Case studies for AS Psychology B Jan 2013

Revision cards for the case studies in Unit 1 Psychology B AS level.

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  • Created by: Shiree
  • Created on: 05-01-13 16:43

The Behaviourist approach (key approaches)

Watson and Rayner (1920): the study of Little Albert.

  • Aim: to investigate whether an emotional response such as fear could be conditioned in a human being.
  • Method: Albert was 11 months old when the experiment was conducted. In the experiment, Watson presented a white rat directly in front of Albert. when he reached for the rat, Watson would simultaneously strike a metal bar with a hammer, thus creating a loud noise. This pairing of stimuli occurred several times during a number of weeks.
  • Results: Watson found that when the rat alone was presented to Albert, he immediately showed fear and tried to move away from the rat.
  • Conclusion: Watson and Rayner successfully demonstrated that behaviour is learned and that a phobia of rats could be conditioned in a baby.
  • Evaluation: This experiment raised enormous ethical implications. Even after 5 days, Little Albert still showed evidence of a phobia of rats, although it must be stressed that the conditioned phobia was less evident after a month. there are also methodological issues to consider in this study. Should we generalise the findings of just one case study to use as an explanation for how we acquire phobias?
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The Psychodynamic approach (key approaches)

Freud (1909): The study of the 'Rat Man'

  • Aim: To investigate the underlying cause of Ernst Lanzer's ('rat man'') obsessive-compulsive neurosis.
  • Method: Freud saw the Rat Man for about a year. The Rat Man stated that he had obsessive and fearful thoughts about rats that resulted in obsessive behaviours. These obsessive thoughts of rats seemed to come from his military training where he had heard of a torture where a bucket of rats are tied to the buttocks of the person. The rats would then eat their way into the person through the anus. The Rat Man was so fearful that this would happen to his father or a woman that he admired, that he engaged in obsessive-compulsive behaviours.
  • Results: He said that these behaviours resulted from the love and unconscious hate he felt for his father whom he wanted to torture with rats.
  • Conclusion: Freud stated they the obsessive-compulsive behaviours helped the Rat Man to overcome his feelings of guilt and so reduce his anxieties.
  • Evaluation: In his case study, Freud made no reference to his mother who was a particularly domineering figure in his life. These feelings of abandonment as a child might be a more plausible explanation for the Rat Man's obsessive-compulsive behaviours as an adult. In addition, as this is a case study, the findings lack generalisability.
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Biopsychology (localisation of cortical function)

The study of Phineas Gage (1848)

  • Aim: To explain the cause of Phineas Gage's change in personality.
  • Method: Whilst working for the Rutland and Burlington Railroad on New England, 25 year old Gage was to blast a section of rock using explosives in order to create a new railway line. Gage accidentally dropped his tamping iron onto the rock which caused the explosive to ignite. The explosion hurled a metre long iron pole through Gage's left cheek, passed behind his left eye and exited his skull and brain from the top of his head. The pole was found metres away covered in bits of Gage's brain.
  • Results: Gage survived however no one would employ him as his personality had changed from someone who was kind and reserved to someone boisterous, rude and grossly blasphemous.
  • Conclusion: Although it was horrific, his accident has taught us a great deal about the complexity of psychological processes that occur in the human brain.
  • Evaluation: We must be careful in generalising the findings of this study to explain human behaviour as the findings are based on one very rare case of an unfortunate individual.
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Gender development (social learning theory)

Smith and Lloyd (1978)

  • Aim: To investigate whether mothers acted differently towards a baby depending on its perceived sex.
  • Method: An experiment was carried out using 32 mothers who were told that they were investigating play. They were videotaped playing with six month old babies. Sex typed and sex neutral toys were available. Two male and two female babies were presented as their own sex and the opposite sex using stereotyped clothes and names.
  • Results: "Boys" received more encouragement to play actively and were offered hammers, whereas "girls" we offered dolls.
  • Conclusion: Mothers were involved in the process of differential treatment of boys and girls and that this could be why they act differently.
  • Evaluation: There are some problems with this research. Independent groups design was used so there may have been individual differences. Measuring play on the 'first toy offered' and 'length of toy use' lacked construct validity. It only reflects how they behaved at one point in time and also lacks temporal validity as it may not show the same level of stereotyping in today's society.
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Gender development (sex and gender difference)

Bem (1974)

  • Aim: To construct an inventory to measure masculinity, femininity and androgyny.
  • Method: 200 traits were rated as masculine and feminine by 50 female and 50 male judges. These traits were then used on the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) where people had to rate themselves between 1 and 7 on each trait.
  • Results: When tested on over 1,000 students, it showed itself to be valid when checked against the samples own description of their gender identity. A smaller sample of students was used a month later and got similar scores, indicating that the BSRI was reliable.
  • Conclusion: Bem found that some people score high on both masculine and feminine traits. These androgynous people tend to be psychologically healthier than the two extremes. A small number of people, who scored low on both sets of traits were described as "undifferentiated".
  • Evaluation: The problem with inventories or questionnaires is that they rely on people insight into their personality which not all respondents have, they may also lie, exaggerate or give socially desirable answers; however, Bem's inventory was confidential which reduces the likelihood of dishonest responses.
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Gender development (sex and gender difference)

Imperato-McGinley et al. (1979)

  • Aim: To demonstrate that individuals can change their gender role and identity.
  • Method: A case study was carried our on 18 males from the same extended family in the Dominican Republic. They had been born with a hormone deficiency which meant that their genitals appeared to be female, so they were raised as girls. They seemed to have no problem with adopting a female role until puberty, when the increased production of male hormones caused their male genitals to grow.
  • Results: Following their biological transformation at puberty, nearly all of the boys easily adapted to their true sex and began to 'behave like men"
  • Conclusion: This shows that sex and gender are distinct concepts. The individual's sex had not changed but their gender had and when it did, they fully embraced it, showing that gender is flexible.
  • Evaluation: The problem with any case study is that the samples are small. Other cultures may respond differently and we cannot assume that all people would adapt so easily to their new gender. The society they lived in saw roles as God-given and it was a patriarchal society so the boys may have been pleased to discover that they were actually male. The researchers also only met them when they were adult and retrospective accounts may not always be reliable.
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Gender development-Nature (Nature/Nurture)

Buss (1995)

  • Aim: To investigate the heterosexual male preferences of me and women.
  • Method: A survey was carried out in 37 countries across all continents. Respondents were asked to rate the importance of a range of traits in a potential mate.
  • Results: Men rated good looks and chastity higher than women did. Meanwhile, women rated good financial prospects, industriousness and dependability higher than men did.
  • Conclusion: This supported the evolutionary theory that women and men instinctively seek out different traits in potential mates. For men, good looks and youth are good indicators of youth and fertility, and chastity to ensure that she is ensuring the survival of his genes and no one else's. Women's seeking of a man with dependability is important as it shows that he will stay around and ensure the survival of the baby and hence their genes.
  • Evaluation: The survey used a questionnaire with pre-set traits so people were not able to offer what they personally would see as important and as a Westerner, Buss may not have identified traits that other cultures may seek, making the findings unreliable.
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Gender Development-Nature (Nature/Nurture)

Diamond and Sigmundson (1997)

  • Aim: To investigate the role of biology in the development of gender roles.
  • Method: They interviewed the case of an 8 month old baby who accidentally lost his penis during a routine circumcision. Influenced by the psychologist named Money, his gender was reassigned. He has a vagina constructed and was raised as a girl named Brenda.
  • Results: Brenda adapted well at first however, as she reached puberty she began to lose interest in feminine activities and when she was in her teens, she found out that she was born a male and began to live her life as a man named David Reimer, eventually having a penis constructed.
  • Conclusion: The effects of nature outweighed attempts to nurture this male into the feminine gender-role.
  • Evaluation: It is based on one case so we cannot be sure that other boys would resist in the same way. The boy had an identical twin brother, but without a male role model in such close proximity so much of the time, it may have worked. The boy's gender was also not reassigned until he was nearly two and so his masculine identity may stem from the fact that he was not raised as a girl from birth.
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Gender development-Nurture (Nature/Nurture)

Mead (1935)

  • Aim: To investigate the similarities and differences across gender roles in different cultures.
  • Method: Mead carried out a detailed ethnographic study by living with various tribes in New Guinea for six months.
  • Results: In the Arapesh tribe, both sexes were feminine (caring, expressive and cooperative - both took to bed when a baby was born). In the Mundugamor tribe, both were masculine (assertive, arrogant and fierce - detested babies so much that sleeping babies were hung out of the way in dark places). In the Tchambuli tribe, gender roles were reversed to western society (females took care of trading and men sat around in groups, gossiping and preening themselves. They were considered sentimental and not capable of making serious decisions.
  • Conclusion: Gender roles depend on culture. Since Gender-related behaviour is not universal, it may suggest that they are not determined by nature.
  • Evaluation: Mead carried out a detailed observation of the tribes she lived with but in doing dose may have become too involved. For this reason, her findings are sometimes criticised for being too subjective.
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Gender development (sex role stereotyping)

Furnham and Farragher (2000)

  • Aim: To demonstrate that sex role stereotypes are used as part of British television advertising.
  • Method: Samples of TV adverts were taken across the day over one month. Over 200 adverts were analysed according to the sex-role of the central figure. The adverts were coded for the role and location of the central figure, the type of product, use of humour and sex of voice over.
  • Findings: Men were more likely to have autonomous roles and seen in work places or doing leisure activities, advertising motoring products. Women were more likely to be presented in familial roles in domestic locations, advertising household and body products. Make figures were more likely to be presented as humorous and 70% of voice overs were male.
  • Conclusion: There are many stereotypes about men and women. The fact that men are less capable of running a home since they are rarely seen in domestic roles and that women lack status and authority since they are rarely used in voice overs.
  • Evaluation: Findings from content analysis are open to interpretation. The two coders did not always agree; however, even if the findings are reliable, we cannot assume that people are influenced by their stereotypes although people to often identify with and imitate what they see in the media.
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Gender development (sex role stereotyping)

Fagot (1978)

  • Aim: to investigate the effect of parental behaviour upon gender role development.
  • Method: Two researchers observed 24 different families in their homes, 12 with young sons and 12 with young daughters. Each set of parents and children were only observed on five separate one-hour periods.
  • Results: Parents reacted more favourably to their child when they were engaged in gender-appropriate behaviour. For example, parents gave girls more negative responses when they behaved more actively.
  • Conclusion: Parents reinforced certain behaviour through socialisation through sex-role stereotyping their children.
  • Evaluation: Of corse, because parents knew they were being observed they may have behaved differently. This means that the findings may have not been a valid reflection of what normally happened in the homes. Parents may have stereotyped more (or less) in reality.
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Gender development (biological explanation)

Van Goozen et al. (1995)

  • Aim: To investigate the effects of sex hormones on adult behaviour.
  • Method: They used an experimental method to study transsexuals of both sexes who were undergoing hormone treatment, that is were being injected with hormones of the opposite sex. They were given of tests to complete before treatment and three months later.
  • Results: Male to female transsexuals showed decreases in aggression and visual spacial skills but increases in verbal fluency. Female to male showed the opposite.
  • Conclusion: This suggests that sex hormones do affect gender related behaviour.
  • Evaluation: This was not a controlled experiment so the changes may have been due to other uncontrolled variables, such as the transsexual's own expectations
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Gender development (the cognitive approach)

Marcus and Overton (1978)

  • Aim: To show that as children get older they develop gender constancy.
  • Method: In the experiment the sample consisted of three year groups of five-to-six-year-olds, six-to-seven-year-olds and seven-to-eight-year-olds. They were shown a puzzle where it was possible to change the hairstyle of the characters so they looked like the opposite sex. They were also given the same thing with their own faces superimposed onto them. The children were asked if the sex of the character had changed.
  • Results: Younger children tended to demonstrate gender constancy for their won sex (for example if a female was given a girl with a male hairstyle, she would still be a girl). However even younger children showed lower levels of gender constancy. Older children showed high levels of gender constancy when both shown their own and the characters' changed appearances.
  • Conclusion: The findings showed that young children, just moving into the gender constancy stage, only saw their own sex as stable under change. However, older children understood that sex always stayed the same.
  • Evaluation: Like many experiments, this one used an artificial task which may have little bearing on real life.
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Gender Development (cognitive-schemas)

Martin and Halverson (1983)

  • Aim: To demonstrate that children do distort inconsistent information to fit their gender schemas.
  • Method: Using the experimental method, researchers showed five and six year old children pictures of people carrying out activities. Sometimes they were schema constant (a girl playing with a doll) and sometimes they were inconsistent (a girl playing with a gun).
  • Results: Children's recall of the pictures was tested a week later. The recall for schema constant pictures was fairly good; however, schema inconsistent pictures were often distorted so that the expected sex was carrying out the activity.
  • Conclusion: Children do use schemas to help them to make sense of their world. They will sometimes use schemas to reorganise information so that it is consistent with their view of gender, even if it is not accurate.
  • Evaluation: As means of control, children's understanding of gender was measured quite precisely. However, this may not be a valid measure of phenomenon.
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Gender development (psychodynamic)

Freud (1909)

  • Aim: To demonstrate the existence of the Oedipus complex.
  • Method: Hans developed a phobia of horses. His Father wrote to Freud to tell him about his son's development so that he could interpret it in terms of his psychoanalytical theory.
  • Results: The correspondence showed that Hans was afraid of large white horses with blinkers and black around the mouth. He was terrified to leave the house and believed that it may either bite him or fall down on him.
  • conclusion: Freud described his phobia as an outward expression of his castration anxiety. It was really a displaced fear of his father since he wore dark glasses (like blinkers) and had a beard (like a dark muzzle). According to Freud, his fear was particularly strong because his mother was pregnant which made him jealous and his fear of them falling was his unconscious desire to see his father drop dead.
  • Evaluaion: It is difficult to generalise from a case study. Freud was also accused of interpreting the case to support his theory. The fact that he never actually met Hans makes the evidence unreliable. It also later transpired that Hans had witnessed a horrific horse and cart accident just before the onset of the phobia, which may be a much more valid reason.
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These are really great flash cards. Detailed and focused 



Thank you so much for these!

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