6400 Contemporary Issues in Social Personality Psychology-Term Fall 2018
DATES: September 7 to November 30, 2018
TIME: Fridays, 11:30 am to 2:30 pm

Course Coordinator

Ward Struthers
Office: 238 BSB
Phone: (416) 736-2100 x66476 (psych office for messages)
Web Site:
Office Hours: 11:30-12:30 Monday or by appointment

Course Objectives and Overview

This course is primarily directed at new students in the Social Personality Program. The course focuses on central issues in personality and social psychology from both theoretical and applied perspectives. Students will participate in a series of seminars led by different faculty members from the Social Personality Area. Within these seminars, a variety of topics and research within the field of social and personality psychology will be discussed including social motivation, social cognition, culture, health, forgiveness, empathy, prejudice, psychology and the law, immigration. The goal of the course is to introduce students to the diverse array of areas of research being conducted by faculty members at York and to make them familiar with the diverse array of content areas and methodologies used by personality and social psychologists at York.

Class Format

One three hour seminar will be held each week consisting of research talks and class discussion.

Grading and Course Requirements

Faculty seminar leaders for each week will assign a set of readings approximately 2 weeks before the seminar date. Students are expected to read these papers, compose a thought paper around these readings due on the seminar date, and come prepared to discuss these papers in class. Seminar leaders will grade each student based on their thought paper along with their contributions in class (/10). Final grades will be an average of the top 10 grades received across the course.

Standard Thought Papers and Class Participation

NOTE: Faculty seminar leaders may set their own expectations for the thought paper.

Unless otherwise specified by the seminar leader, thought papers should be no more than 1 page single-spaced (or 2 pages double-spaced). Thought papers should demonstrate novel analysis or integration of the material from the course readings. Simply reiterating or describing the papers does not demonstrate your ability to comprehend and critically engage with the readings. Therefore, very little space should be devoted to describing the readings, just as much as is needed to provide context and make your analysis comprehensible to a reader. Given the short length of these submissions, as much space as possible should be devoted to your own thoughts, ideas, and analysis. Critical analysis can include, but is not limited to, drawing novel connections between papers and ideas, pointing out shortcomings of studies not mentioned in the paper, suggesting improvements for studies or possible future studies to move work in this area forward, and describing links to other ideas or other papers not assigned.

Some additional examples:

Suggest a way to extend the core findings of the paper – think about theoretical extensions, new methods, and new implications.

Discover a plausible alternative account for the results of the study, along with a suggestion for a possible way of resolving this issue that will help rule out the alternative explanation or prove it to be correct. On a related note, describe an IMPORTANT concern that you might have with the article. This concern might be related to the theory/conceptual framework of the paper, the hypotheses/expectations, the methodology, the results, or the author's interpretation of the results and their discussion of the implications/impact of the findings.

Describe how the results of the study relate to another area of research that you are interested in, and outline a study that can test your intuitions.

Outline a theoretical question related to the readings that is left unexplored, and suggest a study that can investigate that question.

Compare and contrast two articles assigned that week or one from the present week and a previous week. Suggest a study that might highlight your ideas about your perceptions about the two articles. These perceptions can be about the methodology or about the theory.

Describe how the readings relate to your own personal real-life experiences and use your own experiences to develop a different way of testing these ideas.

Proper grammar and clear writing are also a key part of your evaluation for these thought papers. Don’t be fooled by the length: writing a clear and insightful piece this short is very difficult, likely more difficult than writing a longer piece. The key to writing well within this short format is to “revise, revise, revise.” When writing your first draft, feel free to go over the page limit. Then, during revisions, cut out the excess or unnecessary ideas and text, condense and refine your ideas, re-organize your main points to make your argumentation more clear, and fix any grammatical errors or typos. Ideally, write a draft early, long before your deadline, allowing yourself time to take a break and approach what you’ve written with “fresh eyes.” If you have time, have a peer you trust look over what you’ve written and provide feedback.

Class Participation

All students are expected to participate fully in the discussion for each seminar. The goal of the discussion should be for the group to come to a deeper understanding of the topic and its related issues. We want to hear your opinions related to each of the topics. Don't be afraid to add your two-bits and come prepared to talk about any problems, concerns, criticisms, or appreciation that you might have regarding the ideas, theories, methods, or results of any of the assigned readings. All topics that are valid for the thought papers are also relevant to the discussion so come prepared with thoughts and questions regarding the material.

Weekly Reading

To be assigned by each course instructor


September 7 Ward Struthers, orientation to course and grad school 101
September 14 Ward Struthers, social motivation
September 21 Raymond Mar
September 28 Michaela Hynie
October 5 Regina Schuller
October 12
  Fall Reading Week, no classes
October 19 Esther Greenglass
October 26 Amy Muise
November 2 Richard Lalonde
November 9 Kerry Kawakami
November 16 Raymond Mar
November 23 Doug McCann
November 30 Ward Struthers, last class