The following is a list of courses taught by Dr. Andrew Beer at the University of South Carolina Upstate. Courses are presented in terms of frequency offered, with the most frequently offered courses appearing first.
SPSY 309: Psychology of Personality
This course is designed to provide a broad overview of the major theoretical approaches to the study of personality (from Freud to the modern day), with a particular emphasis on their relevance for contemporary research and empirical findings. The broad aims for the course are to (a) learn about different personality theories and how they are tested empirically, (b) become familiar with different methodologies to study personality, and (c) get a better sense of what personality is and the role it plays in all of our lives.
The course is organized according to theoretical perspective. After an introduction to personality research methods, I begin with the oldest and least empirically-based theories (e.g., Freud’s psychodynamic theory) and move forward in terms of time and scientific progress. Students see the application of research methods in personality throughout, and the course concludes with perspectives that focus more on the origins of individual differences in behavior.
Course reading includes a textbook and occasional outside reading for extra credit. Course assignments include a series of reading quizzes, one paper (rotating topics), and 3-4 exams (content split evenly between multiple choice and essay questions).
SPSY 502: Senior Seminar in Person Perception
This course provides a relatively in-depth look at how we make judgments of personality. We begin the course by examining some basic methodology in this area of research. We then read seminal articles in different sub-areas of person perception. From our discussion of these materials, students formulate their own research ideas and develop them in the form of formal research proposals. In addition to this, we read and discuss a bestselling book based loosely on the original work we cover in the course. The goal of the book discussion is to draw parallels between the basic research findings and real, everyday life. I hope that through these exercises, the students will come away with an understanding of how to think critically about the process of interpersonal judgment.
The general course format is discussion. When necessary early in the course, I lecture about research methodology, but the vast majority of the class is spent discussing original empirical articles. These articles trace personality perception from its origins to recent findings, with the latter articles changing from semester to semester as the literature expands.
Course assignments include daily discussion questions, twelve reading quizzes, class participation, one article presentation (an oral and written assignment), an in-depth research report, and an oral presentation of this report.
SPSY 402: Advanced Topics in Psychology: Personality Assessment
This course is designed to provide an extensive look at how we measure personality. We first discuss primary issues associated with evaluating tests, such as reliability and validity. Then, we consider the test construction process. Finally, we engage in a class project that applies this knowledge to a topic of our choosing. The primary course goals include a) developing a familiarity with principles of measurement, b) understanding how to relate these principles to the scientific study of personality, and c) applying these ideas to a real-world personality measurement situation.
Early in the semester, we review the basic principles in lecture format, but we quickly move towards application of the concepts. First, I ask students to research a personality trait of interest and propose a new way to measure this dimension. Their research will culminate in a written proposal, which is presented to the class. The class then votes to adopt one of these proposals as the class project for the remainder of the semester. From that point forward, the course becomes a laboratory/lecture hybrid, in which we learn one day about a concept and apply it the next. For example, the students read about proper item generation (e.g., clarity, singularity of construal) and then spend a couple of class periods creating items relevant to our chosen construct. This process culminates in the construction of a preliminary test, which will be administered to a sample of participants. I then guide them through the basics of test analysis, which provides the basis for a final research report.
Course assignments will include two papers, laboratory activities, reading quizzes, one presentation, and two exams.
SPSY 300/SFLM: Special Topics in Psychology: Psychology in Film
This course examines a wide variety of psychological phenomena as portrayed in film. Throughout the semester, students are exposed to core concepts in psychology and then presented with films that explicate or apply these concepts. The primary course goals include a) developing a familiarity with topics representing most major subfields in psychology b) learning to recognize this information in situations outside of the classroom. It is our hope that by learning to notice psychology in action via the study of films, students will begin to notice psychology in action in other areas of life.
The course is team-taught with Dr. Peter Caster, an expert in film studies and a swell guy. The course opens with a general look at how our perceptual system allows for film to be experienced. From that point, we arrange the bulk of the course content around broad areas of psychological inquiry, each embodied in a relevant film. For example, after 1-2 days of lecture on relevant concepts from learning and memory, students will watch the film Memento, a thriller about a man with anterograde amnesia. We will hold a class discussion following each film, in which we ask the students to examine the film in light of the psychological concepts presented in class. We will have 7-8 such units, including a presentation of personality and its portrayal in film. Afterwards, students will develop their own independent film analyses, in which they choose a character in a film and explain how certain aspects of the character’s personality are revealed throughout the film. Students will work in groups and present their projects to the class during the final weeks of the semester.
Course assignments will include content quizzes for each unit, two reaction papers to films of the students’ choosing, a personality in film paper, an in-class presentation, and a comprehensive final exam.
SPSY 300: Special Topics in Psychology: Psychology of Human-Animal Interaction
This course is designed to examine the relation between humans and animals, primarily from a personality and social psychological standpoint. We first discuss general similarities and differences in cataloging and explaining stable individual differences in both human and animal behavior. Then, we compare and contrast human and animal interaction styles and outcomes for health and well-being. Finally, we read and discuss a book on the general topic. The primary course goals include a) developing a broad understanding of human and animal behavior, and b) developing an understanding and appreciation of the human-animal bond.
Course meetings alternate between lecture and discussion format, usually with original empirical work providing the focal point.
Course assignments will include two exams, one paper in which the student constructs a personality profile of an animal in his or her life, one group project which culminates the leading of a class discussion, and a final exam which draws upon these group presentations.
SPSY 101: Introduction to Psychology
This course provides a general introduction to the discipline of psychology, the scientific study of behavior. The goal of the class is to provide students with a snapshot of the major components of psychological research, ranging from the biological bases of behavior to group (social) behavior. The course involves 1) assigned readings in the text, 2) class lectures, and 3) exposure to psychological research methods.
The general course format is largely lecture, though I do incorporate a lot of demonstrations and class participation. I provide outlines of lecture material in power point format (available on Blackboard prior to the scheduled presentation of the material) and use these to guide the course meetings, and whenever appropriate, I engage the class in activities to reinforce concepts presented in lecture. The lectures do not merely repeat what can be read in the textbook; instead, they will attempt to provide a clearer understanding of the problems in psychology, using examples and demonstrations to reinforce important concepts. Two hints for getting the most from this course are to 1) come to lecture and 2) complete assigned readings before the lecture.
Course reading is a common textbook adopted by the department. Course assignments include two short papers and four multiple choice exams. The course also includes a research exposure component, which encourages our students to learn about psychology by participating in original research conducted by their faculty and fellow students.
SPSY 307: Social Psychology
Social psychology is the scientific study of how others influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This course introduces students to the major theories, findings, and important issues in social psychology covering many different topic areas, as well as key research methods used to gain knowledge in the area. Course format consists primarily of lectures given or discussions led by the instructor.
I find social psychology to be a course that allows for easy student engagement, simply because the topics often involve concepts that can be applied to their everyday social interactions. I arrange the course first by general topic (e.g., conformity) and then by studies within the topic (e.g., Sherif’s autokinetic effect, Asch’s line judgment studies). I tend to introduce a topic with a seminal study and then try to trace the research forward (to the present day whenever possible). This format helps students learn generally about the nature scientific inquiry as applied to social phenomena while learning more specifically about the effects of our social environment on our individual behavior.
Course reading is a textbook and some occasional excerpts from original empirical work. Course assignments include two papers and four multiple choice exams.