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Lesson Ideas

5 Scientific Articles About Cognition

This collection of adapted research articles will engage your students in understanding cognition, or how we acquire, store, and think about information. In the process, students will learn about how cognition affects things like gender norms, computers, vaccine usage, or other fascinating and true research discoveries! Engage students with standards-matched adaptations, introductory video content, comprehension questions, and vocabulary to further your lesson outcomes. Each adapted article also comes with additional suggestions for activities to enhance the readers’ understanding and make the class more exciting.

1. What is even more important than being right?

Abstract: During the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts asked people to take steps to help stop the spread of the virus. These included wearing face masks, limiting contact with other people, and getting vaccinated. We wondered why some people followed recommendations while others did not. We thought what people believed about COVID-19 mattered. We also thought the way they think about their beliefs may be important. We asked people about their COVID-19 beliefs. Some beliefs were true, and some were not. Then we asked these people how confident they were that their beliefs were correct. We found that people who evaluated their beliefs more correctly were more likely to follow public health advice. Our results show that it’s important to be right, but it’s also important to know you might be wrong.

This article is suitable for middle school students. An audio version is available in English.

  • Key terms: cognition, COVID-19, disease control, psychology, vaccine
  • Scientific figures: bar graph, map
  • Scientific method: representative sampling, scientific modeling

2. How does the way we think affect our choices about vaccines?

Abstract: Vaccines save millions of lives each year. Yet there are more and more people who are unsure about getting them. Why is that? So far, studies have looked at issues related directly to vaccines. But we think it might be something else. Could it have to do with how people’s minds work? To find out, we asked 356 people different questions about what and how they think, and what they believe. What did we discover? People who like to trust their feelings and believe in supernatural things are more likely to be against vaccines. But those who think carefully and have some scientific knowledge generally trust vaccines. It seems the way our minds work can affect what we think about vaccines. This is important to remember when we talk about the importance of vaccines.

This article is suitable for middle school students. An audio version is available in English. This article includes an SJK Academy Research Recap video to help students summarize the content.

  • Key terms: cognition, disease control, immunity, psychology, vaccine
  • Scientific figures: bar graph
  • Scientific method: proxy data, representative sampling, scientific modeling, survey research

3. How well can a computer think?

Abstract: What do chatbots, voice assistants, and predictive text have in common? They all use computer programs called language models. Large language models are new kinds of models that can only be built using supercomputers. They work so well that it can be hard to tell if something was written by a person or by a computer! We wanted to understand how a large language model called GPT-3 worked. But we wanted to know more than whether GPT-3 could answer questions correctly. We wanted to know how and why. We treated GPT-3 like a participant in a psychology experiment. Our results showed that GPT-3 gets a lot of questions right. But we also learned that GPT-3 gets confused very easily. And it doesn’t search for new information as well as people do. Knowing how and why large language models come up with wrong answers helps us figure out how to make even better versions in the future.

This article is suitable for middle school students. An audio version is available in English. This article includes a Research Recap blackboard video.

  • Key terms: artificial intelligence, cognition, psychology
  • Scientific figures: Venn diagram
  • Scientific model: experiment

4. Why do some women deny gender discrimination?

Abstract: Women face discrimination across the world. They have fewer rights and opportunities (like education) than men, all because of their gender. And the COVID-19 pandemic has made this worse. But despite this, many people (including women) deny that gender discrimination exists. Even people who have experienced it personally! We wanted to find out why this is. We thought that perhaps it’s because denying discrimination makes the world seem fairer. This makes women happier. We carried out three studies, involving 20,000 participants from 23 countries altogether. We tested the hypothesis that denial of gender discrimination is related to better well-being in women. We found this to be true across the United States and worldwide. In fact, in countries where gender discrimination is worse, women were even more likely to deny it! Denial of discrimination helps women to cope, but it makes gender inequality worse.

This article is suitable for middle school and lower high school students. An audio version is available in English, and a written translation in both English and Bulgarian. This article includes two different Ask-A-Scientist video interviews with the original researcher, Dr. Lexi Suppes.

  • Key terms: discrimination, inequality, psychology
  • Scientific figures: bar graph
  • Scientific methods: representative sampling, survey research

5. How do ravens’ thinking skills compare with apes’?

Abstract: Ravens behave in ways that suggest they are really smart. Most scientists studying animal intelligence focus on monkeys and apes like macaques and chimpanzees. One group of scientists made a set of puzzles that tested primates’ physical and social thinking skills. We wanted to know more about ravens’ intelligence, and we wanted to be able to compare ravens and great apes. So, we changed the set of puzzles to make sure they could be solved by a bird using a beak instead of fingers. We found that ravens did just as well as the apes on almost all of the puzzles!

This article is suitable for middle school and lower high school students. An audio version is available in English, and a written translation in both English and Bulgarian. This article includes two different Ask-A-Scientist video interviews with the original researchers Dr. Simone Pika and Dr. Miriam Sima.

  • Key terms: animal behavior, birds, cognition, intelligence, neuroscience
  • Scientific figures: data table, pictograph
  • Scientific method: experiment, observation

That’s Not All!

Browse our complete collections on Cognition, Artificial Intelligence, Philosophy, and Psychology.

Want more content from trusted online partners? Try this five-video series on “prebunking” manipulative persuasion from Truth Labs that helps students identify and resist common manipulative techniques. Or engage students with three games from Inoculation Science to help students build their immunity from psychological manipulation.

Title image from SHVETS production

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