AAMC MCAT Outline: Social Structures and Human Interactions

MP 176: AAMC MCAT Outline: Social Structures and Human Interactions

Session 176

Today, we’re investigating some of the hot topics in the Pscyh/Soc section of the AAMC Content Outline Category 9-A: religious organizations, medicalization, and culture.

Joining us once again is Phil from Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep). Check out Next Step’s full-length exams, and use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[01:30] Why Take a January Test

Phil explains this has to do with your personal timeline. He had made some big mistakes while preparing for the MCAT. The semester he took the MCAT happened to be the most difficult semester of his undergrad career. In hindsight, he could have thought ahead a bit better.

He took his test in April of his Junior year and it would have made more sense for him to take it in January. At this time, he would already be prepping in the Fall semester when his life was less chaotic.

Moreover, taking the test in January means you would have more time if you need to retake it. Nobody wants this of course. But this gives you more flexibility and control under chaos. Especially, if you’re someone who likes shooting things off, shoot for an early test date.

Given the volume of information, studying over the Winter break as your MCAT prep is not long enough. This is something many students don’t understand. Studying for the MCAT is like take a whole other entire semester on top of your classes.

'The MCAT is trying to see who can deal with huge volumes of information and that takes time.'Click To Tweet

They’re preparing you for medical school because you will eventually be dealing with a huge amount of information. Prepping for the MCAT means already prepping for a larger amount of information than you probably ever tried to cram into your head at any one point. All this being said, one month is just not enough.

[04:55] Types of Religious Organizations

The MCAT is testing your knowledge in terms of definitions. What is religion? Or what makes a sect versus cult? The MCAT is trying to look at the boundaries and lines between those.

From the inside, it’s not all that different always. But the difference between these definitions from the AAMC has to deal with how society uses them.

A church is something that is accepted by society and incorporated into the society. It’s part of the fabric that makes up the societal life.

A sect is something that is culturally/society accepted but it’s not fully incorporated. Think of things like the Amish community. They do not mesh into the cultural fabric. But nobody has a problem with the Amish.

A cult is not socially accepted or incorporated. This is something that is off on its own. The society views it and frowns on it.

'Size plays into this as well.'Click To Tweet

Interestingly, if the cult just got big enough, it has to become a part of society. So this makes it a church all of a sudden. If 50% of this population is white religious organization, it can’t be a cult. It’s so large that it has to become incorporated into society.

[07:40] Medicalization

This is the idea of looking at things from a medical view. There are some things that today we consider disorders, diseases, and illnesses that 80, 100, or 200 years ago we didn’t.

One predominant example of this is ADHD. When you go back to our founding fathers, they didn’t worry about their kids being ADHD. Now, we view this differently. We’ve basically medicalized the scenario.

Alcoholism is another example of medicalization that many years ago we didn’t view it as a disease or an illness. 

You may also de-medicalize. An example of this is homosexuality. It used to be something people would get treated for or diagnosed as a disorder. Hysteria is another example.

'There are some sexual deviances that once upon a time would have been considered a disorder or a disease and maybe now aren't so much.'Click To Tweet

[09:30] Cultural Lag

Cultural lag is the idea that society technologically moves faster than people do. Society develops technology quicker and we don’t really know how to deal with this.

The best example is Facebook and its influence on elections. This is a big problem we have now. Society doesn’t really know how to deal with this five years ago. This is the idea that technology moves faster than people understand and society can keep up with it. The culture is lagging behind what’s technologically possible.

'Society at large just isn't prepared and doesn't understand the role that technology can make in society so we all lag behind.'Click To Tweet

[11:00] Examples on the MCAT: Medicalization

For medicalization, for instance, they’re not going to tread on stuff that people are going to have disagreements on. It can be talking about something that people can get confused about.

There’s the biomedical approach or the biopsychosocial approach to treating disease.

The biomedical approach is something that is biologically wrong. Then you want to get pills and fix the chemistry.

The biopsychosocial approach is more on therapy in terms of psychological and sociological interactions as the best treatment.

Both have their places. Both have been successful in certain disorders and treatments.

A lot of people tend to push more towards the biopsychosocial. It’s something that’s trickier in society. Because a pill is cheaper than therapy once a week. There is where you see a boundary for the lower class. They have trouble finding doctors who can take this biopsychosocial approach.

Then if somebody says this has to be treated with medicine, this is not medicalization. You’re very easy to get tripped up between the biomedical approach to disease and medicalization because they’re very related.

'Medicalization is viewing things as a disease that maybe we didn't view as a disease before.'Click To Tweet

[12:42] Examples on the MCAT: Church, Sect, & Cult / Culture

For the church, sect, and cult, there are going to be some examples and those are going to be three of your answer choices. You just have to figure out which one it is. Then they will have some fourth answer choice that’s a red herring they’ll throw in there.

For the culture stuff, there’s a lot of culture things that can be easily mixed up. Culture lag is this weird technologically focused one. Usually, there’s tech in the name. So it’s really easy.

If you didn’t study this, there’s no way you’d know that culture lag is actually focusing on how technology moves.

[13:45] Cultural Transmission vs Cultural Diffusion

Cultural diffusion is the spreading of culture. And America is really good or really bad at it depending on how you view it.

We do a lot of cultural diffusion especially in media, Hollywood. Not many people can name a South African movie but if you go to South Africa, everyone knows all the Marvel movies. So we export a lot of culture through this. Or if you go to South Korea, people know who Justin Bieber which is strange.

It’s not just coming from America. For example, you can get Vietnamese food in Kansas City which is not something that was possible 20 years ago.

'Culture diffusion is the spreading of culture through this geographic focus.'Click To Tweet

Cultural transmission is the movement of culture from one person to the next. It’s not necessarily spreading geographically.

Differentiating transmission and diffusion can be very tricky. Because of this, the MCAT may not ask this sort of scenario because it’s treading a line that’s confusing.

A possible scenario on the MCAT would be if they teach it to one person and then that person to Japan and starts to teach a community there. This is cultural diffusion because there’s geographic spreading.

The MCAT is not necessarily trying to trick people up. They just want you to just have good grasp on these.

[17:15] Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism

Ethnocentrism is judging a culture based on your own views. Cultural relativism is the opposite because it’s something you understand from someone else’s point of view.

If you were very ethnocentric, say you’d go to India and you’d look at people who are revering cows and wondering how that can be when they’re made into hamburgers. But if somebody ate a dog that would hurt you to the core and you’d judge them as the most evil thing one can do. But we have hamburger machines instead.

This is a very ethnocentric view where you’re judging other cultures based on your own perspective.

Cultural relativism is understanding other cultures and so they have their own viewpoint so you tend to not judge people. 

[18:40] Understanding Culture Terms

If you ever run across a question and one of these is the correct answer, you can bet that all of the other ones are going to be the incorrect answers.

Being able to pull those terms apart is the important thing. Culture lag is technology. Transmission/diffusion is spreading from one person or geographically across the globe. Ethnocentrism and cultural relativism is whether you judge people or not based on their cultures and based on yours.

[19:37] Final Thoughts

Go through these terms to really understand them. Make some flashcards. Create your own examples. Make up your own stories based on things because that stuff sticks with you so much better than definitions. Definitions don’t stick with you than stories do.

Also, the MCAT is not going to test you for definitions anyway. There are going to be scenarios. So it’s the best way to remember it.

'When you create your own examples and ties stuff to things that are part of your life and your environment, that stuff sticks with you a whole lot better.'Click To Tweet


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