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MCAT Content / AAMC Official Guide Ps Solutions

AAMC Official Guide PS [Web]

Official Guide Psychology/Sociology Section Passage 1

1) The question stem is directing us to Fig. 1, so let’s go ahead and take a look!

A. Non-obese participants experience more cognitive dissonance than obese participants. – The figure shows the fraction of participants that adopt a diet diary when notified “that their health buddy had started using an Internet-based diet diary” which indicates a measure of conformity, not cognitive dissonance.

B. Participants experience more cognitive dissonance in homophilous groups. – The concept being measured was conformity, not cognitive dissonance.

C. Non-obese participants conform more than obese participants. – While this is true if we compare obese participants in unstructured groups with non-obese participants in unstructured groups, this statement is false if we compare the obese and non-obese participants in homophilous groups. There must be a better answer choice.

D. Participants conform more in homophilous groups. – Ah, here it is. In both main groups, obese participants and non-obese participants, placing participants in a homophilous group increased the fraction that adopted the diet diary. The diet diary is our proxy for conformity, so this statement is the correct answer and participants conform more in homophilous groups.

2) The foot-in-the-door technique relies on asking someone for a small favor or making a simple request that the person is likely to agree to, and then following up with a more significant, related request. They are more likely to say “yes” to the second, more significant request because they have already agreed to the smaller request.  For example, if your friend asks you for $20 to buy lunch, you’re more likely to give them $20 if you already agreed to give them $5 for lunch. We’ll need to find something similar in the answer choices: a small request regarding diet diaries that will make the participants more likely to adopt the diet diary later.

A. Encourage the participants to sign a petition in support of diet diaries. – Signing a petition is a low stake, relatively small request. If the participants sign the petition (small request), according to the foot-in-the-door phenomenon, they will be more likely to adopt the diet diary themselves afterwards (larger request).

B. Have the participants personally interact with the health buddy who adopted the diet diary. – While having participants interact with one another could make them more likely to adopt a diet diary, it is not a small request specific to the adoption of diet diaries. Answer choice A is a better option because it is specific to diet diaries and not to the other person involved in the study. The more specific to the diet diary itself, the better.

C. Tell the participants that the health buddy who adopts the diet diary is a trustworthy health expert. – Trying to appeal to the presenter’s trustworthiness as a way to persuade someone is appealing to their peripheral route of processing. Other examples of the peripheral route of processing/to persuasion include attractiveness of the message and presenter, positive emotions, and tactics that are not specific to the message itself. On the other hand, the central route to persuasion corresponds to critically evaluating the message itself. You might believe what I say here because you trust that I’m qualified to help you work through the explanations (peripheral, about the presenter), but you should also make sure the explanations make logical sense (central, the message itself). This is the basis of medicine folks.

D. Tell the participants that by agreeing to be in the study, they have agreed to cooperate with the researchers. – Explicitly asking someone to perform a task, or in this case telling someone that they have previously agreed to perform a task when asked, is better explained by compliance. Answer choice A is the best answer choice to model the foot-in-the-door technique.

3) Self-serving bias is the idea that if something positive occurs to someone, they will say or assume the positive event is due to a positive internal characteristic, and if something negative occurs, it has an external source. For example, if someone gets a great score on an exam, they will attribute the passing grade to their robust study habits (internal source) but if they fail the exam, they are more likely to say that they failed because they were having a bad day or that the test was poorly written (external). The key here is that self-serving bias helps us see ourselves in a more positive light, assigning ourselves positive virtues and shifting responsibility elsewhere when something negative happens. Now before we forget, this is a NOT question, so we need to select an answer choice that is unfavorable for the individual – either attributing something positive to an external source or something negative to an internal source.

A. Obese participants view their unhealthy weight as a result of having too many fast food restaurants near home.– Here we have a negative result (unhealthy weight) and are assigning an external source (distribution of restaurants). This would be an example of self-serving bias, making it an incorrect answer choice.

B. Non-obese participants view their healthy weight as a result of having strong willpower. – In answer choice B, a positive result (healthy weight) is attributed to an internal source (willpower). This too aligns with self-serving bias and would not be the correct answer.

C. Obese participants view their unhealthy weight as a result of not having time to exercise regularly. – Like answer choice A, the negative result in this answer (unhealthy weight) is attributed to an external source or something beyond the person’s control (not having time). This answer choice is compatible with self-serving bias making it incorrect.

D. Non-obese participants view their healthy weight as a result of not having any fast food restaurants near their home. – Unlike the other answer choices, this one does not align with the idea of self-serving bias: a positive result (healthy weight) is attributed to something external rather than internal, namely restaurant distribution. We were looking for an answer choice that disagreed with self-serving bias and here we have it!

For more on attributional processes, head over to: https://jackwestin.com/resources/mcat-content/attributing-behavior-to-persons-or-situations/attributional-processes 

4) The cognitive dissonance theory states that when someone acts or behaves in a way that does not align with their attitudes, they will experience cognitive dissonance. To alleviate this dissonance or disagreement, the person can either change their behavior or change their attitude by questioning the associated information. Let’s pause and be honest with each other for a second, which of those two is easier, breaking a bad habit or reasoning our way through the bad habit? I’ll be the first to say that it’s a lot easier to rationalize a bad habit! The cognitive dissonance theory agrees with us and indicates that people are more likely to change their attitude than they are to change their behavior. Now that we have the information we need, let’s shift gears and read some answer choices.

A. Obese participants will change their unhealthy eating behaviors. – The underlying assumption here is that obese participants have unhealthy diets. Obese participants with unhealthy eating habits will experience cognitive dissonance. However, this answer choice says they’ll change their behavior which, as we said earlier, is less likely to happen than an attitude change. Maybe we can find something about an attitude change instead?

B. Non-obese participants will change their unhealthy eating behaviors. – In this answer choice, we are asked to imagine that non-obese participants have unhealthy eating behaviors. While they may experience cognitive dissonance, the underlying assumption is that they are less likely to experience cognitive dissonance than their obese counterparts because their unhealthy eating habits do not result in the same effects (obesity). This answer choice also assumes a behavioral change which, as mentioned earlier, is less likely to occur than an attitude change.

C. Obese participants will question the validity of the information provided. – If an obese participant experiences cognitive dissonance, they are more likely to change their attitude than they are to change their behavior. Questioning the validity of the information given is the clearest example of an attitude change we have so far. 

D. Non-obese participants will overemphasize the importance of the information provided. – If the non-obese participants overemphasized the importance of the information, they would be reinforcing the attitude, not changing it. This would not align with cognitive dissonance theory which assumes if someone experiences cognitive dissonance, they are more likely to change their attitude than they are to change their behavior. Answer choice C is still the best answer choice out of the four we are given.

5) To investigate the effect of homophily on changes in exercise patterns, we need to measure the status of the group (homophilous or not) format to describe study designs is a great pattern to remember for test day.

A. A new independent variable would be added. – A new independent variable would mean that we are measuring something other than homophily and trying to see how it affects the adoption of the diet diary. In the scenario in the question stem, we are still trying to understand the impact of homophily on another factor, so the independent variable remains the same.

B. A new dependent variable would be added. – We love to see it – this is exactly what we predicted. In the new scenario given in the question stem, exercise patterns are parallel to the adoption of the diet diary; they are both dependent variables.

C. Levels of an existing independent variable would increase. – We are not changing the binary nature of homophily in this new study. No new levels are added, the groups are still either homophilous or not/unstructured.

D. The study would become an experimental study. – To make the study an experimental study, we would need to change the way the study is performed, not just add a new variable. Note that randomization is a key component for experimental designs, and we have no indication that randomization occurs in the study as written in the passage. A new dependent variable is added in the question stem, so answer choice B is definitely the best answer.

A. Reference group – A reference group is a group someone compares themselves to, uses to set expectations, and the like. For example, pre-med students often compare themselves to other pre-med students to see how they are doing in comparison because they have the same goal of attending medical school. The underlying assumption is that the person comparing themself to the reference group has something in common with the reference group. In homophilous social networks “participants were matched with health buddies according to age, gender, and body mass index (BMI)” which suggests having quite a bit in common and allowing for comparison and evaluation. We’ll keep reading through the remaining answer choices just in case there’s a better option.

B. Secondary group – In contrast to a primary group, a secondary group is formal, larger, more impersonal and goal oriented. The researchers matched participants with “health buddies,” they wanted them to connect, not be impersonal! A formal, impersonal grouping is not a good characterization of the homophilous social networks in the passage. 

C. Out-group – By definition, individuals do not identify with the out-group. The homophilous social networks included groupings with many shared characteristics so they were not placed in out-groups.

D. Social group – While this is technically true because participants in the homophilous groups had some shared characteristics and interaction, this answer choice is much too broad! Answer choice A, reference group, is more specific and better captures the shared characteristic and comparison suggested in the passage.

Official Guide Psychology/Sociology Section Passage 2

7) The first half of the question stem tells us that low birth weight is associated with delayed cognitive development, and the second half asks us what would make a child more likely to fall behind in school, the implication being that the delayed cognitive development of a low birth weight would make a child more likely to fall behind in school. This means that the question is actually asking us what would be associated with a low birth weight.

A. Asian American enclaves – According to the second study in the third paragraph, “low birth weight among Asian American mothers was less frequent if mothers resided in metropolitan areas in which Asian American enclaves tended to be clustered.” This means that Asian American enclaves are not associated with a lower birth weight.

B. Neighborhoods next to Asian American enclaves –While living next to an Asian American enclave is not explicitly discussed in the passage, the results of the first study include “observing that mean birth weight in a given neighborhood was systematically related to mean birth weight in adjacent neighborhoods,” which suggests that neighborhoods adjacent, or next to, Asian American enclaves could have similar effects, namely not having lower birth weights. So while answer choice B is not explicitly discussed, there is evidence to suggest that living next to an enclave with seemingly protective effects against low birth weight could associate some of those protective effects with their neighbors. 

C. Neighborhoods with extensive reciprocal exchange – The main result of the first study is that it “found low birth weight to be related to the presence of environmental stressors, such as… limited reciprocal exchange among neighbors.” If a neighborhood has extensive reciprocal exchange, they have a lot of reciprocal exchange, the opposite of what was determined to be associated with low birth weight in the study. We expect a higher birth weight in this neighborhood.

D. Neighborhoods with high rates of violent crime – From the second paragraph and the first study: “low birth weight to be related to the presence of environmental stressors, such as high violent crime rates.” High rates of violent crime are associated with a lower birth weight. Based on the new information in the question stem, low birth weight is associated with delayed cognitive development, which would put children from the neighborhood at greater risk of falling behind in elementary school. Answer choice D is the correct answer.

8) The question is asking about social resources in particular. Let’s see what we can find that has to do with social resources.

A. Poverty – This answer choice might be tempting at first glance, but money and poverty are better understood as material resources for the purposes of the MCAT. These types of resources are not directly mentioned in the passage and while likely relevant to the study question, are not social resources.

B. Heredity –Like poverty, heredity and genetics are not social resources. The biological contribution of genetics does not resemble the social capital and support seen in social resources.

C. Social networks – Social networks are indeed social resources. Social networks allow for support and tying this answer choice directly to the passage, would allow for the “reciprocal exchange among neighbors” in the second paragraph.

D. Socialization – The “social” in socialization is tricky! Socialization is the process of learning the norms, attitudes, and values of a society, and because societies change, is something that never ends. Socialization can be difficult to understand at times, so take a look at the associated content page if you need a refresher: https://jackwestin.com/resources/mcat-content/socialization/agents-of-socialization 

9) In order to determine the flaw in the study and answer the question, we need to fit the new part of the study into the existing study from the passage. Cue the flow chart! In all seriousness, this is something that would be worth diagramming on test day.

In this new component of the study, psychological stress is the new “X” or independent variable and the low birth weight continues to be the “Y” or dependent variable. Note: “psychological response to stress” implies that one of the ways the environmental stressors affect birth weight is through the psychological response, which would make the new variable a mediating variable. We can still consider the new variable its own independent variable or “X” because we are directly measuring it as a variable of influence. The question stem tells us that the stress test (X) is being given to the moms after the first study was completed, so after “Y” was already measured.

A. The dependent variable is temporally prior to measurement of the independent variable. – This statement is accurate; the “Y” or dependent variable, low birth weight, would be measured before the “X” or independent variable. When this is true, researchers cannot establish temporality and cannot determine the direction of the influence. This is a flaw in the new study design.

B. The independent variable is temporally prior to measurement of the dependent variable. – If this were true, researchers would have the element of temporality; this is the normal order of variable measurement in research and is not a flaw!

C. The updated sample contains too little variation to draw reliable conclusions. – There is no reason to believe that the random sample will lack variability. Random sampling is used to ensure representative samples. Also be wary of the use of “reliable” here. Remember that reliability has to do with how replicable study study results are, and a better term for what’s implied in this answer choice would be “validity.”

D. The updated sample is not representative of the population of mothers. – The random sampling of the original sample means that the new sample will be representative. We’ll stick with answer choice A.

10) This question stem is asking us to identify a primary group. Primary groups are close, long-term, emotionally bonded relationships. See the associated content page for more information: https://jackwestin.com/resources/mcat-content/elements-of-social-interaction/groups 

A. Family structure – Family is generally considered a close relationship and is present from birth; family is the classic example of a primary group.

B. Religious affiliation – While religious groups may share common theology, members may or may not be close and emotionally bonded with one another. Religious affiliations are also more variable in duration than family and can represent both primary and secondary groups, so family structure is a better answer choice.

C. Occupational status – occupational status doesn’t really help us differentiate between primary groups and secondary groups; occupational status is more relevant for social status. Even if the answer choice had said coworkers instead of occupational status, it would not represent a primary group because coworkers are not usually very close or share strong, long-term personal relationships.

D. Population – This answer choice is much too general. Populations are their own separate topic on the MCAT. Family structure is then the best answer.

Official Guide Psychology/Sociology Section Passage 3

11) If the rat’s tail is dipped in hot water, the pain receptors in the rat’s tail should be activated. The question stem notes that the rats with access to a running wheel had a delayed response, indicating less activation of the pain receptors, or negative regulation of those pain receptors following exercise.

A. Baroreceptors – Baroreceptors detect pressure. Hot water does not cause a change in pressure, it causes pain.

B. Nociceptors – Pain receptors are also known as nociceptors. This is it!

C. Mechanoreceptors – Mechanoreceptors detect mechanical changes such as touch and vibration. The hot water is causing pain, not mimicking touch..

D. Chemoreceptors – Chemoreceptors are tasked with measuring chemical changes, but the primary change in the hot water tail-flick test is the pain due to the temperature change. Answer choice B is the correct answer.

 12) The second sentence of the second paragraph states “Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins.” For a drug to decrease the amount of wheel-running or exercise, it would need to replace the endorphins released by running either by stimulating endorphin release or by activating the same receptors that endorphins would bind. The primary effect of endorphins is pain relief, so if the drug stimulates endorphin release or binds to the same receptor, it should have a similar outcome. Be on the lookout for a drug associated with pain relief.

 A. Alcohol – Alcohol is a depressant and for the purposes of the MCAT does not directly stimulate endorphin release or bind to the same receptors. Alcohol is also not primarily known for pain relief. Let’s see if there’s a better answer choice.

B. Cocaine – Cocaine is a stimulant and would not be primarily associated with pain relief.

C. Marijuana – Marijuana is a mix of drug classes and is not directly associated with increases in endorphin levels despite its potential for pain relief. Maybe there’s a better answer choice?

D. Morphine – Morphine is absolutely associated with pain relief and actually binds the same receptors as endorphins. Some of the other answer choices were admittedly tempting, but opiates are classically known for their pain-relieving properties as exogenous versions of our own endogenous endorphins. On test day we would select answer choice D. This question highlights the importance of reading all of the answer choices, especially if none of the answers feel like a slam dunk.

 13) According to the passage, ABA-induced rats have an “exercise addiction” associated with endorphin release. Whatever answer choice we select should align with what we know about addiction.

A. increased sensitivity to the effects after running in their wheels. – If an addictive behavior is performed or an addictive substance is consumed, sensitivity to the effects of that behavior or substance will decrease, not increase. For example, if your friend has a coffee addiction and needs to drink 5 cups of coffee every day, the sixth cup of coffee will not suddenly feel stronger to them. On the contrary, that sixth cup of coffee will probably have less effect on your friend addicted to coffee than for you, someone who is not hypothetically addicted to coffee.

B. increased sensitivity to pain over time. – Endorphins are known for their pain relieving properties. For rats with an exercise addiction, endorphin levels will be higher and sensitivity to pain will likely decrease over time as the presence of these endogenous pain relievers increases.

C. withdrawal symptoms if they are prevented from running in their wheels. – When a person or animal is addicted to a behavior (in the case of this passage wheel-running) or a substance, preventing the organism from accessing the addictive stimulus can cause them to exhibit withdrawal symptoms.

D. withdrawal symptoms if they are injected with opiates. – Opiates would provide a similar effect as endorphins and would decrease withdrawal symptoms, not cause them.

14) Before we can explain the results in Fig. 1, we need to know the results shown in Fig. 1. Wheel access is noted on the x-axis and access to food is shown via bar color where black is restricted access to food and grey is unrestricted access to food. The rats with restricted food access and access to a wheel are ABA-induced rats.

A. ABA-induced rats show a decrease in withdrawal symptoms because an opioid agonist mimicked the effects of wheel-running. – According to the passage, “After seven days, these rats were injected with naloxone, a chemical that binds to the endorphin receptors and blocks their functioning.” If naloxone blocks the functioning of the endorphin receptor, it is a receptor antagonist, not a receptor agonist which would activate the receptor. Also, the ABA-induced rats, those that have wheel access and restricted food access, have the greatest degree of withdrawal symptoms, not a decrease.

B. Rats with 24-hour access to food show a decrease in withdrawal symptoms because an opioid agonist increased the reinforcement value of food. – Like the answer choice above, we can immediately dismiss this answer choice because an opioid antagonist was administered, not an opioid agonist.

C. ABA-induced rats show an increase in withdrawal symptoms because an opioid antagonist interfered with the effects of wheel-running. – Naloxone is indeed an opioid antagonist and the ABA-induced rats did have an increase in withdrawal symptoms. This answer choice looks good.

D. Non-ABA-induced rats show an increase in withdrawal symptoms because an opioid antagonist enhanced the effects of wheel-running. – The non-ABA-induced rats had less withdrawal symptoms (about 2 on the y-axis) than their ABA-induced counterparts (about 7 on the y-axis).


A quick refresher on study 1: “In Study 1, a group of rats were trained to press a lever for the self-administration of heroin.

A. Operant conditioning – Operant conditioning involves increasing or decreasing the frequency of a behavior in response to the rewards or punishments the behavior elicits. The mice press the lever in response to the effects of heroin which serve as positive reinforcement. This is a great example of operant conditioning. See the table below for more on operant conditioning.

B. Classical conditioning – Classical conditioning involves the pairing of an unconditioned stimulus with a neutral stimulus to create a conditioned stimulus that produces a desired response. No stimuli are being paired to produce a conditioned response. See the diagram below for an example of classical conditioning.

C. Social learning – Albert Bandura’s social learning theory details the possibility of learning via observation, acknowledges the role of one’s cognitive state when learning, and notes that learning does not necessarily change behavior. This does not fit with the mice learning to self-administer heroin; the mice are not observing other mice self-administer heroin.

Operant Conditioning

Classical Conditioning

Official Guide Psychology/Sociology Section Passage 4

16) The passage says that multiple variables might predict medical mistrust because seeking help might be seen as incompatible with the traditional male gender identity” and that “researchers surveyed the participants on their endorsement of male gender roles.

A. gender schema. – A schema describes the framework that helps us categorize information and affects our attitudes and perspectives. A gender schema is related to gender roles, or the norms set by society that guide gender-specific behavior. The conflict in the passage is regarding the male identity, so the cognitive framework that affects attitudes, which would affect the endorsement of roles. The cognitive nature of the incompatibility supports the violation of gender schemas.

B. gender script. – Tempting, but scripts are the plans for how to behave in specific scenarios and situations. The passage is focused more on the cognitive incompatibility of attitudes and perspectives, and less on specific behaviors. Answer choice A is a better answer choice.

C. gender conditioning. – The MCAT test writers are being sneaky, this isn’t an actual concept. 

D. gender adaptation. – Again, the MCAT test writers are being sneaky… We’ll stick to answer choice A which is an actual concept and accurately captures the cognitive incompatibility in the passage.

For more on schemas and scripts, see https://jackwestin.com/resources/mcat-content/prejudice-and-bias/processes-that-contribute-to-prejudice and for more on roles go to https://jackwestin.com/resources/mcat-content/elements-of-social-interaction/role.

17) The proposed “follow-up experiment was designed to investigate whether the doctor’s communication style caused a difference in the patients’ levels of mistrust.” The independent variable is communication style because the experiment tries to determine if it causes a change in the dependent variable, level of mistrust. Remember that the relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable is considered to point from the independent variable to the dependent variable.

A. Level of mistrust, established by an inventory that measures participants’ medical mistrust – The level of mistrust is the dependent variable, not the independent variable.

B. Level of mistrust, established by independent judges who rate participants’ medical mistrust –The level of mistrust is the dependent variable, not the independent variable.

C. Type of communication, established by training a doctor who is also a confederate to use patient-centered communication or a communication style that is not patient-centered – The type of communication is the independent variable. Now to the second half of the answer choice: in order for a causal relationship to be established, the independent variable needs to be maintained as constant as possible across doctors, and should reflect the same doctor adopting both the patient-centered and non-patient-centered approaches for direct comparison. This provides the most consistency and greatest likelihood of establishing a causal relationship. Remember that in experiments, researchers should be able to control and manipulate the independent variable. If the researchers use a confederate in the study, someone who is an actor, they can train them to their liking. This is a solid answer choice.

D. Type of communication, established by giving doctors in the study an inventory that assesses whether their communication style is patient-centered or not – While tempting, the second half of this answer choice allows for too much variability between doctors and only reflects doctors applying one communication style or the other. The lack of consistency, control and manipulation of the independent variable mean that the researchers would not be able to establish a causal relationship. Answer choice C is the only answer choice that allows researchers to establish a causal relationship in the experiment.

18) The tendency described involves a behavioral change.

A. prejudice. – A prejudice is a negative attitude or feeling toward an individual based on their group membership. See the content page link two questions above for more information.

B. stereotyping. – Similar to prejudice, stereotyping is a cognitive process, specifically regarding expectations of others. It does not describe a behavior, and the question stem describes a behavior.

C. discrimination. – Discrimination is the negative differential treatment of individuals as a result of stereotypes and prejudice. The change in communication style by doctors represents a specific behavior and differential treatment, making discrimination an appropriate descriptor.

D. Ethnocentrism. – Ethnocentrism is the belief that someone’s own group or culture is superior to others and the tendency to judge other groups and cultures by comparing them to their own group/culture. The doctors are not assuming they are better than their patients or comparing their patients to their own standards so this answer choice is not as good of a fit as answer choice C.

Associated content page: https://jackwestin.com/resources/mcat-content/discrimination/the-relationship-between-prejudice-and-discrimination  

19) Before reading the answer choices, it’s worth checking what the passage says about unpleasant healthcare experiences at the end of paragraph 1: “recent unpleasant healthcare experiences reduced the frequency of participants’ seeking healthcare in the future.” The unpleasant experiences are decreasing the future frequency of a behavior. 

A. positive reinforcement. – Positive reinforcement involves adding something (a pleasant stimulus) that increases the frequency of a behavior.

B. negative reinforcement. – Negative reinforcement is the removal of something (an unpleasant stimulus) that results in an increase in the frequency of a behavior. 

C. positive punishment. – Positive punishment is the addition of something that decreases the frequency of a behavior. In the case of unpleasant health experiences, the experience is “added” and serves as an unpleasant experience or stimulus that decreases the likelihood of the healthcare-seeking behavior in the future. This answer choice is looking good.

D. negative punishment. – Negative punishment would be the removal of something (usually a pleasant event or stimulus) that serves to decrease the frequency of a behavior. Positive punishment, answer choice C, is the correct answer.

Operant conditioning, as well as classical conditioning, are frequently tested on the MCAT. They are worth a review if you are not yet comfortable with the topics. See the images associated with question 15 for visual representations.

20) To answer this question, we will need a working definition of institutional discrimination: institutional discrimination is the discrimation of members of a particular group via the policies, objectives and procedures of institutions such as governments, police, religion and educational institutions.

A. Discrimination is not systematic, except when observed within institutions. – This is incorrect; both individual and institutional discrimination can be systematic and non-random.

B. If they have a history of unfair treatment, institutions are labeled as discriminatory. – A history of unfair treatment is a bit too general for this question and does not mean that the institution continues to be discriminatory. This answer choice also fails to differentiate between individual and institutional discrimination which is important for distinguishing which might be at play.

C. When several individuals exhibit prejudiced attitudes within an institution, then that institution will also be discriminatory. – Prejudice is an attitude while discrimination is a behavior. Prejudice can lead to discrimination, but we should not mistake the two as interchangable.

D. As opposed to discriminatory acts committed by individuals, there are institutional policies that disadvantage certain groups and favor others. – This is a much better classification of institutional discrimination, takes into account the difference between individual and institutional discrimination, and notes the policies that may be at play within institutional discrimination. This is the correct answer.

Official Guide Psychology/Sociology Section Passage 5

21) According to the legend, Person A is represented by the black bars and showed no change in memory of childhood events, but did have a notable increase and improvement in memory of events right before the brain injury.

A. anterograde memory. – Anterograde memory involves the formation of long-term memories in the future. “Antero” refers to forward or front so when discussing memory, think forward or future facing.

B. retrograde memory. – Retrograde memory is the ability to remember previous events, so memory of events before the car accidents and brain injuries would fall under retrograde memory. Since Patient A had an increase in memory of events right before their brain injury, they had an improvement in retrograde memory.

C. semantic memory. – Semantic memory is the memory of common concepts and general knowledge. The memory in Fig. 1 refers to specific events.

D. short-term memory. – Short-term memory or working memory is the limited information we can hold for a few seconds. Answer choice B is the most appropriate answer choice.


A. sympathetic nervous system. – The sympathetic nervous system is also known as the “fight or flight response” and is activated in stressful situations like seeing a bear or being involved in a car accident.

B. parasympathetic nervous system. – The parasympathetic nervous system is also referred to as the “rest and digest” or “feed and breed” response, and is activated when eating, resting and during sexual arousal. None of these are likely to be occuring during a car accident and the stress of the accident would block the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. The question is a NOT question so this is a great answer choice!

C. peripheral nervous system. – The sympathetic nervous system, which we said would be activated during the car accidents, is a part of the peripheral nervous system so it would also be activated.

D. central nervous system. – The central nervous system includes the reticular activating system which controls level of consciousness, and we sure hope that would be activated during a car accident. Similarly, the brain is a key part of the CNS! If the brain weren’t activated during a car accident, we would have a serious problem in addition to the car accident. Answer choice B is the best answer for this NOT question. 


A. Wernicke’s area. – Wernike’s area is all about processing spoken and written speech, and is unlikely to have any effect on someone’s level of consciousness.

B. parietal lobes. – The parietal lobe is key in sensory processing, but not in controlling wakefulness and alertness. There should be a better answer choice coming up.

C. reticular activating system. – As noted in the previous question, the reticular activating system helps control level of consciousness. Stimulating it could very well cause someone to become more alert and come out of a comatose state.

D. somatosensory cortex. – The somatosensory cortex will process sensory signals and is not involved in the regulation of consciousness. Answer choice C it is.


A. Person A showed improvement in both types of memory at post-test. – This is false, according to the figure Person A only improved on memory of events right before brain injury, not on memory of childhood events.

B. Person B showed improvement in memory for childhood events at post-test. – The first two gray bars on the left indicate that Person B’s memory of childhood events did not change or improve between the pre- and post-tests.

C. Both Person A and Person B showed improvement in both types of memory at post-test. – As noted above, neither person improved on the first memory type, memory of childhood events.

D. Person A showed improvement in memory for events right before the brain injury at post-test. – This question is related to the first question from this passage; looking at the two rightmost black bars, Person A had an increase and improvement in their memory of events right before brain injury.

Discrete Questions


The James-Lange theory of emotion indicates that physiological arousal occurs before an emotional response.

A. The participants felt general excitement and simultaneously experienced physical symptoms of autonomic arousal, such as a racing heart. – This answer choice incorrectly places the physiological autonomic arousal as occurring at the same time as the emotion, not before as expected with the James-Lange theory of emotion. This is more representative of the Cannon-Bard theory of emotion.

B. The participants experienced physical symptoms of autonomic arousal, such as a racing heart, and then they reported that they felt afraid. – This is the correct answer, it has the physiological arousal coming before the emotion.

C. The participants felt fear, and then began to experience physical symptoms of autonomic arousal, such as a racing heart. – This answer choice has the labeling of an emotion before the physiological arousal, which does not fit the framework of any of the three main theories of emotion.

D. The participants showed physical symptoms of autonomic arousal, such as a racing heart, and then they reported that they felt general excitement. – “Generalized excitement” is much too broad for the James-Lange theory of emotion, which would suggest a specific emotion. Answer choice B is the way to go.


The scenario described in the question above is specific to the interaction between two individuals and their interpretations of the exchange.

A. Functionalism – Functionalism is a large scale, macrosociological theory that considers the functions of social structures as necessary to maintain equilibrium in society. The question stem is focused on the interaction between two individuals, so something more micro-scale.

B. Conflict Theory – In contrast to functionalism, Marx’s conflict theory explores a constantly changing and dynamic society driven by class conflicts due to differential access to resources. This is also too macro-scale.

C. Symbolic Interactionism – Symbolic interactionism is appropriately focused on the meanings (and interpretations) of actions betweens and symbols used by individuals. This is a good representation of the scenario in the question stem.

D. Social Constructionism – Social constructionism is influenced by both micro and macro interactions, but is more focused on how the realities of a society come about. The question scenario is less focused on the creation of a societal reality and ideas, and more on the interpretation of symbols and interactions between two individuals making answer choice C the best choice.


A. aversive conditioning. – The students in the question stem are receiving a reward for good behavior. Aversive conditioning would include an unpleasant stimulus that discourages a behavior, but the stimulus the teacher provides is pleasant and favorable.

B. operant extinction. – There is no evidence that the students stop behaving in the desired fashion; in fact, the question stem is focused on the acquisition of the desired behavior.

C. a token economy. – A token economy involves the use of a secondary reinforcer (positive stimulus that does not directly satisfy a basic survival instinct) that can be exchanged for something else of interest. The chips have no inherent value for survival and can be exchanged for prizes. This is a classic example of a token economy.

D. an unconditioned stimulus. – The type of learning described in the question is operant conditioning. Unconditioned stimuli are involved in classical conditioning. A token economy is the best answer choice.


A. the recency effect. – The recency effect suggests that information presented last or at the end of a list (hence recent) is remembered better. This is the opposite of what the researcher found.

B. proactive interference. – Proactive interference is the blocking or decreased memory of later information as a result of previous or earlier information.

C. the primacy effect. – The primacy effect is the opposite of the recency effect and suggests that information provided at the beginning or earlier is more easily remembered. The participants remembered the first three words, so the primacy effect is a good concept to describe the results.

D. retroactive interference. – Retroactive interference is the opposite of proactive interference and is later information interfering with earlier information. Primacy effect is the best answer choice.


According to Weber’s law, the just noticeable difference for a given stimulus is the minimum proportional increase that causes a just barely noticeable difference. If going from 10lbs to 12lbs produces the just noticeable difference, then this stimulus requires an increase of ( (12-10)/10 ) = 2/10 = 1/5  or 20%.

A. 1 pound – This increase is too small and would only correspond to an increase of 1/20 or 5%.

B. 2 pounds – This increase is too small and would only correspond to an increase of 2/20 or 10%.

C. 4 pounds – Four pounds would result in a 4/20 = 1/5 or 20% increase in the stimulus which would meet the threshold for a just noticeable difference. This is the correct answer.

D. 8 pounds – The just noticeable difference is the minimum change in stimulus required, and 8lbs is twice the minimum calculated in answer choice C. 


 A meritocracy is an ideal system where social standing can change in response to personal effort or merit for all members.

A. Equality of opportunity – For a meritocracy to work, anyone should be able to change their social standing with enough effort and work. This requires everyone having the same opportunities. This answer choice is looking good.

B. Equality of talent – Equality of talent implies that everyone is born with or has the same degree of innate skill, but a meritocracy is driven by effort, not innate talent. 

C. Equality of skill – This answer choice is incorrect because it also implies that skill (akin to talent), and not effort, is what is at play in a meritocracy.

D. Equality of outcome – The key to a meritocracy is that social outcome is dependent on effort. If everyone had the same outcome with different degrees of effort, the system would not be a true meritocracy. Answer choice A best fits a meritocracy.

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