Why do we believe weird things?

  • Level: B1, B2, C1
  • Handout on TPT
  • Media: Video
  • Language focus: beliefs, superstitions, conspiracy theories, fake news, disinformation.

Why do we believe weird things?

Fake news, misinformation, disinformation, these concepts are all over the media. We all know it’s out there, but how can we tell what is true and what is fake? First, let’s play a game…

True or False

  • Salt makes water boil quicker.
  • You should never swim right after you eat
  • Some people are more right-brain thinkers and others more left-brain thinkers.
  • Toilets flush differently in the southern hemisphere than the northern hemisphere.
  • Einstein failed math.
  • Humans and dinosaurs co-existed
  • Vaccines cause autism.
  • You need to wait 24 hours to file a missing person’s report.
  • We use only 10% of our brain.
  • Most of our body heat leaves through our heads.
  • You should never wake a sleepwalker.
  • Bats are blind.
  • Alcohol keeps you warm.
  • Sugar creates hyper children.
  • Your hair and nails keep growing after you die.
  • Slaves built the pyramids in Egypt.

In case you use this to generate discussion with your class, I won’t give you the answers. You could invite your students to check for themselves at Readers Digest.

It’s your brain’s fault

Famous debunker and Skeptic.com’s editor-in-chief  Michael Shermer gives us a bit of insight into how our brain is wired to makes us believe weird things.  He explains and demonstrates how things like priming and cognitive bias are natural neurological predispositions that lead us to faulty conclusions. This discussion utilizes vocabulary in both pure science and psychology to demonstrate, in very cool ways, how media can create what I will term “information blind spots.”

Lesson Notes

***Caution! I did this lesson with a high intermediate student and they were overwhelmed with Shermer’s speed. I would recommend slowing the video down and using this True/False handout to explain and explore some of the vocabulary and concepts in the video. Have your students read through the statements and make predictions about the possible answers. Then have your students watch the video to confirm or correct their original impressions.

Pre discussion

Go through the handout and predict which statements are true or false.

The Video: Why People Believe Weird Things

Discussion

  • What makes us believe weird things…make a Mind Map of all the elements you hear?
  • Are you a skeptic?
  • Why don’t we listen to science?

Enjoy!

Mel

What bad habit would you like to break?

Why are bad habits so hard to break?

First, let’s clarify that a bad habit is a negative behaviour pattern–perhaps one that causes bodily harm. So if your daily glass of wine is not causing you harm then it can stay (yay!)? However, if you drink a whole bottle, text old boyfriends/girlfriends or pass out on the sofa, that may be a different story.

Without being too hard on ourselves, I’m sure we can think of at least one bad habit. Mine…I stress eat. When I get stressed, I feel hungry, crave sweets (I don’t even like sweets) and I’m always looking forward to my next meal.

But why?

The creators of ASAP Science YouTube channel look at bad habits from the scientific perspective. They explain why we feel the need to repeat behaviours even when they hurt us. Let this scientific explanation take the guilt out of your bad habits and give you something interesting to talk about with your students.

Pre discussion

  • Mind Map a list of bad habits.
  • What are your bad habits?

The Video: How to Break Your Bad Habit

  • What are some of the bad habits mentioned in the video?
  • How much of our behaviour is done out of habit?
  • Can you explain “chunking”? What does it do for us?
  • Can you name the elements in the 3 step loop?
  • How can you change a habit?
  • Now think of your own bad habit…what do you think it provides for you? (e.g. a rest, socialization, a break from boredom, a break from stress, etc…)

Let me know how the discussions turn out. I love to hear from you.