Experiments that should, but haven’t been done

BPS Research Digest

The BPS blog, Research Digest, this week Tweeted a reminder of a piece posted back in 2007 (5th October 2007) where they challenged Psychologists to suggest a study in response to the following question:

What’s the most important psychology experiment that’s Never been done…?

The responses to the question are as varied as the areas of interest of the responders, who include Susan Blackmore (Psychology of Consciousness) and Martin Seligman (Positive Psychology).

In the classroom

Not only does this Research Digest post make for interesting reading but I think it has the potential to inspire a few classroom activities. Here are some ideas…

Lesson starter or homework task

This is a great question to pose to A Level Psychology students once they have a reasonable idea of the scope of Psychology. Pose the question as a lesson starter to stretch some creative thinking muscles. Students could rank the ideas generated by the class to decide which would be the most important.

Alternatively the question could be posed as an independent homework task. Students should do a bit of research themselves to identify whether their suggestion for a study – even if it seems outlandish – has actually been done already, then bring their ideas to share with the class. Students should justify why the experiment would be an important one rather than just an interesting one.

Research methods: designing investigations

Students could consider the suggestions made by the Psychologists posted on the Research Digest blog and/or the suggestions that they and their classmates have made, identifying barriers to carrying out the research (such as ethics or lack of available research methods or equipment) and discussing the methodology that might be employed if such a study were possible.

Make it topic specific

This question could be used as a plenary activity at the end of a topic or sub-topic area to allow reflection and extension. For example, at the end of Memory (AQA A, AS, Unit 1) you could ask students: What’s the most important psychology experiment into memory that’s never been done…?

It doesn’t really matter if students suggest experiments that have been done (they can find out outside of a lesson using the internet if you or they wish) and it doesn’t matter if you don’t know if it has ever been done, the thinking process is the important bit.

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