Course Syllabus Summer 2008 psychology 351: Social Psychology

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Espinoza, Summer 2008

Psyc 351: Social Psychology

Course Syllabus Summer 2008

PSYCHOLOGY 351: Social Psychology

California State University, Fullerton

TWTh: 12:00pm-2:50pm

Class Location: H-523

Russ Espinoza, Ph.D., M.F.T.

Phone: 714-278-7566


Office: H-725H

Office Hours: Tues. 11-12pm and by appointment

Myers, D. (2008). Social Psychology (9th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill

Course Description

The field of psychology, defined generally as the scientific study of the thinking, feeling, and acting of individuals (i.e., individuals' behavior and its underlying mechanisms), is partitioned into a number of subdivisions. Each is characterized by its unique set of variables employed to explain behavior. For example, physiological psychology attempts to account for behavior in terms of neuro-chemical processes; developmental psychology emphasizes maturational and experiential influences which operate through one's life to affect behavior. Social psychology is a subdivision of psychology (and sociology) that attempts to identify the social, environmental, and cognitive correlates of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. As such, social psychology is a scientific discipline rather than a self-help field; however, applications to one's life are many.

The discipline of social psychology is the study of individuals in interaction with other individuals, of individuals in interaction with groups, and of groups in interaction with other groups. The term, interaction, is well chosen, since it denotes mutual or joint influence. We will see that seldom, if ever, is there a situation involving more than a single element that is characterized by a simple, one-way type of relationship. That is, virtually all situations are complex to the extent that there are multiple directions of influence. Each element in a situation affects all other elements, or, to put that matter in different words, all elements are important.

The major implication this has for practical purposes is that when considering any situation, one must keep in mind the many types of influence. One cannot conclude immediately that people behave the way they do because of their personalities, their motivational structures, the way they were raised, or their pattern of past experiences. It turns out that people sometimes behave the way they do largely because of the social situation in which they find themselves. Therefore, when one wishes to change some aspect of one's life, one had better look also to aspects of the situation rather than merely to the specific people who behave in the situation. In sum, situational determinants of behavior may be stronger than, and may at times override, so-called "person" or dispositional factors.

Behavior which is characteristically human is social. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine any form of human behavior which is not in part socially determined or which does not influence the behavior of other people. Social psychology is the systematic application of basic psychological principles to human behavior. To be sure, many of our psychological principles have been gene-rated from lower animals in confined, carefully controlled laboratory settings. The problem of generalizing from this research to humans is a difficult one. We will have to decide which principles can be generalized, and how far they can be generalized. We will learn that people are not simply "bigger and better" than rats (as some psychologists have implied). And we will learn that social psychological principles have much to contribute to research with lower animals. Some important principles from the animal laboratory have had to be greatly modified or at least seriously qualified on the basis of social psychological research.

Much of the content we will cover in this course will not be entirely new to you. You know implicitly what is meant by interpersonal attraction, prejudice, aggression, group structure, pro-social behavior, etc. We will examine these and other phenomena from a systematic point of view. To a large extent, the course will be a selective review of the representative classic and contemporary literature in social psychology. This means that the treatments of the various content areas will be empirical and theoretical rather than "common sense."

Specific Course Goals
By the completion of this course you should 1) have developed a thorough grasp of many of the course concepts, including an understanding of and appreciation for the manner in which the concepts are interrelated; 2) have further developed your ability to view and interpret the world from a scientific perspective; 3) have further developed your written and oral communication skills; and finally 4) you should be able to apply the concepts and perspectives of social psychology to your own life and the world as a whole, and therefore, solve every problem that exists in the world today.
Assessment of Learning Objectives
Your course grade will be based upon the following (Attendance and participation in lecture will be noted and used in the assignment of the final grades, especially decisions about “borderline” grades).

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