Weekly summary: March 18 – 26


OMG.  Today we finished the course.  Rather difficult to believe.

We finished our Socratic Seminar on bullying.  To wrap up, first a reminder of the bullying programs that we looked at:

  • Zero Tolerance Programs
  • Empathy Training
  • Non-Violent Communication training/Social Skills Training programs
  • Full school programs like the ones designed by Olweus

Here is a list of the vocabulary that we used (or should have used) to discuss the issues:

  • Correlational  research
  • Analogous research
  • Prospective vs. retrospective
  • Ethical considerations
  • Construct validity
  • Attrition rates
  • Temporal validity
  • Social norming
  • Self-Perception Theory
  • Recall bias
  • Schema theory
  • Isolation of variables

A very good finish to the course.  Now it’s time to start the process of revision.  Be ready for some serious revision as of Monday’s class.

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Weekly summary: March 10 – 14


This week we looked at the origins of violent behaviour.

This week we looked at biological, cognitive and socio-cultural roots of violence. You should be able to explain each of the following concepts:

  • The role of testosterone and serotonin on aggressive behaviour.
  • Baumeister’s Theory of Threatened Egotism.
  • Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory. This is supported by a study by Eron (1987) who found that parents of bullies are often authoritarian and use physical force.
  • Zimbardo’s research on deindividuation.
  • Maas’s study on Social Identity Theory and its role on sexual harrassment.

Now we just have to run a Socratic Seminar on bullying and we will be done with the course.  Incredible how quickly the year has gone….


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Weekly summary: March 3 to 7


This week we returned to biology for a little while in order to finish our discussions on human relationships by looking at sexuality. Remember, the following studies are useful for Paper I.

  • LeVay’s study of the role of the INAH3 nucleus in the hypothalamus. This demonstrates localization of function.
  • Gorsky’s research on the role of testosterone on sexual behaviour. This demonstrates the role of hormones on behaviour.
  • Bailey & Pillard’s research on the role of genetics on sexuality.
  • We also discussed the theory that the more sons, the more likely that the younger one will be gay may have biological roots – as the mother’s own immune system fights against the y chromosome in her womb.  This may result in lower levels of testosterone which then may be a factor in homosexual behaviour.  This is also based on research that indicates that gay men tend to have lower levels of testosterone.

We also looked at the following theories. For each theory, you should be able to discuss why they are problematic.

  • Freud’s Oedipal Complex and the issue of the “missing father.”
  • Bem’s application of Social Identity Theory and the eroticization of same sex.
  • Cultural constructs of sexuality and the role of gender schema theory.

We also examined evaluative strategies.

  • The reductionist nature of the arguments.
  • The difficulty of measuring the “gay” construct. Sexuality is defined differently cross-culturally as well as within cultures. We looked at the fafafine of Samoa as an example.
  • The question of researcher bias (LeVay)
  • It is questionable whether animal research (Gorsky) explains human sexuality.
  • Much of the research is correlational in nature.
  • The ethics of doing true experiments with pre-natal development.
  • Recruitment of samples – especially cross-cultural samples – has historically proven very difficult.
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Weekly summary: February 24 – 28

This week we looked at our mock exams, revised for Paper 3 and looked at why relationships fall apart.  At this end of this week, you should be able to answer the following questions based on this rather eclectic week.

What we reviewed after the mocks:

  • What is meant by “social and/or cultural factors” when asked in an IB question?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of using a case study?
  • What are the three types of triangulation that we discussed?
  • Why does triangulation increase credibility?

Why relationships end:

  • According to Duck, relationships are a set of agreed upon rules and routines.  How does this definition relate to how relationships end?
  • How do the following theories explain why relationships end? Social Exchange Theory; Fatal Attraction Theory; Social Penetration Theory; Rusbult’s theory of accommodation.

Here is John Gottman speaking on why relationships end.  A good presentation that adds to our class discussions.

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Weekly summary: February 3 – 7


This week we continued our discussion of relationships by looking at  the role of communication in relationships. You should be able to discuss many of the following concepts/theories:

  • According to Aronson, two factors in how we communicate are authenticity and congruence. For example, using flattery which is not congruent with an individual’s person of him/herself may result in the “ingratiating effect.”
  • Self-disclosure is seen as an important factor in maintaining relationships. Be sure that you can describe and evaluate the Social Penetration Theory.
  • Tannen‘s research shows that there are different styles of communication used by men and women, and this can lead to communication breakdown in a relationship.
  • Gottman shows that the non-verbal communication in a relationship may be the best determinant of the potential health and longevity of a relationship. Facial expressions of disgust and contempt are signs that the relationship is in trouble.

Take a look at this lecture by Gottman called “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” A rather dramatic title, but he looks at the four factors that he feels lead to the breakdown of relationships.

Next week we have the mock exam. When you get back from February break, we will discuss why relationships fall apart and the origins of sexuality before moving onto our final topic – violence. Both of these topics will be a good way for us to review biological arguments and extend our understanding of human relationships.

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Weekly summary: January 27 – 31


This week we wrapped up our notes on why people are attracted to a partner.

At the end of this week you should be able to discuss research and the strengths and limitations of the following theories


  • The Matching Hypothesis (Markey et al; Walster)
  • Veitsch – the role of valence, congruence and authenticity
  • Social Exchange theory & Walster’s argument against this
  • The role of self-esteem (Kiesler & Baral)
  • Social Penetration Theory


  • Proximity Theory ( Zajonc)
  • Cultural norms for attraction (Buss)

Clearly, you do not need to learn every one of the theories we discussed.  But I would recommend that you know at least two theories from each level of analysis.

Finally, remember these two mantras about relationships:

  • Relationships are based on perceptions of equity, rather than actually measurable costs and benefits.
  • Relationships are agreed upon routines.
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Weekly summary: January 20 – 24

At the end of this week, you should be able to discuss the following factors in human attraction:

  • The role of neurotransmitters (research: Fisher)
  • Evolutionary arguments for attraction (Buss, Wedekind, Low)
  • Marquart’s study on the universality of human attraction

Here is a good video of Helen Fisher explaining her own research on neurotransmission and following in love.  Once you get past the story about the temples in Tiqal, the research is quite interesting.


For each of the biological theories, you should be able to apply critical thinking and explain some of the inherent difficulties of studying human relationships.  In addition, you should know the limitations of evolutionary arguments.  Next week we will wrap up evolutionary arguments and move on to cognitive arguments of attraction.





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