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Example Answers for Aggression: A Level Psychology, Paper 3, June 2019 (AQA)


Last updated 23 Dec 2019

Here are some example answers to the two longer written Paper 3 questions on Aggression in the 2019 AQA exams.

Question 25

A fixed action pattern (FAP) is an adaptive sequence of stereotyped behaviour. In this example the Siamese fighting fish puffing themselves up so they appeared more threatening is the FAP. FAPs are universal within a species, which is why both of the male fish puffed themselves up. They are also ballistic, so once the fish began to puff themselves up they could not stop.

FAPs occur when innate neural circuits known as innate releasing mechanisms (IRMs) respond to specific environmental stimuli or sign stimuli and trigger the behaviour. In this example the sign stimulus appears to be the bright colour, which triggered the fish to puff themselves up when they saw the brightly coloured piece of card rather than another fish.

Question 26

Dispositional explanations argue that aggression within prisons is caused by the internal characteristics of the prisoners rather than the situation. One example is the importation model which suggests that people who are aggressive or bullying outside prison bring this in with them and behave aggressively in order to establish power and status. Other imported variables such as race, level of education and gang membership can also affect the likelihood of a prisoner behaving aggressively.

Evidence to support dispositional explanations comes from DeLisi et al. who studied a large sample of juvenile delinquents in California. They found that those who already showed negative dispositional features such as high levels of anger and irritability and a history of violence were more likely to commit acts of violence than a control group of inmates with fewer negative dispositional factors. Their findings were backed up by research by Campbell and Gaes which studied more than 500 inmates with similar predisposition to aggression. Half were placed in low-security prisons and half in the second-highest category of prison. Almost the same percentage of each group were involved in aggressive misconduct within a two-year period, suggesting that dispositional factors are more likely to predict aggression within prison than situational factors.

However, Dilulio argues that dispositional explanations are inadequate because they ignore the roles of prison officers and other factors relating to the way prisons are run. In addition, psychologists such as Dobbs and Ward have argued that dispositional factors interact with situational factors and harsh prison conditions will only lead to aggressive behaviour if they are combined with individual characteristics that have been imported into the prison.

AQA A-Level Psychology Revision & Teaching Resources

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