PSY 205 – Social Psychology
Your work on this paper should exhibit an investment of time and energy worthy of a college term paper done with ample
forewarning. You should consult sources wherever necessary and incorporate what you learn from those sources
into your work. Be sure to cite those sources properly, using APA style, and to avoid plagiarism! (We’ll cover writing
issues like APA style and plagiarism in class.)
Choose only one of the options. Whichever option you choose, write roughly 1000-1500 words (that’s like a 4-6
page paper when double-line spaced). If you have questions about the assignments, ask me. Give it some thought,
and try to “get into it” so that it’ll be interesting for you (and for me when I read it). Your introductory section
(paragraph or two in most cases) is DUE DECEMBER 3 (it will be graded as a homework assignment, and will
provide you feedback concerning your progress). The full paper is DUE DECEMBER 17.
See my web pages on writing introductions and writing your psychology paper
Option 1) Design an experiment to test any principle or claim found in our textbook. Make it a simple experiment with
a clear and single independent variable, but don’t duplicate one that’s described in detail in the text or the readings.
Also, make sure it’s an experiment. Don’t conduct the experiment, just design it and plan it in as much detail as you
possibly can. Consider the selection of participants, the manipulation of the independent variable, how to measure
the dependent variable, and the different controls needed to avoid confounding variables affecting the results. Start
with a general introduction to the topic, the issues involved, and the claim being tested, and provide enough
background – usually with a short review of the relevant prior knowledge and theory – to clarify it for an uninitiated
reader; then detail your methods: the ways you’d actually carry out the experiment if you were going to carry it out.
Start with a description of the participants and how you’d get them to participate, and then describe the procedures
of the experiment in detail so the reader of your paper could carry it out (or replicate it) the way you plan it.
Option 2) Design a study to examine social psychological issues associated with the use of smart phones. For this assignment you’ll
specifically be targeting cell phones (and specifically smart phones) and the possible role they play in some aspect of
life that’s of interest to social psychologists (some suggestions follow). You might design a correlational study or an
experiment for this assignment option. As in option one, above, you will not carry out the research, but will only
describe what it’s about, why it’s interesting, and exactly how you’d carry out the research. As described in option
one, consider participants, selection of them, and so on. Start with a general introduction to the topic and issues
involved and the specific claim being tested, and provide enough background – usually with a short review of the
relevant prior knowledge and theory – to clarify it for an uninitiated reader. Then detail your methods: if it’s an
experiment, follow the description in option one; if it’s a correlational study, you will describe the variables being
measured and the ways you’ll measure them, but there won’t be any manipulation involved.
Some possible topics (feel free to think of your own): how cell phone use influences a person’s self, or a
component of a person’s self; how cell phones are used in self-presentation; how cell phones influence interpersonal
relationships (friendships or romantic); whether cell phones play a role in group factors such as group conformity,
group identity, salience of group membership, etc. If you choose a topic of your own, don’t make it trivial (e.g., just
measuring gender differences in frequency of phone use is pretty trivial for this assignment).
Option 3) Persuasion experience. Set yourself up to intentionally become a target for a persuasive attempt in an
interpersonal setting (e.g., in a store, at a Tupperware party, at a car dealer, at a military recruiting event, etc.).
Expose yourself to the persuasion attempts (without giving in to them) and then analyze the experience from a
social psychological perspective. You should take field notes as soon as you can after you have left the immediate
setting. Describe in these field notes as many details as you can about the entire event. You will be using these notes
later as your data, so write down as much as you can about as many details as you can, even if they seem
unimportant at the time. (Describe the situation, what the person doing the persuading was wearing, how they
initiated the persuasive interaction, what they said, how you reacted, how they reacted to you in turn, including detail
about gestures, personal space, eye contact, tone of voice, quips, nonverbal signals, and so on; also include the
thoughts and feelings you were experiencing while in the midst of being persuaded; later at home you’ll analyze it, so
don’t include your thoughts and conclusions about the persuasion tactics in these field notes unless you think you’ll
forget them later. That is, try to collect data in these field notes, not analyses.)
In your paper, describe the setting and the features of the setting (how open the area was, or how crowded, the
color of the room if indoors, the way people were dressed, whether they carried any objects with them or used any
objects as “props,” and so on; be sure to use objective descriptions and not descriptions affected by your personal
values). Then analyze the experience in terms of persuasion tactics (e.g., see chapter 7), situational influences (e.g.,
chapter 8), personal reactions, attributions, etc. Be sure to provide some details in your paper where appropriate to
support the analyses.
Option 3 grade notice: This option is not eligible for the grades of “A” or “A–.” The maximum grade for this
option is “B+” (however, nothing will be penalized: e.g., a “B” paper will not be reduced).
Option 4) Film analysis. Analyze – from a social-psychological perspective – some of the behaviors and events
depicted in a full-length feature film. You have to address at least three of the following social psychology concepts,
and describe whether you think the writer and director of the film intentionally included them or whether they seem
to operate in the film by accident. You might have to review a few films before you find one that has action
highlighting these topics.
Choose from: attribution theory (and include consensus, consistency, and distinctiveness information), self-fulfilling
prophecy, self-perception theory, illusory correlation, the correlation-causation misinterpretation, elaboration
likelihood model of persuasion, self-handicapping, cognitive dissonance (and either sufficient or insufficient external
justification), deindividuation, misattribution of arousal, mere exposure effect, the anchoring heuristic, groupthink,
View the film you choose at least once. (Twice is probably necessary.) Describe the scenes where the interaction
occurs (objectively: leave your personal values aside). Show some detail about the scenes, but don’t fill your paper with
descriptions of them. Then elaborate on how the social-psychological concept you have identified fits the scene in
the film. You may do this separately for each scene or concept.
Option 4 grade notice: This option is not eligible for the grades of “A” or “A–.” The maximum grade for this
option is “B+” (however, nothing will be penalized: e.g., a “B” paper will not be reduced).
Option 5) A research paper. Summarize the published literature concerning a very narrowly defined topic in social
psychology. (Often, whatever is discussed on any one page of our textbook – except, of course, the first page or two
of each chapter – is sufficiently narrowly defined for this paper.) Become an expert of that topic; know what you’re
talking about, and highlight the nuances involved. Use at least six original scholarly publications as your source
material (for the most part, these should be articles accessed through either the PsycArticles database, the Psychology
and Behavioral Sciences Collection, or the Elsevier ScienceDirect database from our library’s electronic databases, or from
physical copies of journals held in the library). Follow APA style throughout the body of your paper and in the
references and page set-up. If you choose this option, you must get permission from me on your topic (mostly, just
so you won’t be off track – I’ll help you focus the topic).
A word of advice: Options one or five are probably going to be the most useful to you if you plan on majoring in
psychology at a four-year institution, though so can option two, if done well. Option two is a slightly “lighter”
methodology-based task (unless you design an experiment), but if you work more carefully it’s also good experience
for a major in psychology (even if you design a correlational study). Option four is the easiest, which is why it
cannot earn an A, but if you don’t plan on majoring in a social science, it might be just the thing; however, be careful
not to trivialize the concepts as you apply them to the film; though easier, it is also easy to do option four poorly.
Option three is also easy to do poorly, and often is done poorly (which explains the grade limit there), so be careful
and analyze well. Remember to use APA style whenever appropriate for the paper you’re writing (title, page
numbers, headings, citations, etc.). A Word.doc APA template is available in Blackboard. See my website for
additional APA style information.
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