Psychology in Social Context: Issues and Debates

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WordPress Shortcode. Published in: Education. Full Name Comment goes here. Are you sure you want to Yes No. Maisie Savage. No Downloads. Views Total views. Actions Shares. Embeds 0 No embeds. No notes for slide. Psychology Revision: Issues and debates Ella Warwick 2. Gender bias including androcentrism and alpha and beta bias; cultural bias, including ethnocentrism and cultural relativism.

The scientific emphasis on causal explanations. Biological reductionism and environmental stimulus-response reductionism. Freud said that femininity is failed masculinity. This often happens when results are generalised from one sex to everyone.

Female behaviour is then misunderstood. German mothers were seen as rejecting when they were encouraging independence. Ainsworth imposed etic. This is the view of the humanistic approach. The general figure for IQ hereditability is 0. Attachment — behaviour is affected by innate temperament and parental responses. In Finish adoptees those most likely to develop schizophrenia had relatives with the disorder and dysfunctional relationships. Epigenetic marks are left on out DNA because of our lifestyle, which can affect genetics of future generations. Stanford prison study deinvidualisation.

OCD: 1. There is considerable pressure to conform to the expectations of a social role. Conforming to a social role is called identification. Zimbardo wanted to investigate how readily people would conform to the social roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise that simulated prison life. Procedure : To study the roles people play in prison situations, Zimbardo converted a basement of the Stanford University psychology building into a mock prison. He advertised for students to play the roles of prisoners and guards for a fortnight. Participants were randomly assigned to either the role of prisoner or guard in a simulated prison environment.

Prisoners were issued a uniform, and referred to by their number only. Guards were issued a khaki uniform, together with whistles, handcuffs and dark glasses, to make eye contact with prisoners impossible. The guards worked shifts of eight hours each the other guards remained on call.

Issues & Debates: Socially Sensitive Research

No physical violence was permitted. Zimbardo observed the behavior of the prisoners and guards as a researcher , and also acted as prison warden. Findings : Within a very short time both guards and prisoners were settling into their new roles, with the guards adopting theirs quickly and easily. Within hours of beginning the experiment some guards began to harass prisoners. They behaved in a brutal and sadistic manner, apparently enjoying it. Other guards joined in, and other prisoners were also tormented.

The prisoners soon adopted prisoner-like behavior too. They talked about prison issues a great deal of the time. They started taking the prison rules very seriously, and some even began siding with the guards against prisoners who did not obey the rules. As the prisoners became more submissive, the guards became more aggressive and assertive. They demanded ever greater obedience from the prisoners.

The prisoners were dependent on the guards for everything so tried to find ways to please the guards, such as telling tales on fellow prisoners. Demand characteristics could explain the findings of the study. Most of the guards later claimed they were simply acting. Because the guards and prisoners were playing a role their behavior may not be influenced by the same factors which affect behavior in real life.

This means the studies findings cannot be reasonably generalized to real life, such as prison settings. The study may also lack population validity as the sample comprised US male students. The studies findings cannot be applied to female prisons or those from other countries. For example, America is an individualist culture were people are generally less conforming and the results maybe different in collectivist cultures such as Asian countries.


A strength of the study is that it has altered the way US prisons are run. For example, juveniles accused of federal crimes are no longer housed before trial with adult prisoners due to the risk of violence against them. The study has received many ethical criticisms, including lack of fully informed consent by participants as Zimbardo himself did not know what would happen in the experiment it was unpredictable.

Also, the prisoners did not consent to being 'arrested' at home. Also, participants playing the role of prisoners were not protected from psychological harm, experiencing incidents of humiliation and distress. For example, one prisoner had to be released after 36 hours because of uncontrollable bursts of screaming, crying and anger. However, in Zimbardo's defence the emotional distress experienced by the prisoners could not have been predicted from the outset.

In addition Zimbardo did conduct debriefing sessions for several years afterwards and concluded they were no lasting negative effects. Another strength of the study is that the harmful treatment of participant led to the formal recognition of ethical guidelines. Studies must now gain ethical approval before they are conducted.

Psychology in Social Context: Issues and Debates

An ethics committee review whether the potential benefits of the research are justifiable in the light of possible risk of physical or psychological harm. They may request researchers make changes to the studies design or procedure, or in extreme cases deny approval of the study altogether. Obedience is a type of social influence where a person follows an order from another person who is usually an authority figure.

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  • Milgram wanted to know why Germans were willing to kill Jews during the Holocaust. He thought that Americans were different and would not have followed such orders. Procedure : Milgram wanted to see whether people would obey a legitimate authority figure when given instructions to harm another human being. To test this he created a set up in which two participants were assigned either the role of a teacher this was always given to the true participant or learner a confederate called Mr. The teacher and learner were put into separate rooms.

    The teacher was then asked by the experimenter who wore a lab coat to administer electric shocks which were actually harmless to the learner each time he gave the wrong answer. These shocks increased every time the learner gave a wrong answer, from 15 - volts. There were 4 prods and if one was not obeyed then the experimenter read out the next prod, and so on. Milgram did more than one experiment — he carried out 18 variations of his study. All he did was alter the situation IV to see how this affected obedience DV.

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    For example, when the experimenter instructed and prompted the teacher by telephone from another room, obedience fell to A limitation is that this study lacked ecological validity as it was carried out in a lab under artificial conditions. This means that it might not be possible to generalise the finding to a real life setting, as people do not usually receive orders to hurt another person in real life.

    Another problem is that the sample was biased.

    Milgram only used males in his study and this means we cannot generalised the results to females. It also highlights how we can all be blind to obedience often doing things without question. A strength of the study is that it used a standardised procedure because it was a lab experiment. This is good because it improves the reliability of the study and also helps establish a causal relationship.


    Milgram also interviewed participants afterwards to find out the effect of the deception. Apparently Protection of participants - Participants were exposed to extremely stressful situations that may have the potential to cause psychological harm. Many of the participants were visibly distressed.

    Signs of tension included trembling, sweating, stuttering, laughing nervously, biting lips and digging fingernails into palms of hands. Three participants had uncontrollable seizures, and many pleaded to be allowed to stop the experiment. Full blown seizures were observed for 3 participants; one so violent that the experiment was stopped. In his defence, Milgram argued that these effects were only short term. Once the participants were debriefed and could see the confederate was OK their stress levels decreased. Milgram also interviewed the participants one year after the event and concluded that most were happy that they had taken part.

    However, Milgram did debrief the participants fully after the experiment and also followed up after a period of time to ensure that they came to no harm. Agency theory says that people will obey an authority when they believe that the authority will take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. For example, when participants were reminded that they had responsibility for their own actions, almost none of them were prepared to obey. Another example of the agenetic state involved a variation of Milgram's study whereby participants could instruct an assistant confederate to press the switches.

    In this condition This shows when there is less personal responsibility obedience increases. This response to legitimate authority is learned in a variety of situations, for example in the family, school and workplace. With regard to Milgram' study the experimenter is seen as having legitimate authority as he has scientific status.

    The Milgram experiment was carried out many times whereby Milgram varied the basic procedure changed the IV. By doing this Milgram could identify which situational factors affected obedience the DV. Williams wore a laboratory coat a symbol of scientific expertise which gave him a high status. But when the experimenter dressed in everyday clothes obedience was very low.

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    The uniform of the authority figure can give them status. Milgram's obedience experiment was conducted at Yale, a prestigious university in America. The high status of the university gave the study credibility and respect in the eyes of the participants, thus making them more likely to obey. When Milgram moved his experiment to a set of run down offices rather than the impressive Yale University obedience dropped to This suggests that status of location effects obedience. People are more likely be obey an authority figure who is in close proximity i. In Milgram's study the experimenter was in the same room as the participant i.

    If the authority figure is distant it is easier to resistant their orders. When the experimenter instructed and prompted the teacher by telephone from another room, obedience fell to Many participants cheated and missed out shocks or gave less voltage than ordered to by the experimenter. One of the various characteristics of the authoritarian personality was that the individual is hostile to those who are of inferior status, but obedient of people with high status.

    Independent behavior is a term that psychologists use to describe behavior that seems not be influenced by other people. This happens when a person resists the pressures to conform or obey. Social support also decreases obedience to authority. In a variation of Milgram' study two other participants confederates were also teachers but refused to obey.

    Confederate 1 stopped at volts and confederate 2 stopped at volts. A person can either have an internal locus of control or an external locus of control. People with a high internal locus of control perceive see themselves as having a great deal of personal control over their behavior and are therefore more likely to take responsibility for the way they behave.

    For example I did well on the exams because I revised extremely hard. In contrast a person with a high external locus of control perceive their behaviors as being a result of external influences or luck — e. I did well on the test because it was easy. Research has shown that people with an internal locus of control tend to be less conforming and less obedient i. Rotter proposes that people with internal locus of control are better at resisting social pressure to conform or obey, perhaps because they feel responsible for their actions.

    4.3.1 Issues and debates in Psychology

    Minority influence occurs when a small group minority influences the opinion of a much larger group majority. This can happen when the minority behaves in the following ways. Moscovici stated that being consistent and unchanging in a view is more likely to influence the majority than if a minority is inconsistent and chops and changes their mind.

    Procedure : Moscovici conducted an experiment in which female participants were shown 36 blue slides of different intensity and asked to report the colors. There were two confederates the minority and four participants the majority. In the first part of the experiment the two confederates answered green for each of the 36 slides. They were totally consistent in their responses. In the second part of the experiment they answered green 24 times and blue 12 times.