New search

Jamie G. McMinn
Associate Professor
Psychology Department
Westminster College
A Social-Cognitive Exploration of Reactions to Leiby Kletzky's Abduction and Homicide 

An eight-year-old boy, abducted while walking home from day camp, is killed and dismembered, and his alleged murderer, a member of the boy's community, is arrested. Students read details about the case with the goal of exploring how people have responded to the abduction and homicide, and to understand how those responses fit into the explanatory lenses of social psychology and social cognition. Through a selection of quotations from comment sections on news websites, students explore such concepts as internal and external attributions, the hindsight bias, the representativeness and availability heuristics, victim blaming, the just world hypothesis, overgeneralization, and the illusion of invulnerability. The case was designed for use in social psychology courses but would also be appropriate for introductory psychology, forensics, or social cognition courses.

The Irresistible Costs of Impressing Others: Managing Impressions and Regulating Behavior

Recent research indicates that people who boast to friends and those who are modest to strangers are less able to regulate their behaviors on other tasks. This case study presents a scenario in which four college roommates use different strategies to manage the impressions they make at a party. When they are later presented with a tray of tempting cookies, students are asked to predict how many each will eat and to justify their answers using the research results. Designed for use in a social psychology course, the case is also appropriate for introductory, health, and motivation psychology courses.

War, Death, and Cognitive Dissonance: A Case Study for Social Psychology

This case study explores cognitive dissonance theory, a theory proposed by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1956 to explain the tension that exists when peoples’ attitudes are incongruent with their behaviors. Students read a news article describing how residents of a town in Ohio are coping with the rising death toll among Ohio soldiers fighting in Iraq. They are then asked to evaluate the theory and to propose alternative explanations for the evidence in the article. Designed for use in social psychology courses, the case would also be appropriate for introductory psychology courses.