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Last week I wrote about how it is I came to wear psychology-related t-shirts to my Intro Psych classes. That post included nine t-shirts. [Read that post.] This week I have ten to share.




VisionChildish Side of the Moon


This is a pretty straight-forward illustration of how white is the presence of all wavelengths of light. And the Pink Floyd fans in your class will enjoy the reference.



Sleep - Big Fan.png


SleepBig Fan


I hammer pretty hard the importance of sleep. Too many students think that staying up all night studying is a good idea, and I present the landslide of evidence that says it’s not. In case they miss my message, perhaps due to sleep deprivation, this t-shirt drives home the point.


Counting sheep.png


SleepCounting Sheep


If I’m feeling more whimsical, I will go with this shirt depicting counting sheep – on a calculator, on “fingers,” on an abacus.





Id and superego.png


Psychoanalysis – Devil and angel bunnies


If you talk about the id, ego, and superego, this shirt is a must. Wear a shirt over top, like a denim shirt or a light fleece. As you describe the conflict between the id and the superego, if you’re lucky, a student will say something like, “Oh! Like the devil and angel on your shoulders!” That’s your cue to remove your outer layer, revealing the devil and angel bunnies on your shoulders.





Science of the Lambs.pngResearch methodsScience of the Lambs


When introducing research methods in Intro, I sometimes talk about how people think that what determines what is a science and what is not are the apparatuses that are used. “If there are flasks and Bunsen burners, then it is science.” If class time allows, I ask students to consider that question: What makes a science a science? This makes for a nice think (on your own for a minute or two), pair (talk with the person next to you for a minute or two), share (ask for volunteers to share their responses) activity.







When covering the Big Five personality traits, I use this shirt to come out as an introvert. The best metaphor I have heard for introversion and extraversion says that which way you lean is determined by what recharges your batteries most of the time. If your batteries recharge when you are with people, you are more extraverted. If your batteries recharge when you are alone, you are more introverted (see this blog post for example). The message in this shirt is “back off; I’m recharging.”



Can anybody hear me.png


SensationHello? Can anybody hear me?

I use this shirt to introduce the idea that sound and color only exist in our brains. Sound waves and light waves exist outside of us, but what we describe as sound and what we describe as color don’t. They are sensations created by our brains, a conversion of those waves into something we can experience.




Donkey Kong.pngDevelopmentDonkey Kong and Mario 


This shirt’s a nod to the gamers in your class. If you’d like to use this shirt for discussion, ask students questions like:


Given that Mario is walking, how old would you guess he is? [2-ish]

What reflex is Donkey Kong exhibiting with the baby bottle? [grasping]

Years later, do you expect them to remember this event? Why? [nope, infantile amnesia]


You can also reprise this shirt for the social psych chapter.


What are some ways in which Donkey Kong and Mario could work to resolve their conflict? [e.g., superordinate goals].



Optimism, pessimism, etc glasses.pngOptimism/pessimismWhich glass are you?


When covering optimists and pessimists, this shirt provides an opportunity to introduce students to some other -ists, such as utopists and surrealists. Be prepared to explain some of these; students will ask.














Final exam dayPencils


Since students are required to bring a Number 2 pencil to take the final exam, this handy shirt depicts pencil numbers 1 through 12.

When I first started teaching, not as a grad student, but as real live instructor out on my own, I was 24 years old. I was a part-time instructor at a community college near Kansas City. Thinking I had to look the part, I bought some new clothes -- khakis and button-down shirts. It probably didn’t take me more than a couple weeks to realize that wasn’t going to work for me. Most of the students in my classes were older than I was, some by a full generation or two. And a lot of them were scared. They had never been in a college class before, but life circumstances gave them an opportunity – or forced them – to be here. A lot was riding on their being able to do well. Trying to project some sort of authority didn’t mesh with how I walked in the world, and, frankly, I didn’t think it would help my students. Instead, I decided to go where they were. I traded in my new khakis for new jeans. And over time the button-down shirts were gradually replaced by t-shirts. My overarching philosophy to teaching psychology boiled down to this: I know the theory and the research, and you have the life experience; let’s merge them together and see what we can learn from each other.


Long ago I moved on to full-time teaching, currently up here in the Pacific Northwest, and I finally caught up to and then surpassed the average age of my students. Even though I’m now older and my students are now younger, I know that many of them are still afraid. I want to lighten the mood.


Over the last 15 years, I have amassed a t-shirt collection suitable for Intro Psych. Frankly, I don’t know if wearing these t-shirts in class makes me more approachable. I do know that it’s common for students to look forward to seeing the day’s shirt. And if the connection to the material isn’t immediately obvious, they are on the edge of their seats waiting for the connection to become clear. Okay, maybe no one is quite on the edge of their seats, but I have heard audible “Oh!”s after explaining the relevance of the shirt.


Besides, knowing what I’m going to wear on most every class day -- my classes meet on Mondays and Wednesdays -- eliminates having to decide what to wear. I typically wear a denim shirt or a light fleece over top, and then reveal the shirt when it’s relevant to what I’m discussing.


This post will feature nine shirts. Next week will feature an additional ten. [Read that post here.]




First day -- It's in the syllabus


I debated about getting this one. I was concerned it would sound snarkier than I meant it to be. Snarkiness is not the tone I’m after upon meeting my students for the first time. I carefully frame it by asking, by a show of hands, for whom is this their first college term. I explain that I remember by first college term. As I went from class to class, the professors were all talking about the syllabus – a word I had never heard before. Finally I figured out they were referring to these pieces of paper they were handing out.  “Any time you have questions about anything related to the course, the answer is probably in the syllabus.” Completely anecdotally, when I wear the shirt on the first day, I seem to get many fewer questions about the course later on.


Serotonin and the Dopamines.png


BiopsychSerotonin and the Dopamines: The Happiness Tour


In Intro, I don’t spend oodles of time on neurons, but this shirt is a handy reminder of the role neurotransmitters play in our everyday lives. Besides, what better way to remember that serotonin and dopamine influence feelings of happiness?





Biopsych - Brain


Sometimes, when teaching, it helps to have an extra brain.




Les Despicables.png


MemoryLes Déspicables


I admit that when I first saw this one, it cracked me up so much I just wanted it. And then I figured out where to fit it into Intro. I use it in the memory chapter when talking about retrieval cues. The image retrieves both memories of Les Misérables and minions from the Despicable Me movies. The juxtaposition of such different memories makes this funny.


Penguin jetpack.png


Thinking Penguin experiencing insight 


When you have wings, you think you should be able to use them to fly. And this young penguin flaps and flaps, all to no avail. And then with what is apparently a flash of insight given the presence of the lightbulb in panel 8, the penguin dons a jetpack. Easy peasy.





Exercise - some motivation required.pngOperant or classical conditioningExercise: Some Motivation Required


I love this shirt for both operant and classical conditioning. For operant conditioning, the behavior is running. The t-rex is being positively reinforced (running faster gets t-rex closer to a tasty morsel), and the person is being negatively reinforced (running faster gets the person further away from the t-rex).  For classical conditioning, being chased is the unconditioned stimulus and fear is the unconditioned response. Seeing a t-rex in the future would be the conditioned stimulus, and fear at seeing the t-rex is the conditioned response.

Godzilla destroys city.pngStress or classical conditioningGodzilla destroying city


If Godzilla destroys your city, you will likely experience stress.


For classical conditioning, Godzilla destroying your city would be the unconditioned stimulus and fear would be the unconditioned response. Seeing Godzilla in the future would be the conditioned stimulus and fear at seeing Godzilla would be the conditioned response.


Procrastination - just one more game.png


Stress or operant conditioningProcrastination… just one more game


For stress, this is a nice example of emotion focused coping. As long as you are playing the game, you can avoid thinking about all the homework you need to do.


For operant conditioning, game play is one big variable ratio schedule of reinforcement. You never know when you’re going to win, but the more you play, the faster you’ll get to that next win.


Car Talk No Cell Phones.png

Attention Car Talk inattentive driving

[Currently on clearance. Not available much longer.]


When covering attention, the back of this shirt nicely illustrates how we really can’t do two things at once.

As a psychology instructor it is clear to you the myriad ways in which psychology can be used to both understand social issues and speak to solutions. In fact, the APA Guidelines for the Major (2013; see below) encourages us to help our students see the same.


Debra Mashek (2016) suggests a few assignments that provide our students opportunities to connect psychology with today’s social issues.


Integrative essay


The instructor chooses three articles (interesting, nifty methodology, and not too difficult for students to understand – but on the surface may not have anything obviously to do with each other), and assigns one of those articles to each student, i.e. 1/3 of the class gets article A, 1/3 gets article B, and 1/3 gets article C. Each student writes a one-page summary of their assigned article and brings that with them to class. The class breaks up into groups of three, where the groups are composed of students who have all read different articles. In a jigsaw classroom format, the students tell the others in their three-person group about their article. Students then “articulate an applied question that invites application of ideas from all the articles.” Each 3-person group then co-authors a short paper (two to three pages) that identifies their applied question and how each of the three articles speak to that question.


Persuasion research activity


Right after Hurricane Katrina, Mashek decided she wanted her Intro Psych students to experience psychological research firsthand while also contributing to the relief effort.

Mashek gave a brief lecture on foot-in-the-door, door-in-the-face, and reciprocity. She randomly assigned ¼ of students to foot-in-the-door, ¼ to door-in-the-face, ¼ reciprocity (she gave these students lollipops to hand to people before asking for a donation), and ¼ to a command condition (“give money”). During that same class period students were sent out in pairs to different areas of campus to return an hour later. Thirty-five students collected $600. Students reported a greater connection to the victims of Katrina after they returned than they reported before they left. Mashek used this experience as a leaping off point for discussing research methodology in the next class session.


Current headline classroom discussion


Pick a current headline. Break students into small groups, perhaps as an end of class activity, and give them one or two discussion questions based on the current chapter you are covering that are relevant to the headline.


For example, if you are covering the social psychology chapter in Intro Psych, give students this headline from the January 9, 2016 New York Times: “Gov. Paul LePage of Maine Says Racial Comment Was a ‘Slip-Up’.” This is a short article, so you could ask students to read the article itself. Sample discussion questions: (1) What evidence is there of ingroup bias? (2) Do Gov. LePage’s comments illustrate stereotyping, prejudice, and/or discrimination? Explain.

If time allows, student groups can report out in class. Alternatively, this could be a group writing assignment or a scribe for the group could post a summary of the group’s responses to a class discussion board.


Students will gain an appreciation of the scope of psychology and how it is relevant to today’s social issues. This activity throughout the course should help students, after the course, to continue to see psychology at play.


The APA Guidelines for the Major (2013) include these indicators related to social issues:

  1. 1.3A Articulate how psychological principles can be used to explain social issues, address pressing societal needs, and inform public policy
  2. 3.3c Explain how psychology can promote civic, social, and global outcomes that benefit others
  3. 3.3C Pursue personal opportunities to promote civic, social, and global outcomes that benefit the community.
  4. 3.3d Describe psychology-related issues of global concern (e.g., poverty, health, migration, human rights, rights of children, international conflict, sustainability)
  5. 3.3D Consider the potential effects of psychology-based interventions on issues of global concern


American Psychological Association. (2013). APA guidelines for the undergraduate psychology major: Version 2.0. Retrieved from


Mashek, D. (2016, January 4). Bringing the psychology of social issues to life. Lecture presented at National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology in Tradewinds Island Grand Resort, St. Petersburg Beach.

Seelye, K. Q. (2016, January 9). Gov. Paul LePage of Maine Says Racial Comment Was a 'Slip-up'. The New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2016, from

More than one Intro Psych textbook opens with this warning to students: Beware the hindsight bias! And students should beware, of course. Once the findings of a research study are revealed, it is hard for students to turn back the clock to the time when they did not know the results. With the results known, they are likely to label them as obvious; they knew them all along.


Steven Pinker (2016) urges us, as instructors, to remember that we, too, fall victim to hindsight bias, the curse of knowledge. We have spent years talking about these Intro Psych concepts. Because we have a difficult time imagining what it was like to not know these concepts, we may rush through our lectures, thinking our students either already know the concepts or can grasp them with quick, concise explanations.


How can we, as instructors, keep hindsight bias at bay in the classroom? Pinker says “[t]he best antidote is feedback: Asking students questions; monitoring their reactions, soliciting commentary; querying knowledge through regular assessments.”


On the first day of class, as I am explaining the structure of the course, I will explain to my students what the hindsight bias is, how I can’t remember what it was like to not know the content of this course, and how I have built a course designed to keep me informed of what they, the students, are understanding and what they are not as we go, before we get to the high stakes exams. And that I am going to trust them to tell me when they are not following what I am saying.


What better way to help students understand a concept like hindsight bias than to immediately use it to explain a common instructor behavior? With the added bonus of showing students how psychology can be used to teach psychology!


Pinker, S. (2016, January 3). The sense of style: Writing and teaching in the 21st century. Address presented at National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology in Tradewinds Island Grand Resort, St. Petersburg Beach.


[Pinker’s book by the same title has an entire chapter devoted just to hindsight bias if you would like to read more.]