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secondary academic level resources

Prisoner’s Dilemma & Ultimatum Game

These exercises are from a Summer Youth Program for High School Students titled, “Brain Glitches” and taught by Diane Graft. You can find PowerPoints for the summer course here.

Prisoner’s Dilemma
The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a classic example of “game theory”. A simple game with strategies that are anything but simple. This exercise helps students understand the ways in which human brains work.

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(49 kb Powerpoint Presentation)

Ultimatum Game
Following the Prisoner’s Dilemma, students now play a game that explores the “Volunteer’s Dilemma”.

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(47 kb Powerpoint Presentation)

Superstitious Behavior: Affect Your Luck?

Does superstitious behavior affect your luck? In this presentation students use their knowledge of the scientific method to answer that question. For their final research project, the following superstitions are tested: (1) walking under a ladder, (2) opening an umbrella indoors, and (3) spilling salt. This presentation was created by Charles DeLoach, Paarth Trivedi, Eli Goodman, Brady Serwitz, and Sara Owens for Dr. Michael Shermer’s course, Skepticism 101: How to Think Like a Scientist (Without Being a Geek) at Chapman University during the fall 2011 semester.

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(526 kb Powerpoint Presentation)

Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There

This book was required reading for Dr. Michael Shermer’s course, “Skepticism 101: How to Think Like a Scientist (Without Being a Geek)” taught at Chapman University during the fall 2011 semester.

Paranormality (book cover)

“People are emotionally drawn to the supernatural. They actively want weird, spooky things to be true … Wiseman shows us a higher joy as he deftly skewers the paranormal charlatans, blows away the psychic fog and lets in the clear light of reason.”—Richard Dawkins

Richard Wiseman is clear about one thing: paranormal phenomena don’t exist. But in the same way that the science of space travel transforms our everyday lives, so research into telepathy, fortune-telling and out-of-body experiences produces remarkable insights into our brains, behaviour and beliefs. Paranormality embarks on a wild ghost chase into this new science of the supernatural and is packed with activities that allow you to experience the impossible. So throw away your crystals, ditch your lucky charms and cancel your subscription to Reincarnation Weekly. It is time to discover the real secrets of the paranormal. Learn how to control your dreams—and leave your body behind. Convince complete strangers that you know all about them. Unleash the power of your unconscious mind. —Amazon

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Paranormal Claims: A Critical Analysis

This book was required reading for Dr. Bryan Farha’s course, “Sociology of Belief” taught at Oklahoma City University during spring 2011.

Paranormal Claims (book cover)

Published in April of 2007, this academic text features articles regarding paranormal, extraordinary, or fringe-science claims. It logically examines the claims of astrology; psychic ability; alternative medicine and health claims; after-death communication; cryptozoology; and faith healing, all from a skeptical perspective. Paranormal Claims is a compilation of some of the most eye-opening articles about pseudoscience and extraordinary claims that often reveal logical, scientific explanations, or an outright scam. These articles, steeped in skepticism, teach critical thinking when approaching courses in psychology, sociology, philosophy, education, or science. —Amazon

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The Demon-Haunted World:
Science as a Candle in the Dark

This book was required reading for the following courses: (1) “Skepticism 101: How to Think Like a Scientist Without Being a Geek” taught by Michael Shermer, (2) “Weird Science” taught by John Donovan, (3) “The Scientific Method: Critical & Creative Thinking” taught by Stephen Sekula et al., and (4) “Studies in Behavior: Critical Thinking” taught by Evelyn Buday.

The Demon-Haunted World (book cover)

“The great astronomer and science writer challenges New Agers and explains social phenomena like UFOs, alien abductions, recovered memories, satanic cults, witch crazes, hallucinations, and how to detect baloney. This is Sagan’s most popular book among skeptics, filled with quotable maxims, popular among college professors as a supplemental text for students, but a classic for everyone who cares about living in a sane and safe world without superstition.” —Skeptic

“Eminent Cornell astronomer and bestselling author Sagan debunks the paranormal and the unexplained in a study that will reassure hardcore skeptics but may leave others unsatisfied. To him, purported UFO encounters and alien abductions are products of gullibility, hallucination, misidentification, hoax and therapists’ pressure; some alleged encounters, he suggests, may screen memories of sexual abuse. He labels as hoaxes the crop circles, complex pictograms that appear in southern England’s wheat and barley fields, and he dismisses as a natural formation the Sphinx-like humanoid face incised on a mesa on Mars, first photographed by a Viking orbiter spacecraft in 1976 and considered by some scientists to be the engineered artifact of an alien civilization. In a passionate plea for scientific literacy, Sagan deftly debunks the myth of Atlantis, Filipino psychic surgeons and mediums such as J.Z. Knight, who claims to be in touch with a 35,000-year-old entity called Ramtha. He also brands as superstition ghosts, angels, fairies, demons, astrology, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster and religious apparitions. (Feb.)” —Publishers Weekly

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Psychic 101: How to be the Best Psychic in the World

This is a student-made video, created for Dr. Michael Shermer’s course, Skepticism 101: How to Think Like a Scientist (Without Being a Geek) at Chapman University during the fall 2011 semester. This video serves to educate the audience on how to become the best psychic in the world. Students draw from Dr. Richard Wiseman’s book, Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There.

Written and Directed by: David Ruby & Hollie Hooper
Starring: Luis Chavez, David Ruby, Hollie Hooper & Allison Orr

God and the Letters

This is a student-made video created for Dr. Michael Shermer’s course, Skepticism 101: How to Think Like a Scientist (Without Being a Geek) at Chapman University during the fall 2011 semester. In the style of Brian Dalton’s Mr. Deity, students show the audience the types of difficulties God may experience in answering his mail.

Jesus, the Easter Bunny, and Other Delusions:
Just Say No!

In this talk, Dr. Peter Boghossian argues that faith-based processes are unreliable and unlikely to lead one to the truth. Since our goal as knowers is to have more true beliefs than false ones, faith, as a process for getting to the truth, should be abandoned in favor of other, more reliable processes. The talk was followed by a question and answer session from the audience. This presentation, sponsored by the Freethinkers of Portland State University and published by philosophynews.com, was given by Dr. Peter Boghossian of Portland State University on January 27, 2012.

Skepticism 101: How to Think Like a Scientist
Without Being a Geek

In this introductory lecture to the study of skepticism, Dr. Shermer defines skepticism and what it means to be a skeptic, employing numerous examples from the pages of Skeptic magazine to illustrate what science is and how it works, how to think like a scientist, how to think about weird things, what constitutes an extraordinary claim and why we require extraordinary evidence for it, and how to test claims of the paranormal.

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(259 MB Powerpoint Presentation)

Paranormal Beliefs & Education

Does higher education systemically reduce belief? What do we know about this so far? This PowerPoint was used for an in-class presentation (in TEDTalk format) to discuss the correlation between higher education and belief in the paranormal. The presentation was created by Anondah Saide for Dr. Michael Shermer’s course, “Evolution, Economics & the Brain” taught at Claremont Graduate University during the spring 2011 semester.

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(30 MB Powerpoint Presentation)

Do you have ESP?

Have you ever felt like you knew what someone was going to say before they said it? Or that you had a feeling that the phone was going to ring and it did? Have you had a “psychic” tell you something about yourself that s/he couldn’t know without reading your mind? Have you ever thought you had a “sixth sense”? What explains this? Many have experienced one or more of these events, described them as extraordinary, and attributed them to extrasensory perception (ESP). In this exercise you can take your students through the process of finding out (scientifically) whether or not they, or someone they know, has ESP. Designed for grades 9–12. This in-class exercise was created by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) and it answers questions such as: (1) What is ESP? (2) How I you test it? and (3) What is the history of this research?

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(643 kb PDF)

What is Change Blindness?

This is a student-made, educational video on the psychological phenomenon of “change blindness,” created for Dr. Michael Shermer’s course, “Skepticism 101: How to Think Like a Scientist (Without Being a Geek)” at Chapman University during the fall 2011 semester.

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