R. Chris Fraley, PhD
Department of Psychology, Room 409
E-mail, phone, and other information:

Teaching Assistants

Marie Heffernan | Psyc 350 39820 - MWF 9:00 - 10:50 Room 37

Silke McCance | Psyc 350 39822 - MWF 3:00 - 4:50 Room 37

Class web page


Aug 24, 2009

First day!
Oct 2, 2009

I've made some notes for people working on the Undesired Self project. These notes regard the importance of looking at the scatter plots as opposed to only looking at the correlations. I've spoken to some groups about these issues in person, but I thought it would be helpful to explicate the issue in a more careful way since it is a subtle and complex one. The notes are available here as a PDF file.

There is no textbook for this class. However, there will be reading assignments announced from time to time. These readings will be made available on the class web page and will be announced in class.

Structure and Overview of the Course

The discipline of psychology occupies a peculiar niche in modern universities. Contemporary psychologists are concerned with basic humanistic issues (e.g., the nature of emotions, the mind, relationships, free will, and consciousness) that have traditionally been studied by philosophers, poets, and historians. However, unlike scholars in these other disciplines, modern psychologists employ the methods of the natural sciences (e.g., measurement, experimentation) in order to understand these phenomena.

The objective of this course is to introduce you to scientific methods, explain why they are valuable, and illustrate how they can be used to understand psychological phenomena. More specifically, we will focus on the methods used to study the psychology of personality. Personality psychology is concerned with understanding the ways in which people differ from one another, the origins and development of those differences, and the implications of those differences for important outcomes (e.g., life satisfaction, marriage, career performance, mental and physical health). The study of personality is arguably one of the most integrative areas in contemporary psychology, bringing together theories and data from multiple disciplines to better understand the way in which the mind works, how we develop, and what makes us different from one another. As such, the methods we will discuss in this course will be broad in scope, ranging from those concerned with low-level aspects of human functioning (e.g., perception) to those that are more abstract (e.g., the organization of the self-concept).

This specific course will not discuss in much depth the "content" of personality psychology (i.e., the knowledge that has accumulated over the last few decades). A prerequisite for the class is Psych 250, so I will assume that you already know something about what psychologists have learned about the nature of human personality. This course will focus on the methods that personality psychologists use to acquire this knowledge. As such, the emphasis will be on providing you with a broad set of skills rather than facts and trivia.

As a general rule, I will deliver lectures on Mondays. I expect you to be in class on time, and, if you cannot make it to class for some reason, I strongly encourage you to obtain the lecture notes from one of your classmates as soon as possible. (Do not come to me or one of the TAs for lecture notes.) After the first few weeks, the Monday class meetings will become a bit less formal as we move into group activities, discussions, and continuations of activities that are relevant to your lab sections. There will be two lab sections, led by the TAs, held on Wednesdays and Fridays of each week. In those sections you will design studies, collect and analyze psychological data, and expand your critical thinking skills.

The Class Webpage

I will post lecture notes and other materials relevant to the class on the class web page. You should treat the class web page as your primary syllabus. I will be updating it on a regular basis and it will be your responsibility to keep up-to-date on any changes that are made. (I will, however, announce significant changes in the lecture sessions.) The lecture-topical schedule listed below is preliminary and will change as a function of how quickly or slowly we are progressing though the course. If you do not have Internet access at home, please visit one of the many student computer facilities on campus on a regular basis.


Grades will be based on a combination of quizzes, papers, and laboratory participation. The quizzes will cover some of the basic concepts that we will discuss in lecture, as well as some of the skills you acquire during the laboratory sessions (e.g., data analysis). The purpose of the quizzes is to provide you with a means to ensure that you are mastering the skills appropriately (i.e., the quizzes will be used as a feedback mechanism). Thus, if you do not do well on a quiz, you will have the opportunity to determine where you went wrong, practice some more, and then try the test again. In an ideal world, every student will earn A's on the tests by the end of the semester. You can only retake any one quiz twice, and that re-test has to be done within 8 days of the first time. There will probably only be 1 to 3 quizzes, concentrated primarily in the beginning of the semester. (The latter part of the semester will be focused more on papers and participation.)

The quizzes will compose 10% of your grade. 70% of your grade will come from the papers you write for the class. During the course of the semester you will have to write two major papers. The first paper will be a report on the results from studies that we conduct during the lab sections. The second paper will be a report on a group project that you design in collaboration with other students. This project will be an empirical research project in which you and your group design a study, collect the data, and analyze and interpret those data.

The remaining 20% of your grade will come from your participation in the lab sections. It is expected that you will be in attendance for all lab sections unless your TA explictly states that you need not be there (e.g., out of class data collection). Moreover, it is expected that you will participate fully in all lab activities. There will be many hands-on exercises over the course of the semester. It is essential that you engage in these activities in order to fully gain as much as you can from this class.

Policy on Missed Quizzes and Assignments

Students will be eligible for a make up quiz if an officially documented excuse if provided (i.e., court order, police report, death certificate). I do not accept doctor's notes, but I will accept medical billing statements (with any personal/confidential information omitted). If there is a scheduling conflict that will prevent you from taking a test, you must let me know in advance of the test date. Please contact your TA regarding missed quizzes and assignments.

Schedule and Files

Aug 24
Introduction to the Science of Personality

Aug 26
Four Limitations of Personal Experience

Aug 28
Science and Pseudoscience

Aug 31
Subliminal experiments data collection

Sept 2
Subliminal experiments discussion
Download Reading for Wed Sept 2 | PDF Password is "350"

Sept 4
Composites, Mean Differences, and Cohen's d (and an Introduction to SPSS)
Full class SPSS data set for subliminal data
Self-Esteem Questionnaire
Personality Questionnaire Exercise -- to be completed before Monday

Sept 9
Correlational analyses: Theory and practice
Personality Questionnaire Data
Variable labels

Sept 11
In-class exercises on correlations using class data
In class assignment
Personality Questionnaire Data
Variable labels

Sept 14
Some (simple) steps for creating a (simple) measure of individual differences in a personality variable

Sept 16
Creating online questionnaires

Sept 18
Collecting data and importing data from metaForm to SPSS
In class assignment

Sept 21
In class Quiz

Sept 23
First group project overview
Item groupings for the BFI Some helpful resources for writing your paper
Manuscript Template (MS Word file)
Writing Tips (Powerpoint file)

Oct 26
Overview of Final Project
Overview sheet