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PSY 3441 Social Psychology

Course Description

Surveys the areas of social psychology as it has evolved in American psychology, including its history, methods and theories of intrapersonal, interpersonal and group behavior. Reviews sociological approaches to social psychology and cultural processes that affect social phenomena.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to

  • Define Social Psychology and discuss its history and applications
  • Discuss the methodologies of basic and applied research, as well as research theories and ethics
  • Identify the components of self concept and the concepts of self schemas 
  • Judge social perception by applying the elements of observation incorporating influence by people, situations, and behaviors
  • Distinguish between stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination
  • Define and discuss the techniques used to examine and report attitudes
  • Compare and contrast the different types of compliance
  • Explain the theories and dynamics of groups (roles, norms, and cohesiveness)
  • Explore the theories of relationships, particularly social exchange theory and equity theory of intimate relationships
  • Describe the evolutionary approaches to helping others, the empathy-altruism hypothesis, the negative state relief model, the bystander effect, and diffusion of responsibility
  • Define aggression and its associated theories
  • Explain the theories of justice and the purpose of the legal system
  • Describe the process of jury deliberation within the context of social psychology 

Week 1

Lecture: Introduction to Social Psychology


  • Define Social Psychology and discuss its applications
  • Discuss how Social Psychology compares to fields like Sociology, Clinical Psychology, Personality Psychology, and Cognitive Psychology
  • Explain how the findings of Social Psychology do not necessarily coincide with common sense
  • Discuss the history and development of the field and the major contributors
Lecture: Social Psychology Research


  • Explain the important steps in research, including the development of a hypothesis and a theory
  • Discuss the difference between basic and applied research and give an example of both
  • Discuss the process of moving from a concept to an operational definition to measurement of a variable
  • Distinguish between descriptive research, correlational research, and experiments
  • Identify the independent and dependent variables in a study
  • Explain the concept of statistical significance
  • Differentiate between experimental realism and mundane realism
  • Discuss research ethics and the role of Institutional Review Boards

Week 2

Lecture: The Social Self


  • Explain the ABCs of the self and the idea of self-concept and self-schemas
  • Discuss the important components of the 5 sources of our self concept: introspection, perceptions of our own behavior, influences of other people, autobiographical memories, and culture
  • Discuss self-esteem and why we have a need for it
  • Define self-discrepancy theory, self-awareness, and self-regulation
  • Explain the four methods of self-enhancement: self-serving cognitions, self-handicapping, basking in reflected glory, and downward social comparison
  • Discuss how different cultures conceptualize the self

Week 3

Lecture: Perceiving Persons


  • Define social perception and explain how it can be influenced by people, situations, and behavior
  • Discuss the attribution theories of Heider, Jones, and Kelley
  • Define and give examples of cognitive heuristics and the fundamental attribution error
  • Explain the two-step model of the attributional process and why it may not be followed
  • Discuss cultural and motivational influences on attributions and our perceptions of other people
    Define information integration theory
  • Explain the three “deviations” from the arithmetic in information integration: perceiver characteristics, priming effects, target characteristics, and the primacy effect
  • Discuss confirmation biases and the contributions of perseverance of beliefs, confirmatory hypothesis testing, and the self-fulfilling prophecy
Lecture: Stereotypes, Prejudices, and Discrimination


  • Distinguish between stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination
  • Discuss how social categorization, ingroup vs. outgroup thinking, and implicit personality theories lead to stereotype formation
  • Explain how illusory correlations, attributions, subtyping and contrasting, and confirmation biases contribute to the survival of stereotypes
  • Discuss the automatic activation of stereotypes and the effect that may have on people’s actions and perceptions
  • Compare and contrast the following theories of prejudice: intergroup conflict, social identity theory, and social dominance orientation
  • Discuss how culture and the media contribute to hostile and benevolent sexism
  • Explain what is meant by a “threat in the air” and stereotype threat
  • Discuss various ways to reduce stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination

Week 4

Lecture: Attitudes


  • Define attitudes and compare and contrast the three ways to study attitudes: self-report, covert measures, and the implicit association test
  • Discuss the link between attitudes and behavior and research supporting and refuting this link
  • Explain the factors that affect the strength of an attitude
  • Compare and contrast the central and peripheral routes of persuasion and give an example of each
  • What research says about the importance of credibility and likability of the source of a message and the related phenomenon called the sleeper effect
  • How a message is best communicated and when a communicator may want to appeal to fear and emotion and when to stick to the facts
  • How a subjects need for cognition influences persuasion and discuss the inoculation hypothesis and psychological reactance
  • Explain the theory of cognitive dissonance using examples of current and classic research
  • Compare and contrast Bem’s self-perception theory, impression management theory, and self-esteem theories
Lecture: Conformity


  • Define social influence and compare and contrast conformity, compliance, and obedience
  • Compare Asch and Sherif’s studies on conformity and explain the difference between public and private conformity
  • Explain the difference between normative and informational influence
  • Compare and contrast majority and minority influence
  • Discuss the difference types of compliance including the norm of reciprocity, foot-in-the-door, door-in-the-face, and low-balling
  • Describe Milgram’s famous experiment and what it tells us about obedience to authority
  • Explain how cultural differences play a role in social influence

Week 5

Lecture: Group Processes


  • Define a group and a collective
  • Compare and contrast social facilitation and social loafing
  • Discuss the mere presence theory, the evaluation apprehension theory, and the distraction-conflict theory
  • Explain the concept of deindividuation
  • Explain the three essential components of groups: roles, norms, and cohesiveness
  • Describe the process of group polarization
  • Describe the process of groupthink
  • Discuss the concept of brainstorming and whether or not it is beneficial for group performance
  • Define a social dilemma and explain the prisoner’s dilemma and resource dilemmas
  • Suggest ways to solve social dilemmas

Week 6

Lecture: Attraction and Close Relationships


  • Define the need for affiliation and compare it to our resentment of loneliness
  • Explain the principle components of attraction, including proximity and the mere exposure effect
  • Provide arguments to support the idea that beauty is an objective standard
  • Provide arguments to support the idea that beauty is a subjective standard
  • Define the what-is-beautiful-is-good stereotype and discuss if there is any truth to it
  • Describe the factors involved in becoming interested in some one and starting a relationship
  • Discuss evolutionary and cultural contributions to relationships
  • Compare and contrast the social exchange theory and the equity theory of intimate relationships

Week 7

Lecture: Helping Others


  • Explain the evolutionary approaches to helping
  • Describe how possible rewards could increase helping
  • Discuss the debate over egoism and altruism; that is, whether or not true altruism can exist
  • Explain the empathy-altruism hypothesis and the negative state relief model
  • Give the five steps to helping in an emergency and the influential factors at each step
  • Describe the bystander effect and diffusion of responsibility
  • Discuss the effects of time constraints, mood, culture, role models, and social norms on decisions to help
  • Describe the people we are most likely to help
Lecture: Aggression


  • Explain why defining aggression may be difficult
  • Distinguish between emotional and instrumental aggression
  • Describe various culture and gender differences in aggression expression
  • Describe theories of aggression that propose aggression is an innate characteristic, including instinct, evolutionary, and biological theories
  • Explain the role of learning, modeling, and socialization
  • Define the frustration-aggression hypothesis and research supporting or refuting it
  • Explain the roles that affect, arousal, and cognition have on aggression
  • Describe how the media contributes to violence and aggression
  • Discuss pornography and sexual aggression

Week 8

Lecture: Law


  • Discuss the process of jury selection and what is meant by scientific jury selection
  • Discuss death qualification and its ramifications
  • Explain the nine steps of interrogation and how some of the approaches can lead to false confessions
  • Using concepts from previous modules discuss how a jury may react to confession evidence
  • Explain some of the problems with eyewitnesses and eyewitness identifications at the stage of information acquisition, storage, and retrieval
  • Discuss how eyewitness evidence may be interpreted by a juror and the different topics that an eyewitness expert may discuss if asked to testify
  • Explain, using concepts from previous modules, how pretrial publicity, inadmissible testimony, and the judge’s instructions can affect a juror’s verdict
  • Describe the process of jury deliberations and the different factors involved
  • Discuss sentencing and relate the Stanford Prison Study to a person’s experience in jail
  • Discuss different theories on justice and the purpose of the legal system

The course description, objectives and learning outcomes are subject to change without notice based on enhancements made to the course. March 2012