Monday, September 24, 2007

Audible gasp

One of the topics I wanted to cover in today's lecture was one that had left an impression on me when I first encountered it in my own undergrad days. There was some data in particular—evidence for the psychological reality of a theoretical construct—that I couldn't remember the details of, but did recall finding compelling and cool and spooky. I wanted to show this to my students today.

It took me a long time to dig up the relevant information, to come up with good illustrative examples, to make the appropriate slides, and to tie it into the rest of my lecture, and in the end, it just didn't seem as cool as I had remembered it being. I nearly left it out, but fortunately did not.

I say fortunately, because when I got to that bit in my lecture, I revealed this piece of data (without any especial emphasis or drama), and from a few of the students came an audible gasp. One of them let out a quiet, "Oh, my god!"

So for the rest of the day I have been remembering what it was like to come across new ideas like this, and compelling evidence for a theory, and to tie it all together for the first time. It gave me goosebumps then, and the reactions of my students gave me goosebumps today.