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

Teaching Assistants

Serena Wee | Email: swee2[AT] | M W F 9:00-10:50
Sang Eun Woo | Email: sewoo[AT] | M W F 1:00-2:50
Josh Jackson | Email: jjackso7[AT] | M W F 3:00-4:50

Class web page


Jan 17th, 2006

This class will not start until Mon Jan 29 due to conferences.

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.

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 tests, papers, and laboratory participation. The tests 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 tests is to provide you with a means to ensure that you are mastering the skills appropriately (i.e., the tests will be used as a feedback mechanism). Thus, if you do not do well on a test, 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 test twice, and that re-test has to be done within 8 days of the first time. There will probably only be 2 to 3 tests, concentrated primarily in the beginning of the semester. (The latter part of the semester will be focused more on papers and participation.)

The tests 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. 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 Tests and Assignments

Students will be eligible for a make up test 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 tests and assignments.

Schedule and Files

Jan 29
Introduction to the Science of Personality

Jan 31
Four Limitations of Personal Experience

Feb 2
Science and Pseudoscience

Feb 5
Subliminal experiments
Download Reading for Friday | Password will be given in class

Feb 7
Subliminal recording experiments - How to enter and manage data in SPSSs
Full class SPSS data set
Quesitonnaire items
Personality Questionnaire Exercise

Feb 9
Subliminal recording experiments - Discussion of Greenwald et al. (1991) article
Download Reading for class | Password will be given in class

Feb 12
Subliminal recording experiments - How analyze simple experimental data in SPSS - Composite variables, mean differences and Cohen's d

Feb 14
Practice in creating composites using class life satisfaction data
Snow Day - Class canceled

Feb 16
Practice in creating composites using class life satisfaction data
In class assignment
Personality Questionnaire Data
Variable labels

Feb 19
Correlational analyses: Theory and practice

Feb 21
In-class exercises on correlations using class data
In class assignment
Personality Questionnaire Data
Variable labels

Feb 26
Some (simple) steps for creating a measure of individual differences in a personality variable

March 5
First group project overview and metaForm
Item groupings for the BFI

March 7
Working on group proejct

March 9
Working on group proejct

March 12
Working on group proejct

March 14
Working on group proejct
Jen Smith's PowerPoint slide on Paper Writing Tips
Jen Smith's MS Word file Sample Paper

March 15
Working on group proejct

April 2
Overview of Final Project
Overview sheet

April 9
Statistical control and partial correlations
Lecture on partial correlations
[download notes as PowerPoint file]
[download SPSS dataset used in notes]