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‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’ Critically evaluate the statement that humans achieve more by cooperating, by drawing on psychological insights on cooperation, learning and culture

DE200 Investigating psychology 2

TMA 03

The assignment

Important: These pages provide guidance on how to write your assignment. Please ensure you read all of this information right through until the end.

Before you start work on this assignment, please ensure that you have read the Assessment Guidance specific to this module and are familiar with the advice in Social Sciences Assessment Information. These sources contain support and guidance that you may need to write your TMA, including, for example, advice on plagiarism, referencing and the marking system. Note that failure to comply with relevant guidance could result in the loss of marks or other penalties.

Integrative essay

Write an integrative essay on one of the following options:

Option A

‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’

Critically evaluate the statement that humans achieve more by cooperating, by drawing on psychological insights on cooperation, learning and culture in Book 1, Chapter 3 and 5, and Book 2, Chapter 4

Option B

What can psychology tell us about how we choose our friends and partners? Drawing on Book 1, Chapter 6 and Book 3, Chapter 2, critically discuss relevant research and theory on this topic

Word limit: 1500 words 

On the following pages you will find:

  • learning outcomes addressed by this assignment
  • student notes for this assignment.

Tutor feedback

Before submitting your TMA, consider if there are any areas or aspects for which you would particularly like to receive feedback. Add this as a note at the beginning of your TMA so your tutor has the opportunity to focus their comments around your concerns. Your tutor will continue to provide standard feedback too.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

On completing this TMA, you will have developed knowledge and understanding of:

  • key theories and research within biological, cognitive and social psychology
  • the application of psychological theories and research to specific contexts.

Cognitive skills

On completing this TMA, you will be able to:

  • construct arguments with appropriate use of psychological concepts, theories and evidence
  • evaluate the contributions of different kinds of evidence to psychological knowledge.

Key skills

On completing this TMA, you will be able to:

  • present psychological material effectively with appropriate referencing
  • use information technology to search for, process, prepare and present psycholo­gical material as appropriate to the module

Practical and/or professional skills

On completing this TMA, you will be able to:

  • employ evidence-based reasoning to practical, theoretical and ethical issues in psychology.

Student notes

One of the key themes of this module is working across sub-disciplinary boundaries. As you have seen, there are many different psychological approaches that can be taken to investigate everyday questions. TMA 03 draws on this theme by asking you to consider how different understandings of a topic (described across the three blocks) can be used to investigate and explain it. This assignment offers you an opportunity to consolidate your understanding of topics from across the module and to critically consider the materials you have encountered. 

‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’

Critically evaluate the statement that humans achieve more by cooperating, by drawing on psychological insights on cooperation, learning and culture in Book 1, Chapter 3 and 5, and Book 2, Chapter 4

You must also refer to and discuss material drawn from outside the module to support your argument.

Process and content words for Option A

The question asks you to critically evaluate a statement or assumption. The word ‘critically’ indicates that you should make a judgement backed by a reasoned discussion of the evidence involved and describe the merit of the claim that humans achieve more by cooperating. The word ‘evaluate’ indicates that you need to consider strengths and weakness of psychological evidence on this claim. Do remember that you are not being asked to offer your personal opinion; you will need to provide evidence from psychological theories and research to support your position.

The content words for Option A are ‘Humans achieve more by cooperating’. This means that you need to consider relevant research evidence and theory, focusing on the extent to which cooperating allows humans to achieve more than if they do things alone. You are told to focus your essay on materials from Book 1, Chapters 3 and 5, as well as Book 2, Chapter 4.

Relevant material for Option A

Relevant module material for Option A

Option A asks you to critically evaluate the following statement: ‘Humans achieve more by cooperating’. You should draw on Weeks 3, 5 and 16 in order to critically evaluate relevant research and theory on this topic.

In Week 3, Chapter 3 of Book 1 (‘Are you with us or against us? Group processes and decision making’) explores a range of studies, concepts and theoretical perspectives that are focused on the influence that groups and social processes have on an individual’s actions. These include work on social facilitation, social loafing, group polarisation and Social Identity theory. Overall, Week 3 highlights different perspectives on groups and what they can achieve.

In Week 5, Chapter 5 of Book 1 (‘Why do we help one another? Helping, altruism and prosocial behaviour’) introduces social psychological research on helping, exploring different factors and motivators that explain why we do, or do not, help others. The chapter also considers the role of groups for helping. In relation to addressing the question, Sections 4-5 are of particular importance. You might find it useful to return to the audio clip by Mark Levine.

In Week 16, Chapter 4 of Book 2 (‘Can you do what I do? Learning: from conditioning to collaboration) discusses collaboration in the context of development and learning. The chapter considers both models for how social learning takes place, but also explores the role of culture in shaping how we learn. The overall theme of this chapter is that learning is a social activity, but also one that requires collaboration. When developing your TMA, you might also find it useful to revisit Activity 2 ‘Do you need a teacher?’.

External sources of information for Option A

In addition to the module materials, you should draw on and discuss at least two peer-reviewed academic journal articles from outside the module materials. If you do not include and discuss two journal articles in your essay, you will lose five marks from your overall score. To find relevant journal articles, you will need to complete a literature search, entering relevant search terms for your area of interest. You may find it helpful to revisit the activity you completed in Week 2 on ‘Literature searching in psychology’ as well as the Week 20 activity on ‘Advanced search and evaluation techniques’ to refresh your memory of how to go about sourcing relevant literature for your assignment.

When sourcing independent material, you may find it useful to consider your essay plan and then search for some studies that provide additional support for your discussion. For example, if you perceive there to be less information on the module that counters the idea that humans achieve more through cooperation, you could search for articles that may give you more information that instead suggests that individuals, rather than groups or teams, achieve more.

Ensure that you include references for the journal articles you use in your essay.

Tips for writing Option A

Integration is a key theme of DE200 and is discussed in Week 1, so make sure that you review that week and consider the issues raised in it. The chapter focuses on what is meant by the integrative approach in respect to a particular construct – empathy – and considers four different perspectives (in this case, looking at the different contributions of the core sub-disciplines: social, cognitive, biological and developmental psychology) on the construct. In this assignment, you will take a similar approach, but will need to critically discuss some of the different theories and ideas that support the view that humans achieve more through cooperation, drawing on both the social psychological and developmental psychological work covered in Weeks 3, 5 and 16.

To address this question, it is important that you look across all three study weeks. You will need to make a judgement, based on academic research and theory, about the important drivers and consequences of individual versus group efforts for achieving goals. For example, you will know from your reading across the three chapters that there are varying viewpoints on the extent to which dyads/groups allow us to achieve more or hinder performance, responsibility and effort. These different viewpoints are underpinned by different theories and models, focused on different domains of cooperation (learning, helping and productivity).

To critically evaluate, you need to engage critically with these varying viewpoints (and their respective theories and models) and explore alternative interpretations that extend our understanding of what humans can, and cannot, achieve on their own.

The three study weeks selected for this essay provide plenty of material to draw on. Nevertheless, be selective about what you discuss. The examples you use should all support your discussion of the question. Do not be tempted to focus exclusively on only one week at the expense of the others, as you should ensure that you use these materials in a balanced way. Similarly, do not focus your entire essay on individual achievements only, or on teams and groups only. A really strong essay will use the material from all three weeks to bring forward a strong and reflective argument.

You might also find it useful to think carefully about the structure for this option. Which material would you discuss first? What makes the most logical sense? Given that there are different domains of human cooperation presented in each week (Week 3 – decision making; Week 5 – helping behaviour; Week 16 - learning), could you use these to form the basis for some overarching structure?

Process and content words for Option B

The question asks you to critically discuss psychological research and theory using the module materials. The word ‘critically’ indicates that you should make a judgement backed by a reasoned discussion of the evidence involved and describe the merit of the psychological theories discussed. The word ‘discuss’ indicates that you need to consider how valid different psychological explanations are with respect to understanding how we choose our friends and partners.

Do remember that you are not being asked to offer your personal opinion; you will need to provide evidence from psychological theories and research to support your position.

The content words for Option B are ‘What can psychology tell us about how we choose our friends and partners?’. This means that you need to consider relevant research evidence and theory that examines these social relations and what factors shape the choices we make in both intimate and less intimate relationships. You are asked to focus your essay on materials from Weeks 7 and 21. What can psychology tell us about how we choose our friends and partners? Drawing on Book 1, Chapter 6 and Book 3, Chapter 2, critically discuss relevant research and theory on this topic

Relevant material for Option B

Relevant module material for Option B

Option B asks you to critically discuss the following question: ‘What can psychology tell us about how we choose our friends and partners?’. In order to answer this question, you should draw on module material from Weeks 7 and 21.

In Week 7, Chapter 6 of Book 1 (‘Why would I hang around with you? The psychology of personal relationships’) explores a range of studies, concepts and theoretical perspectives that are relevant to the theme of relationships, both intimate and social.

These include work on attraction (Section 2), friendship (Section 4) and love (Section 5). When preparing your TMA, you might find it useful to listen to the audio clip by Simon Watts, and return to Activity 1 ‘How much do I love thee?’. As an overarching theme, Week 7 considers how much our relationships are shaped by individual choice, and what other social, cultural and political factors impact on both who we love and how we behave towards them.

In Week 21, Chapter 2 of Book 3 (‘What is the point of childhood? Early experiences and social relationships’) introduces a developmental approach to relationships. The chapter discusses how we form attachments to others, the different styles and consequences (Section 2) and how we form friendships (Section 4). The chapter also discusses bullying and the growing role of digital technologies and social media for maintaining relationships. Overall, the chapter offers a starting point for thinking about the psychology of relationships from a more developmental perspective, which it is worthwhile exploring. In developing your TMA, you may want to revisit the audio clip by Sarah Critten and Andrew Holliman.

External sources of information for Option B

In addition to the module materials, you should draw on and discuss at least two peer-reviewed academic journal articles from outside the module materials. If you do not include and discuss two journal articles in your essay, you will lose five marks from your overall score. To find relevant journal articles, you will need to complete a literature search, entering relevant search terms for your area of interest. You may find it helpful to revisit the activity you completed in Week 2 on ‘Literature searching in psychology’ as well as the Week 20 activity on ‘Advanced search and evaluation techniques’ to refresh your memory of how to go about sourcing relevant literature for your assignment.

When sourcing independent material, you may find it useful to consider your essay plan and then search for some studies that provide additional support for your discussion. For example, if you perceive there to be less information in the module that examines the developmental approach to relationships, you could search for articles that may give you more information on this to help develop your argument about not only what psychology can tell us about relationships, but also what different approaches within psychology have to offer.

Ensure that you include references for the journal articles you use in your essay.

Tips for writing Option B

Integration is a key theme of DE200 and is discussed in Week 1, so make sure that you review that week and consider the issues raised in it. The chapter focuses on what is meant by the integrative approach in respect to a particular construct – empathy – and considers four different perspectives (in this case looking at the different contributions of the core sub-disciplines: social, cognitive, biological and developmental psychology) on the construct. In this assignment you will take a similar approach, but will need to critically discuss some of the different theories and approaches to relationships, drawing on both the social psychological and developmental work covered in Weeks 7 and 21.

To address this question, it is important that you look across both study weeks. You will need to provide a balanced discussion of what psychology can tell us about how we choose our friends and partners, and to consider what different approaches within psychology have to say about how much choice we have in the matter. For example, you will know from your reading across all the chapters that social and developmental factors might shape how we form relationships and with whom, perhaps limiting our choice in the matter, but you may also want to consider how things like changes in technology or globalization enable individuals to have more choice in who become our friends and partners. ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’ Critically evaluate the statement that humans achieve more by cooperating, by drawing on psychological insights on cooperation, learning and culture in Book 1, Chapter 3 and 5, and Book 2, Chapter 4

The two study weeks selected for this essay provide plenty of material to draw on, but be selective about what you discuss (especially from Week 21). The examples you use should all support your discussion of the question. You should also ensure that you use these materials in a balanced way – don’t be tempted to focus too much on one week at the expense of the others. A really strong essay will use the material from different weeks to bring the different perspectives together.

You might also find it useful to think carefully about the structure for this option. Which material would you discuss first? What makes the most logical sense? Do you start by discussing developmental aspects or social ones? Or do you start with a discussion of how much ‘choice’ we have in selecting friends and partners, and then consider what the evidence is in support of, and against, it? Your overall argument should determine the structure of your TMA. What can psychology tell us about how we choose our friends and partners? Drawing on Book 1, Chapter 6 and Book 3, Chapter 2, critically discuss relevant research and theory on this topic

Tips for completing the assignment

You should include:

  • the essay title you have selected
  • a brief introduction that sets out the aims of the essay
  • a description and critical evaluation of the two psychological stances using module materials
  • a discussion of research from two additional psychology journal articles that you have found yourself
  • a concluding paragraph where you draw your argument together
  • a list of references – remember to reference all your sources. Please use the Harvard referencing format. For guidance on the correct format for references, please refer to the OU Library’s Quick guide to Harvard referencing (Cite Them Right) or the

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