Sophia J. Lamp and Mindy J. Erchull, PhD,
University of Mary Washington (VA)
The University of Mary Washington’s Psi Chi Chapter strives to create engaging and educational events every year for our department. Each year, our programming culminates with our two-day research symposium where students present their research from classes and independent studies through paper and poster presentations. The event closes with a keynote address at the end of the second day from an invited psychologist before transitioning to our departmental awards ceremony and a celebratory reception. Last semester, we expanded this event by hosting our first department-wide trivia game as part of our research symposium programming. The game show-style trivia game served as the anchor event for the first day of the research symposium.
Our chapter organizes many academically driven events throughout the year, but we chose to develop this event because we wanted to introduce a social activity that would strengthen the bonds between our members, majors, and faculty. We thought it would make for a fun activity for the end of the year to help everyone decompress after their hard work in their studies and research projects.
The Rules of the Game
We based the event on the board game Wits & Wagers (specifically the Vegas edition), in which people guess a numerical answer for a random and often impossible-to-know question. For example, one question from the base game asks: “How much did Google buy YouTube for in 2006?” Once each person has settled on an answer, people bet points (using cardboard betting chips) on which answer is closest to the actual answer (or bet that all of the answers are too low/high). The person who has the highest value in betting chips by the end of the seven questions wins the game. We took this idea and adapted it into a department-wide social event by having people work in small teams consisting of both faculty and students. We also developed our own questions that were related to the field of psychology. This way, we could all have fun together while learning some fairly obscure pieces of information about the field.
We were fortunate that our faculty advisor already owned the game prior to the event, so she had the physical components we needed. She was then able to take some images gathered from the company that produced the game (North Star Games) and put together a slide presentation that was used to present the questions as well as the potential answers teams could bet on as each team made their choices and brought their answer boards to the front of the room.
Caption: The Vegas Wits & Wagers board after teams have submitted potential answer prior to placing bets.
Questions (and Answers!)
A lot of research went into creating good trivia questions for the game in the weeks preceding the event. We needed to ask questions related to psychology that the players would not know the answers to off the top of their heads. The goal of the game show version of this game is to encourage the players to engage in a discussion/debate that will lead them closer to the right answer. If people were likely to know the answers right away—especially the professors—then it would not have been as fun!
Wits & Wagers: UMW Psi Chi Edition Questions (NOTE: Questions were developed in February 2018)
Q: As of February 2018, how many journals are indexed in PsycINFO?
Q: What was the sample size in Mary Ainsworth’s “strange situation” experiment?
Q: How many people have received the American Psychological Association’s prestigious International Humanitarian Award?
Q: How many psychiatrists voted to remove homosexuality from the DSM in 1973?
Q: In what year was Franz Joseph Gall, the founder of phrenology, born?
Q: How many trials were completed in Perrin and Spencer’s replication of Asch’s line matching study using chemistry and math students?
Q: How many active Psi Chi chapters are there?
Because this event was part of the programming for our annual departmental research symposium, we already knew that faculty and students would be attending the larger event. Given this, in the weeks leading up to the symposium, we added “trivia game show” to our publicity campaign using flyers and emails. We also included information about this event in the formal program that was shared with majors electronically in advance of the symposium as well as in hard copies at the event. Because majors attended the symposium to support their fellow students during their presentations, it was also easy to actively recruit players throughout the day.
Caption: Although not everyone could stick around for a group photo, everyone enjoyed the fun time together.
On Game Day
Some chapter officers worked with the building staff to revise the setup of the room as we transitioned from a poster session to the game show. Meanwhile, our faculty advisor worked with other officers to randomize faculty and students into the seven groups for the game. Our faculty advisor then served as the host and game facilitator while the officers helped the event run smoothly.
We had a great turnout for a late-afternoon, first-time event. In all, about 40 people participated. We were particularly happy that all but one of our faculty members competed, and the one person who couldn’t wanted to be there but had a prior commitment that conflicted with the event. The majors who participated really enjoyed being on equal footing as they worked with their faculty teammates to try to answer the questions and then decide on the best way to bet their point chips. We learned a lot of random facts for all branches of psychology—this was especially true for the officers given that we were the one searching for good questions.
Caption 3: The winning team was actually our smallest group—small but mighty!
Play Again? Game On!
Our chapter hopes to continue our psychology trivia game show for years to come. In fact, we would like to plan more events like it in the future! After all, how many events end with people already asking when the next one will be held? For the next event, we would like to extend the game by asking more questions and making it a slightly longer event. A typical Wits & Wagers game consists of seven questions, and that’s how we played this time around. We hope to do two rounds of seven questions each next year while further stepping up the challenge by introducing even more challenging questions for people to answer.
We highly recommend for other chapters to conduct similar events at their own schools. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to develop creative trivia questions because it can take longer than you might think. Most importantly, have fun with it, and those participating will too!