MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Learning and Behavior Change

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #10 : Individual Behavior And Learning

Which pair best represents accurate examples of the concepts of the central route and the peripheral route of information processing, according to the Elaboration Likelihood Model?

Possible Answers:

Central Route: The person on the phone walked me through the calculations and explained to me how much money I would save over the course of ten years through increasing my monthly payment by 20%.

Peripheral Route: My best friend is increasing her monthly payments, and she seems to make good life choices, so I am also going to increase my monthly payment.

Central Route: This is the most efficient form of processing, because it requires the removal of distractions. Think of a car driving down the main artery. 

Peripheral Route: This is the least efficent form of processing, because it takes a long time to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and many of these pieces are only useful insofar as they provide links to more central concepts. 

Central Route: It feels like everywhere I look, I can see the answer. It doesn't even matter what direction I face, the answer is clear.

Peripheral Route: The answer is hazy no matter what I do, I can't seem to pull it into focus.

Central Route: Traffic is congested, processing will take a really long time.

Peripheral Route: Traffic is less congested, but processing is less focused.

Central Route: The answer is so obvious, it's like being hit by a two-by-four. 

Peripheral Route: By reading and re-reading the poem, its meaning will slowly reveal itself.

Correct answer:

Central Route: The person on the phone walked me through the calculations and explained to me how much money I would save over the course of ten years through increasing my monthly payment by 20%.

Peripheral Route: My best friend is increasing her monthly payments, and she seems to make good life choices, so I am also going to increase my monthly payment.

Explanation:

The correct answer shows that the central route is when a person deeply understands the message because they have thought about it, understand the logic, and are motivated by it. The correct answer also shows that the peripheral route influences a person through general impressions and requires less thought processing. The effect of peripheral routes is not likely to last as long as central routes. 

The incorrect answers focus more on elements of time, efficiency, clarity, and focus. These are not central to the definition of elaboration likelihood. 

Example Question #1 : Learning And Behavior Change

Which of the examples below is an example of social cognitive theory?

Possible Answers:

Dave was really disappointed when his son Nicholas drew with crayons on the wall. Nicholas could tell that his dad was upset, and so he did not do it again. 

Shareen grabbed fruit for dessert in line at the cafeteria. Monica really wanted chocolate pudding, but given that Shareen had set a good example, she followed and chose fruit. The next day, when Monica went to lunch alone, she selected the fruit. 

The muscle builds by constantly exercising it. If you stop, it will atrophy. Behavior works the same way. 

Everytime I hear the whistle, my heart starts racing as though I'm about to start a cross-country race. I know it's crazy, that's just how I was conditioned after competing for four years. 

Suzette keeps a calendar of all the times she goes to the gym to workout and she rewards herself with a treat if she goes more than 4 times a week. 

Correct answer:

Shareen grabbed fruit for dessert in line at the cafeteria. Monica really wanted chocolate pudding, but given that Shareen had set a good example, she followed and chose fruit. The next day, when Monica went to lunch alone, she selected the fruit. 

Explanation:

The correct answer is the example about choosing fruit over chocolate pudding, because the positive example was modeled. The examples about drawing on the wall or logging workouts relate to systems of rewards and punishments, not modeling. The example concerning the whistle is about conditioning, not modeling. Finally, the example about the muscle is an interesting metaphor, but it is not relevant here. In fact, once certain patterns of behavior are established through modeling, they may remain intact without continuing the modeling, as would be required by this example. 

Example Question #2 : Learning And Behavior Change

Which of the following seemingly decreases the strength of a behavior (i.e. suppresses responding)?

Possible Answers:

Negative reinforcement

Both negative reinforcement and punishment

Positive reinforcement

Resistance to extinction

Punishment

Correct answer:

Punishment

Explanation:

Punishers seem to decrease the strength of a behavior.

On the other hand, "positive reinforcement" uses a reward to encourage some behavior. "Negative reinforcement" involves the removal of some sort of (usually aversive) stimuli after a behavior has been displayed, which increases the strength of the behavior. Last, "resistance to extinction" is not a form of behavior modification.

 

Example Question #3 : Learning And Behavior Change

Which of the following correctly matches the researcher with the area in which they famously conducted experiments?

Possible Answers:

Stanley Milgram: Classical Conditioning

Albert Bandura: Observational Learning

B.F. Skinner: Operant Conditioning

Stanley Milgram: Obedience

Ivan Pavlov: Observational Learning

B.F. Skinner: Operant Conditioning

None of these

Albert Bandura: Observational Learning

Stanley Milgram: Obedience

Ivan Pavlov: Classical Conditioning

Philip Zimbardo: Observational Learning

Margaret and Harry Harlow: Social Development and Attachment

Ivan Pavlov: Operant Conditioning

Correct answer:

Albert Bandura: Observational Learning

Stanley Milgram: Obedience

Ivan Pavlov: Classical Conditioning

Explanation:

Albert Bandura famously conducted the Bobo doll experiment which demonstrated observational learning. Margaret and Harry Harlow conducted experiments with monkeys, showing the importance of "contact comfort" for healthy social development and attachment. Ivan Pavlov conducted the famous classical conditioning experiment, pairing a bell ringing with food to elicit salivation in dogs. B.F. Skinner conducted experiments demonstrating concepts of operant conditioning. Milgram's famous experiment demonstrated ground-breaking findings involving obedience. Philip Zimbaro's Standford Prison experiment demonstrated shocking psychological effects of the prisoner and guard dynamic.

All MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences Resources

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