Mass suggestion: A way to save the world? 

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Psychological research has had a tendency to study negative effects of behavior both on the individual and cultural level. But new research has started to focus more on the positive aspects of behavior. I like this shift, as I think it will change how we interact with the world. In one TED talk I watched, scientists were studying genetic superhumans. That is, people with genetic ‘flaws’ that has proven to give these people abilities normal people don’t have. By getting more knowledge about these ‘superhumans’ we are also a step closer to knowing which environmental, psychological and biological factors contribute to their genetic make-up.

Mass suggestion 

Humans in a big crowd have an inclination to behave the same way. It is difficult to resist the force of it. This is why people, who ordinarily are sensible, can do things that they regret afterwards . It is also the reason people who normally are harmless can become violent.  

There are thousand different ways we can be affected by mass suggestion, both in a negative and positive sense.

A mass-suggestion experiment

If I could do a study as a researcher, I would want to look at how positive mass-suggestion could affect us . Let’s for fun’s sake call it a social media experiment. If every person shared the research hypothesis I’m about to present with one person, it would be interesting to see what would happen next.

My hypothesis would be something like: Can we by mass-suggestion, make people around the world do the same thing on the same day?

For example I could propose that the 30th of september, every one of us tried to do one random act of kindness. What do you think would happen? Could it affect us all in a positive way?

The date could be set one year in advance to make sure that many get the message, but as information can spread like fire in the right circumstances maybe it would not be necessary to wait that long.

So, would somebody be interested in an experiment like that? What can each and all of us do by simply being kind towards others?

Why not try? We got nothing to lose.


More:

Mass suggestion ideas

Mass suggestion in society

Introduction

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I am a 29-year-old girl from Norway where I work as a psychologist. On my free time I love to read, travel and experience new things. I also like taking photos and creative activities like scrapbooking and decoupage. My personality? For those of you who know the BIG 5 personality test, I am high on 20130623-181833.jpgOpenness, Conscientiousness, middle on agreeable and on extroversion/introversion. It basically means that I`m a flexible person, work hard, usually don`t make a fuss and love to be with others, while also needing to be alone to think and calm down. I also want to add that I love the Italian language, my family, Haruki Murakami, good music and my friends. I am VERY emotional, but calm when I have to be. Earlier I had a tendency to put other`s needs first, believing that I wasn`t worthy of any attention myself. Luckily I have grown in heart and mind since then, and learnt that being there for others mean taking care of your own needs first.

This blog is a blend of my personal story (called narrative or the sound of..) topics related to psychology and just random things I find interesting. I work daily as a clinical psychologist, and most of my clients have been abused and neglected in heartbreaking ways. Many of my posts will cover subjects related to trauma and dissociation. I am quite open and honest in my posts, because I believe it might make us psychologist less mysterious.

Most of the psychologist I know are kind, intelligent people. Some with their own stories, but all with a genuine wish to help. In this blog I want to share what I know about overcoming challenges and following your dreams.

IMG_0377Since more and more people have started to read this blog, I unfortunately found it necessary to password protect some of my more personal posts. If you want to read them, feel free to contact me at forfreepsychology@gmail.com. I am also on twitter (@ninjafighter), instagram and Facebook. I also have two other blogs that are dedicated to psychology and the “Kindness project” that I started one year ago, You find them here: Free psychology and The kindness project.

In the last blog I post interviews with different people. I ask them questions about good things they do, and my hope is that their answers will inspire others to do be kind towards others. I have also invited guest bloggers to share their stories on “Free psychology”. They are brilliant writers, so feel to explore their story on this blog. I am always open to invite more bloggers who want to write, so feel free to contact me at any time if you`d like to write about topics relevant for the blog. 

I started my blog three years ago, and it has grown so fast I almost can`t believe it. I am really proud of it, and grateful because I have made new friends and found other blogs that I like.

I want to thank all my readers and offer some encouragement to everyone who suffers or have done so in the past. I have been in the deepest valleys myself, and felt emotional pain so intense that I was afraid of it.

I hope this blog might prove that the fight for a better life is worth it.

Thank you.

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What about you?

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I write a lot about myself. But now I want to know more about my readers. What is going on in your life ? How has this year been ? 

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Do you have any book recommendations for me?

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This year I’ve read over 90 books. Some in paper form, some as audiobooks. I use every opportunity I have: In my car, in between meetings and in the comfort of my bed. Some books have moved me deeply, some have taken me new places and some entertained me. Surely, some are already forgotten, and then I think: why did I waste my time on that book? Now I have a week to read a lot, and I don’t want to make the mistake of reading books that doesn’t give me anything. So my question to you is: Can you recommend a book to me? If you want to see books I’ve already read, feel free to check out my Goodreads account. 

Thanks in advance! 

My Goodreads page

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Merry Christmas 

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It has become a Christmas tradition to write a blog post to say merry Christmas to my readers. This year it wrote far too late;  Just ten minutes before the day is over. 

How has your evening been? For some Christmas is a filled with love and joy, for some it means feeling lonely. 

No matter what, today is another day. Christmas is just one of many days, and what matters most is that we try our best to make every moment count.

Memories of positive associations get written onto DNA

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Epigenetic changes in nerve cells keep memories in place.


Nerve cells communicate through short, fleeting pulses of electrical activity. Yet some memories stored in the brain can persist for decades. Research into how the nervous system bridges these two radically different time scales has been going on for decades, and a number of different ideas have picked up some experimental support.

For instance, based on their past activity, nerve cells can dictate which partners they make contact with or increase or decrease the strength of those connections—in essence, rewiring the brain as it develops and processes experiences. In addition, individual cells can make long-term changes in the genes that are active, locking specific behaviors in place. In a paper released by Nature Neuroscience, scientists have looked at the changes in gene expression associated with memories of positive associations and found that they are held in place by chemical modifications of the cells’ DNA.

These chemical modifications fall under the broad (and somewhat poorly defined) category of epigenetic changes. Genetic changes involve alterations of the DNA sequence itself. Epigenetic changes, in contrast, alter how that DNA is processed within cells. They can be inherited as the cell divides and matures and, in rare cases, they’re passed on to the next generation. In some cases, epigenetic changes simply involve how the DNA is packaged inside a cell, which controls how accessible it is to the enzymes that transcribe it for use in making proteins. But in other cases, the DNA itself is chemically modified. That changes how various proteins interact with it.

The most common of these chemical modifications is called methylation, where a single carbon atom is attached at a specific location on one of the DNA bases. A number of studies suggest that methylation changes accompany the formation of long-term memories, so the researchers decided to test this in a well characterized experimental system that dates back to Pavlov: teaching a mouse to associate a sound with having a sugary treat appear in its cage. (Controls included playing the tone in a way that it wasn’t associated with treats and simply providing the tone.)

It only takes mice three tries before they start sniffing around the locations where the treat appears, and by five iterations, the behavior is pretty much locked-in. Past work in other systems has identified areas of the brain that are involved in this process, as well as some of the genes that are required. So, the authors started looking at how these changes came about when the association between the tone and a treat was being formed.

The researchers were able to confirm that the genes identified in past studies were involved in the formation of associative memories, and changes in the gene activity were detectable by the third trial just as behavior started to change. They were also able to detect significant changes in the DNA methylation that occurred at the same time, although only at a specific subset of the areas known to be methylated in that area of the chromosome. They were even able to show that the enzymes responsible for modifying the DNA appeared at these sites at around the time of the third trial.

All of that indicates that methylation changes are associated with the learning process, but it doesn’t get at the issue of cause and effect. So, the team injected a chemical that blocks DNA methylation into the area of the brain that’s involved with this form of associative memory, and they found that it would leave existing memories intact while blocking the formation of new ones. The effect was also specific to injections in this area of the brain. Injecting the drug into a different area, one that is involved in forming the associations involved in addiction, did not affect this particular form of memory.

Overall, the study adds another example to the growing list of cases where epigenetic changes seem to be involved in the process of locking memories into place. This doesn’t mean that the memories are permanent, as there are enzymes that can eliminate methylation as well. Still, it should help maintain the status of the memories for long periods of time—far longer than a brief burst of activity.

But it’s important to note that this sort of methylation is very context dependent: it’s specific to a subset of cells in a single area of the brain. Different methylation patterns—or even the same methylation pattern in a different set of cells—will probably encode something very different.

Nature Neuroscience, 2013. DOI: 10.1038/nn.3504  (About DOIs).

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