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The Best Resources For Learning About “Psychological Effects” Useful To Teachers


This post was formerly called “”The Benjamin Franklin Effect” In The Classroom.” However, since it originally included additional resources on other psychological “effects” and “laws,” I’ve renamed it and added new resources at the end.

Many teachers know that an effective classroom management move to turn a disruptive student into an ally is by giving him/her responsibilities in the classroom — tutoring another student, offering them a key classroom job, etc.

I knew it, and have used it, but didn’t know until recently that an actual psychological finding explains why this strategy works. It’s called “The Benjamin Franklin Effect”:

You grow to like people for whom you do nice things and hate people you harm.

Here’s the story about the “effect’s” origins:

In his autobiography, Franklin explains how he dealt with the animosity of a rival legislator when he served in the Pennsylvania legislature in the 18th Century

“Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.”

This is not Ben Franklin’s first appearance in this blog. You might be interested in seeing Ben Franklin’s Daily Schedule.

Nor is this the first time I’ve written about a psychological “effect” or “law” and how it relates to the classroom. You might be interested in:

What Is The “Zeigarnik Effect” & How Did I Apply It In The Classroom Today?

Here’s a post on Campbell’s Law.

And I wrote about the Hawthorne Effect here.

Here’s more from Farnam Street on The Ben Franklin Effect.

Here’s a twist on “embodied cognition”:

I’ve previously posted about a study that explored the impact of wearing certain kinds of clothes can affect the person wearing them — see Can An Educator’s Clothes Affect How He/She Teaches? Recently, though, The New York Times published an article on the same study and, even more interestingly, The New York Times Learning Network posted a related lesson plan.

The Compelling (not just interesting) Input Hypothesis is a new paper by Stephen Krashen. Here’s an excerpt: “Compelling means that the input is so interesting you forget that it is in another language. It means you are in a state of “flow” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). In flow, the concerns of everyday life and even the sense of self disappear – our sense of time is altered and nothing but the activity itself seems to matter. Flow occurs during reading when readers are “lost in the book” (Nell, 1988) or in the “Reading Zone” (Atwell, 2007). Compelling input appears to eliminate the need for motivation, a conscious desire to improve. When you get compelling input, you acquire whether you are interested in improving or not.”

The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational is from Farnam Street.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. I remember reading Ben Franklin’s autobiography when I was a Freshman in college. I really took this bit of advice to heart, and to this day I often advise people who are dealing with someone difficult at work or at home: “The easiest way to make someone your friend is to ask them to do you a favor.”

  2. I used this strategy all the time with a student who had severe ADD. I knew that if I left this student to work alone or with a group that not only would he not be learning he would also disrupt other students.

    What I did was have him help me be the “teacher.” When I was having students work in small groups I would have him walk with me to the different groups and give this student the assignment to ask one or two questions to each group. This way he was learning what the groups where learning, he felt that he was intelligent and smart because he knew the answers to the questions, and wasn’t being a disruption because he got to move around the classroom.

    Also as a bonus often when visiting the groups he would become interested in joining them. When joining a group this way he would be much more engaged with what the group was doing and stay engaged longer.

  3. Great article Larry,

    Its nice to see Ben Franklin did something useful. I mean, after swanning around Europe and building alliances that secured America’s future! Inventing things, creating newspapers etc. Its about time! 🙂

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