Using the Psychic Blue Dot to Teach about Science (and Pseudoscience)

By Ashton, William A. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Using the Psychic Blue Dot to Teach about Science (and Pseudoscience)


Ashton, William A., Journal of Instructional Psychology


A new teaching method is described for teaching research methods in an Introductory Psychology curriculum with the goals of making the section on research methods more interesting, providing an active learning environment for research methods and to allow students to examine scientifically the claims of pseudoscience. Student groups created and conducted experiments to test the claims made of the psychic blue dot and described their projects in brief papers. An evaluation of the projects found that students did find the project interesting and the students felt that the project was useful in learning research methodology concepts. Students did not report being more wary of claims of pseudoscience.

**********

"Many postsecondary educators are concerned about the rising tide of pseudoscientific, fundamentally anti-intellectual belief among otherwise well educated American (Bates, 1991, p. 95).

These words began a 1991 article in Teaching of Psychology regarding a method to teach hypothesis testing by using a classroom demonstration of telepathy. Unfortunately, 13 years later not much has changed. Miss Cleo, an American telephone psychic, defrauded people of approximately one-half billion dollars (Ho, 2002) and John Edwards, an American television psychic, is currently on television and touring the country appearing at many concert hall venues (2006 Schedule of Events, 2006, March 7).

This lack of change may be quite understandable. In order to be prepared to evaluate the claim of pseudoscience, people--and especially psychology students--need to understand the basic concepts in research methodology and also have a facility with using these concepts. Teaching research methodology, especially in Introductory Psychology (potentially a college student's only exposure to a rigorous presentation of research methodology) can be difficult. For example, Hoffmaster (1986) stated that teaching research methodology is one of the driest subjects on earth.

In order to--simultaneously--make the study of research methodology in an Introductory Psychology curriculum more interesting, scientifically examine pseudoscientific claims and create a more active learning environment for the study of research methodology, I developed a semester-long project for my Introductory Psychology courses. Hopefully, by taking advantage of some of the benefits of active learning techniques, this new project will allow students to better understand and better apply research methodological concepts.

Active learning techniques have been shown to have a powerful impact upon student learning. Studies have shown that students prefer active learning to lecture; that active learning is comparable to lecture in terms of mastery of content, but active learning is superior to lectures in terms of thinking skills; and that many students have learning styles which may be served better by active learning techniques (Bonwell & Eison, 1991). One specific active learning technique is the group investigation technique (Sharan & Sharan, 1976). After a class orientation to an area or problem, students work in small groups and discuss and plan an individual project.

In the past, I have used smaller-scaled versions of the group investigation technique to augment my Introductory Psychology's courses lecture on research methodology. Specifically, I used a technique which involved students, in small groups, discussing and critiquing popular press articles about psychological research (Connor-Greene, 1993). While helpful to some students, this technique did not help students with more activity oriented learning styles. Thus, I elaborated upon Connor-Greene's ideas and designed a project which began with a discussion and critique of a popular press article on pseudoscience, and then students were required to take their original ideas and turn theses ideas into workable research proposals.

The centerpiece for all of these activities was a National Enquirer article about the Psychic Blue Dot (PBD). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Using the Psychic Blue Dot to Teach about Science (and Pseudoscience)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.