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An observant reader noticed an error on page 198 of the new AS/Year 1 AQA book. In the key terms box the definitions for covert and obvert observation are the wrong way round, though the text is correct.

Overt observation is open – people know they are being observed.

Covert observation is closed – people have not been made aware that their behaviour is being observed.


Far away places

The A2 Complete Companion on holiday at Machu Picchu in Peru, picture of Debora D’Auria, Head of Psychology Southend High School for Girls.

Send us your photos of the Complete Companion fulfilling its role as a complete companion.

DDA Macchu

I am grateful to a teacher who pointed out a small error on page 105. Under the heading of ‘Table of critical values’ point number 2 should say a one-tailed hypothesis. Apologies!

I asked AQA about this and received the following reply from AQA:

Both A2 Principal Examiners have agreed that as DSM5 has only just been released, students will be credited if they do use it effectively but examining will reflect both versions of the manual.  At least for this teaching year, examiners in summer 2014 will be made aware that coverage of questions using DSM4 can receive marks across the scale.

On page 35 of the AS  Complete Companion the text concerns the influence of age on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. A study by Yarmey is discussed under the heading ‘Age differences in accuracy’. The second sentence says that there were no significant differences in the accuracy of recall – but this is wrong. The final sentence should read:
Young (18-29) and middle- aged (30-44) adults were more confident in their recall than the older (45-65) adults. There were also  significant differences in the accuracy of recall – the oldest group were inferior to the other two groups in terms of accuracy of recall.
This also affects the summary on page 41 which should now say ‘Younger Ps more confident and also more accurate in recall than older adults (Yarmey).’
AS Mini-Companion on page 19, should now say ‘Yarmey found that older adults (age 45-65) were less confident in recall of a confederate and also less accurate than younger adults.’
AS Exam Companion on page 31, should now say in Romeo’s answer to question 6 ‘…I would tell them that older witnesses tend to lack confidence in the accuracy of their recall compared to younger witnesses and are also less accurate (Yarmey, 1993).’

fmri-salmonJust in case you haven’t heard about the dead fish in the MRI scanner … some scientists amused the world when they put a dead salmon in an fMRI scanner and found evidence of brain activity (see Bennett and Baird’s research here or here). This has cast some doubt on the validity of brain scanning results. Essentially there is a certain amount of random ‘noise’ when scanning anything and this may be mistakenly accepted as activity in specific areas of the brain.

There is a lot of talk about being more cautious about the meaning of brain scans, not just because the data may be insignificant or because the sample used isn’t representative.  A recent article says ‘Neuroscientists and science reporters alike have cautioned about over-interpretation of brain images and scan results for much of the last decade’. The article is a review of a new book called Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience. One of the co-authors, psychiatrist Sally Satel, offers further criticism, saying that neuroscience is putting faulty ideas into the public mind about matters such as addiction. Satel suggests that, for example, it makes addicts feel they have a brain problem which they can’t do anything about, and therefore discourages them from trying to overcome their addiction themselves.

OnlineDating1A newly published American study by Cacioppo and colleagues (2013) looked at the satisfaction in couples who met on-line. They analysed responses from nearly 20,000 people who married between 2005 and 2012. They found that more than one-third of marriages in America now begin on-line!

In comparison with more traditional off-line meeting, the on-line couples expressed greater marital satisfaction and were slightly less likely to separate or divorce. Their only conclusion is that on-line dating may be changing the institution of marriage.

Such research does suggest that previous research about the formation, maintenance and breakdown of relationships may need updating to include couples who meet on-line and the different factors involved in relationship processes in that medium.

After a query from a student in our forum, I sent the following question to AQA:

In the AQA A Psychology specification there are several references to ‘neural mechanisms’. In the mark schemes these are explicitly linked to brain mechanisms (e.g. see question 5, June 2011 PSYA3). However the term ‘neural’ is defined as ‘of, relating to, or affecting a nerve or the nervous system’ (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/neural). Should you broaden your use of this term and not limit it just to the brain? The specification does not make this clear.

I received the following answer:

We agree with the definition of ‘neural’ and relevant material on e.g. the peripheral nervous system, would always be credited. For most topics relevant material on neural mechanisms would normally involve the brain ,which is why the brain is emphasized in mark schemes, but in future we will make it clear that ‘neural’ incorporates the whole nervous system and not just the brain.

flat,550x550,075,fA German study just published by Moritz and colleagues provides an interesting insight into antipsychotic drugs used in the treatment of schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses. Data was collected by asking psychiatric patients to complete a questionnaire about their experiences in taking antipsychotic medication for their mental disorder. The conclusion was that such drugs are effective because they dampen emotion rather than treating any specific symptoms. ‘Doubt, numbing and withdrawal were the main subjective antipsychotic effects’. Basically such drugs just keep patients quiet – an effect which many patients find unpleasant. One reviewer says ‘It is clear we need better ways to help people’.

You can read fuller details of the study here (which contains some evaluative points) and here.

I came across this rather fun little study:428357-man-leaning-on-his-guitar-case

This experiment tested the assumption that music plays a role in sexual selection. Three hundred young women were solicited in the street for their phone number by a young male confederate who held either a guitar case or a sports bag in his hands or had no bag at all. Results showed that holding a guitar case was associated with greater compliance to the request, thus suggesting that musical practice is associated with sexual selection. (Guéguen et al., see here).

Interesting conclusion – but is it justified?