Saturday, September 19, 2009

Psychology Misconceptions Test

Over the course of this past summer, some of you may have had to opportunity to read a fantastic article on common misconceptions many students tend to have when they enter an Introductory Psychology course. (The Effect of Refuting Misconceptions in the Introductory Psychology Class by Patricia Kowalski and Annette Kujawski Taylor of the University of San Diego in the July-September 2009 issue of the Teaching of Psychology Journal.)

As part of their study Dr. Kowalski and Dr. Kujawski-Taylor develop a 100+ question test of misconceptions. I asked Dr. Annette Kujawski Taylor if I could share her test with high school teachers across the country. She graciously agreed and detailed a number of points to consider regarding the test. Rather than explain her points, I've included her email below.
Hi Kent:

The attachment looks great--by all means, share it. You went to a lot of trouble. One thing we often ask students is how confident they are in their belief. What we find is that the higher the confidence the lower the accuracy tends to be; of course this varies somewhat across items. Anyway, the point is that the stronger a misconception is held, the harder it is to change to a correct conception.

Also, I would suggest in the blog to just pick a subset of items! Students get bored with too many items ;) Also, some teachers just might not be prepared to provide evidence for some of the items and it might turn out to be a nightmare! I would direct students to the neuroscience for kids website for lots of good answers, and the new book by Scott Lilienfeld should be a great resource as well. I actually got quite a few of these by trading back and forth with Scott.

Finally, some items are a bit 'iffy' such as the one about the blanket statement that people who use heroin become addicted to it. Turns out that, just like with cocaine, there are a lot of casual users, and it is not a given that one will become addicted; however, the possibility is always there but more importantly for you, the evidence is harder to produce in class. So items that are iffy are more difficult, especially with younger adults who are not yet at Piaget's highest stages of cognitive development and might not see the shades of gray quite as well--when I say preponderance of the evidence sometimes I might be looking at a shade of gray that's just a bit darker than midway.


Annette Kujawski Taylor, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
University of San Diego

You can get your PDF copy of the test by going to the 4Shared File Sharing Account at
or go to the Google Documents page at

A special thanks to Dr. Annette Kujawski Taylor for her willingness to share the Misconceptions Test. Our hope is that in time, she and other introductory psychology college teachers will see less and less students having these misconceptions due to them being refuted at the high school level.


Anonymous said...

This is a great document. Thanks for sharing. Is there any chance she provided a key with the correct responses too?

Kent Korek said...

As they are all "misconceptions", they are all false.