BRINGING HISTORY TO LIFE: Simulating Landmark Experiments in Psychology

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Abstract

The course in history of psychology can be challenging for students, many of whom enter it with little background in history and faced with unfamiliar names and concepts. The sheer volume of material can encourage passive memorization unless efforts are made to increase student involvement. As part of a trend toward experiential history, historians of science have begun to supplement their lectures with demonstrations of classic physics experiments as a way to bring the history of science to life. Here, the authors report on computer simulations of five landmark experiments from early experimental psychology in the areas of reaction time, span of attention, and apparent motion. The simulations are designed not only to permit hands-on replication of historically important results but also to reproduce the experimental procedures closely enough that students can gain a feel for the nature of early research and the psychological processes being studied.

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