September 22, 2009 – The human mind

@edit – The readings are now required for BOTH classes.



(McClurken and O’Donnell)


(O’Donnell) (McClurken and O’Donnell) (McClurken and O’Donnel)


  • Post your pre-class comments in the “Leave a Reply” field

  • I wish that Dan Dennett had explained further his point about humor as a evolutionary response, because though I followed his other points (although I question whether there truly is a chemical difference in things that we perceive as sweet), I found that one more obtuse. Overall, I don’t know that we know enough about the way brains work and develop to necessarily argue that changing the way we do a behavior changes our physical brain rather than just the way we use it. It’s definitely a plausible idea, but I don’t think that it can yet be argued as definitive. I also wonder what the fact that our brains “rewire” themselves does for us– how can we use this knowledge, and what’s the point of it?

    Michael Merzenich brought up the concept of the “self”, but I wonder if the “self” is actually solely a product of our experiences or whether there is some more fundamental entity that interacts with those experiences. Basically, can you define yourself without any experiences?

  • Overall, I think this is an interesting topic because we are always discovering new ways about how the human mind works. I personally enjoyed Al Seckel’s talk because instead of just spitting facts to his audience, he engaged them by using humor. I thought Dan Dennett’s talk was interesting, especially on the point that we grow accustomed to what we are used to, and that is how we learn to appreciate certain things. However, I do agree with Laura’s point, and I believe he could have elaboborated on how humans think something is funny; every person has different taste in humor, so I would have liked to hear more on way humans have such varied senses of humor.

    I found the article about facebook very interesting. Personally, I do not feel that new online technology is decreasing the attention span of teenagers. Maybe they do cost us to procastinate more easily, but if they really cause us to have that short of an attention span, most of us would not be in college right now. We would have not been as successful in high school to be able to reach a higher level of education. If anything, online tools have made people more aware because we will always have friends and family members online to give us reminders of things to do.
    –Stacey Peros

  • Personally, I do not think we know enough about the human brain to make arguments either way, but these talks were indeed very informative. I thought the illusions were quite clever and completely agree with the fact that we need surprises to create happiness. I know I personally love surprises and they indeed do create happiness, but in a sense are all surprises good? For example, it would be a surprise if a family member was killed in a car crash, but that in no way would create happiness for me.

    Michael Merzenich’s talk was very interesting and brings up the debate of nurture versus nature. He says we as an a community are shaped by our environment, thus an argument that we are who we are because of nature. We are all born the same, he insists, and that through our environment we change. I can not seem to make up my mind if I agree with this or not, but the combination of nurture and nature form who you are as a person. I was reading an article that homosexuals are born with a slightly different brain structure than heterosexuals. As said before, we do not know enough about brains to make too many assumptions.

    The article I found most interesting and the one I could actually take a stand on was the article about Facebooking. I, as most teenagers, love Facebook and visit it on a regular basis. This past week I gave up Facebook for a week because I read an article stating that teens today are addicted to social networking sites like alcoholics are addicted to alcohol. It challenged the readers to give up social networking for a week and I indeed succeeded, but missed it quite a bit. I do believe our brains are being rewired, but not with solely Facebook but internet as a whole. As a society, we are lazier with the amount of information available at our fingertips. I do not think that Facebook is making us more self-centered, but maybe I am just ignorant on the subject. I do know that teenagers now multi-task more than previous generations, possibly leading to short attention spans because we cannot focus on one thing only, we must be listening to music and reading or having two conversations.

    Felicia Holzgrefe

  • I found the article on Facebook very interesting. All of my friends, along with most teenagers around the world, have Facebook including myself go on Facebook frequently. This and other social networking sites and taking over teenagers and adults lives. And quite often, people become lazier due to everything being directly in front of us in the modern world. Also, while teenagers, especially college students are doing homework, they are now doing that with numerous other things such as “skyping”, facebook, etc. I feel that Facebook, along with other modern tools and such, are taking over American lives.

    I really enjoyed Dan Dennets talk, but felt we could have exaggerated or discussed more about humor as an “evolutionary response”. I really enjoyed the facts about how we learn to live or love things, and how we grow to fit into society. I like the point about how every person has a different kind of humor because I believe that is very true. Everyone is different.

    Al Seckels talk was really interesting as well. I enjoyed the pictures and examples he used to describe each section of his Tedtalk. Michael Merzenichs talk was also great. He brought up the argument of nurture vs. nature and says that we as people become who we are due to the nature and environment surrounding us. I am not sure if I completely agree with him but I definitely want to look more into it now that I listened to what he had to say.

  • I liked Al Seckel’s illusions. I thought they were interesting but some were hard to see what he was trying to show or understand what was really going on. I wish he could have given more explanation to the illusions too. Why do we see what we see and not what is really there?

    The article, “Is Facebook Rewiring Your Brain” brought up some thought provoking ideas. The fact that little by little everything in our daily lifestyle will be replaced with synthetic processes only for the convenience and ease. Such as processed packaged foods instead of fresh, or text messaging instead of actual contact. It’s crazy to think about what’s next and the generations to follow.

  • The Brain is a complicated thing to undrerstand. I feel that the second video really grasped my attention, and kept me more focused on his topic than the other two. The concept that we have evovled to like what we like just because its chemical, and it turns out to be a lie. I don’t get that, but il take his word.

  • ok i wasnt finished, this blog stuff is new to me.

    anyways, the first video was very informational too, the fact that are brain tricks us into taking shapes and precieving them in a way which is more normal to us. ie: the crazy nuts. I am in psychology this semester and am sitting next to a psych major who is a senior right now and he says that the brain can force us to see what is more natural to us if we have a choice to see two different things. ie: the dolfins or the naked woman.

    Then the last video got alil tedious for me but i figure the gist of it is that the human mind can be developed to master anything that is given at a young age. like the boy who can bounce the soccer ball on his head. Everyone of us has a different set of skills that we have adaptted to.

    I feel that each one of these is right and that the brain is yet to be mastered. There are many ways to view the brain. We could either view the brain as a whole or as a part, it depends on how weve developed and what weve heard and seen. Good Luck Megan and Nick

  • The video about how the mind is tricked, by certain images was great video. It was pretty wild how taking certain images and change the view shows the hint and reveals secret image. That just shows how the human mind can easily be fooled.
    The second video was just really boring…..The topic itself was interesting, but i thought he could of presented it better. It showed that our humans were programmed basically, to be attracted to something.
    The last video was just the same as the second, an interesting topic but horrible presentation. It was hard to understand at first, but it was talking about how the mind is programmed to learn and comprehend things and how we take it in, and learn.
    Just the mind itself is interesting to learn about. Their are so many things that the brain commands and has to take at the same time. Like for example what someone posted earlier, what would the next generation be like?

  • Although I liked Al Seckel’s illusions the change in my expectations didn’t make me happier. I was surprised to see how some of the illusions were done such as the crazy nuts one but as far as making me happy, I didn’t see that. I really enjoyed Dan Dennet’s talk because it gave a different expanation to why things are. It’s funny because I was eating a brownie as he was talking about the chocolate cake and it really got me thinking. I wasn’t a fan of Michael Merzenich’s talk it was very long and dry, although I’m very interested in psychology and the human mind i found it hard to pay attention to him. The reading about Facebook was interesting but I disagreed with the fact that it was altering our brain, as she said I’d would need to see some proof before I believe it. I found it very interesting how monkeys could rewire their brain, just like a person could, to categorize an object, even though it may differ from previous encounters with that category. All in all I enjoyed this section of talks.

  • First off, I am concerned for the health of the Michael Merzenich, I was expecting paramedics at any moment. In the first two speeches I could not find myself to be very interested in the detail of what they were saying. On the surface, Merzenich and Taylor were saying what seemed to be interesting topics but once they started to talk about things in full detail, I found myself looking at the timer waiting for the videos to be over.

    Although the videos were not very attention getting, the articles were thought provoking. The quote from Levit’s article, “My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who have a small attention span and who live for the moment,” is a little bit scary to think about seeing as kids getting social networking tools like facebook are becoming younger and younger and soon, with the rise of computers and parents not taking as much interest in their children as they used to, elementary school students may be on facebook. Elementary school is where you do the most learning and growing, and if kids are learning from facebook and twitter, then there is something to worry about it the future. Granted, this is just an opinion that these things may “rewire” the brain, but if these do prove to be true, the future is in trouble.

    The brain is a difficult thing to understand and we do not know all there is to know about it, so there is yet to be proof that social networking will mess us up, but it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to take things like it in moderation for the time being, or, don’t have a facebook at all and spend that time fishing.

  • I thought this was an interesting topic because it really made me think about how our brains are wired. We learn starting from day one what things are supposed to be and how things are. Dan Dennett really put that out there by talking about babies. We like what we are accustom to. Our brains wire to a certain image and that’s the image that we stick with. We also change our wiring in our brains, like what Michael Merzenich said our brains are built for change. You see it in fashion a lot. One year this is in and everybody loves it. The next year it’s not in and everybody hates it. Another thing is our brains perceive things in certain way, like when Al Seckel showed the optical allusions. We perceive them as something they are not.

  • After watching the 3 different videos on the Human Brain, I realized that no one knows enough about the brain to create their own conclusions. Everyday scientists and neurologists are discovering new information about the brain and how the brain functions and society around us can affect the way we think. As a result, the 3 different speakers have different opinions and different ways of approaching a talk on the human brain. There is no right or wrong in my opinion to any of their arguments or thoughts, but I do think that each speaker made good points and supported them well.

    I have to agree with Dacey on the fact that I was not very interested in the videos. The talks could not grab my attention and keep me from moving from my seat. However, I did try and find the main point to each speaker’s talk.

    I liked how Michael Merzenich discussed the development of the brain from the age of an infant to a child to an adult. I found it very interesting how he mentioned how everyone has different skills and abilities. I agree that everyone acquires different cognitive skills and abilities as they grow up and their brains start to develop. He explains that all humans experience brain plasticity which causes the development of the brain.

    I thought that Jill Taylor’s talk was incredibly interesting because she was able to apply life experiences to her discussion on the brain. Jill Taylor told a story about her personal life that applied to her talk on the brain and I thought it was a really interesting approach to attract the audience

    By far, the facebook article that I read was the most interesting. I think I found it so interesting because it applies to me the most. Alexandria Levit writes that she is concerned that facebook and other social networking websites will take over the lives of adolescents. I agree that people should be concerned about social networking websites taking over lives or causing a rewiring of the brain. Facebook is an addiction to many teenagers and it is now starting to attract adults as well. I thought that the point Ashlee made when she mentioned how students will be on facebook, or skype while doing homework was a very legitimate point. Facebook has become a main focus in many people’s lives and it has caused a drastic change in the way people communicate.

  • I watched all of the videos and there are a few things that each of the the speakers said that I thought about:

    “Supernormal Stimulus”

    Dan Dennet’s talk on Darwin’s inversion of reasoning presented this interesting concept of Supernormal stimuli, the chocolate cake being the example. The apple was an example of something we like to eat because it is “sweet.” It is “sweet” because it contains Glucose, which we need to function. Wikipedia says that Supernormal Stimuli is an exaggerated version of a stimulus to which there is an existing response tendency. I suppose we think of chocolate cake when we need sugar, rather than an apple because it is super sweet, or contains very large amounts of glucose (or whichever sugar chocolate cake contains).

    With these thoughts in mind, he then mentioned the existence of numerous supernormal stimuli, the list included sweet supernormal stimuli, cute supernormal stimuli, and the one I looked into more Sexy Supernormal Stimuli. Unfortunately a google search yielded very few results (most of them linked to the tedtalk). So it set me to wondering: What is a sexy supernormal stimuli? Does it change with the times and society? I understand that, historically, heavier and less tan women were desirable, but these days the sex rage is all about the slender and tan women. I digress.

    I have never really adopted the way of thinking that “sweetness” came first and we evolved to like “sweet” things so I was in agreement for the entirety of Dan’s TedTalk.

    “our individual skills and abilities are very much shaped by our environments — stem from our culture… result in a wonderful differentiation of human kind”

    I find this quote from Michael’s TedTalk particularly interesting because I can’t help but think of the birth of culture.

    I imagine that culture arose from these different skill sets that we all have. These differences that arise between us are so subtle, so finite, that they seem intangible and unnoticeable. Do these differences stem from the skill sets we have developed throughout our lifetime? I suppose it’s possible.

    “experience simulator”

    This ability has made us a super-predator.

    “if it happened over 3 months ago it has no effect on your happiness”

    Yeah right (get it). If that’s the case, and I win the lottery and three months later I’m “unhappy” I’ll sure as hell be unhappy on a private beach in the Caribbean with personal attendants who dress me head to toe every day.

    But honestly, I’m pretty sure we’ve all experienced feelings similar to what Mr. Gilbert describes here. What I think is of importance here is: Would you rather be of equal happiness with a paraplegic +$314 million, or of equal happiness with a paraplegic? I utilize the examples given in the Talk, I do not mean to offend.

  • Such an eclectic collection of media makes it tough to provide a response. Alexandra Levit makes a nice starting point, comparing our brains to cereal and citing facebook as the cause for its growing mushier. This is true, but whether facebook is a cause or an effect should be reexamined. Most generations have had a major event to unite around. It provides perspective and a reshaping of our hierarchy of needs. Our generation has dismissed 9/11 for Janet Jackson and the mini-war on terror for McCain’s POW arm raising status. The trivialities we focus on are poor “brain aerobics” as Merzenich mentioned. Dan Gilbert shows us the problem is too many choices. America has stagnated economically, but consumers have hardly cut back, and Generation Cereal Brain hasn’t felt the depression of anything but not knowing what to choose. China would be doing us a favor if they started something. America needs war to change our brains into Granola or, if that’s too ambitious, Crispix.

  • After watching the videos and reading the article, “Is Facebook Rewiring Your Brain”, I realized how fascinating and remarkable the human mind is. Jill Bolyte Taylor’s video was very interesting and inspiring. For her to talk about her stroke and how she perceived the world during it made me wonder how she was able to get help as she shifted in and out of different states of consciousness. It is amazing that she was able to recover most of or all of her memory and be able to move again.
    I thought Micheal Merzenich’s talk was interesting, especially on how humans acquire different skill sets that define us over time. Out of all the videos, I liked Al Seckel’s illusions the best. I felt that he really captivated his audience and connected with them through his illusions. Seckel’s talk made you think of how different individuals look at objects in different ways. With the article though, I don’t feel that new online technology is decreasing the attention span of teenagers.
    Overall, I thought the human mind was a very interesting topic because the brain is still very mysterious. With more discoveries in the medical field who knows what we will find out about the brain and what were capable of doing.

  • First off, if you connect your laptop to your TV, it makes watching these videos a whole lot easier. It’s kind of like watching a movie but more boring.

    The first reading about Facebook was the most interesting to me. Maybe because that’s really the only thing i can relate to. It has a lot to do with other conversations about how online social websites and other things like AIM are changing us, probably for the worse. I think one of the major changes that FB and AIM have on most people is the tendency to shorten words such as: “how r u; wat is ^?” It takes me more time to actually think about how to shorten a word than to type out the whole word. Anyways, i can’t even imagine how i would be without FB or AIM just because i use it so much. FB has become somewhat addicting. Just today while trying to study for my Bio. test tomorrow i couldn’t get myself to log off of FB.

    The only thing i liked about the first video was his reference to soccer, only because i played soccer. The second video was more bearable. It was kinda gross when she pulled out the real brain. The story she told about her stroke was really interesting and that kept my attention. The last video was my favorite. I liked how he used humor to keep the viewers attention. I also realized how much i agreed with him on a lot of his examples.

  • It is great to see lots of comments coming in showing you watched the talks and engaged the readings. Even better it looks like you are actually reading the comments of your fellow classmates.
    I’d love to see more questions from you guys and to quote the syllabus “comments designed to drive discussion”.
    Now to just push you guys here a little, some observations. It seems like most of you enjoyed Seckel’s talk the most and Levit’s article on Facebook. In Levit’s piece that social network sites “…encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centered”. Like many of you pointed out you enjoyed the article because you could relate to it (perhaps the self-centred aspect?). Seckel’s presentation was informative but, mostly entertaining and easily grasped (instant gratification?). I’m not saying this to bash you, not at all. Its just an observation I made and I wonder what you all thought of it?
    As Merzenich discussed our brains are high-functioning machines and require “excercise” to keep them in shape. So maybe teens accused of having their brains rewired just need a little “excercise”. What do you think?
    Or maybe social networks are supernormal stimuli? Dennet discusses how our fondness of high energy foods (with sugar) is hard wired into us so that we would know that apples are a good thing to eat. Now that we have an abundant sources of highly sugared food chocolate cake becomes our supernormal stimuli. And as we all know too much chocolate cake ends up being a bad thing even though our brain is saying otherwise. Is it possible that social networking is too much (like too much chocolate cake)? And if so what about social networking sites do our brains find so compelling that we keep coming back to it? What “craving” is it satisfying?

  • First video I started out with was Micheal Merzenich and couldn’t even figure out what he was trying to get at in this 23 minute talk. The second video with Jill Taylor was easier to watch and keep my attention. It’s interesting to hear from a brain scientist who has experienced a stroke.She talk about her disconnection from the brain and what she thought were easy simple tasks became hard to translate into actions.

    I thought Alexandra Levit’s article “Is Facebook rewiring your Brain?” was more interesting because it’s on a subject that many people can relate to. I think people have evolved from myspace to facebook because its a simpler site to find and connect with people and share information faster. I frequently see young kids that look like they are in early middle school with their eyes glued to the screen of a cell phone and just are constantly texting.

    A new generation is being created with unlimited texting plans, facebook, and twitter and our brains are becoming weaker.

  • As I watched the videos, I was honestly expecting to be extremely bored with what I had perceived to be another tedious assignment, but to be honest I was very interested in the topics discussed. I really enjoyed Al Seckel’s talk about how our mind is entertained and can become happy through how our expectations are violated in a situation which we wouldn’t expect. I saw all of his examples were visual, but does that mean that our other senses do not apply to his conclusion? If he would have shown us other examples that would have been able to relate to our other senses or said that it only applied to our visual perception would have cleared that up for me.

    Durring Dan Dennent’s talk about how we as humans make certain aspects of life they way they are, makes me look at many things in a different light. It also raises many questions such as; is that why many people of different cultures like different food, because what may be sweet to them is not sweet to us because they as well as us make it that way? Along with that, I feel that Dan Dennent’s talk and Al Seckel’s were connected in that we are able to make things funny to us and if our expectations are violated that must have meant that at that moment, “A neural system was rewarded for doing a grubby clerical job.”

    From the two articles that where posted and I read I was able to conclude that Facebook and other social networking sites are destroying the brain. This is awful, because do to the brains ability to adapt, it will cause the populations’ brains to function at lower levels than if they were not so obsessed with facebook.

  • The overall theme I got form the videos and the articles was that we know very little of the brain and how it works and our brains are always adapting. I found that the article on Facebook was the most interesting and relatable to my life. The quote, “My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.” really got me thinking. I really don’t agree with this comment, I think its making the situation a little too dramatic. I mean as young adults we are going to be impulsive and live for the moment, and we will have little patience for things that we don’t find interesting. This is definitely not a result of Facebook and I am skeptical of the fact that it is rewiring our brains.
    I also found Dan Gilbert’s talk insightful and thought he made some good points. Synthetic happiness is an interesting concept and I believe that it is valid. With so many choices this is a way in which humans can be satisfied no matter what happens. Its like a defense mechanism for our emotions.
    I found Dan Dennett’s talk the most humorous because he was trying really hard to be funny, and he has the creepiest laugh I have ever heard. I felt like he really needed more support for his argument especially about humor. His ideas reminded me alot of the james lange theory of emotion in which our emotions are caused by actions. For example we are afraid because we tremble rather than the other way around. This is similar to Dennett’s explanation sweetness in food, honey is sweet because we like it not we like honey because it is sweet.

  • This is a very versatile topic. I wish that Al Seckle had explained why the human mind does what it does in terms of expectations and thought processing when looking at such images that provoke one or more images.
    I found the article “Is Facebook is Rewiring Your Brain?” very interesting because not personally having a Facebook, I can look at my friends and see how devoted they are to it, and how much time they spend making themselves perfect to their standards. It is also very interesting because my friends who have Facebook also generally tend to be less communicative, to me at least.

  • The human mind has always been an interesting topic to me. I’m always curious of how our minds function and what can actually do damage to your brain that is unexpected. The article “Is Facebook Rewiring Your Brain?” comes to me as a surprise. As an avid Facebook user, it’s strange to read something like this. There so many people who use Facebook and to think it could be messing with their brains.
    Overall I though all the talks were somewhat informative amd left us with questions that we could possibly figure out on our own. The study of the brain is probably one the most complex things for us to understand. How the mind works is fascinating, but there is still so much more to find out.

  • Personally, I found the videos surprisingly captivating and intriguing. All of the videos had something unique to talk about and the reading were insightful and interesting as well. I feel as though the speakers on the TED talks had for the most part very refined ideas and concrete points that they were able to relay to their audience in an educational manner. I agree with the Facebook article as far as the whole social networking system feeds into the younger generations inability to stay focused and concentrated for extensive periods of time. However, I think that Facebook is only one of many everyday components that do this. I believe that there are many different venues that allow children and young adults to have their desire for instant satisfaction catered to and appeased. Of the videos, I would say that my favorite was Dan Gilbert’s. Not only was he the most animated and lively speaker of the group but he also brought several very interesting facts to the table concerning the human brain. I can say I thoroughly enjoyed this topic and now have a slight desire to pursue it more comprehensively myself.

  • hey yo neo-rev, “I’m not saying this to bash you, not at all. Its just an observation I made and I wonder what you all thought of it?”
    you bashed me and im angry.

  • I thought that the discussions that we had today were great. I got to see other ways of viewing the same topic. The way that we learn has been the same time and time again, the teachers give information, and we as students are expected to memorize it and recite it just as we were told. It is not a very productive way to learn.
    It was also interesting to see the differences in studying and learning between the generations. Students currently are taught to be multi-taskers. They need to be able to be able to pay attention in class, check your email, read a book, and then be ready to do a 3-hour lab quickly after. With the older you get, the more the workload is, and we have to adapt. Growing up in various types of environments such as in a big family, or living near a road that is loud, you need to be able to ignore the outside sounds so that you can effectively get work done. Now, I personally notice, that I have to study with the TV or music on to get the things I need done, unlike my dad who needs complete silence.

  • After discussing this topic in class. It seems like some of the people agreed with my opinion on these videos. The first video was a little boring but the last two kind of made up for that. I think Edmund did bring up a valid point. The world is changing as we know it and communication is changing too. It makes me wonder what the future will hold for communication. Although abbreviations are still not my thing, i do believe that in the future a lot of our communication will be using abbreviations.

    I also do believe that we can control whether we’re happy or not. I don’t think that studies done involving people’s happiness on a scale are accurate. I don’t think it’s possible to compare people’s happiness when everyone’s scale is different and they’re all interpreted different. One person’s 5 could be different from another person’s 5 and it’s not really possible to put happiness on a scale.

    But overall, i enjoyed listening to everyone’s input because most everyone had interesting points. I also do agree that although we only talked about one video, that’s better than lightly covering all 3.

  • After having a dicussion in class on the videos and articles, I still feel the same way, but I have more of an opinion and more thoughts now.

    Many of the students in class today agreed about the issues that facebook and other social networking websites can cause. I thought it was a good point when one of the students mentioned that facebook has become the easy way out for people. Instead of meeting or communicating the way people used to, we can find things out immediately. Everything we need to know is right in front of us on a computer screen. We are relying on a social network to meet friends, communicate to them, and to find out information in their lives. I think pretty soon our brains will be rewired because we will become so focused and so reliant on the internet. One student said he’s actually worried about one day seeing certain abbreviations used via websites in the dictionary. I truly agree that websites like facebook can contribute negatively to one’s writing or speech.

    A lot of people had a lot to say about Dan Gilbert’s talk. Everyone had different opinions on happiness. Some agreed with what he was saying and some disagreed. Dan Gilbert says that happiness can be synthesized. He says we think happiness is a thing to be found. I personally believe that happiness is deep within every individual. There may be certain events that draw out this happiness, but everyone has the potential to drive that happiness out from within. You hear a lot of stories about how a person was once very depressed, living in a dark state of mind with themself, but then something happens for them to become inspired and happy. I don’t think something life changing has to happen, I strongly believe happiness is in us all and it’s up to us to look for it within and show it.

  • Today’s discussion in McClurken’s class didn’t really focus on what I was expecting, but I thought that it was very interesting what we did discuss. The concept of a generational divide was explored in depth, but I see that the other class raised a good point– that the ability to multitask is in fact increasingly useful in our world, and that perhaps we should be encouraging this. I don’t, however, feel that we should encourage this to the point where people can’t focus on one thing at a time, because a balance is needed to function effectively. As we mentioned, the education system in particular is not going to change any time soon, and the ability to focus on one task for extended periods of time is very helpful, if not necessary, for this. We might like to think that it will, but education is designed by the establishment, and once a system is entrenched it doesn’t change much. The change happens on a more local level, within classrooms as teachers bring their own style to the classroom; however, by the nature of it, they are going to be members of an older generation and so will never fully connect with their students. I also think that it bears reiterating once again that we don’t know nearly enough about the brain and the way it works to pass judgment on how or why anything happens.

  • I thought the first discussion today in O’Donnell’s class was okay for a first discussion, though it proved that there can be a lot of room for improvement in the following discussions. For example, not to say the leaders did a bad job, but I think the leaders should make more provocative statements to perhaps engage the audience more. Also, not all of the videos were discussed; specifically, we focused too much on Dan Gilbert’s talk. We barely touched upon the other talks. Of course, if there is a talk the audience is interested in, it is only fair to spend more time on it, but I believe that every Ted talk deserves at least five minutes of discussion. Another weakness was the fact that some people did not participate at all. I think everyone should participate, even if the topic does not really interest them. Of course, this is the first Ted Talk so maybe people will get more comfortable as we have more. Our biggest strength came through in our passion and opinions on the subject. Everyone who spoke had a clear opinion on the topic, and we were not afraid to voice our opinions.

    In today’s discussion, we specifically focused on Dan Gilbert’s talk. We also discussed the article on Facebook. An interesting point was brought up: future generations might use abbreviations such as “lol” in English written language. Personally, I would be against this because I think “lol” makes one sound childish; that kind of talk should only be used online or in text messages, not in proper English language. When it comes to Dan Gilbert’s talk, we had a huge debate on the meaning of happiness. I think happiness is different for every person, and happiness cannot be measured on a scale. Everyone was born and raised in a different lifestyle, so happiness means a different thing to every person. Overall, I thought the first discussion was quite interesting, although it leaves a lot of room for improvement for our next discussions.
    –Stacey Peros

  • I really enjoyed our discussion today, especially the strong opinions and feelings that some people brought to the table. I really hope that as the semester progresses everyone will not be afraid to participate and give their opinions even if they are different from everyone else’s. Dissension makes a good discussion as Edmund illustrated today. I think that even though today we only focused on one talk we will learn to connect our thoughts about each video and develop a great discussion.
    Today I found the discussion on happiness very interesting. In my opinion synthesizing happiness is not a bad thing. It is merely a way to help us get through the tough times in life. Some things and situations may be beyond our control but we can still change the way we look at things.

  • I really enjoyed our discussion today. I felt that especially for the first one, we did well. I really enjoyed the Dan Gilbert discussion and the opinions on happiness of the other people in the class were really interesting. For the most part I kept my same opinions as before the discussion but the other opinions allowed me to think about different views and aspects of the topics.

    I really liked the article on Facebook. It seemed like everyone in the group had the same opinions on the topic for the most part.

    For our first discussion I think we did great. I feel like the leaders could have maybe had a couple more questions to start us off or to get us back on track. Also, I think that everyone in the class should atleast give one opinion throughout the discussion. It is an hour long discussion- I feel like everyone has a chance to say something. Lastly, I think that we should TRY to focus on discussing multiple talks rather than just one. I do understand that sometimes that may happen due to the interests of the class, but maybe next time we can focus on trying to discuss more.

  • In McClurken’s class we really focused on the way the brain is wired, such as learning styles and way we handle things. The point was made that, in our generation, we are multitaskers. Unlike other generations before us who are less of multitaskers. A generation gap is made because of this. This generation gap was also made apparent by the statement of education. In other words the way our generation thinks and takes in information differently than how educators today took in information and though when they were our age. It also shows how the education system is based more on how the educators were taught than how the generation of today would like to be taught. Not saying that the way we are taught is wrong, it could just be tweaked in our favor.

    Another thing is that we all are wired a certain way, but we can change that wiring. We have changed a lot if you look carefully. The article about facebook touched on it. When we were young we didn’t have facebook or all of these others ways to communicate with people. We went up and talked to people and went over to people’s houses a lot. Now we find facebook more appealing so a lot of people would rather sit on the computer and talk though facebook than have an actual conversation.

    All of these things are possible but in reality we don’t know enough about our brains to make these definite.

  • After discussion, the topics were narrowed. We were unable to decide whether Facebook and instant gratification were necessarily bad things. As it relates to language, adopting a ‘universal shorthand’ that, laughably, may include ‘lol’ and the like, could save time. Facebook is training us involuntarily in a new form of communication. Dan Gilbert presented the most controversial of the required videos, and so his talk was the focus for the rest of class. Happiness we decided is relative, but no one would admit that the lottery winner’s 5 on the happiness scale is greater than the paraplegic’s. Since happiness is contained within a person, I suppose it isn’t important to have a non-biased standard. Upward mobility became a big topic. Is happiness inherently good and should we learn to synthesize it? Probably not. Unhappiness is a powerful motivational tool that can lead us to be more productive and creative. Gilbert uses the incorrect measurement when he claims our synthesizing is often wrong. We should all strive to win the lottery over losing function in our limbs. Otherwise, if we are all happy with what we have, we will never make progress.

  • When looking back at the discussion in class, I felt that the topic was very fascinating. It seemed like everyone in the class had different views and opinions about different topics about the brain. Even if some people did not speak as much as others did, I felt that the talk flew by very fast. People just have to get used to the flow of the class and move into their comfort zone in order to present their ideas. All in all, though, I felt that everyone thought that true happiness was up to the individual. A person cannot judge person’s happiness because they don’t know what makes that individual happy.

    I felt the discussion leaders did a good job. The only thing they could have done a better with was asking a few more questions to their audience. Other than that, I felt that the discussion was very interesting. The discussion became very intense at some moments and fell quiet at other moments. This allowed time for everyone to give his or her input.

  • I thought the class discussion went fairly well. The discussion leaders were will prepared and did an excellent job of keeping the conversation going. We could go off topic at times but they were able to apply those thoughts and work them back into the topic.

    After hearing the discussion about ADD and being able to multitask in this generation and relating it to how things were in one’s childhood was really interesting to me. Although disagree that people have attention problems now because of how their lifestyle was formated as a child, I thought it was a solid topic of conversation. It also made me think about how different brains are and the “re-wiring” process from generation to generation. I believe our environment and the ever changing world around us influences those changes and morphs our brains with a certain lifestyle of facebook, text messaging and distraction.

  • After the discussion in class I feel as though I know some of my classmates on a more personal level simply because the topics we were conversing about had alot of substance. I would have liked more people to be engaged in the discussion but if they don’t feel like they have anything important to say then so be it.

    In addition, I also like how there were difference of opinions within the members of our group. It always creates a better and more interesting atmosphere when there are individuals who are willing to defend their points and views. What I don’t like is how some people say substance-less remarks just because they feel obligated to. The way I see it is that if you are in an hour plus long discussion with your peers about issues that you were supposed to research, then you should most definitely be able to find 10 seconds within those 3600 to say something worth people listening to. Other than that I look forward to the next class discussion and the debates that follow.

  • I thought this was a good first discussion. There were a lot of good points said and I really think there were some passionate ideas. Next time I think more people will contribute, including myself. There were things I wanted to say, but I left it alone.

    The discussion did get off topic a little bit, but overall there was some good things established. The numerous different ideas made the discussion better with a non-hostile environment. I’m looking forward to the next talk.

  • For this being the first student run class discussion I thought it went relatively well. The discussion would go off topic sometimes but as we get better at this the group leaders will pose questions that will bring us back to what we were originally talking about.

    the discussions that we did end up on, mainly the one about happiness, was fascinating and I learned a good amount about people in the class after listening to what they had to say. Also, I liked that there were multiple people with strong points that they brought up. The talks are only gonna get better from here.

  • I’m entirely unsure if I’m supposed to make a response to the discussion or not since I was the group leader, but I guess I’ll write one on the off-chance I need to.

    We focussed quite a bit on the Dan Gilbert video. I will admit it was my favorite, as of many others’, and there was a lot to talk about, but still there could have been slightly more focus on the other stuff. Every video and article should have at least ten minutes of discussion, I would say.

    I probably could have been more prepared. I should have reviewed all the articles and videos two or three times and developed specific directions for the argument to go. I kind of had that planned out, but it was all scrambled in my head.

    In retrospect, it was a good debate, and considering it was the first one, it was a great debate. As the person who posted above me concluded, it only gets better from here.

  • Our class focused exclusively on Gilbert’s speech in discussion for at least 3/4 of the class. He has an interesting view, and I agree with the power of positive thinking, but we strayed a lot from the mechanics of the human mind and moreso whether or not people should be happy in life (for effectivity’s sake). From that we had a pretty good discussion with varying ideas and people willing to back themselves up (it was nice to hear a couple people speak up for the first time about something they are passionate about). However, the lack of structure that the leaders provided made initiating the discussion difficult.

  • I know this is a bit late, but…

    I thought our discussion on Tuesday went very well. I still believe we do not know enough about the brain to make too terribly intense arguments, but the ideas about how we are going to act in the future was very interesting, especially thinking if the education system in 20 years will still be traditional or if it will be more to our generation’s standards of how we think education should be taught.

  • I know I’m very late on this post but I thought our discussion went very well. I really liked how we were able to branch our ideas off the topics to different topics but were still able to come back to the main focus of our discussion. I was surprised to hear that some people think that no other countries value critical thinking as the United States does. I enjoyed this type of class compared to the other classes we had leading up to this and plan to really enjoy this type of class setting.

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