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Midterm 2

Narrative Review

Click here for general information about exams in this course.

The Exam

The date for the exam is given in the Syllabus and Calendar on Canvas.  

The exam will cover all lectures and required readings for Modules 6-9 (Memory; Thought and Language; The Trilogy of Mind; and Personality and Social Interaction as well as the corresponding chapters of the  text.

There are lots of resources available for the examination. In addition to this narrative review, there are lots of materials on the course website: the Lecture Supplements, which contain expanded treatment of the lectures given in class, as well as copies of all past exams, with answers (and usually with explanations of the answers). I don't intentionally repeat questions from year to year, but the topics I deem important don't change that much.

In addition, students are encouraged to post questions to the Queries and Comments discussion board on Canvas.  Either I or the GSIs will do our best to respond to them, provided that they are posted no later than noon on the day before the exam. Do not send questions by private Email to either me or the GSIs: we want to make sure that everybody in class has equal access to the exchanges.

The exam will consist of 50 multiple-choice questions. Roughly half will be drawn directly from the lectures, roughly half will be drawn directly from the text. Of course, there is some overlap between lectures and readings. The exam will be computer scored according to procedures outlined in the Exam Information page on the course website.

Exam Construction and Scoring

MemoryThe focus of my exam is on basic concepts and principles. There are no questions about names or dates (though names and dates may appear in questions). There are no questions about picky details. There are no questions about specific experiments, though you should be able to recognize the implications of the phenomena revealed by some classic experiments. There are no intentionally tricky questions: I want you to understand basic concepts and principles, not the exceptions to the rules.

The exam will be scored twice, following the procedures outlined in the page on Exam Information. Usually, we try to post exam grades within a couple of days of the exam.

When grades are posted, there will also be an announcement to this effect, and we will also post a copy of the exam with answers, item analysis, and commentary.


Memory is the "mental storehouse" of knowledge, but this knowledge comes in various kinds, and you should understand the distinction between declarative and procedural knowledge, and between episodic and semantic memory. You should also understand the three stages of memory processing: encoding, storage, and retrieval. The lectures focused on episodic memory, and the principles governing the various stages of memory processing as revealed by experiments employing the "verbal learning" paradigm.

Short-term memory is often considered to be the gateway to long-term memory, and the differences between the two are illustrated by "the magical number 7, plus or minus 2", and by the serial-position effects of primacy and recency.  Most theoretical attention these days is on "working" memory, rather than short-term memory as such.

Attention links perception and memory.  You should know something about the differences between early- and late-selection theories of attention, and also about the differences between automatic and controlled processes.

The rest of the lectures were organized around a small number of basic principles governing episodic memory.
The stage analysis of memory is based on the library metaphor: memories are encoded, stored, and retrieved much like books in a library. But Bartlett argued for a view of memory as reconstructive rather than merely reproductive, and his view is supported by experiments, using the traditional verbal-learning paradigm, on the post-event misinformation effect and the associative memory illusion.

Chapter 7

Kalat's Chapter 7 provides excellent coverage of the various methods of testing memory: free and cued recall, recognition, savings; explicit vs. implicit memory.; and declarative vs. procedural memory. 

Eyewitness identification is, essentially, a problem of recognition memory.   There is a nice discussion of factors affecting children's eyewitness memory, which can be viewed through the framework of the principles discussed in the lectures.

There is also a nice discussion of the distinction between short-term (or working) and long-term memory. 
The textbook presentation on encoding emphasizes depth of processing and encoding specificity, and the application of these principles to study habits (for more on this topic, see the Exam Information page). 
The module on forgetting moves quickly from normal processes of interference (discussed in the lectures) to various forms of amnesia. 
Try to fit these amnesias into the declarative-procedural distinction.

Thought and Language

The lectures on thought and language are organized by the limits of normative rationality as an account of how people actually think, as illustrated by categorization, judgment, and decision-making.

As one example, a strictly logical approach to categorization, a basic cognitive function, is provided by the classical view of categories as proper sets, whose members share in common a single set of defining features. You should know the implications of the proper-set view of categorization, concerning issues such as the vertical arrangement of categories into supersets and subsets, and the "all or none" principle governing the horizontal relations between categories. And you should know something about how the prototype view of categories as fuzzy sets helps solve these problems.

Don't worry about the distinction between prototypes and exemplars: but for those who are interested, the prototype view also has some problems, many of which are solved by an alternative view of categories as collections of exemplars. But don't worry about this for the exam.

The problems with normative rationality are also illustrated by the literature on judgment heuristics.

You should know the difference between an algorithm and a heuristic, and between well-defined and ill-defined problems, and you should understand how certain common heuristics work, such as

In each case, people depart from the use of algorithms, and prefer to use heuristics instead, thus increasing the risk that they will make judgmental errors.

The same principle applies to framing effects, as illustrated by the disease problem and sunk costs. Here, people's judgments are swayed by the way a problem is worded, instead of making decisions based on an abstract, algebraic representation of the problem.

To account for phenomena like these, Kahneman and Tversky proposed Prospect Theory as a substitute for rational choice. Prospect theory is a "psychological" theory, not a "logical" theory, because it tries to account for how people actually think: when they will be risk averse, how they handle probabilities, how they use background information to make choices.

Some theorists conclude from these sorts of results that people are basically stupid and irrational. But, as Simon pointed out, people may well be rational, but their rationality is constrained (bounded) by certain considerations: most reasoning takes place under conditions of uncertainty, where algorithms won't work anyway; and even if there is an appropriate algorithm available, it may not be possible to use it because of limitations on human information-processing capacity (remember "the magical number 7..."). Judgment heuristics, far from being irrational, may be quite adaptive -- "fast and frugal" means of making judgments quickly and economically.

Intelligence can be defined as the ability to learn and think, and assessing individual differences in intelligence by means of "IQ" tests has been a major industry in psychology for more than a century.

The implications of the Flynn effect.

I'll have more to say about the genetic and environmental determinants of IQ in the lectures on Psychological development, after the Midterm.

Language is a tool for communication, but it's also a tool for thinking.  You should know something about the properties of human language, and how language compares to animal communication (e.g., birdsong).

You should understand the hierarchical organization of language:

And you should know something about the debate concerning linguistic relativity, also known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 covers both "high-level" thinking and language, and begins with an excellent treatment of attention.  (The fact that the lectures treated "attention" in the lectures on Memory, while the textbook treats this same subject in the chapter on Thinking is not a problem -- remember, you learn better if you space out your study, and if you encounter the same material in different context!).  There is a nice discussion of bottom-up (data-driven) and top-down (conceptually driven) processes: both are involved in selecting material for further processing.  You should understand the implications of the Stroop effect, and also of change blindness. 
The treatment of categorization focuses on prototype theory. 
The chapter also introduces the distinction between automatic (Kahneman's "System 1") and controlled (his "System 2") processing, the role of heuristics in the former and algorithms in the latter, and the distinction between "maximizing" and "satisficing" strategies. 
Also, note the role of practice in expertise, and differences in pattern recognition and transfer between novices and experts. 

Chapter 8 also contains a discussion of language.

The section on word recognition includes the distinction between phonemes and morphemes, and also repeats some material from earlier lectures on pattern recognition.

You should know something about how eye movements (fixations and saccades) reveal reading processes.

Chapter 9

You can think of intelligence as reflecting individual differences in thinking and problem-solving ability.  You should understand the basic theoretical approaches to intelligence.

You should understand the rationale behind "IQ" tests, such as the series of tests devised by David Wechsler, including the distinction between aptitude and achievement, and the importance of culture-fair (or at least culture-reduced testing).

And you should know something about the genetic and environmental sources of individual differences in IQ, as revealed by family, twin, and adoption studies.

The Trilogy of Mind

The course so far has focused mostly on cognition, but the domain of psychology includes emotion and motivation as well.

You've already been introduced to some biological aspects of motivation in the lectures on the Biological Bases of Mind and Behavior.

From the lectures, you should know how emotion is defined, in terms of feelings of pleasantness and unpleasantness, and you should have some idea of the affective lexicon -- that there's more to emotion than just feeling sad or happy. You should appreciate that emotional responses have subjective, behavioral, and physiological components.

You should be able to trace the history of our understanding of emotion:

You should know how Darwin's theory of evolution laid the basis for Ekman's idea of basic emotions. Don't worry too much about Zajonc's vascular theory of emotional efference, or Leventhal's perceptual-motor theory of emotion.

You should understand how current neuroscientific approaches to emotion, predicated on the Doctrine of Modularity, have their beginnings in the Cannon-Bard hypothalamic theory, as elaborated by the concept of Papez' Circuit , and MacLean's idea of the limbic system in the triune brain (introduced in the lectures on Biological Bases).

Current neuroscientific ideas concerning brain systems for emotion focus on the role of the amygdala in fear, but research is beginning to uncover other links between specific emotions and specific brain centers.

As for motivation, you should understand how the basic idea of approach and avoidance (discussed in the lectures on Learning) fits in.

Many biological motives are based on the notion of homeostatic regulation, and you should understand the difference between positive and negative feedback. You should also understand the basics of how homeostatic regulation works out in the cases of hunger, thirst, and thermoregulation.

But motivation goes beyond homeostatic regulation. You should understand why homeostasis doesn't apply to aggression and mating, for example.

You should understand the distinction between primary and secondary reinforcement, and how motives can be acquired through learning.

You should understand something about the opponent-process theory of acquired motivation.

You should also know something about Harlow's work on "contact comfort", and Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Don't worry too much about Freud's instinct theory or Murray's needs.

Perhaps the biggest area of research on human motivation these days has to do with intrinsic motivation. You should understand the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and the argument that intrinsic motivation can be undermined by reward. But you should also understand that reward is a complex thing, and that intrinsic motivation can be undermined or enhanced depending on how the reward is structured, how it is perceived, and what the person being rewarded values.

Chapter 11

Motivation is Kalat's special area of research expertise: he wrote a wonderful textbook devoted to just this subject.  So not surprisingly, he discusses motivation before emotion, whereas my lectures do the reverse.  Either way, it doesn't matter.
Motivation often manifests itself in our goals and deadlines, and the difficulties we have in meeting them.  You should understand why it's important for goals to be realistic, the importance of setting realistic deadlines, and the factors influencing resistance to temptation and procrastination.

You should know the surprising relationship between pay and job satisfaction, the characteristics of effective leaders, and the differences between the scientific-management and human-relations approaches to job design.

You should know something about the physiological mechanisms regulating hunger and satiety, over both short and long intervals.

You should know something about eating disorders in general:

There's also a fair amount on sexual behavior, some of which will also be discussed in the lectures on Development, after the Midterm Exam.  For now, focus on sexual orientation and behavior, not so much on gender identity.  

Chapter 12

Kalat's chapter on emotion focuses on stress and its implications for physical health.  The three measures of emotion - -self-reports, behavioral observations, and physiological indices -- map onto Lang's multiple-systems view of emotion, as discussed in the lecture.

There is nice coverage of the role of emotion in moral judgment and other aspects of decision-making, not covered in the lecture.

The chapter then turns to specific emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, and happiness.

Module 12.3 talks about the psychology and physiology of stress, a topic discussed at length in the lecture on the autonomic nervous system in the "Biology" module.

Personality and Social Interaction

              and Social InteractionWhile some teachers and authors treat personality and social psychology separately, I take an integrated view of these two fields, united by Lewin's equation B = f(P, E). Behavior is a function of both personal and environmental (situational) determinants, but persons, environments, and behavior constitute an interacting field. So, over and above the doctrine of traits (that behavior is caused by personal characteristics such as traits and attitudes) and the doctrine of situationism (that behavior is caused by factors in the physical and social environment outside the individual), I adopt the view that persons shape the environments in which they behave (the doctrine of interactionism), and that the relations between persons, environments, and the behavior they display in them, is characterized by bidirectional causality (the doctrine of reciprocal determinism). Having gotten all that out of the way, the succeeding lectures analyze the bidirectional relations between persons and behavior, between environments and behavior, and between persons and environments.

What I call The Dialectic Between the Person and Behavior begins with analysis of just which traits are supposed to cause people to behave the way they do. That's where the Big Five come in. You don't have to know anything about the statistical technique (known as factor analysis) by which they were derived, but you should recognize The Big Five as the basic structure of individual differences in personality. The next question concerns the degree to which we can predict an individual's behavior in some specific situation, knowing his or her general personality traits. The answer is: some, but not all that much. Mischel has characterized the "personality coefficient" of .30 (on a scale that ranges from -1 through 0 to +1) as representing about all the power traits have to predict behavior in some specific situation (political attitudes and voting behavior are a salient exception to this principle). For example, the correlation between teacher's ratings of children's level of "ego control" correlates in the mid-.20s with the children's actual performance on a test of delay of gratification.

That's fine for personal characteristics determining behavior, but what about the reverse - -behavior causing personal characteristics to form. Here, self-perception theory offers a good example of how observation of one's own behavior can shape his or her attitudes, thus reversing the usual direction of causation. So too for the James-Lange theory of emotion: whereas we usually think of behavior as being caused by emotional state, James and Lange thought that behavioral responses caused emotional states.

              Behavior DialecticWe can offer the same sort of analysis for The Dialectic Between Environment and Behavior. The social-psychological literature is replete with examples of how situational manipulations affect behavior, as in Asch's conformity experiments or the experiments on bystander intervention and altruism. But it's also true that behavior can alter the situation, as in the bystander intervention studies where pluralistic ignorance effectively defines the situation as a non emergency. And, continuing the delay of gratification example, children cannot delay long if they wait in the presence of a promised reward.

Here's where the lecture got cut short by the fire alarm, in which there wasn't any pluralistic ignorance, everyone did what they were supposed to do right away, and everybody took their turn lining up and going out the doors, so there was no panic. Good work!

              Environment DialecticThere is more about the environment-behavior dialectic to come, in the material on the person-environment dialectic.

But The Dialectic Between the Person and the Environment properly begins, again, with the traditional social-psychological literature, which (again) is replete with examples of how situational manipulations affect people's attitudes, moods, and the like -- what are supposed to be internal, personal determinants of behavior. There's the "snack" effect on attitudes and persuasion, for example, the effect of proximity on interpersonal attraction, and especially the mere exposure effect.

More interesting, at least to me, is the reciprocal influence of the person on the environment, which brings us back to the Doctrine of Interactionism, and the question of just how people affect their environments. I identified four such mechanisms:

  • Evocation, where the mere presence of a person, or his or her physical appearance and other characteristics that have nothing to do with his or her behavior, alters the environment for the person. The classical example is gender stereotyping, where -- let's be blunt here -- the physical appearance of the newborn infant structures the environment in which the child is raised, so as to produce masculine boys and feminine girls. More broadly, stereotyping and prejudice are examples of evocation: in general, the presence of an outgroup member in the context of an ingroup changes the environment for everyone involved, even if the outgroup member does nothing.
  • Selection, where people choose to place themselves in one environment as opposed to another. People with different personalities tend to favor environments in which they can "be themselves". And people tend to select mates who are similar to themselves in personality.
  • (Behavioral) Manipulation, where people engage in overt behaviors that alter the objective environment for themselves, and for everyone else in that environment. How do you liven up a dull party? Whatever it is that you do, you change the environment from dull to lively. Observations of children who can delay gratification even in the presence of a promised reward show that the children engage in various behavioral strategies that have the effect of putting the reward out of sight. And children who distract themselves by playing with a toy are also able to delay longer.
  • (Cognitive) Transformation, where people engage in cognitive activities that alter the private, subjective, mental representation of the environment -- how the environment is perceived, categorized, and interpreted. There's no overt behavior involved, and the change in the environment only occurs from the point of view of the person making engaged in the cognitive activity. For Martin Luther King, being in the Birmingham Jail had a different meaning than it would for most of the rest of us. More prosaically, returning to the delay of gratification experiment, children who cognitively transform marshmallows into clouds, and pretzels into tree trunks, are able to wait longer for a promised reward.

The broader point is that we can change the stimulus environment by changing the way we think about it -- how we perceive it, how we categorize the events in it. Optimists see the glass as half full, pessimists see the glass as half empty.

And the even broader point is that behavior is not merely caused by personal and environmental factors, and the personal and environmental causes of behavior are not independent of each other. Rather, the person, the environment, and the behavior that takes place in that environment constitute a complex system characterized by bidirectional causality.

Now, Kalat doesn't put it this way, but most of the material in Chapters 13 and 14 can be slotted into this framework. But you have to work at it a little -- and, frankly, it's a good exercise to promote understanding of the lectures.

Chapter 13

My lectures are a little innovative, in that the present personality and social psychology in an integrated matter.  The corresponding chapters in Kalat's book take the more conventional route, discussing personality and social psychology in separate, almost independent chapters.  Further, while the lectures talked about personality before social psychology ("The Doctrine of Traits" and "The Dialectic Between the Person and Behavior", P ==> B), Kalat reverses this order, discussing social psychology first. 

Chapter 13 deals mostly with the influence of the social environment on behavior -- that is, E ==> B, but also social influences on attitudes, which comes under the rubric of E ==> P.  So you should know something about the influence of the social environment on various categories of behavior:

There is a nice discussion of social cognition:

The study of attitudes and persuasion dominated social psychology for a very long time -- several decades, in fact.  

Often, we think of persuasion as something that majorities do to minorities (as discussed in the Asch conformity paradigm below), but minorities can influence majorities as well, and you should know something about how that do it.

And last, but certainly not least, you should know something about the determinants of interpersonal attraction (this can be very handy if you're dating):

And finally, we come to the vast literature on social influence:

Chapter 14

And similarly, Kalat's Chapter 14 deals with the traditional psychology of personality -- that is, with P ==> B, and especially the nature of individual differences in personality. 

In some respects, the classic theories of personality are theories of human nature.
The more modern  and more scientifically valid, talks about personality as the product of learning.  Gender-role socialization is a good example of this.  I'll talk more about this subject in the later lectures on Development.

And the there are the humanistic psychologists, like Rogers and Maslow.  Scientific personality research doesn't have much use for them, either, though each made important contributions at a more conceptual level:

So, as you can see, a lot of these "theoretical" concepts, such as the Oedipus complex, collective unconscious, inferiority complex, unconditional positive regard,and self-actualization, wormed their ways into popular culture -- which is why we want you to know something about them!

You should understand the relationship between personality traits and social attitudes -- both are stable, consistent, dispositions manifested in behavior.  Personality traits are usually measured by the same sorts of paper-and-pencil questionnaires used in the study of attitudes, and these methods are supposed to have the same psychometric properties -- like reliability and validity -- that IQ tests have.  And just like IQ, personality is supposed to have its source in the interaction of heredity and environment.

The modern scientific study of personality is dominated by the "Big Five" model, and you should be able to identify and define each of these major dimensions of personality.

You should understand something about the differences between "objective" and "projective" methods of personality assessment, and how criminal profiling stacks up as an exercise in personality assessment.

You should also understand how priming techniques might be used to assess unconscious aspects of personality, much as the IAT might be used to assess unconscious stereotypes and prejudices.  But let's emphasize the "might" in these statements: while open to unconscious influences on personality and attitudes, I'm deeply skeptical about either the IAT or affective priming as providing positive evidence for them.  So while it's important to know about these claims, it's also important to know that they might be exaggerated.

This page last revised 07/21/2017.