Psychology Unit 3 Revision
Criminological Psychology
Defining The Approach
• In this section, you need to be able to define 7
key terms, plus the approach itself.
• The definitions for these are on the following
Criminological Psychology
• Define Criminological Psychology:
• Criminological Psychology looks at the
explanations and causes of crime, features of
crime and antisocial behaviour, and also
treatments for crime and antisocial behaviour.
Forensic psychologists are also concerned with
identifying criminals, the processes involved in
court procedures, and rehabilitation. A key issue
in criminological psychology is the Reliability of
Eyewitness Testimony.
Define: Crime
An act that is against the law. Criminal acts are
behaviours which are against the law in a
specific society or culture and carry with them
a punishment or consequence.
• This is the term used to describe the act of
reoffending. This means that a person who
has committed a crime and been punished or
treated for it, then goes and does it again.
Define: Token Economy
• A scheme to manage behaviour through
rewarding good behaviour and punishing bad
behaviour. This is achieved through tokens
that can be redeemed for luxury items. This
scheme originates from the learning approach
with its principles in operant conditioning.
• It is an 8 step programme (See AS Brain). Key
terms are primary and secondary reinforcers
Define: Anti-Social Behaviour
• Behaviour that is not necessarily against the
law, but causes upset and distress to other
members of the public. E.g. Talking loudly
outside someone’s house in the early hours of
the morning.
Define: Stereotyping
• This is the prejudged view of groups of people,
that are transferred to all members of that
group. These views are not always true or
factual and can be offensive to members of
the specific groups. E.g. All students are lazy.
Define: Modelling
• This refers to the process of observing role
models (someone who you look up to) and
remembering their behaviour and therefore
replicating it. For this to occur ARRM must
take place (according to Bandura).
Define: Eyewitness Testimony
• The process by which someone who is present
at a crime or incident, gives their own account
of what they believed to have happened.
• In this section of the specification, you need to
be able to Describe 2 Research Methods used
to assess witness effectiveness.
• You also need to be able to evaluate these 2
research methods in terms of their use in
Criminological Psychology and Reliability,
Validity and Ethical Issues.
• How are Laboratory Experiments used to assess witness
Laboratory experiments are conducted in artificial environments where
a researcher manipulates the independent variable and measures or
records the dependent variable. The experiment is set up rather
than occurring naturally and it looks for cause and effect
relationships between the two variables.
• Laboratory experiments have been used to isolate the factors that
might influence a witness and study the effect on their testimony.
• E.g. Elizabeth Loftus is a pioneer in eyewitness testimony research
and many of her studies are laboratory experiments that investigate
the influence of leading questions on recall by manipulating the type
of question asked. E.g. Loftus and Palmer (1974).
• How useful are laboratory experiments in studying
witness effectiveness?
 Everything can be controlled, so researchers can claim
that the IV is the only thing affecting the DV.
 They are scientific, and a case study, observation or
questionnaire would not have given this information
about a cause and effect relationship.
There is a lack of validity because lab experiments are
not like real life. So applying the findings to real
eyewitnesses may not always be appropriate.
• Evaluate Laboratory Experiments in terms of their
 Laboratory Experiments are reliable because they have lots
of experimental controls in place, which makes the
research replicable. This makes it reliable because it can be
repeated again and again and get the same results every
 Loftus’ lab experiments are a good example of high
reliability because of the level of control over ppt and
situational variables. She showed ppts the same video of a
car accident and they all recalled using the same technique.
Her studies have been replicated many times and have
consistently found that, for example, leading questions do
affect witness recall.
• Evaluate Laboratory Experiments in terms of
their Validity.
Due to the strong experimental controls in
place, lab experiments tend to lack validity. It
has no relevance to a real life situation and
therefore cannot be applied in this way. In
particular, lab experiments lack ecological
validity because they do not take place in the
ppt’s natural setting.
• Are there any other strengths or weaknesses
of lab experiments?
Laboratory experiments use scientific
methodology, such as forming a hypothesis
from a theory and controlling all aspects
except the IV.
• Evaluate lab experiments in terms of their ethical issues.
 Lab experiments often involve showing videos to ppts instead of
real incidents as this would be unethical and may make the ppt
However, if the ppt has witnessed something like this before in
their lives then they may find this kind of footage upsetting.
Deception may also be necessary for lab experiments so that the
ppts do not show demand characteristics. However, it can lead
to the ppt feeling embarrassed, especially if they were a poor
 Lab experiments almost always offer the right to withdraw, as
ppts are aware of being experimental subjects and so usually
give informed consent.
• How are Field Experiments used to assess witness
• Field experiments are similar to laboratory experiments in
that they both have independent and dependent variables,
but they are conducted in a more natural setting.
Researchers will set up the experiment in an environment
where the phenomenon being studied would naturally
• Field experiments are better at gathering qualitative data,
and give researchers a much better insight into how
effective witnesses are.
• An example of a field experiment used to investigate
witness effectiveness is Yuille and Cutshall (1986).
• How useful are field experiments in studying witness
• Field experiments can reassure practitioners in police
forces that findings about eyewitness memory are
important, and that the guidance the police are asked to
implement is sound. For field experiments to be seen as
valid, double blind techniques and random assignment to
groups are used to help rule out confounding variables.
• Field experiments can be very useful, as they can be well
controlled and carefully planned which gives them the
reliability and scientific status of laboratory experiments,
while also having validity because of using a real life
situation to the ppts.
• Evaluate Field Experiments in terms of their Reliability.
Field experiments are usually unreliable, due to the
difficulties found when trying to replicate the
procedure. This is because situational variables may
occur in the natural setting, such as distractions from
other people. These type of variables are called
extraneous variables and can affect the findings of the
NOTE: however, some clever field experiments can
control variables, and still take place in a natural setting
which increases its reliability.
• Evaluate Field Experiments in terms of their Validity.
 Field experiments are valid in terms of the setting and
this is known as ecological validity. This is because they
occur in the ppts natural setting or a setting that could
be natural for the incident (or both).
 Researches do try and use realistic tasks even if they
are set up. This still means that field experiments are
more valid than lab experiments.
However, the task is still manipulated and so the task
itself may not be valid.
• Evaluate field experiments in terms of their
ethical issues.
In field experiments, ppts are decieved as they
believe they are witnessing a real life incident.
This can cause excessive distress and concern to
the ppt.
The ppt is unlikely to have given consent,
otherwise they would know that they were in an
experiment and may show demand
characteristics. This also means that these ppts
may have had no right to withdraw.
• Compare field and lab experiments in terms of their
• One main difference that makes field experiments less
ethical than lab experiments is that ppts in some field
experiments cannot be asked for consent at all, let
alone informed consent. This is because ppts are found
in the field and in public places, so they are often not
prepared beforehand to let them know they are in a
study. Ppts could be asked for their consent afterwards,
but this could be seen as less ethical than lab
experiments, where ppts usually know they are in a
• In this section you will need to describe and evaluate 2
explanations of crime from different approaches. These
are Social Learning Theory and Self Fulfilling Prophecy.
• You will need to describe and evaluate 2 ways of
treating offenders. These are:
– Token Economy Programmes
– Anger Management
• Also, you will need to describe and evaluate 3 studies
into eyewitness testimony. These are:
– Loftus and Palmer 1974
– Yuille and Cutshall 1986
– Pickel 1998
• Describe Social Learning Theory:
• SLT explains criminal behaviour in terms of modelling
behaviour seen through watching others or via the media.
Criminal behaviour is learnt through Attention, Retention,
Motivation and Reproduction (ARMR).
• The link between observing the behaviour and reproducing
the behaviour can sometimes be hard to prove.
• In 1977 Bandura outlined 3 important factors which
determine whether we choose to copy the behaviour or
not. These are:
– Vicarious Learning (learning through others’ mistakes)
– External Motivation (operant conditioning principles)
– Self Reinforcement (is some internal need satisfied?)
• Criminal behaviour has to be observed before it can be copied. We
can observe it in role models, family, friends etc. We are more likely
to copy models with a social status.
• The media plays a big role in SLT, as we dont usually get to witness
criminal behaviour in our everyday lives. However, on the TV 7080% of programmes contain acts of aggression (rideout et al 1999).
Bandura 1961 also predicted that boys are much more likely to copy
violence from role models, especially if viewing a male model.
• In addition, there is more motivation to copy from the media. This
is because;
– Criminal behaviour is not likely to be punished on a video game
– Popular music bands have lyrics about criminal behaviour that can be
taken literally
– Killing and aggression is rewarded in video games.
• Bandura’s 1961 lab
experiment provided causal
evidence that children copy
violent behaviour.
• Bandura’s 1961 study
suggests that individuals,
particularly boys, copy antisocial behaviour from
watching adult role models.
Only a handful of incidents have
been linked to media violence.
Watching criminal behaviour on TV
is maybe more likely to make us
fear being a victim than produce
criminal behaviour.
Individuals may have a
predisposition to criminal
behaviour, which may make them
more likely to copy.
There is only a correlatory link
between these two variables.
Punishment should act as a
deterrent, but there is still high
recidivism rates.
• Describe Self Fulfilling Prophecy:
• SFP is a concept drawn from social psychology that refers to the
process of something coming true because it was predicted to
happen. It was created by Robert Merton in 1949. He said that a self
fulfilling prophecy iis a prediction, that may be false or only a
possibility, that is made true as a result of an individual’s actions.
• SFP can be linked with the concept of stereotyping.
• Rosenthal and Jacobsen 1968:
• A teacher believes a student is a low achiever.
• Madon 2004 also found that the
SFP was stronger if more than one
• The teacher does not stretch or motivate the
person held the same expectation.
• The student does not work hard and is not
inspired – they do not achieve.
• Research such as Madon’s
2004 study, highlights the
strong influence of negative
emotions. SFP may be
stronger for negative
expectations than positive
• The expectations held of an
individual can only have an effec
if they are not too dissimilar from
the way the ppt feels themselves.
• It is unlikely that we will ever be
able to prove SFP.
• Correlational studies show a link
between the two variables but
we cannot accept the link as
• There are stronger influences on
behaviour other than a SFP.
• SLT explains criiminal behaviour
in an equally robust way.
• Describe Loftus and Palmer 1974
AIM: To see whether leading questions would have an effect on
the estimates of speed.
PROCEDURE:[Experiment 1] 45 ppts, 7 video clips, asked to
judge speed of car. Then they did a questionnaire, with one
critical question. Groups of 9 ppts were given the question
‘How fast were the cars going when they...each other?’. The ...
Was a verb that changed for each group, from Hit, Smashed,
Contacted, Collided and Bumped. [Experiment 2] 150 ppts
shown a 1 minute film clip of a multiple car collision. Then
they gave a description of the film and answered a
questionnaire, with a critical question. Split into 3 groups,
with hit, smashed and no critical question as the variables.
After 1 week the ppts came back and answered some more
questions on the film clip. Critical : ‘did you see any broken
Verb used
Mean speed
Answer to Smashed
CONCLUSION: [Experiment 1] The results could be due to one of
two factors. Either the verb used in the question altered ppts
memory of the film. Or the ppts did not know the answer, so
relied on the verb to make their judgement.
[Experiment 2] Leading questions do have an influence on
eyewitness testimony. They imply a specific response and
may alter witness memory of an incident.
 The lab experiments had a high level of
control over the procedures. E.g. The
critical questions were all randomly
hidden so as not to encourage demand
 The actual speed of the car was known to
the researchers and they analysed
whether actual speeds could have an
effect on ppts estimates. This control
ensured that the verb used, and not the
actual speed, had an effect of ppt
 There is support from other studies e.g.
Loftus and Zanni (1975).
 It has a useful application for the police
and justice system , as the police need to
avoid leading questions when interviewing
a witness.
We cannot be sure that
witness memory was actually
altered by the questions
It was conducted in a lab
setting , so can be criticised for
lacking ecological validity.
Real witnesses would not be
prepared for the incident or
subsequent recall.
No real consequences for the
decision making of these ppts.
• Describe Yuille and Cutshall 1986
AIM: To record and evaluate witness accounts. To examine issues raised by lab research.
PROCEDURE: 21 witnesses to a gun shooting were interviewed by police after the incident.
13 agreed to the research interview. The researchers interviewed them 4-5 months
after the event, and were recorded and transcribed. 2 misleading questions were
added, one about a broken headlight, and one about a quarter panel of the car. A
careful scoring procedure was used.
Police Interview
Research Interview
Action Details
Person Descriptions
Object Descriptions
CONCLUSION: This was the first investigation of eyewitness testimony that involved a real
incident and real witnesses. With only 13 witnesses and a unique event, it is hard to
generalise the findings. Their findings show that eyewitnesses are not incorrect in their
accounts, as was suggested by the lab studies. Most of the witnesses were extremely
accurate and remained so up to 5 months after the interview. It is possible that it was
because the memory was memorable and unusual. The researchers could have been
investigating flashbulb memory. The effort to mislead the witnesses did not work.
 This is a field study that looks
at a real incident with real
witnesses. It has validity that
lab experiments do not have.
 Great care was taken when
counting details from the real
incident to make sure that
witness testimonies did not
alter what really happened.
This enables the findings to be
seen as reliable.
It is hard to generalise the
findings due to the small
sample size (13) and unique
This could be a case of
flashbulb memory.
There were some
inaccuracies noticed in the
scoring of the interviews.

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