Archive for the ‘psychology’ category

“Life After Life” on Monsters and Mysteries Unsolved

October 20, 2016



In another “mystery” episode, S1/Ep13 of “Monsters and Mysteries Unsolved” touched on the near death experiences of three individuals.  

One case was that of 19-year-old Christine Stine in Germany who when broadsided by a truck wound up near death in a hospital emergency room. Her heart stopped, and she later reported perceiving herself to be hovering near the ceiling, observing the medical team frantically working on her body below. Following this she perceived herself to be walking barefoot in a brightly colored and friendly heavenly realm where she was greeted by grandparents whom she had previously only seen in photographs. She also met happy and healthy appearing acquaintances who had also passed on. Her grandparents then kind of guided her back to life, where she was reunited with her body and survived. The woman remained very convinced of the reality of her experiences.

A second case involved that of Dr. Eben Alexander, a Virginia neurologist. Suffering bacterial meningitis, he went into seizures and wound up in deep coma. With even his pupils non-reactive to light his survival seemed questionable, but after five days his consciousness returned, and he recounted first having disturbing afterlife experiences, then being in a better place.

A third case was that of Anita Moorjani, a woman in Hong Kong who suffered from Hodgekin’s Disease.  One day in February of 2006, she didn’t wake up and appeared lifeless although she reported later that her mind was churning.  During this interval, she experienced vivid memories of seeing the afterlife, where she met a deceased friend.  She later came out of her coma, but claimed awareness during the comatose state.  Tumors associated with her condition vanished after about three weeks.

Now end of life experiences are not well-researched, but a critical care physician named Dr. Chawla was profiled who noted that EEG spikes of two to three minutes duration occur after clinical death when the blood pressure drops to zero.  Near death experiences would appear to occur during this time.  About 20% of people who suffer cardiac arrest describe near death experiences (NDE’s).  Death is a process, not a moment in time, and it would appear that some electrical activity occurs in the heart and brain even after blood pressure drops to zero.  During this time, we may draw upon deep memories and cultural conditioning to determine what visions we see.  In that the three cases portrayed were convinced that they had a glimpse of life after death, near death experiences may have real life effects…

The Virgin, Or Knot?

July 15, 2012

– – We’ve posted before on how people have seen both religious and secular notables in mundane objects, including visions of Jesus, Mary, and Elvis on interior and exterior walls and even food substances, including burnt bacon and a cheese sandwich.- -Well, in one of the latest sightings, a gnarl in the bark of a tree in West New York has been found to resemble the Virgin Mary. 

The tree has attracted hundred of visitors since its discovery on July 10th, so many in fact that the police have found it necessary to section off the tree with barricades.  The site has become a shrine with the tree surrounded by flowers and burning candles. 

There is that tendency in the human mind to seek meaningful patterns in randomness or ambiguous stimuli, in the same manner that faces and objects may be seen in passing clouds.  The phenomenon is of course natural, but  belief and culture are what gives a perceived symbol meaning…

Divine Burgers?

January 14, 2012

 – – At a restaurant aptly named Hamburger Mary’s in Tampa, Florida, an image of the Virgin Mary has been reported on a stainless steel wall near the kitchen.  Remarkably, the diner has been known for gay karaoke nights and drag queen shows. 

The mark of a superior being or saint has likewise been seen in a Walmart receipt, cheese sandwiches, candle wax, Cheetos, rocks, overturned trees, walls, pizza pans, and even on a fish stick!   Some of these items have been offered for sale on internet auction sites.  Verily, the Lord moves in mysterious ways…

The perception of religious imagery in natural phenomena is sometimes called simulacra, and studies have shown that even visual perceptions can be affected by wishes, preferences, and desires.  The human mind prefers to perceive patterns, especially the pattern of a human face, in otherwise random phenomena.  Perception of an image is additionally mediated or filtered through culture, politics, and worldview…

Language Applied to Animals…

May 4, 2011

– – I most resent the word “varmint” when applied to foxes and other animals; it’s degrading and disrespectful, and dates back to a time when animals were treated unkindly as little better than things; sadly, some still hold this viewpoint.  Language is a curious and powerful thing, and the label that we apply to a living creature shapes how it is permissible to treat them.  As a tool of classification, language then also becomes a device of control.

Researchers from the Oxford Center for Animal Ethics along with the University of Illinois and Penn State University suggests that using such words as “varmints,” “critters,” and “beasts” to describe animals degrades the relationship that can exist between them and humans by contributing to a mindset of animals being trivial, unfeeling, and inconsequential.   Instead, a language should be cultivated that shows mutually respectful relationships between humans and the animals which live among them.  I’m fully on board with all of this…

…where we separate the sheep from the goats (so to speak) is in the beliefs of some animal rights academics that pets should be renamed “companions,” and that rats are just “free-living;”  pigeons are simply “free-roaming.”   While I do consider my co-habiting animals as companions, this is my personal choice, and I happen to be an animal myself (this is not necessarily a bad thing)!  When political correctness kicks in, however, it’s often time to take a holiday before things get silly and I’m expected to garb my animal companions in clothing, which they would hate anyways.

What can perhaps be taken away from all of this is the thought that words are powerful, not because an animal understands the nuances of language or cares what you call them but because words can influence how your mind works, with language choice subsequently affecting human behavior towards animals as well as countless other things.  If you doubt this, consider that psycholinguistics has been at the core of every successful political campaign for the last number of decades, with labels determining perceptions and serving as a substitute for independent critical thought for many…

Psychic Furries…

January 27, 2011

– – About two-thirds of U.S. pet owners say that their animals have a sixth sense about bad weather, while 43 percent say that their pets can sense bad news.

An Associated Press-related poll shows that 72% of dog owners report weather warnings from their dogs, whereas 66% of cat owners relate the same.  The same poll relates that 47% of dog owners and 41% of cat owners say that they have gotten bad news alerts from their pets.

How do furry seers relate these things?  Sixty-four percent of those polled say that their pets hide, fifty-six percent say that their pets whine or cry, 52 percent say that they become hyperactive, erratic, or make unpredictable movements, and 36 percent say that their animals bark or meow persistently.

Don’t believe that animals have a sixth sense?- -Oh, Nostradalmatian knew that some humans were going to say that!

Afraid of Nothing?

December 20, 2010

– – Excessive fear is certainly not a good thing, but it’s likewise undesirable to be afraid of nothing.  A woman with a rare genetic disorder, Urbach-Wiethe disease, falls into the latter category, and is literally afraid of nothing.  Her condition is associated with damage to her amygdala, an almond-shaped portion of the brain strongly associated with fear responses in past research on animals.

Researchers at the University of Iowa tried their best to scare a 44-year old female with the condition, exposing her to live snakes and spiders, taking her on a tour of a supposedly haunted house, and showing the subject emotionally-evocative films; they got nothing! The subject also had a life history full of dangerous situations, including being held up at both knifepoint and gunpoint, and almost killed by domestic violence.  Even in those situations, the subject did not experience fear.

Through study of this woman, researchers hope to be able to better understand how the amygdala is connected to human fear, leading to better treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dog Attack Signals

December 16, 2010

– – Scientists believe that thousands of young children are being bitten by dogs because they can’t tell when the animals are giving aggressive warnings.  Surveys have shown that 43% of school children in England have been bitten, often at home by a familiar dog.   Some suffer serious injuries.

Tests by psychologists show that children as old as six believe that a dog baring its teeth is smiling, and may think that such a dog is happy and receptive to being given a hug and kiss!   Eye-tracking studies at Lincoln University show that children tend to look only only at a dog’s mouth, ignoring other signs of aggression that adults key into, such as pointed ears.

A computer game called The Blue Dog has been created by psychologists to help teach children when it is best to leave dogs alone…


Give Me A Good Book!

August 21, 2010

– – A new study presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association  suggests that personality may be more than just a psychological construct, but rather reflect underlying neural differences in the brain.

Study researcher Inna Fishman of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences found that more extroverted test subjects showed a higher change in a particular brain electrical activity known as P300 when they were exposed to images of human faces as opposed to pictures of flowers.  Those scoring lower on a test of extroversion had very similar P300 responses to both human faces and flowers.

The findings might partly explain why extroverts are more motivated to seek the company of others than are introverts,  who might not place a larger weight on social stimuli than on other stimuli…

Meaning in Randomness…

March 17, 2010

– – There is that in the human mind which wants to see patterns in chaos, and order in the random.  Pareidolia is the term for the psychological phenomenom where a vague or random stimulus is assigned a pattern or meaning by the person perceiving it, and regarded to be significant.  Examples of this might include seeing faces or animals in clouds, Elvis in bathroom mold, or Jesus in food residue…

Consider this instance of an image of Christ found in bacon remnants that were created when a young English gentleman went to cook up some bacon in a frying pan, falling asleep and awakening to find an apparent divine image in what remained.  Dependent upon the nature of the image, their size, and their location, crowds of the faithful or the merely curious can be drawn, and fortunes made by sale of the item on eBay.

We will leave it to others to ponder whether the bacon was cured by Jesus, or if the real miracle was that the gentleman didn’t burn his house down!- -No wonder some think bacon tastes divine!    😉

The Lure of the Horrible

November 10, 2009

CreepshowThere’s a wonderful scene in the 1982 movie of Stephen King’s Creepshow showing a young boy who spots a monster outside of his window.  The expression on the boy’s face, however, is one of adoration rather than terror.- – I’m sure that many of us can relate to this!

– – Horror movies…why do we like them?–Well, social scientists suggest that we watch for different reasons which include the adrenaline rush, being distracted from mundane life, vicariously thumbing our noses at social norms, and enjoying a voyeuristic view of the horrific from a safe distance.– But above all, being scared is fun!

Neuroscientists like New York University’s Joseph LeDouz point out that fear is not merely a biological reaction, but an emotion derived from deep-seeded evolutionary factors as well as newly-learned cautions.  An interaction between the brain’s primitive amygdala and the higher cortex allows people to interpret an environmental event and respond with an emotion such as fear.  Once an emotion is aroused in the amygdala, it’s hard to turn it off, and if we like that sort of thing, we’re eager to turn that emotion on again.

…and this is why some of us suffer from a post-Halloween let-down, similar to that depression suffered by others after Xmas!–Ahh, for the Nightmare Before Christmas!

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