Tuesday, 19 May 2015



PEEC X 3 = 12 MARKS 


JAN 2012: To what extent are biological explanations of why people turn to crime reductionist? [15]

POINT: Many biological explanations can be seen as reductionist, EXPLAIN: this means they explain criminal behaviour by reducing it down to 1 factor. Taking a reductionist approach means that other important factors may be ignored, for example situational factors such as peer pressure may also be an important influence on criminal behaviour. EVIDENCE: For example Dabbs investigated how testosterone played a role in violent crimes and or brain dysfunction as researched by Raine. CHALLENGE: However, taking a reductionist approach has some benefits; it is a scientific approach and allows study of that 1 factor in depth. For example Raine could look at activity in specific parts of the brain such as the pre-frontal cortex using extremely scientific methods and this allowed him to suggest preventative measures during pregnancy.

POINT: Using only biology to explain criminal behaviour does cause some problems also. This focuses on the nature part of the debate which again is quite. EXPLAIN: This is difficult to suggest seeing as nature and nurture can never be separated or studied individually. EVIDENCE: its explanations point out innate factors causing criminality, for example genetic abnormalities as investigated by Brunner. He found that in 1 family a genetic abnormality affected production of mono-amine oxidase A (MAOA) an enzyme involved in the regulation of serotonin (a neurotransmitter).  It was concluded this led to mental retardation and thence to criminal behaviours e.g. Rape/arson. CHALLENGE: However this explanation ignores the importance of Nurture on our behaviour. We also learn behaviours from our environment; this might explain why not all of the 5 males studied actually showed aggressive behaviour.

POINT with EVIDENCE: Farrington and West’s study identified a combination of factors from nature (e.g. low IQ, impulsivity due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and nurture (e.g. convicted parent, delinquent siblings). EXPLAIN: This is arguably as better explanation as it is more holistic and less reductionist. CHALLENGE: However, having a holistic approach can often mean that the factors studied are not studied in depth. This means that it can lack validity when the approaches are explaining why people turn to crime.

JUNE 2010: To what extent does the cognitive approach provide an explanation of criminal behaviour? [15]

POINT: The Cognitive Approach focuses solely on the mental processes that go on in a person’s mind or in terms of explanation for behaviour; EXPLAIN: it infers that if we have ‘faulty’ logic and ‘faulty’ processes this will cause us to behave in a criminal way. EVIDENCE: The studies by Yochelson and Samenow, Gudjohnsson and Bowles and the stages of moral development by Kohlberg all support how the cognitive approach could help to explain why criminals behave in the way they do. CHALLENGE: However, Yochelson and Samenow study has a high participant attrition rate and this could potentially undermine its usefulness because we cannot rely on the conclusion it draws when explaining criminal behaviour. CHALLENGE: Once more, the sample was androcentric and therefore cannot be applied when assessing the explanation of women turning to crime.

POINT & EVIDENCE: We meet a similar problem with Gudjohnsson study as it is based in Northern Ireland and could be said to be ethnocentric EXPLAIN: and therefore the results cannot be generalised far beyond these men in Ireland, this therefore provides a rather limited cognitive explanation of criminal behaviour. CHALLENGE: On the other hand, this study was repeated in England and was found to have similar results- implying that this study could help us to understand criminal behaviour.

POINT: A major weakness with using the cognitive approach is that how do we possibly know what a criminal is thinking before they carry out their crime. EXPLAIN: This lends the approach to be very subjective and therefore cognitive explanations may lack validity. EVIDENCE: Various self-report methods can be used – Interviews in Yochelson study and the use of scales – the ‘blame attribution’ scale in Gudjohnsson study. CHALLENGE: The major floor in using these is that, how do we know the criminals are not giving socially desirable answers? Or can we be completely sure they are telling the truth? The answer is we cannot, and this is supported by Yochelson admitting that participants lied occasionally – severely undermining the validity of the study. CHALLENGE: Another problem with using the cognitive approach is that it is extremely reductionist. It just looks at mental process and does not look at past experiences of the criminal. Raine looks at biological reasons, instead of cognitive, but this is just as reductionist.


JUNE 2010: Evaluate the methodology used in research into witness appeal [15]

POINT: The first methodological issue to be considered is that of data collection. Most studies into witness appeal use a self-report method. EXPLAIN: The problem with this is it gives the possibility of participants responding to demand characteristics and social desirability bias. EVIDENCE: For example in the study by Penrod and Cutler into the effect of witness confidence, the participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire asking about their reasons for believing one witness and the effect of the witness’ confidence on their verdict., for example a participant may report that they are more influenced by a participant who is 100% confidence simply because it appears to be the obvious answer but is not necessarily the truth. CHALLENGE: However, it could be argued that self-report in research is the most accurate way to understand the decisions a jury might make.

POINT: Another factor of the methodology used in research that can be explored is the sampling. It appears that the majority of research into witness appeal is based on a student sample. EXPLAIN: This is most likely the result of an opportunity sample, as students are the easiest and most available individuals to act as participants. EVIDENCE: Studies such as Castellow uses student samples and this may be particularly significant in his research on the attractiveness of a defendant. Firstly, because a student sample is not representative of a typical jury, and a group of students, particularly if they are all from one area, are likely to have similar opinions and similar life experience rather than variety found in universities. Therefore results from research using this sample is not representative or generalisble. CHALLENGE: Another issue with the sampling used in witness appeal research, is that students from one areas of the world such as USA may have artificial/materialistic views about appearance so again, may not be as valid as a varied jury.

POINT: Finally, the task used in research into witness appeal is artificial due to ethical guidelines of confidentiality, EXPLAIN & EVIDENCE: and studies such as Castellow’s whereby the trial is read as a photo is unrealistic as in a real trial the full body would be on view, mannerisms and gestures would have one effect on an individual’s attractiveness and details for the case would not be on paper, allowing for scrutiny and repeats of the case. This suggests that research into witness appeal provides low ecological validity due to the task given to assess the effects on verdicts. CHALLENGE: However, this can be increased by using videotapes, actors and creating a shadow jury as done in Ross et al’s study into the effect of shields on children.


JUNE 2010: Assess the effectiveness of offender treatment programmes [15]

POINT: Assessing the effectiveness of offender treatment programmes can be difficult, EXPLAIN: as there is a debate as to what effective actually means, does it mean reducing recidivism rates, reducing certain types of behaviour, or does it link to the effectiveness of the treatment on a long-term perspective? EVIDENCE: For example the Wheatley ear acupuncture investigation assessed the effectiveness of ear acupuncture for drug addicts. Wheatley found that the offenders reported increased relaxation and better sleep. CHALLENGE: Some would argue that increased ‘relaxation’ does not show the effectiveness of the offender treatment programme as this does not necessarily mean that they won’t reoffend. CHALLENGE: On the other hand, Wheatley did also find a 70% reduction in drug related incidents, suggesting that ear acupuncture is effective in prevention of drug related incidents which you can argue is effective.

POINT: This brings me on to my next point. ‘Proxy measures’ for the effectiveness of therapies can be untrustworthy, EXPLAIN: as they are often susceptible to demand characteristics and therefore can reduce the validity of findings and thus making the treatment less effective. EVIDENCE: For example, Ireland demonstrated the effectiveness of the CALM treatment programme through the use of behavioural checks and self-reported aggression (proxy measures). These measures are useful, as they show how the offender regards the treatment. CHALLENGE: However, the offenders may have been behaving more ‘reformed’ when behaviour was checked within the prison, in order to seek early parole. CHALLENGE: On the other hand, offender treatment programmes can be suggested to be effective, as they can help change beliefs (e.g. ‘CALM’) as well as behaviour (Wheatley). However, there are difficulties in measuring their effectiveness, due to demand characteristics.


JUNE 2010: Discuss theoretical approaches to beliefs about health [15]

POINT: Theoretical approaches to beliefs about health can often take a reductionist approach when explaining why people chose certain health behaviours. EXPLAIN AND EVIDENCE: To suggest that just one personality trait such as locus of control, could greatly influence something like giving up smoking is far too simplistic. The locus of control simplistically assumes that if we have an internal belief (I’m in control of my health) about our health behaviours we are more likely to change it compared to an external belief (Others are responsible for my health). CHALLENGE: Biological factors such as addiction, social factors such as social pressure, denial and illogical cognitions all can play a part which the locus of control does not take into account. CHALLENGE: On the other hand, taking a simplistic and reductionist approach can be useful to begin to understand why people make certain health choices and can help researchers begin to understand some of the factors and build an understanding on how to help people make the right decisions on their health.

POINT: The health belief model is a theoretical approach that tends to be more holistic compared to other approaches such as locus of control. EXPLAIN AND EVIDENCE: This is because it considers cognitive factors such as perceived seriousness and perceived susceptibility. In addition, it considers demographic variables such as age, gender, occupation and education. This approach gives and explanation which assumes that a person makes a decision on their health behaviour by considering the benefits of a decision and deciding whether the costs outweigh the benefits or not. This holistic approach is more complex and may be more representative of how people make decisions on their health. CHALLENGE: However, this approach, although more holistic, still does not take into account individual differences such as personality traits and morals which could be a key contributor to the reasons why people have certain health behaviours. Therefore it is reasonable to suggest that taking only one theoretical approach is not as beneficial as taking numerous approaches.

POINT: The final theoretical approach is self-efficacy which again takes a cognitive approach in understanding why people take upon certain health behaviours. EXPLAIN: It could be argued that health belief approaches are therefore highly subjective as they all tend to take a cognitive stance and therefore are susceptible to researcher bias and therefore reduce the validity and usefulness when applying these theoretical approaches to health behaviours. EVIDENCE: The Bandura study found that if someone had a higher self-efficacy (i.e. they believe in themselves that they will be successful in changing) they are more likely to be able to overcome a phobia of snakes. CHALLENGE: Although highly subjective, taking a cognitive approach can create a better understanding of the reasons why people make certain health choices and lead to the development of cognitive models which are useful in predicting behaviours and promoting healthy lifestyles.


JAN 2012: Compare techniques of managing stress [15]

In a compare question your point needs to outline a similarity or difference straight away, see below: COMPARE/EXPLAIN/EVIDENCE/CHALLENGE/CHALLENGE

COMPARE & EXPLAIN: Stress Inoculation Therapy is a cognitive approach and therefore is very subjective and therefore open to problems with validity because it focuses on changing thought processes which you cannot physically see, whereas behavioural approaches to managing stress are slightly more objective, this is because they make assumptions about stress from behaviour that can be visually observed EVIDENCE: (Budzynski – measuring muscle tension in headaches) whereas the cognitive approach assumes that cognitive processes occur that cannot be objectively measured (Meichenbaum – perceptions of stress). CHALLENGE: However, even though behavioural measures are more objective, it does not always mean that the interpretation of the behaviour is valid; other confounding factors may play a role in managing stress. CHALLENGE: In addition, subjective measures can be very useful to help understand concepts that we don’t fully understand and can therefore by extremely useful when understanding how to measure stress.     

COMPARE & EXPLAIN: Social support is situational which may be harder to change and may cause additional stress; this is because not all friends and family can have a positive effect on health, on the other hand, cognitive therapy is expensive and requires dedication and time. EVIDENCE: The Waxler study, did find a positive effect on survival rate and social support, but social support maybe harder to implement on a larger scale as only 133 women were used. Meichenbaum used SIT as a way to manage stress which requires trained staff and 8 therapy sessions, arguably very time consuming. CHALLENGE: On the other, hand, the social support offered may help to reduce stress more quickly and thus may be more efficient.  CHALLENGE: However, although time consuming SIT focuses on treating the causes of stress rather than the symptoms which could arguably be more effective in the long-term.

COMPARISON & EXPLAIN: Finally, there are too many factors involved in human behaviour to 
assume that the reductionist approach of one technique will be sufficient to encompass the complexities of our activities and behaviour. This is a similarity that all the methods of managing stress have. EVIDENCE: Waxler believes increasing positive social support will increase survival rates, Meichenbaum assumes that altering cognitive errors in thinking can reduce anxiety and Budzynski uses Biofeedback and relaxation training to help teach behaviours that result in more relaxed muscle tension. CHALLENGE: However, it is useful to take a reductionist view on managing stress as it enables researchers to develop focussed directions on managing different types of stress.


JAN 2010: Evaluate the difficulties when identifying characteristics of psychological disorders [15]

POINT: One of the difficulties in identifying disorders is that it can be highly subjective. EXPLAIN: This can lead to individuals being diagnosed incorrectly. Therefore disorders may be interpreted. EVIDENCE: For example in Rosenhan – sane in insane places. It was found that fake participants were diagnosed with schizophrenia in a reliable manner. However, they were diagnosed with schizophrenia, when they did not have any mental health issues. CHALLENGE: However, the DSM has now adapted the criteria to make it clearer and therefore less likely to misdiagnose.

POINT: In addition, when identifying disorders it requires self-report from individuals who may not perceive their behaviour as abnormal or dysfunctional, or who may be prone to lying/disordered thoughts and social desirability. EXPLAIN: This may mean that again individuals are diagnosed incorrectly. EVIDENCE: In the DSM the symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, social occupational and must be apparent for 6 months. If individuals do not put forward all their symptoms it may be difficult for a doctor to diagnose disorders accurately. CHALLENGE: However, information from family and friends could potentially be collected to collect a more holistic view of the patient and therefore more accurately identify the characteristics of a disorder. CHALLENGE: But again this may not always be an option.

POINT & EXPLAIN & EVIDENCE: There is significant overlap between disorders e.g. loss of pleasure is a factor in depression and schizophrenia, whilst bipolar disorders and schizophrenia can feature delusions and disordered actions. Anxiety is also somewhat common amongst people who are depressed, due to feelings of worthlessness and pessimistic depressive thought patterns. CHALLENGE: However it is useful to categorise symptoms for different disorders as it can help to direct the most effective treatment and support. CHALLENGE: On the other hand, if participants are diagnosed with a disorder they do not have, it could create issues of self-fulfilling prophecy, or the effectiveness of the support and treatments provided.


  1. This is really helpful, thanks!:D

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