Sunday, May 31, 2009

Can't get enough of Jim Jones and His Creepiness?

Last week in class we watched the WGBH American Experience film "Jonestown," which is the story of the People's Temple and its ultimate tragic end in 1978. The film is LITTERED with examples of basic principles of social psychology, and I think my students did a great job identifying them.

For those of you who can't get enough of the People's Temple, Jim Jones, or survivor stories, there are plenty of resources online for you to consult. A great place to start is the film's companion website. The teacher's resources section has links to several different websites that each examine the incident from a different angle, as well as a list of printed resources for futher study. There's also a photo gallery that includes many of the still images seen in the film.

For the Psych teachers out there following this blog, I'll post the viewing guide I use with my classes tomorrow when I'm back at school. I'd highly recommend the film, whether you use it in class or not. My students can attest to the fact that it is shocking and emotional.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Social Loafing Info

If you're feeling frustrated by a lack of progress on a group project, you're not alone this time of year. Check out this post from PsyBlog about Social Loafing, one of my personal favorite psychological concepts.

Friday, May 22, 2009

More Discussion: the Implicit Association Test

Remember the Implicit Association Test project that you (my students) completed for me? I'm still reviewing your reflections from that activity, and some themes have emerged in the responses.

For one, many of us obtained scores that indicate some (slight, moderate, or strong) automatic preference for one group over another: white over black, young over old, etc. Yet most of us also felt compelled to defend our own images in the face of this information, sometimes by writing off the results of the test. For example: "I don't believe this result is true. I'm not a racist." While the defensiveness is, on some level, a postive sign that we've interalized the idea that racism and prejudicial beliefs are not socially acceptable, I worry that this would cause us to entirely dismiss the possibility that even well-intentioned people can harbor biases (even unconscious ones?). Check out this article by Karen Kersting which appeared in the APA's Monitor on Psychology in March 2005: "Not Biased?"

On the other hand, as we discussed in class, what the results of these hidden biases are in human behavior is not exactly clear. In this 2008 article by Beth Azar which also appeared in the Monitor on Psychology, "IAT: Fad or Fabulous?" , the author points out that the test is hardly a perfect one. Some question the reliability and validity of the test. After all, what does it mean to have a "slight" preference for one race over another? As you astutely pointed out, it probably does not make you a "racist"... but what it does mean in terms of human behavior is not clear.
What do you think? How should the test be used (if at all)? Is it possible to learn anything from its results?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

2009 Visual Illusion of the Year

Wondering what to do with all of the time you have on your hands now that the AP Psychology exam is over? Why not while away the hours staring at mind-bending optical illusions? The best part? You can still call this "studying psychology." In fact, there are folks that spend their entire careers doing just that. Happily for the rest of us, they've sponsored an annual "Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest."

The Neural Correlate Society, which sponsors the contest, calls this yearly event "a celebration of the ingenuity and creativity of the world’s premier visual illusion research community." The 2009 Winner, "The Break of the Curveball" is worth checking out, as are all the finalists from this and previous years, which are also available on the website.

Post-Exam Info

Whew! We did it! The 2009 AP Exam is now the stuff of history. Some things to keep in mind as you slowly unwind:

  • You will not receive your score (hopefully a 5, right?) until late July. I won't see how you've done until our AP Testing coordinator mails me the results, which sometimes isn't until August, so you'll know before I do. I know it's an agonizingly long time to wait, but it's part of the process.
  • When I do get the scores, I'll post info about our class's results here (obviously, not individual scores, but our averages and so forth), so check back to find out how we did.
  • Do NOT talk about the questions on the multiple choice portion of the test, as you were directed during the exam administration. Certainly, do not post comments about them on Facebook or other social networking sites.
  • The F-R question sheets will be returned to me shortly. When I receive them we can talk about them in class.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Update: AP Psych Exam Start Time

I just received word from Ms. Ebner, our school's AP testing coordinator, that the start time for the AP Psych exam will be delayed a bit. She writes:
While looking at the timing of the AP Chemistry test
(morning of Tuesday, May 12) it looks like that test will last until approximately 12:15. This means that the AP Psych test is going to start a little later than expected. Please announce this to your class so they are aware that they may be waiting longer than expected.

Arrival time should be no later than 12:15!!!!
(Previously the schedule indicated 12:00).
I would use the extra time to your advantage and continute to review your vocab (e.g. notecards).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

AP Psych Exam - Practical Information

This Tuesday, you'll be taking the AP Psych Exam. Here's what Chippewa Falls students need to know:
  • The exam begins at 12:00 at CVTC. Arrive a few minutes early, if possible, to locate your testing room, as there will be THREE testing rooms for this exam.
  • You will be excused 4th - 7th hours (release @ 11:12 AM).
  • Since there will be a little time between the end of your 3rd hour class and the exam start, consider packing a LIGHT lunch to eat on the way/before the exam begins. However, you can't bring food into the exam rooms. You may pack a snack in your backpack, though.
  • You need to provide your own transportation to CVTC. Arrange carpools ahead of time, if necessary. Don't wait until the last minute!
  • Be sure to practice a solid pre-test regimen: get plenty of sleep the night before, eat healthful meals, and of course, review your course materials!


  1. A couple of #2 pencils (for the MC part).
  2. A couple of pens (blue or black) for the F-R part. Be sure to have a couple in case one runs out of ink!
  3. A watch, in case you are seated in a place where the clock is not easy to see.
  4. A sweatshirt? It's ideal to dress in layers so you can adjust if you're too hot/cold.


  1. Cellular phones, beepers, MP3 players, or personal data assistants (PDAs)
  2. Books, correction fluid, dictionaries, highlighters, or notes
  3. Scratch paper (notes can be made on portions of the exam booklets)
  4. Calculators
  5. Watches that beep or have an alarm
  6. Portable listening or recording devices (even with headphones) or photographic equipment
  7. Clothing with psych-related information on it (e.g. Psych Club shirts are a no-no)
  8. Food or drinks

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

AP Psychology Review Sessions

It's almost here! The AP Psychology Exam approaches! In order to help you prepare, several study sessions have been planned:

Tuesday (5/5) and Thursday (5/7) during lunch.
The atmosphere will be quite casual, as this is a "drop-in" style review. Bring the 40-day packet or other materials to work on. I will be available to answer questions.

Sunday, May 10 - 6:00 PM - Rm 136
Bring your notes and textbook. We'll review major topic areas addressed by the exam. You will have the option of taking all or part of a practice exam, if you feel ready to test your skills. Specific topics addressed will be determined by the preferences of those who attend.

Monday, May 11 - 6:30 PM - Rm 136
Last chance to get help with review! Lots of options this evening: flashcards, Bingo, F-R tips, etc.