Demonstrations

Flash cards and clickers can also be used to carry out in-class demonstrations of experiments involving human responses. Any experiment that relies only on a stimulus and a forced choice response can be turned into this kind of peer instruction question. This kind of question is especially useful for demonstrating effects from psychology and related fields. For example, the following set of questions were used in a critical thinking lecture, to illustrate the effect known as ‘myside bias’ or ‘confirmation bias’:

For each of these arguments, say whether:

A. The argument is valid.

B. The argument is invalid.

1. All things with four legs are dangerous. Poodles are not dangerous. Therefore, poodles do not have four legs.

2. All mammals walk. Whales are mammals. Therefore, whales walk.

3. All African countries are hot. Canada is not an African country. Therefore, Canada is not hot.

4. All things that are alive drink water. Televisions do not drink water. Therefore, televisions are not alive.

5. All nuts can be eaten. Rocks cannot be eaten. Therefore, rocks are not nuts.

6. All things made of wood can be used as fuel. Petrol is not made of wood. Therefore, Petrol cannot be used as fuel.

In fact, these six arguments were taken from those used in a study of confirmation bias in syllogistic reasoning (Markovits, H., & Nantel, G.(1989). “The belief-bias effect in the production and evaluation of logical conclusions”. Memory and Cognition, 17, 11-17. See also: Sá, W. C., West, R. F., & Stanovich, K. E. (1999). “The domain specificity and generality of belief bias: Searching for a generalizable critical thinking skill.” Journal of Educational Psychology,91 (3), 497-510).

In Q4-6, the truth-value of the conclusion conforms to the validity of the argument: these are either valid arguments to true conclusions (4,5) or invalid arguments to false conclusions (6).

In Q1-3, the truth-value of the conclusion does not conform to the validity of the argument: these are either valid arguments to false conclusions (1-2) or invalid arguments to true conclusions (3).

Myside bias is the tendency for people tend to judge arguments in terms of the acceptability of the conclusion; if they accept the conclusion, they will be more likely to think the argument is valid than if they don’t. So if there is a myside bias effect, people will tend to find Q1-3 harder and Q4-6 easier.

In the lecture, this was borne out by students’ responses: 85% of students got Q1-3 correct, 90% fot Q4-6 correct.

myside

Here are some further suggestions along these lines from Draper, S, Cargill, J and Cutts, Q: “Electronically enhanced classroom interaction”. Australian Journal of Educational Technology. 18 (1), 13-23:

For topics that concern human reponses, a very considerable range of experiments can be directly demonstrated using the audience as participants. For instance, visual illusions may be displayed and the equipment used to show what degree of uniformity of response is found. Priming effects can be shown, where the perception of an ambiguous word or display is affected by what was shown before. The performance of witnesses to a crime (including the effects of some well known biases) can be explored by showing a short film, followed by various questions about what was shown. Social psychology effects, eg. on conformity, could be demonstrated if responses to earlier questions were faked to see whether the class then changed their responses to later questions.

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