Thursday, January 31, 2013

NY Times Articles: Myths of Weight Loss, Alzheimers, and DSM V

Several articles on the NY Times website may be of interest.

MYTHS OF WEIGHTLOSS: This, from the wellblog describes an article published in one of the world's most well-respected medical journals, the New England Journal of medicine identifying several weight loss myths.  Its a quick read, with a  useful reminders to students about research design and the potential pitfalls when publishers don't remember correlation does not prove causation.

ANTICIPATING ALZHEIMERS and MEMORY LOSS: Waiting for the Forgetting to Begin, also a well-blog article describing degenerative process of memory loss in a neurologist, whose father had Alzheimers, is a powerful and interesting article that makes me interested in reading the authors book, publication date 2013. 

In follow-up to Kristin's posting about DSM V, there are also articles discussing the changes in grief and explaining mild neurocognitive disorder.

If you don't already subscribe, the SCIENCE TIMES podcast is great to add to your list of things to listen when you have a moment....

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Social Isolation-One Family's Story

You have a belief system and way of life that makes you distrust outsiders due to a political purge.  You live a harsh life in the forest and scavenge daily to feed yourself and your family of 5.  Without hunting or building equipment, you figure out how to create a "home" and hunt barefoot in the snow but mostly eat grasses, berries and bark.  The only people you've seen for 40 years are your family members.  How do you react to strangers and the new innovations they bring?  Would you embrace or reject the things and ideas they brought?

A student sent me a link to this article today.  It's from Smithsonian Magazine about a family in remote Russia that was so far removed from society for over 40 years that they were not even aware that World War II had occurred.  I will not attempt to do the story justice here, just check out the article.  There is also a link to a Russian documentary about their lives at the end of the article.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Monday, January 28, 2013

The DSM V is complete!

It looks like the LONG-AWAITED DSM V is done!  Check out this Scientific American article concerning the updates to the DSM V.  It looks like it is scheduled to be released May 2013.  I'm not sure... I'll believe it, when I see it! :)

The Newest Edition of Psychiatry’s “Bible,” the DSM-5, Is Complete


Kristin H. Whitlock

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Color, Advertising and Psychology

I've always had students question me about the psychology of color, but I've never had any resources.  Today, while reading tweets, I ran across this article (which I retweeted, of course):

It's an infographic that illustrates and describes the meanings of colors and how they are used with particular products.  If this is accurate, it is very cool.  If anyone has other resources, please share in the comments section.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Dartmouth psychology chair replies

The following is a statement from Dr. Jay Hull, chair of the psychology department at Dartmouth. (If you're just catching up, see posts one and two about this issue.)

I asked Dr. Hull to reply to some specific questions I had about the views of the psychology department at Dartmouth. I am not interested in whether Dartmouth should stop giving credit for AP scores or any other issue - I think that's entirely that school's decision to make. But since all of the articles I've read have specifically pointed to students who made a 5 on the AP Psychology exam not performing to the standards of the psychology department, I wanted to hear directly from someone there. Dr. Hull was gracious enough to send the response below in reply to my questions.

From Dr. Hull:

First, note that this was not a scientific study.  Nor did we intend it for public consumption.  Indeed, we did not even intend these data to inform decision making at the college regarding AP credit in general.  We simply collected these data to inform our own departmental decision making regarding whether to give Advanced Placement credit for Introductory Psychology. 

We took three years of introductory psychology tests taken by Dartmouth students.

Each year has three terms of exams (we offer Introductory Psychology in the fall, winter, and spring terms).  Each term has 4 exams (each exam over about one quarter of the material) plus a comprehensive final exam.  Each exam has 50 questions.  So, we ask 250 questions per course and 750 questions per year (although many of the latter are redundant – we don’t give the exams back to students and we do re-use questions). 

Exams are over both lecture and book material.  We combined the exams in a single year,  discarded lecture based questions, discarded redundant textbook questions, discarded (a very few) questions flagged as bad questions by the faculty, and then randomly selected questions from the resultant pool.  A score of 68% was required to pass.

This procedure was then repeated for three years.

Year 1:
    97 questions
    89 students with AP Psych scores of 5
    7 passed (8%)
    Mean score = 57%

Year 2:
    97 questions
    93 students with AP Psych scores of 5
    8 passed (9%)
    Mean score = 56%

Year 3:
    80 questions
    26 students
    5 passed (19%)
    Mean score = 65%

208 students took it
20 passed (9.6%)

Keep in mind:
1.    These tests were based on tests given to Dartmouth students in a Dartmouth course. 
a.    We use a high level textbook (Gleitman; Gazzaniga & Heatherton) whereas high school AP courses typically use a general level textbook (Myers).
b.    We are a Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and our textbook selection reflects this.  This is appropriate for our majors, but probably not true of AP courses.
c.    The difficulty of the questions used in our test reflects the difficulty of the questions chosen by our faculty for testing knowledge of students in our courses – i.e., we did not randomly select from a test bank pool provided by the publisher, but rather from a pool of items used by our professors in our courses.
d.    It is out impression that students often take AP Psych courses earlier than other AP courses (Calculus) and may have forgotten the material after 2-3 years.

Finally, note that students who got an AP Psych score of 5, who fail our exam, and who subsequently take our introductory course do not do better than those without an AP course.  Although  a null effect, this is at least consistent with the notion that our exam is not unduly strict.  In other words, it does not seem to screen out students who have mastered the material in a way that makes our introductory psychology course easier for them.

This is Steve again. If you have thoughts about this reply, I'd encourage you to post them in the comments below.

--posted by Steve

Monday, January 21, 2013

More on Dartmouth and AP Psychology

To update you on the Dartmouth and AP Psychology story:

Dr. Jay Hull of Dartmouth was kind enough to provide answers for several of the questions I posed to him about the performance of students who scored a 5 on the AP Psychology exam. I will post his answers later the week.

First, I contacted Trevor Packer, who you may know as the College Board's vice president for the AP Progream, and asked him for his thoughts. He gave me permission to post his comments in full below. I began by asking him if he could share the data that the College Board had about AP and Dartmouth:


Absolutely. Here is the link:

Table 1 shows the number of Dartmouth students as well as the students from the other participating institutions (Cornell, Stanford, UCLA, etc.).

Table 2 shows the outcomes for the AP Psych students in the sequent college Psych course in comparison to the non-AP students, with and without controlling for SAT scores.

Appendix A provides the titles of Dartmouth's intro and sequent psychology courses that yielded the data about AP and non-AP student performance.

There are many possible explanations for the differences between these findings and the "experiment" on AP Psych students that is being anecdotally reported. None of these possible explanations support using Dartmouth's AP Psychology experiment as evidence for the highly problematic and unsupported claim that AP Psychology course curricula and assessments are not college level:

1. Is Dartmouth's Intro Psych course so different from what is valued by other highly selective institutions that by aggregating Dartmouth students with other institutions' students, this study failed to detect differences between Dartmouth and other highly selective institutions in outcomes for AP Psych students?

2. Has Dartmouth changed its Intro Psych course so significantly since the mid-90s when this study was conducted that the results from this study would not be applicable now?

3. Did the design of Dartmouth's "experiment" fail to control for time and order effects? For Dartmouth's experiment to yield any valid claims about AP vs Dartmouth's intro course, the same "condensed Dartmouth exam" would need to be administered to Dartmouth students following the same time elapse between when the AP students completed the AP course and then took the Dartmouth exam: 4 months, 16 months, and 28 months. Only by controlling for these effects would it be possible to claim that AP students had not achieved the same level of learning as students taking Dartmouth's Intro Psych course.

4. Did the sampling of questions in the "condensed Dartmouth exam" focus too narrowly on a recent unit, or did it cover the full range of knowledge and skills taught in the course?

5. It is not valid to infer from this AP Psychology experiment that a unilateral elimination of AP opportunities for students in the 30 other AP subject areas is warranted by data and evidence.

So if Dartmouth wants to achieve a goal of keeping students on campus for a minimum of 4 years, it is ostensibly their right to eliminate AP credit policies. But we object firmly to any attempt by individuals there to deflect the ire of students and parents over this proposed policy by blaming AP Psychology teachers for not being able to teach a college-level course. I feel deep obligation to remind Dartmouth and the public that 5,800 college professors -- including Dartmouth's own faculty who have worked in particular on AP Computer Science, AP Environmental Science, and AP Physics -- have staked their professional reputation, skill, and credibility on the claim that they have designed and scored AP Exams to the same standards as their own institutions meet.

Many of these faculty are speaking out against the claims a Dartmouth professor has made that the work so many professors have done together to define college-level standards, approve college-level syllabi, and assign scores representing college-level performance is not actually college level. They've made the following statement:

The design process for AP Psychology as well as the audit ensure that the curriculum design is college level. But this does not guarantee quality of instruction. So the exam design and scoring standards, set by college professors, ensure that the learning outcomes are attained before credit and placement are granted. This is what the Morgan/Klaric study shows.

More recent studies continue to affirm the validity of AP scores for credit and placement:

Trevor Packer


-- posted by Steve

Professional development awards deadline approaches

 I wanted to remind you all of the deadline that's fast approaching for TOPSS members to apply for up to $500 of professional development money that's available from APF to attend a wide variety of conferences in the next year. When's the deadline? FEBRUARY 1 - that's just around the corner!

Here are the details you need:

Applicants must currently teach at least one high school psychology course and expect to teach psychology in the following academic year.  Applicants must be high school teacher affiliates of the American Psychological Association (high school teacher affiliates are automatically members of the APA Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS).

If you are not a TOPSS member, join today at this link.

Conferences for which funding can be applied should take place between March 2013 and February 2014. Applicants must use funding to attend one of the following conferences:
Funds can be used to offset costs of travel, conference registration and housing accommodations. Applicants must provide a budget for conference costs.

If you are, go here:

--posted by Steve

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dartmouth and AP Psychology

You may have heard this week that Dartmouth College has announced that starting with its class of 2018 (those who enroll in the fall of 2014) it will no longer give course credit for any score on any AP test.

What you may not know is that much of the blame is being directed by Dartmouth at the AP Psychology exam. Specifically, members of the psychology department have been concerned that incoming Dartmouth students who passed the AP Psych exam with a 5 (and who presumably received credit for Psych 1) were not succeeding academically as expected.

So they had those students take a "condensed version" of Dartmouth's Psych 1 final exam, and according to Dartmouth, 90% of the students who had scored a 5 failed Dartmouth's test. What's more, Dartmouth claims that those students who failed the test and then proceeded to take Psych 1 did no better than students who had never taken AP Psychology.


Obviously, this is of concern. On the other hand, if you're like me, you're struggling to figure out what this really means. You probably have a lot of questions and want to see the data, right? As do I - and so on Friday I contacted the chair of the Dartmouth psychology department, Dr. Jay Hull, and asked if I could interview him by e-mail to get some specifics about this decision. He has agreed. The questions have been sent, and when I get the answers, I'll follow up with another post.

In the meantime, please share your comments and questions below. I would love for Dr. Hull (and other psychologists from Dartmouth) to see what real high school psychology teachers feel about this decision.

 --posted by Steve

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Secret to Better Sleep: An Infographic

As I get older, my sleep patterns keep changing and I am finding that a complete night's sleep is very elusive.  Sometimes I have early sleep, some time awake and some late sleep.  Napping is always a welcome part of my day.  I receive a daily email about infographics.  A recent one is below (  You can find/subscribe to them here:  In an upcoming post, I will share some online tools to creating your own infographics.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The latest troubling news about US education

News about how US students perform poorly compared to their counterparts has emerged again, only this time from The Onion: (click here if you don't see the embedded video below)

Ten Percent Of U.S. High School Students Graduating Without Basic Object Permanence Skills

WWPT? (What would Piaget think?)
--posted by Steve

Research Methods Graphic Organizers

The good folks at the Society for the Teaching of Psychology posted an interesting new resource recently: A series of Graphic Organizers for the Research Methods unit. I think they are really well done: clear and comprehensive, and they might help some students figure out how all the disparate concepts/terms in the methods chapter "go together."

The graphic organizers include: Descriptive Statistics, Inferential Statistics (with a cool "decision tree!), and Research Methods in Psychological Science. Alexis Grosofsky from Beloit College put these together (thanks Alexis!)

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Saturday, January 5, 2013

How psychology can fix our government

Hello THSP readers! I hope you all have enjoyed as lovely a holiday break as I did, and I am slowly getting back into both teaching and blogging modes. Hope you enjoy the video below! --Steve

I wanted to share this excellent TED talk with you by Diane Halpern. She is the McElwee Family Professor of Psychology and Roberts Fellow at Claremont McKenna College, but Diane is also a former president of the APA and a great friend of high school psychology, having served as a faculty adviser to the TOPSS board. In addition, she is the co-author (with Michael Gazzaniga and Todd Heatherton) of a terrific intro psych textbook, Psychological Science.

This TED talk is very timely and a great way for us to show students how psychological principles can (and should) be used in the real world. Diane's talk is completely in keeping with the APA's mission: "to advance psychology as a science, a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare." This is an excellent way of doing just that! (If you cannot see the video embedded below, click here.)

--posted by Steve