Dear Colleagues

I am completely excited to announce that Flat World Knowledge (FWK) has just published a new textbook, Principles of Social Psychology, that I have written.  The book has received outstanding reviews from an advisory board and a large team of reviewers and I am excited to present it to you.

A description of the book and link to the text in its entirety appears at

Please allow me to first tell you a bit about the book itself, and then a bit about the innovative and student-friendly business model used by FWK.

I wrote this book based on 30 years of teaching social psychology – learning what worked and what didn’t work for me and my students.  My goal is to get us past the laundry list of ideas, studies, and phenomena that populate our field and our texts, focusing instead on social psychology as an integrated set of principles and knowledge.  The structure and integration provided by my text helps students determine what is really important – the principles versus their numerous exemplifications and extensions.

Teaching using principles gives me a great feeling that my students really get it – I now know that when I get to my lecture on altruism they already know what I’m going to tell them.  They understood that, although there are always some tweaks to keep things interesting, altruism is going to be understood using the same ideas that conformity and person perception has been in earlier sessions– in terms of the underlying principles.  They are truly thinking like social psychologists!

Principles of Social Psychology is based on a critical thinking approach – its aim is to get students thinking actively and conceptually – with more of a focus on the forest than on the trees.  Although there are right and wrong answers, the answers are not the only thing.  What is perhaps even more important is how we get to those answers – the thinking process itself.  My efforts are successful when my students have that “aha” moment, in which they find new ideas fitting snugly into the basic concepts of social psychology.

To help students better grasp the big picture of social psychology, and to provide you with themes that you can use to organize your lectures, my text has a consistent pedagogy across the chapters.  I organize my presentation around three underlying principles that are essential to social psychology:

  • Person and Situation (the classic treatment)
  • The ABCs of social psychology (Affect, Behavior, and Cognition)
  • Self-concern versus Other-concern (a topic that cuts across important issues including culture, altruism, morality, aggression, and gender).

My years of teaching have convinced me that these dimensions are fundamental, that they are extremely heuristic, and that they are what I hope my students will learn and remember.  I think that you may find that this organization represents a more explicit representation of what you’re already doing in your own course.  Although my pedagogy is consistent, it is not constraining.  You will use these dimensions more for some topics than for others, but they will always work for you when you are ready for them.  Use them to reinforce your presentation as you see fit.

Rather than relying on “modules” or “appendices” of applied materials, my text integrates applied concepts into the text itself.  This approach is consistent with my underlying belief that if students learn to think like social psychologists they will easily and naturally apply that knowledge to any and all applications.  The following applications are woven throughout the text:

  • Business and Consumer behavior
  • Environmental psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Social psychology and Law

Principles of Social Psychology contains a number of pedagogical features designed to help students develop an active, integrative understanding of the many topics of social psychology and to think like social psychologists, including Research Foci (a mix of classic and contemporary research, with a focus both on what’s interesting and what’s pedagogical), and Social Psychology in the Public Interest (reinforcing links between social psychology an everyday experience)Each chapter ends with a Thinking like a Social Psychologist section that summarizes the principles. This section is designed to work with the chapter summary to allow a better integration of fundamental concepts.

What makes this book very different from competing texts is that is an open source textbook. The FWK business model  offers students many different ways to learn from the book

  • The book may be read online by anyone for free (no codes, no expiration dates)
  • A printed black-and-white copy is available for $30 and a color copy for $60
  • A .pdf version is available for $25, and individual chapters (.pdf or audio) can be purchased for $2.

Any of these options saves students substantial money compared to the usual price range for a traditional psychology text. I am pleased to have written a book students can learn from for free or at a very low cost.

The FWK platform provides an excellent experience for teaching and learning. High-quality content and links to videos, podcasts, and websites make the textbooks engaging.  Students are thrilled not only with pricing, but also with the ability to take notes and search the text online, as well as the many other options for learning that come with a FWK book.

The FWK format also delivers flexibility in content that instructors want, such as the ability to customize the textbook by adding or deleting text (or even chapters), and the ability to adopt revisions on their own schedule instead of when a new edition comes out.  To adopt the book, the instructor simply signs up, receives his or her own unique URL for the class, and students get the book you’ve created.

As with all FWK books, my text also comes with a full range of supplements for instructors, and with various pedagogical aids for students.

Thanks in advance for helping to introduce social psychology for free or low cost to our students.

I’m looking forward to hearing from any or all of you about this book, textbooks in general, and SPSP2012!

Have fun in San Diego!

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Principles of Social Psychology Published!
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