Lesson Idea: The language of generalizations

Travis DixonUncategorized

Students love to make sweeping generalizations about cultures, so it's good to get them thinking about their thinking and their language early in the course.

This activity works well with lesson (b) (Studying Individuals) in the first topic in the introduction in IB Psychology: A Student’s Guide. It will be part of the second lesson in my course.


One of the aims of this lesson is to introduce students to the idea of how psychological studies need to make generalizations across groups of people, but we have to be careful with the language we use when making these generalizations. (Examples are provided in the textbook on page 13).

It also introduces part of a study and some ideas (the culture of honor) that will be taught in more detail later in the unit on criminology.

As much as possible I like to use studies that will appear elsewhere in the course when teaching new concepts, as it helps to reinforce and build on learning.


Think-pair-share: Why are people violent?

  • This can be made culturally relevant. For example, American teachers can ask why the South has higher homicide rates than the North. (I will be getting students to compare Japan and the USA.)

I will also use a slideshow to introduce the fact that southern American states have higher violence than northern states, as well as explaining what is meant by “the culture of honour.”


  • Step one: Students read the study summary in their workbook (you can find extract here) and in groups of four they try to re-enact the procedure and the results (1 x bumper, 1 x chicken target, 2 x participants – 1 from north and 1 from south). Show me their acting when they think they can do it, so I can see they comprehend the study.
  • Step two:  Students answer the question about the study (in workbook – see link above). 
    • Teacher Note: One aim of this activity is to spot definitive statements and over-generalizations like: “Because they want to maintain their honor, when threatened southern Americans will react more violently than northerners.’ It’s hoped by reading the examples of page 13 they will be able to self-assess their own language and see how to improve their answers.
  • Step three: Students read lesson (b) in the textbook (page 13 – 14). If they need to, they can make amendments to their original answer using the examples of two student responses on page 13 to guide them.


Students show me their workbooks with their amended answer (if needed) and their answer to the guiding question.


Students can be extended to tackle the abstraction extension on page 14. Or they could be prompted to identify key features of the study, such as the IV, DV and potential confounding variables (but in my course I haven’t introduced these terms yet).

Note: I will be publishing my workbook for the introductory unit as soon as it’s finished.