Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World's First GM Babies Born

Thirty healthy genetically modified babies were born after a series of experiments in the US. Out of the thirty born, two were tested and were found to contain genes from three parents. Fifteen of the thirty babies born were born in the past three years as the result of one experimental programe in New Jersey. These genetically modified babies were born to women who had problems conceiving. Before their eggs were fertilized, extra genes were inserted in an attempt to enable them to conceive. It is confirmed from fingerprints that these babies have three "parents": two women and one man. This means that those babies can pass their third set of genes onto their own children some day. Geneticists fear that this could be used to create new races of humans with higher intelligence or extra strength.

The women who had conceived these genetically modified babies were diagnosed as infertile. This is because they had defects in their mitochondria. Then, doctos took eggs from donors and sucked some of the internal material that contained healthier mitochondria and injected it into eggs from the woman wanting to conceive. This is the reason the babies have inherited DNA from three adults.

Christina Perla

Monday, April 21, 2014

Genie -Feral Child/ Psycholinguistics

Genie's father kept her locked alone in a room from the age of 20 months to 13 years, 7 months, almost always strapped to a child's toilet or bound in a crib with her arms and legs completely immobilized. During this time she was never exposed to any significant amount of speech, and as a result she did not acquire a first language during childhood. The only sensory stimulation Genie experienced from outside her home came by way of two windows, through which she could hear some traffic noises and see both the side of a neighboring house and a couple inches of sky, and could also occasionally hear birds and airplanes flying over the house.
When Genie first moved in with the Riglers, she remained mostly quiet.She did not usually listen to anyone unless she was being directly addressed or Curtiss was playing classical music on the piano.In mid-October 1971, Curtiss was reading Genie a story when she saw Genie was clearly listening to her; after that point, she began paying attention to people even when they were not speaking directly to or about her. Sometimes, she would even spontaneously contribute to an ongoing conversation. Analysis of Genie's language acquisition helped scientists determine information about many of her cognitive abilities, which they compared to those of most children in equivalent phases of language acquisition. Something the scientists took especially great interest in was that, from the time she started learning to speak, she always showed appropriate specificity. Whereas children's early speech is normally excessively specific, Genie never exhibited this. In many cases, Genie's language development was used to help gauge her overall psychological state. For instance, she began to form imperative sentences using the vocative, as in, "Go way Joel, finish story!" This suggested not only progress in her language comprehension but an increasing level of self-confidence and self-concept. In some instances, learning a new aspect of language played a direct role in helping to further her psychological and mental development. Curtiss wrote that at the time Genie learned to use the ritual phrase "May I have [example]" she was also learning how to use money. The ability to ask for payment using this phrase helped fuel her desire to make money, and in turn led to her taking a more active role in performing activities which would lead to a reward; at least once, when Marilyn began setting the table—an activity for which Genie was often paid—Genie stood up from Curtiss playing the piano and actively interrupted Marilyn so she could be rewarded.
Even while speaking, Genie continued to use supplementary nonverbal gestures to improve her intelligibility. With some words, she would pantomime them as she spoke; for instance, the scientists noted she would crouch into a seated position when she said the words "sit" or "sick". Although this is normal to some degree among children learning a first language, she seemed to use them as an integral part of her vocabulary.

Joy Woojin chung

Body language: Universal or Culturally Specific?

I had never spent much time considering body language. I was perfectly content with my intuitive understanding of body language: that someone who turns their body toward you is receptive and attentive, that someone who looks down at the ground and digs their heel into the ground is feeling sheepish, and so on.
However, while doing this research, I kept encountering a phrase that brought into relief just how bizarre the entire concept of body language is. People kept saying that interpreting body language is a way we read people’s thoughts.
Some body language is inborn or genetic. The major example is basic facial expressions, such as smiling. These expressions are found in all cultures and are also performed by children who are born deaf and blind and therefore have no way of learning or copying the expressions.  Nodding the head to mean “yes” is also universal. It is speculated that shaking the head “no” has its origin in infancy, when feeding children move their head in a similar gesture to turn away from the breast or bottle.
Another gesture that is genetically determined is folding your arms across your chest – specifically whether you put the left arm over the right or vice-versa. One will feel “right” and one will feel “wrong” to you.
Other gestures are learned culturally, and are performed in accordance with gender roles. In the source I read, when walking down the street, men turn toward women and women turn away from men. Most men put coats on right arm first while women do the reverse.
Some gestures are not shared among cultures. The thumbs up symbol is an example of this. While in English-speaking countries the meaning of “okay” is widespread, in France is can mean “zero” and in Japan it can mean “money.” In Mediterranean countries it is something cryptically referred to in the text as “an orifice signal.” Use your imagination to interpret what that means.

Hannah Holden


Nonverbal Communication and Body Language

When we interact with others, we continuously give and receive wordless signals. All of our nonverbal behaviors—the gestures we make, the way we sit, how fast or how loud we talk, how close we stand, how much eye contact we make—send strong messages. These messages don't stop when you stop speaking either. Even when you're silent, you're still communicating nonverbally.
Oftentimes, what comes out of our mouths and what we communicate through our body language are two totally different things. When faced with these mixed signals, the listener has to choose whether to believe your verbal or nonverbal message, and, in most cases, they're going to choose the nonverbal because it's a natural, unconscious language that broadcasts our true feelings and intentions in any given moment.
The way people listen, look, move, and react tells the other person whether or not you care, if you’re being truthful, and how well you’re listening. When your nonverbal signals match up with the words you’re saying, they increase trust, clarity, and rapport. When they don’t, they generate tension, mistrust, and confusion.There are many different types of nonverbal communication. Together, the following nonverbal signals and cues communicate your interest and investment in others.
There's Facial Expression, Body movement/posture, Gestures, Eye contact, Touch, Space and Voice. Body language communicate by how people sit, walk, standup or hold their head. The way people move and carry themselves communicate a wealth of information to the world. This type of nonverbal communication also includes posture, bearing, stance and subtle movements. Also, gestures like wave, point, beckon and using our hands when speaking are expressions that we do without thinking. However, the meaning of gestures can be very different across cultures and regions. 

Joy Woojin Chung. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Toddler's Speech Interpretation is based on Native Language

Before toddlers even have a lexicon, new studies say that they are already interpreting and incorporating sounds of their native language. Although in the past, research had shown that toddlers didn't learn language habits till later - recent information has demonstrated that they are disregarding and taking notice of particular language-specific vowels or word combinations. This awareness of language have a "a rudimentary understanding of the 'sound system' of their language and that knowledge guides their interpretation of the sounds they encounter." (Daniel Swingley, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology) Eventually, their natural disregard for certain sounds and subtle speech patterns that their language doesn't leads to the formation of their native language. Which, in turn, contributes to why Japanese toddlers cannot distinguish the R sound from the L (i.e. might accidentally say lice rather than rice) - and why French is such a difficult language for English speakers.

Called the Penn study, research also indicated that children know when to take a difference in word sound seriously or to consider it a random variation based on their native language. Therefore, their entire process and method of encountering language in the bigger picture. This can be especially attributed from how at birth infants can distinguish most "phonetic contrasts by all the world's languages and then, after a year, shifts to a specific language in which they "retain or improve categorization of sounds and cannot discriminate many non-native sounds." Through this, it can be assumed that children become more attuned to a single language after their first year of encountering a language. For example, "kitty" and "kiiiiitty" - children need to figure out what each one means. To English speakers, it's the same word. However, for languages like Japanese or Finnish - it can be completely different. The example being in Japanese language where kami and kami can mean both god or paper depending on the sound pronunciation.

In Kitty vs Kiiiiity, there were three experiments that compared Dutch and English-learning 18 month olds. The children were shown two toys while researchers called one "tam" multiple times and then "taaam" for the other. The study showed that dutch children, through their language that includes that words are different by how long the vowel is pronounced, interpreted the variations as meaningful and associated the words (tam and taaam) to their respective toys. Meanwhile, English speakers ignored the elongation of the vowel sounds altogether. This displays the profound difference of language encounters for children as they grow up and what an important role language plays in shaping not only language but their interpretation of what goes on around them.


Happy reading!
J'aime Merkel

Body Language 101: Lie Detection

Lie detection occurs largely in the court room, or within the enforcement department. The problem with this, Joe Navarro states, is that very often "lie detection masters" are still no better than chance. He offers that good "lie detectors" are 60% right and 40% wrong. However, the reason why this is so important to note is: jurors. Often time people remark that they saw somewhere that "touching your nose means you're lying"and then that influences their choice/decisions. Even judges are subject to making the mistake of saying "I know that you're lying" just by seeing or listening to what the person is saying (without any actual prior knowledge and etc as proof). Body language or not, lie detection is not humanely possible. In fact, there is "no single behavior indicative of deception" (Ekman 1985, infra.)

But how does one use lie detection as a means of finding out the truth? Navarro states that a huge disciplinary study of multiple subjects (and possibly taking what they learnt with a grain of salt) could help. This is based on the fact that lie detection is not only body language but also verbal and requires expertise in the following subjects: psychology, anthropology, sociology, criminology, jurisprudence, sociobiology, neurobiology, psychiatry, anatomy, physiology, communications, zoology, ethnography, primatology, linguistics, language, and grammar (to name a few). Just to understand the depth of lie detection. This instance would be important especially in the Friedman case, and understanding why loaded or leading questions would especially not be helpful in witness questioning. As well as to figure out whether or not the children were "lying" so to speak.

None really have undergone such a disciplined curriculum of subjects, though.

In the future, it would be more beneficial if enforcement careers - and even the judicial department, with their judicial privileges (that allow them to say things without being sued for slander, Navarro states) was taught multiple facets of the human nature. Especially in cases where witness testimonies are flawed with flashbulb memories or even loaded questions and leads to innocent people being put into prison. The idea that human nature is so one dimensional is the fault of lack of education and understanding. Roles that are given power and even the ability to aid the general population should then undergo more than just learning how to apprehend but how to assess.


J'aime Merkel

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Reasons Why We Should Not Correlate Speech Ability and Intelligence

In the field of psychology, speech ability has often been assumed as an indicator of intelligence. In an essay written by Savannah Sims, she proves through three examples of language disorders that there is a weak correlation, if not one at all between speech ability and intelligence. In recent years, with the improvement of technology, this hypothesis has become easier to prove. Scientists can detect an individual's brain activity when processing language that has been read by them or spoken to them by an EEG. The CAT, MRI, and fMRI, are also all technologies that have served as a huge help to scientists trying to better understand the relationship brains have with language and its acquisition.

Sims first explains the notion of localization. This theory, that is used and accepted today by scientists, states that there are specific parts of the brain that function for specific purposes. In other words, our brains are compartmentalized. It's also affected by lateralization because our left hemisphere of our brain and our right hemisphere function primarily for different purposes, although there are exceptions. Moreover, another insight that's significant to Sims study is the gene FOXP2. This gene helps with language development and abilities. It's discovery allows scientists to have a better understanding that language may not be a "learned" skill, but rather something biological to the human. Chomsky considers language a "mental-organ."

In sight of these theories and discoveries, Sims uses the information when she began to examine studies performed with individuals suffering fro aphasia, specific language impairment (SLI), and William's Syndrome. Sims synthesized the data collected and found that although aphasia (a disorder caused by brain injury that impairs an individual's ability to find the "right" words to express themselves) hinders an individual's ability to find words to verbally communicate their emotions and ideas it does not effect their non-verbal communication skills and their ability to comprehend what is being said to them. This separation of language and intelligence provides and interesting opportunity to research the two components seperately. Sims says, "If speech ability were linked directly to a person's intelligence, damage could not be done to the brain that would affect one component without affecting the other," (p. 19).

Sims also looked at individuals with SLI and William's Syndrome. Unlike, aphasia and SLI, William's Syndrome was used as a contrast to show that even with a disorder that is highly recognized for having sufferers with low IQ scores, their language development and grammatical abilities were unaffected and scored as "normal." This proves further than intelligence and speech ability is not correlated. The study used in the essay to further illustrate this compared William's Syndrome and Down's Syndrome sufferers (who are know for having similar IQ levels) in their ability to use language to construct a narrative of a picture that was shown to them. Individuals with William's Syndrome were far more capable of constructing complex and "full" narratives while those participants with Down's Syndrome often provided simpler narratives. This further proved Sims hypothesis.

In conclusion, Sims said that intelligence and speech ability should not be correlated even though at times there seems to be a "connection" or a "link" between the two.

Alexa Trembly

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How Language is Acquired in an Infant

The amazing factor in this whole TED talk was the incredible amounts of data that was collected to capture the birth of a single word from an infant human.  Deb Roy, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Chief Media Scientist of Twitter, conducts his research at MIT Media Lab on language, games and social dynamics that corresponds the interactions between artificial intelligence and cognitive psychology.  When his son was born, Roy installed cameras in every room of his house to capture such moments.  In the end, he collected two years of continuous data to capture his son learning the word 'water'. 

This data represented above is an isolation of a person moving within a room through time, hence the horizontal-ness of the data.  To capture his son forming the word 'water', Roy and his team, just like this image, isolated words concerning water and placed them on a horizontal timeline. From the first time he said 'gaga' (phrase that represented water) to the actual adult phrase 'water' was detailed over a 24 month period.  On top of the audio data, they went even further to place the movements of the caretakers (mother, father, nanny) and the infant and pinpointed locations in the house that the phrase water was said.  The result of a mountainous terrain of data where location and phrase met.  

What I got from the TED talk that pertained to psycholinguistics was how both the infant and the environment adapted to each other to meet half way.  Roy was able to conclude that both he, his wife and the nanny changed their behavior and speech to meet their son to help him ease into a word.  This was represented in a bell curve, the difficulty was high from the start and once at the middle (the bell curve swooped downward) the caretakers would help the son then gradually move up the curve again. It appears that both context, location, and adaptability have tremendous factors in the creation of new words in the mind.  

Sara Mazdzer


TED Talk: Birth of a Word

Deb Roy: Cognitive Machines

When A Reality TV Show Turns into a Psychologist's Scientific Study of Body Language

French TV reality show: Secret Story (Big Brother)

After watching Amy Cuddy's TED talk on how your "Body Language Shapes Who You Are" through what she calls 'fake it till you become it' attitude, posed a larger discussion on the interactions this may cause on other individuals after one internalizes this mind set.  This led me to Geoff Beattie's book Visible Thought, The New Psychology of Body Language, where interestingly enough, a whole TV show franchise, Big Brother; a reality show that confined individuals in a house for weeks at a time, was the main apparatus for this new study of body language by studying the contestants actions with one another. 

I had to look up Big Brother after the eighth time the author referred to it and didn't realize that I have already watched the French Series back in 2006 when I visited French pen pals for four weeks in Bordeaux.  I'm frankly bad at French but the only show that I could stood to watch and actually understand the premise of the show was Big Brother.  After researching body language and cognitive psychology, I now know why I could understand it.  Body language is universal. 

Geoff Beattie is an internationally acclaimed social psychologist who was the resident psychologist for the show Big Brother.  He is a professor of Psychology at Edge Hill University and University of Cambridge.  Through the show, he was able to compile a hypothesis of body language based on the extensive information collected through the 24hour camera system.  Body language, facial expressions, micro expressions, silent signals of the eyes, head nods, postural changes, mirroring posture, hand movements, interpersonal distance, winks, fidgeting and eyebrow raising led the psychologist and the audience to glimpse into the actual emotions and opinions of the contestants.  Geoff Beattie explains in an interview that the contestants repeatedly talked about one thing and through one of the listed actions above shows that they actually feel quite opposite from their words.  

Sara Mazdzer


Visible Thought, The New Psychology of Body Language

Amy Cuddy: TED Talk

Geoff Beattie: Bg Brother UK 2006 Interview

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cognitive Advantages of Second Language Immersion Education--Fran├žois Grosjean, Ph.D

In a recent article written by Francois Grosjean, the cognitive skills of children who attend second language immersion programs were tested to see whether they were more apt in metalinguistic awareness. This awareness is the knowledge of different facets of language such as the sound of the particular word. This cognitive awareness is thought to increase abilities in literacy as well as attention and ability to plan, select, etc. It was found that those who were learning a second language had better cognitive language skills than those who were monolingual.

A study conducted by professors Ellen Bialystok, Kathleen Peets and Sylvain Moreno at NYU studied the development of metalinguistics in children who were in the bilingual programs. They compared their task results against those who were solely studying English rather than English and French. The tasks essentially tested their grammar, and "verbal fluency." They discovered that the children in the immersion programs were showing similar results to early bilingual children, and their ability to understand the facets of language was more accurate than those who were monolingual. This is because when one learns a first language it is about communication, and is essentially innate, but learning another language requires you to take note of the dynamics of a language, i.e. conjugation, masculine and feminine in romance languages, etc. This particular study was fascinating because the students had only been studying French for three years.

Jillian Billard

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Body Language & Cognitive Psychology

In the Ted talk by Amy Cuddy body language is analyzed through a cognitive lens as she talks about snap judgements (similar to Gladwell, but with different intentions) and how they are affected by an individuals body language. She explained that her focus on non-verbal communication (body language) is about power dynamics. The basic principle is that humans, along with other mammals, make themselves larger when they feel powerful and make themselves smaller when they feel powerless. This type of body language is universal, however Cuddy continued to ask the question: since our minds can change our bodies, can our bodies change our minds? This question reflects on how strong of a connection there is between body and mind (focusing on the cognitive function of perception in power dynamics).

Cuddy conducted an experiment where participants were instructed to hold either a high-power pose (such as hands on the hips) or a low-power pose (such as slouching the shoulders) for two minutes. After the two minutes ended the participants were then rigorously interview. The interviewers had not been told which participants were the high or low-power pose holders. The intention of the interview was to increase the stress hormones in the participants' bodies because high-stress individuals are more likely to be low-power posers. The results of the experiment showed that the individuals who held the high-power pose for the two minutes before the interview had decreased stress hormones and the interviewers highly favored them. The low-power posers had increased stress hormones after the interview and were less favored by the interviewing committee.

The conclusion Cuddy inferred from her data was that as humans our minds do not only have the power to change our bodies, but our bodies also have the power to change our minds. The body language that the participants "rehearsed" for the two minute period before the interview was a sort of role-play that can help change the mindset of an individual. In other words, fake it until you make it, or Cuddy prefers the saying "fake it until you become it." She says that as individuals we have the agency to change our cognitive tendencies by way of changing our body language.

Alexa Trembly  

Southern Comfort

This article starts by speculating on the difference in the levels of politeness in the south and the north. The author states that the level of politeness was astonishing and unexpected. Those who were in service jobs had genuine smiles, not the fake kind. Even coupons are polite in the south. Psycholinguist Steven Pinker says that politeness is a human universal thing.

When the author asked a friend why Southerners are so polite, he mentioned that it may have had something to do with the fact that they were not so industrialized early on, so they had to rely on one another in a small-town kind of way, thus fostering politeness.

Social psychologists Dov Cohen and Richard Nisbett say that the South is a culture of honor, a culture in which people are concerned about their reputation for toughness and readiness to avenge insults and slurs. These concerns about reputation give rise to rules regarding politeness because being polite is a way to avoid slighting others. In an experiment, Cohen and Nisbett insulted male students at the University of Michigan, which some of whom are Southerners and some of them are Northeners. Northerners usually shrugged off the slight, but Southerners usually showed a flash of anger. Tests show that Southerners had testosterone levels twice as high as Northerners. Southerners may tend to be especially polite because an unintended insult may escalate into a fight or a feud. Honor-related killings are far more common in the South than in the North.

Christina Perla

Politicians' Body Language

With the recent headlines about the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, deciding to send thousands of Russian troops into a neighboring country, two experts decided to analyze Putin's body language and what that communicates aside from the just the words. Astoundingly, some even say that less than 10% of actual communication comes from the words actually spoken. Most communication actually comes through body language and tone of voice. Two experts, Dr. Erik Bucy and Dr. Patrick Stewart answered a few questions about nonverbal communication for this article.

The two experts summed up "body language" as the umbrella of nonverbal communication. It is the way that human and non-human animals attempt to influence others to do things they want them to do through social signals. This includes facials, haptics (touching), proxemics (how close you are to someone), vocalics (what comes out of your mouth that isn't specifically language), and even odors. Humans tend to have a preference for the interpretation of social status emotions in body posture, intimate-relationship emotions with touch, and survival-based emotions in the face. In terms of politics, what is remembered about a political figure is mostly their visual image rather than the specifics of any particular statement or policy pronouncement.

When asked about a few of the key non-verbal behaviors noticed when evaluating a leader or political situation, Erik and Patrick discuss the visibility of teeth. Which part of a person's teeth are showing while smiling are an indicator of whether a smile is truly felt, or false and insincere. Patrick goes into detail about how the political figure looks when being asked a question. He says it gives insight into how the target is reacting to the social situation, how they respond to their environment. They also talk about "micro-expressions," the subtle facial displays that are often controlled very quickly by the communicator when slipped out.

Christina Perla

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are--A TED talk by Amy Cuddy

In her TED talk on body language, cognitive psychologist Amy Cuddy speaks of her own personal struggles and how she overcame them with body language, and explains how body language can change not only how others see you, but your entire personal disposition or self-confidence. She begins by talking about "power poses," and speaks of the natural human inclination to declare one's feelings of triumph or power subconsciously (not learned by sight). She calls this "non-verbal language." Interestingly, she mentions that "when people watch 30 second clips of doctor patient interactions, people can judge based on the doctor's niceness whether they will be sued." Similarly, emoticons in online agreements can have sweeping effects on the decisions that people make. Expressions of pride are universal (raising one's arms) and closing up the body is natural to people who are uncomfortable. We tend to do the opposite of the other's body language. If one is being powerful and taking up space, the other shrinks in space. She also speaks of the way that women tend to close up in their mannerisms while men open up. Those who are more closed are less likely to succeed in a classroom environment because of their unwillingness to participate. She claims that if one "fakes it till they make it" i.e. is forced to participate, they do better and act more powerfully. When one pretends to be powerful, they are more likely to actually feel powerful. Thus the body changes the mind, whereas the commonly perceived notion is that the mind affects the body. Physiologically, testosterone (high-power dominance related) and cortisol (anxiety-related) are produced by postures. There is evidence that role-changes (the stance of a particular person) can change the affect that a person has. In a conducted test by Cuddy and her colleagues, she asked people to sit in certain open and closed poses for two minutes. They then took an oxygen sample and asked the participants to gamble. Those who were in open poses increased in testosterone and a decrease in cortisol, and the opposite was true. Thus non-verbals govern how we feel about ourselves, not solely how people see us. She suggests that rather than hunching over before a job interview, they should do high-power stretches in the bathroom. Job interviews are trained not to respond positively or negatively through body language. In a test, it was shown that the presence of the high-power posers was so effective that they were hired, as opposed to the low-power posers who were not as dominant because they felt like a fraud. Cuddy tells of her own struggles where her IQ was negatively affected by a head injury. She was told that she would not be able to complete college. However her confidence was positively effected by her confidence that spurred from her own body language and she learned to fake it until it became real, rather than fake it til you make it. She now teaches at a prestigious IV league school and teaches her students to do the same in class participation, as she believes that it will positively effect the way that they perform.

Jillian Billard