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Basic Psychology

Basic psychology helps us understand the fundamental principles, goals and approaches in psychology. Let us break down and define the term psychology so that we can understand its meaning.

‘Psyche’ has Ancient Greek roots from ‘Psykhe’, meaning ‘breath’, ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’. Over the seventeenth century, the term expanded to include the ‘mind’. The suffix ‘-logy’ has Greek roots meaning ‘the study of’. Quite literally, ‘psychology’ means ‘the study of the mind’.

The origins of psychology date back to Ancient Greece, however, it is only in relatively modern times that we have gained a deeper understanding of how the human mind works. The development of psychology as an academic discipline encouraged further research and theories into the human brain.

What does the study of basic psychology involve?

Psychology covers many topics but what is basic psychology?

Psychology is the study of the mind and behaviour using scientific methods. It is a discipline overlapping many other fields of study, including biology, history, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology.

Examples of the broad range of issues psychology can study include:

  • Why we feel an attachment to babies and animals.

  • Why we have dreams and what they mean.

  • Why some memories are stronger than others.

  • Why we develop mental illnesses and how to treat them.

  • Why and how criminals commit crimes.

  • How we can study or work more efficiently.

  • How substances such as drugs and alcohol alter our perceptions.

  • Why certain marketing tactics in advertisements are more likely to make us purchase the good/service.

Through the above examples and perhaps your own, it is easy to see the vast practical applications psychology has not only to academia but to real-life practices. Psychological theories and findings are often reflected in social policies, education systems, and legislation.

For example, in his Monotropic theory of attachment, psychologist John Bowlby found that if human infants are deprived of maternal attention and attachment in their early years of life, it could lead to negative consequences in adolescence and adulthood. Following his research, many improvements were implemented in childcare practices to maintain attachment between a child and their primary caregivers, such as paid maternity and paternity leave. You will be learning more about Bowlby’s Monotropic theory in the subtopic of attachment.

Basic goals of psychology

The basic goals of psychology are what psychologists strive to achieve through their research of the human mind. The goals are outlined as follows, using the example of Milgram’s Agency Theory Jess Stannage (1964) to outline this:

Describe the thoughts, behaviours or processes to create general laws and observations about behaviour:

  • Milgram was interested in why people obeyed orders even in extreme circumstances, such as in the holocaust, where the outcome was to harm people.


Explain how and why the thoughts, behaviours or processes might occur using theories:

  • In his shock experiment, Milgram (1964) found that people obey orders if they are told to by a legitimate authority figure. In 1973, in his Agency Theory, he proposed that the agentic state makes it more likely for people to follow orders.

Predict future thoughts, behaviours or processes from research findings and explanations of behaviour:

  • Milgram was able to test this theory through his variation studies and found that people are much less likely to obey if certain factors do not come into play, for example, the legitimacy of the authority figure.

  • Other experiments into obedience also showed high levels of obedience.

Change (ideally improve) future thoughts, behaviours or processes based on predictions:

  • Based on the information and research obtained about obedience, we can prevent harmful obedience by ensuring a legitimate authority figure is held accountable.

Basic Psychology Goals of psychology StudySmarter Original

Psychological research aims to describe, explain, predict, and change thoughts, behaviour, or processes, Shikha Shah - StudySmarter

Approaches in basic psychology

Approaches in psychology are underlying assumptions or beliefs about the way humans are and how they should be studied. Different psychologists have different approaches to psychology and study the human mind and behaviours in different ways. Approaches can also be called ‘perspectives’.

Learning approach

The learning approach in psychology proposes that behaviours are learned through acquired experiences. The approach focuses on observable behaviour and does not consider cognitive or biological processes in the learning process. We will be studying two main theories in the learning approach:

  • Behavioural theory

  • Social learning theory

Cognitive approach

The cognitive approach in psychology proposes that our brain processes information like a computer system and that internal mental processes can be studied scientifically. The approach believes that schemas (internal scripts in our brain) help us process information and direct our response to the environment. We will be studying the following in the cognitive approach:

  • Mental processes

  • The role of schema

  • Theoretical and computer models

  • The emergence of cognitive neuroscience

Biological approach

The biological approach (also known as the biopsychological approach) in psychology proposes that our behaviour and thinking is determined by our biological structures and their functions. Our biological structures include genes, neurones, neurotransmitters and various parts of the brain. This approach does not see the mind as separate from our physical bodies; the mind is made up of these biological structures that determine our behaviour. We will be studying the following in the biological approach:

  • The influence of genes on behaviour

  • Biological structures on behaviour

  • Neurochemistry on behaviour

Psychodynamic approach

The psychodynamic approach in psychology proposes that our behaviour and emotions stem from past experiences, especially childhood. The approach considers the importance of the conscious and unconscious motivations that shape our behaviour, feelings and emotions. We will be studying the following in the psychodynamic approach:

  • The role of the unconscious

  • The structure of personality id, ego and superego

  • Defence mechanisms

  • Psychosexual stages of development

  • The Oedipus complex and Little Hans

Humanistic approach

The humanistic approach in psychology proposes that studying humans through behaviorism and psychoanalysis does not take into account the complexity and uniqueness of each human. The approach states that humans have free will, are inherently good and want to self actualise (to grow and improve psychologically). We will be studying the following in the humanistic approach:

  • Free will and self-actualisation

  • The self, congruence and conditions of worth

Basic psychology: branches of psychology

Branches of psychology are specialisms of psychology that study a specific area of human psychology. Branches are not the same as approaches in psychology as they are narrower areas of research and practice. Therefore, many branches of psychology are derived from the approaches in psychology. Some major branches of psychology include:

  • Clinical psychology studies how to prevent and treat psychological illnesses or dysfunction.

  • Social psychology studies how social influences (such as group behaviour and peer pressure) affect human behaviour.

  • Cognitive psychology studies the brain’s internal processes, such as language, memory, learning and processing of information.

  • Developmental psychology studies how humans grow and change over time.

  • Forensic psychology studies psychological factors in crime investigations, such as understanding the motivations behind the crime.

  • Evolutionary psychology studies how humans have evolved psychologically during evolution.

  • Neuropsychology studies how brain structure and function affect behaviour and mental processes, including behavioural changes following brain injuries or illnesses.

Basic psychology: research methods

Scientists use empirical research methods to test and study data; Since psychology is a social science, psychologists also use these methods to test hypotheses and collect, analyse and interpret data. Psychologists draw important distinctions between objective and subjective statements.

Objective statements include facts and data that are obtained from empirical research.

The statement’ 35% of university students use coffee to help them study’ is objective as the percentage is drawn from empirical research. It is verifiable and does not contain a personal opinion or value.

A subjective statement is a statement that often contains opinions or values that are not obtained from empirical research.

The statement’ university students should drink less caffeine’ is subjective as it reflects personal values. Subjective statements are neither true nor false, and therefore, they cannot be proven or disproven.

Examples of empirical research methods used in psychology are:

  • Lab experiments using independent and dependent variables.

  • Field experiments.

  • Case studies.

  • Functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) to study the brain.

  • Post-mortem examinations.

You will learn more about psychological research methods in the subtopic of research methods and scientific processes.

Examples of basic psychology

Below are three examples of basic psychology. The examples will outline issues that fall within the scope of psychological research.

1. A study examining the likelihood of developing depression according to socioeconomic status.

2. A study comparing the long-term memories of regular cocaine users with non-cocaine users.
3. A study comparing attachment styles among children in single-parent families to children raised by two parents.

Basic Psychology - Key takeaways

  • The word ‘psychology’ comes from the Greek words’ ‘psykhe’ and ‘logy’, which mean ‘mind’ and ‘the study of’ respectively. Psychology means the study of the mind.
  • Psychological research uses scientific methods to study the mind. It can be applied to social policy, education systems and legislation. An example is Bowlby’s Monotropic theory.
  • The basic goals of psychology are to describe, explain, predict and change human thoughts, behaviours and processes.
  • There are many approaches in psychology, also called perspectives. These approaches are underlying assumptions about the way humans are and how they should be studied.
  • Many branches of psychology are specialised and study-specific areas of human psychology. Examples include social, developmental and cognitive psychology.

Frequently Asked Questions about Basic Psychology

The six basic emotions in psychology were suggested by psychologist Paul Eckman in the 1970s. The basic emotions are happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger and surprise. He suggested that these are universally experienced by all humans.

Basic psychology is the understanding of the fundamental goals and approaches in psychology.

The basic principles of psychology include the goals of psychology, which are to describe, explain, predict and change human behaviour.

The basic psychological processes are sensation, attention, perception, memory and learning.

The basic principles of humanistic psychology are that each human should be studied as a whole as each human is unique. A basic, fundamental assumption is that humans have free will, they innately strive to be good and that they want to self-actualise (to grow and enhance psychologically).

Final Basic Psychology Quiz

Question

What is obedience?




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Obedience is a specific type of social influence on human behaviour; it is when people follow an explicit command given by a legitimate authority.



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What are the advantages of obedience?




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Obedience helps maintain order and structure in society and helps the general public maintain shared societal values



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What are the disadvantages of obedience?




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Obedience has led to dangerous outcomes if the authority figure is seeking to harm a person or group of people.



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According to Milgram’s Agency Theory, when does obedience occur?




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Obedience occurs when people are in an agentic state. This means the individual does not feel responsible for their actions as they are acting as an ‘agent’ of the authority figure that has given them a command.



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What is the relevant study for Milgram’s Agency Theory?




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The relevant study is Milgram’s shock experiment (1964).



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What was the name given by Adorno for the influence of personality on obedience?




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The name for the influence of personality on obedience is dispositional influence. 



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What is the relevant study for Adorno’s dispositional influence explanation?




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The relevant study is Adorno’s dispositional explanation study (1950).



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What is situational influence?




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Situational influence measures the impact of environmental factor(s) on obedience.



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How did the situational influences of the proximity and uniform of the authority figure affect obedience in the variation studies?




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Obedience levels decreased in the variation studies when the authority figure was not in close proximity to the participant and when the authority figure wore everyday clothes instead of a laboratory coat.



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It was found that there were higher levels of obedience in a study conducted at an office building than at the campus of Yale University. Is this true or false?


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Answer

This is false. There were lower levels of obedience when the study was conducted in an office building. 



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Which explanation for obedience discusses the influence of personality on obedience?


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The explanation of dispositional influence discusses how different types of personalities affect obedience. It states that those with authoritarian personalities are more likely to obey as they favour authoritarian systems.



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Why were variations of Milgram’s shock experiment (1964) held?




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Researchers wanted to see whether situational influences, namely environmental changes, affected obedience levels. They aimed to test whether factors such as the location of the study, uniform and proximity of the authority figure had an impact on obedience.



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What are the key components of the Agency Theory?



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The key components of the Agency Theory are the agentic state and legitimate authority. The theory states that obedience occurs when we act in an agentic state. This means the individual does not feel responsible for their actions as they are simply acting as an ‘agent’ of the authority figure. We are more likely to obey if we have a legitimate authority. 



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When was the maternal deprivation theory proposed?

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In 1953.

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Who proposed the maternal deprivation theory?

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John Bowlby.

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What is deprivation?

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Deprivation refers to when a child loses their primary caregiver, which disrupts their attachment to them.

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What is separation?

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When mother and child are separated for a short period.

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What is privation?


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When a child never has the opportunity to form an attachment with their mother.

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 What is an example of deprivation?


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An example of long term deprivation could be when a child is placed into foster care during the critical period, permanently disrupting their attachment to their mother.

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What is an example of privation?

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An example of privation could be a child placed into the care system almost immediately after birth. As a result, they did not have enough time to attach to their mother and, due to the nature of foster homes, are unable to attach to any of the rotating staff members.

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What is an example of separation?

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An example of separation could be if the mother goes on a weekend away and leaves their baby with her grandparents.

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What is affectionless psychopathy?

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It is the inability to experience guilt or empathy for others. Affectionless psychopathy prevents the person from developing normal relationships and is associated with criminality.

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What are the three levels of distress in the PDD Model?

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Protest, Despair, Detachment.

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What was found in the 1947 study by Goldfarb?


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Children who had spent over three years in foster care had a lower IQ, and showed more social immaturity and aggression than children who had spent less than three years in the system.

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Why is the 44 thieves study subject to experimenter bias?

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Since Bowlby himself was conducting the interviews and likely had a vested interest in proving his theory correct, this bias affects the validity of the study.

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What was measured in the 44 thieves study?

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IQ, emotional attitudes to testing, affectionless psychopathy.

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What was found in the 44 thieves study?

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Bowlby found that 14 of the 44 thieves could be affectionless psychopaths. He concluded that prolonged early separation/deprivation caused affectionless psychopathy.

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Does the case study by Kolochova support or refute Bowlby’s idea that maternal deprivation causes affectionless psychopathy?


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Support.


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Which type of attachment did Bowlby claim all infants were pre-programmed to develop? With whom?

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The type of attachment is secure attachment with a primary caregiver.

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What is the main benefit of a “cross-cultural” study?


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The main benefit is that researchers can see if certain behaviours are universal or learned through cultures.

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What are the three attachment styles found by Mary Ainsworth?


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The three attachment styles are secure, insecure-avoidant and insecure-resistant.

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What was the most common attachment style found in the meta-analysis?


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The most common attachment style found was the secure attachment type.

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Did the findings of the meta-analysis disprove Bowlby's theory?


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The findings of the meta-analysis showed that attachment styles can vary according to culture; this does not mean each infant is pre-programmed to form the same attachment style as suggested by Bowlby.

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Is it an advantage or disadvantage that the same Strange Situation procedure was used to test attachment styles in all cultures that were studied?


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It is an advantage because the results could be replicated using a reliable method. However, it is an ethnocentric method.

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Apart from intercultural variations, what else did Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg discover in the meta-analysis?


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Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg found that there were more variations within each culture itself (intracultural) than between different cultures (intercultural).

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What is the breakdown of the word 'psychology'?

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The word 'psychology' comes from the Greek words 'psykhe' and '-logy' which mean 'mind' and 'the study of' respectively. Psychology means the study of the mind.

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What is basic psychology?


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Basic psychology is the understanding of the fundamental goals and approaches in psychology.

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Psychology can help us understand how we can study or work more efficiently. Is this true or false?


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True.

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What are three fields of study that psychology can overlap with?


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Any three answers are acceptable from biology, history, philosophy, anthropology and sociology.

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In order, what are the four goals of psychology?


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The four goals of psychology in order are to describe, explain, predict, and change human thoughts, behaviors, and processes.

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What are approaches in psychology?


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Approaches in psychology are underlying assumptions or beliefs about the way humans are and how they should be studied.

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What does the learning approach propose?


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The learning approach proposes that behaviors are learned through acquired experiences. It focuses on observable behavior and does not consider biological or cognitive processes.

Show question

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What does the cognitive approach propose?


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The cognitive approach proposes that our brain processes information like a computer system. It states that mental processes can be studied scientifically through studying schema, which are internal scripts in our brains. Schemas help us process information and direct our responses to our surroundings.


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What does the biological approach propose?


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The biological approach proposes that our thoughts and behavior are determined by our biological structures such as genes and neurones. Our mind is not separate from our physical bodies.

Show question

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What does the psychodynamic approach propose?


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The psychodynamic approach proposes that our behavior and emotions stem from our past experiences, especially our childhood. The approach states we should study the conscious and unconscious brain to find out what shapes our behavior, feelings and emotions.

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What are the three assumptions in the humanistic approach?


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The three assumptions in the humanistic approach are that humans have free will, are inherently good and want to self-actualize (to grow and improve psychologically).

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How do approaches in psychology vary from branches of psychology?


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Approaches are broad, underlying assumptions about humans, whereas branches are specialisms that study a specific area of ​​human psychology. Branches are narrower areas of research and practice and can derive from the approaches.

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Is the following statement objective or subjective? "It is important for children to have at least one sibling so they can form friendships more easily later on in life."


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This statement is subjective. It contains an opinion or personal values ​​and is not derived from empirical research; Therefore, it cannot be proven or disproven. An objective statement could be, for example: “Studies show children with a sibling (s) are 20% more likely to make friends quicker compared to only children”. What gives the original statement subjectivity is the emphasis on “importance”.

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Provide three examples of empirical research methods used in psychology.


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Any three answers are acceptable from lab experiments, field experiments, case studies, functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) and post-mortem examinations.

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What is developmental psychology?

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Developmental psychology is the study of a person's emotional and behavioural growth and changes over their lifetime.

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