Ever wonder why people do what they do? This course—which includes more than $1,000 of video and reading materials—offers some answers based on the latest research from social psychology. Students taking the course for a Certificate will also receive free membership in Social Psychology Network (SocialPsychology.org). COURSE DESCRIPTION FROM PROFESSOR PLOUS: Each of us is dealt a different hand in life, but we all face similar questions when it comes to human behavior: What leads us to like one person and dislike another? How do conflicts and prejudices develop, and how can they be reduced? Can psychological research help protect the environment, and if so, how? This course offers a brief introduction to classic and contemporary social psychology, covering topics such as decision making, persuasion, group behavior, personal attraction, and factors that promote health and well-being. Our focus will be on surprising, entertaining, and intriguing research findings that are easy to apply in daily life. The course will also draw from the websites of Social Psychology Network, the world's largest online community devoted to social psychology. I hope you'll join me for this course, have fun, and learn some useful information that enriches your life.
WEEK 1: Social Perceptions and Misperceptions
This week's goals are to: (1) learn what social psychology is and why it's worth studying; (2) take a "snapshot" of your thinking at the start of the course; (3) see how perceptions of
reality are psychologically constructed; and (4) witness the shocking speed at which social judgments are made.
WEEK 2: The Psychology of Self-Presentation and Persuasion
This week's goals are to: (1) learn how people explain their behavior and the behavior of others; (2) explore the link between attitudes and behavior; (3) understand what cognitive
dissonance is and why it matters; and (4) gain some practical tips from the science of persuasion and social influence.
WEEK 3: Obedience, Conformity, and Deindividuation
This week's goals are to: (1) understand the psychological dynamics of obedience to authority; (2) review studies on group pressure and conformity; (3) learn about the dark side of
deindividuation; and (4) consider ethical issues related to psychology research.
WEEK 4: Group Behavior: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
This week's goals are to: (1) examine behavioral dynamics within and between groups; (2) see what happens when people fall prey to the Abilene Paradox; (3) read about social
loafing, groupthink, and group polarization; and (4) learn effective ways to reduce prejudice and discrimination in daily life.
WEEK 5: Mid-Course Break
This week offers a chance to catch up on any course material that you've missed. There are no required videos or readings, but for those of you whose week wouldn't be complete
without a little social psychology, please enjoy the optional materials in Week 5!
WEEK 6: Helping, Hurting, and Peacemaking
This week's goals are to: (1) look at the factors that influence whether people will help one another; (2) examine the roots of aggression, violence, and terrorism; (3) learn
psychological techniques to promote peace and sustainable living; and (4) carry out a personal experiment in which you spend 24 hours living as compassionately as possible.
WEEK 7: A Happy End to the Course
This week's goals are to: (1) consider whether empathy is a "magic bullet" for addressing social problems; (2) learn what the most important ingredients are for a happy life; (3) find out what researchers have discovered about romantic attraction and close relationships; and (4) hear about additional resources and organizations if you want to continue studying social psychology.
Professor of Psychology; Executive Director, Social Psychology Network; recipient of the American Psychological Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching
Department of Psychology