Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Psyc260: Social Psychology Course Site

Instructor: Scott Plous
Semester: Fall, 2023
Time: 1:20-2:40 PM, Tuesday and Thursday
Classroom: Kerr Lecture Hall (107 Shanklin)
Enrollment Limit: 110 students
Credit: 1.0 A/F or CR/U (70% or higher needed to pass)

Teaching Apprentices: Abrielle Belisle, Matt D'Annunzio, Declan Derfler-Murphy, Zariah Greene, Bex Kachman, Nagena Latifi

Course Assistants: Ella Harris, Lila Popell, Jennifer Yu


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, Place, and Room Phone Top-Secret Hotline
Abrielle Belisle
Abrielle Belisle
Sun, 8:00–9:00 pm
Concierge for: Students A-D
Judd 103, 685-2312
(860) 532-8933
Matt D'Annunzio
Matt D'Annunzio
Tue, 8:00-9:00 pm
Concierge for: Students E-Ho
Judd 103, 685-2312
(215) 964-2138
Declan Derfler-Murphy
Declan Derfler-Murphy
Wed, 5:00–6:00 pm
Concierge for: Students Hu-L
Judd 103, 685-2312
(508) 954-8197
Zariah Greene
Zariah Greene
Thu, 11:00–noon
Concierge for: Students M-O
Judd 103, 685-2312
(631) 346-5099
Bex Kachman
Bex Kachman
Mon, 12:30–1:30 pm
Concierge for: Students P-Sn
Judd 103, 685-2312
(202) 390-8047
Nagena Latifi
Nagena Latifi
Fri, 3:00–4:00 pm
Concierge for: Students So-Z
Judd 103, 685-2312
(860) 807-6407
Scott and Lotus
Scott Plous
Tue/Thu, 3:00–4:00 pm
Zoom Link, x2368
(860) 685-2368

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, you'll 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.


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. (2022). Social Psychology (14th ed.). McGraw-Hill. [ISBN #: 9781260718898]

  • 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 a loose-leaf copy 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 5-year e-book rental of the Social Psychology textbook for $49 through Inclusive Access (ISBN: 9781260888522), 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 5:00 pm EST on September 15 (students who drop the course are automatically opted out). 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 resulting 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 visit the VitalSource help page or 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 50 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 19 8 points
Norm Violation Assignment October 10 12 points
Web Interview Assignment November 28 12 points
23rd Annual Day of Compassion December 5 18 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 multiple choice and 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 changed. 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.

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 110 course points (2 points for each of 55 items on the test), and the latter two exams will each count for 180 points (3 points for each of 60 test items). Final letter grades will be determined by adding together points from: (1) the three exams (worth a total of 470 points), and (2) the four assignments (worth a total of 50 points). For students taking the course pass-fail (CR/U), a cumulative score of 70% (364 out of 520 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 an assignment or exam being scored, 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 percentage cutoffs from a previous year as a rough guide in translating your cumulative course point total out of 520 into a letter grade (the final cutoffs may be different, but not by much). These cutoffs are based on the Wesleyan Registrar's GPA conversion scale.

Course Letter Grade Cumulative Percentage
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

To avoid honor code violations, it's useful to know how Wesleyan defines plagiarism:

"Plagiarism [is] the presentation of words, ideas, images, data, or research that are not your original work without citation. This includes words, ideas, and images generated by artificial intelligence."

Even though the definition above italicizes the sentence about artificial intelligence, the most important words are "without citation." To help you cite outside sources, I'll be asking you to add an "Outside Sources" page to each paper, identifying any text, ideas, or images you didn't create yourself, and I won't penalize you for using outside sources.

Here are three examples:

Norm Violation Paper: List of Outside Sources

Other people: Yes
Internet and/or publications: No
Artificial intelligence: Yes

Description: For this paper, I asked ChatGPT for ideas about social norms I might break. The norm I chose to violate (interrupting my roommate over and over while we spoke) was something ChatGPT suggested. I also got writing assistance from the Wesleyan Writing Workshop before submitting the final draft.

Web Interview Paper: List of Outside Sources

Other people: No
Internet and/or publications: No
Artificial intelligence: No

Day of Compassion Paper: List of Outside Sources

Other people: No
Internet and/or publications: Yes
Artificial intelligence: Yes

Description: For this assignment, I searched Google for definitions of compassion and used the one here: I also asked ChatGPT to correct grammatical errors and typographic mistakes in a rough draft of my paper before submitting the final version. All other work was my own.

*** Please include an "Outside Sources" page for each paper you submit, even if outside sources weren't used (see the second example above for the format to follow in that case).

Note that in these three examples, the list of outside sources reported where the ideas came from when they weren't the student's, giving credit where credit was due—they weren't limited to reference citations for quoted text or copied images. By disclosing outside sources openly and honestly, you will never need to worry about honor code violations with your papers in this class, as long as you're the one carrying out the assigned activity and writing the report (e.g., you're the one performing acts of kindness and caring during the Day of Compassion).

When it comes to exams, I'm pleased to say that cheating is rare in this course. Here's what to expect 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. Also, please don't answer questions from other students (remember, it's an honor code violation to help others cheat even if you aren't the one cheating).

For more information on the honor code, please see the Wesleyan Student Handbook.

Laptops, Recording, and Special Needs

Laptops are permitted, but studies by Ravizza, Uitvlugt, and Fenn (2017), Fried (2008), 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 you. 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 the Americans with Disabilities Act. Because accommodations may require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, it's important to contact Accessibility Services as soon as possible if you have a disability—or think that you might have one—to discuss your needs and the process for requesting accommodations. Accessibility Services is located in North College, Room 021, and can be reached by email ( or phone (860-685-2332).

Please take 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 just before an exam, which may be read early if you prefer).

Tuesday, Sep. 5: Introduction

Thursday, Sep. 7: The Social Construction of Reality

Tuesday, Sep. 12: Interpreting Behavior ("Interpersonal Perception Task" video)

Thursday, Sep. 14: Attributional Biases

  • Textbook Chapter 3--Social Beliefs and Judgments

Tuesday, Sep. 19: The Relationship Between Attitudes and Behavior

    Deadline: Random Assignment Assignment Due (print copy collected in class)

  • Textbook Chapter 4--Behavior and Attitudes (pp. 83-94)
  • Optional reading: Larrick, R. P., & Soll, J. B. (2008). The MPG illusion. Science, 320, 1593-1594.

Thursday, Sep. 21: Cognitive Dissonance and Self-Perception

Tuesday, Sep. 26: Deindividuation and Dehumanization ("Quiet Rage" video)

Thursday, Sep. 28: First Examination

Tuesday, Oct. 3: Obedience to Authority ("Obedience" video)

Thursday, Oct. 5: Conformity ("Candid Camera" video clips)

  • Textbook Chapter 6--Conformity and Obedience

Tuesday, Oct. 10: Persuasion: An Overview of Tactics

Thursday, Oct. 12: Compliance Techniques

Tuesday, Oct. 17: Negotiation and Group Dynamics ("Abilene Paradox" video)

Thursday, Oct. 19: Individual Versus Group Performance (Class Experiment)
  • Textbook Chapter 8--Group Influence

Tuesday, Oct. 24: Fall Break!

Thursday, Oct. 26: Intergroup Relations

Tuesday, Oct. 31: The Faces of Prejudice ("A Class Divided" and "Blue Eyed" videos)

Thursday, Nov. 2: Group Discussion on Discrimination (20/20 video clip on prejudice)

Tuesday, Nov. 7: Aggression ("Bobo Doll" and "Does TV Kill?" videos)

Thursday, Nov. 9: Second Examination

Tuesday, Nov. 14: Attraction and Intimacy

Thursday, Nov. 16: Bystander Intervention ("Brother's Keeper" video)

  • Textbook Chapter 12--Helping

Tuesday, Nov. 21: Social Psychology Online (No Class Meeting)

Thursday, Nov. 23: Thanksgiving Break!

Tuesday, Nov. 28: 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. 30: Clinical Applications of Social Psychology

  • Textbook Chapter 14--Social Psychology in the Clinic

Friday, Dec. 1: The 23rd Annual Day of Compassion HeartHeartHeart

Tuesday, Dec. 5: Tips on Leading a Happy Life ("This Emotional Life" video)

Thursday, Dec. 7: Empathy--A Magic Bullet?

Saturday, Dec. 9: Reading Period Begins (and runs until 5:00 pm December 12)

Thursday, Dec. 14: Third Examination

    2:00 pm to 3:20 pm [Note: Except in the event of a documented family or medical emergency, all students must take the exam at this time; please reserve this time in advance.]

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