King School’s Advanced Placement Psychology class featured a Zoom meet-and-greet this week with research psychologist Dr. Barbara Hofer, author of “Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do About It.”
Students, who read the book in preparation, had an opportunity to ask Hofer questions about her research and career. Hofer, who is an established educational, cultural, and developmental psychologist, spoke about the process of inquiry as a key element to her work.
“For me, and for many colleagues that I know, the thing that motivates us the most is curiosity. We are really curious about human behavior, the human mind, and human interaction. We want to ask the right questions to better understand the subject and then use that information to contribute to the knowledge base,” said Hofer.
Charlotte Ozizmir ’22 questioned quality information in the era of social media when misinformation can easily be shared with a large number of people. “Where do we go to find reliable information? How do we find information that we can trust?”
Hofer cited research at Stanford University by Sam Wineburg, who studied how capable middle school, high school, and college students are at generating reliable and accurate information by Google search. According to Hofer, Wineburg’s findings were “dismal,” and underlined the importance of teaching students to ask questions when conducting research.
“The top hits on Google do not always contain the most accurate information. Try not to fall for clickbait headlines. Instead, ask yourself, ‘Does this seem to be true across multiple sites?’ Look for studies that have been replicated or validated over time. When you come across research that has been verified again and again, then you know you have got settled science. That could be something credible that you can believe,” said Hofer.
After an extensive conversation about misinformation, the class began to explore what to do about science denial. Dr. Hofer encouraged the students to listen and ask questions when having conversations about controversial topics.
“We need to learn how to talk to people who might be resistant or doubtful about some of the things that are well substantiated. In the book, we emphasize the importance of being a good, compassionate, curious listener to try to find out why somebody thinks the way they do. I wouldn’t encourage avoidance, I would encourage engagement,” she said.
The discussion underlined the importance of inquiry-based learning, the cornerstone of academic excellence at King. To learn more about King’s commitment to excellence, take a look at the Strategic Plan.