Blog 4 – My learning experience in Emotion and Motivation

According to the instructions, I shall reflect my experience in learning the Emotion and Motivation module in this blog.

I agree that blogging is an effective way to express our own ideas and communicate to each other through comments. As Sarah et. al (2009) pointed out, blogging facilitates learning and encourages commenting on the authors’ work. Also, as found in the study of Wang et. al (2005), the easy accessibility of blogs promotes discussion among peers. Therefore in general, I think using blogs as a tool of teaching and a form of assessment is great.

However, I did have some personal opinions about this module. I was unsatisfied concerning the release date of the grades of blog 2 & 3. As a student, I really want to know how I am performing during the semester. If I am doing alright, I should feel more comfortable and have less worry about the grades. However, as I have to submit blog 3 before the grades of blog 2 come out, this really stressed me out. I know the official policy of school is to allow 4 weeks at maximum for the grades come out. If it is a must to let students to wait 4 weeks before getting the grades, why not just also let students only hand in their blogs every 4 weeks? I just feel a little bit confused of the intention of pushing 3 blogs’ deadline in week 8, week 10 and week 12 (a 2-week interval blog). It would be better if students just had to hand in 3 blogs in week 4, week 8 and week 12. In that way, students can also get their blogs’ grades back before they hand in the next one. In my case, the grade I get for my last blog will affect the time I put into the next blog. As a matter of fact, concerning the weighting of the blogs and comments, I have put “more than enough” of time in those works, comparing to my other module. So, getting the grades back before the next blog deadline does matter to me. Without the grades of previous blogs, I am less motivated to write a good blog for the next one. Hope this improves in the coming year.

Word Count: 378

References:

Sarah, B., Angela, H., Merrolee, P., & Will, W. (2009). Creating a learning community in today’s world : how blogging can facilitate continuing professional development and international learning. The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, vol. 72, pp. 279-281.

Wang, M., Fix, R., & Bock, L. (2005). The use of blogs in teaching, knowledge management, and performance improvement. In World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education (Vol. 2005, No. 1, pp. 3192-3199).

Hiding your true feelings – Emotion Regulation

Regulating emotion is a very common activity among human’s daily life. As quoted from Tomkins (1984), healthy adults often must inhibit (to varying degrees) their ongoing emotion-expressive behaviour. Moreover, emotion regulation affects greatly in mental health and illness (Gross & Munoz, 1995; Ochsner & Gross, 2005). In spite of the importance of emotion regulation, we seldom learn the ways to regulate emotion on purpose. In fact, the common sense views of emotion regulation are remarkably inconsistent (Gross & Levenson, 1997). So, what is emotion regulation?

Emotion regulation is referring to the processes by which we influence which emotions we have, when we have them, and how we experience and express them (Gross, 1998). It involves the initiation of new, or the alteration of ongoing, emotional responses through the action of regulatory processes (Ochsner & Gross, 2005). There are many different forms and strategies in regulating emotion. Yet, there are two common ways used to down-regulate emotions. The first one is cognitive reappraisal. Reappraisal intervenes in the early emotion-generation process and recruits executive cognitive control processes in areas in ventrolateral, dorsolateral, and medial prefrontal cortex and dorsal anterior cingulated cortex (Goldin et. al, 2008). As a result, reappraisal can effectively down-regulates the emotional experience, behaviour and the emotion-related neural responses. The second one is expressive suppression. Suppression inhibits the behaviours that are associated with emotional responding (Gross, 2002; Goldin et. al, 2008). It suppresses the outward signs of emotion after the emotion has been generated internally (Richards & Gross, 2006). It only decreases the resulting behaviours but not the emotional experience nor the neural activities (Dunn et. al, 2009). Hence suppression is simply hiding one’s own emotion from expressing externally but still experiencing internally. Both strategies can regulate emotion but which one is better?

According to Goldin et. al (2008), appraisal should be the better strategy in regulating emotion as it alters the whole emotional response during the emotion-generation process. This leads to less experiential, behavioural and physiological responses. On the other hand, suppression simply just decreases the expressive behaviour but not emotional experience. This increases the physiological responses due to the effort to “hide” the emotion-expressive behaviour (Richards & Gross, 2006; Goldin et. al, 2008). Therefore suppression requires more mental effort in order to regulate emotion while appraisal does not require that extra effort. Moreover, as suppression fails to decrease emotion experience, it forces the hiding of true emotion which may actually impair the memory (Gross, 2002; Richards & Gross, 2006). If suppression fails to regulate emotion, it may have negative emotional and cognitive consequences, potentially becoming a development or maintenance factor in mental or physical ill health (Dunn et. al, 2009).

Since emotion regulation is essential in our daily lives (Tomkins, 1984), correct and effective ways to regulate emotion should be learned actively. Among healthy adults, different people have different nature and strength of their emotional responses, and also the capacity to regulate the responses (Ochsner & Gross, 2005). As implied by Ochsner & Gross (2005), failure in regulating emotional responses leads to consequences ranging from personal distress to socially maladaptive and self-destructive behaviours. Therefore this shows the importance to learn the suitable and effective ways to regulate emotion.

In conclusion, effective emotion regulation can make individual to be capable to deal with sudden incidents happen in real life and hence it is essential in our daily lives. However, emotion regulation failure can cause stress and mental illness. Therefore effective ways to regulate emotion should be actively sought instead of passively learned.

Word Count: 583

References:

Dunn, B.D., Billotti, D., Murphy, V., & Dalgleish, T. (2009). The consequences of effortful emotion regulation when processing distressing material: A comparison of suppression and acceptance. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47, 761-773

Goldin, P.R., McRae, K., Ramel, W, & Gross, J.J. (2008). The Neural Bases of Emotion Regulation: Reappraisal and Suppression of Negative Emotion. Biological Psychiatry, 63, 577-586.

Gross, J.J., & Levenson, R.W. (1997). Hiding Feelings: The Acute Effects of Inhibiting Negative and Positive Emotion. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, vol. 106, 95-103.

Gross, J.J., & Munoz, R.F. (1995). Emotion regulation and mental health. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 2, 151-164.

Gross, J. J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: An integrative review. Review of General Psychology, 2, 271–299.

Gross, J.J. (2002). Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive, and social consequences. Psychophysiology, 39, 281-291.

Ochsner, K.N., Gross, J.J. (2005). The cognitive control of emotion. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences, vol. 9, 5.

Richards, J.M., & Gross, J.J. (2006). Personality and emotional memory: How regulating emotion impairs memory for emotional events. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 631-651.

Tomkins, S. (1984). Affect theory. Approaches to emotion, 163-195

Why we eat more when we are under stress? – looking into the problem of emotional eating

When people are under stress, they often react emotionally. Everyone has their own way of coping with stress. One of the ways that people use is emotional eating. The definition of emotional eating is the behaviour of eating that is not aimed to satisfy own physical need (Smith & Segal, 2013). There are studies showing that stress leads to increased eating in a substantial percentage of people (Greeno & Wing, 1994; Laitinen, Ek, & Sovio, 2002). Why people regard emotional eating as a way of coping with stress?

In the aspect of Biopsychology, the relation between stress and emotional eating can be regarded as action and reaction (Marano, 2003). When you are under great stress, your brain will signal our body to produce a hormone called cortisol. You start to feel anxiety and become high in vigilance and alertness. This series of effect require a large amount of energy. Therefore your brain will receive a signal of hunger, and hence you start looking for food when you are under stress. The food you eat will send out some metabolic signal that feeds back to the brain and tells it to shut off the stress response. This is the reason why people report that they feel better and less anxious after they ate something (Tice, Bratslavsky, & Baumeister, 2001). As pointed out by Macht and Simons (2000), negative emotions often evoked by stress promote additional eating.

In the view of Psychological factors, individuals can temporarily avoid the unwanted negative emotions when they are eating. Also, eating takes time so it can fills up your mind and distracts the other feelings from your mind.

However, Thayer (1996) doubted the effectiveness of emotional eating in regulating one’s emotion since eating does not usually lead to lasting mood changes. Thayer (1996) concluded that stress is an environmental factor that may have direct or indirect effects on influencing hunger.

Moreover, different people will have different degree and even different direction of emotional eating. According to the result of Geliebter & Aversa (2003), underweight individuals eat less while they are having negative emotions but overweight individuals eat more while they are having negative emotions. This shows emotional states can affect food intake. It can lead to overeating and undereating. All in all, emotional eating is not good for one’s physical health. Overeating and undereating cause obesity and underweight. For mental health, you may feel guilty after overeating as you know you are not that hungry and it is bad for your body. This hence makes you more stressful before you start emotional eating.

There are other ways to shut off the chronic stress in your body. Marano (2003) suggested some activities like doing exercises, taking a hot bath, have a meditation.

Marano (2003) pointed out these activities all stimulate the same region in the brain as eating does. Moreover, doing something that relax your mind can also make yourself less stressful. For instance, listen to music, watch a movie or read a novel. These can also distract your mind from thinking about the negative emotions and stress.

Word Count: 520
Refereces:
Affleck, G., Tennen, H., Urrows, S., & Higgins, P. (1994). Person and contextual features of daily stress reactivity: Individual differences in relations of undesirable daily events with mood disturbance and chronic pain intensity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 329-340.

Geliebter A., & Aversa A. (2003). Emotional eating in overweight, normal weight, and underweight individuals. Eating Behaviours, vol. 3, 341-347.

Greeno, C.G., & Wing, R.R. (1994). Stress-induced eating. Psychological Bulletin, 115,444-464.

Laitinen, J., Ek, E. & Sovio, U. (2002). Stress-related eating and drinking behaviour body mass index and predictors of this behaviour. Preventive Medicine: An International Journal Devoted to Practice & Theory, 34, 29-39.

Macht, M., & Simons, G. (2000). Emotions and eating in everyday life. Appetite, 35, 65-71.

Marano, H.E. (2003). Stress and Eating. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200311/stress-and-eating

Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2013). Emotional Eating. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/life/emotional_eating_stress_cravings.htm

Thayer, R.E. (1996). The origin of everyday moods. New York: Oxford University Press

Tice, D.M., Bratslavsky, E. & Baumeister, R.F. (2001). Emotional distress regulation takes precedence over impulse control: If you feel bad, do it! Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 53-67.

Factors that affect the motivation of students to attend lectures

As a university student, we “should” be attending every lecture. However in reality, not every student attends all the lectures. What are the factors that undermine the motivation of students to attend lecture?

There are three major motivation theories explaining above-mentioned phenomenon. The first one is the Drive Theory. Hull (1943) proposed that motivation is the drive to satisfy the needs for survival. The needs can be physically (e.g. hunger and thirst) or psychological (e.g. need for knowledge). Students may choose not to attend lectures if they have to satisfy their needs other than the need for knowledge. For instance, if students are sick and feeling unwell, the need of rest outweighs the need for knowledge. As a result they will not show up in lectures.

The second one is Incentive Theory. Bolles (1975) suggested that motivation is regulated by external stimuli. Human gain incentive when they desire external goal(s). It is safe to suggest every university students want to graduate with first honor, but not every student is willing to pay the effort that is required for achieving such goal. For those that are less devoted to get a first honor, students may choose to not attending lecture at all. This can be explained as those students think attending lectures will not help them in achieving their goals.

The third one is the Theory of Motivational Orientations, which is more complicated than the previous two theories. In short, it suggests that students can be divided as two kinds: task-oriented or ego-oriented (Ward & Bodner, 1993). Task-oriented students usually express real interest in learning (Nicholls, 1989). They evaluate their own performance with their own expectation and avoid comparing with other peers. Task-oriented students regard their achievement, success or failure, to their own effort. On the other hand, ego-oriented students evaluate their performance by comparing themselves with their peers (Nicholls, 1989). Ego-oriented students are not really interested in learning and only care about what other thinks about them. When they succeed or fail, they tend to regard it as a result of their abilities. Since ego-oriented students think the failure is because of their lack of abilities, students tend to give up after first failure.

In my opinion, there should be one more major factor that affects the motivation of student in attending lectures. It is how the students value the lectures. Despite lecture usually are useful to students as lecturers explain the theories, not all the students find it useful than self-learning such as reading books. The format of lecture may not suit everyone’s learning style. For example, there is a student is interested in learning and hoping to get an A, he may not attend lectures if he thinks he learns equally well even without going to lectures. In contrast, those who value the usefulness of lecture will try to attend every session. Therefore I consider this as another important factor for student to consider when deciding whether to attend a lecture.

In order to motivate students to attend lecture, measures should be made according to the above-mentioned factors. Students will have drive and incentive if they know clearly what their goals are. For those who aim for academic success, students are more likely to show up in lectures. However, in my opinion, there are no effective ways to ask student to be task-oriented rather than ego-oriented. It is their thoughts that all that matters, and yet students cannot be told what to think solely as instructed. It is the same as they value the lectures. A lecture cannot be beneficial to students if they think it is not useful at all. At present, the most effective way that I can think of to increase students’ attendance in lectures is the attendance system. If attendance is checked in every lecture and the percentage of attendance takes up part of the marks, students are definitely more likely to attend the lectures. I however doubt the usefulness of “encouraging “students to attend lecture by using such measure. Students will attend lectures as a result, but it is meaningless if they do not think it is useful. As Bodner (1986) said, “students who don’t want to learn usually won’t; those who do want to learn may”.

Word Count: 705

References:
Bodner, G. M. (1986). Constructivism: A theory of knowledge. Journal of Chemical Education, 63, 873. DOI: 10.1021/ed063p873

Bolles, R. C. (1975). Learning Theory. Holt, Rinehard & Winston, Oxford.

Hull, C. L. (1943) Principles of Behavior, an Introduction to Behavior Theory. Appleton-Century, New York.

Nicholls, J. G. (1989) The Competitive Ethos and Democratic Education. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

Ward, R. J., & Bodner, G. M. (1993) Symposium: Lecture and Learning: Are They Compatible? How Lecture Can Undermine the Motivation of Our Students. Journal of Chemical Education, vol. 70, 3, 198-199.

Researches on Erasing Memories

There are movie scenes which are about a man can choose to take a pill and have his memory erased. This may become possible as the current researches on erasing memories suggest that psychologists may now be able to erase one’s memory.

Shema, Shaktor and Dudai (2007) have done a experiment on rats. Firstly they have carried some training on the rats. Afterwards, they injected a protein inhibitor ZIP  into motor region cortex (molecules PKM{zeta}) of the rat’s brain. As a result, the rats have lost their memories of what they had been trained. Moreover, the research also found out that the rats spent the same amount of time to learn those task after the erasion of memory, suggesting that the erasion of memory did not affect the learning ability of the rats.

Despite the injection of ZIP seems to be able to erase memory successfully without damaging the brain and its capacity of learning, this can only be applied on animals since the injection of ZIP into human brain may cause most of our brain processes to fail (Lythgoe, 2011). Moreover, ZIP is unable to target a specific part of memory, so it is likely to erase a large part of memory in the process (Lythgoe, 2011).

Apart from the injection of ZIP, scientists has been working on another way to erase memories. One of the method is to manipulate the situation to erase the memory of fear. This method can be applied when one’ s memory include emotional content (e.g., fear). Therefore, it can be used to help those people who experienced unpleasant accident like car accidents. By recreating the situation like the sounds of tires and brakes, this memory of “safe” may be able to add on the original memory (i.e., the memory of the accident).

The development and discovery of ways to erase memory is indeed a great advance in science. However, this may cause ethical problem as one’ s memory is also a kind of private belongings. If human memories can be easily erased or rewritten in the future, this may lead to a dangerous situation which criminals may erase the memories of the victims right after a robbery or a rape.  This should be considered as well when the scientists are progressing on the researches about memory erasing.

References:
Lythgoe, M. (2011). Erased Memories and Spotless Minds. BBC Radio. Retrived from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b012lj4m.

Shema, R., Sacktor, T.C., & Dudai, Y. (2007). Rapid Erasure of Long-Term Memory Associations in the Cortex by an Inhibitor of PKM{zeta}. Science, 317, 951-953.

Essential Cruelty? The fatal decision concerning lives of miracle babies

After the lecture of developmental psychology about miracle babies, I cannot stop thinking about the policy of Holland – babies under 25 weeks should not be kept alive. At first, I think this policy is very cruel since it left no choice for the parents. However, after I have think about it these days, this policy perhaps is a essential cruelty.

Though keeping the the miracle babies alive may makes the parents happy, it may become a heavy burden for them in the long run. As reported by Van Hoven (2004), the miracle babies with disabilities have special needs (e.g., doctors’ appointment, more therapy, better equipment…etc.) which requires more than the normal babies. Besides, parents will have to pay more attention and care to take care of their babies. Their schedule will be filled with the appointment with therapist and doctors, and sometimes surgeries. Moreover, they even have to suffer from pressure and worries. They may worry about the future of their babies, for instance, if they can become “normal” in the future. Many couple who have special-needs child have divorced. The divorced rate is near 85% (Van Hoven, 2004).  Therefore, keeping the miracles alive will perhaps become a heavy burden for their parents in the future, as they are likely to be required to take care of the disabled child for a lifetime.

Secondly, if there is no one-cut policy, it may leave a very difficult question for the doctors to decide. As every babies is different, doctors will have to make their judgement according to their own experience. This leads to the problem of no universal rule. For example, how big is too big for a baby? vice versa. Furthermore, how handicap is too handicapped? (Campbell, 1982). These questions will leave the doctors in a very difficult situation.

Some may think that there should not be a one-cut policy to decide the fate of the miracle babies. Instead, they suggest the decision should remain with parents and doctors. However in my opinion, I think letting the parents to decide the fate of the babies may make them struggles painfully. I think no parents want their babies to have impairments or disabilities if they can choose. Given that the baby is very likely to have impairments, the parents may consider of giving up the baby. However, giving the answer “no” to the doctor is already a heavy word for the parents. It is like killing their own babies by someone’s hand. They are already upset after knowing their babies is born pre-mature, so what is the point to make them suffer more?

In conclusion, I think the one-cut policy in Holland is a acceptable decision. Though babies under 25 months will not be kept alive, this may reduce the pain and suffering that will likely to occur in the future, no matter the parents or the baby itself.

References:

Campbell, A.G.M. (1982). Which infants should not receive intensive care? Archives of Disease in Childhood, 57, 569-571.

Van Hoven, M.B. (2004). Letter to the Editor: Compassion or Opportunism?. Neroreviews Vol.114, No.3, 896-897. Doi: 10.1542/peds.200-0630A

Voices of the Dead – Electronic Voice Phenomenon

This week I am going to talk about another phenomenon that has long been ignored by the scientific community – Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP). The EVP is referring to the “manifestation of anomalous voices, presumed to be those of the dead or of other discarnate entities, on a magnetic tape.” (Baruss, 2001). In another words, the EVP is the sound that is inaudible on recording but can only be heard during playback.

The phenomenon can be traced back to 1901 (Baruss, 2001), however, scientists did not acknowledge this phenomenon until Raymond Bayless’s study in 1959 (Bayless, 1959). They had soundproofed a clothes closet and set up a microphone inside the closet. One day, his assistant sat in the closet for 15 minutes and nothing seemed to have happened. However, during the playback of the tape, both Bayless and his assistant heard a voice said “This is G.”. Apart from that, Bayless had found many other example of recorded voice, some of them was recorded even no one was sitting inside the closet. After this, there were many experiments carried out in order to explore this phenomenon. Among all of these experiments, the one that most associated with the EVP is Konstantin Raudive’s study (Raudive, 1971).

Raudive started recording the output from a radio tuned between stations, which he called the “radio-microphone recording” method. Afterwards, he wrote a book called Breakthough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication With the Dead. He claimed that he have analysed 25,000 voices and discovered that the sound which is referred to EVP usually involves five or six languages in one sentence.

Despite the findings that he claimed he had found, i think his study lacked reliability. This is because all the analyse of the sound recorded was done by himself. As he was the experimenter of his own research, he will have a desire to look for evidence to support his hypothesis and theory. This will affect his judgment and analyze of the sounds as he is likely to interpret the sounds as messages (i.e., the experimenter effect). After Raudive’s book had been published, his experiment had also been critized by other scientists such as Smith (1974), argued that Raudive’s interpretation of the voices is more likely to be his imagination. Smith (1974) carried out the same experiment which Raudive did, and also used some of the voice examples from Raudive’s experiment in 1971. This time Smith ask 52 people to analyze the recording instead of analyzing by himself. The results showed that the interpretation of the participants were all different from each other, and none of them were the same as Raudive’s interpreatation. After Raudive’s theory had been overthrown, the EVP started to be widely ignored by the scientific community. Fewer and fewer scientists researched on this topic. As a result, the EVP remained to be a mystery and became to be commonly know as the “Voices of the Dead”.

In my opinion, the reason why EVP is being ignored by the science community is because the researches about it are very unlikely to have significant findings with strong evidence. However, i think it is not a good reason to simply ignoring the topic and let it became a suspicious belief. For instance, the “ghosts of the seas” have long been myths for centuries, but finally been discovered to be a not well-known sea creature in 2008. I hope that there will be researches carry out about EVP in the near future, instead of believing it as a myth blindly.

References:
Baruss I. (2001). Failure to Replicate Electronic Voice Phenomenon. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 15, No. 3.

Bayless, R. (1959) Voices From Beyond. Secaucus, NJ: University Books.

Raudive, K. (1971). Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication With the Dead. Gerrards Cross, UK: Colin Smythe.

Smith, E. L. (1974). The Raudive voices-Objective or subjective? A discussion. Journal of American Society for Psychical Research, 68, 91-100.