Friday, December 14, 2012

"Can you get through this entire post WITHOUT feeling itchy?"

I used to do a quick classroom demonstration during the social psychology unit about itching. As I stood in front of the class talking about conformity and obedience, I would start to scratch my head, arm, shoulder, etc. As I talked, I tried to notice how many students succumbed to the "contagious" itching, then I stopped and told them what I was doing and asked them to talk about whether they experienced itches as they watched me itch.

It was a fun and engaging demonstration, but I have to admit that I never really felt confident about the connection (if there is one) between the social psych. principles and the contagiousness of itching. So I was happy to spot this article on the phenomenon: "You scratch, I scratch! The social contagion of itch.

This short article describes research about itch contagion and the brain biology that might explain why we itch when we see others scratch. The next time I do this demonstration, I'll do it in the bio unit I think, and I'll be much better informed.

image credit:

Blog post title is a quote from:

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Friday, December 7, 2012

The NYC subway death and the bystander effect

[I'm in the midst of the end-of-semester crunch, so I was thrilled yesterday to see Michael Britt writing on his Facebook page about the tragic death that occurred on the New York City subway tracks earlier this week. As many of you know, Michael is the former psychology professor who is the genius behind the amazing The Psych Files site that many of us frequently use. So I was delighted that he accepted my offer to do a guest post about this story and whether it is or isn't an example of the bystander effect in action. Take it away Michael!  --Steve]

A Clear Case of the Bystander Effect? 

You may have heard that recently a man was pushed onto the tracks of an oncoming subway train and that no one reached out a hand to help the man get back onto the platform. Not only that, but a photographer snapped a picture of the man as he desperately tried to get back onto the platform. [Here is a link to the photo, which should also appear below.]

Why didn’t anyone help? This real life story has many similarities to the infamous story of Kitty Genovese who was attacked and killed in NYC in the early ‘60s while many people heard her screams but did not help.

Your first reaction might be that of many others who read these stories; that people are callous – especially people who live in cities, or that the photographer was uncaring and more interested in getting a picture that would make him rich than he was in doing the right thing.

Bibb Latane and John Darley, psychologists who studied bystander intervention, might say that this is a clear example of diffusion of responsibility: all the onlookers are shocked, but they’re thinking that someone else – perhaps a police office – will jump in to help.

When we read about a story like this we often think we would not just stand by – we would help. But when things like this happen the chaos and confusion of the situation often make people behave quite differently than they might like.

There is also a connection here to the idea of the fundamental attribution error: our reaction to what the photographer did (or didn’t do) might be to think that he’s “immoral” or “selfish”. We’re attributing his actions to an internal cause – his personality. The photographer, however, attributes his behavior to an external cause – despite what the picture shows, he was actually too far away to help the man.

Here’s another connection to an important concept in psychology: blaming the victim. If you read the full story about the incident you would learn that the victim left home that morning drunk and that police found a bottle of vodka on his body. Learning this, you might say to yourself that maybe he was partly to blame for what happened to him. After all, he shouldn’t have been drunk.

Psychologists would say that we don’t like to think that we too could be victims of something bizarre and somewhat random like what happened here, so we are motivated to blame victims as a way of protecting ourselves from the anxiety involved with thinking that we might be victims ourselves.

It’s a disturbing story, but one worth discussing with students and helping them understand the many different psychological principles that could be applied here.

PS: Here's another wrinkle: the photographer who took the dramatic photo later said that he was not deliberately taking a picture of the man on the tracks anyway. He was flashing his camera in an attempt to alert the conductor that there was something wrong. The pictures that came out of this act were just an accident.

Also, many people on the platform were shouting at the conductor to stop while others ran to the ticket booth to tell that person to contact the conductor to tell him to call the conductor and tell him to stop.

So perhaps people did try to help after all – just not the way we think we would have done if we were there. But what would you really have done in this upsetting situation?

By the way, not everything you read or heard about the famous “Kitty Genovese” story is true. Listen to this episode from The Psych Files podcast: “Kitty Genovese – What Really Happened?” 

[Thanks, Michael!]
--posted by Steve

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

APA/PT@CC/TOPSS videos from the APA convention!

The good folks at the APA/TOPSS shared some GREAT videos recently of the speakers they sponsored at the APA convention last summer. I haven't watched them all yet, but so far they are all clear and VERY usable in a high school psych class. Check out this great line up!

  • Brain Organization for Language: It’s All in the Network(s),” Christine Chiarello, PhD
    This lecture reviews research that identifies which brain regions coordinate activity during language processing and how this activity is modulated by characteristics of the task, language experience and individual differences.
  • Why Students Love Evolutionary Psychology… and How to Teach It,” David Buss, PhD
    This lecture discusses evolutionary psychology — such topics as sexual selection, evolved psychological mechanisms and ultimate and proximate causation — and tools for teaching evolutionary psychology in the classroom.
  • A Letter to Teachers: William James, H. B. Alexander, and Me,” Kenneth D. Keith, PhD
    This lecture explores how scientific literacy, critical thinking, complex cognition and the liberal arts connect to the science of psychology and the art of teaching.
  • Connecting the Dots: How Race in America’s Classrooms Affects Achievement,” Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD
    This lecture presents why honest conversations about race are important, and discusses strategies for teachers and other adults to consider in an effort to reduce stereotype threat and increase trust in cross-racial interactions.
  • Meta-studying: Teaching Metacognitive Strategies to Enhance Student Success,” Elizabeth Yost Hammer, PhD
    This lecture discusses why psychology teachers are uniquely positioned to teach students how to learn, and presents strategies to teach metacognitive skills in the classroom to enhance learning and improve study skills.
  • The Seven Sins of Memory: An Update,” Daniel L. Schacter, PhD
    This lecture discusses recent research and considers recently emerging evidence for the idea that misattribution and other memory sins can be conceived of as byproducts of otherwise adaptive features of memory.
  • Microaggressions in the Classroom: Manifestation, Dynamics and Impact,” Derald Wing Sue, PhD
    This lecture discusses microaggressions and how they relate to difficult dialogues in the classroom that deal with topics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

One heck of a final exam!

Cedar Riener is one of my favorite psych teacher/bloggers, and if you are on Twitter, follow his feed (@criener) and/or read his great blog ( for = great info. He's a thoughtful psych. teacher who comments on teaching pedagogy, psych topics, and he's darn funny and insightful. We've posted about Cedar's experiments with re-organizing his psych class on this blog before.

Cedar recently shared his final exam for his Sensation/Perception class and check out this great set of writing prompts! It's a doozy! I love the variety, and it's a good reminder that the AP Psych Free Response Question isn't the only model we can use when designing written response questions for psych assessments:

"You are welcome to use your own books, notes, and lecture slides, but do not seek or give help to your classmates on this exam.  I strongly suggest that you start early and give yourself ample time to complete it.  Normally, you might spend a certain amount of time studying, and then take a 3 hour exam.  Since this exam is open book, open notes, and untimed, I would expect it to take that time which would combine studying and taking an exam, which would be considerably longer than 3 hours.  I think allotting 8-9 total hours to complete the exam is likely a good estimate.  You may skip one question, leading to a total of 15 questions.
  1. Why is it not quite accurate to say that we have 5 senses? Pick one of your senses and describe how we might consider it more than one sense. Describe two sensory experiences in which it seems that we are experiencing the same sense, but in fact there are separate biological detectors and pathways in the brain.
  2. Compare the processes of transduction for hearing and for taste.  How are they similar?  How are they different? (2-3 paragraphs)
  3. The first chapter draws the distinction between “perception” and “recognition.”  Describe a time when you “perceived” something without “recognizing” it.  Did you recognize it eventually? Use some of the knowledge you have learned in this class to apply to your recognition process in this case.  (2 paragraphs)
  4. Our perception of color is similar in many ways to our perception of pitch.  Describe at least 4 similarities and 4 differences between these two different perceptual dimensions (and no, the fact that one is seen and the other is heard does not count as a difference).    Focus on both the physical qualities of the energy in the world, as well as the biological and psychological aspects of the sensations and perceptions. (3-4 paragraphs)
  5. Watch the video of the cheetah running here:  Describe the optic flow field for this cheetah. Why might it be advantageous to the cheetah (considering again the optic flow field) to hold its head as steady as it does? Compare the optic flow field of the cheetah running to that of a human running. What might be different between the two? Use elements of the optic flow field from the book and those that you’ve learned in class.
  6. Take the Magic School Bus book and make your own set of full facing pages (two pages in the book).  They should include two little lined notebook pages, with fun facts, and text in the style of the rest of the book.  To give you some idea, I think we have covered a fair amount between pages 15 and 17 (more on rods and cones, or receptor activity in the retina) that you could fill in, or after page 19 (depth perception?  Object perception?), or you could fill in our spatial localization of sounds (the headphones and ringing bells demonstration), or something on speech.  You get the idea.  I would prefer that you draw yourself, but you are welcome to use computer collage techniques, but do not simply cut and paste from the textbook.  I won’t grade on your artistic ability, but I want you to put some thought into summarizing what you know on a topic and putting it into an accessible and fun format.
  7. Draw a figure explaining how lateral inhibition leads to Mach bands.  Draw a neural diagram that would NOT result in our perception of Mach bands.   Which two kinds of cells in the retina, if removed, would lead to a reduction of lateral inhibition?  (2 drawings, and two words)
  8. Why is the sky blue? Without getting into more detail than the physics of light that we have described in class, why do we see the sky as blue? Describe the wavelengths of light and the relative activity of photoreceptors. How is this related to the pictorial depth cue of atmospheric perspective?
  9. Pick a photograph from the National Geographic Photo Contest at the following website: or from the selections at this website: For this photograph pick four (4) pictorial depth cues and describe how they help to arrange the objects in depth. Also, describe the depth of field in the photograph, how depth of field is changed in a camera, and how it is different for our eyes (2 paragraphs)
  10. Pick another photograph from one of those sites and describe how 4 Gestalt principles of perceptual organization apply to specific elements of the photograph. (1 paragraph, at least 4 sentences)
  11. In one movie clip shown in class describing an experiment by Dan Simons, an unknowing participant was asked for directions.  While they were giving the directions, the person listening to the directions was changed, and the directions-giver did not notice.  This video shows another example of inattentional blindness .  Can you explain this referring to the relative density of cones in the fovea (how tightly the cones are packed) vs. the peripheral retina?   If you can, explain using the density of cones in the fovea.  If not, explain why this happens.
  12. Describe your Thanksgiving dinner, in terms of taste, smell, and flavor.  First, start with the preparation.  How do the smells go from the cooking in the kitchen to your nose, and then to your brain? (describe the pathway in one paragraph)   When you sit down to eat, how do the foods activate your taste buds?   Can you account for the flavor of the food just by the activity of the taste buds?  Let’s say that there is a special family recipe that uses hot sauce to flavor the stuffing.  What kind of receptor activity accounts for the spicy flavor of the stuffing?
  13. Watch the following video:  Describe how this video was made (you may google, but also use concepts covered in class).  Is this real motion?  Is anything on TV motion?  How is this video similar to a normal TV show, in terms of the process of visual perception of motion? (2-3 paragraphs)
  14. Below is an illusion of brightness.  The front face of the words “black” and “white” are each the same color (they are shown to the right without the rest of the picture).  How does this illusion work?  You may want to make a drawing and refer to luminance, illumination, and reflectance.
  15. What was your favorite demonstration, movie, or activity from the class?  How did the particular aspects of this demonstration illustrate the relevant concept (please be specific)?
  16. Briefly describe what you learned from your favorite student presentation.   What made this presentation or topic particularly interesting or memorable?  (1 paragraph – 5-6 sentences)"

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fraud Detectives!

This blog post and video about "The Legendary Dr. Fox Lecture" got me thinking about the general topic of fraud detection, and how it might be used in an intro psych class.

The Legendary Dr Fox Lecture - Footage Found!

In this demonstration, an actor effectively "fools" a group of medical experts into thinking that he is also a medical expert and maintains the facade over an hour long talk. He based this deception on one scientific american article and one day of preparation.

Much of what we teach in psychology can be helpful when detecting fraud: research methodology, statistical reasoning, compliance techniques, etc. Fraud detection tasks could be great "project based learning" activities: students could find claims of truth and act as "fraud detectives," using all their skills and knowledge to try to test claims of truth, and labeling the psych. concepts they are using along the way.

This Dr. Fox lecture might also be useful when discussing change blindness. There are so many great video examples of change blindness available, and some students start to generalize this very powerful phenomenon to just about every example of errors in perception. The Dr. Fox lecture can be a "test case" - is it an example of change blindness or not?

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Sunday, December 2, 2012


I have so much school work to do, but I am having trouble putting down Oliver Sacks' newest book, Hallucinations.  As only Sacks can, he shares stories and insights into this topic.

I suspect most of us keep the idea of hallucinations within the realm of schizophrenia symptoms and drug use, but there are so many other situations in which these occur.

I cannot possibly do justice to the writing or the stories, so I will simply list some topics he delves into.  If you want examples for class or answers to many of your student questions, you may want to check out this book.

  • references to many literature and historical examples
  • brain-induced hallucinations
  • Charles Bonnet Syndrome 
  • sensory deprivation 
  • wine and smells
  • hearing things, including voices
  • Parkinsons-induced
  • Altered States of Consciousness (including Sacks' own experiences)
  • Visual Migraines (migraines-another topic for another book on my shelf of Dr. Sacks)
  • Epilepsy
  • Hypnagogic imagery and hallucinations on the verge of sleeping/waking
  • Narcolepsy
  • Hallucinating oneself
  • Phantom-limb syndrome and other vestiges of parts gone
This book is just a fascinating journey through many stories about people who have had experiences with so many different types of hallucinations.  If you like questioning reality and examining how it can be different for others, this is definitely a book you will enjoy.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Friday, November 30, 2012

TOPSS joins Facebook

The 2012 TOPSS Committee:(L-R) Emily Leary (APA), Janie Graves, Steve Jones, Tonya Hinton, Caitlin Crowley, Tammy Hughes, Katie Clark, Ken Keith, Jann Longman, Jeannee Blakeslee, Mike Hamilton, Mike McLane
Announcing: the TOPSS Facebook page! I know this doesn't seem like much of a big deal, but for those of use who have been poking and prodding APA to get involved with social media this is a huge victory. Kudos to Emily Leary and Caitlin Crowley of the APA for helping to make this happen. Please take a moment today to show TOPSS that you are a fan by clicking LIKE on the page!

--posted by Steve

Howie Mandel and OCD

I was looking for some "real people" and not dramatizations of mental illness and ran across this about comedian/host Howie Mandel and his battle with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

As an aside, in class, I avoid dramatizations and prefer to use documentaries.  To me, that creates a more realistic and accurate picture of the complexities of the disorders rather than one actor's interpretation.

This link will take you to other interviews with Howie Mandel:

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Summer Research Opportunities for HS Students

I was just reading through the new issue of the Psychology Teacher Network on the APA website and found this little nugget of opportunity for our kids.

Here are the links from the web page (

High school student research opportunities

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Like many introverts, I cherish my time alone.  Many of my friends and family have often misunderstood my need to be alone.  The first cartoon is definitely me.  While I have things to say, I often choose not to say them--and I find those who say whatever pops into their head to be quite annoying.  I hate small talk.  I am often overwhelmed by the energy that gets sucked out of me by my more social colleagues and friends.  While I love my job of being an educator, I need time to recharge.  But my being alone does not mean lonely.

I'm not sure how many psych teachers (or teachers in general) are also introverts, but I've read quite a number of anecdotal stories of actors who are shy/introverted in real life.  In any case, I was thinking about this topic over my Thanksgiving break and decided to share a couple of items.

First is a book about being an introvert.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Second is the Brainpickings recent entry on the book above--it also contains a couple of videos, one is an RSA animation and a TED talk.  I definitely recommend them if you wish to understand introverts.

Additionally, I decided to search for and post some cartoons. I am also enclosing the original links.  I have no intent to violate copyright, but am simply sharing what I have found online.









This cartoon below is quite large and may not fit into your browser window--click on it to see the entire cartoon.


Additional links to introversion and articles about us:

posted by chuck Schallhorn

Friday, November 23, 2012

Report on NCSS, Day Two

[Note from Steve: This is the second of two reports from Arizona psychology teacher Scott Reed about last week's psychology presentations at the National Council for the Social Studies annual convention. If you missed the day one report, please check it out here.]

Reed’s Report of NCSS 2012- Day 2

Saturday also had a strong group of speakers, but did end on a serious note with a report from Randy Ernst to the Psychology Community Meeting.  The CCSSO is an organization that has been working for three years on the plan to incorporate social studies into the Common Core Standards.  They released their initial report, and only history, economics, civics, and geography were mentioned in the report.  Even though psychology fits in very well with the four dimensions of social studies in the report, our subject area was not even mentioned in the six page report.  It is going to be important for teachers and the major organizations (APA, College Board, state boards) to come up with a method to effectively let this group understand the importance of psychological science  to social studies and the development of a well educated student.


Keith Ferguson- My Psych Study
If you have been intimidated like myself in having students do class research, check out the PowerPoint and handouts from Matt Ferguson.  He has two pages of links to websites that have online research as well as a list of many of the research projects his students have done.  I highly recommend you look at his resources, it is exactly what I have been looking for.

Catherine Jaquith – Windows to Your Future: Using Psychology Concepts to Strengthen Character
I have been looking forward to Catherine’s presentation on the VIA Institute of Character survey since I met her at the AP reading. My  AP roommate, Todd Dilbeck, also told me about how great this character assessment is for students and a psychology class.  Catherine’s PowerPoint gives many ways to use the VIA in the classroom.

Steve Jones- Not Tacked On: Effectively Incorporating Diversity in Introductory Psychology 
Steve focused on using as many different outlets throughout the course to show diversity without necessarily focusing on diversity.  He really likes the movies Hoop Dreams and Babies (there is nudity in Babies, so pick clips carefully).  To quote Steve, “White people do not need more movies about white people,” when referring to the movie The Breakfast Club.
Eric Chudler- Featured speaker -Neuroscience for Kids: Brain Science in the classroom
Dr. Chudler of the site Neuroscience for Kids offered his view on many misconceptions of the brain, as well as some of the legal and moral issues that are going to surround the breakthroughs in brain image technology.  Dr. Chudler also announced that about eight high school teachers and additional students are going to have the opportunity to work in his lab this summer. Get more information about this here.

I would encourage you to try the site I have never wanted to invest the time and money in clickers, but this is a good way to get information from your students through their cell phones.  Charlie Blair-Broeker showed us a great way to use Google Docs to not only gather data, but the program also will take the data and make charts without prompt.

Because of the hard work of the Psychology Community, NCSS is a very worthwhile professional development for a full time psychology teacher or someone who teaches just a few sections.
See you in Saint Louis in 2013!

--posted by Steve

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Report on NCSS, Day One


I was one of the fortunate ones to attend the National Council for the Social Studies' Annual Conference (aka NCSS12) in Seattle last week, and I'm still trying to juggle processing all of the terrific presentations that I saw with my "real job" of teaching these last days before the Thanksgiving break.

Fortunately for our THSP readers, though, our colleague Scott Reed from Chandler, Arizona volunteered to do a guest post about his experiences there. His report from Day One is below, and later this week we'll share Day Two with you. If you attended NCSS12, please add your thoughts in the comments below.

 Reed’s Report of NCSS 2012

A special thanks to TOPSS for the grant assisting me in attending my first National Conference on Social Studies in Seattle.  The Psychology Community for NCSS of Jenn Schlicht, Joe Geiger, Sejal Schullo, and Daria Schaffeld put together a tremendous program where there was a psychology speaker during every session during the all day Friday and Saturday conference. The focus of each session was generally geared towards practical applications that would benefit both veteran and new teachers.  There were also socials for psych teachers on both Friday and Saturday to hang out with psych teachers all over the country.

The presenters and committee were gracious enough to post their materials on a Moodle site for others to view.  [Note from Steve: if you are a member of the NCSS Psych community, you can get the access info from Daria Schaffeld - and if you are NOT a member of the community, please e-mail Daria to join. Her e-mail address is:


Rob McEntaffer-  Psychology Test Banks Not Just for Assessments
Rob really emphasized what he called a Table of Specifications to assist teachers in making their tests where they are content valid.  This is a way to make sure you are focusing on the areas you want to in the unit.  He described how he started to allow test corrections and how much this assisted his students.  I am always a skeptic of doing test mastery or test corrections, but Rob is among many that I have heard from who really support this.  He has provided a worksheet to use to show the reflection students must do in order to either get back the points or retest.

Amy Fineburg- Psychology and Social Justice
Amy focused a lot on how to teach to multiple aspects of psychology all at the same time.  This would include looking at social justice during the S and P unit, cognition, memory and others.  This is one of the reasons the APA High School Curriculum know looks like a bullseye instead of a more linear outline.
Tomorrow I am going to focus more on the technology I saw some of the teachers use during their presentations, but Amy insisted that Twitter is such a great tool.  There is a #psychat every Thursday (at 8pm ET).  For Twitter newbies like me, you can go back and look at the chat and the links and ideas after the fact.  I now am dumbfounded that there are a dozen people following me.   I am not sure what they will follow besides my updates on my student born without eyelids.

Charlie Blair-Broeker and Randy Ernst- Psychology: A Window into the Mind and Behavior
I will let their handouts speak for the demonstrations they did for the teachers, but want to say that Charlie did an excellent job explaining why the “Jim and Dwight” on The Office clip is NOT classical conditioning as it is often labeled on  There is no unconditioned stimulus and response.  Charlie pointed out that the noise of Jim’s computer was a discriminative stimulus that would elicit Dwight to stick out his hand and be reinforced by an Altoid.

Kent Korek and Maureen McCarthy- Interpreting Historical Events through the Lens of Psychological Science
Kent and Maureen have an excellent handout of many psychology terms that can be used to tie current and historical events to psychology.  They focused on either giving the students an event and having them come up with terms, or giving the students terms and having them come up with historical events.

Allison Shaver- Connecting Psychology and Sociology Classes Across State Lines
Alison and her students have what I will call a millennium generation version of pen pals.  Her presentation shows how the two schools find information to share about their school and community culture and share it through videos.

Maura Gavin- Integrating Literacy and Technology into a Psych Classroom
Sorry, but I attended a presentation on Samuel Adams during this time, but the topic sounds great.  I am going to the Moodle page to check it out.

Tomorrow I will share the excellent presentations of day two and write about something more serious that could have a big effect on psychology classes in high school.

--posted by Steve

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Are Babies Born Good? 60 Minutes

I am catching up this week on my DVR recordings.  This past Sunday, 60 minutes had a segment on babies and morality examining some current research (which is shown on screen) about potentially inborn moral preferences.  Fascinating segment involving research and operational definitions.
The segment is 13:33 long.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Serving of Gratitude May Save the Day

In this New York Times article, author John Tierney calls Thanksgiving the "most psychologically correct holiday of the year."  Tierney then goes on to relate the many positive "consequences of giving thanks," among them better health, sleep, less anxiety and depression, increased satisfaction with life and kinder behavior towards others.  The author provides specific research findings on the benefits of gratitude and strategies to help you get into the holiday mood.

Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Kristin H. Whitlock

Monday, November 12, 2012

Understanding happiness with TED and Wiley

Wiley Publishing has just released TED: Psychology - Understanding Happiness, a page that mixes TED videos with instructor resources. There are seven TED talks gathered here, and for each one there's a PDF of instructor materials. I've only glanced at a couple of them, but the instructor materials look good. Kudos to Wiley for doing this!

I also noticed a survey on the site asking for feedback, so please feel free to check out the resources and give them your opinions.

-- posted by Steve

Thursday, November 8, 2012

No one "needs" more examples of optical illusions, but...

I expect everyone out there has way too many examples of optical illusions, but I just can't resist:

@MrFrisa posted this image on Twitter and I really like it. Is he facing to the side in profile or is he staring straight at you? Anyone know how to make these? @MrFrisa, chime in if you see this?

- I just saw this "antique" optical illusion using a rotating disk. Click on this link  to get to the animated GIF if it's not displaying correctly- cool! Here's the explanation:

"Optical illusion disc which is spun displaying the illusion of motion of a ball with a wedge-shaped piece missing passing through a hoop and of a monkey swinging on branches of a tree and a zebra jumping through an opening between two trees in a circle at the outer edge of the disc."

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No, you are NOT "right-brained"!!!

This blog post from Psychology Today is important, I think. Discouraging, but important.

Sam Dekker and others surveyed a large sample of teachers who reported being interested in neuroscience. The results are intriguing:

- these teachers scored fairly high on the test overall.  On average, they answered 70% of the items correctly.

- BUT (and this is a great big but) these teachers seemed to be MORE likely to believe several myths about learning and the brain, including:

  • "students learn better/faster when they receive information via their preferred "learning style"
  • there are left-brain and right-brain learners
  • co-ordination exercises improve the integration of function between the hemispheres"

There was also a positive correlation between higher scores on knowledge items about the brain and belief in these myths! The authors suggest that teacher training programs do a better job incorporating factual information about the biology of learning into their programs.

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Parents and Politics

Today may be a good time to talk about this research! Vote vote vote!!!

The Association for Psychological Science recently posted about research linking parenting behaviors to the eventual political views of children.

Their quick summary might be a great discussion starter in your classroom (as long as it doesn't start a fight!):

"Existing research suggests that individuals whose parents espoused authoritarian attitudes toward parenting (e.g., valuing obedience to authority) are more likely to endorse conservative values as adults."

Discussing parenting style research in the developmental chapter can be engaging, but a bit of a minefield: sometimes my students wanted to leap to "diagnosing" their parents, and it's a good opportunity to talk about the complexities of human behaviors vs. the simplifications needed for operational definitions.

Here's an online article with a bit more detail about the study

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hearing and Audition Videos

I am never satisfied with how I present certain concepts.  While researching materials on hearing, I ran across these two videos.  I hope you like them as much as I do.

3D Human Ear

The Process of Hearing and How it Works

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hey! You got your D&D in my Psych. study! No, you got your psych study in my D&D!

My adolescent self would be thrilled with this development: A psychologist at the University of British Columbia was struggling to figure out a research protocol that would allow him to test whether people automatically look at others' eyes or if they are just looking at the centers of faces. He explained the problem to his son, and together they figured out how to use images from the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual to figure out a new experimental protocol! And adults thought I was wasting my youth with all those hours of D&D... :)

12-year-old uses Dungeons and Dragons to help scientist dad with his research

posted by Rob McEntarffer

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