RSS Feed

Tony Moore

Posted on

Video Games: Heroes or Villains?

            Many young children and teenagers have heard their mother’s incessant plead to get away from the screen and to go outside or pick up a book for once instead. The urge to play “just one more level” before starting that homework or doing those chores can be quite distracting. But are video games really as awful as Mom exclaims or as brutal as those TV ads depict? It turns out that video games can have a strong impact on participants’ lives in both positive as well as negative ways.

When imagining the typical video gamer, one might envision the stereotypical overweight, slightly nerdy looking man who traps himself within his basement till two every morning leveling his character (see Figure 1). This behavior, of course, has poor physical health consequences. Rani Desai noted in her survey of high school gamers that both males and females tended to consume more caffeine (almost three times more), which, in the case of our stereotype, would cause him to sacrifice sleep, a vital mental resource, in order to play games. Desai also found that female gamers tended to have a slightly higher than average body mass index (BMI), however, male gamers and their BMI seemed to be unrelated. Overall, male gamers tended to display a neutral correlation between video games and heath whereas “among the girls, gaming was associated with modestly lower risk of depression and moderate increases in serious fights and carrying a weapon” (Desai et al.). This implies that video games may have a positive effect on mood and a negative effect on aggression.

Numerous studies have been conducted claiming a link between video game violence and increased aggression in players. For example, Gentile notes in his study on the effects of violent video games that “adolescents who expose themselves to greater amounts of video game violence were more hostile, reported getting into arguments with teachers more frequently, [and] were more likely to be involved in physical fights” (Gentile et al.). Since several video games contain some sort of violent content, it has been hypothesized that gamers nowadays tend to be more aggressive. Gentile also states that “playing violent games increases aggressive behaviors, increases aggressive cognitions, [and] increases aggressive emotions.” This is an intense list of negative consequences, but what makes violent games instill such hostility? Many video games today include multiplayer in addition to classical single player modes. With real life opponents, gamers are much more competitive and inclined to demonstrate dominance over friends and real life opponents. Whereas facing a computer can be competitive, there may be a stronger feeling of satisfaction after defeating a nonvirtual enemy which could translate into real life aggression towards real people. Though correlation does not mean causation, the fear that violent video games may increase problematic antagonism is clearly not misplaced.

But not all video games are violent: in fact, video games can promote cohesion through cooperation rather than competition. Multiplayer games sometimes implement a cooperative mode enabling players to use teamwork to achieve a goal instead of contending for supremacy. This cooperative multiplayer encourages “(against the stereotype of gaming as a socially isolating action) the development of team, social, communication, and resource sharing skills” (Kirriemuir). Video games, especially in the last half-decade, offer social opportunities unlike any games of the past. With services such as “Steam,” “,” “Xbox Live,” and the “Playstation Network,” gamers can play with people all over the world via the internet. Instead of the aforementioned antisocial stereotype, gamers have become increasingly connected: perhaps even more so than nongamers. This is because it is now not only possible, but common to play with dozens of friends and family scattered all around the country at once for multiple hours- something totally unrealistic as a daily occurrence in a nonvirtual world.

Besides supporting teamwork and socialness, video games can also provide a huge range of additional benefits. In his study on video games in education Kirriemuir observes that a basic gain from playing is an increase in hand-eye coordination. He also found that complex, modern games promote the development of strategic skills. Not all games are so simple and straightforward or are mindless shooters. Video games can stimulate mental activities and exercise the brain. Many games are virtual puzzles that require deep thought to overcome. Video games excel at “stimulating curiosity and encouraging experimentation in a safe “virtual” environment” (Kirriemuir). Being exposed to these types of games improves cognitive function- the opposite of what most moms expect.

There is a huge area of video games dedicated to the education of the people. Kirriemuir comments that “simulation games can offer learners sophisticated scenarios to support meaningful post-game discussion.” For example, these scenarios are extremely useful for training pilots for strenuous flight conditions that could arise (see Figure 2). Practicing these simulations beforehand rather than in the cockpit for the first time is essential for everyone’s safety. An advantage of video games as opposed to worksheets for learning is that “pupils receive immediate feedback on their actions and decisions, inviting exploration and experimentation.” It is easy to test one scenario and then quickly another as the game plays each one out while you witness success or failure. The entertainment games can provide captures pupils’ attention much more intensely than a textbook or blackboard. The potential video games have as a teaching method has been proven and is continuously being capitalized for the benefit of all users.

So are video games heroic tools for the world to profit from or evil devices that promote hostility and laziness? The paradox of video games is not so easily categorized. There are clear benefits and detriments to the use of video games. With proper adult supervision, violent video games can be restricted and therefore the aggression they may induce can be as well. New games such as “Wii Fit” seem to break the typical “couch potato” stereotype, and intricate real time strategy games turn the “lazy gamer” into a blazing mental menace. Not all games are “Wii Fit,” but also not all games are violent killing sprees. In fact, Adam Theirer found that “out of 1,638 games rated by the ESRB in 2010, only 5% were rated “M” for Mature” and more than half of these games were rated “E” for “Everyone” indicating that violence in video games is, in truth, quite limited (see Figure 3). In moderation, video games can promote positive cognitive growth and social connectedness. Video games can be abused, however, and problems such as addiction or increased hostility are legitimate threats. Dedicated gamers agree that video games are a fantastically amusing form of entertainment, but how this entertainment is exploited is, of course, up to the user.

Figure 1: Sterotypical Gamer

Figure 2: Flight Simulator

Figure 3: Percent of Ratings in 2010

Works Cited

Carnagey, Nicholas L., Craig Anderson, and Brad Bushman. “The Effect of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-life Violence.” Journal of Experimental Psychology 43 (2007): 489-96. ScienceDirect. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

Desai, Rani A., Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Dana Cavallo, Marc Potenza. “Video-Gaming Among High School Students: Health Correlates, Gender Differences, and Problematic Gaming.” Pediatrics. 126.1 (2010): 1414-424. Google Scholar. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

Gentile, Douglas A., Paul K. Lynch, Jennifer R. Linder, and David A. Walsh. “The Effects of Violent Video Game Habits on Adolescent Hostility, Aggressive Behaviors, and School Performance.” Journal of Adolescence 27 (2004): 5-22. Google Scholar. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

Kirriemuir, John. “The Relevance of Video Games and Gaming Consoles to the Higher and Further Education Learning Experience.” Ceangal 2.1 (2002): 1-14. Google Scholar. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

Schmierbach, Mike. ““Killing Spree”: Exploring the Connection Between Competitive Game Play and Aggressive Cognition.” Communication Research 37.2 (2010): 256-74. Google Scholar. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

Thierer, Adam. “Again, Most Video Games Are Not Violent.” Technology Liberation Front — Keeping Politicians’ Hands off the Net & Everything Else Related to Technology. 21 Mar. 2011. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

The Debate of Killing a Killer

Posted on

Derek Luthi

The Debate of Killing a Killer

What if I told you I could easily prevent thousands of deaths and cases of cancers caused by a virulent, rampant disease? What if I told you I could do this by simply distributing vaccinations to both genders? What if I told you this disease is totally preventable, yet I didn’t agree with saving its victims due to myths and unrealistic beliefs?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a killer. It is an awful disease that is the culprit of many deaths each year. We have the means for its prevention, yet HPV vaccination for girls is a controversial topic to some. This controversy carries over to the current question on whether or not males should also be vaccinated. The issue is starting to play a huge role in the media; Fox news recently broadcasted a story on male HPV vaccinations. This story makes clear the benefits that would come from vaccinating males, including a statement from the Center for Disease Control that, “The HPV vaccine will afford protection against certain HPV-related conditions and cancers in males, and vaccination of males with HPV may also provide indirect protection of women by reducing transmission of HPV”(Roberts).

Although these vaccinations will save lives, many people still disagree with this action. In the Fox news story, a poll was taken which showed that more people were against vaccinating males because it disregards the practice of abstinence. They think that these vaccinations will encourage promiscuous behaviors in adolescents because it gives teens protection from this disease. (Roberts)

Mystifications and uninformed people often sway the public into believing that HPV vaccinations, and vaccinations in general, do more harm than good. For example, Representative Michele Bachmann stated during a debate recently that the HPV vaccine is “dangerous,” and that it can be linked to mental retardation. Although her belief was almost immediately proven false, it is ignorance such as this that sometimes sticks with viewers. The New York Times article containing this story states that, “when politicians or celebrities raise alarms about vaccines, even false alarms, vaccination rates drop”(Grady).

Another myth about vaccinations is that they cause autism. This has also been proven false, but a professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a member of the committee on infectious diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Rodney E. Willoughby, says that these types of false allegations “always set you back about three years, which is exactly what we can’t afford”(Grady).

HPV vaccinations bring up many public health and ethical issues. Some states want to require vaccines for school attendance. In the academic journal article “HPV Vaccination’s Second Act: Promotion, Competition, and Compulsion”, author Jason Schwartz states that, “Although some argue that HPV vaccines should never be mandated for school attendance, the temptation for policymakers to revisit this ethical and policy debate must be resisted until HPV vaccination has successfully become a routine, trusted component of adolescent medical care” (Schwartz). This train of thought exemplifies the opposition to HPV vaccination in this country, which restricts us in immunizing possible victims as effectively as possible. If the ignorance towards the vaccine continues, there will not be a powerful impact in decreasing rates of HPV infections.

Instead, if people saw how serious this virus is, then they may be able to more clearly see how beneficial the vaccinations are. HPV is so common and prevalent in today’s society that it will infect 75% – 80% of both males and females throughout their lifetime. Those infected with specific types of HPV may experience severe consequences, including cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in females; it can cause mouth, throat, and anal cancers in men, and genital warts in both males and females. Exposure to HPV can result from any type of genital contact, disproving the myth that intercourse is necessary for its transmission. Also, many times HPV has no signs or symptoms, making it very difficult to detect, and therefore, infections can occur without anyone knowing it. (“HPV and Your Child: More Information for Parents”)

Gardasil is the most widely used current vaccination for girls. It is administered as a series of three injections over the course of six months. It helps protect against four different types of HPV and drastically decreases one’s risk of HPV-caused cancer. For example, in females ages 9 – 26, Gardasil helps protect against two strains of HPV that cause 75% of cervical cancers, and two other types of HPV which cause 90% of genital warts cases. (“HPV and Your Child: More Information for Parents”)

One study was conducted to test success rates of HPV vaccinations for a variety of different circumstances and factors. Calculations were made, and the results came out very promising, especially when adding in the vaccination of males. They indicated that if the combined number of males and females vaccinated were equal to the total number of vaccinations given to females alone, the number of infected individuals as a whole would decrease. The study also suggests that HPV vaccinations have the potential to eradicate the disease altogether. (Brown 232)

Right now, the government needs to focus on the groundwork for vaccinating more of the adolescent population. On the other hand, making this vaccination mandatory for school attendance would strip people of their rights since there is still much public opposition. Until HPV vaccinations become more accepted, the government cannot jump to any extremes. Therefore, more action does need to be taken if we want to see substantial results. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the country (Roberts). If we have the means of putting an end to its wrath then why aren’t we? It seems ridiculous not to utilize the remedy on adolescents who could suffer from HPV. The question is: how can we do this if not everyone sees the benefits?

Works Cited

Brown, V., and K. A. J. White. “The HPV vaccination strategy: could male vaccination have a significant impact?.” Computational & Mathematical Methods in Medicine 11.3 (2010): 223-237. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.

Grady, Denise. “Remark on HPV Vaccine Could Ripple for Years.” New York Times. 19 Sept. 2011. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.

“HPV and Your Child: More Information for Parents.” GARDASIL® [Human Papillomavirus Quadrivalent (Types 6, 11, 16, and 18) Vaccine, Recombinant]. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.

Roberts, John. “CDC Backs HPV Vaccine For Boys | Fox News.” Fox News – Breaking News Updates | Latest News Headlines | Photos & News Videos. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.

Schwartz, Jason L. “HPV Vaccination’s Second Act: Promotion, Competition, and Compulsion.” American Journal of Public Health 100.10 (2010): 1841-1844. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.



Improvements in Genetic Disorder Treatments

Posted on

To date, over four thousand genetic diseases due to single gene defects have been discovered (“How many genetic diseases are there?”). These disorders are unavoidable because they are determined at the moment of conception. Since there are no preventative measures for such illnesses, the most doctors can do is prescribe courses of action for treatment or possible cures.  Unfortunately, treatments and or cures for every disease have not been found.  For example, researchers are searching for the faulty gene in Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetic disease of the eyes, in order to determine a proper treatment for it. Support through funding is crucial to the success of this type of research.  With the recent increase in technological knowledge, several new theories of treatment for Retinitis Pigmentosa and other genetic disorders have arisen.

Retinitis Pigmentosa can be inherited from a dominant or recessive gene, an X-linked chromosome, or have an unknown cause.  This disease causes trouble with vision in dim lighting or in the dark and loss of side or peripheral vision.  The time that it takes for these effects to emerge depends on the individual who carries the disorder (“Retinitis Pigmentosa”).  These permanent changes occur due to inactive retinal cells (“Retinitis Pigmentosa”), as well as rod and cone photoreceptor cell death in the eyes (Komeima). It is possible for some people with RP to also develop cataracts.  Even though the cataracts can be removed, the patient will still have this disease after the procedure, with a partial amount of their vision restored (“Retinitis Pigmentosa”).

The simplest theory of alleviating the symptoms of Retinitis Pigmentosa is to add certain supplements to your diet.  Studies are currently “investigating the benefits of mixtures of nutritional supplements which have an anti-oxidant effect” such as Vitamin A (“Retinitis Pigmentosa”).  An experiment was done on mice to test the theory that cone death is due to oxygen deprivation.  The purpose of this test was to see if anti-oxidants would prevent oxidative damage in the cones.  The results proved the researchers’ hypothesis that anti-oxidants prevented oxygen loss along with supporting cone function.  This experiment leads researchers one step closer to finding a cure, as the consumption of anti-oxidants might even be a possible treatment in itself.  Researchers are directing proper courses of action through gene and stem cell therapy.  They are also working on creating growth factors to help the damaged cells grow and repair themselves (Komeima).

The National Natural Science Foundation of China supported a more advanced study that was conducted on rats to test the effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene by electroporation to see if photoreceptors in the cones can be restored in patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa.  Electroporation is “a process using high-voltage current to make cell membranes permeable to allow the introduction of new DNA” (McCracken). As a result, treated eyes showed a higher count of working photoreceptors than the control eyes.  This data supports that electroporation is an efficient method for genes to be transferred into retinal pigment epithelial cells as well as rescuing photoreceptors.  This is another possible treatment for Retinitis Pigmentosa that involves a more advanced procedure than simply consuming certain nutritional supplements (Huang).

Other recent discoveries in treatments for genetic disorders prove that new sophisticated technology benefits patients who hope to recover. Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center “have demonstrated how it could be possible to treat genetic diseases by enhancing the natural ability of cells to restore their own mutant proteins.” A protein called Hps70 assists mutant proteins that are added onto an amino acid chain to fold back into their correct form. The study’s leader, Warren Kruger, Ph.D., explains that this protein “pulls misfolded mutant proteins apart like twisted rubber bands and allows them to snap back into place. Eventually a significant percentage of these proteins will snap back into something approaching a functional shape.” Hps70 has the ability to turn fatal genetic diseases into treatable conditions (Fox Chase Cancer Center). It is intriguing how such an interesting concept could be applied to several cases of genetic disorders.  With the potential to fix the problematic protein by merely reshaping it, there is no need to worry about any added chemicals to your body.  Because Hps70 is doing nothing more than helping to snap back the faulty gene to its original form, the patient is left with all of their own healthy proteins. This process feels like a more natural way of resolving the effects of genetic diseases and would most likely appeal to the public as a viable choice.

While some of these procedure options seem very complicated, there is always a more simplistic answer or resource.  The developments of micro-array-based mutation and non-profit laboratories have proven to be more affordable than the “high cost of sequencing and long turn-around times [of] gene testing” (Pradhan).  Many ocular genetic disorders have been tested here and some couples are undergoing prenatal and or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.  This setting allows for genetic counseling, and new ways of testing inherited retinal disease have been developed.  Because the number of people with genetic disorders has increased, these laboratories are a very cost-effective way for families to be diagnosed with diseases such as Retinitis Pigmentosa (Pradhan).

There are several options for not only people with Retinitis Pigmentosa, but all types of genetic disorders. The current technological advances allow doctors to find more treatments and cures for suffering patients.  Supporting genetic research and findings is the world’s best chance to lessen the struggles that many people face on a daily basis.  Think about friends, family, and neighbors who have these genetic disorders. Their lives could be easier and less stressful if more time was spent on finding answers to all of their questions.  There is always hope for breakthroughs that have the potential to change or even save someone’s life.

Works Cited

“How many genetic diseases are there?.” Yahoo. Yahoo! Inc., 2009. Web. 8 Nov 2011.

Fox Chase Cancer Center. “New method fixes broken proteins to treat genetic
diseases.” ScienceDaily, 15 Jan. 2010. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

Komeima, Keiichi, Brian S. Rogers, Lily Lu, and Peter A. Campochiaro. “Antioxidants
Reduce Cone Cell Death in a Model of Retinitis Pigmentosa.” PNAS:
Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Science of the United States of America
. National Academy of Sciences, 25 Jul 2006. Web. 27 Oct 2011.

McCracken, Mark. “Electroporation.”., 2011. Web. 15 Nov 2011.

Pradhan, Monika, Ian Hayes, and Andrea Vincent. “An audit of genetic testing in
diagnosis of inherited retinal disorders: a prerequisite for gene-specific
intervention.” Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology 37.7 (2009): 703-711.
Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.

Qian Huang, et al. “Rescue of Photoreceptors by BDNF Gene Transfer Using In Vivo
Electroporation in the RCS Rat of Retinitis Pigmentosa.” Current Eye Research 34.9 (2009): 791-799. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.

“Retinitis Pigmentosa.” RNIB Supporting Blind and Partially Sighted People.  Royal
National Institute of Blind People, 16 May 2011. Web. 27 Oct 2011.

Luiza Korobkova

Posted on


When mentioned to the general public, the word “Pentecostalism” generates three diverse responses: confusion, mockery, and tolerance; some people never heard of the word, some people view it as being infamous, and the rest accept it. According to the Oxford dictionary, Pentecostalism “relates to any number of Christian sects emphasizing baptism in the Holy Spirit.” Misconceptions originated from the misunderstanding of the history of Pentecostalism, along with the notion that Pentecostalism is one sect when, in fact, there are many divisions. The largest of these is the teachings of Charismatic’s, which make up the most prevalent part of the denomination and have been the driving force for the assumptions and reputation that Pentecostalism has garnered. To truly understand Pentecostalism, one needs to learn the religions history, the standard beliefs of the various sects, and the contemporary changes that some followers have made in the recent years that have fueled the current fallacy about the belief system.

The history of Pentecostalism is widely disputed amongst historians; some believe that Pentecostalism began with Jesus’ disciple’s baptism in the Holy Spirit at the first Pentecost, while other historians argue that the religion itself dates as recent as the early ninety’s. In the historiographical essay, “Assessing the Roots of Pentecostalism,” Randall J. Stephens claims that the Pentecostal movement started in 1901 and the famous 1906 Los Angeles revival on Azusa Street helped the religion grow to currently contain approximately 420 million followers. The followers, being mostly lower and middle-class groups who were “multi-ethnic and often challenged racial norms” (Wilma Wells Davies 2), of the revival were unhappy with the growing wealth of the church and of the impiety of mainline denominations. The disapproval of religions that have dominating leaders and an emphasis on financial gain has always been a factor in the division of many religions up to this day. A strong disapprover of Pentecostalism, Robert Mapes Anderson, claims that the only reason for the growth in believers was that the social strain for the lower class was alleviated with the hope of the apocalyptic return of Jesus and the idea, originating from an unwillingness to personally investigate, that “speaking in tongues provided psychic escape through religious ecstasy” and that “Pentecostalism represented a dysfunctional and maladjusted reaction to social pressures.” Fervent followers, citing chapter two of the book of Acts in the Bible, believe that, “When the day of Pentecost came, they [Jesus’ followers] were all together in one place… All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” It is possible to perceive that the faith system was formed on the day of the Pentecost, and the revival helped spread the religion in the United States. The brief time span between the nineteen hundred revivals and today is an explanation for the fact that the biggest modifications being done to the religion are controlled by the 21st century youth.

Pentecostals set a foundation of beliefs that are shared throughout the sects, but recently some aspects of the religion have led to disagreements and divisions in the denomination. Historian Donald Dayton believed that religion was based on four theological doctrines: salvation, healing, baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the second coming of Christ. Like all Christians, Pentecostals believe in salvation and the second coming of Christ; they believe that salvation comes through the repentance of one’s sins and the acceptance, by taking water baptism, of Jesus Christ as one’s savior who will have a second coming to bring faithful followers to heaven. Dayton’s allusion to “healing” is in terms of spiritual healing, where one understands that the sins that were repented are forgiven through the grace of God; the principle of whether the healed sinner is from then on “pure” or whether it is a life long  of becoming chaste is disputed. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is what defines Pentecostalism when taken from the perspective of a believer; this element garners ridicule from outsiders mainly because of a general lack of knowledge about the supernatural phenomena.

The early nineteen hundred revivals were famous because they were centered on a “post-conversion” experience called “Spirit baptism.” There are many views from believers on the baptism that derive from the underlying belief that a gift of the “Spirit baptism” is given by the Holy Spirit; Grant Wacker, a prominent historian of Pentecostalism, states that “Pentecostals believe that a person who has been baptized in the Holy Spirit will manifest one or more of the nine spiritual gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.” Like many other spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, “a public proclamation of words in a spiritual language” (Anthony Stevens) is believed to be a form of giving glory to God while also having benefits to the believer; in “Pentecost 101,” found in Pentecostal Evangel, Dave Kidd states that “speaking tongues privately strengthens the person speaking, no one else.” Along with speaking in tongues, the general public scrutinizes the gift of prophecy, gift of healing, and the discerning of spirits. While the nonbelievers dispute the gifts, the followers work on sorting out other attributes of the religion. The main religions that converted to Pentecostalism are Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists. Thus various sects have formed over the years that display the spectrum of backgrounds that converts have come from.

Pentecostalism has expanded to include a wide variety of believers; though connected in their belief in the baptism in the Holy Spirit, they still differ in many ways. When defining oneself, a believer may use the book of Matthew (Chapter 28, verse 19); a popular separation of beliefs comes from the “Oneness” idea, shared amongst Unitarian Pentecostals, that Jesus represents “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” versus the “Trinitarianism” idea that “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons (personae), of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost” (Westminster Confession of Faith 1647).  Another two prevalent sects of Pentecostalism include Wesleyan-perfectionism, and its counterpart Keswick-Reformed that stresses that the will of man is what enables a person to live a sanctified life, rather than baptism in the Spirit. Wesleyan-perfectionism, also known as entire sanctification, is a belief that, according to the leader John Wesley in his book “A Plain Account of Christian Perfectionism,” Christians could attain a degree of perfection through baptism in Spirit to be “perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect,” (12) while stressing that, “We willingly allow and continually declare, there is no such perfection in this life” (35). It is the reliance on Holy Spirit that helps believers become sanctified.

The mentioned sects of Pentecostalism do not conjure the same placid effect upon the listener as the word “Charismatic”; reactions from those who have dabbled in investigating the religion include telling the listener stories of seemingly possessed people rolling, running, or dancing around. Charismatics, followers of a recent division in the Pentecostal denomination usually led by young leaders that constantly have a “reformation” motto, are infamous for their worship style that has bewildered onlookers in the recent years and have drawn critics like Peter Masters in the book The Charismatic Phenomenon to state that “Charismatic practices loosen up the mind in such an unhealthy way that people will believe almost anything… able to take seriously such amazing ideas as Oral Roberst claim to have seen a vision of Jesus, 900 feet tall” (67). Through his book, Charismatic Chaos, John MacArthur, a world-renowned preacher, evaluates the Charismatic religion according to the Bible in order “to call the church to a firm commitment to the purity and authority of the Scriptures, and thereby to strengthen the unity of the true church.” Present Charismatic church’s exploit the gifts of the Holy Spirit and twist the words of the Bible to give the audience in their church’s reason to give money to the church. MacArthur points out that in terms of exploitation of the spiritual gift of healing, the healer is always portrayed as a hero, and any failed healing is blamed on the lack of faith on the seekers part (345). Prosperity gospel, a materialistic belief that one’s blessing is solely financial comfort and good health; in order to get such blessing, the follower’s obligation is to support the church, which has caused many believers of this gospel to become bankrupt. Church’s that have stayed away from the prosperity gospel no longer enforce Bible mandated rules in fear of losing members.

MacArthur analyzes beliefs and sermons held by extreme Charismatic’s and points out their faults. One of them is that Charismatic’s build up an “emotional high” for the church participants to convince the members that they are having a spiritual experience. It is this desire to emulate the conservative Pentecostal spiritual experience that leads them to perform absurd physical actions, such as running, dancing, or singing repetitively and continuously, interloping many songs at a time. Charismatic church’s use music to affect the members psychologically, giving them spiritual encounters that are controlled by the rhythm and volume of the music rather than the presence of God. This disillusionment in the most extreme churches causes members to roll around, pretend to be animals, and be willing to go in debt to uphold their preacher’s in hopes of emulating a spiritual experience and “worshipping” God.

According to the Bible, Hebrews 12:28 defines “worship” as an act that includes “reverence and godly fear” and the psalmist David states in Psalm 95:6 to “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;” nowhere in the Bible does it portray worshipping as dancing, running, screaming, but, on the contrary, it is something to do in respect, as God is Holy. MacArthur, like other outsiders who only look at Charismatic’s for a universal representation of Pentecostals, begins to discredit the gift of speaking in tongues, yet, there are many Bible verses that support the gift as can be found in the comments written by Galyn Wiemer on MacArthur’s teaching on tongues. Conservative beliefs are being left behind in exchange for Charismatic services that serve as forms of entertainment in efforts to keep the youth interested in attending church.

Understanding Pentecostalism through its history helps one understand that while it was founded soon after the death of Jesus Christ, it was not until the late eighteen hundred’s that it started gaining popularity in the United States, serving an explanation for the constant variation’s in beliefs and values found amongst believers. There are standard beliefs that are accepted by all Pentecostals, like the baptism in water and the Spirit, yet there are contemporary changes that followers have made in the recent years. On account of researching Pentecostalism, I visited a welcoming Charismatic gathering and noticed that their service was controlled by music; a decrease in the volume of the guitar paralleled a decrease in the volume of prayer, and any pause on the instrumentalist part was mirrored in the gatherers. I myself am a conservative Pentecostal but never defined myself further; through this research I would fit under the Trinitarians belief and would closest relate to Wesleyan-perfectionists, sharing the belief that though perfectionism is not attainable, through the baptism of the Spirit, I can continually cleanse myself of sins through faith and the help of the Holy Spirit. Growing up as a Pentecostal, I have always relied on Jesus to lead me in my life and I share the fundamental belief that all Pentecostal’s hold, that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).



Works Cited

Holy Bible: the New King James Version, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Bibles, 1982. Print.

MacArthur, John. Charismatic Chaos. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1992. Print.

Marshall, Howard I. “The Significance of Pentecost.” Scottish Journal of Theology 30.04 (1977): 347. Print.

Richardson, William E., and Dave Kidd. “Articles.” Pentecostal Evangel. General Council of the Assemblies of God. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

Stephens, Randall J. “Assessing the Roots.” American Religious Experience at WVU. The American Religious Experience. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

Wesley, John. A Plain Account of Christian Perfectionism. Boston: McDonald, Gill &, 1968. Print.

Memory Fallibility in the Courtroom

Posted on

Steven Phillips

by Becca Jankowski

            Imagine spending twenty-four years in prison for a crime you did not commit. Furthermore, imagine that conviction is based on witness testimony and no valid forensic evidence. This is the case for Texas resident Steven Phillips and countless others whose unfortunate circumstances stem from the fallacious nature of human memory. Phillips was wrongly convicted in 1982 based on a few of the many inadequacies of human memory (“Know the Cases”). Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common occurrence due to the high malleability of episodic memory.

        In episodic memory, sequences and events are encoded; it is how we remember (or misremember) our lives. It is much more subject to erosion, interference, or suggestion than simple factual memory is. There are many psychological phenomena that interfere with the accuracy of memory, which can cause problems if an altered memory is needed. Specifically in the court of law, accurate memory is immensely important. The fact is, many eyewitnesses do not correctly remember details of the incident in question, and it happens as a result of many different processes.

            Why should you care? Well, for one thing, no one wants to be wrongly accused or convicted of a crime he did not commit. As Constitutional-law abiders, we rely on the right to fair trial and the right to have an unbiased jury make judgments on evidence and testimony. It is in all of our best interests, then, to raise awareness of the fallibility of human memory so that if we are ever placed in a situation like Steven Phillips’s, we are not punished due to the mistakes of another. Still not convinced? Look at the other side. Again, as citizens under the Constitution, we must all serve as jurors at some point in our lives. How would you feel if you helped convict a man based on an eyewitness testimony, and twenty-four years down the road you find out that new DNA evidence exonerated him? It is safe to say no one wants that kind of guilt on his conscience. For these reasons it is pertinent to examine memory, its fallibility, and its role in the courtroom.

            Before diving into specific problems in memory, it is imperative to understand the basics of memory, which goes through three steps: First, encoding is the process in which the information is initially recorded within neural networks. The next step is storage, in which the encoded information is stored for future use. This leads to retrieval, the final stage, in which information is recalled when necessary (Feldman 209). While the steps sound simple, memory cannot be relied upon like a video recording of an event. “Research has overwhelmingly shown that, contrary to what most people believe, human beings are neither unbiased observers nor veridical recorders” (Haber and Haber 1059), and problems arising in any three of the steps mentioned may result in memory mutation that may have serious implications if called upon in the courtroom.

            There are many problems associated with the encoding stage of memory, which all deal with the physical and mental conditions at the time of memory formation. Lighting and distance are two obvious circumstances that most people easily identify. Dim or no lighting obviously impairs eyesight because the eye cannot discern color or clarity of images. Distance is an obvious impairment as well, because it is impossible to understand context at a distance, in addition to lacking visual details of the scene.

            Another major problem in encoding is the focus of attention of the witness. It has been proven in many studies that “increased distraction…would result in less change detection relative to no distraction” (Nelson, et al 64). These studies demonstrate in a simulation what occurs in real life: witnesses are often distracted and may not notice the difference between a bystander and the perpetrator (this specific phenomenon is called change blindness, a largely researched cause of mistaken identification). Additionally, many witnesses often do not realize a crime has been committed until after the culprit has disappeared. While they have had ample opportunity to see the perpetrator, encoding has not taken place because attention was focused elsewhere (Wells and Olson 282).

            Sometimes, however, a witness’s focus is too narrow, which happens in violent crimes involving weapons. It is a popular misconception that the presence of a gun or other weapon translates to clear recall of the attacker, but this is simply not the case. Research on the weapon-focus effect has shown that “when a weapon is present, witnesses are far less able to remember distinctive features of the people present, including those of the person holding the weapon” (Haber and Haber 1062). Elizabeth Loftus, a leading expert in the field, conducted research in which victims’ eye movements were monitored. The results stated that the eyes are drawn mainly toward the weapon and away from the attacker’s face, so identification likelihood is minimal since no useful information has been encoded into memory (Wells and Olson 282).

            Unlike encoding, storage only has one main problem: since crimes are often chaotic and quick, witnesses do not always have the proper time to store information before focusing on something else. Short-term memory is a sieve, and details often get lost in the chaos.

            Since retrieval is a culmination of encoding and storage, it is obvious that if mistakes have already been made, then accurate retrieval is compromised. However, the process of retrieval is where bias comes into play, both personal and external, and further errors in memory can arise. Spontaneous false reports are a “part of the everyday functioning of memory” (Brainerd, et al 93) and are not abnormal in any way. However, “spontaneous false reports” are still false representations of memory due to the natural biases of human nature. This often arises from our ability to form schemas, which are bodies of information stored in our memories that “bias the way new information is interpreted, stored, and recalled” (Feldman 226). Because humans can process and perceive so efficiently, we naturally fill in gaps with information we already have stored in memory (our schemas). Schemas can often bias witnesses because they may perceive what they think occurred rather that what actually happened. In multiple studies on this tendency, participants demonstrate how they naturally assume that in a photograph depicting an African American and a Caucasian male, the African American is wielding a knife; in reality the Caucasian is holding a razor (Feldman 227). This demonstrates how witnesses have a tendency to fill in gaps in their understanding with preconceptions to construct a fuller memory. This often causes witnesses to make assumptions, which could lead to the misidentification of a particular individual as the culprit.

         Since the early 1970s, it has been well researched and documented that memory is malleable and not verbatim recall as once thought. Elizabeth Loftus, the pioneer of this research, determined that the power of suggestion is very, very real when it comes to memory. In studies where subjects were told that they were lost in a shopping mall as a child, the information is merely suggested. However, over time and with more probing, the “tag that indicates that being lost in the mall was merely a suggestion slowly deteriorates” (Loftus). Memory errors such as these can occur because the suggestions integrate with previous, indirect knowledge or emotions of the experience (such as having seen a similar scene on T.V.). In other studies by Loftus, staged scenes were shown on video and then misinformation was purposely given to participants. This misleading information dramatically reduced their memory accuracy by 30 to 40%. Misleading post-event information is a dangerous manipulation of witnesses and has a powerful effect on them, sometimes even leading to the “creation of false memories of objects that never in fact existed” (Loftus).

            This idea of suggestibility played a vital role in Phillips’s case. The police had circulated his image in the media long before any of the victims came forward with identifications. In fact, all of the victims reported the same striking blue eyes of their attacker, yet they willfully identified Phillips, a green-eyed man (“Know the Cases”). Because his image had been associated with suspicion in the string of attacks, the victims were inclined to identify him both in photo and in-person line-ups. He was convicted despite producing an alibi.

          These criminal line-ups, while important to investigations, often mislead witnesses. The format can be misleading because witnesses falsely believe that if they are shown a line-up, the suspect is among the figures shown, which is not always the case. This can force people to pick out a face simply due to the assumption that they believe the suspect is present, causing the false-positive rate to skyrocket. When many line-ups are shown, witness accuracy decreases, particularly if one individual is shown again. Familiarity of a face, as in Phillips’s case, raises the likelihood of identifying that individual. Another issue with line-ups is that confirming feedback from administrators, whether the choice was right or wrong, builds self-confidence in witnesses when it may not be appropriate. Self-confidence, in a juror’s mind, means accuracy, although the two are never necessarily correlated. Other suggestion comes from the administrator of the line-up through minute verbal or nonverbal clues if he knows which individual the suspect is. (Wells and Olson 289). Double-blind testing, in which neither the administrator nor witness know which individual is suspected, is therefore crucial.

            What does all of this mean? It means that faulty eyewitness identification is the single leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States. Since 1992, the Innocence Project has exonerated 246 prisoners, 75% of which were cases with faulty eyewitness identification (Nelson, et al 62). However, the findings in all of this research do not give us the ability to distinguish between real and false memories (Loftus) because “bias creeps into our memory without our knowledge…or our awareness” (Engelhardt).

            As Loftus says, there is no way to differentiate between real and false memories, but that does not mean we shouldn’t take preventative measures. Despite vast advances in forensic analysis, most cases today still rely heavily on eyewitness testimony due to the lack of DNA-rich biological traces in most crimes. Eyewitness testimony is sometimes the only evidence available. Measures must therefore be taken to ensure fair trials.

            First and foremost, the general public needs to be aware of the fallibility of memory because juries are, in fact, made up of citizens like you and me. If jurors are aware of the shortcomings of human memory, they will be much more equipped to determine the reliability of a witness; after all, a shadow of a doubt is all that is needed. Secondly, because of the nature of memory, one individual testimony should not be sufficient for a conviction if conditions are examined and deemed unsuitable (Haber and Haber 1091). Thirdly, in the case of lineups, there must be a double-blind testing situation to protect against suggestion, as well as the need for the witness to be informed that the suspect may or may not appear in the lineup. Since evidence shows that jury members often hold convictions about memory that conflict with reality, it may also be prudent to inform the jury of conditions that may affect memory. In which case, a memory expert could be called upon in cases heavily relying on witness testimony (Haber and Haber 1093).

            There are many small adjustments to be made to the court system to provide more accurate witness evidence, but there is no quick fix. Steven Phillips and hundreds of others know first-hand just how problematic witness testimonies are. The best way to adjust is to simply raise awareness in the general public. It is the common man that sits on a jury or must testify about a crime. It makes sense that ordinary citizens should be aware of just how deceptive memory can be.

Works Cited

Brainerd, Charles J., et al. “Fuzzy-Trace Theory and False Memory.” False-memory Creation in Children and Adults: Theory, Research, and Implications. Ed. David F. Bjorklund. Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum, 2000. Print.

Engelhardt, Laura. “The Problem With Eyewitness Testimony.” Stanford Journal of Legal Studies. Web. 27 Oct. 2011

Feldman, Robert S.  Understanding Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Print.

Haber, Ralph N., and Lyn Haber. “Experiencing, Remembering, and Reporting Events.” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 6.4 (2000): 1057-1097. PsycARTICLES, EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

“Know the Cases.” The Innocence Project. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

Loftus, Elizabeth. “The Formation of False Memories.” Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton. GoogleScholar. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.

Nelson, Kally J., et al. “Change Blindness Can Cause Mistaken Eyewitness Identification.” Legal and Criminological Psychology 16.1 (2011): 62-74. Wiley Online Library. The British Psychological Society, 17 Jan. 2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.

Wells, Gary L., and Elizabeth A. Olson. “Eyewitness Testimony.” 27 Aug. 2002. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.

Water Conservation in America

Posted on

Down the Drain

By Carolyn G

Our planet is covered with water. More than 70 % of the Earth’s surface is covered with lapping tides or splashing waves.  However, most of the water that covers Earth’s surface contains salt  “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink”(Coleridge). This quote from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner illustrates the reality of our water situation here on Earth.  The sea of water that surrounds us seems abundant enough to last forever, but it isn’t something we can actually use to sustain ourselves. What every human, and the great majority of living organisms on Earth, need to survive is a source of fresh water.  We build our cities around rivers, lakes ands streams because they are essential to our survival and our societal needs.  Nowadays, most Americans’ access to freshwater has become numbingly simple. With the turn of a handle, we have a seemingly infinite supply of fresh, clean water right out of the taps in our homes! We are so very fortunate to be able to live in such comfort, yet so very unfortunate as to be living with this ignorant belief that our freshwater supply is endless. It is not endless. Freshwater is a renewable resource, but only so long as we don’t over-use or pollute it.  Currently, Americans are doing both.  However, we are also learning more about conservation and creating new technology that can help us preserve our precious freshwater. Perhaps in the near future, we will all be more aware of this precious resource that we all depend on to survive.

If one looks at the actual amount of fresh water on this planet, suddenly our supply doesn’t seem nearly so endless.  It is true that more than 70% of Earth’s crust is covered in water, but it has been found that “fresh water makes up only 0.01% of the World’s water and approximately 0.8 % of the Earth’s surface”(Dudgeon). That is a very small percentage of usable water.  This fresh water has to be able to sustain all life forms on the planet, not just humans.  Most of Earth’s fresh water is stored in aquifers under the ground, or frozen in glaciers and ice caps. We have the technology to reach aquifers that are close to the surface, but aquifers take a very long time to re-charge and not very long time to drain (Pimentel 98).  Salt water or chemicals that seep into the ground can also pollute aquifers. Once an aquifer is polluted or drained, it is no longer usable.  Many cities in America utilize aquifers as their main source of freshwater. If those are used up or polluted, it will disrupt thousands of people’s lives.

In America, we use freshwater in every aspect of our lives. We drink it, use it to cook our foods, heat our homes, flush our toilets, wash everything we own, water our lawns and pets, fill our swimming pools and do much, much more. No water means no life for humans.  The Annual Review of Environment and Resources summarizes that water is used “for goods and services, such as the production of food and industrial items, transportation, communications, and the elimination of wastes. In addition, people want goods and services beyond their basic needs; some of the wanted items are recreation, leisure, and luxury goods.”(Gleick).  Withdrawal of water is much more than what we need for basic survival.  Both residential and municipal water usage adds up to a lot of freshwater use. According to the EPA, “the average American uses 140 to 160 gallons of water per day.” (“Water Pollution” 1). If we keep up this rate of withdrawal, we could complicate the delicate cycle that has kept fresh water renewable for millions of years! As stated in a peer-reviewed article in an issue of BioScience, water usage is also very high in our food industry, “Agricultural production currently accounts for approximately 87% or the world’s freshwater consumption” (Pimentel).  This is in order to water our crops and keep our livestock hydrated. Individuals’ demand for this large livestock and water-needy crops such as corn increases the government’s use of water.  Energy production also uses a large quantity of freshwater to create steam and to cool machinery. If saltwater were used, it would corrode the metal and destroy the machinery over time. Once factories use this freshwater to cool its machinery, it is often directly deposited back into the environment. This causes thermal pollution.

In addition to overusing our freshwater resources, we are also polluting them, rendering what freshwater we have unusable.  Thermal pollution from factories compromises freshwater organisms whose very survival depends on the stability of the water’s temperature and pH levels (Dudgeon 166).  When we use freshwater in our agriculture, it becomes saturated with phosphates and growth hormones from animal waste.  When those excessive nutrients enter into greater bodies of water, eutrophication occurs.  Eutrophication is when microscopic bacteria feed and multiply on the excess of phosphorous and nitrogen in the water, and drain all the oxygen from the water when their bodies decompose.  Without oxygen, the water becomes stagnant and all the other organisms in the water die (Dudgeon 166). Pollution also occurs when heavy metals from our wastewater or chemicals from our factories enter streams and lakes.  These large bodies of water are not only sources of life for the organisms that inhabit them, but they are usually a source of fresh water for humans as well.

Many of the point-source pollutions to our water sources have been dealt with by legislation and cleanup activism, but there are still countless sources of pollution entering our freshwater.  New technology continues to enhance our ability to be smarter about how much water we waste.  A case in Massachusetts showed that “MWRA’s conservation efforts reduced average daily demand from 336 mgd (million gallons per day) in 1987 to 256 mgd in 1997. The decrease in demand allowed for a reduction in the size of MWRA’s planned treatment plant, as well as a 20-year deferral of the need for an additional supply source” (Bishop 29).  Water conservation continues to be a hot topic for discussion in the higher levels of government because it is so vital to our survival and the survival of the organisms that inhabit freshwater ecosystems. It has been this way for decades.  The Clean Water Act was passed in the United States in 1972, which implemented pollution control programs and set standards for municipal water usage (Bishop 30).  This act, along with repair of leaks in transport pipes and the development of low water usage appliances, have all worked to lower freshwater waste in the past.

Why do we use so much water? Is America so special in some way that entitles us to abuse our limited freshwater resources? It has been shown by the census in 2000 that, “several high water–using nations have very low per capita GDP, and several of the wealthiest nations have very low per capita water use” (Gleick). Nations like Switzerland and Singapore have nearly as high GDP’s as does the United States, yet they use more than a thousand cubic meters of water per person per year than us, as can be seen in the graph below. We use much more water than we need in order to live the cozy lifestyles that we have all become accustomed to.  It is possible, as demonstrated by many other countries to use less and still maintain a high quality of life.  America uses its freshwater far more than is actually necessary. We see it in our everyday lives. That tap that is constantly dripping because nobody can fix it, that unnecessary flush of the toilet to rid us of a dead bug, and 30 minutes showers that we allot ourselves every night add to our wasteful habits of water consumption.

Presently, in places where freshwater is scarce, like the Middle East, Africa, and even the western United States, new technology is constantly being upgraded to conserve what little water they have.  In places where we waste and take water for granted, we can utilize this same technology in order to enhance our water conservation practices. According to a peer-reviewed article in Bioscience, most of the change will take place in the residential sector, “new water supplies likely will result from conservation, recycling, reuse, and improved water use efficiency rather than from large development projects” (Pimentel).  Individuals can make a big difference. One way people can make a difference is to improve the water efficiency in their own home.  Toilets can be bought that have two flush settings, including one that only uses 1.6 gallons in stead of the regular 3-5 gallons of a normal toilet’s flush.  Air-assisted flush toilets are also made that use only 0.5 gallons of water for one flush.  In addition to toilets, low-volume faucets, washing machines, dish washers, and showerheads can save consumers over 10,000 gallons of water per person, and 600 energy savings of kilowatt-hours (Sharpe).  Saving freshwater can also save money! Other methods of conserving freshwater around the home would be to compost, make a rain garden, or collect runoff from the roof into buckets. Doing our part to conserve water will be better for the entire world. However, changing the way we think about our freshwater usage is the start to changing our habits. With advancements in everyday appliances, knowledge and initiative, individual people can make a huge difference in the way we use and share our freshwater in a renewable manner.



Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, Ed Young, David Adlerman, and Patrice Fodero. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. New York: Atheneum, 1992. Print.


Daniel B. Bishop and Jack A. Weber. “Massachusetts Water Resources Authority: Deferring Capital needs Through Conservation” Denver: American Water Works Association. (1996): 44-45, 98-102. Web. 26 October 2011.


Dudgeon, David, et. al. “Freshwater biodiversity: importance, threats, status and conservation challenges” Biol. Rev. 81 (2006) 163-182. Web. 27 October 2011.


Gleick, Peter H. “Water Use” Annual Review of Environment and Resources. Vol. 28 (2003) 275-314. Web. 27 October 2011.


Pimentel, David, et. al. “Water Resources: Agriculture, the Environment, and Society”. Bioscience Vol. 47 No. 2 (1997) 97-106. Web. 3 November 2011.


Sharpe, William E., and Bryan Swistock. “Household Water Conservation” The Pennsylvania State University Colege of Agricultural Sciences. 2008. 1-8. Print.


“Water Pollution Prevention and Conservation.” EPA. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 1997. Web. 27 October 2011.

Paradigm Shift: African-American Resilience in the Face of Discrimination by Samantha Cohen

Posted on

In the past, research has shown that the black-American community’s exposure to social inequality and discrimination has had a negative impact on their mental health.  To summarize this general theory, Dr. Kwame McKenzie states, “In the USA, interpersonal discrimination has been associated with increased rates of hypertension, depression and stress” (Chakraborty).  Despite the several social and technological advances that the United States has made over the past few decades, we have not necessarily freed ourselves from the constraints of racism.  In a 2009 study evaluating the rates of perceived discrimination among blacks, 60.9% claimed to have experienced day-to-day racism (Keyes).  Past studies have used these statistics to prove that this perceived discrimination is a stressor that can cause a variety of mental illnesses, ranging from anxiety, to depression, to phobia.  However, a recent paradigm shift has occurred, changing the way researchers are looking at black-American psychology.

Psychologists have recognized a certain fortitude within the black community, leading them to believe that discrimination, in actuality, has not had as much of a deteriorating effect as previously understood.  To prove this theory, researchers compared the psychological health of both blacks and whites and discovered that in today’s society, blacks actually have better mental health than whites (Keyes).  But why do black-Americans have such high psychological health?  Since blacks experience significantly more racism than whites, shouldn’t blacks have worse mental health?  Psychologists infer that despite discrimination, many blacks actually exhibit a certain resilience that causes them to have better psychological health.  Given this knowledge, it is important to consider what implications this shift could have for the future. It could alter the way Americans view black-American psychology and even have drastic effects on practices such as affirmative action.

Not too long ago, psychological research focused on the notion that racism has a negative impact on the mental health of black-Americans.  In an NPR segment on Mental Health in the Black Community, Dr. Primm corroborates such data, affirming, “culture and race definitely play a role. The fact that African-Americans are often looked upon negatively, unfortunately, in our society…contributes to the stigma surrounding mental illness” (Primm).  The idea that black-Americans have better mental health defies what is anticipated, thus creating a paradox.  Research has shown that physical and mental illness are comorbid, meaning they occur together and as a result of each other.  This is primarily because mental illness can cause physical disabilities.  “Biomedical research consistently finds that blacks have worse physical health than whites, even after controlling for socioeconomic status or SES. This relationship is expected, given blacks’ disproportionate exposure to psychosocial stress and discrimination” (Mouzon).  However, research suggests that black-Americans have lower rates of mental illness than whites.  The fact that blacks can maintain their mental health despite the increased levels of physical illness within their race, demonstrates a resilience with vast advantages, thus demonstrating a paradox.

In Corey L. M. Keyes’s analysis of mental health within black and white communities, Keyes examines both the differences in daily experiences with discrimination and the differences in overall mental health between blacks and whites.  According to the MIDUS national sample, black-Americans have higher rates of mental health in all categories, but higher rates of perceived discrimination as well.  Usually when analyzing health differences between blacks and whites, a scale has to be added to each regression equation to account for the major differences in discrimination.  However, even before scaling the statistics, black-Americans still have better mental health (Keyes). Now researchers are focusing on the reasons why discrimination does not have as negative results as previously assumed, and why blacks have better mental health.  This is not to say that racism has improved blacks’ mental health.  It simply means that, “were it not for discrimination, levels of psychological well-being would be even higher for blacks than whites” (Keyes).

Nevertheless, there is still fairly current research suggesting that blacks have poor mental health.  In a 2010 study conducted by Lee Pachter, a professor at Drexel University College of Medicine, Professor Patcher examined the self-esteem of teenagers of Hispanic and African-American descent.  After distributing the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Questionnaire, he concluded that a strong correlation exists between discrimination and depression (Olivarez).  So now we are left with two contradicting views of black-American psychology.  Which data do we trust?  It may take years of further research to answer this question.  Whether or not black-Americans truly do have better mental health than whites, I’ve decided to continue in exploring the idea that blacks have higher rates of mental health because it creates such an unanticipated paradox.

To further investigate this concept that blacks have better mental health, I researched suicide rates between different races in the US.  While I recognize that not all suicides are a result of mental illness, “Poor mental health is the common proximal determinant of suicide…approximately one-half of suicides have been diagnosed with a mental disorder and received therapy from a mental health professional” (Rockette et al.).  In a cross-sectional study which used information from the US National Center for Health Statistics, it was revealed that in all age groups, whites had twice as high rates of suicide than blacks and Hispanics.   If psychological illness does impact suicide rates to such a high degree, then this study consequently suggests that whites have lower mental health than blacks.  Although previous research has shown that black-Americans have worse mental health, records consistently show that whites have higher suicide rates.  This provides reasonable doubt for those sources that claim blacks have inferior mental health.

Now the question remains: what are the causes for the higher rates of mental health in the black-American community?  Researchers agree upon the idea that a resilience does exist within blacks.  The Task Force on Resilience and Strength in African American Children and Adolescents, an organization committed to transforming psychology’s “approach to African American children and youth in the areas of research, practice, education, and policy,” defines resilience as “a dynamic, multidimensional construct that incorporates the bidirectional interaction between individuals and their environments within contexts (family, peer, school and community, and society).” However, they are still working to fully explain the source behind this resilience.  Keyes credits black resilience to a number of causes.

Historically, religious attendance has always been significantly higher among blacks than whites.  According to Keyes’s research, “Numerous studies have shown that religious attendance is associated with increased levels of subjective well-being and lower psychological distress and mental illness in general,” which suggests that blacks’ religious involvement has positively impacted their mental health (Keyes).  Blacks use religion as a protective way to cope with inequality and discrimination.  Socializing and identifying with each other on a racial and religious level has helped to instill meaning and pride into their lives (Keyes).  In the memoire, A Hope and the Unseen, Cedric Jennings, a black college student, reveals how he relied on his faith in religion and God to help him cope with the adversity he faced.  He declares, “I am very religious, and I know that the only reason I have achieved so much is because I continued to put God first in everything that I do.  It is He who brought me through many situations in my life that could have been my downfall” (Suskind 107).  An unrelenting faith in God has helped bring many people through times of strife and adversity.  It is no surprise that the higher mental health of blacks is partly attributed to involvement in religion.

Research has also identified blacks’ need for meaning in life as a contributor to their overall resilience.  To overcome the hardships of social adversity and discrimination, black-Americans as a whole have committed themselves to deriving meaning from the society they live in.  According to Keyes, “the ability to create or find meaning to one’s life, when lived under adversity, provides an important source of resilience” (Keyes).  Psychologists link a lack of meaning in life with increased psychopathology.  Because blacks face higher levels of social inequality, there is a greater need for them to find meaning in their own lives.  Accordingly, higher levels of meaning in life are associated with more religious beliefs (Keyes).

So what does this mean?  If black-Americans do in fact possess better psychological health, what do we do with this newfound information?  Among the many implications of this paradigm shift, the most notable consequence may be its effect on affirmative action.  According to the NAACP, President Johnson employed the practice of affirmative action in 1965 to provide equal opportunities for minority groups and women.  Due to disparities between blacks’ and whites’ socio-economic status and access to quality education, universities and employers adopted this practice to level out the playing field, benefiting minorities.  If in later years it becomes widely acknowledged that blacks have better mental health, we may see policies such as affirmative action fade away.  We can also use the studies and statistics supporting this paradigm shift to continue to reverse any existing discrimination in America.  While this research does not definitively prove that black-Americans have better mental health, the fact that such ideas are becoming more widely accepted, exposes that the United States has made evident progress in its societal views.

Works Cited

American Psychological Association, Task Force on Resilience and Strength in Black Children and Adolescents. (2008). Resilience in African

American children and adolescents: A vision for optimal development. Washington, DC

Chakraborty, Apu, and Kwame McKenzie. “Does Racial Discrimination Cause Mental Illness?” The British Journal of Psychiatry (2002)

Keyes, Corey L. M. “The Black-White Paradox in Health: Flourishing in the Face of Social Inequality and Discrimination.” Journal of Personality

77.6 (2009): 1677-706.

Mouzon, Dawne M. Can Social Relationships Explain the Race Paradox in Mental Health? Diss. University of Rutgers, 2010.

Olivarez, Brittany. “Racial Discrimination Shown to Cause Depression in Teens | Helping Psychology.” Psychology Degrees | Helping

Psychology. 9 May 2010. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.

Primm, Dr. Annelle, Dr. William Lawson, and Farai Chideya. Mental Health in the Black Community. National Public Radio. 26 Mar. 2008.

NPR, 26 Mar. 2008. Web. 7 Nov. 2011. Transcript.


Rockett, Ian, Shuhui Wang, Steven Stack, Diego De Leo, James L. Frost, Allan

Ducatman, Rheeda Walker, and Nestor Kepusta. “Race/ethnicity and Potential Suicide Misclassification: Window on a Minority Suicide

Paradox?” BioMed Central (2010): 1-8.

Suskind, Ron. A Hope in the Unseen: an American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League. New York: Broadway, 1998. Print.

“The Debate on Affirmative Action.” NAACP. 4 Apr. 2008. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.