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Lesson Ideas

7 Articles for High School Psychology

Psychology is the study of the mind and human behavior. Popular psychology focuses on aspects of clinical and counseling psychology, and seminal experiments can be shocking “hooks” in the classroom to generate interest. But the broader field also can help students learn how to study, how to manage stress, and how to conduct and analyze scientific research. That emphasis on socio-emotional skills and critical thinking is what drives some to promote the study of psychology in secondary schools.

This collection highlights seven scientific articles suitable for a high school psychology curriculum. Engage students with standards-matched adaptations, introductory video content, comprehension questions, and vocabulary to further the lesson outcomes. Each adapted article also comes with additional suggestions for activities to enhance the readers’ understanding and make the class more exciting.

1. Which type of people tend to help others?

Abstract: Have you ever helped a friend find a lost item? Or donated old clothes or toys to a charity? When you help someone, you are taking part in prosocial behaviors. In our study, we analyzed data to determine which factors relate to prosocial behavior. We explored life satisfaction, positive emotions, and negative emotions. We found that people who are more satisfied with their life take part in more prosocial behaviors. We also found a relationship between positive emotions and prosocial behaviors. We learned that negative emotions are more difficult to use as a predictor for prosocial behaviors. Negative emotions often relate to less prosocial behaviors. But the relationship between negative emotions and prosocial behavior was less consistent.

This article is suitable for lower high school students. An audio version is available in English. This article includes a Lesson Idea video to engage students in learning about different parasites.

  • Key terms: mental health, psychology
  • Scientific figure: map
  • Scientific method: data extrapolation

2. How do gender stereotypes impact girls’ interest in science?

Abstract: Has anyone ever said that you couldn’t or shouldn’t do something because of one of your traits? If so, you’ve probably been the victim of a stereotype. A stereotype is a set of shared beliefs based on a trait or the identity of a group. A common stereotype is that women are not as good at or interested in science as men. This can result in fewer women participating in the sciences. We wanted to know if and when these gender stereotypes about science affect children and adolescents. We also wanted to know if stereotypes cause girls to be less interested in and take part less in these fields. To find out, we conducted surveys and laboratory experiments. We found that very young students believed these gender stereotypes. Girls were less interested in participating in computer science and engineering if they believed the stereotypes. So, teachers and schools should try to generate interest in these fields at an early age.

This article is suitable for middle school and lower high school students. An audio version is available in English, as well as an Ask-A-Scientist video interview or podcast episode with the original researcher, Dr. Allison Master.

  • Key terms: discrimination, gender, inequality, psychology
  • Scientific figures: bar graph, line graph
  • Scientific methods: experiment, survey research

3. How do smartphones affect our sleep?

Abstract: Do you own a smartphone? They are very useful and often we can’t imagine life without them. But they could be harmful as well. For example, people can get addicted to smartphones. As with any other addiction, this can lead to various problems. So does it affect our sleep? To find out, we asked 1,043 students to complete two questionnaires. This helped us determine how many of the students suffer from smartphone addiction. It also showed how many suffer from poor sleep. We found out that smartphone addiction is pretty common among young students. We also found a strong connection between smartphone addiction and poor sleep.

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

  • Key terms: addiction, mental health, psychology, sleep
  • Scientific figure: line graph
  • Scientific method: observation, proxy data, survey research

4. Can you help stop online racism?

Abstract: Imagine you read a comment on a school social media site that made a negative statement about your race. How would that make you feel? Angry? Frustrated? Now imagine that nobody stood up to the person that made the comment. Would that make you feel worse? You might think other people agree with them, or you may feel disconnected from the school. Unfortunately, this is how many Black students feel because of the online racism they face today. We wanted to find out more about the impacts of online racism. We also wanted to discover what makes students more likely to stand up to online racism, and if this helps to reduce its negative impact. Our study showed that online racism negatively affects how Black students feel. But when they see White students standing up to the post, they feel better. We found that White students are more likely to stand up to online racism if they understand how it impacts Black students, and if they know what to say.

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

  • Key terms: discrimination, inequality, psychology, racism, social media
  • Scientific figures: bar graph
  • Scientific methods: experiment, observation

5. How can gratitude help healthcare workers?

Abstract: Have you ever felt stressed? It’s not very pleasant. Most healthcare workers feel stress every day. Often that prolonged stress leads to emotional exhaustion. There are different ways to deal with this, but they can take too long or are expensive. What if there was a simpler way to reduce emotional exhaustion? Many studies show that gratitude can increase happiness. We asked healthcare workers to write a letter of gratitude. We assessed their levels of emotional exhaustion before and after this assignment. After using our method, healthcare workers had lower levels of emotional exhaustion. They also said they were happier.

This article is suitable for middle school and lower high school students. An audio version is available in English. This article includes a Lesson Idea video to engage students in studying their own emotional well-being. Or watch an Ask-A-Scientist interview with the original researcher, Dr. Cassie Adair.

  • Key terms: mental health, psychology
  • Scientific figure: bar graph
  • Scientific method: correlational study, experiment, representative sampling, scientific modeling

6. Can peer pressure help teens make safer decisions?

Abstract: Most people act differently with their friends than they do when they are alone. Teens who see their friends make risky choices are more likely to make risky decisions themselves. We wanted to learn how the brain processes information about other peoples’ actions. In our experiment, teens played a game where they chose between a safe gamble and a risky gamble. We separated teens into two groups based on whether they had ever used alcohol, tobacco or other drugs. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activity in some participants. We found that teens who had never used drugs had a stronger response to seeing their peers choose safe gambles. This result shows that positive peer influence can make a difference!

This article is suitable for high school students.

  • Key terms: mental health, neuroscience, psychology
  • Scientific figure: bar graph, data table, pie chart
  • Scientific method: experiment, observation, scientific modeling

7. How do school shootings affect students’ mental health?

Abstract: Over the past two decades, there have been more than 250 school shootings in the United States. Sadly, many students and teachers have died in these tragic events. Although the number of shootings seems high, a school shooting is actually a very low-probability event. But how do school shootings affect those who survived? We wanted to see the effects of school shootings on students’ mental health. We examined the effects of 44 school shootings on an important measure of youth mental health: the number of prescriptions for antidepressants. We found out that school shootings lead to a significant increase in antidepressant use among children. Moreover, the effects on mental health can be long term. However, the effects on mental health are smaller in areas where there are more psychologists and social workers.

This article is suitable for middle school and lower high school students.

  • Key terms: mental health, psychology
  • Scientific figure: time series graph
  • Scientific method: experiment, proxy data

That’s Not All!

Check out our full collection of adapted research articles on Psychology.

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