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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.

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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Peer reviewed

    "Some children recover well from privation, but others hardly recover at all". Outline research into the effects of privation and consider the extent to which the effects of privation can be reversed

    4 star(s)

    Therefore this study shows that these participants did mostly recover from privation, but there were some long-lasting effects. However, there are some limitations to this study. Firstly, because it was a longitudinal study, there was a problem with sample group-off, which means that those children who remained in each group over the whole study differed from those who dropped out, which creates a biased sample. Therefore the study may not be that valid. Because this study was natural, we cannot determine for certain that it was privation that caused the children to have problems socially because it's an independent variable and couldn't be directly changed.

    • Word count: 888
  7. 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
  8. Peer reviewed

    Discuss research relating to bystander behaviour.

    4 star(s)

    Students were lead to believe they were on their own, alone with one other participant who would later appear to have an epileptic seizure, or an increasing number of other participants. Help was less likely and slower to be given when participants believed that other potential helpers were available. The findings from this study support the notion of diffusion of responsibility as, as suggested the more witness there were to the victim needing help, the less the participant felt a sloe responsibility to help.

    • Word count: 764
  9. Peer reviewed

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

    3 star(s)

    Participants were asked to judge which comparison lines was the same as the standard line. Experimental conditions had one true participant and the rest were confederates. The participant was unaware the experiment was about conformity and that the other participants were confederates. This experiment had no internal validity which is a methodological issue. Internal validity is to do with whether the results are an effect of the Independent Variable, or another variable. Asch's experiment lacked internal validity as the participant was in an artificial environment and could show demand characteristics, whereby they guess the aim of the experiment and behave in the way they feel will please the experimenter, so in that case they don't really conform.

    • Word count: 508
  10. Peer reviewed

    Describe and evaluate one social psychological theory of aggression?

    3 star(s)

    when you're around a lot of people you are unlikely to be spotted. Zimbardo however argued with Le Bon saying that deindividualisation is a result of reduced responsibility, increased arousal, sensory overload and altered consciousness. Research study into deindivialistion - Zimbardo prison experiment Aim: o To investigate whether situational or dispositional factors are what make us aggressive. Procedure: o 24 emotionally stable men were recruited o There were 2 groups one was guards and the other one was prisoners. o Zimbardo changed the identity of prisoners by giving them numbers, and being referred to by numbers.

    • Word count: 565
  11. Peer reviewed

    Describe and discuss ethical and methodological issues which have arisen in studies of conformity.

    3 star(s)

    However, without deception the aim of these could not be achieved and internal validity would have been compromised. As the participants have known that the psychologists are going to test the conformity, the experiment will not be success because they know the psychologists are going to look at their response when they are being with a group. Therefore, deception will be necessary in the studies of conformity. The ethical issue which has arisen in studies of conformity is protection of harm. Participants should be carefully debriefed so that they feel no worse about themselves after the study than they did before.

    • Word count: 515
  12. Peer reviewed

    Is attractiveness an vital factor in a relationship?

    3 star(s)

    Walster and Walster (1966) carried an experiment to witness whether the matching hypothesis was accurate or wrong. Their aim was to see if physical appearance matters in a relationship. To do this they advertised a "Computer Match Dance". Seven hundred and fifty two students took part and they were rated their physical by four independent judges. Further more participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire for the computer matching purpose, however they were used to rate similarity and paired randomly (no man was paired with a taller women). During the dance participants were requested to rate their date, rustles were interesting the attractive participants were favoured as dates over the less attractive participants.

    • Word count: 564
  13. Peer reviewed

    Discuss psychological explanations of one anxiety disorder

    3 star(s)

    Dunado discovered similar results in that he found that 50% of dog phobics had not had a traumatic experience with dogs. This research is flawed in many aspects because it does not explain why only some people develop phobias, it relies on memory, which could be unreliable, and it is unethical as there is unnecessary distress to humans and animals. Social learning is the next theory in the behavioral explanation and this says that modeling, which is behaviour been learnt by watching other people's reactions is the reason for developing the phobia.

    • Word count: 932
  14. Peer reviewed

    How does obedience differ from Conformity?

    3 star(s)

    Milgram (1974) suggested that we live in a socially obedient environment. Our experience has taught us that authorities are generally trustworthy and legitimate. This creates a socially obedient environment. Adorno et al. (1950) felt that personality was a better explanation of obedience. They proposed that some people had an authoritarian personality. Such people are most likely to be obedient (and most likely also to be prejudiced). Milgram's (1974) hypothesised if people were asked by a person in authority to do something that they think is wrong what would happen?

    • Word count: 627
  15. Discuss issues of gender bias in psychology.

    This means that differences, if they do exist, are underestimated and downplayed. Often, as the research is done on males this means that women are categorised similar to males which can be unfair and inaccurate due to the multitude of differences between the two. Neither Asch (conformity) nor Piliavin ('good samartianism') used female confederates, making it difficult to decide if women would be more likely to conform / receive help, and instead used exclusively males in their research. Asch even refused to allow females to be participants in his study, seriously damaging the generalisability across men and women.

    • Word count: 978
  16. Describe and Evaluate Milgram's (1963) experiment

    Learner was placed in different room to the participants. The generator has switches with labels such as "slight shock", "danger" etc. and went from 15 volts to 450 volts. Participants were required to read word pairs such as blue-box etc. and then read out key word and four possible pairs. The learner had 4 buttons and had to click on the right one. Each successive wrong answer led to the volts being increased. As the shocks increased the learner started giving different responses (120volts he shouted "shocks were becoming painful", 150volts he shouted "I don't want to continue anymore", 270volts

    • Word count: 709
  17. Discuss the relationship between persuasion and attitude change - Media Psychology

    examined the effects of information source on peers' attitudes towards child with autism. Child with the mean age of 10 received information about an unfamiliar autistic child from different sources such as 'teacher', 'parent' and 'doctor'. Children reported more favourable attitudes towards the child when the information was from an extra-familial source e.g. doctor, that when provided by a parent. Message factors are another important factor when it comes to persuasion and attitude change, messages are more effective if we think that are not intended to persuade us, a message is more effective if it creates a moderate level of fear.

    • Word count: 600
  18. Free essay

    Conformity can be defined as when a person alters their behaviour or personnal views to match those of the other people or a group.

    This shows that the participants wanted to fit in with the group and did not want to Kelman (1958) suggested three reasons of why people conform. Kelman' stated that he thought a person could agree when they are in public with a group of people, although their own personnal beliefs are different. This does not lead to a change in the person's views or beliefs so these feelings are temporary. The identification stage says that the person takes on the beliefs and views of a group which they admire so they become accepted.

    • Word count: 2013
  19. Write about what each of the four personality factors mean and why do you think you have got that particular score for each factor. Furthermore, you would need to research and findout which personality theory, this test is similar to, e.g., Kelly, Cattell

    (Warren & Carmichael, 1930, p. 333). In this paper I have taken the 41 personality questionnaires(41Q) which is base on Carl Jung 4 personality indicator: Extroverted vs. Introverted, Sensing vs. Intuitive, Feeling vs. Thinking and Judging vs. Perceiving which reflect mainly on people's inner personality. Finding out how this questionnaire work and how the questionnaire gives a unique result to individuals. I have compared the differences and similarity of Cattell, Roger and Briggs Myers theories to the 41Q, presenting different methods to find out individual's personality. Appendix 1 is the result I received from the 41 personality questionnaire I took which is "based on the four personality indicators originally developed by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung."

    • Word count: 1900
  20. Outline and Evaluate Studies of Conformity:

    Each person in the group had to say aloud how far they thought the light had moved. The results of this were Sheriff found that over numerous estimates of the movement of light, the group converged to a common estimate. The participant's estimates of movement were greatly different to the other two in the group compared to the view of the other two. Sherif said that this showed that people would always tend to conform. Rather than make individual judgements they tend to come to a group agreement.

    • Word count: 788
  21. Loneliness in the modern age. Loneliness is inevitable; it is crafted out of the modern world and thus is inseparable from it. It is so pervasive that to be human is to be lonely (as cited in Rokach, 2004).

    Western culture is to blame for the increasing levels of social isolation among the population. North Americans have significantly higher levels of loneliness compared to other cultures (Rokach & Neto, 2005). Though humans inherently desire closeness, it is the 'mechanized' society to which they belong that is forcing them apart by way of "more leisure, either through affluence or unemployment, [living] longer, [increasing] our interaction with computerized equipment, and [continuing] to respond to various financial and corporate demands by frequent mobility" (Rokach). It is the lifestyle of the modern world rather than a single source that sustains loneliness: "normality ...

    • Word count: 1767
  22. Discuss one or more theories into the maintenance of relationships

    This theory is relevant to many kinds of relationships, with individual differences considered, shown by how profits & losses are personal to each individual relationships. The theory assumes that people monitor costs within the relationship however Argyle argues that we only start to count costs & benefits within the relationship once we become dissatisfied, as costs & profits increase as the relationship progresses. There may be cultural bias, with individualist cultures being encouraged to be self-focused, compared to the collectivist's who are encouraged to be other's focused.

    • Word count: 833
  23. Compare and contrast the effect of minority and majority influence on juror decision making (15 marks)

    Confederates gave the 12 wrong answers among the 18 trails. He found that 32% of the participant who were placed in the wrong situation conformed to the clearly wrong majority. However, when interview, the participants argued that they did not really believed their conforming answers but went along with the group anyways in fear of being ridiculed for being "peculiar". Asch suggests two reasons for conforming; normative influence- to fit in the group, and informational influence- where the na�ve participants believe that the group is better informed.

    • Word count: 1022
  24. Our study is based on the theory of operant conditioning and Banduras social learning theory. Investigation into the relationship between car size and gender.

    METHOD: Design: This is an independent group design and a quasi experiment as each participant can only be in either the male or the female category. We will gather our data by tallying, as our study will only include nominal data. This is useful as tallying is easy to analyse and draw up conclusions from. We are only looking at the gender of the driver and the type/size of their cars, so our data is quantitative. This is a non-participant naturalistic overt observation.

    • Word count: 1217
  25. Parental Investment iin Children - Outline of evolutionary explanations

    the legitimacy of their children and the fidelity of their wives, so as to protect themselves and their investment from cuckoldring - i.e. an invesment in a child that isn't related to them (which in a evolutionary perspective would be a waste of resources as it doesn't insure the survival of ones own DNA). So in order to achieve this sense of security, adultery laws are established that define the offence in terms of the woman's marital status. This altogether means however, that women are a lot more selective about their mates, as their potential parental investment is far more significant than that of men and far more binding.

    • Word count: 1018

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