Psychology core studies

15 core studies, and approaches

Social studies and their aims

MILGRAM: to investigate the process of obedience and to observe the effect of a legitimate authority even when the command requires destructive behaviour.

PILIAVIN: to investigate the influence of a variety of variable on helping behaviour, mainly the ''ill' and ''drunk' condition.

REICHER AND HASLAM: to create an insitute like a prison and to investigate the behaviour of groups who have different power, authority and status. To see if the concept of social identity and social categorisation provide a more satisfactory account of group behaviour than role acceptance.

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Cognitive studies and their aims

LOFTUS AND PALMER: experiment one- to investigate the accuracy of eye witness testimony and to see if the critical word in a question will affect the speed estimation given by participants of vehicles as they crash. Experiment two- to further investigate the affect of leading questions and to see if they result in purely a response bias or if they actually alter a persons memory representation.

BARON-COHEN- to find support for the cognitive explanation of autism- that adults with autism lack the advanced theory of mind which allows them to predict the actions of others.

SAVAGE RUMBAUGH- to investigate the capacity for language acquisition in pygmy chimpanzees and contrast it to that of common chimpanzees.

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Developmental studies and their aims

Samuel-Bryant- to test the ability of 7/8 year olds to conserve and challenge Piaget's conservation experiment and see if children got less confused when asked only one question, rather than two, pre and post transformation.

Bandura- to see if a child witnesses an afggressive display they would repeat it in a different environment when given a chance. To see if behaviour learnt in one situation can be generalised to another. To test the social learning theory and imitative learning theory.

Freud- to report the findings of a boy for the treatment of his phobias, ie his fear of horses. To test freuds explanation of the genesis of phobias and his theory about infantile sexuality and the Oedipus complex.

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Individual differences studies and their aims

ROSENHAN- to test the hypothesis that psychiatrists can reliably diagnose same and insane people.

GRIFFITHS- to investigate the differences between regular fruit machine gamblers and non regular fruit machine gamblers.

THIGEN AND CLECKLEY- to make an account of the psychotherapeutic therapy administered to 25 year old Eve White after she was referred to them with 'severe and blinding headaches'

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Biological studies and their aims

SPERRY- to study the psychological effects of hemispheric disconnection in split brain patients and to use the results to understand how the right and left hemispheres work in normal individuals.

MAGUIRE- to investigate whether changes can be detected in the brains of London taxi drivers and to further investigate the functions of the hippocampus in spatial memory.

DEMENT AND KLIETMAN- to investigate the relationship between eye movement and dreaming.

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Participants in social studies

MILGRAM- an initial pool of 500 participants, this was then reduced to 40 men between the age of 20 and 50. They were all New Haven men recruited through newspapers. They came from different occupations and backgrounds. The initial 500 were all paid $4 50 for turning up, regardless of whether they continued the experiment or not. The experimenter was played by a biology teacher and the learner by an accountant.

PILIAVIN- 4 500 Men and women on a subway train in New York between 59th and 125th street over a period of 2 months. 45% black and 55% white. On average there were 43 people in a carriage and 8.5 people in the critical area. People on the subway between 11am and 3pm.

REICHER AND HASLAM- there was an initial 332 applicants. This was reduced to 27 through a screening process. This involved a series of psychometric tests (eg an assessment of authoritarianism, depression, self esteem), assessment by clinical psychologists and medical and character references. The final 15 were chosen to ensure diversity of age, social class and ethnic background. The final 15 were split into groups of 3, matched as closely as possible in personality variables which could be significant eg racism or authoritarianism. 1 was randomly selected as guard, the rest as prisoners.

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Participants in cognitive studies.

LOFTUS AND PALMER- (experiment 1) 45 students (experiment 2) a new group of 150 students.

BARON-COHEN- (group 1) 16 participants with high functioning autism or asperghers syndrome. 13 males and 3 females. All of normal intelligence. Recruited through doctors and the national autistic society magazine. (group 2) 50 age matched controls. 25 males and 25 females. Presumed to be of normal intelligence and no history of psychiatric disorder. (group 3) 10 participants with Tourette's syndrome. 8 males and 2 females to mirror the sex ration in group 1. Aged matched with group 1 and 2. All of normal intelligence.

SAVAGE RUMBAUGH- Two common chimpanzees, Austin and Sherman, and two pygmy chimpanzees, Kanzi and Mulika.

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Participants in developmental studies

SAMUEL BRYANT- 252 boys and girls. Aged between 5 and 8 1/2 from Devon, England. Divided into four age groups whose mean ages were 5 years 3 months, 6 years 3 months, 7 years 3 months and 8 years 3 months.

BANDURA- Children from a university nursery school in Stanford California. 36 boys and 36 girls. Aged between 3 and 5 years old, average age 4 1/2. Two adults models, a male and female.

FREUD- little Hans, aged between 3 and 5 for the duration of this case.

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Participants in individual differences studies

ROSENHAN- bit of a weird one! The participants were actually the psychiatric hospitals and the staff in them!

GRIFFITHS: 60 participants. Half were regular gamblers- 29 males and 1 female. Half were non regular gamblers- 15 males and 15 females. Regular gamblers gambled at least once a week, non regular gamblers gambled once a month or less but had used fruit machines at least once in their lives. Participants were recruited through poster advertisements around university campuses and a number of the regular gamblers were recruited via a gambler known to the author.

THIGPEN AND CLECKLEY- 25 year old Eve White. (Eve White, Eve Black, Jane)

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Participants in biological studies

SPERRY- 11 split brain patients who had undergone the procedure to try and control their severe epileptic fits which couldn't be treated by medication.

MAGUIRE- Male London taxi drivers. All right handed. 16 participants. Mean age of 44. All had been licensed drivers for more than 1.5 years. Healthy medical, neurological and psychiatric profiles. A control group of 16 male non taxi drivers was used. The mean age and age range was the same for both the control group and the actual group.

DEMENT AND KLEITMAN- 9 adults, 7 males and 2 females. 5 were studied intensively.

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Procedure for PIliavin

A group of 4 general studies students boarded the train. The 2 female observers sat outside the critical area and the male victim and model remained standing.

The male victim collapsed and lay in his back staring at the ceiling for the duration of the 7 1/2 minute train journey until help was given.

If no help was given by the end of the journey, the male model helped the victim to his feet.

VICTIMS- there were four males victims, 3 white and 1 black. They were aged between 26 and 35. They all dressed identically. They participated in both drunk and cane trials. They took part in 38 drunk trials and 65 sober trials.

MODELS- there were 4 white models between the ages of 24 and 29. There were three different conditions- no model: the model didn't intervene. Early model: the model intervened after 70 seconds. Late model: the model intervened after 150 seconds.

OBSERVERS- the first female observer noted the race, sex and location of anybody in the critical area, the total number of people in the carriage, the total number who helped the victim and the race, sex and location of every helper. The second observer noted the race,sex and location of those in the adjacent area and time when help was first offered.

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Procedure for Milgram

Each subject was told that the experiment aimed to see how punishment affected learning. Each study involved one teacher and one leaner. The subject was introduced to the other 'subject' and rigged lots were drawn for part of teacher and learner. The subject always got teacher. Both were taken into the experimental room. The subject was given a real shock of 45V to convince them that the learner would be receiving real shocks. The learner was then strapped into the 'electric chair apparatus'. An electrode was attached to the learners wrist and to the generator in the next room. The 'teachers' were told that although the shocks would cause pain, there would be no permenant tissue damage.

The teahcer was asked to read out a list of word pairs to the learner, they then had to read out an individual word with four terms, the learner had to say which term was originally paired with the word. The teacher had to give a shock for every wrong response, and each time had to move on to the higher voltage. The teacher also had to announce the voltage he was moving on to to remind him of the intensity. The learner had a predetermined set of responses, and gave approximately three wrong answers for each correct one. The learner made no sign of protest until the voltage reached 300V, they then pounded on the wall and then ceased to provide any response to further questions.

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The teacher was told to wait 5/10 seconds then treat this as a wrong answer and administer another shock. After a shock of 315V, the learner pounded on the wall again but after that there was no further response from the learner.

If the learner turned to the experimenter for advice, he was trained to give a series of 'prods' which were always made in sequence. If the subject refused to obey prod 4, the experiment was terminated. The sequence began a new on each hesitation.

Most sessions were taped and some photographs were taken through one way mirrors. Notes were taken on any unusual behaviours and observers wrote descriptions of the subjects behaviour.

All subjects were interviewed after the experiment and were asked various open ended questions. The all also had psychological tests done. Measures were taken to ensure their well being a a friendly reconciliation with the learner was arranged.

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Procedure for Reicher and Haslam

Prisoners were allocated to lockable 3 person cells off a central atrium. This was separated front the guards quarters by a lockable steel mesh fence. Various measures were taken: social variables eg social identification, organsiational variables eg compliance with rules and clinical variables eg depression. The guards were briefed the night before the study began. They were told that they were responsible for the smooth running of the institution and that they must respect the basic rights of the prisoners. They could lock prisoners in their cells, see into their cells and could use rewards and punishment. The guards had far better living conditions that the prisoners. There were 3 independent variables: (1) permeability- the expectations of movement between groups. Prisoners were told that guards had been chosen because of certain personality characteristics and also told that if prisoners showed these traits they could be promoted to guards. This created permeability. One prisoner was promoted and then participants were told no further promotions or demotions would be possible. (2) legitimacy- after 3 days, the groups were to be told that there was no difference between the guards and prisoners, but it would be impractical to reassign roles. This meant that the group division, after all, was of legitimate. (3) cognitive alternatives- being able to think about possible

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alternatives. On day 4 prisoner 10 was to be introduced. He was chosen because of his background as a trade union official and therefore it was thought he might provide the skills to negotiate and organise collective action.

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The Social approach


it is concerned with the way our interactions with other people affect the way we think, feel and behave (social influence eg obedience, conformity).

It is concerned with how we make sense of ourselves and how we judge ourselves (self-perception and identity)

It is concerned with how we relate to others so includes areas such as conflict, cooperation and relationships.

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It can explain how behaviour can be influenced by other people and the situation in which find themselves.

It often uses ecologically valid methods (field experiments or realistic simulations) such as in Piliavin.


It is reductionist, it may underestimate the influence of individual differences/biology/psychodynamic factors on behaviour. It is determinist.

It often raises ethical issues I it's research technique, observation. Issues such as informed consent and psychological harm.

Realism- although some studies have high ecological validity if say field experiments are used, much research is conducted as simulations or lab experiments which may not be able to show how realistically people/situation affect our behaviour.

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Results of social studies


60% of help was given by two or more helpers

Black people received less help and less quickly

90% of helpers were male

50% of drunk victims received spontaneous help

95% of I'll/cane victims received spontaneous help

There was no diffusion of responsibility, the bigger the group the more help was given

Whether help was given was determined by the cost/reward scale

17% of drunk victims received help before a model stepped in

87% of ill/cane victims received help before a model stepped in

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65% of participants went to the full 450V

100% of participants went up to 300V

Only 9 participants stopped at 300V

Participants showed extreme nervousness and tension

Some gauged the back of their hands, laughed hysterically, turned to the experimenter for advice, and some even had full blown uncontrollable fits

Most subjects accepted the reality of the experimental situation

When Milgram asked a group of psychology students beforehand, they thought only 3% of participants would go the whole 450V

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The prisoners showed little social identification until positions became impermeable, they then began to work together to try to improve conditions

By contrast, the guards showed little social identification. This led to ineffective leadership, which in turn led to the prisoners to seeing the guards as a legitimate authority. This led to insecurities and conflict.

On day 5 prisoner 10 was introduced to initiate a negotiation scheme. Prisoners became increasingly aware of cognitive alternatives such as 'I think the relationship between prisoners and guards is likely to change' Various things were measured:

Compliance with authority and willingness to act in acts of organisational citizenship- both of these dropped after day 5 when prisoners started to go against the guards. Self efficacy (the belief in iones own ability) was also measured along with depression. The unity of the prisoners led to them having increased self efficacy scores and decreased depression scores, whereas guards became more disorganised and mutually recriminatory. On day 6, a group of prisoners escaped from their cell and occupied the guards block making the regime unworkable.

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REICHER and HASLAM continued

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Procedures for cognitive studies


Experiment 1) participants were shown 7 video clips of a car accident which were originally from a driver safety film. After the film, they were given a questionnaire and asked to describe the accident and then to answer questions on it. There was one 'critical question' which was 'what speed were the cars travelling at when they 'hit' each other?'. There were five experimental groups in experiment one, each had a different verb: 'hit', 'smashed', ''collided', 'contacted' and 'bumped'.

Experiment 2) participants were shown a one minute clip, of which 4 seconds was a car accident. Group 1 were asked 'what speed were the cars going when they 'smashed' each other? And group 2 was asked 'what speed were the cars going when they 'hit' each other? Group 3 was a control group and was asked no question. The participants were called back a week later and asked if they saw any glass in the clip. It was presumed that the people who thought the car was going at a higher speed would say they did.

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The eyes task- the participants we're shown pictures of the eye region of 25 different faces. They were all standardised- the same size, black and white, and of the same region. Each picture was shown for 3 seconds and the participant was given a forced question,nthey had to select from 2 mental states printed under the picture. The mental states were either basic, such as sad or afraid, and complex such as reflective, arrogant and scheming. The terms were one mental state and it's 'foil', so it's opposite, such as concerned and unconcerned, friendly and hostile. The decision about what would be counted as a correct answer was made by a panel of four judges, both male and female, and confirmed by a further panel of 8 raters working independently.

Strange stories task-participants in group 1 and group 3 were also tested on Happes strange stories task. This was in order to test the validity of the eyes task. If it is a valid test then the performance on the eyes task should correlate with the results of the strange stories task.

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Control taks-

Group 1 also had to tak epart in two control tasks to see if other factors could play a part in the difficulties of the eyes task:

-gender recognition task- participants had to identify the gender of the people used in the eyes task. This didn't take any mind reading but does involve face perception, perceptual discrimination and social perception. It controls for difficulties in those areas.

-Basic emotion recognition task- participants were asked to judge photos of whole faces which displayed six basic emotions recognised by Ekman 1992. This was done to see if difficulties on the eyes task were due to difficulties with basic emotional recognition. It was different to the estes task as while faces were used, and they only showed basic emotions. It was easier than the eyes task.

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Kanzi and Mulika used a visual system, lexigrams, which britened when they were touched. They were on an electronic keyboard or a pointing board for use outside. A speech synthesiser was added when it was realised that Kanzi could comprehend the spen word, so when the buttons were pressed, so the appropriate word was spoken when the button was pressed.

Neither Kanzi nor Mulika were directly trained in how to use the lexigrams. Kanzi was exposed to the use of symbols and lexigrams from the age of 6 months by observing the interactions between his mom and her keepers. Mulika was also never directly taught how to use the lexigrams, she never observed her mother using them,money Kanzi. Kanzi started shining an interest in symbols at 6 months. Unlike Austin and Sherman, Kanzi and Mulika were never directly taught how to use symbols and lexigrams. People around them modelled symbol and lexigrams use through the course of communicating with each other and the chimps where they over emphasised verbal and visual activities by pointing to the appropriate lexigrams.

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During the warmer months of the year, 17 food items were placed around the 55 acre site. The name of each site was the name of the food a laced there. To get food, Kanzi had to go the site. At first Kanzi was shown pictures of food and asked which he would like. He was then taken to the right location. Within four months, Kanzi could select a photo and guide others to the right place, sometimes carrying Mulika along the way. Later he could use symbols alone and Mulika too began to use symbols to initiate travel.

When the chimps used lexigrams indoors, this could be recorded directly on a computer. Outside the notes were made by hand and then inputted onto the computer at the end of the at. There was a complete record of Kazis uttterances from 30-47 months of age and 11-21 months for Mulika. Each utterance was classified by (1) correct/incorrect. (2) spontaneous or imitated and (3) structured- initiated by a question, request or object.

For a word to be counted as 'acquired' it had to be a spontaneous utterance which could be verified on 9/10 occurrences. For example Kanzi may indicate that he wants to go to the tree house, this would be verified if he took the experimenter there, producing a positive concordance score.

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To establish the reliability of observations, 4 1/2 hours worth of observations was compared with a clip of viseo footage from the same 4 1/2 hours. There was 100% agreement in regard to the lexigrams used and their correctness, but one disagreement about whether it was spontaneous or not. In addition, the video tape observer recorded an extra 9 utterances.

At the end of the period formally tested by the report, Kanzi and Mulika were formally tested on their vocabulary. This was done formally to ensure that their performance was not due to contextual cues or inadvertent glances. They were tested by being shown photographs and then being asked to select the right lexigrams, or by listening to a word or a syntehsised version of the word and then asked to select the right photograph or lexigrams.

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Results for cognitive studies

Loftus and palmer

Experiment 1- the mean speed estimate for each group was calculated. The mean speed was highest for the 'smashed' group- 40.8 and lowest for the 'contacted' group- 31.8.

Smashed- 40.8 Collided-39.3 Bumped- 38.1 Hit-34.0 Contacted-31.8

The results showed that the phrasing and structure of a question can alter the response which you get. Loftus and palmer propsed two explanations for this:

Response bias- the different speed estimates occur because the critical verb in the question influences or bias' the response.

Memoy represntation is altered- the critical verb changes a participants memory so that their perception of an accident is altered, some verbs may make an accident seem worse than others

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Experiment 2-

For phase 1, the results were the same as in experiment one, for the group with 'smashed' as the verb, they had a higher speed estimate than 'hit'- 10.46mph compared to 8.00.

Part 2 (a week later) showed that those in the smashed condition were also more likely to think that they had seen glass. The results showed that the way a question is phrased can have an influence on the answer given. Part two suggests that this is as a result of memory alteration, not reaponse bias. Leading questions actually alter a persons perception of an event.

Loftus and palmer propsed that memory is determined by two factors, what a person gleans at the time of an event, and also the information presented afterwards. These two sources integrate in such a way that they form one 'memory' and it is hard to distinguish the two.

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Baron Cohen


On the eyes task, group 1 had a mean score of 16.3, group 2 had a mean score of 20.3 and group 3 had a mean score of 20.4. This shows that those with TS and normal participants have identically levels whereas those who have AS or autism have significantly lower scores.

In the control group, women perform hetter than males- a mean score of 21.8 compared to 18.8.

There appears to be a ceiling effect on the scores of those with TS and the control group, some got full marks.

The impairment of those in group 1 was not down to low intelligence.

On the strange stories task, no participants in groups 2and 3made any mistakes whereas those in group 1 were significantly impaired.

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Savage rumbaugh
Kanzi started to use lexigrams after his mother went away, so at 2 1/2 years. He immediately had vocabulary which suggesta although he never showed it, he had already acquired some language through watching Matata.
Both kanzi and Mulika naturally used gestures to communicate and they were more explicit than those used by austin and sherman.
Mulika began using symbols later than Kanzi, at 12 months, and initially used symbols such as milk for a variety of things such as to ask to be picked up, to get food and to get a drink. At 15 months, she began to use the lexigrams more appropriately, she used new words such as jelly, surprise, Matata, go and banana. She occasionally reverted back to milk as an all purpose mehod of communication.
Both Manzi and Mulika had no problems identifying a lexigram if it was moved to a new place or placed on a different keyboard.
Both chimpanzees used terms in an associative context first, for example.
Kanzi first heard 'strawberry' in the mushroom area which he the. Associated with strawberries.

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Kanzi learnt 46 words and mulika learnt 37.
Mulika/'s initial acquisition rate was slower than kanzis.
Kanzi multi symbol expression appeared quite early. By the end of thr 17 months hed produced 2 540 non imitative combinations and a further 2 540 imitative or partially imitated ones.
Like children, both Kanzi and Mulika imitated most when they were learning new words. 15% of their utterances were imitation and 85% were spontaneous.
In the formal tests, austin and sherman got initially confused because they thought if they identified the object, they would then receive it. Kanzi and Mulika did well on the tests from the start. They could select photgraphs when prompted by the lexigram and vica versa. They could also do either when prompted with a spoken word, but not so much when the word was generated by a synthesiser.
When kanzi was asked to take a visitor who hadnt been to the site before to a location, he was able to take them to the two sites suggested by the experimentor and also the ones the visitor asked to go to.

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Both Kanzi and Mulika could generalise words, for example they used tomato to indicate other round and red fruits.
Kanzi could also understand the different meanings of words, for example he said juice, so went to the juice site, but then didnt look for juice, showing that he just meant the location.

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Procedure for biological studies


Data was collected using MRI scans which were analysed in 2 ways:

VBM- this technique allows every point of the brain to be analysed objectively and in an unbiased way.VBM identifies the differences in the density of grey matter in different areas of the brain. Grey matter lies on the surface of the brain and also deep inside structures such as the hippocampus/ it is the part of the brain which is associated with higher order thinking. 

Pixel counting- hippocampal volume was calculated by using a pixel counting technique. the pixels were counted in the images produced by the MRI scan. each scan was of a photographic slice made through the hippocampal region of the participants brains. there were at least 26 contiguous slices. the images were analysed by a person who was experienced with the technique of pixel counting. They were unaware of whether the scan was from a participant or a control and also unaware of the VBM findings. 

In the final analysis, only 24 slices were used, total hippocampal volume was calculated by adding together the pixels from each slice and multiplying it by the distance between adjacent slices. 

Finally corrections were made in relation to the total ICV area to take into the account that different people have larger brains and we would expect their hippocampi area/volume to be larger.

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The experimental sessions were repeated many times. The participant reported to the sleep laboratory just before their usual bedtime. They had been told to eat normally but to avoid drinks which contained caffeine and alcohol on the day of the experiment.  Electrodes were attached around the participants eyes to measure electoral activity and hence eye movement (using EOG) and attached to the participants scalp to measure rain waves (using EEG) as a measure of depth of sleep. The participant then went to sleep in a quiet, darkened room. 

At various points during the night, participants were woken by a bell placed near their bed. the awakenings were done either during periods of REM sleep or during NREM sleep. On average the participants were awoken 5.7 times a night and were asleep for 6 hours. 

The researchers used various patterns for waking up the 5 most intensively studied participants to avoid any unintentional patterns. For 2 participants they used a table of random numbers. One was woken  up 3 times during REM sleep and 3 times during NREM sleep and 1 was told that he would only be woken up during REM sleep but was actually woken up during both REM and NREM sleep.  

Once they had awoken, they were instructed to speak into a machine next to their bed and say whether they had been dreaming, say what they were dreaming if they could, and whether the dream lasted 5 or 15 minutes. an investigator was listening outside and occasionally further questioned the participant on some aspect of the dream.

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The participant had one eye covered and was asked to gaze at a fixed point in the centre of a projections creen. visual stimuli were back projected onto the screen for 0.1second to either the left or right of the screen. This meant that the eye only had time to process the image in the visual field which it was received in. 

Below the screen there was a gap so that the participants could reach objects but not see his or her hands. 

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Results of the biological studies


VBM comparisons showed that the only difference in grey matter in the brains of taxi drivers and the controls were that the left and right of the hippocampi were the only regions in which there was significantly increased grey matter. There were no differences observed anywhere else in the brain. The density of grey matter in the posterior of the hippocampi for taxi drivers was larger than for non taxi drivers. For non taxi drivers the density/amount of grey matter was larger than taxi drivers in the anterior area of the hippocampi. 

Pixel counting- THere were no significant difference between the pixel count of taxi drivers and none taxi drivers in terms of ICV and hippocampal volume. There were however differences in specific regions of the hippocampus. 

Controls- Anterior right hippocampus had a larger than in taxi drivers/ body of the hippocampus was larger on the right than the left.

Taxi drivers- Their posterior hippocampus was larger than that of the controls. 

Correllations were made with the length of time as a taxi driver and the volume of specific brain regions- time spent as a taxi driver positively correlated with the volume of the posterior right hippocampus, and negatively correlated with the volume of the anterior hippocampus. 

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