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Rationalization and Belief Systems

By Suha Choi, V Form

Rationalization and Belief Systems

“Post-truth,” defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief,” was selected as Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016 (Oxford Dictionaries, 2016). This definition of the term presents an interesting point of discussion: If we are living in this so-called “post-truth era” in which “belief” has a more significant impact and “appeal” to society than truth, how will it affect mankind? To help answer this question, psychologists have investigated how we construct belief systems to understand the world and behave. After examining various cognitive process models that explain how such belief systems are formed on the individual level, I realized that rationalization is integral: we rationalize all the time to understand the behaviors of ourselves and others better. As Cushman (2020) pointed out, rationalization is indeed one of the most exhaustively documented in psychological investigation: cognitive dissonance (Festinger 1962) and self-perception (Nisbett & Wilson 1977); both have rationalization at their heart. This essay, however, will focus on the process of rationalization on the collective level than on the individual level because we are “deeply social animals” and our ecological success significantly depends on “our capacity to exchange and aggregate information” (Henrich, 2015; Richerson & Boyd, 2008) and form beliefs on the collective level. Graham (2020) poignantly pointed out, “when groups collectively rationalize their actions, entire networks of beliefs and desires can be created and maintained in the form of shared moral narratives and system-justifying ideologies.” At times, however, these cases of collective rationalization come “at the expense of the truth” and can therefore result in ethical consequences in society. Borrowing Cushman’s representational exchange concept to explain individuals’ mental processes that produce beliefs, I will first point out that our tendency to believe what is useful over true is inextricably linked to social learning. While this tendency originates from the fact that humans are social beings, I argue that we can ultimately utilize this sociability to externalize the socially learned psychological processes which have previously been left implicit in our mind. Doing so will increase human flourishing; cooperative communication with our social partners can correct our existing beliefs as well as reduce the possibility of forming inaccurate inferences about the world in the future.

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The Effect of Visual Support on Learning: A Psychology Case Study

By William Osborne and Julian Yang, VI Form

The Effect of Visual Support on Learning: A Psychology Case Study

Abstract

Memorization plays a major role in education, especially throughout grade school and middle school. Despite this, many teachers support studying for memorization based tests by only repeating the information needed until it is stuck in the student’s brain. This study examines the positive effect visuals have on the brain’s ability to memorize words. Past experiments have found that the inclusion of images with text would increase a person’s ability to memorize and recall information. To test this, participants were given a short period of time to memorize ten words and then recall them. The same process was then repeated, but with a different list which also contained images of the words. The results showed that participants’ ability to memorize was facilitated with the use of images. One possible explanation is that the brain is able to mentally picture the image when remembering the words, giving it a concrete example to pull from instead of only a few letters on a page. 

Keywords:  Memorization, Visual Learning, Information Recall, Learning Strategy

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The Impact of Music on Completing Tasks: A Psychology Case Study

By Grace Gibbons and Alie Hyland, VI Form

The Impact of Music on Completing Tasks: A Psychology Case Study

As high school students, we spend a lot of time completing homework assignments and studying each day. We noticed that some of our peers choose to listen to music during study hours, while others prefer silence in order to remain focused. Both of us have different preferences, so we conducted this study to determine the impact of music on concentration while completing a task. 

Research previously conducted on this topic indicates that listening to music impacts cognitive ability in various ways. Music will either enhance or negatively impact studying depending on the type of work the student is completing. If a student is working on a complex task that requires complete focus or processing multiple pieces of information, then background music may hinder their concentration. (Kuepper-Tetzel 2016). Music can enhance student performance by blocking out outside noises and distractions, helping the student fully focus on their assignment. We chose the task of a word scramble for our study since it requires full concentration from the student and the lyrics may interfere with processing.

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The Absurd Act of Looking for Meaning in Camus’ The Stranger

By Jake Oblak, IV Form

The Absurd Act of Looking for Meaning in Camus’ The Stranger

What is the meaning of absurdism? How are absurdist people perceived by others? How can someone be impacted by this lifestyle? These are all questions that arise from The Stranger by Albert Camus. This philosophical novel follows a man named Meursault through a portion of his adult life. His experiences in the book range from his romantic relations with his girlfriend Marie to being sentenced to the guillotine after being convicted of murder. Throughout these events, problems emerge as a result of Meursault’s absurdist lifestyle, and personal values. Consequently, Camus delivers an eloquent introduction to absurdism and negative impacts of believing in a counter-cultural philosophy, but based on his own logic looking for a message in his writing would be ignorant.

Absurdism is an uncommon philosophy compared to modern day ideologies, but its outlook on life is unique. Absurdism is defined as “a philosophical perspective which holds that the efforts of humanity to find meaning or rational explanation in the universe ultimately fail (and, hence, are absurd) because no such meaning exists, at least to human beings” (New World). As this definition explains, absurdism is based on the idea that life has no meaning and is completely arbitrary. As a result, looking for any kind of meaning in life would be considered futile. Through an absurdist lens partaking in events in order to fulfill a requirement created by society is ridiculous. This is a common theme which occurs repeatedly throughout The Stranger. Absurdists believe in doing what feels right to them, rather than doing what is right in the eyes of the norm manufactured by society. (more…)

Survival With God: On Piers Paul Read’s Alive

By Lindsay Davis, IV Form

Survival With God: On Piers Paul Read’s Alive

Alive by Piers Paul Read, a survival story of a plane crash in the Andes Mountains, recounts how the survivors’ trust in God influenced their resilience during a crisis of life and death. In 1972, a plane carrying Uruguayan rugby players and other Uruguayan citizens crashed in the middle of the Andes. While the travelers suffered many injuries or died from the crash, the fight on the mountain came most from their will to survive and the actions needed to outlast the miserable conditions of the Andes. The rations of food, sleeping conditions, injuries, and pre-existing relationships affected the mental status of each survivor. Their bond with God helped them to make life at the Fairchild fair and optimistic. The survivors who boarded the Fairchild came close to death in the Andes, but their hope for survival and reliance on God pushed them through the mental pain and helped inspire their faith in physical recovery.

The survivors ate the flesh of their dead companions knowing that was their only way to survive. God had inspired the courage to engage in repugnant cannibalism. Over the course of the seventy-two days, while the survivors’ mentality fluctuated, food supplies ran out and the concern of starvation became apparent. The injuries and losses suffered by some of the Fairchild passengers would not matter if they could not feed themselves. Although most of the boys were expecting the point at which they would need the protein of their fellow dead friends and passengers, Canessa was the first to discuss aloud with the group. After eliminating the idea of eating the seat cushions and digging deep for grass, the bodies that surrounded them on and in the snow were the last plan. (more…)

Sexism in the Workplace Through a Critical Social Justice Lens

By Anu Akibu, V Form

Sexism in the Workplace Through a Critical Social Justice Lens

Writer’s Note:

This was an essay I wrote for the class Social Justice. We were tasked to “write an analytical essay that evaluates [a] resource through a critical social justice lens, applying the terms, ideas, and concepts we studied in this module.” The article analyzed in this essay is Boston Has Eliminated Sexism in the Workplace. Right?, so the issues presented focus on American society. I am still learning about critical social justice and challenging the way I view the world around me.


The Boston Magazine article explores the gender-wage gap in prestigious jobs at presumably equitable areas of the United States such as Boston. Highlighted within the article are the narratives of various women’s experiences with discrimination and microaggressions in their workplace. Although the companies have taken action against sexism in the workplace, there are still numerous ways for society’s cultural and ideological nature to align with its progressive efforts. (more…)