Neil Martin: Ways of Incorporating New or Controversial Psychological Research into the Introductory Psychology Programme

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In this webinar, Professor Neil Martin explored strategies to enhance introductory psychology teaching, including incorporating new research topics and engaging students with practical exercises. Updates on the seventh edition of Professor Martin's psychology textbook were shared, featuring interviews with psychologists and expanded sections on contemporary issues. 

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Neil Martin - Psychology webinar 2024.pdf 

In the webinar, Professor Neil Martin presented ideas for enhancing the teaching of introductory psychology by incorporating new and controversial research topics. He highlighted the challenge of maintaining student interest while ensuring depth and accuracy in understanding. One focus was on introducing concepts like replication and replicability, emphasising the importance of engaging students with practical seminar ideas.  

In the first part, Neil shared an introductory exercise aimed at assessing students' familiarity with psychology, illustrating his approach to teaching the subject to enthusiastic but often inexperienced learners. 

Neil engaged participants in an interactive activity exploring various statements related to psychology, prompting them to determine whether each statement was true or false. The statements covered a range of topics. Neil highlighted the importance of critical thinking and questioned common beliefs in psychology, drawing on examples from research studies to illustrate the complexities of human behaviour and memory. Furthermore, he discussed the evolving landscape of psychological research, particularly focusing on the issue of replicability and the challenges it presents in scientific inquiry.  

Reflecting on changes in the field over time, Neil emphasised the necessity of incorporating discussions about replication and questionable research practices into psychology education, emphasising the need for students to critically evaluate empirical evidence and understand the principles of scientific inquiry. Neil’s approach encourages active participation and critical engagement with psychological concepts, aiming to deepen the understanding of the discipline while promoting a culture of evidence-based inquiry. 


Prof Martin delved into two intriguing topics in psychology: facial feedback and questionable research practices (QRPs). Regarding facial feedback, Neil discussed a famous 1988 study, which found that holding a pen in a way that mimics a smile can lead people to judge cartoons as funnier. This finding highlights the interplay between facial expressions and cognitive responses. Neil emphasised that such exercises, easily replicable in class, offer inexpensive ways to explore psychological research. 

The discussion then shifted to focus on the prevalence of questionable practices in psychological research. Neil highlighted the importance of addressing these practices for the integrity of research. By engaging students in identifying and discussing questionable practices, such as selective reporting or falsifying data, educators can foster critical thinking about research ethics. Neil underscored the impact of wording on responses, illustrating how methodological nuances can influence research outcomes.  

Next, he explored various exercises to engage students in understanding biological psychology and sensation perception. He highlighted the use of pheromones, which trigger intriguing responses due to their varying effects on individuals' sense of smell. This exercise emphasised the complexity of human senses and raised questions about subjective experiences and sensory perceptions. 

Moreover, Neil discussed a demonstration of taste perception. This exercise provided a hands-on illustration of how taste receptors can be manipulated. Additionally, the "jellybean test" was introduced to explore the interplay between taste and smell. Overall, these exercises offered engaging insights into the intricacies of human sensory experiences, prompting reflection on the reliability of our senses and the underlying physiological mechanisms. 

Finally, Professor Martin discussed two papers that explore the effectiveness of various learning techniques in the classroom. He highlighted the importance of regular testing as the most successful learning technique, despite students often disliking it. Regular testing significantly improved students' performance in exams compared to those who weren't regularly tested. He also mentioned the inclusion of controversial research in introductory psychology classes and shared updates on the seventh edition of his psychology textbook, which includes interviews with psychologists and expanded sections on topical issues like vaccine acceptance and fake news. Finally, he encouraged feedback on the textbook's content. 

Neil Martin's "Psychology" is now available in eTextbook and print. Access your complimentary sample copies from our online store.

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