Join us as we work through the Blueprint Diagnostic Psych/Soc Passage 4 and discuss the importance of critical thinking skills.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[03:49] What to Look For in an Experimental Passage
This week, we have another one of experimental, research-style passages.'It's a skill that you want to build as a student. Get better at not only knowing the content... but also reasoning through questions and answer choices.”Click To Tweet
When we’re reading this passage, we’re looking for background information, hypotheses, the methods they use, and the results. These are the things that we’re looking for in every one of the paragraphs.
[04:19] Passage 4 (Questions 19 – 23)
Perceptions of obesity and healthy body weight vary among demographic groups. Health professionals themselves are not immune to biases in how body weight is perceived. In a study of 251 psychotherapists, case studies were presented describing clients who were depicted as either obese or non-obese and either male or female. Regardless of the characteristics of the therapist, obese clients were more likely to be described as unattractive, as experiencing embarrassment, and as being kinder. While the treatment recommendations made by the psychologists were the same across all groups, male patients were more likely to be assessed as experiencing “severe impairment.”
Even though that study is presented, this is not the study we’re about to read about. This is the background. It talks about how everybody looks at obesity in a different way, and even doctors look at them in a certain way. And we want to base most of the answers on this study, not the background study. All that being said, the key thing to highlight here is the first sentence.
[07:06] Paragraph 2
Self-perception of obesity and normal weight varies tremendously by gender and race. Researchers interviewed five thousand participants between the ages of 18 and 65, assessing the participants’ body mass index (BMI) and whether they perceived themselves as overweight. The results are presented in Table 1.
Table 1 Self-perception of being overweight as a function of subject weight, race, and gender
We’re looking at 5,000 participants and we’re looking at how they perceive themselves. In the table, they have a normal BMI, but they’re giving you the percentages of patients who perceive themselves as overweight. Their self-image is not reflective of their own BMI. So they see themselves the wrong way.
They are overweight when they have a BMI of more than 25. The bottom row percentages are those that are correct about their own self-assessment so they perceive themselves correctly.
[09:20] Paragraph 3
A study following a cohort of 10,321 individuals over ten years found a significant change in the likelihood of experiencing discrimination on the basis of weight, with such discrimination being roughly as likely as discrimination on the basis of age or race. The results of the survey are shown in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1 Change in the likelihood of experiencing discrimination on the basis of various factors from 1996 to 2006
We have over 10,000 individuals over 10 years who found a significant change in the likelihood of experiencing discrimination on the basis of weight. And the discrimination was on the basis of age or race.
Discrimination here is based on gender, race, age, weight, and ethnicity. Now, here, we’re not given statistical significance. But for the weight, it has been increasing. The error bars don’t overlap. So whenever you’re not given statistical significance, you can rely on these error bars. And for weight, it looks like it significantly grew between 1996 and 2006.'When we look at data, and we see what is significant, then everything that's not significant is also interesting.'Click To Tweet
There are some questions on the MCAT called Skill 3 questions that will test you on the actual research. These are things like flaws in the research design, how the research is constructed, or the strength of the evidence used. In this case, knowing that this is actually self-assessed or self-described, then is a weakness in the research.
When you have a question about, for instance, what can you take from Figure 1? Even though it’s a survey or it might be biased by an individual, you want to answer the question based on the data in front.
[13:57] Question 19
Which of the following would be an example of an experience of discrimination on the basis of one of the categories described in Figure 1?
- A lesbian woman runs for political office in a county with a voter base that includes many religious conservatives who object to homosexuality. Her opponent, a heterosexual woman, wins the election despite being unqualified and being caught in several scandals.
- An obese woman applies for an office job with no demanding physical tasks associated with it. Despite being more qualified than the other applicant, who is not overweight, she is not hired.
- A non-obese man applies for a job working as a kindergarten teacher. Several women apply for the same job. The man is not hired because one of the women applying for the job is related to the school superintendent.
- An investigation of an adoption agency’s records demonstrates that married couples are three times more likely to be approved for adoption than unmarried women or men.
The question asks for an instance of actual discrimination and it has to be about one of the categories found in Figure 1. Answer choice B met both requirements.
A – This is about gender but it’s more of an LGBTQ issue.
C – It’s about gender but it’s more a case of nepotism than discrimination.
D – This talks about marital status which is not part of the categories in Figure 1.
Correct Answer: B
[17:20] Question 20
One study participant described overeating in response to a sense of anxiety about the state of the world, especially in relation to global climate change and the poor economy. This anxiety most closely reflects the effect of which kind of stressor?
A – Acute is something that happened today. It’s something that happens once and it’s not a continuation. So we cross this out.
B – The word “micro” refers to small things such as when someone cuts you off in traffic or the line at a coffee shop is long. These are small stressors that will make you angry during the day. So we can get rid of this too.
C – This sounds like a good answer. Global climate change and the poor economy, in general, are the current crises. But a crisis is something that needs to be bigger for it to qualify as our correct answer, such as a building falling down or a storm that happened yesterday and a tree fell. It has to directly affect the individual. That’s why we can argue that climate change or global warming and a poor economy might be a crisis for the country, but not for you, specifically, on a daily basis.
D – Ambient is like it’s around us. The person in this specific situation is not being affected directly on a daily basis. So it’s something chronic and over time. It’s around us.
Correct Answer: D
[22:35] Question 21
An overweight person attempts to lose weight by following a series of popular diet books, but he fails in each instance. Eventually, he ceases trying to lose weight and his BMI slowly increases. This situation is most specifically demonstrating which phenomenon?
Helplessness is a term that relates to self-efficacy like the belief that I can do it and I have control over it. This happens when we are exposed to the same stress over and over again. And we start believing that we cannot do it so we stop.
Behavioral extinction is when you train an individual. Usually, it happens a lot when we’re using operant conditioning, or even classical conditioning on animals, when they forget that training. You teach a dog that each time they sit, you will give them a piece of candy. We’re using positive reinforcement to train that behavior. But if a couple of months go by, and you tell them to sit and you don’t give them candy. Then over time, they will forget that training. They will forget that sitting in response to the command is the correct behavior so they stop it.
Positive punishment is when you punish a behavior by adding an unpleasant stimulus. An example of positive punishment is you have to do extra chores because you don’t do well on an exam. You want the slacking off and not studying behavior to stop, so you will add more unpleasant things like doing more chores.
In the psych/social world, positive typically means adding something, and it doesn’t have to be good. We typically assume positive equals good and negative equals bad. But here in the psychosocial world on the MCAT, positive equals adding something, and negative equals taking it away.
Correct Answer: C
[31:31] Question 22
An experience of discrimination as a result of one’s body type could likely impact which of the following?
A.I and II only
B.I and III only
C.II and III only
D.I, II, and III
Ali introduces a strategy when answering Roman numeral-type of questions. Start with the one that occurs exactly twice in the answer choices. Because if it’s right, you can eliminate two answer choices that don’t contain it. If it’s wrong, you can eliminate two answer choices that do contain it. So either way, you’re eliminating two. But this strategy doesn’t necessarily apply in this case.
An experience of discrimination as a result from own body type will impact the self-esteem and self-image. Self-perception is slightly different. It’s how we perceive and develop an attitude by watching our own behavior. In this case, the person being discriminated against is not doing any behavior for them to perceive. The person doing the discrimination is where this term applies to. And so, self-perception and self-image are very similar to English terms, but in psychology they’re different. Self-image is more of what you see yourself as or how you look or whether you’re a good person or not. Self-perception in the psych/social world is less on how you perceive on the outside. It’s on the inside that counts.
Correct Answer: A
[33:55] Question 23
In a follow-up study examining the motivations that led to the overeating associated with obesity, many respondents pointed to a rewarding sense of pleasure they felt after eating large portions of high-calorie foods. This sense is most closely associated with the activation of the:
The prefrontal cortex is if you’ve had too much alcohol, you disinhibited, so your prefrontal cortex isn’t firing appropriately. It isn’t activated appropriately. So we get rid of this. The occipital lobe is related to vision and the nigrostriatal bundle is related to movement so we get rid of both of them.
The key term in this question is “pleasure” and the reward system is the mesolimbic pathway. The prefrontal cortex is also involved in this inhibition. You might argue that someone who eats a lot of candy may have an issue with the prefrontal cortex. But this is unrelated to what they told us in the question stem. In the question stem, they tell us it’s about the reward so it has to be the mesolimbic pathway.
Correct Answer: C
[38:03] Final Thoughts
One of the big differences between students who do well on the MCAT and students who scored below their practice on the real test is what type of internal dialogue you have with yourself when you’re facing a difficult question.
At the end of the day, you have to trust yourself that you can figure it out. And so the next time you see a difficult question on the MCAT, just remember that if it’s difficult for you then it’s also difficult for everyone. And if you’re prepared, this should be your attitude.