Psychology Response Assignment: The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

Psychology Response Assignment: The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

Psychology Response Assignment: The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge


Paper Format: Number of pages: Type of work: Type of paper: Sources needed
5 Double spaced Writing from scratch Research paper 3
Subject   Psychology Topic    RESPONSE PAPER
Academic Level : Bachelor
Paper details  

Microsoft Word Doc is the preferred method of submission. Papers should be 4 – 5 pages in length with one-inch margins (side and top, we measure!), 12 point font, Times New Roman, double-spaced. The response papers will involve some degree of personal examination using the material from the class. It should not be a diary entry and it should not be a book report — introduction, thesis statement, support (with references), and conclusion. We will also expect you to proofread (use the Writing Center if you need to!) and we do nat went 2 c terrible grammar or spelling. If you cannot hand in the paper on time you must email it to your TA (so we know it is done), your paper is subject to the late submission policy (see below). We used to think, and this was supported by research, that the brain became a static organ as people entered adulthood. We now know this is not true (as will you when you read The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge). Given these findings, an important quality in all of us who wish to thrive is not simply tolerating but embracing our neural plasticity – our ability to change. Consider some area in your life that you would like to change. Describe why this change is important to your overall well being. Then discuss 3-5 findings in this book that could help you think about implementing that change.

SoH Example Paper

The Mouth That Will Open Itself

Back in suburban New Zealand, my high school friend told me that I couldn’t be a successful writer in the English language because it wasn’t my language to write in.  Later that night, I wondered why the comment affected me so much—and I realized that despite the outrage and disappointment at her statement, the worst part was that I somewhat agreed. The environment and circumstances I grew up in, which the Indian girl had shared as seen in her statement and experiences with bullying for her accent, had trained me to believe that I was ineloquent in what was my second language. I shied away from speaking in case any accidental mispronunciation betrayed my supposed lack of fluency, became self-conscious from times when cars slowed down on the street and the driver shouted for me to go back to my own country, from literal stones thrown at my family members accompanied with similar proclamations. Public speaking has and still does make me abnormally anxious, which I think stems from a combination of my natural introversion and series of experiences as an immigrant often scorned for any linguistic incompetence. I do think I’ve improved significantly since coming to college, but I still want to consciously work on public speaking—I hope to be a professor one day, so I need to become more outspoken and confident in a classroom setting. Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself, especially the sections on language, anxiety and OCD, has helped me reach a deeper understanding of my own problem and encouraged me to believe my quietness can be changed with the concept of neuroplasticity—perhaps with a combination of confronting my problems and deliberate practice, such as forcing myself to speak at least once in every class, my anxiety will disappear and public speaking will come to me more naturally. Psychology Response Assignment: The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

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I have seen the wonders of neuroplasticity already, in the face of one of the biggest changes in my life—I moved to New Zealand from Korea in first grade, away from most of my family, original friends, culture and language. Understanding the impact of this is important for me to analyze my particular anxiety over eloquence, so that I can be more accepting of how I think and speak without being overly critical of myself which most likely fuels my anxiety. Doidge states immigration is “far more difficult a matter than learning new things, because the new culture is in plastic competition with neural networks that had their critical period of development in the native land” (299). This is comforting validation that such a struggle is only natural and not a lack of intelligence as I had felt in my childhood. I arrived in New Zealand without even knowing the English alphabet, so in the classroom I was mocked for my muteness, or accent if I spoke. I was met with impatience from teachers, and condescension from my peers. Doidge’s claim that “culture shock is brain shock” helps take away some of my inward frustration because I had a reason to feel insecure in my childhood that lingers even today (299). Even if such insecurity, especially in public speaking, persists, I now dream in English and even study English Literature, perhaps as a sign of an obsession with the language that once caused me so much pain. Thus, if my brain was capable of acquiring a new language and culture as it did, it can surely change further. This reminder that culture is a shaping force of the brain is also relevant because the New Zealand education system doesn’t encourage public speaking as much as the American—class participation never counted for my grades before I came to college, as everything was solely based on written exams. Culturally, combined with expectations of demure politeness from my Korean background and my New Zealand education, the neurons for public speaking and active verbal assertion of ideas did not “fire together [to] wire together” (63). But because I know culture can be a shaping force of neuroplasticity, I hope and welcome how I will be shaped by an American culture that encourages assertive vocalization.

The first question I have to ask now that I have identified and come to terms with the problem of anxiety when speaking in front of a group is this: if the neurons in my brain are unfamiliar with activating together for the verbalization of my ideas in a classroom, how can this be improved? Although I don’t have a particular learning disability, examining those who are language impaired and how they overcome it in Doidge’s book can be applied to my own situation. Children with language or learning impairments reached normal language skills after regularly exercising their brains through a specially designed program called “Fast ForWord for an hour and forty minutes a day, five days a week for several weeks” (72). Although I don’t have access to a program designed to improve my public speaking skills, I think the concept of regular stimulation of the right neurons in line with the idea of “neurons that fire together wire together” will also produce results (63). If I am able to speak in class, every class, every day for the whole semester, the change will surely be similar to the effects of this Fast ForWard program. Indeed, I often tell myself at the beginning of each semester that I will speak more in class, but with less a concrete goal of doing this every class, every day, I always relapse into silence. The problem of finding words associated with aging also sheds light on my own problem, which Doidge explains is a result of neglect of practice and that “this atrophy leads to us representing oral speech with “fuzzy engrams”” (86). I too might be suffering from lack of practice of speaking spontaneously in an academic setting, which becomes a vicious cycle because the more I’m unused to being verbally eloquent, the more this skill atrophies and the more unable I become to be verbally eloquent. The only solution is to force myself into practice with the hope that this is a skill that can be developed and cultivated through effort rather than being innate, as is typical of having a positive “growth mindset” (Schlechter, A. & Lerner, D., Mindset and Plasticity lecture presented in The Science of Happiness, 2017). Psychology Response Assignment: The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

However, even if I am able to force myself to practice public speaking regularly, the issue is that the feeling of anxiety will still remain as discouragement for a while—the sweaty palms, quickened heartbeat and nausea. To be successful, I believe I must not only force my brain to practice but also find ways to reduce my anxiety, for which methods against OCD in Doidge’s book can prove to be helpful. The example of a woman with OCD who took hours to write simple letters without feeling mistaken resonated with me, because I try to compensate for lack of oral proficiency with the written (168). I often spend too much time checking my grammar and this obsessiveness in part led me to study English Literature as well as engage in extracurricular activities than involve writing—such as copyediting for the school newspaper, or working as a writing tutor at the University Learning Centre. However, this is again not the same as speaking to a room full of people, for which I experience heightened anxiety as opposed to speaking to small groups or one on one. The strategies to reduce anxiety in OCD patients can be used for my own anxiety. Firstly, Doidge suggests the patient must acknowledge “the worry is a symptom of OCD,” and not real—that if they don’t wash their hands multiple times they aren’t actually covered in deathly germs but feel this way as a symptom of OCD (172). Likewise, I can convince myself that I won’t actually sound stupid or embarrass myself but that feeling this way is simply a symptom of my anxiety about public speaking. Then, “the next crucial step is to refocus on a positive…activity,” which I could do by refocusing the act of speaking in public not just as the frightening task of speaking in front of a crowd of people but instead as an engaging activity to share my ideas or to have my questions answered (172). By reducing the levels of anxiety that I feel contemplating speaking in class in these ways, I hope that I will be more inclined to contribute my ideas verbally.

As mentioned previously, I feel more comfortable writing than actually speaking my thoughts because I can take the time I want instead of formulating my words on the spot. The importance of self-reflection, which in Doidge’s book is through psychoanalysis, is something I unconsciously conduct through the process of writing—I’m also a creative writing minor, and writing is my form of meditation, my form of emptying out my thoughts much like during free association in therapy sessions where patients “say everything that comes to their minds” (223). This paper itself is a testament of how writing out my thoughts can help me identify, organize and create ideas. If writing is my way of free association and self-analysis, I think that in combination with the aforementioned strategies to improve my public speaking, I should be writing down my progress. Perhaps I can log the times I speak in class, and journal the way speaking to large groups of people make me feel so that I am able to track my improvement and evaluate the difficulties I face. I don’t consider my childhood as particularly or problematically traumatic, although it did certainly help shape me into who I am today. However, seeing the example of Mr. L. who was cured from his own childhood trauma of losing his mother through internal reflection in therapy showed me the effectiveness of having a mode of self-exploration to achieve change. For me, this mode is writing, and I hope to use this to achieve my goal of improving my public speaking (237).

Ultimately, if I want to change myself to participate more in my classes and become better or more comfortable with public speaking, I have to force myself to speak more until my brain can rewire itself to be familiar with the activity. This change is important to my future career goals, if I want to eventually teach in classrooms, and therefore is something I hope I can persevere to implement in my life. Taking various strategies from Doidge, I will force myself into regular practice, reduce my anxiety about public speaking, and accept and analyze my problems and progress through written reflection. Although the severity may not be to the extent of a disorder, everyone has anxieties and difficulties with certain tasks. Doidge’s book can be enlightening in understanding the power of the brain to overcome these challenges, as it did with my own. Psychology Response Assignment: The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

Works Referenced:

Doidge, Norman. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. London: Penguin, 2007. Print.

Schlechter, Alan. & Lerner, Daniel. Mindset and Plasticity. Lecture presented to the Science of Happiness course, New York University, NY, 2017.


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