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AS and A Level: Social Psychology

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Five reasons why social psychology methodology is often contentious

  1. 1 Researcher bias e.g. Zimbardo (1973) was guilty of playing a dual role in his Stanford Prison Experiment – as both prison superintendent and researcher. His resulting lack of objectivity meant he did not stop the experiment quickly enough to prevent particpants from being harmed.
  2. 2 Participant reactivity (hawthorne effect) – Just the act of being observed can change people’s behaviour. Some even consciously act up for the researcher – as was the case with the most vindictive guard in Zimbardo’s study.
  3. 3 Lack of experimental realism e.g. Milgram and Hoffling’s experiments on obedience were both criticised on the grounds that participants wouldn’t believe the set up. However, both researchers disputed this on the basis of their debrief interviews with participants.
  4. 4 Lack of mundane realism – Separate to experimental realism, mundane realism refers to how far the set-up can be generalised to real life social situations. It was argued that Asch’s conformity study lacked mundane realism, for example.
  5. 5 Lack of cross-cultural validity – Social behaviour is largely culturally determined. For example, Smith and Bond (1993) carried out a meta-analysis of conformity studies based on Asch’s procedure and concluded that individualist cultures had lower levels of conformity than collectivist cultures.

Five modern ethical principles in psychology (that we should thank Milgram and Zimbardo for influencing)

  1. 1 Lack of informed consent – must always be obtained, but it is often the case that it would invalidate social psychological research. Some researchers debrief and offer the right to withdraw data to deal with this but there are always questions about whether it is acceptable.
  2. 2 Deception – should be avoided, but if necessary should involve cost benefit analysis – i.e. it is minor deception which will be addressed in a debrief, and it will not cause any harm. If there is deception, there is automatically a lack of informed consent.
  3. 3 Protection from harm – participants should not be exposed to any greater physical or psychological harm than they would be in day to day life.
  4. 4 Privacy and confidentiality – should both be respected. Observations should not take place in a private place without consent. Research should not identify participants, especially if it is of a socially sensitive nature.
  5. 5 Right to withdraw – should always be offered at the start of the study, either to end participation during the procedure or to withdraw data afterwards. This is particularly important in cases of deception.

Five good examples of social influence to use in essays

  1. 1 England riots in 2011 – Conformity, social influence & deindividuation. Conformity: people who wouldn’t normally indulge in anti-social behaviour succumbed to peer pressure. Social learning: some joined in as a result of vicarious reinforcement as they saw those ahead of them get away with their loot. Most importantly, deindividuation: as the rule of law broke down, many of those involved believed that they wouldn’t be identified and punished for their actions, and most of the looting was done under cover of darkness amongst the chaos of burning buildings.
  2. 2 MPs expenses scandal – Conformity and, to an extent, obedience. Conformity: plenty of MPs indulged in fiddling their expenses because others around them were doing it and it seemed ‘perfectly normal’. Obedience, (possibly!) because some of them claimed that they were encouraged to make the most of their expense claims by the Commons Fees office.
  3. 3 Feminism since the Suffragette movement – Successful minority influence, including social crypto-amnesia/ dissociation effect, snowball effect. The suffragettes fulfilled all the characteristics of a successful minority group. Feminism has made massive gains for women’s equality – although the fight has not yet been won in practice. Feminism has fallen out of fashion recently, yet the majority would say they believe in gender equality, showing that the idea has become dissociated from the people who originally fought for it.
  4. 4 The gay civil rights movement in the UK – Successful minority influence. Evidence includes the relatively recent acceptance by government and wider society of Pride celebrations, equality legislation, including civil partnerships, repeal of Section 28 and equal age of consent with heterosexuals.
  5. 5 The ‘Green’ movement in the UK – Successful minority influence, snowball effect, dissociation effect, conformity. No longer is there an association between concern for the environment and ‘tree-hugging’. Environmental sustainability is becoming a mainstream concern and social disapproval tends to centre on people failing to recycling, on driving large, gas-guzzling vehicles, and the environmentally unsound activities of big business. Big companies now indulge in ‘greenwash’: environmentally focused PR campaigns.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 49
  • Peer Reviewed essays 21
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    Is Psychology a Science?

    5 star(s)

    Also, empirical methods are used in scientific fields to collect data, relevant to the hypothesis being tested, as is the case in many psychological experiments, such as the use of brain scanning in Dement and Kleitman's 1957 study. Science is meant to be objective and unbiased. It should be free of values and discover the truths about what it is studying. Positivism is the view that science is objective and a study of what is real. For example, schizophrenia, when diagnosed as being caused due to excess dopamine, is being studied in a scientific manner.

    • Word count: 1278
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Critically evaluate whether Milgrams research on obedience was ethical

    4 star(s)

    Also known as moral philosophy, ethics seek to address questions about morality and explore concepts such as good or bad, right and wrong, justice and virtue; however, they had not yet formally been introduced into psychology research at that time. It was not until 1990 that the British Psychological Society (BPS) first published a set of ethical guidelines but having said that, psychologist were aware they still had a responsibility to protect their participants from harm and not to cause them unnecessary distress.

    • Word count: 1629
  3. Marked by a teacher

    I think that Social Psychology can only explain some of why football hooliganism happens

    4 star(s)

    There are many explanations of why football hooliganism occurs, but one we have looked at is Social Identity Theory. This theory states that just the simple act of grouping will lead to conflict, between in-groups and out-groups. When a person enters a football stadium and chooses to sit with a certain group of people (home fans or away fans), they are categorising themselves into that in-group, and the fans that are in the opposite side of the stadium are the opposition team, and then they become the out group.

    • Word count: 1148
  4. Marked by a teacher

    Outline and evaluate biological explanations of aggression

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    Theilgaard also did research comparing XYY to XY and XYY males. She used thematic apperception tests (TATs). She compared prison inmates to the general population. She found that although XYY males were more likely to give aggressive interpretations of the images this did not mean that they would perform aggressive acts in real-life situations. So this would go against what Court-Brown found. Court-Brown used a lab experiment to conduct his study. A lab experiment is prone to confounding variables because there may be other factors that may influence the outcome of the result.

    • Word count: 1383
  5. Marked by a teacher

    Compare and Contrast two theories of Bystander Behaviour

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    The model argues that a person's response could be inhibited at any time during the five stages, examples of these are; audience inhibition, social influence and norms, and diffusion of responsibility. (Latan� & Nida 1981). A series of experiments were conducted in support of this theory. Latan� and Darley (1970) carried out an experiment whereby male participants were invited to discuss some of the problems involved in life at a large university. While they were completing a questionnaire the room was filled with smoke through a wall vent.

    • Word count: 1722
  6. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss evolutionary explanations of intelligence

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    They found that the monkeys were quick at finding a suitable stick but tried out many unsuitable ones first. This suggests no understanding of causal relationships and that many animals develop the skill through trial and error rather than insight. Only the great apes show the sophisticated understanding of cause and effect so this supports the link between tool use and intelligence. The association between the growth of hunting and intelligence shows that more intelligent individuals are more intelligent than less intelligent. However many species with very successful hunting techniques are not very intelligent and therefore it is unlikely that the benefits of hunting would account for human levels of intelligence.

    • Word count: 1373
  7. Marked by a teacher

    Describe what psychologists have learned about environmental disaster and/or technological catastrophe.

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    Psychologists have also studied people's awareness and perception of the risks they face from natural disaster. One field study by Simms & Baumann (1972) suggests that personality determines perception of risk. They found that residents of Alabama were more external in their locus of control, believing in the forces of fate rather than personal responsibility. These residents were less likely to take precautions such as listening to radio reports of weather and preparing for storms, than residents in Illinois, who had internal locus of control. Death rates from Tornadoes were higher in the southern areas (Alabaman)

    • Word count: 1988
  8. Marked by a teacher

    Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk explores the theme of masculinity through clever characterisation, exploration of conformity and anarchy and through unusual language.

    4 star(s)

    I think that this illustrates the concept that Joe is a chronic insomniac and changes personality in his sleep. There are many similarities between Joe and Tyler up until we discover they are the same person. They both love Marla but only Tyler sleeps with her. This provides comic moments when we realise that all through the book Marla has been talking to Joe as her lover but Joe has been talking to her as his friend's girlfriend. Both Joe and Tyler end up looking like each other, "Tyler and I were looking more and more like Identical Twins.

    • Word count: 1991
  9. Marked by a teacher

    Describe and evaluate psychological research into conformity and obedience in humans, and consider ways in which this research can be applied to real life.

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    During post-experimental interviews with his participants, Asch found that conformity occurred at three levels. Few conforming participants experienced distortion of perception, most conforming participants experienced a distortion of judgement, and some conforming participants yielded to the majority because they could not bear to be in a minority of the group. Asch summed up that people may go along with the views of others for different reasons. Asch's study has become a classic and is to be found in all text books on psychology.

    • Word count: 1597
  10. Marked by a teacher

    Outline one theory of the maintenance of relationships. The social exchange theory (Thibaut and Kelley) revolves around profit and loss within relationships.

    3 star(s)

    So, they introduced two 'reference' levels; the comparison level and the comparison level for alternatives. The comparison level is concerned with past and present; that is, the comparison between the rewards and costs of the reference relationship and what we have been used to in the past or believe is appropriate. We have motivation to stay in the relationship if it compares favourably to the reference relationship. A person may also use the experiences of others (e.g. discussing relationships with friends) to evaluate their own relationship. The comparison level for alternatives, on the other hand, is concerned with the benefits of possible alternative relationships.

    • Word count: 1011
  11. Marked by a teacher

    Sexual Selection

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    next generation * Females are 'in demand', so sexual selection will mostly operate on the males who have to work to get access to the females * The features will either help the males to compete with other males and 'fight them off' for access to the females, or they will make them sexually desirable to the females, so they get access to more mates INTRAsexual selection is when features have been selected by how well they helped to fight of the other males (body size, muscularity, fighting ability, aggression etc.)

    • Word count: 1138
  12. Marked by a teacher

    Social Cognition

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    There are four different types of schemata: self, person, role and script. An example of a self schemata is what you expect you would do in a social situation. An example of a person schemata is what you expect your best friend to do during a day out An example of a role schemata would be what you expect a teacher to do during a lesson. An example of a script schemata would be what you expect to happen if you go to a restaurant. Schemas and scripts help us socially as they simplify social situations and new information.

    • Word count: 1174
  13. Marked by a teacher

    Media influences on anti-social behaviour

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    Criticism: If arousal is attributed to factors other than anger, then arousal will not necessarily result in aggression? Cultivation effect: The cultivation effect by Gerbner and Gross (1976) suggests that the medium of television creates (or cultivates a distrust or unrealistic fear in viewers. This causes viewers to misperceive (or exaggerate) threats in real life and react in a more violent way. This is also referred to as the 'mean world' effect. Criticisms: The main problem with the cultivation effect explanation is that people who are particularly fearful are likely to avoid any threatening situations in the first place.

    • Word count: 1060
  14. Marked by a teacher

    Describe and evaluate research into the formation and maintenance of relationships

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    One limitation of this theory is that all the emphasis on the production. This theory presume that's extra attraction and behaviour is about reproduction. For many people, more sexual unions are not directed towards bearing children. Many people now elected to be childless. The theory also produce heterosexuality. Explaining homosexual relationships in the same way is clearly problematic, such relationship are not linked to a productive advantages for either partner. Therefore this theory is criticised for being reductionist. However this theory does have evolutionary advantages.

    • Word count: 1547
  15. Marked by a teacher

    Analysis of Cruella Devil

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    Later on she got expelled from the school for drinking ink. Reflecting back on her own youth makes her so angry at other people's youth that she has to destroy it. Cruella's main aggressive act is stealing the Dalmatian puppies and later plotting to skin them alive to make herself a spotted fur coat thinking that spots would look much better on her. She has no sympathy for the puppies and only thinks of her love of fur not how the pups might need their fur to survive. Another act of aggression quite minor compared to the stealing of the puppies is her treatment and actions towards her pet white Persian cat.

    • Word count: 1080
  16. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss the use of animals in psychological research.

    3 star(s)

    Research must also be approved prior to any studies beginning and must be carried out on licensed premises by competent licensed people. Studies also have to use the smallest number of animals it can and must keep discomfort and suffering to a minimum. There are several scientific reasons against using animals in psychological research. The biggest argument perhaps being that although we share 98.4% of our DNA with chimpanzees, they still behave differently and so they are not a good model of human behaviour. As well as this, as we cannot ask questions of animals we may misinterpret their behaviour.

    • Word count: 1012
  17. Marked by a teacher

    Investigation into Gender Differences in Paranormal Beliefs within Society: Introduction

    3 star(s)

    with scientific theories supported by mountains of evidence when they contradict their bronze-age-tomes and in many cases belief in concepts such as afterlife, reincarnation, clairvoyance, ESP, telepathy and psychokinesis are required. If one is to apply the definition rigidly, putting aside for a moment the usual reverence and respect we reserve for the subject, then paranormal beliefs are a prerequisite for religious belief. Hence religious belief can be viewed as the most popular paranormal belief set on Earth. The ubiquity of these beliefs is rather peculiar when one takes into account that all of the above paranormal phenomena have the habit of disappearing when tested under controlled laboratory conditions or else lack falsifiability to begin with.

    • Word count: 1306
  18. Marked by a teacher

    Outline and evaluate two or more theories of bystander behaviour.

    3 star(s)

    It states that, when faced with an emergency, a bystander goes through five stages. The first is cognitive awareness of need- does the bystander perceive the situation as an emergency and does he/she have an understanding of the possible need of the people involved. If the bystander fails to notice, then they will keep on walking and no help will be given. The next stage is arousal, both emotional and physiological. Almost immediately on noticing that something is amiss, heart rate will drop, as if as a warning to stop and pay a bit of attention.

    • Word count: 1286
  19. Marked by a teacher

    Critically Discuss the Contribution of Different Sociological Approaches to Mental HealthMental illness is very much a common occurrence within society, with one in four people experiencing some

    3 star(s)

    something that existed within an individual but rather that it was a social judgement or label imposed upon behaviour which broke the norms and rules of expected social behaviour. Szasz and Scheff argue there is no such thing as mental illness - it is merely a category of behaviour defined as such by powerful groups as a way to control society. Goffman argued the best way to view mental illness was as a form of social control. Hysteria for example was a 'female' disorder, which was commonly being diagnosed at the time when women were after greater rights and independence.

    • Word count: 1095
  20. Marked by a teacher

    Social Learning Theory

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    Bandura (1977) states: "Learning would be extremely laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do." According to Bandura, the major theorist in the social learning theory, learning occurs in two ways: Response consequences and modeling/observational learning. Response learning is not dissimilar to the approach adopted by Skinner, in that the behaviors, which occur as a result of such learning can either, be reinforcing or punishing.

    • Word count: 1595
  21. Marked by a teacher

    What is atypical behaviour?

    3 star(s)

    (Hayes 1994) Another system for diagnosis is ICD-10 (Clinical Coding Instruction Manual). This system uses a less number of categories to classify the disorders than the DSM-IIIR, however the two systems overlap and have several categories in common. We are all individual people. We each interpret the world around us in different ways; we have our own thoughts, feelings and personal habits. Along with different past histories, which may change our views on the lives we live. Some of us are so different to the point we may be regarded as eccentric.

    • Word count: 1590
  22. Marked by a teacher

    Describe and assess the evidence that socialisation plays a major part in shaping human behaviour

    However, although the direction of sociology is towards social explanation, there is no contradiction between social and biological explanations of behaviour. It is just a matter of empirical research by biologists, sociologists, social biologists and by other relevant subject specialists to find explanations of human behaviour. According to sociologist Charles Cooley, there are two types of socialisation: primary and secondary. Those factors that are involved in primary socialisation are usually small, involve face-to-face interaction and communication and allow the individual to express the whole self, both feelings and intellect.

    • Word count: 1049
  23. Free essay

    Asch - Conformity

    5 star(s)

    Participants were in a group of 7-9, and within these groups there was only one genuine participant, with the others being confederates, working with the experimenter to exert group pressure. This was achieved by ensuring that the real participant was always last or second to last to answer. Participants were told that they would be participating in a psychological experiment in visual judgement, and when seated around the table, the real participant would be seated at the end of second to end.

    • Word count: 1461
  24. Peer reviewed

    Describe and Evaluate Studies on Conformity. (Key study Solomon Asch)

    5 star(s)

    People change their opinion because of a number of different reasons including status and roles and familiarity. Informational influence leads usually to internalisation, where what a person believes actually changes. While Normative social influence is basically a situation whereby an individual has the urge or the want to be liked and accepted by others, as shown by Asch's experiment. Normative does not change private opinion; it affects public opinion because of compliance, where people, even though they don't believe in it, comply for the above reason of wanting to be accepted. Experiments on conformity A very common case study used in conformity is the experiment of ' Solomon Asch (1955)'.

    • Word count: 1041
  25. Peer reviewed

    free will and determinism

    4 star(s)

    Freud too claimed free will was an illusion, stating we think we are acting freely but really our behaviour is determined by unconscious forces, thus making all behaviour predictable and pre determined. Another argument for the existence of free will is the ethical argument. This argument implies that if behaviour is controlled by forces beyond the individual's power then the individual cannot be held responsible for their action, which results in the loss of moral responsibility. Behaviourists nevertheless suggest that moral behaviour is learnt through punishment and the threat of punishment, individual responsibility ceases to exist as behaviour is determined by external forces.

    • Word count: 1081

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Discuss the disadvantages of the use of the scientific method in psychology

    "To conclude, science is not appropriate to psychology. Human beings and our behaviours are inconsistent and immeasurable, unlike measurable scientific elements like time and atoms. Becca's natural experiment where she introduced TV to Figi to see if it affected the growth of eating disorders gathers spontaneous and qualitative data, yet it lacks many factors that are vital for the scientific method: control of the IV, and replicability because it was a one off experiment. However, it is desirable for psychology to be called a science because people trust it, and would feel diagnosis' that were made would be more reliable. But if psychology were truly a science, it would mean our actions are due to just one cause, which is inappropriate because humans have varied biological and environmental backgrounds meaning there are many different justifications for behaviour, hence the different psychological approaches. However, is science really scientific? Kuhn argued that scientists themselves aren't always objective as their findings could be influenced by wanting to prove their own 'scientfic' theories."

  • In relation to Milgrams (1963) study into obedience, describe and discuss the ethical issues of consent, withdrawal from the investigation, and protection of participants. In addition, suggest and discuss how each issue could have been addressed b

    "In conclusion, since young everyone has always listened and been obedient to a figure of authority. Whether that means a child to a parent, or a citizen to the law. Our brains are always going to be programmed to abide by authority. When we talk about the Milgram experiment, we forget that these results also surprised Milgram as well as the general public. Because of this, Milgram did not expect the behaviour and distress that was shown in the experiment "When I posed this question to a group of Yale University students, it was predicted that no more than 3 out of 100 participants would deliver the maximum shock. In reality, 65% of the participants in the study delivered the maximum shocks." Miller, Arthur G. (1986). The obedience experiments: A case study of controversy in social science."

  • Discuss psychological explanations of one anxiety disorder

    "In conclusion I can see that from discussing some of the psychological explanations of phobias in greater detail, that there is a lot of evidence to explain the development of phobias. However it is noticed that despite the evidence provided by these explanations they do have their limitations. Therefore more research still needs to be conducted in order for an overall more reliable explanation to be produced. Rebecca Johnson Miss Hall 25/10"

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