R. Chris Fraley, PhD
Department of Psychology, Room 409
E-mail, phone, and other information:
Office hours: T, Th 3:00 - 4:00

Teaching Assistants

Marie Heffernan | Room 405

Karen Sixkiller | Room 236

Class web page


Aug 24, 2010

First day!
Nov 16, 2010

A homework assignment was given in lecture today that is due on Thursday. Please see the class PowerPoint file for more information.
Dec 14, 2010

Here are the final grades for the course. The grade information is sorted by your Secret ID. Exam1-Exam5 are listed as percents. "Examave" is the average score across your four best exam grades. (Recall that the best 4 of 5 grades count. You are allowed to drop your lowest exam score. Most people chose to skip the final and treat that as their lowest score.) "Labave" is your average score (percent) for lab attendance. "Actave" is your average score (percent) for lab-based activities. (Note: I made an update for the scores of students in Karen Sixkiller's section on the 9th.) "Grade3" is the numeric grade you have in the class. As described below, it is calculated based on the other three averages, where the exams count 50%, lab activities count 40%, and attendance counts 10%. I rounded these grades up to the nearest integer before assigning letter grades. The letter grades are in the final column.

I realize that some people have scores that are on the threshold. Please keep in mind that I've already added a full percentage point to everyone's grades as a means for dealing with rounding issues. Please do not ask that we round up your already rounded score.

I will submit the final grades to the university on Wed. Please let me know if you see any problems in your grade between now and then. Please e-mail both me and your TA if you notice an error.


There is no textbook for this class. All reading material will be made available via the class website and will be announced in class.

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 things in our lives (e.g., life satisfaction, close relationships, career performance, creativity, 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 unusually broad in scope.

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). It is primarily a "methods" class. This class is a good supplement to Psychology 250, the basic course on personality psychology, and I encourage you to take that class as a supplement to this one.

Structure of the Course

There are two components to this course: Lectures and Labs.

Lectures will be given on Tuesdays and Thursdays (4:00 to 4:50) in Room 23 in the Psychology Building. In the lectures I'll cover some basic material that you need to know to be an educated researcher or consumer of research in psychology. Your knowledge of this material will be tested in exams that will be held during lecture times.

Each student should also be enrolled in a lab section. The lab sections will be held in Room 35 of the Psychology Department on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In those sections you will design studies, collect and analyze psychological data, read and discuss papers, and expand your critical thinking skills. These sections will be lead by one of the two TA's for the class and attendance is mandatory. These labs will not necessarily be held twice a week every week. Please attend class to stay up to date on the lab schedule.

Participation and IDs

Because this is a class about personality psychology, we will often want to work through examples based on data that we've collected in class or as homework. To benefit from this process, it is important that you fully participate in class and lab activities. To help keep your information private, you will be assigned an ID code that is distinct from your name. This ID will be used to associate you with your participation and grades. You should not share this ID with any of your classmates. Once you acquire this code, you will need to write it down and keep it in a safe place. You will not be able to participate in certain assignments or view your grades online without access to this ID.

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.


There will be four exams over the course of the semester, plus the final exam. Thus, there will be five exams total. The first four exams will not be cumulative in the strict sense of the term, but the subject matter will build on itself, so mastering material for the second exam, for example, may require that you keep yourself refreshed on earlier material. The final and fifth exam, however, will be cumulative in the strict sense of the term; I will ask you about anything that has been covered in the course.

Of the five exams, only your four best grades will count. In other words, you can drop your worst exam score. Why do I allow this? I allow this because emergencies (e.g., death in the family, oversleeping on exam day, traffic problems) may occur at some point during the semester, and you might have to miss an exam. I do not give make-up exams under any circumstances; the fact that you can drop your lowest score (which could be a 0) covers all make-up exam situations. Please do not ask me about make up exams because I will simply refer you to the class webpage which explains my policy on this issue (see previous sentence). If you would like to document an absence due to a medical emergency, please bring me a copy of a medical billing statement with any personal information that you do not want me to see covered or removed.

In light of this policy, your best strategy is to study hard for each exam, hope nothing bad happens, and then skip the final if you're happy with the grade you would receive based on the first 4 exams. Then, if something bad happens along the way and you have to miss an exam, you'll know that you cannot miss the others. Or, if you bomb exam 1, you'll know you can drop it, but you'll have to do well on the remaining 4 exams. If you oversleep for exam 1 and then a relative dies for exam 2, you might receive a sympathy card, but not a make-up test.

The exam schedule for the semester is posted on the class webpage. It will not be changed, so please determine as soon as possible whether your schedule will prohibit you from making it to certain exams. It might be wise for you to drop the class if you can foresee possible problems in scheduling from day 1.

The scores on your four best exams will be averaged. That average will account for 50% of your grade. The remaining 50% of your grade will come from lab activities (40%) and lab attendance (10%). Attendance is required for the labs and is the easiest way to improve your final grade by a full letter.

Note: If you need to know your lab section grade at any point in the semester, please contact your TA.

Exam Dates:
Exam 1: Thurs Sept 9
Exam 2: Tues Oct 12
Exam 3: Thurs Nov 4
Exam 4: Tues Dec 7
Exam 5 (Final Exam): 7:0010:00 PM, Friday, December 10, Room TBA
PSYC 437 AL 55710 12/10/2010 F 7:00 PM 10:00 PM PSYCH-23

Policy on Missed Assignments

Students will be eligible for a make up an assignment 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 completing a lab assignment, you must let your TA know in advance of the assignment's due date.

Schedule and Files

Part I: Introduction to Psychological Science

How do we commonly draw inferences about the world? What are the limitations of these methods? What is the scientific method? Can the scientific method be applied to understand psychological processes?

Tue Aug 24
Introduction to the Science of Personality

Thurs Aug 26
Four Limitations of Personal Experience

Tues Aug 31
The Scientific Process: The Importance of Systematic Observation and the Testing and Revision of Ideas

Thurs Sept 2
Science and Pseudo-science: The Case of Subliminal Recordings

Tues Sept 7
Science and Pseudo-science: Further Discussion

Tues Spet 7 LAB reading/discussion (PDF)
Greenwald et al. (1991) [please read BEFORE lab]

Thurs Sept 9

Part II: Measuring Psychological Variables

Can we measure psychological variables? How can we help ensure that we're measuring what we think we're measuring?

Tues Sept 14
Psychological Measurement and Scales of Measurement: What does it mean to measure a psychological variable?

Thurs Sept 16
Psychological Measurement: Operational Definitions, Composites, & Equivalence Relationships

Thurs Sept 16: LAB on Operational definitions

Tues Sept 21
Psychological Measurement: Reliability and the Properties of Random Errors

Thurs Sept 23
Psychological Measurement: Different forms of Validity and Why They Matter

Thurs Sept 23 LAB on designing a simple personality questionnaire

Part III: Designing Psychological Research

Personality research is typically concerned with describing the way psychological processes work and testing hypotheses about those processes. How can we best design research studies to accomplish these goals?

Tues Sept 28
In class exercise: Student questionnaires for lab section

Thurs Sept 30
Answering Descriptive Questions about Single Variables

Tues Oct 5
Stardardized Scores (Z-Scores) and Comparing Scores Across Different Metrics

Thurs Oct 7
Multivariate Descriptive Research: Correlations

Tues Oct 12

Thurs Oct 14
Multivariate Descriptive Research: Relationships Involving Categorical Variables

Tues Oct 19
Making Inferences about Causality: Confounds, Experiments, Random Assignment, and Factorial Designs

Thurs Oct 21
Making Inferences about Causality: Sample Selection, Partial Correlations, Statistical Control

Tues Oct 26
Longitudinal Methods in Personality Research

Thurs Oct 29
Testing Theories: Three Reasons Why Data Might not Match the Theory

Tues Nov 2
Testing Theories: The Problem of Sampling Error

Thurs Nov 4

Part IV: Thinking Critically about Personality Psychology (Redux)

You can easily find "experts" discussing personality and issues in the media. How do the methods of accumulating knowledge used by these experts differ from those discussed in this course? In what ways do scientific findings corroborate or undermine popular ideas about the way personality functions? In this section of the course we will critically examine some popular ways of understanding personality dynamics and also disect contempoary examples of "good" research to illustrate some of the methods we've covered throughout the course.

Tues Nov 9
Exam 3 review/discussion

Thurs Nov 11
21 Up Film and Personality ratings

Tues Nov 16
Psychic Readings and the Scientific Method

Thurs Nov 18
Astrology and the Scientific Method

LAB: 21 Up Data for lab sections [SPSS file]

HOMEWORK: Weather Forecasting Assignment. Due Nov 30 (PDF file)

Tues Nov 30
The Cult of Personality

Thurs Dec 2
Weather Forecasting: Using the Scientific Method to Evaluate Predictions in Complex Systems

LAB: Reading Assignment: The Rorschach Inkblot Test, Fortune Tellers, and Cold Reading

Tues Dec 7

Exam 5 (Final Exam): 7:0010:00 PM, Friday, December 10, Room PSYCH-23
Optional; see grading rules above
please see class updates for grade information