MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Attribution, Discrimination, and Stereotype

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Development Of Attributions And Perceptions Of Others

Excerpt from “Institutional Competition,” Edward A. Ross, American Journal of Sociology 1919 25:2, 171-184

The first impulse of any organization or institution on the appearance of a serious competitor is to destroy competition. The "trust" regularly cuts the prices of its products to a point below cost of production in localities in which an "independent" seeks to sell. A shipping combine will have "fighting ships" which are called into play when a new steamship line enters their trade. As soon as the competitor announces a sailing date the combine advertises a steamer to sail on or near this date and offers a freight rate below the actual cost of carriage. In this way the competitor is prevented from securing a cargo.

The highest social class hobbles by minute sumptuary regulations the classes, which aspire to come up abreast of it. In feudal Japan, for example, one might not use his money as he pleased. The farmer, craftsman, or shopkeeper could not build a house as he liked or procure himself such articles of luxury as his taste might incline him to buy. The richest commoner might not order certain things to be made for him, might not imitate the habits or assume the privileges of his betters. Although urged on economic grounds, sumptuary restrictions are doubtless intended to protect the monopoly of prestige by the higher social orders.

The spread of anti-slavery feeling among the producing people of the North during the generation before the American Civil War was due to their perception that slavery is a menace to the free-labor system. In accounting for the early abolition of slavery in Massachusetts John Adams remarks: "Argument might have had some weight ... but the real cause was the multiplication of laboring white people who would not longer suffer the rich to employ these sable rivals so much to their injury."

The whole history of religious persecution is the history of an organization trying to establish itself as a monopoly by ruthless destruction of the spokesmen of competing doctrines and movements. In Diocletian's time Roman religious beliefs were weak while the Christian beliefs were vigorous and spreading. In desperation the old system made a ferocious attempt to exterminate all Christians. A thousand years later the church stamped certain sects out of existence and strangled heresies in the cradle. Says Coulton:

…What Darwin took at first for a smooth unbroken grassland proved, on nearer examination, to be thick-set with tiny self-sown firs, which the cattle regularly cropped as they grew. Similarly, that which some love to picture as the harmonious growth of one great body through the Middle Ages is really a history of many divergent opinions violently strangled at birth; while hundreds more, too vigorous to be killed by the adverse surroundings, and elastic enough to take something of the outward color of their environment, grew in spite of the hierarchy into organisms which, in their turn, profoundly modified the whole constitution of the Church. If the mediaeval theory and practice of persecution had still been in full force in the eighteenth century in England, nearly all the best Wesleyans would have chosen to remain within the Church rather than to shed blood in revolt; and the rest would have been killed off like wild beasts. The present unity of Romanism so far as it exists, is due less to tact than to naked force.

Suppose that Joe grew up in a society in which slavery was very common. Lance was raised in a society outlawing slavery. Lance has a poor opinion of Joe because of Joe’s pro-slavery positions. Lance’s judgment best demonstrates which sociological phenomenon?

Possible Answers:

Ethnocentrism

Cultural relativism

Jingoism

Advocacy for human rights

Correct answer:

Ethnocentrism

Explanation:

Lance views Joe’s beliefs through his own (Lance) cultural viewpoints. This is the definition of ethnocentrism. Had he put Joe’s beliefs in context of Joe’s culture, that would have been an example of cultural relativism. Jingoism is more extreme, often demonstrated by extreme or aggressive action. Although it could be argued that Lance is advocating for human rights, ethnocentrism is a more precise answer that accurately describes the whole scenario and is not subject to more information about how the slaves are treated. 

Example Question #31 : Group Behavior And Sociological Phenomena

Which of the following most accurately represents prejudice?

Possible Answers:

An opinion drawn from personal experience with a subject

Emotion-based bias in favor of one's own cultural identity

An innate bias, either for or against a subject, present from birth

Development of an opinion without knowledge or consideration of pertinent facts

Negative emotion centered on a person different from oneself

Correct answer:

Development of an opinion without knowledge or consideration of pertinent facts

Explanation:

Prejudice forms when an opinion is made without consideration of relevant facts.

Prejudices can be positive or negative, despite their common association with negative bias, and generally involve the equation of a group-identity to a single individual. Opinion about the individual is formed based on the perceived association with the group. Personal experience with a subject is inherently absent from the formation of a prejudicial opinion. Examples of prejudice include racism, sexism, agism, and classism.

Example Question #1 : Attribution, Discrimination, And Stereotype

Diana takes the subway to and from school every day. Her family’s apartment, situated in a low-income neighborhood of New York City, is a thirty-minute walk from the subway station. During her trips to the subway, Diana loves to watch people work, play, and socialize. She feels very safe in her community because she trusts the people around her. 

At school, Diana is talking with two girls who live in a nicer part of town. When Diana explains where she lives, one of the girls scrunches her nose and makes a disapproving noise. The girl says that Diana should be careful in that area. Diana asks, “Have you ever been there?” The girl responded by saying that she has not but feels like it sounds like a bad area. Which of the following best describes the girl’s method for concluding that Diana’s neighborhood is dangerous?

Possible Answers:

None of these

Social Darwinism  

Prejudice

Discrimination

Correct answer:

Prejudice

Explanation:

“Prejudice” is described as forming a negative or stereotypical opinion about someone or something with no real basis. “Discrimination” usually refers to an institutional policy that is partial to one group. If we were informed that the rich communities were getting richer and the poor communities were getting poorer, then this could be an example of “social Darwinism.”

Example Question #1 : Discrimination

Which of the following is NOT an example of discrimination?

Possible Answers:

Because Chinese people were thought to be carrying the bubonic plague, entire blocks of Chinatown were quarantined. 

The clinic decided to screen all Medicaid patients for chlamydia, but did not screen private-payer patients, because it seemed unecessarily expensive to screen everyone.

The doctor told the nurse not to schedule appointments with people if they could not speak English. The doctor instructed the nurse to tell such individuals that the practice was not accepting new patients. 

All new patients are asked to answer questions about smoking, drug, and alcohol use, as well as safe sex practices. 

There is no wheelchair ramp to enter the outpatient clinic, so patients in wheelchairs should be referred to other sites for their care.

Correct answer:

All new patients are asked to answer questions about smoking, drug, and alcohol use, as well as safe sex practices. 

Explanation:

All of these are examples of discrimination, except for the answer choice that involves screening all patients. The questions may be uncomfortable, but because they are applied broadly to everyone in the practice, they are not considered disciminatory.

Discrimination is the practice of treating some people differently from others based on non-influencing or non-causal factors, and it is usually based on prejudice.

Screening only poor people for a sexually transmitted infection assumes that poor people are more likely to spread the disease, and that is discriminatory. Assuming that people who are Chinese, or associated with any other group, are causing or carrying disease, is also discrimination. Some diseases spread within close-knit communities, but there was no evidence that the accused did not regularly interact with people outside of the community, who may also have the disease. 

Refusing to see patients who require translation is a form of discrimination, since everyone has the right to access healthcare, and there are translators available. People in wheelchairs are different from people who are not in wheelchairs because in that they require a special ramp, but not with regards to their rights to access healthcare. To deny access to a group based on something they cannot control is discrimination.

Example Question #1 : Discrimination

Excerpt from "The Chicago Employment Agency and the Immigrant Worker," Grace Abbott, American Journal of Sociology 1908 14:3289-305 

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, immigrants poured into the United States without knowledge of English or American customs. They were also usually unaware of the local cost of living or typical wage. These immigrants turned to employment agencies that would help them find work, for a fee. The extreme dependence of immigrants on the employment agencies coupled with their general ignorance of the American system brought about an ethical dilemma for the employment agent in which it became very easy to take advantage of people seeking a job. This resulted in an extreme prejudice directed at immigrants by the American employment system. A study was conducted in the early 1900s gauged the degree of corruption among employment agents and the results of this study have been provided (see Tables 1, 2, and 3)

Table 1

Table1

Table 2

Table2

Table 3

 Table3

Suppose that a Greek immigrant were denied services at an Italian employment agency, which has a policy that only Italians are allowed access to services. Which of the following terms best describes the situation?

Possible Answers:

Institutional discrimination

Personal discrimination

Racial profiling

Deindividualizatoin

Correct answer:

Institutional discrimination

Explanation:

Discrimination is treatment that either favors or excludes people based on their belonging to a specific group or class. In this case, the Greek man is excluded because of his nationality. Institutional discrimination differs from personal discrimination when discriminatory practices are the policy of a group (in this case the employment agency), not just an action or policy of one person. Racial profiling is more accurately used to describe unfair suspicion for crimes based on racial identity. Deindividualization is an effect described by Milgram in which a person becomes less self-aware when with a group or authority figure.

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