Social Psychology

Exam Board-Edexcel

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Definition of the Social Approach

  • Social psychology is the study of how our behaviour is influenced by the presence, attitudes and actions of other people
  • Assumption:
  • Our behaviour is affected by the society and culture we live in
  • We are continuously playing roles
  • A role is a position is society with certain expectations attached to it
  • E.g. a teacher's role has certain expectations that will change his/hers behaviour
  • Links with Social Identity Theory which suggests that identifying as a member of a group we can become prejudiced towards others.

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  • A method commonly used is survey; questionnaires and interviews, this is self-report data. They need a pilot study to test if their sample size etc is appropriate.
  •  Hypotheses: are specific testable predictions about what you expect to find after analysing the data from your participants.
  • Null Hypothesis: uses the word no/not
  • In research you test the null hypothesis to either prove/disprove it.
  •  1-tailed: When you state the direction of an experiment
  •  2-tailed: When you predict a difference but u don’t state which way it’ll go
  •  Subjectivity: is when the researcher is biased toward his views or hypothesis.
  • Reliability: if we repeat experiment will we gain same/similar results.
  •  Validity: Is it measuring what it set out to? Relatable to real life?
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Open and Closed Questions




Open Question e.g. Interview

Descriptive nature allows for more depth of analysis leading to more meaningful conclusions about the participant’s views. This could increase validity.

It is difficult to draw comparisons between groups or to arrive at a reliable conclusion about a specific thing.

Closed Question e.g. Questionnaire

It is possible to draw comparisons between groups or to arrive at a reliable conclusion about a specific thing.

The reduction of thoughts and feelings into numbers gives a very superficial view of the behaviour being researched. This could decrease validity.

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Types of Interview

o   Types of interview:

  • Unstructured:  Questions open, a research topic the interview is based around but researcher free to ask whatever questions they feel appropriate.
  • Structured: Set of pre-determined questions to which the researcher must stick to, restricts researcher from digging deeper into a particular issue.
  • Semi-structured: Mix of both of the above.
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Every person has an equal chance of being selected.

Likely to be unbiased as the researcher isn’t able to control who’s chosen.

Hard to do unless you have a small population.


The sample is proportional to the population.

Likely to be very representative of the population.

It’s time consuming & difficult to collect the sample.


Use whoever’s available at the time and place.

Easy & quick.

Not representative.


A person offers to be a part of a study; or may respond to an advert which asks for their time to be a part of a study.

Likely to be motivated.

They may be too varied in health, age etc.

More prepared and motivated   for the study which can change results.

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Milgram's study into Obedience

Obedience: To follow orders from a person who’s in a position of authority.

o   Aim: To see how obedient ordinary people would be where following the orders of an authority figure would mean breaking their moral code and inflicting harm on another person.

o   Method:

-          40 volunteers who responded to newspaper advert.

-          Offered $4 and car fare for any local male (not in high-school or college)

-          Set at Yale University (prestigious setting), researcher wearing white lab coat

-          Ps told that they and another man (actually a confederate) would take part in a memory test.

-          Rigged draw - P always teacher, confederate always learner

-          A shock generator with lights from 15V to 450V (which was marked danger ‘XXX’)

-          The chair for the learner was in the next room (P could not see learner)

-          The P told to administer increasing level of shocks to confederate every time a question that they asked was answered wrong (which was purposely done)

-          Researcher constantly encouraging the participant to carry on despite protest and anxiety from the P.

-          The confederate began to scream and ask the P to stop at 140V

-          Obedience was measured by the level of shock the P administered to the confederate before stopping.

o   Results:

-          Before experiment Milgram asked a group of people and psychological professionals what level of shock the Ps would be willing to go up to. They said they would stop at around 140V and very little would continue on.

-          100% went to 350 volts and 65% carried on till 450V.

o   Conclusion:

-          Having started to obey it became harder and harder to break away from the situation.

-          Ordinary people can inflict harm when asked to do so by an authority figure.

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