Argosyuniversity, Chicago Campus

Argosyuniversity, Chicago Campus



COURSE NUMBER: PP 8185 (Friday)

COURSE NAME: Social Psychology & Difference

TERM: Spring 2008


Susan Powell, Ph.D.






Title / Social Beings: A Core Motives Approach to Social Psychology
Author(s) / S. T. Fiske
Copyright / 2004
Publisher / John Wiley & Sons
ISBN / 0-471-65422-3
Title / The Meaning of Difference
Author(s) / K.E. Rosenblum & T.M.C. Travis
Copyright / 2006
Publisher / McGraw Hill
ISBN / 007299746X
Edition / 4th

This Course Requires the Purchase of a Course Packet: YES NO

Additional Required Readings on Library Reserve:

  1. Kitayama, S. & Markus, H. (1994). The cultural construction of self and emotion. In, S. Kitayama & H. Markus, Emotion and culture (pp. 89-130). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association
  2. Atkinson, D. R. & Hackett, G. (1998). Oppression of elders: Past and present. In D.R. Atkinson & G. Hackett, Counseling Diverse Populations (pp. 51-76). New York: Mc Graw-Hill.
  3. Atkinson, D. R. & Hackett, G. (1998). Oppression of people with disabilities: Past and present. In D.R. Atkinson & G. Hackett, Counseling Diverse Populations (pp. 29-50). New York: Mc Graw-Hill.
  4. Festinger, L. & Carlsmith, J.M. (1959). Cognitive consequences of forced compliance. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58, 203-211.
  5. Latane, B., Williams, K., and Harkins, S. (1979). Many hands make light work: The causes and consequences of social loafing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(6), 822-832.
  6. Asch, S.E. (1956). Studies of independence and conformity: I. A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs, no. 416, pp. 1-12.
  7. Sherif, M. (1936). Formation of social norms: The experimental paradigm. Adapted by the author. In H. Proshansky and B. Seidenberg (eds.), Basic Studies in Social Psychology, New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1965.
  8. Haney, C., Banks, C., & Zimbardo, P. (1973). Interpersonal dynamics in a simulated prison. International Journal of Criminology and Penology, 1, 69-97.
  9. Garnets, L.D. (2002). Sexual orientations in perspective. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 8(2), 115-129.
  10. Latane, B. & Rodin, J. (1969). A lady in distress: Inhibiting effects of friends and strangers on bystander intervention. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 5, 189-202. Reprint


Spring 2008; Fridays, 9:15am-12pm

AmericanSchool of Professional Psychology, ArgosyUniversity, Chicago Campus

Susan Powell, Ph.D., Instructor, E-mail: ;

Office hours:Thursday and Friday 2-3pmand by appointment

Course Description:

With the advent of social movements for change in American society, Clinical Psychology has begun to consider the impact of social, cultural, and economic factors on its theoretical and practical understanding of human functioning and psychological well-being. Theory and research in Social Psychology can be useful to Clinical Psychologists as a guiding framework for critical investigation of the grounding assumptions and biases our field relies on when attempting to address issues of difference in personal, professional, and institutional realms.

This course will focus on an understanding and critical evaluation of the theoretical constructs and the corresponding body of empirical research from the field of social psychology. In addition, emphasis will be placed on the constructions, meanings, and experiences of difference in an effort to prepare students to function as ethically-minded psychologists. Social psychological concepts will provide a theoretical framework for understanding specific "categorical" features of identity and difference including race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, physical difference and/or disability, gender, national origin, and social class. A self-critical social constructionist perspective will be the most common theoretical approach to be accompanied by treatments of the social psychological constructs of deviance, conformity, social influence, attributions, social cognition, mass communication and propaganda, and prejudice.

One goal of the course will be to promote students' own process of examination and exploration of aspects of difference. Particularly, students will be encouraged to reflect on their own personal and professional development and on the statuses and categories they occupy so as to gain greater self-awareness and sensitivity to their own and others' attitudes, biases, and preferences.

Course Catalogue Description:

This course presents the concepts of attitude formation, attribution theory, interpersonal perception, social constructivism, and social cognition. These concepts are also applied to populations with different social attributions related to culture, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, class, and physical status.


1) Increase critical awareness and critical thinking capabilitywith regard to significant research and theory in the field of social psychology. (Core Competency: Scientific Foundations)

Assessment: This objective will be assessed in the analytic tasks of the midterm examination which involves synthesizing numerous sources of philosophical, theoretical, empirical, and qualitative material from your readings. Also, the final immersion project paper will include integration of social psychology research and theory and will be an additional source of assessment.

2) Achieve greater awareness of aspects of group identities in terms of ability status, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, religion, and age and enhance empathic understanding ofthe experience of stigmatization accompanying membership in an outgroup. (Core Competency: Diversity)

Assessment: This objective will be assessed in the quality of your weekly homework commentaries, your immersion project paper, and your participation in class discussion and experiential exercises..

3) Enhance intellectual independence and personal self-confidence.

It is important for students at any level, but particularly at the graduate level, to begin to form and articulate a point of view about your culture, social context, and unfolding events in society, since you will be practicing your profession within the wider context of society with clients who cope with those realities. The class is a venue in which you may test your ideas and views, within a mutually supportive and respectful environment, to learn to express dissenting views and to critique the views of others.

Assessment: This objective will be assessed by your participation in discussions within the class and your weekly homework commentaries.

Course Format:

The material in the course will be covered through a combination of lectures, videos, guest speakers, experiential exercises, and class discussion. Lectures will provide a general overview of theories and research findings within each topic area, as well as issues not covered in the readings.

Required Readings:

***(Please be certain to purchase the specific editions of the books listed below. Older editions will not be acceptable!!)

Fiske, S.T. (2004). Social beings: A core motives approach to social psychology. New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN: 0-471-65422-3


Rosenblum, K.E., & Travis, T.M.C. (2006).The meaning of difference: Americanconstruction of race, sex and gender, social class, and sexual orientation (4th ed.) New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies. (ISBN: 007299746X)

New York Times, CNN or BBC news, etc. (accessible on-line)

Course length: 15 Weeks

Contact Hours: 45 Hours

Credit Value: 3.0


Grades will be based on the following breakdown:

Class Participation and Journals 15 percent

Midterm assignment 40 percent

Final paper 45 percent

Class participation and attitude:Research indicates that students learn material better and retain it longer when they are active participants in the learning process rather than passive recipients of information. Therefore, it is critical that you complete all assigned reading prior to class and come to class prepared to discuss what you are studying. Credit for class participation will not only be based on how often you contribute to class discussions, but more importantly the clarity, relevance, and thoughtfulness of your comments. I will work to create an environment where people feel safe and comfortable asking questions and expressing ideas, and ask for your cooperation in this effort.If at any time during the course you feel unable to express yourself or participate fully, please make an appointment to talk with me privately.

Many of you will encounter ideas and issues that you have never thought about before, which might create feelings of discomfort (e.g., “I don’t like talking about this issue”), resistance (e.g., “this is unimportant information”), and judgment (e.g., “that is wrong, sick, or weird”). Graduate school provides a unique opportunity to learn new information, but requires stepping outside of one’s “comfort zone” in order to optimize such learning opportunities. In this class you will be expected to do just that--step outside of your comfort zone--and deal with the reactions you have rather than simply dismissing new ideas that conflict with your own. I encourage you to challenge yourself to think beyond your current understanding of the world. Only in doing so will you learn new information about yourself and the world in general.

Punctual attendance at all classes is required. Class will start promptly and will end promptly. If you experience a personal emergency that prevents you from attending class, please call to inform me as soon as possible so we can agree on a way for you to have an alternative but commensurate experience. If religious holidays require you to miss class (or classes), please consult with me immediately regarding the dates you will be absent so a plan can be made for make ups.

Journals/Homework: To facilitate critical reading of the course assignments and to stimulate class discussion,you are encouraged to “journal” each week as you proceed through the course. Journal entries will facilitate your understanding of social psychological theories, and make the final product for the immersion project much easier and more thorough. If you read material and take the time to record your reactions and questions, you will be capable of much more efficient memory consolidation and retrieval at a later time. At the end of each week of class you will be required to submit a journal entry/written assignment consisting of three parts:

a)Critical comments, critiques, and/or questions that come to your mind about the readings during the week. Items can be general, theoretical,philosophical, specific, personal, etc., but should address the reading for thatday's class.

b)A brief paragraph that describes your reflections on your experience of the process of exploring issues of diversity and difference this week.

c)Finally, critical commentary on news articles you read inThe New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, or, for international students, news sources you cover in your first language.You should apply course concepts to your commentaries of these news items, which will provide you with a better understanding of the theory and research being covered in your texts.

Midterm: The take-home midterm will consist of essay questions that ask you to demonstrate an integrated knowledge of social psychological theories and readings up to that date. The midterm must be written according to APA-style and will be distributed at the end of class onFebruary 22ndand due at the beginning of class on February 29th. No late papers will be accepted without the most legitimate of excuses and only with advance permission.

“Immersion Experience”(Final Project/Paper & Presentation): The major project for the course requires that you expose yourself to some aspect of diversity about which you feel personally naive, uncomfortable, or uninformed, and engage in an activity that will facilitate your learning about people who belong to this social group, and/or challenge your biases. This is an opportunity for you to take psychological risks, so please make an effort to challenge yourself.

Please submit a proposal outlining your intended series of experiences and activities in classFebruary 4th. Please begin by identifying the group/topic you are choosing and stating why. Then lay out in detail, week-by-week, the activities/experiences you have decided to include.The plan should consist of a variety of activities and experiences;think creatively about the sorts of experiences, including readings, music, movies, events, or art, that will expand your understanding of this aspect of identity.

Decide on an action plan, and map out a sequence of activitiesyou plan to pursue each of the weeks of the term. Most students lead up to a direct immersion experience by doing things such as reading fiction, magazines, newsletters, watching films, listening to music, going to lectures. Examples of the more intensive and direct immersion experiences to strive for include:

*Going to a religious service or spiritual ceremony that is radically different from your own background (e.g., if you are an atheist, attend a synagogue or a Roman Catholic or Pentecostal service.)

*Attending a gay, lesbian, or bisexual event (e.g. at a bar, a community fund-raiser; check-out the Windy City Times or web-sites for ideas)

*Going to a community event or activity for a specific ethnic group (e.g., attending an African-American church service)

*Attending a meeting of Tri-S, Society for the Second Self, a gathering of transgendered persons (with permission from society leaders)

*Spending a day using a wheelchair, wearing a blindfold, etc.

*Spending a day in a factory (if you've never held such a job) or go with your groceries to the front of the line and ask if they take food-stamps.

Please do NOT engage in an experience with another student from class, a friend, or a family member, as this would diminish the experience of being in a minority position during the exercise. The exception would be if you need physical assistance during the activity (e.g., if you’re using a wheelchair).

Remember: You are required to submit a proposal outlining your intended series of experiences and activities in class on February 4th. Please begin by identifying the group/topic you are choosing and then provide a rationale for your choice.Finally, please lay out in detail, week-by-week, how you intend to immerse yourself in your topic.

In writing your final paper on your immersion, the following points should be addressed:

1.Your social/cultural identity(ies)How do you identify regarding the group you've chosen to learn more about? For example, if you've chosen to expose yourself to a specific ethnic or racial minority group, what is your own racial or ethnic identification? How important has this aspect of yourself been to you inthe past and recently? How did you "receive" these various aspects of identity growing up and how have you actively worked to integrate them (or not) into your individual identity in adulthood?

2. Group and activity chosen.Discuss the social factor and group chosen. Why did you choose this group or topic? Which activities did you choose and why?

3. Subjective experience of cross-cultural interaction.What was this

experience like for you? How did you feel? Was it different than what you expected? How do you think this has affected you?

4. Implications for professional development: How do you think it will be for you to engage in professional roles (i.e., as therapist, supervisor, instructor, etc.) with individuals belonging to this social group or how will it be for you, as a member of a stigmatized group, to function in the majority context as a professional? What strengths do you bring to such relationships? How did this activity affect your development and skills as a psychologist and what is your future plan for further growth in this and other areas?

You should refer to theoretical models and research discussed in class or found in the readings (e.g., prejudice, social cognition, racial identity or sexual identity development models, upward mobility) in your paper. In particular, you should include discussion of the essentialist and social constructionist perspectives. Address how the meaning or significance of the social factor/group you chose is "created” in society. What are those social and social psychological processes?You must include at least THREE outside references to support your points. Thus, the paper should be scholarly, not just an opinion piece.

Papers should be 12-15 pages, typed, double-spaced, and in APA-style. Papers are due in class on April 11th.Again, no late papers will be accepted except under extenuating circumstances, and not without express permission from the instructor Grading of all written assignments will be based on organization of ideas, clarity of expression, ability to construct a coherent and persuasive argument in support of your ideas, solid command of relevant theory and research, ability to apply theory and research to your subjective experience, depth of engagement with the issues, correct spelling and punctuation, and adherence to APA standards regarding language.

**Each student will also be required to present their experiences/papers during the final class session. Expect to spend up to fifteen minutes presenting your responses to the questions you addressed in your paper (i.e., all four questions!). While required, presentations will not be formally graded.

Grading is done on the following fixed curve:

Grading Scale

A / 100 – 93
A- / 92 – 90
B+ / 89 – 88
B / 87 – 83
B- / 82 – 80
C+ / 79 – 78
C / 77 - 73
C- / 72 – 70
D+ / 69 – 68
D / 67 – 63
D- / 62 – 60
F / 59 and below

Students who earn an “A” in this course will demonstrate mastery of theoretical material covered in the course, excellent written skill, and strong conceptual skills. Examples include sophisticated application of theory to case examples and their own experiences; ability to express themselves in a clear and organized fashion, both orally and in writing; written work that is free of spelling, grammatical, and/or typing errors; appropriate integration of relevant literature into written arguments; demonstration of self-awareness and willingness to engage in and "stretch" oneself in the process of self-exploration regarding aspects of difference; participation in class discussions and activities; weekly attendance in class; prompt arrival to each class.

Students who earn a “B” in this course will demonstrate sufficient understanding of theoretical material and good writing skills, but lack the sophistication and depth in their writing and conceptual skills needed to achieve an “A”. Examples include occasionally unclear and awkward writing, including presence of spelling, grammatical and/or typing errors; difficulty in application of theory; some blocks in self-awareness and difficulty engaging in self-exploration regarding aspects of difference; infrequent or inconsistent class participation; some absences and/or tardiness to class.

Students who earn a “C” or lower in this class will demonstrate insufficient understanding of theoretical material, poor writing skills, and/or weak conceptual skills. Examples include unsophisticated or superficial application of theory; unclear, unsophisticated, or unscholarly writing; significant gaps in self-awareness, and/or blatant resistance to engage in self-exploration regarding aspects of difference; frequent class absences or tardiness.