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Describe and discuss methodological and ethical issues that have occurred in empirical studies of social influence

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Describe and discuss methodological and ethical issues that have occurred in empirical studies of social influence. The two possible empirical studies of social influence that had methodological and ethical issues are Asch's study on conformity and Milgram's study on obedience. Asch's study on conformity was to see if individuals conform to the majority view with an unambiguous task with a right or wrong answer. A control group was given a task for comparison with an experimental group. Participants shown two cards, one card was a standard line, the other had three comparison lines. Participants were asked to judge which comparison lines was the same as the standard line. ...read more.


Another methodological issue is external validity. This is to do with whether the results of the study apply to other situations, times, populations, other than those in the study. Asch's experiment took place in the 1950's and only used male students in the experiment. It lacks external validity as its dated and the sample may not be representative of the wider population. However it could be argued it has external validity as it was replicated numerous times, with different samples and during different periods. The last methodological issue is ecological validity. This is to do with whether the results can be applied to real life situations. ...read more.


Firstly the participants were deceived. They were deceived in terms of the aim of the experiment, i.e, it was to do with conformity and also the fact that the other participants were confederates. Also by deceiving them, they never got their consent to they real aim of the experiment. However they did this to avoid demand characteristics. If the participants knew the experiment was about conformity they would less likely behave naturally and the results would be invalid. Participants were not given the choice of withdrawal and because they were being paid they may have felt pressured to stay. However the experiment had nothing to do with anything physical harm or any major psychological effects so in that sense withdrawal was not really an issue. ?? ?? ?? ?? 17/02/2011 17:07 17/02/2011 17:07 17/02/2011 17:07 ...read more.

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Response to the question

The Response to the Question is good. The candidate makes a good argument about Asch's study into majority influence, with a good level of description into the study. However, the candidate does not appear to have finished their answer, or ...

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Response to the question

The Response to the Question is good. The candidate makes a good argument about Asch's study into majority influence, with a good level of description into the study. However, the candidate does not appear to have finished their answer, or has most likely forgotten to incorporate the description and discussion for Milgram's study into obedience to authority. Because the question clearly states a requirement for two studies, and the candidate's introductions mentions Asch and Milgram, it is expected that the candidate provide an answer adequate to satisfy the question. As a result of ignoring Milgram's study, the candidate can only achieve half-marks at most. They give an excellent attempt at scoring all marks subsequently available to them, and come very close to half-marks, but there isn't enough body to the methodological or ethical evaluation of the study.

For future reference, if a question asks for two studies and two types of issues with these studies, provide one methodological issue and one ethical issue for each study. It is admirable to see this candidate try to cover all possible methodological and ethical issues raised in the Asch study, but this is not a substitute for dividing the focus equally between two studies.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is fair. The analysis of the methodological issue of internal validity is the best, though perhaps a little more precision is required - what is the specific name given to results that do not measure what they say they're measuring? The same story goes for the comments on external validity, which also has another specific name (internal and external validity are umbrella terms) that should be used instead of external validity; ecological validity is a type of external validity, for example, so to call all external validity a test of whether the study can be replicated or the results generalised to another sample, time period, experiment venue is not entirely accurate and it's in this slight lack of precision that prevents the candidate's efforts from reaping the marks they could otherwise achieve.

The ethical evaluation fares better, with a nicely integrated approach linking certain issues onto others, but again, slightly more accuracy would bring the marks higher - the candidate's did have the option to opt out of the Asch study as they were not paid. They were paid $4.50 in the Milgram study but seeing as Milgram is not mentioned anywhere else in the essay other than the introductory paragraph, the examiner may assume the candidate has mixed the studies up. Also, it must be noted that being paid for your participation in psychological studies does not mean you categorically cannot withdraw if you want to - it merely inhibits the idea as a result of an obligation to continue due to the payment, but we mustn't forget that 45% of Milgram's participants did drop out, despite being paid.

So again, this lack of accuracy and detail lets the candidate down. Their efforts are good (aside from the omission of the obligatory second study in the answer) but they're not quite precise enough, particularly at A Level.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is fair. From a psychological perspective, the candidate makes few errors in misusing or forgetting to use important psychological terminology, so the answer does feel very professional and confident. However, some parts, from an English perspective, are not so impressive. Candidates should steer away from colloquial expression such as "this [ecological validity] is to do with" - try "is the measure of how far the results found from the study can be said to represent real life behaviour, in the future.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 24/08/2012

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