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Posts archived in News

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!

AQA has added a new section to its website all about specification change at GCSE and A Level. There’s nothing new about changes to Psychology yet, but there’s the option to sign up for email updates which might prove useful, and a selection of general resources and FAQs. This short video on how an AQA specification is made is interesting viewing – good to know that AQA is keen to share the new spec with teachers as soon as possible.

Psychologists take care to avoid bias in their investigations, for example making assumptions about differences between males and females (alpha bias) or overlooking differences between males and females (beta bias).

A study by researchers at Princeton University suggests the existence of a ‘bias blind spot’ that means people recognise that bias exists but assume they personally are not likely to be affected by it. As reported by Oliver Burkeman on his excellent blog, this meant that ‘Even when people acknowledge that what they are about to do is biased … they still are inclined to see their resulting decisions as objective.’

Does a famous name make this a better picture?

Does a famous name make this a better picture?

This is how the study was carried out: the researchers showed participants (a mix of Princeton students and others recruited online) a selection of 80 paintings, which they were asked to rate for artistic merit from 1 to 10. Half the group just saw the paintings, and the other half saw the paintings plus what were supposedly the names of the artists responsible.

In fact, the names were a mixture of famous artists and names chosen at random from a phone book. Those participants who saw the names exhibited a bias: they gave a higher ranking to works associated with names of famous artists. But even when the risk of bias was pointed out to them, these participants still rated their decisions as objective – while it was definitely likely that other people would be biased towards big names, no one thought it would affect them.

The DfE’s Statistical Release for January 2014 is concerned with changes in A Level candidate numbers in England over the period 1996 to 2013, particularly, it is true, with any signs of an increase in recent years in ‘facilitating subjects’ – here the data do seem to suggest a rise in Maths and Science entries since about 2005/06, though with a slight decline in A Level numbers in England overall since 2011.

The report notes that ‘[o]ne of the largest increases in the volume of students entering for a subject is psychology’, and includes a graph showing just how impressive this growth has been (reproduced below). It also includes  interesting information from UCAS that this rise in numbers at A Level has been accompanied by a rise in applications to study psychology at undergraduate level from around 12,000 in 2004 to over 15,000 in 2010 – a number that has remained stable since 2010, too.

From the Department of Education, 2014

From the Department of Education, 2014

In the WJEC AS Complete Companion there is an error on page 81. While the text says there were 2664 participants in the Rahe study, there were instead 2684.

A corrected version of this page is provided here.

008440 Psychology ASp81

Coming soon!To celebrate the publication of AS Psychology: The Revision Companion (which is out in February), we’re asking students to reflect on the best ways to make revision memorable, for the chance to win a revision session with Cara Flanagan.

The prize:

Best-selling co-author of The Complete Companions, Cara Flanagan, will come into the school or college of the winning student and run a half-day revision session to help all the AS students reflect and focus ahead of May’s AS exams. Each student will leave with loads of tips and advice, plus their own copy of Psychology AS: The Revision Companion by Cara Flanagan and Mike Cardwell. The winning student will also receive a £50 Amazon voucher for him or herself.

How to enter:

We’re asking students to visit our website and access the chapter on memory from The Revision Companion. They then need to choose a section of information and decide how best to present it visually and memorably.

P.S. To request your inspection copy of The Revision Companion or if you’d like to receive the Oxford Psychology enewsletter, please email fiona.mccollum@oup.com.


Examiner reports

AQA’s examiner reports are available for the January 2013 papers (together with the papers themselves) at:


The reports offer the usual excellent exam skills advice for students, and there is an especially useful section at the start of the Unit 2 report about command terms, answering the question asked and where and where not to write on the exam paper.

Another useful comment (this time from PSYA1, Q4):

 ’It was evident that students usually scored better marks where they outlined one or two research studies accurately and in reasonable detail, rather than when they outlined several studies less accurately’.



Introducing Maisie

We’re excited to reveal the cover for Psychology AS: The Revision Companion for AQA A, featuring Maisie, the winner of our Cover Cat Competition.  Publishing in early 2014 in response to teacher feedback, Cara Flanagan and Mike Cardwell’s newest title contains expert guidance on interpreting and answering exam questions alongside write-in activities for both independent and classroom-based learning.  The book’s unique combination of differentiated information and exam skill practice will help students understand how to achieve their full potential.

To see it for yourself, please email Fiona McCollum (fiona.mccollum@oup.com) for an inspection copy.  The book is also available for pre-order on Amazon now.


Many thanks to vick_the_chick for a comment about our diagram of the multi-store model on p. 24 of the AS Complete Companion. Cara and Mike have clarified the status of rehearsal. You can see their changes in these two pdfs: one for page 24 and one for page 26.

MSM clarification  p24

MSM clarification p26


And the winner is . . .

Announcing the proud winner of our cover cat competition . . . Maisie!

After careful deliberation, Cara and Mike have chosen the outright winner of our competition.

Maisie lives with Laura Gratton, of Barnsley Sixth Form College. She’s a one-year-old Bengal cat whose favourite game is “fetch the straw”. We love her distinctive markings and her wide-eyed, inquisitive look – the look of a cat ready to get stuck in to psychology revision!

Maisie will receive star treatment as she is photographed for the cover of Psychology AS: The Revision Companion, publishing early next term. Read more about its unique combination of essential information and exam skills practice here.

Maisie 2 Maisie