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Here's my new blog site that starts December 2007.

Here's a link to my most recent entries.

May 29, 2007


I apologize once again for the long gap in between entries.  The reason, as always, was the amount of time and energy I was putting into my studies, as well as the model United Nations group that I'm a member of. 

Speaking of which, I was elected one of the two 2007 heads of the on-campus model UN conference that our school hosts each fall for college level students.  This year we're hoping to expand the conference so that it has two committees, and we would also like to invite other colleges and universities to participate. 

Part of the reason I haven't posted in a while was the fact that I had to write 5 or so papers since the last time I posted something.  Here are some previews of the papers I've written, and links that will allow you to read each paper in its entirety, if you would like.  The first paper is my final paper for my psychology research class. 


Laboratory Research in Psychology: The Effects of Mental Illness Diagnosis and Symptoms on Social Ratings



The purpose of our study is to test an idea about the cause for the social judgments made about people with mental illnesses, specifically personality disorders.  Research shows that knowing a person's diagnosis or list of symptoms might also affect how someone with a personality disorder is judged.  We wished to test the findings of this research, and to explore both the source of criteria of mental illness and the effects they have one how people are subsequently perceived by others when they are labeled with a mental illness.  Subjects watched a short video and were asked to fill out a questionnaire about a person they saw in the video.  We found no significant main effects for prompt condition or knowing someone with a mental illness.  We did not find an interaction between prompt and knowing someone with a mental illness.  Our findings do not support the findings of previous research studies.  Our study may be improved by using larger, more random groups as well as many different simulations of mental illnesses.

Biopsychology: The Accuracy of the Film Awakenings



Normally, films that are based upon actual events take a great deal of liberty in changing the details of the events that they depict.  "Awakenings" appears to be an exception to this trend.  Although the names of people involved are changed, and the methodology of treatment for a disease is different, the movie seems to depict a particular disease and the drug used to treat it very accurately.  The film is based upon the book with the same name, which was written by Dr. Oliver Sacks.  Dr. Sacks recommended that his name be changed, and so we follow a fictional Dr. Sayer through the summer of 1969 in the Bronx, New York.  Dr. Sayer uses a new drug to try to treat some patients that appear to be catatonic, and for a time he is successful.  However, patients who are treated with the drug develop a tolerance for it, and soon his patients return to their former state.  The movie appears to give the audience a close approximation of the symptoms of the disease, as well as the side affects of the drug that was used to treat it.

Personality: The Personality of Alfred Kinsey

1st Paragraph:


Alfred Kinsey is known for conducting the largest interview based study of sexual behavior that the scientific community had ever seen.  His two books on human sexuality, collectively called The Kinsey Report, shattered social myths and misconceptions about human sexuality.  Sometimes, he is credited with laying the foundation for what would become the Sexual Revolution: a period known for sexual exploration and openness in American society.  Kinsey is still regarded as one of the most well respected sex researchers.  The information he gathered on thousands of encrypted cards is still used by scientists today to form hypotheses about sexuality.  Kinsey grew up in a relatively poor family in New Jersey, although over time they became more fortunate.  Unfortunately, because his family could not afford the latest medical care when Kinsey was a child, he suffered lasting effects from rickets, rheumatic fever, and typhoid fever.  His family was a conservative Christian one, and his father was a part time Methodist preacher.  Both heterosexual contact with girls and all other forms of sexual gratification were severely discouraged by Kinsey's father, a fact that was to play an important role in Kinsey's line of research some years later (Gathorne, 1998).

Biology: Comparing Photosynthesis in Red Cabbage, Green Cabbage, and Spinach Through DPIP Reduction

1st Paragraph:


            The scientist Robert Hill demonstrated in 1937 that chloroplasts in water were able to perform when light was present along with an electron receptor to release oxygen.  He gathered evidence that the oxygen given off had to come from water, because carbon dioxide was not present.  He also showed that there were both light dependant and light independent reactions.  Finally, his work indicated that oxidation-reduction reactions are a key part of photosynthesis.

Biology: The Effects of Temperature and Chelating Agents on Catechol Oxidation

1st Paragraph:


            An enzyme is a catalytic molecule that speeds up the rates of specific reactions by as much as several million times.  Enzymes have the ability to chemically recognize, bind, and change specific reactants.  Enzymes usually remain unchanged, so the can mediate the same reaction repeatedly.  Most enzymes are a kind of protein.  Activation energy is the minimum amount of internal energy that a molecule must have before a reaction begins.  Activation energy is also known as an energy barrier, as well as the amount of energy needed in order to align chemical groups, destabilize electric charges, and break molecular bonds.  Enzymes typically offer a stable microenvironment that is more favorable for a certain reaction than the surrounding environment would normally be.

March 29, 2007

Career and Research Goals

Earlier today I made a list of career and research goals to put on my Psychology Honors Program application.  Although I'm having to rewrite some of it in paragraph form, I thought some of you might be interested in it.  So here it is. 


Career goals:

  • Pursue graduate degrees and research in:
    • Psychology (social, evolutionary, bio)
    • Economics (macro, international trade)
    • Political science (international relations, negotiations)
    • Biology (evolutionary, ecology, animal behavior)
    • Linguistics (archaeological, patterns, universal translating guide)
  • Entrepreneur
    • Immigration services business
    • International negotiations consulting
    • Clean energy company
    • Small business and entrepreneur support company
    • Robotics
    • Mass transportation (esp. advanced trains)
    • Nanotechnology
    • Real estate
  • Writing
    • Fantasy and science fiction
      • Short stories
      • Novels
    • Science
      • On above mentioned graduate degrees and research
    • History
    • Poetry
    • Film Screenplays
    • Philosophy


Psychology Research Interests:

  • Social Psychology
    • Effects of media on individuals and groups
    • Persuasion
      • Esp by religious leaders
      • Esp using story telling
    • Acquisition of social influence
    • Internet use and social isolation
    • Trust and communication
    • Abnormal behavior and social ratings
    • Ostracism
    • In groups and out groups
    • Social and biological causes of orthodoxy
  • Research Methods
    • Investigating ways to perform double blind studies in psychology
    • Improvement of sampling methods
      • Perhaps through a public sign up website (or promotion of an already existing one)
  • Other Areas
    • Investigating possible relationship between orthodoxy and dual processing theories
      • Scientific orthodoxy
      • Religious orthodoxy
    • Investigating evolutionary source of spoken and written language
      • Primate calls, gestures, other possible sources

March 22, 2007

I just finished what was the most challenging piece of semi-scientific writing I've written yet last night.  It's still beginner level, of course, but hopefully I'm getting better at this.  The topic we studied was a theory on thinking called the dual processing theory.  Studying it actually gave me some ideas about how traditions and orthodoxies can be created, and often persist despite efforts by some to stamp them out.  I may write more about that sometime in the near future, although the next couple of months will be brutal as far as my workload is concerned.  Anyway, I know it might be a bit much for some, but here's the text of my lab report for those who are interested. 


Evidence on the Questions of Dual Process Theory

Andrew Clapper

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



One interpretation of dual process theories proposes that the slower cognitive process is called the analytic system, and is more demanding to use because it requires the conscious use of rules and strategies.  If someone doesn't have the motivation or resources to use the analytic system, he or she must rely on the more instinctive, belief driven system called the heuristic system.  I propose there will be an interaction between cognitive load, working memory span, and conflict.   Based upon working memory score, subjects were divided into three groups after the experiment.  The subjects then evaluated the validity of logical syllogisms.  Two Easy problems and two Difficult problems were valid, and two of each problem were invalid.  Each subject was randomly assigned to one of three groups that varied in the cognitive load.  There was an interaction between cognitive load, working memory span, and conflict.  The fact that the different levels of working memory do not maintain position with regards to each other further demonstrates that there may not be a causal relationship between working memory and logical analysis.  However, it appears as though there are in fact separate systems being used in logical reasoning.  These findings are also consistent with those previously found.  Several possibilities exist for future exploration of research regarding dual processing theory, such as investigation of brain activity during similar experiments, as well as the usefulness of dual processing theory in explanations of orthodoxy.






People appear to be limited to a certain degree when it comes to logical puzzles, because they tend to make mistakes when they try to solve them (Gilovich et al., 2002)  When someone is patient and deliberate with a problem, they tend to make fewer mistakes (De Neys, 2006).  However, at times it seems as though solving a problem occurs so rapidly that it appears to have been done through instinct (De Neys, 2006).  In some instances, the rapid response to puzzles can result in a high error rate, if the puzzles are of a certain nature (De Neys, 2006).  Explanations for these kinds of errors are often called dual process theories (De Neys, 2006).

One interpretation of dual process theories proposes that the slower cognitive process is called the analytic system, and is more demanding to use because it requires the conscious use of rules and strategies.  People must recognize how to apply those rules and strategies, and they can only do so if they are sufficiently motivated and have the needed resources (De Neys, 2006).  If someone doesn't have the motivation or resources to use the analytic system, he or she must rely on the more instinctive, belief driven system called the heuristic system.  Therefore, a difference in working memory spans between individuals might result in different error rates in solving logic problems.  If a conflict exists between the heuristic and analytic systems when one is thinking about a logic problem, a higher working memory span will improve the likelihood that the person will reason the problem correctly.  If the person's working memory is unable to handle the amount of information it must process, he or she will be unable to use the analytic system, and will therefore be more likely to make a mistake (De Neys, 2006).  

De Neys (2006) gathered evidence related to his version of dual process theory by attempting to cause the working memory of subjects to be overloaded while they solved problems that required logical analysis.  The type of logic problem he used involved the evaluation of hypothetical syllogisms.  A hypothetical syllogism is valid when the third statement presented follows logically from the previous two given statements.  Subjects were asked to asses the validity of syllogisms presented.  Some of the statements conflicted with common knowledge, while others did not.  De Neys (2006) brought about a load on the working memory of the subjects by having them remember a visual pattern while they worked to solve the logic problems.  Some subjects had no memory task, others had to remember simple patterns, and the third group had to remember complex patterns.  De Neys (2006) believed that easy problems are solvable no matter the cognitive load because they are solved by using the heuristic system.  He proposed that cognitive load would have an effect on the ability to solve difficult problems, however, because they required the use of the analytic system.  A measurement of the working memory capacity of the subjects was obtained to allow him to assess the data he gathered (De Neys, 2006).

De Neys (2006) found that the storage task did not affect performance when the heuristic system was all that was needed to determine the correct response to a problem.  When the logical response conflicted with the instinctive response, the storage task was associated with decreased performance.  Evidence was that all individuals have both the analytic and heuristic systems, because performance on the logic problems decreased even in the low capacity groups, but performance when no conflict was present was unaffected (De Neys, 2006). 

If the procedure used by De Neys (2006) is closely approximated, a number of hypotheses can be tested.  I propose that a main effect of working memory (WM) will be observed, because individuals with the highest WM span will process the greatest amount of information over time.  Those with a high WM span will be followed by medium WM span, which in turn will come after those with a low WM span.  It is also hypothesized that there will be a main effect of cognitive load, because cognitive load will on average decrease performance the most when it is highest, followed by low cognitive load, followed by no cognitive load.  I propose there will be a main effect for conflict, because conflict will result in lower performance than no conflict.  I hypothesize that a WM Span x Conflict interaction will be observed, since the effect of WM Span on Throughput will be present only in the Conflict condition.  I also propose that a Cognitive Load x Conflict interaction will be present, because the effect of Cognitive Load on Throughput will only occur in the Conflict condition.  I hypothesize that there will be a Cognitive Load x WM Span interaction, since the effect of WM on Throughput will depend on the Conflict condition.  Lastly, I propose there will be a Cognitive Load x WM Span x Conflict interaction, because the interaction between Cognitive Load and WM Span will be observed only in the Conflict condition. 



The participants included 218 subjects.  Students enrolled in the Laboratory Research in Psychology class for the spring 2007 semester at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were subjects.  The subjects reported to room 110 of Davie Hall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to participate in the study during their regularly scheduled class time.  The subjects followed prompts that appeared on the computer screens that gave directions and asked specific questions.

The first part of the study involved of a measure of working memory. Subjects evaluated arithmetic equations and were in the meantime asked to remember a series of words.  The number of words that the subject could remember was the measure of working memory.  Based upon working memory score, subjects were divided into three groups after the experiment.  The three groups were High, Medium, and Low working memory score. 

The second part of the study was meant to generate data to evaluate the main research questions.  The subjects evaluated the validity of logical syllogisms. The subjects had to solve eight syllogisms.  Four syllogisms were Easy, and four were Difficult.  The Easy syllogisms were either believable and valid or unbelievable and invalid.  For example, "Cats have tails.  Tigers are cats.  Therefore, tigers have tails."  The Difficult syllogisms were either believable and invalid or unbelievable and valid.  An example of a Difficult syllogism is "Bears have fur.  Gummy bears are a type of bear.  Therefore, gummy bears have fur."  Two Easy problems and two Difficult problems were valid, and two of each problem were invalid.  Each subject was randomly assigned to one of three groups that varied in the cognitive load.  For the High Load condition, the subject was asked to remember a complex pattern of dots while evaluating the syllogism.  Subjects had to remember a simple pattern of dots while solving the syllogism in the Low Load condition.  No secondary memory task was present in the No Load condition.  De Neys (2006) asked subjects to re-create the dot patterns in his experiment, but in this experiment the subjects chose the pattern they remembered from a choice of six patterns.




No main effect of WM span (p = NS) was observed.  There was a main effect of Cognitive Load (F(1,210) = 5.1, p<.01), because the no Cognitive Load condition (x = .1229) showed higher Throughput than the low (x =.1065 ) and high Cognitive Load conditions (x = .1083). (See Table 1)  A main effect of Conflict (F(1,210) = 362.9, p<.001) was present because the Conflict group (x =.0829) showed lower Throughput than the No Conflict (x =.1406) (See Table 1).  There was no WM Span x Conflict interaction (p = NS).  However, there was a marginal Cognitive Load x Conflict interaction (F(2,210) = 2.97, p = .05) (See Figure 1), and a significant WM span x Cognitive Load interaction (F(2,210) = 2.7, p < .05) (See Figure 2).  There was also a Conflict x WM Span x Cognitive Load interaction (F(4,210) = 3.43, p = .01) (See Figure 3).


The hypothesis that a main effect of working memory (WM) would be observed was not supported because individuals with the highest WM span did not process the information differently than those with medium or low WM span.  The hypothesis that there will be a main effect of cognitive load was supported, because the no Cognitive Load condition showed different Throughput than the high or low Cognitive Load conditions.  The hypothesis that there would be a main effect for conflict was supported because the Conflict group showed different Throughput than the No Conflict.  The hypothesis that a WM Span x Conflict interaction would be observed was not supported, since the effect of WM Span on Throughput was present in both conditions.  The hypothesis that a Cognitive Load x Conflict interaction will be present was supported, because the effect of Cognitive Load on Throughput will occurred differently between No Conflict and Conflict.  The hypothesis that there would be a Cognitive Load x WM Span interaction was supported, since the effect of WM on Throughput depended on the Conflict condition.  Lastly, the hypothesis that there will be a Cognitive Load x WM Span x Conflict interaction was supported, because the interaction between Cognitive Load and WM Span was different than the interaction between WM Span and Conflict.

The fact that there was no main effect of WM casts doubt on the idea that those with high WM will have more resources to provide the analytic system to use.  However, this finding is consistent with what De Neys (2006) found.  These findings suggest that WM level does not necessarily predict how well someone uses the analytic system, or how well they might do with logical analysis.  Also, the fact that the different levels of working memory do not maintain position with regards to each other further demonstrates that there may not be a causal relationship between WM and logical analysis.  However, since Throughput was in fact affected by Cognitive Load and Conflict, it appears as though there are in fact separate systems being used in logical reasoning.  These findings are also consistent with those found by De Neys (2006). 

A number of improvements may help the study yield higher quality data to be analyzed.  A larger number of logic problems may result in more consistent trends in the data, although subject fatigue might then become a risk.  Also, the study can be improved by using different sampling methods.  For example, this study used an ad hoc sample of psychology students at one particular school, and in order to be able to generalize to the rest of the human population, either a more random sample should be obtained or it should be demonstrated that the ad hoc sample does not differ from the general population with respect to cognitive functioning.  It may also be case that the study needs a larger sample in order to yield a normal distribution of data. 

Several possibilities exist for future exploration of research regarding dual processing theory.  Perhaps if the brain activity and blood flow are measured while the study is conducted, researchers may gain insight into what regions in the brain are used during the cognitive processes under investigation.  Such measurements might also provide evidence that either supports or contradicts dual processing theory itself.  It is possible that dual processing theory may help explain the phenomena of orthodoxy, and the idea deserves further investigation.  Perhaps culturally orthodoxical ideas can be used in the syllogisms and be compared to non orthodoxical ideas as one way of investigating the possibility of dual processing and orthodoxy.  Also, in a similar line of reasoning, perhaps ideas involving cultural norms could be tested against each other in order to investigate the role of environment on what De Neys (2006) calls the belief based heuristic system. 





De Neys, W. (2006). Dual processing in reasoning: two systems but one reasoner.

Psychological Science, 17, 428-433.

Gilovich, T., Griffin, D., & Kahneman, D. (Eds.) (2002). Heuristics and biases: The

 psychology of intuitive judgment. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Appendix: Table 1



High Load


Low Load


No Load


High WM


Medium WM


Low WM




No Conflict




Figure 3



March 20, 2007

A Warning to Readers


You might notice that lately I've begun to talk about topics that are more controversial than ones I've covered in the past.  I should warn you now, I will write from time to time about religion, atheism, polyamory, and human sexuality.  I may cover other controversial topics, but those are the ones I can think of at the moment.  I often have positions on these topics that might not be considered mainstream, and you may in fact find them offensive if they go against what you were taught and what you believe.   If you have questions about something I write about, or if you disagree, you are more than welcome to email me.  That being said, if you do disagree or find something offensive, I believe that we can discuss the matter like calm, rational adults.  Let us talk about it in such a way. 


Evolution in Mollusks


Evolution is a topic that I find very interesting, and recently I had to write a short essay about it for my biology lab, so I thought I might share it with you.  Enjoy! 


  Biological evolution is the name given to the process by which genetic change occurs in a line of decent.  Typically, it happens through a process called microevolution.  Microevolution happens as a result of genetic mutations, natural selection (NS), genetic drift, and gene flow. 

One way to explain evolution is by demonstrating the evolutionary process.  In particular, we can discuss evolution in the context of a model that shows us how a hypothetical species can have variations that eventually cause the groups to diverge into two groups unable to reproduce with each other in an event called speciation.  We will use a species called the Hypothetical Ancestral Mollusk in this model to show how evolution works. 

The Hypothetical Ancestral Mollusk is a species that has the basic genetic and physical components of all mollusks.  These components manifest themselves as a common body plan found in all species descended from the ancestral mollusk.  The common body plan includes a mantle, radula, and ventral foot.  The Hypothetical Ancestral Mollusk exists in a salt water environment that already includes at least plant life.  Random genetic mutations cause variability in the feeding behaviors and anatomy related to feeding.  Because of this variability, some of the ancestral mollusks are better suited to eating algae and only survive in areas rich with algae.  Some of the variant mollusks are better suited to catching and eating other animals, and they are soon only found in areas in or near the breeding grounds of aquatic animals, perhaps including themselves.  The two groups of ancestral mollusks stay in these separate habitats, and eventually accumulate genetic differences until the groups can no longer mate with each other and become separate species. 

The variant group that lives in areas rich in algae eventually becomes known as the snail.  Snails at first live wherever algae is plentiful, and later radiate when further mutation allows them to have a more varied diet and move onto land.  The snail has a radula that results in competition with other snails and mollusks for food.  The competition is a result of the steady increase in the snail population, or perhaps a climate change that decreases the amount of algae available.  Genetic mutations cause variations in radula in snails, which allows some snails to scrape algae off of rocks, and others to actually drill holes in the shells of other mollusks in order to eat them.  Genetic variability also results in a foot that allows some snails to move faster and to move across more surfaces.  Eventually, these snails are able to go to different habitats, including ones on land, to feed on untapped food supplies.  The foot allows the snails to reach food sources that other animals can not, including other snails.  Variability in genes that control the mantle causes snails to secrete a hard substance with the mantle.  Predation selects for the snails that create a hard shell with the mantle, because those without a shell are eaten first.  The characteristics associated with snails help them have more offspring for several reasons.  For example, snails with unique radula that allow them to feed on organisms without competition will see their population steady increase because of the lack of competition.  An advanced foot will allow snails to radiate and begin to populate new areas.  A hard shell helps snails have more offspring because it reduces the number of snails eaten by predators. 

The second group of variants of the Hypothetical Ancestral Mollusk specializes in catching and eating other animals, and eventually accumulates genetic variation until it is known as the squid.  The hypothetical early squid lives in and near the breeding grounds of their prey, which might be other mollusks or small fish.  The usefulness of movement in its predatory diet causes genes that improve physical attributes of movement to be selected for.  The variants in this group that are more successful in hunting are able to spend more time, energy, and nutrients on having offspring, and are therefore able to have more and healthier offspring.  Appendages that aid the squid in catching prey are selected for because the ability for squid to eat a variety of animals, including mobile animals, increases the likelihood that the squid will survive changes in prey populations and be able to pass on its genetic information.  A mouth with a beak also allows the squid to eat the most valuable parts of its prey and increases the efficiency of its digestive tract.  The ability to maneuver is important to hunting as well as avoiding predators, and so a mantle that has fins are selected for.  A shell tends to be heavy and slow the flow of water across the squid, so the genes for the production of a shell are selected against until it becomes vestigal.   A foot that is aligned with the head will also improve water flow in a squid, as well as allow for the development of a siphon, and so the alignment is selected for.  The development of a siphon and inksac are selected for by predation.  The better a squid can escape predators, the more likely it will survive to pass its genetic information on to offspring. 

            The proposed hypothetical model shows how squid and snails might have evolved from the Hypothetical Ancestral Mollusk.  The unique changes in the radula, foot, mantle, and shell helped the snail and the squid adapt to their new habitats.  We have mentioned how the variations in the Hypothetical Ancestral Mollusk were the result of genetic mutations.  We have also discussed how the food supply in different habitats might cause two variations of the ancestral mollusk to undergo speciation into squid and snails.  Environmental factors, such as the kind of food available and presence of predators, were shown to select for particular traits in the variants of the ancestral mollusk.  The fact that the squid and snail are descended from a common ancestor demonstrates how random mutations might help an organism survive and reproduce more successfully when the surrounding environment changes. 

March 14, 2007

Today, I wrote a description of UNC and other psychology schools for someone who is decided on where to pursue his/her studies.  Here's what I wrote.  It might give you an idea of what the best schools are in this area for psychology (as far as I can tell), as well as what it is like studying psychology at UNC.


Well, the schools I know have all of your criteria except for the first.  That being said, a big school isn't necessarily a bad thing.  True, if you end up taking biology 101 or chemistry 101 at UNC, you might end up with a class of 300 to 400.  However, none of my psych classes have been larger than 80, and most are about 25.  I think the required classes are the ones that are around 80.  Even then, the instructors have been very accessible and respond to emails quickly.  They always encourage students to visit them during office hours.  Also, if you're able to find a branch of psychology that is your favorite, there are usually not more than 5 to 10 professors in each category.  Of course, I can tell you more about UNC than the other schools I know of, but I may be able to point you in the right direction.  North Carolina also has Duke University and North Carolina State.  They combine with UNC for the best 3 schools in NC for psychology.  The only school I would recommend in South Carolina for psychology is the University of South Carolina, but they do have an excellent program that is highly regarded.  There is also the University of South Florida in Tampa, which is committed to high standards in psych research.  In Georgia, I think your best schools will probably be near and in Atlanta.  For the best foundation in scientific research, you might find that these larger schools are your best bet.  Also, I think you will find many more research opportunities with these schools.  I know someone who graduated from Clemson last year with a psych degree, and she said she didn't do any research there.  At UNC, we're required to take a statistics class for psych majors, as well as a research methods class, which I'm taking this semester.  For our final project, we're designing and running our own experiments in groups, and writing reports on them in science journal format.  Also, at UNC all full time professors conduct research, and you can browse the department's website to find each person's research interests, and email them to volunteer to help them with their research.  It's best to do that the first week or two of classes each semester.  Also, undergraduates can participate in research for credit.  I'm planning on applying to the honors program for the psych department.  I'll be expected to conduct my own studies and do a senior thesis on them for that.  Anyway, that hopefully gives you a taste of what the better schools have to offer.  Let me know if you have any questions.  -Andrew




Lately, I've been writing in a Myspace group, and I entered into a discussion about sexuality, and the fact that Myspace had started restricting the group access to adults over 18.  The group is based on polyamory, which I recommend a google on polyamory to find out more about it.  I'll write about it more at some point.  Anyway, here's something I wrote:


Well, I suppose there are so-called sexual predators on the internet. I've always wondered about the term, however, since in biology a predator is an organism that hunts/catches prey in order to eat it. I think our society goes too far in order to protect children, although I think it is valid to protect children from unhealthy relationships with people much older than them. That being said, I think we often go too far and decide to protect children from sexuality entirely. We prevent them from spending any time in private with members of the opposite sex their own age, which is a mistake. I think that practice, along with promoting ignorance regarding sexuality and sexual health, results in immature young adults who often have to then spend their first few years away from their parents exploring their sexuality away from a responsible mentor.


The group talked a bit more about sexual predators, and I wrote:


I think people under 18 should be free to discuss sex openly. How better way for them to learn to protect themselves? If they don't feel like they have someone to talk to about it, how can we expect them to report abuse if it occurs? Anyway, I think I do remember reading about how sitles like google video and youtube were becoming stricter in order to have access to markets like China, and it may be the same for social net sites.


Someone then quoted that last paragraph and asked me if I am the parent of the teenager.  The person went on to say that all parents of teenagers would feel strongly against random adults talking to their teenager(s).  The person then said that it is unethical, that it won't help protect teenagers, and that it would make the members of the group seem like sexual predators.


So I wrote in response:


I apologize in advance for dissecting your post and relentlessly responding to each point.  However, I think I made valid points, and I feel strongly about the topic, so I believe I must defend my ideas when criticized. 


I meant in society at large rather than specifically on myspace and in this group, but I'll defend my point in both arenas. 


I am not the parent of a teenager.  However, I don't think one can make a blanket statement about parents with teenagers.  A statistical survey of parents of teenagers may find that a majority are against random adults speaking to the teenagers about sex, but I think it's unlikely that the percentage would be 100.  Also, I think there are few to no actual random adults speaking to teenagers about sex.  Sex educators in schools are chosen by schools and school boards for their training and experience.  Adults seeking relationships with teenagers do so according so some kind of criteria.  And, in the situation I was referring to, a teenager might select an online group to ask questions about sex based on his or her own preferences.  


Even if random adults speaking to teenagers about sex were unethical, on what grounds do you base this statement?  An ethical system is a system of ideas and standards by which people make decisions and base behavior upon.  Very few people are capable of unethical behavior.  In fact, only people with severe cognitive dysfunctions are capable of truly random and therefore unethical behavior.  I suspect you mean that unethical refers to beliefs and practices that do not coincide with those of society at large.  However, society uses a blend of many ethical systems.  Any one belief or behavior can go against any ethical system, depending on instance and interpretation.  I personally tend to use rule-utilitarianism combined with virtue ethics. 


Alas, I don't have scientific evidence to offer you that will support my claim, but I might if it were not for society's Victorian/Puritan approach to sex and sex research. 


It may make us look like predators (in the social sense rather than the biological) if we had adults propositioning underage teenagers here, but that (to my knowledge) hasn't happened, and that was not the practice I was advocating.  I was proposing that teenagers could benefit from being able to discuss sex openly with whomever they choose, including adults here in this group. 


In another thread (string of messages) in that same group, I posted a topic called "Polygamy/Polyandry and Marriage Lobbying."  Here's my original post:


Does anyone know of a lobbyist group asking Congress to overturn anti-polygamy/polyandry laws? It seems like Mormon fundamentalists, polyamorists, and pro-plural marriage Muslims would be able to afford lawyers to challenge the laws. I guess the U.S. isn't quite ready for that yet, but I did hear in a human sexuality class that similar laws were being challenged in Canada. Unfortunately, I don't know of any specific cases, but I can try to look some info up. Are there thoughts from the group on the topic?


I did receive some responses.  Most seemed to agree that current adultery laws should be the focus of the efforts of the polyamory community.  I wrote in response:


I can understand not wanting to rock the boat too much and attracting discrimination and hatred. From what I can tell about U.S. history, though, minority groups have usually had to make alot of noise and be in the public eye before major changes took place and more freedom granted. True, the gay marriage lobby has had some setbacks, but I think the polls (for what they're worth) show that people under 40 tend to be strongly in favor of gay rights, so it's only a matter of time. Plus, last fall's election results, gay marriage questions aside, seem to indicate that the country has reached its limit on the conservative agenda overall.


The posts that followed addressed the following topics:


Two articles that were suggested to the group by a member

The definition of marriage itself and its necessity and relevance

The stereo type that Mormons still practice polygamy

Legislating morality

The U.S. constitution

The best way to seek to have laws changed or overturned


Here is my response:


I have read everyone's post, and I also read the articles that Teufel posted links to.  The Virginia article was an interesting piece on the history and status of adultery laws, and I think the Michigan article may indicate a situation where state governments could indeed prosecute polyamorous people.  However, I think the public would probably quickly tire of polyamorous people being investigated and jailed over violent offenders. 


I have mixed thoughts and feelings about the idea of marriage itself, but I started this thread to see what people knew about the status of polyamorous groups/communities/organizations and relevant civil rights issues. 


I was afraid that I would be interpreted as using the Mormon fallacy, but I tried to take care to write Fundamentalist Mormon.  Fundamentalist Mormons are a small minority group that practices polygamy a bit more openly than others. 


Morality is indeed a basis and the only basis I know of for writing laws.  It just so happens that Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, and liberals happen to disagree about which ethical system is to be used in each category of law making, and which interpretation of the ethical system is valid.  Note that a group's position is not always based on rationality, science, or logic.  Also, one can often point out inconsistencies in a set of political ideals.  This happens because of human nature.  Specifically, it happens because humans are social animals and function as such. 


Because of the Supremacy Clause in the constitution, the federal government can indeed legislate on any issue.  It just so happens that there are few federal laws regarding this matter, so the states are able to address it on a case by case basis.


A decision by the federal Supreme Court may be a step forward for polyamorous people, but if I remember correctly, the passing of laws guaranteeing rights tend to add the needed legitimacy and precedence for a rights seeking group.  Also, from what I know about the women's rights movement, civil rights movement, and gay rights movement, a minority group tends to have to make a good bit of noise before society at large will pay attention and become aware of the issues at hand.  Now, legal decisions may be one way for people to become aware of a minority's situation, but I propose that unless that minority gets the public's attention in an organized way, the general public won't even be aware or fully aware of the minority group's existence. 

March 6, 2007

As you may recall from my blog (at, last semester I became interested in how abnormal behavior is defined by both society and the mental health community.  At the beginning of this semester, our first assignment in my research class was to propose a study, and I proposed one on ostracism and personality disorders (January 24, 2007 entry).  My research partner and I have decided to pursue a similar study for our final project in the class.  For yesterday the 5th, we had to write a summary of the literature we've reviewed.  Later it can serve as the introduction section of our final project, although mine will probably be modified.  I was about to tell you all about the study, but then I realized some of the subjects might be people I know that read this blog.  Probably not more than one or two, but I guess I should wait until we've collected our data to tell you all about it.  Sigh.


Religion and Science


Instead I'll write about faith, science, and religion for a bit….


A while back, someone told me that you cannot have religion without science, and you cannot have science without religion.  I may have misinterpreted what the person meant by that, but I'll try to respond to every possibility that I can think of.  I could write pages and pages, probably even books about this one topic, but I'll try to stay concise. 

I disagree with the assertion that you can not have religion without science, for a number of reasons.  If I take the statement literally, it might mean that organized religion can not exist without scientists and scientific ideas.  Christianity used little to no science from the time it was born until at least Thomas Aquinas.  For centuries, Christianity was derived from the traditions and myths of many Middle Eastern cultures, and scientific ideas and methods were few and far between. 

So what else could it mean when someone says you cannot have religion without science?  That you can't have religion without rational thought?  Organized ideas?  Physical observations?  While you can't have science without these things, one or more of them does not equal science or the scientific method, if you distinguish between the two.  The scientific method is a process of inquiry that involves both empirical observation and rational thought in an attempt to explain what is observed.  One of its key tenants is that the hypotheses that scientists generate are tested systematically using standard measurements that can be duplicated.  Everything in science is tentative; new evidence can overturn old findings and theories if the new evidence is sufficient.  However, religion tends to make assertions about the truth that are enshrined and rarely open to debate by the majority of the population of followers. 

You can have science without religion.  Science uses empiricism and rationalism to seek truth.  Religion may also use them to a degree, but to my knowledge religion always also uses intuition, tenacity, and authority to dictate truth to its followers.  Perhaps the person who told me you cannot have science without religion meant that you cannot have science without faith.  This is an unfortunate point that I often see when science and religion are debated.  Faith, as in religious faith, is a belief in the supernatural or a religious idea despite a lack of evidence or rational explanation.  When someone uses the term faith in a conversation about science and religion, they usually do not mean faith as in the trust we place in our senses, instruments, etc.  If they do, they must specifically say so, and this seems to indicate to me that the definition of religious faith is the default.  Anyway, even if one were to say that you cannot have science without some kind of trust in your senses, logic, or scientific instruments, the point does nothing to support the statement that you cannot have science without religion, because you need these things to communicate anything coherently at all.  Likewise, scientists and students of science are taught to be skeptics; we will always say "show me the evidence."  Religious faith implies that we either ignore evidence against our religious ideas or we simply feel compelled to believe them despite the evidence we are provided to the contrary.  Faith as religious faith is not a component of science.  Religious faith and science are opposites. 

February 21, 2007

Evolutionary Psychology, Personality, and Health

Well, I had my first all - nighter at UNC Sunday night.  I was working on my latest major assignment in my Lab Research for Psychology class.  Believe me, I'd rather not have pulled an all-nighter.  I thought it would take me about 5 hours to finish the assignment, but five hours turned into 16.  So, I figured I'd share the fruits of my labor.  Hopefully, it's a decent peice of work and it was worth it.  I realize that my psychology papers are getting more and more technical.  If there's anything you don't understand, please feel free to ask me about it.  I don't usually get any feedback, except that they are interesting... I can write some less technical explanations if need be.  Anyway, here goes. 



The study of personality and its relationship with health has regained popularity lately, and the relatively new field of evolutionary psychology may offer an explanation for the association between socially desirable personality traits and good health.  Because primates tend to have a natural limit on the size of groups they can comprehend, personality may act as a form of selection in the evolution of humans.  I therefore propose that socially desirable personality traits will lead to better health. 




The human neocortex may impose a limit on the number of people it allows us to consider part of our group (Dunbar, 1992).  If this is true, when the number of friends we have exceeds this limit, we will be forced to choose who we keep as members of our group, and who is rejected.  Therefore, inclusion and ostracism are important selection factors on human evolution, because being rejected by your group will increase the likelihood that you will not pass on your genes (Dawkins, 1989).  It then follows that being included and even favored by your group will increase the likelihood that you will have offspring (Starr, 2006).  It has been shown that people that score high in extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness tend to be more socially successful, for various reasons (Larsen & Buss, 2008).  Because high scores on the aforementioned personality traits will lead to social success, I propose that they will be strongly associated with overall health, and thus will demonstrate a negative association with the least healthy people.  I also submit that high scores on the Five Factor personality model will accurately predict academic performance as demonstrated by grade point average.  Smith (2006) found evidence to support these claims, although the measurement of reaction time appeared to explain the relationship between low IQ and death (Dreary & Der, 2005). 




The participants included 220 subjects and approximately 13 administrators.  Students enrolled in the Laboratory Research in Psychology class for the spring 2007 semester at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were subjects.  The administrators were teaching assistants for each section of the class, plus the lecturer and coordinating instructor.  The subjects reported to room 110 of Davie Hall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to participate in the study during their regularly scheduled class time.  Each subject sat in front of one of the standard computers for the room and turned on the monitor.  Then each subject logged in to his or her computer according to the particular class section and password for his or her section.  Next, he or she double clicked the BCR icon on the desktop display to activate the BCR program.  Each subject then went into the available studies listed in the software and selected the file for the personality and health study.  The subjects followed prompts that appeared on the computer screens that gave directions and asked specific questions.

The first 50 items of the study were questions taken from the International Personality Item Pool.  They were used to measure the five personality factors.  The names of the factors are Intellect, Emotional Stability, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Agreeableness.  Each factor was evaluated according to the average response to ten questions about that factor. 

The next 28 items of the study were reaction time tasks, which were recorded as geometric mean reaction times.  They were followed by 28 items of the choice reaction time task.  The data consist of geometric mean reaction times and the geometric mean reaction times for correct responses. 

The third data set evaluated health behaviors according to the inventory proposed by Vickers, Conway, & Hervig (1990).  The data consist of the average response for the factors of Wellness Maintenance and Enhancement, Accident Control, Traffic Risk, and Substance Risk.  The last data set consisted of five questions about current health status and one question about the subject's current GPA.  The health status questions evaluated Days Missed Due to Illness, Other Days of Illness, Susceptibility to Minor Illness, Susceptibility to Major Illness, and Time to Recover.  The final question requested the subject's current grade point average. 

The study results were saved on the psych 270 networked hard drive, and later they were compiled by the coordinating instructor into one file for the SPSS statistics program.  I combined the measurements of Days Missed Due to Illness and Other Days of Illness in order to determine the total days unwell.  I also combined Susceptibility to Minor Illness and Susceptibility to Major Illness to find the susceptibility to any illness. 



The average overall score on the Five Factor Personality Model was positively correlated with Grade Point Average (r = .08, p = .26).  Average overall score on the Five Factor Personality Model and the total days unwell were negatively correlated (r = -.19, p < .05).  Average overall score on the Five Factor Personality Model and the susceptibility to any illness were also negatively correlated (r = -.23, p < .05).




            I hypothesized that the average overall score on the Five Factor Personality Model will be strongly associated with overall health.    I also proposed that the overall score on the Five Factor Personality Model would be associated with Grade Point Average.  The data gathered from the study appears to support my hypothesis, although the association between overall score on the Five Factor Personality Model and Grade Point Average is not very significant.  It is possible that social inclusiveness may play a part in the relationship between personality and health.  In order to evaluate the relationship between inclusiveness, personality, and health, an objective and measurable definition of inclusiveness should be found in order to be included in the study.  Also, the study can be improved by using different sampling methods.  For example, a more random sample could be obtained by using an automatic dialing computer with data from a local phone book to ask individuals to take part in the study.  It may be the case that the study needs larger samples in order to get normal sized distribution of data.  Average number of hours of sleep per night may help explain both higher average scores on reaction tests and long term health, and it therefore also deserves investigation. 






Dawkins, R.  (1989) The Selfish Gene.  30th anniversary edition, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 1-45.


Deary, I. J. & Der, G. (2005). Reaction time explains IQ's association with death. Psychological Science, 16, 64-69.


Dunbar, R.I.M. (1992) Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates, Journal of Human Evolution 22: 469-493.  


International Personality Item Pool: A Scientific Collaboratory for the Development of Advanced Measures of Personality Traits and Other Individual Differences ( Internet Web Site.


Larsen, R & Buss, D.  (2008) Personality Psychology.  Third edition, McGraw Hill, New York, NY, 86-91, 275-276.


Smith, T. W. (2006). Personality as risk and resilience in physical health. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 227-231.


Starr, Cecie.  (2006) Biology: Concepts and Applications.  Sixth Edition, Thomson Brooks/Cole, Belmont, CA, 238-257, 780-794. 


Vickers, R. R., Jr., Conway, T. L., & Hervig, L. K. (1990). Demonstration of replicable dimensions of health behaviors. Preventive Medicine, 19, 377-401.

February 10, 2007

Language, Instinct, Evolution, and Gestures

In my research for psychology class, we were recently given the assignment to do some observing of people and create a study on how gestures relate to language.  I thought to myself, "Well that's not very interesting."  However, when I went to read one of the two recommended articles for the assignment, I learned that the article was actually by a scientist who was presenting evidence that language evolved in humans through gestures.  Now, that is indeed interesting to me.  The leading theory as of right now is that language evolved from primate calls.  Anyway, this was a first time I wrote the basics in what could be a scientific research report.  Of course, our study wasn't done in a controlled environment, and our sampling methods were to basically record data until we had as much as we wanted, so the actual data isn't worth much.  But it did allow me to get my feet wet and to experience doing a study from start to finish.  Here's my research report, without further ado.  Please let me know if you find it interesting or if you have any questions. 


Oh, and by the way, you can go to
to see and hear music, pictures, and videos of me and people/things I enjoy on MySpace. 


Assignment 3


Evidence of evolution in homo sapiens is becoming more important to the field of psychology as both biologists and psychologists realize its potential.  A particular point of contention is the evolutionary source of human spoken language.  (Corballis, M. C, 2003)  While the dominant theory seems to be that the use of language derived from primate calls, some scientists believe the evidence supports the evolution of language through gestures.  (Corballis, M. C, 2003)  No matter how the evidence is interpreted, it seems as though the ability and way humans use both language and gestures is at least partly instinctive.  (Pinker, 2002)  If both language and gestures are instinctive, it stands to reason that people will continue to use gestures at the same rate when they are talking to someone not physically present as when he or she is standing in front of him or her.  To demonstrate this point, we propose that the rate of gestures will be nearly the same rate for people on cell phones compared to those who are talking to someone in front of them.  The rate of gestures per minute of people without cell phones will have a correlation rate of at least .8 at the .05 significance level with the rate of gestures per minute for people with cell phones. 

            We first conducted a test of our observation method to make sure we defined what we meant by gesture clearly.  We decided to use the upper level of the Undergraduate Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The upper level has a hallway with several tall windows that give a good bird's eye view of the university courtyard.  A view of the observation area from above allowed us to collect our data without having to move around.  It also prevented our subjects from seeing us and realizing that we were watching them.  We defined a gesture as a body movement that accompanied talking and was not for handling objects or balance.  One group of subjects was observed while each was talking to someone in front of him or her, while another sample group consisted of people on cell phones.  After several successful test runs, the group met in the same area a week later.  Whenever a member of the group pointed out a possible subject, the group would discuss whether or not to begin recording data.  Some possible subjects were rejected, because they were too distant, behind an object that obstructed a clear view, or because they stopped their conversation before they could be recorded for at least 30 seconds.  Once the group agreed on a subject, we would begin counting the number of gestures made. We decided that 30 seconds was the minimum amount of time someone would converse to be recorded, and 120 seconds was the maximum.  The number of gestures observed when either the conversation stopped or the 120 second maximum was reached was recorded for each subject.  We observed and recorded data for ten subjects who were talking to someone in front of them, and ten who were talking on a cell phone.  The Pit became almost empty when we had data for just a few subjects, so we moved to the second floor of the Student Union building and recorded most of our data there.  The last few cell phone subjects were at the bus stop near the back of the Student Union building. 

            A low correlation was found between subjects without cell phones and subjects with cell phones (r = .369, p > .05).  Inter-rater reliability for measuring gestures was high (r = .766, p< .05)(r = .838, p < .05)(r = .738, p < .05)(r = .676, p < .05)(r = .785, p < .05)(r = .852, p < .05). 

            We hypothesized the rate of gestures per minute of people without cell phones would have a correlation rate of at least .8 at the .05 significance level with the rate of gestures per minute for people with cell phones.  The data gathered in the study does not appear to support it.  However, because there were so few constraints on the study, a true test of the hypothesis was not able to be performed.  The results may mean that gestures are not as instinctive as we thought, or that they need both audio and visual stimulation in order to be triggered.  Research shows that language abilities and tendencies are strongly instinctive, but they also support the idea that they need to be triggered.  (Pinel, 2007)  The study can be improved by using different sampling methods.  For example, a more random sample could be obtained by using an automatic dialing computer with data from a local phone book to ask individuals to take part in the study.  It may be the case that the study needs larger samples in order to get normal sized distribution of data.  The study might be much more generalizable if it were conducted in a controlled environment.  Also, a future study might include a group of blind people and deaf people in order to test the idea that visual and audio cues are needed to induce gestures.  The two groups could further be subdivided into those born with deafness or blindness, and those who are affected by it starting in adulthood.  Such a subdivision may reveal insight about the possible need for vision and hearing in the development of gestures. 




Pinker, Steven.  (2002).  The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.  The Penguin Group, New York, NY, 220 - 221. 


Pinel, J. (2007).  Basics of Biopsychology.  Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA, 444 - 477. 



Corballis, M. C. (2003). From mouth to hand: Gesture, speech, and the evolution of right-handedness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 26, 199-260.


January 29, 2007

Mortality Realized

A few days ago I think I had an epiphany, of sorts.  I realized that in a span of about two and a half years, I had become increasingly aware of the fact that I will one day die, and it may be sooner than later.  From September 11, 2001 to January 17, 2004, I received a reminder about my own mortality about once every few months. 


September 11, 2001


            I suppose I don't need to say a whole lot about this, except that I didn't react so much with anger as I did with concern for the people that were affected by the attacks.  I'm sure many people joined with me in feeling just a little less safe, at least for a while. 


Death of "Kitty" (circa March 2002)


            While my parents were building their new house, they stayed at Spring Creek in Simpsonville, SC across the parking lot from my brother's family.  Apparently, Kitty, aka "Fat Boy" and "Sable," wasn't happy there because when he escaped one day, maybe he tried to find his way back to house he lived in for twelve years or so.  At any rate, when he was found, he was taken to the vet's office for my parents to pick him up.  They did a routine check on him, and found that he had one or more tumors on his jaw.  The first time I saw him after that, he was off to himself in my parent's apartment in their guest room closet.  When I called to him, he came out of the closet and I saw that his tail was matted because he was no longer cleaning himself.  About half an hour later, when he tried to eat some hard food, blood, mucus, and saliva were dripping down from his jaw.  When I brought it to my mom's attention, she gasped and said "What are we going to do?"  I said, "We have to take him to the vet."  The next day, she called and told me she had gotten an appointment that day.  I was unemployed at the time, so I met her at the apartment and we took him together.  Later that day, after we had put him down, she told me "Pets can die suddenly like that sometimes.  So can people."  When someone close to you dies suddenly, you're taken on a rollercoaster of emotions.  But I get ahead of myself. 


Chest Pain (circa 2002 - 2003)


            Well, all the hours I spent hunched in my cheap chair at my computer started to take their toll.  My chest began to have a dull pain.  At first it was very occasional, but eventually it happened on a regular basis.  I started to become a bit worried, so I went to the doctor and asked him about it.  His nurse did an EEG just to make sure, and it turned out perfect.  Thank goodness for good news. 


Devastating Virus (circa mid January 2003)


            No one likes having a stomach/intestinal virus, but this was the worst illness I've ever had.  For the first 2 or 3 days, I could only manage to get out of bed, in a daze, to go to the bathroom to vomit or have diarrhea.  I wasn't able to get out of bed or eat for a couple of more days.  I spent two weeks home from work, and during the second and third week of my illness, another opportunistic virus affected my upper respiratory area.  I think I went from weighing about 160 pounds to 140.  Now that I think about it, I probably should have spent a few days in the hospital, but once the virus had hit me full force, all I could do was drink water and sleep in bed.  I really didn't think to call someone, because I thought I'd be back on my feet in a day or two.  I'm not sure why I didn't call anyone after the first couple of days.  Needless to say, I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone. 


Rhode Island Club Fire (February 20, 2003)


            When I got home from work that night, I turned on my computer, as usual, and went to  The news portion of the site showed a story on the Rhode Island fire that killed 96 people that night and 4 more later.  I first learned about the fire probably an hour after it happened.  What was remarkable about it was the fact that the fire had been recorded on video, at least the first nine minutes or so of it.  It was probably on the 21st that I saw the video for the first time.  I didn't know then that it was possible to be traumatized by a video, but research has documented the fact that thousands of people that didn't have any friends or family killed by the 9/11 attacks have been treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, possibly because they watched it on video.  I have mixed feelings about the club fire video.  On the one hand, I want people to watch it so that they can experience first hand why fire safety is so important.  On the other, I still have nightmares about it, and whenever I go to a club I find all of the alternate exits and make sure to point them out to everyone that is with me.  I suppose that could be a good thing.  You can find the first three minutes of the video on Youtube.  I recommend that you read some articles about the fire before you watch the video.  It's probably best not to watch the video more than once. 


Invasion of Iraq (March 20, 2003)


            Once again, video provided us with a view of death from afar.  I was very interested in the politics and events surrounding the invasion, so I inevitably was confronted with images of both civilians and soldiers that had been wounded or killed.  I hope one day I'll be in a position to help prevent violence from happening. 


Death of Best Friend (January 17, 2004)


            Around noon on Saturday January 18th I got a message on my answering machine.  I figured it was probably one of many messages left by telemarketers, so I waited until I took a shower to listen to it.  My nephew's birthday party was that day, and I was going to listen to the message on my way out the door.  It was a message from Nick's brother, asking me to call him back.  That of course made me nervous, but I told myself that it probably had to do something with wedding pictures, since Nick had gotten married in October of the previous year.  Instead, he told me that Nick had a stroke and that he was pretty much brain dead now.  I was devastated and in shock for months.  I think at that point I had already turned my life around, and had been going to school part time, as well as gotten more restaurant management experience.  Nick's death was the final and biggest reminder of the fragility of life, and how important it is for me to no longer waste time feeling sorry for myself because of my depression and missed opportunities.  It was now, more than ever, time to live a full life in a way that would make Nick proud.  I hope I'm doing a good job. 


January 24, 2007

Sleep Cycles

Inevitably, at the beginning of every semester I end up having to adjust my sleep wake cycle, because during a vacation I tend to sleep from 2am to 10am.  Now I have to get up at 6:30am, so my body is experiencing some lag.  Yesterday, I tried to study in the library after my class and wasn't able to stay awake.  So I went home, thinking I would sleep for a couple of hours and then be able to get some work done.  Wrong.  Some days I'll be able to work for hours on end, and others only for a short time before I get restless.  Luckily, when it comes to doing assignments for grades and studying for tests I'm able to be more self disciplined.  Maybe I should stop rambling and show you some things I've been working on. 

Research Methods Class

This semester, I'm taking a class on research methods for psychology.  I'm enjoying it so far, because it gives me a chance to learn how to conduct scientific research.  It also involves designing an experiment with a partner and writing a research paper for the first time, which makes it a very important class indeed.  Our first assignment was to come up with ideas for an experiment, and to specify things like method, variables, and definitions.  My instructor was impressed with the creativity of it, although it needs some more development.  We were told our limit was about one page, so I wasn't able to go into great detail.  Turns out she is flexible about the length of assignments, so I won't have to worry about that next time.  I thought I would go ahead and share it with you.  If it's not your cup of tea, feel free to skip it and go to the next section.

Assignment 1

Assignment 1

Andrew Clapper

Psych 270-001

The field of abnormal psychology claims that people with personality disorders typically have more difficulty than normal in social situations, because their behavior often causes those nearby to have a negative attitude towards them.  Sometimes, negative thinking towards a person with a personality disorder from a group is so strong that the group begins to ostracize him or her.  Since humans evolved as social animals, the practice of ostracism may act as both punishment and a way to select against the genes of those with abnormal personalities. 

I propose that a member of a group that displays behaviors identified as characteristics of a personality disorder in the DSM IV - TR will be most likely to become ostracized by the other members of the group.  The amount of desire of the other group members to ostracize the individual with a personality disorder will depend on the severity of the symptoms in the individual.   

The following experiment will serve as a testing method for the hypothesis stated above.  The subjects of the experiment will be randomly placed into groups of 5.  Each group will spend one hour playing ice breaker games.  Afterwards, they will be asked to fill out a questionnaire to evaluate the other group members.  The control groups in the experiment will not be manipulated.  However, in the experimental groups, a confederate will simulate behaviors and traits associated with a personality disorder according to the DSM IV - TR.  The confederate will show either mild, moderate, or severe symptoms of a personality disorder.  The experimenter will measure the responses of the ostracism related questions on the questionnaire and compare the control and experimental groups.  The level of desire to ostracize the confederates in the experimental groups compared to the control groups will be of particular interest.  Accordingly, the independent variable is the presence of a confederate simulating a personality disorder, while the dependent variable is the level of desire to ostracize the confederate in the other group members.  In this study, ostracism is defined as banishing or excluding an individual from a group.  A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of experience and behavior that differs greatly from the expectations of the individual's culture.  The experiment is based on current research on ostracism, including Williams' model of ostracism.  It is also based on the descriptions and diagnosis guidelines for personality disorders in the DSM IV - TR. 

Further Development

A few things in my proposal need to be further developed before it is ready to be the basis for an experiment.  What will the questionnaire ask?  I was thinking, when I wrote the proposal, that it would ask questions about the personality of the other members of the group, probably along the lines of the "Big 5" categories.  If you're not familiar with the Big 5, they are 5 categories of personality traits that people have found to be associated with each other.  Perhaps I'll write more about that later.  Anyway, the questionnaire will also ask which member of the group they would vote out, if they had to pick one.  The idea is that the stronger the symptoms of a personality disorder the confederate showed, the more likely the other members of the group would select them to be voted out.  I did talk with my instructor at the end of class when we got our assignment back, and I came up with the idea that instead of having everyone fill out a questionnaire, the experimenter could instead simply observe and record behavior that indicate ostracism.  This will entail a more detailed definition of ostracism, and will require more study of the topic on my part. 

My Approach to Human Behavior

This proposed experiment ties into some ideas that I developed last semester during my abnormal psychology class.  One idea is that human behavior, including personalities, can often be plotted as data points on a graph, and that a distribution can be created that displays observed behavior.  For our third paper, one of our possible questions to address involved whether or not personality disorders actually exist, or if the behavior associated with them are just extensions or exaggerations of normal behavior.  I tend to lean towards the latter idea.  While brainstorming for the paper, I came up with a possible way to empirically measure what people mean by "abnormal" in a particular culture.  First, in the case of personality, you first measure the full range of a particular trait or category of traits.  Next, you conduct an observational study that involves asking people what behavior they consider to be abnormal.  I didn't include this next point in my paper, but you can test your results by having a group spend time with a confederate in their midst, just like in my research class proposal.  So, in case you're interested in reading my abnormal psych paper (which will give you some examples of the kind of approach I'm interested in taking with my psychology research), here it is. 

Abnormal Psychology Paper 3

Paper 3

Psych 245 Section 006


The field of abnormal psychology often attempts to address the issue of abnormality, and where the line is that separates normal and abnormal.  This distinction is especially controversial when it comes to the freedom of an individual to choose his or her habits and what the surrounding society considers to be a mental disorder.  At times, this distinction can shift as a particular society changes.  Homosexuality used to be called a mental health disorder in the United States, but now it is more and more often regarded as a neutral variation in behavior.  Probability and statistics may be used to help pinpoint where the line is drawn between normal and abnormal for each particular culture.  If specific behaviors and traits are isolated and measured with proper forms of sampling, it is possible that observers can plot a chart of the distribution of data points that are collected.  All human behaviors or traits can be measured and will form either a two tailed or one tailed distribution, and the line between normal and abnormal is always designated by either the critical t value of the distribution or one of the two critical values.  In other words, the line that exists between normal and abnormal behavior and functioning in a culture is designated by the alpha level of the distribution, and each culture may have a different alpha level.  (Sullivan 517) 

Measurement of human traits and actions can be done through observation, and perhaps to a less accurate degree, with self reporting.  Probability and statistics shows us that in order for a sample to be random and therefore be generalizable to the population we wish to study, each individual must have an equal change of being selected and measured.  Therefore, a study of college students from eighteen to twenty two years of age will allow us to find the distributions for that group, but in order for the findings to be applicable to the entire population, a random selection of people from the entire population should be used.  Next, a separate study can be conducted to determine the average point at which a society no longer considers something normal.  Once the findings are displayed in a distribution table, the body of the distribution will represent normality, and the tail will contain data points that are believed to be abnormal and maladaptive.  Some studies will result in a two tailed distribution, while others will show only one. 

The measurement of personality traits is one example of the method of statistical sampling used to define abnormality.  First, the experimenters could identify key personality traits to measure.  Social responsiveness, the ability and tendency for a person to respond to and function well in a social group, might be one.  If social responsiveness is evaluated in terms of adaptiveness, the resulting distribution might be one tailed because very socially able people are considered healthy and perhaps even successful.  However, if the social behavior a person exhibits reaches a certain point of non social responsiveness, they will be beyond the limit that the culture they are a member of has placed on its members.  In a Western culture, such a person may be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.  (Nolen-Hoeksema 435)  Each culture may have different cutoff points for different traits.  For example, Western culture favors independence and assertiveness more than many others might, so the critical value for an acceptable amount of assertiveness will be farther to the right in the West than it is in Asia. 

Another clear example of using sample distributions to determine how abnormality is defined is when sexual behavior is ascertained and measured.  As far as the context of society and what is considered abnormal is concerned, the distribution would be one tailed.  (Gravetter, Wallnau 250)  While sexual restraint is rarely seen as negative in the context of society, lack of control and unusualness are treated as abnormal and maladaptive. Different cultures have unique levels of sexual permissiveness, which means that the alpha level is a function of the group being studied.  If the Puritan socio-religious sect still existed today, it might be found to have one of the alpha levels farthest to the left of a right skewed distribution.  On the other hand, some Pacific Island cultures are considered very sexually permissive, so they might have a critical value the farthest to the right.

Cognitive functioning, when measured and converted into a distribution chart, will arguably have two tails because individuals at either end of the spectrum of the scale are set apart from others and labeled either gifted or challenged.  To measure cognitive ability, it is probably advisable to do several different studies to ascertain the ability to do many kinds of problems and remember a variety of material in varying circumstances.  If the resulting distributions are two tailed, people who fall into the right tail are often called talented or gifted, whereas those in the left tail have a learning disability or are below average.  Some societies might favor certain cognitive abilities over others.  A tribal group that hunts and gathers might favor hand-eye coordination and spatial abilities.  On the other hand, a city state society might favor the ability to use language in advanced ways.  The tribal group will therefore have lower critical values for hand-eye coordination and spatial ability, while having higher alpha levels for linguistic ability.  The city state culture will have higher critical values for hand-eye coordination and spatial ability along with lower critical values for linguistic abilities. 

The use of applied probability and statistics is a breakthrough for the scientific method, because it allows scientists to perform experiments without having to spend large amounts of resources.  It has, in effect, made science more efficient by discovering sampling methods that prevent an experimenter from having to collect thousands of samples.  Probability and statistics, when applied in a simple way to various aspects of human behavior and functioning, can give us the answer to where the line is drawn between abnormal and normal.  When actions and traits are sampled well and measured systematically, an accurate distribution graph can be generated for each.  Likewise, if humans are observed and surveyed about favorable and acceptable conditions, the critical value for each distribution can be found.  If this method is used in differing cultures, the variation in alpha levels for cultures can be found and analyzed.  Consequently, this concept will be able to be applied in three different ways.  First, it will allow someone to predict the probability that a randomly selected person will be considered abnormal or normal for any given trait.  Second, it will tell researchers the proportion of the population that is likely to be suffering from a disorder, is abnormal, or otherwise falls in the critical region for the trait being described.  Third, it suggests a way that the diagnosis of a mental disorder can be performed within a sliding scale of human behavior and ability, if the distributions are the basis for a hypothesis test for a particular individual.  In a hypothesis test, if the subject's results fell in the body of the distribution, then they are normal, but if they fall in the critical region, they are abnormal.  This method of diagnosis protects the integrity of both the DSM IV-TR and cultural diversity throughout the world, because it provides researchers with a cutoff point for abnormality that can be calibrated to different cultures.  Furthermore, if a well selected sample is gotten from individual humans throughout the world, it will provide average distributions and alpha levels for humankind and will be the source of comparison for all humans. 

Works Cited


Gravetter, Frederick J. and Wallnau, Larry B.  Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences.  7th

edition.  Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007. 


Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan.  Abnormal Psychology.  4th edition.  New York: McGraw Hill,


Sullivan, III, Michael.  Statistics: Informed Decisions Using Data.  2nd edition.  Upper

Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. 

December 28, 2006

High School Model UN at UNC

Building your own website is a challenging and rewarding activity.  The main reason I enjoy doing it is because it gives me a creative outlet.  In the case of this site, I have the freedom to decide what goes in it and what people read.  You might remember that I mentioned a couple of months back that I'm doing work for the high school Model UN conference here at UNC that will take place at the end of March 2007.  I'm both director of a committee and the webmaster for the entire conference.  I'd like to invite you to take a look at our website and tell me what you think.  You can copy and paste the address, or click on the link below.  The address is:

My End of Semester Activities

I know that I have not added much besides my Christmas list to this site in the last few months.  The reason for this lapse is simple: UNC.  In my Biology class, approximately 24 chapters were covered, and rumor has it that the course is based on Harvard's Biology 101.  In Abnormal Psychology, we covered all but one of the 18 dense chapters in our textbook, and were expected to learn almost all of the basic information that is in the DSM IV - TR.  The DSM IV - TR is the most recent diagnostics manual for mental illness released by the American Psychiatric Association.  You can find more information on it at  In my Social Psychology class, we talked about most of the major areas of research in the field.  My exam study guide outlines would sometimes be around 20 pages per exam, and we had four exams and a final cumulative exam.  My Statistical Principles for Psychology class was easy at first, because the first half of the curriculum covered material I had already been exposed to in my Honors Probability and Statistics class at Greenville Tech.  However, the second half of the class covered what would normally be in the intermediate probability and statistics class, and it became more time consuming and challenging.  Doing one problem involving a Scheffe test by hand was like doing a calculus problem by hand.  I also did a good bit of work with the High School Model UN website, as I mentioned earlier in today's post, as well as continued work with my psychology research group.  Apparently, Dr. Green and John were satisfied with my performance, because Dr. Green mentioned the possibility of me designing my own experiment next semester.  What an opportunity.  She even went so far as to say that I could propose an experiment that goes in a completely different direction.  I took that as a vote of confidence, which I deeply appreciate.  We also talked a little about the honors program, and I told her I was interested.  If you would like to read about the UNC Psychology Department Honors Program, you can do so here:  Next semester, I'll be signed up for a course called Psych 395, which is basically research work for class credit.  I'll be basically doing the same things I did this semester, plus write a ten page paper.  Dr. Green doesn't require students to write a research paper, but I'm hoping to do so to get the practice in for my honors senior thesis. 

A Major Influx of Material to this Site

We'll see how much memory this free site has, but hopefully it'll allow me to upload a good bit a material.  I want to include my class notes, papers, and figures, my psychology and psychology research ideas, my business ideas, and my fictional writing.  This will allow you to look around at them at your own leisure, as well as give me a place to back up my files.  I'll try to do a good job organizing it so that it is still easy to find your way around the site. 

November 30, 2006

Christmas List

Here it is.  I have everything ranked by how much I would like to have it.  I tried to go down and pick one thing from each category at a time, starting with PS2 games.  I know it's quite a bit, but there have been alot of things over the last few years that I have wanted but couldn't afford.  Poor me.  Anyway, enjoy.  It's back to studying and writing papers for me. 

Andrew’s 2006 Christmas Wish List


Furniture (our cars are too small to haul furniture, so we would need it to be delivered)


35.  2 dark wooden bookcases

29.  a couch

23.  entertainment cabinet/tv stand

41.  a small dining room table and 4 chairs

11.  cd tower/shelf (for over 200 cd’s)

17.  dvd tower/shelf (for over 100 dvd’s and PS2 games)


Kitchen Appliances


4.  Or a blender food processor combo unit

47.  Toaster




5.  DVD player (my PS2 and Miranda’s player have been having problems lately)


12.  Aliens (2nd in series directed by James Cameron)

42.  Alien 3

18.  The Sixth Sense

30.  Unbreakable

79.  Lady in the Water

76.  Star Wars Episode I

75.  Star Wars Episode II

77.  Star Wars Episode III

36.  Star Wars Episode IV

53.  Star Wars Episode V

67.  Star Wars Episode VI

63.  X Men

58.  X Men II

73.  X Men III

70.  Back to the Future I

48.  Back to the Future II

78.  Back to the Future III

24.  A Beautiful Mind


Video Games


6.  Nintendo Gamecube System and memory card, one additional controller, RF adapter


Gamecube games (if I were to get a gamecube):


59.  Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II (if I were to get a gamecube)

7.  Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike (if I were to get a gamecube)

25.  Super Smash Bros. Melee (if I were to get a gamecube)

13.  Star Fox: Assault (if I were to get a gamecube)

37.  Metroid Prime (if I were to get a gamecube)

54.  Metroid Prime II (if I were to get a gamecube)

64.  The Legend Of Zelda: Collector’s Edition (if I were to get a gamecube)

43.  The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest (if I were to get a gamecube)

31.  The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker (if I were to get a gamecube)

19.  The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess (if I were to get a gamecube)

49.  Eternal Darkness (if I were to get a gamecube)


Playstation 2 Games


26.  Final Fantasy X – 2

1.  Final Fantasy XII

32.  Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII

65.  Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance

76.  Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

20.  Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

74.  Sonic Mega Collection Plus

8.  Sonic Heroes

44.  Shadow the Hedgehog

50.  Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven

71.  Tenchu: Fatal Shadows

68.  X Men Legends 2

55.  Resident Evil 4

14.  Star Wars: Battlefront II

38.  Madden NFL 07

60.  NCAA Football 07



2.  Sociobiology by E.O. Wilson

9.  The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

15.  Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth by RA Fortey

21.  Evolution by Mark Ridley

27.  Evolving Brains by JM Allman

33.  Carroll, R.L. 1988. Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution. WH Freeman and Company, New York ISBN 0-7167-1822-7

51.  Krakatau: The Destruction and Reassembly of an Island Ecosystem  By Ian Thornton

39.  Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach Eight Edition by John Alcock

61.  Sexual Selection by MB Andersson

56.  The Chimpanzees of the Tai Forest: Behavioural Ecology and Evolution (Paperback)
by Christophe Boesch, Hedwige Boesch-Achermann

66.  The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
Matt Ridley

69.  The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is as Necessary as Love and Sex.By David M. Buss

45.  Evolutionary Psychology: The new science of the mind by David M. Buss

72.  A Natural History of Rape - by Randy Thornhill, Craig T. Palmer

Music CDs


3.  V by Live

28.  Birds of Prey by Live

52.  Songs from Black Mountain by Live

40.  Reveal by REM

62.  Around the Sun by REM

34.  “Wake up and smell the coffee” by the Cranberries

46.  Beautiful Garbage by Garbage

57.  Bleed Like Me by Garbage

10.  The Open Door by Evanescence

22.  Disclaimer by Seether

16.  Audioslave by Audioslave

November 1, 2006

Why I Haven't Written Lately

Why haven’t I updated this site in the last five weeks or so?  Mainly because my school related activities take up most of my waking hours on weekdays, and on the weekends I’m either doing some kind of extracurricular activity or trying to allow my brain to recover while I watch football.  Sometimes on the weekends I’ll try to force myself to study, but I tend to be so burned out that I’m only able to do it for a few hours Sunday afternoons and evenings. 

Why This Is A Good Thing

Because of the extremely high academic standards at UNC, I’m probably learning the material about twice as well and in more detail as at Greenville Tech, but I’m also spending double the amount of time sitting quietly and studying.  Although I don’t have much fun right now and don’t have as much of a social life as I would like, I think my hard work will pay off.  Someday. 

A Typical Wednesday

Today I got up at 6:40 am.  I took a shower and got ready for school, and walked out to the bus stop outside our apartment at 7:30.  I arrived at my Social Psychology class at 7:50, and class was from 8 to 8:50.  Today we finished up the chapter on prejudice.  After my class, I went to Lenoir Dining Hall for a chicken biscuit.  Next, I read the chapter on Schizophrenia for my Abnormal Psychology class, which took me a while because I kept falling asleep while I did it.  I think I finished at around 1pm.  At this time I ate a light lunch and returned to Davis Library to study.  I surveyed several chapters for my Biology class.  Now we’re about to begin my Abnormal Psychology class to talk about Schizophrenia….. (it’s 3:30pm)… here’s my class notes:

Abnormal Psychology


Schizophrenia I


The class viewed a 60 Minutes clip on Schizophrenia. 



  • People with schizophrenia are not more likely to be randomly violent
  • 1/3 people with schizophrenia are chronic, 1/3 episodic, 1/3 will have one psychotic episode and no further symptoms
  • There are a high percentage of homeless people with a mental illness, and many have schizophrenia – bi-product of deinstitutionalization, mental health reform



  • Loss of severe impairment of “reality” contact
  • Not limited to schizophrenia
  • Must take culture and context into consideration
    • Symptoms of schizophrenia may be related to some religious beliefs
  • Interference in functioning
    • Thought
    • Perception
    • Emotion
    • Behavior

Distinguishing between Diagnoses (2 or more symptoms required for diagnosis)

  • Length of symptoms
    • Schizophrenia: 1 month acute symptoms with 6 months of some symptoms
    • Schizophreniform: 1 month but < 6 months
    • Brief Psychotic Disorder: 1 day but < 1 month
  • Degree Impairment and Type of Symptoms
    • Delusional Disorder: non bizarre delusions
  • Co-morbidity
    • Schizoaffective Disorder: Psychotic Symptoms and history of mood symptoms
      • Psychotic and mood disorder symptoms must be independent


  • 1 – 2 % of general population
    • Cost: 19 billion a year
    • Make up about 50% of hospital beds
  • Cross-cultural differences
    • The notion of schizophrenia might not exist in a particular culture
    • African-Americans receive the diagnosis more, have been found to be over-diagnosed
      • It can be healthy to be a little paranoid where racism occurs
    • Gender differences

Type 1 or Positive Symptoms

  • Thought
    • Delusions
      • Ingrained beliefs that people have that are very difficult to disprove
      • Persecutory
      • Delusions more specific than paranoia
        • Delusions may form in response to hallucinations, but not necessarily
      • Control
        • Thought broadcasting
          • Belief that people can read my mind
        • Thought insertion
          • Belief that people are putting thoughts in my mind
        • Thought withdrawal
          • Belief that people can take thoughts away
    • Disorganized Thought and Speech (Disorganization)
      • Loose Associations
        • No apparent connections in what people say
      • Concreteness
      • Tangentiality
        • When people are asked a question, their answer doesn’t appear to be related to the question
      • Circumstantiality
        • A lot of unnecessary information included in a thought
      • Neologisms
        • Made up words
      • Clanging
        • Repetitions of sounds rather than meanings
      • Word Salad
        • When you talk to someone, it is garbled language
      • Echolalia
        • Repetition of sounds and words, mimicking
      • Poverty
        • People won’t talk at all or there is nothing communicative in their response
    • Loose Associations
      • The problem is insects.  My brother used to collect insects.  He’s now a man 5 foot…
  • Perception
    • Hallucinations
      • Auditory
        • Can be complete sentences
      • Visual
        • Subject sees things that other people can’t see
        • Fisher King w/ Robin Williams
      • Somatic (tactile, olfactory)
        • Skin sensations, bugs crawling, the feeling of something in your body
  •  Behavior
    • Disorganized or Catatonic Behavior
      • Disorganized Behavior: Problems in dressing, feeding, grooming self, unpredictable extreme agitation, highly inappropriate behavior.
      • Catatonic behavior
        • Stupor, rigidity, excitement
      • Stereotypy
        • The act of engaging in purposeless behaviors repetitively over long periods of time
  • Activity
    • Dr. Schwartz distracted a student while he tried to complete problems on the screen

The Rest of Today

Tonight I have a meeting with the Model United Nations Organization at 7pm, and I will probably practice (teach) parliamentary rules and procedure with some other on-campus conference delegates.  Afterwards I’ll probably unwind and relax for a couple of hours before going to bed.  What a day. 

September 26, 2006

Why I Was Frustrated with Philosophy Club, or
Why I Switched from Philosophy to Psychology, or
Why I am an Independent and not Republican or Democrat

The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker. It's on the need for an update in theories about human nature.

Today I wrote an email to someone that explained some thoughts I had about the Philosophy Club at Greenville Technical College.  For those of you that don't know, I was a founding member of the club in October of 2003, club Secretary during the 2004 - 2005 year, and club President during the 2005 - 2006 year.  I still try to keep in touch with some of the people involved with it.  This quote also helps explain why I consider myself an indepedent rather than Democrat or Republican, so I thought it would be of interest to visitors to my blog. 
"I think my frustration with the group was an overall feeling that people didn't believe science and philosophy are compatible, whereas I and perhaps a few others did.  I think sometimes I also got frustrated when fallacies in arguments would be pointed out, but an individual would continue to hold such arguements as true.  All people are probably guilty of it, but I like to think I usually will try to test my ideas with myself or a few other people before I get insistent on their validity.  At some point I also began to think that philosophy, while historically very important, is only so useful if the ideas are tested just in a logical way.  Shouldn't ideas be tested in every way possible?  Is science not just another way to test ideas?  Many times, in philosophy one thing is proposed to cause another, when in fact there exists a false correlation that is revealed by the scientific method.  Take for example, the Blank Slate.  Without applied science, it seems a very logical and reasonable theory of human nature.  However, recent research branching off from the Humane Genome Project and Neuroscience, along with studies done comparing twins and siblings raised together and apart, is begining to cause the nature vs nurture debate to change into a debate about exactly how much and how each is influential on human nature.  I also was taken aback at how other areas of intellectual life still cling to the Blank Slate, Native Savage, and Ghost in the Machine theories in such a way that much debate on politics, ethics, and other areas of human concern are in great need of updating.  And so I decided to pursue studies in psychology rather than philosophy, in order to have access to the most useful and up to date information I could to accomplish my goals with."

Alot to Learn in Psychology

David Hume (1711 - 1776)
Almost every time I thought I had an original idea in philosophy, I learned this guy already had it.

Now that I'm taking several more psychology classes here (at UNC), I'm learning that the ideas presented in both of my recent papers are actually a combination and integration of several theories in psychology, especially social psychology, motivation, behavior, and personality.  As in philosophy, just when I think I've come up with something original, I learn that people have already come up with very similar ideas.  Oh well.  At least, this time the ideas are only decades old, instead of centuries.  Is that a good thing?  Anyhow, maybe I'll come up with original combinations and extensions of ideas.  I'll try to keep you posted as I develop them further.  I'm thinking about including a section on my blog on both my interpretations of new research on human nature and some ideas for experiments that I come up with. 

The Smashing Pumpkins Are Back Together

From the Tonight, Tonight video. Go to and search for Billy Corgan to watch it.

Need I say more?  According to, The Smashing Pumpkins are currently in the recording studio with legendary producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, The Cars, The Darkness), at work on their first new album since 1999.   If you don't know about the Smashing Pumpkins or don't know much, go to  This is the best site I've found so far about the band.  It has various videos and documentaries that I'd never seen before until recently.  My brother Ed introduced them to me when Siamese Dream was released around 1993.  I've heard alot of music, especially rock and roll music (and spinoffs), and the Pumpkins are one of the most prolific and creative bands that I've heard.  So yes, I'm excited that they're back together, and hopefully I'll get to see them perform for the first time (if they decide to tour). 

September 15, 2006

My First Psychology Paper

Today I finished my first paper on psychology.  I think it turned out well, but we'll see how Dr. Schwartz and Alecia think.  I figured I might as well put it here for those interested to read.  Enjoy. 

Although the idea of mental illness may not exist solely to be a social control construct, Szsaz does introduce the possibility that the behaviors, thoughts, and feelings associated with mental illness may not necessarily be an illness after all.  To say that what we consider mental illness is completely a social construct is a line of reasoning that reflects The Blank Slate, which “has set the agenda for much of the social sciences and humanities” in the last century.  (Pinker 6)  Recent research shows that mental illness is in fact at least partially genetically inherited.  However, the relationship between society and mental illness should be examined further, because people like Szasz have made the psychology community at least consider that mental illness is in fact a myth, or perhaps at least that the term illness is a misnomer.  For example, not only do social isolation and labels allow society to marginalize or categorize people with perceived mental illness, but isolation on the individual level may in fact lead or contribute to some symptoms of mental illness.  Also, isolation may trigger mental illness in a person who is genetically predispositioned toward the illness.  Cultural norms about human behavior may cause people to ignore a particular biological need or motivation, and the resulting behavior is sometimes called abnormal or maladaptive.  Labeling people as mentally ill helps society develop schemas for perceived abnormal and unhealthy behavior, as well as mental health professionals create lists of symptoms and test treatments.  An understanding of evolution might lead to the implication that abnormal behavior can actually be genetically adaptive in certain situations.  An examination of social isolation, social pressure, labeling, and evolution will help us realize that Szasz’s ideas compel us to reexamine the role of society with the idea of mental illness.

            The idea of mental illness often allows society to banish those that violate mores and taboos.  Sometimes, they are forced to live in institutions, and at other times they end up living on the streets.  It might be argued that mentally ill people choose such a lifestyle, such as Diogenes in ancient Greece, who “In Athens famously took a tub, or a pithos, for an abode.”  (Piering)  However, some did not actively choose to do so, such as patients released from closed hospitals.  Also, it is possible that social isolation in fact causes the behavior deemed abnormal.  For example, if a person is being incarcerated in a solitary confinement situation, the existence away from other people in a confined space can cause someone to exhibit symptoms of mental illness, such as hearing voices or being in a depressed state.  One doesn’t have to necessarily be in an isolated state due to a conscious decision on the part of other people.  An immigrant living alone or a single person that has recently moved to a new area for a new job might also experience isolation and have their behavior affected as a result. 

            Social control does in fact deserve a serious examination, although perhaps not in the way that Szasz postulated.  Because of social pressure, people will act in ways that are against their own interests in order to be an accepted member of a group.  A person may adhere to a traditional practice or norm that causes him or her to ignore basic physiological needs, resulting in psychological abnormalities.  For example, many cultures include temporary fasting as a part of a religious calendar.  If a persons fasting goes on long enough, an observer might notice a marked change in behavior.  The fasting person may experience fatigue, irritability, lack of motivation, and self destructive thoughts to a degree that affects their normal every day living.  These behaviors are listed in the DSM IV-TR as symptoms of clinical depression, but in fact resulted from excessive fasting the person practiced in order to follow a social norm.  Another example is the inhibition of sexual behavior in individuals within a society that values a total lack of sexual expression and gratification until marriage.  An individual in a society that strictly prohibits the satiation of the sex drive may try to follow the social norm, which results in a gradual increase in sex hormones and motivation.  A person with high levels of sex hormones may also have difficulty controlling emotions, as well as engage in risky and impulsive behavior they would not normally do.  Such behaviors run the risk of resulting in a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, especially when the person continues to ignore their own sex drive and constantly has an elevated hormone level. 

            As social animals, humans use labels to help identify and categorize almost everything they encounter, including other humans.  Social categories are called schemas, which “are important because they help us process an enormous amount of information swiftly and economically.”  (Peplau, Sears, and Taylor 80)  Schemas are used to identify both people who engage in abnormal behavior and those who have a mental illness, and the two can overlap.  Schemas also help us identify people who regularly defy spoken and unspoken rules.  It is interesting to note that while individuals who exhibit unusual behavior are thought to be mentally ill, groups of people who do so are considered a counterculture or subculture.  Men who like to walk around a downtown area naked are thought of as unstable or mentally disturbed, but when men and women get together at a resort where nudity is the rule, they are viewed as part of a “nudist” culture.  Schemas have also allowed the psychology community to acknowledge that some behaviors, at certain degrees, fall out of the range of a normally distributed population.  Behaviorists will attempt to train or condition people to either no longer exhibit unusual behavior or to act more similar to what the contextual society accepts as normal.  Psychologists and psychiatrists who strictly medicalize mental illness will often review research on new drugs to prescribe in order to allow their patients to live normal lives.  Humanistic, emotive, and psychoanalyst psychologists will stress the importance of talking to their patient about their abnormal functioning and behavior and try to have them realize how to engage in healthy behavior.  While most treatments are now comprised of two or more of the three described here, and most psychologists are now integrationists, the underlying theme remains that the subjects they try to treat are functioning or behaving in ways that fall outside of what the particular society considers normal, and they try to find a way to help the patient act and function normally again. 

            Although many claim that evolutionary psychology can not be applied to specific situations and categories and is therefore not very useful, the consideration of humans as social mammals that evolved in prehistoric conditions is vital to the understanding of the subcategories associated with the human condition, including mental illness.  The application of underlying ideas of evolution and humankind’s place in a prehistoric ecology will help give us new areas to research in abnormal psychology.  A prevailing theme in this application is that humans exist as social mammals, and have a need to be near groups of humans in order to work together to survive.  Therefore, it follows that our genetic code includes genes associated with the desire to be near other humans, which makes social considerations vital to any evaluation of abnormal behavior.  This is done in the DSM IV-TR when social and cultural background is considered, but the fact that humans have a wide range of possible behavior means that behavior now considered abnormal may actually have been adaptive in a prehistoric context.  For example, if all but of a few of the males in a population were killed in a blizzard, hunting party, or raid on another group of people, and the social norm of the group is for men to be monogamous and display a high level of sexual restraint, the genetic code of the group would be in danger.  However, if at least one of the remaining males are what we would now call sociopaths, and ignore this important social rule, they may in fact cause the population to recover.  We know that famous individuals like Howard Hughes, da Vinci, and Galileo all made important discoveries for humankind.  Some also speculate, because of historical records, that they may have suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  It stands to reason that people in prehistoric times may have also displayed such symptoms, and that their behavior resulted in a discovery that allowed them and those around them to better adapt to their environment. 

            Szasz forces us to examine whether or not mental illness really exists, and if it is in fact an illness.  Even though the idea of mental illness may not strictly be a control device, questioning its validity as a concept will help us understand variables we didn’t before know were in play.  It makes us aware of how people are stigmatized, banished, or ignored if they don’t adhere to social taboos and mores.  It shows how social pressure and cultural traditions can in fact cause behavior we consider unhealthy.  We now realize the importance of social labels and their relationship with how we view mental illness.  When we consider that humans evolved as social mammals, we may better understand why abnormal behavior exists and why it may not be maladaptive after all.  It is fortunate that Szasz made his then outrageous claims about mental illness, because now our eyes are open. 


Works Cited

Peplau, Ltitia A, Sears, David O, & Taylor, Shelley E.  Social Psychology.  12th ed.  Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2006. 

Piering, Julie.  Diogenes of Sinope.  Online. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Internet.  15 Sept. 2006.

Pinker, Steven.  The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.  New York: The Penguin Group, 2002.


September 13, 2006

Protesting Ashcroft

Ashcroft expressed no remorse for his actions as Attorney General while he spoke at UNC.

      Last night, former Attorney General (and U.S. Senator) John Ashcroft spoke at Memorial Hall (the fine arts center) at UNC.  His talk began at 6:30.... My Statistics for Psychology class got out at about 6:00, and the Psychology Club was having its first meeting in the same room.  I stayed for the meeting, and it seems like the club has some very good activities planned.  I'll say more about that later.  Anyway, after the meeting, I went to Franklin Street and had a sub from Firehouse Subs.  Afterwards, I went across the street to the bus station to see when the next D route was going to be there.  It wasn't going to  be along until 8:06, so I decided to go to the Undergraduate Library to study until Miranda finished her class and could come pick me up. 
      On the way to the library, I heard a car honking and a crowd of people cheering as if in response to it.  I decided to investigate, and when I was at a point where I could see in between some buildings, I saw a group of people with mostly white shirts holding up posters.  It occurred to me that I had lost track of the date I saw Ashcroft was going to be here on a flyer.  I had wanted to investigate if a protest was going to occur, but lost track of time.
      I made the decision to go and see what the protest was like, and as it turns out the UNC Young Democrats were the ones in the white shirts.  They did so to distinguish themselves from anarchists that might have been there as well.  When cars would go by on Cameron Street, some of the protestors would yell "honk for peace" or "honk for civil rights."  If the car would honk, the group would erupt in cheers. 
      For a while I stood back and watched, but when students began to leave the fine arts center, I joined the Young Democrats and picked up a poster that said "Respect My Rights" and yelled "Protect Our Rights" with the group.  I know, I know.  Shocking for me to be doing something like that, huh?  Actually, I'd wanted to express my unhappiness with John Ashcroft for five years, ever since the mass arrests without warrants in the weeks and months after 9/11.  So that was the highlight of my night.  Oh, and when Ashcroft walked out of the building, some of the more vocal protestors with a bullhorn followed his group down the sidewalk and off campus.  Y'all come back now, you hear?

September 12, 2006

Last winter, I started working on a behavioral model that I hope to test one day.  I thought I might as well share what I have so far with the world.  A great deal of what I mention may be unfamiliar to you, so please don't hesitate to email me with questions. 

Andrew Clapper's Psychology Ideas

I'm currently developing a behavioral model that is inspired partly by Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  My model is similar to Maslow's insofar as it attempts to incorporate different motivations into one logical paradigm for human behavior.  Whereas Maslow created a pyramid scheme with biological needs on the bottom and the higher forms of human enlightenment and satisfaction at the top, my model starts off with a person's biological, instinctive drives, and the drives send an impulse through a series of filters.  The filters include the environmental aspect of human behavior, such as social conditioning and ethics, knowledge and data readily available, and personality.  I hypothesize that a detailed diagnosis of each factor will be able to predict actions and behavior with much more accuracy than was previously possible. 



I hypothesize that human behavior is the result of biological drives interacting with conditioning to result in predictable actions.  I propose that human behavior is always traceable to the fulfillment of basic needs in what I call the Principle of Biogenetic Necessity.  I also propose, because humans are a type of social primate, that humans will temporarily sacrifice the fulfillment of basic needs in order to be part of a group in what is called the Principle of Social Necessity. 

            Each biogenetic drive section will be configured like a sliding scale that ranges to the highest level of satiation and lowest level of deprivation to the point of lowest level of satiation and highest level of deprivation.  The scale will include several benchmarks that contain a range of satiation and deprivation that will incur a particular probability of the drive influencing behavior.  Each individual person hypothetically would have a slightly to greatly varying scale with benchmarks in different places.  The scale will also have a bar indicating the particular person's level of satiation and deprivation, and the rate of increase and decrease may be analyzed for each person and the environment that he or she is in. 


An activated biological drive will send an impulse through the behavior model, where it must travel through a series of filters created by conditioning.  Each filter will have an effect on the impulse, depending on its nature and strength.  If a certain type of conditioning is strong enough, it may prevent any action to be taken by the subject, or it may significantly alter the subject's course of action from that which would have been taken if the conditioning were not present.  For example, the subject's sex drive may be directing him or her towards seeking a sex partner, but because of the social context that the subject lives in, seeking a sex partner is not considered a legitimate course of action. 


The action portion of the model predicts the subject's behavior.  The experimental data gathered will determine the drive and conditioning factors.  Once a researcher gathers a satisfactory amount of data, one can derive a formula to use in the action portion of the model.  Researchers can also analyze the amount that each type of conditioning interacts with each biological drive and the rate of extinction for each kind of conditioning over time.  One simple idea for an action formula is simply to find a standard unit for use in both the drive scales and the conditioning points in order to formulate an action scale.  The action scale will have a results bar that will indicate a value based on the current drive factor plus and minus the conditioning factors. 


The proposed behavioral model must be tested experimentally so that it can be developed and refined to the point that it is as realistic as possible.  Therefore, one must observe and conduct experiments in a controlled environment.  Asking people to live in a controlled environment must be done very carefully because of ethical concerns.  Experimental data would be limited by the fact that only a small number of people would volunteer to live there for a long period of time.  The experiments I'm currently developing involve temporary stays in a research facility for a period of just a few weeks.  Rather than have a small group of people participate in the experiments for long periods of time, the tests will be designed to accommodate a larger number of subjects for shorter stays.  At first, the facility will conduct a series of observational studies that focus on biological drives and conditioning factors.  The biological drives will be analyzed through passive data collecting of behavior, while the conditioning factors will be ascertained through interviews and research on the environment of the subjects.  The second phase of research will involve experiments in which behavior resulting from stimuli introduced or withdrawn by the administrators is compared to control groups.  The program will recruit a variety of experts to design and implement the observational studies and experiments, including neurologists, endocrinologists, sociologists, psychologists, and ecologists.  Also, a mathematician will ensure the highest quality collection and use of the data gathered there. 

September 11, 2006

So, what is Model UN?

UNC Charlotte is heavily involved in Model UN activities.

Model UN stands for Model United Nations.  When I say Model UN, I could mean one of a great number of different conferences ranging from one to seven days where college and/or high school students take the role as delegate and represent a country in a simulation of United Nations proceedings.  Typically, the conference will be broken down into several committees that focus on particular topics of international concern.  For example, at SRMUN (Southern Region Model United Nations) last year, I represented Japan on the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).  One of our main topics was Sustainable Development in Post Conflict Regions.  Delegates tried to come up with actual United Nations resolutions to address the problem of economic development in areas formerly wracked by armed conflict. 

My Model UN Activities 2005-2007

In the spring of 2007, the Model UN student organization at UNC is going to host a Model UN conference for high school students.  This highly regarded conference draws students from all over the United States.  I applied to be a director of one of the committees.  A committee director writes the background guide (a guide for research about the committee topics) for the delegates, sets the topics for the committee, and judges the performance of the participants.  Since I'm new to this Model UN group, the head of committees for the conference asked me to submit an application.  Here it is.

MUN-Ch Application 2007

The Security Council meeting room. Perhaps one day I'll be involved in what goes on in this room.

MUN-Ch 2007 Director Application


Name (First and Last please): Andrew J. Clapper

Email Address:

Phone Number: 919-428-0707

Year: Junior (transfer)

Major: Psychology (specialize in social and evolutionary psychology, and will pursue a masters in economics (macro) and a Ph.D. in political science (international relations))


Committee that you would like to be assigned to (Security Council 2, Eco-Soc 1, Eco-Soc 2, General Assembly): Eco-Soc 1




Briefly tell us why you think you would make a good committee director:

            I think I will be a quality director because I will use my experience as a mentor and leader to raise the quality of the experience the delegates in my committee receive.  For example, during the Southern Region Model United Nations (SRMUN) of 2005, I relentlessly campaigned for the goal of broad consensus and compromise at the end of a fourteen hour day when negotiations had broken down.  I also believe I have the creativity necessary for the director position.  At SRMUN, instead of simply working with the other G8 as Japan to write a resolution that promoted the usual failed approaches of foreign investment, loans, and aid, I worked with many least industrialized nations to write a resolution promoting the practice of trade surplus.  As a committee director, I will be in a good position to mentor the delegates and the committee chairs.  My extensive experience both in the workplace and college student organizations as a trainer and mentor will be put to good use.  In 2000 I trained an incoming assistant manager at the Budget Rent-A-Car location in Greenville, SC in our one way truck accounting procedures.  As Secretary and later President of the Philosophy Club at Greenville Technical College, I led the group in managing club business and discussions on a weekly basis for two years.  I also won the award of Distinguished Chapter on an international level with the Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society for two year colleges for my efforts as Vice President of Communications during 2005.  At all of the international relations conferences that I have attended, I believe I have demonstrated a strong commitment to diplomacy through communication, compromise, empathy, preparation, and the synthesis of ideas. 





List your past Model United Nations experience(s) (When, Where, and What committee): Last year I attended the Southern Regional Model United Nations (SRMUN) in Atlanta with the delegation from Greenville Technical College (SC) and represented Japan in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).  At the end of the conference, my partner and I were nominated by the committee chair as one of the outstanding delegations.  In the spring of 2006, I was selected by the head of the honors program at Greenville Technical College to be an assistant chair in one of two security councils at our first high school model UN event.  A group of mostly the same Greenville Tech students also attended the southeast region Model Arab League that spring, where I was nominated to be head delegate by the other students. Although it was not a Model United Nations conference, the format, atmosphere, and rules of procedure were very similar. 


As a director you would be required to interact with the chairs of your committee to determine the TWO topics for this year’s conference.  Does your schedule allow for you to meet with your chairs outside of the general MUN-Ch meetings?  


Absolutely.  Mondays will most likely be the best day for me.  My schedule is as follows:

Name:  Clapper, Andrew James

Course Id

Course Description

Cr- Hrs


Meeting Times




BIOL101 002








PSYC210 003








PSYC210 702








PSYC245 006








PSYC260 003










I’m also planning to attend Biology study sessions (at least at first) which are:

Tuesdays 8-9am

Wednesdays 6-7pm


I’ll be volunteering to do some psychology research as well.  Our meetings are Fridays at 11am, and a bit later I’ll be doing some research during the week.  


I will work hard to give the committee chairs opportunities every week to meet with me and discuss MUN. 


What are your ideas for possible topics for the conference (these are non-binding; I just want to have an idea):

        The Elimination of Coercive Migration Policies

        Using the Doha Stalemate to Improve Intra-regional Trade

        Improving Future Collaboration Between the UN and Non-Un Organizations for Sustainable Development

        The Reliance of the Least Developed Countries on Domestic Factors to Promote Sustained Economic Growth

        Developing National Productive Capacities to Stem Poverty

        Boosting Research Capacity for Poverty Reduction

        Promoting Regional Capital Market Integration

        Prevention of the Undermining of the Environment While Increasing Industrial Production

        Promoting the Integration of Energy Projects and Eliminating Obstacles to their Implementation

        Ensuring Social protection, Social Cohesion, and Citizens' Rights

        The Development of Mechanisms for the Prevention of Poverty, Inequality, Discrimination and Social Vulnerability

        Eliminating Obstacles to Social Cohesion Through Social Protection Reform and Public Financing

        The Development of the Statistical Indicators to Measure and Advance Environmental Sustainability.

        Implementing the results of the New Compendium of Best Practices to Measure Poverty

SRMUN 2005

As I mentioned before, in the fall of 2005 I participated in the Southern Region Model United Nations (SRMUN).  This conference was begun by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Clemson University.  As part of the preparation process, delegates were required to write a position paper.  Here is the position paper I wrote along with my partner, Sharan. 

Japan has had its share of tsunamis. After all, the Japanese invented the word.



Positions for the United Nations Economic and Social Council


I.  Sustainable Development in Post-Conflict Areas


                Japan recognizes the continuing problem of armed conflict throughout the world, including both civil and international conflicts.  Conflict can often interfere with the economic development of a country.  Conflict can be international, but Japan understands that war is often internal as well.  For centuries, armed conflict was a way of life in Japan as different nobles and warlords sought to control territory and trade.  Japan’s history provides its people with a sense of understanding towards civil strife and conflict, and reinforces Japan’s resolve to eliminate it.   

                Japan also recognizes that armed conflict can have profoundly detrimental effects on the natural environment.  Few can argue against the fact that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are two of the most extreme cases of environmental degradation due to armed conflict.  Not only did the bombings result in massive casualties and the destruction of two cities, but the bombs themselves had lasting harmful effects on the environment that required a monumental cleanup and recovery undertaking.  The areas in and around the two cities suffered from damage due to the force and heat of the blasts.  The water, soil, and air in each area were polluted with extremely harmful radiation and radioactive dust.  Only after years of cleanup was either area remotely habitable again. 

                Japan supports the Rio Declaration, which provides for environmental protection during armed conflict.  Japan also applauds the efforts of non governmental organizations that work to protect the environment during times of conflict.  Japan has about 350 NGOs working overseas.  Many of them are dedicated to environmental conservation projects, such as reforestation, soil improvement, and air and water quality improvement.  Japan promotes the use of peaceful means to settle conflicts, and has recently begun to use a portion of its self defense force in peace keeping activities overseas.  It is possible that Japan may continue to provide troops to this end.  Japan is willing to aid the international community by providing use of its technology to help protect and rebuild the environment in post conflict areas.

Japan intends to continue to exercise an active role through the following efforts: bilateral and multilateral cooperation to ensure regional stability; political and security dialogue and cooperation toward building confidence with other countries; the strengthening of arms control, disarmament and the non-proliferation regime, efforts to address regional conflicts by means of conflict prevention and participation in United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Operations (PKO); the enhancement of regional stability through support and cooperation in the economic development of countries in the region; and efforts to prevent and eradicate international terrorism.

Japan proposes a resolution for the creation of a committee to foster the formation of a United Nations policy of joint efforts of peace keepers and development volunteers who work closely together in post conflict areas so that each area may move seamlessly from a state of conflict and chaos to one of rebuilding and improvement.  Peace keepers and development volunteers and workers can coordinate their efforts so that development is both sustained and protected. 


II. Transition from Disaster Relief to Sustainable Development Following Natural Disasters


                Japan is located very near a major fault line between tectonic plates, which results in frequent earthquakes that have affected Japanese way of life throughout its history.  For centuries Japanese people were at the mercy of nature’s wrath when the tectonic plates would shift suddenly, and the death and destruction associated with earthquakes was inescapable.  It is only recently that Japan has been able to find effective ways to prevent extreme amounts of destruction and death during and after earthquakes.  Modern scientific research and technology has led to a better understanding of earthquakes and ways to construct buildings and structures to withstand them.  Now, scientists in Japan can monitor the vibrations of the earth and predict when an earthquake is imminent.  Construction in Japan has advanced to the point where buildings are made of material resistant to earthquakes and technologies such as hydraulic supports for building foundations keep damage to a minimum. 

                As an island nation in an area subject to earthquakes and tectonic shifts, Japan has also been forced to recognize and prepare for the death and destruction that tsunamis can bring.  Technology also allows Japan to predict and prepare for tsunamis, and the threat that they represent has therefore been reduced.

On the day that the earthquake occurred (October 8, 2005) in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Minister for Foreign Affairs Machimura Nobutaka sent messages of condolences to Pakistan and India. The Government of Japan immediately decided to dispatch a Japan Disaster Relief Team to Pakistan. In kind, the Government of Japan promptly decided to provide assistance worth 25 million yen to Pakistan, which consists of blankets, tents, water purifiers, generators, etc. On top of that, the Government of Japan decided to provide grant aid of US$20 million to Pakistan for disaster relief. Japanese Non‑governmental organizations (NGOs) are also participating in the rescue attempts.

Japan will support a two step program that will eliminate a gap between disaster recovery efforts and the redevelopment of disaster affected areas.  Perhaps the two areas of concern can fall under one organization that receives funding for both types of efforts and will have an evaluation mechanism in place to help ascertain how much funding needs to go to each type of activity.  Japan has often offered financial backing and technical expertise to disaster recovery and redevelopment in the past, and will continue to do so. 

Since local communities are the first response just after a natural disaster, Japan will support the improvement of local communications systems with technological and financial means so that the needs of the community can quickly be learned of and addressed in the event of a natural disaster.  Also, Japan promotes the local, national, and regional stockpiling of emergency supplies so that they can quickly be delivered to where they are needed in the case of a disaster both within a nation and nearby in a region.  Japan is also pleased to assist in the training in emergency personnel overseas to help minimize the immediate humanitarian effects of natural disasters.


III. The Promotion of Economic Development in Latin America and Caribbean Region


                Japan understands that the Latin American and Caribbean region is looking for ways to minimize and eventually eliminate international debt and trade deficits, and to continue to improve the economic strength and capabilities of member nations.  Japan has been a most appreciative trade partner with Latin America and the Caribbean since the mid twentieth century, and would be pleased to assist the area in economic development and strengthening so that trade relationships can continue to be prosperous. 

In the past five years, as part of Japan's commitment to developing Latin American resources, Brazil has received a total of approximately $5.8 billion of financial assistance through the Japan Bank for International Cooperation to support development of the Campos Basin oil fields. In order to strengthen the foundation of democracy and develop a market economy, the unremitting effort of each of these countries is indispensable. As a nation that shares those values, Japan would like to continue to support the reform efforts of Latin American countries.

Japan supports the HIPC Initiative, which is a step forward in sustainable development.  However, Japan proposes that two issues still need to be addressed.  A way must be found to guarantee the financing of the enhanced HIPC framework, as well as the framework of other Multilateral Development Banks.  Also, the HIPC must be more strongly linked with poverty reduction.  Japan is pleased to be working closely with the World Bank to make the PRSP a reality. 

                Japan proposes investigating the possibility of freezing the accumulation of interest on foreign loans to Latin American and Caribbean states, because the continued growth of foreign debt only serves to stifle the economies of effected states.  Japan will also support a free trade agreement for all South American states and the admission of Latin American states in Central America and the Caribbean into NAFTA that are not already members. 

Japan also proposes a UN coordinated micro loan program that will place development funds directly into the hands of the people that need them.  Japan will provide volunteers to meet with small micro loan groups to help individuals construct business strategies and to monitor the progress of individuals in each group.  Each micro loan group member with be held accountable by his or her peers, and loans will only be issued on a small scale basis and when the loan candidate has provided a business strategy and progress report satisfactory to the rest of the group. 

SRMUN Practice Resolution

I had big shoes to fill as a representative for Japan.

At Greenville Technical College, the advisor for the Model United Nations group is Dr. Beth Traxler.  She does an excellent job at having students prepare for the conferences that they attend.  For example, she had us write a practice UN resolution several weeks before we went to SRMUN.  Here is the resolution that I wrote, which you can see was derived from the main ideas in our position paper. 

The Economic and Social Council,


            Recognizing the continuing problem of armed conflict throughout the world, including both civil and international conflicts that often interfere with the economic development of a country,


            Observing that armed conflict can have profoundly detrimental effects on the natural environment, such as damage caused by weapons of mass destruction that requires a monumental cleanup and recovery undertaking due to pollution in the water, soil, and air before the affected area is remotely habitable again,


            Expressing its appreciation for the Rio Declaration, which provides for environmental protection during armed conflict,


            Emphasizing the use of peaceful means to settle conflicts,


            Realizing that sometimes the use of a peace keeping force is necessary to prevent violence and conflict in troubled regions of the world,


            Alarmed that civilians often sustain more casualties in armed conflict situations than combatants and are often left to rebuild an area after the end of hostilities,


            Convinced that bilateral and multilateral cooperation are needed to ensure regional stability,


            Bearing in mind that the strengthening of arms control, disarmament and the nonproliferation regime, and efforts to address regional conflicts by means of conflict prevention and participation in United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) are vital to both regional and global economic and social prosperity,


            Deeply convinced that the enhancement of regional stability through support and cooperation in the economic development of countries in each region is vital to the future of civilization,


            Calls upon the General Assembly of the United Nations to create a committee to oversee the formation of a task force element to be attached to peace keeping forces that will coordinate the protection of the environment, defense of human rights, and the sustainable rebuilding of the area affected by the conflict;


            Further recommends that this task force element promote the policy of joint, coordinated efforts of peace keepers and development volunteers to work closely together in post conflict areas so that each may move seamlessly from a state of conflict and chaos to one of rebuilding and improvement;


            Emphasizes that the purpose of this task force is to ensure that peace keepers and development volunteers and workers coordinate their efforts so that development is both sustained and protected. 

It was challenging to try to think as though Mt. Fuji was in my backyard.

September 1, 2006

Money does grow on trees!


Wow, what a good week I've had.  I have three areas of good news. 
    I visited the financial aid office on Monday, and learned that I do in fact have more financial aid coming.  My account was flagged because I'm a new student and out of state.  All I had to do was sign a new promissory note and do my online counseling again.  Hopefully sometime next week I'll be able to get the rest of my refund.  I'm extremely relieved because for a while there I thought I was going to have to ask people to co-borrow an education loan from the bank.  In fact, it appears I'm getting more money than I had budgeted for, so my financial situation will be better than I hoped.  I feel like a big burden has been lifted from my shoulders. 

Psychology Research

Davie Hall: the HQ of the Psychology department at UNC.

    I was getting a little bit nervous about finding a psychology professor to do research with, because the first several I contacted told me that they didn't need any more help.  When I contacted Dr. Melanie Green, she told wrote me back on Monday and sent me a description of her current research along with an application.  I filled out the application as soon as I got it and emailed it back to her.  We met on Wednesday to go over what I would be doing, and hopefully we'll get started sometime next week.  This semester, I'm going to volunteer and do a little bit of everything.  Everything means input on the experiment/study design(s), help run the experiments, entering data into a computer, and analysis.  It looks like my main focus will be on communication and trust over the Internet.  Next semester, if I do well this time around, I may be able to design my own experiments and do a research paper for course credit.  This is the first time I've been involved in scientific research, so I'm excited and anxious to get started. 

You can find Dr. Green's webpage at:

    She's one of the authors of two major books and many articles.  She has also lectured at UNC, Duke, Princeton, Yale, and many other schools. 

   Here's an excerpt from the description she gave me of her research:


Research Projects:


There are two primary lines of research currently being conducted in the lab.


Narrative persuasion and “transportation into narrative worlds.”

            We are exploring the role of the Internet in creating or reducing community and social bonds, and the way in which trust develops in Internet relationships. Trust, both specific and generalized, is an important ingredient in smoothly functioning relationships. An emerging area of investigation is the development of trust in computer-mediated or on-line relationships. On-line relationships pose unique challenges for individuals: false identities are easy to create and difficult to verify (see, for example, Turkle, 1995; Van Gelder, 1985). Because individuals communicating on-line are likely to be geographically distant from one another, it is often impossible to rely on mutual acquaintances to vouch for the trustworthiness of a person. The purpose of the current research is to experimentally investigate factors that contribute to or detract from trust in relationships in which participants do not have face-to-face contact.  This work is also being extended to include the effect of the Internet on interactions when people already know each other.


Here's an excerpt of my response:


Why are you interested in research experience in this lab – that is, what do you hope to learn or gain from your research experience?


    I’m interested in exploring the effects of stories on individuals because the research may help identify possible third variables in past experiments on the effects of media on individuals.  It may also help determine or at least form a hypothesis about whether media affects people, or people choose their media based on who they already are.  Another thing that comes to mind is the way that leaders, especially religious leaders, use stories to influence the audience.  A better understanding of the acquisition of social power and the ways that it is used may be discovered.  

    I remember reading about correlations between internet use and social isolation, but I don’t remember seeing a good indicator of causation.  Perhaps the Internet does cause individuals to become more isolated, or maybe someone who for some reason feels alone will try to use the Internet as a way to form needed social bonds.  Also, I’m interested in exploring the possibility that trust is affected when communications through the Internet are combined with other forms of communication, especially phone calls. 

    Since I have no prior research experience in psychology, this experience will be extremely valuable to my growth as a student and a scientist.  I’ll be able to learn kinesthetically about how to prevent data from being skewed by sampling randomly, and if possible performing a double blind study.  I would also like to investigate the possibility of creating a website for people to sign up to be volunteers in scientific experiments, which would help research be more credible and applicable.  

This guy is NOT my hero.

Model United Nations

    Well, it turns out we had much more participation at our first meeting on Wednesday (the thirtieth) than I expected.  I think there were actually a good twenty to twenty five people there, so they weren't quite in as dire straights as I thought.  I think over half of the people there have participated in a model UN event before, so that is also a positive.  There are three sub groups within the organization:  The traveling group (it goes to Yale and UNC Charlotte in the fall and Chicago in the spring),  the on-campus group (runs the UNC Chapel Hill Model UN, which brings in students from other schools but unfortunately competes with Duke I think), and the high school conference group (which runs a highly regarded high school model UN that brings in students from all over the country).  Apparently I was the only person there that night with web design experience, so I was recruited to be in charge of the high school group's website, and possibly the sites for the whole organization.  I'll probably try to just build on the site that was used last year.  You can take a look at:  I mentioned SRMUN to the head of the traveling group, and she said our schedule is fairly set for the fall.  Maybe in 2007 we'll be able to expand and go to a couple of more conferences, using the same country(ies) for the whole year, the way that UNC Charlotte and Greenville Tech are planning to do. 

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto is the perfect metaphor for Japan.

Extracurricular Activities

As you can see, I'm in for a very interesting year.  My interest in extracurricular activities probably shows through.  Don't worry though; the fact that I'm doing extra work will keep me more focused on school and class work, not less.  I actually will try to take what I'm learning in classes and apply it to the other things I'm doing, so the extra work will add to my learning experience, not take away from it.  This is how it worked at Greenville Tech.  My work with the Philosophy Club, Phi Theta Kappa, Psychology Club, Study Abroad, Model UN, and Arab League gave me places to test the knowledge I gained in classes such as Philosophy, Ethics, Logic, Sociology, English, History, Public Speaking, Government, Psychology, and International Relations.  It also helped me gain knowledge in classes as well.  For example, the substantial amount of research I did on Japan in the fall of 2005 for SRMUN was useful in the spring of 2006, when I read a book by a Japanese author in World Literature and was able to write a decent paper explaining how the book was a perfect metaphor for Japanese culture and history. 

    I must have slept well last night; I wrote this entry from about 9:15 to 10:10am on Friday morning.  Hopefully my body is getting more used to waking up around 7am every morning.  Over the summer, I worked a great deal of night hours so I sometimes ended up staying awake till 2am and getting up at 10am.  Now I sleep closer to 11pm to 7am. 

Do not buy Miranda roses. She hates them.


   Today is my one year anniversary with Miranda.  It's funny to call her that, because her family calls her Megan (her first name) and I usually call her Zeggie or Honey or Sweetie.  I usually only call her Miranda when I'm mad at her (which doesn't happen very often anymore).  I don't think we have solid plans for what to do tonight, so I need to brainstorm.  We'll definitely go out to eat and do something else.  It's too bad our financial situation has been uncertain lately, otherwise I might have been able to take her to a play or concert or something.  Hmm, maybe I still can.  Anyway, she and I have both grown a good bit over the last year.  I'm very glad she's a part of my life, and it's hard for me to imagine what it would be like without her. 

  Ok well it only took me until 10:17 to write all I wanted to today.  I guess I'll find some more entertaining pictures and work on the other aspects of the site until Miranda picks me up around noon for lunch.  What's your good news?  If so inclined, send me an email and tell me how things are going with you. 

August 28, 2006


Good news!  You can now make a donation to yours truly through the "make a donation" link on this site.  You can use a credit or debit card, or a Paypal account if you have one.  Remember, paying through Paypal is more secure than at a local retailer or restaurant.  I think you should be able to donate anonymously, but if not I can try to have that arranged.  Your help is always very much appreciated. 
   Wednesday is the first Model UN meeting here at UNC, and I'm excited about it.  I'm also a bit puzzled, because according to the head delegate, there are only four people that have expressed interest in the club so far.  Four people at UNC!  They clearly need some work in the PR/marketing/recruiting department.  Maybe I can help.  Last year they went to Chicago and Yale, I think.  Check out their site at  Remind me to tell you about my experience at SRMUN last year.  Well, I'd better be off to get some lunch and talk to the financial aid department.  Wish me luck. 

August 26, 2006

How did my classes go the first week, you ask?

They appear to be easier than the classes I took at Greenville Technical College.  Especially the honors classes I took there.  For example, I was used to doing five to ten page papers at Greenville Tech, but here I think my Abnormal Psychology class requires the most writing, which is four three and a half to five page papers.  This semester, I'm taking Social Psychology,




Abnormal Psychology,


and Statistics for Psychology.


  I'm trying to get into a Biology lab, but there are fewer seats for labs than for the lecture class.  Go figure.  I'm having a bit of trouble finding a psychologist to volunteer with to do research.  Everyone already has more than enough people working with them.  I refuse to get frustrated, though.  If I have to, I'll convince someone to let me just run errands for them so that they get a chance to know me.  The purpose of volunteering is to get some research experience and possibly find an advisor for the psychology Honors Program.  Well, I hope everyone is having a relaxing weekend.  Miranda and I have to do some unpacking and cleaning around here. 

August 24, 2006

I made it.

I'm sitting in the Undergraduate Library on my UNC issued laptop computer watching the crowd go by to get into one of the dining halls on the other side of the Pit.  I've been thinking about the last three years since I decided I wanted to become a student here, not knowing if it would actually happen.  I made it here.  I'm broke.  I couldn't be happier, but I need help.  The amount I received from financial aid wasn't enough to allow me to afford to go here, even while working twenty to thirty hours a week.  That's why I decided to create this website and blog.  It will allow people to monitor my progress here, and hopefully they will take pity on me and make a donation.  Thanks for helping keep the dream alive. 

Check back here for more news.  Coming soon: class notes and research papers.

Forget Newsweek and Time.  The Economist is my new favorite magazine for news on business and politics.  Check it out at  Also, check out for an excellent picture of Alan Greenspan. 

UNC from above. I walk through this area every day.

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Welcome to my college adventures.