Thursday, April 30, 2009

Email Updates of the THSP Blog

Many teachers have told us their school system's web filtering systems block access to any type of blog, including educational ones such as ours. While some teachers have been able to get their technology departments to make an exception for the THSP blog address, many others have run into a big roadblock and can only access the blog from home. We might have an alternative for those who can't reach the blog for whatever reason.

Feedburner, a subsidiary of Google, provides a service where they will take daily blog entries and emailed them out to people. You can sign up for the email updates at or using the form box on the THSP blog site. You will then receive an early morning email containing all of the blog entries for the past twenty-four hours. On the postive side, many of you who currently have trouble getting access to the blog will be able to read the postings. On the negative side, you will still be unable to comment or read comments on the postings, search through past postings or use the side column on the blog. Please be aware, some email systems might treat the Feedburner email as SPAM and block it as well.

Again, to subscribe to the FeedBurner emails go to Subscribe to Teaching High School Psychology by Email If you have figured out a different way to solve this problem of access, please leave your solution in the comment section.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine flu and psychology

A quick post to provide some links for talking about the recent swine flu outbreak in your psychology classes. I don't mean this to be a clearinghouse for general swine flu information, though this CNET site is a pretty amazing one-stop site for links to pages with all kinds of information. Please post links that you find on psychology and swine flu below!

The APA has a helpful page about how to deal with the anxiety that may arise from thinking about swine flu. A similar post from PsychCentral says turn off the radio and TV.

Be careful of your sources: Swine flu: Twitter's power to misinform ("in the context of a global pandemic ... having millions of people wrap up all their fears into 140 characters and blurt them out in the public might have some dangerous consequences, networked panic being one of them.")

A special warning to those with OCD.

Dreading the worst when it comes to epidemics.

Swine flu may get worse but right now driving your car is 40 to 100 times more deadly.

In the Durham Herald-Sun our local rising star Duke behavioral economics professor Dan Ariely (author of the positively reviewed book Predictably Irrational) suggests the fear may already be overblown. "Right now, this looks to me like over-excitement," said Ariely. "I hope I'm not proven wrong, but it's very possible there's a lot of over-reaction here."

The Sacramento Bee has more of the amazing photos that you see at the top of this post here and here.

And don't forget to ...

Psych Teacher Survival Kit--Need Your Input

Good Day Everyone! Standardized testing is upon us. In pondering my career and life, I have often wondered how much better I would have been if I had a mentor at my school or better resources at my disposal (note: I began teaching before the internet was big). To the right is a picture of a survival kit if I were to be stranded in the wilderness. But I have a different idea in mind.
My request is this. In the comments section, I'd like us to create two lists. The first is a "First Year Psychology Teacher's Survival Kit." The second is to create a list for first year AP psych teachers. There will be overlap. I have my own ideas, but would like to tap into the collective wisdom of this group. So please add your idea(s) in the comments section. Consider this a brainstorming list--all ideas accepted. Once this runs its course, I will compile and create a document that I will send to the APA and NCSS for possible dissemination to teachers around the nation.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Using Columbine in your class

I recently finished Dave Cullen's Columbine and highly recommend it. I was teaching psychology ten years ago when the events at Columbine unfolded and I was certainly tuned in as to why it happened then, but honestly haven't followed any news about it since just a few months after the shootings.

That being said, I was stunned at the amount of misinformation that I had internalized and believed to be true about the killings: the killers weren't part of the Trench Coat Mafia, there was no plan to take out jocks because the shooters were being bullied, this wasn't a spontaneous act of anger and what did happen was only a small part of the plan, most of which failed miserably. A number of the myths are described here in more detail.

As usual in chaotic scenes like this one, the study of memory and eyewitness testimony leaps to the forefront. Cullen was on the scene the day of the shootings and saw a marked difference in the interviews of students that day as opposed to what the students were saying later in the week. When students went home that night and watched the news about the shooting they picked up bits of pieces of information and through confabulation created entirely new memories of what the killers were like and what transpired that day. Even the beloved Columbine principal discovered years later that his memory of being initially told about the kilings was completely wrong; Cullen notes that "Mr. D." understands from two witnesses what he is supposed to have done, but holds on to the wrong memory as well because he can see that one in his mind.

Another major contribution to psychology from the book is the analysis of the shooters. Again, from a distance, I didn't pay attention to any differences, but Cullen does a nice job as an armchair psychologist of diagnosing the boys based on numerous journals, writing assignments and video diaries left behind. Dylan comes off as a depressed loner who was bright but suicidal, and just followed the plan laid out for him. Eric, though, is the prototype of antisocial personality disorder: the manipulation, the ease of lying, the lack of conscience, empathy, remorse, etc.

How about you -- did you mention the shootings at Columbine in your classes last week? Were you a teacher or student in '99 and remember experiencing this? Are you surprised at how the myths have been perpetuated? Should Oprah have canceled her program on Columbine last week -- do we indeed give the killers too much attention by focusing on them at all? Have you read Columbine and have your own opinion? Weigh in below in the comments and share your thoughts.

Optical Illusion Websites

Do a Google search for "optical illusions" and you will get almost two million listings. If anything, there is an overabundance of websites. A few include:

The Planet Perplex Website at

The Might Illusions Blog at has postings going back to February of 2006.

Many people love Michael Bach's site at, especially the following eyes.

The Exploratorium in San Francisco has their illusion exhibit at

Please leave your favorite illusion website in the comments section below.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Psych in the news

My bookmarks are bursting at the seams! Many of these great links come via the incredible Mind Hacks blog featuring Vaughan Bell-- be sure to check it out regularly. Here's a few articles to get your week started:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jane Elliott - Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes

Do any of you use/discuss Jane Elliott's "Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes" demonstration? I always had mixed feelings when I discussed it in my classes. She sometimes called it an experiment, but there are obviously no controls, not much controlled analysis of the data, etc. And the ethics are iffy - I worried about the unseen impact on some of her students. But it can be a great way to start important conversations about prejudice. This article provides some very recent information about Jane Elliott's ideas about the impact of her work. Responses? Any of you use this activity or something similar to it?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Phantom Limbs and the revenge of James-Lange!

WNYC's Radio Lab has been featured on this blog before, and they are back again with another wonderful psychology related radio story (I listen to it on podcast, or you can listen to it directly from their website). This program, "Where I am", is about brain-body communication, and focuses on both the James-Lange theory of emotion (current studies of paralysis victims seem to add powerful support for their original claim that emotions are caused at least in part by bodily changes) and phantom limb syndrome. Really engaging, fascinating stuff. Ramachandran talks about his work curing phantom limb pain with a cardboard box and a mirror!

On a related note, neuropsychologis Peter Halligan, neurologist John Kew and photographerAlexa Wright collaborated on some striking photographs that attempt to "visualize" phantom limbs. Some of these pictures might be kind of disturbing to students, so preview them first, but they are pretty amazing and a nice example of art-psychology collaboration.

Online Psychology Labaratory (OPL)

The Online Psychology Laboratory! OPL provides highly interactive resources for the teaching of psychological science. The peer-reviewed materials include online studies and correlational studies, large data sets, demonstrations, and teaching aids.

There are currently over twenty-five different studies students can partake in, each approved by an Advisory Board of instructors from all levels. Most of the activities require a Macromedia Authorware plugin.

Teachers can sign up to have their student's data collected and analyzed at a future date. A Teacher Tour section provides assistance for teachers using OPL in their classrooms.

The OPL can be found at

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review Tips for the AP Exam--CDS Version

I imagine AP review in on many of our minds--so much so for me that I posted a blog today for my kids.

Below is my blog post for my AP students. It includes many links and options they have for doing their review. In class, I recommend that they do what works best for their own brain. I also have a review assignment that jigsaw with each other.

Buenos Suertes!

("Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." -Seneca)


Good Day Everyone! You've got several options for reviewing for your AP test.
First is your review assignment--work on that

  1. Read/re-read your textbook

  2. Come to class every block and work on FRQs with us

  3. Go over your previous exams and quizzes you've received back

  4. Use the questions/review documents in your workbook

  5. Use the review readings and practice quizzes and tests in your review books (Barron's or Princeton)

  6. Use the review materials by your classmates (once they are done and online)

  7. Use the Sparknotes review site:

  8. Use the text online resources: Coon and Mitter Online Resources to Use for Review

  9. Use the Glossary of Terms from Psychology Matters

  10. If you like using videos for part of your review, please see this site:

  11. Come to the Saturday and Sunday review sessions to examine and discuss concepts from the course

  12. Some excellent review sites that will help you if you use them correctly. --search for ap psychology terms

  13. Go to the ETS site for taking the GRE exam--download their .pdf file with over 200 review questions--

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Zimbardo's Prison Study Website

At you will find a website devoted to the classic Stanford Prison Experiment by Philip Zimbardo.

The site includes:
  • a slide show paralleling the experiment's sequence with explanations and video clips of the short-lived study
  • sixteen discussion questions regarding the study, some including current day applications
  • a very extensive listing of weblinks regarding the prison study and Dr. Zimbardo
  • a detailed biography of Dr. Zimbardo's career
  • FAQs about the study and aftermath
  • a 50 minute DVD documentary called "Quiet Rage: The Documentary" available for purchase.
The DVD sells for $100 plus shipping. I have yet to purchase the DVD and am very curious if it is worth the price. If you have bought the DVD and used it in class, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Quasi curriculum maps

Anyone else out there interested in curriculum maps? I like the versions (and the process) described by Wiggins and McTighe in Understanding by Design. I took a shot at designing some curriculum maps for a workshop I did. They are definitely not complete (not in the ways Wiggins and McTighe describe them) but maybe they will be of use to someone out there. Comments? Suggestions? Anyone want to work on something like this together on a wiki?

Methods quasi-curriculum map

History and Approaches quasi-curriculum map

Monday, April 20, 2009

Psychology Food

In over 30 years of teaching, I've yet to see a psychology lab/demonstration involving food that has failed. Whether it's M&Ms, Starbursts, or Tootsie Rolls, students always seem to like these activities.

While most of the items I have listed below do not have a direct curricular purpose, they are lots of fun and add to the classroom experience. If you have developed a learning activity using the items below or you have additional food ideas to share, please leave a comment.

Watermelon Flavored Sigmund Freud Head Lollipops

Always a great addition to the personality or therapy unit. Occasionally my classes get into a discussion regarding the Freudian interpretation of this candy. For more information or to order the lollipops go to

Musk Life Savers

In Australia, musk is considered both a flavor and smell. Use these when discussing taste, adaptation, culture, development, etc. A practical bit of advise; break the life savors up into smaller bits. Most students will spit the life savor out after a few seconds. To order go to

Brain Gelatin Mold

For your next lecture on the brain, create your own close to life size brain made from Jello. The mold even gives instructions on how to create a lifelike color for your brain. Image your students eyes when, at the end of your lecture, you start eating your brain model. To order go to

Neuro-Mart Website

Looking for that special item for Brain Awareness Week? The Neuro-Mart website has a large number of brain-related items many of which include food such as gummy brains, brain lollipops, marshmallow brains, and more. To order go to

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sleep and torture

I apologize for the delay in fresh "psych in the news" posts and promise new entries soon chock-full of current events in psychology. In the meantime, I thought one current event deserved its own post.

The release this week of the so-called "torture memos" that defined what techniques could be used by U.S. interrogators on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay included one section particularly relevant to our field -- that is, sleep deprivation. The author of one memo, Steven Bradbury of the Department of Justice, writes that "[w]e understand from OMS, and from our review of the literature on the physiology of sleep, that even very extended sleep deprivation does not cause physical pain, let alone severe physical pain." The author goes on to repeatedly mention this "review of the literature on the physiology of sleep" and then proceeds to cite his ultimate reference: a 1998 work called Why We Sleep by James Horne -- a textbook.

So what is learned from this text? That in controlled experiments subjects experienced sleep deprivation for 8-11 days and that this formed the basis for keeping prisoners up for days, at least 3 for more than 96 hours. When contacted by a blog today for his perspective, Dr. Horne was outraged and saddened at how his research had been misused:
"As soon as you add in any other stress, any other psychological stress, then the sleep deprivation feeds on that, and the two compound each other to make things far worse. I made that very, very clear," he said. "And there's been a lot of research by others since then to show that this is the case."
Further, Horne continued, sleep-deprived subjects become so confused that they're highly unlikely to offer useful intelligence. "I don't understand what you're going to get out of it," he said. "You can no longer think rationally, you just become more of an automaton ... These people will just be spewing nonsense anyway. It's pointless!"
In sum, said Horne, he feels "saddened" that the memo's author "didn't fully interpret what I actually wrote." The memo "distorts what I really meant, and I never meant for it to be, in any way, indicative that you could start torturing people in this way. That was not the intention at all."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A couple of thinking puzzles

1) How many four-sided figures (squares and rectangles) do you see in the diagram below?
2. How many triangles do you see in the diagram below?
Got the answers? Now visit Psychology Today's Brain Workout blog for the answers!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Milwaukee Area Teachers of Psychology Meeting

The Milwaukee Area Teachers of Psychology (MATOP) Spring Meeting will be held on Tuesday April 28, 2009, 7:00 PM, at Pius High School, 135 N. 76th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53213 in the library.

The highlight of the evening will be an examination of the new Myers' Psychology 9th edition. Everyone attending will receive a copy of this text through the generosity of Eileen Tanania, 866.843.3715 ex 1714 or, the sales representative from Bedford, Freeman and Worth Publishers.

Our agenda tentatively includes:

■ a review of Fast Track to a Five: Preparing for the AP Psychology Examination
■ a discussion regarding the upcoming 2009 Advanced Placement Psychology Exam
■ an examination of The Whitman Journal of Psychology
■ an analysis of the just released 2007 AP Psychology Exam
■ information on the Teaching High School Psychology Blog
■ a conversation about the Enhancing the Teaching of Psychology Conference on May 19th at UW-Stevens Point.
■ a demonstration of Student Response Systems (clickers)
■ new information on the Quizlet Flash Card website at
■ a brand new psychology text, Psychology: Making Connections
■ materials from both the APA and TOPSS
■ a look at Current Directions in Introductory Psychology 2e

Please mark your calendars. Everyone is welcome to attend. A detailed agenda will be forth coming.

If you would like to be included on the MATOP email listing, please contact Kent Korek at

National Standard for High School Psychology Curricula

So, you've been asked to teach a psychology course and have no idea where to start? At a workshop or meeting of psychology teachers, you are puzzled when someone asks if you follow the domains? When your school administrators ask you to submit a formal curriculum complete with content standards for your high school level psychology class, do you wish someone in the country had one posted online?

Believe it or not, since 1999 TOPSS (Teacher of Psychology in Secondary Schools) has published national standards for a high school psychology course (non-AP). The document has gone through a number of different names, but it is now referred to as "National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula".

The Standards have been endorsed by the National Council of Social Studies (NCSS) and would make an ideal framework for any state's educational standards.

The standards can be found online in a PDF format at or from the "Links of Interest" section of this blog. The document can be downloaded by sections or as one complete file.

Monday, April 6, 2009

2007 AP Psychology Released Exam

Since its inception in 1992, complete copies (multiple choice and free response sections) of the AP Psychology Exams have periodically been released. To date, the released exam years include 1994, 1999, 2004 and now, 2007.

In addition to the questions and answers (rubrics for the FRQs) for both sections of the exam, the book includes sample student responses to the FRQs, scoring standards and detailed statistical data.

This publication is a "must have" for every AP Psychology teacher. Many teachers feel the released exams are probably the most valuable resource from the College Board with the possible exception of the Acorn book.

To purchase your copy of the 2007 exam (publication #080082563) go to the College Board Store at The cost is $25 with a minimum $6 fee for shipping and handling. Bulk (10) copies of the both parts of the exam can be ordered for $35.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Onine sites for AP exam review

The following AP exam review sites were recommended by psychology teachers on the Psych-News and AP Psych e-mail lists. Do you have a favorite not on the list? If so, add it in the comments section below!

Friday, April 3, 2009

APA College Dictionary of Psychology

First, there was the APA Dictionary of Psychology, then came the APA Concise Dictionary of Psychology. Coming May 1st is the next rendition of dictionaries from the American Psychological Association, the APA College Dictionary of Psychology.

The dictionary contains over 5000 entries, 200 of which were found by researching current college psychology texts. This version is designed to "answer the specific informational needs - from advanced placement high school psychology classes to introductory Psych 101 courses and beyond".

The appendix includes a brief description of approximately 180 important figures in the history of psychology.

The $19.95 plus shipping and handling charge makes this book significantly less expensive that the two previous versions.

While the book will be released on May 1st, the APA Book Order Department is now taking preorders for immediate shipment on that date. For more information or to order, go to

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Psych in the news

Thanks to Chuck for that final entry.

Finally, in the spirit of the day, some breaking news stories from across the Interwebs in case you missed them: here are links for bacon popcorn, Google's AutoPilot (that also emulates ELIZA!), Ben & Jerry's Cyclone Dairy (with milk made from 100% cloned cows!), how to make your Kindle smell like a real book, a trifecta from HowStuffWorks with rechargeable gum, moving the Alps to Dubai and kittens that never grow old and a real honest to goodness one on social psychology. Enjoy!

AP Psychology Exam Review Books

By my count, as of today (04/01/09), there are 23 school days until the AP Psychology Exam on May 12, 2009. A number of AP Psychology Exam Review Books are on the market, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. This survey is designed to determine which book AP Psychology teachers feel is the best for their students. Please be aware, the survey is designed to randomize the listing of texts each time. This means the "Other" option may not fall at the bottom as in most surveys. The current results will be revealed once you have cast your vote.

For more information on the review books or to leave a comment, please see the accompanying posting on the blog's main page for April 1, 2009.

N= 147 as of 01/27/12.
Thanks to all those who have participated.

AP Psychology Exam Review Books

There are a host of products students can purchase to help them prepare for the AP Psychology Exam. Review books currently on the market include:
For more information, simply click on the book's title. Please see the accompanying survey regarding AP Psychology Review Books and feel free to leave a comment.