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CSI Wenona

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Psychology teacher Ms Wenlock tries to incorporate as much practical work as possible in her lessons, and for her Year 9 students this week, this meant ‘sampling’ M&Ms!

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Ms Wenlock’s Year 9 Psychology students have been getting to grips with the study of psychological research methods, and in particular, samples and populations. 

When psychologists carry out research, they do so with the intention of making the results apply to as many people as possible. The tricky thing of course, is that there are so many ways in which people differ from one another (age, gender, occupation, culture, religion) that it is almost impossible to have enough representatives of every possible type of person.

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For this reason, psychologists choose a certain population that their research will be applicable to (e.g. female students aged 14-16 years in Sydney) and this population is called the target population. Sometimes it is not possible or practical to ask every member of a target population to take part in the research project as the target population could number many thousands of people.

Instead, psychology researchers select a small group from the target population and test them. Their results are called a sample and are used to represent the target population. For Ms Wenlock’s class, this is where the M&M’s came in.

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Ms Wenlock said, “We used M&Ms to enliven the theory work and consider whether a sample of M&Ms was representative of the broader population. This extended to random sampling, biased samples and distribution theories.”

Of course, the highlight was that after all that theory work, the students were able to eat the M&Ms!

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Ms Wenlock’s Year 10 Psychology students are studying forensic psychology. As an introduction to criminal profiling, the students conducted a fingerprinting exercise to investigate the various types of fingerprints found in humans.

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Fingerprints are unique patterns, made by friction ridges (raised) and furrows (recessed), which appear on the pads of the fingers and thumbs.

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The students learnt that there are three main fingerprint patterns: arches, loops and whorls.

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They were interested to discover that the majority of the class had loops!