Face to Face Dialogue

July 29, 2013 in featured by julielkz

Social psychology is the science of human behavior. Thus, in-class activities should be behavioral as well. On the first day of the semester I impress on my students that the courses I teach are “life skills” courses—that they will learn practical knowledge about how humans think, feel, and act, and that this knowledge can be applied in their own personal lives as well as in their professional lives (e.g., organizational settings). In order to facilitate learning about social behavior, students must directly engage in social behavior (the same way that chemistry, biology, and physics classes contain laboratory components in which they actually conduct hands-on demonstrations of those phenomena). One example of this is the “Fast Friends” procedure, showcased in the video. Students come away from this activity with a first hand experience of an actual procedure used by social scientists to study interpersonal communication, rapport/intimacy building, and friendship.

After the activity is complete, we come together as a group to discuss what students learned about themselves, their partners, and about social behavior generally. In this free-response discussion, students each semester consistently report the following: a) they really enjoyed the activity and feel joy after making a new friend, b) they were surprised at how easy it was to talk to a “stranger” about their personal lives, c) they realized they had a lot in common with their activity partners, and it makes them question assumptions about how similar people are in the world even though they come from different backgrounds, d) they don’t normally engage in these kinds of deep questions even with close friends and family, let alone strangers, and as a result they express disappointment at the lack of knowledge they have about people close to them, e) would love similar opportunities to do similar activities in the future.

These reactions are indicative of the value of face-to-face time in the classroom. Students would not be able to fully appreciate the implications of the scientific methods for studying human behavior without experiencing it firsthand. This is not the type of knowledge you can gain by reading about it in an article or book (or online), these effects have only been demonstrated with face-to-face interactions.