Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009 AP Psychology FRQ Scoring Guidelines

The 2009 AP Psychology (as well as every other AP topic) Free Response Question Scoring Guidelines (rubrics) have just been published on AP Central. Reading through these rubrics can give teachers/students valuable insights into how the student's responses were scored at the 2009 AP Psychology Reading in Kansas City.

The free response questions were published on AP Central 48 hours after the exam, the rubrics just this week, hopefully, the other information (samples, grade distributions, etc.) will be coming soon.

The scoring guidelines can be found at or

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wikipedia vs. Rorschach?

The New York Times reports that Rorschach psychologists are furious that Wikipedia has all ten of the original images along with common responses to each -- something that the Times calls "the equivalent of posting an answer sheet to next year’s SAT." Because they are more than 90 years old the plates have lost their copyright status in the U.S. Is this a serious ethical breach? Or is keeping them private "restricting information" as the doctor who posted the images claims?

The Wikipedia images are copied from a Geocities site with much more information and is far more like a cheat sheet than the Wikipedia site

And interestingly, there is not a word about the criticisms of using the Rorschach in the first place. Here's a nice analysis from Scientific American (2001) on the subject (PDF only).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cell phone use while driving - what's the big deal?

A great topic for an intro psych class: what's the big deal about using your cell phone while driving? As it turns out, plenty -- and it's not about whether or not you are using your hands to hold the phone. It's about your brain and your ability to pay attention successfully to multiple sources of information, which research shows us we don't do very well.

The New York Times this week featured this topic with a number of terrific pieces. Start with this opening article Driven to Distraction then be sure to check out the other great multimedia pieces such as the interactive driving game, the video and several graphics. Be sure to also check out these links:

The truth about cars and cellphones (editorial)
Should cell phone use by drivers be illegal? (Room for Debate)
Selected reader comments from above with suggestions
It's time to talk about how we can give up cell-phone use while driving. (

EDIT: One more! U.S. Withheld Data on Risks of Distracted Driving

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Prism goggles are even cooler than we thought they were!

I hope everyone out there has a set of prism goggles - either the goggles that shift visual perception left/right or up/down. They are easy to make (and I think you can purchase them off the web, but I can't find the source right now - I always made mine). the good folks at "Mind Hacks" recently talked about research that ties wearing prism goggles to changes in the perception of time! The research looks preliminary, but this is still darn fascinating, provocative, and unexpected! If you use prism goggles in your classroom, you may be able to replicate part of the study?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Highlights from Clark (or, Sortie to Worcester)

I had a delightful week with about 25 high school psychology teachers from all over the U.S. and Puerto Rico at the 2009 American Psychological Association (APA)/Clark University Workshop in sunny and pleasant Worcester, MA. The workshop was sponsored by the American Psychological Foundation, APA, and Clark University through the generosity of Dr. Lee Gurel.

Before getting into the highlights I want to urge all of you to go to a workshop for psychology teachers! This experience is invaluable for both your professional development and your self-efficacy. You'll learn an amazing amount from both the presenters and from your colleagues, and maybe best of all, you'll be treated like a professional. People at Clark were bending over backwards to make sure we had everything we needed -- now when was the last time you experienced that?

I was going to give you a rundown of every speaker and how much I enjoyed them all, but let me direct you back to the workshop schedule and you can see them for yourselves. (Perhaps if I have more energy/time this week I'll come back to these in more detail.) More impressive than just speaking was their willingness to cross that space that often separates college and high school folk and make real connections with us in the classroom, at meals and in the dorms. (I think one of my most eye-opening moments was listening to "Ben" Benjamin tick off the current batting averages of most of the starting lineup of the Washington Nationals off the top of his head -- and they're not even his favorite team!)

I will single out a few people, though. First is Dr. Lee Gurel, Clark '48, who helped to fund the workshop and was with us throughout. He talked about the power of teachers in his life and how he was doing his small part to pay that back. His energy and passion were amazing and I hope that we all can be as generous with those who follow us. The other was Dr. Nancy Budwig, who as Clark associate provost and psychology professor was our host. In addition to making sure everything ran smoothly from the food to the dorms to the presenters she and her staff always went above and beyond to ensure we were taken care of. Nancy's sabbatical officially begins this week but it was impossible to tell that we were the only thing standing between her and a well-deserved break! Finally, the workshop would not have been possible without the efforts of Emily Leary and Martha Boenau of the APA -- thanks so much for all of your work!

Below are a few of the images from our conference. Some of them are quite random but they're the ones that turned out the best. They're all taken by me and psychology teachers are welcome to take them as use them as you wish. Each small image will link to a much bigger version so be sure to download the larger sizes if you want the photos.

If you attended the conference and would like to chime in with your thoughts, please do so below!
We were often reminded at the workshop that 2009 is the 100th anniversary of Freud's visit to America and specifically to Clark University, a fact that will be celebrated at a conference this October. In front of the landmark Jonas Clark hall you'll see this statue of Freud, complete with a stash of cigars in his pocket.

These first two photos were taken during that conference. The larger photo was taken on September 10 (according to Dr. Benjamin) since William James can be seen in the front row. The full list of the attendees on the right can be found at the bottom of this post about Solomon Carter Fuller, who was the first African-American psychiatrist, and who is pictured in the far right of the back row. Other attendees included James, Titchener, J.M. Cattell and Henry Goddard. In the famous picture of the six you see Freud on the left and Carl Jung on the right flanking G. Stanley Hall. The third photo shows the site at Clark today.
We learned a bit of conflicting trivia from Drs. Benjamin and Budwig -- while Dr. Benjamin told us that Freud and Jung stayed at Hall's house while at Clark, Dr. Budwig pointed out the hotel where the two stayed upon arrival. (Perhaps they first stayed at the hotel and then at Hall's? Please comment below if you know!) The first photo is of the hotel which also apparently was a brothel in the recent past. The second photo came from our visit to the Clark archives -- "Sigmund Freud's Sortie to America" was published in American Heritage in 1980 but sadly it is not available online. The third photo is of Worcester's Union Station, which is in the same location that the train station was in 1909 when Freud walked William James there as he left the conference (the same walk during which James suffered an angina attack). The final photo is of a photo of Clark University in 1909, featuring Jonas Clark Hall.
Clark's status as a significant school of psychology in 1909 was due to the efforts of Granville Stanley Hall, Clark's president and the first president of the APA. The photos above show the room where the APA was first founded, a plaque in the Clark library reflecting that, a photo of Hall and a glimpse into the G. Stanley Hall room, where you can see Dr. Benjamin talking to workshop participants.

I enjoyed seeing a number of the publications that were selected from the Clark archives.

Clark has a fascinating room with a photograph of every graduate of its PhD program. I captured a few of these, including Francis Cecil Sumner, Lewis Terman and Henry Goddard. It's amazing to see how things have changed over the years, particularly as the grads have becoming overwhelmingly female recently.
Finally, I'll end with a couple of photos of Dr. Gurel, proudly sporting his workshop t-shirt and giving us a few words of advice at the end. Thanks to Dr. Gurel and everyone who made this such an terrific time!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Exploring the Mind of a Serial Killer

TEDTalks is an excellent intellectual series highlighting scientists and their research. Their website is

I subscribe to their iTunes feeds and came across a six minute talk by Jim Fallon, a neuroscientist with a fascinating family history.

Where do serial killers come from? Nearly all out students ask us and want to know. Now, the talk is on the website and includes genetic, epigenetic, environmental factors as potential causes. He shows brain scans of people based upon double-blinded research he did. Fascinating and brief. Perfect in our short attention-span world.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Workshop time

I'm headed to the APA-Clark University Workshop for High School Teachers next week at Clark University -- anyone else joining me?

Not only do I enjoy learning from professors and researchers, but I always look forward to being in the presence of other high school psych teachers. I've always been "the only psych teacher in the building" so I always relish the chance to learn from others in person. My favorite professional experience as a teacher was the month I spent in '95 at Ithaca College as part of an NSF workshop for psychology teachers, where I think I learned just as much from my fellow workshop participants as I did from the college folk.

I'll post updates from the workshop as I can during the week. But how about you? How are you spending your summer? Take a moment to add a comment below about what you are doing (professionally or just for fun!) this summer!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Psych in the news

You see embedded spirals, right, of green, pinkish-orange, and blue? Incredibly, the green and the blue spirals are the same color! The blue and the green

Researchers at Duke have found that 30 minutes or less of question-and-answer about the family history of depression, anxiety, or substance abuse is enough to predict a patient's approximate risks for developing each disorder and how severe their future illness is likely to be.

The FDA issues warnings about two stop-smoking drugs as reports mount of suicides by users.

Keeping "the imp" at bay: researchers look at the impact of those thoughts that lurk just beneath the surface. We don't say them (usually) but do they affect us?

Several recent studies, at Ohio State and elsewhere, have found that having a roommate of a different race can reduce prejudice, diversify friendships and even boost black students’ academic performance. But, the research found, such relationships are more stressful and more likely to break up than same-race pairings.

Are there beneficial aspects to video game playing
? (I mean, besides being the KEWLEST d00dz!!!)

Weird! Photoshopped portraits so that the bodies are turned upside down but the faces are correct.

Fellow students smell your exam fear.

More for the teachers than students: MindHacks looks at the psychology of wine.

A sobering (pardon the pun following the link above) look at the latest on schizophrenia research. "Schizophrenia too seems to be not a single disease, but the end point of 10,000 different disruptions to the delicate architecture of the human brain."