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AQA GCSE Revision Notes and Exam Questions


Processes of Memory: Encoding (input) storage and retrieval (output)

Different types of memory: episodic memory, semantic memory and procedural memory.

How memories are encoded and stored.

Structures of Memory

The multi-store model of memory: sensory, short term and long term.

Features of each store: coding, capacity, duration.

Primacy and recency effects in recall: the effects of serial position.

Murdock’s serial position curve study.

Memory as an active process

The Theory of Reconstructive Memory, including the concept of ‘effort after meaning’.

Bartlett’s War of the Ghosts study.

Factors affecting the accuracy of memory, including interference, context and false memories.


Sensation and perception

The difference between sensation and perception

Visual cues and constancies

Monocular depth cues: height in plane, relative size, occlusion and linear perspective.

Binocular depth cues: retinal disparity, convergence.

Gibson's direct theory of perception – the influence of nature

The real world presents sufficient information for direct perception without inference. Role of motion parallax in everyday perception.

Visual illusions

Explanations for visual illusions: ambiguity, misinterpreted depth cues, fiction, size constancy.

Examples of visual illusions: the Ponzo, the Müller-Lyer, Rubin’s vase, the Ames Room, the Kanizsa triangle and the Necker cube.

Gregory's constructivist theory of perception – the influence of nurture

Perception uses inferences from visual cues and past experience to construct a model of reality.

Factors affecting perception

Perceptual set and the effects of the following factors affecting perception: culture, motivation, emotion, expectation.

The Gilchrist and Nesberg study of motivation and the Bruner and Minturn study of perceptual set.


Early Brain Development

A basic knowledge of brain development, from simple neural structures in the womb, of brain stem, thalamus, cerebellum and cortex, reflecting the development of autonomic functions, sensory processing, movement and cognition.

The roles of nature and nurture.

Piaget's stage theory and the development of intelligence
The role of Piaget's theory in education

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development including concepts of assimilation and accommodation.

The four stages of development: sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational. Application of these stages in education.

Reduction of egocentricity, development of conservation. McGarrigle and Donaldson’s ‘naughty teddy study’; Hughes’ ‘policeman doll study’.

The effects of learning on development

Dweck’s Mindset Theory of learning: fixed mindset and growth mindset. The role of praise and self-efficacy beliefs in learning.

Learning styles including verbalisers and visualisers. Willingham’s Learning Theory and his criticism of learning styles.

Research Methods

Formulation of testable hypotheses

Null hypothesis and alternative hypothesis.

Types of variable

Independent variable, dependent variable, extraneous variables.

Sampling methods

Target populations, samples and sampling methods and how to select samples using these methods:

  • random

  • opportunity

  • systematic

  • stratified.

Strengths and weaknesses of each sampling method.

Understanding principles of sampling as applied to scientific data.

Designing research

Quantitative and qualitative methods:

  • the experimental method (experimental designs, independent groups, repeated measures, matched pairs, including strengths and weaknesses of each experimental design)

  • laboratory experiments

  • field and natural experiments

  • interviews

  • questionnaires

  • case studies

  • observation studies (including categories of behaviour and interobserver reliability).

Strengths and weaknesses of each research method and types of research for which they are suitable.


An understanding of association between two variables and the use of scatter diagrams to show possible correlational relationships.

The strengths and weaknesses of correlations.

Computation of formulae is not required.

Research procedures

The use of standardised procedures, instructions to participants, randomisation, allocation to conditions, counterbalancing and extraneous variables (including explaining the effect of extraneous variables and how to control for them).

Planning and conducting research

How research should be planned, taking into consideration the reliability and/or validity of:

  • sampling methods

  • experimental designs

  • quantitative and qualitative methods.

Ethical considerations

Students should demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • ethical issues in psychological research as outlined in the British Psychological Society guidelines

  • ways of dealing with each of these issues.

Quantitative and qualitative data

The difference between quantitative and qualitative data.

Primary and secondary data

The difference between primary and secondary data.


Recognise and use expressions in decimal and standard form: use ratios, fractions and percentages, estimate results, find arithmetic means and use an appropriate number of significant figures

Descriptive statistics

Understand and calculate mean, median, mode and range.

Interpretation and display of quantitative data

Construct and interpret frequency tables and diagrams, bar charts, histograms and scatter diagrams for correlation.

Normal distributions

The characteristics of normal distribution

Social Influence


Identification and explanation of how social factors (group size, anonymity and task difficulty) and dispositional factors (personality, expertise) affect conformity to majority influence.

Asch’s study of conformity.


Milgram’s Agency theory of social factors affecting obedience including agency, authority, culture and proximity.

Explanation of dispositional factors affecting obedience including Adorno’s theory of the Authoritarian Personality.

Prosocial behaviour

Bystander behaviour: identification and explanation of how social factors (presence of others and the cost of helping) and dispositional factors (similarity to victim and expertise) affect bystander intervention.

Piliavin’s subway study.

Crowd and collective behaviour

Prosocial and antisocial behaviour in crowds: identification and explanation of how social factors (social loafing, deindividuation and culture) and dispositional factors (personality and morality) affect collective behaviour.

Language, Thought & Communication

The possible relationship between language and thought
The effect of language and thought on our view of the world

Piaget’s theory: language depends on thought.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: thinking depends on language.

Variation in recall of events and recognition of colours, eg in Native American cultures.

Differences between human and animal communication

Limited functions of animal communication (survival, reproduction, territory, food).

Von Frisch’s bee study.

Properties of human communication not present in animal communication, eg plan ahead and discuss future events.

Non-verbal communication

Definitions of non-verbal communication and verbal communication.

Functions of eye contact including regulating flow of conversation, signaling attraction and expressing emotion.

Body language including open and closed posture, postural echo and touch.

Personal space including cultural, status and gender differences.

Explanations of non-verbal behaviour

Darwin’s evolutionary theory of non-verbal communication as evolved and adaptive.

Evidence that non-verbal behaviour is innate, eg in neonates and the sensory deprived.

Evidence that non-verbal behaviour is learned. Yuki’s study of emoticons.

Brain and Neuropsychology

Structure and function of the nervous system

The divisions of the human nervous system: central and peripheral (somatic and autonomic), basic functions of these divisions.

The autonomic nervous system and the fight or flight response. The James-Lange theory of emotion.

Neuron structure and function

Sensory, relay and motor neurons. Synaptic transmission: release and reuptake of neurotransmitters. Excitation and inhibition. An understanding of how these processes interact.

Hebb's theory of learning and neuronal growth.

Structure and function of the brain

Brain structure: frontal lobe, temporal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe and cerebellum.

Basic function of these structures.

Localisation of function in the brain: motor, somatosensory, visual, auditory and language areas.

Penfield’s study of the interpretive cortex.

An introduction to neuropsychology

Cognitive neuroscience: how the structure and function of the brain relate to behaviour and cognition.

The use of scanning techniques to identify brain functioning: CT, PET and fMRI scans.

Tulving's 'gold' memory study.

A basic understanding of how neurological damage, eg stroke or injury can affect motor abilities and behaviour.

Psychological Problems

An introduction to mental health
How the incidence of significant mental health problems changes over time

Characteristics of mental health, eg positive engagement with society, effective coping with challenges.

Cultural variations in beliefs about mental health problems.

Increased challenges of modern living, eg isolation.

Increased recognition of the nature of mental health problems and lessening of social stigma.

Effects of significant mental health problems on individuals and society

Individual effects, eg damage to relationships, difficulties coping with day to day life, negative impact on physical wellbeing.

Social effects, eg need for more social care, increased crime rates, implications for the economy.

Characteristics of clinical depression

Differences between unipolar depression, bipolar depression and sadness.

The use of International Classification of Diseases in diagnosing unipolar depression: number and severity of symptoms including low mood, reduced energy levels, changes in sleep patterns and appetite levels, decrease in self-confidence.

Theories of depression
Interventions or therapies for depression

Biological explanation (influence of nature): imbalance of neurotransmitters, eg serotonin in the brain.

Psychological explanation (influence of nurture): negative schemas and attributions.

Use of antidepressant medications.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).

How these improve mental health, reductionist and holistic perspectives. Wiles’ study of the effectiveness of CBT.

Characteristics of addiction

The difference between addiction/dependence and substance misuse/abuse.

The use of International Classification of Diseases in diagnosing addiction (dependence syndrome), including a strong desire to use substance(s) despite harmful consequences, difficulty in controlling use, a higher priority given to the substance(s) than to other activities or obligations.

Theories of addiction

Interventions or therapies for addiction

Biological explanation (influence of nature): hereditary factors/genetic vulnerability. Kaij’s twin study of alcohol abuse.

Psychological explanation (influence of nurture): Peer influence.

Aversion therapy.

Self-management programmes, eg self-help groups, 12 step recovery programmes.

How these improve mental health, reductionist and holistic perspectives.

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