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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

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    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

    Describe and Evaluate two or more explanations of the pro-social effects of the media (24)

    4 star(s)

    Assuming that these social norms have been internalised by the viewer, the imitation of these acts, therefore, is likely to be associated with the expectation of social reinforcement, and so the child is motivated to repeat these actions in their own life. Furthermore, Bandura would also suggest that the pro-social effects of the media derives from reciprocal determinism whereby people who watch programmes about helping people will make friends with people who watch similar TV programmes. A second explanation of how the media influences pro-social behaviour comes from research into developmental trends.

    • Word count: 903
  5. Marked by a teacher

    Neural mechanisms of eating behaviour

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    It has been suggested that the hormone Ghrelin is a key component in the feeding process and researchers say that increased ghrelin production may result in feelings of hunger. Cummings et al investigated the changes in blood ghrelin levels overtime between meals in an attempt to determine the effects of ghrelin on hunger. The researchers measured the blood ghrelin levels, of 6 participants who were kept away from daylight, every 5mins until the participants asked for their next meal. Participants were also asked to record their degree of hunger every 30mins.

    • Word count: 963
  6. Marked by a teacher

    Outline and evaluate biological explanations of aggression

    4 star(s)

    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
  7. Marked by a teacher

    Describe and evaluate one or more theories relating to the formation and/or maintenance of relationships

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    they make us feel good). This is supported by Griffir and Guay (1969) who found that participants rated and experimenter more highly if he/she had given them a positive evaluation. The 'reinforcement' aspect can also be associated with classical conditioning; we like some individuals because they are associated with pleasant events. This is supported by Grifit and Guay (1969) who found that onlookers were also rated more highly when the experimenter had rates participants positively. The affect of the classical and/or operant conditioning leads to feelings of either positive (if they make us feel happy)

  8. Marked by a teacher

    A study into social representations of sexuality

    4 star(s)

    These representations exist in our minds and are circulated via communication - e.g. the media, and are truly social as they are generated in a social group (unlike schema theory, which focuses on the brain). They provide a means of communication within a group and distinguish one social group from another. In his social representation theory, as discussed in Cardwell, Clark & Meldrum (2004), Moscovici affirms that the processes of anchoring and objectification help us to transform unfamiliar concepts into something more familiar.

    • Word count: 2575
  9. Marked by a teacher

    The effect of the Level of Processing on the amount of information recalled

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    They believed that it is the level of processing that determines whether or not something is stored in LTM. If something is processed deeply then it becomes stored in LTM; if it is processed superficially then it does not. Depth refers to the degree of semantic involvement. Craik and Tulving (1975) carried out a piece of research based on three levels of processing: structural, phonetic and semantic. They presented participants with words using a tachistoscope and asked them one of four types of question about each word.

    • Word count: 3871
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. Marked by a teacher

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

    4 star(s)

    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
  13. 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
  14. 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.

    4 star(s)

    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
  15. Marked by a teacher

    Psychology Coursework - Conformity

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    After a few moments of concentrating on a spot the spot of light appears to move. Participants were brought individually into the room and were asked to make an estimate on how far the light moved, for several trials. Following their estimations the participants were allowed to hear each other's estimates, a group influence was introduced. The results showed that the subsequent estimates tended to become more alike. Therefore the participants of Sherif showed conformity. Asch (1952) Asch made many variations to this experiment but the basic procedure was for participants to study a visual perception that involved judging the lengths of lines to a comparison.

    • Word count: 3081
  16. Peer reviewed

    a)How might the view of the majority influence a jury when reaching a verdict?

    5 star(s)

    had to identify which of the lines A, B or C was the same length as line X. The confederates were told to deliberately and consistently choose the wrong line. The confederates collectively made the single participant conform on 32% of the tasks. This data drops to just 5% if the majority is not consistent in their beliefs that the wrong line is the right line. This data shows how, if a majority is confident and persistent in their beliefs, they can influence the decisions of the minority. Even though it was not originally a forensic study, Asch?s study on majority influence showed how some members of the jury may sway towards the opinions of the majority in order to avoid alienation from the social majority; they would rather conform than be stuck at odds with them.

    • Word count: 722
  17. Peer reviewed

    Outline the strengths and weaknesses of the social approach .

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    Whilst using experimental methods makes the approach scientific, on the other hand this strength can be seen as a small weakness as it is very reductionist. Reductionist methods only try to identify one cause for a behaviour occurring. This is a weakness as the social approach's theories may be based on incomplete evidence as the studies may have missed some causes of behaviour e.g. affect of physiology in obedience. The second strength of the social approach is social studies have important applications to everyday life.

    • Word count: 609
  18. Peer reviewed

    Outline and evaluate the theory of deindividuation

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    There are situations that increase Deindividuation, such as being in a group, or wearing a mask. In large groups an individual may act violent due to the responsibility not being completely on them. A strength of the Deindividuation theory is that there are many studies that support it. Zimbardo's prison experiment is a prime example that Deindividuation results in violent/aggressive behaviours. Within the experiment students were randomly allocated to prisoners and guards, the prisoners wore uniforms with sunglasses and treated the prisoners harsh, so harsh that the experiment had to be called off after just 5 days.

    • Word count: 646
  19. Peer reviewed

    Outline and evaluate two social psychological theories of aggression

    5 star(s)

    If they are rewarded they are more likely to repeat the behaviour. Children develop self-efficacy, which is confidence in their ability to successful carry out a behaviour. If aggressive behaviour is unsuccessful for a child, they will have a lower sense of self-efficacy so are less likely to behave this way in future. There is strong empirical evidence to support the SLT. For example, Bandura's Bobo doll studies found that children who observed a model behaving aggressively to the Bobo doll behaved more aggressively than those who observed a non-aggressive model and also imitated specific aggressive acts.

    • Word count: 643
  20. Peer reviewed

    Outline and evaluate research into obedience (12)

    5 star(s)

    If an error was made in the answer, an electric shock was made, starting from 15V working upwards each time. As the shocks became higher, the learner screamed and became more dramatic, and complained of a weak heart at around 180V. The participants showed signs of extreme tension, even showing nervous laughing fits, but they were still told to 'please go on' even though they didn't want to continue. Along side that, when the teacher refused and objected to the procedure as the learner screamed, the experimenter said "This experiment requires that you continue, teacher" and that they "have no choice".

    • Word count: 891
  21. 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
  22. Peer reviewed

    Outline what is meant by 'culture bias' and describe culture bias in two or more psychological studies

    5 star(s)

    The relevance of psychological research carried out in Western countries to the wider world is questionnable. A large amount of this issue is a result of methodology. Because mundane realism and ecological validities have so much effect on the generalisation of findings, in order for findings to be relevant across cultures, the methodology must hold these characteristics no matter which culture it is carried out in. Failure to do so may lead to false conclusions, which by definition hinder the main goal of Psychology; that is, the ability to understand human behaviour. A prominent piece of research that often receives attention for its culture bias is that of Ainsworth & Bell (1970).

    • Word count: 922
  23. 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
  24. Peer reviewed

    Reductionism In Psychology

    5 star(s)

    Rose suggested different levels of explanation for most things. Each level has a valid contribution to offer overall, but a particular topic may be best explained at a particular level. The hierarchical levels Rose suggested were molecular being the most reductionist and the behaviour of groups (sociology) being the least reductionist. Reductionism in psychology lies within the other 3 levels in the hierarchy. The main principle is that complex behaviour can be broken down into their constituent parts and that these parts can then be used to explain complex human behaviour.

    • Word count: 734
  25. Peer reviewed

    Evolutionary Explanations of Parental Investment

    4 star(s)

    However, a female's investment is very substantial. She has a limited supply of gamete and her reproductive life is short, she carries the growing foetus around for 9 months and after giving birth, she must continue to nourish the child by breastfeeding, or else the child will not survive. Therefore, her best chance of reproductive success is to ensure the survival of her few precious offspring, and therefore will need a partner who is able to provide for her and her child, showing commitment when she cannot get her own food because of being too busy looking after the child.

    • Word count: 858

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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