Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Psychology 260 Course Information

Course Title: Social Psychology
Semester: Fall, 2008
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: Philip Benjamin, Sarah Edelman, Vidya Neelakantan, Jodie Rubenstein, Deepti Sood, Emma Zoloth

Course Assistants: Dustin Brockner, Ozum Demirel, Miriam Krent, Becca Turkewitz

For Fall, 2009: TA Application Form and CA Application Form


 Quick Links
Course Requirements
Tentative Outline and Readings
Electronic Reserve Readings
Test-Taking Tips
Grading Policy
Sites of the Week
Online Psychology Career Center
Wesleyan Psychology Department

Instructor and TA Office Hours
Name Time Location Phone
Benjamin Wed, noon - 1:00 pm B3 Judd, x2206 (206) 605-0862
Edelman Tue, 7:00 - 8:00 pm B3 Judd, x2206 (561) 289-1228
Neelakantan Mon, 3:00 - 4:00 pm B3 Judd, x2206 (860) 759-4592
Plous Tue/Thu, 2:45 - 3:45 pm 219 Judd, x2368 685-2368
Rubenstein Sun, 7:00 - 8:00 pm B3 Judd, x2206 (703) 217-2233
Sood Thu, 11:00 - noon B3 Judd, x2206 (203) 247-4439
Zoloth Fri, 10:00 - 11:00 am B3 Judd, x2206 (617) 308-2637

Course Summary

This course provides an overview of classic and contemporary research in social psychology. A wide range of topics will be covered, including:

  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
  • Cognitive Dissonance
  • Attribution Theory
  • Conformity
  • Obedience
  • Persuasion Techniques
  • Compliance and Negotiation
  • Interpersonal Attraction
  • Aggression
  • Group Dynamics
  • Stereotypes and Prejudice
  • Psychology of Terrorism
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Environmentalism

Course Requirements


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 and Participation:

Because the lectures will cover material that is not contained in the readings, class attendance is absolutely essential. Repeated late arrivals to class, or talking while the instructor or other students are speaking, are disrespectful to the instructor and other class members. Please be punctual and do not talk in class while others are speaking.

Cell Phones and Other Devices:

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


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

I strongly recommend buying Myers' textbook, but if you would rather not, copies of Social Psychology are on reserve in the Science Library. You should not use earlier editions of this textbook, because too much material is different from the current edition.


During the semester you will be given several class assignments to complete, worth a cumulative total of 30 course points:

Name of Assignment Due Date Point Value
The Random Assignment Assignment September 16 5 points
Norm Violation Assignment October 9 6 points
The Election Challenge November 11 6 points
Web Interview Assignment November 18 6 points
8th Annual Day of Compassion December 2 7 points

Three of these assignments are web-based, and two are participant-observation activities that require 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 or reports will not be accepted, so please be sure to back-up your computer files and print your work at least one day before it is due.


At the beginning of class most Tuesdays (except the first Tuesday of the semester), I will typically begin by sharing a few illustrations of topics discussed in class or in the readings during the preceding week. In addition, the Teaching Apprentices and I will compile links to web sites and streaming videos that illustrate course topics, and we will post these links on a Sites of the Week web page. You are invited to contribute illustrations -- both web and non-web -- whenever you encounter illustrations that might be of general interest to the class. If you contribute an illustration, please try to include full length accounts 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. 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).

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 final 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).

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 30 points). In other words, all course points are counted equally, regardless of whether they involve exams, assignments, or test item penalties.

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 72 hours of turning in an assignment or receiving a scored exam, you should check GradeGetter and email Professor Plous 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 72 hours to email Professor Plous 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 is 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%

Special Needs

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

Here is the statement 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:

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. 2: Introduction

Thursday, Sep. 4: The Social Construction of Reality

Tuesday, Sep. 9: Interpreting Behavior ("Interpersonal Perception Task" DVD)

Thursday, Sep. 11: Attributional Biases

Tuesday, Sep. 16: The Relationship Between Attitudes and Behavior

    Deadline: Random Assignment Assignment Due

  • Myers Chapter 4--Behavior and Attitudes (pp. 118-136)
  • Myers, D. G. (2001, December). Do we fear the right things? APS Observer, 14(10).
  • Optional reading: Larrick, R. P., & Soll, J. B. (2008). The MPG illusion. Science, 320, 1593-1594.

Thursday, Sep. 18: Cognitive Dissonance

  • Myers Chapter 4--Behavior and Attitudes (pp. 136-149)

Tuesday, Sep. 23: Deindividuation and Dehumanization ("Quiet Rage" Video)

Thursday, Sept. 25: First Examination

Tuesday, Sep. 30: Obedience to Authority ("Obedience" Video)

Thursday, Oct. 2: Conformity ("Candid Camera" DVD Clips)

Tuesday, Oct. 7: Persuasion: An Overview of Tactics

Thursday, Oct. 9: Compliance

Tuesday, Oct. 14: Negotiation and Group Dynamics ("Abilene Paradox" Video)

Thursday, Oct. 16: Individual Versus Group Performance (Class Experiment)

  • Myers Chapter 8--Group Influence

Tuesday, Oct. 21: Group-Level Biases

Thursday, Oct. 23: The Faces of Prejudice ("A Class Divided" and "Blue Eyed" DVD)

Tuesday, Oct. 28: Fall Break!

Thursday, Oct. 30: Group Discussion on Discrimination (20/20 DVD Clip on Prejudice)

Tuesday, Nov. 4: Aggression ("Bobo Doll" and "Does TV Kill?" DVDs)

Thursday, Nov. 6: Second Examination

Tuesday, Nov. 11: Attraction and Intimacy

Thursday, Nov. 13: Bystander Intervention ("Brother's Keeper" DVD)

  • Myers Chapter 12--Helping

Tuesday, Nov. 18: Peace and the Psychology of Terrorism

Thursday, Nov. 20: Clinical Applications of Social Psychology

  • Myers Chapter 14--Social Psychology in the Clinic

Tuesday, Nov. 25: StarStarSpecial Event--A Panel of Social PsychologistsStarStar

Thursday, Nov. 27: Thanksgiving Break!

Tuesday, Dec. 2: Empathy--A Magic Bullet?

    Deadline: Day of Compassion Assignment Due

  • Myers Chapter 16--Social Psychology and the Sustainable Future

Thursday, Dec. 4: Third Examination

Return to Top

©1996-2024, S. Plous