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Spring SAVY 2022 – Psychology 101 for 3rd/4th Grade (Granata)

Posted by on Monday, February 28, 2022 in blog, SAVY.

Psychology 101: Why are they doing that? – Do we know now?

Hi parents and guardians! This is Nicolette, one of the two Psychology 101 instructors this past Saturday. In this blog post, you’ll find my thoughts and reflection on the outstanding day I had the privilege of spending with your students. We began our day by reviewing our course objectives: 1) to establish an understanding of important areas of Psychology and Psychological research (Developmental, Social, Cognitive), and 2) to develop a strong foundation in research science and methodology. We then did a fun ice breaker where your students were challenged to find the most unique thing they shared with each of the other students in the course – we discovered that three of our students were born outside of the U.S.!

I then probed your students on their background experience with and exposure to Psychology, and we learned that there are well over 8 types of psychology spanning disciplines from biology to marketing! We then began what greatly challenged many of your students– the Nature vs. Nurture debate. I split the room in half and your students were assigned to either the “Nature” (genes, what you’re born with) or “Nurture” (life experiences) side of the argument: what matters more for our development? They all created individual posters writing and illustrating their thoughts on why their side may matter more, while Hayley (their TA) and I checked in with them and had several engaging conversations around the questions that arose from your students. Each of them had the opportunity to present their poster, while the rest of their classmates shared something they appreciated about their poster. I was blown away by how respectfully and professionally your students listened to one another when considering each other’s contributions. We concluded this activity by my explaining that this was a REAL debate in the psychology field for decades – researchers asked almost all the same questions they did! Finally, the field decided that it is BOTH Nature and Nurture that are important to our development – that they work together – your students wholeheartedly agreed that this conclusion felt better than fighting passionately for one side only

We then proceeded to watch videos of famous developmental psychology studies, followed by engaging and critical whole-class discussion on the methodologies and conclusions of the research. We shifted gears to Cognitive Psychology by looking at several perceptual stimuli/optical illusions and discussing how adult participants respond to them in the lab! We also talked about attention via the “Invisible Gorilla” experiment, to which your students passionately exclaimed, “HOW could they miss that?!” We ended the day with another poster activity, this time, about mental representations – students were placed into teams and asked to illustrate and define a “cup” and a “chair”. Lots of laughs were shared in the process as they all took their own individual approach to tackling this assignment – some of your students even wrote advertisements for the world’s most advanced toilet (which they considered a chair, of course). We then practiced perhaps the most important piece of the activity – providing constructive peer feedback, just as scientists do in the real world. Students participated in a “poster walk,” where they silently walked from poster to poster and wrote down something they appreciated about their peer’s poster, or something they wanted to critique. After many refinements of our definition of a “cup” and “chair” per this feedback, we concluded the activity be reflecting on how certain mental representations are more salient to us than others (a 4-legged chair seems more so a “chair” than a beanbag) – but now that we had spent so much intentional time expanding upon and challenging our mental representations of cup and chair, our schemas (mental networks) surrounding these objects were immensely larger than when we began.

Finally, we ended the day by running our very own social psychology experiment – Asch’s conformity study – your students were either the experimenter, a conformant, the participant, or a reviewer/coder. They excelled in spontaneously providing limitations of the study (“But maybe if we would have done it like this/asked this he would have done this…!”), and found it fascinating to compare the original study to their experience.

My concluding words and suggestions were to keep connecting their life experiences and observations to psychology, and vice versa. No matter where life takes them career- or interest- wise, the skills we practiced today: thinking critically about dichotomous arguments, working with peers to synthesize multiple contributions into one, and providing respectful, constructive feedback, will carry them far. I wish them all the very best, and thank you for sharing them, their unique personalities, and their brilliant minds with me


Nicolette Granata

3rd-year Doctoral student in Developmental Psychology

Vanderbilt University

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