Key studies: biological

Often in textbooks we find that there is less information about studies than we feel that students need in order to really understand them and apply critical thinking when discussing them.  In response to this, this section provides a number of "key studies" which are meant to help clarify the aim, procedure, results and implications of research.  The guides also include analysis and evaluation of the studies.

It is not meant for teachers to cover all of the key studies presented.  Instead, teachers should design a unit using as few key studies as possible in order to answer potential exam questions. This means that it will be important to choose what you feel confident in teaching and which you feel students can easily understand. 

More key studies will continue to be added over time. Some are highly traditional, whereas others are rather new and "cutting edge" in psychology.  It is my opinion that a mix of traditional and modern is essential in a modern psychology curriculum.

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Comments 9

Helen Chong 24 February 2018 - 09:33

Hi John, a SL student has described Blakemore & Cooper’s 1970s research (on kittens) in a SAQ on neuroplasticity. He very briefly described neuroplasticity in an introductory sentence linking it to ‘a person’s brain’ however the majority of his answer focuses on the research on kittens. He does make reference to Maguire and human brains in his closing sentence.
Based on your advice to Melissa in Nov, I told students to avoid using animal research in SAQs (and to focus on describing neuroplasticity in detail making reference to Maguire’s research) you think a student would be given any marks for using animal research in a SAQ? Thanks, Helen

John Crane 26 February 2018 - 07:54

Dear Helen

SAQs will always ask for one study. In this case, the second study (Maguire) will not be assessed. Although in an ERQ on neuroplasticity in humans an animal research study could be used in tandem with a human study on a single behaviour, in an SAQ I would advise against it. My guess is that the response would earn a maximum of 3 marks.

Katherine Miller 30 July 2018 - 20:47

Hi John,
I teach SL in one year and had a question about the new curriculum - are students still assessed on the principles for each LOA like they were for the old curriculum?

Thank you!

John Crane 31 July 2018 - 11:41

Dear Katherine

No. Principles are no longer part of the curriculum.

Katherine Miller 6 August 2018 - 18:01

Thanks, John. What about the question regarding the interaction of cognition and physiology in terms of behavior? I'm guessing the answer is yes, but I am just clarifying/making sure.

Finally, regarding animal research, for SAQs should students steer clear of it and focus on human studies? I'm thinking of studies such as Rosenzweig for neuroplasticity and wondered if they should pick a different study for an SAQ. Thank you so much!

John Crane 6 August 2018 - 23:01

Dear Katherine

That question will no longer be asked. As for the SAQs, we have received conflicting information. I have been told that they may link it to human behaviour, but also that the focus of the core is on human behaviour only. Even though I am not sure were it says that in the guide! I would recommend that they stick to human studies for the SAQs.

Katherine Miller 9 August 2018 - 21:43

Thanks so much, John. I may keep asking a few questions because it is all quite vague seeming. Thanks again - I really appreciate it!

Gisou Ravanbaksh 21 August 2018 - 04:43

Hi John, just want to clarify about marking of SAQs. You stated above that they only ask for one study, so if a second one is included it wouldn't be marked. I thought including a second study would improve their mark, possibly demonstrate some critical thinking if they can connect the two. Should I be advising my students NOT to mention a second study in an SAQ?

John Crane 22 August 2018 - 05:07


The SAQ is not assessed for critical thinking. They should not include a second study because it does not gain them any credit and it wastes time that would be better spent on the essay. If the student includes two studies and the first one is incorrect, then the second one is "not read" - meaning that even if it is correct, they will earn no credit as only the first one is scored.