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128 Posts authored by: Sue Frantz

Apophenia is seeing patterns in randomness, which may be the mechanism behind conspiracy theory generation. If it feels to me like a set of random events are connected and no one is talking about the connection, then conspiracy must be afoot (Poulsen, 2012). Psychiatrist Klaus Conrad is credited with coining this term in 1958 to describe the descent into psychosis, “Borrowing from ancient Greek, the artificial term ‘apophany’ describes this process of repetitively and monotonously experiencing abnormal meanings in the entire surrounding experiential field, eg, being observed, spoken about, the object of eavesdropping, followed by strangers” (as cited in Mishara, 2010).

 

But this isn’t a post about conspiracy theories or psychosis.

 

While conspiracy theories and psychosis take our ability to see patterns to whole other level, seeing patterns in randomness is just how our brains work.

 

The visual version of apophenia is pareidolia. Have you ever seen a rabbit in a cloud formation? That’s pareidolia. Have you seen a face in a piece of toast? Also pareidolia.

 

After covering the cerebral cortex, tell students that there is an area in the temporal lobe that is especially good at detecting faces: the fusiform face area (FFA).

 

Show students these 20 objects where faces appear. Ask students to guess whether they think that seeing these objects would cause the FFA to be activated. How could that hypothesis be tested? Give students a minute to think about it, a minute to share with a partner, and then ask for volunteers for their suggestions. This would be a nice time to review independent variables and dependent variables. When you’re ready, tell students that researchers compared such face objects with everyday no-face objects, and found that face-objects activated the FFA (Hadjikhani, Kveraga, Naik, & Ahlfors, 2009).

 

If time allows, describe prosopagnosia (pro-soap-ag-nose-ee-ya; face-blindness). Do students think that the FFA would be activated when people with congenital prosopagnosia look at faces? Why or why not? The FFA is activated, but it doesn’t show habituation. When people without prosopagnosia are shown faces a second time, the FFA shows decreased activation; “Not interesting; I’ve seen this before.” For those with prosopagnosia, the activation is just as great the second time around; “Hey, this is new!” (Avidan, Hasson, Malach, & Behrmann, 2005).

 

Again if time allows, do students think the FFA would be activated in people with autism. Why or why not? For the participants in the study, the severity of their autism varied. For those who had impaired face recognition (about half of their sample, 14 out of 27) , the activation of their FFA was weaker.  

 

For 30 years, researchers have debated whether the FFA is face-specific or whether it is for detecting any complex pattern we’re expert in (Kanwisher & Yovel, 2006). Some recent research has found that the FFA is active when expert chess players look at positions of chess pieces, positions taken from actual gameplay, but not a specific chess piece (Bilalic, 2016). And researchers have also compared expert radiologists with beginner medical students. When the experts looked at X-rays, their FFAs were active (Bilalic, Grottenthaler, Nagele, & Lindig, 2016).

 

While the jury is still out on whether the FFA is face-specific or not, this is a wonderful example of science in action. Researchers describe a finding. All researchers start thinking about what might be the cause of that finding, and they start devising experiments to test their hypothesized causes.

 

References

 

 Avidan, G., Hasson, U., Malach, R., & Behrmann, M. (2005). Detailed exploration of face-related processing in congenital prosopagnosia: 2. Functional neuroimaging findings. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17(7), 1130–1149. https://doi.org/10.1162/0898929054475154

 

Bilalic, M. (2016). Revisiting the role of the fusiform face area in expertise. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 28(9), 1345–1357. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn 

 

Bilalic, M., Grottenthaler, T., Nagele, T., & Lindig, T. (2016). The faces in radiological images: Fusiform face area supports radiological expertise. Cerebral Cortex, 26(3), 1004–1014. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhu272

 

Hadjikhani, N., Kveraga, K., Naik, P., & Ahlfors, S. P. (2009). Early (N170) activation of face-specific cortex by face-like objects. Neuroreport, 20(4), 403–407. https://doi.org/10.1097/WNR.0b013e328325a8e1

 

Kanwisher, N., & Yovel, G. (2006). The fusiform face area: a cortical region specialized for the perception of faces. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 361(1476), 2109–2128. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2006.1934

 

Mishara, A. L. (2010). Klaus Conrad (1905-1961): Delusional mood, psychosis, and beginning schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 36(1), 9–13. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbp144

 

Poulsen, B. (2012). Being amused by apophenia. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reality-play/201207/being-amused-apophenia

Just two days after the Parkland, Florida high school shooting, a colleague appeared at my office door on the Highline College campus and said, “I just heard 6 to 8 shots and people screaming.”

 

We waved people into our small office building, and then secured the doors. And waited. Campus Security sent out periodic computer pop-ups, texts, and emails with updates – 8 in all, from the first alert to the all-clear. The communication was welcome. A colleague locked in a classroom with her students had a live feed from a local news station playing on the classroom computer.

 

After dozens of police officers spent two and a half hours going over the college’s 80 acres with a fine-tooth comb – no fewer than 8 rifle-bearing officers looked through the shrubbery in front of our building – no victim(s) and no shooter were found. One campus rumor says that it was lunar new year firecrackers, but I haven’t seen anything that looks like an official report yet.

 

Less than an hour after my colleague came to my door, I got a text from a friend in Harrisonburg, VA asking if I was okay. Harrisonburg is 2,804 miles away; Google Maps says I can drive there in “41 hours without traffic.” I did a news search about halfway into our lockdown and found a report by a UK news outlet. While I understand that we no longer rely on the Pony Express to deliver news, I was still surprised at the speed the news traveled. Especially when there were no known victims. Just the promise of tragedy was enough to send the news around the world.

 

What happens when you barricade a bunch of social science faculty in a small space? You get an impromptu interdisciplinary panel discussion on gun violence courtesy of a political scientist, sociologist, and psychologist. I imagine this would make for a popular course.

 

In my Intro Psych class for this coming week, the topics happen to include the availability heuristic and priming. The availability heuristic tells us that hearing about every mass shooting (or non-shooting as it was on my campus) affects our estimates of violence. Our own non-shooting prompted more than one student or family member of a student to report to journalists that they are considering enrolling only in online classes. Being primed with the Parkland shooting likely influenced the perception of the pops heard on my campus as gunshots and the beginnings of a mass shooting. (The pops may have very well been gunshots and not firecrackers, although the police reported finding no shell casings.)

 

Even though, in the end, it appears that the students and employees of Highline College were never in any danger, that doesn’t erase the terror that so many felt at the time. One student emailed her professor the next day to say that she hasn’t been able to concentrate on studying because of the trauma of running for her life. About 24-hours later, I received a text from a colleague suggesting what we should do differently if we were to experience this again; she’s still processing it. Normal responses.

 

“Resources for dealing with a school shooting”

 

The Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (SCCAP; Division 53 of the American Psychological Association) has created a wiki page of resources. They’re working on putting together a Wikipedia page, but in the meantime you can find their resources for professionals, caregivers, educators, and the public on this Wikiversity page. Several of the resources are curated from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). Here’s a direct link to the NCTSN “School Shooting Response” page. The SCCAP Wikiversity page is a work in progress; check it periodically for updates.

After covering the memory chapter, provide this excerpt from the Michigan Supreme Court case #155245, People vs. Elisah Kyle Thomas, to your students.

 

One evening, as the complainant [victim] walked to a nearby restaurant, he passed a man he did not know.  About 15 minutes later, after leaving the restaurant, the complainant was approached by the man he had passed by earlier.  The man pointed a gun at the complainant and demanded that he empty his pockets.  The complainant handed over $10 but the robber wanted more.  The complainant threw a soda can at the robber and ran. The robber followed, firing multiple shots, one of which struck the complainant in his leg. The complainant went to a nearby church and the pastor called 9-1-1. 

 

In the ambulance, the complainant gave an officer a description of the robber. Another officer canvassed the area and saw the defendant Elisah Kyle Thomas, who matched the description. The officer stopped the defendant but let him go after learning that he had no outstanding warrants. Before letting the defendant go, however, the officer took a photograph of him with her cell phone.  The officer immediately went to the hospital and asked the complainant to describe the robber.  After the complainant gave a description, the officer showed him the photo and asked “was this him?”  The complainant started to cry and said “that’s him.” 

 

And then add:

 

The victim “remembered both that the assailant’s weapon was ‘a black and gray nine millimeter handgun and that the assailant held it in his right hand,’” “the identification occurred approximately a half hour to an hour after the crime,” and “the victim identified the person in the photograph as the assailant within a few seconds of seeing the photograph.”

 

[Note, not to be read aloud to your students: these quotes are from the APA amicus brief. I’d cite it, but citing an amicus brief in APA style is not a straightforward affair. For those of you who love that sort of thing – you know who you are – feel free to figure it out and email it to me at sfrantz@highline.edu. I’ll update this blog post with any version that looks like it could be right.]

 

Now, ask students to take a couple minutes and consider how much they trust the eyewitness’ memory of the robber. If you use a classroom responses system, ask students to render a verdict based on the evidence given: guilty, not guilty, not sure. In pairs or small groups, ask students to identify why they trust/don’t trust the eyewitness’ memory. Invite volunteers to share their thoughts.

 

What happened with this case? The trial court found that the “single-suspect lineup” and asking “was this him?” was suggestive and dismissed the charges. The Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed and allowed the evidence. The Michigan Supreme Court, however, agreed with the trial court and also – and for good – dismissed the charges (Beattey & Calkins, 2018).

 

The American Psychological Association (APA) filed an amicus brief to the court (read the summary here; read the full amicus brief here) explaining why the identification was suspect: “[t]he victim observed the assailant for a very short time,” “[t]he victim had only a partial view of the defendant’s features,” “[t]he assailant was a stranger to the victim,” and “[t]he robbery was a highly stressful situation.” The reasoning the Court of Appeals gave for reinstating the charges was based on some common misunderstandings of memory. The APA amicus brief addressed these as well: “[t]he victim’s detailed memory of the assailant’s weapon makes his memory less reliable, not more,” “[m]emories degrade very quickly,” and “[t]he victim’s confidence does not indicate that his memory was accurate.”

 

If your students were ready to convict based on the eyewitness testimony, review what the research tells us about memory as it applies to this court case before leaving the chapter.

 

References

 

Beattey, R. A., & Calkins, C. (2018, February). The legal system follows the empirical evidence on eyewitness identification. Monitor on Psychology, 29. Retrieved from http://www.apamonitor-digital.org/apamonitor/201802/MobilePagedReplica.action?pm=2&folio=28#pg31  

One of my goals in teaching the abnormal psychology chapter in the General Psychology course is to focus less on symptoms and etiology and more on what it is like to live with a psychological disorder. In 2016 I wrote about an assignment tied to the Stigma Fighters website.

 

In the February 2018 Monitor on Psychology I learned about the Schizophrenia Oral History Project.

 

This website “is an archive of life stories of persons with schizophrenia.  Our narrators are women and men with schizophrenia who are sharing their lives in an effort to increase understanding and reduce stigma related to mental illness.  Their stories reveal not only their struggles, but their remarkable courage and resilience, their hopes, dreams and talents, and their concern for others.  In addition to documenting their histories, we are sharing their stories in presentations for professionals and the general public.”

 

At the time of this writing, 38 people have shared their stories.

 

As an assignment, ask students to read three stories and identify the similarities they find amongst the stories and the biggest differences. At the end of the assignment, ask students to reflect on what they learned from reading the stories. In class, give students an opportunity to speak with each other in small groups to share what they learned. Invite groups to report out to the class.

 

Pro-tip from my Highline College colleague Ruth Frickle: for the first time out with this assignment, go through the stories yourself to identify ten or so your students can choose from. That will make the number you need to be familiar with manageable. As you use this assignment from term to term, expand the number of stories as you feel comfortable.

In the FAQ section of my syllabus, I write:

 

The general rule is for every hour you spend in class, you need to spend two hours outside of class. In a face-to-face class, you're in class about 5 hours per week*, so you should spend 10 hours outside of class working on this course. That's also why three 5-credit classes is considered full-time. If you are taking three 5-credit classes, you'd be spending about 45 hours a week, both in and out of class, working on those courses.**

 

As I was writing this post I wondered about the origin of this general rule. It turns out that it is U.S. federal law that applies to any institution that doles out federal financial aid. I have no idea how I’ve managed to make it this long in higher education without knowing that this “general rule” is federal law. In any case, I know now and have changed my syllabus. “The general rule (and the federal law minimum) says for every hour you spend in class…”

 

This is the federal government’s definition of a Carnegie unit, the credits that our courses are worth. Quoting “34 CFR 600.2 of the final regulations,” a Carnegie unit is:

 

An amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than:

 

  1. One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or
  2. At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.

 

These 15 pages from the U.S. Department of Higher Education (published in 2011), will tell you all you could possibly want to know about Carnegie units. You’ll find the above definition on page 5.

 

That document also makes clear that each institution of higher learning can divide up those hours per week as they see fit. My 5-credit online class, for example, has 15 hours of work per week that is all outside of class time since the concept of “class time” does not exist in asynchronous courses.

 

Additionally, the 2 hours out for every hour in is the minimum standard. If colleges and universities so desire, they can set a higher standard, say, 3 hours outside for every hour in. Some colleges and universities make their expectations clear on their websites, such as Stanford, Northwestern, and Cal Poly -- all of whom, incidentally, go with the minimum 2 to 1 ratio.

 

Does your class, each week, have 2 hours of work outside of class for every hour in? How do you know?

 

Elizabeth Barre and Justin Esarey at the Center for Teaching Excellence at Rice University created a pretty cool tool, the Course Workload Estimator. Put in what and how much your students should be reading, what and how much your students should be writing, how much time your students should be studying for exams, and how much time students should be spending on any other assignments, then look at the estimated workload – how much time students should be working on your course each week.

 

The website makes it clear that this is an estimator. You would be hard-pressed to find two students who have identical reading rates, identical writing rates, and identical ideas on how they should study. This is a good place for you to plug the study techniques from the LearningScientists.org website. "The course is designed with the expectation that you will spend <x number> of hours studying for each exam. The more efficient and effective your study techniques, the more you will learn in that finite number of hours. Also, put away your phone while you are studying. You lose a lot of precious study time when you are frequently switching between tasks, between your studying and your phone." [This blog post describes a classroom demonstration that illustrates how much time is lost when we switch back and forth between tasks if you'd like to hammer this point home.]

 

On the Course Workload Estimator website, scroll down for the rationale and research that went into creating this tool. Their research points out some gaping holes in our knowledge. If you're looking to start a new research program in the scholarship of teaching and learning arena, their lit review is worth checking out. 

 

Using the Course Workload Estimator, this is how my Intro Psych course breaks down.

 

I added up the total number of pages I’ve assigned students to read and divided that number by 11 for the number of weeks in the term. My students are reading a textbook with many new concepts. I want my students to not just survey or understand the material; I want them to engage with the material, “[r]eading while also working problems, drawing inferences, questioning, and evaluating.”

 

For writing assignments, I sampled what some of my better-performing students submitted last term, and on average, they wrote 27 pages of single-spaced text over the course of the term. I give my students application essay questions to answer, and that sounds the most like writing an “argument,” “[e]ssays that require critical engagement with content and detailed planning, but no outside research.” Students can revise whichever responses they would like, but it is not required ("minimal drafting"). Since students’ engagement while reading the text is part of their writing assignments, I manually adjusted the “hours per written page” to 2 hours. That’s about 30 minutes per essay question. Of course that’s an average. Questions that students find easier will require much less time than questions students find more difficult.  

 

I have a couple other assignments that should take about 2 hours total between them, so I entered 1 hour per assignment.

 

The estimated workload per the Course Workload Estimator? For my class that meets about 5 hours in class each week, students should dedicate about 10.69 hours to this course outside of class each week.

 

To be clearer with my students about my expectations, I just added the image below to my course FAQ along with this text:

About half of your out-of-class time will be spent reading the textbook and thinking about what you are reading (estimated at 5 pages per hour, that's about 5.5 hours per week). The other half of your out-of-class time will be spent responding to the write-to-learn assignment questions (estimated at about 30 minutes per question, that's about 5 hours per week) where each completed assignment, minus the text of the questions themselves, will average out to be approximately 3 single-spaced pages. 

 

Course workload estimate from the Rice University Center for Teaching Excellence

Sue Frantz

The right to fail

Posted by Sue Frantz Dec 20, 2017

I was a squeaky-clean new professor at my very first tenure-track job when one of the counselors (academic and otherwise; it was a small college) gave a presentation to the faculty. She said, "Students have a right to fail." That got my attention. I thought, oh wet-behind-the-ears professor that I was, that whether students passed or failed – whether students learned – was all on me.

 

She went on to say that she’d have students come into her counseling office to say that they needed help because they weren’t passing a class. Her first question: “Are you reading the textbook?” If the answer was no, she told the student that there was nothing else to talk about. “Come back after you’ve done the assigned reading.”

 

To the faculty, she said that she knew that we all had kind hearts, that we wanted to give students a second (third, fourth, nth) chance. But – and this she emphasized – students have to meet you halfway. If students aren’t doing their part to learn, you cannot make them learn.

 

Put that way, it sounded like a relationship I didn’t want to be in. I’m doing everything to help my hypothetical spouse* succeed while my hypothetical spouse does nothing. “Honey, I filled out all of these job applications. You got three interviews all scheduled for Friday. Here is where you need to be and when.” Friday evening after I get home from work, “How did those job interviews go? What?! What do you mean you didn’t go? You spent the day playing Call of Duty?!  Okay, okay, here, let me call those places, and I’ll tell them something, like your grandmother died. I’m sure they’ll let me reschedule the interviews for you.”

 

At the root of “students have the right to fail” is that learning is the responsibility of students. I tell my students that. I say that I’d love to open up their skulls and dump the knowledge in. Or plug them into the Matrix** so they can download it all to their brains. But that’s not how learning works.

 

Faculty can help students learn, but it's the students who need to do the work, who need to do the learning. Sometimes, for a whole host of reasons, students choose not to do the work. And that's okay. It's the student's grade. They know what the assignments are and how much each is worth. Sometimes they're willing to spend the points on something else, including Call of Duty***.

 

My senior year of college, my friend and I skipped the final presentation we were supposed to do for a course. I did the math. Not doing the presentation would drop me from an A to a B. I was already accepted to grad school; it didn't matter if I had an A or a B next to that course on my transcript. I consciously chose not to do the presentation. It was a beautiful spring day; spending the afternoon at the lake was worth the points. None of that had anything to do with the professor; that was all on me.


And sometimes students just aren't ready to be in college, again, for a whole host of reasons. I’ve spent my entire career at community colleges. I have students who come up to me on the first day of class and say something like "I took your class 10 years ago (or “I went to <big state university>,” or “I went to <small liberal arts college>”), and I failed. I wasn't ready to be in college. Now I am." And they are; they are frequently some of my best students.

 

And not all students are striving for an A. Some are shooting for a 2.0 GPA, enough to keep them in college. It may be that they are good with “good enough.” It may be that they have family and job responsibilities that leave them little time for classes. They figure out what they need to do and what they don’t need to do in a course to get the grade that’s going to allow them to keep that 2.0 average. A colleague (an economist) and I were talking about this one day. We now think of that 2.0 as the academic poverty line. Like people living on the economic poverty line, as long as things are good, living paycheck to paycheck is fine. But when the car breaks down or a child gets sick, they find themselves in a financial freefall. The same for students who are aiming for a C in a course. They don’t do some of the work early in the course for whatever reason with a plan to do the later work, enough work to get that C. But then later in the course when the car breaks down or a child gets sick, they don’t have the time to do the later work, and they find themselves in an academic freefall. Now they’re asking for deadline extensions and extra credit; they are asking the professor to bail them out. ("How is it you have the time to do the assignment now or the time to do extra work now when you didn't have time to do the assignment for the last 5 weeks?")

 

My counselor colleague pointed out in her presentation that when students come to you begging you for that deadline extension or extra credit so they don’t lose their scholarship, or so they don't lose their financial aid, or so they don’t get kicked out of college, remember that yours is not the only course that brought the student to this point. Yours is just the last one. The student made a series of decisions that got them here. The result of those decisions, she said, is not your – the professor’s – responsibility. 


As a professor, I take my job very seriously. I have, with much thought and consideration, chosen the content of my courses, the structure of those courses, and the assignments I ask my students to do. The best any professor can do is present content worth knowing in a course structure that will help students who do the work to learn that content.

 

The one thing we cannot control is what the student brings to the table or even if the student comes to the table.

 

Students have a number of rights and responsibilities. Among those rights and responsibilities is the right to fail.

 

************

 

*The hypothetical relationship depicted bears no resemblance to my current or past relationships.

 

**The Matrix was released in 1999. It’s older than a lot of my students. Referencing it probably makes me seem as old as I am. If you can stick with references to the Star Wars universe, you’ll be on less-dated ground.

 

***I didn’t intend it, but Call of Duty is pretty ironic in this blog post.

I was recently at a conference where a symposium speaker had not prepared for her presentation. After introducing herself, she said, “I’m very sorry. I wasn’t able to prepare slides or a speech, so I’m just going to talk for a couple of minutes on <topic> and just leave it open to questions…” In this case, “a couple of minutes” was 40 seconds. I know, because the session was recorded and is available on YouTube. There were no questions. What was supposed to be a 15-minute talk was 30 seconds of introduction, 40 seconds of content, and 20 seconds of awkwardly waiting for questions. The kicker? This was a conference where speakers know they will be presenting 8 months ahead of time.

 

She – a graduate student – missed her deadline. Ten percent was not taken off her grade for being late. She was not allowed to present the following week for half points. She got a zero for her assignment – and her presentation is publicly available for all to see. In perpetuity. Whether you are presenting at a conference, presenting for a new client, or preparing a grant application, there are fixed deadlines. Those deadlines are not going to move no matter what is happening in your life.

 

What were the top 6 reasons the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University found for why new hires got fired (Gardner, 2007)?

  1. “Unethical behavior”
  2. “Lack of motivation/work ethic”
  3. “Inappropriate use of technology”
  4. “Failure to follow instructions”
  5. “Late for work”
  6. “Missing assignment deadlines”

 

A colleague was telling me that he’s struck by how some of his students have no resiliency. When one thing goes wrong, everything else in their lives must come to a stop until the crisis, however small, is resolved.

 

Crisis management is a skill. Powering through adversity is a skill. Project management is a skill. Priority-setting is a skill.

 

The American Psychological Association Guidelines for the Major 2.0  (American Psychological Association, 2016) lists a number of outcomes for goal 5: professional development. These outcomes include at the foundational level:

5.3a. “Follow instructions, including timely delivery, in response to project criteria”

5.3b. “Identify appropriate resources and constraints that may influence project completion”

5.3c. “Anticipate where potential problems can hinder successful project completion”

 

And at the baccalaureate level:

5.3B. “Effectively challenge constraints and expand resources to improve project completion”

5.3C. “Actively develop alternative strategies, including conflict management, to contend with potential problems”

 

If you are going to complete an assignment by the deadline, you need to line up your ducks. Aligning ducks is a skill. When we allow students to turn in late work, we are actively helping students NOT learn these skills.

 

If a student is unable to complete the work in the time allotted, then this is a valuable lesson for a student to learn. Could they have done things differently? For the next project, what will the student do that they didn’t do this time? If the student has just bitten off more than they can chew, this is also important for a student to learn. In the fall I have plenty of students with families who are working full time and trying to go to school full time. They struggle because there are not enough hours in the day to do what they need to do, and what they learn is that taking a few credits per term is plenty.

 

One final note about recently-deceased grandparents. Some grandparents really are recently-deceased. But some are not. Students learned early on that some excuses are more likely to lead to extensions and grace periods than other excuses. Who wants to be the professor that tells a grieving student to suck it up and finish the paper? This puts professors in the awkward position of asking for proof, because who wants to be the professor who doesn’t believe the grieving student? I gave up on all of that a long time ago. I have nothing in my courses that is worth more than 10% of the overall grade, so missing one assignment will not completely tank a grade. And I drop the lowest score in each category of assignment. If a student has submitted all assignments to date, this one missing assignment will be the one that is dropped. No questions asked and no excuses needed. If a student has a whole string of crises during the course, their best option may be to withdraw and try it all again next term after things have settled down.

 

Regardless of whether you accept late work or not, be conscious about what you are trying to accomplish with your late assignment policy.

 

In the end, the question shouldn’t be whether we accept late work or not. The question should be how can we best help our students learn the project management skills they need to complete work on time so they don’t graduate and get hired only to get fired for reason #6. 

 

References

 

American Psychological Association. (2016). Guidelines for the undergraduate psychology major: Version 2.0. American Psychologist, 71(2), 102–111. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037562

 

Gardner, P. (2007). Moving Up or Moving Out of the Company? Factors that Influence the Promoting or Firing of New College Hires. CERI Research Brief 1, 1–7. Retrieved from http://ceri.msu.edu/publications/pdf/brief1-07.pdf 

Ever since I decided to pare down the personality section of my Intro Psych course to modern day theories of personality and their accompanying research, I have been on the lookout for interesting content to add.

 

The journal Psychological Science recently published a fascinating – to me anyway – article on the relationship between one’s own personality and the ideal personality characteristics of particular jobs and the impact that relationship has on income (Denissen et al., 2017).

 

Jaap Denissen and his colleagues used Big Five trait data from 8,458 individuals who all had full-time work for the previous year. For each job held by the participants, occupation experts identified the ideal Big Five traits a person in that job should have. Take a look at the ratings for each job, available through the Open Science Framework (OSF).

Before sharing these data with your students now would be a good time to remind them that “psychology doesn’t deal in certainties; it deals in probabilities.” Your students’ personality traits will not definitively determine their future income, but if we know their personality traits and the job that they may have, we can figure the probability of them having a certain level of income.

 

After covering the Big Five, can your students assign the same traits to jobs as this study's experts? 

 

Which job goes with which level of the trait, one is high and the other is low? Answers at the bottom of the post.

 

Extraversion:

  1. Actor
  2. Bookkeeper

Agreeableness:

  1. Prison guard
  2. Religious professional

 

Conscientiousness:

  1. Financial manager
  2. Decorator

Emotional stability

  1. Firefighter
  2. Embroiderer

Openness

  1. Farm hand
  2. Actor


Curious to know the ratings the experts assigned for professors in higher education? All ratings are on a 7-point scale; higher numbers mean more of the trait is expected by the job.

Extraversion: 5.7

Agreeableness: 4.5

Conscientiousness: 5.7

Emotional stability: 5.8

Openness: 4.7

 

Now, that’s all really interesting, right? But here’s where it gets downright fascinating.

 

Looking just at the extraversion response surface analysis (RSA) below, people who were high in extraversion (“actual personality”) and were in a high extraversion job (“demanded personality”) had the highest income (vertical axis; green is higher income and orange is lower). Those who were in mismatched jobs (low extraversion person in a high extraversion job or vice versa) had lower income. And those low in extraversion in a low extraversion job also had lower incomes. In other words, those who are lowest in extraversion will have the lowest incomes as compared to their fellow moderate and high extraverts, regardless of the amount of extraversion demanded by the job. (For more on this topic, see Susan Cain’s book Quiet.)

 

[Figure reprinted with permission of the author. For this and the RSA figures for emotional stability, conscientiousness, and agreeableness, see the supplemental materials in OSF. For the RSA figure for openness, please see the original article, also available in OSF.]

 

Emotional stability shows essentially the same pattern. High emotional stability people earned the most money in high emotional stability jobs, e.g., firefighter. Low emotional stability people earned less money in high emotional stability jobs. Ask students to consider why this might be; invite students to share their thinking.

 

For conscientiousness, same thing, except that jobs that require high conscientiousness generally provide higher incomes. High conscientiousness people in high conscientiousness jobs made the most money. Low conscientiousness people in high conscientiousness jobs still made money, just not as much as their high conscientiousness counterparts. Who made the least money in the conscientiousness arena? High conscientiousness people in low conscientiousness jobs. Again, give your students a couple minutes to think about why that may be. For those high conscientiousness employees, perhaps “perfection is the enemy of the good.” In all fairness, though, there are no low conscientiousness jobs, just lower conscientiousness jobs. The lowest jobs came in at 5.17 (again, max score is 7).  

 

High openness people in high openness jobs, e.g., actor, had higher incomes than low openness people in high openness jobs. Again, ask students to consider why this may be.

 

That leaves agreeableness. Who made the least money in this trait? High agreeableness people in low agreeableness jobs, e.g., prison guard. Who made the most money in this trait? Low agreeableness people in moderately low agreeableness jobs, e.g., taxi driver. One last time, ask students to consider why this may be.

 

Alternatively, if you want to give students some practice in reading graphs, divide the class into small groups of 3 to 4 students each. Give each group a different trait RSA. Ask each group to briefly describe the graph, perhaps prompt with something like, “What is the relationship between a person’s personality trait and the trait demanded by the job in terms of the impact that relationship has on income?” Walk through the RSA for one trait first, and then distribute the other four traits to the groups.

 

References

 

Denissen, J. J. A., Bleidorn, W., Hennecke, M., Luhmann, M., Orth, U., Specht, J., & Zimmermann, J. (2017). Uncovering the Power of Personality to Shape Income. Psychological Science, 95679761772443. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617724435

 

Extraversion:

  1. Actor (high)
  2. Bookkeeper (low)

Agreeableness:

  1. Prison guard (low)
  2. Religious professional (high)

 

Conscientiousness:

  1. Financial manager (high)
  2. Decorator (low)

 

Emotional stability

  1. Firefighter (high)
  2. Embroiderer (low)

 

Openness

  1. Farm hand (low)
  2. Actor (high)

I recently finished Sam Kean’s (2012),  The Violinist’s Thumb the history, the present, and the future of DNA research. Kean writes, “Genes don’t deal in certainties; they deal in probabilities.” I love that – and I’m using it the first day of Intro Psych next term: “Psychology doesn’t deal in certainties; it deals in probabilities.”

 

I already talk about correlations as probabilities. The stronger the correlation, the higher the probability that if you know one variable, you can predict the other variable.

 

In the learning chapter, it’s not unusual for a student to say, “I was spanked, and I turned out okay.” Now I can repeat, “psychology doesn’t deal in certainties; it deals in probabilities.” When children are spanked, it increases the probability of future behavioral problems (Gershoff, Sattler, & Ansari, 2017). It is not a certainty.

 

Whenever aggression comes up as a topic, a student will say, “I play first-person-shooter games, and I’ve never killed anybody.” Again, “psychology doesn’t deal in certainties; it deals in probabilities.” Playing violent video games increases the chances of being aggressive. Watching violent movies increases the chances of being aggressive. Listening to violent-themed music increases the chances of being aggressive. (List is not exhaustive.) The more of those factors that are present, the greater the probability of behaving aggressively (Anderson, C, Berkowitz, L, Donnerstein, E, Huesmann, L, Johnson, J, Linz, D, Malamuth, N, & Wartella, 2003). It is not a certainty.

 

A student says, “I was deprived of oxygen when I was being born, and I haven’t developed schizophrenia” (McNeil, Cantor-Graae, & Ismail, 2000). (Okay, I have never had a student say this, but I wanted one more example.) Being deprived of oxygen at birth increases the probability of developing schizophrenia. It is not a certainty.

 

Any time a student reports an experience that does not match what most in a research study experienced, I can say “Like genetics, psychology doesn’t deal in certainties; it deals in probabilities.”

 

References

 

Anderson, C, Berkowitz, L, Donnerstein, E, Huesmann, L, Johnson, J, Linz, D, Malamuth, N, & Wartella, E. (2003). The influence of media violence on youth: . Psychological Science In The Public Interest (Wiley-Blackwell), 4(3), 81–110. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1529-1006.2003.pspi_1433.x

 

Gershoff, E. T., Sattler, K. M. P., & Ansari, A. (2017). Strengthening Causal Estimates for Links Between Spanking and Children’s Externalizing Behavior Problems. Psychological Science, 95679761772981. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617729816

 

Kean, S. (2012). The Violinist’s Thumb. New York City: Little, Brown, and Company.

 

McNeil, T. F., Cantor-Graae, E., & Ismail, B. (2000). Obstetric complications and congenital malformation in schizophrenia. In Brain Research Reviews (Vol. 31, pp. 166–178). https://doi.org/10.1016/S0165-0173(99)00034-X

It’s official: Dog owners live longer, healthier lives” reads the headline on Time’s website. The refreshing change is that the headline – and the article – carefully explain that the data are correlational, not causal (MacMillan, 2017). When this article appeared in my local paper, The Seattle Times, it came with a sub-headline: “It may be correlation, not causation, but the risk of death was about 33 percent lower for dog-owners than non-owners, a study found.” You won’t be surprised to hear that the journalist, Amanda MacMillan, has a BA in journalism/science writing with minors in “science, technology, and society” and physics [shout out to Lehigh University, her alma mater.]

 

Researchers looked at national records for 3.4 million people in Sweden over a 12-year span. Those records included whether the people registered a dog and their health reports. “Dog ownership registries are mandatory in Sweden, and every visit to a hospital is recorded in a national database.”

 

Researchers learned that “[p]eople who lived alone with a dog had a 33% reduced risk of death [over that 12-year span], and an 11% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, than people who lived alone without a dog.” The findings were less pronounced for people who lived with other people,

 

I’m going to put this study into my correlation lecture. After sharing these results, I’ll ask students to work in pairs to generate possible reasons for these relationships and then share their ideas with the class. This is a nice opportunity to show that while correlations do not tell us about cause and effect, they provide a goldmine of hypotheses for future research.

 

One possibility, the article points out, is that owning a dog causes better health in the owner: owning a dog causes people to be more active (“gotta walk the dog”). Or dogs may share their microbiome with their owners, giving their human immune systems a boost – as I reflect on how I woke this morning with my dachshund standing on my head and licking my face. Or by walking our dogs, we meet people, extending our social network; social networks are also correlated with better health.

 

Another possibility, the article also points out, is that more active (read “healthy) people are more likely to get a dog.

And then there are the third variables. For example, “[o]ther studies have suggested that growing up with a dog in the house can decrease allergies and asthma in children.” It may be that having a dog growing up made people more likely to get a dog as an adult and that the exposure to dogs as children gave us a stronger adult immune system.

 

As instructors of psychological science, let’s continue to help our students understand what research does and does not tell us, so that when they get jobs as journalists, they can accurately interpret research findings for the general public as this journalist has done.

 

References

 

MacMillan, A. (2017, November). It’s official: Dog owners live longer, healthier lives. Retrieved from http://time.com/5028171/health-benefits-owning-dog/

Here are some survey data your students may find interesting. This will be most compelling for your psychology majors.

The American Psychological Association (APA) mined the data from the 2015 National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG) and learned some interesting things about psychology’s bachelor’s degree recipients (American Psychological Association, 2017). The NSCG estimates that there are about 58 million people in the United States with a bachelor’s degree; that probably includes you. The NSCG sampled 135,000 of them in 2015 (National Science Foundation, 2017).   

After covering survey research in, say, Research Methods, ask students to work in groups to take a few minutes and think of what variables they would include in such a survey and why. Ask each group, in turn, for one variable that no other group has yet mentioned. Write the variables on the board (or computer screen) as groups report out. Keep rotating through the groups until all variables have been reported or as time allows. Next, share with students this list of key variables (scroll to 2.h.) included in the NSCG survey.

 

Ask students if there are any groups they would exclude from the survey. The NCSG excludes people who are institutionalized, who live outside the U.S., and who are 76 years old or older (scroll to 3.b).

Ask students what kind of sampling design they would use. The NCSG used stratified sampling on “demographic group” (with “an oversample of young graduates), “highest degree type,” and “occupation/bachelor’s degree field” (scroll to 3.c.).

 

Researchers started with a web survey. For those who didn’t respond to that, researchers sent them a survey in the mail. And for those who didn’t respond to that, they got a phone call for “computer-assisted telephone interviewing” (scroll to 4.a.).

 

What did APA find in that 2015 survey data about those of us with bachelor’s degrees in psychology (American Psychological Association, 2017)?

  • 4 million people in the U.S. have at least a bachelor’s degree in psychology
  • 2% got a master’s degree in psychology
  • 8% got a master’s degree in psychology first and then went on to complete a doctorate/professional degree in psychology
  • 3% got a master’s degree in something else and then a doctorate/professional degree in psychology
  • 7% directly earned a doctorate/professional degree in psychology, bypassing the master’s degree

 

Adding up those numbers, that’s 13%. What about the other 87% of psychology bachelor’s degrees holders?

  • 30% earned a masters or doctorate/professional degree in something other than psychology
  • 57% did not earn a graduate degree

 

Those 30% who earned a graduate degree in something else is nice evidence that a psychology degree is a good all-purpose sort of degree. The father of one my students took his bachelor’s in psychology to law school. He is now a judge. I wish all judges had degrees in psychology!

 

Those 57% who did not earn a graduate degree are undoubtedly putting their psychology degrees to good use, no matter what they are doing. Although some of them aren’t fully cognizant of what their education is doing for them now. Give students a copy of the American Psychological Association Guidelines for the Major. Divide students into groups, and give each group two possible jobs a person might have. Drew Appleby’s list is a nice one to choose from. Ask each group to put a checkmark for each job on their Guidelines for the Major the knowledge and skills (outcomes) that would be useful to have in their assigned jobs. For each outcome have one person in each group raise their hand if the group thought the outcome was important for one of their jobs. Have two persons in each group raise their hands if they the outcome was important for both of their jobs. Tally the number of hands for each outcome. Give students an opportunity to share why they thought particular knowledge and skills (outcomes) is important and how the psychology major is helping them achieve that knowledge and skills. For any holes in your students' observations, let them know where in the curriculum students are gaining that knowledge and those skills.

I didn’t start covering hearing in my Intro Psych course until the earbud-style headphones became popular. When I heard music emanating from a student’s earbuds from the back of the room, I knew it was time for us to have a conversation.

 

In the cochlea, the stereocilia closest to the oval window are the ones responsible for hearing high-pitched sounds. Exposure to loud sounds causes a tsunami to rush over those stereocilia, causing them to bend over farther than they are supposed to resulting in permanent damage (Oghalai, 1997).

 

The Center for Hearing Loss Help has a nice image of a bundle of pristine stereocilia and a bundle of damaged cilia. In fact, this is an interesting article on diplacusis, where one ear hears a pitch that is just above or just below the pitch heard by the other ear (Center for Hearing Loss Help, 2015).

 

In class, after walking students through the structure and workings of the ear, I go to this webpage (Noise Addicts, n.d.) that has 3-second sound files of pitches ranging from 22 kHz down to 8 kHz. I start with the 22 kHz, which none of my students can hear, and then move to lower pitches one by one. I cannot hear them until I get down to about 14 kHz. Fifty years of being exposed to sound, with the last 16 years spent in a noisy urban environment – and more than one rock concert – has likely taken its toll. I have friends in their 70s who have spent their lives in a quiet town who have no problem hearing 17 kHz. Of course exposure to loud sounds is not the only factor that can affect hearing loss for high-pitched sounds, but it is a common factor.

 

Some time ago, I had a student who knew that he had some hearing loss, but he had no idea of the extent of it. When I played the sounds in class, he was stunned to see students reacting to the high-pitched sounds that he couldn’t hear. The first frequency he heard was a mere 8 kHz. He immediately made an appointment with an audiologist. He was (just barely) young enough that he qualified for a special program that got him hearing aids for free. The first time he was in class after getting them, he told me that he was floored by how much he could hear – and how much he hadn’t been hearing.

 

Another student who spent a couple years working as a bouncer at a (very loud) club was 23 years old, and the first frequency he heard was 12 kHz.

 

In Mary Roach’s book Grunt, she writes that the problem with most hearing protection is that not only does it protect against loud sounds, but it also makes it hard to hear softer sounds. This is especially problematic for combat soldiers. They need to protect their hearing in case of a sudden explosion or gunfire, but they need to be able to hear what their fellow soldiers are saying. There are now ear cuffs that protect against loud noises but also amplify quieter sounds. In this 3-minute YouTube video, Roach describes the hearing problem and how these new ear cuffs work. A student of mine, who is in the army, said he got to try out the ear cuffs – although not in combat, and he was very impressed with how well they worked.

 

Knowing how their ears work can help students make informed decisions about how they would like to treat their ears. With that knowledge, students may make better decisions that will affect them for their rest of their lives.

 

References

 

Center for Hearing Loss Help. (2015). Diplacusis -- the strange world of people with double hearing. Retrieved from http://hearinglosshelp.com/blog/diplacusisthe-strange-world-of-people-with-double-hearing/ 

 

Noise Addicts. (n.d.). Hearing test -- can you hear this? Retrieved from http://www.noiseaddicts.com/2009/03/can-you-hear-this-hearing-test/ 

 

Oghalai, J. S. (1997). Hearing and hair cells. Retrieved November 4, 2017, from http://www.neurophys.wisc.edu/auditory/johc.html 

As if cell phone use in cars isn’t bad enough, car manufacturers are building distractions into our automobiles, which I affectionately call Built-in Automotive Driving Distraction SystemsTM.

 

Automakers now include more options to allow drivers to use social media, email and text. The technology is also becoming more complicated to use. Cars used to have a few buttons and knobs. Some vehicles now have as many as 50 buttons on the steering wheel and dashboard that are multi-functional. There are touch screens, voice commands, writing pads, heads-up displays on windshields and mirrors and 3-D computer-generated images (Lowy, 2017).

 

In an attempt to save lives, I have been hammering pretty hard on our inability to multi-task in my Intro Psych course. While this topic comes up in greater detail when I cover consciousness, I also embed examples of attention research in my coverage of research methods.

 

Correlation example

After I introduce the concept of correlations, I give my students 5 correlations, and ask them to identify the correlation as positive, negative, or no correlation. One of those correlations comes from a 2009 Stanford study reported by NBC News: people who multitask the most are the worst at it (“memory, ability to switch from one task to another, and being able to focus on a task”) (“Multitaskers, pay attention -- if you can,” 2009).

 

Experiment example

In talking about experimental design, I discuss David Strayer’s driving simulation research at the University of Utah. His lab’s research is easy for students to understand and the results carry a punch. I give this description to my students and ask them to identify the independent variable and the dependent variables.

In an experiment, "[p]articipants drove in a simulator while either talking or not talking on a hands-free cell phone." Those who were talking on a cell phone made more driving errors, such as swerving off the road or into the wrong lane, running a stoplight or stop sign, not stopping for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, than those who were not talking on a cell phone. Even more interestingly, those who were talking on a cellphone rated their driving in the simulator as safer as compared to those who weren't talking on a cellphone. In other words, those talking on the cellphone were less likely to be aware of the driving errors they were making (Sanbonmatsu, Strayer, Biondi, Behrends, & Moore, 2016).  

 

Class demo

When Yana Weinstein of LearningScientists.org posted a link to a blog she wrote on a task switching demo (Weinstein, 2017) to the Society for the Teaching of Psychology Facebook page, I thought, “Now this is what my research methods lecture was missing!” I encourage you to read Weinstein’s original demo once you’re done reading mine.  

I randomly divided my class into two groups. To do that I used a random team generator for Excel, but use whatever system you’d like. Weinstein does this demo with a within subjects design which, frankly, makes more sense than my between subjects design, but in my defense I’m also using this demo to help students understand the value of random assignment.  

 

One group of students recited numbers and letters sequentially (1 to 10 and then A to J). The other group recited them interleaved (1 A 2 B 3 C, etc.). In your instructions, be clear that students cannot write down the numbers/letters and just read them. That’s a different task!

 

Students worked in small groups. While one student recited, another student timed them with a cellphone stopwatch app. (You don’t have to know anything about cellphone stopwatch apps. Your students can handle it.) I didn’t bother dividing students into groups by task. In one group, there might have been three students who recited sequentially and a fourth student who recited interleaved.

 

I asked students to write down their times, and then I came around to each group and asked for those times. I just wrote the times on a piece of paper, and displayed the results using a doc camera. Almost everyone in the sequential condition recited the numbers/letters in under 6 seconds. Almost everyone in the interleaved condition took over 13 seconds.

 

In addition to talking about the independent variable (and experimental and control conditions) and the dependent variable, we talked about the value of random assignment. I had no idea who could do these tasks quickly or slowly. If 20% of them could do these tasks quickly, then random assignment would likely create two groups where the percentage of fast-task participants would be the same in each group. Is it possible that all of the fast-task participants ended up in the sequential task condition? Yep. And that’s one reason replication is important.

 

Oh. And when you’re studying or writing a paper, students, this is why you should keep your phone on silent and out of sight. If you keep looking at your phone for social media or text notifications, it’s going to take you a lot longer to finish your studying or finish writing your paper. Perhaps even twice as long.

 

And driving? As you switch back and forth from driving to phone (or from driving to Built-in Automotive Driving Distraction SystemsTM), it’s not going to take you twice as long to get to your destination. You’re traveling at the same speed, but you’re working with half the attention. That increases the chances that you will not get to your destination at all.  

 

A lot of what we cover in Intro Psych is important to the quality of students’ lives. Helping students see our inability to multitask is important in helping our students – and the people they are near them when they drive – stay alive.

 

References

 

Lowy, J. (2017, October 5). Technology crammed into cars worsens driver distraction. The Seattle Times. Seattle. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/new-cars-increasingly-crammed-with-distracting-technology-2 

 

Multitaskers, pay attention -- if you can. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32541721/ns/health-mental_health

 

Sanbonmatsu, D. M., Strayer, D. L., Biondi, F., Behrends, A. A., & Moore, S. M. (2016). Cell-phone use diminishes self-awareness of impaired driving. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 23(2), 617–623. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-015-0922-4

 

Weinstein, Y. (2017). The cost of task switching: A simple yet very powerful demonstration. Retrieved from http://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2017/7/28-1 

One of the great joys of attending conferences – in this case, the American Psychological Association convention – is the conversations with both new and old friends. This morning I had breakfast with Linda Woolf (Webster University; an old friend). She posed an interesting question, and before my first full cup of coffee, it was a little unfair. She noted that in our professional circles we frequently talk about psychology books we think psychology majors should read. She wondered what non-psychology books I’d recommend. That’s both an easy and a difficult question. It’s easy to find book that contain psychology, but difficult in deciding of all the books out there, what books I’d recommend.

 

The two that came pretty quickly to mind were:

 

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown.

About the University of Washington men’s crew who rowed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, the book gives us a healthy does of prejudice and perseverance.

 

The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede.

On 9/11/2001 when the U.S. airspace closed, planes flying west across the Atlantic had to land in Canada. Thirty-eight of them landed in Gander, Newfoundland. Almost 7,000 visitors literally dropped into a town of 9,000 for five days. DeFede restores our faith in humanity with story after story of altruism. The musical Come From Away expands on those stories including coverage of prejudice, stress and coping, and ingroups/outgroups. (Honestly, the book may do the same, but it’s been years since I’ve read it.)

 

After having had my full dose of coffee and a few more hours to reflect – and a chance to review my Goodreads books, here are some more non-psychology books recommended for psychology majors.

 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Noah grew up in South African as “colored,” the South African term for half white/half black. His experience gets wrapped up in ingroups/outgroups, both sorting out what that means for him and being on the receiving end of other people’s assumptions about his group membership.

 

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Starting with World War I, African Americans started in earnest to move out of the south to points west and north. Spotlighting three people who left different places at different times for different locales, Wilkerson helps her readers understand the prejudice and discrimination that drove African Americans from the south to the different-looking prejudice and discrimination of their new homes.

 

Sally Ride by Lynn Sherr

Becoming the first U.S. woman in space had its challenges. More prejudice, discrimination, and perseverance in this book. When asked at a crew press conference in 1982 “Dr. Ride, apart from the obvious differences, how do you assess the differences in men and women astronauts?” Dr. Ride replied, “Aside from the obvious differences, I don’t think there are any.”

 

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery

Emma Gatewood in 1955 and at the age of 67 decided to hike the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail. Alone. This one will make students rethink their assumptions about gender and age.

 

The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman

Paul Erdös (pronounced air-dish) was a mathematical genius. But his biography is less about intelligence than it is about… well, it’s tough to describe. Being comfortable in your own skin, may be a good descriptor. Erdös was unapologetically Erdös. He couch-surfed from the home of one mathematician to another. His hosts didn’t know when he was coming until he appeared on their doorsteps, and they didn’t know when he was leaving until he left. He would ask strangers to tie his shoes. He offered cash to grad students to solve mathematical problems. The more difficult the problem, the greater the cash award. And Erdös published prolifically. Mathematicians have an Erdös number. If you published a paper with Erdös, your number is one. If you published with someone who published a paper with Erdös, your number is two. And so on.

 

Addiction by Design by Natasha Dow Schüll [This book may not technically meet the requirements of the category given the amount of psychology in it.]

This book contains everything you wanted to know about slot machines and then some. If you’re teaching that pushing buttons on a slot machine is an example of positive reinforcement, you’re wrong for a healthy chunk of slot machine users. Negative reinforcement would be a better characterization. Regular users of slot machines play not to win but play to enter the zone where they don’t have to think about problems at work, with their spouse, or with their kids. Winning just means being able to not think even longer.

 

I managed to give you a list that is all nonfiction. Please share your recommendations in the comments – and I’d love to see some fiction in the list!

After covering the therapy chapter in Intro Psych, students should have some tools to help them find a psychologist for themselves, family members, or friends when the time arises.

 

The American Psychological Association (APA) has a “How to Choose a Psychologist” webpage. Ask students to read that page and then, working in pairs, small groups, or as a written assignment, answer the following questions.

 

  1. Under what circumstances does the APA suggest you should consider therapy?
  2. APA provides several suggestions for finding a psychologist. Which avenue would you try first and which would you try last? Why?
  3. Identify a potential issue that someone may have, such as high levels of anxiety. For each of the “Questions to ask,” what are some sample responses you would like to hear from a psychologist you are considering working with? [For the “What kinds of treatments” question, use what you learned from the therapy chapter to provide a sample response.]

Next, ask students to read this New York Times Article, “How to find the right therapist.” Ask students to match the steps the author took to find a therapist with the steps the APA recommends. Using the APA recommendations, what else should the author have done?

 

If doing this as part of a discussion, ask volunteers to report out.