Psych 437 - Personality psychology lab
CRN 55710


R. Chris Fraley, PhD
Office: Department of Psychology, Room 409
E-mail, phone, and other information:
Office hours: W 9:00 - 10:30 or by appointment [Just swing by on any day other than M or T. I have an open-door policy and I'm happy to meet with students.]

Teaching Assistants

Emily Kim | Room 408 |

Karen Sixkiller | Room 236 |

Class web page


Aug 23, 2011

First day!

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) 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.

Being a methods class, 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). Psychology 250 serves that purpose and I encourage you to take that class prior to taking this one.

Structure of the Course

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

Lectures will be held on Tuesdays (3:30 to 5:20) in Room 32 in the Psychology Building. In the lectures I will cover some basic material that you need to know to be an educated researcher or consumer of research in psychology.

Each student should also be enrolled in a lab section. The lab sections will be held in Rooms 35 and 37 of the Psychology Department on Weds and Fridays. 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, but you should nonetheless plan on that. Please attend class to stay up to date on the lab schedule.

You will be using computers in the labs. To access these computers, you will need an Active Directory (AD) account. Students should already have AD passwords. Please go to the CITES website to create your AD password if you do not already have one:

Participation and User IDs

Because this is a class about personality psychology, we will often want to work through examples based on data that we have collected in class, in lab, or as part of a homework assignment. 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 in the first week of labs 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.


This class will be a writing intensive course. You will regularly be asked to write brief reports based on lab activities. In addition to those written reports, you will be in charge of writing two major research papers over the course of the semester.

Your final grade will be weighted in the following manner:

20% Attendance and participation in lab activities
20% Project 1
20% Project 2
40% Assignments

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

Policy on Missed Assignments

Students will be eligible for a make up assignments if they notify the TA in advance of the due date. Thus, if there is a scheduling conflict that will prevent you from completing a lab assignment, please let your TA know as soon as you become aware of the conflict.

All assignments must be turned in to your TA by their due dates. Grades for assignments that are turned in late will be deducted the equivalent of a full letter grade for each day late; assignments that are graded in a simple "did it or didn't do it" fashion will be graded as "didn't do it" if not turned in on time.


Students that will require assistance in the event of an emergency should identify themselves to the instructor. Your instructor will make arrangements to assist you in moving to a Safe Area during an emergency. Safe Areas are located on each floor of the Psychology Building next to the freight elevator in the southwest corner.


A substantial portion of your performance in this course will be based on the quality of your written assignments. Please attend carefully to the quality of your writing. If you are unsure of the quality of your writing skills, please feel free to ask TAs and the instructor to review drafts of your written work before those assignments are due. Moreover, you can obtain free assistance from the Writers Workshop, part of the Center for Writing Studies. They provide free writing assistance for University of Illinois students, faculty, and staff from all disciplines and at all stages of the writing process. Discuss your writing with consultants who are experienced writers and teachers of writing. Call 333-8796 (or drop-in) to set up a 50-minute session at one of the four Workshop locations.

In your writing, please be sensitive to plagiarism. The following is paraphrased from

Plagiarism is using others' ideas and/or words without clearly acknowledging the source of that information. It may be intentional (e.g., copying or purchasing papers from an online source) or unintentional (e.g., failing to give credit for an author's ideas that you have paraphrased or summarized in your own words). Plagiarism is a problem for a number of reasons. Plagiarism is dishonest and prevents instructors from being able to assess students' authentic strengths and weaknesses and thereby help students to improve. It is crippling to your intellectual progress as it interferes with your ability to trust your own thinking, and it constipates future creative thinking. It is also an infraction of academic integrity and could result in expulsion from the university.

Schedule and Files

Note: Information about the lectures and labs will be updated each week as we progress through the course.

1. Week of Aug 23
Lecture: Introduction to the Science of Personality
Lecture notes: PowerPoint

Wed Lab: Assign Alias. Zero-acquaintance exercise
Fri Lab: No Friday lab this week

2. Week of Aug 30
Lecture: Four Limitations of Personal Experience; the Scientific Method in Personality Psychology
Lecture notes: PowerPoint

Lab notes: MS Word
Wed Lab: (Unstructured) observational coding
Fri Lab: (Structured) observational coding

3. Week of Sept 6
Lecture: Creating web surveys using HTML
Lecture notes: PowerPoint

Links used in class:

Wed Lab: Create a basic personality questionnaire
Fri Lab: Putting your personality questionnaire online.

4. Week of Sept 13
Lecture: Importing Data and Descriptive Statistics
Lecture notes: PowerPoint

Wed Lab: Importing web data and basic statistics
Fri Lab: No lab on Friday

5. Week of Sept 20
Lecture: Z-scores and Correlations
Lecture notes: PowerPoint

Wed Lab: Designing questionnaire for Self-Other Agreement project (Part 1)
Fri Lab: Lab is optional on Friday. Office hours and consultation.

Major Project 1 due Wed, Oct 12 : MS Word Overview

Grading system: MS Excel Spreadsheet

6. Week of Sept 27
Lecture: Reliability, the Properties of Random Errors, and Composite Scores
Lecture notes: PowerPoint

Wed Lab: Work on Project # 1. Office hours and consultation. Attend as needed.
Fri Lab: Work on Project # 1. Office hours and consultation. Attend as needed.

7. Week of Oct 4
Lecture: Different forms of Validity and Why They Matter
Lecture notes: PowerPoint

Please attend lab this week to discuss your project with your TA and to get feedback on drafts of your paper or your outline. The final paper is due on Wed Oct 12
Wed Lab: Work on Project # 1. Office hours and consultation. Attend as needed.
Fri Lab: Work on Project # 1. Office hours and consultation. Attend as needed.

8. Week of Oct 11
Lecture: Making Inferences about Causality: Experiments, Sample Selection, Partial Correlations, Statistical Control
Lecture notes: PowerPoint

The final paper for project 1 is due on Wed Oct 12
Wed Lab: Turn in paper. Partial correlation exercises.
Fri Lab: No lab on Friday

Note: Online partial correlation calculator is available here.
Partial correlation assignment for lab is available here [PowerPoint file].

9. Week of Oct 18
Lecture: Basic linear regression and multiple regression
Lecture notes: PowerPoint
* note. There was an error in slide 57 that was corrected at 4:50 pm, Oct 18. double check the version you downloaded.

Lab Worksheet: MS Word

Right-click and save the SPSS files to your lab computer.
Lab Dataset 1: Achievement.sav SPSS
Lab Dataset 2: WTC.sav SPSS
Lab Dataset 3: Morality.sav SPSS

Wed Lab: Multiple regression analyses
Fri Lab: No lab on Friday

10. Week of Oct 25
Lecture: Factor Analysis in Individual Differences Research: The Basics
Lecture notes: PowerPoint
Lab Worksheet: MS Word

Right-click and save the SPSS files to your lab computer.
Lab Dataset 1: zero acquaintance ratings - self and other.sav SPSS

Wed Lab: Factor analysis exercise
Fri Lab: No lab on Friday

11. Week of Nov 1
Lecture: Overview of Final Project
Lecture notes: MS Word

Wed Lab: Group project
Fri Lab: Group project

12. Week of Nov 8
Lecture: Testing Theories: Three Reasons Why Data Might not Match the Theory
Lecture notes: PowerPoint

Wed Lab: Group project
Fri Lab: Group project

13. Week of Nov 15
Lecture: No lecture. Additional office hours from 3:30 to 5:20. Room 409

Wed Lab: Group project
Fri Lab: Group project

14. Week of Nov 29
Lecture: Testing Theories: The Problem of Sampling Error
Lecture notes: PowerPoint

Wed Lab: Group project
Fri Lab: Group project

15. Week of Dec 6
Final paper due during the first 10 mins of class (i.e., 3:30 - 3:40 pm).

The papers will be graded by Dec 16th. If you want to know your grade on the paper, please contact your TA. If you need to know your grade in the class, feel free to e-mail Fraley.