My name is Annalise Abraham and I’m Head of Psychology at Reigate College. Before you enrol in our department at the beginning of the academic year, we’d like you to complete a series of tasks over the coming months.
Studying Psychology will be new for many of you, so we’re really keen you get fully prepared for the A Level course. Please work your way through the below tasks, and when we meet in September we can discuss together what you’ve learnt.
The tasks will be released here, in three phases (see table below) and should be completed by Choices Day on 1 September 2021. Please throw yourself into them and above all enjoy them!
Please note, some Course Leaders (for example for Music) may release their tasks earlier, as they may form part of the College’s audition process. If this applies to you, you’ll be notified separately.
New Starters Course Tasks and Activities
To be completed by
Explore your Subject
Explore your Subject
Learning about Learning
One of the topics we investigate in Psychology is the topic of learning. We look at a variety of famous theories of learning, including Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning. This theory is often used when training animals.
Play the Pavlov’s dog game to see if it’s possible to train a dog to salivate on command.
Please write a paragraph summarising what you’ve learnt.
Knowing your Correlations
Psychology is a science, and requires the use of some mathematical skills. One of those skills is conducting correlational research and analysing the data. As you will already know, correlation looks for a link between two variables. When you study A Level Psychology, you will conduct a correlational practical project so you will need these skills.
Refresh your knowledge of positive, negative and null correlations here:
Psychologists are constantly trying to understand their fellow human beings. One of the topics studied is how good people are at reading the emotions of others. Do you think you can tell a real smile from a fake smile? Take the online test below and carry out some research into what affects people’s ability to read the emotions of others.
Make a list of some of the key factors in being able to read people’s emotions.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction into some of the areas we’ll be exploring further on the A Level course.
Exploring Correlations some more
previous activity, we started looking at the use of correlations in Psychology.
I’d like you to build on that activity by doing a small correlational study of
TASK 1: Choose a sample of between five and ten people.
(Generally speaking, the bigger the sample the better!)
You need to
get two pieces of numerical data from each person:
You can see
that it’s easy to get a numerical value for age – it’s just the number of years
they’ve been alive for. However, it’s slightly more difficult to measure
self-confidence. The easiest way for us to do this is to have your participants
rate their self-confidence on a scale from 1 – 10 where 1 is not at all
confident, and 10 is extremely confident.
TASK 2: Once you’ve collected this information, please
print off the below worksheet so you can start analysing your data:
don’t have access to a printer, please copy out and complete the table and
graph on a piece of paper.)
your raw data into the table provided. Then, plot your data into a
scattergraph. From this, you should be able to identify whether you have:
negative correlation, or
TASK 3: If you’d like to, please have a go at the
Extension Task on the worksheet, where you calculate a statistical test to see
if your results are statistically significant. The following website will help
you if you get stuck:
first year of Psychology A Level, one of your practical projects will be a
correlational study so this exercise will be good practice and preparation for the
I hope you
enjoy doing it.
Sigmund Freud has been murdered!
series of tasks, we’d like you to find out who killed Sigmund Freud.
TASK 1: Read the crime scene report below.
Location: Reigate town centre
Victim(s): Sigmund Freud, born 6 May 1856,
Professor of Neuropathology at Vienna University, co-founder of the
International Psychoanalytical Association (with Carl Jung). Developed the
Psychodynamic Approach of Psychology – this claims that our behaviours are
caused by our past experiences and our unconscious drives. For example, our
personality is determined by unconscious psycho-sexual drives throughout our
childhood and adolescence; e.g. from birth until 18 months old, you are in the
oral phase, so are obsessed with your mouth/eating/drinking/exploring the world
by placing objects in your mouth. If you don’t manage to do this enough, you
may become pessimistic, jealous and sarcastic. If you do it too much, you may
become optimistic, gullible and needy.
people don’t like his ideas as they cannot be tested scientifically and many of
his theories are biased against women. Other people do not like the idea of
being told they have these subconscious drives that will cause them to be a
certain way (deterministic).
Details: Freud was found dead at 07.00 hours. We
are still unsure how he died but we found tyre marks near his body from a 1974
Ford Escort and there were large spots of blood on two places on his skull. He
died with a look of fear on his face.
Evidence: an American drivers’ licence; an electric shock generator; a baby’s rattle; a bag of stolen items including Bacardi Breezers, clothes and computer games; a Santa mask; cotton wool; tyre mark-prints and notes from a trial about eye-witness testimony; a staff ID from the University of Pennsylvania.
TASK 2: Now read the four fact files below on four different psychologists, all of whom are suspects in the murder.
Fact file A:
Dr Adrian Raine,
Professor of Criminology and Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, USA.
is a Biological Psychologist. This means he believes in the Biological Approach.
This approach states that human behaviour is caused by physical components of
the body, i.e. our hormone levels, brain parts and neurotransmitters.
carried out a famous experiment on murderers and non-murderers. He scanned the
brains of 41 murderers who had been charged with murder, but were found to be
not guilty for reasons of insanity (NGRI). The murderers had a range of mental
disorders, including schizophrenia, head injury, drug abuse, epilepsy,
personality disorder and learning disability. He found that they had
‘different’ brains compared to people with the same disorders who hadn’t killed
disagrees with many of Freud’s ideas, and in particular doesn’t like that Psychodynamic
concepts lack the ability to be scientifically tested.
Fact file B
Stanley Milgram, American
Milgram is a Social Psychologist. He disagrees with Freud’s idea that internal unconscious
psycho-sexual drives influence our behaviour. Instead, Milgram suggests that we
are influenced by external factors such as our environment and the people
around us. For example, he suggests that we are all likely to be obedient to
authority figures such as teachers and police officers.
conducted a variety of experiments to test his ideas. He used careful controls
so that his research was scientific, unlike Freud, who didn’t really attempt to
test his ideas scientifically.
he has something in common with Freud in that they have both been criticised
for being deterministic, that is, suggesting that people don’t have free will
when choosing their actions.
Some of Milgram’s
experiments have been criticised for being unethical. For example, in one
experiment he asked participants to give other people electric shocks.
Fact file C
Professor John Watson and Rosalie Raynor,
Rosalie Alberta Raynor was the assistant and second wife of Psychology Professor John B. Watson. Watson and Raynor are famous for their Little Albert experiment where they taught (‘conditioned’) a nine-month-old baby boy called Albert to have a phobia of white rats/rabbits and other white objects.
They are Behavioural Psychologists. This means they believe
all behaviours, including mental health issues, are learnt (and can therefore
be unlearnt). Behavioural Psychologists believe that humans are like any other
animal and therefore animal studies on rats, mice, monkeys, cats etc. can tell
us a lot about human behaviour. Freud agreed with Watson and Raynor’s idea that
our behaviours are heavily modified by our upbringing (nurture) but Freud also believed in an interactionist approach:
that our psyche and behaviour is a result of both nurture and nature (our genes, chemical levels and
biological drives). Watson and Raynor strongly oppose the nature argument of
behaviour and say all behaviour is due to our environments. In 1930, Watson
published his book Behaviourism, in
which he famously said:
“Give me a
dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up
in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type
of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes,
even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies,
abilities, vocations and the race of his ancestors.”
Fact File D
Dr Elizabeth Loftus and John Palmer,
Cognitive Psychologists, Dr Loftus and John Palmer believe that behaviour is
down to our internal mental processes, like attention, memory and perception.
Elizabeth Loftus is probably one of the best-known living psychologists. She is
famous for her extensive research (with Palmer) on eye witness testimony and,
more recently, false memories. She is often called as an expert witness in
court cases to testify about the unreliability of memory, such as in the Michael
Jackson case, and she has received countless awards such as the 2001 American
Psychological Association (APA) Award for “ingeniously and rigorously designed
research studies… on difficult and controversial questions”. John Palmer is a
Research Professor at the University of Washington, specialising in visual
Palmer disagree with Freud’s unscientific methods and think that he should have
developed ‘ingeniously and rigorously
designed research’, like they did.
famous for empowering female psychologists and for raising the profile of
females in published psychological work (90% of undergraduate psychologists are
female; only 6% of published psychological work is by female authors! (APA, 2006)).
Freud famously stated that women are inferior to males and are jealous of male
power. He also said that women have Penis Envy and an Electra Complex (the suppression
of sexual feelings towards your male caregiver leading to hating your female
caregiver throughout adolescence) which leads to women having behavioural
problems/mental health issues.
views on women stirred controversy during his own lifetime and continue to
evoke considerable debate today. “Women oppose change, receive passively, and
add nothing of their own,” he wrote in a 1925 paper entitled ‘The Psychical
Consequences of the Anatomic Distinction Between the Sexes.’
TASK 3: Now that you’ve read the crime scene
report and the four fact files on four different psychologists, we’d like you
to copy out and fill in the table below and decide who you think killed Sigmund
Freud and why.
Remember, each psychologist supports a particular approach: Biological, Social, Behavioural and Cognitive.You will need to find a reason from the fact files which suggests that the psychologist in question might have disliked Freud enough to kill him. You’ll also need to find a piece of evidence from the crime scene that links that person to the crime.
We hope you enjoyed finding out more about psychological approaches through this imaginary scenario, and we’re looking forward to hearing your conclusions when we start the course.