Taking Social Psychology to the Streets: Humans of Northeast Pennsylvania

This social psychology student assignment, dubbed the "Humans of Northeast Pennsylvania Project," was inspired by the Humans of New York [http://www.humansofnewyork.com/] photography blog. To carry out the assignment, students venture into the community and approach five people, couples, or families whom they don't know and whom they consider different than themselves. They then ask these people a few questions, take a photo, and post the photo and a quote on a class Facebook page. Sample questions, which are designed to elicit interesting responses, include: "What is the meaning of life?" "When was the saddest moment of your life?" and "What is the biggest struggle you face?" Students also write a reflection paper in which they analyze the experience using social psychology (e.g., stereotype and social norm violations, fundamental attribution error, the contact hypothesis, cultural awareness). At the end of the course, the best photos and quotes submitted by each student are compiled into a hardcover book which each student signs and which is displayed on campus. Students are also given the option of buying their own paperback copy, which many of them do. Quantitative and qualitative assessments suggest that this assignment builds empathy for strangers, promotes an appreciation of diversity, and deepens student understanding of social psychology.

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