Let me start out by saying that the development of the split-brain simulation was motivated by the fact that this was a difficult content area for my Introduction to Psychology students. Understanding how researchers discovered and tested the hemispheric localization of mental functions in the brain, necessitates understanding and integrating several pieces of information at one time. Classroom explanations of this left some students confused, frustrated and ultimately convinced that they could not understand. I wanted to provide students with an experience that would allow them to digest this information at their own rate, in their own way. The perfect solution... computer simulation.
Computer simulation allowed me to recreate the original studies of split-brain patients conducted by Michael Gazzaniga and Roger Sperry in the early 1960's. It allowed me to cast students in the roles of these original experimenters. In the program, students manipulate various stimuli presented to their subjects (split-brain patients), hypothesize about the effects of their manipulations, observe the resulting behavior to confirm or deny their hypotheses, and draw conclusions based on their observations. The observed behavior includes real voice recordings and realistic graphics that illustrate the subjects response. Scientists among you will recognize this process as the essence of the experimental method. In this simulation, there are actually twenty seven different experiments the student can conduct, organized around seven basic designs, although students may not need to do all twenty seven. This sort of "real" experience, directed by each individual student, simply cannot be created collectively in the classroom. This type of exercise combines theory and facts with "real" experience, the best way to learn.
What impact does this sort of simulation have on students? They learn not only the factual material (e.g. language functions located in the left hemisphere) but, more importantly, learn the processes involved in the discovery of these facts! And this is learned not by reading, but by doing. In fact, many students say that what they like most about programs of this type is that they feel like they are "doing psychology." Most students also appreciate being challenged to learn/discover on their own, because it gives them a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of meeting the challenge.
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Alan Levine --}
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