Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Learning Videos: Rat Pellets...For People

You can expect this to be my last post for a little while, what with the holidays approaching and all. I hope my students (and their teachers and parents) have a relaxing break. We'll return to class renewed and ready to go in January.

In the meantime, I'll be posting some of your classmates' videos for viewing here. When the learning projects came in on Monday there were definitely some gems. Here's Rat Pellets...For People from several gentlemen in my 2nd hour class:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Last Minute Practice

Today I was asked by several students for practice items that might be used to study for tomorrow's test on Learning & Memory. I've done some searching around and found some possible choices:

  1. Identification of UCS, UCR, CS, CR - try this worksheet or this vocab review
  2. Operant Conditioning (Reinforcement Schedules & Terminology): vocab review
  3. General review of learning principles: Try these practice questions

Hope this helps! I'll also be available before school and during lunch if you have questions or just would like help reviewing. Good luck, everyone!

The Bunny Effect - Elizabeth Loftus

Here's another great demonstration of the misinformation effect from Elizabeth Loftus. On this CBS 60 Minutes clip, she is interviewed about "the Bunny effect". She and colleagues were able to get subjects to "remember" seeing Bugs Bunny at Disneyland...even though that's not possible.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Psych Club Meeting This Friday: Charlie Brown Christmas

Come celebrate the holidays with Psychology Club and Charlie Brown!

Our next Psych Club meeting will be this Friday, during Lunch B. We will be watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and generally enjoying each other's company. We do have some "business" to take care of first: we have inherited an uninhabited bulletin board near the office and need to discuss how best to use it to entice people into exploring psychology!

But then we will sit back, relax, and watch the sub-par depiction of therapeutic practice given by Lucy. For info on Lucy as a "psychiatrist", check out this post from Dr. Philm (whose blog wins points for its creative title, let alone its content).

Bring your favorite holiday treats and enjoy some animated psychology!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Lights Addiction?

Okay, maybe "addiction" is too strong a word, but we've all seen the homes of those who take the holidays a little TOO far by draining their savings and causing power plants to lurch every Decemeber so their animated, illuminated displays of all of the twelve days of Christmas are the brightest on the block.

John Gohrol, PsyD, takes a look at this strange (but, alright, impressive) behavior in his December 9th post on World of Psychology.

Christmas Gifts for the Psychology Student

As the holidays approach, you are probably thinking to yourself, "What kind of gift should I get for my amazing table-buddy in AP Psych?" (Or perhaps parents are looking for last minute stocking-stuffers for psychology students?)

Might I recommend some AP Psychology Flashcards? These will save you the trouble of making your own prior to the AP Exam, and several students have been making use of the two classroom sets I have. In fact, if you do splurge on these for yourself or a friend...maybe you would be willing to donate them to your favorite psychology teacher at the end of the year? Just a thought...

Or, perhaps you haven't purchased the Study Guide that accompanies our textbook. If you're still struggling to make sense of all the reading, this might be a great addition to your wish list.

Maybe you're thinking ahead to the AP Exam in the spring? Many students choose to supplement the required review activities for class with practice tests and review from one of the many AP Exam prep books on the market. Some of the more popular ones include Barron's, Psychology the Easy Way, 5 Steps to a 5, and Kaplan. In addition to the online links I've provided, many of these commercial test prep books are available on the shelf at larger bookstores (like Borders).

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Movie Night - Memento - December 10th

This Thursday, Psychology Club will be sponsoring a movie night for interested students. Since we will be in the midst of our unit on Memory, the film Memento seems like a great choice.

Described by the authors of the book Welcome to Your Brain as one of the most accurate film depictions of amnesia, the plot follows Leonard, an anmesic attempting to avenge the murder of his wife. As you can imagine, not being able to remember anything makes this a difficult task.

My students have enjoyed this film when we've shown it for psych club in the past. However, a parent permission slip is required, as the film is rated R. Because of the strong language and some violent scenes, NO ONE gets in without a signed permission slip. Sorry, no exceptions.
Thursday, December 10th - 7:00 PM - Chi-Hi Cafeteria

This American Life: The Invisible Girl

This week's episode of This American Life, a radio show broadcast on most public radio stations, was entitled "Mind Games," and featured several stories bound the pique the interest of psychology fans.

I was most intrigued by Act Three: The Invisible Girl, a segment that examined the issue of why kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart was not recognized or detected during the nine months of her captivity in 2002, despite the fact that her captors paraded her around Salt Lake City in broad daylight.

Although the notion was not mentioned on the show, it seems to me that perceptual set may have been behind some of difficulties people had in identifying the girl they saw on the street as Elizabeth, even though some of them actually knew her very well. Her captor, Brian David Mitchell, was a frequently-seen fixture of Salt Lake City and most residents had learned to ignore or pity him and his rantings. When Smart appeared with him, most people ignored her as they had long ignored him OR simply presumed that he had taken a polygamist wife (not culturally unheard of in Salt Lake City).

The fact that many residents saw the young woman and thought, "polygamist wife" and not, "kidnapping victim" may have been the byproduct of their own expections (i.e. perceptual set).
Your thoughts? Check out the show (available as a free podcast) and see if you can generate other explanations for this "hidden in plain view" phenomenon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Project H.M. - Watch the Dissection!

Psychology enthusiasts (and my students, who will read about him in their psychology textbooks this unit) remember fondly the case-study patient known as "H.M." One of the most intensely studied subjects in the history of psychology, "H.M" had undergone brain surgery in 1953 but awoke with no ability to form new memories. "H.M." (and the researchers who studied him) taught us a great deal about the types of memories human beings possess. Sadly, H.M. passed away about a year ago, but he did donate his brain to science, continuing his incredibly legacy in the history of neuroscience and memory research.

TODAY, Researchers at the University of California, San Diego begin the delicate task of slicing his brain into tiny, tiny pieces 70 microns thick and scanning them for digital preservation. When they are done, researchers from around the world will be able to peek into the brain of this incredible man.

You can watch the dissection live over the web, starting today.
We watched some of this in my afternoon classes and students were fascinated! They've now actually started cutting the slides (for the first few hours, they were just trimming the gelatin block in which the brain is encased). Amazing!

To learn more about the delicate procedure being used to preserve H.M.'s brain, check out this article from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Here's what the Brain Observatory says (as of 3:40 PM CST):
We are going to cut through the entire brain over the next 50 hours. The very thin slices are going to be preserved in serial order and each will be ultimately stained and preserved in glass slides. The collection will represent a complete microscopic map of the brain of patient HM. This process will be extremely costly. Each glass slide alone costs $4! Any contribution, however small, will be crucial to the completion of this historic collection. To become a sponsor of patient H.M.’s giant histological glass slides, send your check to: The Brain Observatory, 3510 Dunhill Street, San Diego, CA 92121 Or make your generous donation by following this link: Donate

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sucking Up Doesn't Bring Success

In a (sort of) recent article published in the August issue of Psychological Science, researchers confirmed something we had all secretly hoped: suck-ups do worse in school than those whose professed "love of learning" is actually sincere. This was exciting to me for two reasons: I had always been irked by classmates who appeared to be buddying up to professors and teachers for no good reason (you know the type...always asking unnecessary and indirectly flattering questions, consistently insisting they find their instructor's tedious research interest FASCINATING...etc.) and it allowed me to post this remarkably cute picture of a kitten on the blog.

This research was profiled in the September 9th issue of Newsweek and is worth a look-see. Of course, I'll still graciously accept gifts and money from any of you... (just kidding, I can't really do that). But I would add that I haven't come across any research that suggests it is to your advantage to be mean to your teachers, either.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reading Ahead: Save Yourself Some Frustration

Let's say you're one of those organized, prepared-types and you're looking ahead to what we'll be doing once we get back from Thanksgiving Break. First, great job! Chance favors the prepared mind!

Our next unit is on Learning and Memory and will cover content from Chapter 8 and 9 in your textbook. Note: this means we are temporarily skipping Chapter 7. Don't worry, we'll come back to that at the end of December (who would want to skip States of Consciousness altogether?!).

However, be aware that if you just dive into the next chapter in our book (Chapter 7), you may be frustrated when you come to class and realize you still have 2 chapters to read before you are prepared for our next quiz. If you're starting your reading early, Read Chapter 8 (Learning) next!

PsychSim: Visual Illusions

If you were gone last week Friday, you may have missed the instructions for the PsychSim Visual Illusions, which I collected today.

Just as a reminder, you can access the module by clicking here OR by heading over to the link for "PsychSim 4.0" found on the left hand menu bar in our "Commonly Used Course Links" widget. Choose the module "Visual Illusions" from the menu.

Here's the link for the accompanying worksheet, as well. Deer hunters and Floridians will need to get this to me when you return on Monday.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Friday's Psych Club Meeting

Disappointed that you missed the Psych Club meeting on Friday? You should be. We had a marvelous time making cutesy dragon optical illusions. We also snapped photos of ourselves wearing our fetching new Psych Club T-Shirts. Don't we look awesome!?

We also set the date for our first Movie Night of the year. Pending availability of space (which Mrs. Welle will check into on Monday), our Movie Night will be Thursday, December 10th at 7:00 PM. The tentative plan is to watch Memento, a film about a guy who is suffering from anterograde amnesia (yet is trying to solve his wife's murder. Tricky.). It will fit very nicely with what we'll be learning about in class at the time, since we'll be in the middle of a unit on learning & memory.

We will have to have signed parent permission slips for this one, since it is rated R. I'll get that information posted soon.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Telepathic Message" Coming Your Way!

This weekend, you have two chances to receive a telepathic message that can earn you extra credit on next week's test!

At 10:00 AM Saturday and 8:00 PM Sunday I will "send" a telepathic message out to my students (and whoever else is listening). If you "get" it, there is hefty extra credit in your future. In part because we may have to alert the scientific community if it turns out this is an ability you can reliably demonstrate.

This will dovetail nicely with our class discussion on Monday, which will examine the evidence for the existence of ESP.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Promised Links: Visual Illusions, Change Blindness Video

I apologize for the delay in getting this posted, but (per usual) life has been getting in the way lately.
This week in class I took students to Neural Correlates site to view 2009 Finalists in their Visual Illusion Contest. We looked at the 2009 Winner, the "Break of the Curve Ball," as well as others.
Another link I promised was the YouTube video of a Change Blindness Experiment, conducted by Daniel J. Simons. This is the one where subjects fail to notice a person swap when reporting for participation in research.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Cyclist Who Doesn't Stop...

Yesterday in my sixth hour class, this gentleman came up. At the time, I couldn't remember his name, which is Jure Robic. Nor did I correctly recall his home country, though I knew it was formerly Soviet: it was Slovenia.

Anyway, many of my students seemed to interested in his case, as we were using it to discuss the role of pain in restraining physically damaging behavior. The here's the link to the New York Times article about him from February 2006: That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stronger.

What makes him such an interesting figure? He doesn't stop...even when he should. Take the excerpt below as an example:

"Around Day 2 of a typical weeklong race, his speech goes staccato. By Day 3, he is belligerent and sometimes paranoid. His short-term memory vanishes, and he weeps uncontrollably. The last days are marked by hallucinations: bears, wolves and aliens prowl the roadside; asphalt cracks rearrange themselves into coded messages. Occasionally, Robic leaps from his bike to square off with shadowy figures that turn out to be mailboxes. In a 2004 race, he turned to see himself pursued by a howling band of black-bearded men on horseback."

Interested in his recent exploits? Check out his blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Tongue Map Myth

Many of my students are shocked to read in their psychology textbooks that the "Tongue Map" is somewhat of a myth, particularly because even some of their current science textbooks continue to print this misinformation. For the skeptical, here are some links to credible information on the subject:

I'd have to agree with Christopher Wanjek, writer for's Bad Science Column:

"The degree of variation is still debated, but the kindest way to describe the tongue map is an oversimplification. Why textbooks continue to print the tongue map is the real mystery now."

Phantom Limbs

Today during our class discussions on sensation, a number of questions came up for which I had no readily available answers. The links I've put together below are an attempt to answer some of these questions.

  1. Many of my students had questions about Phantom Limbs. This is a condition wherein an amputee still "feels" sensations from the missing limb (pain or otherwise). The tricky part about answering questions that relate to phantom limbs is that so much of the research is gleaned from case the question, "Would someone with a phantom limb feel ______________?" is hard to answer. It may be true of some patients, but not others. Or we might not have documentation of that specific situation within known case studies (but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist). The Psychology Department at Macalester College has a good site for further investigation. It provides a bunch of information on phantom limb patients, and examples of case studies on the phenomenon.
  2. One interesting treatment for Phantom Limb Pain is the use of Mirror Boxes. Below you will find a video featuring Andrew Austin (a treatment provider from the UK) describing the use of Mirror Boxes in therapy. If you have a bit longer, you can check out a 2007 TED Talk by VS Ramachandran which describes the use of mirror boxes to successfully treat phantom pain (as well as two other types of disorders resulting from physical damage to the body).

Why You Should Come to Psych Club this Friday: The Dragon Illusion!

Here's what we're doing in Psych Club this Friday (during Lunch B): making cool dragon optical illusions! Check out the final version:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hearing, The Ear & Georg Bekesy

Today in class you will be exploring The Ear Pages, a site dedicated to Nobel Prize winner Georg Bekesy and his discoveries about the ability of the human ear to detect frequency (in sound waves).

When you finish, there are number of sites you might choose to explore, including some of the ones I have shown you in class over the past few days. The sound illusions work best with headphones.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Reverse Speech and Backmasking

Today in class I shared with students several examples of supposed "reverse speech" and "backmasking" in popular songs during a lecture on subliminal sensation. Here are the websites for your own entertainment/explorations:

Friday, November 6, 2009

T-Shirts Have Been Ordered!

It's about time!

I've given up on those stragglers who have not paid for the shirts they signed up for. If you had payment in for your shirt as of today, you can expect to get one. If not, snooze you lose.

The order is scheduled to come in by November 20th, which (conveniently) happens to be the date of our next Psych Club meeting! Oh boy! I can hardly wait to see us all decked out in our finest Freud-wear.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Time to Chat with Mrs. Welle

Although it's hard to believe it, we're approaching the end of the first quarter here at Chi-Hi. This makes it a good time to reflect on how things are going so far, and where we are headed this year.

To that end, for the first time this year I am requiring that students meet with me one-on-one for a 10-minute conference. I find, with so many of you (84!), I am having a hard time getting to know everyone individually and I want to make sure we're both doing everything we can to make sure you have a successful year. Basically, we'll just chat about how things are going in AP Psych.

In my room, you'll find a sign-up for available conference times. All time slots listed are during our Lunch & Learn time, though other arrangements may be possible. Given that I have so many to arrange and can only complete about 5 per lunch period (or less, if I have other scheduled meetings), my goal is to get done with all of these by the end of November.

Completing the Pre-Conference Worksheet and attending your scheduled conference will be worth a 10-point project grade (for 2nd quarter). Please make every effort to attend at your scheduled time, as spaces will fill up fast!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Alison Gopnik: The Philosophical Baby

Now, you may be getting sick of my postings that include clips from the Colbert Report, but I can't help it. Colbert has great guests, and these brief interviews are a perfect way for you to get a sense of what's new in psychology these days.

Earlier this month, Alison Gopnik, author of the new book The Philsophical Baby, appeared on the Colbert Report. In the book, Gopnik discusses how modern developmental psychology is revealing the impressive capabilities of even very young babies. As we discussed in class this week, some of this research challenges Piaget's theories about infant behavior. See the video below for some examples.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Alison Gopnik
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorReligion

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Don't Believe Your Lying Eyes"

Special thanks to former student Ben Fuller for alerting me to this great video on perceptual illusions. This lecture was delivered by R. Beau Lotto, founder of LottoLab, at the 2009 TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design) Global Conference. In it, he describes the science behind several popular visual illusions (some of which we will be viewing in class in a couple of weeks), and reveals some new ones.

The LottoLab site itself is a great source of illusions and their explanations and is worth checking out.

Here's a link to the full article describing his talk:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Babies Driving Robot Cars...Because it's Cute.

Most of my classes were able to see this video today during lecture. I included it here because it's hard to find AND it's just super cute. C'mon, babies driving robot cars? Who wouldn't like this?

The researchers hope their work with normal infants will someday benefit children with disabilities, allowing babies who cannot crawl or move under their own power to experience the important developmental experience of self-directed movement.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Here it is! Steven Pinker on "Nature" & Child Development

Here's what I was looking for! A couple years ago Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker made an appearance on The Colbert Report to hype his (at the time) latest book: The Blank Slate. In the book, Pinker makes the case for genetic predispositions in human behavior (both as a species and within individuals).

The interview with Colbert delved into developmental psychology and all the exciting work being done with infants these days. It provides a nice discussion of how crucial the nature-nurture issue is within developmental psychology. And they talk about swearing. Enjoy.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Steven Pinker
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

Steven Pinker on Genetics...and on the Colbert Report

While searching for another interview video of Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker (one on the "nature-nurture" issue), I stumbled upon this one from February of this year.

I'll post the one I was looking for later, because this one is great for its discussion of the role of genes and the current state of understanding about the human genome. Pinker published his entire genome online...which Stephen Colbert suggests is like revealing "the social security number God gave you." His reflections on the implications of his genetic testing were published in the New York Times Magazine, and are also worth a gander.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Steven Pinker
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Extra Credit: Psychology Pumpkins!

Looking for some Halloween fun with psychology? Or just some extra credit points to prop up your grade after sub-par test performance? Why not carve a PSYCHOLOGY PUMPKIN!

Next week you can bring your creation in to share with the rest of us. Just be sure to read through the rules. Don't leave your pumpkin here to rot in the warmth of my classroom. Ewwwww.

After all, you want to impress your Trick-or-Treaters with your psychology knowledge! And nothing is as scary as a Sigmund Freud face on a Jack-O-Lantern!

Psych Club Meeting Tomorrow!

Hey, Psychology Club members! Due to my absences last week (darn you, H1N1!), we were not able to hold our October meeting. This is a situation we must rectify, because I had some really cool plans for us, including making Brain Cupcakes!!! (See photo...)

Since I still have the supplies, we'll meet THIS FRIDAY instead. We'll do some brain trivia, make cupcakes, and hopefully plan some fundraisers so I don't have to keep paying for our supplies out of pocket...

Also, T-SHIRT MONEY NEEDS TO COME IN! I have a number of folks who haven't paid for their awesome club shirts, and I need to get it before I can place the order. I had originally said last week Friday was the deadline, but since I was out sick I'll take $ through tomorrow.

See you at the meeting! Friday, Lunch B!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Study Guide to Accompany Textbook

I'm reposting this information about the textbook study guide for the benefit of some parents/students I talked to tonight at conferences.

As I mentioned, the school does not provide these for students because they are consumable (you write in them) and not all students would elect to use them. However, many students do find them quite useful in preparing for quizzes and tests.

Personally, I think it's a good choice. I used one in my Intro Psych class in college and found it useful. But not everyone does, and that's why it's up to you.

If you choose to buy one, I would recommend shopping at a used-textbook website since you can get them dirt cheap (though this will require help of a parent or someone with a credit/debit card, generally). A quick glance at some of the usual sources revealed that there are a lot out there, costing anywhere from .75 (used) to $28 (for a new one).Here are some links to copies for sale through the indicated online seller:

Be sure to note the condition of a used study guide before buying it! The seller should tell you if there is any damage or if there is writing in it.

If you wish to search for the study guide through any other service, it helps to have the ISBN handy: 0-7167-5288-3 . Also, I have one copy in my classroom if you would like to take a look at it before purchasing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Evolutionary Psych and Kids

Today in class we will be discussing the evolutionary perpective in psychology: the application of principles of natural selection to our understanding of human behavior.

One potentially controversial issue we'll encounter is the notion that the idea that having children will make you happy may be selected for, even though lately research has suggested it's not true.

Happiness researchers have been telling us for some time that the impact of children on their parents' happiness is neutral at best (sure, parenting is stressful, but there are good things about it too), but lately researchers, including Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling On Happiness, have been telling us the non-parents are actually happier than parents. Shocking, since most parents are passionately devoted to their children and love them intensely.

Gilbert offers an evolutionary explanation for this: the illusion is persistant because those humans that don't buy into it...don't reproduce. We are all offspring of those who believed (even if it's not true) that we would bring them greater happiness.

This idea is explored more in a recent article from The Psychologist: Think Having Children Will Make You Happy? The author explores possible cognitive roots of this phenomenon.

(Keep in mind, I'm not anti-kids!!! I'm not trying to persuade you to make decisions about your future families! But I think this idea is interesting. Any other possible explanations for this phenomenon besides an evolutionary approach?)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Psych Club T-Shirts

I've posted a preview widget so you can get a final look at what our Psych Club t-shirts will look like when you visit the blog. Unfortunately, I can't embed it in a post, so if you are reading this in your email you won't be able to see it. Just direct your browser to and the final version will be visible on the top left side of the page.

Money ($16 per shirt) and Orders for T-shirts will be due Friday, October 16th. Sign up in rm 136 and be sure to indicate your size.

October 16th is also our next Psychology Club meeting, and my current plan is to make some sort of food related to the brain...perhaps brain cupcakes?

YouTube Alien Hand Video

For those of you who can't get enough of Alien Hand Syndrome information, here's a YouTube clip posted by a sufferer of the disorder. If you actually go to YouTube and read the comments below her post, she reports that the condition has diminished somewhat since this video was made.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Your Questions Answered: Aphasia, Language & the Brain

Today's discussion of brain areas associated with language use sparked a lot of great questions from my students. Here, an attempt to provide some answers that I didn't have readily available:

  • First, a good primer on aphasia, including prevalence rates and types.
  • Compare this to dyslexia, another language (reading) impairment that was brought up. In considering the causes of both, dyslexia seems to have much more complicated causal factors (injury, genetics, other organic dysfunction) than aphasia, which is almost always due to injury or stroke.
  • Another interesting language-related illness: Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, which is related to abnormal electrical activity (seizures) and occurs in children. This is a much more rare condition and less is known about the causes, as only 160 cases have been reported since 1957.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Conan Describes A Concussion

Last week, Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien took a nasty tumble while filming a bit with Teri Hatcher. While running across the stage to finish a "triathalon", he slipped and fell. The resulting head injury landed him in the ER with a concussion.

On Monday's (9/28/09) show, Conan and Andy Richter discussed the experience, giving us a star-studded glimpse of the serious symptoms that accompany concussions. If our class discussions on the functions of the brain have not proven to you the importance of this organ's proper operation, this will.

(Sorry about the advertisement prior to the video; it's owned by NBC - nothing I can do)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What Would Life Be Like without a Limbic System? Ask Roger...

Recently, the blog Neuroskeptic reported on a recently released case study of a patient (called "Roger") who suffered complete destruction of his limbic system.

As we just discussed the limbic system in class, this should be perfect fodder for your musings.

Scientists Identify Brain Areas Linked to Emotion in Dead Fish?

Even if this piece of recent psych research didn't reveal such interesting principles about the use of fMRI in researching the functions of specific brain regions, it would be worth sharing just for its hilariousness.

A team of neuroscientists, led by Craig Bennett of the University of California, Santa Barbara recently conducted an fMRI on a dead fish (specifically, an Atlantic salmon) while showing it pictures of people. The result: statistically significant registers of electrical activity in the fish's tiny brain!

Whoa! The brains of dead fish respond when their unliving eyes are forced to stare at pictures of humans?! Not so fast....

The researchers are not claiming some sort of zombie-like post-mortem affection fish display toward humans. Rather, they are using this result to point out that sometimes fMRI's give false positives because of how much data they are able to report. They suggest that the cutoff for statistical significance (normally a p-value of .05) when using fMRI's may need to be lowered. In other words, the currently accepted level of risk that results occurred by sheer chance (p-value) may be too high for the amount of data being collected by these sophisticated techniques: they are likely to show statistically significant activity when, in actuality, it's not there (as in the dead fish).

My favorite part of this research? The cool title the researchers chose for their project: "Neural correlates of interspecies perspective taking in the post-mortem Atlantic salmon: An argument for multiple perspectives comparison." Nice work, fellows!

Click here to see the poster presentation on this research.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mouse Party Assignment

Today's assignment will require you to access a cute/funny/funky informational module put together by our friends at the University of Utah. It will introduce you to various psychoactive drugs and demonstrate how these drugs influence the activity of specific neurotransmitters at the synaptic level.

Complete the worksheet by working through the "Mouse Party" demonstration. For each drug, you place the labeled mouse in the chair and listen/follow along with the description of its effects by clicking "next" at the appropriate time. Although it may not be possible if you are in a public setting (e.g. library), this demo is the most fun with the sound on because you hear the narration AND the funky music.

If you get done early, why not kill the time by amusing yourself with a rousing game of Cerebral Commando?! This is a game that challenges you to maintain an optimal level of dopamine particles by adding/subtracting receptor cites and assisting in the reuptake of dopamine. Level two poses a bigger challenge with the addition of cocaine! If your supervising teacher bothers you about it, tell him/her you are just studying psychology. :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Practice Your Neuron-Building Skills!

Okay, Psychology Friends, it's time to practice those neuron-building skills! The folks at the University of Utah have created a cutesy (albeit weird) game to help you review the basic parts of a neuron.
The game allows you to be an apprentice to a "mad scientist" who is building a neural pathway. Along the way, you get quizzed on the parts of the neuron and where they go. And who said learning can't be fun?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Neural Communication PsychSim


Well, folks, since I last saw you there has been a negative turn of events in my life. :( Nothing too tragic, but it will prevent me from being with you today in class. Over the past weekend I...
  1. Apparently chipped a tooth... one of my molars. ARGH! and...
  2. Developed an unpleasant cold.

Hopefully things start looking up for me soon! But this means I will be spending Monday hoping to get in at my dentist's and trying to recover from the cold, which presently has me coughing up a storm.

However, it turns out that, of all the days I should have to be gone, Monday is not a bad choice. This is because the main task of the day was to head to the computer lab and complete a PsychSim on Neural Messages.

Here are the directions:

  1. Obtain the worksheet from my substitute. Or, if you've lost yours, click here to print another.
  2. Go to PsychSim 4.o: Neural Messages. When you get to the menu screen, click on "Neural Messages". This is an online module that gives you an introduction to the smallest parts of the nervous system: neurons!
  3. Proceed through the module by clicking "next" (on the bottom of your screen) to advance to the next part. Use the information provided to complete the worksheet.
  4. If you finish before the end of the hour, you can give the worksheet to the sub. Otherwise, I'll expect to get it from you in class tomorrow.

Good luck!

P.S. Also, don't forget to vote on the final version of our Psych Club t-shirts (see post below).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Freudicon Wins! But details remain undecided...

For those of you unable to make it to the first official psych club meeting this year, a report on our progress.

Voting on T-shirt designs resulted in the selection of the "Freudicon" design depicted at left. However, at the close of the meeting, there were still some decisions left to be made.

There was considerable disagreement about the font choice for the lettering on the back of the shirt, which reads, "Psychology Club 2009-10".

Also, we voted on a color choice for the shirt, but following the meeting during my prep period I was able to adjust the image settings so the white space on Freud's head is no longer transparent... thus opening the possibility of using a darker color of shirt without distorting the image. response to feedback from my 6th and 7th hour classes, I've come up with some new options for voting. I selected a font that I would argue is a happy medium, given the opinions expressed at the meeting. It's not simple block lettering (sort of funky), but also not so flashy as to be distracting.

Below are links to the new shirt color options. I'm including the color choice we voted on at the meeting in case there are those who wish to stick with it (despite the new options). At the bottom of this post you will find a poll where you can cast your vote for your favorite choice. The poll will close on Tuesday, September 22, so we can get the order rolling and get our shirts ASAP.

Each option would cost the same amount: $16.00 (assuming we can get an order or 25 shirts or more).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Psychology Club T-Shirt Designs

This friday during Lunch B the first Psychology Club meeting of the year will be held in rm 136. The most important item on the agenda: Club T-shirts! No self-respecting club in our school should be without a snappy t-shirt, and we in the Psych Club like to set the bar when it comes to academic apparel. This year will be no exception.

Below are links to images of the options we will vote on. Feel free to post comments in an attempt to persuade others of the correctness of your opinion and the credibility of your taste. Each listed price is the estimate for an order of 20 shirts (it may ultimately go up or down based on the size of our final order).

PsychoPath - $12.41

Rorschach Inkblot - $11.40

Freudicon - $14.71

The Placebo Effect Treatment

During our recent class discussion on experimental design, I mentioned a well-known phenomenon in psychiatric medicine: the placebo effect. This is a situation where a patient responds as they believe they should under the influence of a drug, when in actuality they are receiving a placebo (inert substance). For example, reporting a decrease in pain after taking what you thought was an aspirin (but actually was a Skittle).

Last year, a study was published in the Journal of Internal Medicine that found 45% of surveyed doctors had prescribed a placebo to a patient during clinical practice. Obviously this raises questions about the ethics of using placebos in treatment (as opposed to simply in research).

What do you think? Is it okay for doctors to be prescribing placebos (and thus, in some ways, deceiving their patients)?

And, speaking of fake drugs, check out these:

FDA Approves Depressant for Annoyingly Cheerful (caution: strong language)

Progenitorivox: Best Drug Ever (just watch the side effects)

Panexa: Ask Your Doctor for a Reason to Take It

Thanks to MindHacks for the links.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Psychology's Top 100

I had a good time hearing about your rankings of Psychology's Top 25 minds today in class, students.

For anyone who's interested in how those rankings were created, here's link to the published article. It describes how the researchers from Western Kentucky University and Arkansas State University gathered their data and completed the complicated process they used to create the rankings.

Want to know who else is on the list? I only asked you to take a look at the top 25 for your assignment. The list they generated actually ranks the Top 100 ("Most Eminent") Psychologists of the 20th Century. If your favorite didn't make the top 25, maybe he/she still made the top 100.

Credit for AP Exam Results

If you are curious as to how your college/university of choice awards credit based on AP Exam scores, check out this AP Credit Policy Info page from the College Board.

Although the general rule is that a score of 3 or better on the AP Psych Exam is "passing," some schools require a 4. Others award credit differently based on your score. It might be worth knowing as you submit applications this fall and make your preparations for college.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Psychology's Top 25

Tomorrow in class you will be getting an assignment called "Psychology's Top 25". To assist your search to uncover the major accomplishments of those great-looking gentlemen, here are some web links:

  • Famous Figures in Psychology
  • History of Psychology
  • People and History in Psychology
  • Psychology Biographies
  • I would avoid Wikipedia, simply because I've checked out some psychology-related entries on that site and have found strange information on them...

    Remember, there is no point in attempting to match the APA's ranking of these folks: you don't earn points for having a similar list. I'll post their rankings next week. For now, I want to know what YOU think. :)

    Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    Great Example of Case Study: The Woman Who Had No Sense of Personal Space

    If, by now, you are into the reading for Chapter 1 (don't worry, I'll post some cool stuff for the Prologue soon), you'll have come across one particular type of research method in psych: the case study.
    Though limited in the conclusions you can draw from them, case studies are a great way to study one individual, often with a weird (i.e. rare) condition, in depth.
    My latest favorite case study comes to us via the blog of the British Psychological Society and involves a women, called S.M., who apparently has no sense of personal space. This is a great example of the kind of questions that can (and cannot) be answered via case studies.

    Optional Study Guide to Accompany Textbook

    One topic of discussion in my AP Psych classes today was the textbook-companion study guide that is available for (optional) purchase. As I mentioned, the school does not provide these for students because they are consumable (you write in them) and not all students would elect to use them. However, many students do find them quite useful in preparing for quizzes and tests.

    Personally, I think it's a good choice. I used one in my Intro Psych class in college and found it useful. But not everyone does, and that's why it's up to you.

    If you choose to buy one, I would recommend shopping at a used-textbook website since you can get them dirt cheap (though this will require help of a parent or someone with a credit/debit card, generally). A quick glance at some of the usual sources revealed that there are a lot out there, costing anywhere from .75 (used) to $28 (for a new one).

    Here are some links to copies for sale through the indicated online seller:

    Be sure to note the condition of a used study guide before buying it! The seller should tell you if there is any damage or if there is writing in it.
    If you wish to search for the study guide through any other service, it helps to have the ISBN handy: 0-7167-5288-3 . Also, I have one copy in my classroom if you would like to take a look at it before purchasing.

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Focusing on how little time you have left can make you happier : Cognitive Daily

    Check out this blog post from the Cognitive Daily. It's a review of some recently published research that could shed light on why vacations and other time-limited activities seem to be so enjoyable. An interesting premise.

    Link: Focusing on how little time you have left can make you happier : Cognitive Daily

    Assuming this theory is correct (which, I would add, is not completely clear based soley on this single piece of research), remember: you only have 179 days of school left this year! Soak it up. :)

    Posted using ShareThis

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    Did You Know?

    On the eve of another school year, it's a worthwhile use of your time to consider the journey we're about to undertake. This time of year, I find myself feeling at first apprehensive, then excited, and, finally, eerily calm about all the change that is happening around me and in my life. We don't always think about it, but the world is in a constant state of flux that presents challenges and opportunities for all of us.

    Perhaps you've seen a version of video clip I've embedded below. It's a great reminder that tomorrow is NOT yesterday:

    What does it all mean? Here's what it means to me:

    • As teachers, we must constantly be challenging our students to learn more, do more, and be more because of the obstacles they will face.
    • EVERYONE (including teachers and adults) must ALWAYS be learning! It's not enough to "maintain." We grow or get left behind.
    • Students face challenges we did not, even a few years ago, and will encounter problems we did not anticipate. Therefore, an intensive education that allows them to be flexible thinkers is not simply a good idea, it is necessary if we wish for the US to remain globally competitive in employment and for the world to solve the problems that face our interconnected planet.

    Psychology is fun, of course. But there's a bigger reason we're all going to be here at 8:00 tomorrow morning.

    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    Additional Textbook Pickup Hours

    Given the volume of work I have yet to do before you lovely students arrive on Tuesday, it looks like I will be back at school tomorrow (Friday, August 28).

    I'm tentatively scheduling myself to be here from 10-2, so if you haven't picked up your textbook yet, feel free to stop by rm 136 and pick one up from me.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    So, I Have My Textbook....Now What Do I Do With It?

    Sounds crazy, I know, but READING IT is my suggestion.

    In all seriousness, the best thing you can do for yourself to get a good start in AP Psych is to start developing your reading strategy for the text. Your first quiz, which will cover the Prologue (yes, the part BEFORE the first chapter) and Chapter 1 of your text, will take place during the second week of the school year. I have yet to determine the exact date, as I'm currently in the process of hammering out our schedule for the year in order to get us ready for the AP Exam in May.

    Some things you should know about that first quiz:
    • You are allowed to use notes during quizzes (but not tests) in AP Psych. The point of this is to encourage you to carefully take notes while you read (which helps tremendously in retaining the information....which you will need for the test).
    • The notes can be as detailed as you would like them to be, HOWEVER, you are not allowed to simply photocopy the book. As a practical matter, it would probably NOT be helpful to just copy passages of text verbatim, as there is too much and this will not help you commit it to memory as much as other methods.
    • I would recommend using some sort of outline format (your choice) that helps you organize the information in a way that makes sense to you. I can help you with this if needed.
    • Passively reading the text - without taking notes or using other deliberate strategies to commit the information to memory - is generally not enough to do well on the quizzes. If casually skimming or even giving it a simple "once-through" has been your approach to textbook readings to this point, it will probably not work for this class.
    • Quizzes are multiple choice.
    • Usually about 15 questions on each quiz.
    You are incredibly lucky to have the text that you do. David Myers, the author of our book- who I will talk about more during class- has a very accessible writing style. Unlike other texts you sometimes find in the Social Sciences, this one doesn't sound like it was written by robots. He has a sense of humor, so enjoy it!

    Notice: Picking Up Textbooks

    Just so my students are aware, as I had feared might happen, a meeting was scheduled that I have to attend tomorrow. Thus, I will be out of my room for a while, starting at 9:00 AM. I'm hoping the meeting won't last more than an hour, but I can't make any guarantees. Thus, if you are planning on dropping in to pick up a book, please avoid doing so between 9 and 10 AM, as you will end up waiting for me.

    By the way, this is what your text looks like! Hope to see you soon. :)

    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Free Binders!

    I was pleasantly surprised to find, upon my arrival in the main office this morning, that the high school is discarding a bunch of black 3-ring binders that were previously used to house staff handbooks (I don't know what they'll put our new handbooks in...I guess I'll have to wait and find out).

    What does this mean? I was able to scoop up a boxful of FREE 3-ring binders. Sweet!

    Since you're probably already planning to stop by on Wednesday and pick up your Psych textbook, why not grab a free binder, too? (Remember, you are required to have one of these for class?) Granted, they're pretty utilitarian-looking (all of them are black), but the price is right. I guess if you want your fancy, Hello Kitty binder you'll have to do your own shopping.

    I have a limited number available (I would guess around 25) and they will go on a first-come, first-served basis, so don't delay! They will probably be all gone before school starts. See you soon!

    Sunday, August 23, 2009

    Welcome to AP Psychology!

    Greetings, young minds! In checking my rosters at the close of registration week, it appears I have another large crop of AP Psych students headed my way. This is excellent news for a number of reasons:

    1.) In choosing to take an AP course, you are better preparing yourself for the rigors of college AND possibly saving yourself some cold hard cash. Since AP courses are designed to mimic comparable college courses, you get a taste of what is expected down the road. Also, if you pass the AP Psychology Exam with a score of 3 or better, you can earn college credit. The pdf. to the right outlines research done on the benefits of AP courses; click here to download your own copy.
    2. ) AP Psychology is a GREAT place to start if this is your first AP course. Since Introductory Psychology (Psych 100 or 101 at many universities) is required for many different college majors (education, nursing, name it) it is very likely to be something you'll take in college anyway. AND it's a downright fun course, if I do say so myself! Word on the street is that Psychology is about to overtake Biology as the most popular AP 2009 almost 150,000 high school students from across the country participated in the exam, and next year we hope to count you in those numbers! Follow this link to download a comprehensive description of the AP Psychology course (published by the College Board).
    3.) Psychology helps you understand why people do what they do. This is the subject with the most interesting focus of study: human beings! If you've ever been puzzled as to why a friend, stanger, or (gasp) enemy acts the way he/she does, psychology might be able to give you some answers.
    I am looking forward to meeting each of my new students in person! More posts soon to come on required and optional resources to help you succeed in this class.

    Monday, August 17, 2009

    Psychology on Broadway

    Love psychology? Love musicals? Well, you are in luck! The broadway musical Next to Normal is getting a lot of attention these days from psychology enthusiasts and music critics alike. The plot of the musical centers on the character of Diana, a wife and mother with worsening bipolar disorder, and the conflict created in her family.

    The production recently snapped up two Tony Awards (out of 11 nominations), so it's clearly a great show even for those with only a casual interest in psychiatry. Recently, lyricist Brian Yorkey and composer Tom Kitt appeared on NPR's Talk of the Nation to discuss the production.

    Though currently on Broadway, perhaps if the show stays popular a nationwide tour could be in the works? That way we in the Midwest could take in a show. Cross your fingers.

    The video clip below is from a performance by cast members at the 2009 Tony Awards.

    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    The Report from San Antonio

    I was thrilled to be able to participate in this year's AP Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas from July 16-18. Even though it was crazy hot in southern Texas - 110 degrees - the even was no doubt a success. (The heat should explain my puffy appearance in photos...or at least that's what I'm blaming it on)

    As you can see from my previous post, one of my goals for the conference was to meet David Myers. Unfortunately, he ended up not being able to come! I was much disappointed to discover this, but my wounds quickly healed. For one, I was able to attend some fabulous sessions where I picked up some new tricks for demonstrating psych concepts. For two, I was able to sit in on a focus group for Worth Publishers, where the editor for David Myers' new text sought input on the book. And as a result....I got an email from Mr. Myers himself when I returned home! (A thanks for participating in the focus group). Maybe I'll still get to meet the guy in the future.

    Another highlight of the weekend was the closing speaker: none other than Gwen Ifill from PBS! I was very impressed with her talk, which centered on her recently published book. And that surprised me, because I expected a lot from the gal (remember, she moderated the Vice Presidential Debates last fall?). She was not only well-spoken and intelligent, but very witty and displayed a great sense of humor.

    For me, the conference sparked new ambitions: I'm now going to bite the bullet and submit my application to be an AP Exam Reader, so if all goes well in a few years I'll be lending what experience I have to that exercise. Also, I made some great connections and met a friend with whom I hope to present at next year's Annual Conference in Washington D.C. Both initiatives, of course, depend upon acceptance by the College Board, so wish me luck!

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    People I Hope to Meet in San Antonio

    Later this week I depart for San Antonio, Texas, site of this year's AP Annual Conference. From the schedule, it looks there will be no shortage of awesome psychology-teaching related topics to investigate. But, by far, I am most excited to attend a session on Friday afternoon entitled "Active and Relevant: Bringing AP Psychology to Life".

    Why? One of the presenters is none other than David Myers! No offense to the other presenters that afternoon, as I am sure I'll find them interesting and motivating, too, but Myers has a sort of celebrity status in my classroom, as he is the author of our course textbook.

    Since, thus far, my encounters with academic celebrities have been limited, I wonder whether it is proper to ask to have one's photograph taken with a textbook author? Or to ask for an autograph? Too nerdy? Too needy? Cute or just tacky? Hmmm...

    Your suggestions would be appreciated! You can bet any successes will be documented here.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009

    A Great Summer Read: My Stroke of Insight

    I just finished up what turned out to be a great book: My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor.

    You might recognize the name...or perhaps you've seen this amazing woman on one of her many television appearances. My students will perhaps recognize her from her spot on a Discovery Channel production I sometimes show in class called, "The Amazing Brain." Jill was a Ph.D. neuroanatomist (a.k.a. brain scientist) when she suffered a stroke at age 37.

    The book describes in great detail what her experience of the stroke felt like, her path to recovery, and the new perspective the experience gave her. Personally, I learned quite a bit about the different types of strokes that our brains are susceptible to in the opening chapters. Since it was Taylor's left hemisphere that was most affected by the stroke, the book does an excellent job of highlighting the distinctive tasks of each hemisphere of the brain. Still thinking like a psych teacher, I also found that the account highlighted the brain's role in perceptual processes quite nicely, since Taylor describes perceptual distortions she had to overcome during recovery. All of it is accompanied by cute diagrams of which areas of the brain are being discussed.

    I would definitely recommend the book to other psych teachers and students of psychology. It's a quick read, and I found her amazing story to be inspirational as well.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Serendipitous Trip to Bedlam!

    Some of you may know that I am taking a group of high school students to Europe this summer to study the history of World War II. Our travels will take us to London, Paris, and Berlin, and I am very excited that we will be departing quite soon! See the trip website at for details.

    While I was communicating with our tour director who is currently in Ireland, he casually mentioned that one of the museums we will be visiting - the Imperial War Museum, which houses artifacts from WWI and WWII - IS BUILT ON THE GROUNDS OF BETHLEM ROYAL HOSPITAL (a.k.a. "Bedlam")! So, my trip is now (though unintentionally) a psychology history trip as well!

    For my students who may be confused as to why I am so excited about this, Bethlem was a notorious mental hospital that, in practice, operated more like a zoo. Most abnormal psychology textbooks make some mention of it (often as an example of why modern reforms in mental health care were so direly needed). In fact, our term "bedlam", which is used to describe chaos or an out-of-control situation is derived from this hospital's name!
    The IWM's website describes the history of Bethlem Royal Hospital like this:

    The building which accommodates the Imperial War Museum London was formerly the central portion of Bethlem Royal Hospital, or Bedlam, as it was commonly known. Designed by James Lewis, it was completed in 1815. Sidney Smith’s dome was added in 1846 and contained the chapel. The east and west wings were demolished in the early 1930s to make room for the park which now surrounds the Museum.
    Bethlem Royal Hospital dates back to 1247, when Simon Fitz-Mary, a wealthy alderman and sheriff of London, founded the Priory of St Mary of Bethlehem on the site which is now part of Liverpool Street Station. In the fourteenth century the priory began to specialise in the care of the insane. In 1547 Henry VIII granted the hospital to the City of London.Bethlem was moved to a new building in Moorfields in 1676. Until 1770 there were no restrictions on visitors, and the lunatics, who were often manacled or chained to the walls, were a public attraction.

    The hospital was housed in the present building from 1815 to 1930, when it was transferred to Eden Park near Beckenham, Kent.

    Patients included Mary Nicholson who tried to assassinate George III in 1786; Jonathan Martin, committed in 1829 after setting fire to York Minster; the painters Richard Dadd and Louis Wain, famous for his cartoons of cats; Antonia White, author of Frost in May and Beyond the Glass; and the architect A W N Pugin who designed the Houses of Parliament and St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral opposite the Museum.

    As if I needed another reason to be excited about this trip! Can't wait to bring back photos to share!