Reviewed by Helen Harton, Professor, University of Northern Iowa, on 2/16/2017.
This "book" is a compilation of modules on topics (some broad, some fairly specific) written for the most part by researchers, often well-known ones,
Comprehensiveness rating: 4 read less
This "book" is a compilation of modules on topics (some broad, some fairly specific) written for the most part by researchers, often well-known ones, within those areas. The website says the publication date is 2016, but most of the chapters seem to be written earlier than that. The methods chapters seem the most up-to-date, with a couple of references from 2014/2015, but for most chapters the most recent research cited is from 2011, and for some, including areas that are rapidly changing such as social neuroscience, the most recent references are from 2009.
Because the modules are often fairly specific, they cover some topics that you wouldn't necessarily see in a traditional social psychology textbook (e.g., social neuroscience,culture and emotion, theory of mind, the family). The methods chapters in particular cover a more recent methods such as implicit measures and big data, and one of them at least mentions the replication crisis with priming. On the other hand, there are also things that you'd typically see in a social psychology textbook that get left out. For example, there is no mention throughout the modules of the Elaboration Likelihood Model (they introduce the idea, but not the theory per se) or any discussion of the relationship between attitudes and behavior or the theories (e.g., Theory of Reasoned Action, Theory of Planned Behavior) related to those. In the prejudice chapter, there's not much on threat or evolutionary approaches or research on ways to reduce prejudice such as contact. There are several modules that deal with relationships, but no mention of the Investment Model. As a final example, the cultural module mentions individualism vs. collectivism and vertical vs. horizontal, but doesn't describe some of the other ways cultures have been differentiated in social psychology (e.g., tight vs. loose).
Part of the reason some of this is left out is that the modules are fairly short, and their comprehensiveness varies based on module author(s). The modules provide overviews of the areas, but there is a lot of variety in the depth they go into. Some chapters have many references from a broad range of authors, whereas another has only 8 references (6 of which the module author is co-author on).
Accuracy rating: 4
The modules seem accurate, but not always up-to-date. There are some places where I noticed inconsistencies that may be confusing or problematic. For example, "hypothesis" is defined differently in two different methods chapters (and appears twice in the overall glossary, one for each definition). One of the definitions I don't agree with, and the second I didn't think was a great definition either. As another example, the method chapter mentioned how some priming studies had been found not to replicate and why that was important, but there was no mention of these potential issues in the social cognition module when that research was discussed.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 3
Because the book is in modules, an instructor could easily choose to use some and not others. Most of the modules were five or more years old it seemed, but the degree to which that might matter will depend on the topic covered in the module. There weren't many current event examples in the modules, so there wasn't much to go out-of-date there (e.g., mentions of elections or particular events).
Clarity rating: 4
Overall the modules were easy to read, although this differed somewhat by module, as they were written by different authors. I thought some parts of the statistics chapter in particular would be difficult for some undergraduates.
Consistency rating: 2
There isn't a consistent framework (e.g., theoretical focus, theme) for the modules. They differ in their topics, in the breadth of their topics, and in the approach the authors take. There are similarities in that each module begins with learning objectives, and ends with web resources, discussion questions, and learning objectives, and a glossary.
Modularity rating: 5
You could easily use just parts of this book, and I think that most instructors would.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4
There aren't any connections between modules, but the modules generally present things clearly.
Interface rating: 4
It's only available in pdf right now. It would be nice to have other formats so that students could highlight sections more easily. It was readable on my computer and my phone. Definitions appear if you hover over the vocabulary words.
Grammatical Errors rating: 3
I didn't notice any grammatical errors, but the references were often not in APA style. I teach APA style in my classes, so I think that it's important than a textbook follow it.
Cultural Relevance rating: 4
There were not many specific examples (somewhat surprisingly) in the modules, so it should be relevant across cultures. The modules generally reported research only from Western countries (I would prefer that they also discuss cultural effects where relevant), but there were two chapters that explicitly dealt with culture.
I think these reviews would be more useful to potential adopters if they were written by people who have already used the books in their courses. I also think they should allow people to post anonymous reviews. As far as I know, the only way one can write these reviews is to go to a presentation by the group and receive a time-linked invitation. It's also important to note that reviewers are paid for reviews. As far as this particular book goes, I think it would be especially useful to supplement other chapters and/or articles in a class where the instructor did not want to use a traditional textbook.
Reviewed by Jessica Salvatore, Assistant Professor, Sweet Briar College, on 8/16/2017.
This “ready-made textbook” is a compilation of relevant modules from the much larger family of NOBA modules. Together they cover standard topics
Comprehensiveness rating: 3 read less
This “ready-made textbook” is a compilation of relevant modules from the much larger family of NOBA modules. Together they cover standard topics (persuasion), some less-standard ones (the family), and one applied area (I/O psychology). Unfortunately, the key area of intergroup relations and intergroup conflict receives extremely short shrift; the closest coverage is a single module on stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. Curiously, the available module on the “replication crisis” was not selected for inclusion. A stand-alone combined glossary is provided at the end, as well as a helpful module-specific glossary at the end of each module.
Accuracy rating: 4
I would have no qualms about assigning these modules to students as a supplementary/reference text. With that said, social psychology is in flux and there are some questions about the replicability of studies that are reviewed herein. I urge instructors who may want to adopt this book to be proactive in providing commentary to their students as this situation develops. See also my comments on international bias, below.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 4
NOBA as a whole has shown itself able to capture trajectories in the field better than most traditional textbooks do. It is also helpful that the modules are written by some of the most central figures in the research they are describing (e.g., Jerry Burger, who published a major update of the Milgram study, authored the module on social influence). The authors for the most part selected evergreen examples – such as the Channel Tunnel construction as a “hook” into the topic of cooperation.
Clarity rating: 5
The writing is clear across all the modules.
Consistency rating: 3
The same elements are included in each module (e.g., discussion questions) and terminology, where appropriate, appears consistent. With that said, each module was written by (a) different author(s) and there are points of disconcerting overlap. The modules may provide similar coverage yet not be in productive conversation with each other. I think it would be possible for an instructor to turn this into a useful feature of the textbook by creating assignments where students engage more actively with the material by, for example, contrasting the coverage of attachment theory, cultural relativism, etc. across modules.
Modularity rating: 5
The book is designed intentionally to prioritize modularity, and this ends up being both a bug and a feature (see above and below).
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 2
The book is organized somewhat arbitrarily, with disparate topics loosely grouped under slightly more abstract topical headings and no segues between these groupings. (Or perhaps the organization is not as arbitrary as it seems, but there is nothing like an introduction to explain the logic of the sequence we are provided.) This modular experience may work best for an instructor who wants her students to have a supplementary/reference text for a few topics. However, I do not think it works well as a primary text for a social psychology course that relies heavily on the text to provide internal coherence, synthesis, overarching questions and frameworks, etc.
Interface rating: 5
The interface is easy to use. Useful ancillary materials are provided both in the modules – though the depth of these varies considerably across modules -- and (password-protected) elsewhere online.
Grammatical Errors rating: 5
Generally the grammar and proofreading are good; I caught only a few typos in one module.
Cultural Relevance rating: 3
Although not insensitive as a rule (I did see one instance of the word "lame" used as an insult), the book is extremely intrapsychic in focus; avoids any explicit coverage of qualitative research methods; and in other ways signals strongly that it takes a North-America-centric perspective.
In addition to my comments above, I would have liked to see more critical perspectives on the research described – particularly regarding the “lore” that has sprung up around many of the field’s classic studies, which are often covered somewhat superficially.