All posts by stephaniesiow1

About stephaniesiow1

High school junior International Baccalaureate student in Kailua, Hawaii. Optimism, compassion, and peace are what I live by.

The Power of Music on Our Emotion and Memory

            For centuries, music has been a marker of culture, and has evolved alongside with humanity through our ever-changing times. The purpose of music, as well as its influence on our society, has shifted from an effective method of courtship (when men would write songs for women to “woo” them), into a medium of entertainment that are important for social gatherings, such as parties. Nowadays, music has been assimilated into our daily lives, as it has the power to instill a specific mood in us, based on the beat or tone of its sounds. It’s quite interesting to ponder the idea of how and why music affects our emotions so much.  Personally, I believe that music a very key component in my life, and find myself relying on it as a coping mechanism during times of sadness, anger, nervousness, or generally when I need a good “pick-me-up.” Every morning, I usually play music from the “Colbie Calliat” Pandora radio station as I get ready for school in order to lift my mood up and mentally prepare myself for the day. Music is intricate, thus, so are our preferences.  The type of music someone likes can actually be a window into their personality. It’s as if our iPods or music playlists are our personal “About Me” pages with specified personality traits spelled out in the moods or lyrics of each song.

Hm…they listen to a lot of Colbie Calliat, so they’re probably chill, carefree, and have that beach vibe going on.

             Music also has the capability to deeply engrain memories in our minds by stimulating another sense besides sight, resulting in a heightened retention of that time.  For many people, floods of recollections accompanied with emotions usually follow after hearing a song that is significant to that particular experience.  So when outdated “hits” are played, you’ll often notice people expressing some sort of emotion, whether it’s positive or negative, as they recollect the memories associated with those songs. For example, I’ll never forget the memories I made while performing songs as a guest singer with the Japanese Konan Boys’ Jazz Band at various malls. Whenever “Just Friends,” “Fly Me To The Moon,” and “When I Fall In Love” play through my headphones, I get this exhilarating rush of nervousness, adrenaline, and happiness all over again as I’m transported back to the very stages where I performed in front of hundreds of people, with the sound of jazz instruments behind me and my heart beating in my ears. Music has allowed me to relive the moment over and over again in my mind, which is a true blessing to be able to do such an extraordinary thing. With its ability to evoke strong feelings in our hearts and change our emotional state completely, it’s no wonder it’s stuck with us for all these years.


Soundtrack of My Life

As a way to explore how music relates to the Ways of Knowing Memory and Emotion, I created a “Soundtrack of My Life” presentation using songs with relevant lyrics and a similar mood in correlation with how I was feeling during significant times in my life.

TOK Final Internal Assessment Presentation: How do we define language?

TOK–Presentation Plan

Candidate Name: Stephanie

Title of Presentation: The Definition of Language

Date: 5/6/14


Describe your real life situation:

I’ve always been fascinated by animals and their ability to communicate within and outside of a species without having a complex language. It was especially during environmental science class that I began to ponder the subject of animal communication after watching a documentary about captive Orcas. In the movie Blackfish, it was said that Orcas actually have a part of their brain that allows them to experience emotion and bonding on a level much deeper than humans can. If that is so, then shouldn’t it make sense for Orcas to also have some form of language since they’re intelligent enough to comprehend and manipulate many kinds of situations as a team?

State your central knowledge question (this must be expressed as a question):

How do we define language?

Explain the connection between your real life situation and your knowledge question:

In comparison to humans, animals rely on a different way of “perception” to communicate messages, while we verbally express ourselves through our language.  However, there are some species that communicate through sounds (such as cetaceans), which could be very basic forms of a language that we are unable to decode at the moment.

Outline how you intend to develop your presentation, with respect to

a. perspectives

            – Differences between communicating and language

                        – Communicating= basic universal emotions,  sounds, basically anything with touch, conveys a general message

                        – Language = very specific meanings, abstract things/ideas can be expressed, has several different meanings

            -Animals using a language

                        – Possibility?

                        – Wishful thinking?

b. subsidiary knowledge question

                        – What’s the difference between communicating and language?

                        – Does training an animal how to convey abstract concepts counted as “utilizing a language?”

c. arguments, etc.

            – Animals: Communicating through what they’ve been trained or actually realizing what they’re saying through the taught language?


Responses below can be presented in continuous prose, bullet point, or diagrammatic form.

Show how your conclusions have significance for your real life situation and beyond:

  • Shows how much more complex animals are than we give them credit for.
  • To give insight to different animals that utilize languages in the wild to widen people’s perspective.  
  • Demonstrates how intelligent animals are and how they are capable of understanding abstract concepts, which could inspire others to look further into the “animal intelligence” topic.


Japanese V.S. American Body Language (Stop Motion Video)

In order to investigate the differences between the languages from different cultures, I created a stop motion video based on the gestures most commonly used by the people of that country. The depiction of language varies greatly on the culture, and it’s interesting to see how these differences.

Big thanks to my mom who graciously accepted the daunting task of being in this video.

Thoughts on Language

“Language was the real innovation in our biological evolution; everything since has just made our words travel faster or last longer” – Steven Pinker

One of the main factors that make us so different from animals is our use of language. Our unique ways of communication allows us to interact with other human beings on a level completely different from most organisms. Most animals (as far as we know) communicate through sounds, facial expressions, and other biological signals to convey a general message. The fact that we can eloquently communicate our ideas effectively is how we have become so successful in advancing our civilization.  Without language, ideas would not have spread as quickly, as far, or last as long as it does now. A concrete language has allowed faraway populations to unite with a common idea in mind. It’s quite amazing.

EMOTION: Does the way you describe something affect how you feel about it? What is the power of language? What roles do context, emotion, selection, emphasis, and word choice play in language?

Even if two words mean the same thing, they may have different connotations based on the sound or the way it’s used in popular language. Language is so strange in the fact that it’s constantly shifting and has basic concrete terms that can be used with other words to create a completely different meaning; for example, the oxymoron: “beautiful disaster. Personally, the connotation of beauty is something graceful, light (sometimes white), and/or something intricate/simplistic, while the connotation of disaster is something destructive, violent, black, and associated with grief and pain. The effect of these two words mashed together lightens the term, and gives a new meaning to the word “disaster.”

5. To what extent is your use of languages accompanied by images? Does every word conjur up an image or only some of them?

The main types of words that conjur up images in my mind are nouns and specific adjectives that describe how something physically feels or looks. On the other hand, abstract terms, verbs, emotions, and anything that isn’t concrete have no associated image.

8. Many jokes are based on ambuguity…can you give an example?

How do you make a turtle fast?
Take away his food.

10. Birds fly and planes fly. Since fish swim, why don’t we say that submarines also swim? What do submarines do? (propel)

I guess the reason why the verb “fly” can be applied to “planes” in the same manner it’s used for “birds” is because of the structure of the plane is similar to a bird’s when it’s flying: “wings” outstretched. It’s also interesting how the term “wings” is the same. Perhaps planes have a closer resemblance to birds than submarines do to fish. Submarines don’t “swim” through the water like fish do; rather they “propel” through it using a “propeller” from the back. When I think of swimming, I imagine fish or people using their fins or arms in a very active motion to get through the water. But with submarines, they’re not animate at all as they move through the water in a straight line. It’s clear that the motion of “propelling” is very mechanical, while “swimming” is mainly used for living things.   

11. What would be the advantages and disadvantages of everyone in the world spoke a common language? What would be gained and what would be lost?

If everyone in the world spoke a common language, it would be quite convenient for political affairs and businesses as there would not be any more worry of an “error in translation.” Social interactions would be much more interesting too as we could communicate effectively with people from all around the world. But then again, what good would that be when cultures would be lost as a result of this? Diverse language is a big component in culture as it is evidence of how the people from that specific area developed over time. Some cultures have vocabulary words for objects or ideas that aren’t even relevant in any other culture, so this change would definitely have a negative impact since these words would have to be erased in the “common language” if deemed irrelevant to the rest of the world.

15. Take 2 advertising slogans of your choice and explain why you think they are effective (or not)

“Just Do It” is an effective slogan by the sports company, Nike, since it tunes into the inner conscience that tries to motivate you to be more physically active.

The Mcdonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” slogan utilizes a similar method by tuning into the ideal person’s thoughts when they eat food from this restaurant ( Mcdonald’s fries and strawberry milkshakes are unfortunately a guilty pleasure of mine). It forms a preconceived notion of the quality of food served and may subconsciously — through the power of suggestion– influence the customer to like the food more.

19. Do you agree with the old rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”?

As trivial as name-calling may seem, it still has quite a long lasting effect that could be equally as impactful (or exceedingly) as physical pain. One’s mental health is just as vital as their physical health, and is unfortunately, not looked over often enough when it comes to bullying. It’s very easy to get hurt and form insecurities from the insults and nasty words spewed by bullies, regardless if it’s in person or online. This is especially so when these words bring attention to physical attributes that someone may already feel unconfident about. These words begin to haunt the victim and, in severe cases, drive them to the edge. No type of harassment, whether it’s physical or verbal, should be deemed as “minor “ comparatively, as they all have an equally dangerous potential to ruin lives.

Ayualoha Remash Project: 9 Photo Poetry


It’s amazing how easily technology  can connect people from thousands of miles away. My teacher, Mrs. Burvall, teamed up with another Theory of Knowledge teacher in Maine to create this visual language project.

My task was to find 9 photos on Google with a common idea in mind and create a poem. A student from Maine would then create a poem from my pictures as well so that in the end, we can compare our perception of the photos based on the language used. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

EDIT: 4/28/14

9 Photo Poetry Continued:

I’m so impressed with Macee Qi’s interpretation of my 3×3 photo! Here is her poem:

She looks out among the city lights,

Sprinkles of life going about their normal routine,

A kiss there, a new life here, a reunion over there. 

But as she stands behind the glass —

The separation, the barrier that holds her back,

Everything comes into focus.


The bright lights seem to fade in the distance

As the lens uncover a city of solitary.

The once radiant lights become glaring,

Slowly enveloped by the shadowy gloom

That stretches up and over, becoming unreachable.


But beyond the darkness, 

Deep behind the soulless monsters,

The sinister branches, and eerie paths,

There lies hope.


A land of unimaginable love.

Where time stops and wishes are granted,

A place that welcomes everyone and everything,

A place that defies loneliness.

Here is my poem interpretation of the pictures:

Lead By Light

With a sunken heart and wet eyes,

I silently gaze among the city lights,

The happiness I witness everywhere,

Contrast my heavy, looming despair,

Among the streets I decide to stroll,

Wishing I could be consoled.

Together the blurs of color tango,

And the world around me seems to slow,

Twilight swiftly descends on the land,

As my feet lead way to an unknown path,

I gaze up at the vastness of the galaxy,

Silently admiring its delicately faint, twinkling beauty,

I roam deep through the forest, where monsters tend to prowl,

When suddenly, behind me I hear chilling growls,

In that moment, I snap out of my blissful dream,

Instinctively running as fast and as far as my feet can take me,

Despite my speed, the beasts chase, rapidly approaching,

 And through the pumping of my heart, I feel that death by fear I am encroaching,

I swiftly move through tangles of branches and bushes of leaves,

Anything I can to escape these soulless beasts.

But when I break through a barricade of vines,

Silence is, once again, instilled in the night,

I look around to wonder where they have gone,

But instead realize that this was no ordinary place I stumbled upon,

The once faint galaxy now shines like a thousand suns,

Each star being uniquely bright as every other one,

The lake shimmers with petals of moonbeam,

And like a disco ball, on the forest, the liquid silver gleamed,

Caressing my ears, the wind gently whispers a song,

With words I’ve been meaning to hear all along.

Tears begin streaming down my face,

As I truly take in the serenity of this magical place.

Here is my remash of our two poems:

Land of Love

With a sunken heart and wet eyes,

She looks out on the city lights,

The happiness she witnesses everywhere,

A kiss there, a new life here, a reunion over there,

Contrast her heavy, looming despair,

But as she stands behind the glass,

The separation, the barrier that holds her back,

Everything comes into focus.

Among the streets she decides to stroll

Wishing she could be consoled.

The bright lights seem to fade in the distance,

And together, the blurs of color tango,

Slowly enveloped by the shadowy gloom,

Twilight swiftly descends on the land,

As her feet lead way to an unknown path,

She gazes up at the vastness of the galaxy,

That stretches up and over, becoming unreachable,

an elusive, delicately faint, twinkling beauty.

But through the tangles of branches and bushes of leaves,

The barricade of vines,

Beyond the darkness,

Where silence is infused in the night,

Deep behind the soulless monsters,

The sinister branches and eerie paths,

The once faint galaxy now shines like a thousand suns,

Each star being uniquely bright as every other one,

There lies hope.

A lake that shimmers with petals of moonbeam.

On the forest, this liquid silver gleams,

A land of unimaginable love,

Where the wind whispers a gentle song,

Of words that needed to be heard all along.

Where wishes are granted and time stops,

A place that welcomes everyone and everything,

A place that defies loneliness.


Annette's 3x3VisualPoem

The student’s photo I chose to interpret was Annette Sherrod’s and can be found in the following link:

9 Photo Poetry:×3-visual-poem.html

As soon as I saw her beautiful hand-drawn picture, I knew I wanted to write a poem for it. It was a bit challenging coming up with ideas at first since I didn’t know where to start, but once I got the general idea down, words easily began to flow. Although, it’s been quite a while since I’ve written a poem, and I’m generally not very good at it, so I’m aware it needs lots of work. Haha! Anyways, enjoy!


The Breath of Time

How clear it is, that the stones hold the breath of time,

From untouched remnants of the ancients,

Oblivious to adjacent civilizations,

Under the glittering, ebony black sky,

It was an era of selfish rule,

Chiefs and leaders; kings and queens,

Fawned over with slavish piety,

By the ones referred to as ‘tools,’

Nevertheless, they flourished for a while,

Despite the imbalances they faced,

Their ancestors’ paths that they traced,

Prevented a shift from the traditional lifestyle,

How clear it is, that the days went dim,

When the people at last spoke up,

Against the rulers so unjust,

And their blissful ignorance kicked in,

Feigned loyalty, corruption, and lies,

They failed to take the blame,

And right then, the people’s beliefs burst down in flames,

Of which their city was comprised,

Crumbled before their very eyes,

Were the castle walls they once viewed impenetrable.

“True defeat comes from within,” was what they realized

And that this path of destruction, inevitable,

How clear it is, that witness to their crimes,

Was an entity who watched from above,

And with living things, he silently and gradually disposed of,

He, who can only be known as Father Time,

He gathers dirt to collect on the ruins,

With a breath that he blew with the intent,

To sweep away the resonance of the suppressed,

And bury the ravaged past, only caused by humans,

Eternally, the fallen have chosen to rest,

Buried in the soft, forgiving earth,

Underneath their forfeited native turf,

Which they were so abruptly dispossessed,

Their bodies, now merely degraded to bone,

While their souls have already traveled,

To parallel universes where their new lives have unraveled,

And what’s left of them gaze beneath the stars amongst the stone.

Senses: Touch and Hearing Reflection



Nonsexual touch has many clear effects on people, and can be used to manipulate, communicate, attract, instigate aggression, and increase helping behavior in people.

This article further elaborates on the effects of a touch, for example a brush on the arm, and how it increases the chances of attracting that certain someone.

Touch is actually like a language in itself in the fact that humans can clearly communicate emotions through it, especially compassion. An experiment was conducted where two strangers were separated by a barrier and were told to convey emotions through a hole in the wall where they may touch each other’s hands.

In many different countries, touch is “an important component of communication and social harmony. This is especially evident in the Mediterranean, South American, and Arabic cultures, where touching is significant in conveying messages such as “we are OK,” and is assumed that lack of physical touch every now and then means that there’s something wrong.

“For three days as part of an installation in the National Art Museum of Ukraine,” women are chosen to act as “sleeping beauties” and participate in a contract where they may meet their prince charming. Different men throughout the day will kiss them while they’re “asleep,” and if the women open their eyes after the kiss, they must marry the man that woke them up. It shows how reliant people will be towards touch for matters such as love. Just a simple kiss is all the woman has to decide whether or not he is “the one” to marry. Much emotion can be conveyed through a kiss, so the women must be very sensitive to the feeling they get, as it is crucial.

The definition of “touch illusions,” are “illusions that exploit the sense of touch.” An example would be “if a person wears a baseball cap for a long period of time and then takes it off, it may still be felt.”


The “cocktail party effect” is our ability to focus on a single voice (or sound), despite all of the distracting noise equally or louder than the focused voice. However as a consequence, we can only focus on that voice; we are unable to multi-task and focus to more than one, quite like tunnel visioning.

A study by the University of British Columbia has shown that creativity can be enhanced if tasks are done in the presence of blue settings, and a moderate amount of ambient noise.

Beethoven’s deafness may have influenced the types of notes used in his music. As his condition worsened, he began using lower notes more frequently in his pieces since he could no longer hear the higher sounds. When he was completely deaf, his music shifted back to how it used to be as he relied on his “inner ear.”

According to an experimental study that won the IG Nobel Prize, the louder the sound of the crunch, the more appealing and pleasurable it is to eat that food,

Opsound is an “open sound pool” where anyone can enjoy, mix, and upload sound files that can be literally anything, from weird sounds, original songs, instrumentals, recordings, etc.

“Make the City Sound Better” is a campaign in London that is transforming the way the city sounds. Through “The Sound Taxi,” a microphone records the hustling and bustling of traffic and other loud, unpleasant noises to generate music in real time. It was quite an incredible project, as it demonstrated the dynamics of the city in an enjoyable experience.