Mirror Mirror

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Amsterdam, Beulah (1972) performed an experiment called mirror self-recognition test (MSR) where it was observed infants behaviour while looking a mirror with the objective to identify self-concept and recognize their own image. The experiment consisted in about 88 infants between 3 and 24 month old and some of them responded as it was another child next to them and others recognized themselves.

So what it happened in this experiment was that the infant was facing a mirror and a little red cosmetic mark was painted over their little noses. Babies around 12 months old reacted like the baby on the mirror was another baby. They smiled and where friendly; babies around 20 months old couldn’t discerner. They didn’t show particular behaviour, thus it wasn’t very clear or conclusive. However, babies around 24 months old seemed to recognize them self by touching their red mark in their noses.

This fascinating experiment showed that they indeed start at that age to recognize themselves; they start at some level to be self-aware. This study allowed more searches and replications but the results are still some how inconclusive. Anyway, it is well known that around 2 years old is a more solid stage where self-awareness, identity and language are making a human being and defining them.

Sources 

Amsterdam, B. (1972). Mirror image reactions before age two. Developmental Psychobiology, 5, 297-305.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_test

 

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The Almighty Hormone

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Oxytocin is a peptide hormone that permits us to understand social groups, different social situations, effects in our behaviour, focus on positive emotion and help us to identify emotion in facial expressions. It has been demonstrated that high levels of oxytocin are related to empathy, trust, being supportive and demonstrate social interest. One of the most important moments when this peptide hormone is produced is at birth and during lactation and creates bond between mother and child. Another moment that oxytocin is released is also during sexual relationships and creates emotional connection in the couple.

The findings are that this hormone is like glue for couples as well for mothers and their newborn. Ruth Feldman studied oxytocin in couples and compared levels of oxytocin between new lovers and singles. The results were that the falling in love period is the highest level of oxytocin ever found in her studies, even more that the levels in a pregnant woman. That is just mind-blowing. Feldman also found that those couples with higher levels of oxytocin last longer, sort of finish each other sentences, express more affection and touch and laugh together more often. The part that is inconclusive is if the behaviour caused the raised levels of the hormone or the other way around.

Beate Ditze from the Zurich University made studies in couples resolving conflict with spray shot of oxytocin in their nose (goes straight to the brain) and compared with couples that didn’t have the shot. The findings concluded that the oxytocin interfere in how a couple interact with each other when resolving a conflict like housework. Now, keep in mind that if nasal shots of oxytocin might help couples for therapy, this doesn’t mean that couples with communication problems that cannot connect will miraculously be helped. There is no level of oxytocin good enough to force two people to connect.

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Photo courtesy of Lifeofpix.com

In other studies, Paul Zak (2000) studied the oxytocin hormone as well and concluded about the moral sentiments that we develop as human beings and how that changes a society. He found that countries with more trustworthiness are more prosperous; there are better wealth, less poverty and more economic growth. In more economic studies, infusion of this hormone boosted generosity. This is a really interesting study that I will eventually be covering.

We can conclude that oxytocin has a strong influence in our behaviour, preferences, interaction and even economy. Different studies about autism had suggested that this hormone is key for these cases since they presented reduced levels of oxytocin. Its effectiveness has also been demonstrated as a treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder. In addition to this, there are some indications about using it in couple’s therapy as well.

Maybe in the future it could be used as a standard treatment for different problems and disorders.

Sources

Ditzen, B., Schaer, M., Bodenmann, G., Gabriel, B., Ehlert, U., & Heinrichs, M. (2009). Intranasal Oxytocin Increases Positive Communication and Reduces Cortisol Levels during Couple Conflict. Biological Psychiatry, 65, 728-731.

Schneiderman, I., Zagoory-Sharon, O., Leckman, J. and Feldman, R. (2012). Oxytocin during the initial stages of romantic attachment: Relations to couples’ interactive reciprocity. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 37, 1277–1285.

Kosfeld, M.; Heinrichs, M.; Zak, P. J.; Fischbacher, U.; Fehr, E. (2005). “Oxytocin increases trust in humans”. Nature 435 (7042): 673–676.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/be-mine-forever-oxytocin/

http://www.autismresearchcentre.com/project_14_oxytocin

Object Permanence

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We all know that an object continue to exist even if we can’t see it, right? But how about babies, how do they understands that?

Jean Piaget developed the idea of object permanence by studying infants and their understanding of this concept, but his discoveries showed that infants start to understand object permanence when they reach 12 months old.

Renee Baillargeon though different and studied the phenomenon by using 3 1⁄2 and 4 1⁄2 month old infants in a playground located inside a lab. The experiment consisted in a little car rolling on a road and visually disappearing behind a screen for a moment (while passing behind the screen) and then reappearing on the other side of the screen. Impossible and possible conditions were established in order to evaluate the logic of the car’s progress and object concept.

The “magical” event was put to the test and a block was showed to the children and then placed behind the screen. When the regular experiment of the car passing behind the screen was happening, the car passed “through” the block and continue rolling before appearing on the other side of the screen. Then the “non-magical” normal event was established by locating the block near by and not in the way of the rolling car, thus the object progress would be possible.

Video courtesy of adamism9 on youtube.com

The findings were that infants looked consistently longer to the impossible situations, indicating that they understood the block existence behind the screen even if they couldn’t see it. Additionally, they understood that the rolling car couldn’t pass throughout the block, suggesting that infants understand object permanence.

Furthermore, Baillargeon tested different type of toys in order to confirm the results. This proves the primary analysis that babies can make in mental representations of absent objects.

Here is another video of the experiment:

Video courtesy of adamism9 on youtube.com

Sources

https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Applied_History_of_Psychology/Cognitive_Development

Baillargeon, R. (1987). Object Permanence in 3 1⁄2 and 4 1⁄2 Month Old Infants. Developmental Psychology, 23, 655-664

Kids Talking with Strangers

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How many of you have grown up with: “Don’t talk to strangers”? Or how many of you have told to your own children not to talk to strangers? Well, it is something that worries any parent. This is a serious concern and you always want the best for the kids. This experiment was made in order to educate and identify that a stranger isn’t always someone evidently scary but also an individual that could look charming and friendly. Now, this doesn’t mean that kids shouldn’t be social and parents very authoritative and overprotective, but maybe identifying some other elements that could help make a difference.

Every 40 seconds, a child is reported missing in the United States. For instance, in 2014, around 466,949 entries for missing child were reported. The statistics go like this: 49% are relative kidnaps, 27% are done by acquaintances and 24%, by strangers. Most of the kidnapping happens outdoors when a children talks to a stranger. This is a big social problem that can happen anywhere, even in front of the kid parents and friends.

Joey Salas developed a social experiment with the intention to provide the “stranger danger” situation to real settings, with the intention to educate and create awareness that the problem is there and it goes beyond to just “talk” to the “stranger”, it is the kind of behaviour that these ones offer like “follow me”, “lets see this and that at my place”, etc. He proved how easy it could be for a very charming, skilled and persuasive adult when talking to a little kid, to trick him and go with him (stranger danger situation).

He starts his experiment in a regular playground at the park, approaching some parents and asks them if he can talk to the kid. He asked if their kid would talk to him back even if he is a stranger, a stranger with a nice puppy by the way. Parents obviously say no, that they evidently have taught their child not to talk to strangers, and that is how the experiment begins. Joey gets to talk with the kid, he shows the puppy and they develop a little conversation that ends with the kid hand to hand with the “stranger” leaving the park “to see more puppies”.

This is shocking and his point has been proven. Remember, every 40 seconds a kid is missing. What do you think about this experiment? Is it realistic, is it too much? What would you change?

Video courtesy of JoeySalas via Youtube.com

Sources

http://www.wimp.com/child-social/

http://www.missingkids.com/KeyFacts

Masterminds!

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From the institute of brain and learning sciences at the university of Washington, Patricia Kuhl has researched how infants learn. She has demonstrated how the brain changes in an early age to the exposure of different languages. For instance, the first two-months of a baby is very critical for sound development. Babies are taking constant statistics to the language that they are listening. This is an astonishing study where you can actually visualize all that process that happens in the little ones while having all that learning process. They are identifying that pitch and acoustic phonetic differences, step by step, “automatically”. Caboom! this pitch here and this pitch there… They take that and focus while learning to capture and identify the elements.

The experiments revealed babies capabilities to engage in two languages. The experiment consisted in American babies located with their moms in the lab, in a little playground  like in any other day care, and a mandarin female speaker talking and reading to them a story during six weeks. Eventually, the babies were tested and able to differentiate Mandarin and Taiwanese. This experiment was repeated but with an audio and video in order to study and confirm the findings. What it was demonstrated is that the social interaction is key for the learning process, consequently, the results suggested that the more social the better for learning process.

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Image Courtesy of Technospot.net

It doesn’t matter which language is being talked to a baby, the “baby talk” make use of real words, with higher pitch and long pauses that babies love and are looking for. Evidently babies don’t comprehend the speech and words per se but they do understand the rhythms and acoustic phonetic differences; they go far beyond words.

The studies were successful thanks to babies reactions, behaviour, attention and neurological machines. The most recent tool is called MEG and is like an MRE for little ones. It is non invasive, the baby is set down and free to move while listening an audio. The machine capture all the areas of the brain that are activated. These studies will permit to understand early learning process and identify factors that might help recognize and comprehend autism in early stage.

Here is a video that I invite you to watch. It is a TED talk given by Patricia where she explains her findings; it is very interesting:

Video Courtesy of Ted-Ed on Youtube.com

Sources

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2947444/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-22457797

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patricia_K._Kuhl

http://www.ted.com/talks/patricia_kuhl_the_linguistic_genius_of_babies?language=en

Crazy for a puppy… so cute that I want to squeeze them!

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We go crazy for cute and we don’t know yet why we consider something so adorable like a puppy or a beautiful baby and still squeeze them, pinch their cheeks, feeling that you want to eat them up… too cute to be true and you don’t know how to express that feeling, you just want to jump with the excitement… but wait a minute, isn’t that some sort of aggression? Maybe. Psychologists have actually used the term “cute aggression”.

Video Courtesy of BuzzFeedVideo on Youtube.com

This compulsory feeling in reaction to cute puppies and babies is the contrary to what you would assume is the logical reaction, but this is a very common reaction and is what we would call a dimorphous expression response. Sometimes, it happens in another way, like crying at the theater in front of an exciting movie… or even in real life, when you end up crying all of a sudden from a big exciting moment (you got an award and big recognition from you hard contribution), or even the infamous nervous laugh (you are in a presentation and you just can’t stop laughing). There are so many inconsistent reactions to different situations and, sometimes, it is just too much and you don’t know how to control the excitement. Funny, eh? Well, all this is a response mechanism for those expressions in order to help to control positive emotion.

A group of researches psychologists at Yale University, Oriana Aragon and Rebecca Dyer, studied the famous term ‘cute aggression’. The experiment was based on the exposition of cute, neutral and funny animal images. While the participants watched the pictures, they were allowed to pop as much bobbles wrap they needed every time they wanted to squeeze “those cute animals”. By the end of the slide show, the participants that watched cute animals popped more bobbles than those watching funny or neutral animals.

Other experiment was about having the participants to observe baby pictures, some of them with more prominent eyes and rounder faces than others. The findings were that participants showed more expression of “I want to pinch them” in reaction to those cutest babies with rounder faces and bigger eyes. They also exclaimed that they felt that they wanted to protect them. Additionally, they found higher expressions of aggressions in relation to those same types of babies… well, in the facts that they wanted to pinch their cute cheeks and eat them up.

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Image Courtesy of Hd-Wallpapers9.com

Dyer is right about her conclusion, “Some things are so cute that we just can’t stand it” and “It might be that how we deal with high positive-emotion is sort of it a negative pitch somehow. That sort of regulates, keeps us level and releases that energy”

One last point is that this entire concept works amazingly in marketing. The correct name is “baby schema” and is mind-blowing and effective. As an example, just think about “Fido” the mobile company and how successful they are. Some research discovered that customers are more involve in generous expenses and shopping when exposed to cute products.

This is a replica of the experiment by Soul Pancake

Video Courtesy of Soul Pancake in youtube.com

Sources

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/so-cute-i-could-eat-it-the-science-behind-cute-aggression-9860440.html

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2013/01/26/psychology-why-you-want-to-squeeze-cute-things/#.Va1xSGAV6N4

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cuteness-inspires-aggression/

http://www.livescience.com/26452-why-we-go-crazy-for-cuteness.html

 

 

The good side of change

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As I mentioned in my first post, one person can be easily influenced by a group of people. In this post I will explain the opposite: how one person can spark followers. When we want to change a situation or a problem, we can always create movements to drive positive changes.

Movements are provided for a group of people that shares the same idea about something. We all have seen or heard about different types of movements that have changed history for good. Sometimes, we take the civil rights act for granted, as well as woman’s right and voting, the power of unions and fair work place, the abolition of slavery and child work, etc. Anyhow, I recall some examples that permitted to accomplish significant changes in history and all that thanks to the power of a movement:

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Photo courtesy from lifeofpix.com

  • Women’s right movement (1848- present) equally right under the law as well as Suffrage movements led by Emmeline Pankhurst in England (1903) and her famous speech of Freedom or death. That was a time where it was a common belief that a woman’s place is at home and voting wouldn’t be adequate for her. Women’s Suffrage allowed votes for women and to stand for electoral office. It was granted in 1917 in Canada.
  • The abolition of slavery (1830-1865). Slavery expansion was stopped and Abraham Lincoln provided the famous speech House divided in 1858.
  • The Labor movement was constant from 1768 until 1980’s. However, the big movement was in 1935 with John L. Lewis from the U.S. who broke away and formed the committee for Industrial Organization and sparked millions of followers that continued to grow after. Therefore, it was provided a fair workplace practices and protections by stopping child work (1910), creating a law of minimum wage (1930), health benefits, safe workplace and 40 hours work per week.
  • The environmental movement in 1970 to the present. After a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, emerged with the idea of spreading awareness about air and water pollution. That day was April 22 and is the anniversary of the modern Earth day. The principal objective is to preserve natural resources and the planet itself. However, it is still a constant issue.

Movements are powerful and they can start with one person or a small group of persons who believe keenly in something and triumph with good causes and makes changes around the world.

Derek Sivers provides an interesting explanation in a funny and clever way, through this astonishing video that allows you to understand how a movement starts.

Video courtesy form Derek Sivers on youtube.com

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Women’s_suffrage

http://www.minyanville.com/businessmarkets/articles/10-movements-that-changed-america-movements/11/4/2011/id/37721?refresh=1

http://www.history.com/topics/labor

http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/Civil-Rights-Movement.aspx

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vDWWy4CMhE

http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement

http://www.historynet.com/womens-rights

Are you the 65%?

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Human behaviour is very complex and hard to understand. Did you ever wonder why some actions go way too far? Why people act brutally against each other? I think World War II is one of those significant events in history that we can all recall and get goosebumps from, just by thinking about it. It is difficult for me to understand why humans are cruel, but it happens and its components are bizarre. The horror of the human’s “dark side” happen everywhere and every day, and yet, we don’t understand it. Therefore we have a hard time trying to prevent it or even stop it.

In order to explore the reasons of why humans are cruel, at least in more basic settings, Stanley Milgram (1963) developed an experiment about Obedience to Authority and how far away people would go by following orders until the point to hurt another human being. In the name of science and as a concerned citizen, Milgram experiment succeeded.

The experiment consisted in placing 40 males in their 20’s and 50’s in a laboratory at Yale University. The subjects were told that they were involved in a learning experiment about memory and have to assume a role of ‘teacher’ and provide an electrical shock to the other subject who is the ‘learner’. The learner was an actor and the entire electrical shock was made-up, but the ‘teacher’ didn’t know and Milgram wanted to know how far away this random-volunteer people would go in order to obey authority.

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Photography courtesy of lifeofpix.com

Each situation came by pairs and ‘the teacher’ was told to administrate an electrical shock to an unknown “XXX”. The shock was intended for every mistake that ‘the learner’ made and increased each time. The learner was failing some orders and screaming of pain until the point that they went quiet, on purpose. The trick here is that the other subjects were acting the entire time and they never received a real electrical shock. Think about it for a minute, what would you do if you were in that situation? You honestly believe you are giving electrical shocks to someone else and just because you were ordered to do so? How far would you have gone? This is outrageous but this what a successful experiment that proved Milgram points.

So what are the findings exactly? Well, that a person is capable of going really far away and is more obedient than you think. A lot of people underestimate this and as shocking as it is, we tend to be very obedient. The subjects of the experiment were ordinary people like you and me and yet, 65% of them confirmed the theories about obedience to authority or should I say conformity? Anyway, it might be interrelated because the results point to the same, we tend to go with the flow of a social group and do what we are told. Unfortunately this can be used on both sides, for good and bad. Hopefully, our society gets to learn from the chaos of our past and don’t repeat the history.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. –George Santayana

Here is a video about Milgram experiment

Video courtesy form LiveWorld? via Youtube! on youtube.com

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Milgram_experiment

http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/milgram.htm

https://explorable.com/stanley-milgram-experiment

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_Santayana

Conformity… A problem?

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Group pressure and conformity are factors that shape our behaviour in social settings. These term are used to indicate agreement in order to be liked and to have an identity within a group. It may take different forms and positive or negative consequences. Therefore, I think we are pretty much familiar with words and associations like these ones: teasing (friends), criticism (family, boss, coworkers) and persuasion (leaders)… well yes I guess, everyone have experienced that. But are we really aware about it and how it transform us? Hard to tell. Anyhow, it is really interesting how by decade Psychologists like Salomon Asch (1951) and Jenness (1932) developed different situations where group pressure and conformity can easily be identified.

By combining and contrasting results and detecting patterns in common, diverse studies in the 50’s used Asch’s line judgment task in order to determinate the level of conformity, it changes and relation to the culture. The findings were that from 133 studies and 17 countries, the cultural variables and social influence are imperative to determinate individuals behaviour in a group. Collectivist and individualist countries showed different levels of conformity. For instance, a collectivist culture such as South America, Central America, Africa and Asia, tends to be more conforming. A collective culture is the one that emphasize purposes and necessities of the group over the individual. Relationships with other fellows represent an important function that determinate each person’s identity. On the contrary, an individualism culture like in Western European countries, North America, New Zealand and Australia, individual’s opinion and goals are first and they are over the group’s judgment.

Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-hollywood-los-angeles-car-sidiomaralamiPhoto courtesy of lifeofpix.com

The Asch’s line judgment task and Asch elevator conformity experiment consisted in a space with several subjects, where only one of them was the real subject of the test and the others were actors. The actors were carefully trained with a pre-selected answer or behaviour in order to evidence if the test-subject would choose to do the same as the entire group. For instance for the Asch’s line judgment task, each individual answered a question related to the longitude of a series of lines projected on a screen. Each line had different size and it had a letter respectively (A, B or C). They answered which line were the longest or shortest in relation to the reference line, but all the actors answered purposely incorrect. The intention? To examine if the individual of the test would honestly answer or be wrong and agree with his peer’s choice.

asch-experimentPhoto courtesy of en.wikipedia.org   

On the Asch elevator experiment, the actors faced the elevator in an unconventional way and the subject of the experiment would evidently try to face the elevator in the same way. The situation? An elevator with three to five individuals facing the rear while the test-subject would be the only one facing the door. The entire situation was odd and yet, the subject ended facing the rear as well.

The results? Conformity of being part of a group and go along with it. We want to be accepted, we don’t want to be evidently different. We are constantly adjusting and matching our decisions and behaviour under peer influences. It can be fine sometimes and give positive results, but what happens when actually it has a negative ones? How are we acting in our life? Are we doing good? is it fun? how do we determinate society future?

Here is a short video of the Asch’s line judgment task-experiment and Asch elevator  conformity experiment.

Video courtesy from HeroicImaginationTV on youtube.com

Video courtesy from Miguel Paulo Flores on vimeo.com

Enjoy it!

Sources

http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1996-01401-008

http://psychology.about.com/od/cindex/fl/What-Are-Collectivistic-Cultures.htm

http://culturematters.com/what-is-individualism/

https://explorable.com/asch-experiment

http://www.abcolombia.org.uk/mainpage.asp?mainid=76

http://www.simplypsychology.org/conformity.html

Bienvenue!

Photo courtesy of Lifeofpix.comPhoto courtesy of lifeofpix.com

Hello I’m Karen, and I’m pleased to share some social topics related to behaviour and culture. A better understanding of our peers, family and coworkers is always imperative for a success in human interaction. My knowledge in Psychology, Business and Marketing brought me to this idea and I hope you will enjoy it.