Skip navigation
All Places > The Psychology Community > Blog > 2016 > December

After covering experiments or as a research methods boost when covering attractiveness, pose this hypothesis to your students: Tattoos on men influence how others perceive the men’s health and attractiveness.


Ask students to design an experiment to test this hypothesis, identifying the independent variable (including experimental and control conditions) and the dependent variables. In the design of the experiment, how would students eliminate any potential confounding variables? Circulate among groups as students work through the design. As discussion dies down, ask volunteers to share their experimental designs.


Now share with students the experiment conducted by Andrzej Galbarczyk and Anna Ziomkiewicz (2017) using over 2,500 Polish participants recruited through Facebook; all participants self-identified as heterosexual.


Researchers used nine non-tattooed male models, photographed from the waist up and without shirts for the control condition. “A professional photographer digitally modified the pictures by adding a black arm tattoo with an abstract, neutral design” for the experimental condition. This means that the only difference in the conditions was the tattoo. Participants were randomly assigned to see one photo for each model pair, and in the nine photos seen, each participant saw at least one tattooed model and one non-tattooed model. The dependent variables were ratings of attractiveness, health, dominance, aggression, fitness as a partner, and fitness as a father. Data were analyzed separately for male and female research participants.


Before revealing the results, ask students to predict how the participants responded.


Using clickers or a show of hands, ask students:


Who did women rate as healthier?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[Women rated the tattooed men as healthier]


Who did men rate as healthier?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[Men didn’t see a health difference between tattooed and non-tattooed men.]


Who did women rate as more attractive?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[Women didn’t see a difference in attractiveness between tattooed and non-tattooed men.]


Who did men rate as more attractive?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[Men rated the tattooed men as more attractive.]


Who did men and women rate as more masculine, dominant, and aggressive?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[Tattooed men.]


Who did women rate “as worse potential partners and parents”?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[Tattooed men.]

Who did men rate “as worse potential partners and parents”?

  1. Tattooed men
  2. Non-tattooed men
  3. No difference

[No difference.]


Ask students to volunteer guesses as to why women would see tattooed men as healthier than non-tattooed men. And why men would see tattooed men as more attractive than non-tattooed men. The article’s authors offer a number of possible explanations, all worthy of further research.



Galbarczyk, A., & Ziomkiewicz, A. (2017). Tattooed men: Healthy bad boys and good-looking competitorsPersonality and Individual Differences, 106, 122-125. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.10.051

It can be an eye-opener for a parent when their child starts to mimic their behavior in the form of pretend play. Even more so when what is being portrayed is pre-divorce arguments and the stand-ins are Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.


After covering observational learning (learning) or pretend play (development), share with students this example courtesy of Carol Weis and the New York Times (2016).


Weis and her soon-to-be ex-husband had had a number of arguments leading up to their decision to divorce. It was near Christmas, and the house decorations included a nativity set. The parents explained to their then-5-year-old daughter that they were separating. Following her father’s moving out, the child began to play with the nativity set. “Through her thoughtful manipulation, Mary and Joseph carried on arguments with each other, similar to the ones she’d witnessed between her dad and [her mom].”


In the category of observational learning, I had a student years ago who said one day when she was picking up her 3-year-old son from preschool, the staff asked to speak with her for a minute. That day at recess, her son was near the top of the slide waiting for another child to slide down. He got impatient and yelled, “Too slow b****! Get the **** out of my way!” My student, somewhat sheepishly, said to the class, “I have a problem with road rage.”


If you discuss the nativity example during observational learning, give students an opportunity to share their favorite examples of observational learning. They could be their own experiences or what they witnessed in younger siblings or their own children. If you discuss the nativity example during development, give students an opportunity to share their favorite examples of pretend play. Again, they could be their own experiences or what they witnessed in younger siblings or their own children.  


In either case, consider using think-pair-share. Give students a minute or two to consider their examples, then a couple minutes to share with a neighbor, then ask for a few volunteers to share their examples.



Weis, C. (2016, December 23). Working through divorce with Mary and Joseph. Retrieved December 27, 2016, from

After introducing correlations, I share a number of examples with students. Here are couple new ones that going into my pool.


Young adults (age 19-32) who spend their time on a lot (7 to 11) of different social media platforms are more likely (than those who spend their time on 0 to 2 different social media platforms) to report symptoms of depression. That same relationship exists between the number of different social media platforms and anxiety (Primack,, 2017).


Ask students if these represent a positive, negative, or zero correlation (clicker question, show of hands, shout out). (Both correlations are positive.) If students say negative, they may be caught in the trap of thinking that this is a “bad thing,” so it’s negative. Remind students that that is not what positive and negative mean in this context. It can help students in identifying correlations to first note what the two variables are (“number of social media platforms used” and “depression”; “number of social media platforms used” and “anxiety”) and then sort out whether those variables are moving in the same direction (positive) or opposite directions (negative).


Next, to help students see that correlations don’t mean causation, ask students to consider the causes, why anxiety and depression may be related to the number of social media platforms used. In think-pair-share, give students a couple minutes to jot down their thoughts, then give students a couple minutes to share their ideas with one or two classroom neighbors, then ask for volunteers to share their thoughts.


Students may surmise that jumping from one social media platform to another may cause depression or anxiety. The authors note three possibilities here: “participation in many different social media platforms may lead to multitasking between platforms, which is known to be related to poor cognitive and mental health outcomes;” since each platform has its own rules and customs “as the number of platforms used increases, individuals may experience difficulty navigating these multiple different worlds successfully, leading to potentially negative mood and emotions;” and the more social media platforms you are on you run an “increased risk of damaging gaffes.”


Students may also surmise that those who are depressed or anxious may choose to jump from one social media platform to another. The authors suggest “[t]his may be because these individuals tend to search multiple avenues for a setting that feels most comfortable and in which they feel most accepted.” 


A third possibility is that something else, a third variable, could be affecting both social media use and depression/anxiety, perhaps loneliness. Those who are more isolated may be more likely to seek out community in social media and being more isolated may contribute to depression/anxiety.


Remind students that the value in correlations comes from revealing a relationship between two variables. Students identified a number of possible reasons as to why there is a relationship between those variables. The next step is to do more research on which of those possibilities are right -- and it may be one, some, or all of them. 


Side note. Even though their research is clearly correlational, the article's authors are comfortable suggesting that it’s the social media use that’s causing or at least contributing to depression/anxiety. They write “it may not be too soon to suggest that individuals with depressive and/or anxiety symptoms, and who use a high number of different social media platforms may wish to decrease the number of platforms used.” Ask students if this is a fair statement for the authors to make. 


Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Escobar-Viera, C. G., Barrett, E. L., Sidani, J. E., Colditz, J. B., & James, A. E. (2017). Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among U.S. young adultsComputers in Human Behavior, 69, 1-9. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.11.013

Today’s America is more polarized than in any recent decade. A record 77 percent perceive the nation as divided, reports Gallup. For the first time in Pew survey history, most Republicans and Democrats report having “very unfavorable” views of the other party.


A powerful principle helps explain today’s deep divisions: The beliefs and attitudes we bring to a group grow stronger as we discuss them with like-minded others. This process, known to social psychologists as group polarization, can work for good. Peacemakers, cancer patients, and disability advocates gain strength from kindred spirits. In one of my own studies, low-prejudice students became even more accepting while discussing racial issues. But group polarization can also be toxic, as we observed when high-prejudice students became more prejudiced after discussion with one another. The repeated finding from experiments on group interaction: Opinion-diversity moderates views; like minds polarize further.


Group polarization feeds extremism. Analyses of terrorist organizations reveal that the terrorist mentality usually emerges slowly, among people who share a grievance. As they interact in isolation (sometimes with other “brothers” and “sisters” in camps or in prisons), their views grow more extreme. Increasingly, they categorize the world as “us” against “them.” Separation + conversation = polarization.


The Internet offers us a connected global world without walls, yet also provides a fertile medium for group polarization. Progressives friend progressives and share links to sites that affirm their shared views and that disparage those they despise. Conservatives connect with conservatives and likewise share conservative perspectives. As Steve Martin tweeted, “Dear Satan, thank you for having my Internet news feeds tailored especially for ME!”


So, we feed one another information—and misinformation—and then share content we agree with. News, and fake news, spreads. Within the Internet’s echo chamber of the like-minded, viewpoints become more extreme. Suspicion becomes conviction. Disagreements with the other tribe escalate to demonization.


The first step toward depolarization is to realize the seductive power of group polarization, and even our own part in it. We need to step outside our comfort zone to hear and understand the other.

A couple weeks ago we were walking our dogs past our neighbor’s house when we noticed that there was a smashed car parked out front. We asked our neighbor what happened. “My son fell asleep. He’s okay, and fortunately it was a single-car crash.”


For years I didn’t cover sleep in Intro Psych. And then a colleague’s teenage son fell asleep while driving, crossed the center line, and hit a semi head-on. He was killed instantly. The next time I taught Intro Psych, I covered sleep. And I have ever since.


The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has released their latest report, Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement (2016).


Here are some clicker questions to get your students thinking about the scope of the problem driving while drowsy before launching into your coverage of sleep. (Answers are at the bottom.)

  1. What percentage “of U.S. adults usually sleep for less than 7 hours daily”?
    1. Less than 10%
    2. 10% to 20%
    3. 21% to 30 %
    4. 30% to 40%
  2. “[D]rivers who reported having slept for less than 4 hours in the past 24 hours had an estimated ________ times the odds of having contributed to the crash in which they were involved, compared with drivers who reported having slept for 7 or more hours in the past 24 hours.”
    1. 11.5
    2. 4.3
    3. 1.9
    4. 1.3
  3. What are the odds that someone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 (legal limit in all U.S. states) will be in a crash as compared to someone with a BAC of 0.0?
    1. 6 to 7.8
    2. 3 to 6.5
    3. 0 to 5.2
    4. 7 to 3.9

The authors of this report acknowledge a number of limitations. “Possibly the most significant limitation of the study was that crashes that occurred between midnight and 6 AM” were not included in the dataset used in this study. Ask students to consider what impact including that data could have on the results. Interestingly, “drivers involved crashes in the first and last hours of data collection each day (i.e., 6:00 – 6:59 AM and 11:00 – 11:59 PM) reported having slept for an average of one full hour less in the past 24 hours than did drivers involved in crashes during the remainder of the day.”


For more research and recent statistics, check out the Governors Highway Safety Administration report, Wake Up Call! Understanding Drowsy Driving and What States Can Do (2016).



  1. D. 35% (That is “including 12% who report usually sleeping for 5 hours or less.”)
  2. A. 11.5. Drivers that slept between 4 and 5 hours were 4.3 times as likely to crash. Drivers that slept between 5 and 6 hours were 1.9 times as likely to crash. And drivers that slept between 6 and 7 hours were 1.3 times as likely to crash.
  3. D. 2.7 to 3.9. That’s approximately equivalent to sleeping between 4 and 5 hours. In other words, driving on less than 5 hours of sleep is about the same as driving with a BAC of 0.08.

The cover story for the (freely available) December 2016 APA Monitor is on racial bias and police work. The author of the article provides a nice summary of the research to date and how police departments are moving forward to reduce inequalities in their work.


In preparation for class discussion (small groups in class or online discussion boards) or as a stand-alone assignment, ask students to read the article and respond to the following questions:

  1. Before we can address a problem, we need to know that a problem exists. What evidence is there that police officers show bias against blacks?
  2. Explain the difference between explicit prejudice and implicit bias.
  3. What is the “the police officer’s dilemma,” and how is it used to test for implicit bias? How do police officers do on this test as compared to civilians?
  4. Many police departments have brought in experts to run implicit bias workshops. Are these workshops effective at reducing implicit bias?
  5. What alternatives have been proposed for reducing the effects of implicit bias rather than implicit bias itself?
  6. Bonus question: What is your local police department doing to reduce the inequalities in how officers treat different members of your community?
  7. What can you do, as a citizen of your community, to encourage your police department to make changes that will move police work to be good for everyone in your community?

For us educators, few things are more disconcerting than the viral spread of misinformation. Across our varying political views, our shared mission is discerning and teaching truth, and enabling our students to be truth-discerning critical thinkers. We sometimes fail, and we do have our biases. Yet our charge, across our diverse perspectives, is to teach reality-based, evidence-supported thinking.


Thus, we feel distressed when public understandings radically diverge from reality.


Perception: Crime is rising. Seven in 10 Americans believe it, reports Gallup. Donald Trump echoed and reinforced that perception, arguing that “crime is rising” and in inner cities “is at levels that nobody has seen.” Hence, he argued, we need a get-tough response.

Fact:           For several decades, crime has been falling. In 2015, violent crime was less than half the 1990 rate. Since 2008, the violent crime rate, as aggregated by the FBI from local law enforcement, is down 19 percent. Property crime is down 23 percent.


Perception: Many immigrants are criminals. Horrific rare incidents feed the narrative, as in the endlessly retold story of the Mexican national killing a young woman in San Francisco. Trumps’ now-familiar words epitomized the perception: “When Mexico sends its people . . . they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Fact:           Immigrants who are poor and less educated may fit our image of criminals. Yet some studies find that, compared to native-born Americans, immigrants commit less violent crime.


Perception: Unemployment has worsened. Especially in the Rust Belt states, such as Michigan where I live, many voters expressed frustration with the loss of good manufacturing jobs. “Our real unemployment is anywhere from 18 to 20 percent,” argued candidate Trump.

Fact:           It’s true that the national employment rate includes “underemployed” people—those who are without good jobs and who long for better jobs. Yet the good news fact is that wages are rising, some industries are facing a worker shortage, and today’s 4.9 percent unemployment is sharply less than during the recession-era doldrums of 2009:

The Oxford English Dictionary’s just-announced word of the year is post-truth: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” A current New Yorker cartoon captures the post-truth spirit. Facing three contestants on the “Facts Don’t Matter” quiz show, the moderator explains: “I’m sorry, Jeannie, your answer was correct, but Kevin shouted his incorrect answer over yours, so he gets the points.”


My misinformation examples are admittedly partisan (though several analyses, such as here and here, indicate that the top fake news stories of the recent U.S. election were similarly partisan). But the social dynamics that explain widely believed misinformation cross partisan lines. Thus in the United States in the late 1980s, most Democrats believed inflation had risen under Republican president Ronald Reagan (it had dropped). In 2010, most Republicans believed that taxes had increased under Democratic president Barack Obama (for most, they had decreased).


Some misinformation is fed intentionally, for profit—“lies in the guise of news,” explained Nicholas Kristof in describing how Macedonian teens built fake news websites that attracted links, and advertising dollars. Nefarious motives, as in reports of Russian-planted fake news, may also have been at work.


Other misinformation is a natural byproduct of the real news we’re fed. If it bleeds, it leads. In 2015, report David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg, six of the top ten Associated Press news stories were about gruesome violence. Thanks to the “availability heuristic” (our tendency to judge the frequency of events by how readily available they are in memory), it’s entirely unsurprising that Americans grossly overestimate their risk of being victimized by crime and terror.


Biased information is additionally fed by the echo chambers of today’s social and cable media. As one who cut his eye teeth in psychological science with studies of “group polarization,” I am sheepishly aware of the extent to which most of us (me, too) tend to read blogs and Facebook news from those who think like we do, and to watch news programming (whether Fox or MSNBC) that supports rather than challenges our ideas. What a change from my youth and young adulthood, when news came from three centrist TV networks, and before today’s Internet-facilitated partisan tribalism.


Mindful of this challenging reality, I’m supporting “Better Angels”—a new, ten year initiative aiming to depolarize America. It will take an enormous effort, given the ease and speed of spreading misinformation, and the way the Internet readily connects like-minded partisans and amplifies their shared ideas. But for us educators, the mission of alerting students to the social dynamics of misinformation, and teaching an evidence-based reality, has never been more important.