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Posts archived in News



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.

The BPS has recently launched an interactive timeline called Origins which presents key developments in the evolution of psychological sciences from 1842 until the opening of the Oxford Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain in 1998. AQA favourite Wilhelm Wundt makes an appearance, naturally, coming in at 1875. The timeline features some excellent photos and should be a very useful tool for students to use in exploring the chronology of different approaches in psychology and identifying some of its key moments.

Judit Lőcsei-Campbell contacted Cara to let us know her students  spotted a discrepancy between the current (third) edition of The Complete Companion student book (AQA A) and the previous (second) edition.

While the second edition says (on page 35) that Yarmey (1993) found no significant differences in the accuracy of recall that could be attributed to the age group of the witnesses, we have changed that for the third edition where the text reads (also page 35): ‘There were significant differences in the accuracy of recall also – the oldest group was inferior to the other two groups in terms of accuracy of recall.’

So what happened? The error in the second edition came from the abstract to the original article, which you can read here. It was only when our authors rechecked  the original article itself that they discovered the error, which is why we have made that correction for the third edition.

As Cara says, ‘getting research right is not always easy as there are many Chinese whispers – Mike and I try as far as possible to consult original papers’.

Thanks very much to Judit and her students for giving us this opportunity to explain the reason for this change.

Our fabulous authors Cara Flanagan, Mike Cardwell, Ros Geillis and Mike Griffin have been VERY hard at work on the A Level Year 1/AS Complete Companion student book (Cara and Mike C) and Teacher’s Companion (Ros and Mike G), making sure they are the best resources possible to support the new AQA specification.

You can see two sample spreads from the new student book here and also two sample worksheets from the new Teacher’s Companion. These aren’t in their completely final form yet, but we hope you like what you see.

Social influence sample spread2

Memory sample spread



Results day has come and gone, and we hope with all our hearts here at the Psychology Blog that everyone who has just got their results will continue to get lots of interest and value out of your psychology knowledge and skills – either at school, if you are going into your second year, or in college or out in what psychologists tend to call the ‘real world’ (it isn’t noticeably realer, truth be told).

In this post we’ll take a first look at the results statistics for psychology this year. You can find the data at this link.

  • Compared to last year, psychology numbers have gone down from 56,088 candidates last year to 54,818 this year – a drop of 1,270
  • This is in the context of an overall drop in A Level candidate numbers of 17,000 students
  • The drop in psychology numbers was not as significant as that for other large-cohort A Level subjects like English (-4,000) or General Studies (-7,600)
  • Subjects seeing the biggest rises in numbers were biology, chemistry and physics. Maths saw an increase, but so did Religious Studies (both grew by about 800 candidates)
  • Psychology is the fourth largest A Level subject still, with chemistry nipping at our heels: 53,513 candidates so 2,575 candidates behind.

More analysis to follow once the boards have released their individual results statistics.



Page 110 of the Research Methods Companion has a small but statistically very significant error: in the table for Step 3, the last value should be 0.3905 instead of 1.3905. We are very grateful to Kelly Bristow for bringing this typo to our attention and the corrected page is attached here: apologies for any chi-squared confusion that has resulted from this mistake.

912962_ch5 p110

We have made the following corrections to the A2 Exam Companion:

On page64 the top right hand answer plan should read ‘after gender labelling but before gender constancy’ and not the other way around.

On page 84 the Division title at the top of the page should be ‘Development of thinking’ and not ‘Biological rhythms’.

Corrected pages are attached to this post.

912985_A2_exam_comp_084 (1)



At the start of this July (2014), Facebook hit the news worldwide, all because of research methods. If ever proof were needed that research methods are super-exciting, here it was!

A study conducted over one week in 2012 had altered the extent to which 689,000 Facebook users were exposed to emotional content in their News Feeds. The study found evidence of what it described as  ‘emotional contagion': when users were more likely to see more positive content in their News Feeds, they used very slightly more positive words in their posts. When the content they saw on their News Feeds was less likely to be positive, the number of positive words was very slightly reduced.

The News Feed feature was the only part of users’ Facebook pages that was modified, and this is a feature of Facebook that is constantly modified anyway – the content from friends that is shared on News Feed is selected by a Facebook algorithm which is designed to show content that users are most likely to find interesting. All shared content was viewable as usual on users’ wall and timeline. Users’ posts (300 million of them) were monitored, but no researcher read any posts – all the processing of emotional word use was done by computers via Facebook’s own News Feed filtering system. The experiment did not alter in any way the messages that users sent to each other. And all those who were involved in the study were selected randomly, by username and pattern of use (the study made sure they were people who used Facebook regularly). So why was there such a huge reaction to news of the study?

The main problem people had with the study, it seemed, was that they hadn’t been asked if they wanted to take part. As all psychology students know, this is an ethical issue known as informed consent. Participants must be given comprehensive information concerning the nature and purpose of a study and their role in it. Participants can then make an informed decision about whether to participate in the study or not.

The difficulty for researchers is that providing comprehensive information of this kind may reduce the meaningfulness of their research because once participants know what the study is doing, it may then affect their behaviour. That would certainly seem to be an obvious problem for this Facebook-based research into emotional contagion. However, concerns over manipulation of personal information by ‘big data’ are deeply felt by large numbers of people worldwide, suggesting that the ethical issues of this study should have been much more carefully considered.


SupermanCrazy as it sounds, psychologists have found that wearing a Superman t-shirt or a white coat can improve exam performance.  Professor Karen Pine, author of ‘Mind What You Wear’ suggests that what we wear can change the way we think and feel, a phenomenon known as ‘enclothed cognition’. If you have studied aggression, you may already be familiar with this idea through the concept of deindividuation, those changes in thinking and behaviour associated with the anonymity of uniform.

In the US, Hajo Adam and Adam Galinski, of Northwestern University, have demonstrated that a person’s performance on attention-related tasks increases when wearing a white coat. Subconsciously, the coat made participants feel more professional and more focused on the tasks because of the ‘medical’ association of the white coat. Their performance did not increase in the same way if they were told the coat was a painter’s coat, suggesting it is the symbolic association of the garment that is the mechanism for altered cognitions.

Pine’s team at the University of Hertfordshire put students through a range of mental ability tests and found that those wearing Superman t-shirts scored significantly higher than those in plain t-shirts (72 per cent versus 64 per cent).  Pine also found that when wearing a Superman t-shirt, students rated themselves as more likeable and superior to other students.

So, when you are happy that you have covered everything you need to revise for the forthcoming exams, the only thing left to do is to dig out that old superhero t-shirt to wear on the day itself (ask your dad, he’s bound to have one…)

Earlier this month (9 April), the DfE published the results of its consulation on revised A level subject content. This includes the proposed AS and A level subject content for psychology. On the face of it, there are very few changes required: a quick comparison with the 2006 QCA requirements shows virtually no difference in requirements. This subject content will make up 60% of what exam boards will use to write their AS and A level specifications.

Does that mean we should anticipate very few changes to the new exam specs? With exam boards starting to advertise introductory training events before the summer holidays this year, it shouldn’t be long before we see the new specifications. Rumours abound about what these will be like, including the suggestion that a combination of specs A and B will involve bigger changes to the resulting AQA specification and assessment than is required by the DfE. We’ll keep you posted!