When I initially arrived at Carroll with my “ABD” degree (All But Dissertation) in 1978 it made much sense to me and to my chair, Dr. Ralph F. Parsons, to teach what I had specialized in during graduate school at The Ohio State University.

David, Ralph, and Virginia

David, Ralph, and Virginia Briefly Reunited February 1, 2014

My introduction to the field of social psychology had come while I was an  undergraduate at Oberlin College, and I hoped share with my Carroll students the excitement that I felt at that time of actually being an experimental  social psychologist.

At Oberlin  my academic adviser, Ralph Turner, was a self-described “arm-chair” social psychologist (i.e not at a researcher) interested in creating dithering devices to facilitate learning that would cascade within and outside the classroom. As an adviser and professor Ralph Turner was kind to and patient with me. He was a role model of a dynamic teacher and a voracious reader who regularly wrote book reviews and who played a leadership role in Division 2 (Teaching of Psychology). He encouraged my intellectual curiosity and accepted me as I was, unformed and uninformed but eager to learn. He introduced me to the idea that psychological principles of persuasion and attitude change could be used to make the world a better place — or a worse place if applications of these same social psychological principles and findings failed to be guided by ethics.

These were my most (in)formative years especially, perhaps, because I was taking all my classes “credit/no entry” (that is, ungraded).  This freedom from being graded allowed me to read voraciously, to be exposed firsthand to social justice and war/peace issues, and to read and reflect upon works such as Postman and Weingartner’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity. I was also at that time inspired by APA President George Miller’s 1969 address advocating that we should give psychology away

While a perennial graduate student at Ohio State I was surrounded by students who already were far better scientists than I was or would ever become and who subsequently made major contributions to the field. Once again I was heavily influenced by personal relationships formed with a few key faculty — in particular by my academic adviser, mentor, and friend Tom Ostrom and more indirectly but in many positive ways, by the teachings by example of Tony Greenwald. Both of them, in their kind but brutally candid way convinced me that my calling most likely would be in teaching rather than in conducting creative, seminal, path-breaking research. And here I some 40 plus years later!

It pleases me that a number of Carroll students chose to pursue advanced graduate degrees in social psychology (e.g. Mark Klinger, Pam Propsom, Deana Julka, Darcy Reich, Jenny Welbourne, and Cathy Carnot-Bond ) or in related disciplines (e.g. Mike Schwerin and Mary Jo Carnot). Some of them have developed enviable scholarly reputations. But my goal in my experimental social psychology class is not so much as to be a pipeline to graduate schools in social psychology as to attempt to provide a capstone-like experience in students’ developed abilities of thinking about research.

As I teach this course for the last time at Carroll I am sorting through how and what to teach. Though some years the enrollment has been as high as 35 students, this year there will be only eight. One possibility is to focus on classic studies and recently published articles. Such a change in format might allow for more extensive, daily discussion and the potential development of student research ideas resulting from such discussion.

A second possibility is to teach the course from a much more global, international perspective. A third possibility is to dramatically introduce hands on Internet-based resources and experiences  A good start in identifying some such resources has already been made by Scott Plous in his development of the Social Psychology Network  and is reflected in the work of Jonathon Mueller in developing teaching resources for social psychology.  And, of course, I could draw more upon the expertise of former students who are active experimental social psychologists. I had some success with that last semester in my Research seminar when former students Skyped with us or came to campus.

I welcome input from students and former students concerning which directions I should explore. How best should I proceed to give social psychology away?


Posted by Professor David Simpson

Professor of Psychology, Carroll University (USA), Lover of Dogs, Reading, Teaching and Learning. Looking for ways to enhance cross-global communication and to apply technology learning tools. Interested in brain health maintenance, brain fitness training, and truth in advertising.


  1. After reading this, your passion for both providing your students with the best coursework and your passion for social psychology is evident. In a previous class, we Skyped with current psychologists and psychiatrists. I found this very helpful and really like the idea of either Skyping with or having previous students come in to talk. I am a very hands on learner and like the idea of using internet-based resources and experiences. I would love the chance to delve deep into social psychology and to have in depth discussions with classmates about real-world examples.

  2. After reading this, I can see how much you truly care about both providing your students with the best coursework and your passion for social psychology. In a previous class, we Skyped with current psychologist and psychiatrists. I found this very helpful and feel like listening to what former students would have to say would be very informative. I am a very hands on learner, so I think it would be interesting using different internet based resources and experiences. I would love to delve deep into social psychology through in depth discussions with other classmates and relate it back to current events that are happening in the real-world.

    1. Professor David Simpson September 6, 2018 at 7:56 pm

      Thanks for your kind words. My guess is that the previous class you alluded to was Jess’s (AKA Dr. Lahner). Your comments are quite consistent with those of my friend Dr. Michelle Braun – one of the most brilliant Carroll graduates I have known. Alas, I never had here as a student:)

  3. Czarina Encarnacion September 6, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    Your passion for Social Psychology and learning is very evident and inspiring! I truly love the idea of being able to meet former students in person or via skype in order to learn more about their careers and their studies. I also think that focusing on internet-based resources and experiences would be extremely beneficial and interesting, seeing as though many people are relying on the internet to share their stories. Incorporating real world examples would allow us to not only grasp a better understanding of social psychology, but allow us to take on a different perspective than what we are used to!

    1. Professor David Simpson September 6, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      I appreciate your comments and your suggestions. i already am impressed by your thoughtful and timely response — a day before we formally meet!

  4. Although this is only my second year here at Carroll, I have very little knowledge of this branch of psychology. I took AP Psychology in high school and because there was so much content we had to memorize for the AP exam, we could not spend an abundance of time on one topic. Even though this was the case, this subject matter resulted in becoming a huge discussion for a small-town high school. https://fox6now.com/2017/02/01/this-is-false-radio-host-accuses-mukwonago-high-school-teachers-of-teaching-white-privilege/
    After this occurred, I became intrigued with how people reacted to the situation and how it influenced them. I saw many of my classmates, myself included, speak up on the matter and defend our teacher. In this class, I would like to see more real-life situations where social psychology has affected diverse individuals. Learning more about the history of social psychology will also give me a better understanding of the branch itself. I am very excited about this class!

    1. Professor David Simpson September 6, 2018 at 7:31 pm

      Thanks for sharing that most interesting video. Somehow I was unaware of that controversy. Your comments are thoughtful, literate and thought-proking. Don’t be shy about sharing them with classmates. BTW, one of my mentors developed the Implicit Attitude Test.

  5. Professor, I love the idea of taking the class on a more global scale. It would be so cool to discuss or read things on an international level.

    1. Professor David Simpson September 6, 2018 at 7:38 pm

      Thanks for your feedback! Consult with your classmates about how to comment using your name. I agree with you that it would be fun to extend the course globally. I have friends or family in Switzerland, Lithuania, Russia, Mexico, and Norway.

  6. I loved learning about your journey in social psychology! Right now it seems the world could benefit more than ever from learning about it and having you continue to give it away. I think having previous students come in to speak about their careers in social psychology would bring the subject alive and also provide possible career guidance (my career was strongly influenced when former students came to visit). Also, what if students brought the lessons alive by linking them to current news events, so that they really learned to apply the lessons in daily life? I still think about social psychology nearly every time I see the news or work with groups, and it really helps to put things in perspective and imagine solutions. I hope you enjoy every moment of your last social psychology class!!

    1. Professor David Simpson September 3, 2018 at 10:18 am

      Good ideas, as always from you! I plan to incorporate them into the class. there is so much more that one can do with a smaller enrollment of students whom i already know. Warm regards, David

  7. psychnstatstutor Chart your course to success September 3, 2018 at 12:12 am

    Podcasts! e.g., https://anchor.fm/

    1. Professor David Simpson September 3, 2018 at 10:19 am

      Excellent idea. In fact taht is on my “to do” list for next year. Thanks for the app lead. –David

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