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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. Milgram Methodology and Alternative research

    Extraneous variables were also controlled, and the controlled condition has allowed others such as Sheridan and King to replicate the research and find similar results. Therefore the use of laboratory experiments allow a cause and effect conclusion to be drawn about reasons for obedience, and the replications strengthen support for the research into obedience. However, Milgram's use of a laboratory experiment means that the findings and conclusions drawn from it lack external validity. Research took place in an artificial and controlled environment and therefore wouldn't be reflective of obedience in real life.

    • Word count: 718
  2. Social Psychology

    Asch conducted another study into the role of allies whereby each participant was paired with that of another participant. The rate of conformity decreased, as the participant felt more confident going against the majority view. Allen and Levine conducted a study similar to that of Asch's study. There were 3 conditions, in one, the supporter had bad vision i.e. invalid social support, and the second supporter had normal vision i.e. valid social support. Both situations were able to reduce the level for conformity, compared to a situation where there was no support for the participant.

    • Word count: 933
  3. 6 Week Training Programme

    Press Up Test Figures Age Excellent Good Average Fair Poor 20 - 29 >54 45 - 54 35 - 44 20 - 34 <20 30 - 39 >44 35 - 44 25 - 34 15 - 24 <15 40 -49 >39 30 - 39 20 - 29 12 - 19 <12 50 - 59 >34 25 - 34 15 - 24 8 - 14 <8 60+ >29 20 - 29 10 - 19 5 - 9 <5 John is 21 years old and his average Press up test figures are 34. From the table this puts him in the (Fair)

    • Word count: 662
  4. Systematic Desensitation

    Wolpe (1958) refined it under the name Systematic Desensitisation and developed it so that individuals overcome their fear by learning to relax in the presence of the feared stimulus. It's used to treat phobias.

    • Word count: 282
  5. Batsons empathy-altruism hypothesis.

    and personal distress (emotional reaction experience when seeing a distressed individual). A study by Roker et al 1998 found that British adolescents showed high levels or altruistic behaviour, supporting the view that people help for different reasons other than to reduce their own personal distress. Research has found that those high in empathetic concern were more likely to help others. Batson's 1981 study on 'empathy condition' found that individuals high in empathetic concern were likely to help even if escape for themselves was possible. Fultz investigated the effects that disapproval had on helping behaviour.

    • Word count: 545
  6. Free essay

    Discuss the nature of relationships in different cultures

    She found that those who were born in the middle of the century described s*x necessary for reproduction but did not regard it as pleasurable. Those who were born later in the century, described s*x in much more positive terms, and said they saw s*x as closely linked to passionate love (Western 1996). The main differences are seen between individualist and collectivist societies. (Goodwin 1995) Argued that the difference between Western and Eastern cultures is that the Western tend to be Individualistic and Eastern tend to be Collectivistic.

    • Word count: 836
  7. Free essay

    Analysis of an argument

    The two main points of the argument were: 1. 'Yes, Footballers are over paid but that is the way it is and that's how it fits into the national framework' - This point was shared by everyone in the argument, except one person 2. 'Footballers are paid to much and it should be changed now!'

    • Word count: 800
  8. Psychological Causes of Prejudice

    Self-esteem is another part to the social identity theory, it is caused when you believe that your own group is better than the other group this increases your self-esteem and makes you think more positively about you group and less about the out-group this causes prejudice. Another theory to explain prejudice is Realistic Conflict Theory, Realistic Conflict theory was developed by Sherif (1966), and the theory argues that intergroup conflict arises as a result of conflict of interests between groups, for example when two groups want to achieve that same goal but cannot have it this causes hostility between the groups.

    • Word count: 781
  9. Discuss the relationship between human reproductive behaviour and s****l selection.

    This female choosiness (intersexual selection) means males have to compete with eachother (intrasexual competition) to be chosen. The origins of mate preference is the result of evolved psychological mechanisms that solved the problem of who to chose in the EEA. Our ancestors probably lived in small tribes where s****l and social relations were fluid, with a lot of infidelity. These preferences are now complex neural circuits that bias mating in favour of individuals with those preferred characteristics. It pays to be choosy as the genetic quality of a mate is an important determinant of the genetic quality of the offspring.

    • Word count: 987
  10. Questioneer on crime

    * Do you know someone who has been a victim of a violent crime? * Do you think that the death penalty would prevent crime in your country? Why (not)? * Do you think there is a link between drugs and crime? * Do you think there will be more or less crime in the future? * Do you think your country is a safe place to live? Why or why not? * Do you walk alone at night in your home city?

    • Word count: 374
  11. Discuss formation and/or maintainanse of relationship

    and costs (e.g. argument) involved if they have another relationship with someone else (CL alt). The equity theory extends this view. It proposed that people strive for fairness between rewards & costs. So, a person expects the same proportion of rewards to their costs; otherwise they will feel distress. This theory can account for individual differences as people have diff. view towards rewards and costs and so what is acceptable may not apply to others. For example, Argyle found that many women feel less satisfied when they are over-benefited in a relationship, whereas many males feel little dissatisfaction.

    • Word count: 682
  12. Discuss interpersonal attraction

    Yet, people tend to agree each other about attractiveness. Cunningham reported women who have features such as big eyes and small chins have high rating for attractiveness when male participants are asked to rate women photos. However, such "beauty" ratings may not apply to the whole world as people in different cultures have diff. values and may have diff. views towards "beauty". Indeed research has shown this is not true. Roggmann replicated Cunningham's study in other cultures (e.g. Korea & USA)

    • Word count: 667
  13. Critically evaluate psychological explanation of love

    However, where there are 1 or 2 components largely/totally missing, different types of love occur. For examples, infatuate love only involves passion (e.g. a crush on someone). Sternberg believes each individual has 2 triangular loves: one is their ideal relationship and the other is the current one. If they are very similar, an individual tends to have a very successful love. However these 3 components suggested are rather vague. This is particular the case for "commitment" as it is difficult to judge the basis on which one person decides to love another (Hamma). Since there are no objective measurements, individuals may have their own standard to measure.

    • Word count: 642
  14. Adherence to medical advice. Section B.

    Two groups were assigned different medications, one an anti-depressant fluoxetine and the other a placebo. Neither participant nor researcher knew which group had been given which. The participants given fluoxetine were significantly less depressed than the control group and had much healthier blood sugar levels. This showed that the group given fluoxetine developed better control of their blood sugar levels as a result of better adherence to the treatment regime. DiMatteo did a study on patients suffering from anxiety and depression and if their levels of adherence to medical treatment was affected by it. Studies were examined about depressed and anxious patients and how well they adhered.

    • Word count: 805
  15. Outline two explanations of interpersonal attraction (e.g. matching hypothesis, evolutionary explanations) (12 marks). Evaluate one of the explanations you have outlined.

    That characteristic may be attractive during the early stages of a relationship but may later become unattractive because it starts to appear as "boring" (Felmee 1995) Social psychology has established that the two most obvious characteristics (psychical attractiveness and personally) are influential in our choice of romantic partners and even in our choice of friendships. Another explanation of interpersonal attraction is the evolutionary explanation. It is said by evolutionary psychologists that men and woman originally faced quite different adaptive problems in our ancestral environment and as a result of that they evolved different mechanisms to over come these problems.

    • Word count: 623
  16. Procrastination

    Social Learning Theory may also offer a behavioural explanation, in that the students may see their friends having a good time with each other, thus receiving a 'reward'. This vicarious reinforcement would lead the student to join his or her friends, causing procrastination to be repeated. Alternatively, the psychodynamic approach may offer an explanation for this behaviour. According to Freud, the id, one of the three components of the psyche, operates on the pleasure principle. That is, it seeks immediate gratification for its needs.

    • Word count: 981
  17. discuss bias in the diagnostic system

    Criterion- this is assessed by using the same individual using both the DSM and ICD. There are many problems for example when diagnosing the same symptoms can occur to various illnesses. Illnesses such as manic depression are difficult to diagnose because it is often diagnosed as schizophrenia or depression. The DSM also has to be reliable; reliability is the extent in which a test produces the same results twice. There are different types of reliability these are internal consistency- do different parts of the test yield the same results. Test re test is will the test yield the same results if done again.

    • Word count: 843
  18. Outline and evaluate research relating to the effects of two environmental stressors on aggression

    This is problematic as the findings may not be valid as they did not measure what they intended to measure. In contrast to this, Palmarek's study is supported by Baron and Bell (1976). They studied how the heat affects the willingness to give electric shocks to another person. They found that the level of aggression increased between 92F and 95F, and any temperature higher than this resulted in a decrease of aggression. The reason for this may be down to the extreme stress caused by the temperature as the participants could not cope with the reactions of the person receiving the shocks in addition to the extreme heat.

    • Word count: 934
  19. Discuss the implications of findings from studies of partial and total sleep deprivation.

    However, one problem with this study is the fact that it is a case study. This means that the results of this particular study cannot be generalised to everybody else. This is problematic as it is not representative of everybody. REM sleep is essential. Dement (1960) conducted a study to support this. He used 8 participants over several nights. They were attached to an EEG which allowed Dement to wake up one group when they entered REM. The REM deprived group of participants became agitated, anxious and unable to concentrate, and after several nights entered REM on falling asleep.

    • Word count: 813
  20. Stress, outline one technique to measure stress.Evaluate the difficulties in measuring stress.

    At the end the participant adds up their total score which could range from a low score such as 15 to a high score such as 400. If the participant attains a score of more than 200 points In the last two years then they can be said to ave encountered such high levels of stress that they have a 40% chance of suffering from a stress related illness. This likelihood is increased to an alarming 70% if the participant attains a score higher than 300 points.

    • Word count: 729
  21. patient practitioner relationship

    Along with a formal dress sense drawing upon Argyle's findings in 1975 another important factor in maintaining patient confidence is to maintain good non verbal contact relations - such as eye contact and facial expressions. Taylor's study found that verbal communication with a patient is not addressed with much success during medical training and suggested three reasons for this: no agreement on what makes a positive consultation, good communication may create a sensitive doctor unable to make tough decisions and thirdly the belief that a Doctor is already busy enough without the stress of worrying about their verbal communication.

    • Word count: 496
  22. Outline and evaluate two or more studies relating to human altruism and/or Bystander Behaviour

    To test this theory, Batson used a placebo drug that had no real effects but led all female participants to interpret their reactions as high or low empathy. Participants then watched a confederate named 'Elaine' receive electric shocks, and were given the chance to take her place, this would indicate empathetic concern, or to leave which would indicate personal distress.

    • Word count: 945
  23. Outline 2 or more explanations of human altruism

    So therefore this creates helping for an egotistic reasoning. According to the hypothesis, the first good that appears to be altruistic is simply just raising your own mood. If we were feeling bad then we want to help someone else to raise our own mood, not mattering if the emotions present before the opportunity arises or aroused but the situation itself. If there's an easier route however, then according to the negative state model, people will in fact take it.

    • Word count: 899
  24. Psychology Coursework

    The independent group design will be used for this experiment as two groups will be used where the participants have been selected specifically based on their age using a systematic sampling method. All members of the association will be listed alphabetically into the two age groups required, and then every alternate member will be selected until there is a list of ten participants in each age group. This method of sampling is justified, as it is the easiest option; it does not take into account the gender, occupation or religious background of the participants, it merely selects them based on their ages and their position alphabetically on a 'register'.

    • Word count: 975
  25. Mental Disorders

    Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating periods of mania and depression so a sufferer can be manic at one point and depressed at another. Sometimes the manic and depressive periods can be separated by long periods of normal functioning. Bipolar depressive patients are often extremely impulsive whilst their judgment is impaired for example out of character spending sprees and bizarre business ideas. An example of a case of bipolar disorder is that of Spitzer et al (1981). For four months a women had spent most of her time confined to her bed, appearing to be sad and also deep in thought she mad remarks such as 'Iam no good to anyone' and 'I'm going to be dead soon'.

    • Word count: 857

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