marți, 10 decembrie 2013

The Hobbit

This one is one of the hottest books in the last century. The creation of feature movies made it more desirable as a book. I am lucky to have received it as a gift from my boyfriend, as a sign of appreciation and surprise.  Though it is a children’s book is by no means childish.

The Hobbit is one of those books that really spark your imagination. One of those books that lead you into a world full of magic, where you feel as if you were always a part of, then you can be a member of a party set to have amazing adventures. Of course if I were to have read it as a kid I would have imagined it differently, but know I can appreciate it for what it is. A wonderfully written book, where the author is both a confident and all knowing, letting you wonder through his imaginary world, but keeping you on track, by not letting you go astray and forget the main purpose of the book.

Being a part of Bilbo Baggins adventure is great, watching unfold some great feats of courage as part of one’s development, makes you realize that you have more courage in you and only by going in adventures you unlock it and use it. It really made me think more about my life, taking it as a quest into the unknown. Because I really believe that our own lives are just journeys to save our world, to reclaim our title, to reclaim some fortune and in turn to find our home. When I realized that sometimes journeys are not set from the beginning, that the end result is just a probable consequence of all the decisions taken during the journey, it made me anxious and yet at peace with my own journey.

Like most people I have dragons to slay, friends to help me through that, building trust along the way and never forgetting where I am from. Although my home might not be as magical as under the hill, it is still the place that made me what I am today, and set the foundations for the greatest adventure of my existence, living my life.

The Hobbit is, to me, the journey and tale of a fragment of life, when you have the courage to step outside your comfort zone into the unknown and never lose fate in your abilities. It is magical, and a must read in everyone’s development, at no matter the time in life.

duminică, 10 noiembrie 2013

Working Memory, Thought and Action by Alan Baddeley

As it is with the interesting things, it started with a desire to find out more about this human ability of ours to manipulate knowledge, concepts and information in the present, to integrate them and to retrieved them in order to do all our mental processes. All this is amazing when you ponder on it, especially when you realize that even pondering and planning your future lies on this ability.

Upon reading the book I realized I was drawn to the field and that it is something that might taunt me for life. I deeply enjoyed the history of research that sustained the conclusions and made me think about new ways to improve the current knowledge on the topic. Having prof. Robert Logie explaining misunderstandings in a working memory course at the university really helped me grasp the concepts and clarify my mind. It was this co-occurrence of fortunate events that I credit for the spark and development of my interest in the field.

Anyone interested in psychology or memory would love to read a short scientific history about the development of one of the most fruitful and influential theory and models on working memory. 

Working memory is viewed as consisting of specialized systems: the visuo-spatial sketchpad (deals with visual and spatial information), the phonological loop (deals with auditory material, and it helps with the rehearsal of material), the episodic buffer (integrates and stores in the short term memory all the information from multisensory systems), the central executive (an attentional controller of resources, and monitors the implementation and continuous adaptation of  plan); all of which are in continuous communication with long term memory , the depositary of information and knowledge. This active construction and reconstruction of knowledge through use is one of the most astonishing abilities we possess. Only when it goes wrong, as in the case of neurodegenerative disorders ( Alzheimer’s disease, some form of frontotemporal dementias) we begin to realize what a great ability we have.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone practicing psychology and to all of those who want to find out more about how human mind is being unraveled through scientific inquiry and continuous research. Even though the field of working memory has distinctive theories and it will evolve as a result of research it is useful to know the process by which this multimodal model of working memory has guided research for more than three decades.  

vineri, 12 iulie 2013

Far from the Madding crowd - Thomas Hardy

This book is one that found its way to me in a day of rain of meditative stance.

From the first pages it appear clear that something powerful and yet wonderful would be encapsulated in the book. I don't consider myself to be the type that reads romantic novels, but I found this book to be a very accurate account of what love and pride can do to people caught in its strings.

Batsheba Everdene is a woman who takes life by it's strings, values honesty, integrity and independence. All this are on top of her beauty and feminine power that makes Gabriel Oak, Boldwood and Troy fall in love with her and try to win her heart. In the developing of the story it becomes clear that only one man endowed with perseverance and wisdom will be able to be a perfect match for her. This is more clear to the reader than the characters and so a long chain of tragedies unfolds until the happiness that all people want takes place.

Without wishing to spoil the action of the novel, I will limit myself to some brief remarks. It is wonderful to get an idea of the English countryside and to see a powerful women in times when it was thought that a women's best role was to be a good wife to her husband. One can almost sense the power and vigor of her actions, and see her transformed from a youthful, intelligent and impulsive woman to a more mature and wise one. At the end of the book it seemed as if it was the only realistic possibility: her inner force would not have allowed her to drown in the harshness of life.

The novel is a really nice and enjoyable read and one could easily see the messages that are still applicable today and will be as long as men and women are in love while struggling to keep their independence. In the end independence might not be the value that gives you happiness so one must be wary and wise when the time to put it aside comes near, because otherwise she/he will find herself/himself in unwanted troubles and pain.

vineri, 28 iunie 2013

Why Kids Lie: How Parents Can Encourage Truthfulness

As a school counselor I work with children, their parents and teachers. It is important to see how the relationships develop and are maintained, mainly because almost any major event in the life of a student will be reflected in her/his academics.

I hoped to find more insights into this matter, and my hopes were partially fulfilled, because I expected somehow a more theoretical approach to this issue, and that was a mistake from my part, due to the fact that the book was written for the lay public. With this reference in mind, I changed my expectations and I began to take a new approach to the information presented. I could appreciate its usefulness its depth of insight and how to transpose it into my work.

I would warmly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about why some relationship work, and why others don't, the starting point being the building block that is trust. Of course when we think more about it we realize that it was something we knew in the back of our minds, but it needs researchers and methods to actually make it meaningful to a world that is bigger than one's own view. 

joi, 30 mai 2013

Working with Dreams, Understand your dreams and use them for personal and creative development

Some books come into your life drawn by the desire to understand yourself or to understand others. For e it was the former path by which this book entered in my lecturing interests. Everyone dreams and sometimes the dreams are so beautiful, so much as you want your life to be, that you want to linger in their company even after you wake up.

The desire to understand why some things appear in my dreams led to read the book and it helped me realize what I forgot: to pay more attention to what I want and the obstacles in my life. After reading it and through some discussions with a close friend I started to relax and just take things as they go. The book offers an insight into the most common symbols for dreams and is an instrument that can be used to create and develop your own dream notebook.  Due to these helpful and easy guidance tips it becomes ease to be more aware of what you want, what are the influences of events in your life and on your general well-being. This was for me one the perfect thing in a tumultuous time, and helped me take a break from it all and enjoy my life as it is. 

Truth be told, this book alone would have been useless without the aid of the conversation had with my best-friend.

luni, 18 martie 2013

Neuroscience of Decision Making

This book treats contemporary topics in cognitive neuroscience and has given me a myriad of ideas to follow and think through, making it more difficult to settle on just one idea for research. I assure myself that  this might be one of the factors characteristic to creative thinking, particularly the defocused attention described by the “cognitive disinhibition hypothesis” (p.320), although I feel the stringent need to use some sort of heuristic (that will presumably activate my left temporal pathways, p.126), a kind of spontaneous thought (p. 275), which will lead me in taking the decision to elaborate just one idea for a research project.

With this in mind I choose to elaborate on the implications and ramifications of decision making in a social context, especially under the pressure of a significant person, and find that important regions lie in the prefrontal cortex having projections to and from the hypocampus, amygdala, the human striatum which is a central region of interest when researching social decisions. Another brain region of interest is the anterior insula, which exhibits a greater activation in unfair situations, an interesting point when one considers that it is also found to be responsive to physically painful stimuli (p.233).

Taking it on the “who knew!?!” aspect that each neuroscience book comprises, I have found that:

  • Ventromedial prefrontal cortex is important in personal and social decision making, and impairment in this structure can make it difficult to choose friends, partners and activities (p. 74).
  • An abnormal social environment can have negative consequences on the structures involved in triggering somatic/emotional states, deficits which were observed in various laboratory settings, when individuals with neurobiological abnormalities failed to express proper emotions, empathize or fear negative consequences. This negative learning can be undone when individuals are exposed to proper learning environment (p. 90).
  • An acetylcholine (ACh) deficit (lack of sensory bound signals) might be involved in some hallucinatory experiences, a consistent point of the idea that hallucination is antagonistic to sensory processing(p.105).
  • The ventral striatum is sensitive to the magnitude of an anticipated reward (p.151).
  • A feature of depression is a diminished functional connectivity within fronto-cingulate pathways which can contribute to a diminished behavioral adjustment as a consequence of difficulties in cognitive control (p.212).
  • Intranasal administration of oxytocin (a neuropeptide involved in affiliative behavior) increased trust behavior (p. 231)
These ideas were just a few of the wonderfully treated ideas presented in the book. They have harvested my interest and the corresponding neuronal pathways involved in learning and memory formation.

I must confess that writing a review, or rather a personal view of the book I carefully read and learn from has proven to be a challenging task. For any confusions or misunderstandings made I apologize in advance. 

duminică, 17 februarie 2013

The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making

When I received the book (that came among a collection of great books) I thought it will help me get a few research ideas stick and take me to another level. It has helped me in that sense. :)

Scott Plous’s account of some of the most intriguing and striking cognitive biases and implications of decision heuristics on everyday life has helped me rethink all the classes on Social Psychology.  From a hindsight bias “it was clear” that all the information is context dependent, that I have an attribution error, that memories are reconstructed and above all that I make prediction based on facts scrambled together by my mind in search of meaning, not taking into account some actuarial evidence, therefore setting and actuarial prediction regarding future events.

It was an informative book, and although it was written in 1993 it felt very up to date. This feeling might be due to the fact that I feel that I need to read more about decision making process and partly because I strive to make the basic ideas of research more clear and relevant to research laboratories. The fact that each chapter finishes with a set of conclusion that offer some guidance in how to avoid the negative outcome of some biases is of great help. For instance, concerning representativeness heuristic, I have to take into account the tips offered (Plous, 1993, pag. 119):

  •  don’t be misled by highly detailed scenarios;
  •  whenever possible pay attention to base rates;
  • remember that chance is not self-correcting; and
  • Don’t misinterpret regression toward the mean (especially useful when considering that we all would like to have an exceptional performance all the time).

Another set of useful suggestion is that offered in relation to probability and risk. I must remember to: - always think back at the actual probability that something I envision in my future is only a desirable event and it is no more probable than un undesirable but unforeseen event; and most importantly perhaps to break compound events into small events in order to see that is something has a small rate of probability or risk than an accumulation of small events with their respective small risks might lead to catastrophes (pag. 143-144).

The most relevant information to remember is that concerning correlation, causation and control, and to remember to take into account the illusory correlations and the invisible ones, after all, Holmes was very keen on addressing things which ought to happen and failed to be seen, not just sticking to the obvious events that might validate hypotheses.

There are many biases which seem to help or hinder us when trying to go through this motion we call life. We may be entrapped in different situations and fail to see the reward of exiting the situation just because we have invested so much that we feel as we stand to lose too much. Many times the decisions we take are not the most accurate by mathematical standards or prove to be economical correct, yet they help us in everyday tasks and therefore prove to be useful. After all, we have limited resources, cognitive and otherwise, to make the best decisions we can make.