My Blog Friends

Friday, September 30, 2011

Our Perceptions

So i'm reading my book about studies and came upon a cool part of human ability that I often leave out of my books. That is perception. Now I'm talking about physical perceptions no abstract perceptions. So, let me explain a little. So we have senses (hearing, feeling, smelling, seeing, tasting) that we are constantly taking in. Pause for a moment and try and think of something you are sensing at this moment from all five senses. Go ahead I'll wait.....Ok did you pick one out for each sense. It is amazing how much we sense and equally amazing how much our mind ignores. So our perceptual processes are doing three general things: 1) selecting the senses to pay attention to; 2) organizing these senses; 3) interpreting this organization and making sense of the world around us.

Our brain uses several tricks to make sense of this: 1) figure-ground (this is where we can focus in on one thing and ignore the other things. Think about the picture of the old and young women. Some see the young and some see the old but then they are able to switch it as well); 2) Perceptual Constancies (that is knowing and perceiving objects the same even though our senses are giving us new information about the object. For example as you walk around a chair the senses are telling you new things about it but you still see it as the same object);  3) Size Constancy (This is being able to tell that when you are 5 blocks away from a bus you know that it is not a toy).

The question is how much is learned and how much is innate, nature vs. nurture. This study talks about a man who has lived his entire life in a jungle and when he leaves he sees a mountain for the first time over a distance. He does not know how to comprehend it and can't tell if it is a mountain or a cloud. Later he sees a buffalo from a long way away and wonders what kind of insect it is. He has not learned how to perceive the size constancy outside of the jungle.

Okay so how does this apply to writing. First we need to understand the senses that are around us. As an exercise spend 5 minutes a day becoming aware of the sensations that your senses are telling you about then write them down. Remember all 5. Second when we write about our characters going into new environments and  places how are their perceptions reacting to those new places? Are they able to comprehend the things around them?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Brain

So today I received a book called "Forty Studies that changed Psychology" by Roger R. Hock. The first study that he looks at is "One Brain or two" which was a study conducted in 1976 by Gazzaniga, M.S. In this study the researchers were wanting to better understand how the two halves of the brain worked. There are extreme cases of seizure in which a surgery is conducted in which the corpus callosum (this is the structure that connects the right and left hemisphere together) is cut to prevent or reduce seizures. So the researchers conducted tests on these patients to see how they would respond.

What they found is that the left hemisphere of the brain is superior to the right for speech while it seemed visual spatial abilities were more proficient with the left hand which means it was tied to the right hemisphere of the brain (you see as the nerves go from some parts of our body they cross over and so the left side is controlled by the right and vice verse).

So what does this all have to do with our characters and understanding them better? This is an extremely small taste of the research that has been conducted on the brain. I think the more that we as authors understand the brain and how it works we will better understand characteristics of our characters that are unique to them. In this study I could then look at a character who has a brain injury to a certain side and understand how it might affect that character. Or perhaps he gets clubbed in the back of the head and goes blind for a day or two (the rear part of our brains is where I sight is processed). By understanding the brain we can better understand how our characters act and respond to the environment.

So what interesting facts have the rest of you learned about the brain? How have you applied it to your writing?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Society vs The Individual

This is a big question in my mind lately. What is more important the society that a person resides in or the individual. Today in our ethics class we discussed a fictitious vignette about a study on cancer. The researchers were studying a hypothetical drug that was curing some kids but others were getting sicker and dying. All of the kids were terminally ill. The question is do we stop research because of the few terminally ill children that are dying sooner than expected even though the drug is beneficial and saving others. This is the whole idea of what is more important society or the individual.

When we are creating our characters we need to understand their viewpoint on this. We need to know what they would do in certain ethical dilemmas. Would they stop the study because of the harm being done to the few or would they continue because the benefit outweighs the cost of the few. This can greatly influence how they react in certain situations. Will they forget the world because their family is in dire trouble or will they say it is more important to save the world. We see this all the time in the different shows that we watch.

I suggest to truly get to know our main characters we should put them in hypothetical situations where they need to make ethical decisions. Make sure that they are not easy dilemmas to solve but that they make you really evaluate the values of your character.

What ethical dilemmas do you find your characters in?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What I have been doing?

Hello to all of you who have been wondering where I have been and to those who just may not care :) I apologize for my absence and want all to know that I am doing well. I plan on starting to post again and have missed the wonderful interactions that I have had with all of you. So today's post is a catch up of the past month.

First I proposed my thesis and passed. Yeah!! This is very exciting because now I can start working on the data that I have. My thesis is looking at juvenile drug courts and comparing those who graduate and those who do not graduate. This is going to be interesting because hopefully it will help selection teams to either look at who they are selecting and/or change their program to better fit those who are not graduating.

I am also working on another project that will be evaluating the studies that have been done over the years. Specifically I will be looking at how have they changed after the Institutional Review Board (IRB) came into existence. The IRB is the reviewing board for all studies that are conducted. They evaluate the ethics behind the studies to ensure that the cost/benefits are inline and more importantly that studies like the Milgram project and prison experiment do not happen again. I will be evaluating how studies are benefiting society now or if they have become to stifled because of IRB restrictions. This whole idea comes from my wonderings of what is more important the society or the individual. Is society hurting because of our emphasis on the individual? Have we gone far enough to protect the individual from society? So this is a big theme in my life and in fact a lot of my books look at this question.

School has started again and this semester has been overwhelming as you can tell by the lack of posts. However the exciting thing is that I am in practicum and so I am actually working in the schools once a week.

I also have queried my book to a couple of places and one of them even requested a full. This is very exciting because it means that they enjoyed the first three chapters enough to want to read more.

I went to League of Utah writers conference and it reinvigorated me to write again. I have been working on my WIP and I have developed the magic system and the technology. I have also been playing around with Dragon Age's portrait creator to make pictures of my main characters. This is a wonderful resource BTW.

So that is life in a nutshell. How are the rest of you doing? Any exciting and earth shattering news? Is there anything that you want to hear about? Have a wonderful day!

Friends Meetup Party - the perfect line