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Understand a wide range of basic psychological concepts and how they apply to everyday life.

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Understand a wide range of basic psychological concepts and how they apply to everyday life.

TMA 04

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 checklist at the end.

There are two parts to this TMA. Please note that you must complete both Part 1 (report) and Part 2 (applied methods). This TMA contributes 20% towards your overall continuous assessment score (OCAS). Part 1 carries 50% of the marks for the TMA and Part 2 carries 50% of the marks (25% for Question (a) and 25% for Question (b)).

In the following pages you will find:

  • each part of this assignment
  • learning outcomes addressed by this assignment
  • student notes for each part of this assignment
  • a checklist to ensure you have done everything required for this assignment.

Part 1: Report

Write a brief report, drawing on the applied scenario provided below, in which you evaluate the claims made and account for them using psychological principles, theories and evidence.


You have been approached by a local science museum to help them with a forthcoming exhibition called `Making Sense of the World`, which is aimed at members of the general public aged 15 and over.

In planning the exhibition, the team has canvassed visitors to the museum’s website for suggestions of things to include in the exhibition. One of the museum team’s favourite suggestions is ‘You can’t trust your senses’.

The museum team has a variety of other scientists, including a biologist, but does not include any psychologists, so they are not sure how to evaluate this suggestion. They have therefore asked you to provide them with a report explaining the psychological issues relevant to this suggestion, including an evaluation of whether the suggested statement is correct.

Your report will be used by the museum`s team to plan the exhibition, and they particularly want to educate the people who attend the exhibition about psychological theories and research in this area. The museum team therefore want to be able to explain the relevant psychological principles as well as present illustrative examples.

Word limit: 1000 words

Part 2: Applied methods

Answer both (a) and (b) applied methods questions.

  • a. Statistics in everyday life

Table 1, below, presents data on credit card fraud in the UK between 2008 and 2014. The figures represent the number of credit card accounts that had fraudulent activity identified and reported, not the number of individual victims of fraud. The final column of the table shows the percentage change between the last two reporting periods (i.e. 2013-2014).

Table 1 Numbers of reported incidents of fraudulent credit card transactions of differing types









% change 2013–14

Remote / online purchase fraud









Credit card identity theft









Counterfeit fraud (cloned / skimmed cards)









Data source: http://www.theukcardassociation.org.uk/plastic_fraud_figures (Accessed 7 July 2016)

  • Imagine that, in January 2013, the government brought in measures to combat credit card fraud (this is a hypothetical scenario and you do not need to find or include any information about real government initiatives). Describe how the data in Table 1 might be interpreted differently by a government minister responsible for those measures and an opposing shadow minister, and assess whether either interpretation would be reasonable from the perspective of the ordinary, non-expert citizen who might be worried about the risk of becoming a victim of credit card fraud.

Word limit: 500 words

  • b.Researching rumours and conspiracy theories

There is a traditional saying that "A lie can get halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on", meaning that untrue information often spreads faster, and is more persistent, than true information. Using the example of rumours and conspiracy theories, outline how psychologists have researched this issue and assess whether psychology tends to agree or disagree with the traditional saying.

Word limit: 500 words

Learning outcomes

The module learning outcomes assessed by TMA 04 are as follows:

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand a wide range of basic psychological concepts and how they apply to everyday life.
  • Understand a variety of approaches to psychological research, including different methodologies and the role of ethics in research.

Cognitive skills

  • Describe, compare and evaluate a range of key concepts in psychology.
  • Construct arguments based on psychological theories and research findings, recognising the significance of differing approaches and subject positions.
  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of different theories and methodologies in psychology, and the relative value of different sources of data and information.

Key skills

  • Carry out directed literature searches to identify a range of sources of information, and apply appropriate criteria to select relevant material for specific purposes.
  • Communicate psychological knowledge in a variety of formats suitable for both traditional academic audiences and wider, non-academic audiences.
  • Apply an appropriate referencing system.

Practical and/or professional skills

  • Produce written work that shows evidence of independent judgement in answer to a set problem.
  • Use critical, evaluative, practical and ICT skills that are highly transferable to workplace and other settings.

Student notes for Part 1


This part of the TMA is intended to assess your skills of critically evaluating claims that are made, in the light of psychological theories and research. It is also intended to assess your skills of communicating information clearly and concisely to a non-academic audience. As a report, this part of the TMA requires you to use a mainly textual format, although you can support your points with appropriate additional elements, such as tables, graphs, or other figures. For this part of the TMA, it may be appropriate to draw on material that you have found in your independent study time, for example through the Open University Library, as well as the provided module materials.

Command words

The command words in the scenario ask you to evaluate the statement given in the visitor’s suggestion and explain the relevant psychological principles. You will therefore need to make an appraisal of the statement given in the scenario (i.e. ‘you can’t trust your senses’) and give details about why you think it is correct or incorrect. The scenario also refers to the museum team’s intent to give illustrative examples in the exhibition, so you will need to consider how you will illustrate your evaluation and explanation with relevant examples.

Tips for writing

A key part of preparing for any applied report is making sure that you understand your audience and your remit. You need to answer the question and/or address the brief that they have given you (here supplied in the question scenario) as fully as possible, without over-stepping the bounds of your remit. You also need to make sure that your report is written appropriately for its intended reader(s), both in terms of explaining terms, concepts, theories and studies that they may not be familiar with and in terms of avoiding telling them things that they can be reasonably expected to know already.

You will also need to find an appropriate balance between describing examples of sensory and/or perceptual phenomena, explaining the psychology behind them, and evaluating the visitor’s suggestion. This will take careful planning as you have a fairly short word limit, and will need to avoid being overly descriptive as it could leave you with little room to show your understanding of the topic by explaining and evaluating the material.

If you find that you have a lot of information and are struggling with the word limit, think about how you can use the report format to your advantage. Could you break up a long, complicated explanation into shorter, simpler bullet points? Can you summarise the findings of several studies within a table, using fewer words than it would take to describe them in a paragraph of text? Would a figure (e.g. a diagram, chart or image) illustrate a complex point clearly, using just a few words of labelling and explanation?

Relevant material

The material to answer this applied question comes primarily from Week 18, ‘Making sense of the world’, although you may also find some parts of Week 19 ‘Everyday errors in making sense of the world’ which further develop Week 18 concepts useful.

Chapter 10 in Book 2 will be especially relevant, as Section 2 of the chapter covers sensation and Section 3 covers perception. As well as giving useful descriptive information, the chapter also provides explanatory material by covering theories about how people make sense of sensory information (particularly in Section 3).

The Week 18 online material will also be useful, particularly those parts which expand directly on the chapter content. For example, you could consider Section 2 which builds on the chapter’s discussion of sensation, Section 3 which builds on the chapter’s discussion of perception and perceptual illusions, and/or Section 4 which builds on the chapter’s discussion of perception in terms of motion.

Although your main focus should be on issues raised in Week 18, you may also wish to consider whether the Week 19 online material is relevant to the points you make in your report. For example Section 3 which extends the Week 18 discussion of perceptual errors into the specific area of pareidolia may be useful.

For this part of the TMA you are encouraged to also draw on relevant additional sources that you have found in your independent study time.

Remember that this is a report, not an essay, so you will need to review Week 21, Section 6 ‘Developing your skills: report writing’. As noted in the ‘Tips for writing’ on the previous page, you should think carefully about how you can use the report format to your advantage, so that you get your points across clearly and concisely.

Student notes for Part 2

When preparing your answer for Question (a), you may find it helpful to break the task down into separate elements. For example, one approach would be to consider whether you can identify important patterns, similarities or differences in the data, either over time or between crime types or both. You could then think about whether any of the points you identify seem particularly positive (which the minister responsible might want to emphasise) or particularly negative (which the opposition minister might want to emphasise). Remember also the third point of view you have been asked to consider: the member of the general public who is worried about the risk of being a victim.

When preparing your answer for Question (b), you will need to review the material on rumours and conspiracy theories. Note that you do not need (and do not have space) to try to expand beyond this, for example other aspects of conspiracy theories, so stick closely to the question to avoid going over the word limit. Remember also that there are two elements you need to address: outlining how psychologists have researched the issue (a methods element) and assessing whether the findings of that research support or refute the saying (a results element).

Relevant material

Question (a) is an applied methods question about interpreting data and thinking about risk. You will therefore need to review Week 19, Section 6, ‘Focus on methods: risk, randomness and probability’ material and Week 19, Section 7, ‘Developing your skills: numeric data and statistics in psychology and everyday life’ material, which specifically consider issues relevant to interpreting real-world data. You may also find it helpful to review Section 4 of the Week 19 online material, which covers people’s understanding of everyday risks.

Question (b) draws on the coverage of rumours and conspiracy theories in Week 21. Of particular relevance is Section 4.2 in Chapter 12 and Section 3 of the online material. You may also wish to draw on your independent reading, for example if you have followed up the module content by reading Proctor et al’s full paper and/or other related papers through the OU library.=

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  • Title: Understand a wide range of basic psychological concepts and how they apply to everyday life.
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