Applying Psychological Science Paper

Psych 100 (Introductory Psychology) –Fall 2018

Paper assignment: Applying Psychological Science Paper

This document pertains to our first paper assignment, the Applying Psychological

Science Paper (APSP). As a reminder from the syllabus, APSP #1 is due on Monday,

October 8, end of the day (11:59 pm).

You should already have received information about this paper assignment in

discussion sections.

The paper assignment is:

(a) to address an applied challenge, that is, some challenge faced in the “real world,”

outside of university departments of psychology, by

(b) making use of information in a scientific paper that presents some scientific evidence

that can be used to address the challenge.

This memo contains a list of applied challenges and associated scientific papers

from which to choose. You should choose one of these as the topic for your paper.

Once you choose a topic, your assignment is:

(1) to describe the theory and research presented in the scientific paper that is

listed for your topic

(2) to explain how that theory and research addresses the applied challenge,

in other words, to explain how the psychological science (the theory and research

in the paper) might help to solve the problem faced by the person with the applied


The paper you write should be 3.5 – 4 pages in length, double-spaced. That would

be the length in font size 12, 1-inch-margins; this would equate to about 1100 words of

writing. In these 3.5-4 pages, you should be accomplishing the two asks above: (1)

describe the theory and research presented in the scientific paper you read (answer

questions such as: what is the main idea of the paper? What are the main research

findings supporting this idea? What methods did the researcher use to support their

findings?), and (2) explain how that theory and research can be applied to the applied

problem (explain what the person facing the applied challenge might do differently if

they knew about the theory and research in the paper). You should probably spend about

an equal amount of space on each of the two tasks; your paper thus would have about 1.5-

2 pages describing the theory and research that is presented in the relevant scientific

paper, and about 1.5-2 pages explaining how the scientific information might be used to

solve the applied problem.

Notes on the Readings: You do not have to do any additional outside reading for

the paper, that is, you don’t have to read anything except for the one paper listed as the

relevant scientific paper for your topic. (The list is below.) Also note that you can get

your paper, absolutely for free, in either of two ways. If you’re on campus, you merely

need enter the title of the paper into an internet browser. Google Scholar almost always

finds the paper, and if you’re on campus the UIC computer system will add a “Find It @

UIC” link. Alternatively, from any computer you can access the paper through the UIC

library system list of electronic journals. Please contact your TA if you are not familiar

with this UIC library access system.

Notes on writing style: For this paper, you should have little or no direct quotes

from the paper. Unlike a writing style in the humanities (e.g., an English class in which

you are writing about a work of fiction), here in the social sciences there is rarely any

need at all to quote directly, word-for-word, from a paper you are reading. The text in

your paper should be text written entirely by you.

Notes on plagiarism: Anytime you are discussing someone else’s words you need

to give the author credit by citing them. Otherwise, this is plagiarism. By citing the

author, you are adding credibility to your argument and avoiding plagiarism. An example

of an in-text citation looks like this: where you first list the ideas of an author followed

with an in-line citation: Psychology is the scientific study of person, the mind, and the

brain (Cervone, 2014).

Below are the topics from which to choose in writing your first paper, APSP#1. Below

that you can find instructions for submitting the paper.

Environmental Attitudes and Behavior

Suppose you work for an environmental organization, that is, a nonprofit organization

devoted to protecting the environment from being degraded by pollution. You decide to

launch an ad campaign in which you remind people that too many people are polluting

the environment, and this has to stop. Unfortunately, your ad campaign doesn’t work.

There is as much pollution after you show the ads as before. So you launch a new

campaign in which you tell people that far, far, too many people, in huge numbers, are

polluting the environment, and this absolutely has to stop! Unfortunately, this campaign

backfires. There is even more pollution after you show the ads than there was before.

You’ve got one last chance to devise a new ad campaign. What are you going to do?

Relevant scientific paper:

Cialdini, R. (2003). Crafting normative messages to protect the environment. . Current

Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 105-109.

Neighborhoods and Child Development

Suppose you are a newly elected member of the United States Congress, and your

Congressional district is relatively poor, that is, lower than average in terms of

socioeconomic status and the resources available to citizens. You think that the poverty

of your Congressional district is harming the lives of children and youth. So your first act

as a Congressperson is to give a speech arguing for more resources to improve

neighborhoods in your district. But some other Congressperson immediately gets up and

says “Neighborhoods don’t make any difference at all. The reason people who live in

poor neighborhoods aren’t doing well has nothing to do with the neighborhoods at all.

What’s really happening is that some people inherit lots of smarts, and they’re smart

enough to move out of the bad neighborhoods, so the people left behind in the bad

neighborhoods are the less smart people, who naturally do less well in life.

Neighborhoods don’t matter at all.” What are you going to say in response? What

scientific evidence indicates that neighborhoods actually do matter?

Relevant scientific paper:

Leventhal, T., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2003). Children and youth in neighborhood contexts.

Beyond traits in the study of personality coherence. Current Directions in

Psychological Science, 12, 27-31.

Personality and Prediction of Behavior

Suppose you are in the personnel department of a large company. One of your job duties

is to predict job performance based on measures of personality. The idea is that, when

people apply for jobs, you give them a personality test. You then hope to be able to use

their test scores to predict on-the-job performance outcomes, such as “who will be a

reliable, hard-working employee?,” “who will be an outgoing, sociable individual who

boosts morale?”, “who will have a capacity for leadership?” But here’s a specific

problem. Based on your past experience, it seems as if individual people vary from one

situation to another. Instead of being sociable all the time (for example), a person is

sociable in one situation and not another. People show leadership in some work settings,

but fail to do so in others. Traditional personality measures tell you what a person is like

on average, but it seems as if people vary from one situation to another, so that the

“average score” doesn’t tell you enough information. What are you to do?

Relevant scientific paper:

Cervone, D., & Shoda, Y. (1999). Beyond traits in the study of personality coherence.

Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 27-32.

Stuck with Low Self-Esteem?

Suppose you have a friend who complains of low self-esteem. The individual often feels

like a failure, and says the he or she doesn’t have much to be proud of. Furthermore, the

person says to you “and this is never going to change; I’ll have low self-esteem forever.”

You, being a nice person, say “No, it can change; you’ll probably feel better about

yourself eventually.” Your friend then says “I don’t believe you; what do you know?”

What do you know? Is there any scientific evidence that would support your argument

(“No, it can change; you’ll probably feel better about yourself eventually.”) What would

you say to your friend, in light of this scientific evidence?

Relevant scientific paper:

Orth, U., & Robins, R. W. (2014). The development of self-esteem. Current Directions in

Psychological Science, 23, 381-387.

The Law and Interrogations

Suppose you are a lawyer. You are working for a client who has been charged with a

crime. Making matters worse, your client has confessed to the crime. But now says he is

innocent. Making matters even worse, he was videotaped while confessing. Yet he now

insists he is innocent, and explains to you that his confession was not a real confession.

The police forced him to confess. His confession was coerced. Your job is to go to court

and explain that the videotape of the confession is not iron-clad proof that your client is

guilty. He still might be innocent. You also want to argue that the videotape of his

confession should not be shown in court because showing it would be unfair to him.

These are the arguments you have to make. How are you going to make them? Is there

any help from psychological science?

Relevant scientific paper:

Lassiter, G. D. (2002). Illusory causation in the courtroom. Current Directions in

Psychological Science, 11, 204-208.

Student Achievement

Suppose that you just taken a job as the new Assistant Principal of an elementary school.

One of the Principal’s long-standing policies at the school has been to recognize student

ability. When students do particularly well on tests, they get “I am smart” stickers that

they can wear in school during the day. Although the policy sounds good, and kids like

wearing the stickers, the Principal’s intuitions are that the program isn’t working quite as

well as he had hoped. He asks you to make a recommendation: Should the school keep

the “I am smart” stickers program, or perhaps should they replace it with something else?

What would you recommend?

Relevant scientific paper:

Dweck, C. D. (2007). The secret to raising smart kids. Scientific American Mind.

[can be obtained here

smart-kids1/ ]

Submitting Your Paper

You will need to submit your paper to the Blackboard web site. Specifically, we

will establish a “Safeassignment” location on the website at which you will submit the

paper. Safeassignment is a university-administered system that cross-checks papers

against material on the internet and material submitted elsewhere at UIC, to safeguard

against plagiarism. If you plagiarize off online materials or other students, even

students from past semesters, this system will flag your paper as plagiarized, and

you will earn 0 points for this paper, and your name will be submitted to the Dean

of Students where you may face disciplinary actions from the University. Please use

your own words entirely when you write this paper. Please do not cheat on this

assignment in any way.

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