Course Outline

Social Psychology

Fall, 2008

Jonathan Mack, Ph.D.

Overview:

This course explores key topics in social psychology including the self, conformity and rebellion, intimacy and alienation, attitudes and prejudice, group and community dynamics as well as the relationship of the individual to society. The relationship is bi-directional: individuals, groups, and communities affect society; and society affects individuals.

We will explore interactions at all level. Beginning from the self, we will expand to intimate relationships, go on to examine group dynamics, community interactions and social movements. In understanding these relationships, we’ll look at the effect of the Internet and other media.

We'll explore both traditional and non-traditional choices as means of achieving integrity, personal growth and social change.

Expectations:

While the topics of social psychology are familiar to all of us, there is a body of information – a psychological discipline – that will be new. Understanding these concepts and the research that’s been done requires a very different mindset from drawing broad generalizations about social dynamics based solely on our own experience. So there will be a significant amount of reading required in this course. Many concepts and details of specific research will need to be committed to memory as validated by tests.

By the end of the term, each student is expected to complete a 12 page paper. There are many milestones along the way toward the completion of this paper that are designed to help you develop your ideas into a well thought-through essay.

The simplest way to think of it is that there’s something due – an expression of an idea, a test, a thesis statement, a draft of your paper – just about every Thursday meeting.

Readings:

We’ll read 7 or 8 of the research articles in Aronson’s Readings About the Social Animal. (Be sure to get the book of readings, not Aronson’s textbook.)

We’ll also read an absurdist play Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco. (If you’re a student of the French language, I encourage you to read the play in the original French. It’s not particularly difficult and you can always fall back on the English translation.) It has a lot to say about conformity, among other things.

We’ll supplement this with other readings including Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic The Medium is the Massage.

Week
Day
Date
Topic
Reading
1
M
8-Sep
What is social psychology? What is the value of understanding of human interaction from the perspective of social psychology?
First Look: Conformity
Chapter 3 (Asch)
TH
11-Sep
How do we know? The role of science, scientific method, experimentation and other modes of knowing in social psychology. The ethics of using deception in social psychology experimentation
“How would I determine if…” assignment due (5)
Ionesco: Rhinoceros
Act I
2
M
15-Sep
The Self & Others: How do we define ourselves in relation to others? How do others affect our self-image/self-esteem? Conformity, compliance and influence;
Chapter 4
(Milgram)
TH
18-Sep
How are attitudes formed? The role of attribution and schemas. Understanding effects of confidence/attractiveness of presenter.
The role of cognitive dissonance.
What role do societal forces play?
“Critical Reading” essay due (5)
Rhinoceros
Act II
Chapter 9:
Attribution
3
M
22-Sep
Social dynamics and individual choice/responsibility.
What is the role of media?
Rhinoceros
Act II
TH
25-Sep
Relationships: Factors in interpersonal attraction. What the nature of romantic love ? What defines intimacy ? Sex and love. What leads to intimacy and what leads to disintegration ?
Research Essay assignment due (7)
Chapter 11:
Attraction
4
M
29-Sep
Relationships , continued.
Chapters 35 &37:
Sexual attraction and intimacy
TH
2-Oct
Test #1 (15)
5
M
6-Oct
What are dynamics of prejudice and stereotyping?
Chapter 33: Prejudice
TH
9-Oct
Aggression – What leads to interpersonal violence? Can human violence be reduced / eliminated?
Paper: Thesis first draft due (5)
Chapter 10: Mass violence
Chapter 23:
Observing violence
6
M
13-Oct
Groups: Understanding the need to belong? What makes groups work? Do groups thwart or enhance individual experience?
TH
16-Oct
Community: Does community exist in the land of the mall? Types of community: Gated, disjointed, of interest, artistic. What defines a community as a cult? Motivational issues in community formation and dissolution.
Paper: Thesis, revised draft + Sources due (7)
Chapter 7: Jonestown
7
M
20-Oct
Hendricks Days
TH
23-Oct
Social dynamics of communities, continued
No assignment due
8
M
27-Oct
Pro-social behavior: Altruism, cooperation, collaboration
Chapter 5:
Jerusalem / Jericho
TH
30-Oct
Pro-social behavior, continued
9
M
3-Nov
Social communities: Do the meaning of knowledge and intimacy change in the age of Wikipedia and Facebook?
McLuhan: Medium is the Massage
TH
6-Nov
No assignment due
10
M
10-Nov
Social pressures: In what way to societal dynamics foster / undermine psychological potential?
TH
13-Nov
Paper: First Draft due (5)
11
M
17-Nov
Social Change: Understanding the dynamics of social change. The role of social movements. Can society’s dynamics be altered?
TH
20-Nov
Second Test (20)
12
M
24-Nov
Advanced topics
TH
27-Nov
THANKSGIVING !
13
M
1-Dec
Advanced topics, continued
TH
4-Dec

Paper Due (25)

14
M
8-Dec
Last class
Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011, 9:18 AM