A Personal Application Assignment (PAA) is a short (5-7 page TYPED) paper consisting of a thoughtful analysis of some social psychological issue. The choice of topic area is up to you, but will most likely be developed from some idea that you have learned about in this class. You need only to look at your work/personal/academic life in order to come up with viable topics. For example, the lecture and reading on obedience may bring to mind some situation where you conformed to someone’s wishes without really feeling that it was the right thing to do. What do social psychological theories have to say about why you did that? Or maybe the reading and lecture about the social nature of self-image will get you contemplating your own self-consciousness (or lack thereof) and cause you to reflect upon situations in which you feel especially self-aware.

Whatever your topic choice, you must enhance your discussion by using the information found in TWO social psychology journal articles. I would expect you to find articles relevant to your topic, and to summarize the theoretical basis and experimental procedures described in the articles. The major journals in the field are The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, The Journal of Applied Social Psychology, The Journal
of Applied Psychology, and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Many empirical sources can also be found online. Other journals, such as those found in the human resources, clinical, or educational fields, might also be used, depending upon your topic. (NOTE: Magazines for laypersons, even those such as “Psychology Today”, are not appropriate as a primary source for this assignment. Websites that merely provide information about a topic, as opposed to websites containing research articles, are also unacceptable.)

The general format of a typical paper would be to spend a page or so discussing your topic of interest: Why does it intrigue you? What have you seen in your own life or in the observations of the social world that relate to this topic? Then you would spend two or three pages summarizing the articles you have found. What is the general history of the topic in the research literature? What do the authors of the articles you are using hypothesize about the topic? How do they test their hypotheses? Who are the participants in the study, and what is the methodology that was used? What are the results, and what are the implications of those results? You do not have to spend a great deal of time discussing the statistics that were utilized in the research, just summarizing the results is fine. In the final page or pages of the paper, relate what you have read in the articles to the observations or thoughts you have had about the topic. What have you learned?

For example: Let’s say that you are interested in leadership, because you had an especially negative experience working with a manager who was very harsh and unpleasant. Write about your experience and the way in which the manager was negative in his or her interactions with workers. Locate two articles in social psychology or related journals about how harsh, autocratic management styles are counterproductive (if indeed they are!) Summarize those articles, and then reflect back to your original situation and discuss how the management style of your unpleasant boss could have been modified.

I would like you to clear the topic with me before beginning the paper. I want to make sure that you are looking at a topic for which you will be able to locate sufficient information, and I want to make sure that your topic is explicitly social psychological in nature. Many students are interested in exploring such topics as self esteem, relationships, and psychological disorders. Topics like this are fine, but it is possible to make them too “clinical” in nature, such as writing about the origins or treatment of disorders. You would (obviously) have to make them more about social psychology in order to satisfy the requirements of the paper (such as exploring the social stigma of mental illness, or the social factors that impact self-esteem). (ALL PARTS MUST BE ADDRESSED CLEARLY AND IN DETAIL, USE SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY TERMS!!!)

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