A Different Way To Teach Psychological Science: The 18 Minute Overview

What are some core elements of Psychological Science? If you had just a few minutes to summarize why your discipline is important, what would you say? I filtered down the key elements of the entire 15-week course down to the amount of time it takes you to hard boil an egg (a little more than 12 minutes for those of you who have not boiled one recently). I gave a TEDx talk and now, with the help of Rosalyn Stoa, present several fun ways to use the video in classes and to engage students. Students have a fun way to see how much psychology they know and teachers have a ready-made assessment tool (student responses to the quiz provided can be shared).


Psychological science provides a wealth of ways to live better lives. I have taught Intro Psych for nearly 20 years, and am the author of a significant American Psychologist article,  Strengthening introductory psychology: A new model for teaching the introductory course (Gurung et al., 2016). I am also co-chairing a major American Psychological Association General Psychology Initiative (with Garth Neufeld). Check out the APA2018 session, Planning for an APA General Psychology Initiative in August 11th in San Francisco.

Yes, I think about how best to teach Introductory Psychology a lot so I challenged myself to figure out what the essence of the course and the field is. If we had a short time to share fundamental elements of psychological science, what would we say. My answer led me to do TEDx. I picked some essential elements and stitched together a short narrative. I was looking for a completely different way to share key principles. I wanted a non-lecture. I wanted non-textbook.  The result, is one way to get psychology out to the public.

The lay public has many misperceptions about psychology. If you are a psychological scientist who teaches, you will also get students unsure of what to do with the psychology major. Often the issue is parents who balk at the prospect of their children using valuable resources (i.e., tuition and time) on a major they believe has low job prospects (“What you going to do with that major?”). Yes, we may have competition from the parents of students thinking of philosophy, English or history as a major, but the fact remains that majoring in psychology often evokes an existential career crisis. It should not. In most jobs you can name, psychology is in there!

The Tedx video is a conversational approach to addressing some myths of the field and summarizing key cause of behavior. And that’s not all.  I also provide three simple, evidence-based ways to live healthier happier lives. It even comes with a catchy phrase. To leverage psychological science to live better we need to CHILL, DRILL, and BUILD:

  1. CHILL (Take time out from an emotional event to let your biology return to normal).
  2. DRILL (Practice specific productive ways of thinking to modify automatic thoughts that are unproductive).
  3. BUILD (your social networks). 


I designed the 18-minute overview to be as educational as possible. It is packed with psych terms; have your students find them. Show them the citations for the different studies I mention in the video (listed below).  Have students watch it, take a quiz, find key psych terms,  and read the articles cited.

You can use the 18 minute talk in various ways.

  • Want to watch a cool TEDx talk about psychology? Here you go.
  • Looking for an Intro Psych review? 18 minutes sums a lot up!
  • Studying for the Free Response Questions on the AP Psych exam? Plenty of terms can be found here.

Students can watch the video, then take a 10 item multiple choice quiz under “Think” (and pasted at the end of this piece), and view additional terms that could be potentially found in this video in “Discussion”. Several studies that are mentioned can be found in “Dig Deeper”.   The link to this lesson can be found here: https://ed.ted.com/on/JafZNxLS

Wondering About All of the Pyschology Terms That Could Possibly Be Referred to In 18 Min?

Directly Mentioned:

Freud Bandura’s Bobo Doll Study Obesity
Clinical Psychology Observational learning Fight or Flight
Social Psychology Catharsis Tend and Befriend
Emotions Stereotype Social support
Learning Biological Psychology Social networks
Reinforcement Neurons Biopsychosocial approach
Rewards Neurotransmitters Stress
Punishments Cortisol Automatic thought
Operant conditioning Catecholamines
Shaping Testosterone

Indirectly Tied:

Schema Thorndike’s Law of Effect Framing
Availability heuristics Modeling Attributional style
Associative learning Action potential Cognitive Restructuring
Nature vs Nurture Synapse Self-efficacy
Gestalt Theory Acetylcholine Resiliency
Reciprocal determinism Amygdala Cognitive Appraisal Model
Social-Cognitive learning theory Hypothalamus Primary Appraisal
Cognitive Learning Endorphins Secondary Appraisal
Extrinsic Motivation Two-Factor Theory of emotion Learned helplessness
Behavior modification Top-Down processing Humanistic Psychology



We pulled out a couple of key minutes.

Minutes Domain(s)
0-2:30 Cognitive, Variations in Individual and Group Behavior, Biopsychological
3-4 Methods, Biopsychological
5-9:26 Biopsychological, Cognitive, Variations in Individual and Group Behavior
9:30-11 Cognitive
12:30-13:36 Biopsychological
14-15:30 Biopsychological, Cognitive

Multiple Choice Questions we came up with for this video.

1.“People see Indian, and they jump to doctor or engineer…” What is the term for this mental short-cut?

B. Stereotype
C. Attributional Style
D. Thorndike’s Law of Effect

2. What stress response do women show in addition to Fight-or-Flight?

A. Denial
B. Fight-or-Flight II
C. Tend-and-Befriend
D. Repression

3. According to this Tedx Talk, what three things predict how we think, feel, and behave?

A. Biology, Learning, and Social Surroundings
B. Head, Heart, and Soul
C. Rewards, Punishments, and Learning
D. Repression, Regression, and Sublimation

4. How many neurons are in the brain?

A. 42 billion
B. 98 million
C. 314 million
D. 86 billion

5.“When you do something and it is followed by a positive event, you do that thing more” This is an example of:

A. Classical Conditioning
B. Operant Conditioning
C. Social Support
D. Automatic Thought

6. Based on operant conditioning what would be likely to happen if you are sitting in class listening to a lecture and you make eye contact and nod appreciatively after every key point?

A. The professor should give more pop quizzes and homework
B. The professor should avoid you
C. The professor should tend to lecture on your side of the classroom more
D. The professor should go on a tangent

7. What does the Bobo doll study exhibit?

A. Our motivations are often driven by unconscious desires
B. Cognitive Dissonance
C. Irrational fears can be developed through classical conditioning
D. Learning can happen through observation

8. The Cognitive Appraisal Theory states that humans give a primary appraisal and a secondary appraisal to all stressors. Regarding theories of emotion, which one would the Cognitive Appraisal Theory most correspond to?

A. Schacter-Singer Two Factor Theory
B. James Lange Theory
C. Cannon-Bard
D. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

9. If a student thinks “I always fail. I’m not a good student” and therefore proceeds to give up studying for exams, this would be an example of:

A. Top-Down Processing
B. Self-Efficacy
C. Availability Heuristics
D. Learned Helplessness

10. What tips does Dr. Gurung give to think stronger and live longer?

A. Practice Perfection Always
B. Chill, Drill, Build
C. Semper ubi sub ubi ubique
D. Know where your towel is


1:B, 2:C, 3:A, 4:D,  5:B, 6:C, 7:D, 8:A, 9:D, 10:B


The Hub for Intro Psych and Pedagogical Research: http://hippr.uwgb.org/

Pedagogical Pundit: http://pedagogicalpundit.com/

Society for the Teaching of Psychology (APA, Div 2) Resources: http://topix.teachpsych.org/w/page/19980993/FrontPage


Bandura, A., Ross, D. & Ross, S.A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 575-82.

Barrett, L. F., Mesquita, B., Ochsner, K. N., & Gross, J. J. (2007). The Experience of Emotion. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 373–403. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.58.110405.085709Lazarus, R. S. , and Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. New York: Springer

Berthoud, H., & Morrison, C.(2008). The brain, appetite, and obesity. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 55-92.

Bushman, B. J., Baumeister, R. F., & Stack, A. D. (1999). Catharsis, aggression, and persuasive influence: Self-fulfilling or self-defeating prophecies? Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 557-564.

Ebbesen, E. B., Duncan, B., & Konecni, V. J. (1975). Effects of content of verbal aggression on future verbal aggression: A field experiment. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 11, 192-204.

Gurung, R. A. R., Sarason, B. R., & Sarason, I. G. (2001). Predicting relationship quality and emotional reactions to stress from significant-other-concept clarity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(10), 1267-1276. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/01461672012710003

LeRoy, A. S., Murdock, K. W., Jaremka, L. M., Loya, A., Fagundes, C. P. (2017). Loneliness predicts self-reported cold symptoms after a viral challenge. Health Psychology, 36(5), 512-520. doi:10.1037/hea0000467

Overmier, J. B., & Seligman, M. E. (1967). Effects of inescapable shock upon subsequent escape and avoidance responding. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 63(1), 28-33. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0024166

Taylor, S. E., Klein, L. C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R. A. R., & Updegraff, J. A. (2000). Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: Tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight. Psychological Review, 107(3), 411-429. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.107.3.411



About the Author

Regan A. R. Gurung, Ph.D. is the Ben J. and Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Human Development and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. He was born and raised in Bombay, India, received a B.A. in psychology at Carleton College (MN), and a Masters and Ph.D. in social and personality psychology at the University of Washington (WA), and then spent three years at UCLA as a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research fellow. He has made over 100 presentations and given workshops nationally and internationally (e.g. Australia, India, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand). This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.