Thursday, April 12, 2018

Teaching Social Psychology: A Rethink

Earlier this semester, I taught an eight-week section of Social Psychology. This is an upper-level undergraduate course. After years of more or less augmenting whatever textbook I used, I decided to make a few clean breaks from the traditional approach to delivering course material.

In the introductory chapter, I spent some time introducing some issues regarding the replicability of social priming effects. In the methods chapter, I probably just ignored that chapter altogether and focused much of my attention to the importance of understanding the major research designs and the importance of replication. In the process I drew my lectures and discussions from various published articles on the replication crisis, in particular the research published by the Open Science Collaboration. I also noted that many of the effects that we study that are counter-intuitive and are subtle (i.e., have small effect sizes) are ones where we should be especially cautious and skeptical. I also made sure my students understood the importance of publication bias, as that may lead us to believe effects are real that may not be after they undergo further scrutiny.

Over the course of several chapters, we noted in class that some classic research either appears to not be holding up or is turning out to be inconclusive. Ego depletion research was noted as a prime example. I also pointed out some issues with IAT research, as well as research on the weapons effect, where at least the jury is clearly out when it comes to whether or not weapons prime aggressive behavioral outcomes in either lab or field research. Subliminal priming research got touched upon, as failures to replicate Bargh's work is now pertinent.

Going forward, I am going to hammer on these points more this summer and next fall. Hopefully the textbooks will catch up in the next year or so. But until then, I may have more students asking how much of what they read in their textbooks is actually real.

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