Section B: Review of studies (24 marks)

Section B begins with an ‘unseen study’ (question 3 on our Paper 3) – a synopsis of an unknown study, followed by two or more SAQs which add up to 8 marks. The first SAQ is usually methods/ statistics oriented while the second usually involves commenting on the usefulness of a named psychological theory (e.g. social impact theory or the multi-store model) to explain the unseen study’s findings.

Section B finishes with a 16 mark essay (see facing page) requiring you to evaluate two classic studies in terms of an issue/debate.

Here I have provided a couple of similar questions with model answers to help you to develop your style.

  1. ‘Footie fathers’

A small study conducted in New Mexico USA, examined variations in hormone levels in eighteen fathers (mean age 47), before and after watching their children play in a number of football matches at a local tournament. Testosterone and cortisol levels were measured using saliva swabs. The fathers also completed questionnaires about their perception of the various games, e.g. the fairness of the referee, whether the team played to their full potential and how much their own child contributed to the end result. Post-match testosterone and cortisol levels both increased by 81% and a staggering 417% respectively.

It was also noted that fathers who perceived unfairness tended to have higher post-match testosterone and cortisol levels, and increases in testosterone post-match were greater for fathers watching their sons compared with fathers watching their daughters. Also fathers who perceived that sport was less important to their children experienced greater testosterone levels post-match than those fathers who perceived sport to be more important to their children. The researchers also found a positive correlation between increases in cortisol and testosterone post-match.

(Source: Adapted from Alvarado et al. 2018)

(a) Explain one weakness of this study. (2)
The first sentence identifies a problem in the study, i.e. lack of control. The second sentence presents a well-developed relevant example (implications of crowd size of crowd) and notes the impact of this, i.e. reduced validity. Full-mark answer  One weakness of this study is that hormone levels may be affected by a variety of factors which could not have been controlled in this naturalistic study. For example crowd size was not controlled and this lack of control would reduce the validity of the findings because hormone levels may only fluctuate in this manner under certain circumstances.
(b) Explain how useful evolutionary theory can be in accounting for the findings of the ‘footie fathers’ study. (6)
The focus of this question is the application (AO2) of an area of your knowledge, in this case evolutionary theory. So the first step is to think about relevant content that could be used to explain the extract, e.g. natural selection, sexual selection.

Next you need to think about what the question actually says: ‘explain how useful…’ . So you need to explain the study’s findings using aspects of evolutionary theory and then also consider strengths and weaknesses of your explanations (AO3).

This answer is split into two paragraphs, each starting with relevant knowledge of evolutionary theory which is explicitly linked to the study’s findings (AO2). The final sentence of each paragraph gives a justification/judgments relating to the ideas presented in the first section, (AO3). These sentences cover supporting evidence (e.g. Dabbs and Hargrove) and methodological criticism (limitations of correlational studies).

Full-mark answer  From an evolutionary perspective, parents who were prepared to fight to protect their young would have been more likely to be represented in future generations explaining hormone increases at the football tournament. Testosterone increases would help them respond aggressively to the perceived unfair refereeing (a threat to their child). Support comes from Dabbs and Hargrove who found salivary testosterone was associated with aggressive dominance, so evolutionary processes might usefully explain the testosterone increases as a response to the referee.

Testosterone increases might be greater for fathers watching sons than daughters as evolutionary psychologists would predict that boys games would be more aggressive than girls games as males needed to fight off reproductive rivals. Although chimpanzee studies support the idea that the boys might have played rougher than the girls, studies such as these are correlational. This means cause and effect cannot be established, reducing the usefulness of evolutionary explanations of the fathers’ behaviour.

Mark scheme

AO2  Up to three marks for application of the theory to the findings of the study. AO3 Up to three marks for judgement/justification of the theory to the findings of the study.

Next we have an example of a 16 mark review of studies essay question:

4. Evaluate the classic studies by Sherif et al. (1954/61) and Watson and Rayner (1920) with reference to the use of psychological knowledge in society. (16)

These 16-mark essays need to be about 600-700 words in length with an AO1 : AO3 ratio of roughly 1:2, i.e. roughly 100 words of description and 200 words of evaluation for each study, where the AO3 is specific to the named issue/debate.

In the model answer below, both studies are summarised in under 100 words. This is a great skill to practice for all classic studies. Each description is followed by a strength relating to one specific application of the study to society. These strengths follow the PET structure and are supported by relevant evidence (e.g. Gilroy) before linking back to the classic study. Well-developed competing arguments are presented, including appropriate terminology and further accurate AO1 knowledge. The strengths are balanced with well-supported weaknesses. The essay closes by identifying a problem which is shared by each application, a thoughtful way of drawing the two studies together

4. Evaluate the classic studies by Sherif et al. (1954/61) and Watson and Rayner (1920) with reference to the use of psychological knowledge in society. (16)

Model answer:

Sherif et al. ran a camp at Robbers Cave State Park with 22 middle-class boys, splitting them into two teams, the Rattlers and Eagles. Competition was created by manipulating aspects of camp life and seeing how this affected interactions both within and between the two groups. Sherif created hostility between the groups through a competition with knives and medals as prizes. This created prejudice towards the out=group and increased in-group solidarity. He restored harmony by creating situations with superordinate goals where all the boys had to work to fix a broken water supply and get a truck out of the mud.

A strength of this study is can be applied to the reduction of prejudice. For example, Aronson and Bridgeman’s jigsaw classroom tackled racial prejudice in American schools using co-operative group learning tasks. Students reported increased liking and empathy for each other and black students improved in academic performance. This shows Sherif’s study has helped students to reach their potential, regardless of ethnicity.

One weakness of using cooperation to reduce prejudice is both studies by Sherif and by Aronson were conducted in America, which is high on individualism (IDV) and low on Power Distance Index (PDI). Differing strategies may be required in collectivist societies or cultures stratified by social status or rank.

This is supported by Orpen (1971) who examined prejudices held by white South African 16 year olds, who experienced cultural pressure to accept prejudice towards black people. This highlights the importance of tackling cultural norms in wider society.

Watson and Rayner aimed to classically condition nine-month-old Little Albert to fear a white rat. Initially he was unafraid of various stimuli, including a white rat, cotton wool and wooden blocks but had an unconditioned fear of loud noise (steel bar hit with a hammer). When Albert was 11 months, learning trials started, showing Albert a rat and then making the loud noise. Albert returned to the lab several times for further pairings and his reactions were tested. Albert developed a conditioned fear response, crying and crawling away on seeing the rat. His fear generalised to some of the other furry stimuli but to a lesser extent.

One strength of this study is that it led to behavioural treatments. For example, systematic desensitisation (SD) is based on the classical conditioning of emotions. Gilroy et al. (2003) successfully treated arachnophobia using SD and clients were still much improved 33 months later. This shows that Watson and Rayner’s study ultimately helped people with phobias to improve their quality of life.

This said, Gilroy et al. only looked at arachnophobia (a fear of one specific thing). Multiple phobias or those linked to trauma/abuse may be much harder to treat. In Little Albert’s case, his artificially created fear appeared to diminish rapidly in its own, yet in real life, ‘unlearning’ may be much more complex.

A further problem is that behavioural treatment does not target thought patterns, which would not have been an issue with Little Albert, who was just a baby. However, it may be an issue with older clients whose irrational thoughts could be discussed. This is especially true for social phobias where a cognitive therapy may be more successful. This suggests that the classical conditioning approach derived from Watson and Rayner’s study may be over simplistic. Nevertheless, the study has been hugely influential and inspired a range of therapies, from simple exposure therapy to the use of virtual reality.

In conclusion, both studies have made useful contributions to society. However each of them may be inclined to offer an over-simplistic view of human behaviour, for example prejudice interventions may be superficial and therefore not long-lasting and, in the case of SD, the underlying cognitive issues may be ignored. This means that ultimately the contributions of these studies to society are reduced.                                         630 words