Social Cognition 464/564

Social Cognition Psy 464/564 Winter 1997

Instructor: John Edwards Office: Moreland Hall 134 Phone: 737-1370

Office hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday from 1-2, or by appointment

Date Topic Reading Assignments






THU 1/23 "


THU 1/30 MIDTERM # 1


THU 2/6 "


THU 2/13 "


THU 2/20 "


THU 2/27 "



TUE 3/11 "

THU 3/13 ACCURACY Paper due!!

THU 3/20 FINAL EXAM - - - 2:00 PM

TEXTS: Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (1991). Social cognition. (2nd Ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill.

COURSE GOALS: Provide an overview of scientific theory and research in the major topics of social cognition. Students should gain an understanding of cognitive processes governing how we think about and make judgments about other people and social situations, and how other people & social situations influence how we think. Students should come away with an understanding of the ubiquitous nature of these processes in everyday life, & of the application of social cognition to real-life problems.

COURSE FORMAT: The work of the course involves a short paper, two 50-minute tests and a final exam. Class meetings will involve lecture and discussion. Some material will be covered in class that is not covered in the assigned texts and vice/versa. Students should identify themselves on papers and tests only with their social security number so I can grade blindly.

THE PAPERS: A paper is due in class on Thursday, March 13. See below for the topic. The paper is to be relatively brief in that there is a three page limit. DO NOT write more than three pages! On the other hand, be sure you adequately address the assignment. Meeting these two challenges will almost certainly require some planning and some revision on your part. Papers must be typed, double space, and readable(i.e., no microscopic type). The grading for the paper is on a simple scale: You get 15 points if you turn the paper in on time and address the topic in an understandable, appropriate way. You get 10 points if you turn the paper in on time and attempt to address the topic but your example is inappropriate or your explanation is inadequate (see below). You get 5 points if you turn in the paper on time but don't do the assignment appropriately (i.e., you don't attempt to use social cognition in any meaningful way, or you don't do what is asked in the assignment). You get 0 if you turn nothing in. In addition, you lose 5 points per 24-hour period the paper is late, starting at the beginning of class the day it is due (i.e., if you turn it in at 4:30 on Thursday, March 13 you lose 5 points; if you turn it in at 4:30 on Friday, March 14 you lose 10 points, etc.). I suggest you do it early to avoid losing points due to printer problems, flat tires, etc.

COMPLETION OF COURSE WORK: To receive a non-failing grade, a student must complete at least one of the tests and the final exam. However, failure to complete a test or the paper results in a zero for that assignment, which would be likely to result in a failure anyway. In other words, completion of all the assignments does not guarantee a passing grade, but a person who does not take at least one of the tests and the exam is guaranteed a failing grade.

Make-up tests and exams are rarely given and are difficult. DOCUMENTED problems should be discussed with the instructor PRIOR to the test, or, in the extremely rare case of an emergency which prevents contacting the instructor prior to the test, as soon as possible. I intend to be quite strict about this. Note that having other assignments, tests, or exams due, friends in town, vacation plans, hangovers and the like do not constitute acceptible excuses, neither for missing nor rescheduling a test, paper, or the exam. I will not move the test or exam times for individuals for any reason. This EXPRESSLY includes vacation plans. You have prior warning!

GRADING: The final grade is based on 145 total possible points: 35 points for each of the two tests, 15 points for the paper, and 60 for the final exam. Note that graduate students have to do a little more than undergraduates (in accord with university policy). See below for details.

Grade distributions will be based upon the performance of all the students in the class (i.e., grades are curved). The class average grade will be equivalent to a B- (that is, a person whose point total is at or close to the class average will get a B- for the class). Grades above the class average will be equivalent to a B or better; grades below the class average will equivalent to a C+ or worse. Graduate students will not be included in the curve for undergraduates (i.e., undergraduates do not have to compete against graduate students), but will be graded relative to the undergraduate curve.

CLASS ATTENDENCE: Class attendence is the student's responsibility (i.e., not mine). Students are responsible for everything covered in class. This includes details about the tests or paper. Therefore, I strongly advise class attendence. If you have to miss a class, be sure to get the notes from another class member (i.e., not from me). Please help each other out!

Paper topics and some helpful material

PAPER TOPIC: Generate & describe two examples from your personal life, each illustrating a different error you have made in judging someone or some social situation. Explain why each error may have occurred, using your knowledge of social cognition (i.e., course material). Each error should have been the result of some facet of social cognition/information processing (rather than something else, like having incorrect information). In other words, the error should have been the result of the natural cognitive processes we talk about in class. Do not use stereotyping as an error unless you are describing a situation in which a stereotype influenced encoding, retrieval, or inference processes.

Grad students only: In addition to the above, describe how social-cognitive phenomona might lower your (or others') performance in your intended career. That is, describe one or two ways how the manner in which you processes information about others or about social information could lead you to make errors or create problems in your future job. You get two additional pages for this (for a total of 5).

HOW TO WRITE THE PAPER (adapted in part from class materials for Psychology 367.01, Ohio State University): Papers should be written in a "short essay" format. That is, these papers are not exercises in creative or expository writing, but are exercises in clearly communicating ideas and arguments. Your ideas should be presented in a clear enough manner for a typical college student to understand them. This means that you must DEFINE YOUR TERMS and DESCRIBE THE THEORIES you use in your papers, because the average college student won't be familiar with the material presented in this class. In other words, explain fully what you have learned from class.

Writing brief essays is challenging, and you should approach the paper with this in mind. Try to write as efficiently as possible. You want to be clear, but at the same time don't waste space by using unnecessary words to make a point or by talking about something that isn't really relevant to your argument. Doing so will prevent you from making important arguments or describing something more fully in another section of the paper, and thereby hurting your grade. The way to approach these papers is to write a draft and then revise it repeatedly, editing it until it is concisely and clearly written. Having a WELL ORGANIZED paper will help with this as well.

Along the same lines, be sure your paper is organized around the paper topic. Don't veer off to talk about irrelevant issues. In other words, the papers shouldn't be a rehash of everything you heard during lecture, but a precise, organized, and specific application of relevant ideas to a particular problem.

One purpose of the paper assignment is for your instructor to see how well you understand material from lecture and readings and how well you can apply that material. Therefore, the information from class and from the book represents the "building blocks" that you should use in constructing your paper. In other words, BUILD YOUR PAPER AROUND COURSE MATERIAL! Use as much information as possible from lectures and readings to support your ideas in the papers. Use the papers to demonstrate that you have understood the lectures, read the text, and can effectively apply the material to a problem.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCES. One mistake that students often make in writing psychology papers is to cite their personal experience as evidence for some idea or argument. Psychology is a science, so you want to draw on the theories and research associated with this science. Avoid using your intuition or personal experiences as "proof". Use course material!

WRITE IN YOUR OWN WORDS. Don't copy material from books, even relatively small amounts of material. Don't plagarize. You will get in loads of trouble. I will address this more fully in class. You need to cite ideas that are not your own using APA style. In the rare instance where you want to quote a source, put the quoted material in quotation marks and cite (i.e., tell where you got it from). However, generally speaking, try to avoid direct quotes. Use of lengthy quotes, even if properly punctuated & cited, will hurt your grade. I want to see what YOU know - I already know that book authors know their stuff. Generally, I will simply ignore the material in lengthy quotes, meaning that I will treat your paper as though it did not contain the material in the quotes. You will lose 2 points for instances where you fail to cite appropriately or where you copy sentences or small sections word-for-word from another source, up to two instances. A larger section will cost you 15 points. Plagiarism of an entire paper will result in (at the least) course failure.

OUT-OF-CLASS SOURCES. You can use material other than the books or lecture from this class if you wish. However, a mistake that students sometimes make is to draw on material that is not related to the subject matter of the course. Such sources can include "pop" or self-help psychology books, tv documentaries and talk shows, or books from other fields such as political science, business, women studies, etc. Although such material may have its uses in understanding or explaining social behavior and thought, the purpose of the class (and therefore the papers) is to cover the ideas and research traditionally associated with social cognition. Therefore, stick to that material when writing your papers. If you use material from sources other than the book and lecture from this class, be sure it is "social cognition". If you aren't sure, ask me.

FORMAT. Papers must be typed and double-spaced. Try to keep your fonts at 10 point or bigger so I can keep my eyesight as I grow older. Please allow one-inch margins at the top, bottom, and sides of each page so I can write comments if necessary.