The Psychology of Lego
Everyone loves Lego! Whether you are old or young, student or professor, this simple building tool/toy seems to have a universal appeal. This is the sentiment behind Jon Sutton’s article entitled “When psychologists become builders” (published in the August 2012 edition of the BPS publication The Psychologist and available online).
In the article Sutton discusses his and others obsession with Lego, the ability of this simple toy to stimulate development and how it has become widely used within Psychology. Sutton describes the use of Lego to stimulate thinking in business (see Serious Play), the use of Lego as a therapeutic tool for children on the autistic spectrum and the use of Lego robotics as a learning and teaching aid. The article finishes with a summary of a number of pieces of Psychological research where Lego is being used as a research tool or is the subject of the research itself.
Using Lego in the Psychology classroom
This article made me think about whether I could find an excuse to take my Lego to school . Here are 3 ways to justify letting your students play with Lego.
Lego role play: Treatments
Ask students to role play, using Lego, a therapy session for the treatments based on Psychological approaches such as CBT or Psychoanalysis to demonstrate understanding (AS or A2 Psychopathology). They will need to build a basic therapy room and position the furniture in an appropriate way before they start. Students could even video their re-enactment (in a stop motion animation style) to share with each other for revision. This sort of activity helps uncover where students have only a superficial understanding or have errors in their knowledge. The use of Lego to model also helps to make a role play a bit more light hearted and is likely to be preferred by those who are more self conscious.
Ask students to design apparatus, using Lego, to test various cognitive and/or social developments in children and discuss the validity of the tests they devise. Piaget style tests of egocentrism and conservation, Vygotsky social or scaffolding tasks or tests of Theory of Mind (and other types of Perspective Taking) would be appropriate here if you are teaching Cognition and Development for A2 Unit 3. Students could do this after they have learned about the limitations of the methods used in the research, taking these issues into account when devising their own tests.
Research Methods: Carry out a Lego pilot study
When designing a lab study ask students to model their laboratory using Lego in order to ensure that they have fully thought through the sequence of the procedure and materials needed. Ask them to present their model and use the figures to walk through the procedures inviting comment on their design decisions. This should reveal the need to visualise and mentally model. Students could comment on each others designs, physically moving or re-enacting elements, using the activity to conduct a “Lego pilot study”.
Now where did I put all that Lego…?
If like me you have a massive bag of Lego sitting in the cupboard, or gathering dust in your parent’s loft, dig it out and take it to school/college. You could even ask your students to bring in their childhood Lego for a lesson if yours was cruelly donated to a younger family member or Charity Shop by a misguided parent hell bent on de-cluttering when you moved and/or grew up.
I bet your students will be itching to get building once they see the colourful blocks in their many sizes. Right I’m off to play with my Lego and think of some more way to use it in the classroom…