Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Power of Disgust

This New York Times article describes a clever (devious?) political campaign that involved sending out flyers impregnated with the smell of rotting garbage. The article is a bit undecided about the impact of these specific flyers, but it does provide a nice overview of some of the psychological impacts of "disgust".

The article also reminded me of some clever (and gross!) Disgust tests the BBC posted on their website quite a while ago. Students could use these tests to gather data about differences in rates of disgusts between different groups, and/or track their own emotional/physiological reactions during the tests

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Monday, October 25, 2010

Year-long versus Semester AP Psychology - Data Needed Please

I (Kent) received the following from Jim Frailing of Neenah High School, Neenah, WI. Please take some time out of your busy schedules to help Jim as best you can.

In March of 2009, we here at the THSP Blog ran a short survey regarding year-long versus semester-long AP Psychology classes. For more information or to take part in that survey go to http://teachinghighschoolpsychology.blogspot.com/2009/03/ap-psychology-one-year-or-one-semester.html

Thanks for your help.

From Jim Frailing, 10/25/10

Year-long versus Semester AP Psychology - Data Needed Please


I am in need of some assistance. Our school is moving from a Trimester schedule (5 classes a day - 70 minutes each) to a Semester schedule (7 classes a day - 50 minutes each).

I currently teach AP Psychology in two trimesters (120 days - 70 minutes per day). I was originally told that when we switch to semesters, AP Psychology would be a Year-long course. Now I am being told it will only be a one semester course.

I am in need of research, data, statistics, antidotal evidence, and anything else I can get a hold of, to make the argument of AP Psychology being taught as a Year-long course.

I know others have had to fight this battle, and I would love to hear how you approached it, and what information you used to make your case.

Thank you in advance for any assistance you can offer.

Comments and resources can be sent off-list at the email below.

Take care,


Jim Frailing
Neenah High School
1275 Tullar Road
Neenah WI 54956
Phone: 920-751-6900 ext. 223
Email: JFrailing@neenah.k12.wi.us
Fax: 920-751-6920

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Writer Who Could Not Read

I depend upon NPR for much of my news and entertainment.  This is the story of a man who was an author, but due to a brain injury, was no longer able to read what he wrote (alexia).  Absolutely fascinating.  The case also deals with brain specialization.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dr. Phil (Z) on Dr. Phil

In our latest installment of News About Phillip Zimbardo, a tweet by Social Psychology (@PsychNews) announced that our own Dr. Phil would be on the Dr. Phil show this Monday, October 25. According to the episode summary Dr. Zimbardo is taking his research to the masses:

When Good People Do Bad Things
"Is it possible for a really good person to turn evil? Do you think you have an inner demon that could be triggered to make you rob a bank, steal from a neighbor or torture another human being? Dr. Phillip Zimbardo, professor emeritus at Stanford University and author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, has performed some of the most groundbreaking experiments in the history of psychology. Find out what happens when several Dr. Phil audience members are put to the test! Will they blindly follow instructions from an actor who looks like an authority figure? And, find out how the horrific abuses discovered in 2004 at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq mimic the results from Dr. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment in the 1970s. See the surprising parallel that demonstrates just how easily a good person can be drawn to the dark side. And, find out how an Army Ranger, who says he was following routine orders, would up in prison for bank robbery. Are you susceptible to manipulation by an authority figure? Tune in to find out!"

Okay, I have a question. Isn't "some of the most groundbreaking experiments in the history of psychology" a bit much? I love Dr. Z. like the rest of you, but come on, besides an awesome experiment nearly 40 years ago, has he done another "groundbreaking experiment" that you know of?

All right, point taken, that was probably written by some PR hack who slept through her intro psych classes. I'm setting my DVR on record anyway!

  --posted by Steve

Brain Scans as Art

Thanks to Eric Chudler over at Neuroscience for Kids for this find.

The artist, Elizabeth Jameson has taken brain scans and made art from them.  Check out her work here.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Can you think it if you can't say it?

Our current textbooks are fabulous at summarizing mounds of existing research and reaching a conclusion, but how often do our students get to form their own conclusions about psychological phenomena? At first, this might seem like an overwhelming task that would take way too much time, but we have an advantage in our "young" science of psychology: in many other sciences (e.g. physics, astronomy), you need to get to graduate school before you really get to do original research, but in psychology MANY important issues are still "undecided" and the relevant research is accessible and understandable. Students won't be able to form a final decisive "conclusion" about the issue (and we shouldn't pretend that anyone can) but the experience to looking at the evidence and forming a "conclusion for right now" is a valuable part of critical thinking.

I think the connection between thinking and language is one example of an accessible "open" issue. How much does our language impact our thinking? This NYTimes article provides a good overview of the issues, includes the ups and downs of Whorf's linguistic relatively hypothesis (and it includes one of my favorite untranslateable German words: Schadenfreude).

A recent Radiolab podcast looked at the topic in three different ways:
1) a teacher's breakthrough with a deaf adult who grew up with no language (this one made be cry!)
2) a neurologist's story about her brain injury that left her without any language or "brain chatter"
3) a summary of a longitudinal research project with an isolated group of deaf children in Nicaragua who developed their own language whil researchers watched! (full disclosure and bragging: One of my former students was involved in this research.)

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

I recently ran across a site called, RSA: 21st Century Enlightenment.  While there is so much on the site to digest, I discovered their "animated" lecture called "The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" which is also available on YouTube. 

The RSA Animate series of videos takes semi-dry lectures, then has an artist put the words to pictures, graphics, graphic organizers and thought-bubbles.  For those of us (read, me) who are not artistic, but appreciative of art, this approach is wonderful.  It is also great for those who like to share with students another way to transmit information to others.  The payoff is later in the lecture, so it is definitely worth watching the entire 11 minutes.

If you like the premise of the video, check out all the other works here.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Depression Awareness Month

October is National Depression Screening Month, with the 7th of the month being the National Depression Day of Awareness.  Below are some resources to assist the classroom teacher. 

John Grohol
Post about the National Day of Screening

PsychCentral Depression screening test
18 questions with an online score with recommendations

Mayo Clinic
The Mayo Clinic site has a tremendous set of resources which include background, Q/A about depression types, links to other disorders, video clips to describe depression, expert answers, expert blog with research updates and much more.

The new issue of Educational Leadership (publication of ASCD) has an article entitled, "Responding to a Student's Depression" in the October 2010 issue.  You can read it online if you are a member.  The article has a nice chart with one column for symptoms and another column for how those symptoms would manifest themselves at school.

Mental Health America
information, help, action for many disorders

Army website on the topic and related resources for military members and mental health issues

Real Warriors program encouraging those who need help to ask for it along with many resources

In terms of depression screening quizzes online, there are dozens.  Here are links to a few:
Depression-Screening dot org
The Wakefield Questionnaire
WebMD diagnosis and tests page

Posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall Post from TOPSS

The following message was sent out by Emily Leary from the APA/TOPSS.

The American Psychological Association (APA) Committee of Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) met in late September to discuss ongoing plans and priorities to support the teaching of high school psychology.  Please see below for recent and ongoing information from APA and TOPSS:

FALL MEMBERSHIP BLITZ: TOPSS reminds all high school psychology teachers that new members who join TOPSS NOW through December 31 will receive bonus months of membership for no extra cost!  For just $40, new affiliates can join TOPSS NOW and be members through December 2011.  An application is available online at http://www.apa.org/membership/hs-teacher/index.aspx.  TOPSS is aiming to reach 2,000 current members by December 31, 2010, please help us reach our goal by forwarding this note to any psychology teacher you know!  Visit the TOPSS website at http://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/topss/index.aspx to read about the TOPSS mission and programs.

STUDENT RESEARCH: The APA Education Directorate sponsors annual awards for students at the Intel ISEF competition, and at all ISEF-affiliated fairs. Please visit http://apps.societyforscience.org/find_a_fair/ to find a local research fair!  Please be sure to read the TOPSS manual on conducting research with high school students: http://www.apa.org/education/k12/science-fairs.aspx,

PSYCHOLOGY TEACHER NETWORK (PTN): The Summer PTN 2010 issue is posted online at http://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/ptn/2010/07/issue.pdf.  We are always looking for submissions! The PTN is sent four times a year to TOPSS members.

UNIT LESSON PLANS:  Two new unit plans on Motivation and Emotion were published earlier this year; all units are posted to http://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/topss/lessons/index.aspx.  There are currently 19 units available free of cost to TOPSS members, including four teaching modules on topics like the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Positive Psychology!

NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR HIGH SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGY CURRICULA: The National Standards are available online at http://www.apa.org/education/k12/national-standards.aspx and are currently being revised!  We expect the new revision to be released in August 2011.

APA MONITOR: TOPSS members receive the monthly APA Monitor in the mail, with up-to-date news from the field of psychology:

POWERPOINTS: Visit http://www.apa.org/education/k12/powerpoint.aspx for newly developed PowerPoints for high school teachers!  TOPSS has invited every APA division to develop a PowerPoint for teachers!

NEW TOOLBAR:  Be sure to read about the new TOPSS toolbar for teachers! http://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/topss/topss-web-toolbar.aspx

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT:  The 2011 APA/Clark University Workshop dates will be announced this fall!  The 2011 APA Convention will be held in Washington, DC, August 4-7, 2011.  Visit http://www.apa.org/convention/ for information, videos, and more from the 2010 convention.

UPCOMING AWARDS AND COMPETITIONS: Stay tuned for announcements for the call for nominations for the 2011 TOPSS Excellence in Teaching Award and the 2011 student competition.

AND MORE …  New initiatives include funding for professional development, the development of classroom posters, the ongoing revision of unit lesson plans, and more.  Please be sure you join TOPSS to stay on top of ongoing projects and initiatives.  Please contact TOPSS Chair Kay Minter      (kay_minter@roundrockisd.org) or Emily Leary (eleary@apa.org) with questions or recommendations.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hal Herzog responds to THSP readers

In September I posted an alert to THSP readers about Dr. Hal Herzog's new book Some We Love, Some Hate, Some We Eat. Readers were invited to post their questions to Hal and he agreed to answer them in a follow-up post. We only had three queries posted, so Hal was kind enough to address each one individually and they are posted below. Also, the free copy of his new book (generously arranged by Rachel Elinsky of HarperCollins) was awarded by random drawing to commenter Virginia Welle who teaches in Wisconsin.

Here are the posted questions, followed by Dr. Herzog's responses and a special note to high school psychology teachers at the end:

Dr. Herzog,
Animal research is something that fascinates and sometimes sparks ire among my students. The title of your book implies that you've got some insight as to why we feel so passionately about the treatment of some animals (e.g. pets), but not others (e.g. cockroaches). What can I tell my students about this seeming inconsistency? -- Mrs. Welle

Dear Mrs. Welle,
The reason that we care so much for some animals and so little about others is a matter of both nature and nurture. First the nature part. Ethologists such as Konrad Lorenz argued decades ago that humans find some animal cute because they have facial characteristics that bring out our parental instincts. Puppies, kittens and baby seals and Mickey Mouse are irresistible because they have big eyes, disproportionately large heads, and soft features. On the other hand, there is good evidence that our fear of snakes is an evolutionary relic passed down from our Stone Age ancestors.
However, culture can override our biological impulses. A cute puppy which an American would find adorable is seen as a tasty dinner entrĂ©e in parts of Asia. And if you live in Sri Lanka whether you have a pet dog is almost completely determined by your religion: fewer than 5% of Muslim homes contain a pet dog compared to over 90% of Buddhist homes! That’s were nurture comes in.

Shana said...
This topic is great and I can't wait to read the book. I own a ferret and just recently got a puppy. My in-laws love the dog, but try to keep as far away from the ferret as humanly possible. I find myself identifying with the topic, and I wonder to what extent these preferences and aversions are affected by experiences and to what extent they are affected by biological predispositions.

Shana – See my response to Mrs. Welle’s above. It addresses the question of biological dispositions. However, it is also true that different people have different likes and dislikes in animals. For example, while most people hate snakes because of a biological predisposition, I have always been attracted to them. I collected snakes when I was a kid, and I also conducted a lot of snake behavior research in the early part of my career. By the way, most people with snake aversions have never had a traumatic experience with snakes, and studies by Gordon Burghardt at the University of Tennessee indicate that this is also true Japanese monkeys who are snake phobic.
One thing that determines what type of animals people like is how they were brought up. Children raised with dogs tend to become “dog people” when they are adults and vice versa with “cat people.” Some studies have shown that there are personality differences in “dog people” and “cat people.” Cat people tend to be a bit more neurotic but also more open to new experiences. However, these differences tend to be fairly small.

Anonymous said ...

I have had my cats for about six years. I understand the attachment to them more than other cats, but here is something I do not understand--why do I care about my cats more than other humans.

This is a tough question as I don’t really know your situation, but here is what we do know about attachment to pets. First, people living alone are more likely to be highly attached to their companion animals. This is interesting because people living with children at home are (a) more likely to have a pet living in their house, but (b) are less likely to be highly attached to their pet. This suggests that for some people, pets are, indeed, child substitutes. This was certainly true of my wife and I before we had kids. We absolutely doted on Molly, our wonderful black Lab.
Second, while some people argue that “animal people” tend not to like other people, in my experience, this is usually not the case. In fact, studies consistently show that people who are empathetic toward animals also show more empathy towards other people. (You will not be surprised to learn that women are generally more empathetic than men and are also more concerned about the protection and well-being of animals.)

Message to high school psychology teachers from Hal.

I think that we can learn a lot about human nature by studying the psychology of our relationships with other species. These include big issues like the nature-nurture issue, how we make moral judgments, and why human thinking is so often illogical. While these themes run through my book, the material most relevant to psychology teachers is in Chapter 2 (The Importance of Being Cute: Why We Think What We Think About Creatures That Don’t Think About Us), Chapter 3 (Pet-O-Philia: Why Do Humans (And Only Humans) Love Pets), and Chapter 10 (The Carnivorous Yahoo Within Ourselves: Dealing With Moral Inconsistency).
In addition, you might want to check out Animals and Us, the blog on human-animal interactions that I write for Psychology Today.

-- posted by Steve

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cengage Learning Webinar Series

Cengage Learning is sponsoring a number of Webinars for high school psychology teachers. The series highlights Stephen Franzoi of Marquette University and Kristin Whitlock of Viewmont High School, Bountiful, UT. Below you will find information on each Webinar session.

Title: Psychology: Promoting Critical Thinking While Linking to the National Standards

Description: This workshop will help high school teachers link the use of the American Psychological Association's National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula in their courses to critical thinking exercises easily implemented into their curriculum. After a review of the structure of the National Standards, specific exercises will be presented.

Presenter: Kristin Whitlock, Psychology Teacher and Chair of the Working Group for the Revised High School Psychology Standards

Date/Time: October 19, 2010: 3:00 pm Eastern/12:00 pm Pacific Register now.
Date/Time: November 17, 2010: 6:00 pm Eastern/3:00 pm Pacific
Register now.

Title: Psychology: Encouraging Students to Identify With Course Material Through Self-Discovery Exercises

Description: Psychology, as a science and as a high school course, is a journey of discovery undertaken by both researchers and students. By regularly encouraging students to consider how psychological knowledge relates to their own lives, you place their learning experience within a personally relevant context that enhances learning of course material, while also fostering self-insights that can be applied to their daily living. Learn how Stephen Franzoi, author of Psychology: A Discovery Experience, facilitates this personal journey of discovery in his psychology classes and in his psychology textbooks.

Presenter: Stephen Franzoi, Author

Date/Time: October 26, 2010: 3:00 pm Eastern/12:00 pm Pacific Register now.
Date/Time: October 26, 2010: 6:00 pm Eastern/3:00 pm Pacific
Register now.

Title: Psychology: How Do People Think and Behave Differently in Individualist and Collectivist Cultures?

Description: Two belief systems that are important to understanding the psychology of human behavior are individualism and collectivism. This webinar will discuss how the psychology of people from different cultures differs due to their individualist-collectivist bents and how this understanding will enrich your students' learning.

Presenter: Stephen Franzoi, Author

Date/Time: December 9, 2010: 4:00 pm Eastern/1:00 pm Pacific Register now.

These webinars will be conducted via conference call and WebEx. In order to participate, you must have an Internet connection and a separate phone line. Posted by Kent Korek.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TOPSS Membership Drive

The following is from Kimberly Patterson, the Membership Coordinator for Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS).

The APA Affiliate for Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools!

Fall Blitz!
TOPSS Membership for High School Teachers!

It is the prime time to grow membership with members being able to join and get 16 months for the price of one year! Please refer potential members to http://www.apa.org/membership/hs-teacher/index.aspx. This link of the TOPSS website also have all the information for new members, including Benefits and Services, Discounts, Dues and Eligibility.

Curriculum Support:
  • Unit Lesson Plans
  • Powerpoints
  • Online Psychology Laboratory (OPL)
  • Posters in the classroom
  • National Standards for HS Psychology Curricula!
Recognition for Teachers and Students:
  • Excellence in Teaching Awards
  • APA/TOPSS Essay Competition
  • Outstanding Achievement in Psychology Certificates
  • Psychology Teacher Network (PTN) Quarterly Newsletter
  • Science Fair/Psychology Fair help
  • Mentor Program
  • Minority Recruitment Program
  • Speakers Bureau
  • Professional Development/Clark Workshop
If you have any questions, please contact Kimberly Patterson at kimberly.c.patterson@browardschools.com. If you need a hard copy membership form, please contact Emily Leary at ELeary@apa.org. We want to help through promoting High School Psychology and provide assistance for teachers with materials that are subject specific.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Great pictures via Wellcome Images

Fingers on the brain - Close up photograph of the gyri and sulci of a human brain overlayed with an image of the artists fingers.

A tweet by neuroscientist turned writer Mo Constandi (@mocost) drew my attention to Wellcome Images, an amazing collection of historical illustrations and modern medical images that are available to be used in classrooms for free as part of a Creative Commons license. I'll post a few images here, but believe me when I say there are hundreds of others that are amazing.    -- posted by Steve

Neurons in the brain - illustration
Hair cell of inner ear, via electron microscope

The gyri of the thinker's brain as a maze of choices in biomedical ethics.

 The Brain: The Cerebral Cortex (1537)

Tissue from the thalamus stained with antibodies to receptors for orexin (stained red).
Orexins are peptide hormones that help keep us awake and alert, and may also stimulate the appetite.