Problem Solving (Week 19)

Problem solving, I think this is one of the most essential skills that one must have in order to survive the ebbs and flows of life, even if they are trivial. Lack of problem solving skills is a big nuisance for everyone. They will be in a “dead-end” once they encounter any hardships, regardless of its intensity. This is as if you do not possess the immunity system and you are susceptible to any disease that normal people cannot be affected such as a mere cold.

In my opinion, it depends on the conditions the situation I am facing offers, these conditions could be, for instance, time limit and intensity. I think these two prevalent conditions affect my actions. If there is time to solve a problem and it is not very difficult, I can be collected and calmly think of a solution; if there is a little time and the problem is very difficult, then my instinct will take over and wing the problem without any proper thoughts at all. So, personally, there are some times that I am as vulnerable to every disease as if I am an AIDS victim.

Sometimes, when I make my artwork, no matter if it is traditional or digital, I will encounter problems such as choosing the wrong color or partially stumped when I don’t know how to draw a human body part as I do not excel in drawing human anatomy. But since there is no due date or any time limit, I can composedly find a solution to these troubles, such as reciting the heuristical proportions of body parts or surfing the Net to get a reference image when I cannot recall them for the problem of not knowing how to draw a body part.

During the process of problem solving, there are many hindrances that prevents us from successfully doing so, such as mental sets and functional fixedness that obscures our flexibility and the four types of biases featured in the textbook that hinders our judgment and making decision.

Whenever I have to open the lid of something but it is too tight for me to just use my own strength, I give up, without knowing that a cloth of any sorts such as a handkerchief can be used to open lids much more effectively because it provides much more strength to grab those stubborn lids. Handkerchiefs are not only for cleaning your face after a wash. I do not “think outside of the box” are blocked by functional fixedness and mental set since I always use the same solution, which is brute force in this case, to open those lids.

Stereotypes are, in my opinion, the greatest example of representative bias, it is also a “tragedy of the commons”. Representative bias is a type of bias in which one makes a false assumption that people or events within a category possess the same characteristics. Take a look at a picture at the right side:

From "American Born Chinese" (graphic novel)

This is a very stereotypical representation of Chinese-American people. If you read at the speech bubble, you can see that the artist writes in a very heavy Chinese-accented English with reference to the agricultural culture of China. This could be an inference (or even a satire!) to how Americans think of Chinese-Americans and it is representative bias in action. This kind of bias could offend a race that you are talking about and can even be referred as “racists”. In our era, Asians (especially Chinese and Japanese) receive many stereotypes that not all Asians have. For example, all Asians are nerdy and extremely good at math. I am terrible at math and those people assume that I am extremely good at math just because I am Asian. Sadly, these stereotypes still lingers around this globalized world in our era.


Posted by on 7 April 2012 in Uncategorized


Language – Langue – Idioma (Week 18)

Language, when you talk about it, I get very excited. As you may not know, I am an extreme “closet language geek”, or “closet linguist”. I agree with Mr. Marshall on the idea that we do not think about it much, but as a language geek, I think about languages a lot. I am almost exposed to languages everyday because I think about it very much because I find languages a very beautiful and fascinating thing, n’est-ce pas?

I have no memory of learning a language when I was a little three-year-old innocent child until my mother tells me the story of how I learned my mother-tongue, Vietnamese. My mother said that at the very first moment the acquisition of Vietnamese, it took me only fifteen minutes to learn all 29 letters of the Vietnamese alphabet. What astonished my mother more is that I pronounced every single letter and the first Vietnamese words very well even though there were little mistakes but they were very minor. Some time later, I began to read a whole newspaper article without any problem at all, probably because I could utilize the sound of each letter and combine them rapidly inside my childish mind. After that, I began to experience naming explosion. For some apparent reasons, I have a vivid memory that my mom was out for work as a real-estate agent and I stayed home with my good ol’ baby-sitter. While she was cooking food for the wee me, I came to her and suddenly naming all the kitchen utensils, food and different kinds of food containers I see in front of me! My mother told me that it was hilarious that I labeled ants and ears in a very weird name in Vietnamese since it was too hard for me to say those two particular words. Namely, “bi bi bò bỏ” for an ant and “bồ xá” for an ear… (if you know how to say those two in Vietnamese, that is). Then, my mom said that I commit little overregularization but I frequently speaks in broken Vietnamese with just only two words or more that one can still understand, that is telegraphic speech. I only said “want milk” in Vietnamese back then when I wanted milk, my favorite drink of all time.

Oh yes! Vietnamese and English, they are totally different language with no relation at all in terms of language family tree. Consequently, both have very different syntax, grammar, morphemes and phonemes when compared, like Mr. M. said in his post. For example, the verb “to be” is conjugated according to the subject pronoun you use (e.g. he), but in Vietnamese, you only have to simply put the word “là” after any subject pronoun. For example, “tôi là” and “họ là” means “I am” and “they are”, respectively. This makes Vietnamese easier to learn because there is no conjugation in Vietnamese at all regardless of tenses, while English does, but still there are no big changes in conjugated verbs as French, this Romance language have regular AND irregular conjugations that you must memorize! Speaking about phonemes, Vietnamese does not have the sound of the diphthong “th”, very many Vietnamese that learn English have trouble pronouncing these simple yet very common word: “three”, “the”, “those” etc. Additionally, Vietnamese does not produce air when pronouncing the sound of a word’s last consonant, such as “six”. As a result, my mother cannot properly say “six cats”, instead you will hear her say “sick cat”. However, English does not have tones like Vietnamese and Mandarin, so it is very hard for many Westerners to learn Mandarin and even harder for Vietnamese because the former has four tones while the latter has six tones!!

As for Whorf’s linguistic relavity hypothesis, I totally agree that language affects our thoughts and our way of percepting the world (world view)! As a multilingual person, I can say that language reflects culture through various aspects, mostly their lexicon and their unique phonemes. But, I think the most prominent aspect to prove this hypothesis is correct is proverbs. Proverbs are sayings that express a culture’s beliefs, usually using metaphors or symbolism. For example, some of you Vietnamese out there must have heard this following Vietnamese proverb before: “eat Chinese food, live in a Western-styled house, marry a Japanese wife”? This is a popular notion that refers to how Vietnamese husbands think an ideal life should be, that is, referring to how Vietnamese husbands view the world.

P.S. I am such a closet linguist….. *sigh*

Does body language count as languages?


Posted by on 4 April 2012 in Uncategorized


Memory (Week 17)

Memory, you can never trust them wholly, that is my perspective at the very least. You can’t really just dump concepts, facts, emotions into your mind and then let it be stored inside your head like computers. There are some strategies that “supervise” those memories, or else they will eventually “commit escapade”.

Since I am a very visual learner, I tend to visualize any knowledge, concepts, especially facts and procedures. A vivid image that reflects such concepts appears. For example, i will form an image of a big, winged, slim, beaked reptile with thin membrane on both sides of its wings upon hearing one’s description of a pterodactyl. That is one of my most commonly used techniques which enhances my memory of these declarative memories by using prototypical imagery. Another handy technique that I frequently use is elaborative rehearsal. If you know me well, you will know that I absolutely abhor memorizing just by repeating it continuously until you remember, maintenance rehearsal is not my memorization “style” at all. I almost always find a good example that reflects the utilization of that very concepts and facts or a sensible reason that shows the idea behind the concepts, facts. For instance, if I have to learn the reason why birds can fly, I do not just simply cram the reasons written on the textbook into my working memory. I will definitely do extra research in a variety of ways such as looking for videos that illustrates the physics of flying by three-dimensional CGI or even better, have a closer look at the anatomy of a bird’s pair of wings! The most frequently used techniques to support memorization of all is mnemonic device, it acquires the connection between new materials with already-existing materials to enhance memory. It is particularly and extremely handy to learn languages, in my case, learning French. In order to remember the French word for “doll”, which is “poupée”, I simply have to compare the Vietnamese word for doll is “búp bê”. Those two words are phonetically similar so it is a piece of cake for me to memorize the word “doll” in French. In linguistics, such similarity is called cognates. It is mnemonics at its greatest!

Despite having those fantastic memorization-enhancing techniques, our memory still commits one of the seven “sins” and of course, everyone including me has encountered it before. During the test, I remembered that I encountered transience, the moment that our memory evanesces. I was certain that I remembered one of the seven sins but when the test asked a question about one sin, I forgot two of them! Another sin that I encountered is absent-mindedness, it is very common among students because sometimes you know that the choice you choose is correct in mutiple-choice questions, but then you write down the wrong choice without your awareness at all. My case is that I intended to choose choice B, but i actually write down choice C! What makes this matter worse is that I do not check my answers again when I finish.

Unfortunately, I have no techniques that can prevent those sins to happen again because I have no idea how to. It is up to me to be prudent at all cost and all time during tests. It is up to my own odds, after all. It would be great if anybody here can give me some suggestions 🙂


Posted by on 20 March 2012 in Uncategorized


Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is a process in which the frequency of behaviors are either increased or decreased by reinforcements or punishments. In our life, operant conditioning happens very frequently. In our childhood, our behaviors are shaped by simple reinforcements (a.k.a. reward) such as giving candies or our parents’ kisses if we elicit behaviors our parents consider good. Our behaviors are also shaped by punishments, too. We receive light beatings or scoldings if we elecit behaviors our parents consider bad. For instance, a child will be scolded if the child sucks his/her own fingers or making a mess in his room. This form of learning is a lot more common and seems easier to understand but it is more complicated than we thought.

Operant conditioning has four types, namely positive / negative reinforcement and positive / negative punishment. First, reinforcement is to make the behavior happen more frequently, while punishment make the behavior less likely to happen. Additionally, positive and negative has nothing to do with “good” and “bad”, it’s more related to “additive” and “subtractive”. For the term positive, it involves something that is being given, while negative involves something that is being removed. However, both positive and negative’s “something” must be worthwhile and desirable. In order to know how it works, there will be one example for each of the four:

  • Positive reinforcement: increasing the behavior by giving something. For example, a dog catches the ball as its owner wants, the dog receives food as a reward upon doing a great job on catching the ball for the owner.
  • Negative reinforcement: increasing the behavior by removing something. For example, my Taiwanese classmates usually does not pay attention to my teachers’ lecture. One of the many ways my teachers to get them pay attention is to reduce the amount of homework.
  • Positive punishment: decreasing the behavior by giving something. For example, many Vietnamese or even Asians parents beat their children up upon seeing their children’s low grades. To force them to get good grades, they inflict, or “give”, pain on their children.
  • Negative punishment: decreasing the behavior by removing something. For example, another way to let my Taiwanese classmates pay attention to the teachers’ lectures again is by turning off the air conditioner. This method is very effective since it removes the pleasurable temperature from the air conditioner, leaving the classroom hot again.

In my opinion, operant conditioning is very effective for shaping a subject’s behavior. In fact, many species do so, including us, of course! However, the drawback of this form of learning is that they can either spoil the subject if there are too many reinforcements or traumatizes the subject if there are too many punishments. There must be an equivalence between the two so that none of the two scales are heavier than each other. Unfortunately, countless people abuse operant conditioning for their selfish needs. For instance, a master threatens to kill his / her slave if the slave does not follow the master’s order or doing a terrible job on what the master desires.

This is a very funny example of operant conditioning (Remember you showed this to us last year, Mr M.?)


Posted by on 5 February 2012 in Uncategorized


Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning, a form of learning that uses two stimuli to create associations. Frankly speaking, we commit this form of learning very frequently but we are not consciously aware of it. This is also true to acquisition, the process of eliciting the conditional response by acquiring the conditional stimulus, and also extinction, the process of removing the conditioned response to the conditioned stimulus.

Me and my mom have been observing five of my beloved dogs’ behaviors, similar to Pavlov, and it turns out that all processes that involves classical conditioning exist in their behaviors.

At home, classical conditioning always happens before me after my family’s mealtime because that is when my dogs get to eat their meals, of course. Since the dogs live in the lobby, my mom always have to go down to let them eat, making loud sounds of footsteps as she goes. Whenever the sound is present, five of them get to the small door that prevents them from going upstairs to greet her and demand for food. Consequently, they learned that the footsteps mean my mom is coming down and it is their mealtime simultaneously.

Another example of classical conditioning that involves candy wrappers. At first, my mom lets five of my dogs eat candies as treats. Before giving the candies to them, she must unwrap the candy wrappers in order to let them eat. For some reason, they seem to like that very sound. After that, they eat the candies with glee. Not for long, whenever my mom unwraps candies, no matter where my mom is, they just come to her, being hyperactively happy and salivates. Even more interesting is that, they elicit the same behaviors if my mom does something else that produces the similar sound such as rubbing plastic bags. This is generalization in action. Generalization is a process in which a species elecits the same conditional response to a similar enough conditional stimulus. In this case, the sound of rubbing candy wrapper closely resembles rubbing plastic bags.

Acquisition also exists in my dogs. In the case of mealtime I mentioned earlier, the sound of footsteps was neutral since they don’t respond to it by coming to the small door of the stair. However, the dogs gradually acquire the sound of footsteps to food. Therefore, the sound becomes the conditional stimulus, and the conditional response is their hyperactivity and salivation.

For extinction, I occasionally bark loudly to see their amusing reactions for entertainment. Because I am very good at mimicking the sound of dogs’ barking, five of them all bark back just as loudly as a response to my barkings. After a moment, I let them know that the barkings comes from me by showing up before them. I thought they will be fooled forever but they are not, much to my surprise. After a week of barking as deception, they know that those barkings is actually me and they won’t respond by barking back anymore. The conditioned response (barking back) is extinct since the truth is revealed. How intelligent!! 😀

After a year or two, I secretly bark at the dogs once again and they respond to me with barkings again! They forgot that it’s really my voice! That is spontaneous recovery, the process of sudden-appearance of the conditional response to the conditioned stimulus after the occurrence of extinction.

Thanks to my beloved dogs, I can fully understand the mechanics of classical conditioning and the relevant processes such as extinction!

This is a hilarious example of classical conditioning by the means of trolling~!


Posted by on 30 January 2012 in Uncategorized


Consciousness – The World Inside Us

Finally, we have come to the abstract and surreal chapter of the consciousness. A mysterious adventure commences! 😀

In my opinion, unconsciousness is a very hard region to explore, as if it is unreachable! Yet, it is a vast world inside us that we can’t consciously feel it. I have tried quite many attempts in my life to understand where my fears and my emotions come from. This very question always lurks inside my mind and still remains incognito, “Where are all of my emotions come from!!?”, so I gave up and concluded that the unconsciousness does not exist at that time. However, there were some times I can feel where my dreams come from! FYI, the dream slowly faded away and I could clearly and consciously felt the brain is working although i was astir. Now that explains how dreams are similar to the ecotones of the gradient change in biomes – they are in between the consciousness and the unconsciousness.

Frankly speaking, this chapter slowly answers my questions about consciousness. I seriously have no idea there is a rhythmic cycle called circadian rhythm that shows when out consciousness is at it’s peak or at it’s bottom, just like a wave. That perfectly explains why I feel drowsy in Mr. M’s class sometimes and I sometimes wake up at 3:00 a.m. Also, I already know that sleep is important to us adolescents, but thanks to our overwhelming list of homework and materials to know, we have sleep deprivation, but I could blame myself for not sleeping early, too. upon reading about sleep, i realize how fruitful and vital sleep can be! Now there are more reasons why I like sleeping now!

I really like Freud’s graph of the mental iceberg, it always intrigues me and has a big impact on me even though Mr. M did not cover this aspect of psychology last year as a regular Psychology student.


Posted by on 6 December 2011 in Uncategorized


The Six Senses Gallery

This is just a compilation of short videos demonstrating their respective senses.

Pain (touch):

This is solely for everyone~! Hope it’s useful for y’all, have fun learning! 😉


Posted by on 14 November 2011 in Uncategorized