- Where Psychology Becomes Easy

Psychology Unit 2

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Unit 1 Social Psychology Revision

Social Spec: Download Spec

Key terms used throughout this section:

  • Agentic State
     - The Agentic state means working on behalf of somebody who has some sort of authority over us who will also take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
  • Autonomous State
     - This is when a person does something out of their own free will.
  • Moral Strain
     - Moral Strain is what a person feels when they are told to do something which goes against their own morals and values.
  • In/out groups
     - The in-group is a group that the person belongs to. The out-group is he group which a person does not belong to
  • Social Categorisation
     - Social categorisation is when you put yourselves and others into groups.
  • Social Comparison
     - This is when you compare your group to another group. This would be in order for a person to have higher self-esteem by comparing their in group to the out group. As a result if you put the out-group down then it will raise the self-esteem of the members of the in-group.



  • Data-gathering technique which asks questions directly to Participants
  • Face-to-face situation- opportunity to expand questions
  • Series of questions.

3 types of interviews:

  • Structured interview- set formal, planned questions, not exploration.
  • Unstructured interview- no set questions, can explore questions in depth
  • Semi-structured interview- a mix of both.


  • Open unstructured questions allow Participants to say what they really think about something + to give in-depth and detailed responses, which gives validity.
  • The procedure can be different in different situations and the questions may be worded differently, so demand characteristics are minimised.
  • Researcher is present, which means there could be bias. Participants may also decide to give an answer that the researcher may be pleased with, which is social desirability.
  • No standardised procedure which means there is a lack of reliability and hard to replicate.
  • Subjectivity as qualitative data, which needs interpreting, is collected.


  • Survey with a set of questions
  • Usually written down for Participants to answer
  • Contains both open and closed questions
  • Usually given to large numbers of people


  • Standardised procedure, all of the participants are asked the same questions, which increases reliability.
  • Validity is present, due to the researcher not being present to influence answers.
  • Closed questions are used mainly, which means the participant cannot give in-depth answers.
  • The participant may be in a rush so doesn’t answer truthfully, so there could be a lack of validity.

Open questions:

  • Questions that allow Participant to answer how they want
  • Allow the participant to give opinions and feelings
  • Make the participant think


  • Obtain detailed in-depth rich data.
  • Allow the participant to expand on their views in the answer.
  • Hard to analyse due to answers being different from every different participant.
  • Qualitative data-no averages calculated, no way to display data in graph.

Closed questions:

  • Questions that have limited answers, mainly choices
  • Give you facts
  • Quick and easy to answer


  • There could be objectivity as numbers and percentages are calculated.
  • There is reliability due to the questions asked being standardised.
  • Only gives a certain set of options, the participant may not agree to any of those options, so validity could be questioned.

Studies in detail


Milgram's Experiment

Social Identity Theory

Sampling methods (Click for PDF)
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Ethical guidelines

There are 6 ethical guidelines:

·         Informed consent

·         Debrief

·         Right to withdraw

·         Competence

·         Deception

·         Confidentiality

Informed consent
  • When informing the participant about the study and they willingly agree to take part.
  • The participant should know what will be happening, so that no ethical guidelines are broken.
  • Results can be affected, because if the participant knows what will be happening in the study, they may be ready to change to whatever may happen.


  • When the complete truth is not told.

Right to withdraw

  • Participants should always be reminded they can stop the study at any time that they wish they want to leave.
  • Ps should feel free to leave the study whenever they want to.
  • Sometimes, participants have no proper right to withdraw because it is essential to give prompts.
  • The right to withdraw may be given, but the experimenter may make excuses when the participants try to leave, to stop them leaving.


  • Participants should get a full explanation of what the study was about + they should have the same emotional state at beginning and at end, this should be done after the study has taken place.
  • Tries to ensure that you have not harmed the participant during your study
  • Can affect a person in the future after the study, and the experimenter will not be there to fix the problem or take the blame.


  • Researchers must have appropriate qualifications + be competent to carry out study.
  • Researcher has to be a professional; otherwise this could be a problem to the participants.


  • When the participants details are always kept secure.
  • Not sharing anything about participants with 3rd parties without permission.



Social Identity Theory (1969)

Agency theory

  • People obey/follow orders from an authority figure.
  • The Agentic state is when a person is acting under the orders of an authority figure.
  • The Autonomous state is when a person is acting with their own free will and has control over actions.
  • The Evolution theory is when we act as agents of and authority figure as it increases our chances of survival. We are genetically programmed to aid our survival by living in a society with leaders + followers.
  • Also a learnt strategy, we are taught to follow orders by parents + society, which are also known as authority figures.
  • Moral strain, when a person feels uncomfortable or anxious because they feel their actions go against their moral code. However, they still obey (agentic state) because they know responsibility is on the authority figure.
  • People have less responsibility of actions as they are following orders.


  • Supporting studies, Milgram’s experiment showed people did obey authority figures, even when feeling anxious + under moral strain. Hofling’s experiments =21/22 nurses obeyed. In variation studies of Milgram, impact of authority figures was shown. E.g. When AF out of room, obedience went down.
  • Applicable- it explains why people obey in inhumane acts, like for example in the Holocaust or in the Mylai massacre. This is because they see the responsibility being on the authority figure and not themselves.
  • Doesn’t explain very well why we don’t obey sometimes.
  • Descriptive rather than explanatory as it states people obey because they follow orders from an authority figure.


  • When you stereotype, you develop an idea about one person and then apply it to a large number of people in a similar group.
  • Assume based on the stereotype that they are all like that.
  • It is an opinion which is usually negative towards other people.
  • Prejudgements of people before you meet them.


  • This is different to prejudice, as prejudice is opinion and discrimination is fact such as; she has brown hair and I have black hair, this is discrimination because your stating the differences, but it is also a fact.
  • This cannot take place without prejudice first.