For many young people, "science" means chemistry, biology and physics. That's a misperception that APA's Science Directorate aims to begin correcting this fall, during Exploring Behavior Week, Oct. 15-19. As part of the "Decade of Behavior" initiative's public outreach effort, psychology graduate students and faculty are invited to visit middle schools and high schools to introduce psychological science to eighth- through 10th-graders.
"If we want to help the public understand the value of the behavioral and social sciences, a good place to start is with children, before they've defined science as excluding these disciplines," explains Merry Bullock, PhD, APA's associate executive director for science.
"It benefits kids to understand that science is an approach to understanding the physical, biological, psychological and social worlds," agrees former APA Senior Scientist Nancy K. Dess, PhD, who developed the materials for Exploring Behavior Week. The week will plant the seed with students that psychologists do scientific research, and will broaden their way of thinking about science, she says.
To help psychologists prepare classroom presentations, Exploring Behavior Week organizers developed a presentation template that can be used "as is" or be modified to emphasize different information and examples.
The materials provide information about psychologists' activities, workplaces and schooling. They also include demonstrations illustrating the ways in which psychological scientists ask questions about behavior, and show the breadth of psychological perspectives--including cognitive, learning, physiological, developmental, cross-cultural, clinical, social, personality and evolutionary approaches.
Yale University graduate student and APA Science Student Council member Bethany A. Teachman, PhD, who helped pilot-test the Exploring Behavior Week materials in a 10th-grade math class last fall, says the experience showed just how little high school students knew about psychological science.
"Their interpretation was that psychology is about interpreting dreams and inkblots," she recalls. But Teachman was also encouraged to see that the students were enthusiastic about psychological science and interested in learning more about their own behavior.
"It's reminded me that it's really important to make dissemination of science an integral part of my work--that it's not enough to get my findings into an academic journal," she says.
For information about the Decade of Behavior initiative, go to www.decadeofbehavior.org.
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