News: Dance films help to explain statistics for research

Monday 7 October 2013 by Lise Smith

Four short films explaining statistical concepts are lighting up YouTube, with thousands of video views to date.

Lucy Irving from Middlesex University and Professor Andy Field from the University of Sussex were awarded funding by The British Psychological Society and IdeasTap for their project ‘Communicating psychology to the public through dance’. The project aims to help psychology students get to grips with one of the most difficult parts of a psychology degree – understanding and using statistics.

Irving explains, “We hoped that representing complicated psychological constructs and statistical procedures in fun and memorable ways would enable more psychology students to understand and engage with them.”

The project aims to demystify some key concepts in statistics. A team including professional choreographer Masha Gurina, film maker Kyle Stevenson and co-producer Elise Phillips experimented with the dancers to find ways of communicating the concepts of correlation, variance, frequency distributions, sampling and standard error.

We worked with the choreographer and experimented with the dancers to find ways of communicating the concepts,“says Irving. “Students often report that ‘the stats’ are the most difficult part of their psychology degree and these the films aim to challenge this by demonstrating that thinking about them in new ways may make them easier to comprehend.”

Filmed at Siobhan Davies studios and shared on the BPS YouTube channel, the videos have already been viewed over 15,000 times and have attracted many positive comments.

The British Psychological Society runs an annual public engagement grant scheme to promote the relevance of evidence-based psychology to wider audiences.If you have questions or comments about the films, follow @stasdancer Twitter or email dancingstatistics@gmail.com

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