Issues and Debates- Key studies

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  • Created on: 20-03-19 16:09

Key studies for Gender Bias

- Asch, Milgram- male only samples: applied the findings to women. This is an example of Beta bias, as it doesn't consider the potentional differences between men and women in terms of conformity, resulting in androcentrism. This provides a misguided understanding of how these results apply to women; in fact, in a further study conducted by Miranda et al using female students, obedience rates of 90% were found (in comparison to the 65% in Milgram's study).

-Freud: his theory of psychoanalysis views feminity as a form of failed masculinuty, so consequently, his theory exaggerates the differences between males and females; an example of alpha bias. Ironically, Freud's theories also suffer from beta bias; his psychosexual stages are based on the case study of Little Hans, a boy. This demonstrates how females are completely underepresented within the research process. The resulting androcentrism often makes their behaviour appear 'abnormal' due to the standard for normality being based soley on male behaviour. 

-Darwin's established theory of sexual selection- women engage in inter-sexual selection, as they are more choosy about their mate due to their increased investment in the outcome. Males engage in intra-sexual selection, as they are more competitive about their mate- want to pass on as many genes as possible. Only recently, DNA evidence has challenged this, suggesting that women can be equally as competitive: need to constantly challenge research to ensure contemporary studies provide a valid portrayal of women. 

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Key studies for Gender Bias (2)

-Bowlby- theory of attachment- tries to overcome gender bias by emphasising the value that women have and importance in the children's futures. BUT this actually creates further alpha bias (same sex parents- children aren't any different and research into the role of the father), as well as providing scientific justification for women to have reduced working opportunities etc

-Research into the fight/flight response- originally only used male animals- now suggested that females use a tending/befriending response in order to better protect their young- Beta bias

-Lambert et al (2008)- reflexivity- study looking at gender roles within the work-place: can help to reduce gender (and other forms of) bias- aware of personal biases

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Key studies for Cultural Bias

-Asch- only used students from American universities and found that 75% of the students conformed in at least one of these critcal tests. Assumed that these findings were universal, but when the study was repeated by Perrin and Spencer in the UK, only 1 student (in nearly 400 trials) conformed. Lacks universality.

-Bond and Smith's (1998) survey revealed that in social psychology textbooks, 66% of studies were in the USA, 32% in Eurpoe, and only 2% in the rest of the world- this demonstrates how different cultures are under-represented. This acknowledgement of cultural bias helps us to address it, as it can be resolved by having more culturally representative samples

-Ainsworth, Strange Situation- the secure attachment type was based on a western model of behaviour, creating an imposed etic for other cultures; resulted in many German children being deemed 'insecure-avoidant', making German mothers look cold and rejecting, rather than encouraging independence

-US Army- IQ tests based on general knowledge within the US, meaning that African-Americans were at the bottom of the IQ scale- negative impact on how people viewed them, scientific racism and ethically wrong- more likely to have frontline jobs

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Key studies for Cultural Bias (2)

-Takano and Osaka (1999)- 14/15 studies comparing the USA and Japan show no major disctions in results between the two. For 2 countries that are seen to embody the opposite cultural tendencies (individualist vs collectivist), this could suggest that that cultural bias isn't as big of an issue as would appear- perhaps down to the increased global communication within the modern world. This is supported by an increase in international psychology conferences in which psychologists exchange ideas, helping to reduce ethnocentrism in psychology and enable a greater understanding and appreciation for cultural relativism. 

-Schizophrenia within the USA, high rates of Arican-Americans are being diagnosed, but there's not especially high rates in Africa suggesting this is a result of misinterpreting different cultural norms. This demonstrates how cultural biases extend to diagnosis- DSM-5 and ICD-10 are ethnocentric; attempts to force an imposed etic on other cultures

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Key studies for Free Will and Determinism

-Gottesman family study (Schizophrenia)- MZ twins had highest concordance rates (48%) compared to 17% for DZ twins. The fact that DZ twins don't have 100% concordance rates, despite sharing 100% of genes, suggests that biological determinism isn't able to account for this on its own- incomplete explanations.

-SSRIs help up to 70% of OCD patients, with the remaining 30% still being able to be helped with other forms of medication- supports the idea of biological determinism.

-Stephen Mobley argued that the reason he murdered a man was because his family had a disposition for violence and aggressive behaviour- the American court rejected this excuse. Hard determinism is highly problematic for the legal system, as it undermines the idea that people can be held responsible for their actions because the have free will in choosing to do them. Hard determinism could provide an excuse that allows criminals to mitigate their own liability.

-The idea of psychic determinism is based on Freud's psychosexual stages- hugely flawed, as based on a single case study (idiographic) and applied to a nomothetic theory. Suggests the basis of this form of determinism is irreputable, also it's unfalsifiable, as we can't scientifically test unconscious thoughts.

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Key studies for Free Will and Determinism (2)

-Biological determinism- Tiihonen et al (2014)- people who have genetic abnormalities in the MAOA and CDH13 genes are 13 x more likey to have a history of violent behaviour, suggesting that, at least to a point, behaviour is determined. Seems to soft determinism is the best option, as psychologists don't favour either hard determinism or an entirely free will point of view

-Skinner- envirnomental determinism- operant conditioning, reward systems- rat conditioned both to press the lever to release food and escape the electrical current on the floor (2 seperate variations). 

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Key studies for Nature vs Nurture

-Gottesman- family study about Schizophrenia- MZ twins 48%, DZ twins 17%- demonstrates the role of nature within the formation of such genetic disorders. However, the fact this isn't 100% suggests that there are also environmental influences, meaning nature is also involved. This supports the idea that an interactionist approach should be taken, rather than trying to seperate nature and nurture. This is further supported by the difficulties in separating nature and nurture in twin studies.

-Interactionist approach is supported by Polim et al (1977), as they suggest the idea of 'passive influence'; genetic influences on parent's behaviour create an environment that children are raised in. E.g. if they suffer from mental illnesses like depression, this may create an unsettled home environment, suggesting that such disorders may be the result of these indirect influences. Demonstrates the interaction between nature and nurture, suggesting that nature can affect nurture.

-Conversly, a study by Magurie et al (2000) suggests the opposite- London taxi drivers, larger posterior hypocampus (as deals with spatial information)- it seems their nurture has impacted the nature or their brains, further complicating the debate, as it suggests that both are closley related, with both impacting the other

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Key studies for Nature vs Nurture (2)

-Learning theory of attachment suggested that attachment behaviours are the result of classical and operant conditioning, in which the baby learns to associate the mother with food, therefore exhibiting attachment behaviours to her, and learns to cry for food/comfort via operant conditioning.

-Diathesis stress model: although certain combonations of genes make people vulnerable to depression, research has suggested that not everyone with these genes goes on to develop depression, suggesting that one's nature is only expressed under certain conditions of nurture, as environmental triggers are needed. The use of this model to develop therapies for such conditions (e.g. the combo of CBT and drug therapies) demonstrates the validity of the interactionist approach due to the success of such strategies. 

-Epigenetics could introduce a new element to the debate, as they impact our heritable phenotype, without impacted our genotype. Dias and Ressler (2014) shocked lab rats when exposed to a particular smell, producing a fear response. Their children and grandchildren produced this same fear response when exposed to the smell, despite never being shocked, suggesting that this may also influence our behaviour

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Key studies for Holism and Reductionism

-Ramachandran (2000)- empathy can be best understood as the action of mirror neurons in the brain: biological reductionism. This idea has been developed and supported by further studies such as that of Keysers (2011) with suggests that individuals with APD have an 'empathy switch' (allowing them to minimalise the harmful effect that their actions have upon other people), as it's only when they were asked to empathise with somewhat that the empathy reaction (controlled by the mirror neurons) occured. Suggests that reductionism can be valuable in offering explanations for what we believe to be highly complex processes

-Johnson and Scott- memory/anxiety- issues with reductionism. During their experiment, they found that recall was impacted by whether or not the 'weapon focus effect' was experienced. The 'high anxiety' condition produced on 33% correct recall, whereas the 'low anxiety' condition had 49% correct recall. This advocates for a hollistic approach to our understanding of human behaviour, as it suggests that reductionist explanations can't account for processes like memory and recall, in which the interaction of a variety of factors is important

-Pavlov- environmental reductionism: use of non- human participants with this (and other behaviourist) research. Huge issues with generalisability. Humans have more complex social contexts too

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Key studies for Holism and Reductionism (2)

-Biological reductionism can lead to errors of understanding, as it ignores the complexity of human behaviour- e.g. treating illnesses like depression with drugs in the belief that this consists of nothing more than neurochemical inbalances mistakes the symptoms of the phenomenon with the cause- whilst antidepressents may reduce the symptoms, the conditions that gave rise to the depression haven't been addressed (e.g. a loved one's death, or a belief of worthlessness). Whilst this depends on what people think of as causation, the fact that the highest recovery rates are combinations of CBT and drug therapy suggests a purely biological understanding is inadequate.

-Asch- demonstration of conformity; aspects of social behaviour such as this can only occur in group settings, so can't be studied at an individual level. This suggests that holism can provide a more complete and global understanding of behaviour. 

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Key studies for Idiographic and Nomothetic

-Arguably, as idiographic research is gathered using data about individuals (case studies), these findings can't be generalised to the wider population in order to generate laws and predictions about human behaviour. This can be said to severly limit the ultility of this method, as it can therefore have little application as a source of parctical knowledge in the development and diagnosis of psychological disorders. E.g. Watson and Rayner's 'Little Albert' study is based on one person, so tells us little about how fear is developed generally in humans. BUT this study has provded fundamental in our modern-day understanding of phobia development and treatment- classical conditioning. This research can be highly useful and generalised

-However, there are cases where idiographic data that has been applied to nomothetic theories has had a negative impact because it is not representative- e.g. much of Freud's research is based on case studies of men/boys. This leads to theories that undervalue women by viewed femininity as failed masculinity, leading to gender bias/androcentrism.

-Humansistic psychologists like Rogers and Marlow are only interested in the experience of the individual when studying human behaviour- translates well into Rogers' 'client- centred therapy', as the approach is highly specific to the needs of the individual, leading to effective therapy

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Key studies for Idiographic and Nomothetic (2)

-Skinner- studied the responses of hundreds of rats during his 'Skinner box' experiment in order to have conclusive research into the idea of 'operant conditioning'

-The cognitive approach has made use of both idiographic and nomothetic methods- e.g. have used case studies such as Clive Wearing and HM- these abnormal processes brought to light ideas about seperate STM stores, illustrating that the MSM wasn't developed enough. They then used large samples in lab studies in order to develop supporting evidence for the theories that these case studies inspired. This demonstrates the importance of both idiographic research (which can be the catalyst for further research/generate hypotheses) and nomothetic research (which can be used to produce representative data, supporting the idea that these laws are generalisable).

-Milgram- although he used a nomothetic research method, his conclusions about obedience couldn't explain the results of other studies using different groups of participants that showed lower (or higher) rates of obedience. Can't be assumed that 'generalised laws' will apply to everyone.

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Key studies for 'ethical implications'

-Sieber and Stanley (1988)- outline key aspects of research that researchers should be mindful of:

  • the implications of the research- wider impacts, try to avoid scientific prejudice, impact upon the participants, as well as the group/people that the research represents
  • Uses/public policy- what are the consequences of it being used for the wrong purposes
  • Is the reasearch valid and objective? Esp is being funded by a group for a specific purpose. Modern psychologists often comment on the reflexive nature of their work to help avoid this

-Bowlby- research into attachment and maternal deprivation stressed the importance of the mother in a child's development widely influenced public policy at the time: impacted how parents raised their children, led the government to offer no free child-care for under 5's (despite this being the norm in many European countries) and it became the 'legal norm' for mothers to be given custody of children in court cases

-US Army IQ tests revealed that African Americans were  'less intelligent'- enabled scientific racism- further excuse for people to view them negatively, be paid less etc

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Key studies for 'ethical implications' (2)

-Research such as Milgram and Asch has also had positive ethical implications- demonstrates the consequences of destructive authority, and how to avoid this

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