Assignments, Exercises and Activities

Analytical Paper Marc W. Patry from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada submitted this creative assignment in which students basically have to select and digest a study related to personality psychology and to connect it to the assigned reading, to current events, and to something about yourself. Details and grading guidelines are provided.

Art and Personality Does the art you enjoy match your personality? Research by Stian Reimers in conjunction with the BBC suggests that there is a relationship between the kind of art people prefer (e.g. Impressionism, Abstract, Japanese, Islamic, Northern Renaissance, and Cubism) and one's personality (emotional intelligence, the five-factor model, and sensation-seeking). Click here to read more about the findings, art, personality, or to participate in this online

Assignments for Personality Psychology Steve Davis, North Central College, Naperville, IL, provides this syllabus from his Personality class. In it, he describes a number of interesting assignments including: Research Article Review, Personality Analysis, Cartoon Analysis, Newspaper Article Analysis, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, Examples of Defense Mechanisms or Parapraxes, Personal Reflection on Identity vs. Role Confusion, Locus of Control, Choosing a Mate (gender differences, evolutionary theory), Peak Experiences Exercise (Maslow) and a RET Self-help Exercise (Albert Ellis).research.

Barnum Effect Feedback Take this test to remind yourself why good personality tests should provide specific feedback...and why horoscopes are so much fun! See also this explanation of the Barnum Effect.

Classical Conditioning Experiment The Educator's Reference Desk, a site for elementary and high school teachers, describes this easy to implement "experiment" to illustrate classical conditioning.

Conditioning at Mickey D's "What do parents do, at a fast food restaurant, to encourage desirable behaviors and discourage undesirable behaviors? Are the principles of operant conditioning being used?" Check out Raymond Rogoway's clever assignment for understanding and applying principles of conditioning.

Cultural Identity: The Cultural Circles Exercise Phani Radhakrishnan, University of Toronto, designed the Cultural Circles Exercise to help students in her Diversity in the Workplace class become more aware of cultural identity. Students discuss their own heritage and cultural background one-on-one with others in the class and identify sources of pride in their own culture.

Defense Mechanisms Randall E. Osborne, Indiana University East, first presented these two interactive exercises for the personality psychology course at the 9th Annual Conference on Undergraduate Teaching of Psychology: Ideas and Innovations, in 1995. In the second exercise, What's my Defense Mechanism?, students must guess the defense mechanism depicted in a brief skit presented by their classmates. (In the first exercise, the Personality Collage, students and someone who knows them well each create a collage of the student's personality. Students compare and contrast the two collages by answering various questions and come to understand the differences between self-view and other's view of themselves.) Opens in PDF format.

Defense Mechanisms John Suler, Rider University, maintains the excellent Teaching Clinical Psychology website. For learning about defense mechanisms, he offers a handout [which] I give to students that we use to discuss some of the typical defense mechanisms. After the discussion, I break the students down into small groups so that can develop role plays that demonstrate these defenses. Instructions for these role plays are described at the end of the handout.

Extroversion and Introversion: The Eysenck Lemon Juice Experiment The BBC website provides instructions and a simple way to replicate this classic experiment.

Emotions: Spot the Fake Smile Can you tell which smiles are genuine and which are fake? Take this 10-minute test, based on the research of Paul Ekman, in which you watch brief video clips of 20 people smiling.

Erikson's 8 Stages of Development Visit this page to see classroom activities submitted by high school and college teachers. Submit your own activities for inclusion here -- or elsewhere on Personality Pedagogy -- to miserandino@arcadia.edu.

Erikson's Stages of Development Ages in Stages: An Exploration of the Life Cycle based on Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Human Development. Margaret Krebs-Carter designed this activity for High School English or Developmental Psychology classes and gives this description: How does age make a difference in the way we act/think/feel? Erik Erikson, the well-known teacher and psychiatrist who popularized the term “identity crisis” claims that we are greatly affected by the developmental changes that we undergo as we mature. This curriculum unit pursues the question of age differences by focusing on Erik Erikson’s theory of human development—the eight stages. Included in this unit are: 1) brief explanations of the eight stages; 2) recommended readings—short stories, plays, and novels—that illustrate the emotional crises that occur during these eight stages; 3) activities to introduce the new concepts; 4) suggestions of theoretical material for students to read; 5) a description of how to structure the classroom in order to teach a class in which group participation is encouraged.

Extroversion and Introversion: The Necker Cube Experiment This brief on-line experiment, devised by the Open University in conjunction with the BBC was developed by Dr Peter Naish. Their hypothesis is that because of their varying response to stimulation, extroverts and introverts will perceive a Necker cube differently.

Five Factor Model James W. Pennebaker maintains this page of a dozen or so online research projects. Most of them involve taking a brief survey or by completing short exercises. Feedback and insight into one’s personality is provided. Topics include TAT, Big Five questionnaire, perceptual style, spirituality, depression and more.

Five Factor Model Kenneth Locke at the University of Idaho designed this homework assignment for his psychology of personality class. Students take a 60-item version of the NEO, score it, and think about what it means.

Five Factor model and e-perceptions The You Just Get Me website asks visitors Do you get people, even if you just met them? Do the people in your life truly get you? Using the Five-Factor model, respondents answer 43 questions about their personality and try to guess the personality of other visitors. Based on the research of Vazire & Gosling (2004).

Freud, Sigmund: That's My Theory! Sigmund Freud and two other personality psychologists are guests on this online game show developed by PBS. Can you discover the who the real Sigmund Freud is though the answers he gives? Can you guess who the other two guests are?

Freud, Sigmund: Wrestling with Sigmund Freud 'Ya gotta see it to believe it.

Freudian Fractured Fairy Tales The Teacher's Lounge, a wiki of lesson plans and resources, includes this fun exercise. Students re-write a traditional fairy-tale to give a main character a Freudian personality disorder and in the process demonstrate their mastery of Freudian theory.

Gender Debates Visit this page to see possible topics (and relevant links) for a class debate on gender. Submit your own topics for inclusion here -- or elsewhere on Personality Pedagogy -- to miserandino@arcadia.edu.

Gender Differences Psychology Portal, developed to support schools in Saskatchewan, presents these activities on gender similarities and differences, including surveys and critical thinking questions.

Gender Stereotypes: According to Jim. These days, I find that my students are a little reticent to talk about gender stereotypes, especially since my classes are often very much skewed in one direction. To help the discussion along, I like to show the episode Jim Almighty from the ABC television show According to Jim, staring Jim Belushi. In this episode Jim thinks that he can design women better than the creator did. In the course of the show, many gender stereotypes are depicted and reinforced (and some are even abandoned). I instruct my students to keep track and write down all of the stereotypes for men and for women that are mentioned in the show. I put them on the blackboard and classify them into physical, sexual, personality, social, and emotional and discuss if they are accurate, inaccurate, or an exaggeration of a true difference. I may even have the class vote on what they think the distributions look like (e.g. normal curves with a lot of overlap, a little overlap or something in between). This is a good way to set up a discussion of gender similarities and differences in personality using Hyde's work on meta-analysis. Note that the episode, while a family situation comedy which originally aired during prime time, does make scatological and sexual references and features the actor Lee Majors playing The Almighty (stereotyped as a Texan). I offer students who think they may be offended by the set-up an alternative activity, although nobody has taken this option. In discussions with the class, even religious students find the depiction of The Almighty funny and not at all offensive, but you should review this episode before showing your class in case your students are different from mine. This episode originally aired in January of 2008, season 7 episode 1, (S07E01) and is available on You Tube in Part 1 (10:00), Part 2 (9:40), and Part 3 (1:40).

Genetically Engineer Your Own Child This somewhat creepy, satirical website allows visitors to create a genetically engineered child by selecting various characteristics such as gender, eye color, and sexual orientation. Once you find out the genetic code of your offspring, you can choose to have certain characteristics and disorders altered, if you are willing to spend the money. In the process, the visitor is forced to think about the value society places on certain attributes (e.g. IQ, musical ability, sexual orientation, AIDS, ADHD and others) and the ethicality of genetic engineering. The site was created as a piece of performance art and is not a real institution despite its authentic look and feel.

Genetics and Gender Differences in Ideal Mate Selection. Scott Bates, Utah State University, does the following exercise to introduce the topic of Genetics to his students: On the second day of class, I collect data via a survey (these data provide good lecture material throughout the course). One of the questions that I ask is this: List the top three characteristics of an IDEAL MATE (a person with whom you would like to spend the rest of your life). Use adjectives. If you’ve already married (or found) your ideal mate, then list the three most important characteristics that attracted you to him/her. I then have a TA code the responses into categories (e.g., physical appearance, social status, etc). Then, when I get to the topic of genes/environment, or evolution, I introduce human mate-selection and present material on evolutionary/genetic influences. The compelling part is that I present students' data, by category, by sex. It looks something like this (from my slides; the top graph represents primary choice the bottom graph represents all choices). Males have always listed physical characteristics (e.g., pretty, hot, nice looking) more often than women. Women have always listed loyalty (e.g., faithful, trustworthy) and social status (e.g., ambitious, good job prospects) more often than men. (from the PSYTEACH discussion list, January 22, 2009).

Happiness The October issue of the Thiagi Gameletter (Seriously fun activities for trainers, facilitators, performance consultants, and managers, see http://www.thiagi.com/) describes an activity (which they call a jolt) to demonstrate how our current emotions are influenced by our thoughts about the past.

Heterosexist Bias Lesson Plan and Questionnaire The Advocates for Youth website provides this lesson plan To give straight people an opportunity to experience the types of questions that are often asked of gay, lesbian, and/or bisexual people. Students answer a questionnaire and discuss the experience in small groups. Takes about 40 minutes. Includes questions for discussion.

Homosexuality: A Values Clarification Exercise John Suler, Rider University, maintains the excellent Teaching Clinical Psychology website. To make students aware of their preconceptions and subtle attitudes towards homosexuality, he puts 10 statements on the board and students discuss the statements in a group. He then tallies the group votes and leads the class in a discussion of their own preconceptions, along with theory and research evidence.

How the Grinch Stole Psychology Class After watching the 25 minute video of the classic Christmas story by Dr. Seuss, students analyze the Grinch’s personality and change of heart using theories and terms from personality including Freud, Adler, Horney, Maslow, and Rogers. A great end-of-the-semester review.

Ice Breakers and Team Builders Find tons of activities for groups for icebreaking, team building, name games, trust-building, self-awareness, multicultural awareness, and fun.

Idiogrid:Developing and managing self-report data James W. Grice of Oklahoma State University developed software for his idiographic research which he is currently offering for free to instructors and researchers. From the website: Idiogrid is software for administering, managing, and analyzing different types of self-report data [e.g. attitude scales, personality questionnaires, trait profiles, values test]. It was originally designed around George Kelly's repertory grid technique but has been developed to include person-centered and questionnaire methodologies employed by researchers from a wide variety of domains (e.g., personality psychologists, self-concept researchers, clinical psychologists, market researchers, and sociologists). The site provides extensive support and resources for using the software for clinical, organizational and classroom demonstrations and assignments.

Intelligence Fellows of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute developed these 12 lesson plans on Human Intelligence: Theories and Developmental Origins.

Interpretation of Dreams Discovery School presents this unit on Freudian dream analysis for high school students. See also Dream World, Freudian WebQuest for similar assignments.

Life Story When discussing intake interviews and psychotherapy, John Suler, Rider University, point[s] out that clients engage in a process of exploring their life story, usually at first by describing the most important "facts" about themselves. In this exercise, described on his Teaching Clinical Psychology website, students write down four important facts about themselves and one lie. Others in the class read each list and the class discusses patterns which they see.

Mask-Making Activity The Archdiocese of St.Louis sponsors special programs to reach out to teens. On their REAP website they describe a mask-making activity designed to help teens: recognize the masks he/she might wear, recognize the masks that others put upon him/her [and] view other students with more compassion in regards to the masks they wear.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, including newer 7- and 8- stage models. Also includes links to PDF and MSWORD illustrations of the hierarchies.

  • Hierarchy of Needs Original 5 stage model in PDF format.
  • Hierarchy of Needs Modified 7-stage model from the 1970s in PDF format.
  • Hierarchy of Needs Modified 8-stage model from the 1990s in PDF format.
  • Self-test Quick self-test based on the 5-stage model of the hierarchy of needs in PDF format.
  • Self-test Quick self-test based on the modified 8-stage model of the hierarchy of needs in PDF format.

Maslow, Abraham: That's My Theory! Sigmund Freud and two other personality psychologists -- Skinner and Maslow -- are guests on this online game show developed by PBS. Learn about all three theorists through the answers they give.

Mind Habits According to the website: 'MindHabits is based on scientifically tested and demonstrated tools that help reduce stress and boost confidence of players using principles from the new science of social intelligence. Research demonstrated benefits from playing just five minutes each day. Give it a try for free and see if it works for you!' Trial version is free.

Morningness-Eveningness, an online test According to the website: Our questionnaire serves two main purposes: (1) to give you advice about your "circadian rhythm type," and (2) to pool your information (anonymously) with other users, which will help us understand how circadian rhythm types vary throughout the population.

Motivation Psychology Portal, developed by Stephen Kemp to support schools in Saskatchewan presents these 8 activities on motivation from various theoretical perspectives.

Multicultural Activities Group activities to make people aware of the impact of the culture on themselves and others.

Participate in Online Research The Social Psychology Network, maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University, lists over 150 web-based experiments, surveys, and other social psychological studies. Click on the section labels Personality and Individual differences to find links to studies on various topics such as the Five Factor Model, birth season, motivation, anxiety and more.

Perceptual Style James W. Pennebaker maintains this page of a dozen or so online research projects. Most of them involve taking a brief survey or by completing short exercises. Feedback and insight into one’s personality is provided. Topics include TAT, Big Five questionnaire, perceptual style, spirituality, depression and more.

Personality Labs Marcia Wehr at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida, has put together this extensive on-line course on Personality and Personal Growth. According to Wehr, this is an interactive web course that allows you to explore your own personality and development, meet the great theorists in the field of psychology and debate the importance and validity of their theories of human behavior as experienced in your personal journey. The site features outlines, web resources, a World Lecture Hall, an on-line library, a hall of fame, and a laboratory of 15 exercises:

  • Creating a Positive Personality Profile
  • Exploring your "Big Five" Personality Traits
  • Exploring Freud on the Web
  • Personality Test online
  • Exploring Personality Perspectives
  • What is Your "Temperament"? - A Jungian Personality Inventory
  • Exploring Personality Research Online: A World Wide Web Scavenger Hunt
  • Exploring Trait Theory and Assessing Personality Traits
  • Learning, Thinking and Intelligence
  • What is your Emotional Intelligence?
  • Exploratorium: Biological Foundations of Personality
  • Humanistic Personality Theory
  • Explore Conditioning and Behavior Modification
  • Exploring Personality Disorders: A World Wide Web Scavenger Hunt
  • Exploring Your Somatotype: Are there biological links to Personality?

Personality Collage Randall E. Osborne, Indiana University East, first presented these two interactive exercises for the personality psychology course at the 9th Annual Conference on Undergraduate Teaching of Psychology: Ideas and Innovations, in 1995. In the Personality Collage students and someone who knows them well each create a collage of the student's personality. Students compare and contrast the two collages by answering various questions and come to understand the differences between self-view and other's view of themselves. (In the second exercise students must guess the defense mechanism depicted in a brief skit presented by their classmates.) Opens in PDF format.

Personality and Musical Preferences People Into Music: The Research Web Site about People and their Musical Preferences. Adrian North, from Heriot-Watt University, maintains this website which supports his research into personality and musical preferences. You can participate in his research by taking his questionnaire here.

Positive Reinforcement: A Self-Instructional Exercise Athabasca University devised this on-line exercise to teach students the concept of positive reinforcement and also to provide an idea of the kind of self-instructional exercises used in many Athabasca University course packages

The Religious Experience: East, West, Everywhere John Suler, Rider University, maintains the excellent Teaching Clinical Psychology website. He suggests the following exercise: Many psychologists, philosophers, and theologians talk about how some people have an intense, sudden, usually unexpected experience of a "higher reality" or "higher power" beyond what we normally experience. Some say it is the experience of "God." Here are how William James (one of the greatest American psychologists) and D.T. Suzuki (one of the greatest Japanese Zen philosophers) described religious experiences in their cultures. Are there any similarities between east and west?

The Self: Interactive Exercises Toni Schmader at the University of Arizona created these five instructional learning modules for a course on the social psychology of the self. Students can take questionnaires and learn about these concepts and the current research on Who Am I, Gender Identity (The PAQ), Self-Monitoring, State Self-Esteem and Optimism. Includes a brief test of knowledge at the end of each one.

Self-Conceptions from Childhood to Adolescence: A Brief Experiment. All graduating seniors in the Psychology Department at Sweet Briar College leave behind a legacy in the form of a project which inspired them as a student. Alumnae to Chantal Yavari '02 summarizes the results of a study she did in which four participants aged 5, 11, 16, and 20 answer the question "Who am I?". This makes a good class exercise as well as providing interesting examples for a class on identity development.

Self-Esteem Games Mark Baldwin and his colleagues at McGill University have developed games to help people increase their self-esteem based on psychological research. Visit this site to play one of three self-esteem games, to participate in their online research or to learn more about what they do.

Sex and the Brain From the BBC sponsored website: Find out more about "brain sex" differences by taking the Sex ID test, a series of visual challenges and questions used by psychologists in the BBC One television series Secrets of the Sexes. Get a brain sex profile and find out if you think like a man or a woman, see if you can gaze into someone's eyes and know what they're thinking, find out why scientists are interested in the length of your fingers, see how your results relate to theories about brain sex.

Skinner, B.F.: That's My Theory! Sigmund Freud and two other personality psychologists -- Skinner and Maslow -- are guests on this online game show developed by PBS. Learn about all three theorists through the answers they give.

Thematic Apperception Test James W. Pennebaker maintains this page of a dozen or so online research projects. Most of them involve taking a brief survey or by completing short exercises. Feedback and insight into one’s personality is provided. Topics include TAT, Big Five questionnaire, perceptual style, spirituality, depression and more.

Theorists Table See how the work of 32 major personality theorists -- from Adler to Zuckerman with Freud, Maslow, McAdams, and Skinner in between -- relates to the Five Factor Model. Includes references and links.

The Trait Paper Assignment: Fostering Critical Thinking in Personality Psychology. (Also available here). Hittner, J. B. (1999). Fostering critical thinking in personalty psychology. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 26, 92-97. From the abstract: A personality trait-based term paper assignment that is appropriate for use in personality psychology courses and that is designed to foster critical thinking skills is introduced. The extent to which the trait questions correspond to generic critical thinking questions is considered, the specific thinking skills induced by each trait question are discussed, and potential limitations of the assignment are noted. Preliminary data are also presented which suggest that the trait-based term paper assignment stimulates critical thinking and enhances knowledge about personality traits. It is hoped that the ideas presented and issues discussed in the present article will encourage academic psychologists from all subdisciplines to develop writing assignments that foster critical thinking skills. This assignment is not rooted in a particular model of traits and so is adaptable to any model.

What's In A Name? First Day of Class Ice Breaker What's in a name? John Suler, Rider University, suggests this ice breaker in his Teaching Clinical Psychology website. Students state their name, and explain how they got their name. This is an especially powerful exercise for small classes or for classes where students work closely with each other over the course of a semester.

Who Am I?: A Personality Project on Traits. John A. Johnson at Penn State University, DuBois, has students complete a 3-stage project on traits based on students' own personality descriptions written on first day of class. In the process students learn about different kinds of traits, environmental and genetic influences on traits, and evaluate the Five-Factor Model and whether it confirms or contradicts their own analysis.

Why? A Happiness Activity The September issue of the Thiagi Gameletter (Seriously fun activities for trainers, facilitators, performance consultants, and managers, see http://www.thiagi.com/) describes a series of Happiness Activities as part of their Tool Kit to demonstrate how most of our current goals when reduced to their most fundamental form -- by repeatedly asking the question Why? have happiness at its core.


Page last modified by June 09, 2009, at 04:06 PM