Wednesday, October 31, 2012


A couple quick Halloween-related links in case anyone is looking for that today:

- slideshow of Halloween related (kinda) visual illusions from Scientific American:

- blogs about the psychology of fear from Psychology Today:

Hope you all have a fun Halloween. Teachers affected by Sandy, we're all thinking of you and sending you good (and dry) vibes.

Anyone dressing up in psych-related costumes for Halloween? Send us pictures and we'll post them!

posted by Rob McEntarffer

You can't see me!

I was excited by this blog post/research summary because I love reading about research with young children. It's often easily replicable and can start great conversations with students.

After reading the article, I'm excited about it for a different reason: I think this might be a very useful example when discussing research methodology. The researchers start with a great research question about why kids cover their eyes when they are trying to hide. Great question! I've always wondered that!

 Their initial sample size is pretty small to begin with (n=37). Students could talk about why the sample size might be small (convenience? consent issues?) but then the participant group gets cut down to 7 (7!) kids who could "
grasp the idea that they could see out, but people couldn't see their eyes." I'd love to know whether these researchers re-thought their process after figuring out that almost all their potential participants couldn't understand their questions. Students could have fun discussing the conclusions from this student (based on the 7 participants) and what they really mean and don't mean.

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Costumes--Dare We Analyze?

I am in my social psychology unit for regular psych and decided to take a look at what was available for analyzing costumes--whether it be for stereotypes or gender or politics.  For this post, I will simply share what I discovered in terms of some examples of what is out there.  Before using any of these with students, I would recommend checking them out yourself first.  Whether it's unleashing a hidden side of yourself or modeling someone you admire or mocking someone you abhor, the costume you wear may say a lot about you and your personality.

Just like projective tests, I would recommend being very cautious using any kind of analysis in class with students.  Perhaps it would be better to have them do the analyzing and the adults guiding them in that pursuit.

Teaching Tolerance--the most school-appropriate item I could find--costume type, gender representation, racial/ethnic or age representation

Psychoanalyzing 10 Popular Halloween Costumes from US News

A Psychoanalysis of Costumes from

Emme Magazine (I had not heard of it either)--a cheeky examination of costumes for women

Arizona Central--Women Rethinking Their Role as Eye-Candy

For Humor--decoding her/his costume (From

Good Girls Go Bad, For a Day

The Glory of Wearing the Same Costume Every Year

Media Analysis--a Cultural Appropriation of Halloween

For those who like stats and lots of data analysis with their economics, there is this Stanford paper

Images courtesy of a with images available for use without copyright protection.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Psychology at NCSS 2012

Photos from
 Are you going to be in Seattle next month? High school psychology will be well represented at the upcoming National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Conference November 16-18. In the list at the bottom of this post you will an amazing lineup of presentations that will be given, with several by THSP moderators (including yours truly).

Dr. Eric Chudler
One highlight of the NCSS Conference for me will be that the NCSS Psychology Community has arranged to have Dr. Eric Chudler as a speaker. As I hope you all know, Dr. Chudler created the Neuroscience for Kids site which is a terrific resource for students of all ages. His talk, "Neuroscience for Kids: Brain Science in the Classroom,” will be Saturday, November 17 at 2:30 pm (PT).

Psychology is well-represented at NCSS this year but it hasn't always been so. The hardworking leaders of the NCSS Psychology Community - including Daria Schaffeld, Jen Schlicht, Sejal Schullo and Joe Geiger - have done a great job in promoting psychology at NCSS. We appreciate their efforts!

One final note for all those attending: there will be a reception for high school psychology teachers from 7-8:30 pm on Saturday night that's co-sponsored by APA/TOPSS and the NCSS Psychology Community. Come join us! More on that event here.

Here are the #NCSS12 presentations for high school psychology teachers - you can also download this list as a Word document here.

  Psychology Test Banks: Not just for tests any more! (Rob McEntarffer)
  Psychology & Social Justice: Activities to Promote Excellence to Equity (Amy Fineburg)
  Interpreting Historical Events Through the Lens of Psychological Science (Kent Korek/Maureen McCarthy)
Poster:  Folded but Not Mutilated: Teaching AP Psychology in One Semester (Beth Scully)
2:15-3:45 House of Delegates Registration   Washington State Convention Center  Ballroom 6E
Psychology: A Window Into the Mind & Behavior (Randy Ernst/Charlie Blair-Broeker)
3:45-5:45 House of Delegates 1st Session   Washington State Convention Center  Ballroom 6E
Connecting Psychology and Sociology Classes Across State Lines (Allison Shaver/Heather Kilgallon)
Poster: Opening Wider a Smaller Window:  Teaching Psych in One Semester (Amy Malin) 
Integrating Literacy and Technology into a Psych Classroom (Maura Gavin)

8:00-10:30  House of Delegates 2nd Session   Washington State Convention Center  Ballroom 6E
My PSYCH Study (Matthew Ferguson)
  Windows to Your Future: Psych Concepts to Strengthen Character (Catherine Jaquith)
Poster: Fun with Freud:  Lessons to Instruct Personality Theory (Sean Tischler)
Not Tacked On: Effectively Incorporating Diversity in Introductory Psych (Steve Jones)
NCSS Psych Community Scholar Strand – Dr. Chudler
NCSS Psychology Community Meeting
  Using Books, Podcasts and Research to Support your Psych Curriculum (Dobkin)

Evening:    7:00-8:30 Social with APA/TOPSS & the NCSS Psychology Community

--posted by Steve

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Marshmallow Study Revisited

I found the article and video below on one of my sociology lists. It calls into question the interpretations made by Walter Mischel and his marshmallow study connecting self-control in children with later success in life.  I've not read the original study, but I'm assuming it was a correlational study in terms of the connection between the ability to distract oneself when a child and later success in life. The doctoral candidate in the video raises some important questions about the role of social environment on decision making.

A colleague (who wished not to have the name posted here) posted this quote and questions on the TEACHSOC listserv on 10/12/2012.  How do children understand or not understand that it's in their best interests to delay gratification?  The replication in the video suggests that there are other trust factors that may go into the decision making of these children and people in general--extending into the sociological realm.
Suddenly, this potentially has much larger implications - for example, how members of a given race/social class may perceive the efforts directed towards them when they've been victimized (or even just let down) by such efforts before. For example, why trust that the police when they've done violence to members of your community? Or why trust a government agency's new policies when the same entity have wronged you in the past? Etc.
This kind of sociological thinking and raising of questions as to the factors can help us as psychology teachers examine human behavior and perhaps make sure we do not fall into oversimplification of conclusions and ideas.

The article is at this link:

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mapping the Brain: Brain Scans-New Amazing Interactive

I just received my newsletter from PBS about NOVA Spark newsletter--available here:

In it, there was a link to an amazing brain scan online tool where the user can choose the brain scan, choose the view, and choose the brain part(s) to be examined.  This is just so cool I could spend a couple of hours just playing around and investigating how and where everything is and connects.  Thank you PBS.

In addition to the scans, you see the different views--coronal, sagittal and axial.

Check it out--very much worth your time.

Posted by Chuck

Whitman Journal of Psychology

I'd love to hear from blog readers about any experiences you have with the Whitman Journal of Psychology. This journal publishes research done and written up by high school students.

I've had a couple students publish their work in this journal (quite a while ago) and it was a great experience for them, but I was never successful at getting students to USE the journal well. It seems like it has a lot of potential for classroom use: these are psychological studies performed and written up by high school students, so we should be able to use the heck out of it when teaching Research Methods, but I had a hard time motivating students to really dive in.

Here's the description of the Journal by the editors:
"The Whitman Journal of Psychology is a non-profit, student-run publication. We collect submissions from high school students around the country and publish the  most intriguing and well written submissions that we receive. We consider every submission and are always looking for new articles, so we encourage students to submit their work.

Submissions to the Journal are accepted year round.  Experimental Reports and Literature Reviews within the field of psychology will all be considered for publication. The Journal also accepts black and white photo submissions for the cover as well for the inner folds of the current edition. "

Students submit work online, and I suspect your students might have a valuable learning experience getting feedback from the editors (mine did). 

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Comments on teaching psych and statistics

Readers: I need your help ASAP! In preparation for a presentation, I would love some comments from real high school psychology teachers about how you feel about teaching statistics. Love it? Hate it? Need help to do it better? Wish it would just go away? Can't wait to teach it every year?

Go to this link and you'll see a screen like below. Enter YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS where it says "What's your name?" and then enter a comment. (If you don't do that, be sure to enter your e-mail address as past of your comment.)

I need this by Wednesday 10/10.12. Thanks!   Again, the URL is:

-- posted by Steve

Monday, October 8, 2012

Thinking Critically about fMRI data using a dead fish

Studies that rely on fMRI data have always worried me a bit. The findings can be wonderful and very exciting (e.g. female brains are different than male brains! Google is rewiring our brains!) But when I look at the fMRI scans, it sure seems like there are a lot of opportunities for confirmation bias and wishful thinking to creep into these studies, and the media may report on them prematurely and not very responsibly.

This study about what happens when you put a dead Atlantic Salmon into an fMRI machine is funny and potentially important, I think. The potential for "false positives" is high, and the authors talk about the "corrections" that need to be made in the data, but often aren't. The clever folks over at Mind Hacks share this concern.

So the next time one of our students excitedly brings in an article about fMRI results, it might be a great teachable moment about how to think critically about research!

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dang! I told this fib about Watson's sex life for years!

Drat! It turns out that at least one of the stories I told for YEARS about John Watson turns out to be false.

The apocryphal story: John Watson was dismissed from his job at Johns Hopkins "not due to his affair with graduate student Rosalie Raynor, but rather because it was discovered that Watson was conducting research on physiological responses during sexual intercourse."

I can't remember when/where I learned the story (source amnesia!) but I liked talking with students about John Watson's "career arc": from one of the most famous and influential psychologists in the world to a fired professor because of something he might have thought of as "touchy-feely emotional stuff."

This is another good example why we, and our students, should try to think critically about information we find in textbooks. The article documents how this fib entered the lore of psychology and how it was perpetuated. I wonder how many other apocryphal stories are floating around in our books?

By the way, the site this article is from, Advances in the History of Psychology, is a good one! LOTS of historical information that teachers could use to fill in background on our topics.

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Teaching Psychology When You No Longer Teach Psychology

NOTE FROM STEVE: Today's guest post is from Patrick Mattimore ( whose name should be well-known to veteran high school psychology teachers. Pat taught in California for many years prior to moving to Asia as he documents below. I love this post and hope that you will leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Teaching Psychology When You Don’t Teach Psychology

I live in Ho Chi Minh City and teach a variety of test prep classes to Vietnamese students.  I try and work some of psychology’s lessons into my classes even though I am not specifically teaching a psychology course.  For example, recently I used a rumor chain exercise (from the TOPSS activities) to introduce the students to some principles of memory.

From 2009 until earlier this year, I worked in Beijing and taught Chinese lawyers a course in legal reasoning about the American legal system.

At the beginning of each class, I did a reasoning exercise because Chinese lawyers are just as prone to confirmation bias and belief perseverance as everyone else. My goal was to convince the students to investigate problems deeply and to continue asking the next “what if” question.

One exercise I use to induce students to ask questions is intended to develop students’ critical questioning abilities. I tell students a made-up story about the contents of an empty box which I have placed in front of the class. I tell my students that inside the box is an award-winning contest model of a prototypical American high school in 2050, complete with an architect’s plan. Students then ask “yes” and “no” questions in order to attempt to guess the design. I let students guess at the “school’s design” for five minutes or so before revealing to them the empty box.

As they seize upon new information during the activity, guided by other students’ questions and my responses, students are revising their own thinking about the school’s design. Learning to adapt one’s original hypotheses based upon new information is a useful process for laypersons and psychologists alike. My job as teacher is to keep track of students’ questions in order to insure consistent answers.
The follow-up is to get students reflecting upon and discussing their own thinking processes during the activity.

Since many of my Chinese students worked as judges and prosecutors, I also wanted them to know about some basic psychological research so that they understood, for example, that our memories are fallible, leading even confident eyewitnesses to make mistakes. I gave my students a copy of an article I wrote for the San Francisco/Los Angeles Daily Journal, California’s primary legal newspaper. The article is about how a “recovered memory” was used to convict a Boston priest, despite the testimony of memory expert Elizabeth Loftus, which cast doubt upon the alleged victim’s testimony. As a follow-up to that article, students research the California Supreme Court case of Taus v. Loftus, which involves the legal issue of right to privacy, tying it to Taus’ supposed recovered memory.

China and Vietnam’s Criminal Law Codes are undergoing major revisions, but torture is still commonly used to coerce confessions. I want my students to understand why those confessions are inherently unreliable, findings directly related to the work of social psychologist Richard Ofshe.

With my Vietnamese students who intend to study or work in English-speaking countries, I am most interested in getting them to speak English since usually their English comprehension is already pretty good. One of the keys I’ve found to helping those students speak is role-playing, similar to what therapists might do to get patients to break down boundaries. My motto is speak before you think.

Another of psychology’s lessons is that we remember those things best that are most interesting to us.
So, as a homework assignment, I might ask a student to research US universities which she might like to attend or find out about music groups in Vietnam that have incorporated English lyrics in songs and then teach the class the songs.

One way psychologists can give psychology away is to write op-eds for newspapers. For the last nine years, I have been writing op-eds, often about psychological topics. It’s a great way to stay current and educate the public, if not your classes, about psychology.

Here are some suggestions. Write about how social norms can be useful to influence behavior. In China, a major health problem is smoking. There are more smokers in China than anywhere else in the world and it’s estimated that over half of the adult male population smokes and that about 40% of doctors smoke. Smoking is everywhere and is encouraged at social events where bowls of cigarettes are sometimes placed on food tables and cigarettes are a treasured gift. Obviously, since few women smoke, (about 3%) one target of campaigns to wipe out smoking in China can be that gender imbalance which seems to have encouraged males (but not females) to smoke. Here are links to some articles I wrote for Chinese newspapers about that issue.

Teachers can also write about how understanding basic statistical information can help people become better informed citizens. For example, in China the newspapers often report statistical surveys that are based upon poor methodology. Sometimes, policy makers propose new legislation relying on a few vivid anecdotes. When that happens, it’s a good opportunity to highlight the availability heuristic and point out that policies should be based upon data, not drama.

Finally, teachers can interview famous psychologists and let the public know about the important work those people are doing. Here’s a link to an interview I had with Dr. Phil Zimbardo that was published by China Daily Online.

Most psychology teachers want their students to absorb and apply psychology’s lessons when they leave their classrooms. When psychology teachers enter new fields, they should bring psychology with them too.

--posted by Steve