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How to write an essay for Psychology A2 exams The AQA A syllabus states the following allocation of marks for an exam essay (it should be noted however that some aspects of AO3 overlap with AO2) AO1 9 marks knowledge and understanding: outlining theories AO2/AO3 16 marks Evaluation and how science works: Supporting studies Opposing studies Methodological issues (internal validity, ecological validity, population validity, reliability) Bias (cultural bias, gender bias) Debates (nature/nurture, free will/determinism, reductionism/holism) Approaches (psychodynamic, cognitive, evolutionary, biological, behavioural) Ethics Important note: evaluation of methodology is not essential, where examiners arent specifically looking for AO3 points. This means that 16 points of AO2 can be written. Within such 16 points of AO2 however, issues debates & approaches needs to be included. If issues debates & approaches are not included, the AO2 mark is limited to 8 out of 16. The example question used here will be: Discuss Kohlbergs gender consistency theory (purple indicating AO1, green for supporting AO2/AO3, red for opposing AO2/AO3) In figuring out their gender roles in society and relationship to others Kohlberg (1996) proposes that children are active agents in control of their socialisation as a means of proliferating ideas of who they should be. In the development of their gender there are three stages, starting with gender identity (2-3 years) where they recognise themselves as either boy or girl, then gender stability (3-7 years) where they understand that they were and will always be the same gender. Finally with gender consistency (7-12 years) they realise that even through superficial changes in appearance a persons gender remains the same. Such developmental stages parallel Piagets cognitive development theory whereby a childs mental processes become increasingly sophisticated as they age. This is particularly so where conservation is obtained during the concrete operational stage, allowing them to realise that objects stay the same even if they are made to appear different. This pervades their views of gender where they see that changes in appearance leave gender unaffected. Another significant concept from Piaget would be decentration involving the childs ability to take perspectives of other people, losing their egocentricity and understanding how other childrens genders develop in the same way as their own. This happens later during the concrete operational stage so it may take longer for a child to realise that others have gender consistency than it would for them realise they remain the same gender even through changes. Such theorising is holistic as cognitive development and gender development influence one another in affecting an individuals views of society and themselves. It is because of this that Piagets theories support those of Kohlberg as they interact in a consistent manner where the stages can coincide effectively.

Comment [A1]: Firstly, as seen here, an outline of the key theoretical points should be offered to gain AO1 marks. (around 7 marks here) Comment [A2]: The AO2/AO3 points should be integrated with the AO1 points that have been described, allowing more coherency. This differs from the tendency at AS Level to write out all AO1 and then AO2. Here a statement regarding the reductionism/holism debates is made and extended upon for AO2/AO3 marks.

Adam Clarke www.brain-freeze.co.uk

As they age the child develops their ability to classify objects and concepts to help identify what typical male or female behaviour is for others and themselves. Specifically they pay more attention and focus increasingly on same sex behaviour. They eventually recognise the type of behaviour they should be following, making them more likely to internalise it allowing a realisation of how a child of their sex should interact with other people. All of such gender development and eventually internalisation involves self-socialisation where the child is in control of their development. Such theorised control allows a high level of free will where their gender development is not predetermined, allowing them to have a lot of influence in affecting their masculinity / femininity and personality, where change is possible. The developmental stages have been recognised as having a level of universality where they apply to individuals of other cultures, with cognitive development being mainly due to the influence of nature rather than nurture. It is because of this that there is a lot of reliability in applying Kohlbergs constancy theory to individuals of different populations with the effect of nature in brain development and as a consequence the development of mental processes developing in mostly the same sequence of stages worldwide. Weinraub et al. (1984) corroborate Kohlberg through their observational study of 2-3 year olds. The study demonstrated that children who developed gender identity made more sex-stereotyped preferences for toys than those without gender identity. This shows that once children recognised themselves as boys or girls they would behave in ways they thought appropriate for their gender. This supports gender constancy theory regarding the idea that children should have a preference for gender-typed behaviour and activities after acquiring gender identity. There may be a lack of external validity here though, as the use of toys may not be generalised to a preference for all behaviour or activities that are consistent with the individuals gender. Research validation is offered by Slaby and Frey (1975) where children were tested to determine if they had achieved gender identity by being asked if they are a boy or a girl, where they were shown a picture or a boy/girl and told to choose which they were. Gender stability involved questioning them on if they have and will always be boy/girl and finally gender consistency involved observing children as they watched a video of men and women. Those with greatest gender consistency watched more same-gender models, evidence that at this stage of development children focus more on same-gender models to provide them with information about what behaviour is suitable. This study supports Kohlberg by showing that children have different understandings of gender at different ages in the same order that Kohlberg had proposed. The methods used in such study were appropriate for the ages, where asking children to point at photographs or watch a video was within their cognitive capabilities. Furthermore this is important as the children may not have been able to verbalise their answers to pointing to images was suitable. A weakness of such study would be demand characteristics where children may have been choosing images based on what they assumed the experimenter wanted, leading to less internal validity, though this should not be too much of an issue as children of such a young age are unlikely to be heavily affected by demand characteristics.

Comment [A3]: The final 2 AO1 points can be achieved here, allowing time to be allocated for the AO2/AO3 marks. Comment [A4]: More AO2/AO3 here pertaining to the free will debate

Comment [A5]: Cultural bias is considered as well as nature/nurture debate AO3 Comment [A6]: The reliability of the theory is recognised here. AO2/AO3

Comment [A7]: A supporting study is offered here and explained for AO2 marks Comment [A8]: A comment on the methodologically related to validity AO3

Comment [A9]: A supporting AO2 study is outlined here, though the answer is perhaps too exhaustive for the time limit in the exam. Comment [A10]: AO3 advantages of the methodology explained here

Comment [A11]: AO2/AO3 disadvantage of the methodology

Adam Clarke www.brain-freeze.co.uk

A study opposing Kohlberg was provided by Martin and Little (1990) who stated that gender role behaviour can be obtained prior to acquisition of gender consistency by showing that children with only basic gender understanding still had strong stereotypes. The order of stages may have been incorrect where Kohlberg may also be criticised for being too reductionist in determining the stages, as he attempts to divide a complex interaction of mental processes into simplified time-allocated phases. There may also have been some methodological issues for Kohlberg as shown by Bem where real-life images of children yield different results for gender consistency than only using drawn pictures.

Comment [A12]: AO2 Opposing study

Comment [A13]: AO3 Reductionism debate Comment [A14]: AO2/AO3 methodology of study

Adam Clarke www.brain-freeze.co.uk