Classroom activities for psychology students

The field of psychology can be both enlightening and entertaining. Psychology can be especially fun for psychology students. How? Well, psychology is a field that utilizes hands-on activities like role play, psychological tests (personality, relationship, self-awareness, etc.) and psychological games. College instructors and professors often collect activity ideas from psychology textbooks, websites and magazines. Psychology students appear to learn best through a combination of reading, discussions, lecturers and hands-on activities. If you are wondering what hands-on activities you can use with your psychology students, you have come to the right place. This article will teach you some hands-on activities that you can use with your students.

Listed below are some fun, creative activities for psychology students:

• The Prisoner’s Dilemma

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a psychological game that focuses on cooperation and opposition. It rests on the premise that two people have been arrested for a crime. They are immediately separated in placed in two different “holding rooms.” The detective explains to each prisoner that if he or she testifies against his or her “co-conspirator,” but the other one does not (cooperation) he or she will receive a lighter, shorter sentence, but if both refuse to testify against each other (opposition), they will both receive a lighter, shorter sentence. The catch is – if they both testify against each other, they will both get harder, lengthier sentences (cooperate). Divide your students into groups of three. One of the three in the group should be assigned the role of scorekeeper. He or she will not participate in the decision-making process.

The two remaining prisoners cannot communicate with one another, but must decide (individually) whether or not they are going to cooperate or oppose. Assign points to each choice. For example, when one prisoner decides to testify against the other, but the other one does not (cooperation), the prisoner that testified will receive 24 points and the one that did not testify will receive -12 points. If both prisoners refuse to testify (opposition) they will receive 12 points apiece. But, if they both testify against each other (cooperation) they will both receive 0 points. The purpose of this psychology game is to demonstrate how two “sensible and logical” people (i.e. prisoners) may not cooperate, even when it is in their best interest to do so.

• Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing is an interactive psychology activity, in which you evenly assign the title of “wolf” “or sheep” to psychology students. Instruct your students to keep their identity a secret by any means necessary. In other words, give them permission to lie to his or her peers, if necessary. Ask all of your students to assemble in a circle (not too close to one another) and close their eyes. Once everyone’s eyes are closed ask only the werewolves to open their eyes. Instruct each wolf to choose a sheep to kill. Instruct the murdered sheep to sit down on the floor and the wolves to return to their original spot. Ask all of the students to open their eyes so they can see who was killed. Ask all of the students to discuss who should be held accountable for the murder of the sheep.

In other words, ask the students to take a vote on who are the wolves and who are the sheep. Once the votes are in, the student with most votes is “lynched” even if the student is not a wolf. Repeat the game (with the wolves killing the sheep and the students voting on who is the wolf and then “lynching” the person with the most votes) until only one person (sheep or wolf) is standing. The purpose of this psychology activity is to help your students understand and recognize the effects and consequences of a group/mob mentality, group decision-making tactics, lying, prejudice and discrimination.

• Let’s Play Doctor

Let’s Play Doctor is a psychology exercise in which you divide your students into groups of two. One person is assigned the psychologist (doctor) role and the other person is assigned the client/patient role. Provide the client/patient with a mental health condition – complete with signs and symptoms. Ask that patient to keep the illness a secret from the “doctor.” Instruct the patient/client to “act” out the signs and symptoms, to the best of his or her ability. Instruct the “doctor” to try to determine which condition the patient/client has. Then ask the “doctor” to explain how he or she would diagnose and treat the individual.

Ask each group to “perform” in front of the entire class so that their peers can learn as well. At the end of each presentation explain to the class why the doctor’s diagnosis and treatments were correct or incorrect. After each group has “presented” have the two students switch roles. In other words, instruct the student that was originally the “doctor,” assume the role of client/patient and the client/patient assume the role of the “doctor.” Give the new client/patient a different mental condition and have him or her act it out. Repeat the process.

References:

Dixit, A. & Nalebuff, B. (2008). Prisoner’s dilemma. The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Retrieved from http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/PrisonersDilemma.html

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