MP 43 : Breaking Down MCAT Psychology Discrete Questions

Session 43

Did you know that there is biology on the psychology section of the MCAT? I didn't either! Check out our latest episode to learn more about the psych section.

If you're listening to this before June 4, 2017, text BOOKGIVEAWAY to 44222 and get a chance to win one of 50 copies of he Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview.

In this episode, Bryan and I are diving into some Psychology questions on the new MCAT and how to best answer them.

[01:40] Sensation and Perception

Question #18: An object viewed in full sunlight can be seen to have several shades running from light blue on the left side of the object through teal to light green on the right side of the object. Viewed in moonlight, the same object appears, a uniform grey. This is due to:

  1. An increased activation of the optic nerve due to sympathetic upregulation
  2. The decreased light sensitivity of cones relative to rods
  3. The increased night vision image clarity created by the phobia
  4. The stereo optic vision created by having two front-facing eyes

[02:35] A Psychology Question?

Remember that perception and sensation are considered psychology and the psych section of the MCAT does include 5% bio questions and another 5% that the AAMC has specifically called out as psychology questions but sound like bio. Just remember that even the psych section of the MCAT has almost 10% of its questions that feel like biology especially around sensation.

[03:13] C for Cones, Rods for Night Vision

The correct answer here is choice B. At night, everything looks grey because you're looking with your rods and in full bright daylight, everything looks colored because of your cones.

Answer choice B talks about sympathetic upregulation that involves being in fight or flight mode. Choice C talks about the phobia creating increased night vision but it's actually the exact opposite. The phobia is your hyper-detailed bright light vision which is the most precise part of the eye that requires the most light. Choice D which is stereo optic vision is just the way to see in 3-D by having your two eyes pointing forward.

[04:10] Projection

Question #29: A young boy begs his parents to let him get a puppy. He wants to show his parents that he's growing up and he can handle the responsibility of training the puppy. For several weeks after getting the puppy, the boy has great difficulty training the dog to urinate outside or do the basic tricks. When he becomes frustrated, the boy repeatedly calls the dog a dumb little baby and a bad boy who can't be trusted. Psychoanalytic theory would assert that the boy's yelling demonstrates:

  1. Projection
  2. An oedipal issue
  3. Repression
  4. Transference

[04:45] Bryan’s Insights

Answer choice A. Projection is the right answer. The boy is afraid of being seen as immature. He wants to seem like a grownup who can handle training his puppy and so he yells at the puppy that the it's a dumb little baby and so he's projecting his insecurity onto the puppy.

The oedipal complex is the classic Freudian theory of early psychosexual development that involves the relationship with the mother. Repression is choosing not to think about an unpleasant thought. Transference is when you take feelings from one source and transferring it over to another source. An example of transference is when in therapy where the patient starts to view the therapist as the parent. As the patient works through whatever Freudian issues they have related to their parent, they start to see their doctor that way.

[06:06] Group Polarization

Question: A group of six likely voters are gathered in a conference room. All six people have voted for conservative political candidates in the past. They're asked to discuss three possible candidates, Candidate A who is a liberal, Candidate B who is a middle-of-the-road conservative, and Candidate C who is very strongly conservative. At the end of the discussion, the six voters are asked to cast a ballot for their choice. Which candidate would likely receive the most votes?

  1. An even split with no plurality
  2. Candidate A
  3. Candidate B
  4. Candidate C

[06:50] Bryan’s Insights

The correct answer is choice D. Bryan says there are times you can get the right answer and would really feel good about it and get it right for like 75% of the right reason but you should still be reviewing every question you do. Because even on the questions you get right and thought were easy, there could still be a good takeaway point from there. The takeaway point here is that you need to remember the phrase group polarization.

As I would have suggested, it's about consistency. This explains the “foot in the door” phenomenon and a whole series of phenomenon. But Bryan explains that specifically for this group of six conservative voters, if you put them all in a room together and ask them to discuss possible candidates, the group will end up even becoming more polarized. So if this was a group full of middle-of-the-road conservatives, by the end of the discussion, they're all going to talk themselves into wanting the really extreme conservative candidate.

This isn't just in the political context but this goes for anything. Put a group of people together and they will talk themselves into a more polarized position.

[09:10] Review The Questions You Got Right

Another takeaway here is to review the questions you got wrong and the questions you got right and find out why they're right. Maybe you got right answer because you just got lucky.

Bryan adds that the conundrum especially comes up with the “I got it down to two” phenomenon where people always think I got it down to to and I always got it wrong. Yes, true, because you didn't review the ones you got right. If you reviewed the ones you got right, you would see a bunch of times you got it down to two and got it right. Therefore, you've got to review every single question.

[10:00] Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Reasoning

Question #56: Steve is instructed by his boss to forge a document. Steve knows this is against company policy and possibly against the law but he's afraid he might lose his job if he doesn't comply. Under Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development, what stage is Steven if he decides to forge the document.

  1. Pre-operational
  2. Pre-conventional
  3. Post-conventional
  4. Concrete operational

[10:30] Bryan’s Insights

Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Reasoning are important for the MCAT so you have to know them. The first thing you want to do is to eliminate pre-operational and concrete operational because those don't refer to moral development but to Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development. For example, infants are pre-operational and school children are concrete operational.

Now we're down to choices B and C. Steve is behaving with his morality being determined by fear of punishment and this is something that generally guides children. the correct answer here is B. Pre-conventional. With Kohlberg's moral reasoning, the pre-conventional stages are the way children reason about what they should do in moral situations like don't get caught or don't get punished.

The conventional stages of moral reasoning are like what does a good little girl do or what does a good boy do. You have to obey the law. It doesn't matter what the law says, you just obey it.

More highly educated adults will eventually develop into post-conventional moral reasoning where they follow universal moral principles rather than following a law just because it's a law.

[12:37] Next Step Test Prep

Check out what Next Step Test Prep is doing in the test prep world! They have a course with over 100 hours of videos, access to all 10 full-length practice tests, and all the AAMC testing material. Also get access to five live office hours every week. Get all this all for a price significantly less than what other test prep companies are offering. Go to www.nextstepmcat.com and use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money on their MCAT course.

Links:

Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money.)

Text BOOKGIVEAWAY to 44222 and get a chance to win one of 50 copies of The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview.

Transcript

Introduction

Dr. Ryan Gray: The MCAT Podcast, session number 43.

A collaboration between the Medical School Headquarters and Next Step Test Prep, The MCAT Podcast is here to make sure you have the information you need to succeed on your MCAT test day. We all know that the MCAT is one of the biggest hurdles you face as a premed, and we’re here to give you the motivation and information you need to know to help you get the score you deserve so you can one day call yourself a medical student.

Welcome to The MCAT Podcast, I am glad you're here. If you are listening to this before June 4, 2017, text ‘BOOKGIVEAWAY,' that's all one word, ‘BOOKGIVEAWAY' to 44222 for your chance to win one of fifty copies of my book, ‘The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview.'

Today we have a great episode all about psychology.

Alright Bryan, so we've covered a lot of sciences lately, and we've been covering some other logistics for the MCAT. The thing that I think a lot of students are worried about with this new MCAT, or as we're recording this it's starting to get a little old now too, but the newer MCAT is the addition of psychology and how to best study for that, and how to best answer these questions. So let's go ahead and dive into some psychology questions today.

Bryan Schnedeker: Yeah, absolutely. So as always when we're doing questions, you want to pull that handout down from the website. We'll read them out together here but it would be good if you could follow along with the handout. Unless you're driving of course.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Unless you're driving.

Psychology Question #1

Bryan Schnedeker: Okay so let's start with number 18 here. Ryan, you want to give us number 18?

Dr. Ryan Gray: Sure. ‘An object viewed in full sunlight can be seen to have several shades running from the light blue on the left side of the object through teal to light green on the right side of the object. Viewed in moonlight, the same object appears a uniform gray. This is due to: A) An increased activation of the optic nerve due to sympathetic upregulation. B) The decreased light sensitivity of cones relative to rods. C) The increased night vision image clarity created by the fovea. D) The stereo optic vision created by having two front facing eyes.

Bryan Schnedeker: Okay Ryan, so looks colored in the daytime, and in dim moonlight looks all kind of like a gray blob.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah.

Bryan Schnedeker: What are you thinking?

Dr. Ryan Gray: Well I know this one, but how is this psych? That's what I want to know.

Bryan Schnedeker: Well we want to remember that perception and sensation are considered psychology, and the psych section of the MCAT does include 5% bio questions and another 5% that the AAMC has specifically called out as psych questions but they sound kind of like bio. You know the AAMC said it better than that, but really we want to remember that even the psych section of the MCAT has almost 10% of its questions that are going to feel an awful lot like biology, especially around sensation.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Interesting. I'm glad I asked then. So I think this one is B, the decreased light sensitivity to cones relative to rods.

Bryan Schnedeker: Absolutely. We want to remember cones, the C for cones and C for color.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Color, yeah.

Bryan Schnedeker: Right, yeah and then rods for night vision. So at night everything looks kind of gray because you're looking with your rods, and then in full bright daylight, everything looks colored because of your cones. So absolutely important thing to know. Answer choice A mentioned the sympathetic upregulation. We have no reason to think that this person is fight or flight mode. C said there was night vision created by the fovea, that's the exact opposite. The fovea is for your hyper-detailed bright light vision, right? That most sensitive part of the eye- or I'm sorry, the most precise part of the eye that requires the most light. And stereo optic vision is just a way to see in 3D by having your two eyes pointing forward.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. Alright, I got one right finally, Bryan.

Psychology Question #2

Bryan Schnedeker: Fantastic, yeah. Alright let's take a look at 29. So we've got a little story here. ‘A young boy begs his parents to let him get a puppy. He wants to show his parents that he's grown up and can handle the responsibility of training the puppy. For several weeks after getting the puppy, the boy has great difficulty training the dog to urinate outside or to do basic tricks. When he becomes frustrated the boy repeatedly calls the dog a dumb little baby and a bad boy who can't be trusted. Psychoanalytic theory would assert that the boy's yelling demonstrates: Projection. An oedipal issue. Repression. Or transference. So Ryan, what are you thinking?

Dr. Ryan Gray: I think this is projection, but I don't know.

Bryan Schnedeker: Yeah no, absolutely projection.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Woo hoo!

Bryan Schnedeker: The boy is afraid of being seen as immature, right? He wants to seem like a grown-up who can handle training his puppy, and so he yells at the puppy that the puppy is a dumb little baby. So he's projecting his insecurity onto the puppy, right?

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah.

Bryan Schnedeker: The oedipal complex is that classic kind of Freudian theory about the relationship with the mother in very early psycho-sexual development. Repression is just choosing not to think about an unpleasant thought. And transference is just when you take feelings from one source and transfer it over to another source. The classic case where MCAT students should be aware of transference is in therapy where the patient will start to view the therapist kind of as the parent, like as the patient works through whatever Freudian issues they have related to their parent. They start to see their doctor that way, and that's a transference of those feelings.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So I'm assuming that when students miss this one they're usually picking transference.

Bryan Schnedeker: Yeah, absolutely. You have to be clear on the difference between those two for sure.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay, I'm two for two.

Bryan Schnedeker: Excellent. Alright you want to give us 30?

Psychology Question #3

Dr. Ryan Gray: Sure. ‘A group of six likely voters are gathered in a conference room. All six people have voted for conservative political candidates in the past. They are asked to discuss three possible candidates. Candidate A who is a liberal, candidate B who is a middle-of-the-road conservative, and candidate C who is very strongly conservative. At the end of the discussion the six voters are asked to cast the ballot for their choice. Which candidate would likely receive the most votes?' A) An even split with no plurality. B) Candidate A. C) Candidate B. Or D) Candidate C.

So if all six voters have voted for conservative political candidates in the past, I know that from psychology- and this is from reading business books actually, that once you make one choice you're likely to continue to make that next choice the same because you want to be viewed as having the same- like maintaining the same thought. So I'm going to say they're going to- I'll pick the strong, strong conservative with answer choice D here.

Bryan Schnedeker: Okay excellent Ryan, so they will choose the strong conservative, which was answer choice D. And I like the way you said that, because that brings up a point we get to talk about, which is there are times when you can get the right answer, and feel really good about the right answer, and get it right for like 75% of the right reason, but you still should be reviewing every question you ever do because even on questions that you get right and that you thought were easy, there could still be a good learning in there, a good takeaway point. And so Ryan, the takeaway point here for us, even though we got it right, is we have to remember the phrase ‘group polarization.' So you had suggested it was about consistency, like a kind of self-consistency, and that actually explains- oh I guess that explains foot in the door phenomenon, and it explains a whole series of phenomenon, but specifically this group of six conservative voters, if you put them all in a room together and ask them to discuss possible candidates, the group will end up becoming even more polarized. So even if this was a group full of mostly middle-of-the-road conservatives, by the end of their group discussion, they're going to all talk themselves into wanting the really extreme conservative candidate. And I mean it's a political context, but this goes for anything. You put a group of people together and they will talk themselves into a more polarized position.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah and we're kind of in that day in age now where we call them these silos online, the echo chambers as they're called.

Bryan Schnedeker: Right yeah, people don't even have to have that- it's not like everybody who's watching Cronkite anymore, right? Sociologically everybody's just kind of polarizing within themselves.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah and I like your point of using that information, that how I came to the answer may not be the right way to get to the answer, and so your point about as you review the MCAT, review the questions you got wrong and the questions you got right, and find out why they're right. And maybe you got the right answer because you just got lucky.

Bryan Schnedeker: Absolutely. It's that classic- the conundrum especially comes up with the ‘I got it down to two' phenomenon, where people always think, ‘I got it down to two and I always get it wrong.' It's like yeah, because you didn't review the ones you got right. If you reviewed the ones you got right you would see a bunch of times where you got it down to two and got it right. So you've got to review every single question.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So I think the biggest takeaway is I would crush the psych section of the MCAT.

Bryan Schnedeker: Absolutely. Well we do have one more, so you're three for three, let's go on- yeah this a two pager.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright.

Bryan Schnedeker: So let's go to question 56. I'll read this one.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright.

Psychology Question #4

Bryan Schnedeker: ‘Steven's instructed by his boss to a forge a document. Steve knows that this is against company policy and possibly against the law, but he's afraid he may lose his job if he doesn't comply. Under Kohlberg's stages of moral development, what stage is Steve in if he decides to forge the document? Pre-operational. Pre-conventional. Post-conventional. Concrete operational.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah I have no clue.

Bryan Schnedeker: We're going to break your streak here?

Dr. Ryan Gray: You're going to break my streak but I'll take 75% any day.

Bryan Schnedeker: Yeah okay well you've got to guess, right? I mean the MCAT does reward luck as anything else.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright so I'm going to go with the tried and true, if you don't know, pick C.

Bryan Schnedeker: There you go.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Post-conventional.

Bryan Schnedeker: Well it would be wrong. Okay so batting 750 is still pretty good. So the Kohlberg's stages of moral reasoning are definitely important for the MCAT, got to know them. The first thing that the student would want to do is eliminate pre-operational and concrete operational because that actually refers- that doesn't refer to moral development. That refers to Piaget's stages of cognitive development. So little children, infants are pre-operational. School children from about five to twelve roughly are concrete operational, and so on. So Kohlberg is pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional. So it's definitely B or C. And Steve is behaving with his morality being determined by fear of punishment. And this is something that generally guides children, so that would be pre-conventional. With Kohlberg's moral reasoning, broadly speaking, the pre-conventional stages are the way that children reason about what they should do in moral situations. Don't get caught, don't be punished. The conventional stages of moral reasoning are just kind of getting along with other people. So what does a good little girl do? What does a good boy do? Or you have to obey the law. It doesn't matter what the law says, you just obey it and that's conventional moral reasoning.

And then adults, especially more highly educated adults, will eventually develop into what's called post-conventional moral reasoning where they follow universal moral principles rather than following the law just because it's the law.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright. Sounds useful and now I'll know it.

Bryan Schnedeker: And you'll get a phenomenal score on the psych section on the MCAT.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Awesome. Alright I hope that was helpful for you. Learning about psychology, breaking down those discrete questions, understanding that biology is considered psychology, especially with the sensation and the other stuff that Bryan talked about why that's included in psychology.

Kind of fooled me in that first question, but I got it right anyway. I hope you did too, and I hope you join us next week here at The MCAT Podcast.

But before you go, don't forget to check out what Next Step Test Prep is doing in the test prep world. Did you know they have a course with over 100 hours of videos, access to all ten of their full lengths, access to all of the AAMC testing material, access to five office hours- five live office hours every week, all four priced significantly less than what Kaplan and Princeton Review offer their courses for.

Go check out www.NextStepMCAT.com, use the promo code MCATPOD, that's all one word MCATPOD all capital letters to save some money on their MCAT course.

Have a great week, we'll see you next time here at The MCAT Podcast.

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