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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?

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    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
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    Critically evaluate whether Milgrams research on obedience was ethical

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

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    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

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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
  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
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    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.

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    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
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    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
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    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
  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.

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    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.

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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.

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  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
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    Psychology formation of relationships

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    However, the real purpose of the questionnaire was used later in the research to assess the similarity. By not informing the participants of the real purpose of the questionnaire this raises ethical issues such as deception and fully informed concent as the participants can not give fully formed consent to something if they are being decived and do not no the full extent of what is going on or what there questionnaire is being used for. The participants were paired randomly; however, it was made sure that the men were all taller than their female.

    • Word count: 794
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    Friendship and development

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    Discuss what psychologists have discovered about the development of friendship. Refer to evidence in your answer. (12 mark) Many factors are indeed involved in the formation and development of friendships on important factors is Psychologists have observed that there is a difference in the type of friendships that are formed within different age groups Selman attempted to categorise these groups and came up with the following: - 0-2 Months Pre-attachment relationships with little or no discrimination between objects 2-6 Months infants now prefer human company and they can distinguish between Familiar and Unfamiliar people. 6 Months specific attachment preferences are shown and from 2 years onwards goal related friendships are made.

    • Word count: 794
  18. Marked by a teacher

    Outline and evaluate research into obedience

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    The participant watched the confederate being strapped into the electric chair. The learner began to answer correctly but then made mistakes. Shocks started at 15 volts and rose in 15 volt increments up to 450 volts. The researchers encouraged the teachers to give the shock when they hesitated. However no shocks were actually administered. The experiment continued until either the teacher refused to move on or 450 volts were reached and given 4 times. All participants went to at least 300 volts on the shock generator; this is 20 separate shocks administered.

    • Word count: 927
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    Explanations of conformity. Conformity is defined by David Myers (1999) as a change in behaviour or belief as a result of real or imagined group pressure.

    3 star(s)

    Over time we conform more and more to the ways other people do things and it becomes a social obligation to fit in. Those who decide not to belong to the group are often called strange and deviant. The Informational social influence is where we assume the actions of others reflect the correct behaviour for a situation. This effect is prominent in ambiguous social situations where we are unable to determine the appropriate model of behaviour and are driven by the assumption that others possess more knowledge of the situation.

    • Word count: 937
  20. 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
  21. Marked by a teacher

    Dicuss one psychological theory of aggression

    3 star(s)

    He also suggests that being in a large anonymous group leads to more anti social behaviours. Diener (1980) expanded on Le Bon's original theory stating that "poor monitoring of one's own behaviour, reduced concern to have social approval of one's behaviour, reduced constraints against behaving impulsively and reduced capacity to think rationally". There is a lot of research and real life applications supporting this theory. Zimbardo, who did a lot of research investigating this theory, did an experiment in 1969 called the shock experiment. He took two groups of four undergraduate females to deliver electric shocks to other students to help them in their learning.

    • Word count: 667
  22. Marked by a teacher

    Factors underlying anomalous experience

    3 star(s)

    Blackmoore argued that individuals who made poor probability misjudgements were more likely to suggest that their experiences were psychic. However, Musch urge caution since this could be explained by poor cognitive ability and not a component in paranormal belief. Morris suggested that individuals who believe that they have experienced a psychic event think this because there appears to be a strange connection between their thoughts and events in the real world. This ability should not be viewed negatively, it is likely that similar characteristics underlie creativity.

    • Word count: 861
  23. Marked by a teacher

    s****l Selection

    3 star(s)

    next generation * Females are 'in demand', so s****l 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 s******y 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
  24. Marked by a teacher

    Social Cognition

    3 star(s)

    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
  25. Marked by a teacher

    Rosenhan Study

    3 star(s)

    Quantitative data is data that can be expressed numerically in some way. Quantitative data was obtained from the study by Rosenhan such as the amount of times the hospital staff came on to the ward, The records the pseudo patients had made about the amount of time the nurses stayed in the ward offices was about 90 per cent of the time and the number of times medical staff came onto the ward, and the amount of time spent with psychiatrists, psychologists, registrars and so forth was, on average, under seven minutes per day..

    • Word count: 702

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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