Psychology 258: Social Cognition (Spring, 2008)

Neil Lutsky
Department of Psychology, Carleton College, Northfield, MN 55057
Olin 111, (507) 646-4379, e-mail:

Psychology 258 examines social cognition--how and what we think about ourselves, other people, social groups, and our social worlds. Social cognition is both a part of and an approach to the study of social psychology, and, as such, you will find the Psychology Department's two social psychology courses, Psychology 258 and Psychology 256 (Social Behavior and Interpersonal Processes), mutually enhancing and complementary. I hope your study of social cognition will encourage you to take Psychology 256 if you have not done so already.

Psychology 259, Laboratory in Social Cognition, is an optional two-credit course taught this term to accompany Psychology 258. In Psychology 259, we will examine methods used to study social cognition and will design and conduct original research on social cognition. The schedule of research topics and issues in Psychology 259 is designed to match the schedule of topics in Psychology 258. I strongly encourage you to consider taking the Laboratory in Social Cognition. It will both stimulate your thinking about social cognition and provide hands-on training in scientific research in the field. There are two laboratory sections: Tuesday/Thursday 8:30-10:00, and Tuesday/Thursday, 10:30-12:00.

Psychology 258 itself will meet for lectures and discussion on Monday and Wednesday and for discussion of weekly issues and course projects on Friday. We will meet in Olin 02 from 8:30-9:40, Mondays and Wednesdays, and from 8:30-9:30 on Fridays. (The consumption of caffeine, before or during class, is optional but highly recommended!) The schedule that follows lists the topics and readings we will be covering. Please complete readings prior to the class meeting for which they are listed both because every class will depend on your active participation and because the readings themselves are challenging ones and will require careful attention in class.

Two examinations will be given in this course. (One of these, the final exam, will be self-scheduled.) For each, I will give you the question or questions a few days prior to the examination. You will be expected to write your essays in response to those questions without the aid of books or notes during the exam times. I have found that this method of evaluation promotes active and thoughtful consideration of course materials rather than temporary memorization. I hope you will agree. You will also be expected to complete two short project/paper assignments. The written part of these assignments must be submitted in class at the beginning of class on the date it is due (see the schedule below). Grading will be based on the following approximate weights: short project assignments (40%), examinations (50%), and class participation (10%).

The text for this course is Social Cognition: From Brains to Culture by S. T. Fiske and S. E. Taylor (McGraw-Hill, 2008). In addition, we will conclude the course by reading D. Gilbert's popular book Stumbling on Happiness (Vintage, 2005). Additional assigned readings will also be available in the file cabinet in the Psychology Department office area (Olin 115). Finally, I encourage you to visit my office to discuss course-related questions and ideas during the open course office hour on Wednesday, 10:00-11:00. I am often available in my office at other times; please stop by or call the Psychology Department secretary (x4380).

Course Topic and Reading Schedule:

March 29, 2008