Why show clips from Mythbusters?

Burkley and Burkley (2009) found that showing Mythbusters clips engages students and increases learning.

What do students learn from Mythbusters?

 Although what students learn depends on the clip, you can use almost any of the clips to teach the following four “meta-lessons”:

    1. Question what you have been told.

    2. You can do your own studies to get empirical answers to questions about real life events

    3. To do get accurate answers to your questions about real life events, you will often need to control for confounding variables. Such control may require control groups and artificial conditions.

    4. You probably should do a literature review to find out what is already known.

How much class time does showing the clips take?

Clips last from 1-17 minutes.. After showing a clip, Burkley and Burkley (2009) have students answer questions about the clips and then discuss their answers in small groups—a process that takes about 15 minutes.

How do I know what clips I want?

 1. You can follow Burkley and Burkley recommendations and use the following clips:

    a. For measurement: Episode 28: Does toast always land buttered-side down?

    b. For simple between-subjects design: Episode 28: Is yawning contagious?

            Note that

                1. the Mythbusters should have done a literature review before doing this study (several relevant studies can be accessed from ,

                2. Although Adam says the results are confirmed because of the large sample size, doing a statistical test on the data does not yield significant results.

    c. For 2 X 2 factorial design: Episode 1: Who gets wetter? The Mythbusters use a 2 (walk vs. run) X 2 (no wind vs. wind) factorial design. Note that their result—an interaction did not replicate (see Episode 38).

    d. For within-subjects design: Episode 33: Is talking on a cell phone while driving as bad as driving drunk? Good for discussing the need for counterbalancing to control for order effects

    e. For early in the term, the following work well:

        1. Episode 43: Seasickness-Kill or Cure? (November 18, 2005)

        2. Episode 25: Brown note, Water torture (February 16, 2005)

        3. Episode 52: Mind control (Air Date May 3, 2006)

        4. Episode 74: Dog myths (March 14, 2007)

        5. Episode 93: Fooling a lie detector (December 5, 2007)

        6. Episode 103: Anger on driving (August 6, 2008)

2. We suggest selecting clips using the summaries of the Mythbuster tests at this  Mythbusters results site.  You could also consult the MythBuster’s official show guide.

 Once I know what clips I want, how do I show them to my class?

1. You can get the clips that the Burkleys used from Seasons 1-3 from the Mythbusters: Collection 1 DVD (Rees, Luscombe, Rudolph, LeDonne, & Playnick, 2007).

2. You can get clips from Seasons 5 and 6 from Mythbusters: Collection 4.

3. You can get the Mythbusters DVDs from Netflix (either via mail or download).

4. You can see the top 10 clips here.

5. You may be able to get the clip you want at the following sites:

    a. Yidio 

    b. Casttv 

6. You can also get the clips—at a price—from itunes.

How do I get handouts?

1. For four key clips (1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d), you can get the questions Burkley asks his students from here.

2. Alternatively, you could use the following generic form:


1. Research method used:

 2. Independent variable(s):


3. Dependent variable(s):


4. Variables controlled for:

5. Variables not controlled for (if any):

6.Mythbusters’ conclusions:

7. Do you accept their conclusions? Why or why not? (You might not accept their conclusions for many reasons. For example, you might believe they are wrong to assume that (a) their results are reliable and replicable, (b) their results would generalize, (c) their design is not flawed, or (d) their null results prove that there is no effect.

8. What questions does their study leave unanswered?

9. How could you improve upon or extend their study?

For questions 8 and 9, think about internal, external, and construct validity.

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