Social Psychology

Course Objectives:

This course will introduce students to basic themes and issues, methodological concerns, and representative studies in social psychology. The bulk of the course, following the readings, is focused on experimental social psychology: examining the classic experiments and contemporary research, discussing their results and implications, developing familiarity with well-known studies and terminology, and gaining an understanding of methodological and conceptual issues involved in social psychological research. The central ‘take-home’ message of experimental social psychology, which has been above all a 20th century US approach, is that the social situation has a much greater impact on our individual thought and action than we realize. 

The course will conclude examining an excerpt from anthropologist Catherine Lutz’ ethnography. Thematically the focus is on a critical re-interpretation of ‘the social’ from the cultural perspective of anthropology by way of a comparison between American and Ifaluk understandings of emotion. The central ‘take-home’ message of this component is that ‘the social’ goes much deeper than we realize and that much Western theory – such as US experimental social psychology – makes assumptions about and understands ‘the social’ in ways that are themselves ‘social’, i.e. cultural. A strong criticism of 20th century US psychology is that it has been ‘culture-blind’ and therefore ethnocentric in its framings. 

Required Texts:

There is no textbook in this class.

Excerpt from:

Lutz, C. (1988). Unnatural Emotions: everyday sentiments on a Micronesian atoll & their challenge to western theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (To be posted on Moodle.)

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