Psychology Revision AS Edexcel

Social Learning theory


Social Approach


- All behaviour is explained by the presence of people around us.

- We act to society's expectations.

- We naturally form groups in society the effects our behaviour (In and Out Groups)


- Can explain modern issue's such as football violence, genocide.

- Offers suggestions on how we can reduce negative behaviours.

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Following an order given by a person in authority. 

Everday example - Doing what teachers say.

Innapropriate example - Friend telling you to hit someone.

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Milgram's study of Obedience


- To investigate what level of obedience would be shown when subjects were told by an authority figure to electric shock the other person.


- He got 40 males aged between 20 & 50

- Two rooms, one room there was an electric shock generator reaching 450v and starting at 15v (30 switches). Second room the was a chair with restraining straps where the learner recieves the shocks.

- Learner had to learn word pairs such as 'Fat Neck' and if they answered a wrong word pair they would get a shock but the subject increasing intensity each time.


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- Subject became anxious when they had to give out high intensity shocks.

-100%-300v     65%-450v


- People are very obedient to authority figures.

Variation Studies:

Learner not seen or heard 100% - 450v

Learner seen and heard 40% - 450v

Physical contact made 30% - 450v

Less prestigious event 47.5% - 450v

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Meeus and Raajmaker 1985


Meeus and Raaijmakers aimed to create an experiment similar to Milgram’s, which could be used to  assess the external validity of the original findings in Holland. They wanted to create a study where there was no ambiguity about whether the behaviour participants were ordered to do would be harmful or not.


 - A laboratory experiment with independent measures was used to test 39 Dutch male and female Pps aged 18-55 to see how obedient they were when asked to administer psychological harm in the form of 15 increasingly insulting remarks to a confederate/stranger who is applying for a job at a university and has to pass a 32 item test.

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-22/24 Pps were fully obedient and delivered all 15 insults (92%). The mean level of insult was 14.8. None of the control group delivered any of the insults. Although many Pps entered into discussion with the researcher when prompted to continue, levels of opposition were very low.


-Meeus and Raaijmakers concluded that high levels of obedience are to be expected even 20 years after the original Milgram’s original study and that obedience in Holland is in fact higher than it was in the US in the 60s.

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Generalisabilty - Cannot be generalised. Only Dutch people.

ReliabilityThe study is strong in that the standardised procedure means that it could be replicated with ease.

Application - Yes, it explains why obeying an order to force harm is even easier that causing physical harm.

Validity - Yes, tested what it claimed to test and it also showed the people obey more with an authority figure.

Ethics - Debriefed, Decieved but the participants did have the right to withdraw.

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Agency Theory

Agentic State:

When we do what we are told. (obeying requests of other people)

No free will. E.G. Obeying the law

Autonomous State:

Where we do what we want and take personal responsibilty for our actions.

Free Will.

Moral Strain:

An uncomfortable feeling when we do something that we do not agree with doing.

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Evaluation - Agency Theory


- Helps to explain moral strain

- When we obey orders that go against our principles when feeling uncomfortable.

- Theory explains what we feel.

- Studies support theory (Milgram)


- Doesn't allow individual differences.

- Doesn't explain why some people are in the agentic state more than others.

- Can be used as an excuse.

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Social Identity Theory

When people are grouped together it always leads to predjudice against another group.

1. Social Categorisation (Predjudice)

Automatically put ourselves and others into groups.

In-Group: Group that we belong

Out-Group: The opposing group

2. Social Identification (Predjudice)

We asorb the culture and values of our in-group.

We emphasise group membership by:

-Wearing certain clothes

- Listening to certain music etc. 

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3. Social Comparison (Driscrimination)

We notice difference between our ingroup and other outgroups.

To boost our self-esteem we want the out-groups to look bad, so we act on the outgroup trying to make them look bad.


- Explains real life behaviours e.g. football violence.

- Supports Sherif's theory.


- Over simplifies how complex we are as human beings.

- Ignores particular groups E.G. how people survive with low rescources

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Hofling et al. (1966)


To see if nurses were more obedient in their workplace, even if they couldn't see the authority figure and it was over the phone.


- 21 Nurses all American.

- All nurses doing normal job and when they were alone in the ward a phone call took place from an unknown doctor. The doctor told the nurse to overdose a patient to save their life with an illegal drug. The drug was unauthorized where they are working.


12 Graduate nurses done a questionnaire and said they wouldn't give the drug.

21 out of 22 nurses gave the drug, and 11 knew that astrogen was dangerous but followed through.


Nurses break rules in a situation where an authority figure tells them too, even if it endangers a patients life.

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Sherif et al. 1961 - Robbers Cave


- To see whether it is possible to install prejudice between between two groups with similar backgrounds in competition with eachother.


22 boys took part at a summer camp. On arrival they were split up into two groups, the researchers acted as camp counsellors.

Both groups were unaware of the eachothers existence. However they both soon had distinctive rules, a team name and also a flag.

After 1 week they were made aware of eachother, and researchers observed the in/out groups that started to form.

They then introduced a competition for prizes. Even before the competitions the groups began to fight and one group burnt the others flag. The prize got stolen also got stolen.

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Sherif continued and GRAVE


A strong ingroup preference was shown by the boys in each group.


Competition increased prejudice and discrimination, leading to in-group confliction

Generalisability - Too small sample, 22 boys 11 from one state in USA.

Reliabilty - Yes, standardized procedure, all natural behaviour and it can be repeated.

Application - Yes, because it took place in a natural environment

Validity - Yes, because it was in a natural environment

Ethics - No, No informed consent. No right to withdraw, they were decieved and not debriefed. 

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Cognitive Approach

What is it?

All behaviour can be explained by the mental processes that we use to make sense of the world. E.G. paying attention to someone talking to you.


We process information like computers

Info is taken by senses > Thought about and stored as memory > Recalled as memory of spoken recollection

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Ability to story and retain information from past experiences.

We have it so we can develop as human beings.

We do not know the capacity of memory. No one in the world has full memory so it is thought to be limitless.

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Levels Of Processing - Craik and Lockhart 1972

Our brains process information in 3 different ways Structural, Phonetic, Semantic.

The way it's processed affects how well it is remembered.

If the info is distinctive, relevant to us and it takes time and effort to process it, it is likely to be remembered.

However if it is boring, irrelevant or we do not spend time or effort thinking about it, it is less likely to be remembered.

- Memory is a by-product of the way we process information.

- It is not always inentional

- Explains why we sometimes remember information if we don't mean it.

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Reconstructive Memory (Bartlett 1932)

- Our memories are not exact copies of what we experience, unlike video's and camera's.

- We often remember fragments of original events.

- When we recall memories, we fill in the gaps of missing information.

- We use our knowledge of the world and previous experiences to guess what should fill in the gaps.

- We use 'Schemata' to help us fill in gaps.

- Schemata are pods of information about an event, person or place.

- Memory is reconstructive rather that reproductive. (Build up memories)

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Evaluation of Reconstructive Memory


- Can be tested scientifically by manipulating the IV and measuring the DV. Therefore the theory is reliable.

- There is evidence from the research which supports this theory found that when participants recalled 'The War of The Ghosts' they filled in the gaps in their memories using information that made no sense to them.


- This theory describes how we reconstruct memories but does not explain how we do this. It does not explain how we select information to fill in the gaps from all the information we have in our memory.

- Participants in Bartletts study might have been responding to demand characteristics.

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What is it?

The absence of memories. When you cannot recall past experiences.

Why can't you remember everything?

Because we do not need to remember everything.

Why do we forget some things and not others?

Somethings are more significant


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this was really good!! i want more!!! :(

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