The Stats of Life


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So this nice traffic cop installation is meant to provide order and instill calm into the chaos every day after classes end. I saw one yesterday when I left campus around 6 pm. There was one today when I left around 4:30. It’s nice to be directed through a big intersection, but I also feel like it’s slightly unnecessary. Maybe I’m not well trained, though, because I spent several years of my life crossing Pulteney and South Main streets in Geneva without assistance. Sometimes I felt invisible; I’d end up in the middle of the street having crossed with the assumption that the other direction would stop. Why do cars zoom past people trapped on the double yellow? 

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I also learned today that Dezie, my housemate’s cocker spaniel, does a happy dance when her mom goes to the fridge to get her dinner. She’s pretty smart; Ashley’s gone to the fridge a couple times since i’ve been sitting here to get things other than Dezie’s food and the dog didn’t react. She knew when it was time for her dinner! 

Today I had stats. It’s a well-designed class, and I think I have the coolest possible stats professor. He did an interesting exercise with us at the start of class that impacted us all. First, he had the whole class pair up into teams. One person raised up an arm and the other stood next to her raised arm with his hand on her shoulder and raised wrist. The person raising her arm had three tasks. The first was to think of three powerfully happy memories and hold them in her head for a minute. Upon her signal, her partner was to push down on her raised arm. She was told to try as hard as she could to keep her arm level and straight. Under her partners stronger upper handed pressure, her arm’s height decreased slightly. Afterwards, both partners reset to neutral positions. The second task was to think of three powerfully negative, stressful moments and hold on to them similarly as before. The partner was to push down on her arm in the same manner as before and she was to attempt to, again, keep her arm level. The difference between trial 1 (happy) and trial 2 (stressed) was immense. I was determined to keep my arm as steady during trial 2 as I had during trial 1. This proved impossible. Try as I might, my arm dropped much lower while I was envisioning negative things. It wasn’t due to muscle fatigue. It wasn’t due to preconceived notions of what might happen because we all did it at the same time. It was an actual bodily effect induced by the condition of my emotions. When induced, stress lowered my ability to maintain my strength even though I was determined to control it. The third trial also involved three conditions, but this time we were told to envision two positive things and one negative. Lo and behold, my maintained arm height was between that of trial 1 and 2. 

It’s a good lesson about how to approach the next few years of my life. Well, it’s a good lesson about how to approach any stressful situation, actually. Stress affects our bodies and our bodies affect our minds. With stress also directly affecting our minds, it’s important to avoid the double-whammy situation and protect the body-brain-mind link. Nothing in a human stands alone. It’s my goal this semester to not let my stress affect my body or my mind. 

We also learned about some cornerstone philosophies in statistical analysis today. Some are outdated, like that of Kuhn, who believed in paradigm shift. Paradigm shift is the notion that science doesn’t progress, necessarily, but that based on our culture’s psycho- and sociological state facts are interpreted differently. My professor’s example was the shift from behavioralism to cognitive psychology during the technological revolution of the 1960’s when computers were starting to become widespread. People started to term their observations in the context of technology. The paradigm shifted from behavioral analysis to cognitive scientific analysis. Some philosophies are more current, like the realist approach. Realists, or modern day psychologists, believe that knowledge is additive, that the world is real and measurable, and that science does advance. 

Learning is important if we want to advance our culture. If any of you have learning moments, please comment. If any of you want to join my 100-day journey, use the hastag #100LearnedDays to inspire others. Let’s make some progress!  

#100LearnedDays continues! 

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