Two Days from Now

I will soon be in Paris so I’ve started a different blog and will be updating that frequently throughout my trip. For those of you who want to follow along here is the link, I can’t wait to share everything I’ll experience and learn in France (not to mention how much it will affect my journey to French fluency)!

Au revoir!

A Personal Gain

Ever since I’ve started this blog, I’ve found myself more and more interested in topics I’ve been learning in class. For example, I was in my Cognitive Psychology class when our teacher put in a video about creativity and their association with people with developmental disorders such as turrets and autism. Studies have found that there is usually a high level of dopamine in these people and that people with Parkinson’s actually have a low level of dopamine and sometimes, when taking a supplement to boost their dopamine levels they get this drive to write music or paint! It’s an amazing subject matter and I sometimes think to myself (and maybe even write down somewhere) that this would make a great blog entry. I also get extremely excited when I learn something about psycholinguistics and how I can tie in to my French studies.

I didn’t think anything of it when I started this, let alone think that I would gain any major benefit from a blog. But from what I’ve realized, as I write, I’m going into depth about topics just recently learned and in turn, gaining a better understanding, which then makes studying a lot easier. Blogging has given me a freedom to express myself, and write about academic topics and studies in a voice I’m most comfortable in. It’s a nice break from the many research papers I’ve done this semester! Even though I don’t really have a following, for myself at least, I’ll try my best to keep up with this blog and post anything interesting and new that I learn–especially with my upcoming trip to Paris (ll have quite a bit to write about)!

So, for any other bloggers out there, how has blogging impacted you? Have you found yourself more interested to learn and research new topics in order to post a new entry? For those of you who don’t blog, try it out! It can do nothing but benefit you in the long run.

à la prochaine! 

More Homework, Please!

The end of the semester is always a stressful time for students. Bombarded with projects, papers, and presentations, it’s a miracle that any sleep is obtained throughout the week! On top of that, life continues: jobs, clubs, and social events take place in the midst of the academic chaos. So, is there  a reason why teachers and professors decide to assign everything at the same time?It’s common knowledge that  stress could directly impact the quality of performance negatively (not to mention take a toll on heath), so why would instructors want to affect the success of their students?

stress can make you crazy!

Stress of course affects one’s ability to process information and solve complex problems it can be caused by project deadlines, societal pressures, and traffic. So, as a student, it’s important to know the best way to cope with stress in order to succeed. But it’s not all that bad! Stress actually releases norepinephrine which improves mood and encourages critical thinking. This type of stress which pushes us to be competitive, study more, or challenges us to do our best is called eustress. In a study by Geraldine O’Sullivan (2010), questionnaires were given to undergraduates to test whether an increase in eustress would in turn increase life satisfaction levels. Results showed a significant positive correlation with satisfaction in life and eustress. Addtionally,participants level of hope and self-efficacy, also examined in the study through a survey rating scale, revealed to be directly correlated with the amount of eustress a participant had. I believe that the assignments given by professors and teachers should be considered a type of eustress, as it fosters creative thinking and develops a person’s knowledge and cognitive ability, which in turn would increase a person’s satisfaction in life if they succeed in the task.

In this blog post by Justin Menkes, interviews with business professionals about how much stress they undertake supports the thought that perhaps exposure to stress help us in “the real world.” As we age, stress will most likely never leave us. So perhaps this is why professors and teachers give us workloads to last us a few nights in the library–just to make sure we can handle the professional world and the assignments handed to us. Be sure to keep these thought in mind as you get closer to deadlines of big projects or even the end of an academic semester. The more assignments, the more you learn, the more you learn, the more you’ll realize how satisfying life can be!

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O’Sullivan, Geraldine. “The Relationship Between Hope, Stress, Self-Efficacy, And Life Satisfaction Among Undergraduates.”Social Indicators Research 101.1 (2011): 155-172. PsycINFO. Web. 3 Dec. 2011.

Taste a Rainbow?

No, I’m not talking about Skittles, I’m talking about something a little bit better—a neurological condition. Sure, there are a number of strange disorders that can happen in the brain (Down Syndrome, Aphasia, ADHD, etc.) but out of all them, the one that fascinates me the most is Synesthesia. For those of you who already know what that is, it’s easy to see why I, or anyone else, can develop such a high interest in this particular disorder. For those of you are unfamiliar with Synesthesia, it is a neurological disorder where a person’s senses are mixed up. For example, a person with Synesthesia may see colors when they hear certain sounds, or see certain letters and numbers in different colors. In a 2006 interview with some syntesthetes by ABC News, they revealed what it’s like to live with this condition:

Fascinating right?

What’s interesting is that this disorder, or condition, is not located in the DSM-IV. However, there is a set of guidelines used when diagnosing a person with Synesthsia. Developed by Dr. Richard Cytowic, a leading researcher in Synethesia, Synesthesia must be:

  • Involuntary–Synesthetes have no control over their perceptions, nor do they think about them
  • Projected–The colors or visual simulations are not seen inside the mind but outside
  • Durable and Generic–Perceptions are usual the simple and the  same, they never change
  • Memorable–Synesthetes better rememeber the colors or tastes they experience than the actual object (for example: if the synesthete sees the color blue when hearing a person’s name, they will remember the color instead of the person’s name)
  • Emotional–The experiences usually cause the synesthete emotional reactions

Research suggests that one in 2,000 people will have Synesthesia, with the most common form being colored hearing: seeing colors when hearing voices, sounds, or music just like the synesthetes in the video above. It is such a complicated condition that many researchers are uncertain of how it develops. There are many hypothesis though, Baron- Cohen, PhD, who studies Synesthesia at the University of Cambridge, and his colleagues suggest that Synesthesia is the result of an overabundance of neural connections. This excess of neural connections breaks down the way the brains network usually functions which then yields the synesthetic experiences.Others researchers such as Daphne Maurer, PhD, and Psychologist at McMaster University, suggest that everyone is born with the neural connections to cause Synesthesia and that we eventually lose it, except for the select few, as we grow. Despite all these speculations and research, no studies have been able to be done on the brains of synesthetes as none have donated their brain to science. If you’re interested in this particular disorder as I am, here’s your chance! Go out and do research, and perhaps I’ll be looking up your study as reference.

Now, how do people with Synesthesia feel about having to live with this condition?

“If you ask synesthetes if they’d wish to be rid of it, they almost always say no,” Simon Baron-Cohen , PhD, says. “For them, it feels like that’s what normal experience is like. To have that taken away would make them feel like they were being deprived of one sense.”

Although disorders and conditions are usually considered unfortunate, Synesthesia is definitely one I wouldn’t mind having! It’s definitely a unique way to experience life and if i did have the disorder, I would donate my brain in a heartbeat.

What do you think about this disorder? Do you know of any other ones that are just as fascinating? Let me know, I’d love to learn!

For those of you who are really interested to learn more, here are some other videos that I think you will enjoy!

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Carpenter, S.. Everyday fantasia: The world of synesthesia. N.p., Marc. Web. 19 Nov 2011. <http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar01/synesthesia.asp&xgt;.

Jensen, A.. “Synesthesia.” . N.p., 2007. Web. 19 Nov 2011. <http://www.lurj.org/article.php/vol2n1/synesthesia.xml&gt;.

A Short History of Language

Have you ever wondered how language came to be? How is it that you’re able to understand what I’m writing right now and comprehend nothing when I say les autres mots en français? It’s a very complicated subject if you ask me, and it’s amazing how easy it is for our brain to processes all these different combinations of letters. When learning a language, I think it’s important to first know what is it that even make a language official and what rules these languages have.

Just recently, my psychology professor told us the definition of language which is:

1) A property of productivity. This allows us to say completely new things instead of “parroting” words and phrases we hear.This property states that we pull from our categorical info in different ways to create novel expressions.

2) A system of symbolic representations which breaks down into production (writing) and comprehension (reading).

Going along with language are the universal rules of limit : how to produce and comprehend language which consists of legal speech sounds (phonemes) which are strong together to make a word (morphemes)  and how we put phonemes together. These limits result in unlimited productivity. Electric Company anyone?

From a young age we are taught to distinguish between legal sounds and other sounds (such as sneezes or random babbles). An interesting point that my professor brought up was the idea of ambiguous words. Take for instance the word bat. Without context it can be interpreted as a weapon, an animal, or even the verb for ‘to bat.’ John Wixted from USCD did a series of experiments using ambiguous words and found that syntactic info and context are a necessity for understanding words.

I know this sounds very elementary but an understanding of the basics helps to bring light to the issue of what is it that makes a language. Of course, there are many theories of how language originated for instance, Darwin believed that the first words were onomatopoeic in that we imitated the sounds for the environment. His theory is often nicknamed the bow-wow or pooh pooh theory (Fabian 1988). Other theorists speculate that we derived our language for emotions: our cries of pain, laughter, and other human exclamations. With all these different theories of language floating around it’s hard to decide which one gives us the best explanation for language origin. Even today in our modern world it our language is changing, 20 years ago the word e-mail was unheard of and even the simple phrases we use in text messaging such as “txt’ or ‘l8r’ were unheard of. So, although it is difficult to decide which language origin theory is correct, I think the one thing for certain is the fact that language will continue to change.

Not Your Average Copy

Here’s a topic I’ve been excited about: the comparisons between original French films and their American remakes. There are so many different films out there, sometimes you don’t even realize it was a remake at all! And why bother spending more money on a remake? Can’t they just release the original films with subtitles? Turns out, there’s a reason why directors choose to remake films, and it’s not because they want credit in another country. No, once you begin analyzing and interpreting these films you begin to see that they are not in fact remakes, but adaptations created to suit the audiences cultural values. Hollywood knows what American audiences want and sometimes the French original doesn’t quite fit our preferences. Out of all the films to choose from, A very apparent and probably well known example of this is Godard’s 1960 film A Bout de Souffle and McBride’s 1983 remake Breathless.

Godard’s film can be seen as an example of nouvelle vague, a term used to describe films from the 1950s to the 1960s that were influenced by Hollywood cinema and rejected the ideas of classical cinema. Godard uses little technology and preferred using  hand held cameras and natural lighting. He experimented with dialogue and frequently used jump cuts to create a modernist and independent work. These creative choices of course result in a film that many consider to be “European Art” when in fact, the films can be considered as uniquely French. According to Mazdon’s book Encore Hollywood, Godard himself stressed his want for innovation by saying,

‘What I wanted to do was to take a conventional story and then remake, in different ways, all the cinema which had come before” (Mazdon 79).

Mazon continues to explore Godard’s use of intertextuality throughout the film. The main character, Michel, expresses a fascination with American culture: smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes, listening to Radio Luxembourg, and of course pursuing an American girl living in France. The film itself pays homage to the film noir style and american gangster films of the 1930s and 1940s. So, taking into account the strong influence of American culture in the film and Godard’s experimental choices,  A Bout de Souffle is a remake itself–a remake of traditional French cinema.

For those who haven’t seen the film, here is a clip that shows the experimental dialogue and style in which A Bout de Souffle is created in. Here, Michel is threatening to strangle Patricia, his American love interest, if she doesn’t smile by the count of eight.

Very experimental right? Ok, now compare that with this trailer for the American remake Breathless. (I would compare scenes side by side, but given the limited selection from Youtube, I don’t have much choice).

Click here to watch the trailer for A Bout de Souffle.

I think just the trailer itself shows such a difference between the tone and style of both films. The film shows many elements of Hollywood cinema: an very romantic relationship, more action and dialogue, and a famous celebrity (Richard Gere) to play lead role. Although the narrative of the film is the exact same as Godard’s film, it is important to remember that it is not simply a copy but an adaptation. Just as A Bout de Souffle is part of the nouvelle vague movement, there is evidence, according to Mazdon, of the Postmodernism movement. The main character, Jesse, has a love for the song Breathless” by Jerry Lewis and identifies himself with the main character from the comic book Silver Surfer, this is parallel to Michel’s infatuation with Humphrey Bogart. However, unlike Godard’s film, these objects are without reference and have no specific meaning; they are not considered “high art” or significant cultural references as Godard’s reference to Bogart is.

After watching both films side by side, you will begin to see how different, yet the same these two films are. Keep in mind they are not simply copies of each other, but rather an interpretation made to fit the culture it is being presented to. Both films explore the French and American identity in cinema. So next time you hear about a movie being remade, try not to immediately dismiss it as a form of unoriginality. Watch both films and see what specific choices the director has made.

For those of you who are curious, here are a few other French films and their original!

  • La Femme Nikita and Point of Return
  • Trois Hommes et un Couffin and Three Men and a Baby 
  • Un Diner de Cons and Dinner for Schmucks
  • La Cage aux Folles and Birdcage

Watch, analyze, and let me know what you find!

Hide Your Kids!

As introduced in the last post, and because Halloween is creeping up, I want to continue exploring the impact of horror movies—only this time, I want to discuss their impact on children. Does early exposure to horror movies have long lasting effects that remain until adulthood? Or does slow exposure to horror films prepare a child to be brave?

I believe that films in general (animated, comedy, etc.) have such an impact on children. They often idolize a favorite character and try to be like them which could help shape their personalities in the future. With this sort of influence, I can only imagine what kind of psychological effect horror movies can take on a child’s extremely malleable brain. A study by  University of Wisconsin researchers, Kristin Harrison and Joanne Cantor (1999), found that 90.2% of their study’s 150 college participants reported enduring fright effects from scary media exposed to them in childhood.  These enduring effects included inability to sleep during the night and an avoidance to situations similar to the events in the film. Although a majority of the findings reported this negative effect, the 9.8% of participants remaining actually reported a positive attitude change. For example, some participants reported a commitment to becoming a marine biologist (probably after watching Jaws) or an interest in learning about the Holocaust. So while a few did benefit from viewing the horror films, there is still that majority who still experience the lingering negative effects.

According to Science Daily‘s article “Halloween Horror Movies May Cause Emotional Problems in Young Children ” (Oct 2006), Dr. Schechter of The Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center says that:

“Watching ‘Friday the 13th’ with your child is probably not a good idea. Children under the age of 5 may be too young to actually watch and understand violent movies; however, they are psychologically affected by the scenes they are exposed to,” 

I would have to agree that children under that age of 5 may be too young because, based on Piaget’s Cognitive Stages, a child between the ages of 2-7 is still in the pre-operational stage. This means that the child is beginning to represent the world symbolically and cannot think in abstract, which makes it difficult for the child to understand the violence and paranormal phenomenons in films. At this stage the child is also heavily influenced by fantasy and imaginary thinking and may have a problem distinguishing fantasy from reality. Since they use symbols to represent their world, the images from the movies may retain in the mind for a long time.

My roommate, who actually refuses to watch any type of horror movies, once told me how the Oompa Loompas in the 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory used to scare her. She was about 7 at the time (just within the pre-operational stage) and up to now, even in her formal operational stage, still feels a little weird watching the Oompa Loompas dance around. This supports the idea that children really don’t understand movies, even innocent ones like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory may be perceived as scary just because of the images. I, myself was TERRIFIED of Thomas the Train Engine, something about the eyes just freaked me out and I would run to another room crying until they changed the channel.

I can't be the only one who thinks Thomas is freaky!

So, based on my findings and personal experiences, I don’t think it’s a the most wise decision to watch horror movies with your children. Wait until they’re grown up and can understand that zombies aren’t real and that the situations are purely fictional. Also, pay attention to ratings, they’re there for a reason and can really help when deciding what movie to watch with children. Don’t bet on your child being the 9.8% of children in Harrison and Cantor’s study, and save them (and you) from sleepless nights.

Have a safe and happy Halloween and if you are looking for something to watch with the young-ins, stick to It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and save The Exorcist for after their bedtime.