Social: Key Question

The key question part of the specification tests your ability to apply what you have learnt about the various concepts, theories and studies to a real life issue that is of relevant in today’s society. You have to be able to demonstrate that psychology has applications in everyday life and makes a contribution to contemporary society. We get to choose our own key question and the examiners could asks you questions about this on the exam but they also often give you an unseen extract and asks you to explain it using what you have learnt in psychology. This means that the more applied examples you can think about the better equipped you will be in the exam, should they give you a scenario question.

“Can social psychology explain why neighbours who once lived peacefully alongside one another, begin to attack and kill each other as in the Rwandan genocide?”


How is this key issue relevant to society?

Our key question relates to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, this genocide is still very relevant today as Rwanda recently commemorated the 20th anniversary of the loss of 1 million citizens and war criminals are only now being brought to justice and social psychological themes relating to the psychological of obedience including the deferring responsibility in the agentic state may well be relevant to the trials. Furthermore, the way Rwanda chooses to remember/commemorate the genocide is important in terms of reducing prejudice and paving the way for improved relations between the two groups in the future.

Why is this key question so important?

Understanding this key question is of grave importance to the lives of individuals in today’s society; any light that can be shed on this issue could potentially lead to improved strategies for genocide prevention and this is arguably the most important of global issues. Social psychologists have conducted research into and raised awareness of the psychological causes and consequences of genocide, including the role of psychologists in promoting justice and peace-making and understanding the rehabilitation needs of survivors.

Wider Question: How has social psychology contributed to society with regard to genocide prevention?

Describing the Key Question

If you are asked to describe the key question you need to state as many facts relating to the key question topic as there are marks available, e.g. a 4 marker requires 4 details relating to the Hutus and Tutsis and the genocide. You need to ensure that your points are creditworthy, as underdeveloped points will not be credited.



explaining-the-key-question-2016: An activity which prompts you to match the key descriptive facts (Ao1) with the corresponding social psychological concepts/theories/research.

key-question-2016-rwanda: A HW activity to prompt you to complete some independent research. The document also contains an answer sheet to the questions but I challenge you not to use it and see how much you can verify for yourselves using the newspaper articles and google searching.

model-answer-rwanda-2016: A handout that neatly shows you how to separate out the description from the explanation. In time I will weave in a section to show you how to evaluate as well but we intend to leave this until revision.

rwanda-model-answers-proper: A longer piece of writing that will help to deepen your understanding of this topic.

starsFurther reading:

The Untold Story: Documentary

News Stories

Other real life examples that you could discuss using social psychology:

mai-lai-massacre, Abu Ghraib

Practice Questions:

Social psychology has been used to explain key questions of relevance to today’s society.

1. Describe the key question that you studied for social psychology (4)

2. Explain how and why your key question for social psychology is relevant to society (2)

3. Social psychology has been used to explain key questions of relevance to today’s society. Discuss the key question you have studied using concepts, theories and/or research from social psychology (8)

5. With reference to research evidence, evaluate the extent to which social psychology is able to explain your key question (8)

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© Amanda J Wood, 2016-2017