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133 Posts authored by: Sue Frantz
Sue Frantz

Teaching Synesthesia

Posted by Sue Frantz Apr 24, 2019

I read The Man Who Tasted Shapes by the neurologist Richard Cytowic in the mid-1990s. Whenever the man ate something, he felt sensations on his skin. For example, eating chicken caused him to feel like his skin was being poked by pointy things. If the chicken was a little underdone, the points were more rounded. The sensation was so strong for him that he decided what to eat based not on the taste, but based on what he wanted his skin to feel like. Synesthesia has been a topic in my Intro Psych course ever since. I usually first cover it when we talk about how the cerebral cortex processes sensation, but it often comes up again in the sensation and perception chapter. Synesthesia is a powerful reminder that our experience of the world is entirely subjective.

 

Several years ago in class, after covering synesthesia, a student raised her hand. She said, “I have that, but I just learned that a few months ago.” A friend of hers who was taking my Intro Psych course was talking with his friends about synesthesia. This young woman was in that group conversation, and she said, “Doesn’t everyone experience that?” Silence—and they all turned to face her. That’s when she learned that the colors she sees when she hears sounds is not experienced by everyone else.

 

Synesthesia historians mark 1812 as the year synesthesia came to light. (For a complete history of synesthesia research, see Jörg Jewanski’s chapter, “Synesthesia in the Nineteenth Century: Scientific Origins” in the Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia. Yes, I, too, was surprised to learn that there is an Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia.) Despite this 200-year start on the research, modern research didn’t really take off until Cytowic met the man who tasted shapes in the 1990s. “Sir Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin, described some synesthetes in his work Colour associations. The interest and attention on this field raised and some publications followed. The US-scientist Mary Calkins introduced the term synesthesia or synaesthesia at the end of 19ths [sic] century” (Mächler, n.d.).

 

How many people have synesthesia? We have no idea. That’s not true. We do have an idea. We know it’s more than one person. The problem lies in how to test for synesthesia in all of its forms from an appropriate population sample. For a good explanation of the challenges in determining prevalence see Watson, et.al.(2017).

 

Consider using Cytowic’s 4-minute TEDEd video to introduce synesthesia. He points out that we frequently use one sensation to describe another, such as using a skin sensation word like sharp to describe taste or sound, so we all may be, in essence, synesthetes.  

 

(Shout out to Ruth Frickle for sending me this video!)

 

If you’d like to explore the topic of synesthesia yourself—and amass some examples—check out these books among many that have been written about synesthesia. They are listed in no particular order.  

 

The Man Who Tasted Shapes (1993) by Richard Cytowic

This is the book that launched modern-day synesthesia research. The first half of the book is about the synesthetic experience. In the second half, he waxes philosophically on the meaning of it all.

 

Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens (2001) by Patricia Lynn Duffy

Written by someone with grapheme-color synesthesia—perhaps one of the most common forms of synesthesia—Duffy shares what it’s like to have sounds produce color.

 

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons (2014) by Sam Kean

Kean, in the “Wiring and Rewiring” chapter, spends a few pages discussing synesthesia. Mostly, I will take any opportunity to plug this book. If you teach Intro Psych—and especially if neuroscience is a weakness for you—you must read this book. It’s non-negotiable.

 

Synesthesia (2018) by Richard Cytowic

This is Cytowic’s newest book. I haven’t read it yet, but my local library system is routing it to me as I type. I trust that this will contain the most current research on the topic.

 

 

References (excluding the above book recommendations)

 

Mächler, M.-J. (n.d.). History of synesthesia. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://synesthesia.com/blog/synesthesia/science-of-synesthesia/history-synesthesia-research/

 

Watson, M. R., Chromý, J., Crawford, L., Eagleman, D. E., Enns, J. T., & Akins, K. A. (2017). The prevalence of synaesthesia depends on early language learning. Consciousness and Cognition, 48, 212–231. 

A couple years ago, I wrote a blog post about how to use The Gender Unicorn to help students understand the differences between gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, physical attraction, and emotional attraction. Through this activity, students can begin to grasp the complexity of sex, gender, and attraction.

 

Matt Goldenberg, through the Society for the Teaching of Psychology Facebook group, posted this 4-minute video that provides a nice introduction to a deeper discussion and The Gender Unicorn. (The recording is audio-described for the visually impaired and captioned for the hearing impaired.)

 

Before showing the video, ask students to work in pairs or small groups to describe the ways in which people express their gender. In other words, when you see someone, how do you know what gender, if any, that person identifies with? Or, how do parents show the gender of their infants? Ask students to volunteer what they came up with; record these where students can see them.

 

 

If you have time, ask students to consider how the concept of gender differs across cultures. This article from Independent Lens includes a map of places around the world that look at gender differently than people do in the West. Click on each pin to learn more.

 

After watching the recording and discussing gender across cultures, launch The Gender Unicorn activity.  

 

A quick note about terminology. The prefix “cis” is Latin for “on the same side of;” and “trans” is Latin for “on the other side of.” For those who identify as cisgender, the gender they were assigned at birth and the gender they identify with now are in agreement—they’re on the same side. For those who identify as transgender, the gender they were assigned at birth and the gender they identify with now are in disagreement—they’re on different sides. This language is misleading because there really aren’t any sides. Those who identify as non-binary are saying that they don’t identify themselves according to a side.

Last week, I gave five examples of experiments you can use to give students practice at identifying independent and dependent variables. Here are five more.

 

After covering these concepts, ask students to work in pairs or small groups to identify both the independent variable(s) and the dependent variable(s) in each example.

Hypothesis: If people use third person pronouns to describe an event that caused anxiety, they will be more likely to report visualizing the scene as a distant observer would.

Researchers asked study participants to recall a time when they were “worried about something happening to” them. Participants were then randomly assigned to either the first person condition or the third person condition. In the first person condition, participants reflected on their experience through answering questions with an I/my focus, like “Why did I feel this way?” and “What were the underlying causes and reasons for my feelings?” In third person condition, participants reflected on their experience through answering questions with an outsider’s focus by using their own name in their reflection, like “Why did Jane feel this way?” and “What were the underlying causes and reasons for Jane’s feelings?” When asked, participants in the third-person group reported seeing the imagined event unfold further away from them than reported by participants in the first-person group.

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variable. 

Kross, E., Bruehlman-Senecal, E., Park, J., Burson, A., Dougherty, A., Shablack, H., … Ayduk, O. (2014). Self-talk as a regulatory mechanism: How you do it matters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(2), 304–324. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035173

 

Hypothesis: If people hear how many others who stayed in their hotel room chose to reuse their hotel room towels, they will be more likely to reuse their towels, too.

 The hotel room attendant supervisor placed one of five signs in the bathrooms of randomly-assigned hotel rooms. Each sign carried a different message: (1) a general “save the environment” message, (2) a “join your fellow guests” message explaining that 75% of guests who stayed at the hotel reused their towels, (3) another “join your fellow guests” message but this one explained that 75% of people who stayed in that very hotel room reused their towels, (4) a “join your fellow citizens” message that shifted the in-group from hotel guests to the broader citizens, and (5) a “join the men and women” message that shifted the in-group to one’s own gender group. Hotel guests who received message 3 about others who stayed in their hotel room were much more likely to reuse their towels (49.3%) as compared to all of the other groups (average re-use 42.8%).

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variable. 

Goldstein, N. J., Cialdini, R. B., & Griskevicius, V. (2008). A room with a viewpoint: Using social norms to motivate environmental conservation in hotels. Journal of Consumer Research, 35(3), 472–482. https://doi.org/10.1086/586910

 

Hypothesis: If people are given unwrapped pieces of chocolate, they will consume them more quickly than those given wrapped pieces of chocolate.

Participants received six pieces of chocolate. Random assignment determined which participants received separately wrapped pieces and which received unwrapped pieces. Participants were asked to record when they ate the chocolate. Those who received the unwrapped pieces ate most of them within two days. Those with wrapped pieces took longer.

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variable. 

Cheema, A., & Soman, D. (2008). The effect of partitions on controlling consumption. Journal of Marketing Research, 45(6), 665–675. https://doi.org/10.1509/jmkr.45.6.665Use the "Insert Citation" button to add citations to this document.

 

Hypothesis: If people receive information about available health services, they will use those services more.

Researchers sampled several communities in India on their use of available health services. They randomly assigned half of the communities to receive pamphlets and community meetings that informed them of services. A year later, these residents had more prenatal examinations, more tetanus vaccinations, more prenatal supplements, and more infant vaccinations than people in the communities that did not receive the pamphlets or hold the community meetings.

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variables.

 

Pandey, P., Sehgal, A. R., Riboud, M., Levine, D., & Goyal, M. (2007). Informing resource-poor populations and the delivery of entitled health and social services in rural India: A cluster randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 298(16), 1867–1875. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.298.16.1867

 

Hypothesis: If we invite girls to “do science” as compared to “be a scientist,” they will persist longer in playing a science game.

 

Researchers randomly assigned young girls to hear that “Today we’re going to do science” or hear that “Today we’re going to be scientists” before playing a science game where the children had to make guesses based on observation. After failing at their guesses, the experimenter the child if she wanted to keep playing or do something else. The girls in the “do science” condition were more likely to persist in playing the game than those in the “be a scientist” condition.

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variable.

 

Rhodes, M., Leslie, S. J., Yee, K. M., & Saunders, K. (2019). Subtle linguistic cues increase girls’ engagement in science. Psychological Science. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618823670

Psychology students often struggle with the difference between the independent and dependent variables. After covering these concepts, ask students to work in pairs or small groups to identify both the independent variable(s) and the dependent variable(s) in each example.

Hypothesis: Creating concrete examples will improve recall.

"Students read a short text that introduced eight concepts. Some students were then prompted to generate concrete examples of each concept followed by definition restudy, whereas others only restudied definitions for the same amount of time. Two days later, students completed final tests involving example generation and definition cued recall." (In the definition cued recall test, the cues were the names of each of the concepts; the "recall" was the student writing down the definition.) Those who created their own examples of each of the concepts did better on the test than students who just restudied the concepts. 

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variable. 

Rawson, K. A., & Dunlosky, J. (2016). How effective is example generation for learning declarative concepts? Educational Psychology Review28(3), 649–672. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-016-9377-z

 

Hypothesis: Attending to a phone will decrease the likelihood of seeing a unicycling clown.

People, after walking across a college square, were asked if they saw a clown unicycling around a central sculpture. Only 25% of cell phone users reported seeing the clown as compared to 60% of people who were listening to music, 51% of people who were walking alone with no technological distractions, and 71% of people who were walking with another person.

This type of study is called a quasi-experiment because participants weren't randomly assigned to conditions.

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variable. 

Hyman, I. E., Boss, S. M., Wise, B. M., McKenzie, K. E., & Caggiano, J. M. (2010). Did you see the unicycling clown? Inattentional blindness while walking and talking on a cell phone. Applied Cognitive Psychology24, 597–607. https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.1638

 

Hypothesis: Being sleep-deprived will increase the desire for high-calorie foods.

After either get a full night’s sleep or staying awake all night, participants were asked how desirable each of 80 different foods were.  When participants were sleep-deprived, they found high-calorie foods more desirable than when they had a full night’s sleep.

This type study is called a within-subjects design because the same participants got both the full night’s sleep and, on another night, stayed awake all night.

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variable. 

Greer, S. M., Goldstein, A. N., & Walker, M. P. (2013). The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nature Communications, 4, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms3259

 

Hypothesis: “Inflated praise [will] decrease challenge-seeking in children with low self-esteem but [will] increase challenge-seeking in children with high self-esteem.”

Children (ages 8 to 12), after having their self-esteem measured, “drew a famous painting… and were told that that a professional painter, who in reality did not exist, would examine their drawing.”  Each child then received a handwritten note that they were told was written by the painter. The note said either, “You made an incredibly beautiful drawing!,” “You made a beautiful drawing!,” or did not address the drawing. Children then could choose to replicate two easy drawings (“If you choose to draw these easy pictures, you won’t make many mistakes, but you won’t learn much either.”) or two difficult drawings (“If you choose to draw thsese difficult pictures, you might make many mistakes, but you’ll definitely learn a lot, too.”). Children with low self-esteem who received the incredibly beautiful praise were more likely to choose the easy drawings. Children with low self-esteem who received the beautiful praise were likely to choose the difficult drawings. Those results were reversed for children with low self-esteem.

 

In this experiment, identify the two independent variables and the dependent variable.

 

Brummelman, E., Thomaes, S., Orobio de Castro, B., Overbeek, G., & Bushman, B. J. (2014). “That’s not just beautiful-that’s incredibly beautiful!”: The adverse impact of inflated praise on children with low self-esteem. Psychological Science, 25(3), 728–735. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613514251

 

Hypothesis: Tasters will rate vinegar-laced beer as better than regular beer if they are not first told that vinegar has been added to the beer.

Participants were invited to taste two different beers and express their preference for one over the other. Participants were told that the beer was laced with vinegar either before or after tasting or were told nothing. Participants who weren’t told that the beer was laced with vinegar or were told after they tasted it preferred it over the regular beer. Those who were told it was laced with vinegar before tasting it preferred the regular beer.

 

In this experiment, identify the independent variable and the dependent variable.

 

Lee, L., Frederick, S., & Ariely, D. (2006). Try it, you’ll like it: The influence of expectation, consumption, and revelation on preferences for beer. Psychological Science, 17(12), 1054–1058. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01829.x

Are you getting tired of your classical conditioning examples? Here are some new ones from FailBlog. You won’t be surprised to see that while the FailBlog post is called “29 people share the Pavlovian (reflex) responses they’ve developed,” not all of these are actually examples of classical conditioning. The key is that the response has to be involuntary. In several of these, the behavior is voluntary. For example, #21: “TV commercial, look at phone.” Since looking at phone is a voluntary behavior, this is operant conditioning where the TV commercial is a discriminative stimulus. There is negative reinforcement (removing the commercial) and positive reinforcement (something more interesting than a commercial on the phone). And #23 is a reference to The Office “mouth tastes bad” scene – which is still not an example of classical conditioning. (What’s the involuntary response? Now, if he salivated to the ding…)

 

After covering both classical and operant conditioning, if your students are up for the challenge, ask them to work in pairs or small groups to identify the examples that are classical conditioning and the ones that are not. Read through all 29 of these before giving them to your students. The language and content of some may not be appropriate for your student population. Make sure you are comfortable explaining the classical conditioning behind the classical conditioning examples and explaining why the other are not examples of classical conditioning. Use only the ones you want.

 

After the groups have had time to do their identifications, go through each example in turn. “Number 1: classical conditioning, which groups say yes?” You can do a show of hands, clickers, or some other polling method. Spend time discussing the ones that are not classical conditioning that students thought were.

 

If time allows, or as a take-home assignment, assign each student group one or more of the classical conditioning examples. Their task is to identify the unconditioned stimulus, conditioned stimulus, unconditioned response, conditioned response in each of their assigned examples.

When Seattle residents were surveyed concerning their fear of crime, many reported a fear that outpaced the actual level of crime. Two neighborhoods, for example, “are seemingly safe places to live, and rank among the 15 neighborhoods with the lowest rates of reported crime. But in terms of fear, they rank second and third, respectively — both at least 10 points higher than the city average.” There are 8 additional neighborhoods whose amount of crime is below the city average but whose fear of crime is above the city average (Balk, 2018).

 

Additionally, while Seattle crime is frequently reported in the news, suburban crime is less reported. Some residents of Bellevue (population 150,000 and located 10 miles east of Seattle) have complained that problems with crime in their city has not enjoyed the same media coverage Seattle’s has. In all fairness, Bellevue’s crime rate is not near that of Seattle’s. For example, in 2018, while Seattle had 992 burglaries per 100,000 residents, Bellevue had 268 per 100,000 residents (Balk, 2019). Why do the residents of some Seattle neighbors greatly fear crime while their neighborhoods are pretty safe?

 

Why do the residents of Bellevue think there is more crime in their city than there is?

 

One culprit may be Nextdoor.com (Balk, 2019), “The private social network for your neighborhood.”

 

The Nextdoor.com website says, “Nextdoor is the best way to stay informed about what’s going on in your neighborhood—whether it’s finding a last-minute babysitter, planning a local event, or sharing safety tips. There are so many ways our neighbors can help us, we just need an easier way to connect with them.” As a member of Nextdoor.com, I do see all of those things. But Nextdoor also provides a way for everyone to report suspicious activity and actual crime (posting security cam recordings of thieves stealing packages is a favorite), whether experienced themselves or by a neighbor. “Suspicious activity” is, of course, subjective. Whether it’s actual crime or “suspicious activity” that may have been nothing, it’s easy for readers of Nextdoor to add ticks to their mental crime column.

 

For frequent Nextdoor readers, crime information is salient. The availability heuristic leads such readers to think their neighborhoods are crime-ridden when, in fact, the crime rates may be quite low. If only people would also report when they experienced no crime. (Do you think I could start that trend? “Dear neighbors, nobody harmed my family or stole my property today.”) It’s another nice reminder that the information we take in does indeed influence our perceptions. For those keeping score – System 1: 1; System 2: 0 (Stanovich & West, 2000).

 

References

 

Balk, G. (2018, June 28). ‘Mean world syndrome’: In some Seattle neighborhoods, fear of crime exceeds reality. Seattle Times. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/mean-world-syndrome-in-some-seattle-neighborhoods-fear-of-crime-exceeds-reality

 

Balk, G. (2019, February 11). The ‘Nextdoor effect’ in Bellevue: A familiar reaction to crime. Seattle Times. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/the-nextdoor-effect-in-bellevue-a-familiar-reaction-to-crime

 

Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (2000). Individual differences in reasoning: Implications for the rationality debate? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 645–726. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X00003435

Adjunct faculty, unfortunately, often don’t have the kind of support full-time faculty do. As full-time faculty, many of us could do a better job supporting both our new and our long-standing adjuncts.

 

The Adjunct Faculty Resource Guide from the American Psychological Association can help. This 19-page document was originally produced by the Psychology Teachers at Community Colleges (PT@CC) committee and revised in 2017 by the Committee for Associate and Baccalaureate Education (CABE).

 

If you are an adjunct or are thinking about taking up teaching as a part-time endeavor, read this guide.

 

If you are full-time faculty who are hiring or supervising adjuncts, read this guide so you know what you should be telling your new adjuncts. Also, give this guide to your new adjuncts.

 

The guide is divided into three categories.

 

“Getting started: Learning institutional culture”

The process for getting hired varies. Class attendance policies, class cancellation policies, and grading policies vary widely from institution to institution. Know what you need to know to keep student records confidential and where students can get the institutional support they need – and where you can get the institutional support you need.

 

“Getting organized: Teaching psychology courses”

Create, manage, and assess your course. Write a syllabus that explains all of that to your students. Know how institutional areas, like the library, testing center, and tech support, can help you and your students.

 

“Getting connected: Building your psychology network”

Your departmental colleagues and the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (including its 8,000-member Facebook group) will be invaluable. Join us. If attending national psychology conferences are out of your price range, consider going to a regional conference. All of them include programming on the teaching of psychology. There are a lot of local or state teaching of psychology conferences as well. Check with your department for a list of such conferences in your area.

 

At the end of the guide are checklists for new adjuncts teaching face-to-face courses and new adjuncts teaching online courses. Print them out, and check the boxes as you prepare for your first course. As you have questions, ask.

Cartoonists have pretty good insight into the workings of the human mind. How many of them took Intro Psych?

 

These comics will jazz up your next research methods, cognition, personality, learning, and social psych lectures.

 

Dilbert's boss does not have an operational definition of "employee engagement," and, thus, no way to measure it. Also, on the ethics side, no, it's not okay to make up data.

 

Lio, having no trouble with functional fixedness, repurposes an object into a sled. Lio’s friends aren’t typical. His ingroups include monsters, aliens, and death himself. When everyone else sees those creatures as part of a threatening outgroup, to Lio, they are just his friends. Also, you don’t have to read through too many strips to see Lio’s strong internal locus of control.

 

Rat in Pearls Before Swine can be counted on for a solid outgroup homogeneity bias.

 

Jeremy’s mom in Zits provides a nice example of positive punishment. No, I don’t think he’ll forget his textbook at home again. Or, perhaps more likely, if he does forget it at home, he won’t ask his mom to bring it to school. After all, punishment makes us better at avoiding the punishment.

 

Caulfield, the boy in Frazz, wonders if Santa has fallen victim to the just-world phenomenon.

Pig in Pearls Before Swine, whose sweetness and innocence may be unparalleled in the comics universe, does not fall for the fundamental attribution error.

 

Looking for more example from the comics? Here are some previous comic-focused blog posts:

Spotlight effect

Door-in-the-Face, classical conditioning, and operant conditioning

Change blindness, priming, and positive reinforcement

Because the perception of color is inherent to our experience, it’s difficult to know what someone else’s perception of color is like. People with total color blindness (either monochromacy or achromatopsia) (National Eye Institute, 2015) or color deficiency – can’t know what someone with complete color vision sees. And people with complete color vision can’t know what someone with total color blindness or color deficiency sees.

 

In an article about what it is like to be a woman who is red/green color blind*, Zoe Dubno (2019) tells us about a free app that manipulates color to show us what everyone else is seeing: Color Blind Pal (Android/iOS/Mac).

 

If your students have one of these three types of color blindness, the app will shift the hue of colors to make those colors easier to see.

 

Protanopia/protanomaly (cannot see any red/reduced sensitivity to red)

 

Deuteranopia/deuteranomaly (cannot see any green/reduced sensitivity to green)

 

Tritanopia/trianomaly (cannot see blue/reduced sensitivity to blue)

 

For your non-color blind students who are, say, future software builders, website designers, graphic designers, interior designers or who will ever have a need to create a graph or do a presentation, they should know what almost 10% of their audience (National Eye Institute, 2015) will see. You can give your students this information from the National Eye Institute (2015):

 

Red/green color blindness

 

Protanopia: “Red appears as black. Certain shades of orange, yellow, and green all appear as yellow.”

 

Protanomaly: “Red, orange, and yellow appear greener and colors are not as bright.”

 

Deuteranopia: Red looks brownish-yellow; green look beige.

 

Deuteranomaly (most common): “Yellow and green appear redder and it is difficult to tell violet from blue.”

 

Blue/yellow color blindness

 

Tritanopia (very rare): “Blue appears green and yellow appears violet or light grey.”

 

Trianomaly: “Blue appears greener and it can be difficult to tell yellow and red from pink.”

 

Or your non-color blind students can see the effects of color blindness for themselves in the Color Blind Pal app. 

 

Or your color blind students who are, say, future software builders, website designers, graphic designers, interior designers or who will ever have a need to create a graph or do a presentation, can use the Color Blind Pal app to shift colors into a range they can better see. 

 

Instructions on how to use the Color Blind Pal app are at the end of this blog post.

 

Why is it that a red deficiency results in an inability to distinguish red from green and vice versa, and why is it that a green deficiency results in an inability to distinguish green from red?

 

Follow the link to this image that shows the light wavelengths and how many photons (packets of lightwaves) each cone captures. Notice how much the red and green cones overlap in terms of their sensitivity to the wavelengths of light. For someone who is lacking green sensitivity, for example, their spectrum shifts toward red, making telling the difference between red and green more difficult. Conversely, for someone who is lacking red sensitivity, their spectrum shifts toward green, also making telling the difference between red and green more difficult.

 

Why so much overlap between red and green cones?

 

It looks like red and green cones used to be different alleles of the same gene. And this is still true among New World primates. The continents split 50 million years ago separating what would become New World primates from Old World primates. Around 40 million years ago, in Old World primates what was the green/red gene duplicated, allowing one gene to specialize in creating red cones and the other to specialize in creating green cones. New World primates haven’t had this gene duplication and all remain dichromats (essentially, they’re red/green color blind), except for some females. Since the gene with red/green alleles resides on the X chromosome (and gene for blue cones on chromosome 7), a male New World primate has blue (chromosome 7) and either green or red (he only has one X). A female New World primate has blue (chromosome 7), and, with two Xs, she can have two greens, two reds, or a green and red. In the latter case, she is a trichromat (White, Smith, & Heideman, n.d.).

 

The Ishihara Test

 

After your students have had a chance to explore the Color Blind Pal mobile app, visit a website that displays examples from the Ishihara Test for color blindness, such as this one at colormax.org. Zoom in so that only one test item is displayed at a time. Your students who are not color blind can simulate the different forms of color blindness to see how the number disappears. They can then change the settings in the app so that the app thinks they have, say, deuteranopia, to see how the app changes the colors to make the number more distinctive. Your students who are color blind, using the app set to their form of color blindness may see the number where they hadn’t before.

 

 

******<Start instructions>******

 

Instructions on how to use the Color Blind Pal mobile app

 

Install the app by downloading it from Google Play (Android) or the App Store (iOS). When it asks, give the app permission to access your camera.

 

If you are not color blind or color deficient:

 

Click on the “i” icon, then click on “Color blindness type.”

 

Choose one of the five “Simulate” options. Start with “Simulate deuteranomaly” (reduced sensitivity to green and the most common form of color blindness), then tap the back arrow.

 

At the top of the screen, you can toggle between “Inspecting Color” which names the color in the middle of the screen and “Filtering Colors.” (Play around with “Inspecting Color” first, if you’d like.)

 

Switch to “Filtering Colors.” Make sure “Shift” is selected at the bottom of the screen.

 

You are now seeing what someone with deuteranomaly sees. Use the app to look at a range of colors, especially green and orange. Compare violet and blue.

 

In the settings, change the “color blindness type” to “Simulate deuteranopia” (green blindness), and tap the back arrow. Look at those same colors again. How does lacking the ability to see any green (deuteranopia) compare to being green-deficient (deuteranomaly)?

 

Change the “color blindness type” again to simulate the other forms of color blindness: protanopia (cannot see red), protanomaly (red-deficiency), tritanopia (cannot see blue). How do colors look different when simulating deuternopia compared to protanopia?

 

If you are color blind or color deficient:

 

Click on the “i” icon, then click on “Color blindness type.”

 

Choose the type of color blindness that is closest to yours: protanopia (red), deuteranopia (green), or tritanopia (blue), then tap the back arrow. If you're not sure which form you have, start with deuteranopia (also covers deuteranomaly, the most common type of color blindness).

 

At the top of the screen, you can toggle between “Inspecting Color” which names the color in the middle of the screen and “Filtering Colors.” (Play around with “Inspecting Color” first, if you’d like.)

 

Switch to “Filtering Colors.” Make sure “Shift” is selected at the bottom of the screen.

 

The app will “shift" hues away from colors that are hard to distinguish toward colors that are easier to distinguish.”  

 

At the bottom of the screen, select “Filter.” Everything will appear gray except for the color you chose on the slider. How do the colors change for you? What looks different now?

 

******<End instructions>******

 

*Color blindness vs color deficiency. Technically, the only people who are color blind are those with no color vision at all. Everyone else has different degrees of color deficiency. However, color blindness is in common use to mean any degree of color deficiency, I will use color blindness in this post in that way.

 

References

Dubno, Z. (2019, February 5). Letter of recommendation: Color blind pal. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/05/magazine/letter-of-recommendation-color-blind-pal.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

National Eye Institute. (2015). Facts about color blindness. Retrieved February 13, 2019, from https://nei.nih.gov/health/color_blindness/facts_about

White, P. J. T., Smith, J., & Heideman, M. (n.d.). The evolution of trichromatic vision in monkeys. Retrieved February 17, 2019, from https://lbc.msu.edu/evo-ed/pages/primates/index.html

You can buy a good pair of bone conduction headphones for under $150. Some of your students may have seen them or own a set. Here’s a little information to add to your next Intro Psych hearing lecture, or at least some information to hold onto in case a student asks. If you teach Biopsych, you can dig even deeper into this topic – or have your students do the digging.

 

Bone conduction headphones, such as Aftershokz Trekz Air, send vibrations through, well, bone. The headphones speakers are generally positioned against the cheek bone or upper jaw bone right in front of each ear. The cheek bones carry the vibrations through to the temporal bone – the bone that surrounds the cochlea. While the specifics are still under investigation, we know that these vibrations cause the cochlear fluid to move, triggering the cilia that send their messages to the auditory cortex where we hear sound. It could be that the bone vibrations cause the fluid in the cochlea to move due to a change in pressure, the vibrations in the bone put pressure on the walls of the cochlea causing them to compress, or the vibrations in the bone could cause waves in the cerebrospinal fluid in the skull thereby causing waves in the cochlea (Dauman, 2013). Or all three.

 

All of those routes explain how someone with middle ear damage can hear through bone conduction. The vibrations bypass the bones of the middle ear and affect the cochlea directly. Bone conduction hearing devices (previously called bone anchored hearing aids) are for people with issues with their outer or middle ears. These devices can either be surgically implanted with a speaker attached by magnet or just temporarily attached with adhesive (Hearing Link, 2017).

The vibrations produced by bone conduction headphones also cause vibrations in the skin and cartilage of the outer ear as well as vibrations in the temporal bone of the skull. Those vibrations cause air to move in the outer ear, triggering the bones of the middle ear to move, and so on, resulting in sound. This may not contribute much to what we hear through bone conduction, but it contributes more if we wear ear plugs with our bone conduction headphones. That brings us to the occlusion effect (Dauman, 2013).

 

While you may not be familiar with the occlusion effect (I wasn’t), everyone with some amount of hearing has experienced it. While talking, plug your ears with your fingers. Your voice will sound up to 20 decibels louder (Ross, 2004).  

 

We hear our own voices through bone conduction. With our outer ears open, the vibrations that come through the bone can vibrate on out through the outer ear. With our outer ears plugged, the vibrations cannot escape and so reverberate back through the middle ear, amplifying our voices. This is one of the reasons some people don’t like (unvented) earmold hearing aids; they completely block the ear canal making our voice sound funny (Ross, 2004). Most earmold hearing aids now come with a vent – an opening that allows the vibrations caused by our voices to escape.

 

Why use bone conduction headphones?

 

There are several advantages to using bone conduction headphones (Banks, 2019).

 

If you are walking, running, or biking on the open road, bone conduction headphones allow you to listen to your tunes without blocking your ear canal. You’ll have a greater chance of hearing that car coming up behind you, but, of course, all of the research on attention tells us that you still may not attend to the sound of the car. Or you may not hear the car at all if the sound of it is masked by whatever you’re listening to through your headphones (May & Walker, 2017). In terms of this sort of safety, bone conduction headphones are likely not worse than any other kind of headphone or speaker (Granados, Hopper, & He, 2018).

 

If you use earmold hearing aids, you can use bone conduction headphones with them.

 

If you are a scuba diver, you can use a bone conduction microphone and headphones to both speak and listen underwater (see for example Logosease).

 

If you have tinnitus, bone conduction headphones can provide auditory stimulation to the cochlea that may reduce tinnitus while allowing you to still have a conversation in, say, a work environment (British Tinnitus Association, n.d.; Schweitzer, 2018), although the research here is scant (Manning, Mermagen, & Scharine, 2017).

 

Can bone conduction headphones produce hearing loss when listening at loud volumes just like regular headphones can?

 

After scouring journals and reading opinions from all corners of the internet, my conclusion, pending further evidence, is a tentative and cautious affirmative; bone conduction headphones can cause hearing loss. Anything that can produce loud sounds, including regular headphones cranked up to a high volume, causes hearing loss by producing tsunamis that damage the cilia in the cochlea. Since bone conduction headphones are also causing waves in the cochlea, it stands to reason that waves caused by bone conduction could also reach tsunami strength. But, then again, maybe bone conduction cannot produce those kind of waves. Some research here would be nice. If you know of any, please let me know!

 

References

Banks, L. (2019). Best bone conduction headphones of 2019: A complete guide. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.everydayhearing.com/hearing-technology/articles/bone-conduction-headphones/

British Tinnitus Association. (n.d.). Sound therapy (sound enrichment). Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/sound-therapy

Dauman, R. (2013). Bone conduction : An explanation for this phenomenon comprising complex mechanisms. European Annals of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Diseases, 130(4), 209–213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anorl.2012.11.002

Granados, J., Hopper, M., & He, J. (2018). A usability and safety study of bone-conduction headphones during driving while listening to audiobooks. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 62(1).

Hearing Link. (2017). Bone conduction hearing devices. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.hearinglink.org/your-hearing/implants/bone-conduction-hearing-devices/

Manning, C., Mermagen, T., & Scharine, A. (2017). The effect of sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus on speech recognition over air and bone conduction military communications headsets. Hearing Research, 349, 67–75.

May, K., & Walker, B. N. (2017). The effects of distractor sounds presented through bone conduction headphones on the localization of critical environmental sounds. Applied Ergonomics, 61, 144–158.

Ross, M. (2004). Dr. Ross on hearing loss. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from http://www.hearingresearch.org/ross/hearing_loss/the_occlusion_effect.php

Schweitzer, G. (2018). Bone conduction headphones for hearing loss and tinnitus. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://rewiringtinnitus.com/trekz-titanium-bone-conduction-headphones/

If you want an entire country, state, province, territory, or city to stop ingesting certain consumables, you tax them. “Sin taxes” are applied to things like alcohol and cigarettes. The goal is to make these goods so expensive to purchase, people will stop purchasing them. Or, for those who continue to consume them, the tax they pay can go toward the public health coffers.

 

The U.S. federal government, for example, has a tax of about $1.01 on each pack of cigarettes (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 2017). Each U.S. state/territory can add their own tax on top of that. The national average is $1.79/pack with a low of $.17 (Missouri) and a high of $5.10 (Puerto Rico) (Boonn, 2018). Finally, cities can add their own taxes. New York City, for example, adds a $1.50 tax. If you want to buy a pack of cigarettes in New York City, you’re tax is $1.01 (federal) plus $4.35 (state) plus $1.50 (city) for a total of $6.86 (Mathias, 2017). And, then, of course, is the cost of the cigarettes themselves.

 

Do sin taxes work? Does this added cost reduce consumption of tobacco?

 

Using a list of tobacco taxes in the U.S. (Boonn, 2018) and a list of smoking rates in the U.S. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018), I ran the correlation: -.42. The higher the tax, the lower the smoking rates. Of course, correlation does not mean causation. Do higher taxes cause people to smoke less? Or is it the other way around? Are people in states where people smoke less more likely to vote for higher taxes on cigarettes? Or is there some third variable(s) that affect both the cigarette tax and the smoking rate?

 

It doesn’t answer the question of causation, but the World Health Organization reported on interesting longitudinal data from South Africa (WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2008). When the tax was high, cigarette purchasing was low. From the mid-1980s through the late 1990s, South Africa reduced the tax, and gradually the cigarette purchasing rates climbed. In the late 1990s when they started raising the tax again, cigarette purchasing rates declined again.

 

If “sin taxes” cause us to reduce our purchasing of “sin” products, then operant conditioning offers an explanation why. If a product costs a lot of money to purchase, we’ll be less likely to purchase it – especially if we are not financially well-off. Punishment is defined as anything that reduces a behavior. High prices are, well, punitive. Or at least that’s the idea. For a six tax to be punitive, the amount of additional tax has to be enough for us to actually reduce the behavior, i.e. stop purchasing the product. What that amount is for you may be different than what it is for me. For a 1-pack-a-day smoker in New York City, they’re paying $6.86 in tax alone for that pack of cigarettes. If they make $14.00 an hour, one half hour of work goes toward that cigarette tax. Every day. I wouldn’t be surprised if that smoker quite smoking, or at least reduced how much they smoke. For a different 1-pack-a-day smoker who makes $150 an hour, that $6.86 in tax doesn’t hurt so much. They can make that amount of money in less than 3 minutes. Every day.

 

This is the discussion in Seattle right now around a year-old sugary drink tax. In the city, each sugary drink is assessed a $.0175 per ounce tax. That 16 ounce Coke you are buying with your lunch is now $0.28 more. “The city predicted the tax would cut soda consumption by 40 percent. But through the first nine months, the tax is generating revenues at a rate 52 percent higher than predicted — suggesting it’s possible it may be having no effect on Seattleites’ soda appetites whatsoever.” One possibility is that most of the city residents are making enough money that that $0.28 isn’t even felt (Westneat, 2018).  Like the rest of the city, that $0.28 is not going to stand between me and my Coke.*

 

Here’s a quick classroom demonstration. Ask students to think about their favorite beverage. How much more would their drink have to cost for them to reduce how much they buy? Start at $0.25 and raise it by $0.10, then another $0.10, and so on. Ask students to raise their hands when the additional cost hits the point when they buy less of it and to keep their hands up until everyone has their hands in the air (or use clickers – “vote A when we hit your no-go tax.”)

 

Reiterate that punishment is only punishment if it reduces the behavior. What that punishment point is differs by person.

 

The other thing that punishment does is make us good at avoiding punishment. You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that there is a thriving black market for cigarettes in New York City. Of these smuggled packs of cigarettes, 30.9% have no state stamp; 44.7% carry a Virginia stamp where the state tax is $0.30 per pack, well-below the New York State/New York City combined tax of $5.85 (Mathias, 2017). If the tax is too high, people will find ways to not pay it.

 

Conclude this part of your lecture by emphasizing the importance of understanding the principles of operant conditioning. From their pets to their dating partners/spouses to their children to the population of a city, state/province/territory, or country, operant conditioning is at work.

 

*Actually, I haven’t had a full-sugar Coke in years, but if they similarly taxed Diet Coke or Coke Zero, I’d have no problem paying that $0.28. Don’t tell the Seattle City Council.

 

References

 

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. (2017). Federal excise tax increase and related provisions. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.ttb.gov/main_pages/schip-summary.shtml

 

Boonn, A. (2018). State cigarette excise tax rates and rankings. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/assets/factsheets/0097.pdf

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Map of cigarette use among adults. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/statesystem/cigaretteuseadult.html

 

Mathias, C. (2017). Inside New York City’s dangerous, multimillion-dollar cigarette black market. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/03/cigarette-smuggling-new-york-_n_5041823.html

 

Westneat, D. (2018). The city’s new soda tax is usurious — and also too low. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/story-of-seattle-the-citys-new-soda-tax-is-usurious-and-also-too-low/

 

WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic. (2008). Geneva, Switzerland.

Shout out to the Society for the Teaching of Psychology Facebook group for sharing their favorite tools for helping students study the brain.

 

Printable black and white images of the brain from Clipart Library (shared by Achu John)

 

Images include the brain, the eye, and the neuron.

 

Use these images as diagrams on your next exam, write on them during your lecture using a document camera, and print them for students to take notes on.

 

This webpage also includes a half-court basketball drawing, an empty times table chart, and a two-circle Venn diagram. I’m not entirely sure how you can use these for teaching brain-related things, but you’ll have them if you need them.

 

3D Brain app for iOS, Android, and web (web version needs Adobe Flash) was produced by the DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (shared by Kat West)

 

From the dropdown menu, select the brain area of interest, such as Broca’s area. The image of the brain turns gray with Broca’s area highlighted in purple. A paragraph of text tells us what Broca’s area does and another paragraph gives us a case study. We get some information about associated functions, cognitive disorders, and what we see when Broca’s area is damaged. Three research reviews round out the text. The directional controls in the lower right allow you to rotate the brain image.

 

Use this website during your lecture to show where the brain areas in a three-dimensional space. Students can use it as a study tool. Be aware that the functions associated with each brain area in the 3D Brain likely paints a more complicated picture of how the brain works than your Intro Psych textbook. For example, the amygdala, the 3D Brain tells us, is associated with “fear-processing, emotion processing, learning, fight-or-flight response, and reward-processing,” which is a bit more than the strong emotions-like-anger-and-fear that a lot of Intro Psych textbooks report.

 

Pocket Brain, Brain Anatomy, and Brain and Nervous Anatomy Atlas ($9.99) all for iOS (shared by Susie Veccio); My Brain Anatomy and Brain Tutor 3D

 

Some of these are at a level appropriate for Intro Psych. Others may be more appropriate for a neuroscience course. Take a look at each of them yourself before recommending to your students.

 

Neuroscientifically Challenged videos (shared by Susanne Biehl)

 

"These 2-Minute Neuroscience videos will help you learn the basics of neuroscience in short, easy-to-understand clips."

 

Bonus resources

 

BrainFacts.org (a resource by the Society for Neuroscience) has a webpage for educators.

 

The target audience is K-12, but many of the resources for secondary ed teachers would also work for higher ed.

The website includes a “Find a Neuroscientist” database. “Neuroscientists around the world are eager to help you educate about the brain. Our database has scientists in more than 40 countries. Connect with a scientist in your community today.” Enter your location, and a list of neuroscientists will come up. How to pick one and how they can help you is not clear, but there you go.

 

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by science writer Sam Kean

 

This book is a must-read for anyone teaching neuroscience. Each chapter focuses on a different part of the brain. We get the back story on the research, a report on current research findings, and a handful of case studies. Take notes as you read; your neuroscience lectures will be much more compelling. (Read my 2015 book review.)

 

Christina Ragan's Teaching Resources for Biological Psychology and Neuroscience Facebook Group 

 

This is "a a centralized location to share activities, links, readings, videos, etc. on topics related to biology, psychology, and neuroscience." If you're looking for a community for sharing such resources, this is a good one.

 

What are your favorite resources for teaching the brain?

Here’s some information the business majors taking your Intro Psych class should be thinking about.

 

During the social psychology chapter, pose this question to your students: Is it good for employees to know how much money their managers and their coworkers are making? Why? Give students a couple minutes to think about this. If you’d like, let students discuss with one or two people around them. If you have an audience response system, ask each question separately. “Is it good for employees to know how much money their managers are making?” Ask volunteers to share their reasoning. Next, ask “Is it good for employees to know how much their coworkers are making?” Again, ask volunteers to share their reasoning.

 

Zoë Cullen (Harvard Business School) and Ricardo Perez-Truglia (UCLA) wondered the same thing. You’re welcome to read the working paper or a summary written by the authors for the Harvard Business Review.

 

Managers (vertical inequality)

 

Cullen and Perez-Truglia (Cullen & Perez-Truglia, 2018) asked a couple thousand employees of “a large commercial bank in Asia” to guess how much their manager made. They thought that their managers made about 14% less than they actually did. The researchers then randomly assigned the employees to either learn how much their managers actually made or to remain in the dark.

 

With the assistance of the bank, researchers “gathered daily timestamp, email, and sales data for the year following our survey.” Learning that their managers made more money than they thought resulted in employees working more hours, sending more email messages, and selling more than those who did not learn how much their managers actually made. In fact, the more off employees were in their estimates, the more work they did. And the closer the manager was on the corporate ladder to the employee, the more pronounced the effect. “[A]fter realizing that these managers get paid more, employees became more optimistic about the salaries they will earn themselves five years in the future.” 

 

Coworkers (horizontal inequality)

 

Cullen and Perez-Truglia (Cullen & Perez-Truglia, 2018) asked those same research participants to guess the salaries of “the other employees with the same position and title, from the same unit.” While the participants were closer in accuracy with their guesses than they were with managers, most still underestimated how much their coworkers were making. Again, participants were randomly assigned to learn how much their coworkers actually made or to remain in the dark.

 

Using the same “daily timestamp, email, and sales data for the year following our survey,” researchers found employees worked less than their in-the-dark counterparts. And they didn’t work just a little bit less. “ Finding out that peers earn on average 10% more than initially thought caused employees to spend 9.4% fewer hours in the office, send 4.3% fewer emails, and sell 7.3% less.”

 

This is a beautiful – if unfortunate – example of relative deprivation. Relative deprivation is “the perception by an individual that the amount of a desired resource (e.g., money, social status) he or she has is less than some comparison standard. This standard can be the amount that was expected or the amount possessed by others with whom the person compares himself or herself” (American Psychological Association, n.d.) When we experience relative deprivation, we feel worse. And when that relative deprivation is experienced in a work setting, that feeling worse translates into working less.

 

Discussion

 

Ask your students to imagine that they are employers. How might they handle salary information? Would they be transparent, letting everyone know how much everyone is paid? Would they release average salaries by position type rather than attach names to salaries? And should different people who hold the same position be paid different salaries?

Cullen and Perez-Truglia (Cullen & Perez-Truglia, 2018) offer a couple suggestions.

 

  1. “[K]eep salaries compressed among employees in the same position, but offer them large raises when they get promoted to a higher position.”
  2. “[T]ransparency about average pay for a position, without disclosing individual salaries.”

 

The researchers conclude their Harvard Business Review article with this advice.

 

We encourage you to start experimenting with transparency at your company.  The first step is to figure out what your employees want. You can find out through anonymous surveys. Just mention some alternatives that you consider viable, and let them voice their preferences. For instance, do your employees feel informed about their salaries five years down the road? Would they want to find out the average pay two or three promotions ahead? Once you look at the survey results, you can decide what information to disclose and how. According to our findings, signals about the enticing paychecks waiting five years in the future is the push they need to be at their best.

 

References

 

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Relative deprivation. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from https://dictionary.apa.org/relative-deprivation

 

Cullen, Z., & Perez-Truglia, R. (2018). The motivating (and demotivating) effects of learning others’ salaries. Retrieved December 27, 2018, from https://hbr.org/2018/10/the-motivating-and-demotivating-effects-of-learning-others-salaries

In Intro Psych, during coverage of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in the therapy chapter, give your students this one-page summary provided by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association: Society of Clinical Psychology. Walk your students through some of the highlights.

 

Next, share with your students this Tumblr post as it appeared on Fail Blog. Clearly the client had been seeing this therapist for some time. The client knew the basics of CBT – CBT is about changing how one thinks. The client had had some practice in doing this, but during this particular session, the client was not using what he’d learned.

 

The therapist had very likely seen this behavior from the client before and had been thinking about ways to call the client’s attention to his negative thinking without interrupting the client’s train of thought. At the therapy session described in the Tumblr post, the therapist unveiled his new CBT tool: a Nerf gun. For the rest of the therapy session, every time the client voiced “unhelpful ways of thinking,” his therapist shot him with a Nerf gun. The client stopped, thought about what he said, and revised it. Saying “what a stupid issue, I’m an idiot” was revised to this issue is “frustrating me and I don’t want it to be a problem I’m having.”

 

If you’d like to expand this coverage, you can add information about attribution. Making global (vs. specific), stable (vs. unstable), and internal (vs. external) attributions about negative events is associated with depression.

For example, after a relationships ends, a person may make the following attributions.

 

Global: “I can’t do anything right.”

 

Stable: “I’ll never have a successful relationship.”

 

Internal: “I’m not good enough to have a successful relationship.”

 

In CBT, the client is encouraged to make different attributions, attributions that are specific (vs. global), unstable (vs. stable), and external (vs. internal).

 

Specific: “This relationship wasn’t good.”

 

Unstable: “While this relationship didn’t work out, the next one could.”

 

External: “It takes two people to have a relationship. My boyfriend bears some responsibility.”

 

Interestingly, the reverse is true for positive events. Making specific, unstable, and external attributions for positive events is associated with depression. People who are not depressed are more likely to make global, stable, and internal attributions for positive events.

 

Class demonstration

 

If you’ve been waiting all term for an opportunity to peg your students with Nerf balls, here’s the demonstration for you.

Ask your students to imagine that they have received a poor grade on an exam. Ask student volunteers to give a global attribution for the failing grade. Hit them with a Nerf ball (aim low, you don’t want anyone to lose an eye!), and then ask for a specific attribution instead. After students have given several global attributions, ask for stable attributions – and for those to be changed to unstable attributions. Lastly, ask for internal attributions – and for those to be changed to external attributions.

Crows are smart. Never underestimate a crow.

 

Comparative psychology is “the study of nonhuman animal behavior with the dual objective of understanding the behavior for its own sake and furthering the understanding of human behavior” (American Psychological Association, n.d.). The better that we understand how crows behave, think, communicate, and solve problems, the better we will understand both crows and ourselves.

 

I have a short written assignment that my Intro Psych students do. After its completion, students have a greater appreciation for the crows around them.

 

John Marzluff, a University of Washington zoologist, has made studying crows his life’s work. In his 22-minute TEDx talk, Marzluff shares what he thinks everyone should know about crows. I assign this during the thinking chapter in Intro Psych, after we’ve covered neuroscience and learning. It makes for a nice review of previously covered content.

 

Here are the questions I ask my students to address:

  • What three factors does Marzluff cite for the crow's problem-solving ability? Explain how each contributes to problem-solving skills.
  • How do the brain areas of crows map onto the human brain? What do those brain areas do and why are they important? How do their brains differ from those of humans?
  • Give an example from his talk of how the birds' behavior changed due to positive reinforcement.
  • Give an example from his talk of how the birds' behavior changed due to observational learning.
  • What is your reaction to this video? 

 

 

 

Reference

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Comparative psychology. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from https://dictionary.apa.org/comparative-psychology