Research Methods in Social Cognition-Honors
Fall 2001

Dr. Janet B. Ruscher Lab Instructor: Seth Kaplan
Office: PS3049, x3309 Office: PS3012F, x3330

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 of cognitive psychology.

In addition to familiarizing students with the theories and findings of social cognition, this course has three goals. First, completion of hands-on demonstrations provide concrete examples of the scientific method, particularly those methods favored by social cognition researchers. Second, writing critiques of and holding discussions about empirical articles each week should help students think critically about research and theory. Identifying what particular studies did well and where they could be improved encourages critical thinking, as well as honing students' own research skills. 'Finally this course should help students to master APA style. The publication style of the American Psychological Association is used by psychology and related fields, as well as being similar to styles used in other sciences and social sciences. Learning to write in this style is important for students intent upon conducting an honors thesis in psychology and/or pursuing post-baccalaureate study, as well as for students wishing to improve general written communication skills.

Course Prerequisites: Psyc212 and Psyc343 and Honor's Program standing. By enrolling in this course, you are confirming that you have met the prerequisites.

Course Format


For the first several weeks (both Tuesdays and Thursdays), I will lecture about methodological issues, and provide a refresher regarding experimental design and statistics. Material from these lectures should be useful in writing critiques, lab reports, and your contributions to the seminar portions of the course. Some useful methodology definitions appear on the web at Later in the semester, I will lecture on Tuesdays on material germane to that week's topic.


Discussions will center around a chapter from the text and recent journal articles. The text provides a sound theoretical background to each topic as well as a summary of relevant research. The text should be integrated into the discussion and critiques, and also is fair game for the final exam. The journal articles are exemplars of the type of research conducted that topic. Articles are on electronic reserve with the library.

Co-facilitation. Co-facilitation of discussions should help develop skills in leading group conversations (particularly for seminars and workshops). Second, co-facilitation should keep the style of weekly discussion fresh, by capitalizing on the variety of students' styles. The cofacilitation grade, combined with general class participation and the course presentation, contribute 12% to the final grade.
Working in dyads, students will co-facilitate the seminar discussion twice. The co-facilitators' role is to help keep the conversation going, and on track. Again, there are no formal "rules" to go by. If you feel creative, fine. If you feel task-oriented, fine. In general, though, I would suggest clustering the comments ahead of time: by issue, by depth, or whatever seems to fit the particular topic. If you wish, you may begin the discussion by "setting the stage," (i.e., sketching design, abstracting the main points, etc). As the conversation develops, encourage people who wrote pertinent comments to contribute to the class. Try changing the topic when it is exhausted or becomes trivial. If you plan in advance, you may stage a debate, and assign students to a "side" of one of two central issues (or adopt some other top-down approach). Alternatively, you may abstract a structure from the comments and provide an outline to the class (or another bottom-up approach).

Article critiques. Writing article critiques hone critical thinking skills. Written critiques simultaneously enhance the quality of the discussion, by encouraging critical thinking about readings prior to class. Students will be assigned randomly to write a critique on one of the two articles for a seminar session, but are expected to read both articles. Given that purpose late critiques will not be accepted. No exceptions. No kidding. Please submit your two copies of your critiques to the envelope outside my door by Tuesday 3 pm. The 8 critique grades combine comprise 16% of the final grade.

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) the following questions or issues.

Theoretical Issues: (e.g., How does this paper relate to the theories in the text? Does it contradict other theories? Expand them? Is the theoretical reasoning presented in the paper sound?)
Validity/Interpretational Issues: (e.g., Does the study really demonstrate what it claims to demonstrate? What are some alternative explanations? What kind of alternatives are suggested by the text readings? What alternatives are left open by the methodology?)
Methodological Issues: (e.g., What problems do you find with the design, statistics, procedures, etc?) . Ideally, comments about methodology focus on problems of internal validity and construct validity.

Laboratory Sessions

In each of the seven simulations, you will 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 you find a particular study objectionable, you may decline your participation. However, because laboratory attendance is required, you 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.

I realize, of course, that as students of psychology you will not be "naive" participants, even though experiments are conducted prior to consideration of the topic in lecture. Data are being collected for pedagogical purposes, rather than for basic research purposes. Your data will be combined with data from a previous semester to increase the sample size (and provide more power to the designs). Please try to take seriously your role as a "participant." After the lab is conducted, stimuli and results for the labs will be accessible here

Sources of Evaluation

Lab Reports

You and your lab partner(s) must submit a lab report for 6 experimental simulations (all except Lab 2). These lab reports are intended as group projects, so you should work on them with your lab partner, 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 switch (again, randomly) for the remaining labs. The combined lab report grade comprises 18% of the final grade.

For the first simulation, the laboratory instructor will lead the group through procedure, discuss the writing of the lab report, and then will provide a sample report. This sample will provide a template for the lab reports submitted throughout the semester.

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. Please refer to the 5th edition of the APA Publication Manual for style. Although you are welcome to do so, you need not read the paper on which the lab is based in order to write the report. Lab reports are due to the lab instructor 2 weeks after the lab is conducted. Accepting late papers (and imposing penalties) is at the discretion of the laboratory instructor.

APA-Style Research Article

You will write an APA-style papers for one of the experimental simulations (Lab 2). Please refer to the 5th edition of the APA Publication Manual (Comments on the 5th edition) . The body of the paper should be 4-6 pages, consistent with the length of a poster-format conference presentation. This paper is under no circumstances a group project. This paper is due to the course instructor 3 weeks after the lab is conducted. Late papers will be penalized a half-grade for each day late, so you are encouraged to submit papers in a timely fashion. This paper contributes 12% to the final grade.

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 reflecting the body of the paper (c-f) will average about 1.5 pages long. This course is not approved as a writing course, so please do not request opportunities to rewrite.

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.) A copy of the honor code (reprinted by permission) appears at my website, along with examples of inappropriate citation and plagiarism:

APA-Style Research Proposal

The APA-style research proposal comprises 20% of the final grade. Students will propose a social cognition experiment, comprising theoretical rationale, methods, proposed analyses, and implications. Topics must be approved by the instructor no later than November 1. Like the research article, this manuscript will follow the 5th edition of the Publication Manual. This project is an independent paper bound by the Honor Code, and is subject to the aforementioned late penalty. With the exceptions of the instructor and laboratory assistant, no person should provide assistance with outlining, researching, or writing your paper.

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 appears at this location, and an old multiple choice portion appears at this location. The exam contributes 20% 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.


As discussed above under "seminars," grades on 8 critiques will contribute to the final grade. Each critique contributes 2%

Class Participation

Attendance, contribution to discussion, and cofacilitation of seminar (discussed above) comprise the class participation grade, which is 12% of the final grade.

Additional information

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%
6 Lab Reports 18%
Lab 2 Paper 14%
Research Proposal 20%
Class participation 12%
Final Exam 20%

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

Dates and Topics (Lab Dates in italics)

August 30 Introductions
September 4 Review of Basic Statistics
September 5 Lab Introductions
September 6 Review of Basic Statistics, continued...
September 11 Methodology in Social Cognitive Psychology
September 12 Lab on APA style and PsycLit
September 13 Methodology in Social Cognitive Psychology, continued...
September 18 Social Representation (Kunda, Ch. 2)
September 19 Lab 1
September 20 Dijksterhuis et al., Waenke et al
September 25 APA Style
September 26 Yom Kippur Holiday: No lab
September 27 Yom Kippur Holiday: No class
October 2 Heuristics (Kunda, Ch. 3)
October 3 Lab 2 (Report on Lab 1 due)
October 4 Holbrook et al., Peters & Rothbart
October 9 Causality in Events (Kunda, Ch. 4)
October 10 Lab 3
October 11 Jonas et al; McMullen & Markman
October 16 Memory (Kunda, Ch. 5)
October 17 Lab 4
October 18 Carli; Rusting & DeHart
October 23 Workshop Day for Lab 2 Paper
October 24 Workshop Day for Lab 2 Paper (Report on Lab 3 due)
October 25 Motivation & Affect (Kunda, Ch. 6) (Lab 2 Paper Due)
October 30 Automaticity (Kunda, Ch. 7)
October 31 Lab 5 (Report on Lab 4 due)
November 1 Smart & Wegner; Stevens & Fiske
November 6 Stereotypes (Kunda, Ch. 8)
November 7 Lab 6
November 8 Monteith et al., Sinclair & Kunda
November 13 Knowledge of Others (Kunda, Ch. 9)
November 14 Lab 7(Report on Lab 5 due)
November 15 Chiu et al.; van Boven et al.
November 20 Workshop Day Research Proposal
November 27 The Self (Kunda, Ch. 10)
November 28 Workshop Day Research Proposal (Report on Labs 6 and 7 due
November 29 Baumeister et al.; Stahlberg et al.
December 4 Workshop Day Research Proposal
December 5 Workshop Day Research Proposal
December 6 Practice Exam (Research Proposal Due)
December 17 FINAL EXAM 8:00am to 12:00pm


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