Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Psychology 260 Course Information

Course Title: Social Psychology
Semester: Fall, 2015
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: Adela Fine, Samantha (Sam) Ho, Jeanne Li, Vivian Liu, Gabriella (Gaby) Montinola, Jessica (Jess) Zalph

Course Assistants: Alyssa Glanzer, Tanya Horwitz, Angela Kuang, Jade Ransohoff


Quick Links
Sites of the Week
Myers Student Web Site
Test-Taking Tips
Grading Policy
Moodle Page
Wesleyan Psychology Department

Instructor and TA Office Hours
Name Time and Place Top-Secret Hotline
Adela Fine
Adela Fine
Mon, 7:00 - 8:00 pm
Judd 103, x2312
(415) 350-9571
Samantha Ho
Samantha Ho
Wed, 3:00 - 4:00 pm
Judd 103, x2312
(860) 807-5684
Jeanne Li
Jeanne Li
Fri, 1:30 - 2:30 pm
Judd 103, x2312
(917) 826-5553
Vivian Liu
Vivian Liu
Thu, 7:00 - 8:00 pm
Judd 103, x2312
(860) 759-0476
Gabriella Montinola
Gabriella Montinola
Wed, 10:30 - 11:30 am
Judd 103, x2312
(617) 840-5051
Scott and Lotus
Scott Plous
Tue/Thu, 2:45 - 3:45 pm
Judd 219, x2368
(860) 685-2368
Jess Zalph
Jess Zalph
Sun, 8:00 - 9:00 pm
Judd 103, x2312
(646) 427-5160

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


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.


Because the lectures will cover material that goes beyond the readings, class attendance is absolutely essential. 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, 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'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.


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 22 6 points
Norm Violation Assignment October 13 10 points
Web Interview Assignment December 3 10 points
15th Annual Day of Compassion December 8 14 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 psychological factors 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.


On most Tuesdays, I'll 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 four 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 35 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 four 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 Moodle link at the top of this page. Within one week of turning in an assignment or receiving a scored exam, you should check Moodle 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:

Wesleyan University is committed to ensuring that all qualified students with disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from its programs and services. To receive accommodations, a student must have a documented disability as defined by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, and provide documentation of the disability. Because accommodations may require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, please contact Dean Patey in Disability Resources, North College, Room 021, or call 685-5581 for an appointment as soon as possible to discuss your needs and the process for requesting accommodations.

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. 8: Introduction

Thursday, Sep. 10: The Social Construction of Reality

  • Myers Chapter 2--The Self in a Social World

Tuesday, Sep. 15: Interpreting Behavior ("Interpersonal Perception Task" DVD)

Thursday, Sep. 17: Attributional Biases

  • Myers Chapter 3--Social Beliefs and Judgments

Tuesday, Sep. 22: 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. 24: Cognitive Dissonance and Self-Perception

Tuesday, Sep. 29: Deindividuation and Dehumanization ("Quiet Rage" Video)

Thursday, Oct. 1: First Examination

Tuesday, Oct. 6: Obedience to Authority ("Obedience" Video)

Thursday, Oct. 8: Conformity ("Candid Camera" DVD Clips)

  • Myers Chapter 6--Conformity and Obedience

Tuesday, Oct. 13: Persuasion: An Overview of Tactics

    Deadline: Norm Violation Assignment Due

  • Myers Chapter 7--Persuasion

Thursday, Oct. 15: Compliance Techniques

Tuesday, Oct. 20: Negotiation and Group Dynamics ("Abilene Paradox" Video)

Thursday, Oct. 22: Individual Versus Group Performance (Class Experiment)

  • Myers Chapter 8--Group Influence

Tuesday, Oct. 27: Fall Break!

Thursday, Oct. 29: Intergroup Relations

Tuesday, Nov. 3: The Faces of Prejudice ("A Class Divided" and "Blue Eyed" DVDs)

Thursday, Nov. 5: Group Discussion on Discrimination (20/20 DVD Clip on Prejudice)

Tuesday, Nov. 10: Aggression ("Bobo Doll" and "Does TV Kill?" DVDs)

Thursday, Nov. 12: Second Examination

Tuesday, Nov. 17: Attraction and Intimacy

Thursday, Nov. 19: Bystander Intervention ("Brother's Keeper" DVD)

  • Myers Chapter 12--Helping

Tuesday, Nov. 24: Social Psychology Online (No Class Meeting)

Thursday, Nov. 26: Thanksgiving Break!

Tuesday, Dec. 1: Peace and Conflict Resolution

Thursday, Dec. 3: Clinical Applications of Social Psychology

    Deadline: Web Interview Assignment Due

  • Myers Chapter 14--Social Psychology in the Clinic

Friday, Dec. 4: The 15th Annual Day of Compassion StarStarStar

Tuesday, Dec. 8: 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.

Thursday, Dec. 10: Empathy--A Magic Bullet?

Saturday, Dec. 19: Third Examination

    2:00 pm to 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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