Speakers Bureau Topics

Like many of my colleagues, I serve as a member of YVCC’s Speakers Bureau, which provides speakers for community organizations. For full information about our Speakers Bureau, please go to this link: http://www.yvcc.edu/Community/SpeakersBureau/Pages/default.aspx. The following topics are the ones that I offer.

The Use of Sign Language by Cross-Fostered Chimpanzees





In 1966 Allen and Beatrix Gardner introduced the infant chimpanzee Washoe into their human cross-fostering laboratory. They used American Sign Language as the means of two-way communication. Over several years the Gardners replicated their study with additional chimpanzees. I worked with these chimpanzees for almost 20 years and did my doctoral research under Allen and Trixie Gardner. This presentation will provide basic information about chimpanzees, about cross-fostering and about how these cross-fostered chimpanzees acquired and used the signs of American Sign Language. This presentation can be adapted for elementary school students.

Pointing Gestures in Humans and Chimpanzees 

Simple, common behaviors are often the most interesting. Developmental and cognitive psychologists consider it an important developmental milestone when human infants begin to point. This presentation will describe the developmental pattern of pointing in human infants and the importance that psychologists attribute to this milestone. It will also describe evidence of pointing in cross-fostered chimpanzees.

The Salem Witch Trials

In 1692 over 160 people in Massachusetts Bay Colony were accused of witchcraft. At least twenty-five people died, including one of my ancestors. Nineteen were executed by hanging, one tortured to death, and at least five died in jail due to harsh conditions. During the Salem trials, more people were accused and executed than in all the previous witchcraft trials in New England. This presentation will provide basic information about the events of 1692, but will focus on the nature of evidence used by the courts and the debates at the time about what constitutes good evidence.  

Why People Believe Weird Things

We all like to believe that we are critical thinkers, and indeed evidence supports our belief. However, the strategies that are normally so effective can also lead us to make some major thinking errors under other circumstances. Psychologists study these thinking tendencies and provide insight into how to recognize faulty thinking. This presentation will introduce the audience to some common thinking errors and will provide strategies for recognizing and perhaps even overcoming some of these errors.

How to Think Like a Psychologist

When many people hear “psychology”, they think of TV psychiatrist Frasier Crane or the mental health equivalent of Florence Nightingale. Shelves full of self-help books under “Psychology” at local bookstores promote this notion. The field of psychology is actually much more diverse and interesting than that. Did you know that psychologists investigate:

  • where instruments should be placed in a plane cockpit to maximize efficiency and safety; or
  • how language or social skills of children in daycare compare to those of children who stay at home; or
  • how to match different breeds of dogs with families with compatible personalities; or
  • how to question eye-witnesses to crimes to ensure maximum accuracy; or
  • how to minimize landing accidents on aircraft carriers by understanding how the brain processes visual information?

This presentation will introduce the audience to how psychologists form questions and develop methods for investing them. In the process, it will highlight some interesting subfields of psychology.

Please contact Joy Clark for more information and scheduling: 509.574.6800 x 3285   or    jclark@yvcc.edu