Monday, December 14, 2015

Critical Thinking and "Classic" Psych research

Reading this interview with Gina Perry, author of Behind the Shock Machine, is fascinating, and disillusioning. It turns out that a lot of what I thought I know about the Migram study ain't true! It got me thinking:

Many of us have students review/summarize/discuss "classic" psychology experiments (using books like 40 Studies that Changed Psychology and the "Classics in the History of Psychology" archive). But maybe there is value in going BEYOND that kind of thinking - maybe we should encourage our students to think like "mythbusters."

Maybe students could dig deeper and figure out if what we THINK we know about these studies, what gets summarized in our textbooks and other summaries, is the "whole story?" This would be darn challenging, and sometimes impossible, but I like the message it sends: Psychology is a science, and all "truths" in science are tentative and get revised based on later findings.

Do any of you out there do anything like this? I'd love to hear about your experiences!

posted by Rob McEntarffer


Lauren Christensen said...

I don't do anything in class like you described, but your post made me think of last week's Science Friday where they discussed the necessity of failure in science. It was a fascinating listen. They also had an interview with Stuart Firestein and his new book about the topic. He specifically mentioned phrenology in the interview as an example of a failure that led to more discovery.

Rob McEntarffer said...

Great examples, Lauren! It would be incredible (and incredibly challenging) if we could get psych students to acquire the skill of critically analyzing these kinds of psychological claims. Makes we wonder if this kind of task might make a good essay question or FRQ?

Amy Ramponi said...

I love this article!

Michael Corayer said...

I thought that Perry's book was excellent and I think the sooner that students are exposed to alternative explanations and questioning, even for "classic" studies, the better. There is now far greater access to resources than students ever had in the past, when they may have had little choice but to accept a single textbook explanation. We should encourage students to dig deeper and they now have the ability to find original sources as well as books and articles which challenge generally accepted views. Other "textbook examples" in need of greater scrutiny are Phineas Gage and Kitty Genovese. (And also the great link above on Zimbardo, thanks Amy!)