MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Other Cultural Principles

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Cultural Phenomena

Jimmy and Nate both volunteer at the dog pound. Jimmy loves animals of all kinds and loves the chance to be around dogs. Nate doesn’t particularly like animals, but he needs service hours for a club he is in at school. 

Jimmy recently watched a television program about Korea. The show ran a segment on a restaurant that served dog meat as a main dish. When jimmy saw this part of the program, he was horrified. Which of the following best describes Jimmy’s viewpoint and subsequent reaction?

Possible Answers:

None of these

Stereotype

Discrimination

Ethnocentric

Correct answer:

Ethnocentric

Explanation:

“Ethnocentrism” can be described as the act of judging another culture by one’s own standards. Jimmy’s horror associated with viewing Koreans eating dogs in the program is based on his own experiences and his inability to view the world through the eyes of those individuals in the program. If this situation described a stereotype, then it would have detailed over-generalized notions or ideas about a group, position or other thing. Discrimination is treating someone differently than others because of a characteristic, such as religion or race, and not necessarily merits. 

Example Question #5 : Culture

Excerpt from "The Social Problems of American Farmers" by Kenyon L. Butterfield, 1905

Butterfield, Kenyon L. "The Social Problems of American Farmers." American Journal of Sociology 10.5 (1905): 606-22.

 

Perhaps the one great underlying social difficulty among American farmers is their comparatively isolated mode of life. The farmer's family is isolated from other families. A small city of perhaps twenty thousand population will contain from four hundred to six hundred families per square mile, whereas a typical agricultural community in a prosperous agricultural state will hardly average more than ten families per square mile. The farming class is isolated from other classes. Farmers, of course, mingle considerably in a business and political way with the men of their trading town and county seat; but, broadly speaking, farmers do not associate freely with people living under urban conditions and possessing other than the rural point of view. It would be venturesome to suggest very definite generalizations with respect to the precise influence of these conditions, because, so far as the writer is aware, the psychology of isolation has not been worked out. But two or three conclusions seem to be admissible, and for that matter rather generally accepted.

The well-known conservatism of the farming class is doubtless largely due to class isolation. Habits, ideas, traditions, and ideals have long life in the rural community. Changes come slowly. There is a tendency to tread the well-worn paths. The farmer does not easily keep in touch with rapid modern development, unless the movements or methods directly affect him. Physical agencies which improve social conditions, such as electric lights, telephones, and pavements, come to the city first. The atmosphere of the country speaks peace and quiet. Nature's routine of sunshine and storm, of summer and winter, encourages routine and repetition in the man who works with her…

There is time to brood over wrongs, real and imaginary. Personal prejudices often grow to be rank and coarse-fibered. Neighborhood feuds are not uncommon and are often virulent. Leadership is made difficult and sometimes impossible. It is easy to fall into personal habits that may mark off the farmer from other classes of similar intelligence, and that bar him from his rightful social place.

It would, however, be distinctly unfair to the farm community if we did not emphasize some of the advantages that grow out of the rural mode of life. Farmers have time to think, and the typical American farmer is a man who has thought much and often deeply. A spirit of sturdy independence is generated, and freedom of will and of action is encouraged. Family life is nowhere so educative as in the country. The whole family cooperates for common ends, and in its individual members are bred the qualities of industry, patience, and perseverance. The manual work of the schools is but a makeshift for the old-fashioned training of the country-grown boy. Country life is an admirable preparation for the modern industrial and professional career.

The tendency of a farmer to “not easily keep in touch with rapid modern development” may seem strange to a teenage boy raised in a suburban community where technology is utilized in almost all daily actions. This labelling of the farmer’s actions as “strange” would be due to which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Ethnocentrism

Cultural relativism

Discrimination

Affluenza

Correct answer:

Ethnocentrism

Explanation:

The teenager’s judgement of the farmer’s tendency is based on his own suburban cultural experience. Judging the actions of another in the context of one’s own culture is known as ethnocentrism. Discrimination would drive the boy to make an institutional policy against the farmer, not merely think he was strange. Cultural relativism would meant that the boy would judge the farmer by a farmer’s standards. Affluenza is a legal term describing an inability to understand one’s actions because of a privileged upbringing.  

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