AP National Essay Questions

By Patrick Jenkins,2014-04-02 19:22
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AP National Essay Questions

Dear AP Psy Students:

     Here is a complete list of all the AP Free Response Exam Questions ever asked. They have been released by the AP Board. I give them to you so that you can begin studying them and more importantly begin to learn how to answer them. You’ll probably notice some trends and tendencies in the kinds of questions they like to ask.

     Spend a bunch of time reading the questions. Sketch out the answers on a pad of paper. This is a great way to review because a lot these terms will probably appear in multiple choice questions on the next exam. They don’t ever ask the same exam question twice, but they do hit on the same themes. For example, they love to ask you questions about designing a psychological experiment and what goes into a good one or can you critique a study and pick out the flaws.

     Work on these questions. Get a couple people together in a study group. You can do it! And when answering them, follow the guidelines I’ve given you about how to answer the questions. Remember, you do get partial credit! Answer everything you can, and guessing can’t hurt you.

     Mr. Faglioni

    AP National Free-Response Questions


     1. Classical conditioning and operant conditioning are different learning methods.

     Their differences lie in:

     A. the extent to which reinforcement depends on the behavior of the learner;

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     B. the type of behavior to which each method applies.

     Their similarities are that they both produce the following basic phenomena.

     A. Acquisition

     B. Extinction

     C. Spontaneous recovery

     D. Generalization

     E. Discrimination

    Describe these differences and similarities, giving examples to illustrate your answer.

     2. Briefly discuss the cause(s) and treatment(s) of depression from the perspective of each of

    the following psychological approaches.

     A. Psychodynamic/psychoanalytic

     B. Biological/medical

     C. Cognitive


     1. Design and describe an experiment to measure the relationship between rehearsal/repetition

    of a list of words and later recall of that same list of words. In your answer you should

    formulate a hypothesis and include a description of each of the following.

     A. Population

     B. Subject selection

     C. Independent variable

     D. Dependent variable

     E. Experimental group

     F. Control group

     G. Potential confounding variable

     H. A method of reducing experimenter bias

1993 Question 2 continued next page

     2. Describe the therapeutic procedure called systematic desensitization. Select a specific

    disorder for which this therapy is effective and explain how the basic phenomena listed below

    play a part in successful treatment.

     A. Anxiety hierarchy

     B. Relaxation

     C. Generalization

     D. Extinction


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     1. Design an experiment to determine whether a new drug that is supposed to reduce

    hyperactivity in children actually does. Your essay should include an identification and

    description of all of the components of your experimental design, including sampling,

    independent and dependent variables, controls, and the method that you would employ to

    evaluate the outcome.

     2. One of the most useful generalizations in psychology is that “behavior is adaptive.” Explain

    this generalization and then identify each of the following and describe how each could be


     A. Repression

     B. Conformity

     C. Imprinting

     D. Displaced aggression

     E. Loss of information from short-term memory


     1. Compare and contrast the experimental method and the survey method in terms of their

    suitability for investigating the hypothesis that frustration leads to aggressive behavior.

     In comparing and contrasting the two methods, be sure to identify and discuss each of the


     A. Independent variable

     B. Dependent variable

     C. Control

     D. Experimenter and response bias

     E. Ethical issues

     2. Define each of the following concepts and explain how each contributes to the phenomenon

    of prejudice.

     A. Stereotyping

     B. Self-fulfilling prophecy

     C. Fundamental attribution error

     D. Projection

     E. Schema

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     1. Discuss how social and biological factors have an impact on each of the following in the


     A. Body weight

     B. Perception

     C. Alcoholism

     D. Extraversion

     E. Schizophrenia

     2. Professor Jackson believes that frustration increases the need for achievement. She

    decides to test her hypothesis with her introductory psychology class of about 100 students.

    The first 50 students who arrive for class one day are taken to a separate room and given a

    series of easy puzzles to complete. Professor Jackson then asks each student about his or

    her professional goals. She rates the statement of each on a 7-point scale for strength of

    achievement motivation.

     When they arrive, the remaining students are taken to another room and given a series of

    difficult puzzles by Professor Jackson’s teaching assistant, Jim. Jim also asks each student

    about hiss or her professional goals and, like Professor Jackson, then rates the statement of

    each on a 7-point scale.

     The group given the difficult puzzles has, on the average, higher achievement motivation

    scores than the group given the easy puzzles. Professor Jackson concludes that here

    hypothesis is supported

     Show how each of the following aspects of Professor Jackson’s experimental design is

    flawed. Indicate hoe you would correct each problem.

     A. Sampling

     B. Assignment of participants

     C. Dependent variable

     D. Control for experimenter bias

     E. Control of confounding variables (You need cite only one)

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    Sample Response

Response to Question #2 1994

     The concept of behavior being adaptive is not a new one; it has existed in biology for hundreds of years. To put it simply, it means that certain behaviors or body functions exist because they help the creature survive. In biology this concept is applied to the different structures of organisms but in psychology it is used to explain how we act in a survival context.

     Repression, the unconscious forgetting of painful events, could be adaptive by allowing us to live our lives without dwelling on past bad experiences. Without repression, you would remember your most painful past events, which would not allow you to function normally due to the depression and anxiety they may cause. Without repression, basically bad experiences would stay at the surface, creating tension the could disrupt our lives. Getting rid of this tension is the adaptive quality of repression.

     Becoming part of the group, and doing what they do, and acting how they want you to act is called conforming. Conformity can be considered adaptive for many reasons. First, for protection. If you conform you are most likely to be accepted by a group, and if you are part of the group you are more protected from the outside environment. Also, conforming allows you to get accepted, which is also emotionally good for you. Feelings of acceptance and a high self-esteem can be gained by conforming to what a group wants you to do, because normally you would gain praise for it.

     Imprinting, the taking on the first seen moving object as “mother” is an important adaptive

    device. It allows lower animals to immediately recognize its mother, which is very useful seeing as the mother is its only source of food and protection until it matures sufficiently. Without imprinting, it would be difficult for the children to know how or from whom to receive food, since they have no other way to determine who their mother is.

     The adaptive qualities of displaced aggression are very useful. The ability to “take it out” on

    something other than the target of your anger is very useful, especially if the target is more powerful than yourself. In that case, it can be thought of as even life-saving. it also helps us relieve stress, by taking out our aggression on an inanimate object, therefore helping ourselves feel better, and protecting others from our aggression.

     Finally, the loss of information from short-term memory can be considered adaptive. If we did not lose information, it would all go to long term memory. This is not desirable because many things stored in short term memory are trivial or useless. Therefore, it is easier to rehearse what we wish to remember than to have our mind cluttered with useless bits of information.

Comment: This essay, which earned 11 points (out of 11), clearly explains the generalization

    “behavior is adaptive” with the statement, “certain behaviors or body functions exist because they help the creature survive.” Repression is identified as “unconscious forgetting of painful thoughts.” The definition could have been improved if the student had specified that these thoughts were put into the unconscious. The adaptive function of repression is explained in several ways, but most

    clearly by the statement that without repression “you would remember your most painful past events,

    which would not allow you to function normally due to the depression and anxiety they may cause.” Conformity is clearly defined and, again, the student provides several cogent examples of its adaptive function. Imprinting is defined. The definition could have been improved by specifying that this occurs during a “critical” period. The student’s description of the “survival” value of attachment to the mother is a nice illustration of imprinting’s adaptive function. The student points out that if

    there were no loss of

    information from short-term memory, then such information would go to long-term memory and

    much of such information would be trivia. The statement, that the result would “have our mind

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clutttered with useless bits of information” demonstrates an understanding of the adaptive function of

    this phenomenon.

Response to question #1 1994

     An experiment to determine whether an new drug actually reduces hyperactivity in children would begin by randomly sampling within a group of children with certified hyperactivity to control for unknown confounding variables. Then the children would be randomly assigned to either the control or experimental groups. The experimental group is the group receiving the new drug while the control group would not. The independent variable would be the drug and the dependent variable would be the hyperactive behavior. The control group, however, will receive a placebo to ensure that the administration of any substance is not the determining factor in behavior altering. A double blind will be used -- the experimenter will not know which children were given the placebo or the actual drug to ensure no biasing in his/her evaluation. The children will also be uninformed of the nature of whatever substance is being administered so that their actions will not be governed by knowing the effects of the substance. The evaluator will observe the children through naturalistic observation using unobtrusive measures to ensure that his presence does not affect the subjects’

    behavior. The outcome would be evaluated by the experimenters comparing the behaviors of the control and experimental groups to determine if the drug was correlated with a decrease in hyperactivity. Inferential statistics would then be used to determine if the results occurred by chance.

    Comment: This essay, which earned 10 points (out of 10), showes a clear grasp of experimental design and methodology. The faculty consultants were particularly impressed by the student’s

    awareness of the need for experimental controls. The student also has excellent writing skills and expresses himself or helself in a clear and organized fashion.

     The student’s opening sentence gains 2 points on the issue of sampling. The student

    recognizes that this study should be done on hyperactive children (not all essayists did). The

    student also knows that he subjects in this experiment should be selected by sampling to control for

    “unknown confounding variables.” The student proposes a solid, experimental design, dividing the

    subjects into two groups: an experimntal group which receives the new drug, and a control groupwhich does not. The student shows awareness of the need to assign the subjects to the two groups on a random basis --one of several indications of this student’s grasp of experimental control.

    The independent variable is explicitly identified as the drug and the dependent variable as the

    hyperactive behavior. The student recognizes the critical need for a placebo control in this type of

    research and is able to state why such a control is necessary. The student also recognizes the need for a double-blind design as a further control and clearly describes such a procedure. The student describes a way of measuring the dependent variable “through naturalistic observation using

    unobtrusive measures.” This excellent essay could have been made even better if the student had described some means of objectibying or operationally defining these measurements. The student recognizes the need to compare the two groups to determine the effectiveness of the medication

    and that statistical treatment would be necessary to evaluate the outcome.

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    1. Many people are concerned about the effects of the use of physical punishment to modify the undesirable behavior of children.

    A. Basing your answer on psychological knowledge, apply each of the following in an argument

    against the use of physical punishment.

    ; Modeling

    ; Classical conditioning of fear

    ; Displacement

     B. How would psychologists use the following processes to modify children’s undesirable behavior?

    ; Positive reinforcement

    ; Extinction

    2. Although personality is generally consistent throughout the life span, some people exhibit major personality changes.

     A. How do each of the following help to explain BOTH continuity and change in personality?

     Biological factors

     Learning factors

     Situational factors

     Cognitive factors

     B. How would any TWO of the above interact to produce change in the trait of shyness?


    1. Read the following abstract of a student research project on bystander intervention and then

    answer the questions that follow.

     The ten participants in the study were unaware of its purpose. The first five who signed up to

    be tested were assigned to the Alone condition and the next five were assigned to the With

    Othes condition. The Alone condition was run in the morning and the With Others condition

    in the afternoon.

     In the Alone condition, each of the five participants was asked to wait alone in a room. While

    the participant waited, a female voice in the next room screamed out, asking for help. In the

    With Others condition, each one of the five participants was asked to wait in a room with

    several confederates of the researcher. During this waiting period, a male voice in the next

    room screamed out, asking for help.

     In each condition, the percentage of participants who responded to the cry for help was


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     A. Identify the independent and dependent variables in this study.

     B. Identify four flaws in the design of this study and the recommendations you would make to

    correct these flaws.

     C. Discuss an ethical issue raised by the design of this study.

     D. Use your knowledge of research in social psychology to describe the likely results of this

    study if correct methodology had been used.

    2. A. Describe fully the distinctive emphasis of the cognitive approach to human behavior and

    mental processes. In your essay, be sure to specify how the cognitive approach differs from

    the following psychological approaches.




     B. Give an example of the contribution of cognitive theory to the understanding of each of the




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    1. A. Describe the role of each of the following mechanisms in determining an individual's eating habits and body weight.

     Biological Mechanism Learning Mechanisms

     Body or brain chemistry Reinforcement

     Brain structure Modeling

     Genetics Cultural Factors

     B. Select one biological and one learning mechanism and discuss the implications of each for

    weight management.

    2. In a study, researchers use a photograph taken in a public park to examine how people

    perceive, learn, and remember information. In the photograph, a woman is standing near a

    man who is seated on a park bench. The woman appears to be shouting at the man.

     Participants in the study are exposed to the photograph for ten seconds and then are shown,

    each for ten seconds, several other photographs of people interacting. When all the

    photographs have been shown, the participants are asked about what they saw in the "public

    park" photograph. A significant number of participants describe the man as being the

    aggressor in an apparent disagreement with the woman.

     Describe how each of the following concepts helps explain the perception of these

    participants. Be sure to begin by defining each concept in psychological terms.


     retroactive interference

     representativeness heuristic

     confirmation bias


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    1. Your high school is proposing moving to a system in which grades are no longer given or used to

    evaluate student progress.

     Define each of the following concepts and state how each might either positively or

    negatively change students behavior under such a system.

     a. Extrinsic motivation

     b. Arousal theory (Yerkes-Dodson Law)

     c. Learned helplessness

     d. Self-fulfilling prophecy

    2. The police chief of New City states publicly that she sees a direct relationship between teenage

    arrests in New City for violent crimes and the popularity among New City teens of especially

    violent television shows.

     A. Design a correlational study to research this claimed relationship, being sure to address

    how each of the following design elements would apply to your study.

     operational definition of variables

     selection of participants


     two ethical considerations

     B. The police chief concludes that watching violent television shows tleads to teens’

    committing violent crimes in New City. Do you support her conclusion? Explain your


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