PSYC 590

Survey of Social Psychology I (Intrapersonal Processes)


2013-2014 Academic Year, Term 1

Fridays, 1:00 4:00

Kenny 2405


Instructor: Mark Schaller

Office: CIRS 4353

Office Hours: By appointment

Phone: 604.822.2613




The Purpose of the Course:

The purpose of this course is to provide you with an overview of social psychological theories and research on attitudes and social cognition. I've designed the course with several goals in mind. The primary goal is to provide you with a reasonably representative overview of contemporary social psychological research on topics that fall within this broad domain of inquiry. A second goal is to give you some sense of the history of inquiry into these topics. A third goal is to give you a flavor for some ways in which inquiry into these topics connects to several big meta-theoretical zeitgeists within the psychological sciences. A fourth goal is to illustrate a set of common cognitive mechanisms that contribute to a wide range of superficially distinct social psychological phenomena. A fifth goal is to identify some ways in which these processes have implications that affect individuals' lives in ways that really matter. A sixth goal is to provide you with some exposure to a variety of research methodologies that have been employed to study these topics. A sixth goal is to challenge you to think deeply and integratively about the psychological processes we'll be covering, and to critically appraise the research you'll be encountering.



Each week's readings will cover some particular area of inquiry. These readings are taken from academic journals and books in psychology. The vast majority of these readings are conceptual review articles that provide overviews of many different empirical inquiries. A few additional articles offer examples of empirical studies that are especially iconic, important, or interesting for some reason. All readings will be available to you in electronic form (pdf files), via the course website.


Class Time:

During class each week, I'll sometimes supplement the readings by going into more detail about certain topics or studies not covered in the readings. But I'm certainly not going to be doing all the talking myself. I'd like to spend the majority of class time critically discussing relevant topics and readings. So, it's important that you read the readings, that you come to class, and that you come to class prepared to be thoughtful and talkative.


Article Presentation and Discussion-Leading:

At some point during the term, I'd like each of you to spend a bit of time (15 30 minutes) presenting a summary of an empirical article that isn't on the reading list, and leading us in a brief discussion of that article. You'll choose the article yourself, and the article you choose should meet the following 3 criteria: (a) it was published in either Journal of Personality and Social Psychology or in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin; (b) it was published within the past 5 years; and (c) it connects conceptually to the topic area we're covering on the week that you present it. Your oral summary of the article can be brief (and, ideally, lo-tech) so that we will actually have some time to discuss it within the allotted timeframe. At the beginning of the term, we'll figure out a schedule for when each of you is expected to do this presentation.


Thought Papers:

I want you to write four short "thought papers" over the course of the term. The goal of the each thought paper is to give you an opportunity to take some of your initial reactions to course material, and transform these thoughts into a written product of real intellectual merit. You can approach these thought papers with any of a number of rhetorical goals in mind. Your paper could criticize a particular study, or take potshots at a particular theory or a particular line of research, or identify important unanswered questions, or offer some interesting resolution to some conceptual debate, or draw connections between two superficially unrelated lines of research, or sketch out a design for some novel experiment, or mull intelligently over troubling issues... whatever. (I'll be happy to chat with you informally about your ideas before you write your papers, to help make sure that you're not going off in some crazy and/or unproductive direction.) These papers shouldn't be particularly long (no longer than 1500 words each, please). But they shouldn't be something that you just slap together either. Your thought papers should be coherent, original, insightful, and constructive. The ideal thought paper is not something that meets it death when you hand it in to me; rather, it is the first written expression of something (e.g., an integrative conceptual insight, a novel theoretical analysis, a set of as-yet-untested hypotheses and methods that might test them, etc.) that, eventually, somewhere down the road, leads to a publishable piece of scholarship. I'll be marking each thought paper it on the basis of how insightful it is, how scholarly it is, how intellectually stimulating it is, how coherent and well-reasoned it is, and how successful it is at accomplishing its apparent goal. Due dates for the four thought papers are: October 7, October 28, November 18, and Dec 9. (Note that these dates are all Mondays, and aren't days on which we're scheduled to meet. You can hand in your papers hardcopies please to my mailbox if you can't find me in person. You can hand them in early too, of course.)


Marks and grades:

Your final course grade will be based upon an approximately equal weighting of the following two ingredients: (1) your class participation (actual attendance and, especially, your thoughtful contributions to class discussions including your article-presentation-and-discussion-leading), and (2) the sum of the marks on all of your thought papers.