Wednesday, February 27, 2013

THSP Surpasses One Million Views

The Teaching High School Psychology Blog is four years old--we began in February of 2009 with just three of us blogging.  We've added several members to the team and continue to grow.  We've posted 876 blog entries.  Our regular contributors have included:

  • Steve Jones
  • Kent Korek
  • Chuck Schallhorn
  • Rob McEntarffer
  • Kirstin Whitlock
  • Nancy Diehl

along with several guest bloggers

Sometime in the past month, this blog went over the one million views mark.  That represents the number of pages on this blog that someone has viewed.

To our readers and contributors, the team of bloggers here gives you our profound thanks.  We strive to share relevant and quality ideas and teaching resources.

posted by Chuck

Support David Myers and the hearing loop movement

If you teach psychology, and particularly high school psychology, you are no doubt very familiar with David Myers. Even if you don't use one of his textbooks, you know the name and the dedication and support he has given to high school psychology teachers. I have used his books for years and on the first day of my classes I always introduce him to the students as if he is my co-instructor. Throughout the year I always select passages written by Myers from the text and ask students to comment and reflect on the passage - it's not "what does this term or concept mean for the AP test," but rather "how is David Myers getting us to think in new ways about this term or concept."

One of my favorite moments every year is on Day Two, when students come in and we talk about the content they read the previous night. And every year the same thing happens: without my prompting, a student will say "You know, I really enjoyed reading last night. It was like the author was talking to me." This, of course, is followed by a collective nodding of heads and yeah-me-toos all around the classroom.

So when I heard about the project above it was a no-brainer: could I support a movement that David Myers was behind that was a terrific way to blend psychology with social action? Definitely. I would encourage you all to visit the Oticon page to vote for David Myers.

-- posted by Steve

Monday, February 25, 2013

Step Inside the Real World of Compulsive Hoarders

Many of our students are watching programs about hoarding, such as Hoarders on A&E and Hoarding:  Buried Alive on TLC.  This Scientific American article, Step Inside the Real World of Compulsive Hoarders, discusses how recent research has changed how mental health professionals diagnose and treat those who hoard.  In the DSM-IV-TR, hoarding was linked to OCD.  However, research has demonstrated that OCD is both genetically and neurologically distinct from hoarding.  It is reported that hoarding may be genetically recessive whereas OCD is dominant.  In addition, thoughts about hoarding are not unpleasant or intrusive, where OCD sufferers find their obsessive thinking to be both.  Reportedly hoarding will be considered a disorder unlinked to OCD in the DSM V scheduled to be released this May.  Read more at:

Kristin H. Whitlock

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Replication and Psychology: Show me the Data!

During the research methods unit, we often talk with students about "replication" being a final step in the scientific method. One issue I never thought much about is: how often do researchers actually try to replicate each others' results?

Brian Nosek from the University of Virginia is shouldering this considerable task. He and others are working on "The Reproducibility Project," and they are going to try to replicate every study published in three psychology journals over one year.

It's a big project, and it will be fascinating to see how it works out. Replication is a vital "check" that can help prevent fale reports (like the odd, sad case of Diederik Stapel) and can help refine theories through better operational definitions and more specific findings.

We psychology teachers have an opportunity: in many sciences, students have to wait until grad school until they have the training and access to equipment that can replicate important studies. But in psychology, our high school students might be able to do it! Some social psychology, memory, and other studies could be replicated with effort and care in high school settings. What if we could help complete this "science loop?" What if some of our students were able to identify an important nuance of  an operational definition? This could be a "shortcut" route into an great research project for students - instead of developing their own hypothesis/literature review/etc., students could "adopt" the first part of someone else's study and see if they can replicate their findings.

image credit:

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines 2013

Last year I posted about the Valentines my students made that were related to the brain, and I'm back with this year's version - Valentines related to the eye. I only have a few seconds to post so I'll just share this delightful one.

Happy Valentine's Day!
---posted by Steve

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

BAM! WAP! KA-POW! Take THAT, poor research methodology!

Librarians Assemble! Carol Tilley, media literacy professor at the University of Illinois, looked at the archival data from a study done by Psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, and figured out that his own data didn't support the conclusions he presented to the U.S. Senate!

This was back in the ol' days when comic books didn't have a great reputation Wertham told the Senate that comics might contribute to increases in violence, drug use, and "sexual deviancy" (as he defined it). 

Enter our hero: Carol Tilley swoops in and uses her super-archivist powers to look at Wetham's original case study notes and finds that he often didn't have much if any data to support his dramatic conclusions. POW! Take that, bad science!

Psychology teachers could use this as a compelling example of the importance of responsible data use by psychologists, and that research should be re-examined and continually peer-reviewed, especially when dealing with case study and other qualitative research that might be easily misrepresented. 

Look! Up in the sky! It's a librarian! It's a critical thinker! It's super-heroine Carol Tilley! 

image credit:
posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to teach introverts

I swear - if I had the time and energy, I'd write a book with the title of this post. (Although I suspect that my colleague Chuck might beat me to it, given his post last year about being an introvert.) It took me a long time to realize that I was one, and having two introverted daughters has made me really think about the best way to raise and teach them.

So I was really bothered - angered, bewildered, irritated, pissed - when I read this article Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up at School in The Atlantic. The author, Jessica Fahey, is a middle-school teacher who has apparently spent a lot of time recently learning about introverts, but still believes that students should be graded on class participation. What stuns me about this is that she apparently believes that verbal class participation and class participation are the same thing. Wow. In 2013? There are so many ways to measure how students are participating in class that don't involve speaking aloud in class - paying attention, participating in activities, collaborating in groups, writing short responses, etc. (I'm also guessing my colleague Rob would ask why she was grading on participation instead of what they know.)

And for goodness sakes - why not take advantage of digital ways to participate? Have the students create a blog and have other students comment on the blog. Create an online forum and have students create original posts and reply to others' posts. Use an online discussion board (like my favorite, and have the students discuss (via keyboard) the videos we were watching or the current events topics we were learning about. Have students make a Pinterest board compilation of images and videos on what you are learning. Tweet about what you are learning, or collect tweets from others who are talking about that topic. Create an online review quiz and have students electronically enter their answers to the review questions in teams around them room (using sites like And on and on ...

I was heartened to read this afternoon that Susan Cain (author of Quiet) wrote a reply to Fahey's article ("Help Shy Kids, Don't Punish Them") and I was even more pleased when I saw that one of Cain's suggestions was to use social media. Her article also has several other great practical suggestions for teachers. I also just spotted another reply by professor Katherine Schultz in the Washington Post ("Why introverts shouldn’t be forced to talk in class") which focuses on the importance of silence in the classroom.

The final thing I'd say is this: high school is one of the last times students are given so few options to do what they love and avoid what they hate. Once they graduate, they can choose to attend college, go into the military or go straight to work. When they enter the work force, they can choose the kinds of jobs they do. They can choose paths that allow them to maximize what works for them and minimize what doesn't work. If they don't want to work with large numbers of people or speak in large groups, they don't have to - and, as the image at the top suggests, they don't need to feel bad about it either.

Middle school is hard enough. Do we as teachers have to make introverted kids feel like crap *inside* the classroom because they don't meet our imposed standards? I would love to know how you feel about teaching introverts - what works for you? Where do you struggle? And if you think I'm completely loony about this, let me know that too!

--posted by Steve

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Tragic example of perception gone wrong

When I read the book Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons I was struck by the story of Kenny Conley, the Boston police officer who failed to notice a brutal assault while he was chasing a suspect. Conley later testified that he simply did not see the assault because he was focused on the suspect he was chasing, but a jury did not believed him, convicting him of perjury (which was later revered on appeal). Chabris and Simons did a very clever experiment modeled on Conley's experience and - well, let's just say that their experiment supported the real life experience. (Their research is available here and is an ideal short research paper to use with your students.)
Photo via the Los Angeles Times
What made me think about this was reading another story this morning about police who made another kind of perceptual mistake: misidentifying innocent people as a wanted criminal, and opening fire on them. Police in Los Angeles were hunting for an ex-cop who had allegedly killed one officer and perhaps others, and a number of officers were stationed near the home of a high-ranking police official whom they believed may be the next target of the ex-cop.

This Los Angeles Times article then describes how it went very wrong:

The officers' radio crackled with an urgent warning: He could be coming your way.
It was around 5 a.m. in Torrance on Thursday and police from nearby El Segundo had seen a pickup truck exit a freeway and head in the general direction of the Redbeam Avenue residence of a high-ranking Los Angeles police official, which was being guarded by a group of LAPD officers.
Police were on the lookout for Christopher Jordan Dorner, a disgruntled ex-cop suspected of hunting down members of the LAPD and their families in a twisted campaign of revenge. The radio call indicated that the truck matched the description of Dorner's gray Nissan Titan.
A few minutes later, a truck slowly rolled down the quiet residential street.
As the vehicle approached the house, officers opened fire, unloading a barrage of bullets into the back of the truck. When the shooting stopped, they quickly realized their mistake. The truck was not a Nissan Titan, but a Toyota Tacoma. The color wasn't gray, but aqua blue. And it wasn't Dorner inside the truck, but a woman and her mother delivering copies of the Los Angeles Times.
It sounds like a case of perceptual set, where the officers were told what they were about to see and despite the differences in the actual vehicle and the one they were expecting. I also supposed that because they were under enormous pressure (and still are) to find this former cop they were quick to act first rather than carefully verifying what they were seeing.

I realize that the reaction of the public will probably be like that of the neighbor quoted in the article who asks how the police could have mistake two Hispanic women for one African-American male. But I suspect that students of perception could see how this tragedy could have happened. Sometimes when you're looking for a gorilla, anything that's ape-like might seem to fit the bill.

--posted by Steve

Friday, February 8, 2013

"Making Children Smarter" - what does that really mean?

A post by (the consistently wonderful) Daniel Willingham called "How to Make a Young Child Smarter" got me thinking about this popular combination of developmental and intelligence theory.

In his post, Dr. Willingham summarizes findings from a paper by Protzko, Aronson, and Blair (2013). Willingham talks about highlights of the paper, including findings about the benefits of some ingredients in infant formula, interactive reading with adults, and preschool. Interesting findings that could be used in class discussions about intelligence development.

But these findings make me wonder about what we might mean by "smarter": Protzko, Aronson, and Blair use IQ tests to operationalize intelligence, but we're hearing more an more convincing (to me) evidence that whatever IQ measures might not be incredibly important in how we might all define "school success."

Some of the other dimensions of this issue:

  •  Carol Dweck's incredible book, Mindset, offers a convincing argument that abilities are NOT fixed at birth (or any other time), and changing the ways we think about ability might be one of the most important changes we can make to increase success. 
  • Paul Tough's amazing book, How Children Succeed, builds on and expands Dweck's idea to include what he calls "character" and "grit" - which combine elements of resilience  emotional intelligence, and deferred gratification. He offers convincing evidence that these elements and childhood stress should be the focus of interventions, not "making kids smarter." 
  • Our textbooks usually include Multiple Intelligence theories (like Gardner or Sternberg) and these theories have profound implications. Can/should we even talk about "smarter" if we believe that intelligence isn't one "thing" as measured by IQ tests? 
The fact that the question "how do we make kids smarter" keeps getting asked reveals something about our "default" ways of thinking about intelligence. In our classes, maybe we can help our students think about intelligence in more complex ways so that we can actually make some progress beyond singular, simplistic mindsets about what it means to be "smart." 

picture credit:

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Stats - not awful or boring!

I received an email this morning from Jessica Hartnett *(Gannon University) about a blog she started called "Not Awful and Boring." Nice looking blog, and I loved several of the recent posts (the stats paraphernalia on Etsy is really cute :)

I don't meet many psych teachers who say that the stats section of the book is their favorite one to teach (sometimes the reaction is closer to "running in terror") and I think that's a shame. Stats is an opportunity for us to show students real, practical, and important applications of the math they've been learning for years, and understanding some basic statistics is increasingly important - if we don't know what "statistically significant" means, it's darn hard to really understand what most psychological studies mean! If we want our students to leave our classes able to interpret claims they see in media, then we need to take stats instruction seriously, right?

I've been using a dice-rolling demonstration lately to help students understand frequency distributions and statistical significance, and it seems to work well (if any of you use it, please tell me how it goes?) TOPSS published a Stats Unit Plan a while back, and it's good stuff.

Thanks for the resource, Jessica!

image credit:

posted by Rob McEntarfer

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

10 Unsolved Mysteries of the Brain

I love reading David Eagleman's summaries of brain research. We've posted about Eagleman's work several times before (on the Colbert Report, Twitter invitations to participate in research, and his book Incognito). He combines a deep knowledge of brain research along with an author's artistic sensibility about how to communicate that research effectively (in my opinion).

Recently I stumbled across this old (6 years ago!) blog post he did for Discover Magazine: "10 Unsolved Mysteries Of The Brain" The "mysteries" he lists are still provocative to me (I never thought about what the baseline activity of the brain might represent before) and this list might be the basis on interesting classroom research: could students look at more current research and think about whether or not any progress has been made on these "mysteries" in the past 6 years? They could even be brave and write to Eagleman - I wouldn't be surprised if they got a response! We often talk about how quickly brain research moves and changes - this activity might SHOW that (or not!)

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bullying as a Rational Choice

This morning I was reading through my Facebook feed--a title really jumped out at me: "Bullying: A Rational Choice."  Having a friend who teaches economics, I hear the term "rational choice" quite a bit, as that is apparently how economists view choices people make for their economic models.

Anyway, I read through the blog post and it stunned me.  There is a compelling argument that is made about the origins of bullying and how it represents a social bonding experience related to conformity (increasing oxytocin), in-groups and out-groups.  Fascinating.  I would imagine that sharing such an article with your kids would yield some insights as well.

BrainBlogger Home Page:

Bullying Post:

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Friday, February 1, 2013

Miracle Berry Tables (discount offer) and Famous Psychologist Review

Miracle Berries are a welcome addition to sensation/perception units as one of many engaging activities. A few years ago, Kent Korek and Bill James posted a brief description and link to a classroom activity.

As holidays and the AP exam approaches, class time can be limited. This combination of review of research design, taste, and famous psychologist, or "speed dating" received rave reviews from students.  Based on ideas on the package and inserts, each student brought a food to taste. With a pre-test post-test design, students socialized (baseline food tasting in character), then had the miracle berry tablet, more formal three minute "dates," followed by the post-miracle berry food tasting.  Food as suggested on the package included lemons, limes, strawberries, cheese, pickles, tomatoes, etc.

There are several different brands of the tablets and the cost can be an issue for classroom use at about $15/box of 10. Most students find a strong effect with half a tablet.

David Fong of mberry, offered THSP readers a 40% discount so the cost would be $9/box, thank you David! Just contact him directly for purchase at the discounted price.

David Fong
Vice President of Sales and Marketing
681 W Wildhorse Dr, Chandler, Arizona 85286
(480) 248-9962 | |

Wishing you good health, peace, prosperity, and sweetness in the upcoming year of the snake!

Blindness From a Kid's Perspective

A colleague shared this video with the staff--it features students from a variety of backgrounds who are visually-impaired or blind (one of whom goes to our school).  They describe their experiences regarding vision and interactions with others.  As is often the case, these kids provide excellent insight and wisdom into their physical differences and existences.  Comments included topics such as feeling left out, asking questions in class, personal experiences with surgery, physical differences that the kids have, causes of blindness, bullying, capabilities, friendships, life at home, expectations from parents and teachers, friendships, integrating into regular school life, and much more.

The entire episode is 22 minutes, but worth viewing.  The source is "Nick News" on the Nickelodeon Channel. is the direct link to the page.

Nick News: "Out of Sight"
We get to know some of the approximately 60,000 US kids who tackle the challenge of living without sight every day, every moment.

Nick News: "Out of Sight" S1
Get More: Nick News Episodes,Nick News,Nick News Games

posted by Chuck Schallhorn