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Martinez and Kesner 1991

Acetylcholine on rats. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter linked to synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, and plays a role in short-term memory via the colinergic system. Three groups of rats were trained to run around a maze by memory, the first group was injected with scopolamine, a drug which blocks ACh sites, causing less to be available. Group two were injected with physostigmine, a chemical which prohibits the enzyme cholinesterase from cleaning up ACh from the synapse. The thrid group were a control group. Results were that the rats in group two completed the maze with greater speed and accuracy than other groups, group one performing worst, demonstrating the cause-effect relationship between ACh levels and memory capacity. ACh is, however, only one small factor that effects memory, and the neurobiology of memory is very complex.

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Newcomer et al. 1999

An investigation into the effects of the stress hormone cortisol on declarative memory. All participants were either students or employees from the Washington university medical centre. Researchers attempted to control variables by not including participants who were pregnant, who had sufferent from past head injury or mental illness, and excluded participants who had not slept properly throughout the proceedure. The experiment consisted of three groups: group one's participants were given the high dose of 160mg of cortisol over 4 days, whilst the second group were given 40mg and the third group were a control group. The participants then had to recall a prose passage in order to test their declarative memory. Researchers knew from previous studies that long-term stress has a negative impact on declarative memory, and that cortisol plays an important role in stress. Results were that the participants given the highest levels of cortisol performed worst in the tests. As the study was a real experiment a clear cause-effect relationship could be established.

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Rosenzweig, Bennet and Diamond 1972

Performed an experiment explore the role of environmental factors on brain plasticity using rats. Group one was placed in an enriched environment with lots of toys. Group two was placed in a impoverished condition with no toys. The rats typically spent between 30 and 60 days in their respective environments before being killed for autopsy. The rats in the EC were reported to have increased thickness of neurons in the cortex, as well as the cortex having a greater mass. The experiment was a rigorously controlled laboratory experiment and thus it is able to establish a cause-effect relationship between the variables. Ethical issues of using animals in such a way may be considered. We must also consider how applicable such a study is to human physiology. 

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Bouchard et al. 1990

Minnesota twins study, to investigate the genetic inheritance of intelligence. Longatudinal study since 1979 where over 100 sets of MZT (monozygotic twins raised together) and MZA (monozygotic twins raised apart) completed approximately 50 hours of tests and interviews, in order to establish their IQ. It was a cross-cultural study using twins from all over the world. Results: Same person, 87%, MZT 86%, MZA 76%, DZT 55%, siblings reared together 47%. The results concluded that approximately 70% of our intelligence is inhereted. The mean age of the participants was 41, which contrasted with other experiments that had been primarily performed on adolescents. The weaknesses of the experiment include the fact that it relied on media coverage to gain participants and there were ethical concerns regarding the way the twins were reunited. Also, the frequency of contact between twins prior to the study was not controlled. An "equal environment assumption" meant that it was assumed the twins reared together experienced the same environment.

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Baumgartner et al. 2008

An experiment exploring the role of oxytocin in trust in economic behaviour. Aim: To investigate the role of oxytocin after breaches of trust in a trust game. Procedure: The participants played a trust game used by economists and neuroscientists to study social interaction. The “investor” (player one) receives a sum of money and must decide to keep it or share it with a “trustee” (player two). If the sum is shared the sum is tripled. Then player two must decide if this sum should be shared (trust) or kept (violation of trust). fMRI scans were carried out on 49 participants. They either received an oxytocin or placebo nasal spray. Participants played against different trustees in the trust game and against a computer in a risk game. In 50% of the games their trust was broken. They received feedback on this from the experimenters during the game. Results: Participants in the placebo group were likely to show lest trust after feedback on betrayal. They invested less. Participants in the oxytocin group continued to invest at similar rates after receiving feedback on breaches of trust. The fMRI scans showed decreases in responses in the amygdala and the caudate nucleus. The amygdala is involved in emotional processing and has many oxytocin receptors. The caudate nucleus is associated with learning and memory and plays a role in reward-related responses and learning to trust.

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Berridge and Kringelbach 2009

On the neurotransmitter dopamine and pleasure seeking. fMRI scans were used to study the brain areas involved in the subjective experience of pleasure. They found that the orbitofrontal cortex was active when people reported feeling pleasure. Researchers concluded that dopamine and the nucleus accumbens is perhaps rather involved in pleasure seekingand could explain addictive behavoiur. The orbiofrontal cortex and natural opoids (endorphines) are perhaps linked to the subjective experience of pleasure.

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Fisher 2004

On the neurotransmitter dopamine and the addiction to love. An evolutionary explanation for behaviour, Fisher claimed that being in love has similarities to being addicted. Dopamine increases desire and reward by triggering te same emotional rush of pleasure when you see or think of a loved one, as if you were taking a drug. Dopamine can explain the highs of romantic passion and the lows of rejection. Fisher and her colleagues studied the brain circuitry of romantic love by fMRI scanning the brains of forty-nine men and women: seventeen who had just fallen madly in love, fifteen who had just been dumped, and seventeen who reported that they were still in love after an average of twenty-one years of marriage. Brain imaging showed that the ventral tegmental and caudate nucleus become active when people are in love. Her findings were important in theorising associated with evolutionary psychologymen tended to show more activity in a brain region associated with the integration of visual stimuli, while women showed more activity in several brain regions linked with memory recall. Fisher believes this is because, evolutionarily, men needed to see whether their partner was healthy enough to bear a child whereas women would focus more on whether their prospective partner would be a good husband or father.

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Milner and Scoville 1957

longitudinal case study of H.M., a patient who was epillectic and suffered from severe, debilitating siezures. In 1953 William Scoville performed a bilateral temporal lobectomy to surgically remove two thirds of his hippocampi, parahippocampal corticies, entorhinal corticies, piriform corticies and amygdalae in attempt to alleviate him from the siezures. Although H.M. no longer suffered from the siezures, the procedure left him with severe anterograde amnesia. He was now no longer able to create new semantic or episodic memories, although his intelligence and personality remained unchanged. H.M. retained procedural memories (like riding a bike, walking etc.). The case study demonstrated that the medial temporal lobes are important in forming, consollidating, organising and retrieving memories. And that the cortical areas are important for long-term memory and semantic and episodic memory. In 1997 Corkin et al. performed an fMRI scan on H.M. to see the full extent and precise location of the damage.

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Kasamatsu and Hirai 1999

Study on how the neurotransmitter serotonin can affect behaviour. The participants were group of Buddhist monks, who were on a 72 hour pilgrimage to a mountain in Japan. The monks did not eat or drink, did not speak to each other, and were exposed to cold weather. Blood tests were taken before the monks began to ascend the mountain, and immediately after they began to report hallucinations. After about 48hrs monks' began to report sightings of their ancestors and the feeling of their presence. Researchers found that serotonin levels had increased in the monks' brains, thus higher levels of serotonin were active in the hypothalamus and frontal cortex resulting in hallucinations. Researchers concluded that the sensory deprivation triggered the release of serotonin, which in turn altered the monks' behaviour.

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Maguire 2000

In 2000, Eleanor Maguire studied the effect the environment can have on our physiology. A hypothesis entitled 'neuroplasticity' was the topic of discussion during the time, and Maguire performed a study which explored the effects on the brain of taxi drivers studying 'the knowledge'. Maguire chose for her participants 16 physically healthy, right-handed, male taxi drivers. Their age ranged from 32 to 62. Controls were 50 mentally and physically healthy right-handed males.  Two different types of MRI scanning were used to assess how the brains of the taxi drivers differed from the control group. Taxi cab drivers showed significantly more grey matter in both left and right hippocampi compared to the control group. No researcher bias, no ethical implications. Drawbacks were that she only observed males and that her sample group was fairly small.


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Bremner et al. 2003

Stress, PTSD and memory problems related to a reduction of hippocampal volume. Researchers aimed to measure the volume of the hippocampis based on the theory that prolonged stress may reduce the volume of the hippocampus due to cortisol levelsMRI scans were made of the brains of the participants and participants completed memory tests  (e.g. remembering a story or a list of words). The participants were veterans and females adults who had experienced early childhood sexual abuse. Some had developed PTSD. The researchers found that there were deficits in short-term memory and then performed MRI scans on the participants' brains. They found that the hippocampus was smaller in PTSD patients than in the control group. Veterans with the most memory problems also had the smallest hippocampi. The findings showed a clear correlationbetween the number of years of abuse as measured by a trauma test, memory problems and hippocampal volume. People suffering from PTSD also often suffer from other probems such as depression, which may also have influence. Sample was very small. However, the study has been replicated many times with similar findings.

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Davidson et al. 2004

Cognitive neuroscience is the scientific study of biological correlates of mental processes (cognition). This area of research investigates how various brain areas are involved in cognitive processes. In 2004 Davidson et al. studied the link between brain waves and compassion medidation. Their aim was to investigate whether meditation can change brain activity. Eight monks who had practised beditation for many years and a control group of 10 students who had one week of training participated in the study. Cognitive activities (including meditation) produce electrical activity when the neurons fire. This was recorded by the EEG (electroencephalograph which records electrical activity as brain waves). Participants were asked to meditate on 'unconditional compassion'. The control group participated in a training session where they were asked to think of someone they cared about and to let their mind be flooded with love and compassion. After the initial training the participants were asked to generate an objective feeling of compassion without focusing on anyone in particular. The EEG of monks' brains showed greater activation as well as better organisation and coordination of gamma waves. There was a positive correlation between hours of practice and levels of gamma waves. The results support the idea that attention and affective processes are skills that can be trained. Could be an attribution error.

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Vestergaard-Poulsen et al. 2009

Researchers found that extensive practise of meditation involving sustained attention could lead to changes in the brain structure. They found structual changes in the lower brain stem of participants engaged in long-term practice of meditation compared to age-matched non-meditators. MRI scans of two groups of participants: meditators and non-meditators.

Study found structural changes in the brain stem regions concerned with control of respiration and cardiac rhythm (autonomic nervous system). The connection of neurons in this area seemed more complex in people who meditated. This could explain some of the beneficial effects found in research on stress reduction techniques such as MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) because cortisol levels are reduced and the cardiac and breathing rhythm slow down. Meditative practices have already been applied in health psychology, for example Davidson et al. 2003 found that Mindfulness mediation could increase positive emotion and immune responses. MBSR also has been found to alleviate pain (Grant et al. 2010).

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MRI Scanning: Maguire 2000

The data were collected using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which collects data about the structure or anatomy of the brain. The MRI scanner works by exposing a participant's brain to a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of the brain. Computer software converts the information into a 3D image of the brain and in this study the analysis can calculate the amount of grey (or gray) matter in the hippocampus. Unlike white matter, Grey matter contains neural cell bodies. The grey matter can be thought of as the actual computers themselves, whereas the white matter represents the network cables connecting the computers together. 


  • Particularly useful to show how the blood flows in the brain and can be used to identify problems with blood circulation. They can be used in the early detection of Alzheimers' disease.
  • They are safe to use since no radioactive material is used.


  • They are very expensive.
  • Movement may affect the pictures.
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VBM and Pixel counting, MRI, Maguire 2000

The data were measured using two different techniques: voxel-based morphemetry (VBM) and pixel countingVoxel-based morphology (VBM) was used in this study to measure the density of grey matter in the brain. VBM provides a 3D measurement of volume of an area. Pixel counting was carried out on the scans of the 16 taxi drivers and 16 age-matched controls taken from the 50 control participants. Pixel counting consists of counting the pixels in the images provided by the MRI scans. A pixel is simply a 2D measurement of an area. Areas were calculated by taking images of slices of the whole length of the hippocampus. The scan was separated into 26 slices 24 of these focused on the hippocampus. Six slices were of the posterior (rear) hippocampus, twelve slices were of the hippocampus body and 6 slices were of the anterior (front) hippocampus.The pixel counting was carried out by a researcher who was experienced in this technique and importantly was not aware of the previous VBM results and whether the slices being counted were scans of taxi drivers or controls.

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fMRI Scanning: H.M. Corkin et al. 1997

Functional magnetic resonance imagine measures change in blood flow in the active brain. This is associated with the use of oxygen and linked to neural activity during information processing. When participants are asked to perform a task, the scientists can observe the part of the brain that corresponds to function. fMRI scanning is widely used by cognitive neuroscientists and other researchers and its use in the past 10 years has grown enormously. Corkin et al. (1997) did an MRI scan of H.M.’s brain. Brain imaging was used because it allowed the researchers to get a precise picture of the brain damage. The extent of the damage was not as severe as previously believed.


  • Does not use radioactive substances.
  • It can record activity in all regions of the brain in real-time.


  • The focus is mostly on localised functioning in the brain and does nott take into account the disributed nature of processing in neural networks.
  • The results are correlational so it is not possible to establish cause-effect relationships.
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Caspi et al. 2003

Longitudinal study on the possible role of the 5-HTT gene in depression after experiences of stressful events.

The 5-HTT gene influences the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is known for its role in influencing mood. The researchers compared participants with a normal 5-HTT gene and a mutation of the 5-HTT gene with shorter alleles. Both types are quite frequent in humans but the longer allele gene is more prevelant (57%). The researchers found that more people with the gene mutation, who had experienced stressful events, were more likely to develop depression than those who carried the longer allele gene. The gene could indicate a vulnerbility to depression after stress and the researchers speculated whether the gene could moderate individual responses to environmental factors

People who did not carry the mutation also became depressed. It is not possible to establish a cause-effect relationship. Genes contribute some extent to behavioural traits and disorders but it is not clear how environmental factors influence genes. Environmental factors were included in the study (stressful events) but there is no evidence against the idea that it could be the stressful events that made people depressed. 

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Fessler et al. 2005

Evaluated disgust sensitivity in the first trimester of pregnancy. Aim was to investigate whether the hypothesis that disgust sensitivity in the first trimester of pregnancy is elevated, is correct.

A web-based survey was completed by 691 women recruited through pregnancy-related web sites. No compensation was offered for participation. The women's mean age was 28.1 years. On the web-based questionnaire, the participants indicated their current level of nausea using a 16 point scale and answered questions to test their disgust sensitivity in eight different areas (e.g. food, contact with animals, body products, and dead animals, hygine, etc.)

Overall, disgust sensitivity related to food and body products in women in their first trimester was higher in comparison to those in their second and third trimesters. Disgust was particularly elevated in relation to food, which was exactly what the researchers had predicted. Food-borne diseases are particularly dangerous to women in the first trimester, therefore it was predicted that disgust senstitivity would be high in relation to this. The results may suggest that nausea and vomiting are evolved behaviour.

Self-report may not be reliable. This is not an effective way of measuring disgust. It would have been more reliable to confront participants with tangible disgusting objects. The effect sizes were not big but significant. The findings were supported by other studies (Curtiss et al. 2004)

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Dr. Money 1974

Canadian David Reimer was born a twin. David Reimer's penis was destroyed during a botched circumcision proceedure (cauterisation) during infancy. With advice from the doctor and gender psychologist Dr. Money (he did a lot of work with intersex patients and gender identity), David was castrated and raised as a girl named Brenda. This was due to the fact that Dr. Money believed gender to develop as a result of social learning. Brian made an ideal control subject for the case study.

Dr. Money encouraged the twins to engage in sexual rehearse play, which included Brian performing sexual rehearse acts on Brenda, whilst Brenda was in a submissive position. Dr. Money also coerced the children into inspecting each other's genitals. Dr. Money, blinded by his desperation for success and for support of his hypothesis, repeatedly claimed that the study was successful, despite it being a disaster. Brian later developed schizophrenia, and killed himself with an overdose of depression pills. David Reimer commited suicide after many years of depression.

Ethical issues: Parents misinformed (deception), couldn't gain proper consent from parents and therefore couldn't have consent from the child. Caused immeasurable psychological damage to both children and the rest of the family. Dr. Money's publication of false findings had negative impact on the psychological research community and their was a lack of confidentiality. David Reimer had trouble getting work.

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Darley and Gross 1983

Schema theory: In 1983 Darley and Gross carried out a laboratory experiment on schema processing in the social world.

Rich girl/poor girl: In this laboratory experiment the participants saw two videos of a girl. In video one, a girl was playing in a poor environment; in video two a girl was playing in a rich environment. Then they saw a video of a girl in what could be an intelligence test.

When the participants were asked to judge the future of the girls they all said that the "rich" girl would do well and the "poor" girl less well. The study demonstrates that participants probably used pre-stored schemas of what it means to be poor and rich and interpreted the ambiguous information accordingly. Participants processed information based on a few salient details to form an overall impression that may not necessarily be correct.

Schema theory: People tend to remember only the gist of something because they use stored knowledge to make sense of incoming information. If the information is incomplete, they fill in the blanks or interpret using schemas (aschematic information). This may lead to bias in information processing, for example stereotyping. People also tend to focus on information that is in-line with their schema.

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Bartlett 1932

"War of the Ghosts" study. Bartlett wished to investigate whether people's memory for a story is affected by previous knowledge (schemas) and the extent to which memory is reconstructive.

Bartlett asked British participants to hear a story and reproduce it after a short amount in time and then repeatedly over a period of months or years (senial reproduction). The story was an unfamiliar Native American legend called "the war of the Ghosts". The results were that the participants remembered the main idea of the story (the gist) but they changed unfamiliar elements to make sense of the story by using terms more familiar to their own cultural expectaions. The story remained a coherent whole although it was changed. It became noticably shorter for each reproduction. Bartlett concluded that remembering is an active process. Memories are not copies of experience, but rather reconstructions.

The results of the study confirm schema theory and reconstructive memory but it was performed in a laboratory and can be criticized for low ecological validity. Participants did not recieve standardised instructions and some of the memory distortions may be due to participants' guessing (demand characteristics). In spite of these methodological limitations, the study is one of the most important in the study of memory.

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Brewer and Treyens 1981

Experiment on memory of objects in a room. This study was performed to investigate whether people's memory for objects in a room (in an office) is influenced by existing schemas about what is to expect in an office.

Participants were 30 university students, who arrived individually to the laboratory and were asked to wait in an office containing objects (e.g. desk, typewriter, coffee-pot, calendar). There were also objects that did not conform to the office schema (a skull, a piece of bark, a pair of pliers). After waiting for some time, participants were taken out of the office and asked to write down everything they could remember from the room. Most participants recalled the schematic objects, and some participants even reported things that belong to an office schema but weren't in fact actually there. Many participants also recalled the skull, (an unexpected object). This very unusual object resulted in better recall than predicted by the schema theory.

The study confirms schema theory and reconstructive memory but their is a level of artificiality. The study used deception as the participants were not told about the purpose of the experiment but they were debriefed afterwards and not harmed. The study could not have been made without this justified deception. These is a sample bias. University students were used as participants so it may be hard to generalise the results.

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Cole and Scribner 1974

Cole and Scribner performed a cross-cultural study of memory, investigating the free recall of participants in two different cultures, the USA and the Kpelle people in Liberia. For the test in Liberia, the researchers used objects that would be familiar to Liberian children. The list of words belonged to four distinct categories. American cildren were given free recall tests matching their culture. The researchers presented the words to the participants and asked them to remember as many of them as possible in any order (free recall). In the second part of the experiment, the researchers presented the same objects in a meaningful way as a part of a story. In the free recall test the non-schooled participants hardly improved their performance after the age of 9 or 10. They remembered around ten items on the list on the first trial, and around two more after 15 practice trials. Liberian school children performed as school children of the same age did in the USA. They also used similar memory strategies. In the second part of the experiment the non-schooled Liberian participants recalled objects well because they grouped them in accordance to the roles they played in the story. School children in Liberia and the USA used chunking and recalled items according to categories. The non-schooled Liberian children did not used the categorical list to help them remember. This indicates possible cultural differences in cognitive processes such as categorisation and memory. Not entirely clear whether it was schooling or the cultural differences that influenced categorisation in memory. Difficult to establish cause-effect relationship.

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Loftus and Palmer 1974

Reconstuction of automobile deconstruction (the first experiment)

To investigate whether the use of leading questions would affect recall in a situation where participants were asked to estimate the speed of a collision. This is important, as it is a situation that could happen when people are asked to give reports during court cases. The proceedure involved student participants being shown videos of traffic accidents and they had to answer questions about the accident. In the experiment one, the participants were asked to estimate the speed of the cars based on a critical question: "about how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?" The word smashed was substituted for other verbs, depending on the group i.e. hit, collided, contacted, bumped (IV). Smashed recieved an average response of 40.8mph whereas the 'contacted' group assumed the speed to be 31.8mph. The researchers performed statistical tests and found that the results were significant at p ≤ 0.005. The study indicates that memory is not reliable and can be manipulated using specific words. This may be due to the fact that the words influenced the participants' mental representation of the accident, altering their memory. It is not the actual details of the crash that are remembered, but rather what is in-line with the cognitive schema. Reconstructive memory

Conducted in a laboratory, Neisser has criticised the conduction of memory experiments in a lab for being too artificial. Participants were all students, not generalisable.

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Atkinson and Shiffrin 1968

The Multi-store Model of Memory: This model was one of the first to give an overview of the basic structure or architecture of memory and it was inspired by computer science. The model seems rather simplistic, but it did spark off the idea of humans as information processors and it has been one of the most influential models attempting to describe the memory system.

The multi-store model is based on the assumption that memory consists of a number of different stores and that memory processes are squential. The memory stores in the model are structural components that include control processes (e.g. attentaion, coding and rehearsal). Rehearsal ensures the transfer of information from the short-term memory store to the long-term memory store.

Sensory memory registers sensory information and stores it for around 1-4 seconds. Information in the sensory memory is modality specific. Only a small amount of the sensory information will be transferred into the short-term memory. STM has a limited capacity (around 7 items) and a limited duration about 6-12 seconds. Information is procesed in STM is transferred into LTM if it is rehearsed. If not it is lost. LTM is believed to be of infinite duration and potentially unlimited capacity.

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Glanzer and Cunitz 1966

Their aim was to investigate the recency effect in free recall (i.e. in any order). This was a laboratory experiment where participants first heard a list of items and then immediately had to recall them in any order. Participants recalled words from the beginning of the list (primacy effect) and the end of the list (recency effect) best. The results showed a U-shaped curve. If participants were given a filler task just after hearning the last words, the primacy effect disappeared and the recency effect remained. 

As evidence for Atkinson and Shiffrin's multi-store model of memory

The recency effect could be due to the words still being active in STM (working memory). Rehearsal could be a factor in transfer of information into LTM. The study supports the idea of multiple stores (STM and LTM). This is a controlled laboratory experiment with highly controlled variables, but there is no random allocation of participants to experimental condition so it is not a true experiment. There may be problems with ecological validity.

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Baddeley and Hitch 1974

Baddeley and Hitch suggested the working model of memory as an alternative to STM. This model challenged the view that STM is unitary and that information processing is passive. Working memory is seen as an active store used to hold and manipulate information. The model has been develped over the years to include findings from research. 

Working memory contains four separate components; the central executive, a controlling system that monitors and coordinates the operations of other components (slave systems). The central executive is modality free so it can process information in any sensory modality but it has limited capacity. The episodic buffer is a limited-capacity temporary storage system or interface between the other systems in working memory. It is assumed to be controlled by the central executive through conscious awarenesss. The episodic buffer handles information through various modalities and resembles the concept of episodic memory. The phonological loop handles verbal and auditory information, and is divided into two components: The articulatory control system (the inner voice) and the phonological store (the inner ear). This can hold speech-based material active in a phonological form. It is assumed that a memory trace can only last from 1.5 to 2 seconds if not refreshed by the articulatory control system. The visio-spatial sketchpad (the inner eye), handles visual and spatial memory from either sensory memory (sensory information) or from the LTM (images).

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Quinn and McConnel 1996

Evidence for the working model of memory, Quinn and McConnel asked participants to learn a list of words by either using imagery or rehearsal. The task was performed on its own or in the presence of a concurrent visual noise (changing patterns of dots) or a concurrent verbal noise (speech in a foreign language). The results showed that learning words by imagery was not affected by a concurrent verbal task but was disturbed by a concurrent visual task. The opposite was found in the rehearsal condition. This indicated that imagery processing uses the visio-spatial sketchpad whereas verbal processing uses the phonological loop. If two tasks used the same component, performance deteriorated. The study thus lends support of different modality-specific slave systems and the idea of limited processing capacity.

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Rogoff and Waddel 1982

Researchers found that Mayan children did better in a memory task if they were given one that was meaningful to them in local terms. The researchers constructed a minature model of a Mayan village, which resembled the children's own village. The researcher then selected 20 minature objects from a set of 80 (e.g. animals, furniture, people) and placed them in the model. Then the objects were taken out of the model and placed among the 60 other objects. After a few minutes the experimenter asked the children to reconstruct the scene that they had been shown. Under these conditions, the Mayan children did slightly better than children from the USA. This study shows that the content and context of a memory task are imporant and that useful memory strategies are learned in a sociocultural context.

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Yuille and Cutshall 1986

Yuille and Cutshall's research into reconstructive memory and eyewitness testimony contrasted greatly in relation to the research of Loftus and Palmer's studies of just a decade earlier. In fact, Yuille and Cutshall found eyewitness testimony to be very accurate indeed, having tracked down eyewitness observers of a daylight robbery and shooting that occured in Canada. The inciddent occured in a gunshop, where a robber shot the shop owner, who returned fire, killing the robber. Fifteen of the eyewitnesses agreed to take part in the study. Examining their accounts, the researchers found a number of important findings: that the witnesses were able to give accounts of the robbery and shooting in enormous detail, that the accounts had a very high level of agreement, and that leading questions did not alter response to the questions. According to the reconstructive model of memory, the event would fade with time, second that the witnesses' accounts would differ according to their different interpretations of the incident and, third, that the witnesses would be susceptible to leading questions. Such findings, which are obtained from real-world witnesses and hence are high in ecological validity cast doubt on the validity of Loftus' conclusions.

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Palva et al. 2010

Working memory: aim was to investigate the interation of neuronal networks in the cerebral cortex in relation to visual working memory. Data from EEG and MEG was used to identify patterns of interaction between the neurons (neuronal synchrony) in the cerebral cortex during specific visual tasks. The results showed synchronisation of neuronal activity in different brain areas related to the maintenance and contents of working memory. Specific networks interacted (e.g. different areas of the brain's fronal and parietal lobes played a central role in coordinating attention and action in working memoy). Handling and maintaining sensory information about visual stimuli showed activity in networks in the occipital lobe. The findings support Baddeley and Hitch's model of working memory (e.g. the central executive could be linked to the activity in the frontal and parietal lobes). The activity in the networks in the occipital lobe could be linked to the vidio-spatial sketchpad. The neuroimaging technologies were important to detect specific brain areas involved in cognitive processing. This could not be done otherwise.

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LeDoux 1999

LeDoux's theory of the emotional brain. Humans' emotional reactions are flexible due to evolution. Learning to detect and respond to danger is important for survival (e.g. fight of flight response). Humans have also evolved "emotional feeling" i.e. a concious experience of the emotion which helps us to evaluate the level of danger before a response. LeDoux has two pathways of emotions in the brain:
The short route: The amygdala reacts immediately to sensory input and activates response systems, a psychological stress response. This is very useful in the case of immediate danger where a quick reaction can mage the difference between life and death.

The long route: The sensory input goes via the the sensory cortex to the hippocampus. This route involves evaluation of the stimulus and consideration of an appropriate response. This could link to the concept "cognitive appraisal" (Lazarus, 1975)

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Damasio 2000

Emotions are psychological signals as a reaction to external stimuli and feelings (conscious interpretation of the emotion) arise when the brain interprets the stimuli. The emotion fear is useful in a survival mechanism as it allows animals and humans to react quickly to any possible sign of danger by starting the fight or flight reaction. In humans, cognitive factors such as appraisal may help to modulate psysiological and psychological reactions to stimuli. Emotional arousal is a form of stress that activates stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This is a useful survival mechanism. Memory of a fearful experience is stored in the cortex (explicit memory) and the emotional memory of the experience is stored in the amygdala (implicit memory). Normally humans can control irrational fear, but not always, and sometimes fear may be elicited without control as in panic attacks. Anxiety, phobia, panic disorders and PTSD in humans indicate a malfunction in the brain's ability to control fear reactions. Humans with damage to the amygdala do not experience fear in dangerous situations and this may endanger survival.

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Brown and Kulik 1977

The theory of flashbulb memory (FM). Their aim was to investigate whether shocking events are recalled more vividly and accurately than other events. Questionnaires asked 80 participants to recall circumstances where they had learned of shocking events. The participants had vivid memories of where they were, what they did, and what they felt when they first heard about a shocking public event such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The participants also said they had flashbulb memories of shocking personal events such as the sudden death of a relative. The results indicated that FM is more likely for unexpected and personally relevant events. The researchers suggested 'the photograpic model of flashbulb memory'. Brown and Kulik suggest that FM is caused by the physiological emotional arousal (activity in the amygdala). The reliance on retrospective data puts the reliability of this study into question. People tend to interpret an event from their current perspective. Research indicated that although FM is emotionally vivid it is not necessarily accurate in regard to details. The photographic model of FM has been challenged. Neisser (1982) is critical towards the idea of flashbulb memories, as certain memories are very vivid because they are reheased and discussed after the event.

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Heider 1958

Attribution Theory

Attribution theory is based on the assumption that people are naive scientists who try to explain observable behaviour. An essentioal feature of the original attribution theory is a fundamental distinction about internal and external causes of behaviour. Attribution theory is based on the assumption that people:

  • Tend to look for causes and reasons for other people's behaviour because they feel that there are motives behind most of their own behaviour. 
  • Are "intuitive psychologists" who construct their own causal theories of human behaviour.
  • Construct causal theories because they want to be able to understand, predicta, and control the environment around them.

People seem to have a persausive need for causal explanations because this makes the world more predictable. Most cultures have constructed causal explanations for the origin and the meaning of life. The tendency to see motives and disposition behind human actions may be so automatic that people sometimes find it difficult to override it even where motives and dispositions don't really apply. A dispositional attribution is an attribution from internal factors (i.e. a person's personality, intelligence) whereas a situational attribution is an attribution from external factors (the environment). 

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Ross 1977

Fundamental attribution error. FAE occurs when people overestimate personality traits (dispositional factors) and underestimate environmental factors (situational attributions) when they explain other people's behaviour. According to the social learning psychologist Fiske 2004, people rely too much on personality in explaining behaviour and they underestimate, or never consider the power of situations.

In western societies this could be due to the ideology that people "get what they deserve" (Gilbert 1995). It makes life more predictable if people's behaviours are caused by their personality. This gives the impression that people are understandable and easy to deal with. Explanations based solely on personality (dispositional factors) are incomplete. It would be wrong not to consider the power of situations.

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Ross, Amabile, and Steinmetz 1977


To investigate whether knowledge of allocated social roles in a quiz show would affect participants' judgements of people's expertise. 18 pairs of students from an introductory class at Stanford University participated in a similated quiz game where they were randomly assigned to the roles of either questioner or contestant. In the experimental condition, the role of questioner or contestant was randomly allocated to one person in each pait. Twenty-four observers watched the quiz. The questioners were asked to compose to 10 questions based on their own knowledge and the contestants were asked to answer these questions. The questioner was instructed to ask each question and then await around 30 seconds for a response. If the contestant did not answer correctly the questioner gave them the correct answer. After the quiz all participants and the observers were asked to rate the "general knowledge" of contestents and questioners. The contestants consistently rated the general knowledge of the questioners to be superior. The observers did the same. This was a clear demonstation of FAE. The contestants and the observers attributed the questioners' ability to answer the questions to dispositional factors and failed to take into account the situational factors that gave the questioners an advantage. The questioners did not rate their own knowledge as superior. 

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Suedfeld 2003

Seudfeld investigated attributions made by holocaust survivours. The researcher gave questionnaires to members of Holocaust survivour groups and age-matched Jewish participants who had not personally experienced the Nazi persecution (control). The two groups were asked for their views on the possible factors in survival during the holocaust. 91% of the survivours made situational attributions (luck and help from others) compared to 51%in the control group. Only 34%of the survivours made dispositional attributions (e.g. psychological strength and determination) compared to 71% in the control group. This indicated that the personal experiences during the Holocaust influenced survivours' attributions because they had witnessed that it was actually often luck of help from others that determined who survived and who didn't. The survivours had a clear picture of the power of the situation in the Holocaust.

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Norenzayan et al. 2002

Norenzayan et al. tested whether information given to Korean and American participants would influence their attributions. When participants were only given information about the individuals, both groups gave dispositional attributions. When both groups were given some situational information also, Koreans were far more likely to use this information in conjunction with the individual information in order to explain behaviour (situational and dispositional attributions) in comparison with the Americans. This could explain the differences between attitudes of those who live in a collectivist culture, and those who live in an individualist culture. In individualist and capatilist societies like America, it is believed that every individual is in charge of their social position and outcome of their actions. The libertarian attitudes promote extremely high levels of autonomy, and thus it is unsurpising that American participants were less sympathetic to situational factors influencing a person's behaviour.

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Lau and Russel 1980

Lau and Russel found that American football coaches were more likely to attribute success to dispositional factors like talent or hard work, whereas they attributed failure to situational factors such as injury or bad weather. Self-serving bias could be a way of upholding self-esteem (self-protection). People see themselves as responsible for success but not for their failures because they want to see themselves this way.

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Posey and Smith 2003

Performed an SSB experiment with children. They were asked to do maths problems, sitting either with a friend or a non-friend. Although they sat in pairs the children had to do the maths problems alone, but the total score of the pair was noted. After the test the children who worked with friends and failed were less likely to show the SSB and more likely to give their friends credit when they succeeded. Children who worked with non-friends were more likely to show the SSB.

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Kashima and Triandis 1986

Kashima and Triandis showed slides from unfamiliar ccountries to American and Japanese participants and they were asked to remember details about the slides. When the students were asked to give an evaluation of their performance, the American students attributed their failure to both dispositional and situational factors whereas the Japanese students mostly attributed it to their lack of ability. This is called the modesty bias and is a cultural variation of the self-serving bias.

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Tajfel and Turner 1979

Social identity theory is a theoretical framework developed by Tajfel and Turner for the analysis for ingroup relations. SIT is linked to the idea of self-categorisation theory (Turner 1991). Social identity can be defined as part of one's self-concept based on the knowledge of membership of social in-groups in combination with the value and emotional significance attatched to that membership. Individuals strive to maintain a positive self-concept as well as a positive social identity. People make comparisons between ingroup and outgroup on valued dimensions to extablish, maintain, and defend positive ingoup distinctiveness (social comparison). When social comparison results in positive outcome for the ingroup, the need for a positive social identity is satisfied but the opposite may also happen (e.g. for low status minority groups). Intergroup discrimination can be one way to uphold a positive social identity for the ingroup (for example when women earn less than men for the same work).

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Tajfel 1970

Experiment in intergroup discrimination: the minimal group paradigm

Aim: To investigate if boys placed in random groups based on an arbitrary task (minimal group) would display ingroup favouritism and intergroup discrimination. Procedure: The participants were 64 schoolboys aged 14-15 from a state school in the UK. They came to a psychology laboratory in groups of eight. They all knew each other well before the experiment. The boys were shown clusters of varying numbers of dots, flashed onto a screen and had to estimate the number of dots in each cluster. The experimenters assigned the boys to groups at random catagorised as 'over-estimator', 'underestimator' etc. Subsequently the boys had to allocate small amounts of money to other boys in the experiment. The only thing they knew of the boys was that they belonged to the same or different category. In a second experiment boys were randomly allocated to groups based on their supposed artistic preferences for two painters. They then had to award money to the other boys. Results: A large majority of the boys gave more money to members of their own category (ingroup) than to members of the other categories (outgroups). In the second experiment the boys tried to maximise the difference between the two groups. The results of both experiments indicate that the boys adopted a strategy of ingroup favouritism. This supports the predictions of social identity theory. Social groups and categories that we belong to are an important part of our self-concept. Demand characteristics, sampling bias, artificiality.

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Katz and Braley 1933

Researches investigates whether traditional stereotypes had a cultural basis by asking 100 male students from Princeton University to choose five traits that characterised different ethnic groups (for example, Americans, Jews, Japanese, Negroes) from a list of 84 words. The results showed a considerable agreement in stereotypes, especially for negative traits. 84% of the students said that Negroes were superstitious, and 79% said that Jews were shrewd. They were very positive to their own group (ingroup bias). Since most of the students did not have any personal contact with members of ethnic groups they had to rate, it was suggested that stereotypes are learnt (through the media, i.e. they are cultural products).

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Gilbert 1951

Gilbert did a replication of the 1933 study by Katz and Braley. This time there was less uniformity of agreement, especially about unfavourable traits. The stereotypes still demonstrated an ingroup bias. Stereotypes about the Japanese were very negative, and this was explained by the negative press about Japan after Pearl Harbour, so the original hypothesis about stereotypes as cultural products was confirmed. Many students expressed irritation at being asked to make generalisations at all and this could indicate a social change.

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Bandura and Ross 1961

Social Learning Theory. Experimental investigation on learning agression from a model. Aim was to see if children would imitate agression of an adult model and whether they would imitate same-sex models more than opposite sex models. Proceedure: Participants were 36 boys and girls from the Stanford University Nursery School (mean age 4.4) who were divided into three groups matched on levels of agressiveness before the experiment. One group saw the adult model behave agressively towards a bobo doll, one group saw the modell assemble toys, and the last group served as a control. The children were further divided into groups so that some saw same-sex models and others saw opposite-sex models. The laboratory was set up as a play room with toys and a bobo doll. After seeing the models with the bobo doll, the children were brought into a room with toys and were told not to play with them in order to frustrate them. Then they were taken to a room with toys and a bobo doll where they were observed for 20 minutes through a one-way mirror. Results: children who had seen an agressive model were significantly more aggressive (physically and verbally) towards the bobo doll. They imitated the aggressive behavious of the model but also showed other forms of aggression. Children were also more likely to imitate same-sex models. Boys were more aggressive overall than girls. Supports the theory that behaviour is learnt through observation. It is not possible to conclude that children always become aggresive when they watch violent models. 

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Regan 1971

A laboratory experiment to test reciprocity. Aim was to find out whether people were more likely to help a person if they had recieved a favour from them beforehand. Procedure was that one participant and a confederate of the experimenter were asked to rate paintings. In the experimental condition the confederate left the experiment and returned after a few minutes with two bottles of coca cola. He had bought one for himself and one for the participant. In the control condition, the participant did not recieve a coke. When all the paintings had been rated the experimenter left the room again. The confederate told the naive participant that he was selling raffle tickets for a new car and the one that sold the most tickets could win $50. He then asked the participant if he would buy some tickets and said that even a small amount would help. The participants in the experimental condition bought twice as many raffle tickets as the participants in the control condition who had not recieved a favour first. 

As a follow up to the experiment the researcher investigated how much 'liking' the confederate influenced the participant. The participants were asked to fill out the rating scales indicating how much they liked him. The researcher then compared how many tickets the participants bought in relation to the control condition. Liking was associated with buying significantly more tickets from the confederate in this condition. Participants who did not like the confederate bought just as many tickets as those who liked him, showing the powerful influence of reciprocity.

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Dickerson et al. 1992

Foot in the door technique. Researchers did a field experiment where they asked university students to conserve water in the dormitory showers. The researchers first asked a group of students to sign a poster supporting shorter showers to save water. Then they asked the students to do a survey asking them to think about their own water usage. Finally the students shower time was monitered. Students who had signed the poster and had done the survey spent an average of 3.5 minutes less in the shower compared to the rest of the students in the dormitory.

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Sherif 1936

Conformity in norm groups. Experimental investigation of conformity to percieved group norm. Sherif used the autokinetic effect (an optical illusion where a fixed pinpoint of light in a completely dark room appears to move because of eye movements). Half of the participants first watched the light alone and gave a verbal estimate of how much and in what direction the light moved. Sherif found that after a number of trials participants began to estimate on their own frame of reference. Then the experiment continued in groups with three to four participants who took turns to estimate in random order. The participants now used each other's estimates as a frame of reference and these converged into more or less identical estimates. The group norm had developed, which participants conformed to once it had been established. Then the other half of the participants performed the estimation task alone. The results showed that social norms emerge to guide behaviour when people find themselves in uncertain situations

The study demonstrates how a group norm can be establish and continue to influence a person's judgement even when social influence is no longer present. Uninformed consent.

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Asch 1951

Experimental investigation of conformity to the majority. To investigate whether group pressure by a majority can influence a minority in an experimental set up that is not ambiguous. Procedure: Seven male college students were placed around two white cards. One card had three lines (A,B,C) and another had one line. They had to say out loud which lines on the right had the same length as the line on the left. There was one naive participant in the experimental setup and six confederate who were instructed to give unanimous wrong answers. This was done during 12 of the 18 trials in the experiment. A control group of 37 participants made the estimations alone for comparison. Results showed that in the control group 35 participants did not make a single error so in total 0.7% errors were made compared to 37% of errors in the experimental group.

High degree of control shows cause-effect relationship. Results have been repeated numerous times with same findings. The results of the experiment in terms of conformity rates can, to some extent, explain why people conform to social and cultural norms in real life. Conformity may be universal but rates can vary cross-culturally.

Laboratory experiments are artificial and difficult to generalise to real life. The experiment was conducted in the USA with male students as participants so this will effect the generalisation.` The results can only explain how a majority may influence a minority but not the other way around. Participants were decieved and the experiment was quite embarassing.

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Bond and Smith 1996

Cultural factors in conformity. In 1996 Bond and Smith performed a meta-analysis of 133 studies in 17 countries on the Asch paradigm. They found higher conformity levels in collectivistic cultures than in individualistic cultures. The level of conformity (i.e. percentage of incorrect answers) ranged from 15% in an experiment with Belgian students (Doms, 1983) to 58% among Indian teachers in Fiji (Chandra,1973). They also found that generally the conformity was higher if the majority group was large.

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Berry 1967

Berry used a variation of Asch's conformity experiment to study whether conformity rates among the Temne in Sierra Leone in Africa and the Inuits of Baffin Island in Canada could be linked to social norms and socialisation practices. He found that the Temne, who had an agricultural economy, had high conformity levels. The culture emphasised obedience in child-rearing practices because the culture is dependent on cooperation in farming. The inuits are hunters and often hunt alone. They therefore need to be able to make decisions themselves. Child-rearing practices emphasise self-reliance because this is needed within this culture. This could perhaps explain why the Inuits tend to conform less.

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Charlton et al. 2002

SLT. Observation of the introduction to television in a remote community (St. Helena). Aim was to investigate whether children in St. Helena would exhibit more agressive behaviour after the introduction of television to the island in 1995. Proceedure: The study was a natural experiment. Children aged 3 to 8 years were observed before and after the introduction of television through cameras set up in the playgrounds of two primary schools on the island. The level of aggression in television matched what the children in the UK were exposed to. The researchers also conducted interviews with teachers, parents, and some older children. Results: There was no increase in aggressive or antisocial behaviour. This was also the case after 5 years.

The data showed that children did not change their behaviour after television had arrived although they saw the same amount of violent television as British children. The parents and teachers said that the antisocial behaviour was not accepted on the island and that there was a high degree of social control in the community. It shows that people may learn aggressive behaviour but they may not exhibit it for serveral reasons. Social and cultural factors also play a role in what behaviours are acceptable, so even though the children had no doubt learned aggressive behaviour, they did not show it. The study investigated a real life event and is high in ecological validity. It does not question SLT but rather the results of Bandura and Ross (1961). The results also confirm the idea that people must be motivated to imitate behaviour.

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Wei et al. 2001

Surveys on collecivism vs. individualism on conflict resolution styles. Aim was to investigate the extent to which the dimension of collectivism vs. individualism influenced conflict resolution styles. Procedure: A group of 600 managers working in companies in Singapore was randomly selected for this survey. The participants were divided into four groups: Japanese, Americans, Chinese Singaporeans working in multinational companies and Chinese Singaporeans working in local companies. Questionnaires and correlation analysis were used to find possible relationships between scores on cultural dimension and conflict resolution style. Results: Generally, the higher the score in the individualist dimension, the more likely the manager was to adopt a dominating conflict resolution style. American managers (individualist dimension) were generally more likely to adopt a dominating conflict resolution style and less likely to adopt an avoiding resolution style than Aisian managers. Asian managers did not always adopt an avoidant conflict resolution style as predicted by the collectivism-individualism dimension. In some cases, American managers who had been in Singapore for several years had adopted a more Asian conflict resolution style. The collectivism vs. individualism dimension in relation to conflict resolution styles was only somewhat confirmed. The researchers conclude that conflict resolution styles are complex and cannot be reduced to cultural dimensions alone. For exampe, differences found within the groups of Asian managers were larger than between groups. Results can be generalised (cross-cultural), con is that it relies on self-report.

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Basset 2004

Cultural dimension: Long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation. Qualitative research to compare perception of conflict resolution in Australian and Chinese students. Aim was to investigate differences in Chinese and Australian students' perception to conflict resolution in relation to:
1) the collectivist vs. individualist dimension, and
2) long-term vs. short-term orientation. 
The investigation was a qualitative cross-cultural study. The students were bachelor students of business and management. They were asked to analyse a potential conflict situation between a Japanese supervirsor and a Canadian assistant teacher. The same question was answered by 30 students (15 Chinese and 15 Australian), each from their cultural perspective: "Discuss how the conflict might be resolved in China/Australia". Generally the results confirmed Hofstede's individualist and collectivist dimensions but not all data could be explained by this. As for long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation, the Chinese data confirmed the importance of this dimension in behaviour. Friendship is important. Banquets are seen as a relationship building exercise. Gifts act as an expression of friendships and symbols of hope for good future business. Guanxi is a network of relationships built by an individual through the exchange of gifts and favours to attain mutual benefits. This practice is based on Confucian work ethics.

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Emic and Etic concepts

Studies one culture alone to understand culture-specific behaviour.
Researchers attempt to study behaviour through the eyes of the people who live in that culture. The way the phenomenon is linked to culture (structure) and the meaning that it has in this particular cultural context is emphasised. The focus is on the norms, values, motives, and customs of members of the culture as they interpret and understand it themselves, explained in their own words.
Bartlett (1932) mentioned the extraordinary ability of Swazi herdsmen to recall individual characteristics of their cattle. Their culture revolves around the posession and care of cattle.

Etic research compares psychological phenomena accross cultures to find out what could be universal in human behaviour. The purpose of the research is to compare and contrast cultural phenomena across cultures to investigate whether phenomena are culture-specific or universal.
Kashima and Triandis (1986) Americans explaining success and failure, vs. Japanese explaining success and failure.
Berry (1967) variation of Asch's experiment on Temne (Sierra Leone) and Inuits (Baffin Island)

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