Psychological Studies Deconstructed

Although this a-level psychology site doesn’t seem to have been updated for a couple of years there’s still plenty here students and teachers will find very useful – particularly, but not exclusively, clear, concise and well-focused notes on a range of classic studies.

To add to the general air of usefulness the notes on each study have been constructed around a range of standard criteria:

  • Introduction to study
  • Sample
  • Procedure
  • Results
  • Research method/s
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Ethical issues
  • Studies

    Stanford Prison Study (1973)

    Haney, C., Banks, C. and Zimbardo, P. (1973). A Study of Prisoners and Guards in a Simulated Prison. Naval Research Reviews. 26(9)

    A simple, but increasingly-controversial, test of two ideas:

    Do bad people do bad things? (the dispositional hypothesis)

    Or do intolerable situations create intolerable behaviours? (the situational hypothesis).

    Real Liars (2002)

    Mann, S., Vrij, A. and Bull, R. (2002). Suspects, Lies, and Videotape: An Analysis of Authentic High-Stake Liars. Law and Human Behaviour. 26(3)

    Is it possible to demonstrate the difference between “real liars” and “truth-tellers”?

    Visually Guided Behaviour (1963)

    Held, R. and Hein A. (1963). Movement-produced stimulation in the development of visually guided behavior. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology 56(5)

    The “kitten study”.

    Yes, really.


    Being Sane in Insane Places (1973)

    Rosenhan, D. L. (1973). On Being Sane in Insane Places. Science. 179

    Is insanity an objective condition? And if so, how can we tell?

    Multiple Personality Disorder (1954)

    Thigpen, C. H. and Cleckley, H. (1954). A Case of Multiple Personality. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 49(1)

    All about Eve. And Eve. And Eve. Oh, And…

    Good Samaritans (1969)

    Piliavin, I. M., Rodin, J. and Piliavin, J. (1969). Good Samaritanism: An Underground Phenomenon? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 13(4)

    In the light of the murder of Kitty Genoese, this classic example of a field experiment was designed to test concepts of bystander apathy / intervention.

    Intergroup Discrimination (1970)

    Tajfel, H. (1970). Experiments in Intergroup Discrimination. Scientific American. 223

    How ingroups and outgroups contribute to prejudice and discrimination.

    Autism and Theory of Mind (2001)

    Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Hill, J., Raste, Y. and Plumb, I. (2001). The ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ Test Revised Version: A Study with Normal Adults, and Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High-functioning Autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 42(2)

    Testing autistic adults and their performance on an advanced theory of mind task (the Eyes test).

    Obedience Studies (1963)

    Milgram, S (1963). Behavioral Study of Obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 67(4)

    Classic series of “student / teacher” obedience experiments. Milgram’s favoured explanation was Agentic State. Later psychologists, such as Haslam and Reicher, went Beyond Milgram in favour of social identity theory…

    Little Hans (1909)

    Freud, S. (1909). Analysis of a phobia of a five-year-old boy. Pelican Freud Library. Vol. 8. Case Histories 1

    Classic Freudian analysis of phobia by the man himself (with a lot of help from Little Hans).

    Infants and Attractiveness (1991)

    Langlois, J. H., Ritter, J. M., Roggman, L. A. and Vaughn, L. S. (1991). Facial Diversity and Infant Preferences for Attractive Faces. Developmental Psychology. 27(1)

    Testing the nature-nurture debate.

    With babies.

    False Memories (1995)

    Loftus, E. F. and Pickrell, J. E. (1995). The Formation of False Memories. Psychiatric Annals

    Is it possible to make people believe they have a memory of something that never objectively happened? Loftus’ (in)famous and ground-breaking study into the murky world of “false” and “recovered memories” showed just how it could be done.

    Studying Morality (1980)

    Nelson, S. A. (1980). Factors Influencing Young Children’s Use of Motives and Outcomes as Moral Criteria. Child Development. 51

    Is moral development a function of cognitive development?

    Olfactory Cues and Facial Attractiveness (2007)

    Demattè, M. L., Österbauer, R. and Spence, C. (2007). Olfactory Cues Modulate Facial Attractiveness. Chemical Senses. 32(6)

    Smells like Teen Spirit?

    BoBo Doll Experiment (1961)

    Bandura, A., Ross, D. and Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of Aggression Through Imitation of Aggressive Models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 63(3)

    Monkey See, Monkey Do?

    A classic study of the causes of aggression.

    Featuring a knock-over plastic clown.

    And kids with hammers.

    REM and Dreaming (1957)

    Dement, W. and Kleitman, N. (1957). The Relation of Eye Movements During Sleep to Dream Activity. Journal of Experimental Psychology. 53 (5)

    Sweet dreams are made of this…

    Emotions (1962)

    Schachter, S. and Singer, J. E. (1962). Cognitive, Social and Physiological Determinants of Emotional State. Psychological Review. 69 (5)

    Testing the “two-factor theory” of emotion.

    Taxi Drivers (1997)

    Maguire, E. A., Frackowiak, R. S. J. and Frith, C. D. (1997). Recalling Routes around London: Activation of the Right Hippocampus in Taxi Drivers. The Journal of Neuroscience. 17 (18)

    An interesting addition to the nature-nurture debate (amongst other things).

    Empathy (2007)

    Billington, J., Baron-Cohen, S. and Wheelwright, S. (2007). Cognitive style predicts entry into physical sciences and humanities; Questionnaire and performance tests of empathy and systemizing. Learning and Individual Differences. 17

    Is cognitive style a better prediction than biological sex of educational subject choices?

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder (2001)

    Veale, D. and Riley, S. (2001). Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the ugliest of them all? The psychopathology of mirror gazing in body dysmorphic disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 39

    Reflections on mental illness.

    The Man in the Mirror…

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