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Hughes, S., Lyddy, F., & Kaplan, R. (2012). The Impact of Language and Format on Student Endorsement of Psychological Misconceptions. Teaching of Psychology

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The present study examined the possibility that the language and response format used in self-report questionnaires influences how readily people endorse misconceptions. Four versions of a 40-item misconception test were administered to European (n = 281) and North American (n = 123) psychology and nonpsychology undergraduates. Response format and ambiguity of phrasing were manipulated. Results indicate that misconception endorsement was strongly influenced by both question phrasing and response format, with students showing more agreement and less disagreement when misconceptions were ambiguously phrased or a 7-point rating scale used. These procedure-related effects were observed for European and North American psychology and nonpsychology students alike irrespective of the amount of time they had spent studying the subject. Implications for designing pedagogical procedures to assess student’s disciplinary knowledge and beliefs are discussed.
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The Impact of Language and Response Format on Student Endorsement of Psychological
Sean Hughes and Fiona Lyddy
National University of Ireland Maynooth
Robin Kaplan
University of California, Irvine
Sean Hughes and Fiona Lyddy, National University of Ireland Maynooth; Robin Kaplan,
University of California, Irvine.
Correspondence should be addressed to Sean Hughes, Department of Psychology,
National University of Ireland Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland. E-mail:
The present study examined the possibility that the language and response format used in self-
report questionnaires influences how readily people endorse misconceptions. Four versions of a
forty-item misconception test were administered to European (n = 281) and North American (n =
123) psychology and non-psychology undergraduates. Response format and ambiguity of
phrasing were manipulated. Results indicate that misconception endorsement was strongly
influenced by both question phrasing and response format, with students showing more
agreement and less disagreement when misconceptions were ambiguously phrased or a 7-point
rating scale used. These procedure-related effects were observed for European and North
American psychology and non-psychology students alike irrespective of the amount of time they
had spent studying the subject. Implications for designing pedagogical procedures to assess
student’s disciplinary knowledge and beliefs are discussed.
Keywords: student misconceptions, psychology, questionnaire
The Impact of Language and Format on Student Endorsement of Psychological Misconceptions
Students do not arrive to the study of psychology as blank slates but are often equipped
with varying levels of inaccurate or incomplete knowledge and beliefs about the core concepts
(e.g., “Psychology is common sense”) and empirical findings of the discipline (e.g., The
polygraph test accurately detects lies”; Kowalski & Taylor, 2009; Lilienfeld, 2011). These
erroneous beliefs, often labeled misconceptions, are not unique to psychology and have been
documented in a wide range of academic domains including biology (Klymkowsky & Garvin-
Doxas, 2008), physics (Hein, 1999) and chemistry (Stefani & Tsaparlis, 2009). With respect to
psychology, misconceptions have been found to be both widespread and resistant to change
where standard instructional strategies are employed (e.g., Gardner & Dalsing, 1986; Lamal,
1995; Landau & Bavaria, 2003). Although misconceptions decrease as the number of psychology
courses taken increases, upper level undergraduates still uncritically accept as true a variety of
erroneous claims despite their training in the core concepts of the discipline (Glass, Bartels, Ryan
& Stark-Wroblewski, 2008; Standing & Huber, 2003). Consequently, many students may depart
introductory psychology courses with a variety of misconceptions intact and maintain them
throughout their undergraduate and graduate studies (Arntzen, Lokke, Lokke, & Eilertsen, 2010;
Gardner & Hund, 1983).
For several decades now, researchers have almost exclusively relied on self-report
questionnaires to index misconceptions about psychology in the general public (Furnham,
Callahan & Rawles, 2003), educators (Gardner & Hund, 1983), undergraduate and graduate
students (Arntzen et al., 2010; Kowalski & Taylor, 2009). More often than not, this work has
focused on undergraduate (introductory) students, whose endorsement of claims such as “It is
better to express anger than to hold it in”, “Psychiatric hospital admissions increase during a full
moon” and “People’s response to inkblot tests tell us a lot about their personalities” varies from
28% to 71% agreement across studies (see Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio & Beyerstein, 2009). On the
one hand, variation across studies in the number of misconceptions that students affirm may, in
part, reflect differences in the number of psychology courses taken (Standing & Huber, 2003),
academic performance (Kuhle, Barber & Bristol, 2009) as well as critical thinking skills
(McCutcheon, 1991; Taylor & Kowalski, 2004). On the other hand, the degree to which students
purportedly agree with misconceptions may also be driven by particular features of the self-
report procedures themselves, such as question ambiguity and the response format used. Where
this is the case, misconception endorsement could reflect response biases or misunderstandings
rather than faulty beliefs and knowledge.
For illustration purposes, consider the following claim: Most people use only 10% of
their potential brain power”. When phrased in this manner as many as 77% of students agree
with this statement (Landua & Bavaria, 2003). Yet when asked “what percentage of their
potential brain power do you think most people use” and given 21 different choices ranging from
0% to 100%, students responses varied significantly, from 5% of the brain” to 90% of the
brain (Higbee & Clay, 1998). Indeed, the difficulty with devising a list of clear and
unambiguous test items has been noted repeatedly in the literature. Griggs and Ransdell (1987)
found that out of the 60 items consistently employed across studies, only 15 could be reliably
classified as misconceptions according to their criteria (see also Brown, 1984; Ruble, 1986). At
the same time, questionnaires that rely on a True-False response format may also artificially
inflate misconception endorsement for two reasons. First, given the complexity of psychological
phenomenon and the fact that empirical findings are often subject to further qualification, many
misconception items may be partially incorrect but not entirely false. They may contain a ‘kernel
of truth’ or be true some of the time, but not generally. Consider the notion that “Opposites
attract”. Although we typically select mates that are similar to ourselves in personality, attitudes
and (perceived) attractiveness, small differences between romantic partners may contribute to a
more interesting and varied relationship (e.g., Buston & Emlen, 2003; Hitsch, Hortaçsu &
Ariely, 2009). Gardner and Hund (1983) found that when they asked (non)social science faculty
to register their (dis)agreement with a series of statements using a five point scale, the majority
of misconceptions were rated as “mostly false” rather than “completely false”, and several
misconceptions as “partly false” or “partly true. Second, it may also be the case that the True-
False format fails to distinguish between strongly held misconceptions and responses due to
uncertainty or guessing. For instance, including an ‘I don’t know/no opinion’ option in a 60 item
True-False misconception questionnaire resulted in students reporting uncertainty for 12% of
responses (Gardner & Dalsing, 1986).
Recognizing these limitations, a number of researchers have rejected True-False designs
in favor of a multiple choice format that, arguably, provides a more sensitive assessment of the
direction and relative strength of beliefs, as well as responding due to uncertainty or guessing
(e.g., Assanand, Pinel, Lehman, 1998; Lyddy & Hughes, 2011; Thompson & Zombonga, 2004).
Others have opted for scales that assess how confident students are in their mistaken beliefs
(Landau & Bavaria, 2003; Taylor and Kowalski, 2004). Despite such efforts, no study has sought
to systematically investigate the impact of question ambiguity or response format in the
assessment of misconceptions about psychology. Clearly, methodological issues surrounding
core properties of self-report questionnaires will need to be addressed if we are to accurately
identify and track the prevalence and persistence of mistaken beliefs about the discipline.
The current study
With this in mind, we set out to examine whether the language or response format used in
self-report questionnaires influences student endorsement of misconceptions. We designed and
administered four different versions of our procedureeach containing the same test itemsto
European and North American psychology and non-psychology undergraduates. Response
format was varied such that participants registered their (dis)agreement using a True-False-
Unsure or 7-point rating scale ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly Agree) with 4
(Unsure) as a mid-point. Furthermore, ambiguity of phrasing was varied so that items were
deemed to be either ambiguously phrased (Eyewitness testimony is usually reliable) or non-
ambiguously phrased (Eyewitness testimony is a highly accurate and reliable method for
identifying criminal suspects). In doing so, we sought to identify differences in misconception
endorsement that arise not from the application of inaccurate knowledge and beliefs but due to
the procedure itself. If question ambiguity and response format influence task performance then
similar findings should be observed for both European and North American students.
Participants and design. A convenience sample of four-hundred and four psychology
and non-psychology undergraduates (280 women, 124 men) participated in the current study and
were recruited from a European (n = 281) and North American university (n = 123). Students
were all English speaking and ranged in age from 18 to 59 years (M = 23, SD = 8.6). Of the total
sample, 33% of students were first year psychology undergraduates, 17% second year students
and 22% third year students. The remaining 28% were non-psychology undergraduates who had
never studied the subject. The experiment employed a 2 (Language: Ambiguous vs. Non-
ambiguous) x 2 (Response Format: 7-point vs. True-False-Unsure) design with both factors
measured between-subjects. Although European students were not compensated for their
participation North American students did receive course credit.
Psychology misconception questionnaire. To examine the prevalence of inaccurate
beliefs about psychology, we developed a 40-item questionnaire comprised of 30 misconceptions
and 10 factually correct filler items (included to minimize demand characteristics).
Misconception items were selected from previously published sources (e.g., Kowalski & Taylor,
2009; Lilienfeld et al., 2009) and worded so that a correct response required disagreement. Four
separate versions of the procedure were constructed and administered, one to each student, with
random assignment to conditions (i.e., True-False-Unsure Ambiguous Phrasing; True-False-
Unsure Non-Ambiguous Phrasing; 7-point Ambiguous Phrasing; 7-point Non-Ambiguous
Phrasing). To ensure that items deemed either ambiguous or non-ambiguous differed from one
another in their precision, two versions of each misconception were pre-rated by a number of
postgraduate students known to the researchers. In each case, items were to be scored as either
“ambiguously phrased” (e.g., People's responses to inkblot tests can tell us about their
personality) or “not ambiguously phrased” (e.g., People's responses to inkblot tests provide us
with a valid and reliable means to assess their personality). Overall, the former were found to
be significantly more ambiguous than the latter, t(8) = 3.7, p = .01 η2 = .6
Approximately three months into the academic year, students from the undergraduate
psychology program were approached and asked to complete a questionnaire “pertaining to
knowledge about psychological information”. Those who agreed to participate first signed a
consent form, provided relevant demographic information (e.g., gender, age, year of study) and
were randomly assigned to complete one of four versions of the questionnaire. Participants were
allowed up to 30 minutes to read the 40 test items (i.e., 30 psychological misconceptions and 10
factually correct filler items) and register their (dis)agreement with each statement. Upon
completion, students were debriefed and thanked.
Data Preparation. Although our questionnaire was comprised of 30 misconceptions and
10 filler items, only misconceptions were analyzed. Participant feedback indicated that one
misconception item was identified as ambiguous in the non-ambiguous questionnaire and thus
was removed from both versions of the procedure. Irrespective of the question phrasing or rating
format scale used, we defined a correct response as disagreement with each of the
misconceptions tested. For the 7 point questionnaire we recorded the number of items rated at 5
or above as indicating ‘agreement’, 3 or below as indicating “disagreement” and 4 as “unsure”.
Thus for each student we calculated three scores; the average number of misconceptions they
agreed with, disagreed with and reported uncertainty about. Doing so enabled us to assess
whether question phrasing or response format differentially impacted on the degree to which
students agree, disagree or report uncertainty for misconceptions as well as directly compare
scores obtained from the 7-point and True-False-Unsure procedures.
The overall means, standard deviations and percentage agreement, disagreement and
uncertainty for European and North American students are presented in Table 1. Of the four
versions of the questionnaire, European and North American students who received the 7-Point
ambiguous version of the task affirmed the most (47-59%) and rejected the least misconceptions
(29-34%). Conversely, students who received the True-False-Unsure non-ambiguous
questionnaire affirmed the least (31-43%) and rejected the most test items (45-50%). Finally,
students reported uncertainty for 25% of items when a True-False-Unsure ambiguous procedure
was used compared to 11% on the 7-point non-ambiguous version.
To test the influence of question ambiguity, response format, university or time spent
studying psychology on task performance, a series of 2 (Ambiguous vs. Non-ambiguous) x 2
(True-False-Unsure vs. 7-point) x 2(European vs. North American) x 4(years studying
psychology) between-groups ANOVAs were conducted for each of the three misconception
scores (agree, disagree, unsure). This analysis revealed a significant main effect for question
phrasing, with students more likely to agree, F(1, 403) = 5.2, p = .02, ηp2 = .02 , and less likely to
disagree, F(1, 403) = 15.4, p = .01, ηp2 = .04, when misconceptions were ambiguously rather
than non-ambiguously phrased (no effect emerged for uncertainty; p =.2). Similarly, a main
effect for response format revealed that students agreed more, F(1, 403) = 19.2, p = .01, ηp2 =
.05, disagreed less, F(1, 403) = 6.7, p = .01, ηp2 = .02, and report less uncertainty when a 7-point
rating scale was employed (p = .04). However, analyses did not reveal any interaction between
response format and question phrasing (all ps > .2).
In addition to these two procedural properties, task performance also differed according
to the student’s location of study, with North American students agreeing more, F(1,403) = 22.2,
p =.01, ηp2 = .06, and reporting less uncertainty compared to their European counterparts,
F(1,403) = 13.2, p = .01, ηp2 = .04. That said, European and North American students did not
differ with respect to their disagreement with test items (p = .08). Finally, the number of
misconceptions students agreed, F(3, 401) = 8.4, p = .01, ηp2 = .07, as well as disagreed with,
F(3,401) = 13.3, p = .01, ηp2 = .1 differed according to the number of years they had spent
studying psychology (no between groups differences emerged for uncertainty scores; p = .8).
Post hoc tests revealed that first year psychology and non-psychology undergraduates were
equally likely to agree (p = .9), and disagree with test items (p = .7). In contrast, second year
psychology students affirmed less and rejected significantly more test items than either group (all
ps < .01) while third year psychology students rejected more misconceptions than their first year,
second year or non-psychology counterparts (all ps < .01). Perhaps most importantly in the
context of the current paper, years spent studying psychology or university location did not
interact with response format or question ambiguity for any of the misconception scores (all ps >
Student misconceptions represent an important issue for educators and researchers only
insofar as they reflect a genuine, general and replicable phenomenon. Meeting these three criteria
requires that the procedures employed in this area provide an accurate and sensitive index of
student's knowledge and beliefs. Overall, our results show that, under certain conditions, both the
language and response format used in misconception questionnaires can independently inflate
studentsself- reported acceptance of erroneous claims about psychology. For instance, although
undergraduates subscribed to a number of psychological misconceptions, they agreed more and
disagreed less when test items were ambiguously rather than non-ambiguously phrased.
Likewise, when a 7-point scale rather than a True-False-Unsure format was employed students
affirmed more and rejected less of the misconceptions. Finally, students reported greater
uncertainty about test items when a True-False format was used relative to a 7 point scale. These
procedure-related effects were observed for European and North American psychology and non-
psychology students alike irrespective of the amount of time they had spent studying the subject.
Although the effect sizes associated with response format and question ambiguity in the current
study are modest, they do reveal that procedural properties of the assessment procedure play a
role in student endorsement of erroneous psychological claims.
These findings have several important implications for the assessment of student
knowledge and beliefs about psychology. First, many (if not most) of the misconception
questionnaires used to date have been constructed using items from Vaughan’s (1977) Test of
Common Beliefs (TCB), instructional texts, course content or instructors’ manuals (e.g., Brown,
1983; Lamal, 1979; Landau Bavaria, 2003) and used a True-False response format (e.g.,
Arntzen et al., 2010; Gutman, 1979; Kowalski & Taylor, 2009; Taylor & Kowalski, 2004). In
each case, the rationale for question phrasing, response format as well as inclusion or exclusion
of specific test items is typically based on the subjective judgment of the researcher rather than
any clearly specified criteria. In light of the current findings, it is entirely possible that the
manner in which questionnaires have so far been constructed has in part contributed to
unsystematic variations in misconceptions observed from study to study (i.e., a lack of
measurement reliability across procedures). Therefore we recommend that researchers and
educators interested in assessing student knowledge and beliefs about psychology specify the
source and phrasing of their test items, rationale for their inclusion and response format used.
Doing so will enable others to identify questionnaires that provide an accurate and reliable
account of misconceptions as well as a means for choosing between different tools. To aid in this
process we have included the non-ambiguous misconceptions as well the two response formats
employed in the current study (see Appendix). These may prove useful for instructors to deploy
as in-class assignments or as a brief assessment of students beliefs about the discipline.
Second, there is a clear need to ascertain the utility of alternative procedures above and
beyond self-report questionnaires. Although numerous techniques have been devised to index
misconceptions in other scientific domains, including computer assessment (Gregg et al., 2001),
interviews (Hamza & Wickman, 2008), open-ended questions (Klymkowsky & Garvin-Doxas,
2008) and concept-mapping (Liu, Lin, & Tsia, 2009), these procedures have yet to be used
consistently in the study of psychological misconceptions. Future work could also include one or
more of these procedures when indexing student misconceptions and compare task performance
for the same student population using existing questionnaires. Adopting such a strategy would
help educators to better identify legitimate methods of assessing their student’s knowledge and
It should be noted that while procedural differences may contribute to variations in
misconception endorsement, agreement with erroneous claims about the discipline also differs
due to genuine features of the students sampled. In the current study, for instance, the ability to
identify and reject erroneous claims was significantly related to the number of years students had
spent studying psychology. Second year psychology students rejected more items than their first
year counterparts or non-psychology students while third year psychology students performed
better than those in second year or below. These findings are consistent with past work indicating
that while misconceptions decrease as the number of psychology courses taken increases, upper
level undergraduates still uncritically accept as true a variety of erroneous claims (Glass, Bartels,
Ryan & Stark-Wroblewski, 2008; Standing & Huber, 2003). Although the observed reduction in
misconception endorsement could be the product of increased training in the core concepts and
values of psychological science, such effects could equally have emerged due to differences in
critical thinking ability (Kowalski & Taylor, 2004; McCutcheon, Apperson, Hanson & Wynn,
1992) or the development of a general bias towards disagreeing with overarching claims about
psychological phenomena. Replicating the current work, while controlling for the
aforementioned variables, would serve to provide a more fine grained analysis of not only the
methodological but student specific factors responsible for changes in misconceptions.
At the same time there were also notable differences in task performance between the two
educational institutions sampled, with North American students demonstrating greater
acceptance of misconceptions and less uncertainty relative to their European counterparts. On the
one hand, it is quite possible that certain misconceptions are more/less prevalent in other
countries and cultures, and that some of those that are prevalent in North America are not
elsewhere. Future work could more closely examine the impact of cultural and geographical
contexts on student beliefs, particularly given that the majority of published work has focused on
North American students to date. On the other hand, methodological differences between our two
samples could also account for the obtained findings. Specifically, all European students
completed a pencil-and-paper version of the questionnaire while all North American students
were administered an electronic version of the task. A replication of the current study that
counterbalanced questionnaire format across different countries/cultures would more accurately
map out the relative contribution of cultural versus methodological factors in misconception
In conclusion, our findings draw attention to the dual influences of language and response
format when constructing and interpreting the findings of misconception questionnaires. We
suggest that features of the procedures used to capture student misconceptions may inadvertently
lead researchers and educators alike to overestimate their prevalence. In the current study, for
instance, we found that a 7 point response scale - as well as ambiguously phrased items - may
serve to magnify the degree to which students endorse erroneous beliefs about the discipline
relative to a True-False-Unsure scale or non-ambiguous items. Consequentially, greater empirical
attention may need to be focused on core properties of self-report procedures if we are to better
identify the factors responsible for shaping, maintaining and changing psychological
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Table 1.
Mean, standard deviations and percentage of misconceptions European and North American
students agreed with, disagreed with and reported uncertainty for as a function of response
format and question ambiguity.
Misconception Agree Misconception Disagree Misconception Unsure
_______________________ ______________________ ___________________
M SD % M SD % M SD %
European Students
True-False Ambiguous 11.6 5.1 40% 10.5 4.8 36% 7.0 4.6 24%
True-False Non-Ambiguous 8.9 4.5 31% 14.5 5.4 50% 5.3 3.7 19%
7-Point Ambiguous 13.5 5.6 47% 9.8 5.2 34% 5.2 3.8 18%
7-Point Non-Ambiguous 11.6 5.9 40% 13 5.8 45% 4.2 3.0 15%
North American Students
True-False Ambiguous 13.2 4.2 46% 11.5 3.8 40% 3.9 3.1 14%
True-False Non-Ambiguous12.5 4.2 43% 13 4.1 45% 3.6 3.5 12%
7 point Ambiguous 17.1 3.6 59% 8.3 3.9 29% 3.6 2.4 12%
7 Point Non-Ambiguous 14.7 4.7 51% 11 5.2 38% 3.4 2.8 11%
Misconception items defined as non-ambiguous in the current study
1. People predominantly use either the left-side or the right-side of their brain.
2. The more people present at an emergency the higher the probability is that someone will intervene.
3. People only use 10% of their brain’s total processing capability.
4. The vast majority of autistic individuals possess savant abilities (i.e. one or more isolated pockets of
remarkable intellectual ability).
5. People with amnesia always forget all the details of their early life.
6. Eyewitness testimony is a highly accurate and reliable method for identifying criminal suspects.
7. Academic performance is significantly improved when teaching styles are matched to student learning
8. A person’s handwriting is a valid and reliable indicator of their personality traits
9. Thinking positive thoughts reduces the development of cancer.
10. A defining characteristic of a person with schizophrenia is that they have multiple personalities
11. Dream interpretation is a valid and reliable method for revealing people’s unconscious motivations
and desires.
12. Within the past 20 years there has been a significant increase in the rate of children developing
infantile autism.
13. Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness that is qualitatively distinct from normal waking
14. 80% of our brain's potential processing capability goes unused.
15. People's responses to inkblot tests provide us with a valid and reliable means to assess their
16. Every dying person passes through a universal series of psychological stages (i.e. denial, anger,
bargaining, depression and anger).
17. We can accurately and reliably determine if another person is lying by examining their facial
18. For a majority of people, adolescence is characterised as a period of intense emotional distress and
19. A majority of people experience a mid-life crisis between the ages of 40 and 60.
20. People always repress painful or traumatic memories.
21. On average, people are romantically attracted to individuals who differ from them in their personality,
interests, and attitudes.
22. People with a history of child sex abuse frequently develop severe personality disturbances in
23. Hypnosis is a reliable and valid technique for retrieving forgotten memories.
24. Memory works like a tape recorder or video camera, accurately recording the events we experience.
25. Playing classical music (e.g., Mozart) to infants and children produces long-lasting increases in their
26. The polygraph (“lie detector”) test is a highly accurate and valid method for identifying dishonesty.
27. A majority of people will not follow instructions to hurt another person from an authority figure.
28. People’s attitudes are always highly predictive of their behaviours.
29. Children raised in gay or lesbian families almost always grow up gay or lesbian themselves.
Example of the response scale used in the True-False-Unsure procedure.
Please circle either “T” for True or “F” for False or “U” for Unsure next to each item.
T F U 1. People predominantly use either the left-side or the right-side of their brain
Example of the response scale used in the 7-point procedure.
1. People predominantly use either the left-side or the right-side of their brain.
... We find differences across misconceptions and across cohorts of students (Taylor & Kowalski, 2012). Other researchers note differences across countries (Dekker et al., 2012;Hughes et al., 2013a). Large and diverse samples provide researchers with the opportunity to explore these differences. ...
... Generally, misconceptions are considered to be false beliefs held by more than 50% of respondents (see Brown, 1983). Yet responses vary with how the question is asked (Hughes et al., 2013a;Taylor & Kowalski, 2012). For example, when presented with a statement, respondents are more likely to respond "true" to familiar statements (often the result of the mere exposure effect). ...
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In reviewing the Cameron and Khanna project, we find much to be commended. The large diverse sample of researchers and the collection of widespread student misconceptions will help focus students and instructors in the introductory course on teaching and learning the science of psychology. The recommendations we make provide a guide for looking beyond student belief and recognizing factors potentially contributing to and supporting misconceptions. Because teaching psychological science in the introductory psychology course is challenging, it is likely that misconceptions result from misinterpretations of the evidence. Investigating how textbooks and instructors’ perceptions of claims perpetuate misconceptions would be an important contribution toward improving the teaching of psychology. Assessing student misconceptions about psychological science would document the prevalence of science misconceptions, would permit the investigation of change in knowledge and scientific attitudes with the introductory psychology course, and would provide a basis for studying links between misconceptions about psychology and misunderstanding (or lack of appreciation) of the very nature of science.
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A questionnaire consisting of 60 false statements related to psychology was administered to 531 students at 2 universities. Students marked each statement as true, false, or don't know/no opinion. Analysis of true responses indicated a decreasing level of misconceptions as students accumulated college credit hours in general and psychology credit hours specifically. Implications for teachers of psychology are discussed.
The authors attempted to generalize Standing and Huber's (2003) findings concerning psychological myth-beliefs among Canadian students to a sample of Midwestern Americans, including university students (n = 171), junior college students (n = 79), and a local community sample (n = 45). Midwesterners' scores on the Huber Test were significantly lower than those of Canadians. In contrast to Standing and Huber's findings, myth acceptance was no higher for junior college than university students. Psychology courses taken and GPA were significant predictors of Huber test scores. Additionally, students were less susceptible to myth acceptance after having taken 10 or more psychology courses compared to those having taken 0 to 1 and 2 to 9 courses.
Two measures assessing “behavioral myths” and learning expectations were given to 54 students in three sections of introductory psychology. Comparison of pre- and posttest myth scores over the semester indicated that the course was ineffective in dispelling such myths. Moreover, of the 54 students who participated in the study those 13 students who performed well on the tests and ultimately got As in the course were no more likely to change their misconceptions than the 41 students who got lower grades. Additional findings showed that A students cannot be differentiated from others on the basis of grade expectation or other behavioral characteristics. The results were discussed in terms of Heider's 1958 theory of attribution.
This article provides commentary on a recent survey (Levy & Peters, 2002) of students' views of the characteristics of the “best” college courses. Levy and Peters's study and conclusions were limited to only certain aspects of faculty, course, and student characteristics that students recognize are relevant when evaluating their academic experiences. Their results may be interpreted to promote a student-as-consumer model of higher education. I present results of a qualitative study to explicate the breadth of issues that should be considered when studying the impact of higher education on undergraduate students.
A widespread misconception that has not been studied in previous research on misconceptions is the claim that most people use only about 10% of their potential brain power. We hypothesized that psychology majors would be less likely to believe in this ten-percent myth than would control students with no training in psychology. The hypothesis was not supported, but psychology majors were more optimistic than control students in their beliefs regarding how much brain power people are capable of using. The sources of the students' beliefs in the ten-percent myth were also investigated. It is suggested that direct treatment of misconceptions might be necessary to dispel them and that future research might explore the sources of students' misconceptions.
Questionnaire data suggest that students' preconceptions about hunger and eating are inconsistent with contemporary theories. In general, students adhere to a set-point model, whereas current research indicates that the feeding system prevents energy deficits rather than reacts to them. Instructors should explicitly describe students' preconceptions about hunger and eating, discuss the incompatibility of these preconceptions with the empirical evidence, and introduce contemporary theories as alternative conceptions. This approach is effective both in overcoming students' misconceptions about hunger and eating and in increasing student involvement.
True/false test questions have been used to identify misconceptions about psychology (e.g., Vaughan, 1977). Brown (1984) examined nine such questions and found that the “correct” answers were misleading. In this article seven additional true/false test questions are examined and shown to be too ambiguous to be used in measuring students' understanding of psychology.