Part of what I learned in Social Cognition 3330 is that students can flourish when they are thrusted outside of lectures and exams. You learn a lot about the material you research and read, but you also learn that there is a better way to learn in the education system. Learning should be natural, but we have moved away from this practice in the education system. That is just one of the many things I learn this semester.
This semester in Social Cognition 3330 I learned that there are cognitive reasons why humans interact the way that they do. I learned about cognitive processes in developmentally normal individuals, as well as individuals who have developmental abnormalities. For example, I learned that there are executive functions such as the inhibitory control, attentional control, cognitive flexibility, and working memory. In someone who has no impairments in these regions their social interactions can still cover a range of reactions. The one example that stands out in my mind is the Stanford Prison Experiment. Those individuals were developmentally normal college students, but their reactions to being either a guard or a prisoner were shocking. In regards to those with developmental abnormalities, I learned about individuals who have autism or schizophrenia. Many of my classmates discusses these topics so I was able to learn a lot about the social and cognitive impairments that occur for these individuals. For example, I learned more about the social impairments associated with those on the autism spectrum, such as an impairment to their theory of mind. Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia also have impairments in their theory of mind. My classmates had a wide range of topics for their presentations, so I was always able to find something I was interested in and was inspired to research these topics myself as well.
For my own blogs, I was able to approach topics that I have always been interested in but never had the chance to research before. But I was also able to continue my research on anxiety. I am constantly looking for opportunities to explore anxiety, as I find that learning about this mental illness helps me understand the two anxiety disorders I experience. I plan to continue my research on anxiety for as long as I can, because there will always be something new to learn. In regards to anxiety I learned that there are multiple cognitive functions that are impaired due to hormone levels, or in the case of the amygdala, physical structure differences. I learned that the increased size of the amygdala is due to an overactive perception of threat, and that individuals with anxiety perceive social threats as well. These perceived threats are not obvious to non-anxious individuals because they are not focused on the same things as someone with anxiety is. This has to do with the impairment in the theory of mind.
I also learned that individuals with anxiety have a hard time focusing on one thing because there is an impairment in the attentional control function. This also has to do with cognitive flexibility. Individuals with anxiety can switch from task to task, but this results in poor efficiency, productivity, and success of each task. I think one of the most interesting things I learned about anxiety and cognitive functions was about the impairment in the inhibitory control function. I personally knew about the feeling of overstimulation, but I had no idea that it was something that happens to most individuals with anxiety. This is due to not being able to ignore environmental cues because the brain is always on high alert for any threats. In my research about the inhibitory control function I also learned about the lack of self control, emotional control, and control over unwanted or intrusive thoughts. Jesse made a great point about changing one’s perception though. Once you recognize what is happening, you can change your perspective and limit the amount of perceived threats in the environment. This is exactly why I research anxiety.
Overall, I had a blast in this class full of wonderful people. I learned so many interesting things that I know I will hold onto for a very long time. Thank you for a wonderful class everyone!