Update: Find the fake intro lesson examples

Some examples for your use

In a previous post I blogged about a different approach to the first introductory lesson of the course with AS Psychology students. The activity, Find the Fake, involves circulating round a number of summaries of pieces of research displayed on the walls in small groups. The students have to find the one piece of research that is actually a figment of my imagination.

I have had a few requests for examples of the research I used so I have finally relented and have posted some here. I’m sure there are lots more that would be good to use. I have also since the original post included some more examples that I didn’t use the first time but thought might be good.

Nim Chimpksy

There has been some debate concerning whether, as humans, we develop language because our brains are hardwired to do so or whether the use of language, with grammatical structure, is learned. In order to try to resolve this debate Psychologist Herbert Terrace carried out a study to find out whether a chimpanzee exposed to a human environment, could acquire language like a human. The chimp who was selected for the investigation was removed from his mother at 2 weeks of age and raised by a surrogate mother (a researcher) in a home environment.

The chimp was treated like a human and brought up alongside seven human siblings. He was taught sign language in order to communicate by rewarding him every time he used signs correctly to communicate. By the age of 4 years it was documented that the chimp had acquired a vocabulary of over 100 signs which had been used in 20,000 combinations in communication with the humans around him.

Project pigeon

American Psychologist B.F Skinner, is well known for his research into the effects of rewards and punishments on behaviour. He also attempted to develop a pigeon-guided missile during World War II.

At the front of the missile, a lens projected an image of the target to a screen inside. The pigeons had been trained to peck the target image and were placed inside the missile. As long as the pigeon kept pecking the centre of the screen, the missile would fly straight, but pecks off-centre would cause the screen to tilt, which would then, via a connection to the missile’s flight controls, cause the missile to change course.

The National Defense Research Committee contributed $25,000 to the research. The program was cancelled on October 8, 1944, because the military did not feel it was a high priority. Project Pigeon was revived by the Navy in 1948 as “Project Orcon”; it was later cancelled in 1953 when electronic guidance systems’ took over.

Obedient nurses

Hofling (1966) carried out a field experiment in a hospital setting. The study aimed to find out whether a group of nurses would obey an order from an authority figure (a doctor) even if this action was against the rules and meant they could lose their job. In the study, 22 nurses received a telephone call from a man who identified himself as “Dr Smith” (an investigator, pretending to be a doctor). Dr Smith asked each nurse (individually) to administer a dose of “10mg” of “Astroten” to a patient. This was not a real drug but a bottle had been made and labelled and placed in the drugs cupboard.

In the phone call the “Dr” said he would write up the paperwork to authorise the treatment later on but that the nurse should administer the drug straight away. The dosage was twice the recommended dose printed on the bottle, and the rules stated that an order over the telephone – and from a doctor who was not familiar to them – was not allowed. Despite numerous reasons to refuse, only 21 out of the 22 refused to carry out the order.

Gendered numbers

Wilkie and Bodenhausen did an experiment where they showed participants photos of babies and asked them to determine for each photo the likelihood that the baby was male. They found that when a baby photo was paired with the number 1, people were much more likely to think the baby was male.

In a separate study, the researchers had participants rate the masculinity and femininity of the numbers themselves. People readily rated the number 1, as well as other odd numbers, as being more masculine. They also rated the number 2, and other even numbers, as appearing more feminine. This last finding was replicated with a sample from India which suggests that this is consistent across different cultures.


Hazan and Shaver (1987) published a questionnaire in a newspaper asking people to write in and describe their experiences in romantic relationships and their relationship with their parents during early childhood. They did this by choosing statements that they felt best described these experiences. The researchers analysed the responses that were sent in to them.

Those responders who described their childhood relationships as positive and secure also expressed healthy views of adult romantic relationships. For example, they said they believed in true love, found it easy to trust others and were confident that they were a lovable person. People who described their early parental relationships negatively, however, were more sceptical of the existence of “true love” and tended to be mistrusting of others.

The fake

Radley (2006) carried out a study into the impact of the use of social networking sites on psychopathic tendencies. The researchers wanted to test whether communicating with people via Facebook, rather than face to face, might may be decreasing our ability to empathise with others (feel other people’s emotions) as there are less cues available (e.g. tone of voice, facial expression) to detect the emotional state of others online.

Psychopaths are unable to feel empathy, so spending lots of time using social networking sites might lead to an increase in psychopaths and potentially more serial killers in society as a result. A group of teenage volunteers, who regularly use Facebook, underwent brain scans whilst using Facebook for 30 minutes. The activity of the empathy centres of the brain were compared with a control group of teenagers who never, or rarely, use social networks whilst using Facebook for the same period of time.  The researchers found that those who used Facebook regularly showed less activity in their empathy brain centres than the control group. Radley concluded that Facebook might create a generation of Psychopaths and that further research was needed in this area to determine whether warnings should be placed on the site in the future.


8 thoughts on “Update: Find the fake intro lesson examples

  1. Hello! Thank you so much for posting this idea, I am going to be starting in September and didn’t want to just teach a boring intro lesson that covered things they should ideally already know! This will be perfect, I am also throwing in some research methods with it so they can begin to identify what different research methods are!

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