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Category contains 32 blog entries contributed to teamblogs

Can It Be Both Ways?

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

The image of a soldier is one that usually includes toughness, persevering against the odds, withstanding physical and psychological trauma, and one who is combat efficient, yet able to be function in a contributory manner in civilian life. Such an image is found in favor for many but it is an image that runs into  conflict when post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comes into the picture.

Category D under diagnostic criteria for 309.81 PTSD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR)  includes the occurrence of two or more of the following: (1) difficulty falling or staying asleep, (2) irritability or outbursts of anger, (3) difficulty concentrating, (4) hyper-vigilance, and (5) exaggerated startle response. Such symptoms, especially when combined with others such as acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (flashbacks), responding to cues with physiological reactivity, and feelings of detachment from others lead to a difficult scenario.

What are the potential consequences of asking a soldier to be exposed to the many horrors of war (thus risking PTSD occurrence) while at the same time trying to keep intact the sense of unity and comradeship that is seen as essential in the teamwork element of combat? If PTSD is inevitable in the circumstances of war, what would happen to the tight bond, seen as essential for a group of soldiers who are depending on the individual next to them, knowing that a peer may need to be removed as a means of dealing with a potentially debilitating disorder, one that could put the individual themself, as well as others, at risk?

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Tagged in: DSM-IV-TR PTSD Soldier War
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A Debt That Can Never Be Repaid?

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

After someone has committed a crime and is convicted, or pleads guilty, a punishment is determined. We often ask whether the punishment fits the crime. We assume the offender has taken something from society as a result of the offense and this must be repaid through punishment. This concept of retribution even invades the way we speak about punishment. For example, once a person completes a prison term we often say that they have “paid their debt to society.”

This debt-paying idea, however, does not really accurately describe the current state of affairs in the world of punishment. If I borrow money for a car and then pay the loan off in the agreed upon time frame with the agreed upon interest, then my debt is paid. The loan officer doesn’t show up two years down the road and ask for another payment. Three years after my debt has been paid the repo men don’t bring the tow truck to my house in the middle of the night. In punishment, additional hardships beyond the debt paid to society are called collateral consequences.

Collateral consequences can come in many forms such as restrictions on gun ownership, ability to serve on a jury, and loss of voting rights. Perhaps the most vexing collateral consequence of a conviction is related to employment. An ex-convict’s ability to gain and maintain a job may prevent a later return to criminal activity. However, many employers may not be willing to hire someone with a criminal conviction. These concerns can be legitimate. If I am a business owner, I don’t want to deal with an employee who may steal from me, injure co-workers or customers, deal drugs in my workplace, or show up intoxicated.

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Mitt Romney: A Sign of Mormon Acceptance?

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

Whether or not you like Mitt Romney's politics, there is another question that his campaign raises for the American culture. Does the fact that he is a Mormon candidate for president mean the the Mormon Church has reached a cultural acceptance on the level of a Baptist, Methodist, or Catholic? 

Sociologists use the labels of Church, Sect, and New Religious Movement (often called a cult) to describe a religious organization in relationship to its surounding culture. A Church is in low tension with its culture-- citizens may even feel comfortable voting in an election at a "church." A Sect is a group that has rejected cultural values, and thus the culture has in turn looked at them with suspicion. We might think of the Amish as an example of a Sect-- their rejection of technology and choice of clothing are strange to the surrounding cultural environment. A Cult exists in the highest level of tension with the culture at large. The tension is so high, that cults are often viewed as dangerous, and the government may even get involved actively in restraining their activities. 

The Mormons have slowly over the years adapted to their surrounding cultural environment, to achieve more acceptance by the culture.  Thus they have moved from being viewed as a cultural threat (with socially suspicious practices such as polygamous marriages, rumors of secret rituals behind closed doors), to a religious movement that many in the culture view with acceptance and even honor. 

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Social Exclusion

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

blog -social_exclusion_pic

You've experienced it! We all have to one degree or another; social exclusion. It might be casual. You are with friends or acquaintances. A conversation is ongoing while you all sit around a large table in a restaurant. You have been quiet, but decide now to contribute your point of view to the conversation. When you have finished, there is quiet. Some heads have turned your direction, others are looking down at their plate of food. The conversation has come to a halt. Have you said something stupid, or what? You don't know. For whatever reasons, your words are now being totally ignored and the others re-engage conversation to where it was before you entered.

This might be a simple: "just get over it" situation. But it's not! You are feeling the pain of social exclusion. And it's real. The brain will confirm it. Multiple studies have utilized brain imaging to assess its activity while in a similar, yet seemingly less intense situation. While you lay prone and motionless in an MRI machine, you watch as 3 animated characters play catch with a ball. One of them is identified as you. The other 2 have been identified to you as persons at other computer sites. They, like you, have buttons to push which will determine exactly who your little animated character will throw the ball to when you have it in your possession. Everything is going very smoothly. The ball is being passed around. Then, quite unexpectedly, you notice neither one of them is throwing the ball to you—20, 30, 40 throws and none of them are coming to you. Do you feel it? You bet you do.

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Bomb Squad Visits MNU Criminal Justice Class

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

Imagine if a pickup truck stopped at the busy intersection of Mur-Len and Santa Fe. You watch as one man climbs out of the truck and gets into the back of a sedan parked nextIMG 0179 to the truck. This sedan then speeds away, leaving the truck in the street. You peer into the back of the truck and see what appear to be a large number of crudely made pipe bombs. After you run away as fast as possible and dial 911, the City of Olathe Fire Department’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team leap into action and neutralize the explosives.

On April 13th, members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team and Olathe Fire Chief Dr. Jeff DeGraffenreid visited the Terrorism and Transnational Crime class at MNU. Prior to this visit, students in the class completed Federal Emergency Management training on the Incident Command System that would be used to react to a local terrorist attack. Dr. DeGraffenreid discussed the important role that the Olathe Fire Department would play in responding to a terrorist attack, if just such an unfortunate incident were to occur.

IMG 0199Members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team also discussed the high-tech equipment they use, including the blast suit and bomb disposal robot, and the extensive training that they have completed. Students were able to see this equipment up close and were able to appreciate the impressive level of expertise that is present within the local area. Thanks to Dr. DeGraffenreid and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team!

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Emerging Adulthood: More Than a Decade Later

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

In 2000 Jeffrey Arnett wrote a seminal article entitled Emerging Adulthood. In the article he proposed a theory stating that in industrialized cultures the transition from adolescence to adulthood was actually precluded by a several year period (age 18-25) which he called emerging adulthood. He noted significant changes in the last several decades in the average age of marriage, occupational beginning, and parenthood, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Census. Arnett proposed it would be more accurate and beneficial to recognize the emerging adulthood stage as a distinct time period of development. While one is of legal age, often one is not yet involved in marriage, desired occupation, or parenthood.

My question is what are the advantages and disadvantages of recognizing emerging adulthood as a distinct and separate period of development between adolescence and young adulthood?

Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through   the twenties. American Psychologist, 55(5), 469-480. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.55.5.469

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A Defense of Women: Ashley Judd's Withering Media Critique

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

Ashley Judd is not a person that I typically look to for insight into the psychological and social world of gender relations and self-presentation.  However, her recent post in the Daily Beast, while reactionary to unfounded and speculative criticism, is nonetheless a bravely articulate cultural critique that is refreshingly nuanced and poignant.  For those unfamiliar with the precipitating events, recently Ms. Judd was the subject of media scrutiny and criticism regarding photos that were taken in which her face appeared somewhat “puffy” (I frankly couldn’t tell you what exactly is meant by puffy – but apparently its not a good thing).  The trigger to Ms. Judd’s reaction seems predicated by the baseless conclusions drawn by multiple media outlets that her “puffiness” must be a sign that she has had plastic surgery or other facial “work”  (she was actually receiving steroid treatments for a recent illness). Ms. Judd’s response is not only to criticize the misogynistic and voyeuristic nature of our current media, but also to point out how both men and women operate to objectify and belittle women in countless ways both consciously and unconsciously. In the accompanying NBC interview she actually describes the painful results of being humiliated and excoriated by media and how this relates to stories of all women (got to love anyone who can work the word excoriate into an interview). It is not often that actors/public figures call out the very medium from which they derive their livelihood – kudos to Ms. Judd!  Read Ms. Judd’s post at the Daily Beast.

Tagged in: Gender Media Psychology
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The Sociology of the Hunger Games

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

The Hunger Games are a current set of popular books recently released as a movie. Many students have commented on the sociological content. One of my students, Frank Holleman, wrote a fantastic Facebook post, describing the sociology lessons he saw in it. I asked his permission to share a portion of it. 

Since MNU is having a "Hunger Gamble" meal this week, where students will simulate world circumstances by being put into "districts" to eat, and since we are bringing back our Sociology of Film class this Summer, I thought this was a timely post. Here are one sociology student's thoughts on the Hunger Games:

The whole movie starts off with this sense of poverty. Shooting a deer... to sell it and survive. The children are then assembled and two are chosen to participate in the Hunger Games and get the "privilege" of visiting the capitol. You immediately see the difference of cultures. Peter and Katniss travel in a high luxury train, with baked goodies and the best of best provided for them. The capitol is a display of money, excess and "fashion". While the people of district 12 dress in a very modest and traditional way, the people here look rather ridiculous. Big, fancy, complicated, exaggerated dresses and gender independent make-up that perfectly matches the dresses in its stupidity. Peter and Katniss come out of a world of hunger and through a train ride they arrive in this world of un-necessity and overflow.

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Self-Defense and the Trayvon Martin Case

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

There is no doubt about it, the Trayvon Martin case is a tragedy. For those unfamiliar with the case there is discussion from CBS and the Christian Science Monitor. The City of Sanford has recently released the relevant 911 calls and several police reports. While the facts are still coming to light, there are questions surrounding the application, and possible misunderstanding, of the “stand your ground” doctrine of self-defense.

In a general sense, this doctrine allows a person to claim self-defense even though they did not retreat from the confrontation. For example, if I am walking down the street, minding my own business, and I am attacked by a man with a knife I am allowed to return the attack with my own knife. I can claim self-defense, even though I could have run away from my attacker.

That’s all that stand your ground laws really mean. And here is one potential issue with the Martin case – from the 911 calls it may be possible that Zimmerman was pursuing Martin. Again, the facts are still not clear here, but if this is true then Zimmerman did not react to this incident, he created it by pursuing Martin. However, Zimmerman's account according to the Orlando Sentinel paints Martin as the attacker.

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Erase Those Fears

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

erase those_fears_smallFor decades, neuroscience has been in full agreement on this issue.  Once a memory has weathered the vulnerable early stage of neural processing, it becomes almost immutable.  With ease of effort, we can now filter through a massive collection of personalized memories along with the necessary facts for our life's maintenance; social security numbers, passwords, addresses, and the car we drive.  We delight in the brains capacity for retaining and retrieving this precious commodity we call memory.

But, it can also be a curse.  Consider the bank cashier.  Quietly, two disguised men walk into your bank brandishing guns.  They order everyone to the floor, bind your hands behind your back and demand you give them the combination to the safe.  Not knowing it, you try in vain to convince them of the fact.  A crack to the back of your head with the butt of a gun tells you they are not convinced.  You feel the warmth of your life's body fluid flowing down past your ear and pooling onto the floor.  You hear another attacker say: "Go ahead and blow his head off if he doesn't tell you".  You're convinced they will do just that, right there as you lay on the cold marble floor of the bank.  But they don't.  For some reason they run out empty-handed.  You are safe.  But your ordeal has just begun: violent nightmares, terrors at the mere hint of another persons aggressive behavior.  You are no longer at east when behind the tellers window.  You know you will soon have to quit your job.  If only you could just forget this single frightful day.

Amazingly, brain researchers now believe this is possible.  Each old memory, they are now finding out, when retrieved goes through the same vulnerable stage as it did originally.  This is a re-consolidation phase of the memory retrieval.  Some drugs, such as propranolol, when given following a memory retrieval seem to interfere with the re-consolidation processing and blunt the remembering.  Some forms of behavioral therapy seem to be effective also in memory erasing.

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It’s Not Over Yet: Changes to the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) Are Here

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

Although you thought or maybe hoped that the ACT/SAT was the last standardized test you would have to take in your scholastic career, you may be wrong.   If you have graduated or are currently in college and plan on getting an advanced degree you are probably aware that many graduate schools have an entrance exam requirement. For most majors in psychology, sociology or criminal justice that test would be the Graduate Record Exam or the GRE.  Other versions are more discipline specific such as the LSAT for law school, the GMAT for business, and the MCAT for medical school.  While the GRE general test has been a graduate school admissions hoop for many years, recent changes to the exam attempt to update the format and make it more relevant to the increased rigor of graduate school.

If you have not researched the GRE here are a few things you may want to be prepared for:

Length:  The new GRE will take a bit longer to complete: about 3 hours and 45 minutes.  Most people take it in its computer-generated format where you will be able to skip over questions and come back to them later, as well as edit your answers. 

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About This Blog

OhBehave is the outreach blog of the MNU Behavioral Sciences Department. In matters related to Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice you will find information and updates geared to keep students and professionals abreast of the latest research, professional developments, and important trends in each field. As we seek a life of purpose, the material presented in this blog is meant to enhance and deepen our understanding of people and our world so that we may intentionally reflect the grace and peace of our creator.