AQA AS Psychology Case Studies

For each topic and sub-topic I've outline one or two important studies that would be useful examples during the exam. These were compiled mostly from "Psychology AS for AQA (A)" byt Jean-Marc Lawton, Richard Gross and Geoff Rolls although some cases from other internet sources were used.

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  • Created by: lauren
  • Created on: 18-04-12 14:36

[Biological Factors] Bacterial Infections and Viru

Brown et al. (2000) found a link between respiratory infections in the second trimester of pregnancy and subsequent development of schizophrenia when the affected foetus reaches adulthood.

This implies that infections from bacteria and viruses can cause mental illness (abnormality)

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[Biological Factors] Brain Damage

Tien et al. (1990) reported that drug abuse through heavy and persistent use of cocaine and/or amphetamines can lead to organic brain damage, resulting in psychosis. Symptoms included experiencing hallucinations, delusional beliefs, thought disorders and personality changes.

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[Biological Factors] Genetics

PKU (phenylketonuria) is a genetic disorder where sufferers cannot break down the amino acid phenylalanine into the amino acid tyrosine. If left untreated it can cause pyschological problems like mental retardation. This disease (which can be passed on to offspring if both parents carry the gene) proves that genetics can affect brain function and psychological factors.

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[Biological Factors] Biochemical Factors

Zubieta et al. (2000) used PET scans to discover that people with bipolar disorder (manic depression) had 30 percent higher levels of the monamine brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. This result suggests a specific biologcial cause for the disorder with genetic origins.

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Psychodynamic Approach

Williams (1994) interviewed 129 women who were sexually abused in childhood, finding that 38 per cent could not recall the abuse reported 17 year earlier. This was particularly so for those molested by someone they knew.

This suggests repression of traumatic events, in line with Freud’s theory.

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Classical Conditioning

Watson and Raynor – Little Albert

Aim: To provide evidence that human emotional response could be learned through classical conditioning.

Procedure: A lab experiment was conducted with one participant and a fear reaction (the unconditioned response) was induced into him by making a loud noise which made him cru (unconditioned stimulus). He was then given a white rat (conditioned stimulus) and learned that when he touched the rat, the loud noise would sound and frighten him.

Findings: Afterwards, when shown a rat, Albert would cry and crawl away (conditioned response) He was also scared of other white furry objects.

Conclusions: Conditioned emotional responses, including love, fear and phobias, are acquired as a direct result of environmental experiences, which can transfer and persist, possibly indefinitely, unless removed by counter-conditioning.

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Operant Conditioning

Skinner put pidgeons in boxes, and when they demonstrated behaviour that the experimenters were looking for (i.e. turning a number of times, or bobbing their heads) then food was delivered to them (a positive reinforcement). Whatever behaviour they were doing at the time food was delivered they learned to do more of, which suggests they learned (through operant conditioning) that these behaviours would lead to rewards.

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Social Learning Theory

Bandura did the Bobo doll experiment. For the Bobo Doll Experiment, Bandura selected a number of children from the local Stanford Nursery School, varying in age from 3 to 6 years, with the average age being 4 years and 4 months. He let a group watch a video of an adult showing aggressive ‘play’ behaviour towards a bobo doll. The children that were exposed to this copied the behaviour and aggressive nature of the adult’s interaction with the doll. This shows that children can learn aggression through social learning theory.

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Cognitive Model

Armfield (2007) got participants to visualise a spider. The participants were then assigned to different conditions of how dangerous/non-dangerous the spider was, how much control they had over removing themselves from the spider’s presence and how predictable/unpredictable the spider’s movements were. It was found that participants, who believed they could not remove themselves from the spider’s presence, plus those told the spider was dangerous and those told that the spider’s movements were unpredictable, score more highly on fear of spiders.

This implies that it is our beliefs that determine how cognitively vulnerable we are to anxiety, thus supporting the cognitive model.

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[Abnormality] Drug Therapy

Slaap et al. (1996) treated 30 social phobics with the antidepressant SSRIs Brofaromin and Fluvoxamine, finding that 72% of patients had reductions in heart rate and blood pressure. This suggests that drug treatments are effective in decreasing physical symptoms of the disorder.

Kahn et al. (2008) compared first generation with second generation psychotics for effectiveness in treating first-instanc schizophrenia. They found that anti-psychotics are effective for at least one year, but that second generation drugs are no more effective than first generation ones.

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Rosemary Kennedy In 1941, when Rosemary was 23, doctors told her father that a new neurosurgical procedure, a lobotomy, would help calm her mood swings and sometimes-violent outbursts. This is an account of the procedure: "We went through the top of the head, I think she was awake. She had a mild tranquilizer. I made a surgical incision in the brain through the skull. It was near the front. It was on both sides. We just made a small incision, no more than an inch." The instrument Dr. Watts used looked like a butter knife. He swung it up and down to cut brain tissue. "We put an instrument inside," he said. As Dr. Watts cut, Dr. Freeman put questions to Rosemary. For example, he asked her to recite the Lord's Prayer or sing "God Bless America" or count backwards. ... "We made an estimate on how far to cut based on how she responded." ... When she began to become incoherent, they stopped" Rosemary became

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