Today in class, instead of having a lecture based off of a chapter in the textbook, like usual, our discussion was based off of the interesting article from the New York Times we read last night. One aspect of the article we focused on was an experiment about the perceptions about mental illness, and how different perceptions can change how people with mental illnesses are treated. The method of the experiment was that participants were introduced to someone with a mental illness (an actor in the study). The actor would either tell the participant that their mental illness was due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, or tell them that their mental illness was a result of something that happened in their childhood. Then the participant would teach the actor to press some buttons in a certain pattern. If the actor did not press the buttons in the right order, the participants were told to give the actor a small electrical shock, which could vary in strength. It was found that if the participants were told the story about how the mental illness was caused by a chemical imbalance, they were harsher with the strength of the shocks they gave. Participants who were told the mental illness was the result of something that occurred in childhood were more likely to be sympathetic. After discussing why this was in class, I thought that when someone says it is because of the chemistry in their brain, it becomes part of them that cannot be separated. Then it becomes part of their identity, and it is hard to think of them as separate from their illness. When someone described their mental illness as being due to something that happened in their childhood, it is as if the cause of the mental illness was an outside force, and it maybe evoked sympathy from the participants.
We also discussed how it is a very Western, American in particular, idea, that when something goes wrong in someone's life, it is their own responsibility, and that they should work hard to lift themselves back up. It goes along with the idea of independence that is very valued in America. In other cultures, mental illness was thought of in more spiritual terms. In certain cultures, people with mental illnesses are kept in the social group, and they have religious rituals they believe will help the ill person's spirit. The discussion was very interesting, and I participated a lot in the discussion.
I surprised myself in this course by talking a lot in class, because normally in academic situations I am not very verbal. I think because the class was so small, it was easier to speak in front of everyone. Also, I didn't know these people before these three weeks, so it was easy not to worry about what they would think of what I had to say. After this long discussion, Amanda the TA, did a short lecture on the importance of being objective in observations rather than subjective. For example, we cannot say in our notes, "The boy was happy." Instead we have to write, "The boy was laughing and smiling." We can never assume about one's emotions because you cannot get into somebodies mind and know their emotions. You can only see their actions and hear their words. We did a couple of exercises with this, practicing changes notes from subjective to objective.
A few minutes later, we were excused for lunch. I went to the Grounds of Being cafe again. I got a tandoori chicken sandwich and cucumber sparkling water. On my lunch break, I went to the bookstore to buy some postcards to write to friends back home. Back in class, we were taught how to write the very first thing in a psychology paper, the abstract. It is basically an overview of the whole paper, but very summarized. It is only supposed to be about 250 words. I finished that in class and then went on making corrections on the rest of my paper. We were told that on the last day of class, we had to make a twenty minute power point presentation with our group. Tomorrow we will work on that. We were dismissed from class at 2:30. I went back to the dorms for a bit to work on my paper. After a about an hour and a half I went to the gym for an hour and a half as well. I walked back to dinner, where I ate with Dani and April, her project partner. Later Oyin joined us. She had just arrived back on campus because she had a field trip and there was traffic on the way back from the city. I went to my room to finish my homework and blog.