Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Passage 1

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Session 134

As always, I am joined by Clara from Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep), and we are diving into the last section of the MCAT here on Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) Full Length 10, psych/soc passage one.

You aren’t going to see as many acronyms and protein and enzyme names and really academic journal type details in a psych/soc passage. But in terms of what you should pay attention to and highlight or take notes on, almost all psych/soc passages follow this sort of formula where they usually do involve an experiment. This is usually toward the end of the passage, but they usually also have a paragraph or maybe two paragraphs of more informational content.

And then in the second part where it mentions the experiment or experiments, that’s where you want to just pay really close attention to how the experiment was designed, whether they mentioned anything that could be a potential flaw, like they mention a control group and the control group sounds really small, or something like that.

[02:55] Passage 1

Family psychologists have employed communication theory to examine the meta communication within families. Communication between two individuals has two levels of communication: the stated content and meta communication.

Stated content is the manifestation of the message – what can be concretely observed in the speaker’s communication. Meta communication is the aspect of the message that is latent. For example, “My husband is always watching TV” carried the stated content that the spouse believes their husband watches too much TV. The meta communication may be that their husband does not make enough time for them.

A type of communication that has been linked with the development of pathology is a double bind. In a double bind, two messages are related but conflicting on different levels. The conflicting messages in a double bind prohibit escape and leave the recipient of the message with no satisfactory outcome.

An example of a double bind is a mother who encourages a child to display affection, but when the child does so, she rejects the child as being too demonstrative. When the child withdraws, the mother then says, “Don’t you love me anymore?” The child is unable to resolve the situation and feels frustrated and helpless. After frequent exposure to these patterns, the recipient of the double bind comes to perceive his environment as containing double binds exclusively. Then the initiation of any part of the double bind pattern. For example, a person displaying affection towards the child above – likely invokes rage within the recipient of the double bind.

To assess the relationship between dysfunctional communication and schizophrenia, researchers evaluated the number of double bind statements in one day in families with a child with schizophrenia and families without a child of schizophrenia.  The figure presents the average number of double bind statements per family type.

Figure description: Basically, it has the number of double bind statements on the Y axis, and then on the X axis, it shows a child with schizophrenia versus a child without. We can see that there are many, many more double blind statements, about six times as many in the family with a child with schizophrenia. And the caption is Average Number of Double Bind Statements in Families.

Clara’s insights:

Most passages are similar to this in a lot of ways. In terms of being informational on the first part, and the second part being more experiment-based. This pattern that you pointed out can also happen where the very beginning is very broad. So the very beginning is talking about communication, mentions this meta communication, and then it dives much deeper into this one specific type of really meta communication.

Basically, questions could come from any part of this passage even if the first paragraph could be an unrelated intro.

[06:24] Question 1

According to the results of the study, which is the figure one, how do double binds influence the development of schizophrenia?

(A) double binds lead to a higher occurrence of schizophrenia.

(B) double binds lead to a lower occurrence of schizophrenia.

(C) schizophrenia leads to a higher occurrence of double binds.

(D) it is not possible to determine the influence of double binds on the development of schizophrenia.

Clara’s insights:

This is a very easy trap that humans in general fall into because we could be too lazy that we just try to look at the chart, assuming that correlation must equal causation. So children with schizophrenia, or households that have a child with schizophrenia have a much higher rate of double binds. Now you assume it must cause higher occurrence of schizophrenia. But we don’t know that. We don’t know what’s causing it, so it would be D.

This is what a lot of students miss and a lot of students pick either A or C, where double binds either lead to higher occurrence of schizophrenia or schizophrenia leads to a higher occurrence of double binds. But we have no idea which of those is true.

So this is reading comprehension stuff, which is very important on the MCAT, and not reading into the passage too much, and what is being told. If it doesn’t specifically say the research found that schizophrenia led to a higher occurrence of double binds, you don’t know that, and you can’t infer that at all.

[08:05] Question 2

From what theoretical orientations are the concepts of double bind communication and displacement respectively derived?

(A) systems theory and psychodynamic theory.

(B) cognitive behavioral theory and systems theory.

(C) humanistic theory and psychodynamic theory.

(D) systems theory and neurobehavioral theory.

Clara’s insights:

This is actually a really hard question because the theoretical orientations. These are sort of psychological psychology perspectives essentially, or sociological perspectives.

A good way to approach this is to start with displacement, which is the second of the two things mentioned, because double bind communication, that was something that was just now introduced in the passage.

Now, you might have to go back to the passage and try to figure out where this originated. We don’t know anything about it. Whereas displacement was never mentioned in the passage at all. So it must be something we need to know from our science knowledge.

Displacement is basically a Freudian concept, particularly one of Freud’s ego defense mechanisms where, essentially, if we displace an emotion, it’s like we have this emotion that we don’t think we can express because it comes from some place that we think it’s morally wrong or something. For instance, we have this aggressive emotion, and we displace it into something more socially acceptable. Like I’m really aggressive so I’m going to displace it into being good at football. Long story short, that’s Freudian, and whenever you see Freud, you always want to think psychodynamic theory.

In this case, there are two psychodynamics: systems theory and psychodynamic theory.

You can get to that point almost most easily by process of elimination because the other option C had humanistic theory as the first option, and humanistic theory is very closely related to self-actualization, like realizing your full potential, and that has nothing to do with this passage.

Then Neurobehavioral would be really closely related to basically our underlying neurology essentially, and then how that impacts behavior. This could seem a little bit broad and nebulous, but Freud sort of stands in a category of itself, which is how they made this question a little bit easier. Because all of the perspectives kind of overlap everything that’s related to behavior. However, as soon as you see it’s Freudian, then you’re safe.

[11:47] Question 3

What is an example of meta communication by a teacher that might lead to a double bind when paired with the statement, “You students should participate in class more.

(A) making the statement with happy affect.

(B) providing consequences for not answering questions.

(C) getting angry when students ask questions.

(D) the teacher feeling frustration and scolding students.

Clara’s insights:

Making the statement with a happy affect doesn’t make sense. Providing consequences for not answering questions doesn’t make sense. C, getting angry when students ask questions, now that makes sense. And then the teacher feeling frustration and scolding students.

Outside of the actual “why she’s getting angry” doesn’t make sense for the double bind, so C is the correct answer. A double bind is where the student feels very conflicted because they’re being told to do one thing, being punished, and having a negative result as a result from doing it. And C, getting angry when they actually ask questions is perfect.

[13:58] Question 4

How might the results of the study relate with the stress diathesis model to explain schizophrenia?

(A) subthreshold schizophrenic traits elicit inefficient communication in families.

(B) stress in families builds until it is released in double bind communication.

(C) an underlying biological propensity for schizophrenia is activated by conflictual communication.

(D) given enough inefficient communication, anyone can develop schizophrenia.

Clara’s insights:

Sometimes, you are going to see these terms where you don’t know what they mean, and there’s not much you can do about it then. In this case, you have to go with what seems like it is in line with what they’re saying.

The dress diathesis model is almost exactly what they’re saying in C, and basically that model says that in some people, they have this underlying biological propensity towards developing a condition.

So maybe certain people have genetic propensities toward developing schizophrenia, but they don’t necessarily develop it unless those propensities are sort of activated by environmental triggers. Hence, the correct answer here is C, where we have this underlying biological propensity for schizophrenia is activated by this environmental thing of conflictual communication is perfect.

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