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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

    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
  2. 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
  3. 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)

  4. Marked by a teacher

    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
  5. Marked by a teacher

    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
  6. 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
  7. Marked by a teacher

    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.

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    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
  8. Marked by a teacher

    Dicuss one psychological theory of aggression

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    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
  9. Marked by a teacher

    Factors underlying anomalous experience

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    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
  10. Marked by a teacher

    Rosenhan Study

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    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
  11. Marked by a teacher

    Genetic factors in aggression

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    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
  12. Marked by a teacher

    Breakdown of relationships

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    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
  13. Marked by a teacher

    SA - Milgram - 1963

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    * 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
  14. Marked by a teacher

    Outline and evaluate two explanations relating to the breakdown of relationships

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    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
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    Describe and evaluate the research methods used by the behaviourist approach

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

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    * 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
  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. 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
  19. Peer reviewed

    Outline and evaluate two social psychological theories of aggression

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    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. 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
  22. Peer reviewed

    Reductionism In Psychology

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    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
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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

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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