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2016

A political science grad student, Kevin Munger (2016a, b), decided to conduct an experiment on Twitter. His goal was to reduce the amount of hate speech posted to that media platform. To that end, he searched Twitter for a particular racial slur and sent every writer of such a tweet the same message: “@[subject] Hey man, just remember that there are real people who are hurt when you harass them with that kind of language.”

 

But that’s not all. Munger reasoned that the impact of the message on future use of racial slurs likely depends on the communicator of that message, such as the perceived race and status of the person who is sending the reminder of the impact of language. Munger created four Twitter accounts: “High Follower/White; Low Follower/White; High Follower/Black; and Low Follower/Black.” The high followers had over 500 followers whereas the low followers had two followers. The White accounts displayed a White avatar and had a more stereotypically White-sounding name, Greg. The Black accounts displayed a Black avatar and had a more stereotypically Black-sounding name, Rasheed. Following Munger’s be-nice tweet, Munger tracked daily use of the racial slur over the next two months.

 

The results. When Munger’s twitter account was High Follower/White, the number of racial slurs dropped .3 per day, the highest of any group. High status ingroup members do have power to influence. With about an equal, but smaller, decrease in daily use of racial slurs where the High Follower/Black and Low Follower/White avatars, although these differences disappeared within a few weeks (Munger, 2016b). Ingroup membership and high status both have an immediate, but not lasting impact, all on their own. What about Low Follower/Black? No Impact.

 

In Intro Psych, you can give your students a little practice with experimental design by using this article at the beginning of the course when you cover research methods or as a research methods refresher later in the course when you cover social psychology. Ask students to identify the independent variables and dependent variable.

 

The response to Munger’s missive wasn’t uniform; reponses differered by the anonymity of the Twitter user who received Munger’s message. Munger looked at the profiles of the Twitter users in his experiment. Of those users who were not anonymous, Munger reports that the High Follower/White Twitter account had no impact on the ensuing use of racial slurs. But the Low Follower/Black Twitter account “actually caused an increase (emphasis in original) in the use of racist slurs.” These were largely directed at Munger’s Twitter account that sent the be-nice message.

 

Shout out to Danae Hudson (Missouri State University) for finding this article and suggesting this activity!

 

References

 

Munger, K. (2016a, November 17). This researcher programmed bots to fight racism on Twitter. It worked. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/11/17/this-researcher-programmed-bots-to-fight-racism-on-twitter-it-worked

 

Munger, K. (2016b). Tweetment effects on the tweeted: Experimentally reducing racist harassment. Political Behavior. doi:10.1007/s11109-016-9373-5

Sure, you can explain what a prototype is, but what if students could experience generating a prototype and seeing how it compares with others?

 

Maria Vita (Penn Manor High School, Millersville, PA) suggests using Google’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) experiment “Quick, Draw!” to do just that.

 

After explaining prototypes, send students to the Google “Quick, Draw!” website on any web-enabled device, although a device with a touchscreen, such as a smartphone, is better. Students click the “Let’s Draw!” button to start. Students will be given 20 seconds to draw an object or a concept, such as boomerang. Google uses machine learning to try to guess what the object is. Once Google has correctly guessed or 20 seconds is up, whichever comes first, Google presents another concept or object to draw. After six trials, Google shows all six drawings along with the results. Tap on a drawing to see what other people have drawn for that concept or object as well as see drawings created for other objects that look like that one.

 

Once students have had a chance to do a set of drawings, ask students to explain what this activity had to do with prototypes. (After being given an object or concept, whatever popped into their minds was likely their prototype for that concept.)

 

Vita (2016) suggests instructors “[c]hallenge students to get 6 drawings guessed and/or when the program is unable to guess a drawing explain why it did not fit the prototype.”

 

What’s in it for Google? This department within Google is exploring machine learning. Being given hundreds of drawings of, say, flamingos, helps Google identify any future drawings of flamingos as flamingos.

 

References

Vita, M. [AP Psychology Teachers]. (2016, November 18). Challenge students to get 6 drawings guessed and/or when the program is unable to guess a drawing explain why it did not fit the prototype. [Facebook group post]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/groups/556665311050841/

David Myers

Super Grit

Posted by David Myers Expert Nov 18, 2016

Success, as Angela Duckworth emphasizes in her research and writings, grows from talent and grit: Highly successful people are often conscientious, determined, and doggedly energetic.

And then there is the super grit displayed by champion ultra-marathoner, Pete Kostelnick, who recently completed the fastest-ever San Francisco to New York City run across the U.S. He did the 3100 miles with daily runs averaging 73 miles. For 42 days, that was nearly three back-to-back marathons a day!

My introductory psychology text co-author and friend, Nathan DeWall, ran a segment with Kostelnick. In this splendid New York Times essay, Nathan tells the story of Kostelnick’s talent and grit that enabled this record achievement.

Nathan is himself an exemplar of super grit, having willfully transformed himself from out-of-shape to ultra marathoner—losing 100 pounds in the process. He was in my state last weekend, for the six-hour Michigan Bad Apple run (after which he stopped by my house, below). For Nathan, six hours is a mere training run for the 100 mile ultra marathon he’ll be doing in two weeks. And that unthinkable distance is a breeze compared with his recent week-long 500k (310 mile) run across Tennessee. For most of us mortals, with finite energy reserves, normal grit suffices. But in various life domains, some folks, it seems, are those whose motivation and daily discipline defines super grit.

Authors of Discovering the Scientist Within: Research Methods in PsychologyGary Lewandowski, Natalie Ciarocco and David Strohmetz are all active researchers and committed teachers at Monmouth University. They’re excited to engage in a conversation about the Research Methods course, why it is so important, and talk about how they solve challenges in their own classrooms. Check out their Facebook live video from 11/4! Please feel free to leave any questions below or directly on the Facebook video and the authors will respond!

 

“A cat comes running at the sound of the can opener, that’s classical conditioning, right?” No, no it is not. “Remember,” you say to the student who asks this question, “classical conditioning is involuntary. Since running is a voluntary behavior, it’s operant conditioning.” (The sound of the can opener is a discriminative stimulus that cues the cat. “If I run in there right now, my voluntary running behavior will be reinforced with cat food!”)

 

After explaining to his students that classical conditioning results in an involuntary response and operant conditioning needs a voluntary behavior, but before getting into the specifics of each, Bart Thompson (Salem Hills High School in Salem, Utah) gives his students practice at sorting involuntary responses from voluntary behaviors.

 

Thompson divides his class into small group. Each group gets 40 slips of paper; each slip of paper includes an example of classical or operant conditioning. Students are tasked with sorting the examples into two stacks: involuntary response and voluntary behavior.

 

There are two things that I really like about this approach (which I’m using next term!). First, it gets students thinking in terms of involuntary responses and voluntary behaviors immediately. This seems to be such a sticking point for some students later, that (literally!) sorting this out early should help that. Second, it’s a wonderful application of interleaving. If we want students to know the difference between classical and operant conditioning – and we do – students need practice seeing both kinds of learning and identifying which is which.

 

If you don’t have 40 examples of classical and operant conditioning, you can scour the internet. Be careful though. There were some examples I found that the author said were classical conditioning but were actually operant conditioning. Alternatively, ask your students this term to submit, say, three examples of each. You could ask students to label the classical conditioning components and identify whether the operant conditioning examples are positive/negative reinforcement/punishment (and explain their choices). This could be an extra credit assignment or an optional for-points assignment.

 

Once groups have their 40 slips of paper sorted, ask groups to pair up and compare their sorts. Were there any that they had sorted differently? Can they resolve their differences? Circulate among the groups. For any that groups appear to be stuck on, make a note to discuss as a class.

 

As you move your coverage into the specifics of classical and operant conditioning, you can come back to these 40 examples.

Open your discussion of sensation and perception by showing students this image. Note the white on the clear bulb where the light is reflecting. Our eyes detect white, but our brains know that those white spots aren’t really white. Based on past experience, our brain perceives the white as merely reflections of light.

Clear light bulb

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/clear-glass-light-bulb-75427

 

Next, show students this photo.

Legs that appear shiny

Image source: http://cheezburger.com/8985651968/shiny-legs-optical-illusion-paint-whats-making-these-legs-look-so-shiny    

 

It’s not quite The Dress, but this is still pretty cool. Like many people, what you see are shiny legs. Do they look like they are covered in a hard, clear plastic?

 

But what if I told you that there is no plastic. It’s just strategically placed white paint?

 

If you saw shiny legs, you were perceiving the white as reflected light, as you rightly did with the light bulb. Once you’re told the white is paint, the shininess disappears, and you are just left with, well, white paint.

What can students do to efficiently learn and remember? Cognitive science offers answers, say Adam Putnam, Victor Sungkhasettee, and Henry Roediger in their new essay, “Optimizing Learning in College.” Their learning tips include these:

  1. Find a quiet place to study. Get away from the TV. Tune out social media. Shut down e-mail. Focus!
  2. Generate questions about important points. Generate questions to be answered by your reading, such as “What is cognitive dissonance? How do people study it?”
  3. Read, recite, and review. Mentally summarize a chapter after reading it. Then review it and take note of what you missed. For concept learning, flashcards help. “Recalling information from memory is one of the best ways to remember information. . . . Many newer textbooks also including online resources with interactive quizzes.” (Yes!)
  4. Write your notes instead of typing them. Leave your laptop at home. Transcribing lectures engages less active processing than does hand-writing your own synopses of the presented material.
  5. Space your study. “By spacing your studying you will learn the material in less time.” Attending lectures that cover—in different words—the same concepts previously read in a text also provides spaced learning.
  6. Study by quizzing yourself. To prepare for an exam, “practice testing is one of the best study strategies.” Another best practice is explaining something to someone else, as in a study group.
  7. Sleep and exercise. Exercise enhances focus and creativity (as well as having health and emotional benefits). “Sleep deprivation can hurt your cognitive functioning without your being aware of it.”