Critically assess the methods used in the field of biological psychology and the field of individual differences

Clarification We just wanted to clarify a point about the biological aspect of the EMA, Part 1. To answer this part of the question, your focus needs to be on biological psychology. Neuropsychology, will count here… as we are broadly defining neuropsychology as the study of brain-behavior relationships. So (for example) you could take a neuropsychology perspective and base your discussion on any neuropsychological studies you identify in Week 4 and/or those you find from independent reading. You could then use some material in Chapters 1 and 2 to evaluate the usefulness of these types of approaches (for example, focusing on lab experiments or case studies, or both). This is just an example, and is not the only way to answer this part of the question. The key point is that markers will be looking for a critical evaluation of the methods used in the biological studies you include in your essay. So these studies need to be (a) relevant to the question, and (b) taken from Week 4 (either from the VLE or from the Chapter) or your independent reading. It may also help you to refer back to the learning outcomes for this EMA, to help guide your essay content and structure.

EMA Part 1 For this part of the EMA you should write an essay with the title below.

Title: Critically assess the methods used in the field of biological psychology and the field of individual differences. You must draw on evidence from Weeks 4 and 7 of the module. In addition, you should draw on and discuss at least two academic journal articles or equivalent primary source material not referred to in the DE300 module materials. The word limit for this essay is 2000 words, excluding the reference list but including in-text citations.

Student notes for Part 1 This question requires you to critically evaluate methods used in the field of biological psychology and the field of individual differences, drawing on studies from two weeks of the module. You will by now be familiar with the concept of critical evaluation, but it is worth recalling that this involves identifying not just weaknesses but also strengths of the phenomena you are asked to assess. Please note that although the question explicitly asks you to evaluate methods, there is an implied, embedded question underlying it: how valid is psychologists’ knowledge in these specified fields, given the methods that have been employed? To answer this question well, you will need to review studies presented in Weeks 4 and 7 of the modules; identify the methods these studies used; and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the methods involved. Having done so, this should lead you to draw conclusions about the validity of the current state of knowledge regarding the aspects of human development and individual differences showcased in these sections of the module. As the question requires you to draw on studies from two weeks of the module, you will need to present an overview of the kinds of research discussed in both Weeks 4 and 7 and then carefully select studies to focus on in your essay. In presenting methods and studies, please be very careful to provide relevant, indicative, brief detail, rather than lengthy descriptions, bearing in mind that you need to keep your essay focused and within the word limit. To discuss the methods of biological psychology, you should draw on Week 4 of the module and on Chapter 3 of the textbook.

This material examines the experimental method, using in particular the example of memory research. This week continues the discussion of memory from Week 3 and Chapter 2 (you may find the material in Week 3 on experimental neuropsychological techniques useful for setting out biological psychology research, but this is not necessary in order to do well on this EMA). In Week 4 and Chapter 3, psychological experimental research on memory and perception are discussed with a particular focus on forensic contexts. Issues of control, the limits of laboratory experiments and ecological validity are discussed in depth in these materials using a range of relevant empirical examples. These are key issues that a critical examination of the methods of biological psychology should consider. Week 7 of the module and Chapter 6 of the textbook discuss methods for the study of creativity and personality. Week 7 explains how the statistical technique of factor analysis can be used to analyse survey responses. This discussion builds on that of the previous week and of Chapter 5 on self-report questionnaires (this may be useful material for your methodological discussion of individual differences psychology, but it is not necessary to use this material for this EMA). Chapter 6 and the second half of the online Week 7 Study Guide Week 7 discuss the psychology of individual differences, taking the particular empirical field of creativity and personality. They discuss different psychometric measures for assessing creativity, including self-report questionnaires. The advantages and disadvantages of different methods, and a consideration of issues of reliability and validity, will be useful in your critical examination of the methods in individual differences psychology. For example, if discussing methods psychologists use to assess human creativity, you may consider to what extent these can actually measure creativity (are participants able to self-report accurately on this ability, for example?), as well as how valid researchers’ definitions of creativity are and/or how, for example, sampling might affect their findings.

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