Ever wonder why people do what they do? More than 700,000 learners have joined Wesleyan University’s Social Psychology course to find out. Hear from instructor Scott Plous in this Q&A on what you’ll learn in the newly updated course:
What is social psychology?
Social psychology is the scientific study of how people think about, influence, and relate to one another.
Who is the ideal learner for this course?
The ideal learner is someone who wants to have fun exploring the social side of human behavior. Our focus will be on surprising, entertaining, and practical research findings that are easy to apply in daily life. For instance, social psychology can improve our relationships with other people, increase productivity at work, and boost our health and happiness—all with relatively small changes in behavior.
Why was this course created?
I created it because I love the idea of giving psychology away for free to people around the world. When I first gave the course in 2013-2015, it enrolled more than 700,000 learners from roughly 200 countries, which offered incredible opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue and understanding.
After completing this course, what will learners be able to add to their resume or claim they understand?
Learners will better understand the psychology of persuasion, social influence, negotiation, group performance, conflict resolution, romantic attraction, life satisfaction, environmental protection, and many other areas of social research.
The course also includes a “Day of Compassion Award” in which the grand prize winner will receive an expense-paid trip to meet a worldwide symbol of compassion. Details are described in one of the course lectures, and learners can read more about the award in this news story by the BBC.
Is there a specific topic in the course that excites you most?
As a peace and social justice advocate, I’m especially excited by research that shows how to create social change. And as a father, I’m excited by studies on empathy and effective parenting techniques.
Depending on the issue, social change might require raising money, persuading people to support your position, and/or motivating others to take actions such as voting, volunteering, attending rallies, signing petitions, joining organizations, and so on. A basic knowledge of social psychology can often double or even triple your success at fundraising and moving people to take action.
What are some of the most surprising things about human behavior that you will cover in this course?
The course will cover dozens of surprising research findings about human behavior, including answers to questions such as these:
(1) Compared with men, are women usually faster to fall in love and slower to end a relationship?
(2) Does punching a pillow or screaming out loud reduce frustration and aggression?
(3) Will five employees typically generate more solutions to a difficult problem if they work together in person or if they work alone?
To anyone interested in knowing the answer to questions like these, Social Psychology is for you!
What do you want prospective learners to know about this course?
This course is a labor of love that took the Wesleyan University team more than a year to create and offers free access to course materials that would normally cost more than $1,000 to buy. In all, more than 60 organizations contributed videos, readings, and other items free of charge.
Our goal is to change the way learners experience the “M” in MOOC—from Massive to Mentored—by providing learners with an unprecedented level of personal support.
In conclusion, I hope you will enroll in the class—ideally, with a few friends, family members, or coworkers to keep it social—and let others know about the class if they enjoy it. At the very least, I hope readers will preview the course materials and watch the first few lectures—everyone is warmly invited!