Sample Stimulus Material (Paper Three)

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The most important thing to remember with Paper Three responses is that you know exactly what the questions might be. This makes it really easy to prepare. The difficulty is that you don’t know what the research stimulus will be, so it’s important that you get lots of practice at answering these questions with practice research summaries.

Remember that the research might be either qualitative or quantitative. The following example answers are going to be based on SM’s case study that was looked at during the study of criminology in the themantic course. Remember that it is expected that you would have never seen the study before in Paper Three: this is for demonstration purposes only.

Here’s an example of what a stimulus study would look like:

The stimulus material below is based on a study on the role of the amygdala in experiencing fear.

The amygdala is an area of the brain that performs many functions associated with emotion. Clinical observations of patients with brain damage suggest that there is a correlation between amygdala damage and the ability to feel fear. Before this study there were no empirical investigations on this relationship. The aim of this study, therefore, was to systemically investigate the correlation between amygdala damage and experiencing fear

This case study was conducted on SM, a woman in her 40s who has amygdala damage as a result of a genetic disorder. Patients with damage to both amygdalae (i.e. the part of the amygdala on both sides of the brain) and with only damage to this part of the brain are difficult to find. The researchers used a purposive sample of one patient who has such damage. SM was known to the researchers because she has participated in numerous studies.

To test her reaction to fearful stimuli the researchers exposed her to three different situations that would be expected to provoke a response of fear. This involved taking her to a haunted house, an exotic pet store filled with rats and spiders, and watching clips from scary films. The researchers gathered qualitative data during overt observations of SM’s behaviour and reactions in each situation. They also gathered quantitative data from self-report questionnaires.

From the observations the researchers concluded that SM showed no signs of fear to any of the stimuli presented. The self-report questionnaires also showed that she experiences fear at a much lower level than the normal population.

From the observation the researchers concluded that the amygdala plays an important role in generating an emotional response to fearful stimuli. From the questionnaires they were also able to conclude that the amygdala plays a role in the subject experience of feeling fear.

This case study on SM supports other research that suggests the amygdala plays an important evolutionary function in survival: having a healthy fear of dangerous stimuli can help us to avoid such stimuli and increase our chances of survival.

Feinstein, Justin S., Ralph Adolphs, Antonio Damasio, and Daniel Tranel. “The Human Amygdala and the Induction and Experience of Fear.” Current Biology 21.1 (2011): 34-38. Accessed online.

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