PSC 151: Social Psychology

Spring Quarter 1999:   MTWTh  2:10 – 3:00  (194 Young Hall)

Herr Doktor Professor Dean Keith Simonton












The explicit purpose of this class is to introduce you to the field of social psychology. I want you to appreciate why I consider this to be one of the most basic and exciting topics in psychological science. I also hope to make you more aware of yourselves, others, and the bigger social world around us all. Social psychology is a very stimulating subject, one having countless applications to everyday life. On many occasions you may find yourself saying to a roommate, friend, or lover: “We learned all about that in Psych. 151 today!” Your companions may even find the repetition of such phrases throughout the quarter awfully obnoxious at times. Yet nothing would make me happier than to make you all more aware of the “how and why” of our social activities and thoughts. Above all else, this course aims at teaching mutual understanding and appreciation – even wisdom. We are all social creatures to the very depths of our beings!

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Lecture (Date – Reading Assignments)

1. Introductions: The Course and the Subject (4/5 – Chapter 1)

2. Methods 1: Experimental Studies (4/6 – Chapter 1)

3. Methods 2: Correlational Studies (4/7 – Chapter 1)

4. Self 1: Personal Aspects (4/8 – Chapter 5, pp. 150-175)

5. Self 2: Social Aspects (4/12 – Chapter 5, pp. 150-175)

6. Person Perception 1: Relevant Information (4/13 – Chapter 2)

7. Person Perception 2: Judging Personalities (4/14 – Chapter 2)

8. Person Perception 3: Reading Emotions (4/15 – Chapter 2)

9. Attributions 1: About Ourselves (4/19 – Chapter 3)

10. Attributions 2: About Others (4/20 – Chapter 3)

11. Midterm I (4/21)

12. Attitudes: The Three Components (4/22 – Chapter 4)

13. Attitude Change 1: Functional & Social Judgment Theories (4/26 – Chapter 4)

14. Attitude Change 2: Communication (Stimulus-Response) Theory (4/27 – Chapter 4)

15. Attitude Change 3: Consistency Theories (4/28 – Chapter 4)

16. Social Interaction: Social Comparison & Exchange (4/29 – Chapters 7 and 8)

17. Interpersonal Relationships 1: Affiliation (5/3 – Chapters 7 and 8)

18. Interpersonal Relationships 2: Attraction (5/4 – Chapters 7 and 8)

19. Interpersonal Relationships 3: Love (5/5 – Chapters 7 and 8)

20. Moral Judgment & Ethical Action (5/6 – Chapters 7 and 8)

21. Midterm II (5/10)

22. Prosocial Behavior 1: Situational Characteristics (5/11 – Chapter 10)

23. Prosocial Behavior 2: Individual Characteristics (5/12 – Chapter 10)

24. Aggression 1: Biological Theories (5/13 – Chapter 11)

25. Aggression 2: Psychological Theories (5/17 – Chapter 11)

26. Social Influence 1: Obedience (5/18 – Chapter 9)

27. Social Influence 2: Conformity & Compliance (5/19 – Chapter 9)

28. Groups 1: Performance & Decision Making (5/20 – Chapter 12)

29. Groups 2: Cooperation & Competition (5/24 – Chapter 12)

30. Groups 3: Leaders & Followers (5/25 – Chapter 12)

31. Midterm III (5/26)

32. Prejudice 1: Racism (5/27 – Chapter 6)

33. Prejudice 2: Sexism (6/1 – Chapter 5, pp. 175-191)

34. Prejudice 3: Authoritarianism (6/2 – Chapter 6)

35. Forensic Psychology (6/3 – Chapters 13-14)

36. Organizational Psychology (6/7 – Chapters 13-14)

37. Environmental Psychology (6/8 – Chapters 13-14)

38. Health Psychology (6/9 – Chapters 13-14)

39. Political Psychology (6/10 – Chapters 13-14)

40. Final Exam (6/17 – Time 10:30-12:30)

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There are four “objective” exams: three midterms and the final. Each midterm exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. All midterm exams are noncumulative; each covers only the most recent chapters and lectures. The final exam, on the other hand, will contain 50 questions from the most recent section plus another 10 from material spanning the entire course. In fact, the latter will include questions that require you to integrate ideas or findings from more than one chapter. Note, too, that the text and the lectures will receive about equal emphasis, but with the greatest stress placed on the overlap between the two sources.

You’ll take the exams on a form #882 Scantron sheet with a #2 pencil. Please remember to bring both form and pencil with you on each of the four test days. There may be students in our class who finance their college education by selling school supplies to desperate classmates!


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brain4To get to the brass tacks, your final grade is based on the total points accumulated on three exams – the final plus the best two out of your three midterms. Because you can thus drop your worst midterm examination, there will be no make-up exams whatsoever. If you miss one of your first three tests, that will be the one dropped (for that will obviously be your worst score). If you have a really good reason, the midterm exams can be taken a day early, however. But you should give me adequate warning beforehand, so I can make up the test in time. The final exam is the only test that cannot be dropped under any circumstances, so you must take the final. Moreover, you are advised to take all exams whether you plan to drop one or not. Because the material varies immensely in difficulty, the exam you decide to miss may just so happen to be the easiest all quarter! Remember: Your grade is based on the total points alone (160 total), not on the letter grades that I will assign tentatively to each midterm. Those letter grades are intended only to give you an approximate idea about where you stand in the class.

As a rough rule of thumb, you must get 90% of the questions correct to earn an A- or better, 80% for a B- or better, 70% for a C- or better, 60% for a D- or better (and 50% for an F- or better?!). By chance alone, you would be expected to get about 25% of the questions correct, so taking exams by flipping coins is not advised! These percentages mean that you are not competing against each other, but rather you are being measured against a standard. If all of you get 90% of the questions right, then all of you will get A’s. Of course, I will assign pluses and minuses to the grades – even an A+ or so to the best students in the class.


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Robert A. Baron & Donn Byrne’s 1997 Social Psychology (8th edition). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Wbyzmath1arning: Often there is more than one section of social psychology taught in a particular quarter. Introductory textbooks on this subject have a nasty habit of using the same nondescript title. Therefore, you just might buy the wrong textbook. Unfortunately, you may not learn right away, since the coverage may overlap enough to leave you clueless. Then on the first midterm, you walk in, and find out that you have no idea where some of my questions are coming from. Of course, the questions came from the text you didn’t read! Don’t think I’m insulting your intelligence when I say it could happen to you. This embarrassing episode occurs to at least one student in Psych. 151 almost every quarter that I’ve taught it since 1976! Even one person is one too many – especially if it’s you!

By the way, if for any reason you don’t have immediate access to this textbook, a copy will be available at the Reserve Desk in Shields – but only for 2 hours.


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Should it happen that by some fluke the exams are too difficult, I will move the percentages down to more generous cutoffs. My ultimate goal is to have the average grade for the class as a whole to be at the same level as other upper division courses in the Psychology Department. I don’t want to be considered an easy grader, for my fellow teachers will feel that I am trying to bribe you to give me good teaching ratings. Yet I don’t wish to be seen by you as a hard grader either, or you might tar and feather me out of UC Davis!!

Because the grading system does not force you to compete against each other, I encourage you all to study together if you are so inclined. By sharing what you learned with others, by quizzing each other on the material, you might benefit more from the course. This asset especially holds if you get together to discuss applications of social psychology to your everyday lives. The more examples you can unearth and share, the more this course will stay with you years after you leave the confines of these academic halls.

Good luck! I hope you will find this one of your favorite courses in psychology. I did. That’s why I decided to get my Ph.D. in social psychology!


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