Current Events

I don’t often put school related writing projects on my site but I found the current events for my psychology class somewhat interesting. Maybe some people find it difficult to write a four page paper in one night but I found it pretty easy. Of course I already had two of the articles chosen so I wasn’t cramming per se, but whats the point of doing all that extra work ahead of time when you have six hours to kill between classes? This is also an easy way to post something without doing any additional work. I even found time to study for over two of those hours…and I don’t want to brag but the test I just finished was a piece of cake, I’m guessing with the extra credit I’ll have a perfect score. Its a little longer than my typical posts so if you get bored just click on something shorter. 🙂 A link to the original articles is at the end of the paper.

Memory (Current Event 1)

It’s one thing to remember information for an upcoming test or a song you’ve heard over and over again, but to recall the exact words to an entire play or movie takes a considerable level of concentration and memory. Not only do actors have to convey the words they read on paper they also have to add emotional meaning to the words in order to make it believable. With over 20 years of research, Helga and Anthony Noice discovered how it is actors manage to memorize so much material. Rather than seeing the words individually an actor thinks about the characterization and subtext underneath the lines. If the lines have meaning an actor can take that meaning and memorize longer scenes or entire plays. This research is not exclusive to actors. People hoping to increase their memory, even older adults, can use techniques that actors use and do just that. When memorizing a speech it is easier to recall the information if meaning is attached to the words.

In addition to the Noice’s research, the author suggests three additional skills that will help an actor create the character. Knowing the script and responses of the other actors is the skeleton of the play but to bring that character to life, an actor needs theory of mind, empathy and emotion regulation. Theory of mind is an ability to understand what others are thinking, feeling, believing and desiring. Theory of mind continues to develop throughout a person’s life and can be sharpened with practice. The ability can vary based on the individual’s relationship with a person. The second skill, empathy is an emotional response that is suitable to someone else’s emotions. Actors can approach empathy in two ways. Some choose to really get into their character and feel as the character does. Others merely indicate an outward response that fits a character’s feelings. The actor can use both depending on the situation. The final skill, emotion regulation, is of key importance. Emotion regulation means that the actor, or even other people at their various jobs, put aside their personal feelings and feel what they need to feel for that job. Actors have a particularly wide range of apposite emotions since they can play so many diverse roles.

The psychological skills that actors use can be taught to anyone in theory. Current research is being done to discover if these skills can be transferred to skills for everyday life. I found this approach to memory interesting as it may help people expand their ability to recall information. This article appeals to me directly in the sense that virtually anyone can benefit from a better memory. As a culinary student I know certain recipes from memory and could magnify the number if I was able to apply the principles discussed in this article. It’s useful in any kitchen to recall recipes from memory. Not only does it save time since I don’t have to rely on a piece of paper, I can take those recipes with me to any job I have. The skills discussed later are part of everyday existence. I constantly use all three of the skills. I find that empathy is very closely linked with theory of mind. If I know how to respond to someone’s personal emotions it makes sense that at some point I must have assessed how they felt about the circumstance, or else I might not react appropriately. Again emotion regulation plays a huge role while I am at work. When I am around customers it is important to greet them with a smile and give them helpful information about the food or where something is located. I can’t say, “its been an awful day for me so find out where the canned artichokes are from someone else.” Given the information provided I believe the skills actors have could be hugely beneficial to the rest of the world.

Right and Left Handedness (Current Event 2)

To understand what someone is saying people use a variety of techniques. Often the tone can indicate if someone is making a joke. Gestures can demonstrate how to braid hair or a hand pointing at the eye then moving down one’s cheek shows a tear. People use their hands in all sorts of ways to get the idea across. Now there is evidence that suggests people use their dominant hand to convey positive messages. We associate good things with the dominant hand most often and bad things with our non-dominant hand. Since it is easier to interact with our dominant hand, it is generally used to express the positives.

By the same logic right handed people will choose to buy products based on their locations. If deciding between two similar products the one with a description on the right side will be chosen by a right handed person and the opposite is true of a lefty. Right handed people will hire the applicant on the right side of a page and lefties will choose the person on the left.

In the 2008 elections, two lefties were competing for the presidency, Obama and McCain. In 2004 both candidates were righties, Bush and Kerry. Both sets of politicians were analyzed by a psychology professor and it found they used their dominant hands to describe the issues they associated with positivity.

This subtle hint can help listeners determine what someone really thinks; it shows the true emotion someone is feeling. I found this particularly interesting since I fall into the small minority of lefties. Although I never noticed this difference, there are definitely certain things righties and lefties do differently. For example the way I hold my pencil. My pencil rests on my ring finger, whereas most righties hold it resting on the middle finger. As a result I have an indentation on my fingernail. Another example is tying my shoes. I’m not exactly sure how everyone else ties them but they differ from my method. Everything from throwing a basketball to brushing my teeth is done on my left side. Often I find it easier to use my left hand because the person facing me can act as a mirror image. Rather than changing a gesture they use to the opposite side of my body I use the same gesture on the side that directly lines up with them.

Sensory Perception of Others (Current Event 3)

As soon as we meet someone, we start to analyze them. How they dress, do they look tired, is their face familiar to someone you know? So when people wear less clothing our brain begins to process a person’s appearance differently. When we are limited to seeing someone fully clothed we see them from a more intellectual side. But when people are viewed with cleavage or men are pictured without shirts research suggests that our perceptions begin to focus on desire and what the person is capable of feeling. The article goes on to point out that someone viewed in a headshot has a high degree of human agency, meaning that they can make decisions and impact the world. However this drastically declines when people view a full body shot. Simply put people are viewed as more intelligent and thoughtful when they have clothing, while a naked or minimally clothed individual is a sexual object that has feelings and seeks pleasure in experiences.

As Rene Descartes points out some believe that the mind acts in a dual manner, one part is abstract and the other is a physical world. This process is considered too simple by some, like Plato, who states that the mind has a side for thinking and reasoning and the other for emotion and passion. These states of mind are switched with ease when someone shows more skin.

The article brings new relevance to an age where people share their personal photos with a large number of people online. Although some people choose to make their Facebook, MySpace and Twitter profiles private, companies may be able to view their photos prior to hiring someone. The research concludes that if photos of a potential hire show skin, they would not be hired over someone who keeps their profile private or wears more clothing in the photos that are available to employers. It may not be considered fair, but it is the reality of mass photo sharing. To be taken seriously in the working world taking these photos off the web entirely may not be necessary but it’s probably smart to limit who can see them. Once an employer sees a photo, the damage is done and they won’t soon forget it.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mind-stage/201201/what-cognitively-does-actor-actually-do

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/choke/201112/want-know-what-politicians-are-thinking-look-their-hands

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/11/the-psychology-of-nakedness

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