Buddhist Brains: Understanding cognition’s affect on physiology


Read the article below summarizing the work of Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin (GO BADGERS!!!!!)




You can see a published summary of Davidson’s studies here:


After reading the above, consider the following: 

  1. How does Davidson’s statement, “The best way to activate positive emotion circuits in the brain is through generosity” relate to the research discussed by Kelly McGonigal in her Ted Talk on Stress? 
  2. What is the cognitive change that Davidson investigates? 
  3. What is the physiological change that results from the the aforementioned cognitive change? 
  4. What are some possible implications for his findings? 

Understanding CBT


We’ve discussed CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) at length in class! However we’ve mostly discussed the theory behind it as well as discussed the ways in which CBT dovetails with cognitive psychologist’s views of mood and anxiety disorder etiology. 

But, you need to understand what CBT looks like in practice in order to better understand this treatment technique as well as better understand what it means to have depression. Comprehending both of these lucidly will also further facilitate your understanding of etiology. 

Watch the following excerpts of CBT in action and then answer the following questions on a word document:


Ohio State on Socratic Questioning:



  1. In the first video, the word “examine” is used frequently. How does the first video’s use of the word “examine” connect to the Socratic questioning employed by the researchers at Ohio State? 
  2. What behavioral change is agreed upon during the second video’s session? 
  3. Why might this method of questioning be superior to more traditional prescriptive methods of therapy? 
  4. What was the the goal of the session in the second video? It is never stated, but you should be able to identify it. 
  5. How does the quote at the top of this post by socrates relate to CBT? 
  6. Explain the relationship between cognitive etiology and the treatment of CBT? 


To Shoot an Elephant: An examination of shared vs. personal knowledge


To Shoot an Elephant? 

Not exactly, “To Be or Not to Be?” However as you’ll read, it becomes almost as heavy an existential question. 

While reflecting on how to move forward with you all, I thought it had been too long since we read some literature together and while considering what to read, I had our last class’ conversation on my mind…shared vs. individual knowledge and the interplay between the two as well as the implications.  

The following story written by the great George Orwell will bring this concept into the forefront as well as many other issues in regard to history (our next unit) and social influence on behavior. So read it, enjoy it and lets talk: 



Artist or Artifice?


We’ve been discussing art as a concept as well as “quality” as a way of assessing art. You, my students, have so astutely agreed that originality, creativity, and technical skill are key components in art creation. Thus, consider the following excerpt from the linked article in the Atlantic titled, “Hit Charade” 

“One term remains evasive, however: artist. In the music industry, the performers are called artists, while the people who write the songs remain largely anonymous outside the pages of trade publications. But can a performer be said to have any artistry if, as in the case of Rihanna, her label convenes week-long “writer camps,” attended by dozens of producers and writers (but not necessarily Rihanna), to manufacture her next hit? Where is the artistry when a producer digitally stitches together a vocal track, syllable by syllable, from dozens of takes? Or modifies a bar and calls it a new song?”

Read the rest of the article here:  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/10/hit-charade/403192/


The music industry isn’t the only industry guilty of such artistic “outsourcing” …just ask our friend Mr. International! And of course, there is James Patterson:


After reading the above two pieces, consider the following: 

  1. Can Rihanna and other recording artists like her be called an “artist”?
  2. Can James Patterson be called an “author”
  3. Does it matter?
  4. what issues are at stake in regard to Quality?
  5. Does the above cause you to widen or narrow your definition of an artist?

Investigating Social Etiology of Depression



As you know, the etiology of depression is a nuanced and complicated thing.  This post will require you to analyze the social and environmental etiological elements of the disorder.

Brown and Harris (1978) developed the vulnerability model after their research found that those with certain environmental “vulnerabilities” were more likely to suffer from depression.

Your job is to triangulate these findings with other research. 

Consider the following: 

After reading the above pieces, answer the following questions: 

  1. How does Sapolsky’s work support the anthropological findings of Dr. Luhrmann?
  2. What environmental causes of mental illness does Dr. Luhrmann allude to?
  3. How do both researchers findings support the vulnerability hypothesis?
  4. Does Sapolsky’s work support a social etiology of depression or biological or both?

Add Sapolsky to your “study guide to studies” for abnormal under whichever level of analysis you see fit.