MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Processing and Integrating Auditory Signals

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Processing And Integrating Auditory Signals

George is speaking with his friends after the school football game. His attention is focused on their conversation, but suddenly he turns to the group next to him because he hears his brother's name mentioned. 

Which of the following concepts best accounts for George hearing his brother's name?

Possible Answers:

Schemas

Cocktail party effect

Primacy effect

Heuristics

Divided attention

Correct answer:

Cocktail party effect

Explanation:

The “cocktail party effect” accounts for the fact that we are able to hear personally important information even if we are not involved with it. In this example, George was in a conversation amongst his friends, and not involved with the conversation of the group nearby. The cocktail party effect explains that even though he was not directly paying attention to the nearby conversation, he did not completely filter the information out. Instead, it is was if he "turned the volume down" and paid attention once the information became personally relevant, such as the mentioning of his brother's name.

“Divided attention” is when an individual focuses on multiple tasks at once. While it could be argued that George is attending to two conversations at once, the cocktail party effect best describes the reason he is able to hear his brother's name without any attempt to listen to two conversations at once. The “primacy effect” concerns our tendency to have better memory for things at the beginning of a list (e.g. if you are given a list of words to remember, you will be more likely to remember the ones at the beginning rather than ones in the middle of the list). “Heuristics” are short cuts used for problem solving. Last, “schemas” are mental frameworks we use for understanding new experiences.

Example Question #2 : Processing And Integrating Auditory Signals

Signal detection studies measure an individual’s ability to detect certain stimuli. They involve exposure to stimuli at varying magnitudes and ask subjects to detect any changes in their perceptual experience of the stimuli (i.e. the just-noticeable difference). Perceiving magnitude differences in stimuli depends on the type of sensory experience (e.g. touch or sound) and is based on proportional rather than absolute amounts. 

Imagine a hypothetical study that asked participants to perceive changes in amplitude of a sound stimulus. In this experiment, the researchers wanted to know how much the amplitude needed to change in order for an individual to detect a difference. They decided to test the just-noticeable difference at three different amplitudes: low, medium, and high. Participants in each category listened to the initial sound, and then the amplitude was increased or decreased slightly until participants detected a difference. 

Which of the following is most likely to be a potential confounding variable in the study 

Possible Answers:

Marital status

Depressive symptomatology

Intelligence quotient

Age

Correct answer:

Age

Explanation:

A confounding variable is an extraneous variable that is inadvertently associated with the independent or dependent variables. The just-noticeable difference of a stimulus can change substantially over the course of a person's lifespan. In this case, age is associated with differences in hearing abilities. Normative hearing loss and certain medical conditions that contribute to hearing loss are more common as age increases. The other options (marital status, IQ, and depressive symptoms) are not associated with changes in hearing. 

Example Question #3 : Processing And Integrating Auditory Signals

In which lobe of the brain is the primary auditory cortex located?

Possible Answers:

Frontal lobe 

Parietal lobe

Occipital lobe

Temporal lobe

Correct answer:

Temporal lobe

Explanation:

The primary auditory cortex, the area of the brain responsible for processing auditory information, is located bilaterally in the temporal lobes in Brodmann areas 41 and 42. 

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