Social Influence

Courses Home

Psych 145
Spring 2005
Social Science II Room 071
Tuesday & Thursday 8:00-9:45 am

Instructor: Anthony R. Pratkanis
Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 10:00-11:00 am
Office: Social Science II Room 365
Messages can be left at 459-5085

TA: Sarah Pinneo
Section times: Thursday 12:00-1:10 pm (Stevenson 152) or Friday 2:00-3:10 pm (Merrill 132).
Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 2:00-3:00 pm
Office: Social Science II Room 415

Social Influence is a lecture course for upper level undergraduates interested in the advanced study of the persuasion process. After first discussing why the study of social influence is important, the course then reviews some common (and very effective) persuasion devices. A cognitive response approach to persuasion serves as the organizing theory for the course. According to this approach, effective influence tactics are designed either to insure positive cognitive responses, disrupt negative cognitive responses, or to induce social pressures. The final section of the course looks at influence in various settings including groups, minority influence, negotiations, organizations, mass media, and democracies. NOTE: This course does not fulfill the Psychology Dept.ís seminar requirement.

Textbooks (all in paperback)

Alinsky, S. D. (1971). Rules for radicals. New York: Vintage Books.

Cialdini, R. B. (1993). Influence: Science and practice. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Co.

Fisher, R., Ury, W, Patton, B. (1991). Getting to yes. Middlesex, England: Penguin Press.

Pratkanis, A. R. & Aronson, E. (2001). Age of propaganda: The everyday use and abuse of persuasion. (Revised Edition). New York: W. H. Freeman.

plus articles by Hitler and by Salancik on reserve in McHenry.

Optional Book

Pratkanis, A. R. & Aronson, E. (2001). Guide to the analysis of propaganda and persuasion. New York: W. H. Freeman/Worth. (On reserve in the McHenry library).

Course Format

The course consists of lectures and class exercises plus assigned readings. (Assigned text should be read in conjunction with the lecture). The course grade and narrative evaluation will be based on: (1) a midterm and a final exam, (2) a major poster project, and (3) class exercises involving discussion of projects and a negotiation game. The midterm, final, and poster each contribute 1/3 to the total grade. The narrative evaluation will consist of a short summary of the studentís performance in the course. Note: if the course is taken for Pass/No Pass then a grade of C (Good) or better must be earned to obtain course credit.

Midterm and Final Exams

The purpose of the final and midterm exams is (1) to assess the acquisition of knowledge of social influence and (2) to provide motivation to master core concepts. As such they will be completely based on lectures and readings. The exams are closed book and will consist of short answer questions (such as short statement, matching, fill-ins, true/false, multiple-choice). Note: You will need to bring a photo ID to class for the midterm and final exams in order to take the test.

Poster Projects

The purpose of the poster project is to provide an opportunity to apply the critical information of the course to an area of particular interest to the student. Topics must be approved by the instructor/TA. Some suitable ideas include: (a) consulting analysis -- apply principles of persuasion to solve a practical problem; (b) social influence analysis -- observe and describe some aspect of social influence in terms of the perspectives of the course; (c) literature review -- choose a general topic in persuasion and review the recent literature or select a theoretical question of interest and answer it; and (d) experimental design -- select a research problem in persuasion and design an experiment to address it. In addition, a number of ideas for projects and for discussion can be found in Pratkanis & Aronsonís Guide to the analysis of propaganda and persuasion.

The class project should be ambitious and challenging in scope. Students should attempt to attack a problem of substance and importance and should view this project as if it were being submitted to an audience outside of this class and UCSC (i.e. an article for publication or a project report for an employer). In order to accomplish this goal, students will work in groups of 3 class members. In work groups, students should be able to accomplish such projects as designing and executing a persuasion experiment, conducting a comprehensive literature review on a difficult topic, or enacting social change. Evaluations will be equally shared among all group members.

The poster project requires the following: First, find a group and a topic. (See calendar for dates for submitting a preliminary statement of group members and topic). Second, develop your poster idea. As part of this development, submit a statement of intent, which includes your topic, the names of the group members, and an overview of tasks to be performed. Note: submission of this statement of intent should be done early in the term. (See course calendar for due date). Third, do the research. Fourth, prepare a poster describing what your research has shown (see next paragraph) along with a copy of the written materials for submission to the instructor. (The written copy is due at the Poster Session). Fifth, display your poster at the end-of-the-term poster session. During this session, one group member must stay with the poster at all times to answer questions. Students not presenting posters will mix freely around the posters to discuss research content and provide feedback to the presenters.

Physically, each group will have roughly 8 feet of wall space to display their research. Typically, a poster consists of a series of pages or panels describing the research. For example, one page may outline the research hypothesis. Another page may list the methods, followed by results, and then discussion. Given the nature of posters, print must be large and text kept to simple sentences and phrases. Students should not feel limited to just text material and can include graphs, slides, audio-visuals, and models. It is the responsibility of the group to bring materials for setting up the poster and attaching it to the wall, as well as, securing any additional materials need for presentation. Note: please use pushpins or other devices that will not damage walls when securing your posters. A copy of the written text of the poster plus any supporting materials must be turned-in to the instructor at the Poster Session.

A good poster project has the following attributes: (1) integrative of course material, (2) original and creative, (3) informative and instructional (provides a learning experience for both reader and writer), and (4) readable. The format of the paper must follow American Psychological Association guidelines as much as possible.

Some tactics for improving the style of your poster include: (1) use tables, figures, charts, and headings to improve organization, (2) get to the point quickly, (3) use simple words and sentences, (4) type it, (5) don't hand in a first draft (revise to get the lard out), (6) use proper footnote and reference formats, and (7) make it short (don't waste anybody's time, more than 10 pages is probably too long). Further hints on writing can be found in Strunk and White's Elements of Style, J.D. Lester's Writing Research Papers Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations and Soden's Looking Good on Paper.

Some tactics for improving content include: (1) select a topic related to the course, (2) use information related to the course, (3) collect your own data (e.g., interview, write companies, locate articles in academic journals), (4) back up your statements with references to published works or other data, and (5) draw your own inferences that go beyond mere repetition of those of your references.

One final note: Working in groups is often challenging, but it is a skill that is required in various settings. First, you should be prepared to work with your group at times outside of class to be scheduled by your group. Second, to facilitate group work, it may be helpful to develop a written list of responsibilities assigned to each group member. This list should detail exactly what is expected of each member (e.g., listing all anticipated tasks and describing each member's responsibilities including who will co-ordinate group activities). This will help everyone in the group to know what is expected. Third, you should be aware of your group's process at all times. It is the responsibility of group members, not that of the instructor, to ensure the performance of each member.

To facilitate your work in groups, go to the following web site before beginning the project:

This web site has information on the following: basic information on working in teams, managing tasks, managing members, managing interactions and meetings, managing the team context, along with links to other resources. In addition, you may also want to set up a Yahoo Group to allow you to monitor your groupís progress. Yahoo Groups allows you to keep a calendar, upload files, set up an email distribution list, and other useful things. You may use this group to upload files, keep project files, keep information accessible to all members, and so forth. To set up a Yahoo group, go to the Yahoo groups web page and follow the instructions for setting up a group (see the extensive Yahoo help files if you need help). Be sure to make the group private so that only members can join. Invite all the members of the group to join (you do this by sending an email message to them). Be sure to invite the TA to join and give him full access to the group. Note: a Yahoo Group (or similar forum) is the only way to document poor performance of a group member, if you seek to remove that member from the group.

Class Participation

Students should be active participants in class discussions, lectures and discussion sections. There will be in-class exercises involving active student participation. Participation is particularly important during the negotiation exercise, poster session, and discussion sections. If you miss class, it is the student's responsibility to cover missed materials. (It is not the instructor's responsibility to provide lecture notes, repeat lectures, etc.)

Discussion Sections

Students will have the opportunity to participate in a weekly discussion session chaired by a teaching assistant. The goals of these meetings include: (1) facilitate (as needed) the learning of critical course information, (2) provide a forum for enrichment exercises (i.e. discussion of lecture and materials, independent activities, etc.), (3) explore the scientific methods used to understand persuasion, and (4) serve as a means for developing poster ideas.

Class & Section Attendance

We do not take roll in either for lectures or discussion sections. This does not mean that lectures and discussion sections are optional. Much material is covered in sections and lectures, and it will be difficult to pass the course without regular attendance.


An employer once informed me that educators do a major disservice by accepting late assignments. In her world, missing a deadline means a lost account. Therefore tardiness will not be tolerated. It is unfair to other students who emit course related behavior in timely fashion, unfair to the instructor who must rearrange work schedules, and most importantly represents a pattern of behavior that is unprofitable in the real world. Given that many of the assignments involve class projects, late work will not be accepted.

Enrollment Policy

This course follows the enrollment policy established by the psychology department. These procedures are not negotiable and will be followed to the letter. You may not take this course using the "Credit by Petition" option.


Plagiarism is a very serious offense and will not be tolerated. Any paper containing plagiarized material will not be accepted for credit in this course. Plagiarism is defined as any use of another author's words or ideas without appropriately providing credit. Exact quotes from another source should be placed within quotation marks with an appropriate citation including page number. In addition, paraphrases of another author's words may also count as plagiarism; changing around the order of the words or the exact prepositions used does not change the fact that you are using another person's ideas. Submission of another paper (whether a classmates or from an on-line service) is plagiarism. Use your own words to describe the studies and findings that you want to describe in your paper. The campus policy on plagiarism can be found at:

You should consult this website before agreeing to take this course. Enrollment in this course represents acceptance of university rules and guidelines and a commitment to abide by those rules and guidelines. Any questions about this policy can be direct to the TA or instructor.

Letters of Recommendation

After the course, students frequently ask the instructor for a letter of recommendation. Writing letters of reference is not a task that is part of the instructorís (or TAís) job, and the writing of such letters is up to instructor discretion. The first step in this procedure is to make a personal assessment of the quality of letter the instructor can write for you. To do this, make a list of the qualifications needed for the position, for each qualification state the typical level of accomplishment of the successful applicant, and then list the interactions you had with the instructor that would serve to document each qualification. The next step is to ask the instructor if he is willing to write such a letter for you. (You should feel free to show your personal assessment to the instructor). Do not send unsolicited materials to the instructor. They will be returned. Also, please do not use the instructor as a "reference" (with potential employers, landlords, banks, credit cards companies, etc.) without the approval of the instructor. Given the size of the enrollment of the course, the instructor typically cannot learn the information about you that is required for letters for Education Abroad Program (EAP) and thus cannot write such letters.

Important Notice

Please review the Course Calendar below before agreeing to take this course. All activities are planned; some important activities are in groups. Late work will not be accepted. Missed work will receive a no-pass.
Course Calendar

Note: A of P refers to Age of Propaganda; other readings listed by author.

Mar 29: Introduction to Social Influence
Tu Assignment: Cialdini Chs. 1 & 2

Mar 31: The History of Persuasion
Th Assignment: Cialdini Chs. 3 & 4; A of P ďWhy we wrote this book; Ch.1

Apr 5: Effective Social Influence Tactics
Tu Assignment: Cialdini Chs. 5 & 6

Apr 7: Effective Social Influence Tactics (Continued)
Th Assignment: Cialdini Chs. 7 & 8

Apr 12: Effective Social Influence Tactics (Continued)
Tu Assignment: A of P Chs. 6-16

Apr 14: Effective Social Influence Tactics (Continued)
Th Assignment: A of P Chs. 17-30
Preliminary Poster Idea and Group Due in Section

Apr 19: Effective Social Influence Tactics (Continued)
Tu Assignment: A of P Chs. 2-5

Apr 21: Cognitive Response Approach to Persuasion
Th Assignment: Catch up on any missed reading

Apr 26: MIDTERM EXAM (Tuesday)

Apr 28: What's the Deal with Subliminal Persuasion?
Th Assignment: A of P Ch. 34
Poster Group Work Plan Due in Section

May 3: Persuasion in Mass Media Settings
Tu Assignment: A of P Chs. 31, 32, 33, & 35

May 5: Social Influence in Groups
Th Assignment: Alinsky; A of P Ch. 36

May 10: Empowering Minorities
Tu Assignment: Alinsky

May 12: Social Power in Organizations
Th Assignment: Alinsky; Salancik (1977)

May 17: In-Class Exercise: Negotiation
Tu Assignment: Fisher, Ury & Patton pp. 1-98

May 19: Getting to yes in negotiations
Th Assignment: Fisher, Ury & Patton pp. 99-161

May 24: Poster & Study Work Day
Tu No Class: Work in Groups on Poster; study for exam

May 26: Poster Session I
Th Assignment: None

May 31: Poster Session II
Tu Assignment: None

Jun 2: Low-involvement persuasion and democracy
Th Assignment: selection from Hitler's Mein Kampf; A of P Chs. 37 -40

Thursday from 8:00 to 11:00 am

Schedule for Discussion Sections

Thursday Section: 12:00-1:10 pm (Stevenson 152)
Friday Section: 2:00-3:10 pm (Merrill 132).

Week 1 Discussion Section: Introductory Meeting
Topic: Why Study Social Influence?
Assignment: None
Thursday Sections: Apr 7
Friday Sections: Apr 8

Week 2 Discussion Section: Persuasion in America
Topic: Effective influence tactics
Assignment: Form Poster Groups
Thursday Sections: Apr. 14
Friday Sections: Apr. 15
Preliminary Poster Idea and Group Due in Section

Week 3 Discussion Section: Exam Review
Topic: Prepare and review for midterm
Assignment: Bring questions for review session
Thursday Sections: Apr. 21
Friday Sections: Apr. 22

Week 4 Discussion Section: Midterms Returned
Topic: Student receive their midterm scores
Develop Poster Projects
Assignment: Bring poster ideas and current status of project
Thursday Sections: Apr. 28
Friday Sections: Apr. 29
Poster Group Work Plan Due in Section

Week 5 Discussion Section: Applications of Influence
Topic: Applying influence in the mass media and small groups
Assignment: Develop Poster Work Plan
Thursday Sections: May 5
Friday Sections: May 6

Week 6 Discussion Section: Applying Social Influence I
Topic: Weapons of Fraud
Assignment: Be up-to-date in the readings
Thursday Sections: May 12
Friday Sections: May 13

Week 7 Discussion Section: Applying Social Influence II
Topic: Why People Make False Confessions
Assignment: Be up-to-date in the readings
Thursday Sections: May 19
Friday Sections: May 20

Week 8 Discussion Section: Exam & Course Review
Topic: Prepare and review for final exam
Assignment: Bring questions for review session
Thursday Sections: May 26
Friday Sections: May 27

Week 9 Bonus Discussion Section: Exam Review
Topic: Prepare and review for final exam
Assignment: Bring questions for review session
Thursday & Friday Sections: June 2 on Thursday Section at 12:00-1:10 pm (Stevenson 152).

Courses Home