Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Psych/Soc Discrete 3

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SS 200: Inside Molecular Pathology With an MD/PHD

Session 239

Dorothy and I take on Psych/Soc discrete 3 on the Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1 and discuss experimental design, neurology, operant conditioning, and more.

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

[01:57] Tips for Answering Discretes

Dorothy reminds students to read the discrete questions very carefully since you don’t have a passage to fall back on. And as you’re reading carefully, make sure you can rephrase the question stem and the answer choices as needed so you really understand what you’re answering. 

'Everything you need to answer that discrete question is really in the question stem itself.'Click To Tweet

Don’t go too fast because you don’t want to accidentally choose the wrong answer. Again, read the entire answer choice, read the whole question stem, and don’t let yourself lose points on these discrete questions.

[02:41] Question 44

An experiment is arranged in which participants spend 10 seconds, 20 seconds, or 30 seconds looking at a large, complex image. The image is then removed and replaced with a second image which is identical except for one small change. Researchers then measure how long the subjects look at the new image before finding the change. In this scenario, the independent variable is:

  1. whether the subjects ever find the change.
  2. the time spent looking for the change.
  3. the size and prominence of the change.
  4. the time spent looking at the original image.

Thought Process:

Knowing the definitions takes time and definitely takes practice, but once you know them, it’s straightforward. Here, you have to go back to your knowledge here about independent versus dependent variables.

'Psych/Soc – that's where all the free all the free points are because you just got to know the definitions, and it should be pretty straightforward.'Click To Tweet

Independent is something you manipulate in your research experiment. In this case, they’re saying you watch for 10 seconds, then for 20 seconds, and 30 seconds. It’s one of the manipulations that the experiment is doing. And so, this is an independent variable because it’s something that’s being manipulated.

In some ways, the image itself that is being changed is somewhat independent but it’s not a true independent variable because it’s not something that we’re told changes. But it is a feature of the experiment so it’s definitely related.

Dependent variable is something that you measure. Here, they’re measuring the time to find the new change, which is B. So B is a dependent variable. And D, the time spent looking at the original thing is your independent variable because that is the 10, 20, and 30 seconds.

Getting to Know the Other Variables

Other variables you need to familiarize with are confounding variables, mediating variables and moderating variables.

A confounding variable is something that affects both that independent and dependent variable. So it affects both the starting thing and the measured thing. By adding more controls, you can address a lot of those confounding variables.

A mediating variable is that which mediates between the independent and dependent variables. It’s like a mediator who’s the person in between two people trying to talk things out. And so, a mediating variable explains the mechanism through which x influences y and why the relationship is there.

A moderating variable is a little different. While a mediating variable asks why, a modern variable asks how much. For instance, if there’s a link between workplace stress and anxiety and depression, you could introduce a moderating variable like yoga and exercise to decrease or increase the strength of that relationship between stress and anxiety.

Correct Answer: D

[09:18] Question 45

Two groups of cats are placed in separate rooms. Room 1 is large with lots of exercise toys and laser-pointer devices that operate automatically on timers. Room 1 cats exhibit exercise levels 350% greater than the control cats in Room 2. Cats from both rooms are then placed in a room with an electrified floor and a safe shelf while the voltage in the floor is slowly increased. Cats from Room 1 remain on the floor for 32% more time than the control cats. This suggests that exercise downregulates:

  1. baroreceptors.
  2. stretch receptors.
  3. olfactory receptors.
  4. nociceptors.

Thought Process:

You’d think this is a physiology question but psych/soc deals with sensation as well. And so, receptors are part of that. They send signals to your brain. Psychology is about the brain and how it works. And so, it can definitely be tested not only in biochem, but also in psych/soc.

Nociceptors are pain receptors and they’re definitely the ones that would make sense here. The cats exercising more have a little bit higher pain tolerance and are down regulating the nociceptors.

Correct Answer: D

[12:11] Question 46

When professors meet with individual students during office hours, they often exhibit communication styles that vary widely based on the person they’re talking to. A study found that professors speaking with minority female students were much more likely to use shorter sentences with more instructions, and to ask questions that revealed an assumption of lack of academic skill. These professors were demonstrating:

  1. prejudice.
  2. discrimination.
  3. stereotyping.
  4. egoism.

Thought Process:

C –  This is a prevalent oversimplified idea, or a set of ideas about certain groups. An example of a stereotype would be that minority females aren’t as smart. But in order to actually speak differently to these people, that is a behavior which is an action. Hence, it’s a discrimination.

Prejudice is an idea or attitude. Stereotype is very broad, and not specific to a certain person. Prejudice is you may have that stereotype but you’re also saying that, for instance, this person is annoying because they have this certain characteristic. So it’s like forming a negative opinion about a specific group or person or thing.

Discrimination is acting upon that. It’s a behavior or action that results from your negative attitude.

Correct Answer: B

[15:10] Question 47

A parent tells his child that if she spends an hour practicing the piano that evening, she will be allowed to skip her chores the next morning. The parent is using:

  1. positive punishment.
  2. negative punishment.
  3. positive reinforcement.
  4. negative reinforcement.

Thought Process:

Positive means you’re adding something and negative means you’re taking something away. Then the punishment piece is decreasing behavior, while reinforcement means you’re increasing the behavior.

The behavior here is practicing piano and the parent wants to increase that. And to do that, they’re going to reinforce it by taking away chores.

If it were positive reinforcement, maybe the kid would get like ice cream or something for practicing. And so, you’re adding something good.

Correct Answer: D


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