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.  

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