Psychology, as a discipline, is the study of human behaviour and of the mind. Its aims involve an attempt to better understand social behaviour, something that connects almost all of us.
Most of the processes studied in psychology – conditioning, brain function, intelligence, perception, personality, and so on – require empirical evidence and a pragmatic approach to learning in order to be fully understood.
As a result, psychology games for students are a useful tool, not only for teachers, but for students.
Games are easy to understand conceptually, they promote knowledge acquisition and often entail a social element, which can make them fun. They can act as a gateway to our minds, shedding light on our own behaviour and those close to us.
People learn best when they are motivated, and games serve as an effective way to exploit this. With this in mind, here are some psychology games to try:
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
This game explores the effects and consequences of herd behaviour and decentralised decision-making. Wilfred Trotter coined the term ‘herd behaviour’ in 1914 in his book Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War to describe how individuals within a group can act collectively without a centralised direction.
In Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, a group of psychology students is evenly split into ‘wolves’ and ‘sheep’ and are required to keep their label a secret, even if it means lying. The group is arranged in a large circle, each student at arm’s length from their neighbours, with their eyes shut.
Once everyone’s eyes are shut, the wolves should be instructed to open their eyes. Each wolf should then be instructed to ‘kill’ any sheep in the circle by tapping them on the shoulder and then returning to their original places. All of the killed sheep should then be instructed to sit down so everyone can see who remains.
Now, the students should discuss who they think they wolves are and who they think the sheep are and record the information. The student ranked highest by his/her peers should then be ‘lynched’ and leaves the game, whether or not the accusations are true. The leavers should keep their role a secret until the game is finished to not affect other outcomes.
This is repeated until only one student remains. Students can now reveal their roles and discuss how accurate the group decisions were and how decisions were getting made.
A study by Leeds University, in which groups of people were asked to walk randomly around a large hall, a few ‘informed individuals’ were followed by others in the crowd. It found that 5% of a group of 200 is enough to influence the direction in which others move.
The Prisoner’s Dilemma
This psychological game uses the famous Prisoner’s Dilemma to focus on cooperation and opposition. A good description of the dilemma comes from the 1993 edition of Prisoner’s Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb:
Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. They hope to get both sentenced to a year in prison on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to: betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. The offer is:
- if A and B each betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison.
- if A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa).
- if A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge).
For this game, students should be divided into groups of three; two ‘prisoners’ and one transparent score-keeper. The two prisoners can’t communicate with each other in any way – they must decide individually and silently whether to testify or not. Points should be assigned depending on the outcome.
- if both prisoners testify against each other, each receives no points.
- if a prisoner decides to testify against the other, but the other doesn’t, the prisoner that testifies receives 2 points and the other receives -1.
- if both prisoners remain silent, each receives 1 point.
This game examines rational behaviour. Betraying the other prisoner in this case offers a greater reward than cooperation and is therefore considered to be the rational choice. If both prisoners act rationally and out of self-interest, then they should betray each other.
Psychological Disorder Quiz
Psychology students will be well-acquainted with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (currently in its fifth edition) as a standardised list of criteria for the classification of mental disorders.
Quizzes are a quick, fun way of reviewing knowledge of the many disorders that appear in all aspects of psychology from their symptoms. One particularly good quiz comes from Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst:
- Restlessness and general discomfort, worried much of the time with no reason
- Engaging in repetitive behavior associated with troublesome and persistent thoughts that are unwanted and intrusive
- Having periods of elated mood in which the individual is highly talkative, excitable, and distractible
- Suffering from false beliefs that others are monitoring your thoughts and attempting to do you extreme bodily harm
- Having a variety of physical symptoms for which a medical cause cannot be found
- Being tormented by flashbacks and frightening images after being involved in a near-fatal car accident three weeks ago
- Staying home due tofear of having a panic attack while in a crowded situation from which escape isn’t possible
- Being convinced that your slight cough means that you have pneumonia or lung cancer
- Refusing to eat in front of other people out of fear that you will spill your food or in other ways look ridiculous
- Engaging in frequent illegal acts such as conning other people out of their hard-earned savings and engaging in petty theft without feeling a sense of remorse or guilt
- General anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Somatic symptom disorder
- Acute stress disorder(not PTSD, because it’s less than a month)
- Illness anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Antisocial personality disorder
We hope you enjoyed these psychology games for students, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you thought of them.