Archive for the 'Sense Perception' Category

Nov 27 2012

Profile Image of aaron01pd2013

Not So Fast “Pot-Heads”

Although cannabis, otherwise known as marijuana, weed or pot, is widely known as a harmful drug, voters in Colorado and Washington have passed referendums legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Legalizing weed has been a controversial topic in the United States for quite a while. In the short run, the legalization of pot can have many positive implications towards the economy, but in the long run, will harm peoples’ health. This topic interests me because I plan on attending a US college next year and I am frightened by the likelihood that the legalization of pot spreads from Washington and Colorado to the state of my college.

First and foremost, arguments from the CNN and HuffingtonPost articles on the justification of the legalization of marijuana correlate to the natural sciences and human sciences areas of knowledge. In the former, marijuana legalization activists argue that controlled use of marijuana is no more harmful than legal drugs such as cigarettes. A counterclaim is that even if the drug use is controlled, second-hand smoke may harm others, often times children. Aside from the second-hand smoke which is even more harmful to cilia in lungs than first-hand smoke, smoking weed in front of underage people can cause a negative influence. There is a negative psychological influence that comes side by side with the biological harm to one’s body.

Although there are negative effects of the legalization of marijuana on the micro level, there are more positive implications on the macro level. As seen from the HuffingtonPost article, the legalization of pot will decrease the cost for users. From the laws of supply and demand in Economics, an increase in supply due to lower cost in growing pot in a legal environment will push down price. According to Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, a non-profit lobbying group working to legalize pot, legalized pot could cost 100 times less than its previous illegal price. This would increase consumption and boost aggregate demand, thereby having a positive impact on the economy. Some would argue that it would be difficult to regulate the consumption of pot. A counterclaim is government tax can be used to push up the price of pot. While making pot less easily affordable, the government may also increase its tax revenue by $500 million, according to WPTV. Using logic and reason, another counterclaim would be if the government struggled to keep pot illegal before it was legalized, how would it manage to regulate the price of pot after it is legalized? Examining the issue from an alternate perspective, research from the American College of Physicians shows that cannabis extract can offer patients a therapeutic option in treating cancers, which in turn would support the legalization of weed.

The extent to which recreational pot should be legalized in Washington and Colorado remains a controversial issue among critics and politicians. As a knower, I believe pot should be kept illegal simply due to the negative health implications such as second-hand smoke. In the short run, pot may be a strong economic stimulus that would appeal to everybody during this tough economic era, but in the long run, people will likely develop lung cancer. My stance against the legalization of pot is strongly influenced by my Chinese cultural background and stringent parents, who reject the use of drugs. The legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado grants individuals with more freedom but also more liability.

Works Cited

Fairchild, Caroline. “Legalizing Marijuana In Washington And Colorado Could Decrease Cost For Users.” The Huffington Post., 07 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. <>.

“Hemp Hemp Hooray T Shirt Pot Weed Marijuana 420 Tee by Shirtmandude T Shirts –” Teenormous. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. <>.

“Hemp Oil and Cancer – National Health Federation – Your Voice for Health Freedom.” Hemp Oil and Cancer – National Health Federation – Your Voice for Health Freedom. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. <>.

“Inspiring Pictures.” Cannabis, Herb, Pot, Smoke, Weed. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. <>.

“Marijuana Use Up, Meth Use Down, Says Study of Illegal Drugs.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. <>.

“New Study: Weed Is Bad News – Page 1.” New Study: Weed Is Bad News – Page 1. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. <>.

NG, CHRISTINA, ABBY PHILLIPS, and CLAYTON SANDELL. “Colorado, Washington Become First States to Legalize Recreational Marijuana.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 07 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. <>.

“Smoking and Asthma: Tobacco, Second-Hand Smoke, and More.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. <>.

Washington, NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Voters in, and Colorado Passed Ballot Initiatives Tuesday to Legalize Marijuana for Recreational Use. “Colorado, Washington Legalize Recreational Marijuana Use.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 07 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. <>.

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Nov 27 2012

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When should pictures not be published?

In April of this year, the Los Angeles Times published photos of U.S. soldiers posing with bodies of insurgents in Afghanistan. The Times wrote that a soldier came forward with these images to “draw attention to the safety risk associated with a decline in leadership and discipline” (Fantz 2012). The U.S. government condemned the photos. Leon Panetta, the U.S. defense secretary, promised to punish those involved. However, the government also criticized the LA Times for ignoring their request not to publish the photos (Daily Mail Reporter). Times Editor, Davan Maharaj, however, explained the decision to publish “a small but representative selection” of the 18 photos was made in order to “fulfill [the] obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops.”

Reading about this, the knowledge issue that came to mind was: How do we know whether it is ethical for a periodical to publish something? The U.S government did not want these pictures, originally taken in 2010, to be published “at a time when relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan [were] particularly sensitive (Daily Mail Reporter)”. However, due to freedom of press, the government could not prohibit the publication of the photos. Nevertheless, was the decision of the Times ethical? My personal bias is that I believe that journalists have a duty, as Maharaj alluded to, provide the democratic public with information that can let them be active citizens. However, this issue could be looked at through various ethical lenses. Depending on the approach and ethical lens, different conclusions can be drawn.

The first lens could be the rights approach. Based on this approach, the Times was ethically justified to publish the photos. Although the U.S. government requested against this and criticized the choice, the publication has a right to make this decision due to freedom of the press.

However, if this situation was being judged based on the five pillars of morality (Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, Purity/Sanctity), the decision to publish the photos can be seen as unethical. The Times is putting the safety of the troops at risk by publishing these photos, because, as Mr Karzai explained, ’similar incidents of an odious nature’ in the past sparked angry reactions from Afghans, including violent protests that left dozens dead (Daily Mail Reporter). Additionally, by ignoring governmental requests, the newspaper is going against authority. Finally, by publishing these pictures the Times are harming their “sanctity” as the pictures are condemned: the president of Afghanistan responded by calling the pictures ‘disgusting’ and the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Ryan Crocker, called the behavior shown in the pictures ‘morally repugnant’(Daily Mail Reporter).

Nevertheless, a different approach of using these five pillars could argue that, by publishing these photos, the Times are doing what is “fair” by fulfilling their duty of reporting on the war. The Times could also be seen as fighting for the “respect” of the Army’s enemies. As James Marks, retired U.S. Army general, explains, the soldiers dehumanized the enemy and “that can’t be done.You’ve got to hold these bad guys with respect that they deserve if they’re willing to kill themselves to achieve a goal” (Fantz 2012). Finally, the publishing of the pictures can be seen as protecting the “purity” of the army. By calling attention to the problems committed by soldiers who, according to Marks, “sadly made a huge mistake”, you can encourage there to be more discipline so that not “99% of [the] military…do a magnificent job”, but 100% and, as the alleged submitter of these images claimed, “draw attention to the safety risk”.

Clearly, depending on your approach and your personal principles, the decision taken by Times can be seen as both ethical and unethical. Furthermore, by looking at the issue through the Human Science, Politics, additional conclusions can be found. The U.S. government condemned the publication of the pictures because it has the duty to protect its army and the publication of the pictures could cause potential harm. However, journalists also have a political duty. In a democratic society, like in the United States, the press plays an important role of informing the public. Therefore, although the government criticized the Times, in the end, it did not take further action as this would obstruct freedom of press.

I have not seen the pictures myself. The mere descriptions of these photos repulse me: “Two soldiers posed holding a dead man’s hand with the middle finger raised (Zucchino 2012)”. Therefore, although I am a strong supporter of the decision of the Times to inform the public about these pictures, considering different ethical and political points, I think the actual pictures should not have been published for the public to see. The language used to describe the pictures was dangerous enough without the addition of sense perception. I do not think there was a need for the “one thousand words”. However, this perspective does not have much to do with ethics and a lot more to do with my ways of knowing.  But is there really a way to split the two?

Works Cited

Daily Mail Reporter (2012, April 19). Afghan president criticises ‘disgusting’ photos of U.S. soldiers posing with corpses of suicide bombers and calls for western troops to speed up withdrawal. Daily Mail. Retrieved from

Fantz, Ashley. (2012, April 19). How will leaked photos impact U.S. mission in Afghanistan? CNN. Retrieved from

Zucchino, David. (2012, April 18). U.S. troops posed with body parts of Afghan bombers. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from

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Nov 26 2012

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Seeing Feelings Instead of Feeling Them

We feel a myriad of things- joy, pain, sorrow, sympathy; the list goes on. Instead of feeling them, what if I was to tell you that you could see these emotional responses? According to inventor and neuroscientist, Christopher deCharms, this seemingly impossible task has been made possible with modern day technology.

He discovered a way to use the functional magnetic resonance imaging to visually display our brains and the pathways in them that control our feelings. From this, not only can we see what we are feeling, but we can also master how to control our feelings by interpreting our brain patterns. DeCharms has been holding clinical trials on those who have been suffering from chronic pain, and 44 to 64 percent of these participants have been experiencing a decrease in pain.

View of the brain through the fMRI

View of the brain through the fMRI

Though this advancement in our pursuit of brain control may be helpful in aiding those in pain to eliminate their suffering, erasing our feelings will have a large list of implications that come with. If we were left with the ability to erase whatever we did not wish to feel, we would erase all our pains and sorrows away. This means that we would be living in a world where no distress is apparent. One way of defining cognitive schema is that it is a web of information, expectations, and beliefs of a feature of the world, and they aid in forecasting future events based on past experiences (Crane & Hannibal, 2009). This means that our past will determine what we expect to happen in the future. Imagine if after you stole somebody’s property, you had the power to erase the guilt you felt. According to your cognitive schema, you will perceive stealing as acceptable because you were able to erase the negative emotions induced in you that came with it. Is it really ethical that we become free from consequences of our wrong doings?

I personally believe that having control over our feelings could be an alternative to medical treatment for the emotionally unstable, or chronically injured. However, for others who are not in immediate need to control these feelings, this fMRI method should not be a used to control their feelings, for the repercussions could remove implications of our mistakes, making it potentially unethical. My bias is that I have not experienced any trauma or major depressor; therefore, I do not have any unstable fluctuations in my emotions that I feel the strong need to control. However, for those who have, or those who desire to control their feelings for other compelling reasons, this method of deCharms’ may be a popular procedure.

We can easily copy the actions of others that we see with our eyes, by controlling our muscles. Much like that, we will be able to control our brains in the future as well. If you were left with the responsibility to control what you felt, what would you do with it?

Works Cited:

deCharms, C. (Performer) (2008). Christopher decharms: A look inside the brain in real time [Web]. Retrieved from

Crane, J., & Hannibal, J. (2009). Psychology. Oxford University Press.

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Nov 26 2012

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I saw what I saw, but did I really?

Scott Fraser gave a TED talk in May of this year regarding how eyewitnesses are not reliable as testimonies. The question of eyewitness reliability has been an area of memory that psychologists have spent many years researching. This area of memory is known as reconstructive memory. In IB Psychology, I have learned about how memories are not shaped by the event itself, but my experiences since then.  Using logic and reasoning, how are memories knowledge if it is not simply a recall of the event itself?

One study I have learnt that reflects this idea is Loftus and Palmer’s study on reliability of eyewitness testimony. In their study, Loftus and Palmer investigated how guiding questions affects eyewitness testimonials in court. Language, as a way of knowing, can alter our perception and understanding of a situation through the subtle differences in vocabulary used. These differentiations can make language denotative, connotative, persuasive etc. Loftus and Palmer tested this theory by showing participants a video of a car crash, and then asked them questions regarding the speed of the car. When Loftus and Palmer questioned the participants, they changed a key word in their question: “At what speed were the cars travelling when they ______(contacted, hit, bumped, collided, smashed)?” It was found that the interpretation of this key word drastically changed the speed estimates that participants provided.

In this TED talk, Fraser continues by arguing that eyewitness testimonies alone are not enough to convict people of crime. Fraser states that there are 250-280 documented cases where people have been wrongfully convicted, and of those cases over 75% involved only eyewitness testimony evidence.  In turn, a New York Times article also writes about how a man was exonerated after 2 years in prison due to mistaken eyewitness testimonies. This poses the question, to what extent is sense perception reliable as a way of knowing? In TOK, I have learned that sense perception is a way of knowing and how it is not simply the physical response of my senses to external stimuli, but it includes my own interpretation of what I have perceived. Does the idea that sense perception is impacted by one’s culture and experiences therefore make it an unreliable way of knowing?

Using logic and reasoning, I could conclude that yes, sense perception is therefore unreliable, because someone may perceive the situation differently than others. However, I believe that in the pursuit of knowledge, it is important to look at situations and events with various perspectives, which is why sense perception is a reliable way of knowing. As a photographer I know that the picture I take is the way in which I see the scenery. Yet another photographer may see something completely different in the scene. I believe that it is through the accumulation of these different perspectives as well as the acknowledgement of one’s biases that therefore strengthens sense perception as a way of knowing.

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Crane, John, and Jette Hannibal. IB diploma programme: psychology course companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

“Scott Fraser: Why eyewitnesses get it wrong | Video on” TED: Ideas worth spreading. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2012. <>

Secret, Mosi. “Lawrence Williams, Convicted of Assault, Is Exonerated –” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., 26 Oct. 2012. Web. 25 Nov. 2012. <>.

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Nov 26 2012

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Cure for Cancer?

Salvatore Iaconesi was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 39. At first he couldn’t believe it when the doctor first told him. He was so skeptical that he needed a second opinion, and then a third. The diagnosis remained consistent and every doctor recommended the same method of treatment. This wasn’t enough for Salvatore, though. He felt as though the medical system was not properly “handling [his] situation,” and that if he listened to the opinions of a mere few doctors he would simply become another “set of medical records, therapy, dosages, exam dates.” He did not want to be overtaken and dehumanized by his disease. Thus, he was determined to do whatever he could to combat his diagnosis.

After a few minor struggles while attempting to decode his records, Salvatore was able to post them online for the entire public to view and understand. He intended to get multiple opinions from people in various fields, and that is exactly what he did. Within days, over 200,000 people had visited his site and many left comments ranging from the sympathetic “I am here” to actual advice that they believed Salvatore should follow. The online community made it so that he was able to obtain different views and not be restricted to those of a few doctors. This scenario raises an issue, however, and brings in to question the extent to which we can listen to professionals and accept their opinions as the truth. Salvatore was given advice from multiple doctors, yet he refused to listen to just their opinions for the treatment. He felt as though if he were to reach out to the global community that he would receive better input from varying perspectives. As a way of knowing, Salvatore’s emotions overcame him in the beginning as he became more and more anxious to find what he felt was the truth. He was not satisfied with his original diagnosis and felt it necessary to consult hundreds of thousands of others and their opinions. Therefore, while the original news may have brought emotional, traumatic and internal distress, it eventually led to him being able to gain a better viewpoint of the situation and to receive the best “cure” according to a mix of different professionals and other Samaritans. His eagerness to explore his options led to experts from different areas of knowledge to give their input, instead of limiting himself to those of the oncologists looking at the situation from a purely biological area of knowledge. He was able to explore his options from ancient medicine, with a historical area of knowledge, to spiritual options, with a focus on the human sciences as an area of knowledge.

On the other hand, while his concern and search for the best treatment eventually led to successful results, his situation is a clear demonstration of the ability for emotions to cause people to think less rationally in shocking situations. At first, when hearing the news, Salvatore went through psychological trauma that caused him to disbelieve the diagnosis he was given and became determined to only seek opinions that confirmed his ideal belief that there was either 1) a simpler way, or 2) no tumor at all. Using psychology as a way of knowing, it is common for people to seek conformation and reject anything that tells them otherwise. Known as conformation bias, it is commonplace in situations like Salvatore’s to disbelieve what you hear until you hear what it is that you desire (Dewey, 2007). This illustrates the fact that people can disregard the truth and accept what is, in reality, false. I must admit that in certain situation I too act in such a way. I filter out what I do not wish to hear and only absorb that which verifies my beliefs. It is possible that we hear the truth, but we do not process anything until we hear what is inaccurate yet yearned for. This can be evident with all ways of knowing, yet for some more than others. For example, with sense perception we may see an action occurring, but refuse to truly admit it and simply look for actions that back up what we regard as the truth. In addition, with language, our can emotions take over as we only listen to those that support our thoughts.

Salvatore’s ambition set him on a course to find what worked for him to be, as he describes it, “the cure”. He was able to consult many individuals from varying fields with different perspectives to look at his best options. He did not restrict himself to one area of knowledge and instead expanded his views to gain opinions and options from all sides. While his determination demonstrates the power a mere individual has on discovering what else is out there, he also emphasizes the fact that we cannot always trust what we hear or what others tell us as we may be biased to only really listening to what we ideally want.

Works Cited

Dewey, R. (2007). Confirmation bias. intropsych, 1(1), Retrieved from

Iaconesi, S. (2012, November 25). My open source cure for brain cancer . CNN Money. Retrieved from

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Nov 26 2012

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I See it! Therefore, it Must be true!

Just kidding.

Tim Birkhead is a professor of behavior and evolution at the University of Sheffield whose work regarding promiscuity and sperm competition in birds has helped to re-shape the current understanding of bird mating (Tim Birkhead, 2010). In his lecture titled “Wisdom of Birds”, Birkhead addresses the question: how do we know what we know about birds? (Birkhead, 2009).

As a quick overview, Birkhead narrows down the pursuit of knowledge regarding birds to the natural sciences (Biology) as an area of knowledge and the following ways of knowing: sense perception and logic and reasoning (however sense perception showed to be more prominent).

One of the most memorable moments in his lecture was when Birkhead pointed out that a book he used as a reference for his research indicated that people used to believe birds hibernated, rather than migrated, which we now know today. Using a woodcut from the 1550’s as an example, Birkhead debunks the sole usage of one way of knowing to actually acquire knowledge. According to Birkhead, the woodcut was “incredibly powerful in impressing the image [of birds staying in the mud in the bottom of ponds during the winter] in people’s minds,” as it was evidence of such behavior – much like a digital photo today. And based off this one idea, everyone believed it! Just because there was a woodcut depicting it, people accepted it as enough evidence to state that they know birds hibernated (Birkhead, 2009).

The woodcut by Swedish Archbishop Olaus Magnus shows fishermen hauling in swallows along with fish (Lienhard, 2006).

Above: The woodcut by Swedish Archbishop Olaus Magnus shows fishermen hauling in swallows along with fish (Lienhard, 2006).

Of course, as a TOK student, I’ve learned that merely seeing is not enough to believe, let alone know. Knowledge is justified true belief, so justification is necessary before accepting such claims as knowledge. This is especially since media today has shown face to numerous altered images; ones that appear to be real but in reality have been digitally altered in order to portray something else. The validation of such images on their reliability is often dealt through further research into the source of the image.

However, referring back to the woodcut and Birkhead’s lecture, what can be done if even Gilbert White “was uncertain whether swallows migrated or not.” Birkhead states that the idea that birds hibernated persisted for a long time after it was initially introduced (Birkhead, 2009). It was only until the 1800’s when Johann Frisch did an experiment to show that swallows didn’t hibernate at the bottom of bodies of water during the winter did people realize that birds don’t hibernate. What Frisch did was he tied water-soluble dyed thread to the legs of swallows, and when they returned the next year, the colour was still present on the thread. Through logic and reasoning, he judged this as a sign that the swallows were not submerged in water throughout winter (Forgrave, 2011).

But what if Johann Frisch’s experiment came back negative? Possibly due to reasons like the swallows getting their legs wet and the dye washing off. Would this be enough to fully verify that birds hibernated? Of course this is assuming that every single bird he used for the experiment came back with the dye washed off, and let’s not forget that he would’ve probably done the experiment multiple times in order to be sure.

But if that didn’t produce any results either, according to John Lienhard from the University of Housten, with the improvement and introduction of new technology such as satellite tracking and radio transmitters in recent years aiding the scientific method of research, “scientists have finally uncovered some of the mysteries surrounding the birds’ astounding movements across the globe.”

Birkhead, T. (2009). The wisdom of birds – Do Lectures. Do Lectures – Talks that inspire action. Retrieved November 25, 2012, from

Forgrave, A. (2011, July 21). Bird Notes: The miracle of migration. Daily Post – North Wales news, sport, Man Utd FC, Wrexham FC & more. Retrieved November 25, 2012, from

Lienhard, J. (2006). No. 2228: Ancient Explanations of Bird Migration. University of Houston. Retrieved November 25, 2012, from

Tim Birkhead | Profile on (2010, September). TED: Ideas worth spreading. Retrieved November 25, 2012, from

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Nov 07 2012

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Emotional Intellegence

Essay Title #6 for the upcoming TOK Essay asks students to answer the follow question: Can we know when to trust our emotions in the pursuit of knowledge? This question simply asks for a yes or no answer, but the justification is a lot more complicated than that. Through my research, I stumbled across the theory of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence or EI refers to “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (Salovey and Mayer 1990). As the leading EI researchers since 1990, Salovey and Mayar have created a model that categorizes the four main factors of EI. They argue that EI is like regular intelligence, that it is to some extent measurable and it can also we improved upon. The four factors are the areas that they must be strong in to be considered to have high EI. The first factor states that first; the person must be able to accurately perceive emotions. Emotions are read through speech, facial expressions, and body language. They should also be aware of what emotion they are emitting. Next, the person must be able to use reason with emotions. It has to promote cognitive activity and stimulate thinking. Third, the emotion has to be understood. Can the person accurately analyze the emotion and its meaning? And lastly, and perhaps the most important, the person but be able to manage emotions. They must be able to regulate their emotions and respond to them rationally (psychology.about). The emotions of other should also be responded to appropriately. Emotions can sometimes lead us astray and one with a high EI, would know when they should or should not listen to their emotions By doing these things, the person has to be prepared to use other ways of knowing besides emotion, but logic and sense perception.

This research tells us a lot about EI, but the question remains: what does this have anything to do with my essay prompt? Well, the title is asking us can we know when but in order to analyze this, we must figure out when can we know when. As part of my process, I made factors that would tell us when we can trust our emotions and when we cannot. One factor was the reliability of the person with the emotion. If they had a high EI, then their emotions could be more reliable and they could trust them more often. They would be able to successfully manage their emotions and analyze the emotions of others.

This is a huge implication for we are now perhaps able to quantify the extent to which we can trust our emotion. By simply taking an EI test, we are one step closer to answering the personal question of whether we can trust our emotions are not. Although there are numerous other factors involved, being able to manage emotions and respond maturely is one clue that our emotions can be trusted. Plus, the fact that this suggests that it is a quality we can improve on, the reliability of our emotions can now be raised.

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, cognition, and personality, 9(3), 185-211.
Cherry, Kendra. “Emotional Intelligence – What It Is and Why It Matters.”Psychology – Complete Guide to Psychology for Students, Educators & Enthusiasts. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. .

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Oct 10 2012

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Music can inhibit your productivity when you are studying!

Sounds surround us, and for many teenagers music is apart of our everyday life. However, I personally have never stopped to think about how sound is affecting me. In this TED talk, Julian Treasure who is apart of The Sound Agency, explains four ways that sound affects us, including physiologically, psychologically, cognitively, and behaviorally. (1) He takes this further by applying it to advertisement strategies, and to individuals’ productivity when experiencing different levels and types of sounds that surrounds them. Then does this mean that I am not allowing myself to reach my fullest potential when I am studying while listening to music? Further, Treasure explains why individuals experience different feelings when they are surrounded by pleasant sounds compared to when they are surround by unpleasant and disturbing noises, which makes individuals usually move away from the sounds. In other words, sounds might affect us more than we are aware of.

Music has always been apart of my life, and now when thinking about it, there are sounds everywhere, even though these sounds are quite common in everyday lives. However, from this, and loving music, I started to question what all this sound does to me?

Looking at how sound affects us from a Biological point of view, there is evidence that shows that due to noise, peoples’ health has been greatly affected. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, “Western Europeans lose years to death or disability from excessive sound”. (2) Furthermore, WHO researcher Rokho Kim says, “across an estimated population of 340 million people, at least 1 million years of healthy living are lost each year due to noise pollution in Western Europe”. (2) I find this very surprisingly, as I was not aware of this information at all. This shows that sound heavily impacts us and can cause great consequences and implications in our lives because it is extremely difficult to avoid noise. For example, as seen in the picture below an airplane is flying over a Chicago neighborhood causing great noise levels for the people living in this neighborhood. Additionally, many people at SAS, including me can relate to this as airplanes constantly fly over our school. Not only does our bodies physically react to these noises, which Treasures outlines in the TED talk, but also emotionally. Thus, this shows how sense perception can both affect us physically and emotionally.

Airplane flies over the NeighboorhoodPicture from source 2.

It is also possible to look at how sound affects individuals from a psychological point of view, as noises affect individuals brains, further affecting individuals stress levels. According to the Franklin Institute, “constant annoying noises or loud, sudden sounds both cause an increase in stress”. (3) This shows that being in a loud environment at school might increase your stress levels. Additionally, walking around in Shanghai, or driving in the traffic, loud noises surround us. I believe that noises are extremely difficult to avoid, however there are some actions that can occur to reduce the powering sounds, such as airplanes. Yet this probably requires money, and time causing economic implications to occur, such as where does this money come from and what are the opportunity costs, next best thing given up, that come along with it?

Another implication that is good to consider is how sound affects infants, as infants always use their ears to learn how to speak. (4) However, if they are constantly experiencing large amount of disturbing noises, this will hinder their learning ability and instead just increase the amount of stress that the infants are experiencing. This is because the cumulative effect that is caused by stress damages and kills brain cells. (4)

Moreover, It is not like IB students are already enough stressed out, but we now how to avoid the loud and unpleasant noises that surrounds us to not become more stressed. That really is something to consider and to be aware about.

Not only are disturbing noises, such as airplanes affecting peoples’ health, but noises also increase stress levels and to an extent inhibit infants from learning how to speak. And lastly, who knew that listening to music and the airplanes above you might inhibit your productivity and affect your health?


(1) Julian Treasure: The 4 ways sound affects us | Video on (n.d.). TED: Ideas worth spreading. Retrieved October 9, 2012, from

(2) Noise Pollution Hard On Heart As Well As Ears : NPR. (n.d.). NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. Retrieved October 9, 2012, from

(3) Kolifrath, J. (n.d.). Can Noise Affect How Someone Learns? | eHow | How to Videos, Articles & More – Discover the expert in you. | Retrieved October 9, 2012, from

(4) The Human Brain – Stress. (n.d.)The Franklin Institute

- Home – 215.448.1200

Retrieved October 9, 2012, from

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Oct 10 2012

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On experts and Global Warming: My response

The article by Gary Gutting, entitled “On experts and Global Warming” talks about the extent to which we rely on expert opinions when shaping public policies.(Gutting) It looks at this knowledge issue from several perspectives that revolve around the underlying theme of the global warming debate. Initially, it takes a very logical view, as it lists the elements that are involved in our definition of when we can trust experts. The author states that we must first locate people that have, by the public, been established as experts, and we can only trust the information they give if there is some sort of consensus within the expert community about said information. Here, he is attempting to logically ratify the appeal to authority which is so widespread in our societies. This immediately reminded me of the logical fallacies we studied, one of which was the appeal to authority. I found it interesting, then, to see how he would go about defending it. Also, I was keen to see the implications of what I perceived as a fallacy, in the context of global warming.

I believe that the author is not necessarily supporting the appeal to authority, he seems to be complaining about the lack of consistency. He acknowledges the fact that although it is often referenced as a fallacy, the appeal to authority is necessary for us to know…pretty much anything. If we go about our lives constantly skeptical about expert opinion, especially if the opinion is shared by the majority of the experts in the field, it is hard to know, or do anything with information such as make policies regarding climate change. In regard to climate change specifically, he says that there “is no serious objection to the very project of climate science”, but rather that there seems to be a high level of inconsistent behavior regarding expert opinion. His argument is as such, if we as a society have appointed certain people as being experts in a field, then the conclusion they come to by as close to a consensus as possible, is the conclusion we as the public must come to accept. We can’t listen to the conclusions, and then decide that we don’t really like the sound of what we’re hearing. You can’t cling on to the small minority of experts who are claiming something different. When you appeal to authority, you have to stick with the majority, you can’t just pick and choose the opinions that suit you. The author seems to be saying that in cases like the global warming debate, we must stick to the logically calculated conclusions based on observations of the world around us, rather than letting our personal feelings and emotions toward the issue get in the way. The author then goes on to defend the idea of a democratic society, which seems to go against the very Plato-esque argument set up before where the experts should be in charge of everything, by saying that determining that something like global warming is a real threat does not necessarily mean there has to be a direct policy change related to it. It should still be up to the people to decide what happens next, or how will it be dealt with. At this point, other arguments such as economic ones regarding the costs of policy changes, or personal arguments such as ‘how will this policy change affect me personally’ can come into play.

Here we see how a conclusion based on logic can then be dealt with after considering different opinions based off of other ways of knowing.

What happens, however, when we cannot trust the experts that we have put in  place? This is a question that is mentioned slightly in Gutting’s article, which is then brought to more attention in another article entitled “Global Warming’s Cold Shoulder”. In this, the author explores certain e-mails sent around by climate scientists which suggest that there has not been complete honesty in the debate surrounding global warming.(Harshaw) In some cases publishers of scientific journals have been asked to leave out the data that refutes certain claims that support global warming. If such blatant dishonesty is present in the expert community, especially when dealing with skeptics, the extent to which we can trust their conclusions is far lower. Rather than trying to silence or ignore skeptics, I think that climate scientists should face skeptics head on and use factual counter-arguments, if they exist, to persuade them otherwise. As Judith Curry, climate scientist put it, there are 3 ways to deal with skeptics,

“1. Retreat into the ivory tower

2. Circle the wagons/point guns outward: ad hominem/appeal to motive attacks; appeal to authority; isolate the enemy through lack of access to data; peer review process

3. Take the ‘high ground:’ engage the skeptics on our own terms (conferences, blogosphere); make data/methods available/transparent; clarify the uncertainties; openly declare our values”

and who I agree with when she says that there should be less of 1 and 2, and a whole lot more of 3.


Gutting, Gary. “On Experts and Global Warming.” New York Times 12 Jul 2011, n. pag. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <Tobin, Harshaw. “Global Warming’s Cold Shoulder.” New York Times 11 Dec 2009, n. pag. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. .>.

Harshaw, Tobin. “Global Warming’s Cold Shoulder.” New York Times 11 Dec 2009, n. pag. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <>.

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Oct 09 2012

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DON’T EAT THE MARSHMALLOW! Joachim de Posada & Delayed Gratification

“Arthur is a chauffeur who is intellectually gifted. Jonathan is no less bright than Arthur, equally hard-working, and a billionaire. So why is Jonathan in the back seat of the limousine and Arthur int he front? What explains the difference between success and failure? And what does it mean to you and your children?” - blurb from “Don’t Eat The Marshmallow… Yet!” by Joachim de Posada and Ellen Singer

In a short, 6 minute TED talk, world-renowned motivational speaker Joachim de Posada shares a landmark experiment on delayed gratification – and how it can predict future success. He opens with the lines, “I’m here because I have a very important message: I think we have found the most important factor for success.” He goes on to explain that hard work, dedication, and passion can help people achieve just about anything, regardless of how they were hard-wired at birth. Immediately, I think of sociology and psychology as areas of knowledge – the ongoing debate between nature versus nurture is evident here: are we the result of genetics or our environment? What factors explain why some children are more obedient or motivated than others? In my IB Psychology class, I’ve learned that one is never solely responsible – we are the sum of our parts, a combination of genetics AND our environment and past experiences.

The title of Posada’s best-selling book, “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow… Yet!” comes from a study conducted at Stanford in the 1960’s. In the study, each member of a group of 4-year-old children was given one marshmallow and told that if he or she could resist eating it for 15 minutes, sitting in a room alone, then they would receive a second marshmallow for showing restraint. Some were able to resist, but the majority ate the marshmallow before the 15 minutes were up (2 out of 3 children). The significance of this, however, became apparent 14-15 years later when the children were attending high school. A subsequent study showed that the children who had demonstrated self-discipline and self-control were doing better in school, had superior relationships with their peers, and managed stress more efficiently than those who ate the marshmallow right away. Posada explains that while we cannot always control events and circumstances, we can control our behavior. If we choose to focus that behavior on what is truly important – long-term goals, as opposed to immediate gratification – we will be far more successful in life.

An alternative view to this, of course, argues that the “nature” side of the debate is more responsible for determining how successful we will be in life. Thomas L. Harrison writes in his book “Instinct” that whether we succeed at work depends in large part on our DNA. Harrison, who began his working life as a cell biologist, argues that it is inevitable that our genetic makeup is a factor in our success: “After all, the basic genetic code we all share controls everything from eye color to our risk of having certain diseases. It only makes sense that those genetic instructions might also affect how each individual’s brain absorbs and responds to what is going on around it.” Another author, Richard Conniff, compares human behavior to that of primates in his book “The Ape in the Corner Office”, and writes that “nature built us to be nice.” He also says that “work groups should remain intact from one task to another, because people, like apes, are social animals who get along better when they know one another… [and] that employees should expect hierarchies.” This is where biology clearly comes into play, as it is hard to argue with scientific evidence. However, a compromise is often found between the natural and the human sciences – many biologists acknowledge that self-improvement is also practical. If you want to better your reading speed, memory, writing, and presentation skills – things that will help you in the workforce – you can do so. Success, no matter how one defines it, will come more easily to the people who concentrate on developing their awareness, curiosity, focus, and initiative.

I know from personal experience how important delayed gratification is in life; from a young age, my parents have instilled the principles of self-discipline and self-control, and I’ve grown up to be independent and more able to make decisions on my own. If my mom sees me watching a TV show after school, or my brother playing computer games, she’ll be sure to remind us “Children, DELAYED GRATIFICATION! How many times do I need to remind you? Do your homework first, and then you have the rest of the night to relax! It’s so much more rewarding that way, trust me!” Sometimes I listen to her, but other times it’s all too easy to put the difficult things aside and say, “Nah… immediate gratification sounds good to me. I want to do the things that make me happy now!” But my mom reminds me that these skills exist and play a large role in the workforce and in many businesses today. If I develop the necessary techniques and learn how to prioritize well now, these are things that will eventually stay with me throughout college and in my future career, and I will be more successful because of it. Sociologically, I will be able to interact and build relationships with others better, and psychologically, I may be happier and healthier because I am better equipped to handle stress. This also ties into emotion and sense perception as ways of knowing, as our judgments often tend to be clouded by our desires and doing what makes us feel good in the moment. The way we perceive various situations changes, as we try to decide what the right thing to do is. However, if we are able to discipline ourselves and practice self-control, we are more able to assess these situations and make the logical choice as to what will be the most beneficial option.

In conclusion, “eating the marshmallow” may make you happy in the instant, but what about in the long run? The concept of delayed gratification not only relates to young children, but also to teenagers and even adults in the working world. It is important to learn how to discipline yourself, and not to give in so easily to temptations in life. We need to learn to say no – not just to friends, family or authority figures… but to ourselves.


Works Cited:

Brown, Paul. “OFF THE SHELF; Of Chimps and Marshmallows.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. The New York Times, 4 Sept. 2005. Web. 9 Oct. 2012.


“Joachim de Posada: Don’t eat the marshmallow! | Video on” TED: Ideas worth spreading. TED, May 2009. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <>

Lehrer, Jonah. “Don’t! The Secret of Self-Control.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 18 May 2009. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <>

“Self-Discipline and Persistence vs. Instant Gratification: Success in Work and Life.” Don’t Eat The Marshmallow Yet. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <>

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