SPCH-S322 Advanced Interpersonal Comm. / SPCH-B399 Human Behavior and Social Institutions

Summer I T/R 1:00 – 4:15 pm. Why do we lie? Is lying bullshitting? Where is lying acceptable? This class will explore these hot button issues and more.

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”
– Mark Twain, author

Instructor – Dr. Alec R. Hosterman, Senior Lecturer and Chair of Communication Studies
Phone – 574.520.4883
E-mail – ahosterm@iusb.edu
Office – Northside 033K

Day/Time – Tuesdays & Thursdays, 1:00 – 4:15 pm
Course Location – Northside 135
Required Texts – On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt; The Varnished Truth by David Nyberg; Telling Lies by Paul Ekman; Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale, Jr.; and various articles as assigned (see schedule below)

Link to specific course policies.

Read this: How to Write a Paper for Professor Hosterman

Traditionally, communication courses explore the hows and whys of human communication. The field of interpersonal communication tends to focus on theories, skills, and abilities that would help students improve their working relationships, romantic relationships, friendships, and the like. But there’s more to communication than just the “good side.” What about lies? Deception? Manipulation? These are key areas of study that need to be understood, much the same as we discuss effective and productive communication characteristics.

Upon completing the course, students will be able to understand and complete the following objectives:

  • Identify and explain the concepts and theoretical underpinnings of deception;
  • Differentiate between lie, lying, deception, falsity, and truth;
  • Understand how ethics affects the field of deception;
  • Critically analyze arenas of deception for specific communication-related strategies;
  • Develop a group project that implements the strategies covered in class;
  • Identify and illustrate concepts in professional and personal venues.

Throughout the semester, you will produce deliverables (assignments) that gauge your level of comprehension and application of the material in the course. These include:

  • Blog Postings – Set up a free blog at WordPress (www.wordpress.com) and send me the address of your blog (e.g., alechosterman.wordpress.com) by 5/22. Each week you will reflect on a prompt posted to the course syllabus. Each blog posting is worth 50 points, for a total of 300 points.
  • Examinations – There are 3 exams in this course. Each exam is worth 200 points, for a total of 600 points.
  • Attendance and Participation – The easiest part of your grade is assessed by your attendance in class and participation in discussion and activities: don’t fall asleep, be respectful of others, and contribute. Worth 100 points.

Your blog response is due no later than 48 hours after it is posted to the syllabus. Responses completed after that will only receive 1/2 credit.

Blog #1: The bullshit artist is one that has many different tools at his/her disposal. First, who do you think bullshits more and why: men or women? Then, what do you think are some common bullshit tactics that these artists use?

Blog #2:  How has truth telling online been impacted by the ease of being able to lie and deceive digitally?

Blog #3  If you had to give one piece of advice to a liar on how not to get caught, what would it be? What would you tell them to work on improving?

Blog #4  What lies do we use to teach children not to lie? To what extent do we see this play out in modern media?

Blog #5  If deception is a part of gameplay, then why do you think society condones it? Are there any other activities (not politics) where deception is accepted as “part of the rules”?

Blog #6  Are there any connections between Frank’s cons and cons perpetrated in today’s society?


The following schedule is tentative.  I reserve the right to change it depending upon our pace through the course, however I will give advanced notice.

05.20  Introduction to the class.

05.22  On Bullshit (Frankfurt); “Different Kinds and Aspects of Bullshit” (Maes & Schaubroeck); link to Sokal; Ethical Perspectives –  Larson article, Simons article, Gass & Seiter article

05.27  Truth Telling is Morally Overrated (Nyberg, Ch. 1); Varieties of Truth (Nyberg, Ch. 2)

05.29  Is “The Whole Truth” Attainable? (Bok, Ch. 1); Exam #1 (over Nyberg chapters 1 and 2; Frankfurt; Larson, Simons, Gass & Seiter articles; and Maes & Schaubroeck)

06.03  The Reverse of Truth Has a Hundred Thousand Shapes (Nyberg, Ch. 3); Showing and Hiding: The Logic of Deception (Nyberg, Ch. 4)

06.05  Lying, Leakage, and Clues to Deceit (Ekman, Ch. 2); Facial Clues to Deceit (Ekman, Ch. 5)

06.10  Detecting Deceit From Words, Voice or Body (Ekman, Ch. 4); The Polygraph as Lie Catcher (Ekman, Ch. 7)

06.12  Raising Children: The Right Truth at the Right Time – Nyberg, Ch. 8; “Tricking the Taste Buds: Messages of Deception and Inconvienence in ‘Healthy’ Food” (Brabham); Exam #2 (over Bok, Nyberg chapters 3, 4; Ekman chapters 2, 4, 5, 7)

06.17 Civility: Revealing and Concealing Our Thoughts (Nyberg, Ch. 6); Game Play; “Communicative Competency Among Poker Players” (Hayano)

06.19  Introduction to Hoaxes and Cons: “Yellow Kid Weil“;”The Giant in the Earth“; and “Games Con Men Play” articles

06.24  Catch Me If You Can (Abagnale, Chapters 1-6)

06.26  Final Exam (over Nyberg chapters 6, 8; Nyberg chapter 6; Hayano; material on hoaxes and cons; and Abagnale chapters 1-6)


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