Connecting social psychology to the experience of others through a nonfiction book analysis: New wine in an old bottle

Gregory S Preuss, D. Ryan Schurtz, Caitlin Powell, David J. Y. Combs, Richard H Smith


This article evaluates a writing assignment in which students read a non-fiction book that they chose from a list provided by their instructor, identified examples of social psychological phenomena, and fully explained how those examples fit social psychology concepts. This novel twist on a traditional assignment yielded surprisingly robust benefits. Across four samples from two universities and two instructors, students indicated that the assignment furthered their learning beyond other aspects of the course by helping them apply social psychology to “real life” situations that were beyond their own particular experiences. The results suggested that allowing students to choose the book that they would read promoted enjoyment of the assignment. Informal discussion with students, including those who rarely read books for pleasure, indicated that many students took pride in reading a book of their own choosing that they actually enjoyed. Almost all students recommended the continued use of the assignment for future courses. Variations on the assignment that could be utilized by instructors in other psychology courses and other academic disciplines are discussed.


active learning; application; book review; choice; psychology

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ISSN 1527-9316