Friday, July 18, 2014

Brainless or will the ten percent myth ever die

By now you no doubt have seen the trailer for the soon to be released movie Lucy, staring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freemen - and if you haven't surely your students have, and some will see the movie. If you have you know that the key concept is that the character played by Johansson has a drug of some sort implanted in her body, and when it begins to leak, it begins to give her super powers.

Why? Because this drug heightens her cognitive abilities, and since "we only use 10% of our brains," Lucy now has the ability to use much more of her brain to become this seemingly unstoppable force.

UGH. UGH. UGH. Psychology teachers have to know that this is a myth, and we must teach it to our students, particularly in light of this movie. If you need some resources to use in class, here's an excellent article from the Wall Street Journal by Chris Chabris and Daniel Simon (yes, the Invisible Gorilla guys), and here's an phenomenally good TED ED video by Richard Cytowic (yes, the synaesthesia guy who wrote The Man Who Tasted Shapes).

But what really drew my ire yesterday was this tweet from one of my favorite new science writers, Jordan Gaines Lewis:

WHAT??? How can this be? Surely this has been a mistake, so I tried to track down the source. I looked in the Chabris and Simon article and found this:

These "neuromyths," along with others, were presented to 242 primary and secondary school teachers in the Netherlands and the U.K. as part of a study by Sanne Dekker and colleagues at VU University Amsterdam and Bristol University, and just published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. They found that 47% of the teachers believed the 10% myth.
This can't be right, can it? So I tracked down the journal article - which fortunately you can to, since it's open access - and this is exactly what researchers Sanne Dekker, Nikki C. Lee, Paul Howard-Jones and Jelle Jolles found. What is amazing is that in the appendix to this article the researchers publish the entire list of 32 statements that they used, and they are perfect for use in the classroom. PERFECT. I will not copy and paste them here, but I strongly urge you to visit the article and get those statements to use in your classroom. Maybe even as some sort of pre-test and post-test around your bio unit? (Used formatively, naturally.)

What else can we do? Just what I'm doing now: using this movie to my advantage. I'm using this moment to remind you about this myth, and I think that you and I should spend time in our classes this fall introducing the factual evidence of what neuroscience research has given us to confront these stereotypes. And we may also want to do this in a faculty meeting, since if the research above is valid, our own colleagues may be just as clueless about the truth here. Use this as a springboard!

And as for me, will I see the movie? Oh, you betcha, though I'm probably going to wait for it to show up on Netflix. (I've been a huge fan of director Luc Besson since Leon and The Fifth Element.) What about you? Will you see it, and in what ways can you think to use this as a teachable moment in your classroom?

--posted by Steve

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Freudian Sip and University Tours

During the month of February we have a week off and for the past four years, I have co-led a group of sophomores and juniors to colleges and universities in Southern California.  It has been an amazing set of trips that the students really enjoy and benefit from.  So far, I have visited California Polytechnic Univ-San Luis Obispo, UC Santa Barbara, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, UCLA, USC, Cal State Northridge, Cal State San Marcos, UC San Diego, CSU Long Beach, San Diego State, University of San Diego, Occidental College, CSU Fullerton, UC Irvine, and CSU Los Angeles.  I list these because I have at least one t-shirt or sweatshirt from each of these schools.  I know, believe me, I know.

We take between 40 and 50 kids on a coach for four days--two schools each day and attempt to secure admissions presentations along with tours of the schools.  Students are exposed to colleges in session and get a sense of the vibe or personality of each school.  It's been a fun four years.

This year, on my first visit to CSU Northridge, I found one of their coffee shops, "The Freudian Sip."  I had to stop and take pictures. Here they are.  Pretty cool if you ask me.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Monday, June 30, 2014

Ten years of the APA-Clark workshop

The 2009 t-shirt, honoring the anniversary of Freud's 1909 visit to Clark
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the APA-Clark workshop for high school psychology teachers. It's hard to believe that it was five years ago when I wrote this post about attending the workshop. I was also very fortunate enough in 2011 to be one of the high school teachers presenters for this workshop, along with Kristin Whitlock, and I posted about it here. Whether as a participant or a leader, this workshop has been a phenomenal experience for me, and I believe that it was a terrific experience for more than 200 high school teachers since 2005.

Dr. Gurel in 2009
As I have written previously, this workshop is due to a partnership between the APA and TOPSS (especially Emily Leary Chesnes), Clark University (especially Nancy Budwig), and of course Dr. Lee Gurel. Dr. Gurel has generously given money each year to fund this workshop (along with many other TOPSS projects) and even participates himself by attending the workshop each year. I know many participants who are enchanted by that "sweet old guy" in the front row, who they learned much later was the benefactor making it all possible.

If you have been a participant in this workshop, feel free to leave a comment below about what the experience meant to you. I know that Dr. Gurel is a frequent reader of our blog, and I am sure he would appreciate hearing how his gifts have impacted you.

 --posted by Steve

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Call for applications from schools in the Northeast: Golden Psi Award

Attention Psychology teachers in the Northeast: the APA is calling for applications from schools in the Northeast U.S. (Maine, Mass., Conn., R.I., N.Y., N.J., Vt., and N.H) for the "Golden Psi Award."

Here's the official description of the award from the APA:
"The APA/BEA Golden Psi Award is given to schools that demonstrate psychologically based practices contributing to positive educational outcomes with successful learning environments, both academically and socio-emotionally. Along with a trophy, the winning school will receive (1) $1,000 cash prize; (2) recognition at the 2015 American Psychological Association convention; (3) an article in a 2015 APA Monitor; (4) Press Release from APA and winning school’s local media; and (5) acknowledgement on the APA Education Directorate website at"

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Monday, June 16, 2014

History of Mental Illness Treatment: An Infographic

I receive a daily infographic from Some offerings I skip over since the content is outside my interests. Yesterday, however, I found this little beauty entitled, Electroshock Therapy and Other Ways We Treat Mental Illness [infographic]."It includes trepanning, phrenology, repression, asylums, lobotomies, bloodletting and more.

I will definitely be using this graphic as an intro and context setting for when I teach disorders and treatment next. There is excellent overview with details that can be filled in by the researcher or the experienced psych teacher. It does get larger with re-sizing your browser settings.
The direct link to the post is here:
-- posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Thursday, June 5, 2014

An amazing way to learn using rats in psychology class

Today's guest post is by Maria Vita of Penn Manor High School in Millersville, PA. Take it away, Maria!

At Penn Manor High School, students in regular psychology and Advanced Placement Psychology conduct lab experiments using live rats.  Yep, you read that correctly: LIVING RODENTS!  After the 10-15 day project, students create Youtube videos demonstrating concepts learned.  Some short, but effective videos from this year are Agnes (2014), Lacey (2014) and Oz (2014).

During the project, students apply content standards from the APA/TOPSS standards in high school psychology, including:

Ethical issues in research with human and non-human animals
Principles of classical conditioning
Principles of operant conditioning

Students ensure their three-week-old rat’s health by weighing it on an electronic baby scale.  If rats lose more than 5-10% of their total weight, it can be an indicator of illness.

Working in teams of two to three, the students name and “adopt” their rat: Each group is encouraged to fill their rat’s cage with enriching items like PVC tubes and empty tissue boxes. Our classroom can have anywhere from 12 to 26 rats (and cages) at a time! 

In AP Psychology, students are encouraged to use a “clicker” to classically condition their rat.  Ultimately, the “clicker” sound excites the rats because they associate it with food.  Students apply Ivan Pavlov’s trace conditioning by clicking first (CS), pausing, and then presenting the rat with food (UCS). For an example, see these student-made videos on Youtube: the rat Anastasia’s video (2011) or Ellie the rat (2010).

Among their many feats, rats acquire bar-pressing behavior in an operant chamber.  They also learn to navigate a maze and obstacle course. The student-made videos published on YouTube demonstrate the successes of the rats, but also students’ understanding of target vocabulary.  In 2010, for example, students applied the term shaping by getting their rat Nessy to push a marble down two ramps, then eight ramps, then seventeen ramps (see images or YouTube video @ 40 seconds).  

To see more student and rat videos, go to There is a project description on this link for those interested in training their own rats.

Thanks for sharing this, Maria!
--posted by Steve

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Illusion of the Year

Whether you use these as a hook at the beginning or as a fun activity at the end, illusions are always an attention-grabber for students, made even better when we understand the visual and brain mechanics behind them.  A colleague shared this site with me.  We have a new "Illusion of the Year" and it is pretty cool.

Below is a screenshot from their site, but I will urge you to check out their site wonderful illusion wares at:

Happy illusioning!

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Monday, May 26, 2014

Meme Factory Post

Meme factory is a fun, free app to create your own class memes using popular images in the app or using your own.

Here is the link for those on iTunes/Apple/iPhone.  I'm not sure if it works for Android.

For those who do not know, this character below is philosoraptor.

Posted by Chuck Schallhorn on his iPad

Psych Week--TV Alert

Just wanted to let everyone know that there are several episodes about various disorders this week on Discovery Fit & Health for their annual Psych Week.  Topics include childhood schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, OCD, PTSD, and more.  There is also an update on Jani and hear brother, both of whom suffer from severe mental disorders.

Posted by Chuck Schallhorn on his iPad

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Now THAT'S a conversation I'd love to hear!

This transcript of a fascinating conversation might be great for your disorders/treatment unit:

Apparently Martin Seligman and Aaron Beck get together every month and have a chat over lunch! This transcript of one of their conversations is worth reading, and might show students how scholars talk to each other (and disagree) in productive ways. I suspect this is one of the most significant ways psychology "gets done": thoughtful psychologists having great conversations with each other.

(thanks to Jaime Farrington for sending me this link!) 

posted by Rob McEntarffer