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PWR 2AW: Psychology and Persuasion

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Catalog Number: PWR 2AW

Instructor: Ann Watters

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP)

Prerequisite: PWR1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

Whether exploring social influence, implicit bias, identity, or cross-cultural interactions, whether concerned with communication in health care or power dynamics in the workplace, an awareness of psychology can improve understanding and influence outcomes. Psychology underlies the rhetoric of persuasion in developing our own authority (Ethos) and persuading others by appealing to their emotions (Pathos) or reasoning (Logos). It can also help us understand influence more broadly, whether in studying marketing and social influence, healing others, finding common ground with those whose positions we disagree with, or pursuing a desired internship or grant.

Past topics have included body language, eye contact/smiling, personality, stereotyping, cross-cultural dating and attachment theory, presentation of self, motivation, emojis as supplemental text, cultural-bound issues such as Hikkikomuri and Jerusalem Syndrome, gendered and ethnic advertising, Native American oral history and health, sports hooliganism, and media influence on body image.

In this course we will advance and develop our understanding of Aristotle’s “available means of persuasion” and Cialdini’s Seven Principles of Influence (reciprocity, liking, social proof, commitment/consistency, authority, scarcity, unity). We’ll consider self-construal across cultures, Milgram and Zimbardo on social psychology, and classical, business, and clinical texts. At this site of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, we will be mindful of utilizing persuasion and influence in an evidence-based, ethical manner. Student interest and research will drive topics for discussion beyond the core course readings.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words; reflective memo of 250 words): You will write a proposal for your research project following a model we will discuss and analyze. You’ll read in your area of interest, develop a research question, review several related peer-reviewed readings, and develop a bibliography and plan for your project. You’ll practice working with visual support by utilizing 1-3 slides or visuals in presenting your proposal. 

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages; reflective memo of 250 words): Here you will build on your proposal work and develop a researched essay for an educated generalist audience familiar with the central themes of your inquiry. In the process we will be sharing research-in-progress in class, developing concise abstracts of central arguments, practicing oral presentation skills, and preparing interim materials that will inform your research.

Delivery of Research

(10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support; reflective memo of 250 words): Here you present your research and argument to a group of educated generalists. You will select material from your research-based argument and use it to present the trends and claims central to your findings, or to present adequate background and then a specific, interesting finding that illuminates your broader point. Some might display and discuss representative images, applying their analyses to the images, while others might use media clips to illustrate their research. We will learn how selection, organization, rehearsal, and anxiety management help live delivery. 

Genre/Modes Assignment

(200-500 words, or group oral presentation ~ 3 minutes): In this short reflective assignment, you will have a creative opportunity to 1. stage or develop a narrative that explains how psychology contributes to effective communication, or 2. to develop an info-graphic or visual presentation of your research.