Here’s a quick exercise you can do to demonstrate why statistics is an important part of studying psychology.
You should find that most, if not all of your students, will have instinctively thought that you need a much higher number than 23 people in a group for this birthday match to occur.
Known as the birthday paradox or the birthday problem,this seemingly counter-intuitive finding provides psychology instructors with an engaging starting point from which to build an invaluable student learning experience.
For instance, as part of statistics class, it could be used to introduce the concept of probability theory. It could also be used as way helping students to think mathematical about randomness, probability and chance.You might also want to encourage your students to listen to this excellent and humorous BBC podcast where they discuss the idea of randomness. Start at 15:31 to hear the hosts (and mathematician Alex Bellos) discuss the birthday paradox.
"Most coincidences, if you actually crunch the numbers, become a lot less amazing" - mathematician Alex Bellos
Alternatively, either as an individual or group project, students could be encouraged to test out the birthday paradox themselves. This would simply involve them having to think about a way in which they could access the birth dates of a group of around thirty people in order to see whether any of the dates match. For example, as a fan of the series, I checked out the cast list of The Walking Dead and discovered that Steven Yeun (Glenn) and Tom Payne (Jesus) both celebrate their birthday on the 21st of December. What are the odds? A lot more likely than we typically think.