Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Psyc260: Social Psychology Course Site

Instructor: Scott Plous
Semester: Fall, 2020
Time: 1:00-2:20 pm EST, Tuesday and Thursday
Format: Online synchronous
Enrollment Limit: 150 students
Credit: 1.0 A/F or CR/U (60% or higher needed to pass)

Teaching Apprentices: Alissa Dobrinsky, Hannah Docter-Loeb, Jamee Lockard, Neena Perez-Rojas, Thomas Pfefer, Helena Sanchez

Course Assistants: Tracy Cui, Ruby Rechler, Gillian Weeks

For Spring, 2022: 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 (EST) and Place Top-Secret Hotline
Alissa Dobrinsky
Alissa Dobrinsky
Wed, 3:30–4:30 pm
Concierge for: Students A-D
Zoom link
(305) 773-3511
Hannah Docter-Loeb
Hannah Docter-Loeb
Thu, 9:00-10:00 pm
Concierge for: Students E-H
Zoom link
(202) 870-0405
Jamee Lockard
Jamee Lockard
Mon, 3:00–4:00 pm
Concierge for: Students I-L
Zoom link
(347) 702-1640
Neena Perez-Rojas
Neena Perez-Rojas
Fri, 1:00–2:00 pm
Concierge for: Students M-N
Zoom link
(917) 865-1119
Thomas Pfefer
Thomas Pfefer
Tue, 8:00–9:00 pm
Concierge for: Students O-S
Zoom link
(484) 353-8124
Scott and Lotus
Scott Plous
Tue/Thu, 2:30–3:30 pm
Zoom link
(860) 685-2368
Helena Sanchez
Helena Sanchez
Sun, 5:00–6:00 pm
Concierge for: Students T-Z
Zoom link
(646) 957-2373

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.


Because the lectures will cover material that goes beyond the readings, class attendance is absolutely essential. Students who repeatedly miss class sessions or join late may be shipped to an iceberg and sent out to sea.

Here are a few tips to ensure that you have the best online experience possible:

  • If you can, use a computer rather than a mobile device, because I'll be showing visual aids that are difficult if not impossible to see on a small screen.

  • Try to find a quiet space where you're unlikely to be distracted or to distract others.

  • Before you join a Zoom session, make sure to close all other apps on your computer, including anti-virus software, back-up software such as Dropbox or Time Machine, email, games, weather reports, and anything else that consumes Internet bandwidth.

  • If you have earbuds or headphones, please use them to enhance audio and cut out background noise.

  • Keep your video (webcam) turned on during class, and make sure that the brightest light source is in front of you rather than behind you, so that everyone can clearly see everyone else. This will make class sessions more social and allow all of us to associate names and faces, because Zoom displays participant names for each class member.

  • Play with the Zoom controls on the top and bottom of the window to optimize your experience. For example, during small-group discussions, you might click on Gallery View to see all group members simultaneously. To see the bottom controls, just position your cursor on the bottom edge of the Zoom window.

  • If you have a question or concern during any lecture, feel free to post it in Zoom's Chat window, and a TA will try to respond in real-time.


The required readings include:

  • Myers, D. G., & Twenge, J. M. (2018). Social Psychology (13th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. [ISBN #: 978-1260397116]

  • 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.

The campus bookstore is offering a 180-day e-book rental of the Social Psychology textbook for approximately $44.00, which has the convenience of being accessible directly through Moodle and doesn't require a credit card purchase. All students enrolled in the course are automatically signed up for this rental, which will be billed to their student account after the course add/drop period ends unless they choose to opt-out before 11:59 pm EST on September 11. If you wish to cancel your textbook rental in Moodle, simply follow these steps:

  1. Click on the textbook link near the top of our Moodle page.
  2. On the VitalSource e-book page, click on "Want to opt out?"
  3. Confirm that you'd like to cancel the e-book rental.
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 15 6 points
The Election Challenge November 10 10 points
Web Interview Assignment November 17 10 points
20th Annual Day of Compassion December 1 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.

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. For students taking the course pass-fail (CR/U), a cumulative score of 60% (312 points) is needed to pass and receive credit for the course.

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. For students taking the course pass-fail (CR/U), a passing grade of CR will require a cumulative percentage of 60.0% or higher.

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.

During exam days, students on campus will be divided into groups and assigned a location where a TA or CA will serve as proctor who remains in the room and ensures that noise and distractions are kept to a minimum. For students off campus, the exams will be given online at the same time that the rest of the class takes them. In the event that a problem arises during the administration of an exam, the TAs, CAs, and remote students will be able to reach me via Zoom, but students should not communicate with one another (it's a serious honor code violation to help others take an exam, even if you have only the best of intentions). For more information on the honor code, please see the Wesleyan Student Handbook.

Class Recordings and Special Needs

After careful reflection and consultation with the TAs, I've decided not to record our class sessions. In my view, live class sessions that aren't recorded have several key advantages, such as:

  • Better attendance and interactivity
  • Higher levels of engagement and class participation
  • A greater sense of community
  • A safer space for students to ask and answer questions without worrying that they're going to be recorded for everyone else to watch

As usual for this course, the 6 TAs and I will hold 8 different office hours throughout the week for students to meet with us and get briefed on any class sessions that they miss.

I realize that some class members may be in a different time zone and find it difficult to take the course this semester because the class sessions, office hours, review sessions, and exams might take place in the middle of the night where they are. If you're in this situation, my best advice would be to take a different course this semester and consider taking Social Psychology next fall if possible.

If that's not feasible, however, and you face certain difficulties taking the course—whether it's your time zone, Internet reliability, computer hardware, home environment, or any other special hurdle—please contact me right away. The TAs and I understand that students often face obstacles that are not their fault, and we will do our absolute best to help (or to connect you with others who can help).

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'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.

Please take note: Audio or video recording of lectures without permission is not allowed. If it's difficult for you to write down notes during 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. 1: Introduction

Thursday, Sep. 3: The Social Construction of Reality

Tuesday, Sep. 8: Interpreting Behavior ("Interpersonal Perception Task" DVD)

Thursday, Sep. 10: Attributional Biases

Tuesday, Sep. 15: The Relationship Between Attitudes and Behavior

    Deadline: Random Assignment Assignment Due (email to Concierge TA)

  • Textbook Chapter 4--Behavior and Attitudes (pp. 89-100)
  • Optional reading: Larrick, R. P., & Soll, J. B. (2008). The MPG illusion. Science, 320, 1593-1594.

Thursday, Sep. 17: Cognitive Dissonance and Self-Perception

Tuesday, Sep. 22: Deindividuation and Dehumanization ("Quiet Rage" Video)

Thursday, Sep. 24: First Examination

Tuesday, Sep. 29: Obedience to Authority ("Obedience" Video)

Thursday, Oct. 1: Conformity ("Candid Camera" DVD Clips)

Tuesday, Oct. 6: Persuasion: An Overview of Tactics

Thursday, Oct. 8: Compliance Techniques

Tuesday, Oct. 13: Negotiation and Group Dynamics ("Abilene Paradox" Video)

Thursday, Oct. 15: Individual Versus Group Performance (Class Experiment)

  • Textbook Chapter 8--Group Influence

Tuesday, Oct. 20: Intergroup Biases and Social Justice

Thursday, Oct. 22: The Faces of Prejudice ("A Class Divided" and "Blue Eyed" DVDs)

Tuesday, Oct. 27: Group Discussion on Discrimination (20/20 DVD Clip on Prejudice)

Thursday, Oct. 29: Aggression ("Bobo Doll" and "Does TV Kill?" DVDs)

Tuesday, Nov. 3: NO CLASS: Election Day!

Thursday, Nov. 5: Second Examination

Tuesday, Nov. 10: Attraction and Intimacy

Thursday, Nov. 12: Bystander Intervention ("Brother's Keeper" DVD)

  • Textbook Chapter 12--Helping

Tuesday, Nov. 17: 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. 19: Clinical Applications of Social Psychology

  • Textbook Chapter 14--Social Psychology in the Clinic

Tuesday, Nov. 24: NO CLASS: Social Psychology Online

Thursday, Nov. 26: NO CLASS: Thanksgiving Break!

Friday, Nov. 27: The 20th Annual Day of Compassion StarStarStar

Tuesday, Dec. 1: Tips on Leading a Happy Life ("This Emotional Life" DVD)

    Deadline: Day of Compassion Assignment Due (uploaded in PDF format via Moodle by noon)

  • Textbook Chapter 15--Social Psychology in Court
  • Optional reading: Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2014). Prosocial spending and happiness: Using money to benefit others pays off. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(1) 41-47.
  • Optional reading: Helliwell, J. F., Layard, R., Sachs, J. D., & De Neve, J-E. (Eds.). (2020). World Happiness Report 2020. New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
  • 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. 3: Empathy--A Magic Bullet?

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

Wednesday, Dec. 9: Third Examination (10:00 am to 11:20 am)

    [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.]

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