All posts by Ryan David Tuttle

PhD Graduate student studying Behavioral Neuroscience, Addiction, Stress, Behavioral Economics, and Individual Differences. Former member Ministerial Servant and Pioneer in a Spanish speaking congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Impairment of spatial learning and memory induced by learned helplessness and chronic mild stress.

This study examined the influence of learned helplessness (LH) and chronic mild stress (CMS) on spatial learning and memory in mice.  Researchers indicate that the hippocampal complex plays an important role in many common psychiatric disorders, spatial awareness, and is also involved in LH which is similar to depression in humans.  

There were 6 groups of mice with 12 mice in each group.  One control group for each independent (LH, CMS, or no stressor) variable and then each group has a similar a group that would receive an anti-depressant, “Imi” or “Flu”, to evaluate its effect.  Researchers induced LH using traditional shuttle box electric shock method. To induce CMS they used a variety of stressors that were presented at unpredictable times. Mice were also evaluated for plasma corticosterone levels and BDNF and CREB levels in the hippocampus were evaluated to asses stress and LH effects.

The research indicated that both Imi and Flu significantly reduced the number of escape failures in LH mice over the course of 18 days.  It also indicates that Imi and Flu reduced corticosterone in CMS mice over the course of 18 days. Additionally, both BDNF and CREB were improved with Imi and Flu.  Its notable that even though the drugs improved these measures, the levels never reached the same as the non-conditioned non-stressed mice.  

Lastly researchers evaluated mice in a Morris water maze.  Stressed mice performed significantly worse on escape times.  However, both Imi and Flu improved escape times. Interestingly mice who were not stressed but received Flu anyways did even better regarding escape times than mice who did not receive Flu.  

Song, L., Che, W., Min-wei, W., Murakami, Y., & Matsumoto, K.  (2006) Impairment of the spatial learning and memory induced by learning helplessness and chronic mild stress.  Pharmacology Biochemestry And Behavior.  83, 186-193.

Learned Helplessness

Title:  Learned Helplessness 

Authors: Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D

Journal:  Annual Review of Medicine

Year of Publication: 1972 Volume: 23 Pages: 407-412

Hypothesis:   It is the uncontrollable nature of inescapable shocks that produce learned helplessness and not shocks themselves.

Subjects:  Dogs

Methods: Dogs in the control group were placed in a shuttle box and administered electrical shocks.  The shuttle box had shocks on one side, a divider in the middle, and a side with no shocks. These dogs were allowed to move freely from the shock side to the no shock side.    In the experimental group dogs were restrained in a Pavlovian hammock and given uncontrollable shocks. Later these dogs were placed in a shuttle box and given shocks. Researchers observed response to the shocks in both groups.

Results:  In the control group the dogs would run frantically, defecate, urinate and howl until they accidently jump over the divider.  With subsequent trials the dogs learn to quickly move to the non-shocking side of the shuttle box. However, in the experimental group when the dogs who received uncontrollable shocks were placed in a shutter box with shocks they did not try to escape.  In instances where the dogs appeared to accidently escape the shocks they did not learn that jumping the divider provided relief from shocks.  

Connect to two topics from our class:    Experimental psychologists focus on behavior that is reinforced by rewards or punishment that a subject could control such as operant conditioning, which we discussed in class.  Learned Helplessness is different from operant conditioning in that there is no reward or punishment given and the subject has no control over what happens to them. In away Learned helplessness is almost the opposite of operant conditioning because dogs learn that they cannot escape by receiving uncontrollable shocks rather than some sort of conditional reinforcer.      Additionally, in class we discussed depression. Helpless subjects are often thought to be a good model for depression in humans, and that humans that are depressed may actually be helpless due to incontrollable situations they have experienced.  

Divalproex Sodium (Depakote)

2019 Article where I explore the psychiatric drug Divalproex Sodium.

Divalproex Sodium is a medication that is used as an anti-convulsant, antiepileptic, and mood stabilizer.  Some common names include Depakote, Depakene, and Valproic Acid.  Its chemical formula is C16H31NaO4.  Divalproex Sodium is a fatty acid comprised of sodium valproate and valproic acid.  When consumed the compound separates into a valproate ion in the intestines. (National Center for Biotechnology Information 2018, AbbVie Inc. 2017)

 Once absorbed the valproate ion binds to and inhibits gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transaminase which is an enzyme that breaks down GABA.  The exact mechanism and site of action is not known but the inhibition of the GABA enzyme is thought to produce the drug’s effects by increasing the levels of GABA in the brain.  It is also thought that the Valproate Ion might also act by blocking the reuptake of GABA into neurons or glial cells. Another explanation regarding the action of Valproate Ion is that it suppresses the action of voltage-sensitive sodium channels and stops repetitive firing in the neurons.  (National Center for Biotechnology Information 2018).

One of Divalproex Sodium’s intended uses is to reduce manic episodes that are often a symptom of bipolar disorder.  It can also be used to treat seizures and migraine headaches. Occasionally Divalproex sodium may have unintended side effects that include bleeding, increased blood ammonia levels, low body temperature, and drowsiness.  Sometimes Divalproex may produce an allergic reaction marked by hives, rashes, and other types of sores. (National Center for Biotechnology Information 2018, AbbVie Inc. 2017)

The advantages to using Divalproex Sodium are that it can provide relief from potentially dangerous manic episodes, headaches and seizures.  The disadvantages might include the drug not producing the desired effect or producing unwanted side effect’s such as excessive drowsiness (AbbVie Inc. 2017).

References

AbbVie Inc. (2017).  About Depakote.  Retrieved from https://www.depakote.com/about-depakote

National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2018) Divalproex sodium.  Retrieved from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/23663956

Attention Processing Theories and PTSD

The following is a literature review I wrote in 2017 on the subject of Top-Down and Bottom-up cognitive processing and PTSD.

Our perception of the world around us is affected by our attention processing styles.  Attention processing styles can be divided into top-down and bottom-up styles. (Avery, Dutt & Krichmar 2014) Bottom-up processing refers to the processing of sensory stimulus whereas top-down processing refers to the processing of goal directed thought (Goldstein 2015, Avery, Dutt & Krichmar 2014).  Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, effect nearly 10% of the population, include disturbances in the processing of environmental sensory experiences. (Fagelson 2007, Stewart & White 2008). Because of this it is worth examining altered attention processing and its role in PTSD. First, we will examine the nature of PTSD and its symptoms.  Secondly, we will examine Attention Processing theories, with an emphasis on Gibson’s bottom-up processing theory. Then we look at cognitive factors such as bottom-up processing and their relationship to PTSD. Lastly, we will consider the brain regions that are implicated in both bottom-up processing and top down processing as they relate to PTSD.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder and is often seen as the result of wars, natural disasters, and domestic violence.  These sorts of trauma usually involve exposure to real or perceived threats of serious injury or death. This results in the symptoms that are associated with PTSD such as reexperiencing the distressing event, avoidance of stimuli that are reminders of the event, exaggerated startle response, increased general arousal and hypervigilance (Victor et al 2005, Stewart & White 2008, Calhoun et al 2011).  Of interest to processing styles is the inability to manage and filter stimuli and hypervigilance. (Lane, Chua & Dolan 1999, Stewart & White 2008) 

The inability to filter sensory stimuli is one major factor in PTSD symptoms.  Disruptions to sensory filtering are described as a failure to filter responses to environmental stimuli that are not relevant.  (Stewart & White 2008) Although there seems to be a connection between sensory filtering and PTSD symptoms such as re-experiencing traumatic events or hypervigilance the exact relationship is not clearly defined but prior research has established a relationship between stress and pain and reduced sensory filtering (Stewart & White 2008).   

Theories of Attention Processing

Bottom-Up, Direct Processing Theory.  James Gibson’s theory of direct perception discusses bottom-up style processing.  In his view evolution drove humans to develop a bottom-up approach to attention processing due to the need to survive in a hostile world.  It is thought that selective pressures caused the development of receptors that were sensitive to meaningful stimuli in the environment (Démuth 2013).

Gibson goes on to theorize that our perception is caused by optical flows.  This optical flows can be understood as patterns of light in the environment.  Light from the environment enters the sensory organs, the eyes, and transmit information about an object in the environment.  There are billions of of light waves entering the eyes at any given time and many details such as shape, size, and texture can be observed in this way.  Although he discussed light rays, Gibson’s theory equally applies to any sensory input including touch or sound (Démuth 2013).

Gibson postulated that our position and physical proximity to objects in the environment affect our field of view.  Changing position and proximity changes our visual field and allows us to map our environment from different angles.  This allows us to gather further information such as texture gradients and the relative size of objects in our field of view.  Gibson thought that the main feature in our perception was the stimulus from the environment, ie light waves, sound waves etc and that these stimuli were mainly just processed by the receptor organs.  He postulated that the perception of these stimuli is consistent, objective and unchanging (Démuth 2013).

Top-down, Indirect Perception Theory.  Unlike Gibson, Richard Gregory’s theory indicates that although we perceive sensory stimuli, the stimuli themselves are not important.  Instead Gregory says it’s our interpretation of them that is important. He goes on to explain that our interpretation of stimulus is subjective and the interpretation of them is subject to prior experience (Démuth 2013).

Gregory believed that our subjective interpretation of stimulus was processed in higher corext centers of the brain.  Unlike Gibson, he felt that both our receptors (eyes, ears etc) and our brain are important in perception. According to Gregory the sensory receptors receive ambiguous data that must be then interpreted by the brain itself.  He states that the processes of attention is an active process where an individual extracts environmental stimuli, evaluates it, and interprets. He states that perception itself is the end result of this complex multistep process.  Gregory also states that an individuals prior knowledge, motivation, and emotions play an integral role in an individual’s interpretation of the environmental stimuli (Démuth 2013). 

Due to all the factors that are involved in top down processing there are a variety of way that an individual may interpret any particular set of stimuli.   This may sometimes lead to inaccurate interpretations of stimuli (Démuth 2013). 

Attention Processing and PTSD

PTSD is often associated with wartime trauma and prior research has suggested that exposure to loud noises of combat may contribute to sensory filtering disturbances (Victor et al 2005, Stewart & White 2008).  However current research suggests that sensory filtering disturbances and hypervigilance can occur due to a variety trauma and is not singularly the result of wartime trauma or exposure to related noise. Researchers used self-report measures to assess undergraduate students with PTSD, students with trauma but no PTSD diagnosis, and students with minor trauma history.  (Stewart & White 2008)  

They found that persons with both high trauma and PTSD had altered sensory filtering but individuals with minor trauma did not.  These finding suggest that trauma may cause altered sensory filtering and therefore changes to bottom-up processing. However, one limitation to these findings is that participants were not assessed for sensory processing before and after the trauma and therefore it is hard to discern if increased trauma causes changes to processing resulting in PTSD symptoms or if these individuals had pre-existing sensory processing issues that when combined with high levels of trauma predispose them to PTSD symptoms.  It’s important to note that persons who experience PTSD may also comorbidly experience depression and other anxiety disorders. These disorders can also impact attention and processing and may affect the result of research (Dalgleish et al 2003).   

Additional studies have shown that pain, stress and anxiety are associated with reduced ability to filter environmental stimuli, all of these are associated with PTSD.   (Stewart & White 2008, Lane, Chua & Dolan 1999). The changes to processing of environmental stimulus, as in the case PTSD, directly relates to the cognitive factors that are described by Gibson’s Bottom up processing theory (Démuth 2013). 

Bottom-up processing is implicated in emotions, perception, learning, and memory.  Interestingly emotion, perception, learning, and memory are all areas that have been shown to be altered in persons diagnosed with PTSD causing individuals to have an increased reactions to environmental stimuli. (Lane, Chua & Dolan 1999, Oschner et al. 2009). Bottom up processing is also associated with experiencing pain and chronic pain is associated with PTSD (Asmundson & Taylor 2006)   Additionally the PTSD symptom of hypervigilance relates to bottom up processing in that this processing style is associated with stimulus salience, responding to environmental stimulants like color, contrast or movement (Goldstein 2015, Stewart & White 2008, Démuth 2013).  

Attention, PTSD, and the Brain

The physical brain and all related activities are affected by attention processing. (Goldstein 2015 p. 112) The prefrontal cortex and the amygdala specifically are implicated in Gibson’s Bottom-up theory, Gregory’s top-down theory, and in PTSD symptoms. (Victor et al 2005, Koch et al. 2013, Démuth 2013) The relationship between various brain regions is complex and and research differentiating between the role of top-down and bottom-up processes in the brain has been limited.  This is because prior studies were behavioral in nature and only measured behavioral results as opposed to the results produced by modern fMRI studies. Of the existing neuroscience studies many have focused on bottom-up processes and their role in brain systems such as the amygdala. Few studies have focused on top-down processes (Oschner et al. 2009). The prefrontal cortex is usually associated with top-down processing and reduced ability to control fear response. There is a large body of research that associates the amygdala with bottom-up processing and increased sensitivity and decreased ability to filter environmental stimulus (Avery, Dutt & Krichmar 2014, Oschner et al. 2009, Reynaud et al. 2015, Scheider et al. 2015, Koch et al 2013). 

Additionally, in individuals who experience PTSD, blood flow to the prefrontal cortex is inversely correlated with the blood flow to the amygdala (Reynaud et al. 2015).  This suggests that increased blood flow to the amygdala would produce an increase in emotional reactions to environmental stimuli in harmy with Gibson’s bottom-up theory.  The corresponding decreasing in blood flow to the prefrontal cortex would produce a decrease in cognitive ability to assess and environmental stimuli appropriately and this is in harmony with Gregory’s top-down theory.   

Another interesting relationship between the prefrontal cortex and amygdala is found in research regarding animals that were selectively bred for reduced fear.  These animals had decreased volume in the amygdala and increased volume in the prefrontal cortex. This again suggest that the amygdala is important in Gibson’s Bottom-up theory of attention processing and the prefrontal cortex is important in Gregory’s top-down processing theory. (Brusini et al. 2018, Démuth 2013).  This supports the idea that the larger prefrontal cortex is giving the animals greater top-down ability to process and filter irrelevant stimuli that would normally be interpreted as fear inducing by the amygdala.  

A study by Oschner et al. (2009) they found specifically that only the left amygdala was activated in top-down processing but both the left and right were activated by bottom-up processing.  In this study involving 20 females participants were shown an image and told to respond naturally to the image or to generate a negative emotional response. Researchers were trying to asses the brain regions responsible for the different types of emotion generation.  The natural response to the image was considered the bottom-up response and the deliberate generation of a negative response was considered the top-down response. There findings suggest that the left amygdala is responsible for both types of emotion processing. They found that the only the bilateral amygdala, occipitotemporal cortex, the right parietal cortex and the lateral prefrontal cortex were activated during bottom up processing specifically.  The left ventral and dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, the bilateral dorsal medial prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex, and the bilateral temporal cortex and putamen were only activated during top-down processing (Oschner et al. 2009).

This suggests that the left amygdala may be affected more by top-down processing that relates to emotion and anxiety and interestingly some studies have found that individuals with PTSD have consistently smaller left amygdalas (Koch et al 2014). The left amygdala specifically may be implicated Gregory’s top-down theory of higher processing whereas and the bilateral amygdala, lateral prefrontal cortex, and parietal cortex are related to Gibson’s bottom-up pressing.   Additional studies found that the amygdala was activated in individuals with PTSD when they were shown trauma-related stimuli, this further stresses the role of these brain regions in PTSD and altered attention processing (Oschner et al. 2009, Koch et al 2014).  

Conclusion

We have looked at the symptoms and causes of PTSD as they relate to attention processing.  We examined Gibson’s theory of bottom-up processing and how it may be augmented individuals with PTSD.  We also reviewed Gregory’s theory and explored how top-down processing might be reduced in individuals with PTSD.  Lastly we looked at brain regions that may play a role in both attention processing and PTSD. We saw how the amygdala plays an important role in bottom-up processing and the prefrontal cortex plays a role in top-down processing.  We also noted that in individuals with PTSD activation and blood flow to these these areas is inversely correlated.  

References

Asmundson G.J.G., Taylor S. (2006) PTSD and Chronic Pain: Cognitive-Behavioral Perspectives and Practical Implications. In: Young G., Nicholson K., Kane A.W. (eds) Psychological Knowledge in Court. Springer, Boston, MA (pp.225-241) 

Avery, M., Dutt, N., Krichmar, J. (2015) Mechanism underlying the basal forebrain enhancement of top-down and bottom-up attention.  European Journal of Neuroscience, 39, 852-865

Brusini, M., Wanga, C., Rubind, C., Ringe, H., Afonso, S., Blanco-Aguiar, J., Ferrand, N., Rafatid, N., Villafuerteh, R., Smedbya, Ö., Dambergi, P., Hallbööke, F., Fredriksonj, M., and Anderssond, L. (2018) Changes In Brain Architecture Are Consistent With Altered Fear Processing In Domestic Rabbits.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(28), 7380-7385.  

Calhoun, P., Wagner, R., McClernon, J., Lee, S., Dennis, M., Vrana, S., Clancy, C., Collie, C., Johnson, Y., and Beckham, J. (2011) The effect of nicotine and trauma context on acoustic startle in smokers with and without posttraumatic stress disorder.  Psychopharmacology, 215, 379-389.

Dalgleish, T., Taghavi, R., Neshat-Doost, H., Moradi, A., Canterbury, R., and Yule, W. (2003) 

Patterns of Processing Bias for Emotional Information Across Clinical Disorders: A Comparison of Attention, Memory, and Prospective Cognition in Children and Adolescents With Depression, Generalized Anxiety, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.  Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 31(1), 10-21.

Démuth, A. (2013) Perception Theories. Trnava, Slovakia: Filozofická fakulta Trnavskej univerzity v Trnave.

Fagelson, M. (2007) The association between tinnitus and posttraumatic stress disorder.  Journal of Audiology, 16(2), 107-17. 

Goldstein, B.E. (2015) Cognitive Psychology. Stamford, Connecticut: Cengage Learning  

Koch, S., Zuiden, M., Nawijn, L., Frijling, J., Veltman, D., and Olff, M.  (2014) Intranasal oxytocin as a strategy medication-enhanced psychotherapy of PTSD: Salience processing and fear inhibition processes. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 40, 242-256.

Lane, R., Chua, P., Dolan, R. (1999) Common effects of emotional valence, arousal and attention on neural activation during visual processing of pictures. Neuropsychologia, 37(9), 989-997.  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0028-3932(99)00017-2

Ochsener, K., Ray, R., Hughes, B., McRae, K., Cooper, J., Weber, J., Gabrieli, J., Gross, J. (2009) Bottom-up And Top-down Processes In Emotion Generation: Common And Distinct Neural Mechanisms.  Psychological Science, 20(11), 1322-1331.

Reynaud, E., Guedj, E., Trousselard, M., Koury-Malhame, M., Zenjidjian, X., Fakra, E., Souville, M., Nazarian, B., Blin, O., Canini, F., Khalfa, S. (2005) Acute stress disorder modifies cerebral activity of amygdala and prefrontal cortex.  Cognitive Neuroscience, 6(1), 39-43.  dx.doi,org/10.1080/17588928.2014.996212

Schneider, K., Schote, A., Mayer, J., & Frings, C. (2015) Genes of the dopaminergic system selectively modulate top-down but not bottom-up attention. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience, 15, 104-116.

Stewart, L., & White, P. (2008) Sensory filtering phenomenology in PTSD.  Depression and Anxiety, 25, 38-45.

Victor, W., Demetrios, J., Fernandez, A., Brooks, M., Hettermal, J. and Pandurangi, K. (2005) Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Clinical Features, Pathophysiology, and Treatment.  The American Journal of Medicine, 119(5), 383-390. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2005.09.027

Logical Fallacies that affect our Society Today

Writen in 2016 this article explores logical fallacies and the 2016 Presidential Election.

Our modern world is filled with all different kinds of people.  As such it’s no surprise that there are disagreements in our society today.  When examining today’s social problems it’s important to know what types of logical fallacies there are and what they look like.  We can ask ourselves if information is logical or reasonable but above all once we understand logical fallacies it will be easier to identify poor logic and reason.  (Lauer, 2011)    

Logical fallacies often exacerbate social problems.  Fallacies can be defined as, “a false or mistaken idea, false reasoning.” (Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary)  Although there are many different logical fallacies that may creep their way into our logic we are going to examine some examples from modern politics that exemplify several fallacies that affect our society today, namely the Fallacy of Appeal to Prejudice, Fallacy of Personal Attack, Fallacy of Circular Reasoning, Fallacy of Composition, Fallacy of Authority and Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness.

The first example we will examine is a quote from the republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.  During his announcing his bid for the office of president The Washington Post quotes Donald Trump as saying, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” (Trump 2015, as cited in Washington Post, 2015) Here we see Donald Trump using the Fallacy of Appeal to prejudice, Fallacy of composition, and Fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

In this example the presidential candidate is using preexisting prejudices that some of the American public have against Mexican immigrants in order to bolster his own position and appeal as a candidate for president.  This is the Fallacy of Appeal to prejudice or “argument ad populum”. The fallacy of appeal to prejudice is when an individual uses “popular prejudices or passions to convince others of the correctness of their position.” (Lauer, 2011)  

We also see the Fallacy of composition in Donald Trump’s Statement.  The fallacy of composition is “the assertion that what is true of the part is necessarily true of the whole” (Lauer, 2011)  Essentially Donald Trump is asserting that the majority of Mexican immigrants are people with problems, drug smugglers, criminals and rapists.  It may be true that some Mexican immigrants are problematic. But to say that all or most Mexican’s are problematic based on the actions of a few is a fallacy. 

We also have the Fallacy of misplaced concreteness in the aforementioned quote from Donald Trump.  The Fallacy of misplaced concreteness is described as “Making something abstract into something concrete” (Lauer, 2011)  The book Social Problems and the Quality of life uses the example of ‘Society’ to explain the concept.  Society is an abstract entity. It is composed of many individuals who interact in complex ways.  Therefore it is a fallacy to state that Society “does” “makes” or “causes” anything. (Lauer, 2011)  It’s an over simplification of a complex idea. When Donald Trump says, “When Mexico sends its people…” it is an example of the Fallacy of misplaced concreteness.  Mexico is a nation made up of many individuals and it is a fallacy to state that Mexico “sends” individuals.

The next example we will consider is from the March 3rd, 2016 Republican debate.  During the debate there were many personal attacks against the physical attributes of the presidential candidates.  Senator Marco Rubio called attention to Donald Trump’s use of fallacy when he said, “And the second point, you see what happens, again, when you challenge him on a policy issue. You asked him about the economy, and the first thing he does is launch an attack about some little guy thing. Because he doesn’t have answers.”(Rubio, as cited in Washington Post, 2016) 

What Senator Marco Rubio is referencing here is Donald Trump’s use of the fallacy of personal attack.  The Fallacy of personal attack is a tactic used to “attack the opponent personally when they can’t support their position by reason, logic, or facts.”  (Lauer, 2011) Although he did not use the term specifically, Senator Marco Rubio was accurately highlighting Trump’s use of this Fallacy of personal attack.  Marco Rubio was pointing out that Donald Trump chose to attack him personally by criticizing his height rather than addressing the topic at hand.   

The Last example we will consider is another quote from Donald Trump during is an exchange with NBC’s American television journalist Chuck Todd.  When speaking with Chuck Todd, Donald Trump was stated that there were many individuals that had tail gate parties and celebrations after the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001.  As evidence for his statement, Donald Trump said, “You look at @realdonaldtrump, where I have millions and millions of people on there, between Facebook and Twitter.  I have 10 million people between the two of them.  You look at that.  And I’m getting unbelievable response of people that said they saw it.”  (Trump 2015, as cited in Washington Post, 2015)  

This is an example of Fallacy of circular reasoning. Circular reasoning is defined as using a conclusion to support the assumptions that were necessary to make the conclusions.  (Lauer, 2011) This quote is an example of circular reasoning because Donald Trump is citing other individuals that support his ideas as evidence for his ideas, instead of citing empirical evidence.  

The quote is also another example of the Fallacy of Appeal to Prejudice.  Donald Trump is appealing to the prejudices that many American’s had after the 9/11 attacks towards Muslims and individuals from the Middle East instead of appealing to logic and facts.

The last example we will consider involves the current Religio-Political divide in the United States.  In modern politics religion is often a source of contention in the United States that involves the Fallacy of Authority.  Fallacy of Authority is when an argument contains and illegitimate appeal to authority. The reason that it may be fallacious is that the authority may be ambiguous, the authority may be irrelevant to the problem, or that the authority may be pursuing a bias.  (Lauer, 2011) 

In the case of the religious divide in the United States we may see individuals making an argument based on the teachings of their particular holy text.  This may be a logical fallacy in the instance where people of the same faith interpret their religious book differently as is the case with the bible and those who support and oppose capital punishment.  In this instance the authority is ambiguous. (Lauer, 2011) This is also fallacious because not all individuals in a society agree on the authority of any given holy text. 

In conclusion we have examined just three different instances in the world of politics today and examined five different fallacies that occurred therein.   It’s important that we know and understand logical fallacies so that when we observe them in real life context we can identify and avoid them. It is important that our leaders and we as individuals use sound logic in our discussions regarding social problems and strive to avoid logical fallacies despite how common they maybe.  

Works Cited

Lauer, R. H. (2011). Social Problems and the Quality of Life. New York: McGraw-Hill .

Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary. (n.d.). Merriam-webster.com. Retrieved August 3, 2016

Washington Post. (2015, July 8). Donald Trump’s false comments connecting Mexican immigrants and crime. Retrieved August 3, 2016, from Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/07/08/donald-trumps-false-comments-connecting-mexican-immigrants-and-crime/

Washington Post. (2015, November 30). Donald Trump’s Dangerously Circular Logic. Retrieved August 4, 2016, from Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/11/29/the-dangerous-circular-logic-of-donald-trump/

Washington Post. (2016, March 3). The Fox News GOP Debate Transcript, Annotated. Retrieved August 4, 2016, from Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/03/03/the-fox-news-gop-debate-transcript-annotated/

Effects of Concentration and Molecular Weight on Diffusion

A lab report from early 2016 when I was still a science newbie:

Introduction:  We attempted to discern what effect a solution’s molecular weight and concentration would have on its diffusion in an agar gel. 

Hypothesis:  Liquids with higher concentration will disperse faster than liquids of low concentration in the agar.  Liquids with high molecular weight will disperse slower than liquids of a low molecular weight at the same concentration. 

Equipment/reagents:   One Petri plate containing agar gel, a clean straw, Potassium Permanganate (KMnO4) at 3 concentrations (.1m, .01m, and .001m), Methylene Blue (C16H18ClN3S) at a concentration of .001m, and droppers for respective liquids.  Ruler. 

Method:  The clean straw is used to scoop out 4 holes evenly spaced in the agar gel.  The holes did not reach all the way down to the petri-dish.  1 drop of Potassium Permanganate was placed into each of 3 holes at each of the concentrations (.1m, .01m, and .001m).  One drop of Methylene Blue was placed in the remaining hole.  Petri dish was then covered and let sit undisturbed for 1 hour.  Afterwards Petri cover was removed and the diameter of the drops was measured in millimeters with the ruler. 

Data/results:  Potassium Permanganate (0.1m) spread to a diameter of 15mm.  Potassium Permanganate (0.01M) spread to a diameter of 10mm. Potassium Permanganate (0.001m) spread to a diameter of 4mm.  Methylene Blue (0.001m) spread to a diameter of 10mm.

Discussion:  Results showed that solutions of potassium permanganate with a higher concentration spread further than solutions with a lower concentration.  When comparing solutions of different molecular weight we found that the heavier Methlyene Blue spread further than Potassium Permanganate of equal concentration.       

Conclusion:  The results did not match our hypothesis.  From the results we can conclude that concentration and diffusion have a positive correlation in solutions of Potassium Permanganate.  Additionally we can conclude that Methlyene Blue has a higher rate of diffusion than Potassium Permanganate due to its heavier molecular weight.  Additional experiments would need to be done with other solutions to determine if there are other variables that would be effecting the rate of diffusion. 

References:  

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

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

Using Psychological Principles in Daily Life

My writing skills have come along way! The following is a brief paper I wrote in 2016 for an Abnormal Psychology class:

Throughout our daily lives we come across a wide variety of people. These people often times have varying perspectives on life and communicating with others that do not share out perspectives can be a challenge. There are two major techniques that can help us in our quest to us psychological principles in our daily life, they are having existential worldview and empathetic listening.

An existential world view could be described as having the belief that life has no inherent meaning. Perhaps a better way to explain it is the only meaning that life has is the meaning we give it. This view point can be ascribed to behaviors as well. All behaviors are inherently neutral, neither good or bad, and any morality they seem to have is because we have assigned it to them.

When we have an existential worldview we can acknowledge that others may have assigned life, and various behaviors, a different value than we ourselves have. We can do this without being judgmental because we have the view that there is no innate morality. As individuals we know our feelings on a certain subject or behavior do not reflect a universal or higher morality. As we interact and listen to others who have differing viewpoints and feelings we can always accept their point as true in the sense that it is truly their viewpoint or feelings.

This brings us to the second point, empathetic listening. Empathy can be defined as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions”. So
empathetic listening would be seeking to understand another person’s experiences and
emotions by means of listening.

Combining empathetic listening with an existential world view is a powerful way in
which we can apply psychological principles in our daily lives. We can seek to
understand our fellow humans by listening intently while acknowledging that their point
of view is true, true to the individual, despite the fact that it might differ from your
personal views.


References
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/existential