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Psychology A2 Handbook 2011 - 2012 Please keep this in your Psychology file so that you can refer to it in lessons

Welcome to A2 Psychology! You may remember that the transition from GCSE to A level was quite hard. This booklet is designed to help you get your head around how A2 is different from AS and to give a few useful strategies for learning to help you gain a high grade. In the following pages you will find:

 A timetable for the year ahead Although this may alter slightly, it still serves as a guide for you. If, for some reason, you miss a lesson, you can see what you have missed and can read up on the topic accordingly.  The syllabus requirements These contain exactly what you have to know for each module. Use them as a guide for your learning, especially for revision. If you need more detail go to and select the ‘Key materials’ tab.  Essay and exam advice Lots of it. The big word is COMMENTARY, which basically means analysis and evaluation.  Helpful strategies for learning. These are tried and tested and will help you in planning essays and in remembering stuff.  Advice on how to gain a high grade in your exams All that remains is to tell you that you need to: 

READ YOUR TEXTBOOK and make notes

If you are aiming for a high grade, read more widely, e.g. other textbooks. You will find a wide selection in the college library

Attend all lessons

Take an active role in discussion and investigation

USE MOODLE! Everything used in the classroom will be posted there, as well as assignments, handouts, useful websites, news and research updates, discussion points and any messages, etc

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

A2 Essay writing

There will be no definite format to exam questions in either PYSA3 or PYSA4, so you may be asked ‘parted’ questions, (i.e. questions that are broken down into separate parts) as well as essay questions. It is ESSENTIAL that you learn to write excellent essays in which you integrate your knowledge not only of the topic but also of related issues, debates and approaches, (more on these later).

Essay tips: Before you start writing, be clear about: 

Where you are going and how you are going to get there – have a plan!

Stop after each paragraph and reread the question and check your plan.

Make sure you are focused and answering the question and not just writing irrelevant theory.

Keep to time.

Don’t make the mistake of spending too much time on the ‘describe’ part of the question as evaluation and analysis are worth many more marks.

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

What criteria are used for marking questions?

A01 measures knowledge and understanding of psychological research and theories. ‘Candidates should be able to recognise, recall and show understanding of scientific knowledge and to select, organise and communicate relevant information in a variety of forms’

A02 measures your ability to evaluate and apply your knowledge. ‘Candidates should be able to: analyse and evaluate scientific knowledge and processes; to apply scientific knowledge and processes to unfamiliar situations and to assess validity, reliability and credibility of scientific information’

A03 measures your practical knowledge of how research and science works. This basically means your ability to evaluate and criticise (+/-) the methodology. Candidates should be able to: Analyse, interpret, explain and evaluate the methodology, results and impact in their own and others’ experimental and investigative activities in a variety of ways.

In addition, part of the PSYA4 paper will be specifically on Research Methods. For this section, you will mainly receive AO3 marks, which includes your ability to: Describe ethical, safe and skilful practical techniques and processes, selecting appropriate qualitative and quantitative methods. Know how to make, record and communicate reliable and valid observations and measurements with appropriate precision and accuracy, through using primary and secondary sources

In addition, you will be expected to show knowledge of relevant issues, debates and approaches

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

Unit 3 This is worth 25% of the total A-level mark and will be examined in a 1 ½ hour exam. You will learn and be asked questions on three topics. Each answer is worth 25 marks. You will have 30 minutes per essay. The marks will be broken down to include 9 marks for AO1 knowledge & understanding, (i.e. facts, studies etc) and 16 marks for A02 & A03 for commentary, evaluation, analysis and understanding. The specification states: Candidates will be expected to: 

Develop knowledge, understanding and skills of analysis and evaluation in relation to relevant theories and studies in each of the three topics studied

Develop an understanding of the major approaches in psychology (cognitive, biological, behavioural, psychodynamic and evolutionary)

Develop an appreciation of issues and debates as relevant to each topic studies: for example, issues of bias, including gender and culture, the role of animals in research, ethical issues, the nature/nurture debate, free will and determinism and reductionism.

A typical question might be: (a) Outline factors influencing attitudes to food and eating behaviour (5 marks) (b) Outline and evaluate one or more psychological explanations of one eating disorder. (20 marks)

or Discuss the role of endogenous pacemakers and exogenous zeitgebers in the sleep/waking cycle and at least one other biological rhythm. (25 marks)

As a rough guide, each essay should be about 500-600 words long (about 2 sides of written A4). You must structure your essay to spend an appropriate amount of time on each section of the question. Don’t make the mistake of spending too much time on the ‘describe’ part of each question. Answers should be broken down so that 10 minutes only (approx 150 words) are spent on description while 20 minutes are spent on commentary and evaluation (including reference to issues and debates.)

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

Unit 4 This is worth 25% of the total A-level mark and will be examined in a 2 hour exam. The examination paper is divided into three sections: 

Section A: Psychopathology (Schizophrenia). One essay-style question worth 25 marks (with a probable balance of 9 A01 and 16 A02/3 marks)

Section B: Psychology in Action (Addictive behaviour). One question worth 25 marks (with a probable balance of 9 A01 and 16 A02/3 marks)

Section C: Research Methods. One structured question worth 35 marks (with a probable balance of 3 A01, 4 A02 & 28 A03 marks)

The specification states: Candidates will be expected to: 

Show knowledge and understanding of theories and studies relevant to the content of each area of psychology in this unit

Be able to analyse and evaluate theories and studies relevant to the content of each area of psychology in this unit

Show knowledge and understanding of research activities and be able to apply this understanding to novel situations

More specifically, the specification states Section A: Psychopathology (Schizophrenia). Candidates should be able to apply knowledge and understanding of models, classification and diagnosis and therapies to this disorder. Section B: Psychology in Action (Addictive Behaviour). Candidates are expected to show knowledge, understanding and critical thinking to the topic and to apply their knowledge and understanding of research methods, approaches, issues and debates and to show appreciation of the relationship between research, policy and practices in applying psychology to everyday life Section C: Candidates will be expected to extend their knowledge, understanding and skills of research design, data analysis, data interpretation and reporting which they gained in AS. Candidates should develop an understanding of the nature of science and scientific method

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

Timing for Unit 4:

Section A and B: You should allocate 35 minutes to each of the questions. No more than 12 minutes should be allocated to description while the remaining 23 minutes should be devoted to analysis and evaluation. Each answer in sections A & B should be approximately 600 words Section C: You should allow about 50 minutes to this question.

HOW SCIENCE WORKS If you wish to achieve a high grade in your exam, it is absolutely vital that you should gain a full understanding of the concepts which underpin the scientific study of Psychology

You will need to know about: 

How scientists investigate phenomena and develop the body of knowledge that forms the subject content of psychology

How scientists may be influenced by their own beliefs, hence the need for regulation of scientific enquiry

How scientific research is used and how it influences decision-making in society and the formulation of policy

Scientists’ role in validating evidence and resolving conflicting theory and evidence

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

How to improve your evaluation skills Evaluation of material, also called critical commentary, forms a crucial part of your essays. In the exam it counts for 64% of your marks in Unit 3 and 75% in Unit 4, so it is essential that you learn to master this skill. Informed and effective analysis For many students this amounts to nothing more than criticising whatever piece of psychological knowledge they have previously been describing.

What you actually need to do is to take a balanced view and discuss the material. Is it supported by other research? Has it been useful? Has it been challenged? What questions are still left unanswered by the research? Does it apply to everyone? The list is endless, but the key to good commentary is: 

It is plentiful and informed and not restricted to one or two throwaway points.

It is effective.

Furthermore, you need to incorporate your knowledge of relevant issues, debates and approaches in order to show mature understanding and breadth of knowledge. For example, to state that Freud’s theory is deterministic is merely a statement. For an analytical mark you need to demonstrate why Freud’s theory is deterministic and the implications this has.

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

A step by step guide to effective commentary:

Step 1: From ‘limited’ to ‘informed’ AO2 AO2 skills come in many different forms. In order to make your AO2 obvious, it is always useful to employ a little lead-in phrase as below: 

Evidence in support of this argument / theory is………….

These findings suggest that………….

A strength of this argument / theory / study is………….

However, ……….

So we can see………………….

This would imply……………

On the other hand……………..

An alternative explanation might be……………….


This is challenged by………………..

This is supported by………………

Not everyone reacts in the same way, for example………………

There may be cultural variations……………………

This has been applied to ……………………..

Step 2: From ‘Ineffective’ to ‘Effective’ evaluation and analysis The next problem is how to ensure that whatever points of analysis you make, you make them effectively. You need to stop and chew over a point. To give your commentary real impact, you should use the PEE structure:

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

First make your point, appropriate and relevant to the material being ‘evaluated’.

Then back it up with evidence (How do I know that?)

Finally elaborate and explain (So why exactly is this a problem, a strength etc?)

For example: However, the study was unethical (point made) in that Zimbardo, by allowing the ‘guards’ to engage in anti-social behaviour against the ‘prisoners’, effectively gave the pursuit of scientific knowledge priority over the welfare of his participants (evidence given). A consequence of this decision has been a tightening of ethical guidelines to give other psychologists shared responsibility for the research behaviour of their colleagues. (Explanation of what this has meant to psychological research).

A further example in which to incorporate knowledge of a debate might be: However, the genetic explanation for schizophrenia is reductionist in that it implies that the illness is purely due to genes and ignores the effect of other influences (point made). Tienari, for example, found that genetically vulnerable adoptees who had been placed in ‘disturbed’ high-emotion families were more likely to develop schizophrenia than adoptees who had been placed in low-emotion families (evidence given). This suggests that the effect of emotional arousal influences the onset of schizophrenia (analysis clearly made)

Two mnemonics to memorise….. For both of your exams, the following mnemonics are useful to jot down in your plan as a prompt for AO2/3 commentary. Don’t use them as a list, but integrate the points into your answers:

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

VEECATS A mnemonic for commentary on the methodology of a study: V alidity (internal & external)

E thnocentric

Can the findings be generalised to real life? How artificial was the task? Have others been able to replicate the findings? Did the study measure what it went out to measure? Think about reliability too Refers to the tendency to regard other cultures solely from the perspective of one’s own culture. It’s a form of prejudice and shows a failure to appreciate another culture’s viewpoint or worldview. In psychology ethnocentrism is especially relevant when discussing cross-cultural research. Ask yourself if the findings apply to other populations in other countries?

E xtrapolation

How different are humans and non-humans? Can the studies of monkeys and dogs tell us anything about humans? Are we simply a more advanced type of animal or are we entirely different – in which case research done on animals may have to be treated with caution.

C ontrol

Was this a laboratory experiment? Or a field experiment? How much control was there and what are the implications of this? Could other factors have influenced the result?

A ndrocentric

Who did the study / what gender were the participants? Psychology was male dominated until 1970’s so findings may reflect masculine attitudes / expectations.

T ype of method

Many research methods exist – interviews, brain scans, self report, experiments, correlations. All of these carry their own strengths and weaknesses which you should know.

S ample

Who were the participants? How big was the sample? How representative was it? Think about gender, nationality and sample size.

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

DREAAMINGS A mnemonic for making wider evaluation points: Determinism

Does the theory suggest people have no free will?

R eductionism

Refers to the way psychologists sometimes try to explain complex behaviour in simplified terms – e.g. explaining depression as a result of low levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. But is it reducing behaviour to an over simplistic level? The way psychologists treat (human and non-human) participants during research. Are they protected from physical and emotional harm? Do they know their rights? Do they give informed consent to be studied? Are they protected from deception? Were they thoroughly debriefed? Many studies have been undertaken in the US or Europe. Do their values influence method or findings? How useful has the research been? Can they help us understand any real life situations or issues? Can they help educators, childminders, pharmacists, athletes, police, pianists, politicians etc in their work? Get into the habit of thinking and writing about what use evidence can be put to.

E thics

E thnocentricity A pplication

A pproaches

Refers to the relationship between a piece of evidence and the school of thought it’s associated with e.g. Behaviourism, Psychodynamic approach, Biological approach, Cognitive approach, Evolutionary approach, Humanistic approach. Some studies and theories are more closely wedded to specific schools of thought than others are. Where there’s a clear relation between a piece of research and an approach, you can evaluate the research by criticising the approach it is associated with. Providing counter-arguments, based on the viewpoints of other approaches is also useful.

M ethodology

See separate mnemonic

I ndividual differences

Does everyone react in the same way?

N ature or nurture

Do our biology and our genes determine our behaviour? Or does our environment influence our behaviour more? Do the two interact?

N on human animals

Issue of harm – is it right to use them if they are permanently affected? Issue of generalization to humans – is it appropriate to use them? Do men and women react in the same way? Did the research only test men? Does the research apply to other cultures? What about sub-cultures?

G ender issues / cultural issues

S cientific?

Can the result stand up to objective, scientific scrutiny? Is it open to more subjective interpretation?

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

Glossary of Exam Terms AO1 terms Knowledge & understanding of theories, studies, methods, approaches and applications


Show knowledge and understanding of the topic area


Explain what is meant by a term


Show knowledge of the topic area


Present a detailed description of the topic area


Show understanding of a topic

Outline / state

Offer a summary description of the topic area (more breadth than depth)

AO2 terms Commentary about the knowledge & understanding i.e. analyse or evaluate the points, or explain how they fit into a wider body of knowledge. Awareness of both strengths and limitations. Analyze

Demonstrate understanding through a consideration of the different components of the topic area.


Present a considered appraisal of the topic area though a judgement of the strengths and limitations of the information presented.


Evaluate the topic area in terms of strengths and weaknesses

Critically evaluate

Make an informed judgement of the value of the topic area



AO1 & AO2 terms Compare and

Describe the topic / theories in question (AO1). Consider both


the similarities and differences between topic areas (AO2)

Critically consider

Show knowledge and understanding of the topic area (AO1), and evaluate the topic area (AO2)


Describe and evaluate

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

3.3 Unit 3 PSYA3 Topics in Psychology Candidates will be expected to develop knowledge, understanding and skills of analysis and evaluation in relation to the three topics below: NB ‘Including’ means you MUST know whatever follows while ‘for example’ means that you may wish to use other taught examples rather than the one mentioned in the specification

Biological rhythms and sleep Biological rhythms • Circadian, infradian, and ultradian rhythms, including the role of endogenous pacemakers and of exogenous zeitgebers • Consequences of disrupting biological rhythms, for example shift work, jet lag Sleep states • The nature of sleep • Functions of sleep, including evolutionary explanations and restoration theory • Lifespan changes in sleep Disorders of sleep • Explanations for insomnia, including primary and secondary insomnia and factors influencing insomnia, for example, apnoea, personality • Explanations for other sleep disorders, including sleep walking and narcolepsy

Eating behaviour Eating behaviour • Factors influencing attitudes to food and eating behaviour, for example cultural influences, mood, health concerns • Explanations for the success or failure of dieting Biological explanations of eating behaviour • The role of neural mechanisms involved in controlling eating and satiation • Evolutionary explanations of food preference Eating disorders • Psychological explanations for anorexia nervosa, • Biological explanations, including neural and evolutionary explanations, for anorexia nervosa,

Relationships The formation, maintenance and breakdown of romantic relationships. • Theories of the formation, maintenance and breakdown of romantic relationships: for example, reward/need satisfaction, social exchange theory Evolutionary explanations of human reproductive behaviour • The relationship between sexual selection and human reproductive behaviour • Sex differences in parental investment Effects of early experience and culture on adult relationships • The influence of childhood on adult relationships, including parent-child relationships • The influence of culture on romantic relationship

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

3.4 Unit 4 PSYA4 Psychopathology, Psychology in Action and Research Methods Candidates will be expected to: • develop knowledge and understanding of theories and studies relevant to the content for each area of psychology in this unit • analyse and evaluate theories and studies relevant to the content for each area of psychology in this unit • undertake practical research activities involving collection, analysis and interpretation of qualitative and quantitative data. This unit is divided into three sections.

Section A Psychopathology Candidates will be expected to: • develop knowledge and understanding of Schizophrenia • apply knowledge and understanding of models, classification and diagnosis of schizophrenia Candidates should be familiar with the following: • Clinical characteristics of Schizophrenia • Issues surrounding the classification and diagnosis of Schizophrenia, including reliability and validity • Biological explanations of Schizophrenia, for example, genetics, biochemistry • Psychological explanations of Schizophrenia, for example, behavioural, cognitive, psychodynamic and socio-cultural • Biological therapies for Schizophrenia, including their evaluation in terms of appropriateness and effectiveness • Psychological therapies for Schizophrenia, for example, behavioural, psychodynamic and cognitivebehavioural, including their evaluation in terms of appropriateness and effectiveness

Section B Psychology in Action: The psychology of addictive behaviour Candidates will be expected to: • develop knowledge, understanding and critical thinking in relation to addictive behaviour • apply their knowledge and understanding of research methods, approaches, issues and debates • develop an appreciation of the relationship between research, policy and practices in applying psychology in everyday life.

Models of addictive behaviour • Biological, cognitive and learning approaches to explaining initiation, maintenance and relapse, and their applications to smoking and gambling Vulnerability to addiction • Risk factors in the development of addiction, including stress, peers, age and personality • Media influences on addictive behaviour Reducing addictive behaviour • The theory of planned behaviour as a model for addiction prevention • Types of intervention and their effectiveness, including biological, psychological and public health interventions

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

Section C Psychological Research and Scientific Method Candidates will be expected to: • extend their knowledge, understanding and skills of research design, data analysis, and data interpretation and reporting gained at AS • develop an understanding of the nature of science and scientific method. Candidates are expected to be able to: • understand the application of scientific method in psychology • design investigations • understand how to analyse and interpret data arising from such investigations, • report on practical investigations. In order to gain sufficient understanding of the design and conduct of scientific research in psychology, candidates will need to practise these skills by carrying out, analysing and reporting small-scale investigations. The application of scientific method in psychology • The major features of science, including replicability, objectivity, theory construction, hypothesis testing, the use of empirical methods • Validating new knowledge and the role of peer review Designing psychological investigations • Selection and application of appropriate research methods • Implications of sampling strategies, for example, bias and generalising • Issues of reliability, including types of reliability, assessment of reliability, improving reliability • Assessing and improving validity (internal and external) • Ethical considerations in design and conduct of psychological research Data analysis and reporting on investigations • Appropriate selection of graphical representations • Probability and significance, including the interpretation of significance and Type 1/Type 2 errors • Factors affecting choice of statistical test, including levels of measurement • The use of inferential analysis, including Spearman’s Rho, Mann-Whitney, Wilcoxon, Chi-squared • Analysis and interpretation of qualitative data • Conventions of reporting on psychological investigations

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


Abingdon & Witney College

A2 Psychology Abingdon Timetable for 2011 - 2012

Below is a rough guide for the year ahead to help you with planning, reading etc. If for any reason it has to change, I’ll let you know. Week starting Mon 05 Sept

Sessions Issues, Debates & Approaches

Mon 12 Sept

Biological rhythms

Mon 19 Sep

Functions of Sleep

Mon 27 Sept

Sleep Disorders

Mon 03 Oct

Sleep Disorders

Mon 10 Oct

Eating behaviour:

Mon 17Oct

Eating behaviour:

24 Oct Mon 31 Oct

Eating behaviour:

Mon 07 Nov Mon 14 Nov

Content Issues & Debates activities, review of Approaches & introduction to the Evolutionary approach Circadian, ultradian, circannual, infradian rhythms, Exogenous & endogenous pacemakers Disrupting biological rhythms: Jet lag & shift work Sleep: RESTORATION theory Evolutionary theory Lifespan changes Insomnia: Apnoea, personality factors Treatments for insomnia Narcolepsy, sleepwalking Essay writing practice Factors influencing eating behaviour SLT Cultural differences Explanations for failure of dieting: Success in dieting Biological explanations of eating behaviour Role of neural mechanisms: Homeostasis Half Term Limitations of neural mechanisms Evolutionary explanations for food preference Psychological explanations for anorexia nervosa Psychological & Biological explanations for anorexia nervosa

Eating behaviour: Eating behaviour/Relationships

Evolutionary explanations for anorexia nervosa Mon 21 Nov Mon 28 Nov

Formation & maintenance of relationships Maintenance & breakdown of relationships

Relationships Relationships

Human Reproductive behaviour: Evolutionary basis for attraction & Partner selection Parental investment theory Mon 05 Dec

19 Dec – Mon 04 Jan Mon 09 Jan

Effects of Early experience Effect of early experience in later relationships Adolescent experience Horizontal & vertical relationships Relationships/Sleep Revision Relationships in different cultures. Collectivist v individualist cultures with focus on voluntary/non-voluntary as in arranged etc Christmas Holiday Revision Revision on sleep Revision Revision on eating behaviour & relationships

Mon 16 Jan

Revision PSYA3 EXAM (pm) 19th Jan

Mon 23 Jan

Research methods

Mon 12 Dec


A2 Psychology Course Handbook

Research methods Scientific Method. Peer review Experimental design. Validity, reliability, sampling extras


Abingdon & Witney College

Week starting



Research methods Mon 30 Jan

Mon 06 Feb

Mon 13 Feb Mon 20 Feb Mon 27 Feb

Revision of concepts and application to research studies Levels of measurement. Probability Inferential stats: Justifications Conventions of report writing. Project preparation Psychology in Action: The Biological models of addictive behaviour: psychology of addictive behaviour: explanation for initiation, maintenance and Models of addictive behaviour relapse. Focus on smoking & gambling genetics + evaluation Types of intervention: Biological Half Term Psychology of Addictive Behaviour Cognitive explanations and interventions Psychology of Addictive Behaviour

Learning explanations and interventions

Mon 05 Mar

Psychology in Action: Psychology of Addictive Behaviour

Factors affecting addictive behaviour: Stress, peers, age, personality

Mon 12 Mar

Psychology of Addictive Behaviour

Reducing addictive behaviour Models of prevention and public health interventions

Mon 19 Mar

Research Methods

Looking at questions

Mon 26 Mar

Psychopathology: Schizophrenia

Clinical characteristics Issues regarding Classification & diagnosis Easter Holiday

Mon 02 Apr Psychopathology: Schizophrenia

Biological explanations & therapies

Mon 16 Apr Mon 23 Apr

Psychopathology: Schizophrenia

Psychological explanations

Mon 30 Apr

Psychopathology: Schizophrenia

Psychological therapies

Mon 07 May

Revision Research Methods

Mon 14 May

Addiction Revision

Mon 21 May

Addiction Revision

Mon 28 May 07 June Mon 11 June

Schizophrenia Revision

Mon 18 June

General Revision: Resit PYSA3 11th June (am) PSY04 EXAM 18th June (am)

A2 Psychology Course Handbook


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Abingdon & Witney College

A2 Psychology Course Handbook  

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