Teaching about pigeon's playing ping pong and other oddities of psychology

i-75fa6f7cebb4145668724f37f5a52b36-steve_icon_medium.jpg I'm going to be teaching Psych 100 next year and 200 or so lucky kids are going to luck out with me as an instructor. I'm just going to read them previously written blog posts all semester. Maybe I'll read out of a really crappy intro psych text book to them as well. Ok.. just kidding. I really want to make this upcoming year as entertaining as possible for them. There are so many great psychology experiments and stories about classic personalities to share. I think I need a little help with it from you guys though. If you have any suggestions about stories, experiments, or videos you saw in your psych classes that you loved help me out!

I'd especially like a video (or even pictures) of the classic B.F. Skinner conditioning study where pigeons were taught to play ping pong. I haven't been able to find anything like that. Doesn't a video have to exist of that? They had film back then.
UPDATE: I finally found the video. Not only that, it's actually narrated by B.F. Skinner. Keep the great ideas for psych 100 coming though!

This seems to be the only pigeon training picture I have ;)


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There is a video called "Patient Like the Chipmunks" that talks about the Breland, Breland and Bailey work in animal training. I don't remember if it has the ping-pong pigeons, but it definitely has lots of cool footage of basketball-playing raccoons, dancing chickens and pigeons answering "math" questions.

Wait, are you teaching the entire course? Not just some sections or whatever?

By Katherine (not verified) on 07 Apr 2008 #permalink

I've not taken Psych at uni so can't comment from that perspective, but thinking about what I'd like to learn about and what what would draw me in, I can think of the Stanford Prison Experiment, the Milgram experiment, Rat Park, and The Third Way and Blue Eye-Brown Eye demonstrations (experiments?).

These range of topics also allow for a discussion about psychology experiments: Stanford and Milgram are well accepted and considered classics, Rat Park is controversial in its conclusions and generally not well accepted or established, and The Third Way and Blue Eye-Brown Eye are not academic/clinical studies but are still worthy of discussion, particularly as part of a Into to Psych unit.

I've been teaching psychology since 1973 (yup!) A large amount of instructor material comes with an adapted Intro text book. Most publishers have class videos and in class demos (including handouts) and suggested homework etc in the instructor's binder that you get once you order the text for your class. Most provide links to a publisher's site with even more stuff.
My favorite opening day demo is "Gorilla's in Our Midst", which never fails to get a laugh and leads to a discussion about eyewitness testimony and reliable observation. Good luck with your first psychology class from the other side of the desk.

By Phyllis Freeman (not verified) on 07 Apr 2008 #permalink

wow! good luck! They never make us teach courses full out, just teach sections of classes. But now they're starting to let us teach our own seminars if we want to, and I'm going to try to do that next year in the winter or in my 5th year (that's a little crazy, given that I've completed the teaching requirement, but I'm going to try to do it anyway.)

By Katherine (not verified) on 07 Apr 2008 #permalink

Two good videos-- Rusty the narcoleptic dog (I'm trying to remember the educational value of that one.. but it keeps kids laughing forever), and the change-blindness video with a gorilla walking through the middle

As a graduate student at the Univeristy of Wichita in the early 1960's I was responsible for the care of a well trained pigeon. Blondie belonged to N. H. Pronko and would climb ladders, walk across tight ropes and down a slide, "solve" simple arithmetic problems, "translate" foreign phrases and etc. My co student and I trained 2 pigeons to play ping pong. Pronko made a film of Blondie, One Pigeon's Career, which is now lost. I saw a clip of it on one of Zimbardo's, Intro to Psych films.

By Gary Greenberg (not verified) on 13 Apr 2008 #permalink