Black Men, Black Boys and the Psychology of Modern Media, PSYC 297

Instructor: David Wall Rice, PhD

Office Hours: By appointment

Office: Nabrit Mapp McBay Rm. 203


Required Texts:

Suggested Texts:

  • Decoded, New York: NY, Spiegel & Grau (Carter, 2010)
  • The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America, Chicago: IL, The University of Chicago Press (Entman & Rojecki 2000)
  • Sociology is a Martial Art: Political Writings by Pierre Bourdieu, New York: NY, The New Press (Shapiro, 2010)
  • Balance: Advancing Identity Theory by Engaging the Black Male Adolescent, Lanham: MD, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (Rice 2008)
  • Being a Black Man: At the Corner of Progress and Peril, New York: NY, Perseus Books Group (Merida, 2007)
  • Hip-Hop America, New York: NY, Penguin (George, 2006)

Course Description:

Black Men, Black Boys and the Psychology of Modern Media is a personality psychology-rooted course that will look at the varied positioning of Black boys and men within media spaces.  The course will explore how these framings inform identity assumption and behaviors across cultures.  This exploration will be done through deconstructing contexts and human behavior paradigms relative to social norms, stereotype and less widely considered realities. Emphasis will be placed on fundamentals of human behavior, media history, pop culture critique and content analysis.  While cinema, television, recorded music and periodicals are considered for much of the course, new media streams will also be examined for behavioral and social influence on Black male identification.  Black Boys, Black Men and the Psychology of Modern Media is based across the personality psychology levels of dispositional traits, characteristic adaptation and life story tellings (McAdams, 2004).  This general structure is dynamic in a way that allows for shifting popular culture norms and for additional grounding in the media critique of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1998).  Prerequisite: Psychology 102 or Sociology 102 and with instructor’s approval. Three hours.

Entry-Level Expectations:

  • Concepts and issues of student mastery should include critical reading where the student is able extract content and meaning from a sample, while also identifying knowns and unknowns within a journal article or book chapter, and locate the essential properties of the underlying “problem” presented in said article or chapter.
  • Students must have a firm understanding of moderate-level critical thinking, reading and writing and when to use them as informed by the successful completion of PSYC 102 or SOC 102.
  • Students must demonstrate English 101/3-level writing proficiency with an ability to clearly articulate a thesis statement and associated supporting statements with a logical progression of thought.
  • Students must successfully complete Math 130 or a departmental equivalent that contributes to student ability to list and define the steps of Scientific Method, identify and write scientific notation, calculate and recognize summary and descriptive statistics (mean, median, mode, frequency, standard deviation).

Instructional Goals:

  • Extend student’s core concepts of psychological theory and media studies with a scientific approach to the presence of Black men and boys within popular culture.
  • Increase conceptual knowledge of research methods, design and strategies by building upon prior knowledge.
  • Create a learning environment that evokes independent thinking and creative applications of new knowledge to real-world situations of and relating to psychology and modern media.
  • Contribute to the progress and the advancement of critical thinking, reading, writing, research, and learning skills within the context of a psychology curriculum that provides measured treatment of stereotypical and affirming images of Black men and boys within mass culture.
  • Prepare students for graduate-level study and research.

Student Learning Objectives & Learning Outcomes:

Black Men, Black Boys and the Psychology of Modern Media is an upper level, analytical course that should greatly enhance the cultural literacy and psychology acumen of majors by engaging them with material that is of interest and profound relevance.  Student objectives are designed so that upon course completion students will be prepared for advanced undergraduate and graduate level courses that demand the application of theory to practice.  For students entering careers that incorporate themes or subject matter from this course (i.e. CTEMS students) immediately after college it is anticipated that application(s) will be enhanced by students having had this course as a proving ground for the substantive scaffolding and reframing of ideas.

Student learning objectives anticipate that, students will:

  • understand broad issues and definitions concerning personality psychology theory through critical reading, writing and class projects;
  • work toward a dynamic understanding of research by identifying, defining and drafting arguments anchored in the four major knowledge claims that govern modern scientific inquiry;
  • be aware of complex and nuanced explanations of Black maleness as informed by the application of logical progression of thought in discerning (through identification and writing) the difference between affirming and deficit models of Black identity;
  • develop a working knowledge of modern media history and the documenting and/or establishment of popular culture as informed by seminal works across recorded, sculpted, filmed, painted and written genres; and
  • adopt a perspective (a position) relative to Black men and Black boys across media scapes as demonstrated through achievement on exams, multi-media assignments and in-class discussion and exercises.

Learning outcomesfor Black Men, Black Boys and the Psychology of Modern Media are informed by the nine (9) Psychology Department-specific learning outcomes.  In order to successfully complete the present course, students will:

  • be required to produce an APA-style report, and present their results to the class whole;
  • respond to several tasks that require their use of critical thinking skills, and the scientific approach to problem solving related behavior and mental processes;
  • demonstrate familiarity with major concepts theoretical perspective, empirical findings, and historical trends in psychology;
  • design research projects including but not limited to experiments, collect appropriate data, use proper statistical and conceptual techniques to analyze and interpret these data;
  • be able to demonstrate their understanding of psychological theories, skills and approaches to a variety of professional and non-professional settings with particular emphasis on working and community environments;
  • be able to understand and critique professional and popular publications, in the area of psychology, without prejudice toward various approaches used to interpret behavior in an ethical and respectful manner;
  • be able to demonstrate computer literacy through the navigation of the internet for literature searches;
  • will be required to find original articles in the scientific literature using current information retrieval procedures and will be able to critically identify and distinguish between sources of information in print and electronic form;
  • will be able to identify the major contribution of African–American psychologist in the area of theory and research and understand the significance of these contributions for the discipline of psychology in general.

Student Responsibilities:

This course is positioned such that the instructor provides opportunities for each student to learn via exposure to skill sets, tools and techniques that the student applies in an effort to further their understanding of the intersection between personality psychology and expressions of modern media.  As such, it is the instructor’s responsibility to facilitate the opportunity and environment within which to learn, and the student’s responsibility to exploit the opportunity and environment to expand his and her knowledge base.

Course Overview/Expectations:

Black Men, Black Boys and the Psychology of Modern Media is a multi-media course that will engage the multi-modal expressions of popular culture within contemporary society. This course is where students are afforded the opportunity to carefully consider mass culture experienced daily through the levels of personality psychology, a New Big Five (McAdams & Pals, 2006) and sociological critique extending from Bourdieu (1998).  Here is where one develops an analytical core around issues of media that will influence how s/he comes to understand race and gender across media outlets through a psycho-social treatment of Black men and Black boys.  The intent is to ensure that this analytical core is well built and future-proof.  Accordingly, it is important to note that in this course considerable time will be required to: 1) read and study book chapters, supplementary materials and published research articles; 2) prepare for periodic in class assignments on presented material; 3) write and consider popular media in and out of class; and 4) collaborate with classmates in and out of class in order to complete assignments and to advance personal understanding of course concepts. Given these general expectations students are encouraged to weigh other academic and non-academic commitments for the semester before committing to take this course.  Because this course involves subjects and media types that are often familiar, students are typically highly engaged.  It is important to integrate this expected high involvement with scholarly attention.  Failure to spend appropriate time on task and attention to scholarly components of the material presented in this course will likely be negatively reflected in your final grade.

Class Execution:

  • Traditional lecture.  Interactive discussions with media references.  Traditional board and discussion with periodic PowerPoints.
  • Integration of a semester long “problem” across the course with foundational peer-reviewed pieces.
  • Significant portions of the course will incorporate Internet assignments and activity.
  • Deconstruction of at least one documentary, one piece of art work, one LP and one movie/television episode through content analysis, narrative and/or discourse analysis.


  • Course Project and Exam (100 points each) – There will be one course project and one exam.  The project will be a multimedia presentation.  Projects will incorporate the major themes, concepts and perspectives of the course.


Attend class.  Be on time.  Understand that school policy stipulates that more than 3 unexcused absences in this three-credit hour course allows the instructor latitude to fail the student in question.

Class Excuse Policy:

Morehouse College expects each student to attend scheduled classes on a routine basis and to be punctual. However, in cases of a family emergency, medical excuse, official school business, military obligation, bereavement, court appearance, and conference with dean/faculty/staff, the Vice President of Students services or his designee may provide verification of all official class excuses. Valid written documentation must be submitted to justify class absences within five (5) calendar days of the class absence.

Contacting the Instructor:

During non-office hours, the best way to contact the instructor is by e-mail (always include your name and course number in the subject line). Emails will be responded to within 12 to 24 hours Monday through Friday. Emails sent after regular business hours may be responded to the next business day (please keep this in mind during examination time).

Final Grade = [Course Projects (100 points per)]/2:

A+ 96 – 100, A 93 – 95, A- 90 – 92

B+ 86 – 89, B 83 – 85, B- 80 – 82

C+ 76 – 79, C 73 – 75, C- 70 – 72

D+ 66 – 69, D 63 – 65, D- 60 – 62

Please Note:

  • A syllabus is not a contract.  I reserve the right to alter the course requirements and/or assignments based on new materials, class discussions, or other legitimate pedagogical objectives.
  • Morehouse College is committed to equal opportunity in education for all students, including those with documented disabilities. Students with disabilities or those who suspect they have a disability must register with the Office of Disability Services (ODS) in order to receive accommodations.  Students currently registered with the ODS are required to present their Disability Services Accommodation Letter to faculty immediately upon receiving the accommodation.  If you have any questions, contact the Office of Disability Services, 104 Sale Hall Annex, Morehouse College, 830 Westview Dr. S.W., Atlanta, GA 30314, (404) 215-2636, FAX: (404) 215-2749.

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