AQA AS Psychology Studies (listed on spec)

  • Created by: Gaynor
  • Created on: 17-05-19 14:03

Social Influence - Asch

  • Asch used a line judgement task, where he placed on real naïve participants in a room with seven confederates (actors), who had agreed their answers in advance.
  • The real participant was deceived and was led to believe that the other seven people were also real participants.
  • On average, the real participants conformed to the incorrect answers on 32% of the critical trials.
  • 74% of the participants conformed on at least one critical trial and 26% of the participants never conformed.
  • Asch interviewed his participants after the experiment to find out why they conformed.
  • Most of the participants said that they knew their answers were incorrect, but they went along with the group in order to fit in, or because they thought they would be ridiculed.
  • This confirms that participants conformed due to normative social influence and the desire to fit in.
  • Asch’s experiment has low levels of ecological validity.
  • He broke several ethical guidelines, including: deception and protection from harm. 
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Social Influence - Zimbardo (Stanford Prison Exper

  • His aim was to examine whether people would conform to the social roles of a prison guard or prisoner, when placed in a mock prison environment.
  • Zimbardo’s sample consisted of 21 male university students who volunteered in response to a newspaper advert.
  • Zimbardo wanted to make the experience as realistic as possible, turning the basement of Stanford University into a mock prison.
  • The ‘prisoners’ were arrested by real local police and fingerprinted, stripped and given a numbered smocked to wear, with chains placed around their ankles.
  • The guards were given uniforms, dark reflective sunglasses, handcuffs and a truncheon.
  • The guards were instructed to run the prison without using physical violence.
  • Zimbardo found that both the prisoners and guards quickly identified with their social roles.
  • Within days the prisoners rebelled, but this was quickly crushed by the guards, who then grew increasingly abusive towards the prisoners. 
  • Five of the prisoners were released from the experiment early, because of their adverse reactions to the physical and mental torment
  • It was set to run for 2 weeks but was terminated after just six days
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Social Influence - Zimbardo (continued)

  • Reicher and Haslam replicated Zimbardo’s research by randomly assigning 15 men to the role of prisoner or guard.
  • In this replication, the participants did not conform to their social roles automatically.
  •  Individual differences and personality also determine the extent to which a person conforms to social roles.
  • Ethical issues
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Social Influence - Milgram

  • He wanted to find out if ordinary American citizens would obey an unjust order from an authority figure and inflict pain on another person because they were instructed to
  • The experimenter explained that one person would be randomly assigned the role of teacher and the other, a learner. However, the real participant was always assigned the role of teacher.
  •  As the electric shocks increased the learner’s screams, which were recorded, became louder and more dramatic.
  • At 300 volts he banged on the wall and demanded to leave and at 315 volts he became silent, to give the illusions that was unconscious, or even dead.
  • The experiment continued until the teacher refused to continue, or 450 volts was reached.
  • If the teacher tried to stop the experiment, the experimenter would respond with a series of prods, for example: ‘The experiment requires that you continue.’
  • Milgram found that all of the real participants went to at least 300 volts and 65% continued until the full 450 volts.
  • He concluded that under the right circumstances ordinary people will obey unjust orders.
  • It was criticised for breaking numerous ethical guidelines
  • Lacks ecological validity.
  • Bias sample of 40 male volunteers - unable to generalise the results to other populations
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Attachment - Harlow

  • Harlow conducted research with 8 rhesus monkeys which were caged from infancy with wire mesh food dispensing and cloth-covered surrogate mothers
  • To investigate which of the two alternatives would have more attachment behaviours directed towards it.
  • Harlow measured the amount time that monkeys spent with each surrogate mother and the amount time that they cried for their biological mother.
  • Monkeys were willing to explore a room full of novel toys when the cloth-covered monkey was present - but displayed phobic responses when only the food-dispensing surrogate was present
  • The monkeys in isolation with the surrogate mothers all displayed dysfunctional adult behaviour
  • The rhesus monkeys’ willingness to seek refuge from something offering comfort rather than food would suggest that food is not as crucial as comfort when forming a bond.
  • Practical applications - childcare
  • Cannot be generalised to humans
  • Research was unethical
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Attachment - Ainsworth’s ‘Strange Situation’

It has 8 pre-determined stages:

  • Stage 1 – Mother and child enter the playroom
  • Stage 2 – The child is encouraged to explore
  • Stage 3 – Stranger enters and attempts to interact
  • Stage 4 – Mothers leaves while the stranger is present
  • Stage 5 – Mother enters and the stranger leaves
  • Stage 6 – Mothers leaves
  • Stage 7 – Stranger returns
  • Stage 8 – Mother returns and interacts with child


  • 70% Secure
  • 15% Avoidant insecure
  • 15% Resistant insecure
  • Replicable/ high inter-observer reliability
  • Procedure is culturally biased
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Attachment - Van Ijzendoorn & Kroonenberg’s

  • Van Ijzendoorn & Kroonenberg’s meta-analysis summarized findings from 8 countries
  • Average findings were consistent with Ainsworth’s original research - Secure 65% - Avoidant 21% - Resistant 14%
  • Intra-cultural variation was nearly 15 times greater than the cross-cultural variations. 
  • Japan & Israel revealed a higher incidence of resistant than avoidant children.
  • Chinese findings revealed the lowest rate of secure attachments (50%)
  • Germany 35% avoidant
  • It was concluded that the modest cross-cultural differences reflect the effects of mass media, which portrays similar notions of parenting.
  • Comparison is aided by the standardised methodology
  • The study was not globally representative
  • Applying Strange Situation procedures and behavioural categories is ethnocentric 
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Attachment - Rutter (Romanian Orphans)

  • Rutter et al. studied 111 Romanian orphans adopted before 2 years and found that the sooner the children were adopted, the faster their developmental progress.
  • Institutionally deprived adoptees were compared at 11 years with children who had not experienced institutional deprivation and who had been adopted within the UK before the age of 6 months.
  • Assessments showed mild neurocognitive impairment, impulsivity, and attention and social deficits.
  • There is a large body of evidence which supports the concept of the critical period and the importance of early intervention where children are being privated
  • Rutter’s research is consistent with Bowlby and Harlow
  • More recent neurological evidence supports the damaging effects that privation can have on specific brain structures
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