Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Few Reaction Papers From Pysch 101

Memory is an organism's basic mental ability to store, keep and recall information. It can help us remember numbers, formulas, experiences and emotions. However, our memories are rarely objective. For people with a varying, daily spectrum of emotions and perspectives, the light in which a memory is cast is often affected by emotions. As we retrieve and recall past events, the psychological principles of “state-dependent memory” and “mood-congruency” come into play by demonstrating how memories are more easily recalled when linked with unique or highly emotional experiences.

Clearly defined, state-dependent memory is a phenomenon that increases our capacity to remember things we have learned in a certain emotional state when again in that state. Events in the past may have caused us to experience specific emotions that later can aid us in recalling their associated events. Whether we were content, depressed or nervous when the memory was captured, we can more easily recall the event when we are in that situation again.

In relation to this principle, our moods also bias our memories. Many of our memories are mood-congruent. According to the theory, we seem to associate good or bad events with their accompanying emotions which become retrieval clues (Fiedler & others, 2001). For example, being depressed taints memories and gives them negative association when later recalled. Inversely, if in a “buoyant mood, people recall the world through rose-colored glasses. They judge themselves competent and effective, other people benevolent, happy events more likely” (Schwarz, 1987). Yet, as the text book points out, in a good or bad mood, we persist in attributing to reality our own changing judgments and memories (Myers, 2005).

These principles of associated memories strike me as inherently true. While I’d like to believe that we can recall memories as they really were and not be affected by our own deeply-held feelings—both at the time the memory was made and the time recalled—I think more often they are biased. I’ve often noticed that people can experience a similar event and engage in similar activities, yet come away with differing perspectives afterwards. Stemming from a cumulative difference in attitudes and emotions, these individuals can have profoundly separate views. In this way of thinking, it becomes somewhat difficult to completely trust other peoples’ view points. Often I find myself taking advice or opinions with a grain of salt, always doubting to some degree the truth of what the person is telling me since it is tainted by their convictions and experiences. I think this practice is both healthy and detrimental. On one hand, I can more easily sift the truth from falsehoods by looking at the situation objectively and reasonably. On the other hand, however, I find myself unable to trust others as completely as I would like.

The way I want to try to be, and the people I find happiest, are those who seek to cultivate a positive attitude and view their experiences in life favorably. In doing so, I think it becomes not only easier to recall memories in a favorable light, but those memories contribute to our current happiness by reinforcing the paradigm that we’ve have chosen to strive for. I want my most remembered memories to be those that come from highly-emotional, positive experiences.

Throughout the history of psychology, there has been an ongoing battle regarding what truly defines intelligence and how it can accurately be measured. In the search for an accurate assessment of one’s intellectual capacity, psychologists have argued that intelligence is both one general ability as well as several specific abilities. As these definitions and theories continue to broaden, the principle of emotional intelligence has been included in the debate.

Emotional intelligence, first known as social intelligence, is an important facet of the intelligence debate to take into account (Cantor as cited in Myers, 2005). Distinct from academic intelligence, commonly classified as “book smarts,” emotional intelligence deals with the ability to “perceive, understand, manage, and use emotions” (Myers, 2005). This emotional understanding does not deal with numbers and logic as much as it does with a sense of social savvy and self-awareness.

Mayer, Salovey, and David Caruso (as cited in Myers, 2005) have developed a test to measure general emotional intelligence as well as its four parts—the ability to perceive emotions, to understand emotions, to manage emotions, and to use emotions to enable adaptive or creative thinking. In Germany and the United States, those scoring high on tests dealing with emotional management enjoy better relationships, are better able to read others’ emotions, and avoid anxiety and depression (Lopes as cited in Myers, 2005). People with a high amount of this type of intelligence often can more easily “delay gratification in pursuit of long-range rewards” (Myers, 2005). Though an individual may be academically smart, emotionally intelligent people often enjoy more marital and professional success.

I think that the inclusion of emotional intelligence into the spectrum of intelligence analysis is essential to accurately measure someone’s aptitude. Humans are inherently emotional and therefore it makes sense that including the measurement of this kind of intelligence is necessary. Though simple and basic social behaviors are noted and praised such as academic success, often it is the subtle, understanding responses that establish someone’s emotional intelligence in a given situation. In a social setting, I find myself drawn to those who “just get it,” or in other words have a high degree of emotional intelligence and can relate to me. As the studies pointed out in the book, people with a good amount of this type of intelligence are often successful in their marriages, relationships and even professions. I think there is need for a people who understand circumstances, people and relationships.

Another important trait of someone with high emotional intelligence I find important is a distinct sense of awareness, both for the individual and for others. I think having this attribute more easily allows you to meet peoples’ needs and to be able to carry yourself in a way that is respectful or needful. To me, the people I view as the most intelligent are those who can anticipate someone’s social needs and be able to “read them” in a sense. I’ve always valued being able to find out who a person truly is and then complement their personality by identifying what is most meaningful to them and playing to their strengths and interests. This ability is useful in a variety of situations as it enriches relationships and facilitates greater harmony.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Collegiate Mid-life Crisis

I’ve noticed that as humans, we seem to create our own boundaries, our own ruts. We get in a groove and tie off our lives in a nice, little bow. After all, it’s easy. It’s safe. It’s comfortable.

This theory applies to relationships as well. Sometimes we think we know a person so well yet fail to recognize all of their inner complexities—the gray area within the black-and-white of the personality that we’ve affixed them.

That’s why I think it’s so refreshing to step back once in a while and regain perspective—whether that means retreating to an isolated place of reflection with a view or whether that means stepping out of ourselves and being spontaneous and carefree.

This is part of the reason why my best friend and I have begun planning out a 2,000 mile road trip amidst our collegiate midlife crisis. Luggage will be minimal. Our destination is both metaphorical and literal: the happiest place on earth. The one and only Disney World. More details sure to come.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sunday Reflections

Do you ever get that feeling that stems from a moment or experience that you wish you could hold on to for your entire life? A clear sense of who are you are or an undeniable realization of what’s really important to you, your ultimate goals down the road? I don’t know what it was today…just a regular Sunday, but as I now attempt to get work done for school I can’t help but ponder, contemplate, meditate—whatever you want to label it as—in a stream-of-consciousness fashion, the things I’m grateful for. It's a blessing to know that you can learn how to truly appreciate something while it's still around. I’m trying to bridge the gap between reality and my theoretic idea of true happiness, especially in regards to my future. I’m wondering how close I can come. I can imagine a dozen different paths to take in my professional life as well as important relationships that I don’t want to let go of. Do I have to compromise some of the things I care about or can I have it all? This is all a search for clarity I suppose. Maybe these questions aren’t supposed to be answered in an instant, but, rather through a culmination of big events and small moments, through different people and defining experiences—the daily trappings of life. I know God knows what’s down the road and hopefully I can catch that vision. I’m just holding on for the ride.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trip To Snowbird

It was an unusually warm morning at the base of the mountain and the sun was beaming. Upon inspection, there were few, if any, signs of wind, ice or long lift lines to be found. The sprawling mountains were set majestically against the blue hue of the sky, and the skiers seemed to bustle with urgency to take advantage of such a utopian day.

It was mid-morning, about 10:30 a.m., and after picking my dad up from the Salt Lake City airport, we headed out for our coveted, annual ski excursion. Our destination, Snowbird Ski Resort, is nestled in the Little Cottonwood Canyon, roughly 11 miles east of Sandy, UT. Finally, we arrived at our destination and began a memorable day that any avid skier would be envious of.

“You guys got lucky,” Carly, a Snowbird lift supervisor, said. “The lift lines are usually much longer, almost as far back as the lodge.”

Snowbird is a challenging resort and this difficulty derives from its large number of black diamond ski runs, attempted primarily by experts. I was most impressed by the variety of terrain and expansive views the mountain had to offer, however.

The favorite section of the mountain for most of the patrons seemed to be Hidden Peak, which fed into some of our favorite runs, “Regulator Johnson” and “Election.” The peak, which is the highest point at Snowbird and measured at 11,000 ft. according to the trail map, offers a wide view of the Gad Valley as well as the Salt Lake valley in the distance.

On one of rides back up the mountain on the “Mid-Gad” lift, we spoke to some fellow skiers who had a distinctly laid-back, western feel about them. We talked about the resort, wallyball, and life in general. Their demeanor seemed to perfectly capture the feeling of being on the mountain that day.

According to the ski resort’s website, Snowbird opened in December of 1971 with three lifts, the Tram, the Lodge at Snowbird and the Snowbird Center. Snowbird is considered prestigious as far as ski resorts go. It has been consistently ranked as the second best resort in North America, being runner-up to the famed Whistler Blackcomb resort in Canada, according to SKI Magazine.

“This was pretty much a perfect day for skiing,” my dad concluded.

I couldn’t help but agree.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bridging the Gap Between Cultures

The city is large and shaped like a giant crater, set 12,000 ft. above sea level. The outer edge holds the poorer section of the city’s population, while the wealthier communities with 15th century Spanish houses and high-rise buildings are in the center, like the nucleus of a living cell.

It was 7:30 a.m. in La Paz, Bolivia and Vanessa Rada was just waking up. She got up, got dressed, and after her usual breakfast of hot chocolate she headed out for Universidad de Mayor San Andres, the local state college she attended with roughly the same student population as BYU.

Rada was studying music and had been playing the clarinet for years. She settled into a seat in one of her typical classes with over a hundred people in attendance and began to listen, while she contemplated the fun weekend of salsa dancing she would have.

It was just another day in the life of Vanessa Rada. Until the day she began her journey that would eventually land her on American soil at BYU.

“Going to BYU has been a dream of mine for a long time, even before there was a possibility of coming,” Rada said. “I wrote a letter to a music teacher at BYU three years before I even applied.”

Despite the desire of Rada and her sister to attend BYU, they didn’t have the money necessary to seize such an opportunity. Then, things in La Paz began to get worse.

Though La Paz is not the capital of Bolivia, Rada said that most major political decisions take place there. This being the case, there were constant riots and political unrest near where she lived and her parents began to worry about the safety and future of their daughters. Then Rada’s parents got divorced and added to her concern.

However, once the decision was made to send Rada and her sister to America, things seemed to fall into place for the family.

“God opened the doors wide for us,” Rada said. “My parents stopped fighting for a while and we got approved for a visa and bought affordable airplane tickets the day we got accepted into BYU.”

After attending BYU-Hawaii in a language immersion program for 6 months, Rada finally arrived in Provo in the summer of 2007.

Rada said that she has had an interest in different cultures and languages for many years. In Bolivia, Rada learned Hebrew, studied Jewish history, knows some Mongolian, Mandarin, Korean, and understands a lot of Portuguese. However, even her experience with other cultures didn’t completely prepare her for the transition to America.

“The hardest thing for me about the move was the culture shock being in Hawaii and Utah,” Rada said. “I didn’t realize how poor my country was until I got there. It was sad seeing people waste so much food while people in my country are starving.” Rada called it a “cultural contradiction.”

Rada also identified additional cultural differences between Bolivia and the United States. She explained that the community she is familiar with is close-knit.

“Everyone knows each other in Latin communities,” she said.

She described the individual nature of people in Provo as “separate and divided.” Despite these differences in culture, Rada is thankful for her chance to attend BYU.

“BYU is everything I thought it would be,” she said. “I have no regrets and I’m very grateful to be here. God has given me this chance to grow to the best of my potential--something I couldn’t do at home. Even though I can’t see my family and friends, this is where I’m supposed to be.”
Rada hopes to graduate with a degree in musical instruction and later apply for a master’s degree in art management.

Discussing her plans for the future, Rada said, “I’d like to be married, keep working on the things that I love, and be able to share my Bolivian traditions and culture with my husband and family.
“People express love in different ways, but we’re really the same. We value our families, we value our friends, and we like to eat,” she said with a laugh.

It’s 10:30 p.m. in Provo, Utah and Vanessa Rada is preparing for another day at BYU.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Obituary

Chase Larson, 21, dies of elation

Chase Larson, a deceivingly perceptive college student known for his long reputed search for enduring happiness, died in Provo on Saturday from complications of experiencing too much bliss and content within his life this weekend. He was 21 years old.

His death came in the wake of so much potential. He finally was recognized as coming into his own after choosing a major and finding a girlfriend. In ironic sadness, the search for euphoria and fulfillment ended late Saturday as his life was cut tragically short on the eve of Valentine’s Day. It can be said with conviction, however, that he “died happy.”

Seemingly soft-spoken and indifferent, Larson never looked the part of an assertive and quick-witted character. Beneath this fa├žade of demureness, Larson enjoyed spending time with friends, playing sports, and had an irrevocable infatuation with music of all flavors. He also always clung to a firm belief in God, and tried to live his life in an according manner.

He was born in Palo Alto, CA on April 9, 1987, but spent most of his life split between Scottsdale, AZ and the Washington, D.C. area. He graduated from Desert Mountain High School in 2005 and was enrolled in his junior year at Brigham Young University at the time of his death.He is survived by his parents, Mark and Melanie Larson, as well as his brothers, Geoffrey and Grey who reside in Scottsdale, AZ.

Funeral services will be held at 4:00 p.m. at Muse Music, the local music club in Provo, Utah, on Feb. 21 where friends and family can come to pay their respects while enjoying his favorite art form.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Wordsworthian Composition

Lines Composed a Few Miles below BYU

Amid the bedlam of the city;
The street lamps, passing car lights, and buildings strewn about,
Stretches the vastness of God’s creations.
Above the hum of restless murmurs and bustling urgency
Transcendent of our current sphere,
Seemingly ephemeral and far from here
Lies the door to infinity.
Numberless angelic musicians strike the chords of their creation,
Staccato stars above,
The flowing melody of ancient streams,
A swaying flower’s fluttering waltz
All alluring and familiar, like an old refrain
Sing together in a celestial symphony
That carries into the boundless expanse of our Master’s dominion.
Oh sweet bliss! Fleeting memories of simplicity and peace abound,
Yet now I search and search and not a sound;
Will my former joy again be found?
How trivial we seem in the midst of such grandeur,
Yet in comparison
Find wisdom, and strength
Through God’s evident concern.
Through chilling frosts of cold in December
Comes the warming thought of a May since past,
And through this notion lights an ember
Where fear and weakness melt away at last.

A Memorable Night of Music

A few months ago I had the chance to go to a Kalai & Benton Paul concert over at Thanksgiving Point in Utah. Aside from the night's magic spell that was cast from the simple facts that: A) I was on a exceptionally romantic date, and B) the Autumn air was crisp and was perfectly complimented with a free cup o' hot chocolate, there was a certain je ne sais quoi about the concert's main act. Kalai, a Hawaiian born singer-songwriter, has a sound that's a melting pot of genres, past and present. Picture a mix between Ben Harper, John Mayer, James Taylor, and Bob Marley and you'll start to get an idea of his particular brand of sound. He ranges from acoustic guitar ballads, to blues, to jazz, to an assortment of reggae-inspired compositions, all the while soaring through fast-paced guitar solos and belting out the chorus in falsetto. He's released five CD's thus far. My current favorites include Acoustacism (mostly romantic acoustic ballads), Crows Feet (a good display of his range of styles and a little more upbeat), and his latest album A Pauper's Hymnal (a bluesy, folksy take on some popular hymns).

Check out Kalai here: