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  • Gender bias including androcentrism and alpha and beta bias
  • Cultural bias, including ethnocentrism and cultural relativism


  • Definitions and hard determinism & soft determinism
  • The scientific emphasis on causal explanations
  • Biological, environmental and psychic determinism


  • The relative importance of heredity and environment in determining behaviour
  • The interactionist approach


  • Levels of explanation in Psychology
  • Biological reductionism, environmental (stimulus-response) reductionism and holism

IDIOGRAPHIC AND NOMOTHETIC APPROACHES to psychological investigation

ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS of research studies and theory, including reference to social sensitivity


SPECIMEN PAPER 1 (AQA A-level Psychology revision notes)

Which two of the following statements describe a strongly deterministic view? Write he letters of your chosen answers in your answer booklet. [2 marks]

A           People are always responsible for their own actions

B           People behave in a random fashion

C           People’s behaviour always has a cause

D           People exercise full choice over how they behave

E           People have no choice about how to act


Name two types of determinism. [2 marks]


Briefly outline one problem associated with alpha bias in psychological research, and one problem associated with beta bias in psychological research. [4 marks]


Briefly outline what psychologists mean by ‘levels of explanation’. [2 marks]


Read the item and then answer the question that follows.

A prison psychologist used an idiographic approach to study offending. He asked two offenders to record their thoughts about their childhood and their offending behaviour in a journal over a period of four weeks.

Qualitative analysis of the journals showed that the offenders often thought about sad childhood events and believed that their childhood experiences had influenced their offending.

Findings from idiographic research like the study described above are often used as a basis for other investigations.

Explain how the researcher might develop the above investigation through taking a nomothetic approach. [6 marks]


What is meant by the ‘nature-nurture debate’ in psychology? [2 marks]


Read the item and then answer the questions that follow.

Researchers used a test to measure the mathematical reasoning ability of pairs of identical and non-identical twins. If both members of a pair had a similar score on the test, they were said to be ‘concordant’. This type of study is known as a concordance study.

Table 1: Outcome of the research with the concordance rates expressed as a percentage


Briefly explain the outcome of the study in relation to the nature-nurture debate. [2 marks]


Some ways of establishing validity involve the use of a statistical test.

Outline how these researchers could have used a statistical test to establish concurrent validity of the mathematical reasoning ability test. [4 marks]


SPECIMEN PAPER 2 (How to revise for A-level Psychology)

Which of the following statements best describes a nomothetic approach in

psychology? Shade one box only.

Psychologists taking a nomothetic approach…

A           study single cases and do not formulate general laws.

B           study groups of people and do not formulate general laws.

C           study groups of people and formulate general laws.

D           study single cases and formulate general laws.

[1 mark]


Read the item and then answer the questions that follow.

Extract from a newspaper article

Coping with Life’s Pressures

Depression often runs in families, but many depressed people have serious social problems or have experienced traumatic events in the past. However, many people find ways to cope. What we need is the will to overcome our problems.

With reference to the item above, explain what is meant by ‘determinism’. Refer to three types of determinism in your answer. [6 marks]


With reference to the item above, identify one influence of nature on our behaviour and one influence of nurture on our behaviour. [2 marks]


Read the item and then answer the questions that follow.

In a study of antisocial activity and social background, researchers interviewed 100 children aged 14 years. They then classified each child according to their level of antisocial activity. They concluded that 26 were ‘very antisocial’, 40 were ‘mildly antisocial’ and 34 were ‘not antisocial’. The researchers found that the majority of the ‘very antisocial’ children attended Crayford secondary school, whereas most of the other two groups of children attended another local school.

The study above is an example of socially sensitive research.

Briefly explain how the researchers could have dealt with the issue of social sensitivity in this study. [4 marks]


What level of measurement is being used in this study? [1 mark]


Explain one limitation of the level of measurement you have identified in your answer to the question above. [2 marks]


Outline and evaluate reductionist explanations in psychology. [8 marks]


SPECIMEN PAPER 3 (Psychology A-level revision)

Read the item and then answer the question that follows.

A researcher studied the effect of light intensity on visual memory. He carried out a controlled experiment. Participants in Group 1 viewed a drawing in extra bright light for 60 seconds then had to recall the details. Participants in Group 2 viewed the same drawing in normal light for 60 seconds then had to recall the details. The researcher recorded the number of details correctly recalled in the two conditions.

Referring to the item above, explain what is meant by the scientific emphasis on causal explanations. [3 marks]


Read the item and then answer the questions that follow.

Dr Grant and Dr Austin both study people with depression. Dr Grant carries out experimental research to investigate the brain chemistry of people with depression. Dr Austin carries out unstructured interviews with people with depression to find out about their symptoms and various aspects of their lives, including their general behaviour and their relationships.

Referring to the item above, explain what is meant by holism and reductionism. [4 marks]


Suggest one way in which Dr Austin might take account of ethical considerations when carrying out the interviews. [1 mark]


Discuss the nature-nurture debate in psychology. Refer to at least two topics you have studied in your answer. [16 marks]


2017 (A-level Psychology revision)

Which of the following best describes a reductionist approach in psychology? (1 mark)

Write A, B, C or D in your answer book.

  1. Explaining behaviour in a complicated way in terms of complex mechanisms
  2. Explaining behaviour in a simple way in terms of basic units
  3. Explaining behaviour in one way and ignoring all other explanations
  4. Explaining behaviour in several different ways at the same time

Which of the following best describes an idiographic approach in psychology? (1 mark)

Write A, B, C or D in your answer book.

  1. Studying individuals in order to establish general laws of behaviour
  2. Studying individuals without intending to establish general laws of behaviour
  3. Studying large samples in order to establish general laws of behaviour
  4. Studying large samples without intending to establish general laws of behaviour.


A psychologist asked men aged 25 to 35 years to keep a diary record of how many miles they walked in a week. The psychologist also asked each man to climb a flight of stairs, then took each man’s heart rate. For each man, the number of miles walked in the week was correlated with heart rate after climbing stairs. The findings showed a significant negative correlation. A national newspaper reported the findings under the headline ‘Everyone should walk for a healthy heart’.

(a) Explain why the newspaper headline might be an example of beta bias. (2 marks)

(b) Briefly suggest one way in which psychologists might address the problem of beta bias in their research. (1 mark)

(c) Explain one problem with the method used to determine the number of miles walked in one week. Suggest an alternative measure that would overcome this problem. (3 marks)

Dancho is a talented and famous musician. He was taught to play the piano by his father who was a concert pianist. From the age of four years Dancho attended a specialist music school where he spent many hours each day practising the piano.

In a recent TV interview Dancho said, ‘My earliest memories are of notes and melodies, so music is a part of me. To hear the applause in the concert hall is what I live for. Even if I wanted to stop playing, I could not.’

Discuss two or more types of determinism. Refer to the case of Dancho as part of your discussion. (Total 16 marks)


2018 (AQA A-level Psychology revision)

Cultural relativism, ethnocentrism, holism and universality are four concepts relevant to issues and debates in psychology.


Look at Table 1 above.

  • Which definition (A-E) best describes cultural relativism?
  • Which definition (A-E) best describes ethnocentrism?
  • Which definition (A-E) best describes holism?
  • Which definition (A-E) best describes universality?

In your answer book, list the four concepts and write the appropriate letter (A-E) next to each one. A letter may only be used once. [4 marks]


What is a 'nomothetic approach’? Suggest one limitation of a nomothetic approach. [2 marks]


A psychology student carried out a study of excitement at a theme park. She measured the heart rate of people waiting in the queue for a roller coaster.

The student’s tutor said, ‘Using heart rate as a measure of excitement is an example of biological reductionism.’

Explain why measuring heart rate in this situation could be an example of biological reductionism. [2 marks]


Outline two non-biological ways of measuring excitement that the student could also use in this situation. [4 marks]


Explain one strength and one limitation of a reductionist approach in psychology. [4 marks]


Discuss one or more ethical implications of research in psychology.

Refer to at least one topic you have studied in psychology in your answer. [8 marks]


2019 (AQA A-level Psychology revision guide)

Explain what psychologists mean by socially sensitive research. [2 marks]


Most early psychologists focused on causal explanations and argued that behaviour was determined by either internal or external influences. In the 1960s, some psychologists chose to focus more on the role of free will in behaviour. More recently, there has been a broad shift back to more deterministic thinking, but this time with the focus on biology and cognitive processes.

Referring to the text above, explain what is meant by a paradigm shift. [4 marks]


Which two of the following are examples of ethnocentrism? Write the two correct letters in your answer book. [2 marks]

When a Chinese researcher:

A           assumes findings from research in other countries also apply to people in China.

B           chooses to carry out research with people from China rather than with people from other countries.

C           expects people from other countries to behave in the same way as people from China.

D           thinks that people from China are superior to people from other countries.

E           treats people from China in the same way that she treats people from other countries.


Discuss the nature-nurture debate in psychology. [16]


2020 (A-level Psychology resources)

Outline what is meant by cultural relativism. [2 marks]


Suggest two ways in which researchers might reduce cultural bias in their research. [2 marks]


Jonny is 25 years old. He is a very anxious person. Colleagues tease him at work because he chews his pen all the time and spends hours tidying his desk. He finds it difficult to make friends and has never had a girlfriend.

Use your knowledge of psychic determinism to explain Jonny’s behaviour. [4 marks]


‘Psychologists sometimes adopt a reductionist approach to their investigations when they want their research to be objective and empirical.’

Discuss reductionism in psychological research. Refer to the statement above in your answer. [16 marks]


2021 (AQA A-level Psychology resources)

Which of the following terms best represents the view that biology and environment work together to determine behaviour?

Write the correct letter in your answer book. [1 mark]

A           Determinism

B           Ethnocentrism

C           Holism

D           Interactionism

E           Reductionism


Two psychology students investigated the effect of type of play area on friendly behaviours. They watched the behaviour of six-year-old children in two different play areas and recorded their observations using a set of behavioural categories. They observed 25 children in the first play area and another 25 children in a second play area.

Play Area 1 was a grass space, surrounded by trees and plants.

Play Area 2 was a paved space, surrounded by brick and concrete walls.

What are behavioural categories? Explain why it was important to use behavioural categories in this observation. [4 marks]


After the observation, the students showed their raw data table to their psychology teacher.

The teacher suggested that some of the behavioural categories in Table 1 were not valid examples of friendly behaviour.

Suggest two better examples of friendly behaviours that the students could have used in their observation. Explain why these might be more valid examples of friendly behaviour than the behaviours in Table 1. [4 marks]


When she looks at the results in Table 1, the teacher says, “I can see there is a difference in behaviour between the two conditions, but is the difference significant at the 0.05 level of significance?”

What do the students need to do with the data in Table 1 so that they can answer their teacher’s question? Explain your answer. [4 marks]


In this study, the students used a nomothetic approach for their research.

Name the opposite approach to the nomothetic approach. Briefly outline what this opposite approach might have involved in a study of friendly behaviour. [3 marks]


Discuss gender bias in psychological research. Refer to one topic you have studied in your answer. [8 marks]


2022 (A-level Psychology notes)

Outline what is meant by soft determinism. [2 marks]


A psychologist investigated the effect of the presence of a friend on mood. She used a controlled laboratory experiment. She asked a group of participants to rate their happiness on a scale.

In Condition 1 (Alone Condition), participants completed the scale after sitting alone in a room for 30 minutes.

In Condition 2 (Friend Condition), the same participants completed the same scale after sitting for 30 minutes in a room with a friend.

The conditions were counterbalanced.

The psychologist analysed the results of the study using a Wilcoxon test. The analysis showed that happiness ratings were significantly higher in the Friend Condition.

Explain two reasons why it was appropriate to use a Wilcoxon test in this situation. Refer to the description of the study in your answer. [4 marks]


The psychologist claimed to have demonstrated a causal explanation for happiness.

What is meant by a causal explanation? Explain why it was appropriate to claim that there was a causal explanation in this case. [4 marks]


Using an example of a research study you have learned about in psychology, outline what is meant by a nomothetic approach to psychological investigation. [4 marks]


Referring to the example used in your answer to Question 04, briefly explain how the same behaviour might be studied using an idiographic approach to psychological investigation. [2 marks]


There are many examples of socially sensitive research in psychology.

Outline what social sensitivity means in the context of psychology. Explain how researchers in psychology could deal with issues related to social sensitivity. [8 marks]