Psychology UNIT 2 - core studies

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Rosenhan (1973) - Aims and Context

abnormal behaviour:

  • B which deviates from social norms, not expected or accepted as way of behaving.

medical model of abnormality:

  • aims to treat psych disorders like phys illnesses. mental illness is diag'd in same way as phys symptoms are, doctor identifies set of symptoms in patient, uses them to identify the disorder with help of a diagnostic system (DSM in USA or ICD everywhere else).

anti-psychiatry movement:

  • launched in 60s, by psychiatrists (eg. Laing, Foucault and Szaz). criticised the med mod of abnormality, due to Foucault arguing sanity&insanity were social constructs. Laing said psychiatry = fake science & form of political control. Szaz argued it was no more sophisticated than believing in demonology = unhelpful to understanding of psychiatric conditions.
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Rosenhan (1973) - Aims and Context

important points:

  • Rosenhan didnt suggest that there is no such thing as odd B's nor that 'mental illness' is not associated w/personal anguish.
  • important Q as to whether the diag of insanity = based on patient characteristics or in context patient is seen.
  • Rosenhan said evidence suggests diag of mental illness = 'useless as best & downright harmful, misleading & perjorative at worst'.


  • Rosenhan aimed to investigate whether psychiatrists could distinguish b'ween people who are genuinely mentally ill & those who aren't.
  • investigated whether the salient characteristics that lead to diagnosis, reside in the patients or in the envi' & context observers find them in.

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Rosenhan (1973) - Procedures



  • 8 pseudopatients, 5 men & 3 women inc. Rosenhan (various ages & occupations, inc: grad student, psychologist, psychiatrist, housewife, painter, paediatrician)
  • attempted to gain admission to 12 diff hospitals, in 5 diff states of USA. hospitals ranged from modern-old, well-poorly staffed

Gaining admission:

  • each arrived saying they heard voices saying words such as 'hollow', 'empty' and 'thud' (chosen because of absence in psuchiatric literature, making them neutral terms)
  • once admitted, patients described life events accurately. none had a history of mental illness.
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Rosenhan (1973) - Procedures

life in hospital:

  • research method = covert, naturalistic observation. participants = hospital nurses and staff
  • once admitted to psych ward, patients instructed to act normally, other than tension about being found out, pseudopatients behaved normally
  • spent time talking to other patients, made notes of observations on life in ward
  • secretly didn't take meds, but otherwise followed ward routines
  • pseudo's didn't know when they would be discharged as 1 condition was to get out by own devices.
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Rosenhan (1973) - Procedures


  • after study 1 findings were released, another hospital (that hadn't recieved any pseudo's) challenged Rosenhan, claiming that the misdiagnosis would not happen in their hospital.
  • Rosenhan informed them that in next 3 mo. 1+ pseudo's would present themselves to the hospital.
  • staff asked to rate on a 10 point scale their confidence level that person was genuinely ill (1 being high confidence they were a pseudo) 
  • judgements were obtained on 193 patients over the 3 mo.
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Rosenhan (1973) - Findings and Conclusions



  • all pseudo's admitted & all but 1(bipolar mood disorder) diagnosed as schizophrenic
  • length of hospitalisation varied from 7-52 days, mean average = 19 days
  • staff spent 11.3% of total work time on the ward with patients. nurses came out of their office/the 'cage' 11.6 times and doctors 6.7 times on average per day.
  • psychiatrists spent an average of 6.8 minutes per day with patients.
  • 'real' patients voiced suspiscions, 35 made statements like 'you're not crazy' or 'you're a journalist'.
  • 2100 tablets of antipsychotic drugs were administered overall
  • a nurse recorded on a pseudopatients notes 'patient engages in writing behaviour'.
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Rosenhan (1973) - Findings and Conclusions



  • Rosenhan concluded - cannot distinguis b'ween sane & insanee in psych hospitals; suggesting it is the hospital environment itself which causes regular B such as writing to be easily misunderstood & seen as abnormal B because of the label of insanity given in diagnosis.
  • failure to detect sanity during course of hospitalisation may be due to doctors showing TYPE 2 error: more inclined to call a HEALTHY person SICK, rather than TYPE 1: calling a SICK person HEALTHY. type 2 error is a worse mistake to make.
  • once labelled as schizo', nothing the pseudo's could do to overcome label. all B will be seen through this label, causing many normal behaviours to be misinterpreted and seen as abnormal.


  • in study 2, doctors were more likely to make a type 1 error, through attempting to avoid type 2 error of classing a healthy person sick, proving they cannot distinguish between sane and insane.
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Rosenhan (1973) - Findings and Conclusions



  • in the 2nd study 193 patients had judgements made about them, none of which were pseudopatients sent by Rosenhan.
  • 41 of them were judged ro be a pseudopatient by at least 1 member of staff.
  • 23 were suspected of being a pseudopatient by a psychiatrist.
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Rosenhan (1973) - Methodology


  • covert, participant, naturalistic observation. S = high eco validity due to high mundane realism of tasks performed making results highly generalisable or everyday behaviour. another S = staff unaware of observations, couldnt engage in demand characteristics


  • a D = staff did not give consent to inclusion in study & pseudo's decieved them by giving false symptoms and not infoming of study. another DProtection of p'pants from psych harm - staff may have felt guilty and doubted their professional judgement with regards to distinguishing the sane from the insane.


  • Rosenhan was a pseudopatient. a S = more realistic view of B was seen & depth of insight into investigation. a D = researcher could become too involved - could bias results/make data subjective > lack of validity


  • Rosenhan used a variety of hospitals (5 in diff states, well-poorly staffed, old-new, federal-private) an S = increases pop val, same findings in many diff hospitals & areas allowing to be generalised to wider groups. a Dethnocentric
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Rosenhan (1973) - Alternative Evidence

Slater (2004):

  • prev diagnosed wih clinical depression, presented herself at 9 hospitals w/a single auditory hallucination (word 'thud').
  • in almost all cases = diagnosed w'psychotic depression, prescribed antipsychotic/antidepressant drugs
  • supports: shows psychiatrists cannot distinguish b'ween sane & insane as Slater was found insane by most psychiatrists

Sarbin & Marcuso (1980):

  • claimed a psychiatrist using DSM III would not diagnose Rosenhan's pseudo's w/schizo, since 'hallucinations' must be repeated on several occasions, whereas Rosenhan's pseudo's only reported 1 occurence
  • refutes: suggest that updating of diagnostic manuals would mean findings would not be replicated and pseudo's would not be diagnosed as insane
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Rosenhan (1973) - Alternative Evidence

Langwieler & Linden (1993):

  • sent trained pseudo to 4 physicians each w/diff professional b'ground. although the pseudo exhibited same symptoms, 4 diff diagnosis' and 4 diff treatments were given. 
  • researchers attributed diff diagnosis' to the situation of varying physician b'grounds.
  • supports: again shows despite the updating in diagnostic manuals, the unreliability of diagnoses as 4 diff ones given & none correct - pseudo not real.

Loring & Powell (1988):

  • gave 290 psychiatrists a transcript of a patient interview. told 1/2 that the patient was black & 1/2 that the patient was white.
  • concluded that clinicians appeared to ascribe violence, suspisciousness and dangerousness to black clients even though the case studies were the same for both groups.
  • develops: shows how labels & prejudice affect the perception of B, in this case, label of 'black' or 'white' affected the interpretation of behaviour by psychiatrists.
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Asch (1955) - Aims and Context


  • action of giving into group pressure & complying with group norms & B's even if you dont want to. could be described as public compliance but private disagreement.

Jenness (1932):

  • asked p's to estimate no. of beans in jar, then in small group arrive at average. later asking them to make another individual estimate. found that p's 2nd estimate shifted towards group estimate.
  • this demonstrated that formation of group norms leads to conformity.

Sherif (1935):

  • investigated conformity using autokinetic effect, showed p's a spot of light projected onto screen in dark room.
  • asked them to tell him by how much the light had moved, then write estimations on paper. he then showed them a piece of paper with 2 other estimations. when asked to make another estimation, the p's answers shifted towards a group av.
  • in this way, the establishment of group norms leads to p's conforming to majority.
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Asch (1955) - Aims and Context

important points:

  • Asch believed both J's and S's research was limited and therefore didnt give an accurate measure of conformity.
  • S's technique of using the autokinetic effect is ambiguous & doesn't reflect real conformity.
  • J actually asked his participants to come up with a group estimate.


  • aimed to investigate the effects of group pressure on individuals in unambiguous situation
  • he wanted to find out if when confronted with an obviously incorrect answer, whether individuals would give an answer which went with this error (showing conformity) or whether would give own independent response
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Asch (1995) - Procedures


  • tested 123 male american students from 3 diff US colleges, paid $3 each for participating. they thought study was on visual perception.


  •  put naive participant in same rm as 7 confederates. these 7 people had agreed in advance the responses they were going to give when presented with line task.
  • naive participant did not know this, was led to believe the 7 were participants like him or herself.
  • showed group 2 large white cards, on 1 was a single vertical line(target line), the other 3 vertical lines of various lengths(comparison line). the group then verbally reported which line they thought was most like the target line, with the naive participant going next to last.
  • this was repeated 18 times.
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Asch (1955) - Procedures

procedure continued:

  • in some trials, the 7 confederates gave same, wrong line as answer.
  • confederates gave correct response for 1st 2 of the 18 trials.
  • for the remaining 16 they gave the same wrong answer on 12 occasions and the right answer on just 4 occasions.
  • afterwards Asch revealed the true nature of the study the naive participants in a debrief & interviewed them about their response and B.


  • Asch made many modificationd of the original study. in one, the naive p had a truthful partner who, despite the majority giving the wrong A, gave the right one.
  • in another, the naive p was given a partner with individual responses for the first 6 critical trials, then gave conforming As for no apparent reason.
  • in another, the naive p was given a partner with individual responses for the first 6 trials and then had to leave for an important meeting.
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Asch (1955) - Findings and Conclusions

control experiment:

  • Asch carried out a control experiment with no confederates to confirm that the lines were unambiguous. in ordinary circumstances, individuals match lines invorrectly only 1% of the time.


  • mean level of conformity on all of the critical tasks was 36.8%. 25% of naive ps did not give a conforming A once, suggesting that 75% of naive participants conformed at least once during the trial.
  • participant B whether is was independent or compliant, seemed to be consistent.
  • those who were independent had confidence in own judgement, felt obliged to give the A as they saw it, even though they thought the majority was right.
  • those who yielded with the majority, underestimated the amount of times they conforms & explained B in various ways, eg. didnt want to spoil the results of the study.
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Asch (1955) - Findings and Conclusions

findings continued:

  • in his variations, Asch identified key factors that affected conformity levels.
  • the pressure of the majority was reduced when there was only a small majority.
  • was also reduced by the presence of a dissenter, even when the dissenter gave a diff' incorrect A.


  • Asch concluded that there is a surprisingly strong tendency to conform to group pressures in a situation where the answer is clear.
  • he suggests that group agreement is a necessary aspect of social life, but it is psychologically unhealthy to be domintated by majority pressure.
  • for Asch, the important finding was that there was any conformity at all.
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Asch (1955) - Methodology


  • all male American college students. ethnocentric and androcentric sample. low validity.
  • can only be generalised to conforming habits of other male American students, not representative of women or individuals from other cultures.


  • Larsen repeated the experiment in 1974 and found much lower levels of conformity.
  • shows a lack of external reliability and historical bias as recent conformity is lower than at the time of Asch's study. results not consistent over time.

realism of task:

  • study lacks mundane realism, low ecological validity.
  • matching up lines in a group of strangers is not an everyday task.
  • results may not be generalisable to real examples of conformity, eg. bullying.
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Asch (1955) - Methodology


  • payment of ps ($3) may have influenced the levels of conformity. felt more obliged to conform, thinking that is what researcher wanted them to do (engaging in demand characteristics).
  •  this reduces the internal validity of the study, as it is no longer measuing what it is supposed to be.
  • (however) artificial environment, can control any extraneous variables, increases internal validity. (eg. always making sure naive p goes last or 2nd to last, to ensure group norm was established first.

ethical issues:

  • deception, told study was about perception, not conformity. told confederates were real ps like themselves. did not give informed to consent and were not give the right to withdraw.
  • p's could also have suffered psych harm after they were debriefed: relaising they conformed with obvs wrong A just to fit in oculd lead to lack of confidence in own personality and a loss of self-esteem, leaving study worse than before.
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Asch (1955) - Alternative Evidence

Perrin & Spencer (80):

  • repeated Asch's experiment in England during late 70s, only 1 P in 396 trials conformed.
  • refutes: much lower levels of conformity show poeple are not always pressed into conforming to a group norm.
  • however, Asch's study was carried out in the USA in the 50s at a time of a particularly high conformist society, people afraid to 'stand out from the crowd'. could account for difference

Smith & Bond (88):

  • reviewed 133 studies carried out in 17 countries classified as being collectivistic or individualistic.
  • collectivist more conformist than individualistic. collectivist cultures strive to achieve more group harmony than individualistic cultures.
  • develops: even though conformity occured in the US (an individualistic culture), in cultures where the needs of the group are placed above the needs of the individual, conformity increases further, suggesting culture can influence conformity.
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Loftus and Palmer - Aims and Context

eye witness testimony:

  • legal term referring to the use of EW to give evidence in court concerning ID of someone who has committed a crime
  • EW have to rely on memory, if mistaken and think they remember things that didnt happen - serious implications for justice.

the innocence project:

  • innaccurate EW memory main factor leading to false convistions.
  • EW mis-id - single greatest cause of wrongful convictions - of those overturned with DNA testing, 75% due to wrongful convictions.

leading question:

  • through content suggests that a certain A is desired, or one which can lead to that A.
  • when EWs are questioned, wording of Qs could influence recollection, interfere with memory.
  • 'did you see the gun' - 'the' suggests that there was a gun
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Loftus and Palmer - Aims and Context

    • leading Qs may affect EW ability to judge speed of vehicles, people = poor at estimating numerical details of traffic accidents eg. time, distance, speed.

Marshall (1969):

  • air force personnel; knew in advance that they were being asked to estimate speed of a vehicle, observed a car at 12 mph, estimates ranged from 10 - 50mph.

Filmore (1971):

  • words 'smashed' and 'hit' involve differential rates of movement. may lead EW to believe there are different consequences - 'smashed'= percieved as harder than 'hit'.


  • 1: investigate inaccuracy of memory, in particular - effect of leading Qs on estimates of speed.
  • see if estimates of speed were influenced by wording of Q.
  • 2: investigate whether leading Qs simply bias response of actually alter the stored memory.
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Loftus and Palmer - Procedures


  • lab experiments - independent group design.
  • 45 pps, male and female students, 1 uni in US.
  • split into 5 groups, each was shown 7 films of different traffic accidents (5-30 secs), then given questionnaire asking to give account of accident they had just seen
  • critical Q 'about how fast were the cars going when they ... eachother'
  • the verb was changed for each of the groups - 'hit', 'smashed', 'collided', 'bumped', 'contacted'.
  • IV = diffrent verb used - DV = estimate of speed (mph)


  • 150 different pps from same uni. 
  • film clip of multiple car crash lasted less than 4 secs. then split into 3 groups of 50
  • 1st group -  'how fast were the cars travelling when they smashed into each other?'. 
    2nd group - changed 'smashed' for 'hit'. 3rd group - control, no Q asked.
  • week later, pps asked to return, asked further set of Qs - critical leading W = 'did you see any broken glass?' - there was no broken glass
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Loftus and Palmer - Findings and Conclusions



  • 'smashed' - estimates of highest mean speed. (40.8 mph). 'contacted' - lowest (31.8 mph)
  • findings suggest that the type of Q used and wording can significantly affect EW ability to answer question.



  • 'smashed' group gave higher estimations of speed than 'hit' group.
  • 'smashed' group - 16 reported seeing glass, 34 did not.
  • 'hit' group - 7 reported seeing glass, 43 did not.
  • control group - only 6 reported seeing glass.
  • verb 'smashed' used - pps were over twice as likely to report seeing broken glass than when ver 'hit' or no verb was used.
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Loftus and Palmer - Findings and Conclusions


  • leading Qs and changes in wording, can alter an EW memory of an event.
  • this small change had consequences for how Qs were answered a week later.
  • L&P conclude that people's accuracy of details during complex events is potentially distorted through use of leading Qs.
  • could be due to fact that critical word changes person's memory so perception of accident is affected, also leading them to 'remember' other details which arent true (eg. broken glass).
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Loftus and Palmer (1974) - Methodology


  • lab experiment - objective, empirical, quantitative data - analysed and then generalised
  • L&Ps study produced data of estimated speed - analysed, mean produced, generalised


  • high control of EVs allowing C&E relationship between IV & DV  to be estab'd.
  • same clips shown to all 5 groups, same order, for same time, ensure that C&E was established - increasing internal validity


  • task lacks mundane realism - low ecological validity. real life - being an EW = stressful/emotional not like watching clip in lab. - problems generalising to real life EW.
  • lab settings no real consequences - have to think less about answers, doesnt have to be 100% as are no serious consequences. could be an EV affecting DV.
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Loftus and Palmer (1974) - Methodology


  • lacks population validity - all US uni students from same uni. ethnocentric
  • results can only be generalised to other university students - lack of external validity.

independent group design:

  • demand characteristics avoided
  • individual differences within groups - driving ability and experience? could hav confounded results - lowering internal validity.

ethical issues:

  • deception - not told aim. but were debriefed after investigation.
  • failure to protect p's from harm - some may have been traumatised by content of clips eg. if had been in car accident - may have suffere psych harm from study.
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Loftus and Palmer (1974) - Alternative Evidence

Loftus and Zanni (1975):

  • showed pp's clip of car accident. split into 2 groups.
  • group 1 - 'did you see a broken headlight?' . group 2 - 'did you see the broken headlight?'
  • group 1 - 'a' 7% recorded seeing. group 2 - 'the' 17% recorded seeing a broken headlight.
  • supports - shows how use of leading question can alter memory ('a' and 'the' - one word can distort memory)

Loftus (1979):

  • shows pps series of pics - man stealing red wallet
  • pps then exposed to incorrect info, inc that the wallet was brown. 98% remembered correctly.
  • refutes - EW memory not as easily corrupted as L&P would suggest, however colour is simple, speed is more complex.

Braun et al (2002):

  • 120 pps told were evaluating Disneyland ads & answering Qs about childhood trips.
  • 4 groups. group 1 - ad didnt mention bugs bunny. group 2 - ad had no mention, cardboard cut out in room. group 3 - ad mentioned bugs bunny. group 4 - ad mentioned bugs & cutout in room.
  • 30% group 2 remembered meeting/seeing bugs. 40% group 4 said same. not possible - warner bro character
  • develops - misinfo doesnt need to be verbal to affect memory
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