Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Gamification" as a motivator

Russell Hoffman from NY (thanks Russell!) sent this web link to the AP Psych listserv. This article describes an apparently successful program in Sweden that encourages drivers to slow down. A traffic camera takes picture of speeders AND folks driving at or under the speed limit, and these pictures enter the safe drivers into a lottery for prizes. The article introduces a word that's new to me: "Gamification: the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to engage users and solve problems"

The traffic "gamification" example described above seems benign and pro-social (to me), but it reminds me of a video that disturbed me. Jesse Schell's TED talk describing a future in which many of our behaviors could be "gamified" in the style of Facebook "Farmville" style games. I'm not sure why it disturbed me so much. I'd love to hear your reaction in the comments field if you have time and feel moved to write.

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Consciousness = complicated!

Its possible that I'm only interested in this because I used to teach philosophy, but the latest "infographic" from the fabulous blog Information is Beautiful fascinates me. It's called "What Is Consciousness?" and I think it does a great job demonstrating how complex the scientific and philosophical positions/theories are about consciousness, and it's a good example of how a web interface can make a VERY complex subject accessible (at least a bit) and engaging. You get to choose a combination of three positions/theories about consciousness and answer a few demographic questions, then you are given a label for your philosophical positions (holler back at me, other "Emergent Dualistic Epiphenomenalistic Cognitivists"!)

I don't pretend to understand my label means or the implications of these different positions/theories, but I thought it was fun (really!) and thought provoking. I wouldn't go this "deep" into consciousness theories in a psych class, but maybe some students would be intrigued by it.

Other sources that help me think more deeply about consciousness: Daniel Dennet's and Douglas R. Hofstadter's thought experiments in The Mind's I (and other places), and Michael Gazzaniga's work on "split-brain" patients (these videos are a MUST use in a psych class, I think).

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Psychological disorders posters

I saw these amazing posters on Twitter today and knew I should post about them here. The originals were created by a British designer named Patrick and all of them can be found here. My favorites are the ones above for depression and OCD, but there are also posters for dissociative identity disorder, anorexia, agoraphobia, gender identity disorder and narcolepsy.

UPDATE: Prompted by commenters, the author has taken down his gender identity disorder poster and has posted a thoughtful explanation of why here. Well worth a read!
  --posted by Steve

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Teacher Confessional

In addition to teaching Psychology, I taught Sociology for a long time (and got caught up in a variety of concepts such as equality, communication, group values, discrimination, etc.).  For the past ten years, I've also been teaching US Government and the concepts in the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution and Supreme Court rulings.  I tend to be an absolutest about First Amendment rights and freedom of speech.

I ran across an article a few weeks ago about a teacher who was fired for airing her opinions online.  As a teacher in a low-income area, I can probably "get away" with more than colleagues in higher income areas who have many parents who are quick to judge and sue (I know, a stereotype and overgeneralization).  But after reading about that teacher, I ran across this a new blog site called Teacher Confessional.  I began checking out the site and its facebook counterpart.  In short, it offers an anonymous format for teachers to air their grievances against the system and offer ideas for positive change.  If you have stories about your teaching experiences and like to write, check it out and share your ideas.  The Missouri State Teachers Association blogged about it here.

Given the current antipathy for our profession and intellectualism in general, perhaps this is one forum we could share our ideas and experiences to go beyond the walls of our classroom/buildings.  I hope you find value in it.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Powerpoints made easier!

I've finally decided that I need to get with the program and switch over from the arachic overhead projector to power point presentations! I'm taking it slow and just transitioning a few of my lectures at a time. I've been looking for a source of images that I can use in my powerpoints and would like to share a very helpful site. Worth publishing has a library of images from the many textbooks they publish that is available for free! You can search for images by topic or by chapter. To access the "Image and Lecture Gallery" go to:


Kristin H. Whitlock

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bystander Intervention Lesson Plan

Danni Gilbert from Idaho sent us this detailed lesson plan for teaching Bystander Intervention (Thanks Danni!). That link takes you to a page that includes a detailed description of the lesson, including all the materials you need and a good description of how the lesson authors incorporated assessments into the activity in order to see what learning occurred as a result of the activity (which, as an assessment-geek, I LOVE to see!). It looks like the lesson could easily be extended to include fundamental attribution error and other social psych concepts. Good stuff!

A previous post on this blog includes other resources that might be useful in teaching about the Bystander effect, including a list of videos (note: I checked some of the links to videos and it looks like some of them might be broken now, but most work).

Many folks use the tragic story of Kitty Genovese's murder to explore the potential dangers of bystander effect, and this summary of Darley and Latane's original research is pretty accessible reading for psych students.

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mapping the nation's well-being / RPS (NYT)

Two great interactive components in the New York Times this weekend. First, there's a great map of "well-being" in the United States as gathered by the Gallup organization via surveys during 2010. The map shows how people in the entire country (broken down by the 435 congressional districts) rated their happiness, whether they had been diagnosed with depression, stress levels, and many other similar factors. This is a great way to look at factors such as emotion, stress and psychoogical disorders, but to me it's ideal as a jumping-off place for research questions. Why are certain areas high in this aspect, or how does this factor in my community correlate with another factor, etc. If you find some interesting juxtapositions while playing with this map, please share them below. My favorite so far is the seemingly perfect negative correlation, at least to my eyes, between exercise and obesity.

The other component offers you a chance to play Rock Paper Scissors with a computer opponent. Maybe you can't be Ken Jennings taking on Watson, but surely you can take an artificial life form in RPS, right? You're given the choice to play a novice or an veteran (who's learned a few tricks from 200,000 rounds of experience), and once you play to 20 rounds you can share your score on social networks. I'll admit that my first 20 against the novice were 5 wins, 4 losses and 11 ties, while against the veteran I managed 6 wins, but 9 losses and just 5 ties. Interesting to see if your students can come up with a strategy to defeat the "machine"!

  --posted by Steve

Saturday, March 5, 2011

You'll Never Think About Food and Taste the Same Way Again

As often happens, I had "an NPR moment" when I was driving home from school yesterday.  I was listening to my local station, KUSP (to the show Fresh Air) when I heard part of this story about a chef who had lost his sense of taste.  This led him into viewing taste through the sense of smell.  He has a different and engaging voice and a passion about smell and taste that comes through in the interview. The interview is with Grant Achatz and can be read and/or listened to here.

Posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ethical Connections in Psychology: Grilling for Science!

One of my favorite assessment/grading bloggers (and yes, I have several, which I know says a lot about me) recently did a classroom activity that might be interesting high school psych teachers, Shawn Cornally (who blogs about science teaching and standards based grading at ThinkThankThunk) decided to grill up some meat for his students to see if they could taste the difference between ethically raised vs. factory raised meat His goal was to get students thinking and help them become "more aware of their food." This might be a great activity in a psych class during sensation and perception: Can students taste the differences between different kinds of food based on how it was grown/raised? What difference thresholds are involved? Perceptual sets? Cultural expectations? And it might be at great connection to ethics - what are the ethical implications of differences in taste, or lack of differences?

This activity might be good in combination with the "Attack of the Blue Tongue" supertaster/non-taster demonstration many of us already do. Thanks for the idea Shawn!

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Watch this baby!

Two minutes of sheer delight - I urge you to bookmark this and play when teaching/reviewing development, or just when you and your class need a lift. Love it!

  --posted by Steve