Curriculum Guideline

Social Cognition

Effective Date:
Course Code
PSYC 3361
Social Cognition
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 4 hours per week/semester
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

The primary method of instruction will be the lecture, but the course may involve various other methods of instruction such as small group activities, discussion groups, video tapes, and guest lectures.

Course Description
This course will provide an overview of the field of social cognition. The focus of the course will be how people interpret, analyze, and remember information about themselves, others, and the social world around them. Topics include concept and schema formation, heuristics and biases, probabilistic reasoning, causal inference, the architecture of memory, automaticity, and trait inference. Such processes are used to understand self-perception, emotions, goal-directed behaviour, impression formation, attitudes and persuasion, stereotyping and prejudice, and cultural differences.
Course Content
  1. Introduction to Social Cognition
    • What is social cognition?
    • Distinction between external reality and perceptions of reality
    • Factors that influence social perception
  2. Concepts
    • What are concepts?
    • Functions of concepts
    • Concept activation
    • Structure of concepts
    • Organization of concepts
  3. Social Inference: Heuristics and Biases
    • Information seeking and hypothesis testing
    • Heuristics
    • Errors and biases in thinking
    • Consequences of  heuristic use and biases
    • Ways to reduce biases
  4. Attribution
    • Theories of attribution
    • Biases and errors of attribution
    • Perceiving the prevalence of traits and behaviours
  5. Memory
    • Memory systems
    • Memory as construction
    • Application: Eyewitness testimony
  6. Hot Cognition
    • Hot vs. cold cognition
    • The influence of motivation on cognition
    • The influence of affect on cognition
    • The influence of cognition on affect: Counterfactual thinking
  7. Attitudes and Persuasion
    • Origin and nature of attitudes
    • Attitude measurement
    • Attitude – behaviour link
    • Theoretical perspectives on attitudes
    • Attitude change: Persuasion
  8. Automatic and Controlled Processes
    • Characteristics of automatic processes (e.g., unconscious, effortless)
    • Characteristics of controlled  processes (e.g., conscious, effortful)
    • Research methods and paradigms used in automaticity research
  9. Stereotypes and Prejudice
    • Origins and functions of stereotypes
    • Stereotype activation
    • Stereotype application
    • Impact of stereotyping on targets: Stereotype threat
    • Reducing prejudice
  10. The Self
    • What is “the self”
    • Gaining knowledge about the self
    • Structure of the self
    • Functions of the self
  11. Social Cognition and Culture
    • East – West differences in social cognition (e.g., the self, motivation)
    • North – South differences in social cognition: Culture of Honour
    • Cultural vs. evolutionary psychology
Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:

  1. Define social cognition, and give examples of different kinds of phenomena that social cognition researchers study.
  2. Identify and describe research methods used to study social cognition.
  3. Read research articles critically.
  4. Evaluate the importance of situations on human behaviour and mental processes.
  5. Describe how our knowledge about the world is represented in the form of concepts or schemas.
  6. Explain the consequences of biases and heuristics in thinking.
  7. Explain theories of causal attribution and attribution biases.
  8. Identify memory systems and explain memory construction.
  9. Describe how motivations and emotions affect cognition.
  10. Describe theoretical perspectives of attitudes and how attitudes relate to behaviours.
  11. Compare and contrast automatic and controlled information processing.
  12. Identify stereotypes as concepts and explain stereotype activation and application.
  13. Identify the various components and functions of the self.
  14. Describe how cultural background affects social cognition.
  15. Apply principles of social cognition to real-world events.
Means of Assessment

The course evaluation will be based on the course objectives and in accordance with Douglas College policy

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

Two midterm exams at 25% each 50%
Final exam 25%
APA style application paper 20%
Attendance and participation 5%
Total  100%
Textbook Materials

  • Kunda, Z.  (1999).  Social cognition: Making sense of people.  Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.