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Advice for teachers -
Psychology

​Unit 4 - Area of Study 3: Practical investigation ​

Outcome 3

Design and undertake a practical investigation related to mental processes and psychological functioning, and present methodologies, findings and conclusions in a scientific poster.​

Examples of learning activities

  • download and print prepared scientific posters (for example, from the University of Texas at Austin website​ ; work in groups and use a provided set of criteria to evaluate investigation aims, methodologies, data presentation, conclusions and effectiveness of scientific communication for each poster
  • organise small group discussions in class to identify the strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement of a range of scientific posters, for example, those found at the University of Texas at Austin website​; collate and reflect on class results and provided online evaluations to develop a set of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ for constructing a scientific poster
  • comment, in terms of the importance of scientific communication, on Anthony Hewish’s quote that: ‘I believe scientists have a duty to share the excitement and pleasure of their work with the general public, and I enjoy the challenge of presenting difficult ideas in an understandable way’
  • debate ‘that it is more important, in presentations, to impress rather than to inform’
  • discuss the importance of developing investigable questions for scientific investigation in light of Albert Einstein’s quote that: ‘The important thing is not to stop questioning’, Robert Half’s quote that: ‘Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers’ and Nancy Willard’s quote that: ‘Sometimes questions are more important than the answers’
  • comment, in terms of the nature of science, on Bill Gaede’s quote that: ‘Science is not about making predictions or performing experiments. Science is about explaining.’
  • formulate a hypothesis and design an investigation to answer the following questions: ​
    • How does talking on a mobile phone influence reaction time?
    • How does texting affect reaction time?
    • formulate a hypothesis and design an experiment to test whether people can pay attention to two things at the same time
    • design and conduct an experiment to test the claim that watching goldfish has a calming effect on people
    • devise an inquiry to test the statement that singing is an effective form of stress release
    • undertake a pattern-seeking inquiry to determine the factors that affect mood
    • develop a hypothesis and undertake an investigation to determine whether there is a relationship between colour and mood
    • devise an inquiry to determine whether people display similar emotional responses to subject matter presented in different forms, for example: photograph, painting, sketch, description, poetry, song
    • design and conduct investigations to answer the following questions: ​
      • Does using a reward when learning a new task affect learning?
      • Does using a punishment when learning a new task affect learning?
      • Does practise improve performance?
      • How does using a mobile phone affect dance moves?
      • How distracting are distractions?
      • devise an inquiry to investigate the effectiveness of different learning techniques (summarisation, highlighting or underlining, keyword mnemonic, elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, imagery for text, rereading, practice testing, distributed practice, interleaved practice) based on the work of Dunlosky et al (2013)​
      • design and undertake an experiment to determine whether applause improves human or other animal performance; identify how the ethical issues associated with the experiment can be resolved
      • design and conduct an experiment to determine whether experiences or incidents need to have a strong emotional component to be placed and stored as part of long-term memory
      • apply coupled inquiry to develop and investigate questions related to memory for example: ​
        • Does using labels assist in the retention and recall of information?
        • What factors affect encoding and retrieval of information when playing the ‘Rumour Game’?
        • How important are cues in memory?
      • design and conduct experiments to determine whether: ​
        • highlighting words or writing them down increases their recollection
        • recall of information is affected by the time of day at which information is learnt
        • different types of background music affect memorisation skills of students
        • eating breakfast improves memory
        • eating particular foods improves memory
        • people can more easily remember a series of numbers, words, patterns or colours
        • using a different type of font for a set of words improves their recall
        • using different coloured paper on which words are written improves their recall
      • formulate hypotheses then plan and undertake investigations to determine whether particular scents (lavender, rose, chocolate, peppermint, vanilla, white musk, lavender and citrus) increase capacity to remember a list of words; extend the investigations to determine whether there is a gender or age difference in the capacity to remember words when subjected to different scents; suggest a physiological mechanism or neural pathway whereby particular scents could increase a person’s capacity to improve their memory
      • design and conduct an investigation to determine which method of information delivery (audio, visual, mnemonic, repetition, note-taking, cramming, use of flashcards; reading words aloud) is more effectively remembered, both in the short-term and after a longer period
      • formulate a hypothesis and undertake an investigation to determine whether text colour affects how well information is recalled
      • design an investigation to determine whether the ‘earworm effect’ (songs that get stuck in your head) is real; modify an experimental design to investigate the aspects of songs that may cause the ‘earworm effect’
      • access the research reported at dailymail.co.uk, news.com.au or sciencedaily​ to develop and test an investigable question related to the relationships between sleep and memory, or sleep and wellbeing
      • Example icon for advice for teachers
        design and conduct an investigation to determine whether being in an altered state of consciousness (ASC) affects time orientation​​
      • ​access the research report on phobia’s effect on the perception of a feared object and evaluate the investigation methodology including any ethical implications; design a different way to test the idea that the more afraid a person is of a spider, the bigger that individual perceives the spider to be
      • devise an inquiry to test whether a biopsychosocial approach can be used to explain motivation
      • formulate a hypothesis and design an experiment to test whether chewing gum: improves concentration; decreases stress
      • access a report of research undertaken related to a possible correlation between time spent outdoors and reduced incidence of high blood pressure and depression ​; identify and evaluate the limitations of the research study including a discussion of reliability and validity; suggest modifications to the research methodology to improve the reliability of the conclusions drawn from the results
      • devise and undertake an investigate to determine whether certain types of animal pets (dogs, cats, mice, fish, birds) provide greater physical (for example, blood pressure) and mental health (for example, performance on the Penn State Worry Questionnaire) benefits to their owners; explain how variables were controlled and identify extraneous and confounding variables that may affect investigation conclusions​
      Example icon for advice for teachers 

      Detailed example

      Does being in an altered state of consciousness (ASC) affect one’s time orientation?

      This practical investigation builds on knowledge and skills developed in Unit 4 Area of Study 1. Teachers are reminded that the students must initially select their own topics within the scope of the school’s resources, frame their own research questions and design their own investigations.

      Background

      Following work on the nature of consciousness and the changes that occur in a person’s psychological state when in an ASC (Unit 4), a student has expressed interest in the investigating the psychological change in time orientation that can occur. The student has also read widely on the benefits of meditation and its effects on the body both psychological and physiological. The student has expressed an interest in testing the effect of meditation on the ability of individuals to predict how much time has passed.

      The question for investigation

      Does meditation lower an individual’s ability to accurately predict how much time has passed?

      Planning the investigation

      The student plans to ask a group of volunteer students to participate. They will either spend time performing simple mathematical calculations (NWC, control condition), or follow a guided meditation (ASC). Each participant will complete one of these ‘activities’ for a period of 20 minutes and will then be asked to predict in minutes and seconds how much time they believe has passed doing the activity. The student also wants to place a heart rate (HR) monitor on each participant to determine how ‘relaxed’ they are while they are meditating or completing the mathematical problems. They are hoping to find a positive correlation between HR and the accuracy of their time orientation, as well as a more accurate time perception in the control condition compared to when meditating (ASC).

      Methodology

      • An independent groups design was implemented for this study.

      Meditation session (ASC, Experimental Condition)

      • Participants were asked to hand in their phones, watches or any other devices on which they could tell the time. (NOTE: the clock was removed from the room.)
      • They were then asked to place a HR monitor on.
      • Participants listened to a guided meditation CD for 20 minutes.
      • Participants completed a question sheet about the meditation session, which included a question about the amount of time they thought had passed during the session and space to record their average HR during the session.
      • The difference between the actual time that had passed (20 mins) and each participant’s estimated time was calculated and used to determine the accuracy of the participant’s time orientation.

      Mathematical Calculations (NWC, Control Condition)

      • Participants were asked to hand in their phones, watches or any other devices on which they could tell the time. (NOTE: the clock was removed from the room.)
      • They were then asked to place a HR monitor on.
      • Participants complete as many mathematical calculations as they could in 20 minutes.
      • Participants completed a question sheet about the mathematical calculations, which included a question about the amount of time they thought had passed during the session and space to record their average HR during the session.
      • The difference between the actual time that had passed (20 mins) and each participant’s estimated time was calculated and used to determine the accuracy of the participant’s time orientation.

      Results

      The results are presented in a table that summarises the mean difference between the actual time passed and estimated time, for each condition. As well as the mean HR recorded for each condition.

      Discussion

      The student analyses the results, considers the limitations of the investigation and how the investigation could be improved. The student considers the need to account for the participants’ familiarity with the process of meditation and that some individuals may have found it easier than others to get into a meditative state (ASC), thus effecting time orientation and HR.

      Conclusion

      The student uses the data collected to respond to the investigation question asked.​