Social Psychology

(Summer 2009)


Dr. Linda M. Woolf

Office Hours:


Course Description:

Would you obey an authority figure, cult leader, or politician - even if it meant doing unspeakable acts of malice? Ever wondered why nobody stopped to help that person in distress - surely you would have - or would you? Why are you in that long term relationship? Is it love or is it simply due to the fact that the rewards outweigh the costs. Would you aggress if provoked? Do you pre-judge people on a regular basis? Why is it your behavior is more akin to that of sheep than of the rugged individualism of the "Marlboro Man." Ever wonder if you have any special access to your own cognitions or are you just a pinball, bouncing from situation to situation, without any knowledge of what is truly influencing your behavior.

All of these questions deal with the power of the social situation to shape our behavior. We continuously underestimate the impact of the social situation - finding ourselves more comfortable with personality explanations of behavior. This course will provide you with the means to recognize the power of the social situation and better negotiate the minefield of reality. We will discuss such issues as: interpersonal attraction, prosocial behavior, aggression, prejudice, conformity, attitude change, social perception, social cognition, and group behavior. The focus of the course will be on applying theoretical concepts to real world situations. The format of the course will be lecture, discussion, and some classic films.

Course Objectives :

  1. Objective: To develop an understanding of the basic principles underlying the field of social psychology. To discover the fun as well as the scientific underpinnings of social psychological research.

  2. Objective: To become familiar with the research methodology commonly used by social psychologists. To understand the limitations of this research and the underlying principles of ethical research.

  3. Objective: To develop an understanding of the major factors underlying social thinking such as the self, social beliefs and judgments, and attitudes.

  4. Objective: To become aware of the various social influences that impact behavior such as culture and gender, conformity, persuasion, and group influences.

  5. Objective: To become aware of the influence of behavior on social relations such as prejudice, aggression, attraction, intimacy, altruism, conflict, and peacebuilding.

  6. Objectives: To further develop analytic and critical thinking skills, writing skills, Internet, and library skills.

  7. Objective: To become familiar with the rapidly growing body of literature in social psychology.

Class Meetings:

The class will meet on Thursdays from 5:30 - 9:30. Attendance is expected as material will be presented that is not in the book and class participation will constitute a percentage of the final grade.

Course Requirements:

Three examinations, a term paper, and class participation/discussion of assigned readings.

All grades will be assigned on a scale of 0 - 10 with:

90 - 100A-,AExcellent
80 - 89B-,B,B+Above Average
70 - 79C-,C,C+Average
60 - 69C-,C,C+Below Average
Less than 60FFailing

Percent of Grade:

Class participation/discussion5%

Exams: Exams will include multiple choice, short answer and essay. They will cover material presented in lecture, readings, films, and discussion. Three examinations will be given and they will comprise 80% of your final grade. Policy Statements: All exams must be taken on the date scheduled. In case of an emergency, the instructor must be notified. No make-up exams will be provided if you fail to notify and discuss your situation with the instructor. It is up to the instructor's discretion whether to offer or not offer a make-up exam. Please note that no extra credit work will be made available to make-up for a poor test grade.

Term Paper: The purpose of the term paper is to provide you with the opportunity to explore an area of social psychology in depth. The paper is to be a 10-15 page literature review (approximately 4,500 to 7,000 words) on some topic pertinent to social psychology and will constitute 15% of your final grade. Policy: Topics must be approved in writing by the instructor. Topics that have not been approved will not be accepted. Topics must be approved via email ( by June 26. Deadline for acceptance of papers is July 24. Note: These deadlines are not suggestions; papers accepted following the deadline will experience a drop in grade(s) except in cases of emergency discussed with the instructor.

All papers must reference a minimum of eight references from refereed journals (not Psychology Today or Newsweek, for example). Of course to do most topics justice, more than eight journal references are needed. Additionally, minimum performance on a paper equates to "average" performance in the grading scale provided above. Note: Do not rely heavily on popular literature, for example, a book you happen to see at Borders Books. Often, these books are not empirically based. Also, do not take the bulk of your paper from one source or from secondary sources. Use of information in your paper that is not empirically based will impact the grade negatively. I want an integration, analysis, and critique of the current research literature relevant to your paper topic.

Papers must be submitted electronically in Word format to

Click here for some rules of thumb regarding literature reviews/papers

All papers must be typed, double-spaced, have 1 inch margins and in APA format. If you are in doubt as to what this means, see me for details.

Class Participation/Discussion: Please realize that your participation in this class is extremely important. As such, class participation will constitute 5% of your final grade. The class participation grade will derive in part from regular attendance and everyday discussion and analysis in class.

Policy Statements:

Use of Electronic Devices in the Classroom: Please respect others in the class by turning off all cell phones and pagers before entering the room. Text messaging during class is not acceptable. Laptops may be used in class but are only to be utilized for class related activities (e.g., taking notes). If it becomes apparent you are using the computer for non-class activities (e.g., checking your email, playing games) then you may be asked to turn off your computer and refrain from bringing it into class in the future. Laptop use is restricted to the back or sides of the classroom so that other students are not distracted during lecture.

Plagiarism (attempting to pass off the work of another as one's own) is not acceptable. Plagiarism includes copying all or part of another's writings (even a single sentence), inappropriate paraphrasing, using another student's paper as your own, submitting a paper for more than one class. All papers will be submitted to the university's plagiarism database for review. Plagiarism, either intentional or unintentional, will result in a grade of 0 for that assignment and will be turned over to the appropriate university source for disciplinary action. In addition, cheating on exams will also result in the same fate.

Here are some Web sites that will help you avoid the problem of plagiarism particularly plagiarism resulting from paraphrasing too closely to the original source. -

Late withdraws from this class will not be approved by the instructor except in cases of emergency discussed with the instructor. No late withdraws will be approved on the basis of poor class performance.

This syllabus is subject to change at the instructor's discretion. All changes concerning course requirements will be provided in writing. Changes concerning exam dates may be made at the instructor's discretion and communicated verbally to the class.

It is understood that remaining in this course (not dropping or withdrawing from this course) constitutes an agreement to abide by the terms outlined in this syllabus and an acceptance of the requirements outlined in this document.



Topic and Readings

June 11 Introduction to the Class
Doing Social Psychology
Social Thinking


  • Myers, Modules 1-4
June 18 Social Thinking continued


  • Myers, Modules 5-9
June 25 Exam I
Social Influence


  • Myers, Module 14
July 2 Social Influence continued

  • Myers, Modules 17-20

July 9 Social Influence continued

  • Myers, Modules 15-16, 21

July 16 Exam II
Social Relations

  • Myers, Modues 22-23
July 23 Social Relations continues

  • Myers, Modules 24-25, 28, 30
July 30 Social Relations continued
Exam III

  • Myers, Modules 26-27, 29

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