psychology experiments

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Asch 1956

´123 male undergraduates tested. ´In 12 out of 18 trials confederates instructed to give the wrong answer.

Findings! ´On the 12 critical trials the conformity rate was 33% ´¼ never conformed on any critical trials ´½ conformed on 6 or more of the critical trials ´1 in 20 conformed to all of the 12 trials.

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Stanford prison experiment

Stanford prison experiment procedure male volunteers assigned roles of either prisoners or guards prisoners referred to by numbers only Guards given uniforms and power to make rules


Guards became critical and abusive with the prisoners, conforming to their role some showing extreme reactions of crying rage

BBC prison study Reicher and Haslam


male volunteers matched on social and clinical measures assigned roles of prisoners and guards

findings unlike the standard prison experiment neither groups of participants conformed  to their roles prisoners worked collectively to challenge authority of the guards resulting in a power shift

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BBC prison study

BBC prison study Reicher and Haslam


male volunteers matched on social and clinical measures assigned roles of prisoners and guards

findings unlike the standard prison experiment neither groups of participants conformed  to their roles prisoners worked collectively to challenge authority of the guards resulting in a power shift

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Milgram 1963

40 volunteer participants each condition rigged so that the teacher was always the confederate. Teacher demonstrated increasing shock levels up to 450 V findings in voice feedback condition 65% X 450 V all participants went to 300 V level


Ethical issues due to deception and lacked informed consent

Internal validity Orne and Holland playing many participants thought through the deception

Individual differences eight of nine applications found no gender differences in obedience (Blass)

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Elms and Milgram 1966

20 obedient participants and 20 defiant participants picked to take part in a study where they had to answer the MMPI test and the F scale test and then asked open-ended questions findings little difference between obedient and defiant on MMPI higher levels of authoritarianism in obedience participant.s obedient participants reported being less close to fathers in childhood


Correlation between RWA scores and maximum voltage shock (Dambrun and Valtine)

Explanations based on authoritarianism lacked flexibility

Many fully obedient participants had good relationships with both their parents

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Moscovici et al 1969

groups of four naive participants and 2 confederates, in a consistent trial the Confederate called them green. Group 1 confederates called in green consistently Group to confederate called them green inconsistently.


consistent minority influence naive participants to say green on 8% of trials inconsistent minority exerted very little influence


Research support for flexibility Nemeth and Brilmayer (1987)

The real value of minority influence is an open mind Nemeth

Mackie argues that it is the majority that processes information

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Lorenz 1935

Lorenz took a large clutch of goose eggs and kept them until they were about to hatch out.  Half of the eggs were then placed under a goose mother, while Lorenz kept the other half beside himself for several hours.

When the geese hatched Lorenz imitated a mother duck's quacking sound, upon which the young birds regarded him as their mother and followed him accordingly.  The other group followed the mother goose.

Lorenz found that geese follow the first moving object they see, during a 12-17 hour critical period after hatching.  This process is known as imprinting, and suggests that attachment is innate and programmed genetically.

Imprinting has consequences, both for short term survival, and in the longer term forming internal templates for later relationships.  Imprinting occurs without any feeding taking place.  If no attachment has developed within 32 hours it’s unlikely any attachment will ever develop.

To ensure imprinting had occurred Lorenz put all the goslings together under an upturned box and allowed them to mix.  When the box was removed the two groups separated to go to their respective 'mothers' - half to the goose, and half to Lorenz.

Lorenz also noted several features of imprinting that were irreversible and long lasting. For example one of the geese that imprinted would sleep on his bed every night. In some species it also seems to effect later mate preferences (sexual imprinting). Birds especially may only want to mate with the species they initially imprinted upon.

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Harlows Monkeys 1959

Harlow wanted to study the mechanisms by which newborn rhesus monkeys bond with their mothers.These infants were highly dependent on their mothers for nutrition, protection, comfort and socialization.  What, exactly, though, was the basis of the bond?The behavioral theory of attachment would suggest that an infant would form an attachment with a carer that provides food.  In contrast Harlow’s explanation was that attachment develops as a result of the mother providing “tactile comfort”, suggesting that infants have an innate (biological) need to touch and cling to something for emotional comfort.He looked at Infant monkeys reared with surrogate mothers – 8 monkeys were separated from their mothers immediately after birth and placed in cages with access to two surrogate mothers, one made of wire and one covered in soft terry toweling cloth.  Four of the monkeys could get milk from the wire mother and four from the cloth mother.  The animals were studied for 165 days.Both groups of monkeys spent more time with the cloth mother (even if she had no milk).  The infant would only go to the wire mother when hungry.  Once fed it would return to the cloth mother for most of the day.  If a frightening object was placed in the cage the infant took refuge with the cloth mother (its safe base). This surrogate was more effective in decreasing the youngsters fear.  The infant would explore more when the cloth mother was present.  This supports the evolutionary theory of attachment, in that it is the sensitive response and security of the caregiver that is important (as opposed to the provision of food).The behavioural differences that Harlow observed between the monkeys who had grown up with surrogate mothers and those with normal mothers were;They were much more timid, they didn’t know how to act with other monkeys, they were easily bullied and wouldn’t stand up for themselves, they had difficulty with mating, and the females were inadequate mothers.

Harlow concluded that for a monkey to develop normally s/he must have some interaction with an object to which they can cling during the first months of life (critical period).  Clinging is a natural response - in times of stress the monkey runs to the object to which it normally clings as if the clinging decreases the stress.

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´Jaffe et al., (1973) showed that infants co-ordinate their actions with caregivers in a kind of conversation. ´ ´From birth babies move in a rhythm with adults almost as if taking turns. ´ ´Brazleton (1979) this is an important precursor to later communications. ´

It allows a caregiver to anticipate and respond to a child's needs. This sensitivity lays the foundation for later attachment styles

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Meltzoff and Moore

Meltzoff and Moore (1977) conducted the first study into adult interactional synchrony. The study involved an adult model displaying one of three facial expressions or hand movements where the fingers moved in a sequence. A dummy was placed in the infant’s mouth during the initial display to prevent any response. Following the display the dummy was removed and the child’s expression filmed on a video camera. Two observers then analysed the videos separately using a behavioural checklist. They found that babies as young as 2-3 weeks old imitated certain facial and hand gestures.

In a follow-up study Meltzoff and Moore (1983) they has similar findings with babies as young as 3 days old.

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Minnesota Longitudinal project 1975

This project began in 1975 and the mother child pairs continue to be studied. Over this time the mother and children’s behaviour has been assessed using questionnaires, interviews and observations. When observing the researchers set up an inconspicuous video-camera in the front room and just observe the mother and child playing for 10-15 minutes. The researchers just write down everything they see happening. The mothers were well aware of being studied. Two observers then analysed the video tapes.

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Cult receiving messages from outer space

In the 1950s Leon Festinger read a newspaper report about a religious cult that claimed to be receiving messaged from outer space. They predicted that the end of the world would take place on a certain date in the form of a great flood. The cult members would be rescued by a flying saucer so they all gathered with their leader, Mrs Keech on this day. Festinger was intrigued to know how they would respond when they found their beliefs were unfounded, especially as many had made their beliefs very public. In order to observe this first hand, Festinger and some co-workers posed as converts to the cause and were present on the eve of destruction. Whenever Festinger got the time he would write down everything that he could remember from the day’s activities. Sometimes when he was hidden he would also watch what certain members were doing and make notes on their behaviour. When it was apparent that there would be no flood, Mrs Keech said that their prayers had been answered. Some didn’t believe this and left the cult, whereas others took this as proof of the cult’s power.


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Schaffer and Emerson 1964

60 infants from working-class homes in Glasgow Ages at start ranged from 5-23 weeks. Mothers observed every 4 weeks until the age of 1 year. Each visit mother reports on infants response to separation in seven everyday situations (left alone in room, with other people) Mother also describes intensity of protests (whimper, full-on cry) Stranger anxiety was measured by assessing the infants response To the interviewer on every visit. fidnings Attachments were not always formed with the person that spent most time with them. Intensely attached infants had mothers that responded quickly and sensitively to their child’s signals and who offered the most interaction. Poorly attached children had mothers who failed to interact. In 65% of cases  the first specific attachment was to mother 30% first joint object of attachment Fathers rarely the sole attachment (3%) but 27% first joint object.

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Cohn Et al 2014

over the past 25 years the number of stay at home dads has quadrupled.

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Sagi et al 1994

Sagi et al (1994)  compared infants raised in communal environments to those in family environments. Closeness with mothers was almost twice as common in family-based environments.

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Strange situation Ainsworth 1978

106 middle-class American children between 9-18 months Controlled observation of 8 different scenarios to see how the baby reacts: Measuring the responses to: Separation from caregiver (separation anxiety) Reunion with the caregiver (reunion behaviour) Response to a stranger (stranger anxiety) Willingness to explore A group of observers watched through video-recorder or two-way mirror. Every 15 seconds they noted behaviours using a checklist measuring the behaviours above.

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Bowlby 44 Thieves


Between 1936 and 1939 an opportunity sample of 88 children was selected from the clinic where Bowlby worked - he literally picked suitable children from consecutive referrals. Of these, 44 were juvenile thieves and had been referred to him because of their stealing. The other 44 ‘controls’ had been referred to him due to emotional problems - though they did not display anti-social behaviour.


On arrival at the clinic, each child had their IQ tested by a psychologist who also assessed the child’s emotional attitudes towards the tests. At the same time a social worker interviewed a parent to record details of the child’s early life. The psychologist and social worker made separate reports. A psychiatrist (Bowlby) then conducted an initial interview with the child and accompanying parent. The 3 professionals then met to compare notes and read reports from school, courts, etc.


The psychiatrist conducted a series of further interviews with the child and/or parent over the next few months to gather more in-depth information about the history and psychological characteristics of the child.


Bowlby suggested that some of the children were affectionless psychopaths – they lacked normal signs of affection, shame or sense of responsibility. Such characteristics is what enabled them to be thieves – they lacked the conscience to care.

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Rutter - Romanian orphan Studies

An ongoing longitudinal study is currently being carried out which started in 1990. It is called the ERA study which stands for English and Romanian adoptees. It includes 165 Romanian orphans who spent the early part of their lives in Romanian institutions. Of the group 111 were adopted before 2yrs and a further 54 by age 4.

Conditions in the Romanian orphanage were poor and babies were placed there as young as 1 or 2 weeks old.

The adoptees have been tested at various intervals (4, 6, 11 and 15) to assess physical, cognitive and social development. Information also gathered from parents and teachers. Their progress has been compared to a control group of 52 British children adopted in the UK before 6 months.    

At the time of adoption the Romanian orphans lagged behind their British counterparts on all measures of physical, cognitive and social development. They were smaller, weighed less and many were classed as mentally retarded. By age 4, some of the children had caught up with their British counterparts. This was the case for almost all children adopted before the age of 6months.

Subsequent follow ups have confirmed that significant deficits remain in a substantial minority of individuals who had experienced institutional care to beyond the age of 6 months. Many of these orphans showed disinhibited attachments and had problems with forming peer relations.

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Romanian Orphan studies

Le Mare and Audet (2006) longitudinal study of 36 orphans adopted to families in Canada. The orphans were physically smaller than a matched group at age 4 ½ years, but this difference disappeared by 10 ½ years. The same was true for physical health.


Zeanah (2005) compared 136 Romanian orphans who had spent around 90% of their time in an institution, to a control group of Romanian children who had never been in an institution. The children were assessed using the strange situation. The institutionalised children showed marked signs of disinhibited attachment.

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Simpson et al 2007

Simpson et al., (2007)

Longitudinal study spanning more than 25 years with 78 participants.

Ps were studied at 4 key points (infancy, early childhood, adolescence and adulthood).

Infancy – Caregivers reported on attachment style.

Childhood (6-8yrs) – children’s teachers rated how well they interacted with their peers.

16 years – Self report from participants describing close friendships.

Young adults – participants romantic partners asked to describe their romantic relationships.


Correlations across all ages.

Those rated as securely attached infants were rated as having higher social competence as children. Children competent at the ages of 6-8 were found to be closer to friends at 16. Those closer to friends at 16 were more expressive and emotionally attached to their romantic partners.

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Miller 1957

Miller  (1957)  suggested that we can actually store 7  +/-2 items or chunks of information in our short term memory. We chunk things together so that we can remember them better.

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Jacobs 1887

Jacobs (1887) created an experiment to test STM called the “Digit span technique”

people can remeber fewer letters than numbers

Jacob’s suggested that this happens because there are more letters than there are numbers

26 letters in English alphabet

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Peterson & Peterson 1959

I am going to show you a few chunks of information and I want to look at them, When I take it off,  count backwards from the last three digits

Aim: To see how long STM lasts when rehearsal is prevented


-Ppts were briefly showed 3 letters (trigram) -Ppts were asked to count backwards from the 3 digit number -After 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 seconds, they were asked to recall the original 3 letters (in order)


-80% of trigrams (3 letters) were recalled after 3s -By 18s, less than 10% of trigrams could be recalled


When rehearsal is prevented, short term memory doesn’t last long..

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Bahrick 1975

He traced 400 graduates and their year books spanning 50 years.  Participants were aged 17-74 years and time since graduation varied from two weeks to 57 years.

Aim: To establish the existence of  LTM

- investigators found old high school grads. Over 50-year period.

  - 392 grads. Were shown yearbook photos

  - 1 group – recalled names from memory (recall)
- 2
nd group – matched names to faces (recognition)


-Recall group: After 47 years, less than 20% accuracy -Recognition: Group: After 47 years, accuracy @ 60%


-People can remember certain types of info. For almost a lifetime -Long term memory is better in recog. than recall.

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Baddeley 1966

AIMS: To explore acoustic/semantic coding in STM and LTM


To test STM

Participants asked to recall in serial order a list of words taken from 4 different categories, immediately after presentation

1= acoustically similar (map , mad, map)

2=acoustically  dissimilar( pen, day, few)

3 = semantically similar (big, large, great)

4 = semantically dissimilar (hot, old, pet)

To test LTM

The list was extended and participants were tested after 20 minutes


Acoustically similar words were difficult to remember when STM was tested, compared to acoustically dissimilar words

When recalling from LTM recall was worst for semantically similar words , compared to semantically dissimilar words


STM relies on acoustic coding

LTM relies on semantic coding

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Evidence from brain scans

Beardsley (1997)

Prefrontal cortex is active when individuals are working on a STM task

Squire et al. (1992)

The hippocampus is active when LTM is engaged

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HM -Soville and Milner 1957

Suffered from severe epilepsy His hippocampus was removed HM developed anterograde amnesia after having surgery for epilepsy He could remember everything up until his surgery, but not learn any new information

If HM cannot learn new information despite having a functional STM, This suggests that there is a problem with transferring information from STM to LTM.

This supports the idea of multiple memory stores.

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Craik and Lockhart

Suggested that enduring memories are created by the type of processing that we do, rather than through maintenance rehearsal as suggested by the MSM. Things that are processed more deeply are more memorable , just because of how they are processed. Deep means doing more complex things with the information to be remembered, than just repeating it.

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Craik and Tulving

Gave participants a list of nouns(shark) and asked questions that involved shallow or deep processing. Shallow processing (is the word printed in capital letters?) and deep processing  (whether the word fitted into a sentence). The participants remembered more words in the task involving deep processing. This type of elaborative processing is key in creating long term memories.

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Tulving and Pearlstone

Encoding specificity principle

Without cues - recall 40%

With cues - recall 60%

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Goodwin et al 1969

Goodwin et al (1969)

They did a study were they asked male participants who volunteered to remember a list of words when they were either drunk or sober. Those in the drunk condition , had consumed alcohol, 3 time over the UK drink driving limit. The participants were asked to recall the list after 24 hours. Some were sober but some had to be drunk again for experimental purposes. They found that the information learnt when in a drunken state was more available when in the same state later.

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Godden and Baddeley

They recruited scuba divers as participants and arranged for them to learn a set of words either on land or underwater. Subsequently they were tested either on land or underwater. The results showed that the highest recall occurred when the initial context matched the recall environment. For example learning or land and recall on land, or learning underwater and recall underwater.

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Ethel Abernathy

She arranged for a group of students to be tested before a certain course began. They were then tested each week. Some were tested in their teaching room by their usual teacher, others by a different teacher. Others were tested in a different room either by their usual teacher or a different one.  Those tested in the same room by the same teacher performed best. It was presumed that familiar things room and teacher acted as memory clues.

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Loftus and Palmer - experiment 1

45 student participants were shown short video clips They were split into 5 groups, with 9 participants in each one All of the participants were asked:

 ‘About how fast were the cars going when they ________ each other’

Each group was given a different verb to fill in the blank. These verbs were ‘smashed, collided, bumped, hit or contacted’. Therefore the independent variable was the verb used. The dependent variable was the estimate of speed given by the participants How the question was phrased influenced the participants’ speed estimates. When the verb ‘smashed’ was used, participants estimated that the cars were travelling much faster than when the verb ‘contacted’ was used. Smashed 0 40.8mph collided 39.3mph bumped 38.1mph hit -34mph contacted -31.8mph

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Lotus and Palmer experiment 2

150 student participants were shown a short film that showed a multi-vehicle car accident and then they were asked questions about it. The participants were split into 3 groups (with 50 in each group). One group was asked:

‘How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?’

The second was asked:

‘How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?’

The third group was not asked about the speed of the vehicles One week later, all participants returned and were asked:

‘Did you see any broken glass?’

There was no broken glass in the film.

The results show that the verb used in the original question influenced whether the participants thought they had seen broken glass.

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Jones town

On November 18, 1978, 909 Temple members died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning in an event termed "revolutionary suicide" by Jones and some members on an audio tape of the event and in prior discussions. To the extent the actions in Jonestown were viewed as a mass suicide, it is the largest such event in modern history. The incident at Jonestown was the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001.

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Jones town

On November 18, 1978, 909 Temple members died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning in an event termed "revolutionary suicide" by Jones and some members on an audio tape of the event and in prior discussions. To the extent the actions in Jonestown were viewed as a mass suicide, it is the largest such event in modern history. The incident at Jonestown was the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001.

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Linkenbach and perkins 2003

ÒParticipants exposed to the simple message that the majority of their age group did not smoke were subsequently less likely to take up smoking.

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Schultz et al 2008

Òhotel guests exposed to normative messages (75% guests reuse towels) reduced own towel usage by 25%.

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Fain et al

judgements of candidates performances in US presidential debates was impacted by knowledge of other peoples reactions. Participants saw the reactions of others on screen during debates which consequently impacted their own judgements    

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Locus of control

High internals were found to be more goal oriented and consequently are more likely to become leaders- Spector (1982) found a relationship existed between locus of control and leadership styles, with internals being more persuasive and goal-oriented than externals.

Shute exposed undergraduates to peers who expressed either conservative or liberal views to drug taking. He found internals conformed less to pro-drug attitudes supporting the idea that internals are more likely to resist conformity pressures.

Avtgis (1998) conducted a meta-analysis and found that externals were more easily persuaded and more likely to conform than internals. The analysis showed that individuals who scored high on external locus of control tend to be more easily persuaded, more easily influenced and more conforming that those scoring high on internal LoC.

Twenge et al (2004) found that young americans increasingly believed that their fate was down to luck and powerful others rather than their own actions. The experimenters found that LoC scores had become substantially more external in student and child samples between 1960 and 2002.

What could explain this trend?

Extension research

Moghaddam found Japanese people conformed more easily than Americans and have more of an external LoC.  This suggested that there are cultural differences in resistance to social pressure that could be explained 

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