Project #82399 - Psychology discussion

1. Let’s think about consciousness and the mind-brain problem (also called the mind-body problem):  how are our conscious mind and physical brain related?  Most neuroscientists believe that self-awareness and consciousness can be explained by the workings of the brain.  One line of evidence that supports the role of the brain in consciousness are experiments with split-brain patients, which are described in “A Brain Divided” subsection in the NOBA “The Brain” chapter.  You can see this for yourself in this Youtube video  (all links are optional reading/viewing).  If you have the time, Alan Alda takes a more in-depth look at the relationship between language and human thought, in this 1-hour long episode of The Human Spark.   [NOTE:  if the Human Spark video isn't available at this link, see this Youtube version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzcSbP3VsAI ]

Please provide your thoughts to the following the questions:  Do you think it's valid to assume that the brain is the basis for consciousness?  Why do you think that the brain can explain consciousness?  Or, do you think that consciousness has to be something beyond the physical brain?   

To help you think about this, here’s some food for thought (You don't have to answer these additional questions unless you want to.  They're there to help get you started.  Also, remember, all links are optional):

If the brain produces consciousness, then changes in the brain should result in changes in consciousness.  The split brain patient experiments are just one example of this.  What are some other examples that you can think of?  On the other hand, how could our “mind” (thought, decisions, etc.) change our brain?

Could consciousness require activity of a specific brain area, and if so which one?  Some researchers think the insula is an important area for consciousness, whereas others believe it is the integration of brain activity that is important.

Do bigger brains have more consciousness?  If so, then how would you explain someone with a smaller brain that functions normally?  If bigger brains have an evolutionary advantage, what happened to these guys?

What might coma tell us about consciousness?  (Don’t believe everything you see in movies, they're not always scientifically accurate.)

 

2. Let’s think about evolution and the brain.  Do bigger brains mean smarter animals?  Not necessarily!  Brain size has a lot to do with sensation and motor control of large bodies.  Intelligence is related more to the amount of cortex within the brain, than to overall brain size.  The cortex is a thin layer (about 3 mm thick) at the top of the cerebral hemispheres, and is folded and convoluted with many grooves (sulci and fissures) and ridges (gyri).  See a summary of animal brain size here at "Neuroscience for Kids"   (it’s also an excellent resource for adults).  

Think about why the human cortex became larger through natural selection, but also consider how the world we live in today is quite different than that of our human ancestors.  What we will evolve into is an open question that is compounded by technological influences, as discussed in this article.  (If you’d like some more background information on evolution, you can explore this PBS website or this one.) 

Please provide an answer the following discussion question (don’t worry, you can have fun speculating here – there is no “right” answer):   

Today’s world is very different from that of ancient man.  Given this new environment we live in, what might be one or two physical or psychological adaptations that might occur in humans, based on our experiences, environment, and needed skills to succeed in today’s world?  In your answer, think about the role of natural selection, adaption, survival, and sexual selection, and other concepts from the NOBA “Evolutionary Theories in Neuroscience” chapter.  

3. What is empathy? How is does it influence altruism? Can you provide examples of how empathy influences altruism?

4. What is diffusion of responsibility and when does it usually occur?

5. What are the variables that contribute to aggressive behaviors? Are there differences in gender related to aggressive behaviors? Are there ethinic group or  differences by class with regard to aggression?

6. Material for this week provides an overview of the trait approach to explaining and measuring personality. Please address the following questions:

What are "trait facets" of the Big 5 and how do they contribute to our understanding of behavior?

Explain the person-situation debate. Provide your perspective on the most influential factor on behavior: person, situation, or person-situation interaction. Why do you believe it is the most influential?

Subject English
Due By (Pacific Time) 09/18/2015 12:00 am
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