MCAT (Psychological, Social, and Biological)

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The World Systems Theory divides the world into three subcategories: core, periphery, and semi-periphery countries. Which of the following statements best describe countries in the semi-periphery?

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Answer Explanation: (D)
This question, if encountered, would be difficult due to the fact that semi-periphery countries is actually a definition of a transition state both from core to periphery and in the opposite direction. Thus, there are no real strong defining characteristics, so elimination of answers will be needed. Strong central government more accurately defines core countries. Answers B and D describe periphery countries. Think of semi-periphery countries as those that do not have much global influence, but are not susceptible to it either. That should allow for the correct answer.

In the United States, the Industrial Revolution saw a major drive toward urbanization for living areas. Which of the following is NOT a benefit to people who relocate from rural to urban regions?

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Answer Explanation: (C)
Opportunities and, conversely, challenges of urbanization have not drastically change since the initial explosion in the U.S. in the early 1900s. Infrastructure is widely available in cities, which leads to benefits outlined in the first three answers. However, a process called reurbanization, which is the second wave of urbanization that follows the first decline of a city, usually targets old areas where people who do not have the resources to move out of the city get pushed out of. This leads to substantial gentrification along these borders.

Karl Marx proposed the Conflict Theory, which is founded on the idea that power determines how people interact in society. Which of the following assertions is the most accurate representation of the Conflict Theory?

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Answer Explanation: (C)
C is the answer that most closely correlate to the Marx theory. In this theory, the group that is content with the status quo is the group in power. Answer B correlates closer to Functionalism, which states that institutions and the population exist in a balance. Answer D describes social constructionism. Answer A is consistent with symbolic interactionism, which at its heart states that the world is created by people interacting with it.

The rational choice theory is founded on the idea that acts are chosen based on the individual's benefit. Completeness, transitivity, and variable independence are the three essential axioms of rational theory. What kind of system is most appropriately described?

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Answer Explanation: (B)
The key to answering this question is to know the definitions of the components of rational choice theory. Completeness in this context means that actions can be ranked according to each other. Transitivity defines the fact that if an action is considered higher rank than a second, and a third action is considered lesser than the second, that the first action can be considered higher than the third. The final component, independence, defines the fact that additional variables do not change ranking. B, C, and D all place benefit to some individuals over others that would not change depending on the individual, which is not in concordance with this theory.

A group of engineers working on signal lights for planes that may be used to guide them to runways is trying to figure out how bright the light needs to be for the pilot to notice the tower from a mile away. They adjust the brightness of the light to a test level and establish contact with an oncoming pilot. The pilot claims he can't see the light while he's a mile away from the tower. What would this be called in terms of Signal Detection Theory?

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Answer Explanation: (A)
Signal Detection Theory deals with the expectation of a signal and the corresponding reality that it is accurately perceived. Hit and miss describe reactions by the observer when the stimulus is present. False alarm (false positive) and correct rejection describe reactions by the observer when the stimulus is absent.

An individual comes to the clinic for an initial evaluation and to begin treatment. The patient was born as a 46-year-old man named XY, but she identifies as a woman. She/Her are her preferred pronouns. Furthermore, she is only sexually active with females. What would you use to characterize this person's gender and sexual orientation?

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Answer Explanation: (B)
Gender discussions are becoming increasingly important in the field of medicine as of late. In order to appropriately address this, these definitions have become more important. Gender is spoken of in relation to what biological sex the infant has, whereas sexual orientation is described in relation to the individual’s identified gender.

Samantha is a college student who is working with her therapist to improve her self-esteem and self-efficacy. After three months of counseling, she has observed a significant improvement in her capacity to handle problems. Which of the following is NOT an approach her therapist would recommend for increasing her sense of self-efficacy?

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Answer Explanation: (A)
Self-efficacy correlates most closely to a person’s sense of ability within a specific set of tasks. The four known ways to improve self-efficacy are mastery of experience, social modeling, social persuasion, and psychological responses. Avoiding tasks, however, is an indication of weak self-efficacy.

A scientist conducting research on hearing aids fitted 30 mice with the newest technology after they were genetically changed to lose their hearing and were tested to press a lever when they heard a bell. This was set to a range of power levels. Twenty mice pressed the lever at 80% power. 15 mice pressed the lever at 70 percent power. Ten mice pressed the lever with 60 percent power. Which of the following is the absolute threshold for hearing the decibels produced by the bell?

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Answer Explanation: (B)
This question rests exclusively on the knowledge of what defines the absolute threshold of sensation, which is when 50% of the time, the stimulus is recorded. In this question, with the information given, that would mean the power setting that would allow 15 mice to observe the sound of the bell. Below this would be subliminal.

Tom is a nationally recognized cellist who has recently accepted a scholarship to play in the orchestra at a prominent university. He was handed a package of sheet music during the summer to master by the fall semester. When it comes to his work, Tom is a perfectionist. He constantly compares himself to better musicians and is quite critical of himself when a section of one of his pieces is not mastered. Which of the following statements most accurately describes Tom?

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Answer Explanation: (B)
It is important to remember for these questions that self-efficacy refers to a specific task, whereas self-esteem refers to the respect one has for themselves. Perfectionists, especially those who are known to be hard on themselves, often have an internal locus of control, blaming themselves for failures.

New York City has a population of nearly 7 million people from all walks of life. Although the city has its own distinct qualities, there are various smaller districts, mainly clusters of people of the same nationality who follow the customs of their previous home country. For example, greeting individuals with cheek kisses is still usual in Little Italy, a small village within the city. What kind of phenomenon is this an example of?

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Answer Explanation: (B)
The definitions of these terms are very close together, which make their distinctions important to know to answer questions. In order for customs to be considered counterculture, they must go against norms of the larger area within which they are encapsulated. For a custom to be considered a microculture, it must not be long enough to exist throughout a lifetime. Culture lag can commonly be mixed with retained customs, but it is important to know that lag refers to practices that are outdated by the newer form. Cheek kisses do not go against any of New York’s traditions, so it would just fall under subculture.

On a weekday, a psychology study was set up directly outside the gym on a college campus. Chocolate chip cookies were handed out directly outside the door, and a sign was posted 15 feet down the hall asking visitors to avoid taking the stairs, forcing them to walk around in a longer corridor. Apart from the warning, there were no obstacles to accessing the stairs. The results showed that those who accepted a sweet from the platter were twice as likely to use the longer hallway than those who rejected. What psychological notion is this an illustration of?

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Answer Explanation: (A)
This question tests the concept of ego depletion. Ego depletion is the theory that self control is an exhaustible resource, and that, in individuals who are tested on their self control, they will be less and less likely to resist temptations in sequential order. In this study, the students who refused the cookie then had less self control to avoid using the stairs.

David is a senior in high school who aspires to be an engineer. He scores a F on his first test in calculus II sophomore year. Which of the following reactions to this experience would indicate that David is more likely to improve in future exams?

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Answer Explanation:
This question focuses on the differences between internal and external locus of control. People with internal locus of control blame outcomes on their personal efforts and abilities, while those with an external locus of control contributes outcomes to fate or forces beyond their control. People with an internal locus of control tend to have more success following failures.

To survive, humans need a lot of help from the outside world. Without water, air, and other essentials, no one can survive. Thankfully, the human brain is programmed to seek out these resources as they become exhausted, preventing injury to the individual. However, the downside is that they can provide too much incentive and hence become a source of temptation. Which of the following statements best describes when a desire has turned into a temptation?

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Answer Explanation:
Desires become temptations when they conflict with longer-term goals in order to satisfy short-term desires. A, C, and D are all desires that improve the individual’s long term outcome. Only A sacrifices the long-term goal for the short term.

A wrestler seeking to lose weight for a December competition sets a goal of losing 30 pounds in two months. Which of the following is NOT an effective way to limit his caloric intake?

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Answer Explanation: (A)
This question tests not only the knowledge of how to resist temptations, but will also be a very useful concept when dealing with patients making lifestyle changes. Changing environment (B) is a very effective way to remove normal temptations. Likewise, operant conditioning, whether through reinforcement (C) or punishment (D), is an effective method of retraining the brain. One of the known detrimental methods of training is deprivation, which is the denial of a temptation without any substitute. This will lead to increased temptation.

A young child is taken to a psychologist to have their home circumstances evaluated. The mother is on one side and the psychologist is on the other while the child is placed in the middle of the floor. The mother then departs for a brief while before returning. Which of the following would be a red flag during this assessment?

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Answer Explanation: (D)
Secure attachment is an indication of a healthy home environment. During this classic experiment, children will often explore the room before the mother leaves, become distressed when they leave, and then will be seeking consolation upon their return. The key to identifying insecure attachment is the inability to console the child upon the mother’s return, or avoidance of the parent upon return. These are concerning signs of the home environment, as insecure attachment forms the basis of adult relationships in the future.

Vygotsky's sociocultural development theory tries to explain the relationship between the mental functions that children are born with and how they develop into adulthood. The zone of proximal development is a key component of this. Which of the following statements best defines a person in the proximal development zone?

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Answer Explanation: (C)
The zone of proximal development refers specifically to the area where an individual cannot do a task without help, but can perform it if given instruction and encouragement from a skilled partner (known in Vygotsky’s terms as a “more knowledgeable other). In order to satisfy the criteria for this area, the task must be initially unachievable, but within reach if an individual with more knowledge helps.

A young woman visits the clinic because she believes her "heart is racing." Her pulse is within normal limits when measured. During the conversation, you learn that she is frequently concerned about a variety of issues. In fact, she can't recall a time when she didn't have some event replaying in her mind. She acknowledges that she seeks out relationships to boost her self-esteem and that she stays in them for far too long because she is afraid of being alone. What personality type does this person belong to?

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Answer Explanation: (D)
The quick mnemonic for remembering the clusters of personality disorders in order is Weird, Wild, and Worried. Cluster A (Weird) follows typical people who have thoughts or beliefs about the world that seem almost mystical. Cluster B (Wild) consists of people who have outbursts of socialization as part of their personality, whether it be in risky behaviors, emotional outbursts, or an inflated sense of self-importance. Cluster C (Worried) are the anxiety-inducing disorders (OCD, avoidant, dependent). This young woman falls under the dependent personality disorder type, as she actively seeks out relationships to calm her worries.

A young man working with a therapist to become more productive is sharing many of his ambitions as he grew up, as well as how he believes they have affected him. The therapist believes the young man's development is trapped in a stage that is reflected in his failure to maintain his residence clean, based on his discernment. What stage of psychosexual development would this young man be fixated on, according to Freud's theory?

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Answer Explanation: (C)
Although Freud’s theories are mostly considered outdated, they form the foundation of psychotherapy as it stands today and thus are considered test material. Freud’s theory implicated lack of developmental stages that can manifest in adult fixations. Those stuck in the oral stage tend to smoke or bite nails. Those stuck in the anal stage are either overly orderly or cannot keep their homes clean (hint: remember anal people are concerned with cleanliness). The phallic stage, if impacted, manifests as sexual dysfunction. The last two stages are considered adult stages and do not necessarily manifest with fixations if impacted.

A patient arrives at the emergency room very disturbed. They're acting irrationally and insisting they need medication or "terrible things" will happen if they don't. What is the most likely status of the dopamine system in this patient?

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Answer Explanation: (A)
This question comes off much like a biology question, but is actually a first-level derivative of a psychology/behavior question testing the concept of tolerance. Long-time stimulant drug users have excessive amounts of dopamine in the synaptic cleft due to inhibition of re-uptake. Because of this, the body responds by decreasing the amount of available receptors. This leads to tolerance, or the individual needing more drug to maintain the same level of physiological response. A person in withdrawal likely has a high tolerance built up over an extended period of drug use.

One day, while doing treatments in his clinic, a dentist is summoned to the front desk to resolve a conflict between one of his patients and the receptionist. The patient is a middle-aged businessman who is upset and making a disturbance because he was told he would have to visit a dental hygienist rather than a dentist. The patient screams angrily that he earns far too much money to be treated by an inexperienced colleague. The clerk informs the dentist that the patient was 40 minutes late for his appointment and that the hygienist was now the only available appointment time.The patient retaliates by saying that his time is more valuable than everyone else's. What type of personality problem do you think this patient has?

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Answer Explanation: (A)
The quick mnemonic for remembering the clusters of personality disorders in order is Weird, Wild, and Worried. Cluster A (Weird) follows typical people who have thoughts or beliefs about the world that seem almost mystical. Cluster B (Wild) consists of people who have outbursts of socialization as part of their personality, whether it be in risky behaviors, emotional outbursts, or an inflated sense of self-importance. Cluster C (Worried) are the anxiety-inducing disorders (OCD, avoidant, dependent). This man likely is exhibiting narcissistic personality disorder (Cluster B), which is almost always given in the stem as someone who blames others for faults and demands the very best of treatment.

What is the first stage of cognitive development, according to Piaget?

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The correct answer is C:
Explanation:
This stage is a period of rapid cognitive growth which occurs from 0 to 2 years. The other options are later stages.

According to the James-Lange Emotion Theory __.

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The correct answer is C:
Explanation:
The named theory states that physiological changes can have an effect on one’s emotions. Another theory, the Schachter and Singer one, suggests that it is our?thinking about?these changes that produces emotions.

Which stimulus has the most impact on circadian rhythms?

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The correct answer is A:
Explanation:
Circadian rhythms are the bodily changes which follow a 24 hour cycle in response to changes in light levels.

What part of the brain is in charge of speech?

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The correct answer is C:
Explanation:
Broca’s Area is located in the frontal lobe of the left hemisphere and controls speech production.

Which memory category would explicit memory fall into?

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The correct answer is A:
Explanation:
Explicit memory is the conscious memory of information and experiences.

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