Brain Myths: Crosswords, Math Skills

An assignment (no sources required) written on 2015-02-11 by me for an online class at University of Central Florida: EDF 6529, Learning Theories Applied to Instruction and Classroom Management.

Question: What are some misapplications and/or neuromyths that may be less than beneficial to the educational process?

I am glad to see that my fellow students have covered important neuromyths such as the myth of learning styles (they do not really exist), the mythical implications of being a right-brained versus left-brained individual, the myth that we only use 10% of our brains (we use all of our brains), and the myth that plasticity completely vanishes after early childhood. These ideas are very common among the typical American, but are very wrong, and negatively influence learning by discouraging people from taking on new tasks and by encouraging them to have a defeatist attitude.

Commonly, people believe that crossword puzzles and other “brain exercises” help their minds stay sharp and help them avoid dementia in old age. Even young people believe these activities have significant benefits to their brains, despite a plethora of scientific evidence that such puzzles do little or nothing for the brain, while physical exercise greatly benefits the brain. Nevertheless, people want to believe in Cartesian mind/body dualism—they seem to want to believe the brain is separate from the body to justify living a sedentary lifestyle. This is a difficult but important myth to overcome, since debunking this myth will help people reallocate their time and resources to such things as cardiovascular exercise which will actually help their mind and body more than crossword puzzles. This can affect college students as well—when they are cramming for exams, exercising might help them retain more information and score higher.

The myth that one is simply not a “math person” is quite strong. It is similar to the myth that one is not a “morning person,” though perhaps even less supported. However, if people who are not good at math can develop the discipline to learn mathematical skills piece-by-piece starting at a remedial level, they will probably become pretty good at higher math in a few months or years. You might even see other areas of their life where they employ such discipline, yet this myth allows them to hold themselves back from exploring math. Discrediting this belief and others might be accomplished through modeling; if a person observes or hears stories about many people developing mathematical skills from a challenging starting position, he or she might replace this belief with one that is more accurate and empowering.

Obstacles and Incentives in Public Spaces

In public spaces, many obstacles are not important enough to be removed or addressed at the individual level, because they do not cause enough inconvenience to an individual to compensate for the cost (in time or risk) of removing them. Few motorists would stop to move a fallen branch in the road, because there is not enough incentive to do so; it is far easier and (depending on the speed limit) less risky to simple drive around it. Summing the benefit of such an action among all the people it would benefit usually yields an incentive far higher than the cost; however, since such an incentive cannot be realized on a communistic basis, few people demonstrate such altruism.

Consider the yard sale sign that stays up long after the sale has ended and directs numerous people to a non-existent yard sale. Even though the sign wastes far more time than it would take for the owner to take it down, the owner has very little incentive to remove the sign. In some cases, wasting peoples time is actually incentived—merchants often continue advertising items they do not have, hoping to lure in customers who will reluctantly buy an inferior item at a higher price, rather than leaving empty handed. I can speculate that such deception wastes millions of man hours annually, in Florida alone.

Avoiding punitive action is a common incentive to avoid creating obstacles in public spaces. Littering is something that in theory, a lot more people would be doing if not for fear of heavy fines. Without punitive action and social pressure, littering tends to cause little harm to the litterer, because he or she probably doesn’t live nearby and doesn’t have to worry about picking up the litter, and is also not impacted by the reduced property values and displeasing aesthetic and environmental consequences. Nevertheless, even without fear of punitive action, there are many people who still would not litter, and even with it, many people still litter. Thus, we might not be able to accurately predict how individuals will respond without a wealth of personal information.

The local Aldi grocery store has an effective incentive for customers to put back their shopping carts: getting a shopping cart requires inserting a quarter, which is only removable when the cart is returned to the stall. It is common to see no stray shopping carts in their parking lot, which is ironic, considering that if returning the cart takes 1 minute, that is a pay rate of only $15.00 per hour—certainly a fair percentage of their customers value their time more than that, even on an after-tax basis. Psychological studies make it clear that small incentives that are not even “fair” compensation can result in long-lasting changes to opinions and behaviors. In contrast, generous incentives often result in transitory changes in opinions or behaviors that “snap back” as soon as the incentive is received. Obviously, some customers will not have a quarter available and will end up buying less with only a shopping basket or their bare hands rather than a cart. This may be why the “shopping cart return incentive” (as I call it) is not common (at least in Central Florida). However, such mechanisms can become part of the culture of customers at a store and, counter-intuitively, can result in them becoming more loyal, vocal, and inured. Consider the culture at “warehouse clubs” such as Sam’s Club, BJ’s, and Costco; these stores have literally created barriers to entry—they have made it harder and more costly for customers to begin to shop there than elsewhere, yet this has an effect that reminds me of pair-bonding, possibly due to social and psychological investment.

If we can apply similar models to the general public, we may be able to get more people to move obstacles out of the way and pick up after themselves. Establishing social norms is a good start. You can do this simply by setting a good example when seen by others. The more people that see you, the better, since they might follow suit, particularly if they see such behaviors on a regular basis.

Reflections on My Year in 2014

2014 was a “power year” for me, more significant and productive than any year before in my life. I am particularly proud of my educational accomplishments, completing my B.S. in Psychology and beginning an M.A. in Applied Learning & Instruction, but am also proud of my contributions in photography and philosophic writing, and progress made as a pianist. I am pleased to have developed stronger friendships and to have continued living with my parents, despite some misgivings.

Like most people, there are plenty of things I wanted to do in 2014 that didn’t pan out, and there are new interests that developed unexpectedly, such as my membership in Toastmasters and increasing concern with improving my speaking ability. In some areas I digressed, lacking success or motivation, such as finding a relevant job or romantic relationship. My increasing dissatisfaction with the LDS church from January to May led me to stop attending the church; though I haven’t formally resigned, I believe I am happier overall, despite being somewhat angrier and more combative.

Another improvement this year was my focus on meeting new people, traveling more within Central Florida, and starting to work out (albeit irregularly). Attending University of Central Florida at Orlando redefined my perceptions and expectations of large public universities, and I was fortunate to attend three classes there while only having to visit the campus 32 times. The approximately 4000 miles of driving required as a commuter student was less onerous than expected, and I listened to Moby-Dick and several personal development books in their entirety, including the Power of Habit.

8760 hours is really not that much time, particularly considering that about half this time is dedicated to sleeping and personal maintenance such as cleaning, hygiene, preparing meals, etc., leaving only fewer than 5000 hours to accomplish things. I have no doubt that my success this year stemmed from giving up video/computer games and eliminating or reducing fruitless endeavors such as pointless meetings and mindless media consumption. I plan to continue improving in 2015, and to place a renewed focus on quality rather than quantity when it comes to friends, work, projects, food, reading, and personal priorities.

Moving On

When a friendship or relationship ends, “moving on” is often a difficult and slow process. If there was a large investment of emotion, effort, time, and physical resources, a vacuum is left which must be filled by something, be it solitude, other people, work, or idle sadness. If the relationship was roughly equitable, part or all of the vacuum might be filled by the tasks and responsibilities previously shared with the friend or partner. However, the end of a relationship where you gave far more than you received in return is especially challenging, because now you have so much free time and energy but don’t know what to do with it. It is very easy to succumb to sadness, self-pity, and idleness.

The circumstances under which a friendship end can make it easier or harder to move on. Separation due to drifting interests or a required move may be easier, because the friendship ends on good terms and may even continue through long-distance communication. Far harder are friendships that end with fundamental corruption. Examples of fundamental corruption center around betrayals of trust and expectations, i.e. infidelity, failure to keep secrets, or rampant disparities in value—for example, a friend you volunteer your services to expects to be paid handsomely when you request his or her help. Unfortunately, it is very easy to blame ourselves in such situations; usually, the other person’s true colors were evident but overlooked or ignored by us. I feel it may be a worthwhile recommendation for mindful and conscientious people to actually start blaming others rather than themselves in these cases. Just because someone had no obligation of kindness or fairness to you does not mean they should have a license to shameless pillage your attention, resources, and services.

Likewise, forgiving others may be overrated for mindful and conscientious people. It is not necessarily essential or even conductive to moving on. Consider the friend you have supported and encouraged for years who feels justified in repeatedly berating you (under the guise of “constructive criticism”) and choosing and siding with new friends or acquaintances over you—yet does not notice this is an issue, and declares it is “not [his or her] problem” when confronted. There are a lot of possible ways to move on from such a friendship that have negative consequences for one’s mental health, such as self-loathing, low self-esteem, distrust of others, and a general lack of faith in humanity. However, if we instead categorize the issue as being with the other individual or a class of individuals (i.e. sociopaths or narcissists), we can move on more quickly without challenging fundamental self-beliefs. We can still realize that we are attracted to people with horrible qualities and adjust for it—but with the understanding that the brunt of the faults truly are with our prior friends rather than ourselves. Victim-blaming and guilt by association are barbaric holdovers in a world of progressive social dynamics.

Life is so short; most significant friendships will have existed for at least 1% of your lifespan, which is 9.6 months if you live 80 years. It is difficult to move on after realizing our understanding of someone was fundamentally corrupt, because it has a finality that completely supersedes the temporal nature of the friendship. It is impossible (short of brain damage) to recall a friendship that ended in an act of conniving back-stabbing in the same light you saw it in at the time. Everything turns rancid. Compounding this with the fact that a significant portion of your life was lost is a recipe for suicidal depression. Consider instead that it could have been worse, that you were accomplishing other things during this “lost” time, that the former friend made you feel valued or happy (at times and for a time), or whatever you need to do to cope. Time moves so fast that the hurt may soon subside, although it will not be forgotten until your death (or descent into dementia, possibly).

I believe an essential part of moving on is the complete integration of the belief that the former friend or partner is NOT thinking or caring about you. If you fantasize that the friend is still thinking of you, feels bad about what he/she did, or even carries a piece of you with him/her, you haven’t moved on. Considering that people generally think others give them far more consideration than the harsh reality, it is more likely the other person has moved on far quicker and more easily than you and does not give two shits about you. That you are still reading this essay is evidence of this fact (unless you skimmed or skipped to this paragraph). Trying to force yourself to move on is likely to have maladaptive consequences, however. Recognizing that you care and put more mental energy into the former friendship than your former friend does is a more appropriate first step; it is far superior to believing the former friend is similarly inclined, and with time will allow you to reclaim that energy for your own use. Being that email, Facebook messages, text messages, etc. are readily available, more evidence than ever before is available to indicate your ex-friend does not give two shits about you—if he or she did, you would be receiving an apology text message or at least a simple “hello.”

I am not sure what to do, say, or believe when presented with the idea that other people only care what you can do for them or how you can make them feel. This idea does explain friends who jerk you around and crush your spirit for their personal satisfaction or gain. However, it is often presented with a decidedly “us versus them” feel that implies holders of this belief are different; that they are gifted (or cursed) with the ability to actually care about others, unlike the vast majority. An alternative exists for those who subscribe to subjective reality: for them, the possibility exists that an idea can simultaneously be true AND false. For example, the idea that others only care about what you can give them is true if it helps you be cautiously guarded and avoid being taken advantage of. On the other hand, it is false if it leads you to withdraw from others and be far less happy than you were with your “naïve” beliefs in the goodness of others.

In closing, consider that anyone can be made to do or say betraying things when tortured. If your best friend or closest family member was told he or she would stop being burned with acid or having toenails ripped out if he or she tells the torturer where to find you, you can bet your life the value of your friendship would go to zero. No friendship in life is completely concrete; they are all built on the shifting sands of time, proximity, serendipity, convenience, stimulation, tension, opportunity, and a million other factors. Consider that betrayal might be based not on malice, but a desire to be “right,” to be liked by everyone, to appear completely neutral, etc. But don’t give too much thought to it. Think about yourself and where you are going, and take action based on those thoughts. According to a wannabee author at 2:30 AM, that is the key to moving on.

Exploring My Contempt for the General Public

The following is an exploration of some reasons that come to mind for my growing contempt for the general public, with headings for easy reading. I am sure you will find this far more entertaining than my typical writing.

Siding with the “Winners” (i.e. institutions, corporations)

People love to be on the winning team. Whenever you have a problem with an institution or corporation, you are to blame. For example, if a representative of the New York Times says he or she has canceled your subscription over the phone, yet you continue to receive toilet paper and the accompanying charges, that conversation obviously never took place and you are either lying or insane.

If you were drugged and raped by Bill Cosby, you are obviously just an attention whore.

When it comes to the police, chokeholds are always justified.

If you are terminated or fired from a job, it’s your own damn fault.

Quit whining. Shut up. Fuck you.

Betrayal of Trust for “Your Benefit”

Everyone knows to report to the authorities suicidal or self-injurious behavior disclosed in confidence. However, now this is believed to extend to whatever the hell one feels like. For example, it is completely acceptable to tell a close friend’s secrets to a new friend to help strengthen the new friendship. Triangles of secrecy and islands of ignorance can develop; friends can both know a secret about you and know you must not know they know. When the chain breaks, it’s your fault for being angry—you should be grateful a weight has been non-consensually lifted from your shoulders.

“The Problem Is You,” or, Victim Blaming

Whenever I complain about some injustice, however large or small, if anyone notices, it is to relish in pointing out the common denominator in my experiences. “Hey, did you ever stop to think that maybe you’re the fucking problem in all of these situations? You’re welcome!” People loooooove doing this. Pointing out someone is wrong. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Yet, when you do this to other people, you are just a bitter heckler. They always have a larger number of people on their side.

So, when you have a problem unsubscribing from the New York Times, it is not really a problem with the New York Times. It is a problem with you. You obviously simply don’t know how to unsubscribe from the venerable institution that is the New York Times. Then, later, when you find out a friend is having this problem too, no one cares. It is kind of like the conversation topic that changes before you get to contribute, because everyone else steamrolls you by talking over you, even though you know a lot about the topic and could contribute delightful anecdotes.

Contempt for Photography

As a hobbyist photographer, I occasionally take photos of events (and the people at them) without being paid or expecting anything in return. I often encounter people who are contemptuous of having their picture taken by me, and even threaten me after the fact with physical violence or legal action by Facebook text message. It is curious that Facebook Messenger is the medium of choice for threats. Then, people tell me I don’t know anything about photographers’ rights or copyright law, and cite their years of experience with modeling as evidence that they know the law better than me; principally, that I am not allowed to publish photos of people without their permission. It is extremely annoying that being woefully uninformed is positive correlated with arrogant self-assuredness—model release forms are unnecessary in many non-commercial contexts, and just because some photographers are using them in these contexts is no indication that I must do the same, but just that they are operating out of an abundance of caution beyond what is legally required (i.e. they are getting model release forms for photos taken in a public place and being published in an editorial context).

Leading by Fiat

Leading by fiat is the opposite of leading by example. Unsolicited advice from people who don’t or would not follow the same advice in their lives is one example. Being advised by people who are completely incompetent is particularly vexing. Consider the personal banker who is leasing a car and living with roommates and offers you advice on your spending and investments. Or the alcoholic parent who instructs his children never to be like him. Yet, being told I don’t have a right to speak about topics by people who are even more presumptuous than me makes me particularly contemptuous.

Reveling in Ignorance

“I’ve never heard of that!” is the be-all/end-all of a conversation. If someone has not heard of something, then it is automatically discredited. At the very least, you are ostracized for bringing it up. Stick to the boring, pointless topics people enjoy, such as gossip and sports.

Religious Posturing

Once you have given up calling yourself a Christian for a while, it becomes quite obvious that Jesus Christ would be appalled by the behaviors of the majority of people calling themselves Christians. Such a title is supposed to be a terrible burden of a life of want and sacrifice. Yet you see “Christians” who give none or very little of their time, money, or possessions to the poor. One can easily point out the expensive and grandiose structures created and maintained by many churches (with some exceptions such as Jehovah’s Witnesses). However, I find it far more enticing to discuss political inaction. Consider that Christians are largely supportive or silent regarding the atrocities being committed by the United States military and unconstitutional mercenary forces, such as the “laboratory” that is Iraq and the hundreds of thousands of children that have died as a result of U.S. sanctions and involvement. Instead, some vocal Christians are worried about gay marriage (which is in fact, a superior type of marriage, evidenced by it being exempt from tax disincentives that apply to traditional marriage, such as a decline in SSI income). Meanwhile, marriage is becoming largely irrelevant, with many Christians having “bastard” children or openly “living in sin.” In fact, in 2014, getting married cuts off a lot of opportunities and would be a really bad move for a lot of people.

The culture of evangelical Protestantism or non-denominational Christianity is quite annoying. It is a business with tax-exempt status that knows not to contradict the agenda of the government of the United States for fear of losing that tax-exempt status.

Stop Signs, Left Turns

It is extremely annoying getting to a 4-way stop sign and watching the wheels of a vehicle arriving from another direction to determine that the driver stopped after me, and then having that driver not only fail to yield the right of way, but also beeping his/her horn and obscenely gesturing at me for supposedly cutting him/her off. Then, when another driver puts me or my vehicle in physical danger, I sit there and take it because I don’t want to get ran off the road or shot. Somehow, the obnoxious drivers with their sports cars or oversized pickup trucks know they can walk all over me without fear of retaliatory road rage.

For some reason, special rules apply to people turning left. When no arrow is present, 1-2 cars are permitted to turn left on yellow or red as oncoming traffic stops. Drivers turning left are entitled to not wait through multiple traffic cycles, thus giving them the right of way for several seconds of the oncoming traffic’s green light (longer in Los Angeles). Drivers turning left on a red arrow believe they are actually performing a public service by preventing or reducing blockage of the thru lanes by the next cycle of drivers turning left.

Everyone loves using their left turn signal at an intersection with traffic lights but without left arrows or turn lanes, yielding the right of way to an oncoming driver without a turn signal, and then watching that driver proceed to turn left through intersection. This teaches us a valuable lesson—by leaving one’s turn signal off, you have the right to both go straight or turn left. An oncoming motorist foolish enough to display his or her left turn signal is required to yield to all oncoming motorists turning left without a turn signal.

Frivolous Spending, Entitlement

It’s no secret that the vast majority of Americans are financial morons. What is especially annoying is that so many of them believe they are financially intelligent. “Hey, I have food stamps—I take care of myself! I just can’t afford to give you gas money, but I am financially intelligent because I waited until you dropped me off to tell you that. If you get angry or say anything to my friends, you are really petty. While you were driving, I pointed out illegal maneuvers—which could prevent a ticket later—so in fact, you are in my debt and should be thanking me.”

Seeing people spend, save, or earn money frivolously is not what causes me to feel contempt. I hold them in contempt when they feel entitled to assume a position of superior expertise. You do not have the authority to educate me in finance if you make any of these mistakes:

* Pay usury interest rates.
* Pay 10% to have your coins counted by Coinstar.
* Do not recognize or understand the benefits of credit cards.
* Pay much more to defer payments, i.e. paying Florida property taxes in March when you could save 4% by paying them in November, paying your car insurance monthly when a large discount is available for paying it on a 6-month interval, etc.
* Buy Apple products to be trendy.
* Make dumb purchases of over-priced items for no good reason.
* Do not understand the time-value of money, i.e. passing up opportunities with a high ROI for opportunities with a stupidly low or negative ROI.

One-Sided Relationships

When a “friend” contacts me only when they need something from me, and then becomes incensed when I refuse to help—after a long history of helping said friend with nothing in return, it definitely contributes to my contemptuousness. See, I am well aware that it is wrong to help someone and expect anything in return unless consciously agreed to in advance. Accompanying feelings of resent are also hypocritical, because I agreed to help said person under my own free will. However, I am doubly aware that this cuts both ways—if someone else offers to help me, I don’t owe them a damn thing either (I am not so narcissistic as to claim to hold myself to higher standards than I hold other people). Further, if I refuse to help a friend, it is usually after a long history of being “abused” (which is actually a misnomer since it was under my own free will). Thus, I can legitimize the grandiose feelings of entitlement from the friend who has long benefited from a one-sided relationship (but is suddenly encountering resistance) as the catalyst for my contempt. Attempts at psychological coercion are evidence of these feelings of entitlement.

Thus, the one-sided relationship comes to an end when the loser has had enough. Ironically, the beneficiary typically believes the relationship was balanced or even biased in the former friend’s favor!

Their Word = Shit

Who is a person who does not keep their word? A liar. A cheat. A person without honor. Yet how many people keep their word in American culture? Consider the following scenarios:

* Person on Craigslist says they will show up at 2:00 PM to look at an item.
* Person does not show up.
* You call person at 2:30 PM.
* They say they can’t make it.

* A friend has agreed to go shopping with you.
* The friend cancels due to not feeling well.
* You then see the friend posting photos on Instagram at a nightclub.

* You are honest with a friend and trust that friend to be honest with you.
* The friend does not tell you something really important.
* You find out from someone else or by circumstance.
* The friend has the moral high ground because he/she didn’t tell you out of fear of hurting your feelings or was waiting for the ideal time to tell you.
* The friend delights in telling you he/she was protecting your feelings, hurting you far worse than simple honesty could ever have hurt.

* An acquaintance refuses to return emails, phone calls, or text messages after requesting your assistance, company, or services, thus maintaining plausible deniability regarding receipt of your messages. However, this acquaintance initially sought you out to take photos of her children or some other crap.

* A friend borrows an item from you.
* Friend disappears.

All of these scenarios have one thing in common: dishonor. Yet, if one wishes to have friends, it is very difficult to make friends in contemporary culture without tolerating at least some of these behaviors. Adopting these behaviors myself and expecting them from others is unsatisfying. Why is it that the only thing people respect is force?

“As an American, I have the right to free speech everywhere in America!”


For example, an owner of a business generally has the right to kick you out if he/she does not like what you are saying. Similarly, I have the right to kick you out of my house or delete your online comments or messages if I don’t like what you are saying. If you don’t like it, move to a public forum such as a street corner or public park.


Cell Phones in Classrooms

This is an essay I wrote on 2014-11-17 for EDF 6155: Lifespan Human Development & Learning, a graduate class at University of Central Florida.

Richard Thripp
EDF 6155 Module 6 Discussion Post, “Research”
17 November 2014

Cell Phones in Classrooms — Richard Thripp
Richard Thripp
Research Topic: Cell Phones in Classrooms

Article 1: Baker, W. M., Lusk, E. J., & Neuhauser, K. L. (2012). On the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in the classroom: Evidence from a survey of faculty and students. Journal of Education for Business, 87(5), 275-289. doi:10.1080/08832323.2011.622814


This study investigated the perceptions of college students and faculty regarding cell phone, laptop, and MP3 player usage in the classroom. The research questions involved assessing these perceptions and whether they differed between students and faculty members, and by demographic characteristics. A questionnaire with 55 questions was distributed to students and faculty in three universities—one (each) in New York, North Carolina, and Texas. 978 completed surveys were received, of which 882 were from students and 96 from faculty members. 85.9% of the students were undergraduates and 14.1% were graduate students. Most of the students and faculty were from business programs. There were about 60% males, 40% females, and most faculty were over 40 while most students were under 23.

The questions entailed multiple-choice and Likert scale responses to questions mainly about what is appropriate in the classroom, device usage patterns of the subjects. Students were found to be much more accepting and open to technology use in the classroom compared to faculty. Graduate students were less welcoming of laptop usage in the classroom, and males were generally more accepting of technology usage than females. Students used their cell phones far more than faculty, but faculty spent more time on computers, perhaps related to their work. Both groups highly disapproved of MP3 player use in the classroom, while cell phones were much more accepted. While students agreed that no devices should be allowed to be used during exams, they were very much against having to turn in their cell phones during exams.

Article 2: Maguth, B. M. (2013). The educative potential of cell phones in the social studies classroom. Social Studies, 104(2), 87-91. doi:10.1080/00377996.2012.655347


This article examines findings from studies regarding usage of cell phones in social studies classrooms, and suggests applications of text messaging as a participation tool in the classroom. While not explicitly defined, it appears Maguth is focusing on junior high and high school students from his frequent mention of teenage youth and their habits. Research indicates that social studies are particularly uninteresting or ill-presented for many students, and thus the author proposes integrating text messaging as a tool for looking up information, receiving student feedback, and instructor announcements. Three web services are suggested, specifically for being free, user-friendly, and having educative potential (according to the author): Google SMS, Joopz, and, which allow students to request information by text message, teachers to send announcements to students, and teachers to conduct interactive, live polls via text or Twitter message in the classroom, respectively. Research shows that text messaging has greatly increased in popularity, especially among youths—for this reason and others, Maguth argues that effective teachers must integrate cell phones for effective student learning and a “fun, relevant, and engaging” classroom experience.

Summary of Findings:
Topic: Cell Phones in Classrooms

A message from both articles is that younger people favor technology more—this is revealed in the permissive attitudes toward cell phone and laptop usage among college students compared to faculty (Baker, Lusk, & Neuhauser, 2012), and in the observation that secondary schools typically ban cell phones, even though students want to be able to use them (Maguth, 2013). Both articles cited studies finding that mobile devices disrupt learning when they are intrusive or disruptive, but found that silent usage can be useful and educational, such as when it involves note-taking or looking up relevant information. Further, Maguth proposed that technology activities can be made part of the lesson plan and lead to positive results.

Baker et al. (2012) focused on college student and faculty perceptions through self-reports, as an investigation of what different people find acceptable, annoying, or disruptive, and their usage habits themselves. They found that students approved of cell phone and laptop usage in many more situations than faculty, though it could not be discerned whether this was a function of age (younger or older) or rank (student or faculty) since these variables could not be manipulated or separated. Maguth (2013) presented opinions about the role cell phones should play in the public school classroom, and detailed three SMS (short message service, also known as text messaging) services that can be put to use by the instructor for student polls, distribution of announcements, and web searches. A compelling argument for using text messages rather than email is that the percentage of teenagers using text messaging to contact friends outside of school on a daily basis increased from 27 to 54 between 2006 and 2009, while other mediums have remained flat or, in the case of email, significantly declined (Lenhart, 2009, as cited in Maguth, 2013, p. 88). However, a large barrier to entry in secondary school is that parental consent is required to collect student phone numbers and send them text messages—one reason for this is that billing charges may be incurred (Maguth, 2013, p. 89).

In general, determining appropriate use of technology and enforcing rules is a formidable challenge—this is shown in both articles by the recurring theme of disruptive off-task usage of mobile devices. However, both articles conclude that an outright ban on cell phones is an inferior solution (except during exams), both because there are legitimate and helpful uses of cell phones in class, and because “digital natives” (operationally defined by Baker et al. as individuals under the age of 25) view cell phones as an extension of themselves, unlike older individuals. Therefore, prohibiting cell phone usage can have negative implications for a student’s affect and instructor perceptions, though both articles recommend setting rules and policies to limit unhelpful usage (Baker et al., 2012; Maguth, 2013).


I was surprised to learn about Google SMS and had not used or heard of this service before. One can use it to send messages to Google requesting information such as stock prices, definitions of words, maps, etc. The reason I find this particularly enticing is because my phone has limited data access which does not work much of the time (I am not sure if my phone is defective or if it is due to having Metro PCS as a carrier, which is a low-cost, budget carrier). However, I can send and receive unlimited text messages and have no problems doing this unless I am in certain buildings or rural areas.

A significant problem with research in this area is the fast pace of technological development. Cell phone usage habits among teenagers and emerging adults are constantly changing due to new applications (“apps”) being deployed and gaining popularity, and due to new phones with new or improved capabilities being released. Thus, the information in these articles already feels dated—consider for example that Baker et al. (2012) set out to survey opinions on usage of cell phones and “other electronic devices,” but completely omitted tablet computers. In 2014, I would consider tablet computers in the classroom to be much more relevant and important than MP3 players. Another problem is classifying and considering different devices in the same category—a laptop computer with a 17.3” screen can be far more disruptive than one with an 11.6” screen, for instance, but Baker et al. gave no notice to this factor. Thus, scholarly research of the impact of mobile devices requires a faster pace than most other fields.

The Graduate School Gambit

This semester, having started graduate school in the Applied Learning & Instruction M.A. program at University of Central Florida, an understaffed and somewhat obscure program in the College of Education and Human Performance, I have enjoyed almost universal support and encouragement from family, friends, and acquaintances when education comes up in conversation. However, to say this is a reliable indicator that one has made the best decision, or even a good decision, is dubious at best. While I am happy with the decision to invest $15,000 of my family’s money and perhaps 2500 hours of my time in becoming educated through the structures, procedures, and recommendations made by the instructors of the classes I take in this program, as well as eventually learning how to conduct scientific research, that does not necessarily mean I could not learn the same skills or better skills elsewhere, both at less cost and with more efficiency.

In sum, my undergraduate education in psychology and various elective classes was fully paid for by the state, since it was subsidized by the federal Pell grant program and other tax dollars, the Florida Bright Futures scholarship program, and several other grants and scholarships. Living in Florida, I can never sympathize when people talk about the perils of going into debt to pay for their Bachelors’ degrees, since community colleges and state universities are a viable option and of a lower cost here than in many other states. However, I am receiving no financial aid or scholarships for my graduate classes, and must also pay nearly double the undergraduate tuition per credit hour. Considering graduate school is much more costly and difficult to find grants or scholarships for, it is reasonable to consider graduate school a gambit, meaning “a calculated move” or “something done or said in order to gain an advantage or to produce a desired result.” This implies the quite real probability that the gambit will fail, either subtly or spectacularly.

Typically, people talk about the perils of education in terms of dollars lost—due to the wasted time and money that could have been spent working and advancing one’s career. However, just because you could be working during the time spent on graduate school does not mean such work would be emotionally fulfilling or lead you where you want to go. Particularly with the meta situation of going to college to become an educator, such education has a large extrinsic value, since it is an artificial prerequisite of being an institutionalized educator. This extrinsic value should not be dismissed, because being part of an institution gives one authority, credibility, resources, connections, and higher pay than the majority of self- or independently employed people.

Like a courtship, graduate school should be entered without expectations or attachment to preconceived opinions about what “should” be. It is very different from any other product one would typically purchase. It is also somewhat different from undergraduate education because less hand-holding and incompetence is expected. In many ways, you are expected to be in charge of your education and to exhibit the required attention and self-discipline. Therefore, for fields that do not require special access afforded by a university (i.e. to laboratories, patients, or equipment), such as liberal arts, “soft” sciences, and most computing fields, self-education or education through alternate means can arguably be of equal or greater effectiveness. One could merely read Wikipedia articles (including referenced works) and get as much of an education as graduate school. It is not unthinkable for one to have the rigor and self-discipline to create agendas, assignments, schedules, deadlines, and exams for oneself. One could even solicit subjects and conduct survey research with ease. Unfortunately, even with the rise of free online courses, few people have the willpower to follow through with such plans. Consider that college attendees, with endless sociocultural pressure to persist, drop out in droves—it is not surprising that self-education might be even more difficult. Thus, many students going to graduate school are merely paying for their lack of willpower!

In American culture, being unemployed is unacceptable, but being an unemployed college student garners one instant praise and universal acceptance. While it is easy to fake being a college student, for the honest student who seeks a degree largely for feelings of wisdom, competence, or superiority, social acceptance should be no more than a tangential issue. If you value your individuality, choosing a subject you are interested in is important and should take precedence over what your family or peers encourage you to study. However, developing or losing interest in a field can easily happen after beginning one’s collegiate studies. To say that it is important to figure out what you want to do ahead of time may be a misnomer—knowing you are going down a wrong road often requires traveling part of it. Pursuing any interest is a gambit, but is usually preferable to inaction.

My purpose with this essay is to superficially acknowledge the wide variety of educational options available, and to recognize that graduate school is not necessarily better or worse than other options for the reasons that are commonly parroted. Elevating the importance of introspection and self-inquiry is a marker of narcissism and an easy way to get out of doing real work—graduate school is particularly effective at debunking the value of opinion and educating one to value rigorous and empirical analysis. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of nebulous theories and cults of personality that counteract this phenomenon. Professors command unnatural respect—they are rarely heckled or ridiculed like a cashier at Walmart or McDonald’s, even though they should technically be equivalent to employees (or at least independent contractors) of the students. This is probably because colleges and universities are in the peculiar situation of being paid by you to make sure you learn—which returns to my argument that higher education is a substitute for willpower. The archetypal college-dropout millionaire perennially reminds us that college is for weak, uninspired, boring individuals. The middle road is far less sexy; it is easy to draw inferences from outliers. We cannot say whether successful college dropouts would have succeeded just as much or more had they completed their college educations, though it is fun to bash education.

I will close with the idea that graduate school, like many gambits, is pursued most frequently by individuals who need it least. Many of the people going to graduate school are already relatively educated critical thinkers. They are perfectly capable of contributing to society with their current education and even being financially and emotionally fulfilled, yet compete for slots in graduate programs out of greed and avarice. I will not delude you into believing this greed is for money—it is far more likely for status and prestige. The title of doctor is coveted and bandied about by people who are not medical doctors, despite this being the overwhelming mental association among outsiders or laypersons. Universities are complicit in their greed for state funds, federal funds, and tuition dollars. Like the housing and precious metals markets, higher education is becoming ripe for the slaughter. Although it is obvious that learning can still take place and value reciprocated in such an environment, it is harder to discern when diminishing returns will turn a gambit into a crapshoot.

Incarceration and Accidental Death in Early Adulthood

This is a discussion post essay I wrote on 2014-10-26 for EDF 6155: Lifespan Human Development & Learning, a graduate class at University of Central Florida.

Richard Thripp
EDF 6155 Module 5 Discussion Post, “Issues & Stages of Development”
26 October 2014

Richard Thripp     Grade Contract A
Stage of Development: Early Adulthood
Issues to be addressed: Poverty and incarceration, accidental death

(1) Issue: Poverty and incarceration


While adolescents with late-onset delinquency typically do not continue their criminal activities into adulthood, boys who have violent tendencies at a younger age are more likely to live a life of crime with periods of incarceration (Berk, 2010, p. 425). Like reckless behavior, violent crime is primarily perpetrated by males—the minority of female adolescent arrests for violent crime typically involve mere simple assault (p. 424). Teenagers growing up in poor neighborhoods are more likely to commit crimes and have exposure to drugs, firearms, and gangs; this threat is further magnified by low-quality education and bad family relationships (p. 424).

From the mid-20th century to the early 21st century, the incarceration rate in the United States has increased from 0.11% to 0.74% as of mid-2005, a nearly sevenfold increase (Apel & Sweeten, 2010, p. 449). This gigantic increase is not correlated with an increase in crime, but rather “net widening” policies that result in imprisonment of offenders who previously would have received probation, and harsher sentences for less dangerous crimes (p. 448-49). Incarceration is having a profound impact on emerging adults, particularly on poor black men, who are given little leeway to “experiment, rebel, and misbehave” compared to privileged youth, and find themselves being imprisoned at an unfairly high rate (Comfort, 2012, p. 311). Being that contemporary culture downplays marriage, parenthood, and careers as markers of adulthood, for an increasing segment of the population, incarceration is filling this void and is arguably replacing college as a period for finding oneself. Despite being subjected to depressing and limiting environments, young prisoners with release dates often look forward with greater hope and optimism than their older cohorts, consider their incarceration a time for personal reflection and planning a better life, and even maintain loving marriages and long-term relationships while behind bars (Comfort, 2012).

Some factors are correlated with both poverty and risk of arrest, such as dropping out of high school, being unmarried, and lack of gainful employment (Bender, Tripodi, Aguilar, & Thompson, 2010). However, the belief that incarceration ruins one’s job prospects may not be based on actual evidence—Apel and Sweeten have suggested that negative employment outcomes may be based more on the resulting gap in employment history, and that for emerging adults, incarceration may actually be associated with higher income in the short term (2010, p. 468). However, in the long term, ex-inmates were found to have a $4000 to $5000 deficit in annual income, which was a difference between 14 and 18 percent, and in the short term they tended to work more hours at slightly lower wages. Critically, they found that ex-inmates were much more likely to be unemployed by choice, despite having little trouble finding work after their release (this evidence was based on self-reports). Further, the negative effect on securing employment following release typically persisted for only four months. In summary, the stigma surrounding incarceration may be less important to employment prospects than common discourse indicates; a lack of desire to participate in the workforce might be more to blame.


Apel, R., & Sweeten, G. (2010). The impact of incarceration on employment during the transition to adulthood. Social Problems, 57(3), 448-479. doi:10.1525/sp.2010.57.3.448

Bender, K., Tripodi, S., Aguilar, J., & Thompson, S. (2010). Predicting arrest in early adulthood: The relationship between internal and external sources of control. Social Work Research, 34(1), 58-64.

Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the lifespan (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Comfort, M. (2014). “It was basically college to us”: Poverty, prison, and emerging adulthood. Journal of Poverty, 16(3), 308-322. doi:10.1080/10875549.2012.695923

(2) Issue: Accidental death


Reckless behaviors are much more frequent among males, especially in early adulthood. Alcohol frequently causes or is correlated with crime and unintentional injuries; 2 in 5 fatal motor vehicle collisions involve alcohol, and its links to violence and police activities are quite strong (Berk, 2010, p. 445). Alcoholism is also much more common among males, which is another reason why males are more likely to unintentionally injure themselves and injure other people, with or without intent. Sadly, motor vehicle accidents account for nearly half of all deaths among 25 to 44 year olds in the United States, greatly eclipsing cancer or heart disease (p. 439).

A Swedish cohort study of 49,411 males who were drafted in 1969 and 1970 between 18 and 20 years of age, given mandatory questionnaires about family background and behavioral factors, and assessed for injury mortality 35 years later produced interesting findings (Stenbacka, Leifman, Dalal, & Jansson, 2011). Accidental deaths in general were far more common among young Swedish men who reported alcohol use, mainly in motor vehicle crashes, but also due to drowning, fire, falling objects, or intoxication itself (p. 233). Conduct problems and incidents with police were the other two factors linked most strongly with injury death (p. 234). Early police contact was highly correlated with death by single vehicle accidents (p. 230), which may indicate a relationship between delinquency and reckless driving. In total, 485 men (0.98%) died due to unintentional injury over the 35 year period, which was 18% of the total deaths during the period. Nearly 60% of the 485 men died in car accidents, which is a testament to the great risks involved in driving or being a passenger in a small automobile.

Adolescents and young adults speed, run red lights, make illegal maneuvers, and drive while intoxicated or permit themselves to be the passengers of an intoxicated driver much more often than older adults, which has disastrous consequences—motor vehicle crashes caused a hefty 31% of injury-related deaths in the United States in 1996, and an appraisal from 1997 found the death rate for young adult drivers was more than 200% of the rest of the U.S. population (Stiglets, 2001, p. 451). Motor vehicle crashes, drowning, and firearm deaths are all substantially more common in males than females, which might be due to socialization that promotes risk-taking as something exciting or desirable, and beliefs of invulnerability among males which are disconnected from reality (p. 450).

Risk perceptions are at the heart of decisions to participate in risky behaviors. Studies by Haase and Silbereisen of students in a middle school, a high school, and a university in Germany found that positive affect was related to lower risk perceptions in all cases, in regards to drinking, smoking, being a passenger with a drunk driver, physical altercations, and unprotected sexual intercourse (2011). Subjects in these studies watched neutral or positive affective pictures for three minutes (while listening to similarly selected music), and were then assessed with a questionnaire presenting hypothetical scenarios and asking them to rate their perceptions of risk on a Likert scale. Risk perceptions were much higher in the neutral affect condition for all age groups (13, 17, and 23 year olds). This study may have groundbreaking implications for researchers—the authors note that subjects are usually more risk adverse when completing questionnaires compared to the real world, and propose a difference in affect may be a contributory factor. If sustained by further research, these results may mean that maintaining a level head—rather than being exuberantly enthusiastic—can prevent many accidental injuries and deaths in social settings, especially among impulsive individuals.


Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the lifespan (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Haase, C. M., & Silbereisen, R. K. (2011). Effects of positive affect on risk perceptions in adolescence and young adulthood. Journal of Adolescence, 34(1), 29-37. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.03.004

Stenbacka, M., Leifman, A., Dalal, K., & Jansson, B. (2011). Early predictors of injury mortality among Swedish conscripts: A 35-year cohort study. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 43(1), 228-234. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2010.08.014

Stiglets, C. (2001). Unintentional injuries in the young adult male. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 13(10), 450-454. doi:10.1111/j.1745-7599.2001.tb00004.x

Critique of Under the Same Moon, Dark Matter [Movies]

This is an essay I finished writing on 2014-10-13 for EDF 6155: Lifespan Human Development & Learning, a graduate class at University of Central Florida.

Richard Thripp
EDF 6155 Module 4, “Critiquing the Media”
13 October 2014

Name: Richard Thripp
Grade Contract: A

Media # 1

  1. Media type: DVD
  2. Name of book/dvd/etc: Under the Same Moon (2008)
  3. Stage of Development: Middle Childhood
  4. Issue(s): Separation from parents, death of grandmother, immigration
  5. Summary:

Under the Same Moon is a film about a nine year old boy named Carlitos and his journey from a small Mexican village to Los Angeles, to find his mother Rosario who has been illegally living there for four years, performing janitorial work while sending money home to Carlitos’ grandmother, whom he lives with. The title of the film comes from a statement his mother often makes on the phone to provide assurance that they are not as far apart as they think. When his grandmother dies, he decided to use his $1200 in savings to sneak across the border and locate her based on the return address from one of her letters. He runs into many challenges, such as the car of the couple smuggling him across the border being confiscated and resulting in him losing the remainder of his money and having to hitchhike to Los Angeles. He meets his father in Tuscon, who says he will pay his bus fare, but then mysteriously disappears like he did when Carlitos was a toddler. Carlitos’ self-reliance results in him making friendships and avoiding threats on his journey to his mother. Meanwhile, she is debating returning to Mexico to find her son, and considers marrying a suitor to get her green card, but backs out at the last minute. In the end, an initially unwilling friend made on the road (Enrique) ends up sacrificing himself to the police so Carlitos can get away. Given that the return address on Rosario’s letter is merely a post office box, Carlitos uses his memory of her detailed description of the surroundings at the phone booth she calls him from at 10 AM each Sunday morning to find her in downtown Los Angeles while she is making the phone call.

  1. Critique:

Carlitos is highly industrious—he is confident he can find his mother and does not stop taking actions to get there. He is not pessimistic and does not succumb to feelings of inferiority, the flip side of Erikson’s dichotomy for middle childhood (Berk, 2010, p. 330). However, the psychological issues resulting from Carlitos’ separation from his parents and him witnessing the death of his grandmother are not adequately recognized. Furthermore, the accurateness of the portrayal is limited: Under the Same Moon presents a highly sympathetic viewpoint to illegal immigration and underestimates the difficulty a nine-year-old illegal would have in making such a journey—for instance, he even secures employment for himself and Enrique at a small restaurant while traveling, which is unusual and a violation of labor laws in contemporary America (Bergman, Dreyfuss, Selim, Villalobos, & Riggen, 2008).

Cabaj, McDonald, and Tough (2014) have found that positive motherly interactions in a child’s first five years are correlated with better behavioral outcomes and resilience in middle childhood. Given that Rosario did not leave Carlitos until he was five, this may be an item of evidence in support of his resilience. Milrod et al. (2014) have found that separation anxiety in childhood has long-term negative consequences in adulthood, while healthy attachments have robust, positive outcomes. Since Carlitos had a good relationship with this mother even by long-distance phone communication, had his grandmother to rely on for emotional support, and had an abandoning but non-abusive father, he seems poised for good mental health through this stage of life and the future. Thus, there is at least some research in support of cheery optimism coexisting with Carlitos unfortunate circumstances.

Based on the logic, problem-solving, and language abilities the character of nine-year-old Carlitos demonstrates in this film, he may be a gifted child. Burke (2009) finds that gifted children need emotional support to cope with grief just as much as other children. She also proposes that grief does not just come from death, but from a gamut of issues, many of which Carlitos faced. Though there was a lack of realism and accurateness in his portrayal—it would have made more sense if he was several years older—it is somewhat plausible that he could have delayed grieving and deferred his needs for emotional support in anticipation of being reunited with his mother, who would fulfill those needs. This anticipation may also have helped him cope with his father disappearing after promising to buy him a bus ticket from Tuscon to Los Angeles. If the anticipated reunion gave him the psychological resilience to persist through numerous challenges on his week-long journey, then coupled with his giftedness, credence is arguably lent to the notion that a boy his age could act so far beyond his years.

  1. References:

Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the lifespan (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Bergman, R., Dreyfuss, N., Selim, H., Villalobos, L. (Producers), & Riggen, P. (Director). (2008). Under the same moon [Motion picture]. United States: Fox Searchlight.

Burke, A. (2009). Gifted and grieving: Why it is critical to offer differential support to gifted kids during times of loss. Gifted Child Today, 32(4), 30-37.

Cabaj, J. L., McDonald, S. W., & Tough, S. C. (2014). Early childhood risk and resilience factors for behavioural and emotional problems in middle childhood. BMC Pediatrics, 14(166). doi:10.1186/1471-2431-14-166

Milrod, B., Markowitz, J., Gerber, A., Cyranowski, J., Altemus, M., Shapiro, T., & … Glatt, C. (2014). Childhood separation anxiety and the pathogenesis and treatment of adult anxiety. American Journal of Psychiatry, 171(1), 34-43. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.13060781

Media # 2

  1. Media type: DVD
  2. Name of book/dvd/etc: Dark Matter (2007)
  3. Stage of Development: Young Adulthood
  4. Issue(s): Isolation, academic politics, school shootings, Asian-American cultural issues
  5. Summary:

Dark Matter is a film loosely based on the 1991 murders of three professors and a fellow student by Gang Lu, Ph.D. (“Liu Xing” in the film), a brilliant astrophysics student from China and recent graduate of the University of Iowa. In the film, Liu Xing is portrayed sympathetically—his hubris and infamous temper are omitted (Marriott, 1991). Numerous deviations from the real story that make the film no more than a fictionalized account; however, the film arguably still has value for showing that unfair marginalization can be a factor leading to tragic consequences. In Dark Matter, Xing is accepted into department head Jake Reiser’s prestigious cosmology lab based on his excellent test scores and undergraduate education at the University of Beijing (Chiu, D’Amico, & Chen, 2007). He yearns to uncover the true origins of the universe through his investigations of dark matter—however, the evidence he produces directly contradicts Dr. Resier’s theory. His dedication to the truth results in Reiser rejecting his dissertation for using computations deemed imprecise, even though Reiser used the same methods in his own research. By this point, Xing has been writing phony letters to his parents in China reporting good news; he has been spurned by his crush, an American girl who works at a coffee shop; and he has seen a smooth-talking Asian classmate (Laurence Feng) flagrantly forge research results to support Reiser’s theory—resulting in his dissertation being accepted and awarded a distinguished prize that Xing wanted. Xing’s isolation, social awkwardness, and academic frustration—coupled with his idealization of guns as a tool for social justice—result in him gunning down Reiser, Feng, and two other professors, before turning the gun on himself.

  1. Critique:

According to Erikson, early adulthood (18-40 years) represents a psychological struggle between intimacy and isolation. In his model, intimacy is facilitated by a secure identity and culminates in faithful commitment to an intimate partner, while isolation is correlated with identity moratorium and results in loneliness and self-absorption (Berk, 2010, p. 468-69). The depiction of Xing is consistent with someone who has neither a secure identity nor intimate attachment. Xing’s identity, based on his interactions with his parents and Asian peers, is not collectivist, but rather connected to academic and professional success. His internalization of this paradigm is so entrenched that he is unable to appropriately cope with the institutionalized injustice promulgated by Reiser and Feng—having his contributions marginalized and incorrectly criticized leads to a melancholic rage belied by his timid countenance. This rage is revealed to the viewer through Xing’s thoughts, which are depicted through glimpses of shootings in Western films and Xing being buried in falling snow (Chiu, D’Amico, & Chen, 2007).

While Xing may be a believable character, there is a broad dramatization of the “true story” the film is based on, demonstrated by its significant deviations from actual events. In fact, the dissertation of Xing’s real life counterpart, Gang Lu, was accepted—not fraudulently rejected on a technicality as in Dark Matter. In reality, Lu was enraged merely that his dissertation received too little enthusiasm, and additionally walked three blocks away to murder the vice president of academic affairs and maim a receptionist (Marriott, 1991). These departures from the true story may be evidence that the subject matter was handled with limited accuracy and egregious inappropriateness—consider the families of the victims, who might be outraged at the lionizing moralization of their loved ones’ murderer. Xing’s actions may represent the worst possible outcome of failure to negotiate the young adulthood stage—the next step up might be suicide without murder, which is far more common. Specifically, he was not a rampage shooter, but rather (as depicted in the film) someone who had experienced emotional abuse from Reiser and whose final reaction was to methodically murder the abuser and associated individuals—a decision typically not associated with psychopathy or psychoticism (Rocque, 2012).

In a survey study of counseling students, Gold and Rogers (1995) found a positive correlation between scores on the Hogan Empathy Scale and intimacy scores on Hamachek’s operationalization of Erikson’s intimacy/isolation model. If the inventories used are valid, this study is one piece of evidence supporting a connection between empathy and intimacy. Given that Xing witnessed the baptism of Feng’s infant son yet had no qualms about taking his life, he seems to have shown a lack of empathy for Feng’s wife and son. A lack of empathy is connected with a bias for isolation according to the study by Gold and Rogers. Various factors may have played into Xing’s isolation, including a clash between Chinese and American culture, but given that he was surrounded by Asian students who did not respond similarly, there was surely a personal component to Xing’s behavior, as well as a situational component regarding his failed romantic and academic interactions.

  1. References:

Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the lifespan (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Chiu, L. S., D’Amico, K. (Producers), & Chen, S. (Director). (2007). Dark matter [Motion picture]. United States: Screen Media.

Gold, J. M., & Rogers, J. D. (1995). Intimacy and isolation: A validation study of Erikson’s theory. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 35(1), 78-86. doi:10.1177/00221678950351008

Marriott, M. (1991, November 4). Iowa gunman was torn by academic challenge. The New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2014, from

Rocque, M. (2012). Exploring school rampage shootings: Research, theory, and policy. Social Science Journal, 49(3), 304-313. doi:10.1016/j.soscij.2011.11.001