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PSYC 101 Term Paper

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Zoe Monroe
PSYC 101 D
25 February, 2006

All of the information covered in this class so far has seemed very relevant to my own experience and what I've observed. The five topics I chose were ones I found especially interesting and applicable. While some of them relate to each other, I've chosen to relate topics discussed in the book to various aspects of my life instead of tying them all into one.
I found the chapter on memory really interesting because it took a deeper look at everyday events concerning memory that I've experienced but never really thought about, such as using context cues (276) to remember something. I find myself using context cues especially when I'm trying to remember exactly what someone said. If I can picture exactly where we were and what we were doing at the time it was said, I can usually remember it word for word.
As a student, especially in high school, I've seen teachers employ several of the memory-improving techniques discussed in this chapter to help us retain the information. Elaboration (264-265) has been used by my trigonometry teacher many times: after learning trigonometric ratios, for example, he asks us if we can think of any examples where these functions might be applicable. After picturing how a surveyor might use angle and distance measurements to determine the height of a building, or how tall the center beam of a house would need to be for the roof to have a certain angle of inclination, I can easily remember how to go about finding the height of a triangle because I can picture the situation in my mind. Projects and papers we've done in English class have been aimed at deepening the level of processing through which we put the information we read. According to the levels-of-processing theory (264), these practices will likely enhance our memory of the information.
Since reading this chapter I've actually taken some of the topics we read about and tried applying them to the subjects I've learned in school. After taking notes, I'll try to reorganized them into either conceptual hierarchies or semantic networks (272-274), which ever works best with the array of information. Being able to observe how each piece of information relates to the whole helps me retain much more than I would have otherwise. I've found this chapter especially applicable.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (497-498), the "systematic arrangement of needs, according to priority, in which basic needs must be met before less basic needs are aroused" (Weiten) seems reasonable to me. Those who are struggling to get just enough food to survive right now don't have much room to worry about cognitive needs. A person's needs are rarely ever fully and completely satisfied, however, so the fact that the theory suggests these needs need only be satisfied reasonably makes it seem more credible.
I've grown up in a poor family. We were homeless while my sister and I were little infants, and we've lived in low-income housing since then. I'm sixteen and I live with my parents, both of which are disabled -- my mom is schizophrenic and my dad had a quadruple bypass a few years ago -- so we receive social security once a month. Things are tight financially, we end up going to food banks sometimes when we don't have money for groceries toward the end of the month and we can't afford a car so we rely on public transportation. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the most fundamental needs are food, water, shelter -- all those necessary for survival. Even though it's tight, we always have something to eat, water, and shelter; so my basic needs are met.
The next priority, according to Maslow, is the future security of those necessities. This would be the need that would be most affected by our situation. We are dependent on programs like social security, welfare, and housing. The federal aid that supports these programs is a current political issue, making their future uncertain. Despite this lack of security, however, I'm generally an optimistic and relaxed person. I'm aware of our situation, my parents discuss finances with us and I understand the possibilities of not having shelter or financial aid if these programs were cut, but I'm able to remain positive.
I believe this could be influenced by the fulfillment of the next needs in Maslow's hierarchy: love and belongingness and esteem needs. Fortunately, my parents have shown me unconditional love and support all my life. They've told me since I was little that I can chose to be happy no matter what situation I might find myself in. I have pretty good self-esteem, which I'm sure has been at least partially influenced by the acceptance they've always shown me. The relationships I have with friends and boyfriends are rewarding. I find I'm surrounded with people like myself, that believe in staying positive and finding the good in any situation.
I'm very personally motivated. I love to learn; I love challenging courses and take advantage of programs such as Running Start to learn more about different subjects that interest me, like psychology. I love expressing myself artistically, through drawing and learning how to play instruments, something my parents support thoroughly. Even with money being tight, they've found ways to buy us instruments and little things like paint, telling us it was important for us to be able to grow in any area we express interest in. I also love to volunteer. I want to become a teacher someday, so I've been tutoring for about seven years with different organizations and schools. I'm always looking for ways to put my talents and interests in these areas into something productive. It seems to me and that even though my position my be insecure financially, the satisfaction of love and belongingness and esteem needs has let cognitive and self-actualization needs become a priority for me.
The personal application for Chapter 10, entitled "Exploring the Ingredients of Happiness" (416), seemed to relate to the position I find myself in as well. It discusses several factors and their influence on how happy subjects in studies have reportedly felt. Money, it found, has a very weak correlation with happiness. Once above the poverty level, approximately where I am myself, there is very little relation between the two. Fairly strong correlations were found between personality and happiness, however. One study featured was very surprising: it found there was "only marginal differences" in reported happiness between those who had just won the lottery and those who had recently lost the ability to move all four limbs as a result of an accident (Brickman, Coates, & Janoff-Bulman, 1978).
Of all the psychological disorders discussed in Chapter 17, I can most easily related to schizophrenia, considering my mom is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. The description of a person with paranoid schizophrenic (584) fits very well. During tougher periods, she's believed that her life was being threatened and was suspicious of family and friends. Generally, she over-analyzes interactions she has with acquiantances on the bus or at the doctors office, and sometimes believes that these people were trying to upset or manipulate her when the whole situation sounds like a simple, everyday occurences to the rest of us. She'll also fear that any small slip up she made will be held against her. In attempts to keep her grounded, we try to remind her that these people barely know her. They likely put very little thought into what effect what they say or do will have on her, and they have probably forgotten completely whatever tiny mistake she may have made almost as soon as it happened. The book refers to thoughts like these as "delusions of grandeur" (Weiten). It describes extreme cases in which people believe that they are important figures, like the president of the United states. My mom isn't under the impression she is any well-known figure, but she has always seemed to believe that even brief acquaintances observe her carefully and analyze everything she does, something that seems ridiculous to the rest of us. My mom was diagnosed during early adulthood, and has been on medication and in and out of treatment since then. She would therefore fall into the category of partial recovery.
Reading about schizophrenia helps me understand her a little better. Some of it I knew already, having been exposed to it all my life, other parts are completely knew to me, such as the possibility of a full recovery in some cases. I didn't know that it could be brought on suddenly or that it could be treated and the person could come out of it; it was always my impression that it was always just the way a person's mind worked.
Out of the chapters we are not covering in this class, the one of sensation and perception (Ch. 4) automatically caught my attention. I've learned many techniques in art classes and through independent study that can create depth and perspective in drawings. For example, the book discusses many ways to influence depth perception (147), such as linear perspective (called one-point or two-point perspective in art), texture gradient (objects in the foreground will have more detail than in the background), relative size (the closer the object, the larger it appears), and light and shadow (creating a three-dimensional appearance). These pictorial depth cues began to be employed by artists in the Renaissance, separating their works from those in the Medieval period, whose paintings appeared flat. Complementary colors, which the book defines as "pairs of colors that produce gray tones when mixed together" (Weiten, 139) are common in art because these combinations are thought to be pleasing to the eyes.
What I've enjoyed most about what I've learned so far this quarter is the way subjects covered in this book delve into things about myself and the people I know that I've taken for granted or haven't put much thought into. It's been able to explain some of them, and others it's admitted that there just isn't enough evidence to prove the cause of yet. Those are always especially interesting. Learning more about the complexity of the human mind and our behavior has given me a new appreciation for everything that's going on around me everyday.