Second year psychology 2014 - 2015

The International School of Prague


Weekly summary: March 30 – April 3


Hard as it is to believe, this week we wrapped up the course with our Socratic Seminar on bullying, time for study guides and a final Paper II.  It is difficult to believe that our mutual exploration of human behaviour is already over and that now we move onto the less than exhilarating period of revision for the exams.

Just a few reminders of some of the key ideas that came out of our Socratic seminars on bullying.  Here are some of the big ideas and questions that we came up with.

  • Michael Meany’s research on stress and glucocorticoids – and the link that this may have to students who are bullied.
  • The problems with self-reported data in trying to determine whether teachers see bullying.
  • The importance of empathy training – but also the ethical concern about having people role play roles in bullying circles when some of them may actually be playing those roles in real life.  In addition, there is the research that shows that empathy training works best if it starts at a young age.
  • The role of deindividuation in cyberbullying
  • The need for an eclectic approach to anti-bullying campaigns – that is, empathy training and community based programs combined with a strong disciplinary approach – but maybe a complete “zero tolerance” program.  This is the argument that we have to avoid dichotomous arguments.
  • Finally, we discussed Sherif’s study on the role of superordinate goals in helping to break down the “us vs. them” within a group. Could this be used to help lessen bullying in a school?

Now it is time to begin revision.  I know that some of you are a bit overwhelmed at how much you have to revise.  My recommendation for the break is for you to go through your study guides and delete what you already know.  Make your study lists shorter and shorter.  And breathe deeply.


Weekly summary: March 23 – 26

This week we continued our look at bullying by looking at cross-cultural examples.  At the end of this week, you should be able to talk about wan-ta and ijime – and why cultural differences are important to consider when looking at bullying research.

In addition, we started to address the issues of looking at bullying programs.  You should be able to apply the following concerns to evaluations of bullying programs:

  1. Demand characteristics
  2. Researcher bias
  3. Disclosure issues/self-reporting
  4. Measurement – how do we measure a decrease in bullying?
  5. Cohort effects
  6. Not a closed system; too many variables to measure effectiveness
  7. Construct validity
  8. Transferability
  9. Credibility of findings is often not established



Weekly summary: March 9 – 13


This week we looked at the origins of aggression and bullying behaviour.

This week we looked at biological, cognitive and socio-cultural roots of violence.  You should be able to explain each of the following concepts:

  • The role of testosterone and serotonin on aggressive behaviour.
  • Baumeister’s Theory of Threatened Egotism.
  • Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory.  This is supported by a study by Eron (1987) who found that parents of bullies are often authoritarian and use physical force.
  • Zimbardo’s research on deindividuation.
  • Research on the role of social norms in determining acceptable levels of violence.

We are now beginning the very end of the coursework.  Our last task is a Socratic Seminar  in which you are going to respond to a bullying case study.  You should be able to discuss strategies for resolving violence issues within schools as well as the effects on the community if these issues are not resolved.  This is your last assessment that is not a revision assessment.  Please make sure that you do good research to impress one last time as we get ready for exams.



Weekly summary: March 2 – 6


This week we returned to biology for a little while in order to finish our discussions on human relationships by looking at sexuality. Remember, the following studies are useful for Paper I.

  • LeVay’s study of the role of the INAH3 nucleus in the hypothalamus.  This demonstrates localization of function.
  • Gorsky’s research on the role of testosterone on sexual behaviour.  This demonstrates the role of hormones on behaviour.
  • Bailey & Pillard’s research on the role of genetics on sexuality.
  • We also discussed the theory that the more sons, the more likely that the younger one will be gay may have biological roots – as the mother’s own immune system fights against the y chromosome in her womb.

We also examined evaluative strategies.

  • The reductionist nature of the arguments.
  • The difficulty of measuring the “gay” construct.  Sexuality is defined differently cross-culturally as well as within cultures.  We looked at the fafafine of Samoa as an example.
  • The question of researcher bias (LeVay) and the use of ad hominem arguments in order to discredit research.
  • It is questionable whether animal research (Gorsky) explains human sexuality.
  • Much of the research is correlational in nature.
  • The ethics of doing true experiments with pre-natal development.
  • Recruitment of samples – especially cross-cultural samples – has historically proven very difficult.


Weekly summary: February 23 – 27

Fatal Attraction Theory says that often the things that brought us together are the things that also drive us apart.

Fatal Attraction Theory says that the things that bring us together may also be the things that drive us apart.

This week we wrapped up our discussion of relationships by looking at both the role of communication in relationships and why relationships fall apart.   In order to answer potential essays on these topic, you should be able to discuss many of the following concepts/theories:

  •   According to Aronson, two factors in how we communicate are  authenticity and congruence. For example, using flattery which is not congruent with an individual’s person of him/herself may result in the “ingratiating effect.”
  • Self-disclosure is seen as an important factor in maintaining relationships.  Be sure that you can describe and evaluate  the Social Penetration Theory.
  • Gottman shows that the non-verbal communication in a relationship may be the best determinant of the potential health and longevity of a relationship. Facial expressions of disgust and contempt are signs that the relationship is in trouble.
  • A relationship is an agreed upon set of rules.  When those rules are broken, relationships may fall apart. (Duck & Pond)
  • Social exchange theory: the role of communal vs. exchange relationships. (Mills & Clark)
  • Fincham & Bradbury argue that it is whether we use relationship enhancing or distress enhancing strategies in communication.  In particular, they focused on how we attribute failure or success to the dispositional traits of our partner or situational factors.
  • Fatal attraction theory (Felmlee)

Take a look at this lecture by Gottman called “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” A rather dramatic title, but he looks at the four factors that he feels lead to the breakdown of relationships.



Weekly summary: February 2 – 6

This week was a busy one, discussing many of the reasons why we are attracted to others.  D block is slightly ahead of C block, so some of the theories below may not yet be familiar to C block. We will be wrapping up all of these theories next week.

  • The role of neurotransmitters (Fisher)
  • Evolutionary arguments for attraction (Buss, Wedekind, Low)
  • The Similarity Attraction Model (CLOA, Markey et al; Walster)
  • Veitsch (CLOA – Good news and attractiveness) the role of valence, congruence and authenticity
  • Gain-Loss Theory & the Pratfall Effect (CLOA, Aronson).  This is based on equity theory.
  • The role of self-esteem (CLOA, Kiesler & Baral)
  • Reciprocity theories (SCLOA)
  • Proximity Theory (SCLOA, Zajonc)
  • Social Penetration Theory (SCLOA)

Clearly, you do not need to learn every one of the theories we discussed.  But I would recommend that you know at least two theories from each level of analysis.

Next week we have a lot of wrapping up to do.  We will finish attraction and begin discussing the role of communication in relationships.