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University of California, Berkeley

Department of Psychology


Psychology 164

Spring 2014


Midterm Examination


Scoring Guide

In what follows I provide the scoring guide given to the GSIs.  These are simply intended to be samples of adequate (3-point) answers.  Other good answers were, of course, possible.  

Initial scoring of the exam yielded a mean score of 36.56 (SD = 6.55), which was about the same as the previous midterms, from Spring 2010.  The reliability of the exam (Cronbach's alpha) was .76, which is pretty good. 

As described in the Exam Information page, I then conducted an item analysis to identify bad questions.  As described in the Exam Information page, I consider any item with both a low average score and a low item-to-total correlation to be a plausible candidate for dropping, as a "bad" item. 
  • The average score for Items #1-16 (each worth 3 points) was M = 2.19, SD = .46.  Applying the statistical "Rule of 2", any item whose average score is more than 2 SDs away from the mean (i.e, a mean score of 1.27 or less) is an outlier.  There were no such items, though #s 15 and 16 came close.  (I think it is not a coincidence that there were the last 3-point items on the exam.
  • My standard for a low item-to-total correlation is r < .20.  There were five such items, but these low r were associated with relatively high average scores 

So, there were no items that actually met the dual criteria for a "bad" item.  But I was bothered by those two last 3-point items, #s 15 and 16, so I gave everyone full credit for those two items.

As previously announced, I had already given everyone full credit for #12, on prototypes and exemplars.  But Item #7 was also concerned with prototypes and exemplars, and it had a relatively low average score, so I gave everyone full credit for that item, as well.

Taken together, rescoring those four items (#s 7, 12, 15, and 16) raised the average to M = 40.87, SD = 5.43.  That's more like it.

The exam scores reported in the bSpace gradebook reflect the rescoring of the exam, as described above.

Exams will be returned in your discussion section.

Requests for rescoring individual items must be made in writing, and accompanied by a statement (a paragraph will do) indicating why your response is as good as, or better than, the one provided in this scoring guide.  These requests due no later than 5 PM on Monday, April 7.

Answer the eight (8) questions from each of Sections 1-2, and the single question from Section 3, for a total of 17 questions. 

Be sure to print your name and UCB Student ID on every page of the exam.


Your responses should be very concise.  In every case, less than 5 sentences will do.  Write your answers in the space provided.  If absolutely necessary, you may continue on the other side of the page.  Write legibly in the space provided, and please use ink.  Exams written in pencil will not be eligible for regrading.


A scoring guide will be posted to the course website by noon, March 19. Exams will be graded and returned (in discussion sections) as soon as possible.  Requests for regrading must be made to your GSI no later than 1 week after exams are returned.

Section 1.  Answer all eight (8) questions (3 points per question).

1.  Describe three ways in which social cognition appears to be quantitatively different from nonsocial cognition.


Average score = 2.06, item-to-toal correlation = .48.  Any three of the following will do: (a) poverty and ambiguity of the stimulus; (b) the presence of conflicting cues; (c) the role of emotional and motivational factors, which color cognition; (d) contextual or figure-ground effects. [Introduction]



2.  Why does "Symbolic Interactionism" lie at the heart of social cognition? 


M score = 1.98, item-to-total r = .18.  Symbolic interactionism asserts that social interactions take place "in the mind" before they occur in reality.  People's responses to environmental events (also known as stimuli) are determined by the meanings that these events have for them.  These meanings, in turn, are acquired through social interaction and modified by the person's own cognitive (interpretive) processes.  [Cognitive Perspective]



3.  What is stereotype threat and how does it relate to the self-fulfilling prophecy? 


M = 2.61, r = .24.  Stereotype threat refers to a person's anxiety that his task performance will confirm the stereotype concerning his own social group.  Stereotype threat has its origins in the individual's awareness of this group stereotype.  When the anxiety does, in fact, impair performance, the person has actually fulfilled the expectations implied by the stereotype.  [Cognitive Perspective]



4.  What makes a central traits central to impression formation?


2.80, .10.  Central traits play an inordinate role in shaping person perception.  They have this influence because they are highly correlated with other traits, particularly those traits that, themselves, are central to impression formation - -such as intellectual and social "good-bad", and (perhaps) the Big Five traits of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. [Social Perception]



5.  Why is facial attractiveness such an important aspect of person perception?


2.45, .09.  In the first place, facial attractiveness is one of the most important determinants of physical attractiveness, which in turn is the most powerful determinant of likability.  In the second place, facial attractiveness, and physical attractiveness generally, influences a host of other social judgments through what is known as the halo effect -- the intuitive idea that desirable traits go together.  Thus, someone who is physically attractive is usually thought to be smart (intellectually good) and warm (socially good) as well.  [Social Perception]



6.  How do pre-existing, abstract cognitive schemata (or "schemas") affect our memory for specific facts about a person?


2.43, .37.  Schematic knowledge provides the cognitive basis for perception and memory.  Information that is consistent with a pre-existing schema is favored in memory because the schema provides additional retrieval cue information.  Information that is inconsistent with a pre-existing schema is also favored in memory, because extra explanatory effort creates a richer, more elaborate memory trace.  Schema-irrelevant information is poorly remembered because it gets neither an encoding or retrieval advantage.  [Social Memory]


7.  How are social stereotypes structured as categories (or concepts)?


1.74, .33.  Rescored, full credit for everyoneStereotypes function as categories, because they include features that are (allegedly) shared by members of some outgroup. But nobody thinks that all members of an outgroup have all the stereotypic features in common, so stereotypes can't be structured as classical categories, or "proper" sets.  Instead, they seem to be structured as fuzzy sets, represented by a category prototype whose features are "typical" in the sense that they are more likely to occur in members of the stereotyped group than they are in the population as a whole. [Social Categorization]



8.  What is the empirical status of the "self-other difference" in causal attribution?


1.97, .58.  It is claimed that people tend to make situational attributions for their own behavior, and dispositional attributions for the behavior of other people.  Early studies seemed to reveal such a difference, which was in line with evidence of other errors and biases, such as the fundamental attribution error and the self-serving bias.  But a thorough "meta-analysis" of the entire literature reveals that, in fact, the self-other difference is not very strong, and people generally attribute both their own and other people's behavior to a mix of internal (personal) and external (situational) causes.  [Social Judgment and inference]


Section 2.  Answer all eight (8) questions (3 points per question).

9.  Briefly distinguish among describe three (3) of the models of social cognition described by Fiske & Taylor.


2.29, .42.  Any three of the following will do.  (1) The consistency-seeker is motivated to reduce any dissonance between attitudes, and between attitudes and behavior.  (2) The na´ve scientist engages in a rational analysis of events in the social world.  (3) The cognitive miser is motivated to reduce information-processing demand by relying on cognitive strategies that simplify complex problems.  (4) The motivated tactician chooses among available cognitive strategies based on goals.  The activated actor relies on automatic, unconscious processes rather than conscious, deliberate ones.  [Fiske & Taylor, Chapter 1]



10.  What role does priming play in "dual process" theories of social cognition?


1.97, .53.  Dual-process theories postulate that task performance is mediated by some combination of automatic and controlled processes.  Priming effects, which make certain thoughts, ideas, and emotions more accessible, are generally thought to be mediated by automatic processes that respond to stimulus inputs.  In subliminal priming, the prime is presented below the level of conscious awareness, and so can't be consciously controlled either.  We are aware of the prime in conscious priming, but even then we can control its effects after priming has run its course.  [F&T, Chapter 2]



11. What are "implicit attitudes", and why are they important to theories of cognitive consistency? 


2.13, .55.  People generally want their beliefs and attitudes to be consistent with each other, and with their behavior: cognitive dissonance is aversive.  However, it is possible that we have "implicit" or unconscious attitudes, which may not be the same as our explicit or conscious ones, and that cause us to behave in ways that are inconsistent with our conscious beliefs.  This creates a special problem of cognitive dissonance, because if the attitude is unconscious, and operates automatically, we can neither change it nor control the behavior that it generates.  [F&T, Chapter 10]



12.  How does the exemplar view of conceptual structure differ from the prototype view?


Item dropped in advance.  Full credit for all students.  The prototype view holds that categories are groups of objects which share a family resemblance -- they tend to have a set of characteristic features in common, even though there is no set of features.  The concept, or mental representation of the category, consists of a summary list of these characteristic features, which constitute the category prototype.  The exemplar view abandons the view of concepts as any kind of summary, or average, representation of category members, but rather holds that concepts are represented as a "list" of the instances, or exemplars, in the category itself.  [F&T, Chapter 4]



13.  How does collective memory differ from personal memory?


2.81, .08.  Personal memories are stored (somehow) in the minds (and brains) of individuals, and reflect the individual's more or less idiosyncratic mental representation of some episode of experience or behavior.  Collective memories are shared by members of an entire "mnemonic community", such that each member of the community has the same representation of the event in question -- regardless of whether he or she personally experienced the event.  They are stored in books, monuments, and place names.  Collective memories are jointly remembered by members of the mnemonic community on particular occasions (such as September 11), in a phenomenon known as "mnemonic synchronization" which creates "sociobigraphical" memories.  [Zerubavel, Chapter 6]



14.  How do entitativity and essentialism play a role in stereotyping? 


1.88, .49.  Groups are social constructions, existing in the minds of perceivers who divide the world into "us" and "them", ingroups and outgroups.  But once people have been classified into a group, that group seems to take on a sort of objective reality -- it becomes a thing, not just an idea.  And the features associated with group membership are often elevated to the status of essential features, fixed and unchangeable.  The result is to polarize intergroup relation, and to foster stereotypes that resist change even in the fact of counteracting information.  [F&T, Chapter 11]



15.  In Weiner's theory of achievement, what are the dimensions along which success and failure are evaluated, and how are they combined to yield causal attributions for achievement?


1.44, .36.  All students received full credit.  The dimensions in question are locus (external vs. internal), stability, and controllability.  Various combinations of these factors yield causal attributions.  For example, ability is both stable and uncontrollable, while effort is unstable and controllable; task difficulty is stable but uncontrollable, while luck is neither stable nor controllable.  [F&T, Chapter 6]



16.  What is a linear model of social judgment, and how does it compare with intuitive models?


1.49, .41.  All students received full credit.  Linear models represent information in quantitative form that can be processed according to a constant decision (such as whether to admit a particular applicant to a particular college) rule, usually represented by a mathematical formula, such as "ADMIT = GPA + SAT".  It seems impersonal, but comparative studies invariably show that such "statistical" formulas do at least as well, and often better than, the "clinical" impressions of judges.  Precisely because they depend on objective computational formulas, they are certainly more reliable (consistent), and less subject to bias and prejudice.  [F&T, Chapter 8]

Section 3.  Answer this one question (2 points).


17.  How does the perspective of cognitive sociology differ from that of cognitive psychology?


1.84, .09.  While cognitive psychology is concerned with the individual's individual mind, brain and behavior, cognitive sociology is concerned with individuals as members of thought communities, and with the role of cognitive socialization in shaping the individual's thought processes.  Cognitive sociology begins with the assumption that different historical epochs, different cultures, and different subcultures are characterized by distinct differences in both the content and the mode of thought.  [Zerubavel, Chapter 1]