Psychology 351: Social Psychology


Mark K. Covey, Ph.D.

Office: Ivers 244-G

Office Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 8:30-9:30 a.m.

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:20-2:30 p.m. or by appointment

Office Phone: 299-4213

Electronic Mail:

For Electronic Course Information (such as study guides, course commentary, point your www browser to

Required Text:

Baron, R. A. & Byrne, D. (1997). Social psychology (eighth ed.). Boston; Allyn and


Various authors: Reserve room readings.

Course Overview:

Social psychology studies the influence of others on an individual's thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Because we spend a great deal of each day interacting with others in a variety of different situations, the topics of social psychology are myriad. This course, while relating the foundations of social psychology, will give special attention to four recent trends: First, cognition has regained its preeminence in social psychology. This has led to intriguing findings regarding human thought as a collection of phenomena which is both is created and changed through social interactions and directs those interactions. Second, applications of social-psychological knowledge have been implemented, extending the reach of the field. Social psychologists are often called on to make contributions in business, medicine, law, and other fields. Third, psychologists have recognized the ubiquity of social-psychological knowledge such that the field is now represented in other areas of psychology, such as developmental, clinical, counseling, cognitive, and industrial and organizational psychology. Fourth, our national interest in diversity and culture has caused a reexamination of research findings and theory with the intent of identifying those that are universal and those that are culture-bound. Our course will examine these issues in addition to the more traditional social-psychological interests such as aggression, research methods, attitudes, altruism, and social influence. By the close of the semester, I expect that you will be well versed in the topics of social psychology and have an appreciative, if critical, understanding of how social-psychological phenomenon influence your day-to-day life.

Course Objectives:

In addition to the goal that "you will be thoroughly versed in the topics of social psychologyÖ", there are a number of more specific learning outcomes the successful student will experience in this course. These outcomes are the product of several years of conversation within the psychology department and every course will address some of these outcomes. Our course touches all five of the student outcomes of the Psychology Department (presented in italics). Examples of how we will address each outcome follows each:

  1. "Psychology students will demonstrate knowledge of the scientific methodology employed in the field of Psychology."
We will discuss: how psychologists generate testable hypotheses and evaluate these through the true experiment;

alternatives to experimentation, such as observational, correlational and survey methods necessitated by unique questions or unique subjects of study;

challenges particular to the research enterprise in social psychology, especially with research involving human subjects.

  1. "Psychology students will demonstrate knowledge of the major theoretical approaches to Psychology, the development of theory, and research efforts to answer theory driven questions."
We will discuss: most major and lessor theoretical perspectives in social psychology as they pertain to specific phenomena of interest;

how theory motivates research and how research modifies theoretical statements about human social behavior.

  1. "Psychology students will demonstrate knowledge of major advances in both experimental and applied aspects of Psychology."
We will discuss: how classic research, such as the Milgram paradigm, shaped social psychology and the culture it sought to illuminate;

how extrinsic and intrinsic factors influence the choice to perform aggressive and violent acts and how this knowledge may help control aggressive behavior;

  1. "Psychology students will demonstrate the ethics and inclusiveness associated with Psychology."
We will examine:

the requirements for ethical research with human subjects;

cross-cultural differences and similarities in social behavior;

differences and commonalties between boys and girls and women and men in such topics as social cognition and social behavior;
  1. "Psychology students will demonstrate the ability to communicate in the discipline."
We will explore: the specialized terminology of the social psychologist as researcher and social change agent;

ways to critically evaluate material presented in the popular press and the Internet.

Course Grading:

Your grade in this course will be based on your averaged performance in the following areas:

A. Unit Examinations: I've planned four unit examinations for this course. The dates of these exams are noted in the attached syllabus. Each exam will consist of a variety of questions, ranging from multiple-choice to short answer and essay questions. The best three unit exams will contribute to 55% of your final grade;

B. Final Examination: On December 18th at 8:30 a.m., you will complete a comprehensive final examination. This examination will consist of multiple choice questions only and will contribute to 15% of your final grade. An Important Exception: As an incentive, I will enter the unit exam average as the final exam score for anyone earning an average of 95% or better on the four unit exams. These students will be excused from the final exam;

C. Service Learning: Think for a moment of a fact, theory, skill, and what-have-you that you know better than anyone else. Chances are you know that thing so well because you applied it to a challenging or important situation. That is, you took that fact and used it in a meaningful way. Perhaps you taught it to someone else or used it to another's benefit. Many, probably most, of life's lessons are learned outside of the classroom through this process. The process alluded to above characterizes "community service learning." By service learning, I mean a particular form of education in which a student uses classroom information in a way that benefits another, usually through some form of volunteer service. So, service learning benefits an individual scholar and other members of society. The student gains a meaningful educational experience, a sense of contributing, and even vocational experience. Society also gains as a human need is answered. Service learning is especially appropriate to a social psychology course because so much of our formal course content concerns human interaction and human problems.

The service learning requirement in this class consists of the following:

I. Community Experience: Service learning requires that someone is served. In our community we have many areas of human need. The homeless are literally at our doorstep. So are battered and abused persons and their children, individuals who cannot read, people whose mobility is restricted by age, poverty, or illness, families who must place their children in the care of others, and many others who can benefit from our help.

Service agencies exist in our community to help these people. Most have volunteer programs begging for your assistance. The first requirement for this option is, then, that you serve an agency or group in the Moorhead-Fargo area that answers a human need. On our campus, Sources for Service will coordinate and help you find a suitable service placement one that matches your interests and abilities and meets my expectations for a meaningful service experience;

A frequent question regarding the service experience is "how many hours?" While individual interests and experiences will differ as will the opportunity to serve, you should budget at least 25 hours over the semester for direct human service contact.

II. Service Journal: To document your volunteer experience, I expect that you will keep a journal. This journal should contain entries of your volunteer time and activities. The journal should also contain references to the texts used in this course. That is, you should note how a particular fact, theory, or phenomenon relates to your volunteer experience. The expectation here is that you will show evidence that you have examined your volunteer experience in light of the material assigned or discussed in our class. I will provide you with a handout with extensive guidelines for journal keeping and some which will help you relate your service experience with the content of our course.

Expect to submit your journal at least twice during the semester. The first time I see your journal, I will read it and offer extensive comments regarding how it can be improved. You will submit your journal for my final review on December 11th at class time. I will evaluate your journal for its completeness and evidence that you integrated your classroom and service experiences. My evaluation of your volunteer experience and journal will comprise 30% of your final grade;

III. Consultations: Plan on meeting at least 3 times with me and other service learners in class during the semester. The purpose of these meetings is to answer questions and concerns that may arise during your service. While attendance is required, you will not be graded on these meetings. Rather, their purpose is to help insure a meaningful experience and to head off (the rare) potential problem. I will also contact the volunteer coordinator of the your agency so I can better appreciate your activities and plan improvements in this course;

IV. Options to Service: Some students, under exceptional circumstances, will not be able to commit to regular community service. These students must consult with me immediately to negotiate an acceptable alternative to the community service requirement. Ordinarily, this alternative will be a comprehensive review paper that explores some restricted aspect of social psychology in depth and detail. This paper will contribute to 30 of the final grade and is due on December 11th at the time of class;

D. Grading Process: Students are often confused by grading because grades differ from student to student, class to class, and from professor to professor. The reason for this is quite simple; A letter grade is an abstract statement of a professorís opinion of the academic accomplishment of an individual student. While this means that a grade is "subjective" (which has taken on unfortunate connotations in the academe), I do based grades on a rule driven process, which is as follows: When I grade student work, I first read or review all the exams and papers. The best of them generally earn "Aís" although I might withhold that judgement if the work of the class does not measure up to my expectations. I then grade the remaining submissions from that "best" paper or exam. I will assign percentage grades to each exam and assignment you submit. The weighted average of these grades will comprise your final grade.

For ease of your accounting and mine, I will assign a numerical grade corresponding to the following scheme:

A 95%-100% of possible points C 75-78%

A- 92-94% C- 72-74%

B+ 89-91% D+ 69-71%

B 85-88% D 65-68%

B- 82-84% D- 62-64%

C+ 79-81% F 00-61%

However, these numbers do not answer the question, "what do you expect, professor, of students who earn a particular letter grade?" I attempt to conform my grading to the following behavioral expectations and these criteria remain good advice for a student who strives for a certain letter grade:

An "A" reflects a level of performance which is "distinctly superior" to that shown by the majority of students in a course. "A students" show a level of commitment to scholarship equal to that shown by the instructor; they often research a topic beyond that required by any assignment. "A students" are consistently prepared for every class period, keenly engaged in the conduct of the course, and always seeking implications to the content of a course beyond that offered by the text or by a lecture example. They are usually the first to ask questions in class and their comments always demonstrate more than a superficial appreciation of a topic. Usually, "A students" have a unique aptitude for the material that they study and have mature time management skills such that they never cram for exams or need additional time to complete an assignment. Because they carry these skills and attitudes with them to other courses, "A students" usually earn the top grades in other courses. Needless-to-say, "A students" always earn the highest grades on examinations and papers. Because of the high standards demanded of these students, "Aís" are earned by a small fraction of course participants, usually as few as 15% of the students enrolled in a course;

A "B" is the result of consistently above average academic performance. A "B" may in fact reflect "superior" achievement but is not quite the equal of the very best in a class. "B students" may earn the highest grade on an several exams or papers, but do not do so consistently as other demands, including other courses, may compete with their scholarship to produce inconsistent performance. "B" grades are typically earned by 25-40% of a class at this college;

A "C" results from consistently average work, or from highly variable work (periods of inferior achievement in addition to superior achievement). "C" grades often result from mere memorization of course content without an appreciation of the implications of the subject matter or an unwillingness to examine the subject in depth. Consequently, "C students" may be able to recognize a term or concept but may not be able to explain it or place it in its proper context. "Cís" are often the result when individuals cannot effectively manage the demands of their day such that they are driven from deadline to deadline. In addition, "C students" may give infrequent, but clear indication that they are disinterested in class discussions, lectures or even in the discipline itself. "Cís" are earned by approximately 30% of a class;

A "D" reflects consistently below average work. While the "D student" may have performed passing work, usually she or he has never risen above average performance and may show significant periods of unacceptable performance. "Dís" are the product of many factors, including low motivation, poor aptitude, maladaptive scholarship behaviors, and or significant competition by other factors and activities for the studentís time and attention. "Dís" might result from factors such as illness or family emergencies that are beyond the studentís ability to control; However, "D students" usually seek help only after irreparable damage has been done to their overall performance in a class. "Dís" are earned by approximately 10-15% of students in a course;

"Fís" reflect failure to learn an appreciable amount in a course. There are many causes of this failure including poor preparation, lack of maturity, low scholastic aptitude, etc. "Fís" result when an instructor cannot, in conscience, certify that a student shows any mastery of a subject beyond that level demonstrated by an uninformed lay person. Because of our liberal course withdrawal policies, "Fís" are usually rare, but at least two or three individuals (4-6% of a course) receive one because their disinterest is so profound that they do not know or care about their impending failure until weeks following the last date to withdraw from a course.

General Policies

These policies govern the day-to-day conduct of our course.

A. As a student at Concordia, you have rights and responsibilities that are listed in the handbook: Academic Integrity at Concordia College. You should familiarize yourself with this statement as it describes expectations and rights for all students and faculty at Concordia;

B. One of the exciting things about social psychology is the degree to which much of it is personally relevant, especially to service-learners. Because of this, I encourage and expect you to question, probe, and challenge the text or my presentations. To help this process, I will begin and end each period by asking for your questions and observations. Your comments may or may not be related to the material assigned, but rest assured, they will be welcome;

There are a number of ways you may respond to this course. Class comments are the most valuable because they can be shared by all. Meetings in my office should be for those topics from which the whole class would likely not benefit, such as concerns about your service learning placement, grading disputes, etc. You're welcome to call me with your questions, or to e-mail them to me at the addresses I've provided. Because of the numerous ways you can contact me, I generally discourage calls at home, unless it involves a nonacademic emergency.

C. My presentations will augment the assigned readings rather than repeat them. In addition, major sections of the exams are based on material covered during my presentations. Consequently, you should read the assigned material before coming to class so you may fully participate and attend all class periods;

D. I reserve the right to make minor changes in this syllabus and give additional or substitute assignments. I will give you reasonable notice;

E. Office hours are for you to consult with me outside of class and I hope that you will drop by to discuss psychology. I will make every effort to be available during the times listed. Infrequently, a meeting will be scheduled during these times. When this occurs, I will inform you of these conflicts when I can. Because I seldom miss an appointment, I strongly encourage you to make an appointment with me, especially when you cannot attend my office hours;

F. No extensions will be given on assignments and deadlines. I will give incompletes only for documented illness or emergencies that require your absence from college. Incompletes will not be assigned because you become overworked or over committed nor will I give incompletes for absences necessitated by your involvement in campus activities;

G. I expect that you will attend as many class periods as I attend. You might have to miss a class period because of an unforeseen emergency, so no excuses for missing a class period are necessary regardless of the reason for missing a class;

H. On occasion, you may believe that my evaluation of your efforts is unfair or that a question is inaccurate. I will welcome any challenge of my grading. You may challenge these decisions or questions during my office hours. If you challenge questions, make certain that you did your research before you appeal and that you bring your supporting documentation (e.g., textbook, article, etc.) with you. You have one week after results are posted to appeal;

I. Academic environments require intellectual honesty above all else so I will not tolerate acts of academic dishonesty. Cheating, plagiary, and "dry labbing" (the creation and/or falsification of experiences or data) are very easy to detect. Each will result in zero points for the assignment in question, which will not be dropped as the lowest score when calculating a final grade. The offending student will be referred to the Academic Dean for consideration of additional disciplinary action. Please note that I expect your involvement in making the class part of a community of integrity: If you note a violation of academic integrity, I expect to be informed. I will treat your concerns with compassion and confidentiality;

J. Because I live 20 miles north of Moorhead, I may be snow-bound well before Concordia cancels classes. So, this is our storm-day policy for this class: If any of the Moorhead-Fargo area grade schools, high schools, or colleges cancel classes because of weather, we will not meet on that day. If weather forces a cancellation, any assignment or exam due for that period will automatically be rescheduled for the next class period we can meet. If you are traveling and weather forces you to miss a class period during which an exam is scheduled, we can reschedule that exam as your safety comes first.

Schedule of Topics

Note: Period to period assignments will be made in class based on the progress of the class. Examinations will be administered according to the schedule below.

Examination 1 on September 23: Will cover Baron and Byrne chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 and reserve room research articles.

Examination 2 on October 16: Will cover Baron and Byrne chapters 5, 6, and 7 and reserve room research articles.

Examination 3 on November 11: Will cover Baron and Byrne chapters 8, 9, 10, and 11 reserve room research articles.

Examination 4 on December 7: Will cover Baron and Byrne chapters 12, 13, and 14 and reserve room research articles.

Final Examination on December 18th @ 8:30 a.m. Will cover Baron and Byrne chapters 1- 14.