K. H. Grobman

A model social psychology syllabus for a graduate core course published by the American Psychological Association's (APA) Project Syllabus. This version is prepared for instructors and it is annotated with links to related resources on DevPsy.org.

Social Psychology (Graduate Core Course)

Fall 2009
Tuesday & Thursday 10:40am to 12:00pm
114 Audubon Hall


Dr. Kevin Grobman
232 Audubon Hall
grobman@lsu.edu (Please include "[soc]" as part of the subject line.)
Office Hours: Friday 11:00am to 12:00pm

Course Description

From the moment we begin asking ourselves the big questions, we start thinking about the topics of social psychology. Who is the real me? As adolescents this is one of many perplexing questions we begin asking ourselves about who we are and how we fit into the social world. Why do we act one way with one group of friends and differently in another context? Why are we persuaded by some arguments while other people form different views? Why are we attracted to some people and not others? Why are some people altruistic one moment and aggressive another? In this class, we will learn what science can tell us about feelings, thoughts, and behaviors in social situations. For first-year graduate students, this course offers a broad survey of Social Psychology. We divide our semester into three intrinsically connected themes. First, we will explore the power of the situation and how even the mere presence of another can change who we are. Second, we examine what we bring to situations and how our attitudes color our perceptions and thoughts. Finally, we will study culture by looking for variation across cultures and cross-cultural universals. Do all peoples feel emotion, experience gender, express prejudice, behave aggressively, or understand fairness in the same way? The cannon of classic research and theory provide most assigned readings while much class discussion will examine contemporary 'cutting-edge' perspectives. Your efforts in this class will help you connect Social Psychology to other areas of Psychology like your own area of research.

Expectations & How to Succeed in Class

It is my hope that your interest will be sparked in this course so that long after it is over you will continue to pursue answers to the questions that interest you most, whether in your careers as research psychologists, in practical settings applying psychology, or in your own introspection about yourselves. It is my expectation that you will do your best to learn as much as you can. I am always happy to meet with you during office hours to discuss any course-related issues on your mind. I arrive to class 5-10 minutes early, and linger after class for another 5-10 minutes. Please feel free to use this time for quick questions or to schedule a time to meet with me.

I have some minimum expectations; failing to meet this may lower your grade. You should attend every class. I understand that extenuating circumstances arise that can make this difficult, but please let me know before class if you cannot attend. If circumstances make you miss more than 3 classes during the semester, you may have over-extended yourself and you should consider dropping the class. Arrive to class on time. Class begins promptly and tardiness distracts other students and me. If you must leave early, please let me know before class begins. Be prepared for class. The content of class meetings will go beyond the readings. I assume you have read it; if you have not read it, class discussion will be hard to follow. Class-time is an opportunity to push yourself to learn more deeply and thoroughly than you can completely on your own. Focus your attention during class on our class; for example, do not attend our class while completing work for another class. In addition to the reduction in your grade, cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty violate university policy. You will be referred to the dean, who will determine what actions are appropriate.

Since class is fast-paced and we do not use a textbook, I provide several kinds of structure to make learning easier. This syllabus describes learning objectives on the most abstract level and each subsequent kind of structure provides learning objectives at a more concrete level. Below is the class schedule; it provides an outline of the semester with the "big picture." The power-point slide I display before each class begins highlights the key concepts we will discuss that day. Many other resources are available on the course Moodle website (a public-domain analog of Blackboard). To help you structure your notes and follow the ideas discussed in class, a hierarchically organized outline of concepts in each class is available on the site. Your notes do not need to be word-for-word transcripts of class. Whenever class includes content too tedious to write (e.g., verbose quotations, complex diagrams) a supplemental copy is available. Additional handouts include details about essay assignments and a guide for how to study for exams. Class-time is also enjoyable because we intersperse discussion into lectures and we make concepts concrete by watching videos and engaging in many activities. I always appreciate your questions about social psychology.


Your final grade for class incorporates a cumulative exam (84%) and six short essays (16%). The exam is an opportunity for you to show the depth of your knowledge of social psychology concepts and your ability to apply the concepts in particular situations. The cumulative final exam will include about 3 essay questions and 50 shorter questions (mostly multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank). Class meetings will go beyond the assigned readings, and both will be on the exam. Though some exam questions will ask you for basic, factual information, most questions will ask you to integrate concepts or apply what you learned to a new situation. Though you have the option to take the entire cumulative exam during the 2-hour final exam slot, I recommend you take it in three parts over the semester (28% each). About 10% of part 2 and 15% of part 3 will integrate the just-completed third of the semester with the preceding portion of the semester. [Footnote 1]

While exams require thinking under time pressure from the big picture to particular instances, the six short essays are your chance to think reflectively and expansively from particular personal experiences to the big picture.

Self-Concept (1.0pt): Who are you? Tell me about yourself and provide a photograph that represents you. We will discuss your responses when we talk about self-concept and related concepts like self-monitoring. The assignment is due the second week of class so I can use it to quickly learn your names.

Power of the Situation (2.0pts): Reflect on an experience where you were influenced by the situation. You can choose any experience, such as: performing a task, working in groups, feeling lost in a crowd of others, or whom you ended up attracted to. Relate the experience to concepts in social psychology.

Persuasion (2.5pts): Find and provide an advertisement or other persuasive appeal (from any medium). Consider if it was persuasive to you. Ask a few others to look at it and consider their reactions too. Analyze the methods it uses to persuade. How do the advertisement and your reactions relate to social psychology?

Attitude Change (2.5pts): Identify an attitude you have now that you used to view differently. Describe your attitudes at both times. The attitude can be anything from big-picture attitudes like the nature of justice, to political attitudes like racial tensions, to everyday attitudes like a preference for one product over another. Consider the ways attitudes are defined; what type of attitude was, and is, this attitude for you? Describe your process of attitude change using social psychology concepts.

Schema (4.0pts): For a day, or at least several hours, change something about yourself that will activate different schema in other people with whom you interact. For example, you might dress differently, talk differently, or put yourself in a situation where a trait normally of little salience about yourself takes on much greater salience. Compare and contrast the way people respond to you during the exercise with how people respond to you doing the very same thing in your usual situations. Apply social psychology concepts like schema. Consider the experience from your perspective and from the perspective of those with whom you interact.

Minority & Majority (4.0pts): Choose a minority group and read websites / blogs of group members discussing a particular issue. How do members of the minority make attributions similarly or differently from you? Did you experience the out-group homogeneity effect about them? Did they experience it about you? Minority groups can be defined broadly to include any kind of ethnicity, political belief, professional perspective (e.g., business leaders, teachers) or group created by others with authority (e.g., those in prison, those with a mental illness). The only constraints to choosing a group is that you should not be a member of the group and you should not spend time actively opposing the group.

By writing several short essays, rather than a single long paper, you have an opportunity to learn more about rewriting and polishing. Please consider feedback carefully and see me with questions on how to write subsequent essays. Dates and details about exam parts and essay assignments appear in the class schedule below and on the class Moodle website.


Our class will read mostly primary source journal articles and book chapters. I chose most readings because of their historical importance to social psychology and the way they illustrate creative research methods. Most of the statistics and methods presented should be familiar and comfortable to a new graduate student in Psychology. Rather than having you struggle through dense readings, I chose shorter readings and hope you focus on struggling with the ideas and making new connections to other areas of Psychology and your own pursuits. During class we will discuss many other studies including cutting-edge research. All of the readings are available as PDF files through the course Moodle website (accessible through your LSU "paws" account).

Our class-time will cover many concepts in depth with a focus on how social psychologists discovered something new. Though every class includes tying the particulars to the over-arching themes of Social Psychology, it is easy to lose the big picture for the details. To compliment class, I recommend a well-written textbook that succinctly defines key ideas and emphasizes a big picture:

Myers, D. G. (2007). Exploring Social Psychology. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

David Myers organizes the field differently than I do, but his book is written in short modules so I list the most closely matched modules below. Even so, some concepts that appear in the same module of the textbook appear on different days in our class. I hope this will help you foster connections between the concepts. Myers also has a different perspective from me on the over-arching messages of Social Psychology. I hope your understanding will be broadened and deepened by exposing yourself to multiple perspectives on the big picture of Social Psychology.

Class Schedule

How We are Social (Course Theme 1 of 3)

During the first portion of class, we explore the power of the situation and how even the mere presence of another can change who we are. For the first half of this theme, we will examine the consequences of situations. What happens when we are lost in the crowd or the center of attention? What situations lead us to perform better or worse? And how does being part of a group make us different than we would be alone? For the second half, we will examine how situations impact how we feel inside. Who do we like or dislike? How do we choose, build, and dissolve relationships? And how do we think about ourselves?

Tue Aug 25 Introduction to Social Psychology
Aronson, E. (2001). What happened at Columbine? (Chapter 1) In Nobody left to hate: Teaching compassion after Columbine (pp. 1-20). New York, NY: Henry Holt.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 1 (Optional Reading)

Thu Aug 27 Individuals in Social Contexts
Johnson, R. D. and Downing, L. L. (1979). Deindividuation and valence of cues: Effects of pro-social and antisocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(9), 1532-1538.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 10 & 19 (Optional Reading)

Mon Aug 31 Self-Concept Reflection Essay
Due by noon.

Tue Sept 01 Individuals' Performance in Social Contexts
Latane, B., Williams, K., & Harkins, S. (1979). Many hands make light the work: The causes and consequences of social loafing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(6), 822-832.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 17 & 18 (Optional Reading)

Thu Sept 03 Groups
Janis, I. L. (1971). Groupthink among policy makers. In N. Sanford and C. Comstock (Eds.), Sanctions for Evil. San Francisco: CA, Jossey-Bass, 71-89.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 20 (Optional Reading)

Tue Sept 08 Liking Others
Walster (Hatfield) E., Walster, G. W., Piliavin, J., & Schmidt, L. (1973). "Playing hard to get" Understanding an elusive phenomenon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 26(1), 113-121.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 26 (Optional Reading)

Thu Sept 10 Attraction to Others
Kiesler, S. B. & Baral, R. L. (1970). The search for a romantic partner: The effects of self-esteem and physical attractiveness on romantic behavior. In K. J. Gergen & D. Marlowe (Eds.), Personality and Social Behavior. Reading: MA, Addson-Wesley.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 27 (Optional Reading)

Mon Sept 14 Power of the Situation Personal Essay
Due by noon.

Tue Sept 15 Relationships
Rusbult, C. E. (1980). Commitment and satisfaction in romantic associations: A test of the investment model. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 16(2), 172-186.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 31 (Optional Reading)

Thu Sept 17 Self Concept
Aronson, E. and Mettee, D. R. (1968). Dishonest behavior as a function of differential levels of induced self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2), 121-127.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 3 (Optional Reading)

Tue Sept 22 Exam (Part 1 of 3)
Covering primary-source readings and the preceding 8 classes.

How We Think, Feel, Evaluate, & Behave in Social Contexts (Course Theme 2 of 3)

During the second portion of class, we examine what we bring to situations and how our attitudes color our perceptions and thoughts. For the first half of this theme, we see where our attitudes come from, how we are persuaded, and how closely our attitudes match our behavior. For the second half, we examine our reasoning. What shortcuts and biases do we bring to understanding a situation? How do we assign blame or credit?

Thu Sept 24 Social Influence
Asch, S. E. (1955). Opinions and social pressure. Scientific American, 193(5), 31-35.
Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371-378.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 14 & 21 (Optional Reading)

Tue Sept 29 Defining Attitudes and Attitudes versus Behaviors
Breckler, S. J. (1984). Empirical validation of affect, behavior, and cognition as distinct components of attitude. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47(6), 1191-1205.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 9 (Optional Reading)

Thu Oct 01 Fall Break
No class.

Tue Oct 06 Persuasion
Petty, R. E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Goldman, R. (1981). Personal involvement as a determinant of argument-based persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41(5), 847-855.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 15 (Optional Reading)

Thu Oct 08 Attitude Change
Festinger, L., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Cognitive consequences of forced compliance. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58, 203-210.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 16 (Optional Reading)

Mon Oct 12 Persuasion Essay
Due by noon.

Tue Oct 13 Social Perception
Allport, G. W., & Postman, L. J. (1945). The basic psychology of rumor. Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, 8(3), 61-81.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 6 (Optional Reading)

Thu Oct 15 Social Psychology Guest Speaker
Dr. Grobman will be at a Developmental Psychology conference.

Mon Oct 19 Attitude Change Essay
Due by noon.

Tue Oct 20 Social Cognition
Gilovich, T., & Savitsky, K. (1996). Like goes with like: The role of representativeness in erroneous and pseudoscientific beliefs. The Skeptical Inquirer, 20(2), 34-40.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 8 (Optional Reading)

Thu Oct 22 Social Judgment
Ross, L., Greene, D., & House, P. (1977). The "False Consensus Effect": An egocentric bias in social perception and attribution processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 13(3), 279-301.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 2 & 4 (Optional Reading)

Tue Oct 27 Attribution
Miller, J. G. (1984). Culture and the development of everyday social explanation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46(5), 961-978.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 5 & 11 (Optional Reading)

Thu Oct 29 Exam (Part 2 of 3)
Covering mostly primary-source readings and the preceding 8 classes; about 10% of points will integrate material from course part 2 with part 1.

Understanding Ourselves by Understanding Cultures, Sub-Cultures, & Group-Membership (Course Theme 3 of 3)

During the third portion of class, we will study culture by looking for variation across cultures and cross-cultural universals. For the first half of this theme, we will examine groups, especially race and gender. How big are the group differences in comparison with the individual differences within a group? Where do our thoughts about us versus them come from? For the second half, we will examine basic processes and how universal or varied they may be across the world's cultures. Do all peoples feel emotion, behave aggressively, or understand morality and fairness in the same way?

Tue Nov 03 Gender Role Socialization
Bem, S. L. (1974) The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42(2), 152-162.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 13 (Optional Reading)

Thu Nov 05 Inter-Group Bias (Prejudice, Discrimination, & Stereotyping)
Word, C. O., Zanna, M. P., & Cooper, J. (1974). The nonverbal mediation of self-fulfiling prophecies in interracial interaction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 10(2), 109-120.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 22 & 29 (Optional Reading)

Tue Nov 10 Theories of Inter-Group Bias
Sherif, M. (1956). Experiments in group conflict. Scientific American, 195(5), 54-58.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 23 (Optional Reading)

Thu Nov 12 Emotion
Schacter, S., & Singer, J. E. (1962). Cognitive, Social, and Physiological Determinants of Emotional State. Psychological Review, 69(5), 379-399.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 12 (Optional Reading)

Mon Nov 16 Schema Essay
Due by noon.

Tue Nov 17 Aggression
Berkowitz, L., & LePage, A. (1967). Weapons as aggression-eliciting stimuli. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 7(2), 202-207.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 24 (Optional Reading)

Thu Nov 19 Pro-Social
Darley, J. M., & Batson, C. D. (1973). "From Jerusalem to Jericho" A study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27(1), 100-108.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 28 & 30 (Optional Reading)

Mon Nov 23 Minority & Majority Essay
Due by noon.

Tue Nov 24 Justice
Bryan, J. H., & Test, M. A. (1967). Models and helping: Naturalistic studies in aiding behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6(4), 400-407.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 25 (Optional Reading)

Thu Nov 26 Thanksgiving Break
No class.

Tue Dec 01 Conclusions about Social Psychology
Berkowitz, L., & Donnerstein, E. (1982). External validity is more than skin deep: Some answers to criticisms of laboratory experiments. American Psychologist 37(3), 245-257.
Myers, D. G. (2007). Module 7 (Optional Reading)

Thu Dec 03 Exam (Part 3 of 3)
Covering mostly primary-source readings and the preceding 8 classes; about 15% of points will integrate material from all 3 parts of the course.

Wed Dec 09 Alternative Exam Time (10:00am to 12:00pm in 104 Audubon Hall)
Take all 3 parts of the final exam or any parts missed earlier in the semester.

Thu Dec 10 Alternative Exam Time (10:00pm to 12:00pm in 114 Audubon Hall)
Take all 3 parts of the exam or any parts missed earlier in the semester.

Our semester is broken into three themes and each of those is broken into two more parts. I did this to create over-arching themes that encompass much of the breadth of social psychology. Each theme and its parts provide us one key idea to repeatedly come back to across four different topics over two weeks. I hope this makes it easier for you to organize your understanding of social psychology. Even though we discuss a particular topic during only one particular theme, each topic crosses every theme. Try to make connections between topics and themes throughout the semester. On our last day of class (Conclusions about Social Psychology), we will discuss some of these connections. Grasping the connections will help make the most challenging exam questions easier for you. I hope grasping the connections will help you develop flexibility for applying social psychology to your research area and leave you with a deeper understanding of one of the basic areas of psychological science.

[Footnote 1]: Three separate exams would be a more simple description than a cumulative exam in three parts. I chose this frame to meet departmental needs that our core courses offer a cumulative final exam. Incoming graduate students may take the cumulative exam to test out of the requirement.