P/S Introduction: Be A P/S Context King
Welcome to the MCAT Endgame.
Every adventure has an end. Every book has a final chapter. Every TV Show has a finale. Every chess match has an endgame.
Many times, it isn’t what you expect.
You have just arrived in MCAT Wonderland. To survive the ending, you need to be a P/S Context King.
The Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (P/S) Section is both completely bizarre and bizarrely predictable.
It is like that twist movie ending that will either catch you off guard, or you can see coming miles away.
Here’s how to catch it miles away.
In a past post – where readers eat the MCAT to simplify it – P/S was dessert: an unexpected surprise unlike any course before it. Honestly, desserts don’t have many haters, while P/S does (myself included). So, let’s move on to a more suitable anecdote.
I once had a public speaking professor who – while great – gave ridiculous exams. Being the course was public speaking, my pride was injured when the first exam produced a “60”. Thankfully, it was the highest score – so I escaped with a curved “B” – but the professor’s exams were so unpredictable. I really needed that “A”. The terminology and questions were deceptively simple, yet so vague.
Everything changed, when I discovered a small license key at the back of my textbook. It gave me access to a student question bank that was precisely the same questions the professor asked on his exams. You have no idea how awesome this felt: and it wasn’t cheating!
Ladies and gentlemen, the case is precisely the same for P/S. You have the question bank.
DON’T rely on your understanding of Psychology and Sociology. ABIDE by the free online AAMC topic bank.
AAMC and their partner Khan Academy are the aforementioned professor in this case. Strictly abide by their context, and their rules – even if it doesn’t make sense.
AAMC is the Red Queen.
Khan Academy is the Knave of Hearts.
Welcome to Wonderland,
TWISTING THE WORLD
Everyone is a liar.
Intentional or not, everyone twists the cold hard facts around them and makes a mimesis of surroundings in their mind: a Wonderlandian memory palace that builds a functional or dysfunctional reality from sensory inputs.
Truth is timeless.
We are not.
We do not control time.
We are within it.
To recognize this is the beginning of health.
A FOOT IN FANTASY
A FOOT IN REALITY
Now that you had a pep talk convincing you of the subject matter’s relevance, time to become the P/S Context King. To ace P/S you are going to have to refile everything you know (or better yet, don’t know) about Neurobiology, Psychology, and Sociology into AAMC’s hierarchy.
In case you are unaware: our website builds off of the AAMC’s 10 Foundational Concepts (FC1 – FC10). This isn’t because we necessary agree with them: it’s because we don’t want you to fail the MCAT.
To recapitulate, there are only 10 FCs, just like you have ten fingers! FC1-3 cover the Biology/Biochemistry (B/B) section; FC4-5 cover the Chemistry/Physics (C/P) section; and FC6-10 are all on this final section of the MCAT. [CARS is a separate beast].
While we’re all for refiling crazy amounts of content into only 10 concepts, the AAMC explanations inundate the reader with jargon.
That’s why we’re here.
Foundational Concept 6 (FC6) – in a nutshell – asks:
HOW do we think about the world?
This isn’t asking our opinions about the world; rather, it is pinpointing a linear process of sensory input to communicative/emotional output.
Concepts – in order of said linear succession – are: the five senses, sensory processing, perception, consciousness, attention, cognition, memory, language, learning, emotions, and stress.
These may seem like disconnected, vague topics: so I will rephrase them in psychobabble question form:
(1) How do you sense the world?
(2) How do you process said senses?
(3) How do you perceive said processings?
(4) Great, are you awake?
(5) Are you sure? You paying attention?
(6) Are you understanding what I’m saying?
(7) Do you remember what I said before?
(8) Has this made it into your language?
(9) What’s your emotional response?
(10) Are you stressed?
While I put all subtopics within FC6 into a narrative: there is a logical flow from environment to person to response.
(FC7) BEHAVIOR IS 4D CHESS
Predicting behavior takes a context king: a mastermind.
If you haven’t seen the Cumberbatch-less, recent Sherlock Holmes: I’m not a fan. However, I thoroughly enjoy Jared Harris’ portrayal of Moriarty. Above – a spoiler – is the final chess match endgame between Sherlock and Moriarty.
I admit, this is a thrilling scene that puts all three components of Foundational Concept 7 (FC7) to work:
A. Individual Influences
B. Social Thinking
C. Social Interactions
It is really tempting to have the above topics spill over into the next Foundational Concept, so I want to draw the line right now!
Unlike FC8, FC7 is focused solely on behavior. How do biological, psychological, and social factors affect and change behavior?
You are Sherlock Holmes.
Let’s go through each deductive subtopic a linear fashion – to undermine Moriarty via a behavioral analysis. The bolded words are all MCAT fodder:
1. Moriarty has genes, a brain, and hormones. How did he develop?
2. Which 6 personality theories describe him? Is there a situational perspective?
3. Clearly he is lawless and disorderly. Is there a biological disorder basis? If not, are there psychological disorders to blame? At what rate?
4. What is motivating him? Which theory explains his behavior?
5. What makes up his scholarly and condescending attitude? What links this to his behavior?
6. Does Moriarty change behavior in the presence of others? Is he immune to the 8 effects? (Notice the fight takes place outside).
7. Is he influenced by or does he influence group decisions?
8. How does Moriarty behave in social norms?
9. What perspectives describe his deviance?
10. Which agents socialized him?
11. He is a massive manipulator. What are his habits? Is he using classical or operant conditioning to make me fall into his game?
12. Which cognitive process have led to things he associates? Is there a biological basis?
13. Is he trying to make me model him, or vice-versa? What biological processes should I knowingly avoid from doing so? How is observation playing a role in this situation?
14. If he suddenly changes his attitude or behavior, which theories or factors can explain this?
FC8: THE SOCIAL SELF DELUSION
Enough 4D Chess.
Let’s do what our generation is best at:
All jokes aside, Foundational Concept 8 (FC8) is how – through a worldly lens – we think about ourselves, think about others, and interact. In a nutshell: social media.
Where FC7 was about analyzing Moriarty’s behavior; FC8 will be about making and developing a new social media profile.
LET’S CREATE YOUR PROFILE
That was step 1. now it’s time to think socially.
Step 2 – thinking about people – makes use realize three things: people tend to blame or attribute their behavior on something, people tend to be prejudiced or biased (see CARS), and resultant stereotypes have consequences on people’s lives.
Step 3 – interacting with said people – is where the Telenovela stuff kicks in. Status, role, groups, networks, and organizations are all elements of interactions. Moreover, the second layer of makeup – or self presentation – kicks in: emotional expressions/detections, impression management, and nonverbal cues. These collectively – unlike individualistically (FC7) – make 5 behavioral patterns, with 5 additional biological explanations. Finally – there is discrimination.
To recap, if FC8 were social media, the three steps would be: (1)Creating your profile, (2)Thinking about peers, (3)Actually interacting. Time for another concept, rising context king!
FC8 wasn’t so bad!
Now – time to enter World War II.
Nazi Germany is the perfect lens to study social and cultural differences – the subject of Foundational Concept 9 (FC9) – because it describes a society whose structure completely fell apart: to the point of eliminating its own demographics.
First, lets look at structure:
Society has an architecture. In WWII, there were a multitude of theories that warred against each other. The MCAT looks at 7 different perspectives.
Next, said architecture, has building blocks or institutions. The MCAT probes 5.
Finally, there are societal habits: culture. The MCAT scratches on its: elements, types, lag, shock, assimilation, mixture, hierarchy, influence by media, evolution, transmission, and diffusion.
Think of where Nazi Germany went wrong in the above example.
Now, we zoom out at demographics:
First, we look at demographics like building a patient data set: age, gender, race/ethnicity, immigration status, and sexual orientation. Each are connected with a few concepts.
Finally, we see how said data set shifts/changes. What theories explain this? What changes the number of people? What about fertility, migration, mortality, social movements, globalization, and urbanization?
Again, we often don’t notice these factors until they are lost. Examine a case where they do become lost.
You might be exhausted.
Time to let empathy take over.
We live in a fallen world.
Where on one end of the world, we sit and let Amazon workers deliver us everything. In another end of the world – people walk miles to get to their destination. How did this happen?
You are so close to being a physician. How can you help them?
Social stratification and resource access might be a small section. It might be the last section. But it nonetheless is likely to be covered by a few questions.
It is the pathology to FC9’s sociology.
While you looked at WWII with said section, I urge you to look at the current world with this section.
The MCAT covers: spacial inequality; social class – including social stratification, mobility, and poverty; health disparities, and healthcare disparities.
It’s like stepping out of Wonderland into a refugee camp.
So much content!
Which is why this final section will swiftly remind you: memory isn’t all about memorization.
While applying the three Rs of Remembering will assuredly help learning: context is king.
So DON’T BE the P/S Content King.
BE the P/S Context King!
What do we mean by this? The MCAT isn’t short answer, nor essay-based. It is multiple choice.
Walk into the MCAT with strong associations of all vocabulary words with their proper AAMC hierarchies – and, alongside being statistically-savvy – you have all you need for a perfect P/S score!
For example, the question might ask about social loafing. Your filing cabinet out to ring up FC7B – your battle with Moriarty. Even if you completely forgot what social loafing was, you can eliminate the contents of other drawers “i.e. discrimination (FC8C)”.
Finally: you have a simplified skeleton below. Beef it up with AAMC’s official guide. Too tired of reading? Khan Academy at 2x speed was my best friend.
Congratulations Context King.
You are about to ace the MCAT.