Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Psyc260: Social Psychology Course Site

Instructor: Scott Plous
Semester: Fall, 2018
Time: 1:20-2:40 PM, Tuesday and Thursday
Classroom: Kerr Lecture Hall (107 Shanklin)
Enrollment Limit: 150 students
Credit: 1.0 A/F (graded only)

Teaching Apprentices: Julia Boland, Alexandra Czaran, Lily Davis, Rebecca Foster, Saakshi Kakar, Minyue (Stacey) Zuo

Course Assistants: Hannah Einstein, Syed Hussain, Tatum Leclair, Emma Roush

For Fall, 2019: TA Application Form and CA Application Form


Quick Links
Sites of the Week
Moodle Course Page
Student Assignments
Test-Taking Tips
Grading Policy
Wesleyan Psychology Department

Our office hours: Please stop by and say hello...
Name Time and Place Top-Secret Hotline
Julia Boland
Julia Boland
Thu, 8:00–9:00 pm
Judd 103, x2312
(703) 559-4529
Alexandra Czaran
Alexandra Czaran
Tue 8:00–9:00 pm
Judd 103, x2312
(646) 530-4766
Lily Davis
Lily Davis
Mon, 10:30–11:30 am
Judd 103, x2312
(847) 644-7182
Rebecca Foster
Rebecca Foster
Sun, 8:00–9:00 pm
Judd 103, x2312
(203) 500-5670
Saakshi Kakar
Saakshi Kakar
Fri, 10:30–11:30 am
Judd 103, x2312
(646) 334 2087
Scott and Lotus
Scott Plous
Tue/Thu, 3:00–4:00 pm
Judd 219, x2368
(860) 685-2368
Minyue (Stacey) Zuo
Minyue (Stacey) Zuo
Wed, 8:00–9:00 pm
Judd 103, x2312
(860) 807-5551

Course Objectives

Welcome! The general 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
In addition to exploring these topics, students will learn about how social psychology research is conducted; understand how research data are interpreted (and sometimes misinterpreted); study the role of culture, gender, race, and other social categories in shaping behavior; and learn how to apply social psychology principles, theories, and research findings to:

  1. Improve individual and group decision making
  2. Reduce interpersonal and intergroup conflict
  3. Enhance human health and well-being
  4. Address social, societal, and global challenges
  5. Cultivate empathy in oneself and others

Course Requirements


No prerequisites are needed. This course is open to anyone who hasn't already taken an introductory social psychology course at Wesleyan (e.g., Psyc263).


Because the lectures will cover material that goes beyond the readings, class attendance is absolutely essential. Students who repeatedly arrive late to class, or who talk while the instructor or other students are speaking, risk being flown to an iceberg and sent out to sea. Please be punctual and refrain from talking in class when others are speaking.

Mobile Phones and Other Devices:

Before each class, kindly turn off all mobile phones, recording devices, video games, portable hair dryers, chainsaws, and nuclear reactors. Research by End et al. (2010) found that the ring of a mobile phone can disrupt the notetaking and test performance of students who hear it, so be considerate of others sitting near you.


The required readings include:

  • Myers, D. G., & Twenge, J. M. (2016). Social Psychology (12th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. [ISBN #: 978-0-07-786197-1]

  • Psychology 260 online readings (available through Moodle)

I strongly recommend buying the textbook in e-book format, which is better for the environment and easier on your wallet, but if you'd rather not, you can buy a loose-leaf paper version (McGraw-Hill doesn't offer a bound option). I've also placed loose-leaf copies of Social Psychology on reserve in Science Library.

Please don't use earlier editions of the textbook; too much material is different from the current edition. Also, I would advise against using international editions that differ from the recommended text in pagination or other respects.

To get the e-book, follow these steps:

  1. Visit and create an account for yourself.
  2. Rent Social Psychology (a 130-day rental costs roughly $44).
  3. Download the "Bookshelf" app from the VitalSource Support page.
  4. Once Bookshelf is installed, open the app and download the book.
  5. Double click on the book in Bookshelf to access it.

If you encounter any problems, you can contact VitalSource Support 24/7 by phone at 855-200-4146 or through a live chat session.


During the semester you'll be given four assignments worth a total of 40 course points. Some assignments will be web-based, and others will be 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 due date. If at any point you prefer not to complete this work (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. Note, though, that late assignments will not be accepted except in the event of a serious illness or family emergency, so be sure to back up your work and submit the final copy online by noon on the due date.

Name of Assignment Date Due Point Value
The Random Assignment Assignment September 18 6 points
Norm Violation Assignment October 9 10 points
Web Interview Assignment November 27 10 points
18th Annual Day of Compassion December 4 14 points


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 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 exam, the course will include three exams 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). Each exam will cover the class sessions and assigned readings using fixed choice items (roughly 35 multiple choice 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.

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 mobile 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.

Because students often take a while to develop a successful study strategy for the exams, the first exam will count less than the latter two exams. Specifically, the first exam will count for 120 course points (2 points for each of 60 items on the test), and the latter 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 the Wesleyan Registrar's GPA conversion scale.

Letter Grade Cumulative Point Total
A+ 96.6% and above
A 93.3% and above
A- 90.0% and above
B+ 86.6% and above
B 83.3% and above
B- 80.0% and above
C+ 76.6% and above
C 73.3% and above
C- 70.0% and above
D+ 66.6% and above
D 63.3% and above
D- 60.0% and above
F Below 60.0%

Honor Code Tips

I'm happy to say that honor code violations are rare in this class. To keep it that way, here are a few tips: When submitting assignments, make sure that your work is original (not reprinted, excerpted, or adapted from existing work such as papers for other classes, books, articles, web pages). Similarly, all text, tables, figures, and images reproduced from other sources should include clear reference citations, and all quoted passages should use quotation marks to indicate that they're quotations. If you're not sure how to properly cite a source, just ask me rather than risking an honor code violation.

On exam days, the TAs will serve as proctors who remain in the room and ensure that noise and distractions are kept to a minimum. In addition, toward the end of each exam session I will return to answer questions if any of the test items are unclear, so please don't ask the TAs or nearby students for assistance, and please don't answer questions from other students (remember, it's an honor code violation to help others cheat even if you aren't). For more information on the honor code, please see the Wesleyan Student Handbook.

Laptops, Recording, and Special Needs

Laptops are permitted, but studies by Fried (2008), Hembrooke and Gay (2003), and Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014) suggest that they tend to lower student performance (not just from browsing the web, answering email, or multitasking, but because laptop notes tend to involve transcription, whereas written notes often involve conceptual reframing and deeper processing). Also, laptops frequently distract other students. For the greater good, then, please don't bring a laptop unless you truly need it.

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 Laura Patey in Accessibility Services, 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.

Note: Audio or video recording of lectures without permission is not allowed. If it's difficult for you to take notes in class, I'm happy to discuss other options with you.

Tentative Course Outline and Readings

When I was a student, I often wished my instructors would offer articles and reading suggestions beyond the textbook, so that's what I've done below. These brief readings -- most of which are strictly optional -- will give you a taste of what research journal articles look like, let you dig deeper into some interesting topics, and provide a way to read about social psychology on your own, ideally with a critical eye as to the strengths and weaknesses of the work. Optional readings will never be covered on the exams.

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

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 (print copy collected in class)

  • Textbook Chapter 4--Behavior and Attitudes (pp. 97-108)
  • 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: Negotiation and Group Dynamics ("Abilene Paradox" Video)

Thursday, Oct. 18: Individual Versus Group Performance (Class Experiment)

  • Textbook Chapter 8--Group Influence

Tuesday, Oct. 23: Fall Break!

Thursday, Oct. 25: Intergroup Relations

Tuesday, Oct. 30: The Faces of Prejudice ("A Class Divided" and "Blue Eyed" DVDs)

Thursday, Nov. 1: Group Discussion on Discrimination (20/20 DVD Clip on Prejudice)

Tuesday, Nov. 6: Aggression ("Bobo Doll" and "Does TV Kill?" DVDs)

Thursday, Nov. 8: Second Examination

Tuesday, Nov. 13: Attraction and Intimacy

Thursday, Nov. 15: Bystander Intervention ("Brother's Keeper" DVD)

Tuesday, Nov. 20: Social Psychology Online (No Class Meeting)

Thursday, Nov. 22: Thanksgiving Break!

Tuesday, Nov. 27: Peace and Conflict Resolution

    Deadline: Web Interview Assignment Due (uploaded in PDF format via Moodle by noon)

  • Textbook Chapter 13--Conflict and Peacemaking
  • Optional reading: Vedantam, S. (2006, December 4). Iraq and the danger of psychological entrapment. Washington Post, p. A2.

Thursday, Nov. 29: Clinical Applications of Social Psychology

  • Textbook Chapter 14--Social Psychology in the Clinic

Friday, Nov. 30: The 18th Annual Day of Compassion StarStarStar

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

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

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

Wednesday, Dec. 12: 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 required 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.]

Return to Top

©1996-2024, S. Plous