Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An amazing new resource

Wow, this is sweet. The great people at the Society for Teaching Psychology (STP) have just released a terrific new e-book called Teaching Introductory Psychology: Tips from TOP. It's a compilation of more than 60 articles published in the journal Teaching of Psychology and get this - it's FREE. You can download each individual article in PDF format, or the whole thing (21 MB) at one time.

Here are some of the titles of the articles:
  • The effect of refuting misconceptions in the introductory psychology class.
  • Introducing students to psychological research: General psychology as a laboratory course.
  • Active learning within a lecture: Assessing the impact of short, in-class writing exercises.
  • How do students really study (and does it matter)?
(Now if only this came with a bonus 20 hours so that I could have time to read and absorb all this without getting behind in the rest of my life!)

What is the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, by the way?  STP is Division Two of the American Psychological Association. Their mission: "to promote excellence in the teaching and learning of psychology. We welcome teachers of all stripes, whether teaching in a university, two or four-year college, or high school, tenured, adjunct, or teaching assistant." Membership in STP for high school teachers is $25 a year.

-- posted by Steve

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NPR moments, revisited - How Psychology Solved A WWII Shipwreck Mystery

Following up on Chuck's NPR Moments post - A friend at work excitedly told me about a great memory/psychology/mystery story on NPR this morning. He said it was great, details, and that I would love it - he was right!

How Psychology Solved A WWII Shipwreck Mystery

Briefly: Memory researchers used what they learned about how our memories change over time in predictable ways to examine the stories of captured German WWII soldiers and figured out where a ship likely went down. GREAT example of application of research, and the methodology they used in the original "how memories of stories change over time" could be easily replicated by students, I think.

image credit:

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Monday, September 26, 2011

UTOPSS Fall Institute, November 4, 2011

The 13th annual Utah-Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (UTOPSS) Fall Institute will be held Friday, November 4, 2011 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. If you would like to attend I would be happy to email you registration materials. Contact me at

Registration is due Friday, October 21. The cost of the conference is $40.00, by the deadline, and $50.00 after the deadline. Registration includes continental breakfast, lunch, parking validation, and all materials.

We have a wonderful schedule planned!

Dr. Jane Halonen, University of West Florida, "Bottlenecks, Thresholds, and Transformers: New Ways to Look at Old Content"

Cynthia Smith, Northridge High School, Kim Searle, Copper Hills High School, & Lark Woodbury, Layton High School, "Using Social Networking in Psychology"

Dr. Paul White, University of Utah, "Do I Have to be Freud to do Psychology? Moving Students Beyond Pop Cultural Images of Psychology"

Dr. Monisha Pasupathi, University of Utah, "Autobiographical Memory and Narrative Identity"

Participant Idea Share

Hope you can join us!

Kristin H. Whitlock

NPR moments--Sugar Cravings and Kids & Pain-What Works?

This morning on the way to work, I heard two stories that grabbed my attention. 
1)  Kids having a sweet tooth--it's biological and it changes during life
2)  Pain and how we deal with it--a one-size-fits all approach does not work

Take a couple minutes to check these out--short and worthwhile.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

New Stereotype Threat research

In a previous Teaching High School Psychology post I referenced Daniel Willingham's great summary of some of the implications of the stereotype threat. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal briefly summarized new stereotype threat research that high school psych teachers and students might find useful and provocative.

"Sunk by Stereotypes"

I haven't been able to get at the journal article yet, but according to the WSJ summary, the researchers made up a fake learning styles inventory and categories ("convex or concave learning styles" - might be just as (in)valid as auditory, visual, and kinesthetic :) and told participants that either their learning style would likely impact performance on a working memory test or that would probably have no effect. As predicted, the more strongly a participant identified with the fake learning style, the lower their test score.

This study might be easily replicable by high school students (after following ethical guidelines and getting the permissions you need in your district, of course), and students might be VERY interested in how stereotypes may be impacting their learning!

image source:

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Internet Search and Discover Activities

One of my favorite things to do is share new ideas and perspectives with my students--especially ones that I do not necessarily have time to do within the formal curriculum.  Since I teach on a 100-minute alternating block schedule, I have created a couple of activities that have the students go to web sites that deal with aspects of a unit, read through the sites, and answer questions.  As much as anything, it exposes them to new resources that I've already checked for accuracy and appropriateness (front-loading).  I also ask questions that have them consider issues that I have some personal interest in.  Perhaps, at some point, they will continue asking questions themselves about obvious things within the context of their own lives.

Here is my first one for this fall for Social Psychology.  If you'd like a .docx version of this document, email me at psydways AT  I've also made one for the brain and biology unit later in the term.

Psychology: Web Exploration          Name                                                                          Per     
Social Psychology Edition rev. F2011
Be sure to read the instructions on each one to make sure you are doing the proper action.
Read the page and list ten things people can do to reduce their prejudicial behavior (I know there are more than 10).
#2    List two facts each about:

Body Image:


Eating Disorders:

Children and the Media:

Appearance Messages:

Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, and the Thin Ideal:

Choose a brand from repeat offenders______________________. What messages do this company’s ads send?

Choose a media literacy category.__________________________
What messages do ads from this category send?

Examine these ten ads.  Why are these ten ads seen as being better ads in terms of their portrayal of women?

Describe where the term “ghetto” comes from.  Can you really describe something as "ghetto" now?  Explain.

Take your native IQ.  This is a test about your knowledge related to Native Americans and their history.  How did you do?  Explain why you did as well or as poorly as you did.

#9  So you are curious about brainwashing?  Check out this site:
Find terms and ideas we’ve studied so far to find out what you can discover about brainwashing.  Write down at least 5 things.






#10  This site is a blog about relationships written by an author in the UK.  Choose one of the sub-articles and write down four observations/conclusions the research found about your topic. 
Title of sub-article here:




Write a five sentence (one paragraph) summary of the findings.

#12  Can we avoid segregation?
Go to this site, read each short page and do the exercise.  Describe the Schelling Effect and the Anti-Schelling Effect.

Schelling Effect

Anti-Schelling Effect

What you learned as a result of doing this exercise:

Describe what Nazi racism was about.

Read the article and list three key questions this raises in your mind.




Take two of the demonstration quizzes on this page.  Which two did you take?  How did you do?  What surprised you? Explain.

Quiz 1 Result:

Quiz 2 Result:

Explain why you think you scored this way.  How did it surprise you?

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Friday, September 23, 2011

Reconstructing Visual Perception using fMRIs - Wowza!

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this research, but ... WOWZA!

(Note: Follow any of the links on this page in order to see videos of this in action)

Researchers from University of California, Berkeley used fMRI scans to "reverse engineer" images of how the brain might put together visual stimuli. Below is their "simple outline" of the study (taken from their summary on the Gallant Lab web page).

"The goal of the experiment was to design a process for decoding dynamic natural visual experiences from human visual cortex. More specifically, we sought to use brain activity measurements to reconstruct natural movies seen by an observer. First, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activity in visual cortex as a person looked at several hours of movies. We then used these data to develop computational models that could predict the pattern of brain activity that would be elicited by any arbitrary movies (i.e., movies that were not in the initial set used to build the model). Next, we used fMRI to measure brain activity elicited by a second set of movies that were completely distinct from the first set. Finally, we used the computational models to process the elicited brain activity, in order to reconstruct the movies in the second set of movies"

It's a tricky one to understand - I think the summary on the Gizmodo blog is a bit more clear, and this summary article in a Berkeley newsletter includes quotes that might help.

Here's how I think I'd summarize it for students (and there is a STRONG chance I might be wrong here, so please correct me in the comments!): Participants spent time (a long time!) in an fMRI watching movie trailers, and the researchers used that data to create a model of what their brains were doing while watching the movies. Then they collected a LOT of random youtube clips and transformed them into data ("voxels") the computers could compare with the fMRI data they stored from the participants. The computers picked the youtube clips that best matched the fMRI data, and smooshed all those video clips into a composite video. When we watch the composite video, we can see the similarities to the original clips the fMRI participants watched (although there is a high chance of confirmation bias here, right?)

Please holler in the comments about this if you have time - I'd love to know if I'm understanding this correctly!

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Infant Brains and Teenage Brains--Two New Articles

This weekend has been a boon for neuroscience articles.  Below are a couple of articles that we could use in our classes related to development and the human brain.

1)  National Geographic--The Teenage Brain
Printable version of the article
The article begins by asking rhetorical questions about our teens and their decision making process.  The article also deals with a cross-cultural/historical mention of adolescence and its tempering effect on behavior.  The article includes an excellent overview of brain development, including myelination.  Very nice article--but what else would one expect from National Geographic.

2)  The second article comes from NPR--the article describes a book and interview with the authors of Welcome to Your Child's Brain with an article entitled "How to Help Your Child's Brain Grow Up Strong."

The NPR article also discusses brain development, but highlights what infants are capable of which is considerably more than previously thought.  Help a child develop self-control is a highlight of both the book and article. It's another good read.  Also, in the left column of the article are links to other brain books and authors.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

PBS Nova Science Now "How Does the Brain Work?"

Tonight my family watched Nova Science Now "How Does the Brain Work?" What an amazing program! It covers a lot of ground - how magicians use attention, how Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation can impact judgment, how emergencies alter time perception, and artificial intelligence. Great "guest stars" too - Penn and Teller, Mo Rocca, and David Eagleman. If there is any way to get a copy to show in your classroom, you'll find dozens of short sections to show to go along with the Biopsych chapter. Great stuff.

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Near-Death Experiences

If you discuss near-death experiences as a part of your consciousness chapter, check out this Scientific American article, "Peace of Mind: Near-Death Experiences Now Found to Have Scientific Explanations." Researchers are focusing on the role of dopamine in producing this phenomena.

Kristin H. Whitlock

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Love this: How Will Shortz Edits a New York Times Crossword Puzzle

Okay, I promise one day to post my "how I got five crossword puzzles published in the New York Times" story here. I can tell you the blow by blow of making a puzzle and the chutzpah needed to sell your very first puzzle to the Times. I know at least one of you (thanks Rob!) is looking forward to reading this.

Until then, let me strongly encourage you to check out How Will Shortz Edits a New York Times Crossword Puzzle in the Atlantic. Shortz talks about the process that happens after the puzzle gird is finished, when the constructor (Liz Gorski, in this case) creates the clues. The editor's job is then to make the clues a little snappier, less obvious, more "fresh" -- fresh is a word that Will Shortz loves.

This is a great example of his mind, talking about Liz's clue for the word snow:
One clue that's fun and twisty is 11 Down: "Wet blanket" for SNOW. I can check the database—I bet she's not the first person to ever use that clue. That's just too nice a clue never to have been used before. Hold on one second, I'll see. There is a database of every clue back to my start. [A pause.] I see previous clever clues for SNOW that include "winter fall," "white blanket," "winter blanket," "white coat," "falling flakes"—that's not all that clever. This one's sort of cute—"serial killer." Snow on your TV, it's going to hurt your reception of a serial. Oh, one more. "Drifter," with a question mark. Well, I don't see "wet blanket." Maybe it is fresh.
How can you fit this into psychology? I suppose you can make it fit nicely into the Cognition unit when you talk about algorithms and heuristics. Me, I put it squarely in the Intelligence section, under Genius.  :-)

--posted by Steve

Brain Pickings

Michael Sandler sent me an email about this blog a LONG time ago (thanks Michael!) and it looks like a good resource. This post reviews an intriguing book - The Mind - a collection of essays on the brain and consciousness edited by John Brockman. I haven't purchased the book yet but the list of authors is impressive: Pinker, Seligman, Gopnik, Haidt, Zimbardo, and Ramachandran! Looks great, and this blog might be another source for good psych stuff!

Brain Pickings

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years ago: a hero on September 11

Durham, 1996: It was my second year teaching AP Psychology and I was still fumbling around,
Circa 1996 in my classroom - John is on the left, I'm in the middle
trying to figure out how to pace the course. Since my creativity to organization ratio is normally 10:1, the classes were fun but not always well structured. I realized this in September when I was reminding the class about a test the following day, and this senior on the front row starts freaking out, looking wildly around the room at this classmates. "Wait, we have a test tomorrow? How did I not know this? Did you know?" His classmates all nodded. "How do I not know what's happening in here?" I remember teasing him about this, but that night I realized that he had a point - the students who were organized could compensate for my chaotic nature, but this student needed more structure.

So I typed out an outline for the next few weeks, with page numbers to read, important topics and quiz/test dates, and the next day in class I proudly handed it to him. "Look, John Cerqueira," I said, "it even has your name on it." It was called the Cerqueira guide, and John beamed proudly, showing it off to his classmates. Of course, every student who saw it wanted one as well, so I made copies for the whole class. It then became a tradition - for every unit we did, the students got a copy of the Cerqueira guide. After John graduated I continued to use the name on the guides, so with every class I got to tell the story of John and taught them how to pronounce the name (sir-KWEHR-uh). Don't say "the guide," don't say "that outline thing," say the Cerqueira guide," I'd tell them.

On September 11, 2001, I was on the 2nd day of a new job. I left teaching after the 1999-200 school year and was a stay at home dad for a year, but I was anxious to get back to work and got a non-teaching job at a school near my house. I found out about the attacks at work and crowded around a TV with my new co-workers as we watched the horrors unfold that morning.

I didn't have any personal connection to 9/11 or so I thought, until the next day when I was reading the USA Today and spotted a name so distinctive I recognized it immediately. John Cerqueira had gone to NC State University, and after graduation landed a job with a telecommunications company in the World Trade Center. He was in a meeting that morning when the first plane hit the tower above him, and he and the others in his office began to climb down from the 81st floor. (I loved the fact that the USA Today reporter noted that John had been "late as usual" and was carrying his breakfast in hand when he arrived at work!)

When John reached the 68th floor, he and his manager, Michael Benfante, noticed a woman in a wheelchair who was crying because she was unable to descend the stairs. The two men grabbed the emergency chair in the stairwell, helped the woman (Tina Henson) into the chair, and resumed their descent. It took the nearly an hour to descend those stairs. When they reached the lobby, it looked nothing like it had earlier that morning: "The lobby is completely destroyed. Turnstiles blown out near the walls, counters cracked in half, doors off hinges, floor to ceiling plate glass windows broken. What captures my attention the most is the desolate West side highway, the thick coat of what looks like a new fallen snow." This was John's description of that moment that he captured in his book, Hero Sandwich.

The men watched as rescue workers put Tina into the back of an ambulance, then they turned to look at the building behind them. They saw flames at the top, and saw the figures of people who had thrown themselves from the top of the tower. Suddenly, the tower itself began to disintegrate, and they had to run for their lives to escape the falling debris. They dove under nearby vehicles and were able to avoid being injured.

John and Michael were featured as heroes on Oprah and on Good Morning America and in People Magazine, and each has written a book about the experience (Michael's is here). Out local TV station has followed John over the years as well and they just aired an update on John for the 10th anniversary. But for me, I'd like to think that John will be remembered in a different way as well. When I returned to teaching AP Psychology in the 2008-09 school year and started to update those old Cerqueira guides, I had a moment when I thought: should I just change the name to a study guide? And then I thought both of John's heroism and his face that day in class, and I thought, no, my students need to know his story. So they continue to be Cerqueira guides, I continue to teach students how to pronounce his name, and I continue to tell the story, starting with "and John, being John, was running late to work that day..."

-- posted by Steve

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Memories of 911

As the anniversary of 9-11 approaches, an article in Scientific American looks at the accuracy of our memories for this tragic day. Psychologists have talked about "flashbulb memories" and many believe that they are accurate representations of our memories for emotional events. This article is an interview with Elizabeth A Phelps, who is the lead investigator of a study looking into the accuracy of 9-11 memories.

Kristin H. Whitlock

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CNS/TBI Neuroskills Newsletter

One of the great things about the internet is the wonderful resources one can find to assist in virtually any aspect of life and adjustments one may be confronted with.  For a few years now, I've been receiving a newsletter put out by a company called Centre for Neuroskills that assists people with traumatic brain injury (TBI).  In addition to patient and family services, they also provide some excellent resources.

Below  is a partial listing from their newsletter:
Brain Injury Information
One external link is to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website about TBI

Following CNS on social media:
Keep up to date with daily breaking TBI research and news, as well as CNS services, products, employment opportunities and educational videos.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Monday, September 5, 2011

Placebo bands, get your red hot placebo bands

If you (like Rob McEntarffer) are big fans of the placebo bands that Rob posted about back in January, you're in luck - they're back in stock! I just placed an order myself and will report back to the blog when mine arrives. I believe it will cure everything that ails me, so I can't wait!

--posted by Steve

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Picking Cotton update, and more on eyewitness memory

Ronald Thompson and Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, now friends (photo from the N&O)
Every teacher has examples that they must use, and I must use the case of Ronald Cotton when teaching about the problems with eyewitness testimony. In 2009 I posted a link to the "60 Minutes" episode featuring the case of Cotton and his accuser Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, and I recently posted on the AP Psychology e-mail list about how I use the case in class. (I'll re-post an edited version of that e-mail in the bottom of this note.)

Today the Raleigh News & Observer had two disturbing articles linked to eyewitness testimony. The first was a story about Ronald Cotton and other North Carolina men who were unjustly convicted of crimes based on faulty eyewitness testimony. I was very sad to see that despite the terrific book that Cotton and Thompson-Cannino co-wrote last year, things have taken a turn for the worse for Cotton. He suffered a stroke in July which resulted in the loss of the full use of his right arm and leg, and he has experienced significant financial setbacks as well. It's so sad to see this turn of events given that things had been so positive for him since he has been released. The other men included in the article who had been also imprisoned for years before being declared innocent have likewise suffered in their reentry to society.

The second article is the first of a series suggesting serious misconduct on the part of the district attorney in Durham, where I live. The focus is on a man who was arrested and convicted of multiple counts including robbery and attempted sexual assault during a home invasion. At one point, the police detain a suspect, bring the victims to the location where the suspect is held, and ask them together if they can identify him as they sit 20 feet away. The victims confirm that he is the perpetrator, despite the fact that he was shorter than their original description, is not carrying the money he allegedly stole, and he is not wearing the hat or bandanna that the person who broke in had been wearing. An appeals court threw out the conviction, in part based on what they refer to as the police's "use of a highly suggestive show-up procedure to identify defendant as the perpetrator of this crime." DNA evidence later cleared the man of the crime.

North Carolina made significant changes to the way that police do lineups in 2007 based in part on the Ronald Cotton case and the infamous Duke lacrosse case, but this "show up" procedure is still allowed. In a 2010 paper to the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (PDF), Michael D. Cicchini and Joseph G. Easton say that this show up procedure "makes already bad evidence even worse, and is even more likely to result in false identifications and wrongful convictions."

As promised, here is how I use the Cotton case in class:

The two videos (13 minutes each) from "60 Minutes" can be found here: (Part 1) (Part 2)

BEFORE you show this, though, I would recommend showing two clips (which also are included in the videos above, in Part 2 I think)  from psychologist Gary Wells at Iowa State. Clip one is a shaky video of someone on the roof of a building, and clip two asks you to select from a lineup the person you saw on the roof in the first clip. This person is suspected of planting a bomb. As you might guess, the person on the roof is not in the actual lineup, but that won’t stop nearly 100% of your students from choosing a person in the lineup. Powerful stuff!

  -- posted by Steve