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Contributions to Society

For each of the 5 approaches from AS you must know 2 ways in which it has contributed (been useful) to society. For Child, Criminology and Clinical you must know one contribution from each. For many of the approaches this can be therapies that are used for treating different behaviours.


1. Understanding Prejudice

· Social approach helps us to understand why prejudice occurs.

· SIT explains that prejudice occurs by simply belonging to a group– we belong to an in group and those not part of this are considered the out group. We categorise into these groups and identify with in group members by the beliefs we have and what we wear. In order to make our in group look good we display in group favouritism and show a preference for our in group and seeing their behaviours in a positive light. The behaviour of the out group we put down, and this boosts the in group self-esteem.

· Realistic conflict theory suggests prejudice between groups occurs when there is competition for resources, and that it is not simply belonging to a group. This can explain why many groups can live alongside each other in harmony, which SIT cannot explain.

· An example of SIT in action is football fans as they categorise themselves into teams e.g. either Man U or Chelsea and wear team colours e.g. red or blue. When these teams play they will call the fans of the rival team names to raise their own teams self-esteem.

· Prejudice can account for a number of conflicts that have occurred in society and it is important that we understand why it occurs and how to reduce it to benefit society and its functioning, as well as for economic reasons.

Supporting evidence is Sherif’s study which found that the boys in the rattlers and eagles called those in the other group names when they heard about their existence. It was not until cooperative tasks were introduced that hostility between the two groups was reduced.

As this study was a field study it has high ecological validity as the boys were unaware they were in a study and would not have shown demand characteristics.

However other studies into SIT are often lab experiments, meaning they cannot explain prejudice in real life. Also a problem is that prejudice is a complex behaviour that may have historical and political contexts rather than simply belonging to a group; because of this SIT can be considered reductionist. Additionally, it doesn’t explain why groups live alongside each other in harmony.

This theory is useful to society as it helps us to suggest ways that prejudice can be reduced. The common in group identity model suggests by creating one in group removes the boundaries and enables groups to work together. In football this can be seen when players of rival teams join together to play for England. Using the realistic conflict theory, the use of a superordinate goal can reduce prejudice where everyone is working together to achieve a task, such as in football playing a charity match. However while this might provide a solution, it is difficult to merge in and out groups and other factors such as social status might be involved.

2. Understanding Obedience

·Social approach helps us to understand why people obey and how this can account for harm towards other

·Agency theory suggests we can be in one of two states: autonomous – where we use our own free will and are responsible for our own actions and agentic- where we see ourselves as an agent for another person who we feel will be responsible. These people are usually legitimate authority figures.

·This explanation accounts for why people cause harm such as in Abu Ghraib where US soldiers abused Iraqi prisoners. The defence argued that the soldiers were simply following the orders of their superiors rather than this being due to personality

Supporting evidence for this comes from Milgram who found 65% of pp’s gave shocks to another person. This study however could be criticised as it is a lab experiment and therefore pp’s may have guessed that the shocks were not real and therefore lack ecological validity. However Hofling conducted a field experiment and found 21/22 nurses obeyed a phone call from an unknown doctor to give an overdose of a drug. This shows that in a real life situation people do obey an authority figure and has high ecological validity. Meeus & Raaijmakers study found 92% of pp’s obeyed using a procedure similar to Milgram, but with psychological rather than physical harm. This would suggest Milgram’s study is reliable and that obedience levels are high in cultures other than the USA. However Holland could be considered similar to the USA and findings are not relevant to other cultures such as collectivist.

However not everyone does obey authority figures. 35% do not obey in Milgram’s study, which shows there is potential for autonomy. This is also the case in Abu Ghraib where one soldier made images of prisoners being tortured public.

It could also be that there are other explanations for obedience such as personality and the influence of charismatic leaders, these may influence individuals into behaviour they wouldn’t normally do rather than an individual being in an agentic state.


1. Understanding problems with EWT (This is also the contribution for criminal)

· Psychology has helped us to understand why people may give inaccurate accounts after witnessing an incident.

· Weapon focus can explain that when a weapon is used testimony is affected as the witness is likely to have focused on the weapon itself rather than the details surrounding the event.

· Loftus and Palmer have shown how leading questions can distort recall, and influence the information people give

· Reconstructive memory suggests that we use schemas and fill in the gaps to make sense of the world – this helps us to understand why people may tell an event differently

· By understanding issues of unreliability this helps us to change the way we use witness testimony in court, and also the techniques we use when questioning witnesses about a crime. The cognitive interview uses these ideas by using contextual reinstatement and interviews where witnesses describe all they know before and after an incident.

Supporting evidence comes from a number of studies into EWT. Loftus and Palmer found pp’s recall a higher speed when given the verb smashed than the word contacted. Studies such as this are reliable as they are lab experiments that control other variables and we know what factor is involved in altering witness testimony – this means the cause and effect are established.

Guidelines in court have recognised the importance of the research into EWT and have changed line up procedures. This suggests that findings from studies are viewed as credible and valid.

A weakness is that research into EWT is often lab experiments. This means pp’s may be aware that something will happen, and there is not the emotions that may occur from witnessing a real incident.

Yuille & Cutshall’s study into recall of a real shooting 5 months after the event found witness recall to be accurate and they did not fall for the leading questions. This questions the validity of the research studies.

Understanding EWT and factors that affects it has contributed to changes in court and during police interviews. Even programmes such as Crimewatch use psychological methods to help improve recall – in this case the use of context cues.

2. The use of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

· CBT is a therapy that can be used in treating mental disorders such as depression. This is useful to society in order to ensure its members are enable to function fully, have a high quality of life and make a contribution e.g. in terms of work

· CBT works by understanding the client’s thoughts and understanding the behaviour they do based on these. The therapist helps the client to identify negative thought patterns that the individual develops automatically, and challenges them over these thoughts to find examples of them not being true. This process takes place over a number of sessions with a set agenda so the therapist and the client can monitor progress.

This therapy encourages the client to think in different ways and teaches them skills which may be used for other behaviours. Tasks are set for the client for homework so that the concepts are generalised to outside of the therapy session.

As the client is involved in setting the agenda for each session, they have an understanding of how the therapy will work and are in control of their therapy – this could account for why CBT is considered to have long term benefits.

The government has increased funding into CBT. This suggests there is understanding that CBT is a useful therapy and is important in treating disorders. However while funding has increased, there may still be a preference for drug treatments as this is seen as a quicker option as a client does not need to attend lengthy sessions. Also, there may be an increase in CBT provision but in some areas this may still be difficult to access and private treatment the only option which can be expensive.

Studies such as Kuyken have found CBT to be as successful as drug therapy for treating depression and that it had a lower risk of relapse. This suggests CBT is effective and useful to society.

However in the case of some disorders a patient may lack motivation. CBT requires an individual to actively engage in the sessions and to do homework, so this therapy is only successful for those with insight into their disorder and who want to use CBT.


1. The use of psychoanalysis as a therapy

· Psychoanalysis is a therapy that uses the assumption that mental disorders are caused by issues that are unresolved in the unconscious, and that by bringing these into the conscious any neurosis will disappear.

· Therapy involves the client being the focus of the session and methods such as free association, slips of the tongue and dream analysis are used to access the unconscious – these require the therapist to interpret

· This therapy contributes to society as mental health is common in society and we want to ensure people have a good mental wellbeing as this will help society to function and benefit the economy through having people in the workplace

Psychoanalysis focuses on the whole individual and is in-depth. This means it is holistic and therefore a better understanding of the individual and potential causes of mental health can be established.

However Stiles has found that psychodynamic therapies are no more effective than other forms of talking therapy, so this suggests that there is limited use and success.

As the therapy is focused on the unconscious it can be considered unscientific. This is because the unconscious is not observable and scientifically measurable. The methods that are used in psychoanalysis require subjective interpretation and therefore is unreliable.

Psychoanalysis is also an expensive therapy at around £50 per session and requires a person to attend sessions frequently – around 3 per week. This means it is time consuming and not all individuals will therefore find this therapy useful.

2. Understanding the meaning of dreams

· According to the psychodynamic approach dreams are a way of accessing the unconscious. This is important in understanding behaviour and a way of treating mental disorders.

· An individual needs to attend 3 sessions per week where they tell the therapist about their dreams.

· Dreams are said to be a form of wish fulfilment and are a way of the ego allowing the id to gain pleasure in an acceptable way.

· Dreams consist of a manifest content which is what the individual describes. The therapist needs to identify the symbols in this to reveal the hidden meaning, this is the latent content. By revealing this, the thoughts become conscious and the person and control them.

· This is therefore useful to society as it can help treat disorders in a novel way.

Case studies such as Little Hans support the use of dream analysis, as this technique was used to help treat Hans’ phobia of horses by revealing his fixation at the anal stage and dreams about giraffes relating to the phallic stage and the Oedipus complex. However this along with other evidence is a case study, so while in collects in depth data making it valid, it lacks generalisability.

Dream analysis is a holistic approach which is adapted to the individual, this makes it more personal and may be considered more valid and useful as a form of treatment.

However Stiles found that psychoanalysis was no better than other forms of talking therapy, therefore dream analysis may not benefit all individuals.

Biological explanations would argue that dreams do not have meaning. The activation synthesis theory states dreams occur during REM sleep, and it is when the brain is active and tries to make sense of random thoughts in the brain. This explanation is scientific and measurable, so considered more credible. However the biological explanation cannot account for why recurring dreams occur – psychodynamic explanations explain this happens as the issue has not been resolved and still remains in the unconscious.


1. Understanding autism

· Autism is a developmental disorder that is diagnosed around the ages of 3 – 4. Characteristics of autism include communication difficulties, difficulty with relationships and a lack of imagination.

· It affects more males than females, which is how the biological approach explains autism as an extreme male brain.

· People with autism are better at spatial tasks – males are typically better than females- and also one of the main difficulties of autism involves communication – which females are better at than males. This could be explained through male brains being lateralised – males show a preference for the left for language and right for spatial tasks.

· The brain structure can also be considered an extreme male brain – male brains are heavier than females, and even heavier in autism; also the amygdala

· By understanding autism this is useful in society for providing care and methods that can help those with autism cope with every day life.

This explanation can be tested scientifically. Brain scans can be used to measure brain structures and also look at which areas of the brain are active during different activities. This means data is objective and reliable.

Although focused on males, the explanation can also account for females with autism. This is because of females receiving too much testosterone in the womb.

By explaining autism by biological concepts only, it can be considered reductionist. It is possible that environmental factors are involved in the development of autism which may occur before or after birth.

Extreme male brain also only provides an explanation rather than a solution. It does not suggest how to help someone with autism as brain structure is fixed; therefore environmental explanations may be more useful in helping an individual improve their environment.

2. Understanding gender

· Biological approach explains that our sex is down to our chromosomes – whether we inherit XX or XY. By inheriting a Y chromosome an individual is destined to become male, due to the androgens found on this chromosome.

· By understanding normal development, this helps to understand abnormal gender development. If a male inherits an additional X chromosome (XXY) this leads to Klinefelter’s syndrome where the male does not produce enough testosterone, meaning they can be infertile. In females, a faulty X chromosome can result in Turner’s syndrome (XO) where their fertility is also affected by underdeveloped ovaries.

· Hormones involved in male development are the androgens, and female hormones are oestrogens.

· The biological approach is therefore useful to society by helping individuals with abnormalities by explaining why they occur, and helping individuals who feel their gender has been wrongly assigned. In some cases this can lead to treatment through hormone therapy.

Evidence into the role of genes and hormones on gender behaviour can be studied scientifically through DNA testing and use of animals. These methods are objective and can be considered reliable. However, although animals and humans share many genes there are still differences, and humans are more complex. This means that findings from animals may not be generalised to humans.

Through studying individuals with differences in genes/hormones there is reliability in understanding conditions that can occur such as Turner’s and Klinefelter’s

However a problem of the biological explanation is that it focuses purely on biological causes making it reductionist. There could be environmental factors that contribute to abnormalities which occur prenatally, and therefore there may be an interaction between nature and nurture.

There are other explanations for gender behaviour. The learning approach would explain this through copying role models of the same sex, and the use of reinforcement to encourage gender specific behaviour. The psychodynamic approach uses the Oedipus complex and the need to identify with the same sex parent to learn their gender. Both these explanations therefore include the role of nurture, which the biological approach does not take into account.


1.The use of systematic desensitisation to treat phobias

· Classical conditioning has contributed to the treatment of phobias, which can help individuals overcome fears that have a significant impact on their quality of life. A fear becomes a phobia when it prevents individuals from doing things they need or want to do. By being able to treat phobias allows people to have good mental health and to contribute to the economy.

· Systematic desensitisation works by the client writing down a hierarchy of fears from least to most feared e.g. picture of an aeroplane to getting onto a plane. The therapist then teachers the client relaxation techniques such as counting to 10 and breathing techniques. When confronting with reach stage of the hierarchy they must use these techniques to relax and replace the reaction of fear. By doing this, they will be able to reach the end of the hierarchy and no longer associate the phobia with fear

Systematic desensitisation is ethical as the client is in control of the therapy. They decide on the hierarchy and the relaxation techniques they will use. They also will have control over when they move onto the next stage.

It is personalised to the individual and they are able to work at their own pace to move up the hierarchy. Although recommended, a therapist is not essential, meaning someone could use this in their own home.

Systematic desensitisation works well for specific phobias however does not help with cases of agoraphobia or phobias that involve a survival element such as dangerous animals. It also requires the individual to be able to relax, if they are unable to do this the therapy will not work.

Research into the principles of classical conditioning come from lab studies, such as the work by Pavlov. This means it uses observable processes that can be explained to an individual. However research from animals may not be generalised to humans as being able to change associations may not simply involve conditioning, but thinking behaviour as well.

2. The use of token economy as a form of social control

·Token economy is a method of shaping behaviour into what society sees as desirable. This can be used in schools and prisons for shaping behaviour, teaching right from wrong. In mental institutes it can be helping them to maintain behaviour considered normal to society. Therefore token economy programmes are useful in ensuring its society members comply with the norms and rules, making people feel safe.

· Token economy programmes use operant conditioning to encourage desired behaviour through the use of tokens and rewards. Tokens are given when desired behaviour is shown and then exchanged for a reward. Over time the exchange rate and reinforcement schedule are changed.

Token economy programmes can be personalised to the individual. The rewards and exchange rate can be adapted to each individual, and the individual is involved in establishing the behaviour they are expected to display.

Trained therapists are not essential, meaning the therapy can be cheap in comparison to other treatments. However it is recommended staff are trained to ensure the program is used consistently.

Token economy works best in institutes where behaviour can be monitored, however if behaviour is not acknowledged with a token this means an individual may become confused about the expectations. Also, it can be difficult for the behaviour to be generalised to outside of the institute, where rewards are not given.

There is issues of power and the therapist can be seen an having control over the individual as they decide whether or not to give tokens and rewards.

Criminal – see cognitive – understanding EWT

Child – Understanding Daycare

· Much research has been conducted surrounding whether or not daycare is beneficial for child development. This is a contribution to society as many parents wonder whether daycare is good or bad for their child. If it is bad for their child then they would not want to send their child there. This also affects society because if people believe this there will be a greater amount of people not working and may be reliant on the benefits system. Also if daycare has a negative effect on behaviour and this effect is shown in later life, this is also bad for society as it means they need to deal with the anti-social consequences that have occurred.

· Studies into daycare have shown positive and negative effects. The EPPE study found that daycare made a positive contribution in terms of intellectual development. The NICHD study however found that daycare lead to anti-social behaviour. The conclusion from research into daycare however focuses more on the factors that affect daycare such as the quality of daycare, the time spent in daycare, the staff: child ratio and age of the child. This suggests that in the right situation daycare is positive.

There is studies that support findings that daycare is beneficial. The EPPE study found an improvement in SATS scores for children who attended daycare. Andersson’s study in Sweden also supports the benefits of daycare and found that children who attended daycare were more socially advanced and more outgoing.

However it is difficult to make comparisons between studies into daycare. There are many variables that can affect whether or not daycare is beneficial such as staff, child’s background, previous experience of time apart from the parent, gender and temperament. It is difficult to conduct a study that can control for so many variables.

Also when comparing studies conducted in different cultures, there may be differences due to that society. In Sweden there is a strong emphasis on providing high quality daycare and education, so this may mean there is greater funding to their nurseries, hence showing a more positive effect.

Data into daycare often comes using triangulation and methods such as questionnaires, interviews and observations. This means there is an attempt to cover a range of variables and to collect both in depth qualitative data as well as objective measures such as SATS scores.

However it is difficult to replicate studies and methods entirely between studies. This may decrease generalisability and findings into daycare cannot be applied to other daycare providers or cultures.

Clinical – see learning – the use of systematic desensitisation to treat phobias

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