Instructor: Richard Lippa Spring 2000

Office: H-835-L

Office hours: MWF 9-10 am, T 2-3 pm

Phone: 714-278-3654


Web page:



Goals and Objectives of the course

This course will introduce you to the theories, research methods, and empirical findings of contemporary social psychology. In addition to learning about topics such as social perception, attitudes, attitude change, interpersonal attraction, helping and altruism, aggression, prejudice, conformity, altruism, and group behavior, you will also learn how social psychologists formulate questions, generate research hypotheses, and attempt to test them with empirical studies.

You will learn how social psychological research and theory compares with that of related social sciences, such as sociology, anthropology, political science, and economics, and you will examine possible ties between social psychology and evolutionary biology. You will also consider cross-cultural consistencies and variations in social behaviors (for example, in communication, attribution, gender roles and stereotypes, norms of helping behavior, and levels of aggression).

Throughout this class, we shall consider a number of different psychological viewpoints (learning theories, exchange and equity theories, cognitive information-processing theories, cognitive consistency theories, social learning theories, evolutionary theories, and personality theories) and analyze how they serve to explain and predict various kinds of social behavior.

Social psychology is a subject that deals with important real-life questions: Why do we like and love others? When do we conform? What are the best ways to change another's opinion? How do we judge others (e.g., their personality, their intelligence, their honesty)? What causes prejudice, and how can it be reduced? Does media violence lead to aggression? What causes friendships and marriages to be successful, or to break up? Over the coming class sessions, we shall consider these and other practical, real-life questions. If you conscientiously read the text and attend classes, you should not only learn many interesting facts and theories about social behavior in general, but you should also gain some new insights into your own behavior in various social settings.

One textbook is required for the class: Social Psychology, 2nd edition, by Stephen Frannzoi, McGraw-Hill, 2000. This book has been ordered and should be available at the Little Professor Bookstore,275 N. Placentia Avenue, Fullerton, CA (take Nutwood Avenue east, past the 57 freeway, and turn right on Placentia Ave).

A detailed listing of reading assignments follows. In general, you will be asked to read a chapter a week. The text contains a lot of information, so it is important that you keep up with your reading on a week-by-week basis.

Section #1

Read by week of: Chapters: Topics:

Feb 4 1 What is social psychology?

Subtopics: What kinds of explanations does social psychology offer for social behavior? How is social psychology related to other social sciences?

Feb 11 1, 2 Research methods

Subtopics: What is the nature of scientific method, particularly as applied in social psychology? Operational definitions. Ways of measuring social psychological constructs. Experiments vs. correlational studies. Statistical inference and the notion of "significance levels." Meta-analysis. Ethics in social psychological research.

Feb 18 3 Personality and the Self

Subtopics: Trait theories and social learning theories of personality. The "Big Five" personality traits. The "person vs. situation" debate. Self-monitoring as a moderator variable. James’s "I" vs. "me." The self-schema. Cultural variations in conceptions of the self. Self-awareness theory. Self-esteem.

Feb 25 4 Person Perception and Social cognition

Subtopics: Basic issues in the study of perception. "Theory-drive" vs. "data-driven" approaches to person perception. The accuracy of judgments of emotion and of personality. Cross-cultural consistencies and variations in the display and judgment of emotion. Impression formation and information integration. Central traits and schemas. Attribution – theories, research, errors and biases. Cultural variations in attribution processes. Heuristics.


Section #2

Read by week of: Chapters: Topics:

March 3 5 Behavior and Attitudes

Subtopics: Conceptions of "attitude." Functional approaches to attitudes. Attitude formation – learning theories, logical inference theories, personality theories. The authoritarian personality and its link to prejudice. The relation between attitudes and behavior. The model of reasoned action. Self-perception theory.

March 10 6 Persuasion and attitude change

Subtopics: The communications approach to persuasion – speaker, channel, message, and audience variables. "central" vs. "peripheral" routes to persuasion. Inoculation and forewarning research. Mere exposure and repetition effects. cognitive dissonance theory.

March 17 7 Prejudice

Subtopics: Levels of explanation applied to prejudice – historical, sociological, economic, social psychological, personality. cognitive processes in stereotype formation. stereotype threat research. The authoritarian personality, social dominance, and prejudice. Minimal groups and social identity theory. Intergroup competition and prejudice. The intergroup contact hypothesis and reducing prejudice. Media effects in prejudice

March 24 7 Gender, genes, and culture

Subtopics: Sex vs. gender. meta-analytic research on gender differences and similarities. Theories of gender – biological, social learning, Freudian, cognitive-developmental, gender schema theories, social role theory. Self-presentational and social contructionist views. Gender stereotypes of personality and ability. Gender and personality – masculinity and femininity

Section #3

Read by week of: Chapters: Topics:

April 7 10 Attraction #1

Subtopics: Anxiety, affiliation, and social comparison theory. Proximity effects. Mere exposure and attraction. similarity and attraction. Physical attractiveness and attraction. Social anxiety and lonliness.

April 14 11 Attraction #2

Theories of attraction – learning theories, exchange and equity theories, cognitive consistency theories, evolutionary theory, attachment theory. Gender differences in romantic and sexual attraction. Stage models of attraction. Cultural variations in conceptions of love.


April 21 12 Aggression

Subtopics: Hostile vs. instrumental aggression. Evolution and biological factors that influence aggression – drugs, sex hormones, brain chemicals and structures. Pain and aggression. Heat and aggression. Frustration and aggression. Gender differences in aggression. Media effects and aggression; the social learning approach. Pornography and aggression. Sexual violence. Family violence and factors that influence it. Aggression as a personality trait. Ways of reducing aggression

April 28 13 Helping and prosocial behavior

Subtopics: Biological evolution and helping. Social norms of helping and how they vary across cultures. Personality and helping. The development of prosocial behavior. Emergency intervention – decision models, the bystander effect, arousal-labeling theories, cost-reward models. Pure vs. reciprocal altruism. Does pure altruism exist? Empathy and helping. Mood and helping. Modeling and helping. Ways to increase helping.


Section #4

Read by week of: Chapters: Topics:

May 5 8 Conformity, compliance, and obedience

Subtopics: levels of social influence. Asch’s and Sherif’s classic conformity studies. Public vs. private compliance. Normative and informational social influence. Factors that influence conformity. Compliance strategies – the foot-in-the-door, the door-in-the-face, the low ball, commitment strategies. Gender differences in social influence. Milgram’s obedience studies and their variations. Obedience research after Milgram. Ideologies about obedience


May 12 9 Groups

Subtopics: Ways of assessing group processes – Bales’s classic work and subsequent strategies. Social facilitation. Groups at work – the relation between individual and group performance. Social loafing. Brainstorming. Steiner’s taxonomy of work groups. Group decision making – group polarization, groupthink. Deinviduation and anti-social behavior in group settings. Leadership in groups and theories of leadership. Social traps and destructive forms of group behavior

May 19 14 Applying social psychology

Subtopics: Eyewitness testimony – its pitfalls and its credibility to jurors. Jury processes – jury selection, jury attitudes and verdicts. Effects of unanimous and majority decision rules. Effects of "inadmissible" evidence on jurors. Pretrial publicity and its effects on jurors. Judges’ instructions and their effects on juries


Exam dates:

Exam #1: Friday, Feb 25

Exam #2: Friday, March 24

Exam #3: Friday, April 28

Final exam: Wed, May 24, 7-8:50 am


Grades and Exams


Exams. There will be four exams and a short paper. Each of the first three exams will consist of approximately 50 multiple choice questions and will cover material on just that section of the course. The final exam will cover mostly material from the final part of the class (about 50 questions) but will also contain some material testing your knowledge of earlier parts of the class (about 30 questions). The dates of the exams are listed on the previous page, below the reading assignments.

Exams will equally test material presented in the text and in class lectures.

Writing assignment. To provide you will a writing assignment in social psychology, you will be required to write a short (at least three type-written pages, with standard margins) paper. In your paper you are to apply a certain area of social psychological theory and research (e.g., attribution theory, dissonance theory, research on TV viewing and aggression, research on emergency intervention) to you own life and life experiences. For example, you might attempt to explain a real-life event in your life (how you changed a prejudiced attitude) using social psychological research and theory (e.g., research on intergroup-contact and prejudice). You will turn in a draft of your paper Monday, April 17, and then turn in a revised version, based on written feedback on your draft, by the end of the semester. Your paper grade will consist of the average of points your receive for the draft (1 to 10 points, based on quality) and points you receive for the final paper (1 to 10 points, based on quality). Papers will be graded both on content and writing quality. I recommend that you look at a standard book on writing style (example: Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White) before writing your paper.

Class grades will be based on the sum of your points from your four exams and paper, and grades will be assigned according to the following scale: "A" = 80% or greater, "B" = 70-79%, "C" = 60-69%, "D" = 50-59%, and "F" = less than 50%.

Policy on Make-up Exams

You will be permitted to take a make-up exam only if you have a legitimate reason for missing the original exam. The make-up test will be an essay exam and will be graded more strictly than the original exam. It is to your advantage not to miss exams.


Test forms (Answer Sheets) Required For Exams

To take your exams, you will need to buy two answer sheets at the Titan or Little Professor bookstore. For each exam, buy the test form titled "Student Enrollment Sheet -- PAR Testing System." The form number at the bottom of this form is 20787-ERI. This form is an 8 1/2 by 11 inch answer sheet. It is printed in blue.

In preparation for taking an exam: Make sure you know your Student ID number. Bring Number 2 pencils with erasers to the exam. When taking your exam, try not to erase--that is, if you are uncertain about an answer, mark it on your exam and go back to it later. If you must erase to change an answer, make sure you erase completely and thoroughly.

Do not leave answers blank. Even if you are not sure of an answer, take a guess--you have a 25% chance of being correct.


Course Materials (Study Guides, Copies of Syllabus)

Course materials for this class may be found through my web page, which is listed at the beginning of this syllabus. Go to the link marked, "Psychology 351 class materials."