite of a heuristic is an algorithm. Algorithms are more formula based. If the people in the movie had did things more by the book they might have had better success in the end. Overall I thought it was interesting how the same cognitive things that may cause others to gamble, can also cause other risky behavior in our lives. Like the bad investments in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Reisberg, D. (2012) Cognition: Exploring the Science of the Mind. 5th edn. United States: W. W. Norton & Company.



Can Virtual Realities Help Eliminate Racism?


Has there ever been a time when you looked at someone differently because of their race? It is probably something we are all guilty of. Even though a large portion of us mean no harm, there are people that judge other purely based on race, and are very judgmental and hurtful when doing so. What if all of that could be eliminated? This world may be a much better place to live in.

In an article from Pacific Standard researchers decided to use virtual realities to try and reduce racial bias in people. This was all done by a research team led by Mel Slater and Tabitha Peck. They recruited 60 female college students, all light-skinned. The participants were asked to take the Implicit Association Test. This was done to bring to light any unconscious racial prejudice. The participants were then asked to leave the lab. Upon their return to the lab they entered their virtual realities. They did this by wearing a suit with sensors. In the virtual realities the participants would look into a mirror, and the reflection would show the participant as dark skinned, light skinned, or purple skinned. The research found that only participants made dark-skinned had a significant decrease in implicit racial bias. This particular study was also published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

A similar study was done, and the findings were very similar as well. This study was titled Experiencing ownership over a dark-skinned body reduces implicit racial bias. It can be found in Science Direct. This study argues that a certain areas of the brain activate when we see someone else’s bodily state, like their skin color. When we have the same body state as someone else the regions in the brain tend not to activate. The study calls these multiple reacting regions in the brain “mirror neuron systems”. The study also explains a recent EEG study on the subject. The EEG study found that participants observing action of someone not in their racial group would have low activation in the motor cortex. When the participant observed someone in their racial group performing some sort of action the same participants have activation in the motor cortex. These variations are also true not only when a participants just sees a person of a different race, but there are also differences if they see the other person in pain. Another study has been done showing that when a person sees someone of the same race in pain they have brain reactions as if they were experiencing pain themselves. If the person sees someone of a different race they tend to have no brain reaction.

These studies believe they can give us a very uncommon first-person account of others experiences, and how we truly see others that have different outside appearances. This is something that is not usually done. If we can somehow see what others see and why they react a certain way, we can maybe change that person negative reaction or make them aware they are even reacting in such a way.


Gaming and Cognitive Functioning



For my first blog post I decided to look for something that is of interest to the general public, but also has some sort of interesting connection to cognitive psychology. One of the first things that came to mind was video games. They are literally everywhere. If we are not playing one at home, most of us tend to have a game or two on our phones. I was interested in seeing if any articles had been written, or any studies had been done to connect these two different subjects. So, I started searching the internet and to my surprise I found a few articles on the topic that seem to be legit.

This article started off discussing how enhancing cognitive function of our brain, through gaming, we can be more effective learners. They aren’t just talking about any ordinary video game. They call the technique gamification. Gamification uses the element of games to motivate and engage the user. The theory itself is that you can use game techniques to have people learn and solve problems in a non-gaming setting. This concept first came out in 2002, but only started receiving recognition in 2010. Although it is becoming more and more popular, it is still being criticized for only being able to work half of the brain. It is said that these game will have some benefit, but it is impossible to optimize brain connectivity, and grow new neurons playing a game on a two-dimensional screen.


There is a belief that there are types of gamification, structural and content. This belief comes from award winning training professional, Karl Kapp. Structural gamification is the application of game-like elements but with no alteration to content. An example of this would be an employee doing training for the company they work for. As they complete the training they are rewarded by points. The game-like scoring system will help distract the person from negative thought they may have about completing that task, by engaging them and enhancing cognitive functions. The second type of gamification is Content gamification. This type of gamification applies game-like elements to the content. An example of this would be when instructors add practical challenges and tasks to programs to maybe help with team-building sessions.

Even with the criticism gamification is becoming popular in the workplace.  In the workplace environment these games can increase optimism, enhance social skills through multi-player scenarios, and create meaning by making it possible for participants to achieve success. It also works as a distracter for some employees. If you are earning points for completing a work activity more like a game, you will be more willing to finish the task, and do it with a good attitude. With these positive outcomes it is clear why some many companies are experimenting with this new concept. Even the Ford Motor Company of Canada used gamification for their employees and saw benefits. It is still a growing concept, but it is thought to be something used a lot more frequently in the near future.