Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Model answers for Research Methods Paper


2.  Describe the method you would use to conduct your practical project. 13 marks are awarded for replicability and appropriateness and 6 for the quality of the design and its feasibility.

An experiment on the effect of environment on memory:


WHERE: On Monday morning, I will go into the common room at Ousedale School, a State Sixth form in Milton Keynes, in order to select my sample of 30 6th form students. WHEN: I will go in at 11.30am (break time) on the 26/04/15

HOW: and using an opportunity sample, I approach the first 30 people and hand out my briefing sheet to them. HOW I WILL DIRECT MY SAMPLE TO THE EXPERIMENT: My brief sheet will explain that the experiment will be investigating the best way to learn and remember objects. It will explain that the experiment will take place on the 30/04/15 at 9am in the classroom C6.  


WHAT EXPERIMENTTAL DESIGN: I will use an independent measures design.
HOW: I will randomly allocate the participants into the 2 conditions by putting all their names into a hat. The first 15 that I pick out will go into condition 1 (complete memory task inside), the second lot of 15 participants left will go into condition 2 (complete memory task outside).


HOW: The first 15 will come into a classroom in the main building at WHEN: 9am and sitting spaced apart (so they can’t copy). WHAT: They will be then told to turn over a piece of paper in front of them and memorise as many of the 20 words to do with food ( like a shopping list: cereal, bread. milk) as they can in 60 seconds. They will then be given 2 minutes to write down as many as they can remember. The 20 words will be printed in Times New Roman font in size 14 and will be equally spaced. (This is to standardise the procedure.)
WHEN: Later on at 12pm I will take the next group of 15 participants outside into the school courtyard at Ousedale school. I will sit them spaced apart at the picnic tables and they will be told they have one min to memorise the set of 20 words ( same as before) related to food, and then have another 2 minutes to write down on a separate piece of paper their answers.
WHERE YOU WERE: I will be standing at the front of the students for both conditions.

In order to protect their confidentiality they will be given stickers with numbers 1-30 on. All the papers will be numbered as well.


The time up (after the 2 minutes in each condition) will be signalled with a whistle and they will be asked to put their pens down. The participants will be scored out of 20, e.g. how may words that they were able to note down.

 Explain one weakness of conducting this practical project as a correlation [3]

The main weakness is that we are not manipulating the Independent variable and therefore we cannot infer cause and effect. We can merely state that noise may have an effect on performance levels but we have not controlled the extraneous variables so we cannot be sure.

How would you address any one ethical issue in the conduct of this project? [3]

One ethical issue would be anonymity and confidentiality. It is essential that participants are known as numbers (numbered 1-30) so that when analysing the data we do not know whose data belongs to which person. Some people might be embarrassed and it could cause them harm if they knew we knew their score. I would label each participant from number one to thirty.

 7.  Outline one other way your research question could be investigated [3]

This research question could be investigated with an independent measures design. The participants would be randomly allocated to condition A or B. Condition A they would do the task with noise and condition B would not be subject to the noise. The IV would be levels of noise and the DV would be performance on the task.



a)      Using your knowledge of psychology, briefly outline what is meant by ecological validity. [4]

1.      The term validity refers to the idea that you are measuring what you intend to measure.

2.      Ecological Validity is the degree to which the behaviours observed and recorded in a study reflect the behaviours that actually occur in natural settings.

3.      In addition, ecological validity is associated with "generalizability". Essentially this is the extent to which findings (from a study) can be generalized (or extended) to the "real world".  


b)      Describe examples of high ecological validity from any two pieces of psychological research. [8]


AIM: Piliavin et al.’s study on helping behaviour is a field experiment that has high ecological validity which aimed to test the theory of diffusion of responsibility. SAMPLE: There were approximately 4000 passengers that used the subway. PROCEDURE: In the study two actors played either a drunk or a person with a cane who would fall down in a subway train whilst it was travelling between stops.  Two participant observers would then note down who helped the victim and how long it took as well as various other details about the passengers on the train.  RESULTS: They found that the quickest behaviours came from larger groups, thus disproving the diffusion of responsibility theory. CONCLUSION: Piliavin concluded that people use a cost-reward model to weigh up the benefits and risks when helping people. LINK: Because this was an undisclosed observation the participants had no idea they were taking part in an experiment and therefore their behaviour was reflective of real life.

AIM: Cowpe’s 1989 study in to chip-pan fire prevention and aimed to find out whether educational campaigns could help to prevent chip-pan fires.  SAMPLE: TV viewers of two areas in the UK. PROCEDURE: Two 60 second commercials were shown in 10 TV areas in the UK, one aimed at prevention and one at coping safely with a chip-pan fire.  Then number of reported chip pan fires was then analysed for each area.  RESULTS: They found that there was between a 7% (Central TV) and 25% (Granada) net decline in fires, and the largest decrease was during the campaign. CONCLUSIONS: Educational advertisements are effective but this effectiveness can be reduced if people see the advertisement too much. LINK: The study was high in ecological validity as it was a natural experiment and it demonstrated behaviour in the real world so has high ecological validity.

c)       Discuss the strengths and limitations of conducting psychological research where the ecological validity is low.  Use examples of psychological research to support your answer. [12]
POINT: Many studies that lack ecological validity take place in the laboratory and as a consequence they have high levels of control.  EXPLAIN: An advantage of this control is that researchers are able to infer cause and effect because there are few extraneous variables that could affect the results and this in turn increases the reliability and replicability of the results.  EVIDENCE: For example in Baron-Cohen’s eyes task the pictures that participants saw were all black and white, the same size and the same portion of the face, therefore we can conclude that it was the Autism that caused participants to fail the eyes task rather than the way the picture was presented.  This study can be easily repeated and it is likely if the all controls are kept the same we would find similar results. CHALLENGE: However this control means that we cannot generalise findings to real life situations: in real life people would judge emotion in eyes with more contextual information such as movement and tone of voice.

POINT: Studies that are low in ecological validity also often use more objective measures EXPLAIN: and as such may again be more reliable.  EVIDENCE: In Dement and Kleitman’s study on sleep they used and EEG to measure brain waves during sleep which is a reliable measure for sleep patterns, as the measure will be consistent across participants.  CHALLENGE: However, a problem for this type of data is that it is quantitative and whilst this is easy to analyse and compare across participants it does not give the bigger picture so, for example, we cannot infer from an EEG what a person is dreaming about.  Again though we do not know if being wired up to an EEG machine will affect sleep patterns and so we cannot generalise findings to real life.

POINT: A limitation of studies low in ecological validity is often that they are reductionist, EXPLAIN: because they use methods with high control they look at only one factor that may be causing behaviour and ignore other equally important factors.  EVIDENCE: For example Geer and Maisel look at the effect of perceived control on reducing stress response, this assumes that cognitive processes can have an effect on the physiological stress response but it ignores the social aspects of stress response and individual differences in response to stress. CHALLENGE: However, even though it lacks ecological validity, it does allow psychologists to develop further research in understanding how stress can be reduced.

POINT: A final limitation is that research low in ecological validity is arguably less useful EXPLAIN: as it has fewer real life applications.  EVIDENCE: For example, Loftus and Palmer’s study into the reliability of eyewitness testimony used video footage, we may find that if people view a real life event they are less susceptible to post-event information confounding their memory, therefore the study is of little interest to the courts when calling eyewitness evidence into question. CHALLENGE: Nonetheless, data collected in labs which are low in ecological validity can arguably still have useful applications to real life. For example the research from Loftus can now be taken into consideration when interviewing eye witnesses.

d)      Compare the ecological validity of laboratory experiments with ecological validity of field experiments. [8]

POINT/DIFFERENCE: Laboratory experiments are usually low in ecological validity because they take place in the in artificial laboratory conditions whereas field experiments are high on ecological validity as they take place in natural conditions. EVIDENCE: For example in Castellow’s study on the effect of attractiveness by looking at photos and reading case files on jury decision making. Participants may have guessed the nature of the study and this influenced them to reach a particular verdict. EVIDENCE: Whereas Piliavin was a field experiment carried out on a real subway. The researchers were able to see the effect on helping behaviours without the influence of demand characteristics, therefore increasing the validity.      

POINT/SIMILARITY: Laboratory experiments and field experiments both try to infer cause and effect by having an independent variable and a dependent variable. EVIDENCE: Johansson’s study in to stress in the work place, the independent variable was the type of worker e.g. high stress and low stress and the dependent variables were adrenaline in urine levels (high levels indicating stress) and self-reports on feelings of stress. EVIDENCE: Similarly a laboratory experiment such as Bandura also had an IV of aggressive model, non-aggressive model and control group and the DV of how much the aggression was imitated, verbal aggression and observational data of the children.                                                                                                        

Discuss the features of the cognitive approach that support the view that psychology is a science [8]


FOR ARGUMENT: In order to understand complex mental processes the cognitive approach will tend to use lab experiments in order to establish cause and effect between cognitions and behaviour. Highly controlled environments are needed in order to study a theory that is subjective like the cognitive approach. This therefore supports the view that psychology is a science.
AGAINST ARGUMENT: However, cognitions are not actually observable and therefore not empirical; therefore the cognitive approach may not have a scientific view as it is based on subjective interpretation.

FOR ARGUMENT: On the other, hand the cognitive approach is a theory and generates hypotheses about how cognition effects behaviour, which are then tested empirically in order to test and refine them, this therefore shows how the cognitive approach views psychology as a science.

AGAINST ARGUMENT: However, the cognitive approach focuses on people. People can’t be investigated in the same way as chemistry or physics because there are many extraneous variables and interactions that would effect findings. This would suggest that cognitive psychology is not a science as it only finds probabilities and not certainties.  

AS Studies that you need for the Research Methods paper

Thigpen and Cleckley can be used as part of the Psychodynamic approach and Individual Differences. 

Thigpen and Cleckley:

The aim of this article was to provide an account of the psychotherapeutic treatment of a 25-year-old woman who was referred to Thigpen and Cleckley because of 'severe and blinding headaches'.

The psychiatrists used a case study method. This consisted of interviews with the patient and her family, hypnosis, observation, EEG tests and a number of psychometric and projective tests including, memory tests, ink blot tests and intelligence tests.

During interviews several emotional difficulties were revealed. 
Several days after a visit to the therapists, a letter from Eve White appeared at the therapists' office. The letter concerned her therapy and was written in her usual handwriting, but at the bottom of the page there was a paragraph that looked like a child had written it.

On her next visit Eve White denied sending the letter, though she recalled having begun one, which she never finished and thought she had destroyed. 
During a conversation Eve White, as if in pain suddenly put both hands to her head. After a tense moment of silence her hands dropped, and the therapist observed a quick, reckless smile? and in a bright voice she said: 'Hi there, Doc'. She revealed that she was Eve Black.
Over the next 14 months, during a series of interviews totalling approximately 100 hours.
The therapists found that although Eve Black could sometimes 'pop out' unexpectedly, she could only be 'called out' by the therapists when Eve White was under hypnosis. After more sessions they found that hypnosis was no longer needed for obtaining the changes. 
The therapists believed that Eve Black had enjoyed an independent life since Eve's early childhood and when she was 'out' Eve White was not aware of what was happening. In contrast, when Eve Black was not out she was aware of what was happening.
Eve Black told the therapists about a number of incidents in childhood where she engaged in acts of mischief or disobedience, which Eve White was unaware of and was punished for. Some of these incidents were later backed up in interviews with her parents and her husband.
Eve Black denied marriage to the man, who she despised, and denied any relationship to Eve White's daughter except that of an unconcerned bystander. 
Psychometric (i.e. IQ and memory tests) and Projective tests (i.e. Rorschach and drawings of human figures) were also used:
IQ test results: Eve White obtained an IQ of 110 and Eve Black 104.
Memory Test results: Eve White had a superior memory function than Eve Black
Rorschach test (ink blot test) and drawings of human figures results:
The profile of Eve Black was far healthier than Eve White. Eve Black though regressive.
Eve White was repressive showing obsessive-compulsive traits, rigidity and an inability to deal with her hostility.
After Jane appeared the three personalities were given electroencephalogram tests (EEG). It was possible to make a clear distinction between the readings of Eve Black and the other two personalities. Although it was not possible make a clear distinction between Eve White and Jane's EEG.
It was decided that Jane was the person most likely to bring a solution to the troubled mind, and that her growing dominance over the other personalities to be an appropriate resolution. 
Thigpen and Cleckley were convinced that they had witnessed an example of multiple personality. Although Thigpen and Cleckley do not point to the cause of MPD, the received wisdom is that MPD is usually a response to child abuse - a way for the individual to protect him or herself.

Freud can be used as part of the Psychodynamic approach Developmental approach and Individual Differences. 

Freud: The case of Little Hans 
The aim of the study was to report the findings of the treatment of a five-year-old boy for his phobia of horses.

Freud used a case study method to investigate Little Hans phobia. However the case study was actually carried out by the boy's father who was a friend and supporter of Freud. Freud probably only met the boy once. The father reported to Freud via letters and Freud gave directions as how to deal with the situation based on his interpretations of the father's reports.The first reports of Hans are when he was 3 years old.

The first reports of Hans are when he was 3 years old when he developed an active interest in his 'widdler' (penis), and also those of other people. For example on one occasion he asked 'Mummy, have you got a widdler too'?
When he was about three years and six months old his mother told him not to touch his widdler or else she would call the doctor to come and cut it off. 
Around the same time, Hans' mother gave birth to his sister Hanna, and Hans expressed jealousy towards her though this disappeared after a few months.
When Hans was almost 5, Hans' father wrote to Freud explaining his concerns about Hans. He described the main problem as follows: 'He is afraid a horse will bite him in the street'
Hans' anxieties and phobia continued and he was afraid to go out of the house because of his phobia of horses. Hans told his father of a dream/fantasy which his father summarised as follows: 'In the night there was a big giraffe in the room and a crumpled one: and the big one called out because I took the crumpled one away from it. Then it stopped calling out: and I sat down on top of the crumpled one?' 
Freud and the father interpreted the dream/fantasy as being a reworking of the morning exchanges in the parental bed. Hans enjoyed getting into his parents bed in a morning but his father often objected (the big giraffe calling out because he had taken the crumpled giraffe - mother - away). Both Freud and the father believed that the long neck of the giraffe was a symbol for the large adult penis.
When Hans was taken to see Freud, he was asked about the horses he had a phobia of. Hans noted that he didn't like horses with black bits around the mouth. Freud believed that the horse was a symbol for his father, and the black bits were a moustache. After the interview, the father recorded an exchange with Hans where the boy said 'Daddy don't trot away from me!'. This was due to Hans having castration anxiety. 
Hans' anxiety began to diffuse as he found a resolution. Firstly, Hans had described a fantasy where he was married to his mother and was playing with his own children. In this fantasy he had promoted his father to the role of grandfather. In the second fantasy, he described how a plumber came and first removed his bottom and widdler and then gave him another one of each, but larger.
At age 19 the not so Little Hans appeared at Freud?s consulting room having read his case history. Hans could not remember the discussions with his father. therefore supporting his theory of the unconscious mind. 

In particular, the case study provided support for his theory of Oedipus Complex in which the young boy develops an intense sexual love for his mother and because of this, he sees his father as a rival and wants to get rid of him.
According to Freud the cause of Little Hans' phobia was related to his Oedipus complex. Little Hans was afraid of horses because the horse was a symbol for his father. He was afraid his father knew of his urges for his mother and would castrate him. 
He pointed out that unlike most other children of the time, Hans was able to communicate fears and wishes that many children do not have the opportunity to express. He argued that as a result Hans had been able to resolve conflicts and anxieties. This supports Freud's talking therapies. 

Bandura can be used as part of the Developmental approach and as part of upbringing Forensic

Bandura and the Bobo doll:

The aim of Bandura's study was to demonstrate that if children were passive witnesses to an aggressive display by an adult they would imitate this aggressive behaviour when given the opportunity.

Procedure/ Method
Bandura, Ross and Ross tested 36 boys and 36 girls aged between 37 to 69 months.
The method was a laboratory experiment. The design of the experiment has three major conditions; the control group, the group exposed to the aggressive model, and the group exposed to the passive model.
Each experimental group, consisted of 24 children and were divided into 4 groups of 6.
This complicated design therefore has three independent variables. The condition the children were exposed to, the sex of the role model and the sex of the child.
The researchers attempted to reduce the problem of the participant extraneous variable of aggression by pre-testing the children for how aggressive they were. They did this by observing the children in the nursery and judged their aggressive behaviour on four 5-point rating scales. The experiment is therefore an example of a matched pairs design.
All of the children were tested individually
In stage one of the experiment children were brought to the experimental room by the experimenter, and the model was invited to come in and join in the game. One corner had a small table and chair, potato prints and picture stickers. After settling the child in its corner the adult model was escorted to the opposite corner of the room where there was a small table, chair, tinker-toy set, a mallet and a five foot inflatable Bobo doll. After the model was seated the experimenter left the experimental room.
In the non-aggressive condition, the model ignored Bobo and assembled the tinker-toys in a quiet, gentle manner.
In the aggressive condition the model began by assembling the tinker-toys, but after one minute turned to Bobo and was aggressive to the doll.
An example of physical aggression was "raised the Bobo doll and hit it on the head with a mallet",
An example of verbal aggression was, "Pow!" and "Sock him in the nose".
After ten minutes the experimenter entered and took the child to a new room which the child was told was another games room.
In stage two the child was subjected to 'mild aggression arousal'. The child was taken to a room with relatively attractive toys. As soon as the child started to play with the toys the experimenter told the child that these were the experimenter's very best toys and she had decided to reserve them for the other children.
Then the child was taken to the next room for stage three of the study where the child was told it could play with any of the toys in there with the experimenter.
In this room there was a variety of both non-aggressive (crayons, tea set) and aggressive toys (mallet, dart gun and Bobo doll). The child was kept in this room for 20 minutes during which time their behaviour was observed by judges through a one-way mirror. Observations were made at 5-second intervals.
The main findings were.
1. The children in the aggressive model condition made more aggressive responses than the children in the non-aggressive model condition
2. Boys made more aggressive responses than girls;
3. The boys in the aggressive model conditions showed more aggressive responses if the model was male than if the model was female;
4. The girls in the aggressive model conditions also showed more physical aggressive responses if the model was male but more verbal aggressive responses if the model was female.

Explanation for Findings
The findings support Bandura's Social Learning Theory. That is, children learn social behaviour such as aggression through the process of observation learning - through watching the behaviour of another person.
Central to Social Learning Theory is the identification of which types of models are more likely to be imitated.
Appropriateness of the model.
In the study it was found that aggressive male models were more likely to be imitated than aggressive female models. One probable reason for this is to do with sex roles: perhaps it is more acceptable in Western culture for men to be aggressive than women.

Monday, 13 July 2015


The best way to remember the approaches is to:

  • Have at least one sentence that provides a definition. 
  • Another sentence which relates to what debate it closely links in with. 
  • Another sentence on the type of behaviours and factors it studies. 

Social approach:

The social approach to psychology looks at how an individual acts in a group and whether group dynamics change behaviour. It considers conformity in an individual and how humans conform to others. This leans strongly to the nurture side of the nature/nurture debate as it suggests your behaviour can through the environment.

Cognitive approach:

The cognitive approach refers to mental processes such as memory, language, perception,
and attention. The cognitive approach compares the human mind to a computer i.e. information enters the mind (input), it is processed and stored and then used later again by responding to situations (output). The main assumption of the cognitive approach is that how we think is central in explaining how we behave.

Developmental approach:

The developmental approach emphasises the importance of changes in behaviour through the
lifespan with a particular focus on cognitive and social development. This approach focuses on how behaviours such as emotions, moral development and thinking develop over time. Another assumption of the developmental approach is that events that happen to us early in life can have a long-term effect on the course of our development.

Biological/Physiological approach:

The biological approach assumes that biological mechanisms, brain functions and genetics play a key role in explaining behaviour. The biological approach also uses highly scientific methods in order to understand biological processes such as hormone release, brain plasticity, brain activity and so on. The biological approach takes a rather reductionist and determinist view as it assumes that all behaviour is determined through a biological process which we cannot control.

Pscyhodynamic approach:

This approach assumes that much of our behaviour is a result of our unconscious mind. This is the part of the mind which we are not actively aware of. Freud was the founder of this approach and believed that we had a conscious mind - where we are aware of our motivations and can verbalise explicitly and an unconscious mind - where motivations for behaviour are often related to sex in some way and are largely hidden from our conscious, but unconsciously effect our behaviour.  

Individual approach:

One of the main assumptions of the individual differences approach is that there are differences between the people in any group, in terms of personal qualities, the ways in which they respond to situations, their behaviour and so on. The individual approach believes that examining differences rather than commonalities, is the most revealing when understanding people. A main focus is to categorise and identify different types of abnormality. 

Behaviourist approach:

The behaviourist approach explains behaviour in terms of learning. One of the main assumptions of the behaviourist approach is that all behaviour is learned through experience. For example the idea f positive reinforcement, which is when we adopt a behaviour because we know we will be rewarded. The behaviourist approach leans very strongly to the nurture side of the nature nurture debate.  

Ecological validity:

This is likely to be
done by referring to research using everyday situations so that behaviour is
natural. This may be described in terms of the setting/ the nature of the task/
the sample used.

Quantitative and Qualitative data:

Quantitative data is data where behaviour is measured in numbers or
quantities. Qualitative data is data that cannot be quantified but it expresses a
complete account of what people think or feel.

Lab experiments:

The experimental method involves the manipulation of variable in order to find a cause effect relationship between the IV and DV. Lab experiments are reliable and replicable as they involve a high degree of control.

Ethical issue:

Self-Report method:

This involves the individual reporting on their own behavior, thoughts, feelings and attitudes. A self report may take the form of a questionnaire, interview or survey. The questionnaire (or survey) will take the form of a set of questions on a specific topic and data collected is often both qualitative and quantitative. An interview is delivered face to face or by telephone but questions are normally verbal rather than in written form. The questions may be less structured than in a questionnaire and responses will more commonly be qualitative.

Snapshot study:

Snapshot studies are quick and do not involve
repetition of measurement. They do not occur over an
extended period of time such as longitudinal studies and do
not take into account changes in behaviour over time.

Case study:

The case study method is characterised by a detailed description of a
particular individual or group under study.

Monday, 22 June 2015


Planning and conducting research:
  1. Semantic differential scale - this is a type of rating scale which allows participants to choose between two extremes. For example boring/exciting, friendly/unfriendly, like the scale that was used in the Baron-Cohen eyes task. 
  2. Practical problems – a type of extraneous variable including issues of cooperation of participants, practicalities of equipment and measurement, bad weather. 
  3. Single blind - this is when the participants are unaware of the level of IV in which they are participating in. This helps reduce demand characteristics. 
  4. Double blind - this is when neither the researcher nor the participants are aware of the condition in which they are in. This reduces chances of demand characteristics and researcher bias.
Data recording, analysis and presentation:
  1. Nominal data - is data that are produced as named categories, think of 'nom' meaning 'name' i.e. named categories. These categories can be allocated numbers, but these numbers bare no meaning. For example you may ask someone what their favourite chocolate is and provide them with the nominal categories; 1. milk choc 2. dark choc 3. white choc. As you can see they have been allocated numbers, but the number does not mean anything, white choc is not seen as better than dark choc. Closed questions often produce nominal data, as well as observations which code behaviour.  
  2. Ordinal data - is data which can be ranked in 'order' - ordinal. There needs to be an increase in the value of points along your data (therefore the numbers of your data do have meaning), but the size of each increase does not need to be equal. For example; a rating scale is a classic example of ordinal data, lets say a participant needed to rate how good they think their memory is, and the scale was; 1 very poor, 2 poor, 3 average, 4 good, 5 very good. As you can see, the measure is ranked in order, so that the higher the score, the better the memory and vice versa. However, if someone rated themselves as 'very good' we would know that they are better than someone who rated themselves as 'average' but, we couldn't know for sure if this means they were twice as good, triple, a small fraction? Other examples of ordinal data are; people competing in a race, rating scales, ranking top films etc.  
  3. Interval data - similar to ordinal data, but the divisions between the points on an interval scale are equal. For example, time, volume, speed, height, weight etc. The difference between 1 second and 2 seconds will always be equal. 
  4. < - less than 
  5. > - greater than 
  6. - greater than or equal to
  7. - less than or equal to 
  8. p - probability 
  9. Type 1 error - when you think you've won. i.e. you have accepted your alternate hypothesis when you should have rejected it. 
  10. Type 2 error - when you think their poo i.e. you have accepted your null hypothesis when you should have rejected it. 
  11. Internal reliability - this is the consistency of the items within the measure itself i.e. the questions) This shows that items in a self-report tool are measuring the same phenomenon. 
  12. Split-half reliability - is a measure of internal reliability in which scores from two halves of a test are compared. For example a questionnaire on self-intelligence may contain 20 questions. if scores from the first 10 questions are similar to the second set of 10 questions, the measure is seen to have high internal reliability. In addition, if certain questions do not produce consistent responses, they can be removed in order to improve reliability.  
  13. External reliability - does the measure produce the same results in the same situation with different people.
  14. Test-retest reliability - if a participant responds to the same test in a similar way, the test has high external reliability. 
  15. Mundane realism - the extent to which an experimental task represents a real-world situation. 
  16. Internal validity - are you measuring what you intend to measure; for example, in an experiment, whether changes in the DV are caused by the IV rather than extraneous variables. I will use the example of a self report to consider the many different validity terms:
  17. Face validity - this is whether your measure appears, at face value, to test what it claims to. For example if you took a quick glance at a questionnaire about fears of spiders, does it look like it is actually measuring fear of spiders? If yes, it has high face validity. 
  18. Criterion validity - this is whether a factor measured in one way will relate to, or predict, some other related variable. For example; can your CAT tests in year 7 predict the grades you will get in your GCSE's? This is also known as predictive validity.   
  19. Concurrent validity - whether a measure will produce similar results for a participant as another measure, that measures the same thing. For example; in Baron-Cohen, using the Strange stories task and the eyes task. 
  20. Construct validity - is the foundation of the theory you are testing valid? Does it actually exist? For example does Freud's Oedipus complex have construct validity? The answer would be no in this instant, as he had no valid evidence to support his theory.      
  21. External validity - this relates to the issues beyond the investigation, particularly whether the findings will generalise to other populations, locations, contexts and times than the ones investigated i.e. will the findings still be valid if I carried out a study in the UK and I'm trying to generalise it to America, if yes you have high external validity. 
  22. Population validity - following on from external validity, this is the extent to which findings from one sample can be generalised to the whole population from which the sample was taken and to other populations. If you have a small sample, say 50 participants, you are likely to have low population validity. Many things affect population validity such as; the sampling method used, sample size and narrowness of the sample, in relation to what is being studied. 
  23. Representative - does your sample represent your target population. To achieve representativeness, the sample studied should include a good cross section of the population, so that all categories of people within it are included. 

Friday, 19 June 2015


Nature/Nurture debate:

  • This debate is the argument that behaviour is either genetically determined (nature) or whether they are acquired through experiences or influences from the environment (nurture). 
  • Both sides of the debate view human behaviour in a very deterministic way as neither account for freewill. 
  • However, many psychologists acknowledge that both nature and nurture can influence behaviour. 


Strengths of the debate:
  • Understanding and identifying certain behaviours that are inherited or learned can help us to intervene accordingly i.e. useful applications. For example if we understand schizophrenia is influenced by certain chemicals and hormones, we can administer medication to help balance these biological irregularities to treat schizophrenia. On the nurture side, if we understand that when children are brought up in violent families they are highly likely to commit violent crimes later on in life, we can try to place interventions that help to prevent this, possibly education on parenting. 
Weaknesses of the debate:
  • It is too simplistic to divide explanations into either nature or nurture, as the two always combine in complex ways to influence behaviour. It is impossible to study nature, without the effect of nurture as an extraneous variable, and vice versa. 
  • Discovering that certain behaviours are inherited (e.g. personality, intelligence) may not be helpful. It can lead to the assumption that these types of behaviour are difficult to change through the environment. This restricts the useful applications.    


There are two forms of ethnocentrism. The first, more severe is an explicit belief that ones own group (ethnic, social, cultural) is the most important. For example: a judicial/law system that is run by white males, and is highly likelihood to provide a death sentence to people of a black ethnicity compared to a white ethnicity. 

The other type is a softer version, it is the idea that individuals (who are brought up in a certain culture) find it difficult to think outside their own cultural experience. This leads to people assuming that the way things happen in their own culture, is the same as the things that happen in all other cultures. For example: a white British nurse giving a Muslim patient a full English for breakfast. She has assumed that her British culture of eating that food, also applies to other cultures.  

This ethnocentric view means that, in research psychologists might design research or draw conclusions in a way that makes sense to their on cultural group, but may have little meaning to other cultural groups. This means that psychologists should be very careful when generalising their findings to other culture groups. This is because the sample in one piece of research may only reflect one culture. 

In addition, ethnocentrism can also occur when a researcher is analysing or interpreting data. Again, because the researcher has been brought up in a certain culture, this cultural influence may play a role in the way data is interpreted, making the data invalid, and extremely ungeneralisable to the culture being studied. For example an American male researcher has gone to Uganda to assess how parents interact with their children. These cultures are extremely different, and some behaviours maybe misinterpreted due to the researchers views from his American culture. 

Strengths of studying ethnocentrism:
  • Ethnocentrism causes prejudice and discrimination, by understanding this it can help us to understand how discrimination arises in the first place. 
  • By understanding ethnocentrism, researchers are better prepared in addressing it, in order to improve researches generalisability. Researchers must be aware of ethnocentrism when generalising and interpreting data in order to avoid biased and invalid findings. 

Is psychology a science or not?

This is the debate to whether psychology can actually be considered as a science or not. 

Psychology is a science:

  • It is a research-based subject with investigation as its core, very similar to other sciences such as biology and physics. 
  • Psychology uses the scientific method in its investigations. Research is carried out through experimentation and uses many controls, which means cause and effect can be established. 
  • Like other sciences, psychology has theories. Theories generate hypotheses and these are tested empirically, so that the theories are tested and refined. 
Psychology is not a science:

  • Psychologists study humans. They cannot be investigated in the same way as subject matter of e.g. chemistry or physics. People are aware of being investigated and this can alter behaviour. This makes psychology less of a science as it means humans will always have extraneous variables which will effect behaviour, lessening cause and effect. 
  • Much of psychology is about the mind. This is highly subjective and not open to scientific research because it is not actually observable. Psychologists only infer what is happening rather than what is actually happening. 
  • Psychological findings are always based on probabilities. Therefore, psychology is not a science as it finds probabilities not facts. 
  • Lots of material which is called psychology is clearly not a science e.g. Freudian theories. 

Individual and situational

The individual explanation argues that behaviour is a result of a particular feature or characteristic of an individual, whereas the situational explanation would look at the influence of social groups and the environment. For example; suppose a young lad is violent and commits a crime. Was this because he has a violent personality (individual)? Or was it because he was provoked, or that his parents encourage violent behaviour, or that all boys should be aggressive in order to fit in with social expectations (situational)?  


Strengths of the debate:
  • If psychologists can understand which behaviours are individually determined and which are situationally determined, such findings maybe useful for society when trying to understand or change certain behaviours. 
  • Discovering that behaviours may involve a complex interaction between individual and situational factors opens up new direction for further study. 
Weaknesses of the debate:
  • It is very difficult to separate the effects of a situation from the individual. This is very similar to the nature/nurture debate, in the sense that is is impossible to study them separately as they will always influence together. 
  • When situations are studied in a lab environment it is low in ecological validity. Therefore it is often hard to apply findings to real life. 
  • As with the nature/nurture debate, the situational/individual debate are direct alternatives and therefore there maybe a complex interaction between the two. 

The usefulness of psychological research 

This is more of an issue than a debate. This is the idea that some psychological research is useful, whereas other research may not be seen as useful.

Strengths of useful research:

  • Research is useful when it can benefit society and improve the world we live in
  • Research is useful when it enhances psychology as a subject i.e. we find value in studying subjective matter such as the mind. 
  • Research is useful when it can generalised to a wider population. 
Weaknesses of useful research:
  • Breaking ethics can make research less valuable, useful o respected (check out a psychologist called Harlow who went way too far with his research on monkeys). However, sometimes ethics may need to be broken in order to be more realistic to real life, and therefore more useful. 
  • Studies that are ecologically valid tend to be more useful as they more closely reflect true situations. 
  • Research should apply knowledge of ethnocentrism in order to be useful. Those that do not lead to research that is unrepresentative and therefore less useful. 
  • Any research that is reductionist is seen to be less useful. This is because many factors combined influence behaviour. Having a holistic approach is therefore more useful. 

 Freewill and Determinism debate

This debate is the idea that all behaviours, mental acts, thoughts, decisions, are determined by factors out of our control (determinism) or that behaviours and mental acts are a result of our own choice i.e. we exercise are own free-will and make our own conscious choices and decisions.   

Lets take the cheery example of suicide to show the arguments that the freewill/determinism debate has. 

Determinist explanations might say that the suicide could have been predicted through a number of possible factors that determined the individuals suicide. For example, the individuals upbringing, a genetic disposition of helplessness, faulty though patterns that focus on negativity. These deterministic explanations come from any approach - physiological, developmental, cognitive and so on. Determinists would argue that the individual did not actively choose to commit suicide (even if the individual believes they did), instead, the individuals suicide was the result of a long chain of events. Freewill would empathise that the person chose to take their own life and that equally they may have chosen not to commit suicide.         


There are too types of determinism - Soft determinism (humans do have choices to make and can exercise freewill, but often these choices are determined by certain factors), and Hard determinism (you have no free will whats so ever, and choice is just an illusion)

Free will:

Free will is difficult to evaluate. Freewill is a positive way to view behaviour, it enables a conscious reflection on our own behavior and is seen as the best way of achieving goals and learning from mistakes. Believing that our behaviour is determined can lead to people not taking responsibility for their actions. In addition, having freewill allows people to feel in control of their lives. 

Strengths of determinism:
  • Having deterministic views helps the world to be more understandable and predictable. This suggests that it could be worthwhile in trying to change certain things such as the education system or child-rearing practices as it could have positive effects
  • Determinism is the root purpose and goal of science i.e. explaining causes of behaviour. This makes this debate more acceptable in society with its explanations and scientific basis. 

Weaknesses of determinism:
  • It does not allow for freewill. An extreme determinist would say that free will in an illusion - we think we have choice, but we do not. This can be extremely difficult for someone to cope with in certain situations. For example, say if your family was murdered by a young man, could we truly claim any justice if we believe that the young man did not choose to do it. How could we punish him if it wasn't his fault, but it was other factors that determined him to kill?
  • Determinism can never fully explain behaviour because behaviour is far too complex and a deterministic view is often a reductionist one. 

Reductionism and Holism debate 

The reductionist view if the world looks for explanations which breaks things down into smaller parts. This can be powerful, but sometimes provides an explanation which too simplistic, ignoring other important factors.This means that it is often difficult to understand the whole meaning if you are only studying parts of it. A holistic view looks at the person as a whole, or perhaps looks at a number of complex factors which together might explain a particular behaviour. 

Again it is difficult to evaluate holism, as it will always be a positive thing to look at numerous influencing factors or to look at an individual as a whole. The only weakness of holism, is that sometimes research may not always consider how all the factors link and influence together, and researchers may lose detail in each factor if focusing on many of them. 

Strengths of reductionism:
  • It helps us to understand the world, as a fundamental way of understanding is to analyse, break things down into component parts, test them and then build them back up again. This is important in studying the world and humans in a scientific way. This is because it allows researchers to control for extraneous variables in order to establish cause and effect on certain variables and outcomes. 
  • In theory it is easier to study one component rather than several interacting components. If one component is isolated and others are controlled then the study is more objective and scientifically acceptable. In addition, if you are focusing on one factor, researchers are able to study that factor in great depth. 
Weaknesses of reductionism:

  • Because it can isolate factors, it does not always give a proper, valid and full account of behaviour.
  • components maybe difficult to isolate and so manipulate. Any behaviour may not be meaningful if it is studies in isolation from the wider context.