Sociology | Society and the Individual
S230 | 3613 | VonDerHaar

S230 Society and the Individual   Von DerHaar
11:15-12:30 MW  3613

In his introduction to the seventh edition of his textbook,
Social Psychology, James Vander Zanden captured the subject
matter of this course.  Written as an entry in a personal
journal, he wrote:

I was driving home over a back road when I came upon a guy
driving a new Porsche.  He was going 20 miles an hour under
the speed limit.  The road was winding and I could not pass
him.  So I said to myself, "What would it take to get me to
speed up if I were driving that Porsche?"  My answer was,
"Tailgate him."  I then moved my car close behind the
Porsche, but it did not seem to have any effect.  I
evaluated my own act, and it seemed to me that I was
gesturing in a way that would get my point across.  So I
thought, "This isn't working.  I had better try something
else.  I'll drop back a little, and the first chance I get,
I'll pass him."  When I reached an open stretch of road that
had no oncoming traffic, I accelerated and attempted to pass
him.  But the driver also speeded up so that I couldn't get
by.  Again I appraised the situation and concluded, "I had
better push the accelerator to the floor."  I did so, but
the driver speeded up to prevent my overtaking him.
Frustrated, I said to myself, "That guy is going to get both
of us killed.  I'll just drop back of him and not try to
pass."  I did so.  At this point the guy gave me the
"finger" and raced off in the Porsche.  From the example,
one can see the operation of the selfhood process.  As we
engage in social behavior, we mentally evaluate its product.
We become an audience to our own actions.  We adopt a state
of preparedness for certain kinds of responses from other
people.  We test our behavior on an ongoing basis and revise
it.  Consciousness allows us to reflect on our behavior and
to modify it in accordance with our definition of the

I have chosen this particular example to illustrate the kind of
class this will be for several reasons.  First, of all the topics
covered in this course, students have been most fascinated by the
question, "Who am I?"  And Vander Zanden's example shows how we
will attempt to find that answer.

Beyond that, I want students to grasp a feeling about how we will
approach the study of social psychology in this class.  It is one
of those subjects that you will remember fondly in recalling your
college days.  And, I believe, that is because it is a place
where you begin to understand not only yourself but, as well, the
most important other people in your life.

Building upon an understanding of the "selfhood" process, we will
then proceed to study a number of topics including socialization
(how children learn), attitudes and attitude change,
interpersonal attraction, and prejudice and discrimination.