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.