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André D.
PhD student in Higher Education with a background in psychology
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Psychology
TutorMe
Question:

What are mirror neurons and what role do they play in empathy?

André D.
Answer:

Mirror neurons are a system of brain cells (neurons) that register the nonverbal cues of those one interacts with. These cues can be from facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. Once registered, the mirror neurons activate (to a low degree) the corresponding neurons within their own brain, "mirroring" what is being received. This process is the basis of empathy. In registering the physical attributes that are being perceived, one also activates the emotions tied to each physicality. If I am in conversation with my friend and he is smiling, has wide eyes, is leaning forward, and is talking in a quick, elevated tone, as my mind trigger these behaviors within myself, I can register that these are behaviors associate with excitement. Even if my friend's topic does not appeal to me, I can see (and to an extent, feel) his excitement and can react appropriately. Likewise, if my friend is frowning, has slumped shoulders, looks downward, and is speaking in slower tones, than I can pick up that he is most likely sad as these are the behaviors I express in that state. This provides the foundation for empathy.

US History
TutorMe
Question:

When was the designation "hate crime" introduced into the American justice system, why was it created, and what is an example of its lasting impact today?

André D.
Answer:

The 1968 Civil Rights Act first created the category for bias-based violence as a way of ensuring justice by allowing the Federal government (and, as states begin adopting their own hate crime bills, the state government) to oversee the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes, such as murder, assault, or rape, in which the perpetrator's bias is considered the primary motivation for the crime. This distinction was crafted into the Civil Rights Act because many racial minorities (particularly African Americans) were being attacked, but their perpetrators were receiving little to know punishment because of pervasive bias (or "systemic prejudice") fostered a legal process favoring the perpetrator of the violence. Hate crime legislation allows a larger governmental body (either the state or the federal government) to step in and ensure that the crime is processed equitably. Today, the federal hate crimes incorporate a wide range of biases, including race, gender, sex, national origin, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and perceived gender, and gender minority status. Fewer than half of the states include hate crime protections for LGBTQ+ persons. Without this protective status for the worst crimes, systemic prejudice is allowed to grow unfettered to other aspects of life, leaving many in the LGBTQ+ community vulnerable to unfair housing, employment, and adoption practices. This creates environments where a person can be regaled as a "hero" for assaulting a transwoman in the men's bathroom she is legally required to use or as a "hero" for disciplining her student because they were "too gay." Protection of life through hate crime legislation begets protection in life through protections in other areas.

Education
TutorMe
Question:

Studies indicate that US Military schools (that is, schools located on US Military bases) do not have the same race-based achievement gap as non-military schools. What is the suggested rationale for this and what are some ways schools can adapt this practice?

André D.
Answer:

The primary hypothesis for why US Military schools do not demonstrate the same race-based achievement gap is the parental involvement requirement. Parents with children enrolled in these schools are required to volunteer in the school on a weekly basis. This engages the parents, not just with the school, but in their child's education, which we know from other studies is one of the key components driving the achievement gap. Active parents yield better engaged students, student who are better engaged perform better in their studies. Schools can encourage parents to volunteer in various ways. Schools in districts where there are parents able to come in during the day can develop reward systems; such as a star chart for parents who volunteer or engage with the PTA. In school districts where there are not a lot of parents who are able to do this, assignments can be given to students that encourage to involve their parents, whether it is a history sharing assignment, a family interview, asking parents how they use math (or other subjects) in their daily life and at work, these provide opportunities for students to bring their parents into their academic lives when they otherwise would not be able to. Furthermore, schools can provide off-hour (evenings and weekend) opportunities for parents to engage through special events or community gathering opportunities.

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