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Welcome Back Everyone!

Spring Semester 2014 is here! Welcome back! This semester the Blog will be hosting the GRC projects from PSYC375 Cognitive Neuroscience. Related materials will be posted later this semester, so check back!

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Goodbye Everyone! Have A Great Break!

indexHi all, the Blog is on winter break!  Have a wonderful holiday!

Important Announcements for PSYC370 End-of-semester Logistics

Hi, everyone.

As we are beginning our last week of classes, here are a few important reminders and related announcements:

(1) Final Blog Post grades: Thanks to all of you for an interesting online discussion on the topic of consciousness. This was the last Blog Post for the semester. Your grades for this last post will be posted by Thursday 5/9.

(2) Blog Post grades: As mentioned in class, if you completed more than the required 4 Blog Posts during the semester, we will count your highest 4 grades for your final grade for the course pertaining to this assignment (a collective 10%, 2.5% for each post).

(3) Mini Course Grades: Your grades for the mini-courses will be posted by 11:50pm on Tuesday 5/7. These will be broken down by your attendance grade for the mini-course and your grade for the 500-word summary. Your mini-course grade will be worth 20% of your final course grade.

(4) Course Attendance: Your final attendance grade for the course will be posted by Monday 5/13 and it will be 5% of your final course grade.

(5) Extra Credit Participation: You are still able to participate in studies for extra credit or complete the mini-papers for extra credit. Remember, you need to have accumulated 4 credits to obtain the extra credit points. No partial credit will be given. No credit will be given in addition to the 4 points. For detailed information on extra credit please visit the course syllabus here or the course blog here. The deadline for extra credit participation/mini-paper submission is Friday, May 10 11:59pm.

(6) Extra Credit Points on Blackboard: We will post your extra credit points by sometime Tuesday 5/14, to allow enough time for researchers to update credit assignments on SONA and Yana to enter your extra credit points on the course records. I will send a separate announcement when these are posted on Blackboard, so that you can check whether they are accurate and let us know of any inconsistencies.

(7) Last Pre-class quiz Reminder: Note that the last pre-class quiz on Ch. 15 will be available until Tuesday, 5/7 @ 11:30am.

(8) Final Exam: The final exam is scheduled for Monday, May 13 1:30pm-4:00pm in our regular classroom. We will be checking IDs, as usual, a few minutes before the exam begins. You will have the entire 2.5-hour period for the exam, which will consist of 50 multiple choice questions on the last section of the course.

(9) Final Exam Study Guide & Review Slides: The Exam III Study Guide and Review slides are now posted on the blog here.

(10) Classes this Week: During this week’s classes, we will finish Ch. 14 and we will also cover Ch. 15. Note that information covered in class for these chapters is not necessarily covered in the book, so please make sure to attend these last sessions. We will also highlight some critical issues for the final exam, as we wrap up Thursday’s class. Make sure to be there!

(11) Extended Office Hours/Review Hours for Final Exam: I will hold extended office hours during which I will review information regarding the final exam, as needed, on Thursday, May 9th, 5:30pm-7:00pm in Fraser 547, so feel free to stop by with questions! If you would prefer to meet with Yana on Friday May 10 (stop day), please email her for an appointment.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

See you all in class,

~Dr. Chrysikou

#PSYC370: The Mind of A Psychopath (Post#5 Open for Course Credit Comments)

On the evening of July 22, 2007 in Cheshire, Connecticut, two habitual criminals chose a family of two parents and their 17- and 11-year-old daughters at random after spotting them in a shopping center parking lot. The men invaded the home of the family, putting them through an ordeal of beatings and sexual abuse for several hours until the following morning, ending in the deaths of the mother and the two daughters. The father had been beaten with a baseball bat in his sleep; the mother was raped and strangled; the 11-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted and the two girls, still alive, were strapped to their beds, when the men poured gasoline over them and their mother, spread it around the house, and set the house on fire—moments before the police arrived. Only the father managed to escape. The two suspects Steven J. Hayes, 44, and his partner, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, were arrested a few minutes later. In November 2010, a jury voted to impose the death penalty on Hayes, the elder suspect.  Komisarjevsky was sentenced to death  in January 2012.

How can human beings engage in such heinous crimes? Are some people inherently bad? Psychologists have used the term psychopathy to describe a constellation of certain personality traits and behaviors that appear to be associated with antisocial behavior. These traits are not unique to Western societies; for example, they have also been observed in non-Western cultures like the Yupik-speaking Inuits. Psychopaths are superficially charming and they tend to make a good first impression on others, commonly referred to as the ‘mask of sanity.’ However, they are self-centered, dishonest, and undependable; they frequently engage in behaviors that could be deemed irresponsible or dangerous without apparent motivation. They lack empathy, the ability to feel love or guilt, and they do not take responsibility for their actions, indifferent to social rules. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses.

Due to their impulsive and, often, criminal behaviors, a significant number of psychopaths are typically incarcerated. It is estimated that between 15-35% of U.S. prisoners are psychopaths. Psychopaths tend to offend earlier in life, they are often repeated offenders, they commit more violent crimes, and they are 4-8 times more likely to commit new crimes upon release. Although typically not in the forefront of research and funding related to mental health, the costs of prosecuting and incarcerating psychopaths, combined with the consequences of their actions for others, amounts to a staggering $250 billion to $400 billion a year.

Recent research in psychology and neuroscience has allowed researchers to explore the possible biological and psychosocial circumstances associated with psychopathy, research which may shed light on the making of a psychopath, thus allowing for the prevention and treatment of psychopathy in the future. For example, recent findings involving functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) would suggest that the brains of psychopaths show underdevelopment in an area deep in the brain known as the paralimbic system (ranging from the orbital frontal cortex to the posterior cingulate cortex) that registers feelings and may be implicated in assigning emotional valence to one’s experiences. In addition, a defective amygdala might underlie their difficulty processing emotional stimuli, and—in some cases—the fact that not only are they not concerned about inflicting pain to others, but they don’t fear pain for themselves. Finally, recent research would suggest that specific genes might be responsible for such structural and functional brain alterations that may predispose someone to psychopathy, if triggered by environmentally determined risk factors (e.g., nutrition in the first 3 years of life, low IQ).

Is there a treatment for psychopathy? Some studies would suggest that psychopaths are untreatable, particularly in the context of their ability to deceive and manipulate others (i.e., a therapist) to achieve their goals and terminate treatment. Others have proposed that intensive one-on-one therapy can be beneficial for incarcerated youths, which in turn can prevent future offenses. Finally, early environmental interventions may decrease the presence of environmental triggers, despite biologically-determined predispositions for psychopathy. Nevertheless, several questions remain open: Are psychopaths suffering from a ‘disease’? What is the direction of causality with respect to research findings involving the brain? Should they be held responsible for their actions? Should they be punished? Should considerations regarding the origins of psychopathy be introduced during trials of crimes like the Connecticut murders discussed above?


Further Resources

Scientific American Mind: Inside the Mind of a Psychopath

Scientific American Mind: What “Psychopath” means

The Frontal Cortex: Psychopaths & Rational Morality

New York Times: When A Personality Disorder Wears Camouflage

The New Yorker: Suffering Souls

Time Magazine: Bad To The Bone

New York Times: The Brain on The Stand

New York Times: Brain Abnormality Linked to Pathology

Further Readings

Andreson, N. E., & Kiehl, K. A. (2012). The psychopath magnetized: Insights from brain imaging. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16, 52-60.

Raine, A. (2008). From genes to brain to antisocial behavior. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 323-328.

Kiehl, K.A. (2006). A cognitive neuroscience perspective on psychopathy: Evidence for paralimbic system dysfunction. Psychiatry Research, 142, 107-128.

Caldwell, M.F., Vitacco, M., Van Rybroek, G. J. (2006). Are violent delinquents worth treating? A cost–benefit analysis. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 43, 148-168.


#PSYC370 Exam II: Pencils & Photo IDs!

Hi folks, just a couple of reminders about tomorrow’s Exam:

(1) You will be required to show valid official photo ID to take the exam. Your KU ID, an official state ID, or state driver’s license will work. You will NOT be allowed to take the exam without a valid photo ID.

(2)  You will need to have a #2 pencil to complete the exam. Remember to bring a couple with you along with an eraser!

We will begin checking IDs around 12:30 tomorrow. If you can be at Malott earlier than 1:00, please do so, so that the process can move along as fast as possible.

If you have any questions, just send me an email!