Human Aggression—Graduate Level

Psychology 683x

Spring, 2001

 Craig A. Anderson, Ph.D.
 Professor & Chair    
 Department of Psychology 
 W112 Lagomarcino Hall 
 Email: caa@iastate.edu
 Web page: http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/
 Phone: 294-0283
This graduate seminar on human aggression is offered by the Psychology Department once every two or three years. Because we all share the same goal--to learn more about human aggression--I have decided to not impose a rigid structure on the class. Instead, I've distilled my hopes and goals for the class into several general "necessary features." Within this set of features, the students will jointly decide on how to run things.
The necessary features are themselves designed to guarantee that a certain relatively high level of knowledge acquisition will take place. These features may not all be popular, but I have successfully used them in other contexts both as a student and as a faculty member.
My two main (minimal) goals are: (1) That each student learn the basic psychological approach to understanding human aggression as currently represented in mainstream social psychology; (2) That each student explore in great detail one facet of the aggression phenomenon. Other goals include: (3) Turning students on to the excitement and challenges of conducting basic research into aggression; (4) Fostering a cross-disciplinary attitude towards the study of aggression; and (5) Inspiring students to further the cause of applying our theory-based insights into aggression to real world problems involving aggression at whatever levels are of interest, be it individual, family, subcultures, or whole societies.
Nuts & Bolts (necessary features):

11.  We will be reading and discussing three recent books on aggression, Human Aggression, by Russ Geen, Human Aggression: Theories, Research, and Implications, edited by Russ Geen and Ed Donnerstein, and Aggression: Its Causes, Consequences, and Control, by Len Berkowitz. The first is in the process of being revised, and may or may not be available by the time this course begins. The second is an edited volume of chapters by leading scholars. The third is a fairly detailed textbook outlining the Berkowitz view and reviewing a lot of research. There will likely be other readings. How many will depend, in part, on whether Geen's new revision is available.

2.  At each meeting, students will turn in a typed outline of the readings assigned for that week.  These will be returned at the next meeting.  The main purpose is to help everyone keep up with the readings.  A second purpose is to make it easier for students to review material that they read earlier.   A third purpose is to help students discuss the week’s readings.  Your outlines should also contain questions that you would like to pose to and discuss with the group.

3.  Some type of research project will be conducted.  Depending on class size and your preferences, this may take any of several forms.  Here are the possibilities that seem to me to be the most beneficial (in no particular order).   (A)  Each student does an individual research proposal, including lit review and theory development, proposed method, and at least a few pilot subjects.  (B)  Same as A, except students work in groups of 2 or 3.  (C)  The class as a whole works jointly on one major project.  In this case, it would probably be necessary to run a complete study, such as a survey of some type, a laboratory study, or an archival study.

4.  Both written and oral presentations of the research project will be done at the end of the semester.

As you can see, this leaves quite a bit of latitude. For instance, though I think it would be useful to have at least 2 exams, the students as a whole will make this decision. The class is scheduled to meet 2-5 pm on Fridays, but I might be persuaded to change this if all agree. What kind of research project is to be done is up to the class. The grading scheme itself is subject to the preferences of the class members.
A reading assignment schedule will be added at a later date.