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Dr. Michael E. Nielsen
Office: MPP 2031
Phone: 681-5344
Class Meets: Mon. - Wed. 1:00 - 2:25; Th. 1:00 - 2:50 (lab)
Office Hours: Daily 11:00 - 11:50; or by appointment

Required Texts:

Catalog Description: A laboratory course that provides an in-depth examination of selected content areas treated in Psychology 374. Methodological and ethical issues in research will be emphasized. Prerequisites: PSY 150 and a grade of C or better in PSY 280, PSY 380, PSY 382, and PSY 374, or consent of instructor.



This course allows you to combine the methods used in psychological research with the content of social psychology. The focus of this course is on improving your methodological skills as you try to better understand aspects of social behavior and thought. You will build on your understanding of statistics, research methods, and social psychology, and I also expect that you have successfully mastered the writing skills presented in general education English courses and in research methods. In the process of completing this course, you will develop a better understanding of how social psychologists use the methods of science to learn about behavior. Successful completion of the course requires critical thinking, good writing, appropriate use of statistics, and a healthy dose of good, hard work.

Requirements and Grades


As you read at the beginning of the syllabus, the GSU Course Catalog emphasizes that this is a laboratory course. During this course we will complete several laboratory projects; additionally, each student will complete a major project. The labs will involve hands-on experience with basic methods in psychological research. Because you can not have a hands-on experience if your hands are somewhere else, attendance at labs is essential. Assignments from the labs will account for 150 points, and will be due at the beginning of the next lab. A missed lab can not be made up at a later date, and will lower your grade for the course.


In this course there will be a midterm exam (worth 250 points), and a final exam (100 points). The midterm exam will consist primarily of essay and short answer questions about our text and readings. You will need to bring two "Blue Books" to the midterm exam.

The final exam will be in the form of an oral presentation of your research to the class. The presentation must include an overview of each aspect of your project, and your discussion of the results should include at least one overhead transparency.

The final exam exam presentations are scheduled for the last days of class as well as during the final exam time. A student who fails to attend any of the presentation days will be awarded an F on the final exam. In order to show respect for students who are presenting their projects, prompt attendance is expected, and a student who is late will have a one point per minute deduction for each minute that she/he is tardy. More details about the final exam will be given in class.

Research Project

During this course you will conduct an original research project. Although data collection will be carried out in pairs, the literature review and all writing must be your work alone. (You also have the option of collecting data individually, if you so choose.) Under no circumstances should you collaborate in the literature review or writing of your paper. Be aware that I shall take great care to determine that your paper is your work, and that any papers that appear to be the product of collaboration will result in a report filed with the Judicial Affairs Office (see the section below on honesty). The research paper will report the project in a manner consistent with the APA Style Manual. In addition, the research paper should be accompanied by a folder containing support materials--a photocopy of the first page of each article cited in your paper, and printouts of computer analyses of data. More details will be given in class.


Most of this course will be conducted as a seminar, which means that students will be responsible for presenting and actively discussing articles and the text. The class can not function if a student is unprepared. To demonstrate your readiness to learn, you will write a brief reaction paper for each article. In the reaction paper, describe your overall impression of the reading as well as specific points that prompt questions or criticisms. For example, some of the issues you might address are:

  1. Consider the validity of the research. What methods are used to draw conclusions? Does the research use sound methods, and are there alternative (possibly better) ways of reaching the same conclusions?

  2. Compare the current study to another study that we have already read. How do they combine to give a more complete picture of the phenomena under consideration?

  3. How, if at all, might this project apply to individuals and organizations in different settings?

  4. Does this research help you understand someone you know (or yourself)? Does it speak to a societal concern?

  5. What weaknesses does the research have? How might those limitations be corrected?

  6. Does this article give you ideas for your research project? Describe them!

  7. Does this article raise ethical concerns or deal effectively with ethical problems?

These are merely suggestions; you are free to address other issues that interest you. The reaction paper should be at least one-half of one page. It may be printed legibly or typed, with your name and the name of the article at the top of the page. It is due at the beginning of each class. Students who do not submit it at the beginning of class will receive a "zero" for participation for that day. Five "zeros" will reduce by one-half the maximum number of points a student may earn for participation. That is, if you are unprepared for class, operationally defined as failing to bring to class a brief reaction paper, five or more times during the quarter, the maximum number of participation points you can earn is 50, rather than 100.


Grades will be calculated by summing the points earned from your exams, labs, research proposal, final report, and participation. A total of 1000 points are possible. Course grades will follow a grading scale of: 900 = A, 800 = B, 700 = C, 600 = D, <600 = F. These are firm minimal cutoff points; a score of 799 means that the student has earned a C. The various components of the course will contribute the following points toward the course grade:

  • Midterm Exam = 250
  • Research Proposal = 150
  • Lab Assignments = 150
  • Research Paper = 250
  • Final Exam = 100
  • Participation = 100

  • TOTAL = 1000
  • Attendance Policy

    Regular and consistent attendance is expected in all university courses, but it is all the more critical in lab courses. If a student misses more than three classes during the quarter, that student's final course grade will be lowered 10% (100 points). The only exceptions made to this policy are in cases of extended illness documented by a physician, or emergencies that are documented by the CLASS Dean, as when a parent dies. This and other policies are consistent with those of other instructors of Psy 556.

    General Comments


    If you have a documented learning disability or some other special need that requires accommodation of some type, be sure to discuss it with me before a problem arises. I reserve the right to be unreasonable if the matter is raised after the fact.

    Study Habits and Time Management

    During this course you will work on more than one project at the same time, and you will maintain a heavy reading schedule. As a result, it is extremely important that you organize and use your time effectively. Don't procrastinate! Use the Premack Principle: first do your work, then reward yourself. (If the reward comes first, the work may never get done.) Papers will receive a 20% penalty (two letter grades) for each day or part of a day that they are late. A paper turned in five minutes after class has begun is considered late.

    Because this course requires a great deal of writing and rewriting, I strongly recommend that you use a word processor for all written work. If you do not know how to use a word processor, I strongly and seriously urge you to drop this course, learn word processing, and then take this course. It will make a tremendous difference for you, not only in this course, but in your career. Saving your work to disk will make editing much easier and will save you a great deal of time.

    A "full" course load is considered to be 15 credit hours per quarter. National accreditation committees--the people whose "stamp of approval" gives meaning to a university degree--base this on the assumption that students work at least two hours outside of class for every hour that they are in class. I base the course on this same assumption. Thus, for a 5-hour class such as this, you should expect to work at least 15 hours each week (5 hours in class, 10 hours studying outside of class). Notice that a person who takes a 15 hour course load is committing to be involved in school 45 hours each week, which is why 15 hours represents a full schedule--it is the equivalent of a full-time job, plus overtime. Each day, you should plan to devote at least two hours to studying for this course.

    1. In order to be successful in this course, you should do the following:
    2. Read the assigned readings before we discuss them in class; this way, you can ask questions when we are going over the material in class.
    3. Come to class every day. Pay attention, ask questions, and enjoy yourself.
    4. Reread the material following class.
    5. Spend at least 10 hours studying for this class each week. Students who do this are much more likely to succeed than students who do not do this!
    6. Study consistently. Don't rely on "cramming" to get you through the class. You will recall the material better if you study every day.
    7. Remember that learning is fun! Ask questions about the material as you study. Become involved with the subject. Learning is exciting, and you are fortunate to be in school. There are millions of people throughout the world who wish they had the opportunity that you now have. Enjoy it, and take advantage of your chance!


    The temptation to plagiarize carries with it great penalties. If you have a question about plagiarism, consult the Georgia Southern Student Conduct Code, and ask me. The following excerpt from the Student Conduct Code summarizes important guidelines that you are expected to follow.

    In other words, academic dishonesty includes falsifying information on an assignment or project, failing to give credit for an idea or statement that belongs to someone else, claiming credit for an idea or statement that belongs to someone else, giving or receiving assistance on an exam, or using unpermitted notes or books during an exam. Academic dishonesty may result in an F for the course and a report being submitted to the Office of Judicial Affairs, which can result in being dismissed from school. If you have any questions, please ask me!

    While we're on the subject, here's something to think about. (A friend emailed this to me; unfortunately, I do not know the original source.) If we could, at this time, shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look like this:

    Obtaining a higher education is a rare privilege. Make good use of this opportunity!

    Tentative Schedule

  • Apr. 2: Introduction
  • Apr. 3: Computer Lab -- scale development
  • Apr. 7: Measuring Religion (Hutsebaut & Verhoeven, 1995; Nielsen "Research" commentary on web page)
  • Apr. 8: Dimensions of Religion (Hunt, 1972); Religious Orientation (Donahue, 1985)
  • Apr. 9: Religious Orientation (Batson & Schoenrade, 1991a & 1991b)
  • Apr. 10: Lab -- topic to be determined
  • Apr. 14: Prosocial Behavior (Darley & Batson, 1973)
  • Apr. 15: Attitudes (Gorsuch & Wakeman, 1991)
  • Apr. 16: Attitudes (Waller et al., 1990)
  • Apr. 17: Lab -- topic to be determined
  • Apr. 21: Attribution (Spilka, Shaver & Kirkpatrick, 1985)
  • Apr. 22: Social Cognition (Kirkpatrick & Shaver, 1992)
  • Apr. 23: Social Cognition (Nielsen & Fultz, in press)
  • Apr. 24: Lab -- discuss research ideas (come with three ideas for studies, each typed on a separate sheet of paper, with independent and dependent variables clearly identified for each idea)
  • Apr. 28: Prejudice (Hunsberger, 1996)
  • Apr. 29: Conflict (Nielsen, 1997)
  • Apr. 30: Mysticism (Spilka, Brown & Cassidy, 1992)
  • Apr. 31: Lab -- work on projects in groups
  • May 5: Midterm Exam
  • May 6: Work on projects in groups
  • May 7: General instructions on data collection; Develop consent forms & sign-up sheets; Reserve rooms,
  • May 8: Submit all materials for projects; Meet with individual groups for final OK to begin data collection; Proposal Due
  • May 9: (no class--last day to withdraw)
  • May 12-15: Data Collection
  • May 19-22: Data Analysis & Report Writing
  • May 26-29: Report Writing
  • Jun. 2: Presentation preparation
  • Jun. 3: Presentation preparation
  • Jun. 4: Final Exams
  • Jun. 5: Final Exams
  • Jun. 10: Final Exams
  • Reading List

    Articles are on reserve at the Henderson Library. The articles preceded by a number are those that are required for a given topic. Each student is expected to read these articles and submit a brief reaction paper on the day that we discuss the article. The numbered articles, along with the text, will form the basis for your midterm examination. The other articles are supplementary material that I recommend to you for use in your projects or to round out your background understanding of the subject.

    Psychology and Religion

    1. Hutsebaut, D., & Verhoeven, D. (1995). Studying dimensions of God representation: Choosing closed or open-ended research questions. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 5, 49-60.

    2. Nielsen, M. E. (1996). Methods of Research in Psychology of Religion [World wide web page]. Available .

    Supplemental reading for Psychology and Religion:

  • Batson, C. D. (1979). Experimentation in psychology of religion: Living with or in a dream? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 18, 90-93.
  • McIntosh, W. (in press). Parallels between Zen Buddhism and social psychology. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion.
  • Sperry, R. (1988). Psychology's mentalist paradigm and the religion/science tension. American Psychologist, 43, 607-613.
  • Religious Orientation

    3. Hunt, R. A. (1972). Mythological-symbolic religious commitment: The LAM Scales. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 11, 42-52.

    4. Donahue, M. J. (1985). Intrinsic and extrinsic religiousness: Review and meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 400-419.

    5. Batson, C. D., & Schoenrade, P. A. (1991a). Measuring religion as quest: 1. Validity concerns. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 30, 416-429.

    6. Batson, C. D., & Schoenrade, P. A. (1991b). Measuring religion as quest: 2. Reliability concerns. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 30, 430-447.

    Supplemental reading on Religious Orientation:

  • Allport, G. W., & Ross, J. M. (1967). Personal religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5, 432-443.
  • Burris, C. T. (1994). Curvilinearity and religious types: A second look at intrinsic, extrinsic, and quest relations. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 4, 245-260.
  • Burris, C. T., Jackson, L. M., Tarpley, W. R.. & Smith, G. J. (1996). Religion as quest: The self-directed pursuit of meaning. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 1068-1076.
  • Kwilecki, S. (1986). Religious orientation and personality: A case study. Review of Religious Research, 28, 16-28.
  • Nielsen, M. E., & Fultz, J. (1995). Further examination of the relationships of religious orientation to religious conflict. Review of Religious Research, 36, 369-381.
  • Pargament, K. I. (1992). Of means and ends: Religion and the search for significance. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 2, 201-229.

  • Religion and Prosocial Behavior

    7. Darley, J. M., & Batson, C. D. (1973). "From Jerusalem to Jericho": A study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27, 100-108.

    Supplemental Reading on Religion & Prosocial Behavior:

  • Batson, C. D. (1983). Sociobiology and the role of religion in promoting prosocial behavior: An alternative view. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 1380-1385.
  • Batson, C. D., & Gray, R. A. (1981). Religious orientation and helping behavior: Responding to one's own or to the victim's needs? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 511-520.

  • Religion and Attitudes

    8. Gorsuch, R. L., & Wakeman, E. P. (1991). A test and expansion of the Fishbein model on religious attitudes and behavior in Thailand. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 1, 33-40.

    9. Waller, N. G., Kojetin, B. A., Bouchard, T. J. Jr., Lykken, D. T., & Tellegen, A. (1990). Genetic and environment influences on religious interests, attitudes and values: A study of twins reared apart and together. Psychological Science, 1, 138-142.

    Supplemental Readings on Religion & Attitudes:

  • Donahue, M. J. (1994). Correlates of religious giving in six protestant denominations. Review of Religious Research, 36, 149-157.
  • Dudley, R. L., & Muthersbaugh, H. P. (1996). Social attachment to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church among young adults. Review of Religious Research, 38, 38-50.
  • Francis, L. J., & Gibson, H. M. (1993). Parental influence and adolescent religiosity: A study of church attendance and attitude toward Christianity among adolescents 11 to 12 and 15 to 16 years old. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 3, 241-254.
  • Holman, T. B., & Harding, J. R. (1996). The teaching of nonmarital sexual abstinence and members' sexual attitudes and behaviors: The case of Latter-Day Saints. Review of Religious Research, 38, 51-60.
  • McFarland, S. G., & Warren, J. C. Jr. (1992). Religious orientations and selective exposure among fundamentalist Christians. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 31, 163-174.
  • Steiner-Aeschliman, S., & Mauss, A. L. (1996). The impact of feminism and religious involvement on sentiment toward God. Review of Religious Research, 37, 248-259.

  • Attribution

    10. Spilka, B., Shaver, P., & Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1985). A general attribution theory for the psychology of religion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 24, 1-20.

    Supplemental Reading for Attributions:

  • Furnham, A., & Brown, L. B. (1992). Theodicy: A neglected aspect of the psychology of religion. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 2, 37-46.
  • Loewenthal, K. M., & Cornwall, N. (1993). Religiosity and perceived control of life events. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 3, 39-46.
  • Pargament, K. I., & Hahn, J. (1986). God and the just world: Causal and coping attributions to God in health situations. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 25, 193-207.

  • Social Cognition

    11. Kirkpatrick, L. A. & Shaver, P. R. (1992). An attachment-theoretical approach to romantic love and religious belief. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18, 266-275.

    12. Nielsen, M. E., & Fultz, J. (in press). An alternative view of religious complexity. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion.

    Supplemental Reading for Social Cognition:

  • Gaston, J. e., & Brown, L. B. (1991). Religious and gender prototypes. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 1, 233-242.
  • Hunsberger, B., Alisat, S., Pancer, S. M., & Pratt, M. (1996). Religious fundamentalism and religious doubts: Content, connections, and complexity of thinking. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 6 201-220.

  • Religion and Harm

    13. Hunsberger, B. (1996). Religious fundamentalism, right-wing authoritarianism, and hostility toward homosexuals in non-Christian religious groups. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 6, 39-50.

    14. Nielsen, M. E. (1997). An assessment of religious conflicts. Manuscript under review.

    Supplemental Readings:

  • Altemeyer, B., & Hunsberger, B. (1992). Authoritarianism, religious fundamentalism, quest, and prejudice. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 2, 113-134.
  • Baumeister, R. F., Reis, H. T., & Delespaul, P. A. E. G. (1995). Subjective and experiential correlates of guilt in daily life. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 1256-1268.
  • Hunsberger, B. (1992). Religion and prejudice: The role of religious fundamentalism, quest, and right-wing authoritarianism. Journal of Social Issues, 51(2), 113-130.
  • Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1993). Fundamentalism, Christian orthodoxy, and intrinsic religious orientation as predictors of discriminatory attitudes. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 32, 256-268.

  • Mystical Experience

    15. Spilka, B., Brown, G. A., & Cassidy, S. A. (1992). The structure of religious mystical experience in relation to pre- and postexperience lifestyles. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 2, 241-258.

    Supplemental Reading on Mystical Experience:

  • Hood, R. W. Jr. (1980). Social legitimacy, dogmatism, and the evaluation of intense experiences. Review of Religious Research, 21, 184-194.
  • Hood, R. W. Jr., & Hall, J. R. (1980). Gender differences in the description of erotic and mystical experience. Review of Religious Research, 21, 195-207.

    Date, Presenters, and Article

    Apr 8:

    Apr 9: Apr 14: Apr 15: Apr 16:

    Apr 21:

    Apr 22:

    Apr 23:

    Apr 28:

    Apr 29:

    Apr 30:

    Addendum to Syllabus

    16 April 1997


    I would like to modify the policy stated in the syllabus regarding attendance at the final examination. Specifically, I propose that an exception be granted to the final exam attendance policy in the event of governmental service being required. That is, if you are asked to serve on jury duty, appear in court, have military service obligations, or other governmental duties, and you provide documentation verifying this to my satisfaction, you may miss the final examination presentations of your classmates for that day (or days) that you are obligated to governmental service/duties. You remain responsible for the presentation of your report, but you may miss the presentations of your classmates with no penalty to your grade. Please sign the statement below. If you have concerns or reservations, please discuss them with me before signing.




    I have read the syllabus and this addendum, I have had the opportunity to ask questions about the class policies, and I understand those policies.


    Name (printed):


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