Tips For Writing ap psych Essays



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Tips For Writing AP Psych Essays


  1. Fight the tendency to begin writing before you begin thinking.

    1. Engage your brain before your hand!

    2. Plot out the main points in some sort of outline or list to get your ideas flowing, them after about five (5) minutes start composing your essay.

  2. Make sure you answer the question asked.

    1. If you say brilliant things about the wrong question, you score zero points despite your brilliance.

  3. Introductions and conclusions count for nothing.

    1. This is not a standard English essay, but rather an attempt to communicate your technical knowledge of psychology as efficiently as possible.

    2. You should write in short, clear, complete sentences.

  4. The quality of what you write is far more important than the quantity.

    1. A good essay could be a paragraph or two-pages.

    2. Generally about a half a page (typed) or one-page (hand-written) is a good goal.

  5. The reader is looking:

    1. Proper use of psychological terminology.

      1. Establish your understanding of the prompt with definitions, explanations, or examples.

    2. Establish context by using words from the question to tell the reader what part of the question you are answering.

      1. Start a new paragraph each time you move on to a new point in your answer. Under no circumstance should you run your entire essay into one or two massively long paragraphs.

    3. State the obvious - assume the reader is an idiot when it comes to knowledge about psychology.

Highlights from Essay #1: History & Approaches




  1. Psychology differs from other fields of science in that it does not have a single paradigm upon which most scientists agree:

  1. Based on your knowledge of psychology, explain why the field of psychology has multiple perspectives rather than a single paradigm upon which most psychologists agree. Then compare and contrast any two of the following perspectives of psychology to illustrate why multiple perspectives remain in psychology:

    • Biological

    • Behaviorism

    • Cognitive

    • Psychoanalytic

    • Sociocultural


This essay has 20 points of information!
The field of psychology has many different perspectives from many different researches, doctors, and scientists. Philosophers, thousands of years ago, came up with different theories on how behavior and mental processes function and new theories have just branched off those ideas. Socrates came up with the idea that the mind and body are separate. Wilhelm Wundt went off of that theory and used introspection, looking inward for answers to your behavior, and called this structuralism, behavior and mental processes are based off of your knowledge and experiences. Then scientists such as Charles Darwin and William James went with the theory of functionalism, the theory that behavior is based off of the conscience mind and that behavior and mental processes help organisms adapt and survive, which is natural selection.

Two fields of psychology that differ greatly are Behaviorism and Psychoanalytic psychology. Behaviorism was founded by John B. Watson, who did an experiment called “Little Albert” which modeled how the learning process can be affected. Behaviorism is the theory that how one is raised and what experiences they have affect the behavior and mental processes. Psychoanalytic psychology was founded by Sigmund Freud. He believed that the unconscious mind was what derived our behavior and mental process. He came up with theories such as the id, ego, and superego, and mostly focused his ideas on sexual desires.

All fields of psychology have branched off of theories from ealy philosophers. John Locke came up wit hthe idea of empiricism, which took the field of psychology from the hands of state into more of a scientific field. Many scientists have just grown on many different ideas and their own personalities play a part in the way the research and conduct experiments.

Highlights from Essay #1: History & Approaches




  1. Psychology differs from other fields of science in that it does not have a single paradigm upon which most scientists agree:

  1. Based on your knowledge of psychology, explain why the field of psychology has multiple perspectives rather than a single paradigm upon which most psychologists agree. Then compare and contrast any two of the following perspectives of psychology to illustrate why multiple perspectives remain in psychology:

    • Biological

    • Behaviorism

    • Cognitive

    • Psychoanalytic

    • Sociocultural


This essay has 13 points of information!
There are many different ways to look at psychology. There are many different theories that you could agree with, and they all have some really valid1 points. There probably isn’t only one correct answer to how we interpret behavior and the functions of the brain2, but rather a combination of all of the different theories. There have been many psychologists over the years that have done experiements and run tests to see which theory is the most accurate. For example, John B. Watson3 used his Little Albert4 experiment to test behavior and there have also been many other psychologists, that have run tests to see how people in different cultures act. Sociocultural and Behaviorism are two different outlooks on behavior, but they both make sense and they have both proven to be correct in many different aspects.

Psychoanalytic and Behaviorism are two very different outlooks on psychology. Psychoanalysis, a theory by Sigmund Freud5, is based on the id, ego, and superego6—the different levels of consciousness. Behaviorism on the other hand, is strictly behavior7 and motivation8 and why people do what they do. Behaviorism is a lot of trail and error. Just to see if there is consistency in behavior and if there isn’t, why not. Psychoanalysis is very in depth. Freud was a man that thought that all people were driven sexually9, and that was all they thought about. They thought of it subconsciously, of course, and that is why it affected their behavior, because they weren’t aware of it. With behaviorism and John B. Watson’s Little Albert experiment, we see something a little bit different. This is the theory that behaviors are conditioned10. If a mouse and a loud noise are associated with each other, and the subject doesn’t like the loud noise, they probably won’t like the mouse either11. This is the theory of experience and how the experiences12 in one’s life effect their behavior and reactions to certain situations.

Psychology is a complicated science. But there is definitely no doubt that it is a scienc13e. People have tested and experimented for years to figure out the human mind and why people act the way they do. The length of time and the amount of people spent on trying to figure this out is the reason for so many different viewpoints and theories. There will always be many different theories, and figuring out the human mind is like trying to figure out God—impossible.
Highlights from Essay #2: History & Approaches


  1. Explain how studies of siblings, twins, and adopted children have contributed to the Nature vs. Nurture debate.

  1. Consider what the following “fields” of psychology might say about these subjects and the nature/nurture argument:

    • Developmental Psychologists

    • Experimental Psychologists

    • Neuroscience Psychologists

    • Personality Psychologists

    • School Psychologists


This essay has 14 points of information!

The question of nature vs. nurture is strong and on going. The question is are people born14 with knowledge already in them or is everything they learned15 put on the blank slate, making the person who they are, but on either side there are things that make each option doubtable. Why do blind people still smile when they have seen no one smile16, why do those born deaf still know how to laugh if they have heard no one laugh? Questions always are picked up by those who are curious. In developmental psychology, do children think differently than those who are very elderly? Is it the experience or lack there of that changes the mind17? In Sociocultural psychology does one who lives in the ghettos of New York think differently than that of a well educated person who lives in a highly thought of, well kept neighborhood18?

Developmental Psychology is the study of how the mind works at different stages of life19. A psychologist in this field would say that the first thing to look for in twins is if they are sharing the same placenta20. If so, normally, the children are much closer as they have the same kind of nourishment and are together their first 9-10 months of development and already have a bond. If they were in separate placentas, away from each other, they are not normally as close to begin with21. A psychologist would also say that how these children develop would also have to do whether they are identical or fraternal or if they were raised together or apart as that would have some effect. Already children’s temperaments22 are quite different as two identical twins raised together their whole life could be different, as one quiet, they other outgoing and loud, but how they look at certain things has to do with their parents a great deal and how they think about themselves23. Identical twins raised together are quite connected with their twin, as they feel that, that twin is a part of them. In situations that identical twins are separated they would still develop the same, they could still feel “connected” to someone whom they do not know. Fraternal twins also feel close to each other but develop a bit more separately. Still their beliefs and some personality would come from their parents, in both ways, if they were adopted or not.

A personality psychologist would look at twins as a chance to see how they would react to situations separately and together. One may see if an “instinct24” of one is to run from a situation, or stay and fight it25, as identical twins may be opposite in this respect, and it would be part of the nature side of the debate. Another study would see if the temperament of the twins would be different, if one is just outwardly more patient than the other, or more daring. Together though, the studies may look to see if the twins “feed” off of each other and look for comfort from one another in a situation or for answers possibly to questions26. The personalities, if the two are raised together could be extremely similar, minus the temperament, they may look at things the same way or get their answers from the same place, believe the same thing, but that may be part of the things that they learned from their parents27. One could be more musical than the other and that would be something that would set them apart. In a way, if they are separated many psychologists say that for the most part they would still be quite alike, identical mostly, and fraternal would still share some qualities of each other.


Highlights from Essay #2: History & Approaches


  1. Explain how studies of siblings, twins, and adopted children have contributed to the Nature vs. Nurture debate.

  1. Consider what the following “fields” of psychology might say about these subjects and the nature/nurture argument:

    • Developmental Psychologists

    • Experimental Psychologists

    • Neuroscience Psychologists

    • Personality Psychologists

    • School Psychologists


This essay has 16 points of information!
Nature vs. Nuture is an ongonig debate that deals with explaining behavior through different views. Nature is coming from a biological28 perspective and nuture is an enviromental29 perspective. Nature stresses that genes30 determine behavior and uses twins to help support this argument, while nature is comig from a perspective of experience31 and it takes example from people with different enviromens.

Identical twins share 100% of their genes with each other. If nature is correct then their should be a strong similiarity between the twins’ behavior and reflect that biological factors determined their personality32. Identical twins can be reared apart, as in different home enviroments and the corrleations they have can be used as evidence for the nature debate. Adopted children have their parent’s genes but a different enviroment33.

These same factors can be used for the nuture argument also. If an adopted child is takin away from his parents and is given new parents, then the results of the child should reflect what shaped his behavior. If the real parents are violent and his adoptive parents are kind then nature would say no matter what he would still be violent34, regardless of the enviroment. If the child was kind, then nurture would say this is a corrleation between enviroment and behavior, and that the adoptive parents shaped how he behaved35. There are many different fields of pyschology that contribute to this debate as well.

Personality psychologists, developemental pyschologists, experiemental pyschologists, neuroscience psychologists, and school psychologists all contribute to the nature nurture debate. Personality pyschologists study directly how a person acts or what his or her tendencies36 are, whether more intelligent, better at sports, etc. developemental pyschologists study the stages of life and how people change throughout them37. This would contribute to nature38 because it reflects the inevitable stages of life and how they effect a person’s behavior. Experimental pyschologists would be the ones doing39 experiments on people such as twins, adopted children, etc. These experiements could help both sides40 because the results of their experiements could show either nature or nuture aspects. Neuroscience pyschologists would study the wiring of the brain41 and would contribute towards the nature debate because of the innate42 aspects of the brain and what they determine. School pyschologists study and help improve the enviroment in the classroom43, this would contribute towards the nuture debate because the enviromental effects could be an example of how the enviroment plays a part in behavior. All of thsee fields contribute to nature vs. nuture because of how they are an enviromental or innate biological perspective.



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