Social Psychology (Psyc 170) is a 200-level course. This is a more specialized course than the 100-level Introduction to Psychology course, but the basic format is still that of a survey course. Social psychology is an extremely broad and diverse field, so the aim of this course is to give students a general knowledge of the breadth of the field, and a more in depth understanding of some of the major concepts. Students will also be given the opportunity to learn more about subfields that interest them through papers and projects.
While this course will rely heavily on a lecture format, there will also be ample use of discussion and group work, both of which depend largely on student involvement and engagement. Hopefully incorporating examples from current events and other disciplines, as well as multimedia tools, will help the students to become interested and engaged with the course material. The following instructional materials, designed to introduce and familiarize the students to the fundamental attribution error, highlight some of these elements.
I believe that the fundamental attribution error is one of the key concepts in social psychology. The fundamental attribution refers to the tendency we all have to overestimate the importance of dispositional factors and underestimate the importance of situational factors when explaining the behavior of others. While this can and does happen in the evaluation of positive behaviors, it seems to be especially likely when we are considering the negative behavior of others. The occurrence of the fundamental attribution error can have very serious effects on relations, between both individuals and groups.
The fundamental attribution error will be one of the key focuses of our discussion of attributions in this course. The classes involving the fundamental attribution error will follow the classes where we discuss ways of perceiving ourselves. Following our time spent on the fundamental attribution error, we will discuss the group attribution error; the manifestation of the fundamental attribution error between groups, rather than individuals.
At the completion of this section of the course, students should be able to…
1. Demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental attribution; including what it is, some reasons it occurs, what it can result in, how to reduce its’ occurrence, and the issues some people have with it.
2. Exhibit knowledge of some of the research on the fundamental attribution error.
3. Recognize and explain occurrences of the fundamental attribution error in the media, and in your own life.
4. Express ways that you can go about reducing occurrences of the fundamental attribution error in your life.
I have developed a variety of materials to help toward the achievement of these objectives. These materials can be accessed on the sidebar, or by using the in-text links below. They are the following, in the order they will be utilized in:
I hope that these materials will appeal to a variety of students with different learning preferences, both in terms of engaging the students and in helping them to achieve the desired objectives. There is some use of the traditional lecture, as well as partner and larger group discussions where the students can get more involved. The response to the scenarios (included in the lecture), the inclusion of the media, and the assignment involving one’s own real life experiences are all meant to engage the students with the material, and will hopefully give them some intrinsic motivation to learn more about this concept, that is so relevant in their own lives. The quiz material is meant to assess students’ understanding of the concept, so any misconceptions or issues can be addressed before moving forward in the course.
Our time spent on the fundamental attribution error will begin with the in class lecture. The lecture slides for the fundamental attribution error are included here (Element 1). As can be seen from the lecture notes (Element 2), the class period will begin with a very short interactive component, where students will independently respond to a scenario, and then discuss their reactions with the rest of the class. At the completion of the lecture, we will watch a short media clip where we can spot examples of the fundamental attribution error being committed. In this example, I’m using a clip from the reality show “Big Brother.” Other clips could also be used, depending on what show is popular in that particular semester, but I would generally try to use a reality television show for this example, so we can apply this concept to what could be viewed as real social interactions. Students will be given an activity sheet with guiding questions (Element 3). They will discuss their responses to these questions with a peer, and then return for a larger discussion with the whole class.
In the next class, we get to the assessment aspect of this lesson plan. That class meeting will start with a short, five question quiz on the fundamental attribution error (Element 4). Students will be informed during the previous class that the quiz will cover material covered in class, and in the module from the book. Later in the class, I will pass out the writing assignment (Element 5). There are multiple aspects of this assignment, and the description is a bit lengthy, so we will go over it as a class, and I will answer any questions. The students will also be given the grading rubric (Element 6) for this assignment, so they will have a better understanding of what is expected of them.