GCE PSYCHOLOGY (A) PSYA4/Unit 4/Psychopathology, Psychology in Action and Research Methods Report on the Examination June Version: 1.

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1 GCE PSYCHOLOGY (A) PSYA4/Unit 4/Psychopathology, Psychology in Action and Research Methods Report on the Examination 2180 June 2013 Version: 1.0

2 Further copies of this Report are available from aqa.org.uk Copyright 2013 AQA and its licensors. All rights reserved. AQA retains the copyright on all its publications. However, registered schools/colleges for AQA are permitted to copy material from this booklet for their own internal use, with the following important exception: AQA cannot give permission to schools/colleges to photocopy any material that is acknowledged to a third party even for internal use within the school/college.

3 REPORT ON THE EXAMINATION GCE PSYCHOLOGY A PSYA4 JUNE 2013 General There was evidence that many students had been prepared well for this examination. It was encouraging to see that most students were managing their time effectively, with very few failing to complete all three sections. In Section A, Psychopathology, many students struggled to select relevant material for the topic options when questions were focused on explanations. A common error was to engage in lengthy methodological evaluation of research studies without explaining the implications of the methodology used for the explanation being evaluated. Often the methodological evaluation presented was of peripheral relevance, suggesting that many students do not read questions carefully or select material that could be used effectively to answer them. Schools and colleges should encourage students to plan their answers carefully. It is encouraging to note that students are now demonstrating significantly better application skills in Section B, Psychology in Action questions across all three options, indicating that schools and colleges are preparing students more effectively for these kinds of questions. There were also some impressive answers to Section C, Psychological Research and Scientific Method, with detailed and accurate responses to many of the questions. However, some areas of research methods remain problematic for many students. Unfortunately, a large number of students showed only superficial understanding of repeated measures designs. Some responses for both question 21 and question 22 implied that this topic had not been covered during the course of study by some schools and colleges as the answers provided by groups of students from the same school or college scored zero. The questions on content analysis and statistical error also demonstrated gaps in understanding for many students. Scripts were marked on paper this series but schools and colleges should still train students to present their answers clearly as this paper will be marked online in future. A small number of students still do not number questions and many ignore the instructions on the answer booklet to leave a two line space between answers. This will be problematic for students when their scripts are marked online and schools and colleges should encourage students to adhere to the instructions provided on the answer booklet. Section A: Psychopathology General feedback In Section A, students typically demonstrate better understanding and knowledge (AO1) than analysis and evaluation (AO2/AO3) of their chosen disorders. Less successful students continue to struggle with evaluation in Section A, often including rote learned assertions relating to issues, debates and approaches with little regard for relevance. In Section A, the questions are synoptic by nature and there is no specific requirement for students to use issues, debates and approaches in their answers. Examiners do not expect twice as much AO2/AO3 as AO1, but material should demonstrate clear understanding, a sustained focus on the question and a line of argument to reach the higher AO2/AO3 bands. The most effective approach to evaluation was found in answers that focused on 3 of 11

4 the findings of research studies, and their relevance for the explanation and/or therapies under discussion. Question 1: Schizophrenia Schizophrenia remains the most popular option in Section A and was attempted by around 65% of students in this series. Question 1 required students to cover biological explanations of schizophrenia. Very few students fell into the trap of partial performance. Most focused on genetic and biochemical explanations with a smaller number choosing to cover neuro-anatomy or evolutionary accounts. More successful students were able to provide detailed accounts for the dopamine hypothesis and in some cases were able to link this to possible genetic transmission. In contrast to the usual pattern shown on Section A, many students provided insufficient descriptive detail of biological explanations often achieving basic marks for AO1. This was most marked for genetic explanations where straightforward descriptions of genetic studies (e.g. family history studies) were awarded AO1 credit. There were schools and colleges where no students achieved the highest bands because descriptions lacked necessary detail. Although breadth can be impressive, students would be well advised to go into more depth for two explanations in questions of this nature. The best way to provide evaluation of an explanation is to examine evidence for and against the explanation. Whilst better answers took this approach, far too many students lost sight of the explanation altogether, engaging in lengthy and largely irrelevant evaluation of research studies. Many students wasted time by describing in great detail the rationale behind twin and adoption studies, or by giving very generic commentary on these studies without attempting to link it to the explanation or in some cases to schizophrenia. Questions 2, 3 & 4: Depression This option was attempted by around 25% of students. Question 2 required students to outline the clinical characteristic of depression. Some students presented a wealth of material, often far in excess of the 4 marks available. Most students focused on unipolar depression but a small number chose to cover bi-polar disorder in addition providing an impressive amount of detail on both. Question 3 required students to outline one biological explanation of depression. The most common answers were based on genetics, biochemistry (e.g. the permissive amine hypothesis) and the endocrine system. Many students failed to include sufficient detail in their description often achieving basic marks. Students who selected biochemical explanations made a wise choice as more detail was available to them. Question 4 required an evaluation of biological explanations of depression in general. This was challenging for students and around 60% achieved a basic or rudimentary mark (i.e. 8 or below). Stronger students approached this in an organised way, taking an explanation (e.g. genetics) and presenting evidence for and against it. A few engaged in comparison of the different biological explanations which provided an opportunity for high level commentary. A large proportion of less successful students produced little or no evidence, demonstrating a lack of understanding that the best way to evaluate any explanation is by considering the evidence on which it is based. Some students presented a basic list of issues and debates which added very little to their answer and were awarded a rudimentary mark. 4 of 11

5 Questions 5 & 6: Phobic Disorders This option was attempted by around 10% of students. Question 5 The best way to tackle this kind of question is to identify an issue, such as reliability between clinicians or between different diagnostic systems, and then discuss the consequences of the issue for AO2/AO3. Better answers tended to be balanced with a discussion of both positive and negative consequences of diagnosis, such as the importance of diagnosis in accessing appropriate treatment and potential problems of labelling. Those who could refer to specific research studies on diagnosis of phobic disorders were well on the way to reasonable marks. For less successful students, discussion focused almost entirely on the negative elements of classification or diagnosis and was often limited to repetition of inaccurate diagnoses. Question 6 required students to outline and evaluate one psychological explanation for phobic disorders. Most students chose to focus on psychodynamic or behavioural explanations and it was disappointing to see few students choosing cognitive explanations. Responses were varied in quality with many less successful students able to say very little about the psychodynamic explanation, their answers consisting of muddled description of Freud s case study of Little Hans. Students who chose behavioural explanations such as Mowrer s two-stage theory were more successful in general, but many answers still contained too much detail of the case study of Little Albert with irrelevant comments on the ethics of this. Stronger students were able to provide a range of evidence for their chosen explanation and to integrate discussion of the effectiveness of therapies. Questions 7 & 8: Obsessive compulsive disorder This option was attempted by around 5% of students. Question 7 As with question 5, the best way to tackle this question is to identify and explain an issue, such as reliability between clinicians or between different diagnostic systems, and then discuss the consequences of the issue for AO2/AO3. There were some very good answers here with students showing clear knowledge of specific diagnostic tools such as the Yale Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS). Those who could refer to relevant research studies demonstrating reliability (e.g. Kim et al) were on the way to good marks. Better answers tended to be balanced with a discussion of both positive and negative consequences of diagnosis, such as the importance of diagnosis in accessing appropriate treatment and labelling. Less successful students focused almost entirely on the negative elements of classification or diagnosis and discussion was often limited to repetition of inaccurate diagnosis. Question 8 required an outline and evaluation of one biological explanation for OCD. The most popular responses focused on the Orbital Frontal Cortex (OFC) (worry circuit), or the role played by biochemistry in OCD. Successful students provided impressive detail which was often in excess of the 4 AO1 marks available. Some students were able to make use of recent research that has identified specific genes as well as basal ganglia activity demonstrating that some teachers have an impressive knowledge of this engaging topic. 5 of 11

6 Section B: Psychology in Action General feedback Many schools and colleges are now preparing students more effectively for the demands of this section and there is clear evidence that students use the mark allocation as a guide to how much to write, which is encouraging. However, some students still need to be reminded to apply their knowledge to the demands of the question, rather than merely describing what they know. This was most evident in Questions 11, 12 & 16 which asked students to apply their knowledge very specifically. It is apparent that some students still fail to read stem material carefully, with many students ignoring the details supplied in the question to write all they know. The general principles of Section B are read the question and apply material to what you have been asked to do. Schools and colleges should encourage students to plan their answers to application questions. Commentary and evaluation were still weak, with many students struggling to achieve marks beyond the basic band. Much of this comes down to the use of rote methodological evaluation of research studies even when irrelevant to the question. Few students appeared to apply their methodological knowledge in Section B, and many assumed that evaluation involves purely negative commentary. Very few students pointed out strengths of research which is an important element of evaluation. Media Psychology This option was attempted by around 35% of students. Question 9 This question asked students to discuss what research has shown about the positive effects of video games and computers. Many found this question difficult and just over 60% of answers achieved half marks or less. Some students provided lengthy descriptions of methods and failed to appreciate the requirement for findings/conclusions when questions are phrased in this manner. Some presented research studies which have examined pro-social TV programmes (e.g. Sprafkin) and a small number wrote an essay about the negative effects of computer games. However, some students cited relevant research on games and computers including some very recent material on impacts of social networking on self-esteem. Evaluation was of mixed quality. More successful students engaged in appropriate methodological discussions focusing on validity of experimental methods, difficulties in establishing causation in correlations and the challenges of assessing the long term impacts of games and computers in experimental work. Question 10 This question required students to describe one explanation for the persuasiveness of TV advertising. The majority chose to focus on the Hovland-Yale model or Elaboration Likelihood model and many answers showed good general knowledge of these models. However, the requirement to tailor the answer to persuasiveness of television advertising was discarded by many students who became side-tracked in discussing other kinds of advertising such as written/cinema adverts. Students who focused on explanations such as the mere exposure effect or classical conditioning had less work to do to make this relevant. Successful students thought about the 6 of 11

7 question and selected and shaped material appropriately, whereas less successful students often showed little appreciation of the question. Question 11 This question required students to apply their knowledge of intense fandom to different examples of relationships with celebrities in a scenario. Some schools and colleges had clearly prepared students well for this type of question. Stronger students focused their responses clearly on stem information, locating some fans as demonstrating mild fandom whilst others were much more intense. Many students made reference to the Celebrity Attitude Scale to describe the behaviours of the different kinds of fans and there were thoughtful discussions of relevant research on different explanations of intense fandom including attachment theory and the absorption addiction model. Some students also integrated relevant research on celebrity stalking into their responses. Less successful students still tend to write all they know regardless of relevance to the question. Some attempted to use material drawn from evolutionary explanations but this route provided little explanation of why some fans should show extreme behaviour whereas others are less intense. Other weak responses identified the two relationships in the scenario but had very little psychological knowledge to bring to the response. Some students resorted to describing examples of celebrity worship and such answers received very basic marks. These questions test the ability of students to apply their knowledge and understanding. The best responses were clearly focused and used relevant knowledge precisely and accurately! The Psychology of Addictive Behaviour This option was attempted by around 50% of students. Question 12 This question required students to apply their knowledge of addiction to a scenario. Many schools and colleges seemed to have prepared students well for this type of question. Successful students focused their responses on the factors clearly named in the stem and wrote informed answers about the importance of peers in initiating gambling, along with relevant research on age and stress. It was pleasing to see students making use of Social Identity Theory in their responses. Others responded appropriately to the behavioural cues in the stem referring to role models and reinforcement of various kinds. Some students confused classical and operant conditioning and social learning in application questions. Less successful students still tend to write all they know regardless of the relevance to the question. Many attempted to use material on genetics or faulty cognitions which were not included in the stem. There were detailed accounts of Griffith s research with fruit machine players which had minimal relevance to the scenario. Students still need to be reminded that application questions require them to select material that is relevant to the information given in the stem. Weaker responses identified the cues in the stem but had very little by way of psychological knowledge to bring to the response, with weak references to boredom, stress relief and peer pressure. These questions test the students ability to apply their knowledge and students presenting such answers received very basic marks indeed. The best responses were clearly focused and used relevant knowledge precisely and accurately! 7 of 11

8 Question 13 This question required students to describe the theory of planned behaviour (TPB) as a model for addiction prevention. About a quarter of the students who answered this question gained one or zero marks implying that this theory had not been covered during the course of study. Other students were able to describe the model but the requirement to tailor the description to prevention of addiction was ignored by many. More successful students shaped their description of TPB to a specific addiction such as smoking and illustrated the importance of altering subjective norms or individual attitudes which was sufficient for top band marks. Again, more successful students thought about the question, selected and shaped material appropriately. Question 14 Question 14 required students to discuss the effectiveness of public health interventions in reducing addictive behaviour. Public health interventions are designed to promote health or prevent addiction in communities or populations. They are distinct from clinical interventions which are targeted at preventing or treating addiction in individuals. There were different routes to AO1 credit here. Many students described interventions then evaluated them whereas a few approached this by summarising material on effectiveness and discussing the challenges of measuring effectiveness. Both approaches were creditworthy. Stronger responses focused on a range of relevant public health interventions including the workplace smoking ban, controls on advertising and display of cigarettes/alcohol and education campaigns of various kinds. Students who could present relevant statistical evidence about the impact of these measures scored highly for AO2/AO3 as did those who tackled the challenges of measuring impacts of Public Health interventions. Many students focused on doctor s advice but a large proportion of these answers failed to shape this material to emphasise the public health elements, for example, the placing of leaflets and posters in surgeries. Weaker students became side-tracked into individual interventions attempting to include material on biological and psychological approaches to treatments which gained no credit. Anomalistic psychology This option was attempted by around 15% of students. Question 15 This question required students to explain two methodological issues in the study of psychokinesis. It was answered poorly with 75% of students achieving half marks or less and many answers demonstrated little knowledge of the specific features of psychokinesis. Less successful students chose to discuss the Ganzfeld technique or focused on issues such as publication bias/the file drawer effect. Better answers identified a methodological issue such as bias or sleight of hand in dice rolling studies and engaged in a clear discussion of why this was a problem. There is still evidence that many students do not understand the differences between scientific method and pseudoscience in this section of the course. 8 of 11

9 Question 16 This question required students to apply their knowledge about probability judgements and/or coincidence to a scenario. The question referred to the example of dreams appearing to come true and the distinction between those who see this as evidence for the paranormal and those who do not. Stronger students began by exploring the concepts of probability/coincidence before applying these to the example of dreams appearing to come true. There were some impressive answers drawing on relevant material such as the law of truly large numbers along with other relevant examples of probability mis-judgement. More successful students provided relevant research evidence to inform their answers even though there was no specific requirement for this. Weaker answers resorted to personality and locus of control, often arguing that believers are fantasy prone or have an external locus of control. Some students lost sight of the scenario altogether and provided other examples to demonstrate coincidence/probability, such as the number of people required before two share the same birthday. This material could have gained much better credit had it been applied to the example in question. The ever present distinction between sheep and goats (believers and sceptics) raised its head once again here and achieved few marks, as it describes rather than explains paranormal belief. The amount of psychological knowledge included in the better answers is still less detailed or impressive than in the other options for Section B Psychology in Action. Question 17 In this question, AO1 credit was awarded for findings/conclusions of research on psychic healing and AO2/AO3 for discussion of the research presented. A small number of students were very well informed indeed and were able to make appropriate reference to a range of studies focused on healing with popular choices including Wirth and Cha. This provided breadth for AO1 along with a good opportunity for critical comparison of methods which was an excellent route for AO2/AO3. Students who were limited to one or two research studies struggled to find sufficient commentary for AO2/AO3, often achieving basic marks for rather repetitive points about small sample sizes and difficulties with generalising. Very few students engaged in alternative sceptical explanations for research findings which was disappointing Section C: Psychological Research and Scientific Method Question 18 This question required a definition of content analysis which proved challenging for many students. Almost half of the answers achieved no marks at all. This was made more remarkable by the fact that most were able to gain some marks on question 19 where they were asked to explain how to carry out a content analysis for the data in question. Question 19 Most students were able to gain some marks here despite poor performance on question 18 and could identify in a basic way how to carry out a content analysis on the video recordings. Some were able to provide a clear description of the process but few appreciated that behavioural categories need to come from somewhere, whether that is from pilot work or previous research. 9 of 11

10 Question 20 Most students were able to identify an appropriate method of testing the reliability of the content analysis and collect at least one mark. The most popular answers were test-retest and inter-rater reliability. Many failed to gain the three marks available as their explanation of how the method of checking reliability would be carried out lacked detail. A few students became side-tracked into improving reliability and a small number used split half which was inappropriate in relation to content analysis and gained no marks. Question 21 This question required students to explain why a repeated measures design was used in the experiment. Many students provided a basic answer referring to the need for less participants or the removal of individual differences but were unable to provide further explanation of why this would be important in this experiment. Students who thought about the scenario and elaborated their explanation with reference to reaction times, concentration or driving skills, achieved full marks. Question 22 There was a broad range of answers to question 22 and about 75% of students achieved no marks at all. Many students contradicted their previous answer to question 21 and referred incorrectly to individual differences in reaction times and a similar proportion referred to order effects which had been controlled by counterbalancing or driving experience. Some students picked up on the possibility of differences in the nature of the chat on the phone which was encouraging. However, few students showed any awareness of the need to match the two hazard perception tests (stimulus materials/tasks) in this repeated measures design. Question 23 This question was answered well, with most students able to refer to population or ecological validity. Question 24 Many answers to this question displayed a marked lack of common sense. Despite referring to a simple hazard perception test, which is a key component of the driving test, many students claimed that watching a 3-minute film of a road would be traumatic, leading police drivers to suffer psychological harm. Others referred to possible deception and failed to appreciate that the purpose of the experiment is rather obvious in a repeated measures design. Better answers took issues such as informed consent/right to withdraw and explained how these related to this research. Question 25 The question on writing instructions was answered well, with around half of students achieving four or five marks. Some failed to gain full credit as their instructions referenced both conditions or failed to include a check of understanding. Very weak answers failed to refer to the conversation or made no reference to reacting as quickly as possible. 10 of 11

11 Question 26 This question required students to identify an appropriate statistical test and justify their choice. About one third of students gained the full marks for identifying the Wilcoxon test with appropriate justification but just under half gained one mark only for identification of the test. Common problems included justification as a test of difference which gained no credit as it was included in the question. Other students were confused about the type of data required for the Wilcoxon test and many answers referred to not nominal data. Question 27 There is still evidence that few students understand the concepts of statistical error and well over half failed to gain any marks here. Some became confused between type 1 and type 2 errors and others referred to the number of hazards detected rather than reaction times. Question 28 This question was answered reasonably well, with many students referring to the greater potential for generalisation in a larger sample of inexperienced drivers. Some also referred to the general importance of replication to check findings in the context of the experiment, which was creditworthy. Mark Ranges and Award of Grades Grade boundaries and cumulative percentage grades are available on the Results Statistics page of the AQA Website. Converting Marks into UMS marks Convert raw marks into Uniform Mark Scale (UMS) marks by using the link below. UMS conversion calculator 11 of 11

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