Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Psychology 260 Course Information

Course Title: Social Psychology
Semester: Fall, 2012
Instructor: Scott Plous
Time: 1:10-2:30 PM, Tuesday and Thursday
Classroom: Kerr Lecture Hall (107 Shanklin)
Enrollment Limit: 150 students
Credit: 1.0 A/F (graded only)

Teaching Apprentices: Kaitlin DeWilde, Ali Goldberg, Ginah Kim, Miriam Olenick, Sami Ressler, Rachel Verner

Course Assistants: Hee-Kyong Kang, Sam Melvin, Sheryl Rivas, Kelly Toy

For Fall, 2013: TA Application Form and CA Application Form

  


Quick Links
Sites of the Week
Electronic Reserve Readings
Myers Student Web Site
Test-Taking Tips
Grading Policy
GradeGetter
Wesleyan Psychology Department

Instructor and TA Office Hours
Name Time and Place Top-Secret Hotline
Kaitlin DeWilde
Kaitlin DeWilde
Mon, 8:00 - 9:00 pm
103 Judd, x2312
(817) 874-7096
Ali Goldberg
Ali Goldberg
Wed, 2:00 - 3:00 pm
103 Judd, x2312
(914) 419-5754
Ginah Kim
Ginah Kim
Wed, 5:30 - 6:30 pm
103 Judd, x2312
(818) 279-1374
Miriam Olenick
Miriam Olenick
Tue, 10:00 - 11:00 am
103 Judd, x2312
(917) 371-8501
Scott and Lotus
Scott Plous
Tue/Thu, 2:45 - 3:45 pm
219 Judd, x2368
(860) 685-2368
Sami Ressler
Sami Ressler
Sun, 8:00 - 9:00 pm
103 Judd, x2312
(206) 484-4157
Rachel Leshin
Rachel Verner
Thu, 9:00 - 10:00 am
103 Judd, x2312
(860) 882-3500


Course Objective

The primary goal of this course is to provide an overview of classic and contemporary research in social psychology. A wide range of topics will be covered, including:

  • Self-Perception
  • Cognitive Dissonance
  • Conformity
  • Obedience
  • Social Influence
  • Persuasion Techniques
  • Interpersonal Attraction
  • Group Dynamics
  • Stereotypes and Prejudice
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Happiness and Well-Being
  • Sustainable Living


Course Requirements

Prerequisites:

No prerequisites are required, though many students have found it helpful to take "Foundations of Contemporary Psychology" (Psyc105) or "Psychological Science" (Psyc101) before this course. Students who have taken other general introductions to social psychology, such as "Exploring Social Psychology" (Psyc263) at Wesleyan, are not eligible to take Psyc260.

Attendance:

Because the lectures will cover material that goes beyond the readings, class attendance is absolutely essential (including the class before Thanksgiving Break). Repeated late arrivals to class, or talking while the instructor or other students are speaking, may result in lengthy prison sentences. Please be punctual and refrain from talking in class when others are speaking.

Cell Phones and Other Devices:

Before each class session begins, please turn off all mobile phones, pagers, recording devices, video games, portable hair dryers, chainsaws, jet engines, and nuclear reactors.

Readings:

Unless otherwise noted in class, the required readings are as follows:

I strongly recommend buying Myers' textbook, but if you'd rather not, copies of Social Psychology are on reserve in Olin Library (don't use earlier editions of the textbook; too much material is different from the current edition). Also, you can buy a 180-day subscription to an e-text version, in either online or downloadable format, from CourseSmart.

Assignments:

During the semester, you'll be given several class assignments worth a cumulative total of 40 course points:

Name of Assignment Due Date Point Value
The Random Assignment Assignment September 18 6 points
Norm Violation Assignment October 9 8 points
The Election Challenge November 13 8 points
Web Interview Assignment November 20 8 points
12th Annual Day of Compassion December 4 10 points

Some of these assignments are web-based, and others are participant-observation activities that invite you to experiment with your life and report on the results. The details of each assignment will be given in class a few days before the assignment is due. If at any point you prefer not to complete an assignment (or if your attempt to complete it is unsuccessful), you can still receive full credit by turning in a one-page report discussing the barriers that prevented you from carrying out the assignment. Late assignments will not be accepted except in the event of a serious illness or family emergency; please back-up your work and print a copy at least one day before it's due.



Illustrations

On most Tuesdays, I will begin class by sharing a few illustrations of topics covered in the preceding week. In addition, the TAs and I will compile links to web sites and videos that illustrate course topics, and we'll post these links on a Sites of the Week web page. You're welcome to suggest illustrations -- from the web or elsewhere -- whenever you encounter items that might be of general interest to the class. If you contribute an illustration, please try to include the full item or article with complete reference information (date, volume, issue number, and page numbers, or web address in the case of an illustration from the Internet).



Grading Policy

To avoid the stress of grades based solely on a midterm and final examination, the course will include three examinations and five assignments (the third exam will take place during finals week but will not be longer or count more than the exam before it). All three exams will cover material from class as well as the readings, and all three will contain a mixture of fixed choice formats (roughly 20 general multiple choice items, 15 applied multiple choice items, and 25 true-false items). Here are a few examples:

Multiple Choice Examples

1. Julia is about to go on a first date with LaVon, whom she has emailed through a singles web site but has never met in person. If Julia fears rejection, she might exhibit self-handicapping behavior by:

A. Talking about her high salary to impress LaVon
B. Pretending that she has a broken arm to get sympathy
C. Arriving late so that she has an excuse if LaVon doesn't like her
D. Bringing LaVon an expensive box of chocolates

2. Research suggests that the overjustification effect is mainly a function of self-______:

A. presentation
B. perception
C. serving biases
D. monitoring

True-False Examples

1. As used in social psychology, "attitudes" are generally evaluative in nature (positive or negative), whereas "opinions" need not be.

2. In David Rosenhan's article "On Being Sane in Insane Places," the sanity of the pseudopatients was never detected by hospital workers or other patients on the ward.

Before you turn in a completed exam, please check that no items have been accidentally skipped. In the event that a full page of items is skipped, 50% credit will be given for true-false items and 25% for multiple choice items (the average value that would be received by chance responding), and the resulting exam score will be rounded up or down to the nearest whole point.

Please note: Make-up exams or extensions will NOT be given, except in the event of a serious illness or family emergency (e.g., death of a relative). If you're not feeling well before an exam, please contact me right away rather than taking the exam, because once an exam is taken, the score you receive cannot generally be erased. Also, please note that cell phones and computers must be turned off during exams; anyone found using a mobile device during an examination will automatically receive a score of zero for that exam.

To help prepare for the tests, see Tips on Taking Multiple-Choice Tests and Online Social Psychology Quizzes. The Myers textbook also comes with a CD-ROM that contains study questions.

Because students often take awhile to develop a successful study strategy for the exams, the first exam will count less than the later two exams. Specifically, the first exam will count for 120 course points (2 points for each of 60 items on the test), and the later two exams will each count for 180 points (3 points per test item). Final letter grades will be determined by adding together points from two different sources: (1) the three exams (worth a total of 480 points), and (2) the five assignments (worth a total of 40 points). In other words, all course points are counted equally, regardless of whether they come from exams or assignments.

During the semester, you will be able to check your point total by clicking on the GradeGetter link at the top of this page. Within one week of turning in an assignment or receiving a scored exam, you should check GradeGetter and email me immediately if you discover an error (after that time, your scores will generally remain fixed). Likewise, if after speaking with the TAs you feel that your answer to an exam item marked wrong should actually be considered correct, you have one week to email me a statement explaining why your answer is correct.

Once the course is over, your cumulative point total will be translated into a final letter grade. Because the exams in this class will be created from scratch, it's difficult to specify in advance how various exam scores will translate into particular letter grades. Nonetheless, you may use the following cutoffs from a previous year as a rough guide in translating course point totals into letter grades (the final cutoffs will be different from these, but not by much). These cutoffs are based on Peterson's, which is the most common method for translating between grades and 100-point scales.


Letter Grade Cumulative Point Total
A+ 97.0% and above
A 94.0% and above
A- 90.0% and above
B+ 87.0% and above
B 84.0% and above
B- 80.0% and above
C+ 77.0% and above
C 74.0% and above
C- 70.0% and above
D+ 67.0% and above
D 64.0% and above
D- 60.0% and above
F Below 60.0%



Laptops, Recording, and Special Needs

Laptops are permitted, but studies by Fried (2008), Hembrooke and Gay (2003), and others suggest that they tend to lower student performance (e.g., from surfing the web in class, answering email, and other multitasking) and that they disturb nearby students, so I wouldn't advise bringing one unless you truly need it. In fact, research on multitasking has even found that texting during class is associated with lower grades (Ellis, Daniels, and Jauregui, 2010), which suggests that the smartest mode for smart phones is "off."

If you have a disability or any special needs, please notify me and the Dean's Office during the first week of the semester, and I'll do my best to accommodate them. The TAs and I are committed to creating the most inclusive and supportive learning environment possible.

Here's a statement that Wesleyan asks instructors to include in all course syllabi:

It is the policy of Wesleyan University to provide reasonable accommodations to students with documented disabilities. Students, however, are responsible for registering with Disabilities Services, in addition to making requests known to me in a timely manner. If you require accommodations in this class, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, so that appropriate arrangements can be made. The procedures for registering with Disabilities Services can be found at:

Please note: Audio or video recording of lectures without permission is expressly forbidden.



Tentative Course Outline and Readings

Assignments should be read in the order below following each class (except for assignments immediately before an exam, which may be read early if you prefer).

Tuesday, Sep. 4: Introduction

  • Myers Chapter 1--Introducing Social Psychology

Thursday, Sep. 6: The Social Construction of Reality

Tuesday, Sep. 11: Interpreting Behavior ("Interpersonal Perception Task" DVD)

Thursday, Sep. 13: Attributional Biases

Tuesday, Sep. 18: The Relationship Between Attitudes and Behavior

    Deadline: Random Assignment Assignment Due

  • Myers Chapter 4--Behavior and Attitudes (pp. 118-134)
  • Optional reading: Larrick, R. P., & Soll, J. B. (2008). The MPG illusion. Science, 320, 1593-1594.

Thursday, Sep. 20: Cognitive Dissonance and Self-Perception

Tuesday, Sep. 25: Deindividuation and Dehumanization ("Quiet Rage" Video)

Thursday, Sep. 27: First Examination

Tuesday, Oct. 2: Obedience to Authority ("Obedience" Video)

Thursday, Oct. 4: Conformity ("Candid Camera" DVD Clips)

Tuesday, Oct. 9: Persuasion: An Overview of Tactics

Thursday, Oct. 11: Compliance Techniques

Tuesday, Oct. 16: Fall Break!

Thursday, Oct. 18: Money, Message and Margins: Political Advertising in the 2012 Presidential Election
StarStarStarSpecial guest lecture by Professor Erika Fowler, Director the Wesleyan Media Project

Tuesday, Oct. 23: Negotiation and Group Dynamics ("Abilene Paradox" Video)

Thursday, Oct. 25: Individual Versus Group Performance (Class Experiment)

  • Myers Chapter 8--Group Influence

Tuesday, Oct. 30: Intergroup Relations

Thursday, Nov. 1: The Faces of Prejudice ("A Class Divided" and "Blue Eyed" DVDs)

Tuesday, Nov. 6: Group Discussion on Discrimination (20/20 DVD Clip on Prejudice)

Thursday, Nov. 8: Second Examination

Tuesday, Nov. 13: Aggression ("Bobo Doll" and "Does TV Kill?" DVDs)

Thursday, Nov. 15: Attraction and Intimacy

Tuesday, Nov. 20: Bystander Intervention ("Brother's Keeper" DVD)

    Deadline: Web Interview Assignment Due

  • Myers Chapter 12--Helping

Thursday, Nov. 22: Thanksgiving Break!

Tuesday, Nov. 27: Peace and Conflict Resolution

Thursday, Nov. 29: Clinical Applications of Social Psychology

  • Myers Chapter 14--Social Psychology in the Clinic

Tuesday, Dec. 4: Tips on Leading a Happy Life ("This Emotional Life" DVD)

    Deadline: Day of Compassion Assignment Due

  • Myers Chapter 15--Social Psychology in Court
  • Optional reading: Taylor, P., Funk, C., & Craighill, P. (2006, February 13). Are we happy yet? Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.

    Lecture link (required video):
    How to Buy Happiness

Thursday, Dec. 6: Empathy--A Magic Bullet?

Thursday, Dec. 13: Third Examination

    2:00-3:20 pm in Shanklin 107 (where class normally meets)

    [Note: Please don't ask to take the test at a different time. The Registrar sets exam times, and even if the TAs and I were able to prepare the exam before the Registrar's stipulated time, administering the test at multiple times would create extra work for the TAs and CAs when they're taking their own exams. We thank you for your understanding.]



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