High School Psychology Lesson: Pre-Test Lesson

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On the first day of school, the students in my Psychology classes answer the following questions as a “pre-quiz.” These questions were taken from an old textbook. After the students have had enough time to answer the questions, we review them as a class and discuss as we go.

FYI, ALL the answers are FALSE. There are many times when a class will not pick up on this, however if a few students ask if the answers are all false, I simply reply I don’t think so, let’s look at the next one.

I am not a huge fan of all of the questions, however, there are many that can spark some great discussions that can let you get to know your students a little better. After most of the questions, I have included my discussion points.

1. The behavior of most lower animals – insects, reptiles, amphibians, most rodents and birds is instinctive and unaffected by learning.

Discussion Points: There are many times that pigeons have been trained to carry messages, later in the course we will see a video clip of a pigeon being taught to play a piano and a rat learning to navigate a maze. This question is a great opportunity to find out which students have pets. Ask students to volunteer the pet, name, and unique talents. Ask students to explain the methods used to house train or teach a new trick. You also can discuss the many benefits of having a pet, such as the incredible greeting we receive from so many.

2. For the first week of life, a baby sees nothing but a gray blur regardless of what he looks at.

Discussion Points: Babies can distinguish faces of mother from a close distance (usually it is the distance from the food source to the face of the food source). Ask students who have recently had an addition to the family such as siblings, nieces, nephews, and possibly sons or daughters. Some students may have experience babysitting. Once you identify these students, you can check in periodically on the development of the infant. (If you have children of your own, you can share these experiences too.)

3. A child learns to talk more quickly if the adults around the child habitually repeat the word he or she is trying to say, using the proper pronunciation.

Discussion Points: The Wild Child is an amazing story that discusses the possibility of a critical age for learning a language. This is a unique case study of a girl who was isolated from society by abusive parents. She was discovered during early adolescence. Occasionally I will show sections of this video (The Secret of the Wild Child) in class. Again, ask students to share their experiences of witnessing a child learning to talk.

4. The best way to get a chronically noisy school child to settle down and pay attention is to punish him or her.

Discussion Points: It is important for students to understand that in some cases, a child might desire the attention that being disciplined brings. In many cases, it is best for an adult to ignore this the behavior by not acknowledging it.

Ask students to share their experiences working with other children. Jobs could be a camp counselor, babysitter, or a worker in an after school program. Students can also share interactions with younger relatives. Ask students to share the most challenging situations they have faced in these positions. Ask them what they learned about children through these experiences.

5. Slow learners remember more of what they learn than fast learner.

Discussion Points: Not too much discussion on this question other than the fact that learning styles do not impact memory.

6. Highly intelligent people – “geniuses” – tend to be physically frail and socially isolated.

Discussion Points: I am a big fan of cartoons. The Foghorn Leghorn cartoon “Little Boy Boo” (6:24) reminds me of this stereotype. It is a fun clip that illustrates the incredible resources available. I have not shown this clip in class, but I certainly enjoyed watching it. Here is an image of the genius, which is entitled “Egghead Jr.”

7. On the average, you cannot predict from a person’s grades at school and college whether he or she will do well in a career.

Discussion Points: High school students love to argue this one the most. It is a great SAT skill question. The critical words are “on the average.” Ask the students what is necessary to succeed in school.  Explain that these same characteristics are necessary to succeed in a career. Conversely, the characteristics that lead to a lack of success in school also will negatively impact most careers.

8. Most national and ethnic stereotypes are completely false.

Discussion Points: There is some truth to stereotypes, for example, the Fighting Irish (I am of Irish descent). Not all Irish are fighters, but there are some. The problem with stereotypes is when they are applied to an entire group of people. (Political Cartoon) Another term associated with the Irish stereotype is “Paddy Wagon.” You can discuss the origins of this word and point out once again that there is some truth in this stereotype..

You can also present the example of a student at your school driving a BMW. If an out of town visitors observes the student, they might tell others; “All (town) students drive BMWs.” It is true that at least one student drives a BMW, so there is some truth to the statement. The problem with stereotype is when we apply the characteristics of a few to an entire group of people.

This political cartoon is great to include in a discussion on stereotypes. As you can see, it highlights the some of the issues involving Native American mascots. It is a great introduction to discussion of stereotypes (and mascots).

9. In small amounts, alcohol is a stimulant.

Discussion Points: I do not have much to add on this. If your district is fortunate to have a health education teacher (we do not), your students should be well aware of this fact.

10. LSD causes chromosome damage.

Discussion Points: This is another question that I add little too. Even though LSD does not cause chromosomal damage, you still can use this as an opportunity for a public service announcement on the negative effects of drug use. Check out this memorable commercial: This is Your Brain on Drugs.

11. The largest drug problem in the United States, in terms of the number of people affected, is marijuana.

Discussion Points: Nicotine and caffeine are highly addictive. I am not sure of the current facts. I would say marijuana is a huge issue in high school across America and across all demographics.

Chris Herren is a great speaker on the topic of drug use and addiction.

12. Psychiatry is a sub division of psychology.

Discussion Points: Psychiatry is a completely separate treatment that involves the medical treatment of mental disorders. Here is the information from Wikipedia.

13. Most mentally challenged people are also mentally ill.

Discussion Points: (In the original question the term was “mentally retarded,” I changed the terms.) There was a Supreme Court case that illustrates the difference between these two terms.

14. A third or more of the people suffering from severe mental disorders are potentially dangerous.

Discussion Points: Here is article on this topic from the British Journal on Psychiatry.

15. Electroshock therapy is an outmoded technique rarely used in today’s mental hospitals.

Discussion Points: I do not have much knowledge on this topic, however I did find a very knowledge source in the Mayo Clinic.

16. The more severe the disorder, the more intensive the therapy required to cure it; for example, schizophrenics usually respond best to psychoanalysis.

The Secret Life of the Brain is a great DVD produced by PBS. In the Teenage Brain section, there is an excellent clip about schizophrenia. I highly recommend adding this to your curriculum if you do not already have it. It is enlightening to the students on a difficult topic to cover. Students really enjoy viewing it and for a rare few it might help understand their disorder.

17. Quite a few psychological characteristics of men and women appear to be inborn; in all cultures for example, women are more emotional and sexually less aggressive than men.

Discussion Points: Working on this one. Would love any suggestions.

18. No reputable psychologist “believes in” such irrational phenomena as ESP, hypnosis, or the bizarre mental and physical achievements of the Eastern yogis.

Discussion Points: This is a great opportunity to see if people have visited a psychic or have had any paranormal experiences. You might find some very interesting responses. As with any other questions, you could share your experiences. Our school has a hypnotist show each year and many of the seniors are hypnotized. You can draw on similar experiences at your school.

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