Research Methods in Social Cognition
Spring 2002

Dr. Janet B. Ruscher Lab Instructor: Eden Renee Pruitt
Office: PS3049, x3309 Office: PS3059, x3342

Research Methods in Social Cognition is a 4cr course that examines the theories and methods of cognitive social psychology. In the lecture/seminar component of the course, students read and critique recent journal articles on social cognition experiments; the lecture/seminar component is intended to help students gain insight into methods, design, and theory. In the laboratory component of the course, students act as participants in laboratory simulations based on previous experiments in social cognition, then write APA- style reports

Psyc212 (Experimental Design and Quantitative Methods) and Psyc343 (Social Psychology) are prerequisites to this course. By enrolling in this course, you are confirming that you have met the prerequisites. Psyc345 satisfies the psychology laboratory requirement, but not the college laboratory requirement

  • Course Objectives
    • How do people make sense of themselves, of other people, and of the social world in general? Broadly speaking, the social cognitive perspective addresses these and other social psychological questions, borrowing liberally from theories and methods Although these questions will be addressed in lecture, the optimal way to understand the issues and techniques is through active engagement. To facilitate this process, students will critique and discuss published research, participate in laboratory simulations of social cognition experiments, and hone scientific writing skills.

  • Lectures
    • For the first several weeks (both Tuesdays & Thursdays), lectures will focus around methodological issues, and provide a refresher regarding experimental design and statistics. Material from these lectures should be useful in writing critiques, laboratory reports, and discussion. For some helpful methodology definitions, click here

      Lecture, seminar, and lab all are fair game for the final examination, which combines a multiple choice and essay format. The multiple choice items obviously change each term, but some recent exams from 1998 and 1995 may give you ideas about the type of questions asked. The essay portion comprises methodology questions about a particular article; the questions are identical from term-to-term ( essay questions)but are with reference to a new empirical article. Later in the semester, Tuesdays will be reserved for lecture, and Thursdays will be reserved for seminar discussions of empirical articles.

  • Seminars
    • Thursday seminars will center around a chapter from the text and 2 recent journal articles. The text provides a sound theoretical background to each topic as well as a summary of relevant research, and should be integrated into the critiques and discussion. Articles are on electronic reserve at the library.
    • Writing weekly critiques on the empirical articles should hone critical thinking skills. Written critiques simultaneously should enhance the quality of the discussion, by encouraging critical thinking about readings prior to class. Each student will be assigned randomly to write a 1 page comment for one of the two articles. Of course, all students are expected to read all papers. "Non-writer" participation will be kept in mind when class participation grades are assigned. Please place critiques in my Stern 2007 mailbox by Tuesday at 3 pm.
    • There are no formal "rules" about how to write a weekly comment. Given what they are intended to achieve within the class period (a stimulating, somewhat organized discussion), here are some guidelines: Write about 1 page, focusing on the article to which you are assigned, referring liberally to the text for support. Try to make and support at least 2 points. You might address (but are certainly not limited to) any of the following questions or issues: Theoretical issues (e.g., How does this study support or contradict theoriesdiscussed in the text?) Methodological issues (e.g., Are the control procedures adequate?) Interpretational/Validity issues (e.g., Are the current operationalizations really tapping the constructs of interests?)

  • Laboratory Sessions
    • The laboratory component of the course is intended to provide hands-on insight into social cognitive methodology. Students participate in experimental simulations, code and analyze data, interpret results, and write laboratory reports.
    • In each of the eight simulations, students serve as the participants who provide the raw data for laboratory reports. The procedures for these experiments are relatively innocuous, and the material will not be socially sensitive. If anyone finds a particular study objectionable, she or he may decline participation. However, because laboratory attendance is required, all students must remain present until the end of the session. In accordance with ethical guidelines, the teaching assistant will ensure confidentiality of students' responses, and will encourage students to respect each other's privacy.
    • Of course, psychology majors and minors are not "naive" participants. Recognized that data are being collected for pedagogical purposes, rather than for basic research purposes. In that spirit, please try to take seriously the role as a "participant." After the lab has been conducted, laboratory materials will be available on the Web here. Before the lab is conducted, reader access to these materials is blocked.

    • APA-Style Papers. Students will write 6-7 page APA-style papers for two of the experimental simulations. Please refer to the 5th edition of the APA Publication Manual (Comments on the 5th edition) .These papers themselves are under no circumstances group projects. Papers are due 3 weeks after the lab is conducted. Late papers will be penalized a half-grade for each day late, so students are encouraged to submit papers in a timely fashion.
      Papers should include a) a title page, b) an abstract, c) an introduction discussing the relation of the study to the research on which it was based, d) a methodology section, e) a results section, with graphs and tables as appropriate, f) a discussion, and g) references. On average, sections c-f each will be 1.5 pages long. (The other sections really do not add to the length of the paper.) Psyc345 is not a writing intensive course, so requests to "re-write" or to submit drafts will not be honored.More about the APA format paper.
      Students' work must be their own. You may not solicit help from other people (e.g., classmates, professors, other students, significant others) in outlining or writing your paper. (Substantial paraphrasing and borrowing of ideas without appropriate citation can be construed as plagiarism,so be sure that you understand what constitutes a breech of the honor code

    • Lab Reports. Lab partners must submit a jointly prepared lab report for the remaining experimental simulations (i.e., Lab reports on studies submitted as long papers are not necessary). These lab reports are intended as group projects, so students may work on them together and submit a single report to the teaching assistant (who will assign a grade). Lab partners will be assigned randomly for the first 3 labs, then assignments will be switched (again, randomly) for the remaining labs.
      For the first simulation, the teaching assistant will lead the group through the writing of the lab report. These reports are unlikely to exceed 1 or 2 typed pages. At a minimum, lab reports must a) state the hypothesis and experimental design, b) briefly describe the methodology, c) describe the results, which includes clearly stating the inferential statistics used and summarizing the findings with descriptive statistics, d) provide a brief interpretation of the result, and e) provide the appropriate reference. It is not necessary to read the paper on which the lab is based in order to write the report. Lab reports are due 2 weeks after the lab is conducted. Accepting late papers (and imposing penalties) is at the discretion of the teaching assistant.

  • Final Examination
    • Multiple choice questions will comprise 50% of the exam, examining knowledge acquired in lecture, laboratory, and seminar. The remaining 50% of the exam involves reading a short empirical article, and answering questions about it. With the exception of the question that assessing understanding of the results, the same questions (but a different articles) are used each year. A copy of these questions, and a previous multiple choice exam, are accessible through the course website. The exam contributes 24% to the final grade. The exam will be given on the date and time scheduled. No exceptions. In addition, no student may begin the final exam if another student already has exited the exam, so please plan to arrive on time.

    Class Participation
    • The remaining 10% of the grade derives from class participation, which is recorded throughout the semester. Prompt class and lab attendance, as well as seminar participation on both assigned articles is expected. Monopolizing the conversation is not equivalent to excellent participation.

    Special Needs

    • Please bring any accommodations from the ERC to my attention the first week of class. Included in this request are reservations for taking the final exam at the ERC; the ERC fills up quickly during exam week.

Evaluation Summary

8 Critiques 16%
5 Lab Reports 20%
2 Empirical Papers 30%
Class participation 10%
Final Exam 24%

Numerical to Letter Grade Equivalents

A 93 and above B- 80 to 82 D+ 67 to 69
A- 90 to 92 C+ 77 to 79 D 63 to 66
B+ 87 to 89 C 73 to 76 D- 60 to 62
B 83 to 86 C- 70 to 72 F 59 and lower


  • Reading List for Spring 2002
  • 345 Lab Website
  • Electronic Reserve
  • Essay Portion of Final
  • 1998 Multiple Choice Final
  • 1995 Multiple Choice Final
  • Newcomb & Tulane Honor Code
  • Social Psychology on the Web

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    Last updated 01/09/02