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159 Posts authored by: Sue Frantz

Between spending a lot of time thinking about what people need to know about psychology—and, thus, what we should cover in Intro Psych—and thinking about intimate partner violence (IPV), it is glaringly apparent that IPV belongs in the Intro Psych course.*


One place to address the topic is in the social psychology chapter, right after covering foot-in-the-door.


Ask students to use their web-enabled devices to visit this University of Michigan Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center website or show the website on your screen. Briefly describe each of the eight tactics that may be used by an abuser.


Set aside one tactic to use as an example of what you would like students to do. Divide your class into seven groups, assigning one tactic to each group. If you have a larger class (or want to use smaller groups), divide your class into, say, fourteen groups, where two groups will each be addressing the same tactic.


Explain that each of these tactics may start with something small and then gradually increase in severity: foot-in-the-door. In one study, "[T]he women described how the violence occurred in a more or less insidious and gradual manner, first finding expression in the form of psychological violence through control, jealousy and disparaging comments about the woman, her relatives or friends, and attempts to circumscribe her existence" (Scheffer Lindgren & Renck, 2008). 


Because of the gradual escalation, the tactics can be hard to see. The goal of this activity is to make that gradual escalation visible, here, in the safety of the classroom. By knowing what to look for, you may be better able to see the warning signs or red flags in your own relationships or in the relationships of a friend or family member.


Instructions to students:


For your assigned abuse tactic, identify what the most severe demonstration of that abuse may be. Next, identify what you think may be the least severe demonstration of that abuse. Finally, fill in at least two intermediary steps.


Using the tactic you set aside as an example, ask students for what the most severe demonstration of that abuse may be. For example, if you chose “Using Isolation,” the most severe may be the abuser not allowing their partner to communicate with anyone. Next, ask students what the initial foot in the door may look like. Perhaps the abuser doesn’t tell their partner when friends have called. Finally, ask students to fill in two intermediary steps, such as breaking their partner’s cellphone and perhaps, next, not allowing their partner to drive anywhere alone.


Now ask students to work in groups to identify at least four foot-in-the-door steps for their assigned tactic. Least severe, somewhat severe, more severe, and most severe. Think of these as light yellow flags, bright yellow flags, orange flags, and red flags. A light yellow flag may seem harmless, but it could indicate the potential for escalation.


Once discussion winds down, ask groups to share their examples.


Detecting relationship patterns that may be unhealthy can lead to positive outcomes (Wuest & Merritt-Gray, 2008).


Wrap up this activity by sharing with your students community or campus resources they can turn to for support. Be sure to include this national resource for your students’ friends and family who may not be local:


The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available to “talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship.” Call them at 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522. Or you can visit and click the “Chat Now” button in the top right corner of the page.


While these directions are for an in-class or live-video (with breakout rooms) class session, instructions may be adapted for an online class discussion board or as a stand-alone assignment.


*Special thank you to social psychologist and intimate partner violence researcher Kiersten Baughman for sharing her expertise with me




Scheffer Lindgren, M., & Renck, B. (2008). Intimate partner violence and the leaving process: Interviews with abused women. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 3(2), 113–124.


Wuest, J., & Merritt-Gray, M. (2008). A theoretical understanding of abusive intimate partner relationships that become non-violent: Shifting the pattern of abusive control. Journal of Family Violence, 23(4), 281–293.

During this please-stay-away-from-other-people time, I have been thinking a lot about people who are trapped at home with an abuser.


Yesterday morning we went to the grocery store for our next two-week round of supplies. No, we didn’t buy toilet paper. We had just happened to stock up before COVID-19, and we are still well-supplied.


We were in the snacks aisle, when I realized that I had passed the sour cream and onion potato chips. I turned around to retrieve them, when a large man substantially farther away than the recommended six feet said, “So you’re coming this way then?!” I replied, pointing behind me, “Oh, you want to go this way?” “Not anymore!!” With that, he and the woman who was with him turned around and went down another aisle.


Later, as I exited the frozen food aisle, he and she were about to pass that aisle. He spotted me, came up short, glared at me, huffed, and made a wide swing around me. Clearly, the grocery store was to be his and his alone that morning, and I had ruined his plan.  


I have been having a hard time shaking the memory of these interactions. It’s the woman who was with him that I keep seeing. She was small, both in size and demeanor. She said nothing and was expressionless. She stood at his elbow and when he moved, she moved.  


Now, I admittedly have no idea what the nature of their relationship is, but my he’s-abusive alarms were ringing loudly. And there was nothing I could do about it.


At my college, I’m part of the team that helped our faculty move their winter quarter classes online for the end of the quarter. We’ve spent the last week helping our faculty get geared up to spend all of spring quarter online. While my focus has been on our faculty working from home, I’ve had to dedicate some time to thinking about my own spring quarter class and the students who will be in it.


And now I can’t help but think about everyone’s living situation. How many of our college’s faculty and staff are trapped at home 24/7 with an abuser? How many of our students? How many of your faculty, staff, and students?


The National Domestic Violence Hotline (2020) reports


Here’s how COVID-19 could uniquely impact intimate partner violence survivors:


Abusive partners may withhold necessary items, such as hand sanitizer or disinfectants.


Abusive partners may share misinformation about the pandemic to control or frighten survivors, or to prevent them from seeking appropriate medical attention if they have symptoms.


Abusive partners may withhold insurance cards, threaten to cancel insurance, or prevent survivors from seeking medical attention if they need it.


Programs that serve survivors may be significantly impacted –- shelters may be full or may even stop intakes altogether. Survivors may also fear entering shelter because of being in close quarters with groups of people.


Survivors who are older or have chronic heart or lung conditions may be at increased risk in public places where they would typically get support, like shelters, counseling centers, or courthouses.


Travel restrictions may impact a survivor’s escape or safety plan – it may not be safe for them to use public transportation or to fly.


An abusive partner may feel more justified and escalate their isolation tactics.


Please consider sharing this information with faculty, staff, and students.


If you are living with an abuser, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522. Or you can visit and click the “Chat Now” button in the top right corner of the page.


After relating my grocery store experience to a colleague, they said they kept thinking about the LGBTQ youth who are now trapped at home with unsupportive family. And now I keep thinking about them, too.


Please consider sharing this information about how to get help from The Trevor Project (2020).


If you are an LGBTQ youth who is struggling or an ally who knows someone who is struggling, please call the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678678. Or you can visit on your computer to chat.


And there are children and teens who are living with abusive parents, guardians, or others for whom school may have been their only reprieve.


Please consider sharing this information about how to get help from Childhelp (2020).


If you are a teenager or child and you are being hurt by someone, know someone who may be, or are afraid that you may hurt someone, please call or text the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 or visit for live chat.



Childhelp. (2020).

National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2020).

The Trevor Project. (2020).

Like many of you and your students today (March, 2020) who are working from home. I am doing the same. While I am looking forward to the slew of research that is going to come out of this ABA experiment, this talk by Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom may be a preview of the kind of finds we're going to see. 


Bloom starts talking about his research here at about the 6:30 mark.



After watching this video, ask your students to identify the independent variable and dependent variables. How were participants randomly assigned to conditions? Why was it necessary to use random assignment and not just let participants decide if they wanted to work for home or the office? According to Bloom, what are the “three great enemies of working from home?” Bloom adds that having choice of whether to work from the office or work from home is key. During COVID-19, almost all of us in education in the US and other parts of the world—faculty, staff, and students—have no choice but to work from home. How may this impact our productivity?


To expand the discussion, ask students to explore the pros and cons of teleworking and working onsite. If your students were psychological scientists, how could they go about researching the relative impact of each of those pros/cons. In other words, if students thought that “too many distractions at home” was a reason to work onsite, how could students find out how many workers would identify that as a factor and how big of a factor it was in their decision.

With colleges and universities moving their face-to-face classes online or into a live video format during this Spring 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, some faculty are being forced to confront an unpleasant reality: they don’t like how they sound or look when recorded.


The mere exposure effect

The more we see or hear something, the more—in general—we like it. That is called the mere exposure effect.


Our voice

Because of how the sound of our own voice travels from our throat to our ears, it sounds different in our heads than it does to the people around us. We have spent a lifetime listening to our voices produced that way, and so that is the voice we prefer.


Microphones record our “outside” voice. Microphones pick up the sound of our voice as the people around us hear it.

They like that voice because it’s the one they hear. We hate it because it doesn’t sound like our voice to us. It’s not the one we hear.


Our face

Symmetrical faces are perceived to be more attractive than asymmetrical faces. I hate to be the one to deliver this news, but your face probably is not symmetrical. And I know, speaking as one who does not have a symmetrical face.

We have, again, spent a lifetime looking at our own faces—in a mirror. We much prefer this “mirrored” view of ourselves than we do, say, a photograph of ourselves, you know, the way other people see us.


Try this. Take a photo of yourself. Use your phone’s or computer’s image editing tools to flip the photo to its mirror image. You will probably like the mirrored photograph more than the original—the view of yourself that you see most often. Ask your friends and family which one they prefer. Most often they’ll choose the original photo—the view of yourself that they see most often.


No wonder we hate recording ourselves

Recordings we make of ourselves don’t sound like us, and the view is not one we’re used to seeing. It’s a wonder that anyone ever consents to being recorded.


Keep in mind that any recording you make is not for you. Your recording is—in the case of faculty—for your students. How you look and how you sound matches their reality. While you may not like it, they like matching the sound and face of the real you with the sound and face of the recorded you. And after all, your students are the ones your recordings are for.


Check your recording software for a mirror image setting

While there’s nothing I can do about your voice, some recording/webconferencing tools—like Zoom—include the ability to switch your webcam to mirror image. This feature was designed to better help you make sense of what you’re seeing on camera. In regular webcam view, it’s a challenge to get your stray hair back in place. Your right hand is on the left side of the screen and as you move your right hand toward your left, on the screen your right hand moves to the right. Everything is backwards!


When you enable mirror image, it is just like you are looking in a mirror. Your right hand is on the right. When you move your right hand left, the webcam image of your hand also moves left.


And you know what? Since this is how you see yourself all the time in your bathroom mirror, you’ll like how you look a lot more.


But here’s the extra cool part. While the camera view looks like a mirror to you, it has not changed for your viewers. They will still see you as they would if they were standing in front of you. And that’s also the view that will be recorded. Not the mirror view.


(Shout out to my colleague Eric Baer for showing me this in Zoom!)


Theater vs. television/film

While we are talking about recording yourself, now is a good time to remember that if you have spent most of your career standing in front of a classroom, you are a performer. Like theater-trained actors, you have honed your craft so that your gestures and emotions carry to the back of your classroom.


Many theater-trained actors struggle when they go from the stage to the screen. Television and movie cameras are intimate machines—as are webcams. They are right up in your face, recording every wrinkle and every muscle twitch. Toning down your expressiveness for your webcam recording may not come easily to you.


If you are wildly expressive on camera, don’t worry too much about it. Just know that it’s part of your “stage” presentation style. With practice, you could learn to dial it back, but that’s probably not worth your energy right now. No students are going to be harmed by your exuberance.  


Go record yourself

Go forth. Take a deep breath. And make a recording.

Photographer Noah Kalina took a photo of himself every day for 20 years. He put them all together into an 8-minute video. When he started this project on January 11, 2000, he was 19.5 years old. When this video ends on January 11, 2020, he was 39.5 years old. That’s 240 months in 480 seconds—one month every two seconds.


If you play it at double speed, it will only take four minutes to show—one month every second. Once the recording starts to play, click the gear icon in the bottom right corner of the recording to change your playback speed. 



I have been thinking about this video since I first saw it. We watch people age all the time, but to watch it happen so quickly is… I’m not sure what. Jarring? Compelling? Both?


This video could be a nice lead-in to your coverage of adulthood. Encourage your students to jot down their reactions as they watch. Afterwards, invite students to share their reactions in pairs/small groups or with the class as a whole.


Kalina was born in early July, 1980. The first photo we have of him is in early January, 2000. As a rough starting point (within a few weeks), Kalina is about 19.5 years old in the first photo. In the development chapter, as you move from emerging adulthood to middle adulthood, use these video times to jump ahead in the recording.


Approximate Age

Video Time














































Kalina has also compiled the photos into a collage. It’s difficult to see individual photos, but taken in its entirety, it’s just as compelling as the recording.

Many cartoonists are excellent observers of the human condition. One of the best is Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame. With 50 years of comic strips, that’s 17,897 individual strips—drawn by him and him alone—Schulz’s characters can be a rich source of psychology examples.


In this strip that ran most recently on May 5, 2019, Schulz gifts us with a beautiful example of classical conditioning. Students don’t need to be familiar with the characters to see the classical conditioning. If they are familiar with Charlie Brown and Lucy and the relationship these characters have with each other, they’ll better appreciate the humor.


The characters are playing baseball. From the outfield, Lucy yells, “Hey, manager!” Charlie Brown, standing on the pitcher’s mound, looks at us with a queasy expression. He explains that hearing her say “Hey, manager!” is enough to give him a stomachache because every time she yells that, she follows it up with a stupid/dumb/sarcastic remark. In this particular case, she surprises him (and long-time Peanuts readers) by saying something else. In the last panel, though, Lucy reveals that she knows exactly what’s going on.


I ask my students these questions about the strip:


  1. In this example, identify the unconditioned stimulus, unconditioned response, conditioned stimulus, and conditioned response. 
  2. Use this example to explain generalization and discrimination.
  3. What would need to happen in order to bring about extinction? What would spontaneous recovery look like?


While I do this as part of a larger homework assignment, it also works as an in-class discussion topic or as a lecture example.


Through this example, I have learned that many of my students are not familiar with the Peanuts comic strip. I know who is and who is not familiar based on what they call Charlie Brown. Students who know it call him Charlie Brown. Students who don’t know it simply call him Charlie—which is jarring to my 52-year-old, US-born ears.

In the Intro Psych sensation and perception chapter, we often cover monocular cues. While it’s fine to think about how monocular cues help us perceive depth, I had never given much thought to what we would perceive if we lacked several monocular cues.


In Your Inner Fish, the author, paleontologist and anatomy professor Neil Shubin, writes


There is no field manual for Arctic paleontology. We received gear recommendations from friends and colleagues, and we read books-only to realize that nothing could prepare us for the experience itself. At no time is this more sharply felt than when the helicopter drops one off for the first time in some godforsaken part of the Arctic totally alone. The first thought is of polar bears. I can't tell you how many times I've scanned the landscape looking for white specks that move. This anxiety can make you see things. In our first week in the Arctic, one of the crew saw a moving white speck. It looked like a polar bear about a quarter mile away. We scrambled like Keystone Kops for our guns, flares, and whistles until we discovered that our bear was a white Arctic hare two hundred feet away. With no trees or houses by which to judge distance, you lose perspective in the Arctic (pg. 17). 


This photo of Arctic Alaska can help you picture what Shubin and his colleagues were seeing—or not seeing. The caption says that those dark dots are caribou.


Looking at this tundra is not unlike looking at the sky, and the sky also frequently lacks monocular cues. When I see a speck with the sky as the background, if I perceive that speck as really close, then it’s a gnat. If I perceive it a little farther away, it’s a bird. If I perceive it really far away, it’s a plane. If I perceive the speck as being someplace between the bird and the plane, it’s Superman.


In Shubin’s case, the Arctic tundra didn’t give him many monocular cues to work with. Without a solid sense of distance, it’s difficult to determine the size of the object or critter.


After covering monocular cues, share with students the Arctic Alaska photo. Drag your browser so the description of the caribou is off the screen. Ask students to identify the dots in the photo. After all of the guesses are in, tell students that the dots are caribou. Ask students which of the monocular cues you covered can be seen in the photo, such as relative height. Ask students which ones are missing, such as linear perspective. The fewer distance cues we have, the harder it is to determine distance.


To close the activity, read students Shubin’s hare/bear paragraph. That will give you a leaping off point to talk about the ways in which our expectations can affect our perceptions. Shubin and his colleagues could have perceived the critter as a hare from the very beginning, but because polar bears were very much on their minds, a polar bear is what they all perceived. That is, until further evidence proved them wrong.

Ingroups can be pretty powerful. We tend to like people in our ingroups more than people in our outgroups (ingroup bias), and we tend to see people in our outgroups as being more like each other than people in our ingroups (outgroup homogeneity bias), for example.


There is much rhetoric about Democrats vs. Republicans, immigrants/refugees vs. native born, the wealthy vs. the middle class vs. the working poor, people with homes vs. people who are homeless. Depending on where you live, the groups may be different than these, but the groups are there.


The next time you cover ingroups/outgroups, ask your students what groups are most salient to them – on your campus or in your town/city. If you’re in a small college town, it may be the townies vs. those at the college. Write down the names of the groups where students can see them.


If time allows, ask your students to work in pairs or small groups to generate examples of how ingroup bias or outgroup homogeneity bias has affected or could affect how each group sees themselves and sees the other.


Next, show this 3-minute TV2 Denmark ad that aired in 2017.



Ask students to share their reactions to the video. If they could get their-previously-identified groups together, what questions would they ask? Who likes pizza? Who likes dogs? Who likes cats? Who likes to drive?  


Close this activity by pointing out ingroups/outgroups shift depending on context. When one context—politics, for example—is continually salient, it’s easy to forget that we have plenty in common with members of our—say, politicaloutgroup. What strategies might your students use to help them remember that they may have a lot in common with an outgroup member, and to remember that, in a different context, that person is probably a member of their ingroup?

If you are about to cover or have recently covered the availability heuristic in Intro Psych, ask your students this question.


Which are you more concerned about: the coronavirus or the flu virus?



How concerned are you about the coronavirus? (1 not at all concerned to 7 very concerned)

How concerned are you about the flu virus? (1 not at all concerned to 7 very concerned)


Here are the statistics.



As of Monday, February 3, 2020, CBS News reports that “there were more than 20,000 confirmed cases [of coronavirus infection] in more than two dozen countries, the vast majority of them in China, according to the World Health Organization. There have been at least 425 deaths in China, and one in the Philippines.”


Flu virus

In contrast, in the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports as of January 25, 2020 that 19 million to 26 million people have contracted the flu resulting in 180,000 to 310,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 to 25,000 deaths.

This year isn’t so bad. The CDC estimates that the flu virus killed 61,000 people during the 2017-2018 flu season, again, just in the United States.


If your students are using the availability heuristic here, they are much more likely to be concerned about the coronavirus than the flu virus. The coverage of the coronavirus in mass media and social media is, well, substantial. The coverage of the flu virus is almost nil.


This is an excellent opportunity to talk with students about how the information we take in can influence how we see the world, a perception that can cause us to put our fears in the wrong place.


Ask students to take a few minutes to generate some strategies for increasing their own awareness of when they may be under the influence of the availability heuristic as well as some strategies for countering it. It may be as simple as realizing that we’re feeling frightened and saying, “Wait. Do I have reason to be frightened? Let me do some research into this.”


Of course, this does not mean that your students should be freaked out by the flu instead. Encourage your students to do some research on who is most at risk for dying from the flu. For those who aren’t at risk from dying from the flu, getting the flu vaccine can help prevent them from passing the flu on to someone else who is at risk from dying from it.

“Nature doesn’t kill people with avalanches. People kill people with avalanches” (Julavits, 2020, p. 26).


Heidi Julavits tells us that in avalanche school she learned about six psychological concepts* that can cause back-country winter enthusiasts to make poor decisions—and then she went on to discuss how these very same factors led her, her classmates, and her avalanche instructors to make some poor decisions when they went out to the slopes (Julavits, 2020).


Julavits makes it clear that knowing how psychological concepts can have a negative impact on our decisions doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll make different decisions in the moment. This article reminds me—once again—that knowledge is necessary but not sufficient to change behavior. For example, I know what healthy eating and healthy exercise look like, and I know their benefits. That doesn’t mean that I always make the best decisions regarding healthy eating and healthy exercise. Knowledge is good. It’s just not enough.


The Intro Psych thinking chapter or social psych chapter are good places to discuss these psychological concepts—and then help students think through ways of countering them so they don’t get sucked in when needing to make decisions that may indeed be life and death decisions. While the context here happens to be avalanches—and the avoidance thereof—these psychological concepts can be applied to almost any context where a decision needs to be made.


Ian McCammon, a mechanical engineer, started thinking a lot about avalanches following the death of a friend. While his focus has been on the mechanics of avalanches, after researching 715 such accidents, he wrote about six psychological concepts that people may use out on the slopes that can lead to disaster (McCammon, 2004). These are the psychological concepts Julavits introduced to us in her avalanche school article (Julavits, 2020). McCammon (2004) begins with this premise:


As sad as this accident was [the one that led to the death of his friend], the real tragedy is that similar stories unfold in accident after accident, year after year. An experienced party, often with avalanche training, makes a crucial decision to descend, cross, or highmark a slope they believe is safe. And then they trigger an avalanche that buries one or more of them. In hindsight, the danger was often obvious before these accidents happened, and so people struggle to explain how intelligent people with avalanche training could have seen the hazard, looked straight at it, and behaved as if it wasn’t there. (p.1)

The Psychological Concepts


When we are in familiar surroundings, we are more likely to act just as we have acted in the past. That’s fine as long as the conditions are exactly the same. If they have changed, behaving the same way may not be the best course of action. In McCammon’s archival research, he found that people did indeed take more risks when they were in an area familiar to them.


Once we’ve made a decision, it’s easiest to keep making decisions that are consistent with that first decision. Again, this is fine as long as the conditions stay the same. As conditions change, staying consistent with our first decision may lead to trouble. McCammon found that the groups most committed to being out on the slope took the most risks.


We want to be accepted by others, so we do things that we believe will lead to their acceptance. Straight men may make poor decisions in order to increase their chances of being accepted by women. McCammon found that groups that included both men and women made riskier decisions, and this seemed to be driven primarily by men making poor decisions, not the women.

Expert halo

An “informal leader” may spontaneously emerge in the group. This person may have experience or skill, may be older, or may just be more assertive. The group may give this person an “expert halo” and assume the person has expertise they don’t actually possess. McCammon found that groups that had someone that could be identified as a leader took greater risks.

Social facilitation

When people are confident in their abilities, the more people that are present, the more confident people become. McCammon found that groups that had avalanche training took greater risks if their group had met up with another group prior to the avalanche. Those who had not had avalanche training were less affected by the presence of another group.  


We value more that which is scarce. New, unblemished snow is scarce and, thus, is highly valued. Indeed, McCammon found that skiers heading to untracked snow took greater risks than those headed to previously-skied snow.

Other examples

If you live where your students ski or snowboard, this avalanche safety example may resonate with your students. In any case, ask your students to consider other situations where a group has to make a decision about whether or not it is safe to proceed. Boating on a body of water with choppy waves? Rafting on a river with unusually high water? Driving in an area where there is a tornado watch or warning? Weighing whether to stay or move inland with an approaching hurricane. Whatever situation is most likely for your student population, ask your students to identify how each of the factors discussed above may lead to a decision that may result in disaster.

Overcoming these factors

Now the hard part. Ask students what they could do to recognize these factors at play in the moment and, just importantly, how they could counteract them. As a take-home assignment, ask students to investigate strategies that help keep people from falling into these traps. During the next class session, ask students to share what they learned.


A lot of what we cover in the Intro Psych course has the potential to change a student’s life. This topic has the potential to save a student’s life.





Julavits, H. (2020, January). Calamity lesson. New York Times Magazine, 24–31, 48.


McCammon, I. (2004). Heuristic traps in recreational avalanche accidents: Evidence and implications. Avalanche Review, 22(68). Retrieved from



*Julavits and McCammon refer to these concepts as heuristics. In Intro Psych, some of these are considered simply principles or concepts, so I’ve replaced the term heuristics with “psychological concepts.”  

I read with interest a recent journal article on the benefits of having students share some good news from their lives. This study was done in a face-to-face class, but I’m wondering about the implications for online students.


Courtney Gosnell at Pace University randomly assigned her students to share good news with their classmates eight to ten times over the course of a term. Those who felt like they got the most support from their classmates reported “a greater sense of class belonging,” a “stronger belief that their classmates wanted them to succeed,” “greater college identification,” and “greater satisfaction with college life.” And, interestingly, they “also approached the class with more of a challenge mindset” (Gosnell, 2019).


Given that the students who got the most benefit from sharing their good news were the ones who felt the most supported, the question is how to help students feel more supported. Gosnell (2019) suggested giving students a little training on what an “active constructive response” is, such as that described by this Woods and colleagues article (2015). These researchers presented pairs of people who shared a close relationship—romantic or platonic—with a 20-minute training on how better to give and respond to, well, good news, “including verbal (e.g., energetic voice, positive feedback, and ask specific questions) and nonverbal (e.g., smile, raise eyebrows, nod, and face body toward partner) examples of active–constructive responding.”  


This term I am asking my face-to-face students to share some good news with their groups during our first class session of the week. But these aren’t the students I’m concerned about.


It’s my online students that I would like to feel more connected to each other, to me, and to the college.


Since my online students have a weekly discussion board (one initial post and two responses) that is pretty prescriptive in its requirements, it wasn’t hard for me to wedge in a good news requirement. Here are the instructions for the first part of their initial post.


Part A: Good news from the last week

What's the most positive experience you’ve had in the last week. Only share if you feel comfortable, otherwise tell us about your second most positive experience. It could be big (“I got an A on an assignment!”, “I got a car!”) or it could be small (“I have a new favorite dessert,” "My grocery bag broke, and someone helped me pick everything up."). Tell as much as you want about your event.

For the response, everything in the nonverbal section that Woods and colleagues (2015) identified I could safely exclude from this online forum. For the verbal, I went with a reaction (presumably positive since the person is sharing good news) and a question. Here are the response instructions for this section of the discussion.


Part A: Good news from the last week

Share your reaction to their good news, e.g., "I am so happy for you!", "It sounds like you had a lot of fun!", then ask at least one follow up question, "What kind of car did you get?", "What was in your new favorite dessert?". 

We’re only a few weeks into the term, so my sample is small, but I’ve been having a lot of fun reading their good news and their responses to the good news of other students. Through sharing good news, we’re getting to know each other better. I already know who likes football, who plays soccer, who enjoys shopping for dresses, who has struggles with transportation, who likes cheesecake, and who has a new job. Whatever someone shares, the responses to their good news feel genuine. While the questions are required, (most of) the questions come across as legitimate interest. Many students provide a follow-up in response to the questions asked, which I’m grateful for, because I often have the same questions.

While I don’t participate in the group discussion, I do score the discussions. In my comments, I offer my own reaction to their good news, ask a question, and then give my good news for the week.


Near the end of the course I’ll ask my students about how connected they felt to the others in their groups and to me. I’m especially interested in seeing if more students persist in the course than has been true in my previous online courses.


What’s your good news?





Gosnell, C. L. (2019). Receiving quality positive event support from peers may enhance student connection and the learning environment. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.


Woods, S., Lambert, N., Brown, P., Fincham, F., & May, R. (2015). “I’m so excited for you!” How an enthusiastic responding intervention enhances close relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 32(1), 24–40.

Probably like you, a lot of my Intro Psych students are interested in medicine. Most are interested in nursing, but a smattering are interested in becoming physicians or another type of medical professional, such as respiratory therapists.

This New York Times article (Brown & Bergman, 2019), coauthored by nurse and a physician, will be of interest to these future medical professionals in your course.


After covering ingroups/outgroups and superordinate goals in the social psychology chapter, ask your students to read the article and address these questions.


What factors contribute to dividing medical professionals into the subgroups of doctors and nurses? For example, physicians have higher status than nurses.  


What superordinate goal do the article authors suggest would bring nurses and doctors together?


At about 1,000 words, the article is short enough for students to read and discuss in class.


Alternatively, it’s an excellent real-world example to bring into your lecture.


From the new APA Intro Psych student learning outcomes, this activity addresses:

Identify examples of relevant and practical applications of psychological principles to everyday life.

Integrative theme: Applying psychological principles can changes our lives in positive ways.





Brown, T., & Bergman, S. (2019, December 31). Doctors, nurses and the paperwork crisis that could unite them. New York Times. Retrieved from

After covering operant conditioning, ask your students to consider how government agencies could encourage more public transit use by using reinforcement. Give students a couple minutes to think about this on their own, then ask students to share their ideas in small groups. Next, ask each group to develop a plan where operant conditioning could be used to encourage the use of public transit.


What is the operant (the behavior being targeted)?


What will be used as the reinforcement? Will it be positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement?


What schedule of reinforcement would you recommend? Variable ratio, variable interval, fixed ratio, or fixed interval?


Once the group discussion has died down, ask each group to share their plan, ensuring that they have correctly identified the type and schedule of reinforcement.


Wrap up the discussion by sharing that Miami has implemented such a program. Using an app called Velocia, Miami residents can track how they get around: walking, biking, carpooling, riding the bus/train (“Miami launches app that rewards citizens for ditching their cars at home,” 2019). The more you don’t drive solo, the more “Velos” points you earn. Each method is worth a different number of Velos points. For example, walking 5 miles in a week earns you 300 Velos. Those points can be redeemed for public transportation discounts. For example, for 450 Velos you can rent a CitiBike for 30 minutes.


Even if you are not in Miami, you can download the Velocia app from Google Play or the App Store to see how it works.


An article on the Mass Transit Magazine website provides a nice summary of some transit rewards programs that have been implemented around the world (Comfort, 2019).





Comfort, P. (2019). Loyalty programs and gamification in public transit. Retrieved January 8, 2020, from


Miami launches app that rewards citizens for ditching their cars at home. (2019). Retrieved January 8, 2020, from

Students appreciate examples that are meaningful to them. How about a little selfie research?


After covering experiments in the Intro Psych research methods chapter, ask students to think about how they would do an experiment to find out if people perceived those who post a lot of selfies to Instagram differently than those who post a lot of “posies”—photos of themselves taken by other people. Emphasize that the question is not how the people actually are, but how others think they are.


Give students the independent variable: the last 30 Instagram photos—mostly selfies or mostly posies. Next, ask students to jot down some dependent variables. What might those different perceptions be? For example, would your students expect those with lots of selfies to be perceived as being more self-absorbed? After students have had a couple minutes to think about these, ask students to work in pairs or small groups to come up with their list of dependent variables. Once discussion has died down, ask each group to volunteer one dependent variable that has not already been identified by a previous group. Write the dependent variables where the class can see them. After each group has given one, ask students for any other dependent variables they came up with that haven’t already been named.


Explain that in an experimental study, researchers could create fake Instagram accounts and manipulate how many selfies and how many posies to show participants who would then rate the owners of those fake accounts on each of the dependent variables. 


In a recent correlational study, researchers wanted to know exactly that. Do people perceived Instagram users differently depending on how many selfies or posies the users posted (Barry et al., 2019)? Participants in this study rated 30 individuals based on the last 30 photos posted to their Instagram accounts. Researchers measured 13 dependent variables. Remember, these are all perceptions people had of the Instagram users based on their last 30 photos: self-esteem, liking adventure, loneliness, extraversion, trying new things, success, likeability, dependability, would be a good friend, self-absorption, worried about being left out, emotionality, and considerate of others.


Those who had more selfies were perceived to:

Have low self-esteem

Not like adventure

Be lonely

Not be outgoing

Not like trying new things

Not be successful

Not be likeable


Those who had more posies were perceived to:

Have high self-esteem

Like adventure

Not be lonely

Be outgoing

Be dependable

Like trying new things

Be successful

Be likeable

Be a good friend


There were no significant correlations between number of selfies or number of posies and perceptions of being self-absorbed, worried about being left out, being emotional, or being considerate of others.


After sharing these results, ask students what follow-up research questions should be addressed next. Or, if students were to replicate this study, what changes would they make?





Barry, C. T., McDougall, K. H., Anderson, A. C., Perkins, M. D., Lee-Rowland, L. M., Bender, I., & Charles, N. E. (2019). ‘Check your selfie before you wreck your selfie’: Personality ratings of Instagram users as a function of self-image posts. Journal of Research in Personality, 82, 103843.

Several years ago, back when I was still giving in-class exams, I was convinced by Roddy Roediger to give a comprehensive final exam. By asking students to review the course material one more time by studying for the final, this increased the chances students would remember more of the course content some time later. You’ll recognize the use of the spacing effect.


When I completely revamped my courses, going all-in with my variation on interteaching (see this blog post), I eliminated my in-class exams. With no comprehensive final, what could I do insteaad that would encourage students to go back through the course content one more time? Since what I really want to know is what my students got out of the course, I decided to just ask them.


Final Course Review:


Looking back over the course, identify the 10 most important things you learned in this course. Rank order them so the most important is number 1, the second most important is number 2, and so on.


For each of those important things, explain what the concept is, and explain why it is important to you. 

An "important thing" could be a concept -- think bold-faced term -- or a research finding. Please do not list entire chapters. 


Those are all of the instructions. I purposefully leave it wide open to what “things” students couldn’t identify. And I leave “important” undefined. Most often students interpret it as things that are important to them personally, but some interpret this as things important for anyone to know, or even things that are important functions of being human.


When I assign this in a face-to-face class, we meet during our scheduled final time. Each student submits their list to the course management system before class, and they also bring them to class–or access them on a device. I ask a volunteer to share their number 1 item and why they chose it. I write the concept on the board, then briefly summarize the concept, maybe even referring back to something I covered in lecture or was covered in the textbook to help students with retrieval. Next, I ask if anyone else had that item on their top ten list. If so, I ask each to share why it made their lists. From that group of students, I ask one to share their number one item. We repeat until everyone has had an opportunity to share their number one most important item.


Because I want students to not only review the course content when they are creating their lists, but to also review the course content in class when we go through the lists, my scoring of this assignment is a little creative. The assignment is worth 30 points. Each of the 10 items is worth 3 points: identify something from the course, correctly explain what it is, and discuss why it is important. If a student is in class for this final review, students earn 5 points extra credit. If they are absent, they lose 15 points.


For my online courses, the instructions for the Final Course Review are the same, but I assign it as a discussion. I want students to not only have reviewed the course content to create their own lists, I want students to read the lists of other students. I ask students to respond to read the lists of two of their discussion groupmates, and reply with at least two of these types of comments:


A compliment, e.g., "I like how... because...," I like that... because..."

A comment, e.g., "I agree that... because...," "I disagree that... because..."

A connection, e.g., "I have also read that...," "I have also thought that...," "That reminds me of..."

A question, e.g., "I wonder why...," "I wonder how..." 


Reading what students submit for the Final Course Review is an important reminder to me that there is much value in the content covered by Intro Psych. I love ending the course with this assignment not only because it gives students an opportunity to review the course content one more time, but it also allows me to see what students are taking with them as they leave my classroom (or my virtual classroom) for the last time. It’s what they’ve written that I take with me into the next term as I consider the course content I want to keep, I want to eliminate, and I want to add.