Core Studies


Baron - Cohen --> Cognitive

Aim cp- Do high functioning individuals with Autism lack a theory of mind?

Participants - 16 autistic participants (13 males, 3 females) --> normal IQ

                      - 50 normal, aged matched adults (25 males, 25 females) --> control group

                      - 10 tourettes participants (8 males, 2 females) --> control

Procedure - Quasi, independent measures design, self report

- (IV) - whether the participant had autism or not- (DV) - responses to tests

- Eyes task - To test the understanding of mental states. 25 pictures of different faces were shown for 3 seconds and the participants had to decide which emotion they were displaying.

                   - Strange stories - To check the validity of the eyes task.

                  - Control tasks - Gender recognition and emotion test

Results - The autistic group performed significantly lower on eyes task with a mean score of 16.3 compared to 20.3 for the normal group.

- Normal males did less well than normal females on eyes task (18.3 compared to 20.3)

- No diffferences between groups on control tasks

Conclusion - Link between autism and lack of theory of mind is supported


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Savage - Rumbaugh --> Cognitive

Aim - study spontaneous language acquisition in pygmy chimps compared to that of normal chimps

Participants - Kanzi and Mulika (pygmy), Austin and Sherman (common)

Procedure -  quasi, longitudinal over 17 month period, observation and blind experiments

- Kanzi and Mulika learned through observation. A record was kept of spontaneous and imitated lexigram use. Comprehension was tested using formal tests.

Results - Kanzi and Mulika learned spontaneously to use the lexigram with volcabularies of 46 and 37 words. Like human children they learned associatively at first and used imitiation for new words. Kanzi could refer to others whereas the commons, only themselves. Pygmies could comprehend spoken English words.

Conclusion - Pygmies had a greater ease of language aquisition, more comprehension of spoken Engish, specificity and syntax than the common chimps.

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Loftus and Palmer --> Cognitive

Aim - Study the effects of leading questions upon memory and to see whether memory distortion truly occurs

Procedure - 45 participants showed film clips of traffic accidents. Split into 5 experimental groups and asked criticial question about speed: “How fast were the cars going when they ____ into each other?”. The verbs were: Smashed, Collided. Bumped, Hit and Contacted.

Results -Smashed led to highest speed estimate - 40.8mph compared to Contacted - 31.8mph

Conclusion - Response bias (manipulating words may lead to demand characteristics)  or particiants memory may be distorted by leading question.

Procedure - Experiment 2 - 150 participants watched clip of multi car crash. Split into 3 groups of 50 (smashed, hit and control). One week later asked 'did you see any broken glass?' (There was no broken glass)

Results - Smashed group reported seeing broken glass (16/50) compared to Hit group (7/50).

Conclusion - Leading questions distort memory due to reconstructed hypothesis:

2 tkinds of information go into memory - a persons own subjective perception at the time of the event and information reserved after an event via leading questions

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Cognitive approach

Assumption - We are all like machines. We can infer what someone is thinking based upon how they act.

- Information recieved from our senses is processed by the brain and that processing directs how we behave or at least justifies how we behave the way that we do.

Strengths - Scientific - using mainly lab experiments thus high in control therefore researchers are able to establish cause and effect.

- Useful - therapies --> understanding cognitive processes allows people to improve processes like memory and language.

Weaknesses- Validity of measuring cognitve processes -we can only infer what a person is thinking and therefore the approach relies on self report measures.

- Reductionist - takes a narrow focus and ignored emotional and social factors so could be explained by more simple things

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Social Approach

assumption -Behaviour is influenced by out situtation and the presence of another individual

strengths - Real life situations --> field studies

- Useful in explaining situational effecrs and offers solutions to problems in the real world

Weaknesses - Ethics

- Generalisability - not able to test the whole population and samplees are very small due to high costs and control

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