• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

AS and A Level: Social Psychology

Browse by
4 star+ (28)
3 star+ (61)
Word count:
fewer than 1000 (264)
1000-1999 (265)
2000-2999 (71)
3000+ (36)
Submitted within:
last month (18)
last 3 months (20)
last 6 months (20)
last 12 months (20)

Meet our team of inspirational teachers

find out about the team

Get help from 80+ teachers and hundreds of thousands of student written documents

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.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 25
  1. Marked by a teacher

    Media influences on anti-social behaviour

    3 star(s)

    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
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Genetic factors in aggression

    3 star(s)

    It was suggested by Plomin et al that with no difference in amounts of aggression shown by MZ and DZ twins (in Bandura's studies), individual differences in aggression were more a product of environmental influences rather than genetic factors. It has also been suggested that MZ twins are treated more alike by the public than DZ twins due to them acting more like 'one' person rather than two separate people. This may effect how alike they are and how likely they both are to express aggression.

    • Word count: 739
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Breakdown of relationships

    3 star(s)

    They asked undergraduates to rate sexual and emotional reasons for men and women being unfaithful in a committed relationship. They found that men are more likely to use sexual infidelity as reasons for a breakdown than women and women are more likely to use emotional reasons for a breakdown. This claim is supported by Brehm and Kessin (1996) who said that men are more likely to use sexual withholding as a reason and women would use incompatibility for men. Maintenance difficulties refer to when there is a geographical separation (reduced proximity)

    • Word count: 806
  4. Marked by a teacher

    SA - Milgram - 1963

    3 star(s)

    * D.V. - Level of obedience; how far they'd go with the voltage to shock the learner. Procedure: LEARNER TASK * The teacher (participant) was asked to read a series of word pairs to the learner (confederate), and then read the 1st word of the pair along with the 4 other terms. * Learner (confederate) had to indicate which 1 of the 4 terms was originally paired with the 1st word. SHOCK GENERATOR * The shock generator perceived to be real - professionally made + model printed. * There were 30 switches - labelled from 15 to 450 volts.

    • Word count: 765
  5. Marked by a teacher

    Describe and evaluate research into the formation and maintenance of relationships

    3 star(s)

    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
  6. Marked by a teacher

    Outline and evaluate two explanations relating to the breakdown of relationships

    3 star(s)

    An improvement therefore may be Lee's model, which in five stages covers much of the same ground as Duck's model, but also incorporates negotiations and resolution attempts before the termination of the relationship. Some have proposed that a combination of the two models into a seven or eight-stage model would better describe how relationships end and how partners attempt to avoid it. However, the reductionism involved in generating a stage model of relationship breakdown such as that of Duck may mean that the models are not easy to generalise, because they assume that every relationship breaks down in the same way, which may not be the case.

    • Word count: 820
  7. Marked by a teacher

    Analysis of Cruella Devil

    3 star(s)

    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
  8. Marked by a teacher

    Describe and evaluate the research methods used by the behaviourist approach

    3 star(s)

    The 'Hawthorne Effect' suggests that we, as humans, perform better when being watched. This is a disadvantage of empirical research being carried out on humans. A disadvantage of using animals in experiments is that the results obtained from the experiment can not be generalised to humans and it has been accused of ignoring important biological and cognitive differences as behaviourism assumes humans and animals learn in the same way. An advantage of using animals in experiments is that there are less ethical concerns then with experiments concerning humans. One of the first research experiments was the case of 'Little Albert' done by Watson and Rayner in 1920.

    • Word count: 916
  9. 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
  10. Marked by a teacher

    Preventing and Reducing Crime

    3 star(s)

    This should help broaden the understanding of crime psychology and its usefulness in broadening the knowledge in criminality and individual behaviour. Further more, the conclusion is a summary of what has been written and its aim is to condense down what has been said as to try and clear any confusion. Preventing and Reducing Crime - Insights and Theories Social Psychology Theories Of Crime Most research on delinquency comes from sociology, in that sociological theories seeks to identify criminality in social structures and cultural factors.

    • Word count: 4522
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. Marked by a teacher

    Duck's model of relationship dissolution (1999) consists of four phases, each of which is initiated when a threshold is broken

    3 star(s)

    * The social phase is when couples acknowledge the social repercussions for separating. * The final phase, grave dressing, involves a more optimistic, and what seems to be a more objective, evaluation and remembrance The first, intrapsychic phase, begins when one partner sees him- or herself as being unable to stand the relationship any more. This initiates a focus on the other's behaviour, and an assessment of how adequate the partner's role performance is.

    • Word count: 453
  14. 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
  15. Marked by a teacher

    Social Learning Theory

    3 star(s)

    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
  16. 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
  17. Marked by a teacher

    Essay on Co-education

    What is co education? It is, both male and female students studying in the same class. Where does co education exist? Co education exists in primary, secondary, high schools. In colleges, and in universities.

    • Word count: 200
  18. Marked by a teacher

    "Describe the main features of conformity and obedience analyse two conformity and obedience studies and evaluate their application in the public services."

    I personally believe that this is wrong though, I would rather express my views on something regardless of the controversy they may cause. Regulates behaviour: The fact that people want to be alike and to be able to relate to others makes it easier for their personal views to be manipulated by the group norm, sometimes, a look of disapproval can be enough for someone to keep their viewpoints quiet and decide to agree with the majority. This is a worrying thought as if we loose our individuality we will never grow as much as we could as if we

    • Word count: 2026
  19. 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
  20. Marked by a teacher

    What are ideal types? How useful are they in helping us to understand contemporary social structures?

    Central to the historians approach is what Ringer (1997) called the "principle of individuality" (pg.9). This concept and a broader perspective of the historian's position were summed up well by Ernst Troeltch (1997): "The basic constituents of reality are not similar material or social atoms or universal laws.... but differing unique personalities and individualising formative forces...The state and society are not created from the individual by way of contract and utilitarian rationality, but from supra-personal spiritual forces that emanate from the most important and creative individuals, the spirit of the people or the religious idea" (cited in Ringer, F., pg.10).

    • Word count: 2977
  21. 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
  22. Peer reviewed

    Outline the strengths and weaknesses of the social approach .

    5 star(s)

    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
  23. Peer reviewed

    Outline and evaluate the theory of deindividuation

    5 star(s)

    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
  24. 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
  25. 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

Marked by a teacher

This document has been marked by one of our great teachers. You can read the full teachers notes when you download the document.

Peer reviewed

This document has been reviewed by one of our specialist student essay reviewing squad. Read the full review on the document page.

Peer reviewed

This document has been reviewed by one of our specialist student document reviewing squad. Read the full review under the document preview on this page.