Midterm 1 Review


Click here for general information about exams in this course.

The Exam

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

Students with disability accommodations should get these to me as soon as possible, so that we can make the appropriate arrangements.

The exam will be administered online. Detailed instructions for taking the exam online will be distributed shortly.

Scope of the Exam

The exam will cover all lectures and required readings to date (Introduction, Biological Bases of Mind and Behavior, Learning, and Sensation and Perception) as well as the corresponding chapters of the text.

There are lots of resources available for the examination: Lecture Supplements on bSpace, which contain expanded treatment of the lectures given in class, as well as the Exam Information on bSpace, which provides 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. We 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 e-mail 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 from the lectures, roughly half will be drawn 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

The focus of my exam is on basic concepts and principles.

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. In the meantime, we will post the preliminary and revised scoring keys (wait for an announcement via Email, and posted to the website).

When grades are posted, there will also be an announcement to this effect.


You should know what we mean when we describe psychology as the science of mental life, and what we mean when we describe mental life in terms of cognition, emotion, and motivation. You should understand the doctrine of mentalism, and its implications for a psychological explanation of behavior.

You should also understand why psychology can be construed as a behavioral science, a social science, a biological science, and even a physical science.

The important point is that psychology is one of a number of behavioral sciences, with its distinctive level of explanation -- explaining the individual's behavior in terms of his or her mental states -- cognitive states of knowing, emotional states of feeling, and motivational states of desire.

You should have some idea of what reductionism is all about, and how the psychological level of analysis relates to the biological and sociocultural levels of analysis.

And, finally, you should know something about the history of psychology. You're not required to memorize names and dates, but you should understand why, up until the 19th century, psychology was considered to be an "impossible" science; how the 19th-century psychophysicists and physiological psychologists changed all that; how the scope of psychology expanded from "lower" mental processes to encompass "higher" cognition, emotion, motivation, personality, social interaction, and mental illness.

And you should have an appreciation of how psychology relates to other academic disciplines.

Chapter 1

The textbook defines "psychology" a little bit differently, compared to the lecture, as "the systematic study of behavior and experience".  The lecture focuses on experience, encompassing all of mental life; behavior is relevant too, of course, because behavior is determined by the individual's mental states.  You should understand what Kalat means when he says that, when it comes to behavior and experience, "it depends" on a host of factors; and why measurement is the key to scientific psychology. 

You should also understand the major debates within psychology:

You should understand the difference between psychiatry and clinical psychology, and how clinical psychologists relate to other mental-health professionals; also the various sub-specialties within academic psychology (i.e., teaching and research).

Figure 1.4 illustrates major milestones in the history of psychology.  You should understand the difference between structuralism and functionalism (most psychologists these days are some kind of functionalist), what behaviorism was all about, and why it was replaced by cognitive psychology; and also how we got from Freudian psychoanalysis to modern, scientific clinical psychology.

Biological Bases of Mind and Behavior

You should understand the hierarchical organization of the nervous system, beginning with the neuron and ending with the nervous system as a whole:

You should have some idea of how the brain is divided into forebrain (including the cerebral cortex and subcortical structures like the thalamus, limbic system, and hypothalamus), the midbrain (including the reticular formation), and the hindbrain (including the cerebellum, medulla, and pons). But it is even more important that you have some idea what these brainstem and subcortical structures do, in terms of mind and behavior.

You should know something about the development of the cerebral cortex (also called neocortex), viewed phylogenetically (in terms of the evolution of species) and ontogeneticaly (in terms of the development of the individual).

You should have the basic idea of how the cerebral cortex is divided into hemispheres and lobes by various boundaries such as the cerebral commissure, central fissure , and longitudinal fissure. And you should know that the cortex can be divided into 'Brodmann Areas" based on the specific kinds of nerves found in various areas. No, you don't have to memorize where the Brodmann areas are, though it would be nice if you knew some really important ones, like Area 17 in the occipital lobe, which is the primary visual cortex, V1.

And you should know something about functional specialization -- both the classical pseudoscience of phrenology and the modern doctrine of modularity -- including common examples of localization of function:

The brain is divided by the longitudinal fissure into two hemispheres, which are connected by the corpus callosum and anterior commissure.  Studies with "split brain" patients and other experimental paradigms show that the two hemispheres have different functional specializations -- though the case for "two brains" shouldn't be overstated. 

You should understand that while many mental functions (like seeing and hearing) are localized, specific content appears not to be localized in discrete clusters of neurons (as indicated by Lashley's experiments on the Law of Mass Action).

You should know something about how recovery of function is possible even after brain damage, and especially about plasticity in the brain and the possibilities (and limitations) of neurogenesis.

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 provides an excellent overview of biological psychology -- not surprising, as Kalat is himself a distinguished biological psychologist..

You should know how neurons are structured and how they work.

You should understand how stimulants and depressants work, and that mind-altering drugs, such as hallucinogens, narcotics, and marijuana operate on various aspects of synaptic transmission: release, stimulating or blocking receptors, or blocking reuptake.  You should be able to recognize at least some of the drugs, and their effects on the nervous system, listed in Table 3.2.

You should be able to map out the primary structures in the brain, such as the various lobes -- but just as important, you should know what mental and behavioral functions are associated with these lobes. 

You should understand how brain plasticity underlies the ability to learn.

You should understand the "binding problem" of putting all the parts of the brain together.  

You should know something about how genes operate, how heritability is estimated, through studies of twins and adopted children, and why the idea that there is "a gene for" some function is misleading.

You should know something about evolutionary psychology, and how natural selection acts on mind and behavior as well as bodily appearance.

The bottom line is: Don't obsess over the physiology and electrochemistry. Don't obsess over it, because we're more interested in what the brain does than in how the brain does it.

Methods and Statistics

Psychology is an empirical science, and that means it is a quantitative discipline, and that means that even introductory psychology students should know something about statistical methods. Fortunately, the textbook covers many of these same points. 

Here are the kind of things you should know:

And you should have some understanding of how we use statistics to understand the relations among variables. Again, you won't be asked to calculate such statistics. We only ask that you have some understanding of the underlying concepts.

Just remember The Rule of 68, 95, and 99.

And, while you're at it, remember The Rule of 2.

You should understand the benefits of "statistical" or "actuarial" vs. "clinical" or "intuitive" prediction.

And, perhaps most important, you should understand why statistics provides a basis for principled argument in both science and policy.

Chapter 2

Kalat is the author of a highly regarded textbook on research methods, so it's not surprising that his chapter on methods and statistics is very good.  Here are some of the most important points.

You should appreciate some of the ethical issues that crop of in research on both humans and non-humans animals.

And now we come to various topics in statistics.  Nothing here is not also touched on in the lecture:

The Appendix to Chapter 2 goes through the details of calculating the variance and standard deviation of a distribution, and also the correlation between two variables.  You do not have to know these formulas.  You're only responsible for the concepts.


And one of the things it does is to learn. So, you should understand the difference between innate and acquired (learned) associations, the distinctions among reflexes, taxes, and instincts, and the limitations of evolution -- and the special value of learning -- as a mechanism for behavior change.

With respect to classical conditioning, you should understand the basic procedure introduced by Pavlov, the basic vocabulary of classical conditioning. Be prepared to identify the unconditioned and conditioned stimuli, and the unconditioned and conditioned responses, in a specimen experiment.

You should know the basic vocabulary of classical conditioning:

You should also know the basic procedure and vocabulary of instrumental (operant) conditioning, which mostly parallel the classical case. There are, however, a couple of exceptions:
You should understand how avoidance learning combines classical and instrumental conditioning: in the two-process theory of avoidance learning, fear is conditioned to the tone, and avoidance is conditioned to the termination of the tone (and prevention of shock).

Understand how, according to the traditional stimulus-response (S-R) theory of learning, organisms come to associate stimuli with responses by virtue of reinforcement. You should also understand the four assumptions of S-R theory:

Understand the biological constraints on learning (preparedness), as illustrated by Garcia's experiment on taste-aversion learning, and similar phenomena such as species-specific defense reactions, and their implications for the four assumptions of the traditional S-R theory of learning.

Understand the cognitive constraints on learning, as illustrated by the importance of contingency (predictability) rather than (spatio-temporal) contiguity in classical conditioning, and Kamin's experiment on the blocking effect. You should know how Seligman's studies of learned helplessness in avoidance conditioning not only undercut the traditional two-process theory of learning, but also revealed the role of controllability in instrumental conditioning.

Also, Tolman's experiment on latent learning and its implications: first for the role of reinforcement in learning, but also for the very definition of learning itself: as a change in knowledge, not a change in behavior. These points are underscored by Mineka's experiments on observational learning, and Bandura's cognitive social learning theory: in neither case does learning require reinforcement in the usual sense..

Most important, you should understand the implications of these phenomena for the traditional S-R theory of learning and its underlying assumptions. And why, from a cognitive point of view, learning is better defined as a change in knowledge than as a change in behavior. And how learning makes culture possible.

Chapter 6

Kalat's graduate training was in a department that was heavily focused on learning theory, so his accounts of classical and instrumental conditioning are excellent.  He was particularly responsible for introducing the notion of preparedness as a biological predisposition affecting learning.

For classical conditioning, you should understand:

Kalat has an alternative description of the Rescorla and Kamin experiments, leading to the conclusion that it's not mere association (what I call "contiguity: in lecture) that determines conditioning, but rather prediction (what I call "contingency").  Also Garcia's experiments on taste-aversion learning, leading to the concept of preparedness.

You should also understand how conditioned taste aversions and birdsong reveal evolved biological predispositions in learning.

For operant (instrumental) conditioning, you should understand:

Kalat has an excellent introduction to social learning, which is distinct from both classical and instrumental (operant) conditioning.  You should understand:

Sensation and Perception

How do we know the world? To psychologists, this is obvious: through the experience of learning. However, this has not always been obvious to philosophers. So you should know something about the debate between philosophical nativism and empiricism -- and that psychologists come down pretty much on the side of empiricism.

You should be sure you understand the basic vocabulary of sensation: the distinction between the distal and the proximal stimulus, and the transduction of the proximal stimulus into a neural impulse.

You should know the various modalities of sensation described by Sherrington:

More important, you should understand how each of these modalities differs from each other in terms of four features:
You should have a feeling for how each sensory modality is defined, and implemented in the nervous system, but you only need to know the details for vision and audition. Most important, you should know why, according to the Doctrine of Specific Nerve Energies, the modality of sensation is determined by the sensory projection area, not by the proximal stimulus or the receptor organ.

You should also understand that, in addition to intensity, which is common to all modalities of sensation, each sensory modality has associated with it a number of specific sensory qualities. Again, you should have a feeling for what the qualities are in each modality, but you only need to know the details for vision and audition. According to the psychophysical principle, every quality of sensation is related to some physical property of the stimulus. But according to Helmholtz' Doctrine of Specific Fiber Energies, each of these qualities is generated by a specific neural system, rather than by the stimulus (or even the receptor organ).

Kalat is really good about describing the basics of color vision (the trichromatic theory, the opponent-process theory, the retinex theory -- which isn't discussed in lecture), and also of auditory pitch (frequency theory, place theory, and volley theory), and that's where I want you to know some details.

Just for the sake of completeness, here's another account of the evolution of color-vision theory. 

You should know something about the psychophysical laws -- Weber's, Fechner's, and Stevens'. You don't have to know the precise formulas involved, but you should know the concepts behind them.

You should know something about signal-detection theory, how hits and false alarms are used to discriminate between genuine sensitivity and response bias, and how catch trials and payoffs can be varied to manipulate expectations and motives.

The remaining lectures were oriented around the conflict between two views of perception: the ecological view of J.J. Gibson, which holds that all the information needed for perception is provided by the stimulus; and the constructive view of Helmholtz, Bruner, and others, which holds that the perceiver goes "beyond the information given" by the stimulus, and makes an active cognitive contribution to perception.

Gibson's ecological view is illustrated in lecture by the cues for motion and for depth (or distance) perception, so you should understand how these cues operate.

For example, in the case of depth/distance perception:

The ecological view can take you a long way, but there are some phenomena of perception that cause trouble for the ecological view and tend to support cognitive constructivism. You should recognize the implications of these phenomena:
All of this leads up to the "problem-solving" approach to perception and the perceptual cycle:

Chapter 4

Kalat's Chapter 4 goes into a lot of detail on how various modalities of sensation work, with particular focus on the eye and the ear. It's fascinating, but don't get caught up in it. Pay most attention to the basics of each modality.

For vision:

You should be understand the three major theories of color vision: trichromatic, opponent-process, and retinex (this last one is not discussed in lecture), and how they explain defects in color vision. 

The retinex theory doesn't really contradict the opponent-process theory, but its very name, derived from "retina" and "cortex", illustrates a basic point, which is that the experience of color is determined by the brain, not by the stimulus or the receptor.

Now for hearing: And similarly for some other senses:

Kalat doesn't really go into the psychophysical laws, but you should understand the difference between absolute and relative sensory thresholds.  He has a nice, if brief, account of signal-detection theory and the controversy over subliminal perception. 

The material on feature detectors is important, but you should understand why they aren't all there is to perception, and how feature-detection has to be supplemented by things like the principles of Gestalt psychology. 

You should understand the Gestalt principles of perceptual organization, like proximity, continuation, and closure.

Kalat provides a nice overview of the cues used in the perception of motion and of depth.

Kalat has some nice illustrations of reversible figures, perceptual constancies, and optical illusions, some of which are not in the lectures.

This page last revised 06/20/2017.