Matthew Lieberman (firstname.lastname@example.org, Franz 4461c)
Mission Statement: The goal of this course is twofold. The first goal is to familiarize you with most of the major themes that have been central to social cognition both historically and currently. To this end, the following nine weeks will each be devoted to one of the areas of research that I believe to be most important to the field of social cognition. Some of these areas focus on a particular content domain or type of phenomena (stereotyping, attitude change, emotion) while others address concepts that are relevant to all the content areas of social cognition (subjective construal, automaticity, introspection).
The second and perhaps more important goal of this course is to get you to think more carefully about the complexities involved in social cognition and experience more generally. It is my sincere hope that you will leave this class with more questions than answers. To this end, I will not be lecturing in class but trying to generate discussion that provokes all of us, myself included, to think more carefully about what it means to study “minds” and “mental processes” as it pertains to social inference processes. I will at times give spontaneous mini-lectures when certain topics are raised and there is a need for historical or conceptual framing that goes beyond the scope of the readings. While this will be a discussion-based course, I hope to also provide you with my own relatively integrated view of social cognition. Regardless of whether you choose to accept or reject different aspects of how I understand social cognition (and you would be foolish to accept all of it, no doubt), I think it is important for you to be exposed to an overall gestalt that hopefully weaves together all the different articles you’ll be reading.
Readings: There is a lot of reading for this course. Truthfully, though, I haven’t assigned enough. It is impossible to give you a thorough understanding of all the issues that have driven the most successfully paradigm shift in the history of social psychology. I have tried to mix up the readings for each week: some big reviews, some research articles, and magazine and book chapters where appropriate. We WILL NOT talk about every article each week. My goal in class discussion is not to make sure that everyone has read every paper. I have no checklists as we go through discussion. We are all adults here and we can all do as we please. Certainly I want people to ask questions about any part of the readings that are confusing (unfortunately some of the best researchers are horrible writers). I also expect that much of the discussion will focus on the experiments and ideas raised in the papers. Nevertheless, I will be carefully rereading each article before class to develop my ideas for discussion and I expect each of you to do the same. Moreover, these are all important articles that you should read in order to be conversant with social cognition. Don’t read them for class. Read them because you want to be a psychologist!
Grades: You must do two things to do well in this class. First, you must actively and meaningfully participate in class. This does not mean dominating discussion, bullying others, saying every thought that comes into your head, or criticizing every experiment and idea. I do, however, expect you to fill the room with half-baked ideas and confusion (and praise for the work you like). Most great psychologists have turned out to be wrong about the things they are most famous for. If they can all be famous for things that turned out to be wrong, then none of us should be anxious for saying what feels confused or wrong. I can almost guarantee the most interesting thing that gets said in our class will be something that everyone initially thinks is ridiculous. (By the way – William James is the one exception to the above. Everything he said was right. Any criticisms of William James will result in punishment of biblical proportions.)
The other thing you must do is write a 2 page seed paper before each class (anything more than 1 page and less than 3 full pages is fine). These must be emailed to me by Sunday at 8pm the night before class. These seed papers are meant to serve multiple purposes. They are meant to make sure you’ve done some thinking about the week’s readings before class. They will also help me steer discussion towards topics of more general interest and decide where clarity is lacking. Also, while these papers do not replace the need to speak up in class, they will let me know what the less vocal of you are thinking as you read the articles.
Each seed paper should take 1 of 3 forms. First you can write a critical review of one or more of the week’s readings (or even on just a part of a reading). Critical does not mean negative. To the extent that you do criticize an argument or idea, you should also offer solutions or alternative ways of thinking about the topic to circumvent the problem. Tearing down theories is easy, while generating your own new developments is really the keys to advancing the field. You can also write a paper in which you integrate the ideas of several papers and talk about how they relate to one another synergistically. The papers to be integrated need not be from the same week and you should feel free to write about papers that aren’t on syllabus too (but, those most be integrated with a paper that is on the syllabus and you can’t assume I’ve read non-syllabus papers).
You should also feel free to add questions about the readings or anything you’d like to have discussed at the end of your seed papers. These add-ons don’t need to be in paragraph format or anything.
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